This is the potential compromise. Kenny Thomas out, Shelden Williams and Quincy Douby in. No difference to the Kings in lineup impact, big difference to the Lakers in money.
It's still Ron Artest for Lamar Odom at the bottom line, except the salary-cap ballast has changed and the Lakers, in this version that will undoubtedly be discussed between the teams, if it hasn't been already, get away from Thomas and his $17.3375 million due the next two seasons. For a team paying the dollar-for-dollar luxury tax, as L.A. is, that's actually a $34.675-million hit for Thomas. You can see the hesitation.
Williams is on the books for $3.4 million in 2008-09 and Douby for $1.43, along with Artest's $7.4 to match up under the cap rules to Odom's $14.15 million. Nearly 5 mil combined for a power forward that never plays and a guard that never plays is a bad thing. But Williams and Douby have guaranteed money next season only while Thomas is down for two more and, specifically, $8.775 million in the second one. That's the key.
Taking Artest, Williams and Douby, the Lakers are bringing on $12.23 million ($24.46 including the luxury tax) for 2008-09 and nothing after. Total commitment: $24.46 million.
Taking Artest and Thomas, the Lakers are bringing on $16 million ($32 mil) for 2008-09 and $8.775 ($17.55 mil). Total commitment: $49.55.
Obviously a massive difference.
The numbers change if the Lakers negotiate a buyout that saves a few million or if they trade Williams or Douby with the appeal of expiring deals, but these are the numbers of the moment that will be factored into a Artest-Odom deal. The same goes for the Kings, of course. If they don't trade Thomas, they can attempt a buyout, though nothing says he will be willing to give back money to become a free agent and go somewhere with a chance of playing. And, the Kings can move Williams and / or Douby as expiring contracts.
The point being, compromise deals are available.
Why the Kings would like this: Same as before. They get away from Artest and return to dealing with people of this planet. They get a season with Odom, a gifted, versatile offensive player who would replace Artest as the starting small forward and be able to play power forward. If it becomes a good fit, they have the lead on a new contract when he becomes a free agent next summer. If not, the money comes off the books, just as it would have with Williams, Douby and (perhaps) Artest. No harm done.
Why the Lakers would like this: They get the toughness of Artest without having to take Thomas. They also get a season with Williams and Douby before the pair becomes free agents in 2009. There isn't much to test drive, but those are the No. 5 (Williams) and No. 19 (Douby) picks in 2006, so maybe something's there. One of the L.A. unknowns is whether it would rather have Williams as unproductive youth or the experience of Thomas at power forward. Tough call.
Why the Kings would not like this: It solves the Artest problem, but leaves the Thomas issue unresolved. He may not take a buyout, and it will be much harder to trade him in the future. K9 with Artest works because Artest has a very manageable contract and because teams see Artest as a potential final piece to a long playoff run. Thomas with John Salmons or Francisco Garcia or Mikki Moore doesn't have the same heat, and Thomas with Brad Miller is too much money.
Why the Lakers would not like this: No reason. If they want Artest and have decided on a willingness to part with Odom to get it done, Williams / Douby instead of Thomas is the best possible outcome.
There's a good chance it turns into a stare contest. The Lakers want Artest but draw the line at taking Thomas. The Kings want Odom but insist on Thomas being part of the deal.
Does either side blink?