If you haven’t read my earlier piece looking at the idea of the Lakers signing Chris Paul while re-signing Dwight Howard, go read it now, otherwise this post won’t make much sense. Be sure to look at the comments.
Now here’s the background for that piece. If you haven’t seen it already, Bill Simmons recently wrote his annual “trade value” piece for Grantland, which is a wonderful look at player values, ranking them according to whether a team would be willing to trade Player X for another team’s Player Y. If the answer is “no,” then Player X should be ranked higher than Player Y. These articles tend to be massive — this year it was spread across three posts and I think added up to more words than the US tax code.
 I can’t do the nifty sidenotes like Grantland uses, so I’ll try this. Simmons, by the way, is one of the few NBA media guys I still haven’t met in person. I came close once — I was standing in the hallway of the Sloan Conference talking to Royce Webb a couple years ago, and Simmons whisked by us on his way into the VIP lounge, with his ear glued to his phone. He & Royce nodded to each other; I was ignored. I still wonder if there really was anyone on the other end of the phone. (The other guy I still haven’t met in person is Chad Ford, even though he was one of the first NBA media people I interacted with — long before either one of us got picked up by ESPN — but I’ve talked to him on the phone several times.)
Part 3 of the Trade Value article came out yesterday, which you can read here. In the section talking about Chris Paul there was a sidenote (number 13) which read:
Don’t rule out Chris Paul becoming a Laker next year. Here’s how they could pull it off: If they amnestied Kobe Bryant, then traded Pau Gasol to Houston for a dirt-cheap salary (say, Donatas Motiejunas), they’d suddenly be lopping close to $49 million off next year’s cap, leaving them with commitments to Metta World Peace, Steve Nash, Steve Blake, Chris Duhon, Jordan Hill, and Gasol’s cheap replacement for less than $30 million. That’s more than enough to sign Chris Paul and re-sign Dwight Howard if they took a little less … which they might, since it’s the Lakers and all.
Now I need to explain what happens when someone, anywhere, posts something controversial that has cap implications. I get asked about it. A lot. On an ordinary day I can expect about five emails, several tweets, a text or two, some Facebook messages, and at least one phone call asking about something someone wrote somewhere, wanting to know if it’s real or not. It’s a daily occurrence, it’s part of the “job,” and I’m fine with it. Really — I try to be as interactive as possible with people, and it comes with the territory.
 If it’s a game night, then it’s also usually the topic of dinner conversation in the media room before the game.
In this particular case, there were two multipliers. One was that it dealt with the Lakers, and the other was that it was something Bill Simmons wrote — he’s the most read guy in the business. So I was getting hit up with questions about this as soon as I got up this morning.
There are three reasons I created this blog. One is because I wanted a place to publish things that aren’t really right for sites like ESPN.com — for example, detailed analyses on cap issues that wouldn’t have broad interest, even for Insider. Second is because I wanted to supplement Twitter with an outlet that lets me explain things without worrying about limits like 140 characters. Third is because if I’m getting asked the same question by a lot of people, I wanted a way to answer everyone in a manner that’s not so ephemeral as a tweet.
 The fourth reason, of course, is “because the world needs more Larry Coon.”
So it’s natural that I devote a blog post to answering all the questions I received about that one sidenote. As can be expected given the multipliers I just named, that post received a lot of attention — it’s the most read post in the (limited) history of this blog. It of course also received a lot of comments.
Forgetting about the 99% of comments that are spam (you’d be surprised if you haven’t done a blog yourself — I was), the comments are mostly good, but there are always a few that I’d consider to be vacuous.
And for whatever reason I was in a feisty mood today. So I took on a couple of the vacuous ones. Here’s the first one of those that I received, from a guy named Brent:
This is possibly the stupidest article I’ve ever read. Here’s my scenario of how it was written:
Scenario1a: You are high
Scenario1b: You had to meet a deadline and threw some cr*p together
And being in a feisty mood, I couldn’t let something like that go unchallenged. My response was to point out that missing any meat, and I challenged him to provide it for me. Here’s my response:
Hmmm, let’s see:
1a. High? No, I don’t do drugs, sorry…unless you count daily overdoes of caffeine. I also love a good Pinot Noir or Chateneauf du Pape, a nice Scotch, or a good reposado Tequila, but none of those things were in my bloodstream when I wrote this post.
