As long as humans made rules, humans found ways to bend (and break) them. Knowing how competitive front offices are, we shouldn’t be surprised to which lengths they would go to achieve a competitive advantage. Still, the Pau Gasol trade hides a little detail that will probably surprise you.
As the third pick in the 2001 draft, Pau Gasol was drafted by the Hawks and immediately traded to Memphis. He started off well and got the Rookie of the Year award behind an impressive season. After a few first-round exits in the playoffs, it became clear that Pau had to change teams to maximize his talent.
So on February 1, 2008, the Grizzlies traded Pau Gasol and a 2010 second-round pick for Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, Aaron Mckie, the rights to Marc Gasol, and their ’08 and ’10 first-round picks. The moment it happened the trade ruffled a lot of feathers. Jerry West, a Lakers legend, traded an amazing player for Kwame Brown and a few late 1st rounders??? Hell, even Phil Jackson thought it was impossible.
Everyone was scratching their heads how the Grizzlies didn’t get more in the deal. It turns out, most NBA teams didn’t even know Pau was on the table. This trade got Gregg Popovich so mad he said the league should create an independent trade committee that would approve all trades. If you ever wonder why Pop never wants to trade with the Lakers, this is a big part of that policy.
The Lakers obviously won that trade. The arrival of Gasol convinced Kobe to stay and a few rings followed right after. But the most immediate winner was Aaron Mckie. Not only did the Lakers get Gasol in a suspect deal, but they did so with one of the most blatant moves in cap circumvention history.
Mckie had a long NBA career and played for the Blazers, Pistons, 76ers, and the Lakers. The only thing is, his last game for the Lakers was in 2005. He became the 76ers assistant coach in 2007. So how did he got traded by the Lakers in 2008?
“There was one stumbling block — the numbers didn’t work and you had to get Aaron McKie on board. It didn’t look like we were going to be able to do that. We ended up working late into the night. My feeling was if we didn’t get it done that night, it would probably hit the papers because the rumors would get out. When things hit the wire and it’s now a public issue, it’s kind of like all bets are off. I felt like if it’s not going to happen that night, then it’s going to fall apart.”Mitch Kupchak, LA Times
Many players don’t file their retirement paperwork for years after they stop playing. The CBA rules at the time allowed the Lakers to sign him and include him in the trade just to make the numbers work. But McKie wasn’t too enthusiastic about leaving his position with the 76ers. Then he found out there’s $750.000 with his name on it if he did.
After the trade, McKie went straight back to Philly where he served as an assistant coach until 2013. He was 750k richer, the Lakers got two titles with Kobe and Pau as the main guys, and the rest of the league got another reason to hate the Lakers.