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The Lakers are at a crossroads. One troublesome fork with three main paths. On the left is the path of trading Kobe Bryant, keeping Andrew Bynum and the rest of the Laker party intact. On the right is the path of dumping Bynum and his potential future for a chance to win and win now. The middle path is the path of continuing forward, maintaining the current high tension conditions, hoping individual growth or minor additions will significantly improve the team. Which of these roads will lead to Laker treasure? How can we gain the necessary vision to reattain Laker glory? The crossroads we have come to is not a simple one, but here are ten essential questions to break things down and give the Laker situation sight.

1. How good would the Lakers be with a core of Kobe, Odom, and Jermaine O’Neal?

Within the Laker organization there is a push to keep Kobe here and fast forward to the future by obtaining Jermaine O’Neal. Indiana is hot for Bynum. Rumor has them asking for Odom as well, but insiders believe that they may back off that request. Given that Indiana becomes willing to accept Bynum plus Kwame and another player, where does that leave us? How good would a Kobe/O’Neal/Odom trio be? The West is tough. Would those Lakers reach the finals? If not, would Kobe still leave? Where would we be then?

If we’d reach the finals, turn right!

2. Could Jermaine O’Neal become available for a package not including Bynum?

The Lakers are loathe to part with Bynum, who’s potential is yet untapped. Is it possible they manage to get O’Neal without including Bynum? This solution would satisfy Laker factions and solve a lot of problems. But how likely is it?

Straight! Straight!

3. How good is Andrew Bynum going to be?

Herein lies one of the major cruxes of the situation. Will Bynum become a dominant player, or merely a good one? If dominance is not his future, the Lakers are making a terrible miscalculation trying to hold him, but for a 19 year old he sure looks good.

If dominant, do not turn right!

4. Is there some minor acquisition that could push the Lakers over the top while they hold on to both Kobe and Bynum?

What lesser trade could make a major impact on the Lakers’ situation? Ron Artest has been mentioned. Trading Lamar Odom or Kwame Brown remain a possibilities. Is there a scenario where the Lakers could keep most of what they have while they significantly improve?

If so, stay straight!

5. How much free agent help will be available after the season?

Elton Brand, Baron Davis, Corey Maggette, Gilbert Arenas, Shawn Marion and Ron Artest all become potentially available after this season, to name a few. Can the Lakers make an acquisition which alters their fate and keeps Bryant in the fold? The Lakers will have five free agents of their own at that time, a reduction in salary in the neighborhood of $15 million. So there will be some interesting choices.

If the cap allows it, stay straight!

6. Is Kobe’s trade value diminishing?

Will we really get less from trading Kobe next summer than we would from trading him now? How much less?

If much less, increasing danger says turn left!

7. If we keep Kobe hostage for two years, waiting for our pieces to develop, can he really leave for nothing?

Will any major contender have $25 million available under the cap to snatch Kobe up without a sign and trade? How much are the Lakers really hurting their ability to get return by just waiting Kobe out? What might the Lakers be able to do two years from now with that much cap space if Kobe does, indeed, jump ship?

If the options look good, stay straight!

8. How fast is Kobe’s body breaking down?

Will Kobe still be one of the best players in the NBA in four or five years? Jordan was great for many years after age 29. He won an NBA title at 30, took almost two years off, and still led his team in scoring and won three more titles. However, besides playing more seasons than Jordan, Kobe has tendinitis in his knees. How quickly will Kobe’s skills decline?

If those knees are worse than we think, left!

9.If the Lakers trade Kobe and build around a Bynum/Odom/Farmar core, how good will they be?

Let’s suppose that the Lakers acquire Josh Howard and Jason Terry from the Mavericks or manage to pry Luol Deng and Ben Gordon away from the Bulls, where will that leave them? Will they be good? How long would it be before they once again tasted glory?

If it’s a long, boring haul, don’t turn left!

10. What’s the chance Kobe changes his mind and stays with us for more than two years?

What if Bynum improves quickly and the Lakers surprise? Maybe they do make some helpful, minor moves or a major free agent acquisition? Will Kobe still want to leave?

If Kobe is fickle, stay straight!

These questions are merely a beginning. Real answers don’t come quickly, but without the right questions, they don’t come at all. So let’s pose one last little query. If the Lakers fail to take action at the current time, do their options improve or degrade? Remember, there are three paths we can go by, but in the long run, is there still time to change the road we’re on?

  • SILO

    1-2. Keep in note that the Los Angeles Lakers will not be trading for Jermaine Oneal this season. Why trade for a player who drastically wants out who can opt out after this season? JO would have to mentally retard to stay with the Pacers after this season. Obviously the man has had his bumps and bruises but who hasn’t? The man still has a thirst to win and just like a certain “Big Ticket” a change of scenery can do wonders.

    The ability to sign JO to the lakers and keep kobe, odom and bynum would do wonders for the lakers. Talk about shutting Kobe up and every Mamba poison sucker up. Funny thing though, if JO does dawn he purple and gold, get ready to hear this, “Jim, Jerry and Mitch are Gods”.

