The Los Angeles Lakers and Cleveland Cavaliers have had discussions on a trade that would involve Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, league sources told ESPN.com.
No deal is believed to be imminent, but both sides are mulling it over ahead of a Jan. 7 deadline when the second half of Bynum's $12.25 million salary would be guaranteed. The Cavs suspended Bynum for one game this weekend for conduct detrimental to the team and have excused him indefinitely from all activities, including games.
By trading Gasol in a package for Bynum and then waiving him, the injury-ravaged Lakers could save more than $20 million in salaries and luxury taxes, which could help them maintain financial flexibility heading into the next few summers. A Gasol-Bynum trade would have to include at least one other player and perhaps other assets from Cleveland.
The Lakers are reluctant to part with the four-time All-Star in any trade without receiving assets of some value in return, sources said.
The Lakers have been luxury-tax payers for six straight seasons. While the luxury-tax savings this season -- and ability to avoid the repeater tax penalty that kicks in when a team is a taxpayer in four out of five years starting with the 2011-12 season -- would undoubtedly help the Lakers' long-term flexibility, the franchise's history and organizational culture make that a difficult prospect to consider.
There remains a strong organizational sentiment to continue to give the current group time to get healthy and resurrect its season before making any major moves, sources said.
The Cavs have been after Gasol since this past summer, when they had extensive discussions with the Lakers, sources said. Those talks ended when Dwight Howard signed with the Houston Rockets. The Cavs, who have been struggling, are looking to upgrade their roster as they attempt to end a three-year playoff drought.
The Cavs also have had separate discussions with the Chicago Bulls on a Bynum trade for Luol Deng, according to sources. The Bulls are in a similar position as the Lakers, about $8 million into the luxury tax and dealing with an injury-marred season.
Deng, like Gasol, is a free agent-to-be, and such a trade-and-waive deal with Bynum also could save the Bulls in excess of $20 million in salary and taxes this season. However, the Bulls have maintained they do not want to trade Deng and believe they will be able to re-sign him after the season.
Earlier this month ESPN.com reported the Lakers had been considering whether to trade Gasol as he clashed with coach Mike D'Antoni and struggled to adapt to his role within the coach's offensive and defensive systems. They had exploratory talks with several teams including the Bulls, Rockets and Brooklyn Nets but pulled back some after Gasol's attitude and play improved during Kobe Bryant's six games before going down again with a fracture of the lateral tibial plateau in his left knee.
Gasol, who is in the final year of a contract that pays him $19 million, is averaging 14.7 points and 9.4 rebounds per game while shooting what would be a career-low 45 percent from the field.
Bynum, who was an All-Star and won two rings with the Lakers before being traded in a deal for Howard in 2012, averaged 8.4 points and 5.3 rebounds in 24 games with the Cavs. After missing last season with knee injuries, Bynum has said he is unsure how long he will continue playing.
If he is waived by the Cavs or any team that might trade for him by Jan. 7, Bynum likely would have multiple offers to join a team as a free agent.