1b. Deadline? Since this is my own blog and I post in it whenever I feel like it, there ARE no deadlines. So this one is ruled out too.
2. Both. Well, since one and two are both false, both being true can be ruled out as well (I can diagram if for you if you’d like).
I could also point out that you committed a logical fallacy by limiting it to one of a limited number of choices (similar to a false dichotomy, although that fallacy refers specifically to TWO choices), to which you could respond, “you’re right — I don’t understand logic. My bad.”
So let’s ignore your logic and get to the meat — let’s see your explanation for why you think my post was so stupid.
Oh, wait…you didn’t provide one.
So let’s rectify this. You obviously must think there are REASONS why my piece was so stupid. Here’s your chance to tell me — and to show the world exactly why I’m such an idiot.
Write something up explaining why it was so mind-numbingly stupid that you could only conclude that I must be either high or on a deadline to have written it. Go through the errors, the false assumptions, the missing provisos and the faulty conclusions.
I will publish your response on this blog (assuming it’s at least minimally coherent and actually addresses the point). It will be the first ever guest piece I have allowed (and trust me, I -have- been asked by others if they could write for this blog). I will promote the shit out of it (hey, it’s my blog, and I can cuss if I want to). Here’s your chance to get yourself published and put me in my place at the same time.
The only possible downside for you (other than having to come up with something to say) is that I will respond to it. But hey, if you make good, solid, cogent points — if you convince me with your logic and art of persuasion — then I will acknowledge that fact, and your post and my response will serve as a testimony to your superior intellect.
So don’t just take a lame potshot and run — let’s hear what you have to say.
That’s right — I challenged Brent to provide an ACTUAL critique, and offered to post it here on the blog if he did. To his credit, Brent did just that (to be honest, I expected not to hear anything back). So here it is. I’ll respond to him at the end.
Larry, this is GREAT! I appreciate the chance to respond.
The reason I call the article (and not you, don’t get your feelings hurt, and I do appreciate the opportunity to respond again), is that it defies logic.
By logic, I mean starting with a presumption based in reality and then making factual accurate assumptions based on it in a sequential, realistic manner.
You start off with Kobe “Coming back late in the season as a shell of his former self”. Kobe Bryant, like it or not, has been playing through serious, intense injuries for over 17 years. All indications are that he will come back at the beginning of next season. I’m not trying to act “pugnacious” lol, but I am a doctor and I know a little about achilles’ tears. The timeframe of recovery is 6-9 months. Kobe’s will be 6, because for 17 years, he’s been coming back early from all forms of injuries. The man is simply a machine. Yes age takes it’s toll and he won’t be as high-flying, but he’s already converted to a mid-range, late Michael Jordan, post up game. Anyway, point being he’s an unusual athlete, and even if he were an average professional athlete, he is projected to be back at the beginning of next season. Therefore assumption 1 is, in all likelihood, false.
Ok, now, as you say “let’s assume the Lakers WOULD be willing to amnesty Kobe in order to make this all work. Otherwise, we can just stop here”. So let’s move on to the next assumption:
The Lakers trade Pau Gasol for Donatas Motiejunas??? Are you f*cking serious? Why in the name of hell would the Lakers trade Pau Gasol, who although he may be declining, is still a borderline All-star, for some nameless P.O.S? Is the idea that they just dump salary to make way for the admittedly remote possibility of getting Chris Paul? I think this is where I completely lost track of your “logic”, and found the article, well, stupid. If they want to clear salary, why would they trade their 3rd best player for noone. They could definitely trade some of their less useful assets, or, amnesty Metta World Peace. Agreed, noone wants to help the Lakers, but Memphis “helped” the Lakers many years ago with the Pau Gasol trade, and that has ended up well for both teams. Anyway, I digress…
We both agree there is no way that scenario 1, where Chris Paul moves across town to the Lakers for 6.8 million dollars. So that assumption is agreeably ludicrous.