    3. Hmmmmm. Andrew bynum. The Prodigy. Taught by Kareem Abdul-Jabar himself. How good can he be? First take a look at his astronomical jump over the off-season. The man became a beast. Dunks everything he can, unlike our lay up junkie. If you are thinking about trading this kid, at this moment, you are stupid. This kid got way to good to trade now. This kid has all the potential in the world to become one of the few Laker big man, bred as a laker.

  • r3dempti0n

    [Comment ID #15444 Will Be Quoted Here]

    ^ Very true… Let’s hope and pray Kobe sees everything that you’re saying. Let’s hope that Kobe still bleeds purple and gold. And let’s hope on top of everything, we get a big name(s) in free agency next year to appease Kobe. If Kobe sees all this, and stays a Laker until next season, I see a very promising future/present for the Lakers. I’m pretty damn sure we’re not doing anything this season before the deadline, unless we do actually trade Kobe, but outside of that, nothing. And next year, with so many of those big name free agents that actually want to play with Mamba in LA.. I’d be surprised to see that none of them come here to help him. They would see a very deep team with a more seasoned Farmar, an experienced Javaris, an even more beastly Bynum, the great Mamba, and a great spirit/player in Fisher (just to name a few). Honestly, it would be crazy to turn that down next offseason. So let’s just hope the FO and Kobe himself see this in our future.

  • jack

    i will say get the lakers to get their job interview dates ready for ron artest. why??? coz’ this team clearly needs a defender. leave the scoring to kobe. again, don’t get a guy on offense, or rebound.. we are good at it. get a defender. JO is much complicated, because many teams will be wanting him,and he has more options than artest. all the best lakers. do something. beat the suns this time.. not in the first round, but in the conf finals. then, east is too easy to beat. i can’t wait to see another trophy in staples center. its been too long for me already.

  • http://thelakersnation.com/blog Lakers1024

    Ya know what, I say trade Odom for either a scoring big man (like JO) or trade him for a playmaking PG to let Kobe have it easier on scoring so that way he won’t have to balance scoring & passing, instead just scoring & defense!

  • fatty

    The free agent road won’t work well for the Lakers. Here’s why.

    Salary Cap: 57 million

    Next years Lakers team salary(with Kwame gone): 59 million

    We are over the cap. Plus we still have to sign or deal the following players: (This will add to the 59 mil)

    Ronny Turiaf
    Mo Evans
    Kwame
    Sasha – 2.7 mil offer from the Lakers already
    Mihm – can opt out

    When over the cap. the NBA will let you sign free agents for the MLE 5.5 mil or the Vets Min 1.1 mil

    Only exception for more money, would be our own players.

    So to sum up, we can only sign players for the MLE, because we are over the cap.

    (source: Hoopshype.com)

  • getgasol

    Before watching this preseason, I was all about trading Bynum. Now, I say keep him. F*** JO and everyone else. Bynum stays. He’s going to be the real deal. I can see him putting up 15-20 points, 5 blocks and 10 rebounds on a pretty regular basis. Make that kid a starter. Right now.

    As for Kobe, I never thought I’d say it, but maybe it is time to trade him. Our second unit has been playing far better offensively, defensively and as a unit when Kobe is on the bench. Kobe clogs up the whole system. Kobe can score at will, but that’s about it. He refuses to pass. If his shot isn’t hitting one night, he will continue to throw up brick after brick after brick. Then watch when Farmar is out there. He dishes out assists, everyone is scoring and the opposing team doesn’t know who to guard. Farmar, like Steve Nash and Jason Kidd, makes his whole team better. Kobe does not, has not, and never will. Don’t agree with me? Watch those games again. Kobe on the floor, they fall behind, no one scores but Kobe, and the team falls out of rythm. Farmar is out there, they all come together like a machine, they light up the scoreboard, and opposing teams start having trouble scoring themselves.

    Basketball is a team sport. A team with lesser players that play as a unit will always defeat a team with one or two all stars who do not have chemistry. Remember when Detroit Pistons beat the Lakers with Shaq, Kobe, Malone, and Payton?

  • r3dempti0n

    [Comment ID #15461 Will Be Quoted Here]

    Have you forgotten what Kobe has done for us his whole career? I mean yeah these past couple preseason games have been a little bit off, but look where the man is coming from. I have no doubt in my mind that he can still fit perfectly in this team, he just has to find his spot on the team (as the facilitator, defensive, etc) and trust his teammates.

  • fatty

    getgasol -

    Kobe is not a point guard. What you are proposing would be like complaining that a football wide receiver not throwing enough TD passes, he’s not making his team better? When its the QB’s job to pass. Jerry Rice made his team better by scoring and making it easier for others to show off their talents. (getting all the attention) Just like Kobe does.

    Its almost unanimus, all GM’s feel he is the Premier Clutch player in the NBA. They just don’t come along that often.

    The scrubs played well last night. But they barely beat a lousy team. If we want to go to the next level, a team must have someone like Kobe, with his sidekick Lamar. Using the same logic, we played better without Odom, means we would have to dump him as well.

