Wait, Jason Kidd reportedly skipped Wednesday's Knicks-Nets game with a migraine because he was trying to force a trade from New Jersey? Even if he refuted those reports on Thursday afternoon, I don't care: It's no secret that Kidd wants to play for a contender, and if you don't think this little "incident" gave me an excuse to waste an entire morning fooling around with ESPN.com's Trade Machine, you're crazy.
Here's what you need to know about Kidd: Fantastic competitor; makes everyone better; slipped about 33 percent defensively from where he was four years ago; someone who's significantly more effective when he's surrounded by good players and only needs to worry about doing Jason Kidd things. He'd only accept a trade to a contending team with a legitimate chance to win the 2008 or 2009 titles, which rules out three noncontenders who had the right mix of young players, draft picks and cap space: Memphis, Atlanta and the Clippers. You can also rule out the Bulls (who could have slapped together a Kirk Hinrich/Ty Thomas/P.J. Brown sign-and-trade offer) because Chicago's current situation isn't any better or worse than New Jersey's current situation. And you can rule out the Knicks because the Nets wouldn't take Stephon Marbury's contract back unless James Dolan Fed Ex'ed them an anonymous box filled with $40 million of unmarked bills.
Realistically, only the following 11 teams make sense as a destination for Kidd:
1. Celtics -- Impossible because they don't have any big contracts to make the deal work.
2. Spurs -- They don't need a point guard.
3. Suns -- Ditto.
4. Pistons -- Double ditto.
5. Hornets -- Triple ditto.
6. Nuggets -- They don't have a big contract to trade unless the Nets took back K-Mart (four years, $70 million remaining), which has about as much chance of happening as me breast-feeding my son tonight. You could make a half-hearted case for a straight-up swap with Iverson and Kidd, but why would the Nuggets give up on the Iverson era so soon, and why would the Nets move sideways like that?
7. Mavericks -- Impossible because Devin Harris just signed a big extension (making him impossible to trade) and I can't imagine why the Nets would want to touch Jason Terry's contract (five years, $48 million remaining) or Erick Dampier's contract (4 years, $41.5 million remaining). You could argue that "Terry + a giant expiring contract + two No. 1 picks would be a decent haul," but the Mavs don't have one of those Theo Ratliff-like expiring contracts and their No. 1 picks aren't appealing, anyway. So they're out.
8. Magic -- On paper, Kidd would be an upgrade over the Jameer Nelson/Keyon Dooling/Carlos Arroyo trifecta, but why would the Magic mess things up when they're playing so well right now, especially for an aging point guard making $20 million a year? I don't see it.
9. Rockets -- They couldn't put together the contracts to obtain Kidd unless New Jersey wanted to jump at the "Mike James-Rafer Alston-Kirk Snyder-Bonzi Wells-Luther Head-crummy No. 1 picks" pu pu platter, and even then, they'd have to waive three guys to make it work. Not happening.
10. Cavaliers -- They couldn't get Kidd without New Jersey taking at least one or two terrible contracts back. And I mean TERRIBLE contracts. Like, "the right to pay Larry Hughes $38 million over the next three years" level of terrible. That's not happening.
11. Lakers -- The only logical destination for four reasons: They have a giant expiring contract (Kwame Brown at $9 million); an appealing rookie point guard (Javaris Crittendon); a super-appealing young point guard (Jordan Farmar); one more tradable contract to make the deal work (Vlad Radmanovic, on the hook for nearly $25 million through 2011); and most importantly, a genuine reason to make the trade (keeping Kobe happy so they don't have to deal him). There's definitely something here, right?
Just one problem ...
(Hold on, I'm breaking out the Hubie Brown voice for this one.)
If I'm running the Nets, I don't want the Radman's contract because we already have Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson at the 2/3 spots playing 40 minutes a game. I want to clear Kidd for cap space, draft picks and a young point guard and that's it. In other words, a straight-up deal with the Lakers can't work and we need some help. Fortunately, we're allowed to make multiteam trades in the NBA, which leads us to our first pivotal question:
What team could use Radmanovic the most?
Here are the plusses for the Radman: He's a quality 3-point shooter; he'd help any playoff team that likes to stretch the floor; and he's not afraid to break out a goofy hairdo or some goofy facial hair when you least expect it. The right team would use him like Orlando uses Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu.
So, um ... why couldn't the Lakers just send him to Orlando? They have the expiring contracts and need one more shooter for an extended playoff push. Vlad's contract isn't great, but it isn't terrible -- he's probably overpaid by about 15-20 percent, which gives him something in common with 60 percent of the guys in the league. If he plays 20-25 minutes a game for the Magic, they'd always have two killer 3-point shooters on the floor opening things up for Dwight Howard. If they wanted, they could even play Lewis, Turkoglu and Lewis together for a 3-point shooting orgy.
