The Lakers are adjusting in many different aspects in regards to both their team and their game play as we enter this New Year.
One of the most apparent changes is with the coaching staff, which is now without Phil Jackson, who brought five championships to Los Angeles. Sporting the new look under Mike Brown, the players are not only having to find a new respect for their new coach, but they also have to learn and adapt to Brown’s new styles of play. Something else that is drastically different to the team that earned themselves a second round exit in the playoffs last season is the departure of forward Lamar Odom to the current champions, the Dallas Mavericks.
Odom joined the Lakers back in 2004, being included in the trade bundle alongside Caron Butler and Brian Grant from the Miami Heat for Shaquille O’Neal. In that season, the Lakers finished out of the playoffs for only the fifth time in franchise history. Since then, however, the Lakers had only seen improvements, making the playoffs each season and winning back to back titles in 2009 and 2010. His play was excellent and he played a key role in both championships, including stepping up as a starter when needed for the injured Andrew Bynum. Odom also became the first Lakers player to be honored with the Sixth Man of the Year award, which he earned in 2011.
Following the declined trade between the Lakers, Rockets, and Hornets, which still would’ve brought Chris Paul to Los Angeles only wearing purple and gold instead of Clippers red, Lamar Odom made his feelings known about being put up on the chopping block. The trade would’ve shipped Odom to New Orleans, along with some big names from the Rockets who would be replaced by Pau Gasol in Houston.
Thankfully for the Lakers, Pau Gasol took the news as a reason to prove himself, especially after the disastrous playoff run last season. However, the Lakers had a different situation with Lamar Odom, who felt disrespected about both the publicity of the trade and how it went down. He was thus traded to the Mavericks for a first round draft pick and an $9 million trade exception.
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Since his first game of the season with the Mavericks, Lamar Odom has looked less than impressive. With Odom shooting a total of 8-41 on the court, the current title holders are a weak 2-6 so far this season, making Laker fans look as his departure as a lot less than a mistake this early into the season. Not only do the Lakers now have another draft pick and trade exception, but also rid themselves of a highly priced forward who was no longer needed for Phil Jackson’s triangle offense.
The Lakers quickly turned to the duo of Josh McRoberts and Troy Murphy to fill in a big gap the Sixth Man of the Year left behind. McRoberts, who was signed to a two year deal by L.A. after playing for the Indiana Pacers, can play at both the forward and center positions. Already making a large impact the first four games of the season while Bynum was out due to suspension, the 6’10 McRoberts dropped a season high 10 points against the Knicks. In both games against the Denver Nuggets, in which he came off the bench, he was perfect from the field, shooting 4-4 with a total of 10 points.
Murphy, a 6’11 power forward and center, like McRoberts, was signed after previously playing for the Boston Celtics. Averaging a career 11.6 points a game alongside 8.3 rebounds a game, Murphy is a great addition to both the offensive and defensive parts of the Lakers, especially coming off of the bench. If Murphy can finally play to his potential like he was before a string of injuries while playing for Golden State from 2003 to 2007, he could be an even greater factor, and give L.A. the unstoppable bench they needed last season.
The departure of Lamar Odom to the Mavericks looked to have largely negative occurrences. Letting him walk away for what originally looked like nothing was hard to swallow for all Lakers fans, and no positive repercussions looked in sight. Suddenly, however, the tables have turned, and the 3-3 Lakers are looking to work harder and produce more from more aspects than just the bench. The additions of McRoberts, Murphy, Kapono, and an increased work ethic from both Steve Blake and Metta World Peace can be just enough to push the 16-time champions above and beyond, especially with a solid defense that is currently holding teams below 80 points a game. The loss of one big name Hollywood star in Odom can always be negative, but looking towards the future and seeing the growth the Lakers are capable of with their newest additions shines light in an area that once seemed dim.