The NBA trade deadline is set for noon Thursday, and until that time, no team will rest easy.
On the surface, it would appear the last thing the Lakers need is a trade. After beating Golden State on Tuesday night, they've won four games in a row, all without Kobe Bryant, and find themselves comfortably in front in the Western Conference standings. They also trail Cleveland by a game and a half for the best overall record, and the Cavs are rumored to be blowing up their roster before the trade deadline.
Most media outlets are reporting the Lakers don't want to raise payroll, and because of that, they won't make a deal. Trust me, they might not make a deal -- but the reason won't be money.
The Lakers are looking to shed salary, not take on another two years and $17 million.
One thing I've learned about Jerry Buss is he will always spend if he thinks the costs will bring him a title.
The Pau Gasol trade not only increased his payroll, but all but locked him into signing Gasol to an additional long-term contract. Phil Jackson is the highest-paid coach in sports. He pays more money for his training staff than any other owner, because he knows he can't afford to have his older players get hurt. He has the league's highest payroll (over $91 million), but he also brings in more money than any other NBA franchise.
Every time I have a conversation with someone from the Lakers and I suggest money could kill a potential trade, I'm told it isn't an issue. Much like the Yankees in baseball, the Lakers philosophy has always been no matter what it costs, the team only asks one question when considering a player move: Will this get us closer to a championship? If the answer is yes, chances are the Buss family will pay whatever it costs.
If the Lakers lose out on Hinrich, or anybody else they like, it will be because they couldn't find any takers for their current contracts. In the NBA, you can't just trade your lowest-paid player for the other team's highest-paid player. The contracts have to match up to 75 percent of the other team's salaries. So you can't trade Adam Morrison, who makes $5 million, for Hinrich, who makes $9 million -- the salaries don't match. In that scenario, the Lakers would have to include a second player -- someone who makes around $4 million -- to make the trade work (if you ever want to see if a trade works, use the Trade Machine on ESPN.com -- coolest invention ever). My guess is if the Bulls would take a second Lakers player, the deal might get done.
Here are some other questions the Lakers are asking:
-- If they make a move for a player such as Hinrich, could he learn the triangle fast enough to contribute to this season's team?
-- Would the move be worth disrupting the current team chemistry?
On top of that, I have another thought: If the Cavs make a move, would it be smarter to hold off, knowing Cleveland would have to go through an adjustment period, and that could open the door for the Lakers to pass them?
My guess is the Lakers stand pat. I've talked to several people over the last two days who give me the impression that L.A. is happy with what it has. Of course, that could all change between now and noon on Thursday.
It normally does.
John Ireland hosts the "Mason & Ireland" show on ESPN Radio 710 in Los Angeles.