“I don’t know what they’re going to do,” Bryant said to Sheridan after the All-Star game. “At this point, it doesn’t matter.”
All of this has led many around the league, including Sheridan, to believe that the possibility of trading Howard is about 50-50.
What’s important to factor into the situation is that the money the Lakers can offer Dwight this summer is a bit overblown. The NBA likes to cite the extra money — roughly $25-30 million — that a team with a players Bird Rights can offer to dissuade those clamoring for parity in the league. But in this particular situation, that advantage the Lakers would like to leverage has been compromised due to a vote last month that makes Californians among the highest-taxed residents in the country.
According to FoxNews.com, Proposition 30 will hike tax rates up from 10.3 to 13.3 percent for those making $1 million annually. This levels the playing field between the Lakers and the Dallas Mavericks — a big-market team with max-money who will make a run at Howard — to approximately $2.5 million over four years.
For a player as sensitive as Dwight, who can’t get along with his co-star (Bryant), his coach (D’Antoni) and the LA media, $2.5 million doesn’t sound like too steep a price to jump ship and play for Mark Cuban.
So in the end, although Kupchack has proclaimed that Howard will not be traded, he has continued to take calls, leaving rival executives to believe the All-Star center can still be had.
- More from Alex Kennedy of Hoopsworld.com: “The Lakers have fielded calls for Howard and are keeping their options open. Multiple league sources believe that Kupchak is assuring Howard that he won’t traded just in case the team decides not to pull the trigger on a deal. If Howard is still on the roster on Feb. 22, the Lakers don’t want him knowing that they listened to offers for him because that could hurt their chances of re-signing the center this offseason.”
Speaking of re-signing this offseason, that is something Josh Smith is unlikely to do with the Atlanta Hawks, which is why he is being pegged as the player most likely to be traded before Thursday’s deadline.
- From Matt Moore of CBSSports.com: “Smith is the biggest piece hanging out there. There have been increasing indications in the media that GM Danny Ferry has decided to trade Smith, that it’s just a matter of when and where. Smith is a talented power forward with his best basketball in front of him, but he’s also an expiring contract and will demand more than he’s likely worth on the market.”
- From ESPN’s Marc Stein: The Atlanta Hawks have convinced numerous teams that they’re definitely trading Josh Smith this week, largely because they see the unpredictable lefty as a virtual lock to leave them in free agency this summer.
After Howard, Smith is the next biggest domino to fall (and the more likely). What the Hawks decide to do with Smith will have a ripple effect across the NBA landscape.
NBA players must be evaluated under two considerations: their production and their contract.
Smith, a free agent at seasons end is on the record saying that he believes he is a max-player. Smith is averaging a respectable 17.4 points, 8.6 rebound and 4.1 assists per game, but has developed an enigmatic reputation around the league, leading many executives to question whether he is the right player to pay a max-level salary to.
- One of the teams that has had a strong interest in Smith, the Phoenix Suns, have reportedly dropped out of the running, according to ESPN’s Chris Broussard: “The Phoenix Suns appear to be out of the Josh Smith sweepstakes. According to sources, a potential deal to send Smith from the Atlanta Hawks to the Suns prior to Thursday’s 3 p.m. ET trade deadline, is unlikely.”
- More from Broussard: “Sources also told ESPN that the Brooklyn Nets, Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics are three teams known to be in talks with the Hawks about Smith. In conversations with the Bucks, the Hawks’ interest is believed to start with Monta Ellis, sources tell ESPN, at least in part because Ellis could play next to Jeff Teague.”