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The Lakers and the high price of losing a sure-bet

Dec 11, 2011, 9:02 PM EDT

San Antonio Spurs v Los Angeles Lakers Getty Images

If you had asked any NBA fan, or expert, or even Lakers official back in June what they’d be doing two weeks before the start of the season, they’d say there’d be some drama. There always is. With Phil Jackson retiring and Jim Buss taking the reins over from his father, there were sure to be changes in the way that day-to-day operations and life of the league’s most prolific franchise. But no one could have foreseen this.

The Lakers’ attempts at restructuring a deal for Chris Paul fell apart Saturday night, two days after the league blocked an approved trade by all three parties in a three-way with Houston and New Orleans. As they pulled out of talks, leaving both Houston and New Orleans stranded, they shocked the world by trading Lamar Odom, Sixth Man of the Year and glue guy for two championship teams, to the Dallas Mavericks who just seven months ago knocked them out of the playoffs and set off this unraveling. In return? The Lakers get a first-round pick of Dallas’ choosing between now and a half-decade, and a traded player exception.

ESPN reports Odom demanded a trade Friday night. So hurt by the team’s decision to move him, the bridge was burned. He winds up on a conference rival. What’s stunning is not the move itself, this happens from time to time.

But not to the Lakers.

This is a franchise that has been largely untouchable. And under any other circumstances, their efforts in the Chris Paul trade would have paid off. They would then be in position to obtain Dwight Howard and complete the triad that would destroy the universe and reign for a thousand years. That’s the way it’s supposed to go. That’s what the Lakers do.

But they didn’t.

It took a confluence of events beyond description. George Shinn sold the team while having prostate cancer, essentially just giving up. A deal to sell the team had fallen through in the wake of the BP oil spill in the gulf, the same effects thereof kept a prospective buyer away. So the league bought the team. And held onto it for months, because of their desire to raise the value of the sale with a better CBA the league sacrificed 16 games for in a lockout. Then this happened, before they could. Had Shinn kept the team another year, had the oil spill not happened, had the league sold it before the lockout, had the lockout not occurred. Any of these things change, and the Lakers have Chris Paul in Lakers Gold right now.

But they did. The Lakers gambled big, but gambled on the fact that they have always succeeded. They should have pulled it off. They did pull it off. They talked the Hornets, facing the most massive rebuilding project of any team since… OK, well since Cleveland, into taking two guys over 30 with medium-to-large contracts and Kevin Martin who is a very specialized talent, along with a 20-ish pick from the Knicks by way of Houston in exchange for the best pure point guard in the league. Only the Lakers could pull this deal off, but they did it. Nothing could stop them…

Except the league.

And in doing so, by interjecting themselves where they were not wanted, by over-riding New Orleans GM Dell Demps who had been given permission to run the team along with Jac Sperling, the league has altered the course of Lakers history, interfered where it was not their place. If you don’t consider them a legitimate owner of the Hornets, as they are not the long-term owners of the team and as they have considerable conflicts of interest, then quite simply, the Lakers had the roulette ball land on their number, and yet the house took their bet with no return.

Without the trade, Odom is still obliviously happy in his natural environment, a hyper-media, reality-television, flashbulbs and confetti wonderland, instead of suiting up to hurt his former team. Pau Gasol isn’t emotionally scarred. If the trade had gone through, the Lakers have moved on to their next era of dominance.

Instead, it’s an uncertain future. Dwight Howard is still out there, even as rumors that they won’t trade Pau Gasol and Bynum for Howard percolate. And who knows, maybe the Lakers will return to chase Paul. But as it stands, they have a gaping hole in their front court, and a serious chemistry issue. Not one of their own design, but by consequence of the league’s interference.

It’s said that the Lakers don’t rebuild. They reload. But the league, in essence, has amputated a limb. They’ll likely figure a way out. But the result is the same.

The league vetoed a trade, and in doing so, have set off a set of consequences which turns a team that had every reason to believe they could return to challenge for a championship on the razor’s edge.

Good luck with that, Mike Brown.

  1. trueballs - Dec 11, 2011 at 9:07 PM

    still having Gasol and Bynum constitutes as a “gaping hole in their frontcourt”? It’s still the best frontcourt in the league…they’ll find help on the bench. they always do.

    • jsun1216 - Dec 11, 2011 at 9:28 PM

      lol yeah…when Lamar Odom was on the bench

    • thenoblefacehumper - Dec 11, 2011 at 10:20 PM

      I can’t believe I’m saying this, but the New York Knicks just had a laugh.

