When it seemed that Chris Paul would be a Laker last Thursday, only to be nixed by David Stern later that night, Laker fans were either elated by the news or upset with the Lakers for trading Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom. Both sides had a credible point, as the Lakers need to build a younger, more athletic, and faster team, but Gasol and Odom were instrumental in the back-to-back championships and creating one of the biggest strengths of the team: their length.
Since Stern stopped that deal from going through, the Lakers made a subsequent trade that left Laker fans scratching their heads. Mitch Kupchak traded reigning Sixth Man of the Year, Lamar Odom to the defending champs and the team responsible for sweeping the Lakers out of the second round of the playoffs last year, the Dallas Mavericks, for a future first round draft pick in 2012.
Several Lakers, including Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher, shared their frustration with the loss of Odom for potentially nothing at media day at the Lakers’ training camp this past Sunday. Bryant told the press, “I don’t like it. To be honest with you, I don’t like it. You’re talking about the Sixth Man of the Year last year. He played lights out. I don’t understand the criticism of reality shows and this, that and the other. I don’t get it. I don’t understand that. He had his best season last season, clearly wasn’t a distraction, and he played his ass off. I don’t get where that comes from.”*
However, Bryant also remarked, “I trust management knows what they’re doing. I’ll let them do their jobs and I’ll never get in the way of it, but it’s tough. You got to let Mitch do his job. Look, Mitch has proven himself over the course of the years that he’s been able to build a great team here. We have to all trust that he’s going to do that.”*
According to the O.C. Register, “Asked specifically about hope of getting Paul still with him not having moved to the Clippers or anywhere else, Kupchak answered: ‘There’s several big deals out there that we’re still pursuing.’ He also said they weren’t limited to ‘the two’ that people are thinking about, meaning Paul and Dwight Howard.”**
With rumors and stories of Paul and Howard’s final destinations changing multiple times per day, the general managers of the Orlando Magic, the Lakers and the New Orleans Hornets, even though David Stern seems to be calling the shots for them, seem to be in no hurry to make a definitive trade. The trade deadline has been pushed to March 15, 2012 due to the shortened season.
With trades on the verge of becoming final only to later fall apart, and with Howard and Paul not being free agents, final trades involving these two players may come closer to the trade deadline rather than prior to the start of the season. While it is certainly understandable that the Magic and the Hornets want to take their time in order to get the best deal possible for losing their superstars, the Lakers are in a different boat.
The Lakers are looking to rebuild their team. After a harsh exit from the post-season last year, the reality that major changes to the roster was a need in order to remain competitive and return to the Finals set in to the organization and the fans. The current team is aging and losing the energetic spark needed to keep up with the rest of the west.
Since free agency began, the Lakers signed veteran forward Jason Kapono, their two second round draft picks Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock, four-year veteran who hasn’t played in the NBA since 2008-09 Gerald Green, free agent from Indiana Josh McRoberts and San Diego State rookie guard Malcom Thomas. The problem? These are not the “big trades” that Kupchak said they were working on and the rookies are all but guaranteed to play limited time since they are mostly guards.
Jason Kapono is 30 years-old, and while his presence does spread the floor a bit, he has been struggling for the past couple of seasons (something which Laker fans hope will change). Josh McRoberts is a solid power forward, but far from Lamar Odom. These additions don’t appear to be the solutions that the Lakers are looking for, especially now with void created due to the absence of Odom.
However, there is the possibility that acquiring “big trades”, primarily Dwight Howard, towards mid-season could help the Lakers. Like the trade in 2007 that sent Pau Gasol to L.A., a mid-year roster change can rejuvenate the team and provide a surge into the post-season. While a possible Howard trade would mean a probable loss of two starters and therefore may take more time to adjust to, a refreshed team would be more likely.
Laker fans continue to hope for a “big trade” to occur that would make sense of the Lamar Odom trade. While it is hard to imagine that Kupchak and Jim Buss would trade such a big part of the team’s past success for virtually nothing, Laker fans have to once again play the waiting game and hope for the best.
*Source: ESPNLA.com | Dave McMenamin
**Source: OCRegister.com | Kevin Ding