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Goodbye, Mo Evans

Mo EvansThe Pistons traded Maurice Evans to the Lakers last night for the rights to Cheick Samb, the 51st pick in the draft who may or may not ever actually play in the NBA.

That's not entirely giving Evans away for nothing, but it's pretty much like giving Evans away for a scratch-off lotto ticket that has a 1-in-4 chance of paying. This move may not make much sense to some fans, but it makes perfect sense to me.

For one, it was obvious to anyone engaged in the whole "Mo Evans or Carlos Delfino" debate last season that either Evans or Delfino had to go -- there just wasn't enough playing time for both of them and they're both too good to deserve a string of DNP-CD's ((Did Not Play - Coach's Decision)) week after week.

I think it's been obvious all year which guy I've supported, but no matter what opinion you have of either player, the objective facts are that Delfino, who's 24 years old, is three years younger and scheduled to make about $200,000 less than Evans over the next two years.

As much as the fans realized it was difficult for Evans and Delfino to co-exist in the same rotation, it was apparently even mroe obvious to Evans himself. Joe Dumars explained last night, recounting a recent conversation he had with Evans' agent:

"We just felt like there wasn’t going to be enough minutes. I talked to Mo’s agent Roger Montgomery maybe three weeks ago. He called me and said ‘How do you think the minutes are going to go next year? Do you think Mo’s minutes are going to change?’ and I said ‘I don’t see it changing that much.’ I told Roger that I thought he (Evans) and (Carlos) Delfino will continue to platoon minutes and that I hope that both of them would get more minutes and rest Tayshaun and rest Rip. He said if I didn’t think he was going to get much more than he did last year that he thinks it’s best for him to be elsewhere where he could get more minutes. I just said ‘If something comes up and we can do that I will, but I can’t promise you that he’s going to play more minutes next year.’"

But why give him away for nothing?I know it's a little harsh to call Samb "nothing," but even if he does play in the NBA sometime in the next few years, it doesn't sound like he'll ever crack a regular rotation. Despite whatever faults Evans may have had, he's certainly talented enough to crack the rotation for most of the teams in the league, right?

Well, yes, but sometimes have the flexibility of an open roster spot (not to mention a little bit of salary cap/luxury tax relief -- moving Evans for nothing saves the team $3 million over two years) is better than getting back a player in return. ((I've thought this for a while, but Henry Abbott articulated it very well the other day.)) The way I see it, there are only two, maybe three, roster spots the Pistons have available next year, and the Pistons have already made it clear that they intend to fill those spots in free agency.

Of the Pistons' three rookies (Jason Maxiell, Amir Johnson and Alex Acker) last year, at least two of them (Maxiell and Johnson) will be returning in 2006-07. Toss in the fact that the team really likes Will Blalock this year, and that's potentially four young players taking up more than a quarter of the 15-man roster.

The other 11 spots fill up real quickly when you consider four of the five starters are returning for sure and Antonio McDyess, Dale Davis and Delfino are under contract. If Ben Wallace returns, there are only three open spots, one of which may or may not be reserved for Lindsey Hunter if he decides not to retire. So there's potentially only two spots at play here, and the Pistons have made it clear they will pursue a backup point guard and a slasher off-guard/small forward on the free agent market.

If Samb ever does develop into anything, it makes perfect sense for the Pistons to let him go through all of his growing pains while playing in Europe and not on their roster, especially since there are at least four "projects" already accounted for.

Conspiracy Theory Time: Just for kicks, since this is a blog, and by nature all blogs dabble in irresponsible journalism ((Of course that's pure b.s., but that's the way blogs are often represented in mainstream media.)) , perhaps there was another reason why Evans was shipped out.

About three weeks ago, Martin McNeal described in a column for the Sacramento Bee an detailed account of "how Flip Saunders lost the locker room." He described an incident in the locker room when Saunders addressed the team following Ben Wallace's decision not to re-enter the game against Orlando.

The buzz is that Saunders lost a great deal of respect in the locker room when he talked about Wallace's decision and then told the team it was not going to win the championship because of incidents such as that one.

That did not go over well with the Pistons, and Saunders was told in direct terms by one veteran not to say anything like that again to the team.

As players left the locker room, they saw Saunders being consoled by assistant coach Sidney Lowe. And with that sight, Saunders lost more respect.

Whatever "buzz" McNeal is talking about went completely unreported in the Detroit media. When I posted about the column, one of the comments came from Tom Ziller, who writes the Sacramento Kings blog Sactown Royalty. Tom recounted McNeal's relationship with Evans from when Evans played for the Kings:

FWIW, McNeal was overly sympathetic to Mo Evans last season and in the offseason, and criticized the decision not to bring him back. So Mo could be The Mole, if what Marty says is true.

McNeal also has people in Detroit, though that results from his strong relationship with Webber, so that’s not likely to explain any inner knowledge of the current Pistons.

I have absolutely no clue if what Tom is suggesting is true. And to be perfectly honest, I have no clue if Evans is the type of player who would leak info. As far as I'm aware, he never publicly complained about his playing time this year, and the general consensus among fans (or at least those wondering why Delfino didn't play more) was that he was "one of Flip's guys" from their (albeit brief) days together in Minnesota.

But if Evans was the guy who talked to McNeal, and if Dumars and Saunders found out about it, well, I'm not too surprised they shipped him at the first chance they got, which not only solved the problem of getting rid of a guy who didn't want to be here anymore, but also let Saunders flex a little muscle about the front office having his back.

Make of this what you will, it's just an idea that may or may not have any shred of truth attached to it. But it sure is interesting.