Sources with knowledge of the discussions told ESPN.com that the Lakers did indeed engage the Nets earlier this month in some exploratory talks to see if Brooklyn had interest in such a swap. Sources say that the Nets balked at the idea when it was presented before Lopez's injury, but it's still noteworthy if it happened.
Obviously, Brooklyn scoffed at the proposal. Lopez was the Nets' leading scorer and shot-blocker as well as their second-leading rebounder before he went down. His player efficiency rating (25.7) also ranked seventh among all NBA players averaging at least 25 minutes per game.
Trading him for a 33-year-old on his last legs would've made zero sense.
Well, it would have made zero sense then.
One could make the case that it would now benefit the Nets, a team stuck in financial purgatory for the next few seasons. Flipping an injured Lopez for Gasol's expiring deal, while still somewhat lopsided, would certainly facilitate a Brooklyn-based fire sale.
But that's neither here nor there. Both sides are likely against it now. A straight-up trade wouldn't work financially either because Gasol is earning over $4 million more than Lopez is this season. More pieces would need to be included.
Talks, however preliminary, are only noteworthy because it shows the Lakers aren't averse to assuming long-term contracts.
Since July, when ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne and Brian Windhorst revealed Los Angeles would become major free-agency players this coming summer, it's been assumed the Lakers wouldn't make any transactions that would compromise their impending flexibility.
Perhaps out of urgency to do something this season or fear of striking out in free agency, the Lakers are shifting gears. Their interest in Lopez indicates things have changed. Big time.
Lopez wouldn't have only jeopardized this summer's free-agency plans. His contract runs through 2015-16, provided he exercises a player option after 2014-15, essentially hamstringing the Lakers come summer 2015 as well.
Landing LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony or another A-list free agent was always going to be a long shot this summer. Acquiring one of them became even more unrealistic following Kobe Bryant's extension, which ensured the Lakers could only afford one without enough to assemble a strong supporting cast around them.
The Lakers surely wouldn't diminish their spending power entering the final year of Kobe's extension, would they?
Seems like they would. That's what it would've taken to land Lopez.
Since nothing ever came of the talks, this doesn't mean Los Angeles has abandoned all hope of signing another star in 2014 or 2015. It just means their future plans are more flexible than we thought.
Far more flexible than we thought.
All salary information used courtesy of ShamSports.com.