Since last Wednesday, Sam Cassell's name has appeared in trade rumor stories in the East Valley Tribune, the Boston Globe and the Akron Beacon Journal. The fact that those three newspapers cover the Suns, Celtics and Cavs respectively, and that those three teams are all in the market for a point guard to help them in the playoffs, may have had something to do with it.
But in the Akron story, as well as in Marc Stein's Weekend Dime on ESPN.com (quoted), the question of a Cassell buyout was raised.
It would probably be wise to trade for Cassell before mid-February comes and buyout negotiations commence that could make the 38-year-old a free agent.
Reason being: Cassell and Kevin Garnett are so tight to this day that, as one interested suitor confessed, it's difficult to imagine Cassell choosing to sign anywhere but Boston if he makes it to the open market, where KG can start lobbying him.
With its season in ruins after the offseason Achilles injury suffered by Elton Brand and a flurry of in-season injuries contributing to a chronic inability to win at home, L.A. is open to the idea of trading Cassell just two years after he helped spark the most successful season in club history. He's almost certain to leave anyway in the offseason after completing the final year of his current contract at the very movable salary of $6.2 million.
This seems like conjecture and wishful thinking to me. If the Clippers are willing to move on without Cassell (and why wouldn't they be?), then surely they'll work out a trade before the deadline. No, they have no interest in taking back long term salaries in Cassell's range, but it seems ridiculous to think they couldn't negotiate something that would at least net them a draft pick. Hell, even a second rounder would be better than nothing.
What would be the Clippers' motivation for a buyout? Sure they could save some money. But even if Cassell were willing to leave ALL his remaining salary on the table in a buyout agreement for the chance to play elsewhere, on a prorated basis after the trade deadline, you're talking about $2M. Not chicken feed, but about 3% of their payroll. Oh, and Sam's not going to agree to that buyout. So if they can't deal him before the trade deadline, the only reasons to buy him out would be to save a relative pittance, and because Sam's a good guy. I just don't see it.
It's not like he's making a maximum contract with multiple years left (rendering him untradeable) or that no one actually wants him. Those are the players that get bought out - think Chris Webber; think Jason Hart. He's a scoring point guard with playoff experience and a short term contract. He's very tradeable.
Actually, Bill Simmons was the first to raise the specter of a Cassell buyout, way back in pre-season. Citizen Zhiv correctly assessed the Sports Guys' insights at the time - he's a Boston fan and a Cassell buy out would help Boston. Therefore Cassell is likely to be bought out. How can you argue with logic like that? That's the sort of brilliant analysis we seem to be getting from the Akron Beacon Journal and ESPN.com at this point.
I've seen nothing coming from the Clippers or even from Cassell indicating that a buy out is at all likely. I fully expect him to be traded for some combination of expiring contracts, picks and/or a trade exception before the deadline. He has value. They'll get something for him. They better.