    I saw the same complaints when we had Kareem. He was injured once for two weeks, the Lakes went 6-0 and the LATimes said to dump him. Magic laughed at the thought.

  • Davey

    Fatty, I’m going to have to agree. The salary cap numbers don’t add up – unless there is some sort of sign and trade involved.

    Getgasol, I can’t agree that Kobe is a negative. But I am definitely on the Bynum bandwagon with you. I could see getting rid of him for Garnett. For anyone, else…his potential is just too exciting. Did you see his power around the basket last night!
    I’m lovin’ it!

    I personally wish Kobe had more patience. I know he’s waited a few years, but he’s got a long career ahead of him and Bynum is coming along fast. You can’t judge the Lakers’ immediate future by the injury ridden breakdown last year, but Kobe seems to. I think it hurt him to see LeBron having so much success and people attributing the difference to Kobe’s selfishness. The Cavs didn’t face Phoenix, who almost beat San Antonio. And they were blown out by San Antonio. So those judgements seem illogical.

    Kobe wanting to trade Bynum for Kidd doesn’t make any sense to me. Look at where these players will each be three years from now.

    Even more than losing Kobe, I don’t want to lose Phil. So I hope they can both hang in there.

    But trading Bynum is trading the future, so it better be for something really worth it.

  • http://lakers.topbuzz.com Lakers2410

    Man! I agree with r3dempti0n! If this new offer was offered b4 the pre-season started, I’d be soooooooo siked about it happening and becoming a reality! But now, after watching Bynum’s potential “becoming” a reality, instead of a fantasy…I now apologize to the front office about doubting & hating on Bynum! I now belive that this season is actually gonna be a successful season! A season that “anything” and “everything” could happen that you could even imagine that’d never EVER “HAPPEN”! Where Bynum could possibly come out of his shell, where L-O could actually be the all-star we all hope he could & can be, where D-Fish can make everything in Lakerland ALL better, where Kobe could be very happy or extremely mad with the Lakers decisions, where the whole Lakers team (after 3 YEARS!) can have chemistry with each other and be in complete trustworthy & friendliness with every single player on this EXTREMELY youthful team called the “Lakers”! And we as Laker fans always wish that at least some of these fantasies could become reality and make the Lakers an immediate contender in the West and the WHOLE league and get the Lakers…back…to a…DYNASTY!!!!!!!!

  • fatty

    Davey,

    Like your earlier piece brought out. Optimism is in order. This team can be competitve this year, and by next year, we could be contending.
    I’m buying into it. I hope Kobe does as well.
    We have the best coach, best player, and the pieces are either maturing or coming to the Lakers (Fisher)

    I’m excited to watch this team go at it in 07-08

  • getgasol

    [Comment ID #15471 Will Be Quoted Here]

    I can’t disagree with your rebuttal too much (and I knew I was going to catch flack for belittling Kobe on a Lakers site).

    But in basketball, it’s EVERYONE’S job to pass.

  • http://lakers.topbuzz.com Lakers2410

    Guys…just keep the faith there that this year could be the actual year that the Lakers contend, alright!

  • Billy Kupchak

    My dad is the GM because he obviously knows how to do his job better than you, right?

  • Davey

    Billy, is this your article… http://www.hard-wood.org/?p=38 ???

    We’re all in this together, Billy.

    But don’t forget that fans and writers are an important part of the process too.

    Obviously your dad has a tough job and is under a lot of pressure, and probably gets unfairly treated at times by people who don’t really understand what goes on.

    But at the same time, no one important should get to do their job without the criticism and input from others. Not even the government.

    It’s never a good idea to assume that people in important positions are perfect.

    And besides, why let them have all the fun?

  • Davey

    By the way, SPECIAL THANKS TO MY LAKER ANGEL SHAWNA!!!! Any time someone gifts you with box seats that put you about seven feet from Jerry Buss…I mean…what can you say! Thanks Shawna. You are the best.

  • http://getgarnett.com lsubayou32

    If Kobe stays, get Piatkowski & Maggette unless Agent 0 is serious. JO is free next year, Farmar moves to start, Fish off the bench a la B Shaw, Piatkowski is the new Craig Hodges, Bynum is the man, Mihm is servicable, Turiaf is Rodman with a shot.
    If Kobe wants out, hello Chicago, send me Deng, Gordon, Thomas & Noah, lineup is Gordon, Deng, Luke, Lamar, Bynum, subs is Critt, Fish, Piatkowski(he’s the missing link in every scenario) Turiaf, Mihm. Bye Bye Kobe & Kwame & Mo.
    Spurs are seriously old, Dallas is Portland of the 80′s, Suns is Suns a la Sir Charles, Thunder Dan & KJ, that leaves Portland, no leadership, G State with Nellie, not likely & who???
    The Lakers, unlike Boston, are still the Lakers. As much as I love Kobe, it’s the front of the jersey that counts. Colorado shouldhave made him “along for any ride no matter what” but hey, that’s not how he was raised. Get the Bulls peeps & get another 5 years just as the dominant teams are on their way out or keep what we’ve got and get bigger in a year or two just as the dominant teams are on their way out.
    either way, see you at the parade