    • jaydukes2 - Dec 11, 2011 at 10:38 PM

      I am almost sure Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire, and Tyson Chandler is the best Frontcourt in the league. But you are right it isn’t a gaping hole but 6th man of the year not there leaves a hole.

  2. mcjon22 - Dec 11, 2011 at 9:12 PM

    Totally forgot they hired Mike Brown to replace Phil Jackson. I’m still laughing

  3. krazymed - Dec 11, 2011 at 9:26 PM

    Jim Buss will protect Andrew Bynum at all costs, and wipe out all traces of Phil Jackson no matter how long it takes. This will be fun to watch.

  4. bparmalee - Dec 11, 2011 at 9:40 PM

    Some GMs need to learn how to make a deal and stop trying to have it all. Pulling out of the Paul deal hurts Jim Buss with teams he may want to deal with in the future and makes his job harder than it has to be. Trading Odom… prematurely… without consideration for what you might need to make a trade for Howard is borderline incompetent.

    • chargerdillon - Dec 11, 2011 at 10:10 PM

      All GM’s need to be held accountable for making horrible draft picks. San Antonio a small market team won championships for years by making great draft picks like Tim Duncan and David Robinson.

      Owners like Dan Gilbert never want to address the fact even with the best player in the game, they couldnt draft or bring in talent around him to make it happen.

      Look at the New York Knicks with Isiah Thomas. He couldn’t burn that franchise to the ground faster, and where was the Knicks owner Dolan? SUPPORTING THIS IDIOT LIKE FANBOY?

      To all the Knicks fans out there, you know first hand what it is to have an idiot owner, hiring idiots to make idiotic moves. Good franchises, tend to have good GM’s who tend to draft good players and tend to make good trades. Everybody else is the Washington Generals (Cleveland Cav’s)

      • bparmalee - Dec 11, 2011 at 10:22 PM

        What draft picks have the Lakers made? Bynum is their only real draft pick and its debatable how good he is or will be. you can only have “upside” for so long. Its not other teams fault that they arent located in LA. Not every team has Kobe,Pau Gasol, Shaq given to them (almost Chris Paul and Dwight Howard). People keep saying San Antonio. They got lucky with Duncan and had true vision with Parker and Ginobili but that cant happen for every team (San Antonio hasnt hit a home run in awhile either). Its easy to be a great team or GM when every great player says “I want to be in LA.. so trade me there.”

      • tubal22 - Dec 12, 2011 at 12:48 AM

        Not saying San Antonio doesn’t have a great front office, but exactly what type of decisions had to be made when they drafted David Robinson or Tim Duncan? They were both #1 picks. If you would have said Ginobli and Parker, then you might have had an argument.

        The only decision I could see with those two was the one where they tanked the season so they could get draft Duncan.

      • deadeyedesign23 - Dec 12, 2011 at 8:47 AM

        “What draft picks have the Lakers made?”

        They traded for Kobe about 5 seconds after he was drafted. Maybe you heard of him.

  5. cosanostra71 - Dec 11, 2011 at 9:40 PM

    Dan Gilbert is such a loser

    • jaydukes2 - Dec 11, 2011 at 10:41 PM

      25 dislikes are gotta be from Cleveland fans the guy loses Lebron so he tries to make another team feel just as worse than he did when he lost him to the Heat and only got first round picks. The Hornets had a good deal getting 4 potential starters with players like Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor still on the team.

      • metalhead65 - Dec 12, 2011 at 2:02 AM

        so getting a couple of guys over 30 who may have 2-3 great years left in them plus a draft pick that is at the the bottom end of the draft and is a good deal for the hornets? just because the lakers say so? in return they get a all star guard not even in his prime who will be in the starting lineup for years. yea sounds like a fair deal to me. you guys in L.A. do not get your way for once and the rest of the league and fans are suppose to feel sorry for you? I don’t think so!

    • thenoblefacehumper - Dec 11, 2011 at 10:50 PM

      …Dan Gilbert must have 55 different accounts.

  6. sonofsambowie - Dec 11, 2011 at 10:46 PM

    The move that got Kobe was one of the most brilliant strokes in NBA history. Jerry West traded Vlad Divac for Kobe’s draft rights-create more cap space to sign Shaq.

    I mean, I can’t think of a better move in the last 20 years.