Now, if I'm running the Magic, I can't give up anyone good for Radmanovic for two reasons: I'm doing the Nets and Lakers a favor by helping out with this deal, and I'm taking on Radmanovic's mildly sucky contract. That's why I'd tell them, "I'll take the Radman off your hands, but I'm only giving up two expiring contracts (Pat Garrity and James Augustine at a combined $4.55 million) and that's it."
Voila! Suddenly we have the framework of a potential deal: Kidd to the Lakers; Radmanovic to the Magic; and three expiring contracts (Brown, Garrity and Augustine) plus Farmar (the guy New Jersey would want) or Crittendon (the guy L.A. would want to trade) and a future No. 1 pick to the Nets. That trade saves Jersey $4 mllion in 2008 and leaves them with $40 million committed to their payroll next season, allowing them to become a potential player this summer for Gilbert Arenas, Emeka Okafor, Ben Gordon, Luol Deng or whoever else.
Just one problem ...
If I'm running the Lakers, I'm not giving up Kwame (one of our only guys who protects the rim, even if he's a little soft), Radmanovic (our only reliable 3-point shooter and someone who's playing well this season), Farmar (an excellent backup guard and a potential blue-chipper) AND a No. 1 pick while picking up an extra $5 million in salary and paying an extra $4 million in luxury tax just to get a 34-year-old Jason Kidd. In fact, I don't want to trade Farmar at all. That's a deal-breaker for me.
On the flip side, if I'm running the Nets, I need to get Farmar in the deal or dump even more salary in the trade. Which leads us to our second pivotal question:
Can we find a fourth team to make this work?
You betcha! Let's bring Minnesota into this baby, and not just because Kevin McHale is the reigning "Worst GM in the League" after Billy King was dumped by the Sixers this week. We need his help. Here's how we do it: We convince McHale to absorb Garrity's expiring deal and Sasha Vujacic's expiring deal ($1.7 million) and send Sebastian Telfair's expiring deal ($2.5 million) to the Nets. In return, the Lakers agree to take Mark Madsen's contract ($7.9 million total, expires in 2010) and include an extra $600,000 so the deal is a financial wash for the T-Wolves (and that's before they dump Madsen's contract from their books).
Now the Nets have to make the deal. They're getting a quality rookie point guard (Crittendon); they get to take four-month flyers on Kwame (to replace Nenad Krstic, who's still battling knee problems) and Telfair (finally coming home to the Tri-State area, although this might not be a good thing); and most importantly, they're saving nearly $6 million and giving themselves a chance to rebuild this summer around Vince Carter, Richard Jefferson, their young guys, two No. 1 picks and Free Agent X.
Here's the final four-team trade: Los Angeles gets Kidd, Augustine and Madsen; Orlando gets Radmanovic; New Jersey gets Kwame, Telfair, Crittendon and a lottery-protected No. 1 from the Lakers in 2008; Minnesota gets Garrity, Vujacic and $600,000 from the Lakers.
Here's why each team makes the deal:
Minnesota: They dump the last two years of Madsen's contract without altering their nucleus or their payroll in any conceivable way.
Orlando: They acquire another killer 3-point shooter at a semi-reasonable price without touching anyone in their top eight.
New Jersey: They unload an unhappy star making nearly $41 million this year and next; save $6 million and pick up a No. 1 pick; take a four-month flier on a "talented" young power forward (I used quotes because I'm not a Kwame fan); weaken themselves sufficiently for a lottery run this season and set themselves up for a 2008 summer spending spree. Considering they had no other viable options for Kidd, that's a pretty good haul, no?
Los Angeles: First and foremost, they don't have to trade Kobe now because this would make him happy. Second, they landed Kidd without giving up Farmar (a huge victory since Farmar is going to be good). Third, they're a legitimate contender with a nucleus of Kobe, Kidd, Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum (playing extremely well) and solid supporting guys like Derek Fisher, Farmar, Luke Walton, Rony Turiaf and Trevor Ariza. Fourth, they improved their team chemistry exponentially with Happy Kobe, Happy Kidd and Always-Happy Mark Madsen. Fifth, the playoff money and general goodwill in L.A. from a Kidd trade offsets the significant financial undertaking (an extra $7 million added to the 2008 payroll that's doubled by the dollar-for-dollar luxury tax). And sixth, factoring in Kobe's player option for the summer of 2009, their top three guys (Kobe, Kidd and Odom) would all be coming off their cap after 2009, giving them a two-year run to contend for a title and tons of flexibility afterward.
Now that's a great trade. My only regret is that ESPN.com's Trade Machine wouldn't allow me to work a fifth team into the deal. Really, we can only make four-team trades? Let's work on this. There has to be a way that Vujacic could end up on the Celtics, and Tony Allen could go to Miami, and maybe Dorrell Wright goes to the T-Wolves. ...