That’s the question I asked myself over and over again after hearing the news that the Lakers had traded reigning sixth man of the year Lamar Odom to the Dallas Mavericks for nothing more than a trade exemption.
Clearly the team had something else up its sleeve. They had to. At least that’s the first thing that I thought. The Lakers have earned that benefit of the doubt. Throughout the years they have proven that they know more than we do. They make moves that we wouldn’t have even guessed were possible. That’s why they’re the best.
So then trading Lamar Odom had to be some sort of precursor to bigger and better things. It had to. The Lakers aren’t a team that makes trades to dump salary or save money. They’re the team that constantly pays millions in luxury tax penalties because winning is more important. For the Lakers it never mattered how much it cost. But this one doesn’t make sense. Lamar Odom was an asset, or at least I thought so. At the very least Odom was supposed to be a detachable piece that could be moved to help strengthen the Lakers further, and prepare them for the future.
Just last Thursday Odom was involved in a trade that was going to bring Chris Paul to Los Angeles. While I wasn’t entirely thrilled with the trade overall, Odom had value. He was instrumental in making that trade possible. Obviously Odom was disgruntled when the news broke that he was on the trading block, and he took it harder than most. But he’s always been an emotional player. That’s what the fans loved about him in the first place.
Players are traded all the time. It’s part of the business. But each individual is going to deal with that situation in a different way. Still, I find it very hard to believe that things were so bad in just a span of 24 hours that things couldn’t have been mended if both sides really tried. Odom reportedly requested to be traded Friday after skipping the first day of training camp. But players ask to be traded all the time, and many times it doesn’t work out. Just look at Kobe Bryant back in 2007. He said he would rather play on Mars than return to the Lakers. How did that one turn out?
The more disturbing story here is that the Lakers seemingly gave Odom away and got nothing in return. I won’t even get into the fact that they gave him to the reigning NBA champions. The same NBA champions that swept the Lakers out of the playoffs in a humiliating fashion. That’s besides the point. The point is the apparent willingness of the Lakers to simply ship out a player that has been an important piece of two championship teams. And not only that, but how quickly they did it. This isn’t a trade that was a last ditch effort. It happened within 36 hours of Odom’s original trade request. It seems almost as if the Lakers front office called up the rest of the league and just dumped Odom for whoever would offer them anything at all.
Unless the Lakers don’t have something else planned this could very well be one of the worst trades in the history of the franchise. And it could signify something far more terrifying for Lakers fans. The end.
For the last 15 years the Lakers have represented excellence in nearly every way imaginable. They have made fantastic trades, solid draft picks, and have always had one goal – winning. And they have succeeded miraculously. Since 2000 the Lakers have been to the NBA Finals seven times. They have won the championship in five of those trips. They have epitomized success in the NBA.
Unfortunately this one trade could begin the domino effect that destroys it all. There’s no question that there is a changing of the guard in the Los Angeles front office. Jerry Buss has owned the team since 1979 and has always allowed the basketball people to make the basketball decisions. And this has paid off for him big time.
Now, Dr. Buss is beginning to step back. His increasing age and declining health have forced him to take a backseat. In his place will soon be his son Jim, who already has risen several red flags that won’t be good for the Lakers franchise.
This Odom trade could just be the beginning of the end for the Lakers. While they still have a strong roster they certainly don’t have one capable of winning a championship. The team is beginning to look rattled. While we may not be able to see everything that goes on behind the scenes, the vetoing of the Chris Paul trade on Thursday appears to have sent them into a tailspin. Shipping Odom to Dallas may just be the beginning.
The Lakers have long been a team of stability and success. Other teams have been forced to react to the moves made by the Lakers, not the other way around. Even if saving money wasn’t the ultimate goal in this bizarre trade, basketball-wise it made no sense. The Lakers are giving up their third best player for mere cash. This is something you’re used to seeing from teams like the Washington Wizards or Cleveland Cavaliers. And what do teams like that predominately do?
Unless the Lakers are able to follow their trade of Odom with a big splash, and anything less than Dwight Howard won’t be big enough, we may be looking at the beginning of the end of this period of dominance. When people start to lose faith in the decisions of the front office it’s very hard to regain that trust. No reputation is beyond damage. This trade left nearly everybody wondering what the team was planning. If it turns out to be nothing, the Lakers will have lost the benefit of the doubt.
And, if that is indeed the case, the Lakers will soon lose much more.