The Lakers and Shannon Brown just don't know how to say goodbye. Each summer since the Bobcats traded him to Los Angeles, he's peddled his services on the free-agency market only to re-sign eventually with the purple and gold. Let's review the on-again, off-again saga....
- In 2009, after helping the Lakers to a championship, he signed a two-year deal that allowed him to opt out after one.
- In 2010 he exercised the opt-out and, according to his agent Mark Bartelstein, engaged in "serious talks" with half a dozen teams. But after the Lakers' courtship of Raja Bell fell apart (phew!), Shannon took less money than he could've made elsewhere to return as Kobe Bryant's backup.
- Then this past June, on the day before the lockout started, Shannon again elected to become a free agent instead of playing out the final year of his Lakers deal, which would've paid him $2.37 million. On the heels of their playoff obliteration in Dallas, that seemed to herald Shannon's final split with the organization.
Except... like a broken-up couple that can't resist one more booty call, Shannon and the Lakers are texting each other again to see if a little of the old magic is still there. Yesterday, the first day NBA teams were allowed to speak with player agents, the Lakers spoke with Bartelstein about maybe returning Shannon to the fold. Is this really a good idea? I thought we decided to see other people.
Look, we all have a soft spot for Shannon Brown. He's given us two really brilliant stretches of play: first in the 2009 playoffs, when his unsustainably scorching three-point stroke was a key part of the Lakers' title run, and then at the beginning of last season when, for about a month, he looked like a Sixth Man of the Year candidate. And even when he's not playing especially well he's just a fun guy to have around. He dates famous women, appears in sexy music videos and of course packs down a variety of entertaining dunks. How, I ask, can you not like Shannon Brown??
But at this point we're all extremely familiar with his limitations. He dribbles the ball aimlessly, he pulls up for terrible jumpers and he's not a dependable outside shooter. On defense, when forced to choose between going over or under a screen he'll choose wrongly 90 percent of the time. Watching him you get the sense that he's still more athlete than basketball player. His instincts can be so bad they make your hair fall out.
With that in mind, why are the Lakers knocking on his door again? It's all about the salary cap and the difficulty of matching needs with resources. The team has two big depth-chart holes that it needs to fill in the next few weeks - backup center and backup shooting guard - and they don't have much cap space to go around. They can use what's being called the "mini midlevel" exception, basically $9 million over three years, or they can sign bottom-tier guys at the veteran's minimum. That's pretty much it. They can also use their $5.5 million trade exception from the Sasha Vujacic deal a year ago, but that requires finding another team with a decent player they're willing to part with. In other words, there's not much flexibility here.
Shannon, if you can talk yourself into him, offers an escape from cap tyranny. The Lakers hold his Bird rights, meaning they could sign him to a decent-sized deal without touching their MLE space. That they could use to find a quality backup big man and hopefully avoid a rerun of the Theo Ratliff nightmare. It makes sense as a payroll tactic. If only it made more sense in basketball terms.
The Lakers could really use a backup shooting guard who can unlock a defense with the dribble and make threes. If they can't find someone to do both, they need to find someone to do one or the other. Shannon does neither, which makes him a terrible fit. The Triangle, moreover, is gone, so Shannon offers no advantage over other free agents in terms of his knowledge of the Lakers' systems.
Even assuming the Lakers don't have the firepower to shoot for one of the premier free-agent twos (Jamal Crawford, Jason Richardson, Arron Afflalo) there are plausible down-market alternatives. James Jones, for instance, is unrestricted and would be the best three-point shooter the Lakers have had in years. He made barely more than $1 million last year. Peja Stojakovic is out there. Marco Belinelli, too. At least some of these guys will be in the Lakers' price range and each would provide a much-needed new ingredient.
If that means having to skimp on a backup big, so be it. I mean, you have to sign a big man. Making Pau Gasol cover for Andrew Bynum during Drew's regular injuries and suspensions is doing it wrong. Pau will wear down, and it'll cost you toward the end of the year. So yeah, you need a real center behind him, but to be honest it doesn't have to be anyone super-dynamic. He just has to be large and bipedal. A healthy Ratliff would've done the job just fine.
I get that Shannon looks like a handy shortcut, but I don't think it's worthwhile except as a last option. (By which I mean, the option before you get to Tracy McGrady.) It's time to move on from the Shannon Brown era. I'm sure we can all remain friends.
Follow Dex on Twitter @dexterfishmore.