If anything’s been made clear over this past week regarding our team’s stellar play, it’s not that we don’t need Kobe – it’s that we don’t need Bynum. So… Bynum for Bosh right? Not quite. Think less raptor, and more bull. What? Chicago Bull. Make that bulls.
For the last several years, many Laker fans have fanatically clamored for the services of Kirk Hinrich, and only up until this year have the stars come as close to aligning as they ever have before in this pursuit. The Lakers now have at their ready-disposal the expiring deals of both Morrison and Farmar while the Bulls have on their end a strong desire to clear some extra salary cap space for this summer’s free agent fest. And in all actuality, adding a capable defender and solid shooter like Hinrich would only further cement our Championship-repeating chances and alleviate some of our deficiencies in speedy-point-guard-defense.
But my question is… why stop with one Captain? Could it be, in our mad haste and obsession with the Captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise, we’ve totally forgotten about another effective captain who was once able to man his own ship full of wild animals in the midst of a great storm? Why yes, I’m talking about that crazy, animal-loving-son-of-a-gun, Noah. Joakim that is.
Why not, along with our quest for Kirk, also snag the much-needed services of the tough, gritty, and passionate Joakim Noah? Essentially the deal would then become: Bynum, Farmar, and Morrison for Noah, Hinrich, and whatever fillers are needed to compensate for the discrepancy in Bynum and Noah’s contracts (with Noah still being under his rookie contract of about $3 mill. a year for the next 3 years).
Think about it for just a second. Every year, we get glimpses of how dominant a force Bynum is in the paint, but unfortunately, those glimpses have all come from a mostly Pau-less landscape. Bynum’s been in the league for 5 years, and up to this point, he still doesn’t understand what this team really needs out of him. We’ve gotten tougher and crazier with Ron-Ron, so why not take it up a notch and get that Noah guy who harassed the Celtics last year in that historic 7-game series?
Besides, aren’t we always complaining about how passive Bynum is on defense, and how he always seems to lack any sort of fire or urgency out on the floor if he’s not involved in the offense? Well, Noah is the center we’ve always hoped Bynum would become. Noah doesn’t care about scoring – he just goes out there and does all the intangible things his team needs him to do with an unrelenting toughness. He hustles, rebounds, blocks, defends, gets put-backs, and has an admirable, passionate intensity about his game that perfectly complements that of the Mamba’s. Not to mention that he’s already shown a mature reverence for the history of the game by personally coming up to Phil Jackson in the Bulls’ last loss to the Lakers and telling him how much he’s admired and respected Phil’s work and legacy.
Noah definitely strikes me as a good listener and an avid learner, a dedicated workhorse that Phil would definitely see eye to eye with. Bynum? He’s still a 22 year-old teenager living out his unfulfilled college-life – a finesse rebounder who will sometimes sleep too much on defense… and sleep too much in real life.
We’ve all seen how much better the Lakers function defensively and offensively without Bynum, but the fact is, we do still need that stronger, tougher inside presence against, well… the Shaq-fu. Last year, Odom and Gasol had their way with Ilgauskas and Varejao, but this year, Shaq’s overwhelming fatness has been too much of a presence inside for our bigs to overcome.
I hate to admit it, but in our two losses to the Cavaliers, Shaq has played a major role in diminishing our normal efficiency in the paint and intimidating our frontline at the same time. I had hoped that Bynum would be able to neutralize Shaq at the very least, but as usual, he only wants to show that he can score against him – which he hasn’t really even proven he can do unless he’s getting lobs, given that Shaq stands his ground well against the kid. Sure, Joakim may not exactly be the answer against Shaq (or even Dwight), but I’ll bet you he can out-hustle Shaq for rebounds a lot better than Andrew can.
Yes, I know, many will call me a Bynum-hater and argue that Bynum is way more offensively polished and that even without his effort on defense, his uncanny, alien length is enough to deter most players from coming into the paint. And sure, maybe down the line, when Kobe, Pau, and Odom are all past their primes and we’re aching for some extra scoring punch, we’ll need Bynum to finally be the focal point of our offense, but at this moment, there is no doubt in my mind that Joakim Noah, that curly, pony-tailed, dog-like monster is an overall better fit for our Championship team as it now stands.
Noah actually knows how to rebound. Unlike Bynum, who usually just hopes that by raising his lengthy arms he’ll inevitably snag some boards, Noah actually goes out and fights for his 12 boards a game, doing so in only a minute more of average game time than Bynum does. And in regards to the offensive discrepancy between the two? At this point, Noah can score just as well as Bynum on some nights by simply using his inherent tenacity to get multiple second-chance buckets. And despite his awkward, twist-up, shooting form, he’s actually shooting better than Bynum at the free throw line (try 77% to Bynum’s 74%). So while we may give up some length and some scoring in Bynum, we aren’t losing out on much in every other area. If anything, we gain a lot more mental/physical toughness and heart from a guy like Noah, who knows how to really work, than we ever will from ‘potentially-amazing’ Bynum.
Obviously, the biggest question is, would Chicago even be willing to part with such a promising, young piece as Noah, who’s made such huge strides this year and has become one of the leading candidates for Most Improved Player? Well, hopefully Bynum has shown enough of his potential to cement the fact that, under the right circumstances (without another big in his stead), he can be a consistently powerful offensive weapon which could greatly help a young Bulls squad looking for more offense outside of the Rose-Deng duo. In essence, the big-swap works for both sides, because on the one hand, the Lakers don’t need another scorer, but a bruising big man who does all of the intangibles, while on the other hand, the Bulls probably need some fire-power down-low wherever they can find it.
In the end, if we stand pat after this Thursday’s trade deadline has passed, I’ll be satisfied. And if we do end up trading Farmar and Morrison for Hinrich, I’ll be guardedly optimistic. After all, by gaining Hinrich, we’d essentially be continuing our inexplicable trend of overpaying tricky, white guys extensive amounts of money for extended periods of time (See Vladimir Radmanovic, Adam Morrison, Sasha Vujacic, and Luke Walton, whose contract expires upon the return of Christ), although the overriding hope is, of course, that Hinrich turns out to be the most productive and consistent out of the bunch.
But, if somehow, we were also able to obtain Joakim Noah in that deal? Well, I’ll be more than ready to pencil us in for our second, post-Shaq era ‘Ship ride. And that Noah guy? He sure knows how to build some ‘ships… (See the Bible. And the Florida Gators’ National Championship history).
You can find more random Laker/NBA musings from Jonathan Hernandez at Oh Me Oh My, The Jello’s Jigglin’.