    • 1historian - Dec 11, 2011 at 11:10 PM

      I know it was more than 20 years ago but Jerry Krause’s move to get both Scotty Pippen and Horace Grant in the 1988 or 1989 draft was pretty good – he got two starters out of one draft for a team that won 3 titles. Not too shabby. (I know the Bulls won 6 titles but Grant was gone for the last 3.)

      And there is Red Auerbach’s move in the 1981 draft where he got Robert Parish and Kevin McHale in the same draft – that was pretty slick. Parish, McHale and Bird were a pretty good front line.

      Yours is a good point. I like your handle.

  7. glink123 - Dec 11, 2011 at 11:02 PM

    Maybe not the last 20 years, but last 25, I’d put Olden Polynice for Scottie Pippin up there.

    • sonofsambowie - Dec 11, 2011 at 11:12 PM

      A great trade for sure, but there’s no way it tops getting Kobe Bryant for basically nothing. I mean, they had to dump Vlade or they wouldnt have been able to sign Shaq. 12 other teams passed on Kobe and Jerry West knew he was sitting on a goldmine there.

      If he could just find someone dumb enough to trade him that pick…

      • tubal22 - Dec 12, 2011 at 1:01 AM

        For every Kobe, there’s 10 Kwame’s, and you never know for sure until a few years in.

        He saw talent, and then got really lucky.

  8. bparmalee - Dec 11, 2011 at 11:11 PM

    You cant give Jerry West credit for Kobe demanding to be traded to LA and Shaq only wanting to play for LA. I mean when you are the Lakers GM.. all you have to do is answer the phone and not mess it up (cough cough Jim Buss). **Ring ring** “Hello?? Oh another superstar player only wants to play in LA… ok we will take him.” Best GM ever

    • sonofsambowie - Dec 11, 2011 at 11:13 PM

      You’re recollection is inaccurate.

      • bparmalee - Dec 11, 2011 at 11:17 PM

        It could be… Kobe wanted to be in LA (refusing to play even one minute for Charlotte) and Shaq didnt really consider anyone else. Most of the time guys now will at least to to New York or LA. I’m not a Laker hater by any means but it helps to be one of the top markets with great weather.

    • 6thsense79 - Dec 12, 2011 at 7:35 AM

      Wrong Parmalee! I grew up an avid sport fan in North Carolina and know for a sure that Bryant was not traded because he demanded it. Charlotte wanted a big man back then a would have made the trade 10 times out of 10 to get Divac for a 17 year old unproven kid.

      Anyone that wants to know the true reason behind the Divac Bryant trade should read this article..

      It’s pretty spot on and fits my recollection of the situation. Jerry West deserves all the credit for making that trade. And I’m not even a Lakers or Kobe fan.

      • 6thsense79 - Dec 12, 2011 at 7:41 AM

        Here is an even better article explaining the Divac for Bryant trade.

      • 6thsense79 - Dec 12, 2011 at 7:43 AM

        Sorry here’s the article. Bryant fo Divac trade.

  9. pudgalvin - Dec 11, 2011 at 11:25 PM

    This article is non sense. An “emotionally scared” Pau Gasol? Come one. Pau and Lamar got their feeling hurt, lets blame the NBA for destroying the Lakers franchise. The league didn’t tell the Lakers to trade Odom for a sack of potatoes. The league didn’t tell the Lakers to back out of the second round of Paul talks. Even if they get Chris Paul, they’re probably not a serious contender.

    The Lakers may have to deal with being a rebuilding team for a few years. They’re obviously still pretty good, but as every team finds out sooner or later, when you have a superstar entering his twilight, rough times generally follow.

    • deadeyedesign23 - Dec 12, 2011 at 8:50 AM

      This article is non sense. An “emotionally scared” Pau Gasol? Come one.

      This is probably a little bit over the top I agree, but the way Pau played hot potato with the rock in the playoffs because of his girlfriend it certainly wouldn’t surprise me.

      Even if they get Chris Paul, they’re probably not a serious contender.

      Well that’s just nonsense. They would easily be one of the 3 best teams in the west. If that doesn’t make you a serious contender then we have dramatically different definitions fo that term.

  10. rferrel - Dec 12, 2011 at 1:32 AM

    Borderline incompetent? Try incompetent. Good job Kupchak.

  11. kesher10 - Dec 12, 2011 at 4:50 AM

    This has to be the most poorly written “professional” article I have ever read. Not just in content but the construction is so bad I could hardly get through it. Then when I did, I wondered why I bothered.

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