Pistons could still trade Richard Hamilton to Cleveland Cavaliers – this season

As the Feb. 24 trade deadline approached, the Pistons had a deal in place that would have sent  Richard Hamilton and a lottery-protected 2012 first-round pick to to the Cavaliers for a second-round pick. An instant fix to Detroit’s problems? Not even close. But to Pistons fans leery of Hamilton’s sulking and of the $21.5 million his contract guarantees him the next two seasons, it would have been a step in the right direction.

Obviously, no trade happened as the trade deadline came and went. But don’t give up hope. (Or if you’re thrilled Hamilton is getting a second chance in the rotation, brace yourself.)

As Larry Coon explains, the trade hiatus ends before the playoffs end for all but two teams:

92. What is the trading deadline?

It is the date during the season after which trades are prohibited. It is defined as the 16th Thursday of the season. The prohibition on trades lasts until the day following the team’s final game of the season

For the Pistons and Cavaliers, that will be April 14. I don’t know whether the teams and Hamilton will resume talks at that point, but I’ll be disappointed if they don’t.

Let’s look back at Detroit’s and Cleveland’s basic motivation for making the deal that almost was:

The Pistons didn’t want Richard Hamilton’s salary on the books, didn’t want to pay his buyout themselves and didn’t want his attitude on the team. They were willing to give away a protected first-round pick to dump him.

The Cavaliers’ were willing to pay Hamilton’s buyout and take the cap hit in order to acquire a protected pick.

If both teams agreed to the trade last month, is there any reason to believe their situations will change to the point they wouldn’t agree to it in April?*

Sure, the details would have to be worked out again. Maybe the Pistons will want extra protection on the pick because they had to pay Hamilton the rest of this season. Maybe the Cavaliers will lower their buyout offer because Hamilton got paid for the rest of this season. And maybe Hamilton accepts this time.

Of course, that’s the catch. Hamilton wasn’t on board with Cleveland’s buyout offer last month, so the deal fell apart. But I haven’t seen anywhere that Hamilton specifically turned down the Cavaliers. This is how Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated reported it:

Rip blew his chance at free agency haggling with CLE

The parties were working with a looming trade deadline last time. This deal wasn’t reported until the day of the deadline, and who knows when Hamilton became aware?

What if he had just a few hours to consider: how much money he could make in each scenario (buyout, no buyout, what his new team would offer for this year and next, lockout, no lockout), the effect of altering his payment schedule and moving to a new city? That’s a lot to digest in a short amount of time.

Without knowing more specifics about his options and the amount of time to consider them, I think it’s unfair to blame Hamilton for the trade falling apart. Maybe, with more time, he’d agree to buyout terms with Cleveland.

For that reason, I think it’s premature to believe these trade talks are dead.

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