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Cassell to Boston - The Buyout Rumor That Won't Die

Predictably, as the Clippers make their only trip through the East Coast media centers and of course Boston itself, the talk of 'Sam Cassell to the Celtics' is really heating up.  Let's face it, when the 15 and 30 Clippers are in town and you're a basketball writer, you'd be going straight to Cassell's locker for quotes whether their were rumors swirling or not.  The man is pure gold.  

First it was New York, where Mitch Lawrence of the Daily News dedicated his entire column to Cassell.  What's he gonna talk about?  The Knicks?  (Citizen Lawler's Law first posted this in a Diary - thanks.)  Lawrence is honest about why he's writing about Cassell:

quite frankly, when you're assigned to do the You-Know-Whos vs. the L.A. Clippers, the worst team in the Atlantic against the bottom-feeders in the Pacific, you run to talk to a guy like Sam Cassell, who could render Plaxico Burress a footnote if he ever made it to Super Bowl media day.

In that column we heard for the first time that David Falk, Cassell's agent, is actively pushing for a buyout.  Obviously, we knew that he would - it doesn't hurt to ask, and Falk has never had the reputation as a shrinking violet.  But it's the first time Cassell actually stated that his camp was working the buyout angle.

[A buyout is] the only way anything can transpire. I don't want to get into all the details. I just play the game of basketball. But that's what David Falk is for. And he's working. He's working.

Then came Boston.  The Herald dedicated 400 words to the subject.  Not to be outdone, the Globe went for a full 700 words.  The editors at the Globe were particularly nuanced going with the ever so subtle headline "Cassell wants to come to Boston."  By the way, if you're wondering what the LA papers are saying about all this, don't bother.  With the Clippers in last place and on an extended road trip to cold weather cities, the LAC beat reporters aren't even traveling with the team anymore.  The LA Times and OC Register are publishing AP stories about the games.  Super.

Sam Cassell is not shy.  He talks a fair amount.  Some would say too much.  And in the Boston papers, he basically says it would be great to play for the Celtics, and that he's friends with Garnett and Ray Allen, and that he can still play.  To which I say, 'Duh'.  Oh, he also says he would be willing to leave the money on the table that a buyout would require.  I guess that's significant.

This kind of talk has a way of gaining a life of it's own.  It's not news that Cassell would like to join the Celtics.  That's been pretty obvious since Garnett went there.  Let's see, he's a point guard, he's a former teammate of Garnett's, he's got two rings and loads of playoff experience, and he's in the final year of his contract, he's on a team whose superstar is injured.  All that stuff is easy.

But all the buyout talk is coming from Cassell's agent and the press.  Unfortunately for them, he's under contract to the Clippers, and there remains absolutely no reason for them to buy him out.  Particularly after Sterling's 'I want to win basketball games' tirade two weeks ago, it would be unconscionable to lose Cassell while saving a measly couple million bucks.  (Of course, it would not be the first unconscionable act of Donald T. Sterling, nor likely the last, but still.)  The Clippers have to get SOMETHING out of this.  A second round pick.  Gabe Pruitt.  A can of baked beans.  Something.

When asked in Boston about a potential buyout for Cassell, here's what MDsr had to say: "That's not our stance."  Well put.

It's been widely reported that there's no way that Boston can work a trade for Cassell.  Well, that's not strictly true.  They don't want to, I understand that.  But they can.  Cassell for Posey, Tony Allen, Scott Pollard and Leon Powe would work.  (Don't try this in ESPN's Trade Machine - it comes up a little short, but they have Pollard's salary wrong.  A 10 year vet, his minimum is over $1M, not the $770K they list for him.)  The Clippers might be interested in keeping Allen, Powe is a young, inexpensive piece, Pollard's contract is expiring, and Posey might opt out of his, and is a decent fit at $3.5 for next season at any rate.   If the Celtics want Cassell that badly, they can make a trade - throw in a first round pick.  If they don't, stop whining.  

The real problem here of course is that Boston (a) wants something for nothing and (b) doesn't have anything really worth trading at any rate.  (This is why three team deals won't really work either.  Boston has nothing they are will to trade that is of any use to any team.)  Posey is playing well for them, and they'd like to keep him.  But he's one of two contracts over $2M among the non-starters.  The other one?  Brian Scalabrine, who is ridiculously over paid with 2 seasons and $6.6M left after this year.  No one in the NBA wants that contract.  Nor do they have the picks to entice traders.  Next year's pick is likely to be the very last of the first round.  Their 2009 pick belongs to the Sonics.

But c'mon, given our new cap magic we learned from the Lakers, the Celtics could sign and trade some combination of Roshown McLeod, Dana Barros and Grant Long (all of whom are apparently still cap holds for Boston).  Sure, McLeod hasn't played since 2001, and Barros and Long are both over 40.  But if the Lakers can trade Aaron McKie, I see no reason that Celtics can't trade any or all of those guys.  Throw in 2008 first and second round draft picks and Cassell is wearing green.  The league frowns on such deals, you say?  If it helps put the Celtics in the NBA Finals vs. the Lakers, it'll turn their frown upside down.

Or get creative with a three team deal.  Or get creative some other way.  But please stop asking for charity so that a new banner can be hung in Boston.  What does it matter that it's such a perfect fit?  Why exactly would the Clippers WANT to help out the Celtics?  So stop trying to get something for nothing.  It's unseemly.

It's a shame, I understand that.  Cassell wants to be there, and would take less money to be there.  The Clippers don't want much in return.  They don't want any players - they'd settle for a pick, and even the 30th pick would be better than nothing.  But the salary cap must be obeyed.  

How's this for creative?  Buy him out and waive him.  Then, when he clears waivers, the Clippers sign him for the veteran's minimum, and trade him to Boston for Pollard and their first round pick.  There's probably some rule precluding that, huh?  You probably can't trade a guy you just signed.  OK, how about this:  buy him out and let him sign with Boston.  Then, in a separate transaction, Boston trades their 2008 first round pick for the 'right' to trade second round picks in 2012 (a right they tacitly agree not to exercise).  How would the league react to this obvious quid pro quo?  

But hey David Falk, if you can't figure out a way to get him to Boston and get the Clippers something worth while in return, then move on.  Stop wasting your time and my time with buyout talk.  Because Denver would take him for Najera and a pick, or Orlando would take him for Dooling and Garrity and a pick, and there are lots of other trades that work and get the Clippers something in return.  We all like Sam Cassell and we understand that he wants to go to Boston.  But it's a business and you don't let assets go for nothing.  No matter how nice a fit it is.