Last week, rumors swirled on the internets that Kobe Bryant vetoed a trade to the Pistons. The purported trade had Kobe going to Detroit in exchange for Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Amir Johnson, and a first-round draft pick. The story was reported by three sources that included Ric Bucher of ESPN, 1270 AM radio in Detroit, and Rotoworld. Members of the Detroit media—including Krista Jahnke of the Detroit Free Press—quickly refuted these claims because of a number of tacit denials by the Pistons front office including an “unnamed source” and Joe Dumars. Dumars had said that he was furious about various trade rumors involving the Pistons and that he was not shopping his players.
Due to the ambiguous nature of the reports, whether you believe the trade was discussed by the Pistons or not is entirely up to you. There really is no right answer. Hoopsworld has an interesting opinion on the feasibility of the rumors. Chris McCosky hates bloggers and sports radio so he certainly doesn’t believe the reports. However, I have to advise extreme caution against choosing not to believe the rumors solely because of Dumars’ strong public denial. If I was Dumars and I had agreed to the trade only to see it fall through, I would do the exact same thing that he did. There is no reason for anyone—his players included—to know that a trade almost happened. It is in everyone’s best interest—especially Dumars—to vehemently deny those trade rumors. Taking his word at face value would be akin to asking George W. Bush if he manipulated a war with Iraq and then saying case-closed when he inevitably says, “no.” Dumars’ denial is nothing close to evidence that the trade was never discussed.
My opinion—and this is simply my own personal opinion void of any inside knowledge—is that a trade involving Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince was at least discussed at some point since September. It may be that the Lakers and Pistons discussed a trade in September and Kobe let it be known then that he would not accept a trade to Detroit. Whatever it was, I think the Lakers and Pistons tried to do something. It makes sense for both teams. The package the Lakers would receive would be significantly better than what it received for Shaq. The Pistons would receive the best all-around player in the NBA and immediately challenge the Celtics as the best team in the East and possibly the NBA. A Kobe Bryant/Chauncey Billups/Rasheed Wallace triumvirate would be an incredibly potent attack every bit as formidable as Paul Pierce/Kevin Garnett/Ray Allen. The Pistons would probably have a stronger supporting cast than the Celtics with Antonio McDyess, Jason Maxiell, Flip Murray, Rodney Stuckey, and Aaron Afflalo. There is nothing about the trade that seems crazy in the slightest. The money works. The talent exchange works. Detroit’s window of opportunity for a championship with the current roster has come and gone. Barring an injury epidemic of unfathomable proportions that hits the Spurs, Suns, Mavs, and Celtics, the Pistons have no chance of winning the NBA Championship this year or any forthcoming year with its current cast of players. Dumars is too smart to hold on to the past for fear of change. He nearly completed a trade for Allen Iverson seven years ago. He traded Jerry Stackhouse—in his prime—for Rip Hamilton five years ago. He brought Rasheed Wallace—and his notorious reputation—to Detroit three years ago. Dumars isn’t afraid to make a deal.
If this trade was discussed—and I believe some form of it was—I couldn’t be happier with Dumars’ aggressiveness. If there was at least some discussion, it proves that he is willing to do whatever it takes to win and that he isn’t married to his aging core. That would bode well for the future because it would mean that Dumars knows he needs to make a significant move to get the Pistons back to being a championship-caliber team. I wrote a post earlier in the summer about Kobe and the Pistons being perfect for each other. I also wrote that I didn’t think Dumars had it in him to break up his team. If Joe D did talk to L.A., then I'd be happy to admit that I was wrong.
As for Kobe, if he did veto this trade—or any facsimile thereof—at any point, then I have lost virtually all respect for him. The reports cited that Kobe would not want to play for the Pistons because the remaining members of the Pistons would not be good enough to compete. Is he crazy? There aren’t more than five other teams in the NBA that Kobe could be traded to that would leave a team in better shape than the Pistons would be in. Kobe has said in the media that his motivation to get out of L.A. is all about wanting to win. I call B.S. If he wanted to win, he would be seeking a trade to Detroit rather than refusing one. Kobe wants to win but do it in a beautiful destination of his choosing. Then again, this whole thing could be a heaping serving of bologna. Nonetheless, I think Joe D is on the prowl.