Andrew Bynum could be headed back to Los Angeles, but only technically.
The Lakers and Cleveland Cavaliers have discussed a swap of Pau Gasol for Bynum, ESPN.com reported. The move would not reunite Bynum with Kobe Bryant, though, and Bynum likely would never step foot in L.A. The Lakers would quickly turn around and release Bynum before Jan. 7, when the final $6 million of his contract would become fully guaranteed.
No move is imminent, according to the report, but it would rid each team of its resident problem child. Gasol’s attitude and play have been below his All-Star standards this season, and Bynum has been excused indefinitely from all team-related activities for conduct detrimental to the team.
“By trading Gasol in a package for Bynum, and then waiving Bynum, the injury-ravaged Lakers could save more than $20 million in salary and luxury taxes, which could help them maintain financial flexibility heading into the next few summers,” ESPN.com reported. “A Gasol-Bynum trade would have to include at least one other player to make the deal work under league rules and perhaps other assets from Cleveland.”
Such a deal would be an uncharacteristic reversal for the Lakers, who have never focused on cost-cutting moves at the expense of their immediate ability to contend. They have paid the luxury tax for six straight years but face harsh repeater penalties beginning next season.
Of course, the Lakers never were going to be championship contenders this season, even if fully healthy. With Bryant’s recent contract extension due to kick in, the Lakers could ease their payroll burden by pulling off the Gasol-Bynum exchange.