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Trevor Ariza's negotiations: My initial thoughts

July 1, 2009 | 10:07 pm

It's understandable and predictable that news of Trevor Ariza and the Lakers engaged in acrimonious, standstill Trevor contract talks would send chills down the Laker Nation's collective spine.  The report from ESPN's Chris Broussard certainly doesn't drip with sunshine and moon pies:

     The 24-year-old swingman, who played a key role in the Lakers' run to their 15th NBA championship, is on the verge of leaving the club, sources close to the situation said on Wednesday.   With at least five teams pursuing Ariza, the Lakers are currently unwilling to pay him more than the $5.6 million mid-level exception. 
 
     "They're letting him go," one of the sources said.

     Cleveland is making a hard push for Ariza, and the Cavaliers' coaching staff was speaking with him on Wednesday. While Cleveland can only offer the mid-level as well, Ariza's disappointment with the Lakers' stance has moved other suitors ahead of his current team.

The Press-Enterprise's Jeffrey Eisenberg relays some copy from TA's agent, which adds little in the way of rainbows to the mood:

      "I had a long conversation with Mitch, and I don't think it's going anywhere," agent David Lee said. "I think I'm being optimistic when I say it's not going anywhere." 

Asked later if this could lead to Ariza's exit, Lee responded, "Yes, we have no choice. That's the position they've put us in."

(UPDATE: Lee comments further in a Times report by Mike Bresnahan and Broderick Turner:  "All we're looking for is little appreciation for what Trevor has done," Lee said Wednesday. "I don't think they believe Trevor is serious about leaving, and that's too bad. I didn't think we'd be in this situation. I am disappointed and surprised by what I thought would be some feelings for the people who have given you everything they've got.")


All pretty ominous talk.  But I while would hardly recommend anybody taking a "p'shaw" attitude, no questions asked, I would also urge people to take trip down Memory Lane.  Specifically, back to October, 2008, when Lee was expressing frustration with Andrew Bynum's extension talks:

     "I just don't get it," he said. "I do not understand certain things that happen. Andrew has taken everything the Lakers have thrown at him, including criticism. He doesn't do anything to respond other than go on the court. He just goes on with his business.

Groundhog_day_movie_image_bill_murray And...

      "It has to get done by the 31st," Lee said. "Otherwise there are, of course, consequences under the collective bargaining agreement."

Plus...

     The lack of progress in contract negotiations has left Bynum's agent frustrated.  "I would say that's a fair assessment," Lee said. "Disappointed would be a better word than frustrated, but we shall see. Maybe it's premature. We will have a conversation tomorrow and then we'll see where it's going."

 Maybe it's just me, but I'm getting a "Phil Connors" kinda feeling all over again. 

If you remember, Lee sent out many a hint that anything less than max years/max cheddar for Drew was unacceptable.  The agreement reached was certainly generous (some might even say too generous), but hardly the entire enchilada.  A rather grounded and low key solution, particularly in light of the dire picture painted by Lee.    

Look, don't get me wrong.  There's certainly a chance that Team Ariza and Team Buss are planning a trip to Impasse County.  But there's also a chance- my gut says a better one- that we're getting another taste of how Lee operates: Lots of public complaints and threats.  Little in the way of clients leaving their most recent employers.  Maybe I'm under-thinking this, but most of these scenarios floated around strike me as either unrealistic, undesirable or both.   

  • Assuming the Blazer's interest in Hedo Turkoglu is as real as reported, that eliminates the only quality team with an ability to go beyond the mid-level and a pressing need for a small forward.  
  • Toronto apparently has interest and can offer big bucks, but to paraphrase the old saying, sometimes you get what you get paid for. 
  • Even if bringing in Ariza wouldn't necessitate moving Tayshaun Prince, Detroit used up its spare cash on Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva.
  • Is Ariza really so steamed at the Lakers' reported mid-level opening offer that he's looking to "stick it to them" by taking the exact same money to enter a potentially messy situation in Houston or the mess that is the L.A. Clippers (who strike me as an odd team to ink a long term deal after trading Z.Bo to Memphis for Q and future 2010 cap space)?  He's really that mad after a day's worth of negotiating?  If that's honestly the case (which doesn't feel in character), I'd actually think twice about paying him.  
  • With all due respect to Ariza, the Cavs already have a small forward a hell of a lot better than he'll likely ever become.  LeBron Whatsisname?.  And given how they're in desperate need of a power forward that can stretch the floor- Hell, with Anderson Varajao now an unrestricted free agent, they're actually in desperate need of a power forward, period- I don't get why Cleveland would prioritize stacking at a non-need position.  Yes, either LBJ or TA could play the two (or LeBron could maybe play the four, I guess), but still, that approach feels hinky.  

Throw all that together and it feels like the makings of an agent sounding off and feeding outlets to land more cash for his client.  Brian Windhorst, the Cleveland Plain Dealer's outstanding beat writer, tweets similar sentiments.

Cavs in thick of it for Artest, Ariza or R.Wallace.Though I get the impression Ariza may be trying to sweeten LAL offer. 2moro may be wild.

So take all that as you will.  Again, not making any guarantees or recommending you order a vanity plate reading "TA LAL 4 LF."  The Lakers could very well be eyeballing Ron Artest as a shorter commitment fallback and of the opinion (one I happen to share) that Lamar Odom is more difficult to replace.  But it nonetheless feels awfully early in the game to be treating matters with a "late in the fourth quarter" outlook.

AK


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