How else would they be able to convince Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak to agree to a sign-and-trade deal that would ship Howard to Dallas for a couple of veterans with expiring contracts and spare parts?
For the sake of argument, let’s say that Howard forces the Lakers’ hand by saying that he’s leaving Los Angeles, no matter what. If the Lakers don’t agree to the sign-and-trade that would allow Howard to join Paul in Dallas – for the sake of argument, we’re making the huge assumption that Mark Cuban and Co. have successfully recruited CP3 – the big man will just sign with Houston or Atlanta.
Better for the Lakers to get something for Howard instead of letting him leave for nothing, right? Not really.
Let’s be real. If Howard leaves while Kobe Bryant is in the early stages of his comeback from a torn Achilles tendon, the Lakers have no chance to win a championship next season.
That wouldn’t change if they accepted a sign-and-trade deal that sent every player on the Mavs’ roster not named Nowitzki to Los Angeles. All that would do is prevent the Lakers from avoiding a massive luxury tax bill.
If the Lakers added Shawn Marion, Vince Carter and Mavs filler to a roster that features rehabbing Kobe, ancient Steve Nash and Pau Gasol, they’d be fighting just for a shot to sneak into the playoffs again while paying a luxury-tax bill in the neighborhood of $28 million, assuming they’d use the amnesty clause on Metta World Peace.
What about that would possibly appeal to L.A.?
If Howard leaves, the Lakers might as well unofficially tank the season. They could avoid the luxury tax altogether by using the amnesty clause on Gasol. Kobe could take his sweet time with his comeback.
In this scenario, the Lakers could be looking at a high lottery pick in a loaded 2014 draft, when they’ll also have a ton of cap space. Why would they want to end up with a middle-of-the-road pick after putting together a mediocre team with a nine-figure price tag?
Perhaps you could argue that the biggest obstacle blocking the Mavs from acquiring a CP3/D12 duo is the Lakers agreeing on a sign-and-trade deal.