Is Josh Smith destined for Los Angeles?

Josh Smith isn't signing a contract with the Hawks and will be an unrestricted free agent next Summer. He's been asking out of Atlanta for quite some time now, but hasn't done it as douchey of a way as other stars have, so the Hawks have held on to him. For a quick second he almost had a change of mind  in this Summer after the Hawks unloaded Joe Johnson's contract and were appearing to try and make a run at close Smith friend Dwight Howard. Howard though had no interest in playing for his hometown Hawks, so that trade went no where and as we all know was eventually traded to L.A. with the Magic getting back peanuts in return.

Once upon a time the Celtics also dreamed of signing Dwight Howard. Danny Ainge kept the books clean so the Celtics could make a run at Howard this past Summer, but Howard had no interest. We've seen a new narrative in the NBA the past few years. Stars all want to play in New York and Los Angeles. While Josh Smith would love to be reunited with his close friend and former high school teammate Rajon Rondo in Boston (Imagine the alley-oops), and he's made this point clear several times, up until now Danny Ainge has only had luke warm interest in acquiring the versatile forward.

On other teams, sometimes GM's will try and appease a superstar and bring in his friend, but Danny doesn't do it that way (trading Rondo's best friend to OKC probably nailed the point across to Rondo's head). The Celtics don't have cap space to sign Josh Smith next off season, so Smith can't give the Hawks the ultimatum trade me to Boston or I'll sign there and you'll get nothing. Chris Paul really wanted to be a New York Knick, but without the cap space leverage the Hornets were able to find a much better deal. The Celtics could trade for Smith sometime around the deadline, but I'm not sure honestly what the Hawks would want off our roster. If they trade Smith, they'll be rebuilding, so they will have no desire for vets (or big money guys like Brandon Bass or Jeff Green). The two guys they might want are Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger, but the contracts don't come close to matching. Also, we like Bradley and Sullinger, so parting with both would hurt.

Assuming the Celtics can't present the best deal to Danny Ferry and the Hawks, where does Smith end up? Well where do guys usually end up? L.A. or New York. The Knicks and Nets don't have the pieces to trade for Smith and the Clippers don't either unless they trade Griffin (they won't obviously) or CP3 (he won't sign with the Hawks so won't happen). That leaves the team that it always always seems ends up being gift wrapped stars the Los Angeles Lakers.

How will the Lakers get Smith? It's easy. Howard and Smith are buddies, maybe not as close as Rondo and Smith, but close nonetheless. Just like when Howard's wish to play for the Nets vanished he quickly jumped on board with L.A, there's a very good chance that Smith will finally give up on Danny Ainge trading him to Boston and set his eyes on the Lakers. I expect the Lakers to eventually compliment their one young star in Dwight Howard with another. My original prediction (or more like please don't happen) would be that they'd con Kahn (no pun intended) into trading Kevin Love for Pau Gasol and garbage after Love finally has had it and demands out. Kahn would promote the whole Rubio/Gasol reunion and say the team had to move Love. But I'm really hoping someone in Minnesota can prevent Kahn from being this stupid.

Originally the Celtics wanted Pau Gasol during the disastrous 2006-2007 season, but Chris Wallace and the Grizzlies were demanding Al Jefferson and our upcoming lottery pick for him (Imagine the Celtics getting the #2 pick, but it having been traded months before and Memphis ends up with Kevin Durant and Al Jefferson from us?). Of course Wallace then gave away Pau to the Lakers for an expired bag of generic cheetos. Some of these Lakers trades makes me wonder if money isn't being given under the table from the super wealthy Lakers ownership to some of these poorer owners. "Here's Pau Gasol Mr. Buss." Sure we'll take your damaged goods center Andrew Bynum with the knees of my deceased grandfather for the best center in the game still in his young prime." "Yeah we'll draft Kobe Bryant and trade him to you, why not?"

If it's not under the table money then I guess I should give the Lakers management credit for the shrewd Auerbachian moves. The difference is the generations of the NBA. During Red's time you could be shrewd, but still loyal to your guys. The Lakers are shrewd, but at the price of loyalty. "Divac thanks for all the good years, but we're trading you for a draft pick." Shaq thanks for the 3 titles, but we're trading you for Lamar Odom." "Odom thanks for the 2 titles, but we're trading you for a trade exemption." "Fisher thanks for the 5 titles, but we're trading you to give your position to the Cavs backup point guard." "Bynum thanks for the two titles, but upgrade time, we want Dwight."

While Celtics fans would be in an uproar if Danny operated like this, it's like business as usual for the Lakers. And in reality is has worked. Divac for Kobe was a heist for the Lakers. A declining Shaq for Odom and Kwame Brown (which became Odom and Pau Gasol) brought the Lakers two more titles. Trading Odom for that trade exemption brought the Lakers Steve Nash. Trading Andrew Bynum brought them Dwight Howard. Next up is trading Pau Gasol for Josh Smith. When will the Lakers try to do this? Either at the deadline or next Summer. While Gasol isn't a great fit for the Hawks down the road, him and Horford would make a very nice post duo and the Hawks could always flip Gasol for something (which is more than they'd get for losing him for nothing obviously). And these young stars just always end up being gift-wrapped to the Lakers, so why should I expect less. The Hawks are cashed strapped. They're a similar small market team to the Hornets (Kobe), Grizzlies (Pau) and Magic (Howard). These teams are always acting as minor league funnels for the Lakers.

Would I love to have Josh Smith on the Celtics? Absolutely. Do I expect it to happen? No. For that reason, I really try not to pay much mind to Josh Smith news. Danny has never really had a strong interest in bringing him aboard, so why should I expect it to happen? When everyone kept talking about Dwight Howard to the Celtics, I was like give it a rest. You have as good a chance of winning the lottery. The Celtics have a better chance than that at Smith, mainly because he's not as good as Howard, he actually wants to play in Boston, and the Rondo connection, but there is nothing short of fan dreaming to make me believe that the chances are anywhere close to good. We don't have the cap space and the players the Hawks would want in trade don't match up salary wise (Not to mention if I posted a poll, would you trade Avery Bradley, Jared Sullinger and Jeff Green for Josh Smith, I'd get hated on for even suggesting it. That's what it would take. We're not the Lakers. We don't get gift-wrapped stars. We have to work really hard to get them). Feel free to name in the comments section other teams that Smith might end up on. I'm just going on past experience, and that tells me he could very well be destined to be a Laker. For that reason, I'm not going to spend too much time dreaming of him on the Celtics. I'd suggest you not waste the time either, but that's your call (In fact I encourage a healthy debate in the comments section of how the Celtics would get him, if you think it's more plausible than I do. Just don't say for Bass and picks. That's DEFINITELY not going to get it done). That's my 2 cents (What's the words to cent exchange ratio?) on Josh Smith.

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