The Lakers have been so uncharacteristically public about the potential benefits of an injection of new blood because they know, with a league-high $90.4 million payroll and such limited trade assets, that threatening this locker room with a shakeup move is a far simpler gamble to execute than shaking things up with an actual deal before the Feb. 24 trading deadline.
I'm told that there's at least one prominent Laker who hopes he's the guy who gets shipped out in the next 20-odd days.
One source close to the situation insists that Ron Artest wants out.
Asked to react to that, Artest's agent David Bauman declined comment.
This is where I'm obligated to remind you that no one in the NBA can change his mind faster than the famously fickle Ron-Ron. Another pertinent disclaimer: Artest's play has been sufficiently sluggish in the second season of a five-year deal that whatever he wants is bound to be greeted by shrugs and scoffs, no matter how much he gave the Lakers in the epic final game of last season.
I've nonetheless been assured this week that Artest — though he hasn't outright demanded a trade and is likely to publicly deny it — is serious about wanting to be dealt somewhere "he can have fun again" less than a year removed from the pivotal role he played in that ring-clinching Game 7 with Boston that the Lakers so nearly squandered.
Yeah Ron… NOW you wanna start making a stink and disrupting the Lakers? You're a little late on that, buddy.
Ron just turned 31 and he's under contract for three more seasons past this one. He's making $6.3 million this season and he'll make $7.7 in the last year of his contract. Meanwhile, any team that gets him will get a guy averaging 8 points and 3 rebounds per game.
So who'll take Ron? That's a great question. Who wants this guy through 2013/14? Contenders will be skeptical of taking on his attitude. Rebuilding teams will be weary of taking on all those years. And after it all, what kind of player will the Lakers get in return? This may well be bit of addition by subtraction by the Lakers, but it will probably not be the magical trade Lakers fans are looking for.