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Lakers: Another Clever Move from Mitch Kupchak

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Posted February 09, 2009 - 05:49 AM

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The Los Angeles Lakers and Charlotte Bobcats made a dead weight for dead weight deal on Saturday that could serve both teams well - swapping Vladimir Radmanovic for Adam Morrison. The Lakers also receive 6'4" guard Shannon Brown who hadn't found a consistent role for Coach Larry Brown and the Bobcats.

Radmanovic had been overtaken by both Luke Walton and Trevor Ariza in the rotation. Even power forward Josh Powell had earned the backup role to Lamar Odom while center Andrew Bynum recovers from a knee injury. Despite the fact that Radmanovic shot 44.1% from three for the Lakers in 46 games, he struggled defensively and lacked any playmaking skills so valuable in the triangle.

Morrison had a high scoring rookie campaign but blew out his knee before last year, ironically in a preseason game at STAPLES Center against the Lakers. A renowned shooter in college, Morrison has struggled to adapt to the NBA game - hitting just 37.3% from the field over his career.

More irony, the Bobcats were especially desperate at small forward after Andrew Bynum's flagrant foul on Gerald Wallace led to a partially collapsed lung and broken ribs. Wallace hopes to return after the All-Star break but even with Gerald, Charlotte had been struggling for depth.

As the saying goes, one man's trash is another's treasure - Radmanovic has the potential to step in as a starter and contribute immediately for Charlotte. The Bobcats may be 13th in the Eastern Conference but they're only 3 1/2 games behind the badly injured Milwaukee Bucks.

Equally, Morrison may find the triangle offense to be similar to what he ran with Gonzaga. Anything LA gets out of Adam would be a bonus . . .

Whether or not Morrison becomes a contributor for the Lakers at all, General Manager Mitch Kupchak once again made a clever move. Radmanovic is under contract for $13.4 million over the next two seasons. Technically he has an early termination option before the 2010 season, but Kupchak couldn't count on Vlade to exercise it.

Since LA is expected to be over the luxury tax threshold for the next couple of years - from one perspective Radmanovic was costing the Lakers $12-$13.7 million a year with minimal production.

Morrison will make $5.3 million next year in the final year of his contract after which he would become a restricted free agent (unless he and the Lakers agree to an extension next summer).

Shannon Brown is an athletic guard who isn't necessarily a great shooter or passer. He has some ability defensively. Perhaps he could be a more defensive-minded Mo Evans (now with the Atlanta Hawks) although it may be difficult for Brown to earn playing time. He's earning the league minimum for a player with two-year's experience at $797,581, expiring after this season.

Kupchak saved the Lakers about $2.2 million in salary (including taxes) this year, $2.4 million for 2009/10 and potentially $13.8 million for 2010/11.

The extra expense will be worthwhile for the Bobcats if Radmanovic can help them make the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. He may not have fit with the Lakers but he's still one of the league's best shooters.

Radmanovic was one of the most charitable Lakers, regularly holding events and fundraisers to help those in need. He was crushed when Coach Phil Jackson demoted him to the bench and while a championship run may be further way for the Bobcats, the move may ultimately be a positive for his career.

While the Lakers reduce their total salary next season, there remains tremendous pressure on Kupchak to keep payroll to a reasonable number. Recently the Phoenix Suns have shopped big men Amar'e Stoudemire and Shaquille O'Neal around the league. Sources say the Lakers had some rudimentary discussions with the Suns but that there isn't much common ground between the two organizations.

Assuming star Kobe Bryant opts out of his contract after the season and re-signs for $22.3 million in the first year and that the Lakers give small forward Trevor Ariza a contract similar to guard Sasha Vujacic ($5 million a season), LA will be committed roughly $91 million in salaries.

If the team decides that retaining Lamar Odom is the right move and he is willing to sign for a starting salary of $7 million a season, the Lakers would be on hook for about $105 million. That's $5 million over the rumored budget as is - the Lakers would be reluctant at that point to spend their Mid-Level Exception (even though players like Ron Artest, Rasheed Wallace, Jason Kidd and Andre Miller may be available. Note that there are very few teams slotted to have cap room this summer).

Now picture an Odom for Shaquille O'Neal trade - that would bump LA's salary to around $133 million next season. Amar'e may be slightly cheaper, but $121 million is still more than Dr. Buss is willing to pay. Lamar Odom may have his flaws but he's a better defender at this point than both O'Neal and Stoudemire.

It might sound interesting in theory but in this economy, even the Lakers can't be expected to dole out an extra $15-30 million when they may already have the best team in the league.

Finally, LA could technically trade out Morrison should they find a taker but they can't package his salary with another Laker. Perhaps sending Morrison for an expiring contract could either make Odom more afforable or expendable. It's notable but unlikely.


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