Scenario2a: Howard takes 8.7 million. Again agreeably ludicrous. No NBA player has ever taken 10 million dollars less then what they could make, to play for a team. I sincerely doubt Dwight Howard will be the first to do so.
Scenario2b: Where they both take 13.7 million. Honestly this is the most possible fantasy of all. Yet you completely discount it. It’s not going to happen, but unlike the other scenarios, I’m not laughing…the “Big Three” in Miami all agreed to take less, albeit SIMILAR amounts, to become the best team in the league. I think Howard and Paul would have to feel they both sacrificed equally to sacrifice at all.
Scenarios 3a and 3b, again, are unlikely to happen because NBA players egos are as big as their salaries. Paul and Howard will have to sacrifice equally in order for this fantasy to occur.
Scenario 3c: This is actually the most plausible of all your assumptions. But have you looked at the team you’ve created? You have Chris Paul, Dwight Howard, and my nephew (who’s awesome btw just not great at basketball).
So, in order to create this awful team with two superstars and a bunch of pieces that don’t fit, you have to trade Pau Gasol for one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and amnesty the most popular athlete in Los Angeles since Magic Johnson.
Your ability to play with numbers is impressive, but data is just that…data. I do research, and if the hypothesis doesn’t make sense in the first place, there’s no point in crunching the numbers.
I hereby refer to this article as “stupid”. It’s not the nicest term but I’m post-call and that was the first word that came to mind.
P.S. You didn’t even point out I used improper grammar when I said “Your” high
P.P.S. I appreciate the chance to respond and hope this is all taken in good fun.
First, thanks for writing back. I remember being at a comedy club once, and a comedian dealt with a heckler by saying, “You really don’t want to challenge me right now. First of all, I’m sober and you’re not. Second, I do this for a living. I have a lot of practice dealing with assholes who try to out-funny me. And finally, I have a big-ass microphone right here, and you don’t.”
I challenged you to respond, in an arena where I have all the advantages, and you did. Kudos for that. I only wish you would have made your point in this way the first time, instead of with comments that add nothing to the discussion.
Okay, that said…
On Kobe’s injury — sometimes the past is a good predictor, and other times it’s not. I touched on this in this very article, talking about the “the Lakers wouldn’t do that” response. We don’t know what the Lakers would or wouldn’t do with Jim Buss in charge. The only data we have to go on is from when Jerry Buss was in charge.
Likewise, the fact that Kobe has always been a beast when it comes to playing through or recovering from injuries isn’t necessarily a good predictor of what will happen with THIS injury. I’m sure you know that this is one of the worst injuries a basketball player can have, and an injury you really can’t rush. I have access to the Lakers’ locker room. I’ve seen Kobe’s swollen fingers and ankles close up, I’ve talked to him about it, and I’ve marveled at how he’s always been able to play through it. I’ve been in a scrum of media folks, all of us gawking at Kobe’s hand from a few inches away, and all of us thinking, “holy shit — you PLAY with that?”
But this injury is not like the others. To quote The Princess Bride, “You’re only saying that because no one ever has.” Name ONE guy at this level who sustained the same injury and was able to return as some semblance of himself in that timeframe. The typical duration is a full year, and a significant time beyond that to return to his previous level — if it happens at all. I think the fact that Kobe has been able to deal so well with his previous injuries leads people to the assumption that it’ll be the same with THIS injury, and I think that assumption is a mistake.
 We could also have a long discussion about whether a Kobe amnesty is reasonable if indeed he will miss the entire season, especially given the Lakers’ 2014 plan and the question of how to fit Kobe’s salary in with that plan. But that’s a whole ‘nother discussion, and this post is already getting Simmons-esque in its length.
 Do you REALLY think Kobe is inhuman? What if he had — forgive me for being morbid — pancreatic cancer? Would you still be saying, “It’s Kobe Bryant! He’s indestructible! He’ll be back in six months!” Probably not — so now it’s just a question of where you draw the line between things from which he recovers quickly and things from which he doesn’t. I’d put all his previous injuries in the former category, and this particular injury in the latter.
I also take issue with your saying his game has changed and he’s not a high-fly act any more. That was true even before the injury — we’re talking about his ability to return to the level he was at THIS year, not in 2000. He’s a jump shooter, and this is a devastating injury to the leg he jumps with.
But that’s not my main objection to your objection. My main objection is that it was a built-in premise. Remember, I was analyzing whether Simmons’ point was reasonable, from a cap standpoint. A Kobe amnesty was a part of HIS point. His idea doesn’t work at all if the Lakers AREN’T willing to amnesty Kobe, so the only way I could possibly analyze the feasibility of Simmons’ proposal is to accept the premise that the Lakers would be willing to amnesty Kobe.
I didn’t mean assume it like, “of course the Lakers would be willing to amnesty Kobe. We can just take it as a given and move on.” I meant assume it like, “we have to assume it, otherwise I can’t analyze Simmons’ proposal.” Maybe that’s what threw you off (even though I thought I made this point clearly).
On whether the Lakers would trade Gasol for Motiejunas — well, I already made it clear that the salaries wouldn’t work if it was Motiejunas, and instead it needed to be someone like Robinson — but I know that’s not your point.
But you already touched on my response when you pointed out that Memphis traded Gasol to the Lakers in the first place. Remember, at the time the trade was widely panned as a disaster for the Grizzlies. They were trading the same stud player — but this time in the prime of his career — for Kwame “cakethrower” Brown, a second round pick who wasn’t signed, and a first round pick who didn’t amount to anything (the fact that Marc Gasol later developed into an all-star is beside the point. At that time he was an unsigned second-rounder whose career path was still unknown. They didn’t have the advantage then of the hindsight we have now.).
So if a team wouldn’t dump a near-all-star for a stiff, then how come it’s exactly the sort of deal that brought Gasol to the Lakers in the first place, and how come these sorts of deals DO happen in the NBA? The answer is because you’re looking just at the small picture of one specific deal, and you’re looking at it strictly from a basketball perspective. There’s a financial component to deals as well, and sometimes deals are made ENTIRELY for financial reasons.
 You asked, “Why would the Lakers trade their third best player for no one?” The Lakers traded the newly-crowned sixth man of the year for no one just two seasons ago.
In this case you need to look at the big picture — it’s not an isolated deal, but part of a series of deals to reach a specific endpoint — and you have to look at the financial aspect — it sets the team up to be able to make the other deals. Trade Gasol for Motiejunas as an isolated deal? I agree — bad move for the Lakers, and one they wouldn’t consider. But no one’s saying they’d be doing this deal in isolation.
You also objected to them dumping salary for the “remote possibility” of getting Chris Paul. I think neither Simmons nor I were suggesting they do this deal blindly, crossing their fingers & hoping that the remaining pieces fall into place. The idea is that they set everything up, and only do this deal if they know they have agreement on the rest of the package.
And now we also get back to my same big objection — trading Gasol for Motiejunas wasn’t MY idea. It was Simmons’ idea, and I was analyzing Simmons’ idea from a salary cap perspective.
You also said the Lakers “could trade some of their less useful assets, or amnesty Metta World Peace.” Same response — sure, they could do that, but: 1) That wasn’t part of Simmons’ proposal to which I was responding; and 2) None of that would have put the team in a position to acquire Chris Paul, which was the point of this exercise.
In my piece I went through the various ways of trying to work the numbers, and showed why each one them didn’t make sense. You then went through them, and pointed out that they didn’t make sense. Yeah — that was my point. Again, maybe you weren’t reading carefully enough, and thought I was saying they were plausible options…
On “…but have you looked at the team you created?” Uh, yeah — I did so right there in that piece. I was specifically pointing out that you have a thin-as-hell team, with little ability to add to it. Maybe by this point you were seeing red so much that it was blurring your vision.
So in summary, thanks for at least providing some content this time — but while you say my article was “stupid,” I think you mistakenly ascribed to me something that should have been directed at Simmons, and I think you weren’t reading carefully enough to realize I was making many of the same points you had in mind.