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Everyone in Los Angeles Just Calm Down!
“Kobe Bryant demands to be traded from the Los Angeles Lakers” is what you saw scrolling across your screen yesterday, but don’t let ESPN fool you with their headlines and reports. Look past the Stephen A. Smith interview and focus more on the Dan Patrick interview that took place after Kobe spoke with Smith (and Phil Jackson for that matter), and you will see how he backs off his demands and reveals what his real agendas are.
Agenda # 1: Win, and win now (make a significant trade and hire Jerry West). Kobe realizes that he’s an old 28, having logged 9,000 more minutes than Michael Jordan did at the same point in his career. Everyone’s saying, “Why’s he making demands through the media?” Although it makes him look extremely selfish (he is), it also puts immense pressure on the Lakers front office to make a significant move this off-season, and ultimately, the pressure he’s applied is going to result in big trade this summer (not involving him) and Jerry West’s return. Kobe took things to another level on Wednesday with his trade demands, a level that I’m completely stunned, embarrassed, and disappointed in as a loyal fan of his. He bluffed this afternoon, and he couldn’t even hold his bluff for one interview, let alone two hours.
Kobe knows he’s not being traded; it’s just not a realistic option with $88 million remaining on his contract, a no trade clause, and an additional $13 million hit on the team that he’s traded too for enacting the clause. L.A. is tinsel town, glamour and glitz, and a town full of stars where he shines brightest amongst them all. He’s a moneymaker, Jerry Buss is a businessman, and Lakers fans would not ever forgive Buss for trading away two of their favorite players of all time (Bryant, O’Neal). Let’s say the Lakers would try to trade him; who would be the takers? There would be many, but wherever Bryant ended up, he would be in the same or a worse situation than he is now because the Lakers would require too much in return. It’s quite simple: Kobe Bryant is the most un-tradable player in the NBA.
Kobe’s message was sent loud and clear in the post-game interview at the conclusion of the Suns series, his exit interview in L.A., and remarks he made about Jerry West’s return through the media this past week. But enough is enough, he’s said what he wants, and now it’s time to give the Lakers front office an opportunity to make something happen.
Agenda # 2: Kobe Bryant hates losing, and he can’t stand not being the center of attention, especially around playoff time. The only thing I’m surprised about is that Jim Gray was not involved in this media parade by the Kobester. Kobe and Gray want to be like Ali and Cosell were back in the day, at least I once thought that. Expect a Kobe/Gray interview in the upcoming days. But anyways, for a prime example of my point, let’s go back to a night in 2003 when the NBA was holding its annual draft. Remember this was supposed to be Lebron and Carmelo’s night, but who stole the show? Kobe announced, through Gray, that he would opt of his contract after the 2003-04 season in order to test the free agent market.
Agenda # 3: Kobe wanted his name removed from orchestrating Shaquille O’Neal’s exit from L.A. He hates the fact that he’s associated with the one thing that people will not stop talking about, how he “forced” Shaq out, and he was clearly out to set the record straight with his remarks about how Buss told him Shaq would not be-resigned.
So what do the Lakers do now? We’ve already established the fact that Kobe’s going to return next season, but remember, he has a clause in his contract where he can opt of his two seasons from now. The Lakers don’t have two seasons to appease Kobe, they have one, because if things don’t go right starting right now, it’s going to get awfully ugly and a trade will be the Lakers only option.
Make the following moves and you’ll see a smile on the Kobester’s face (and he just might still be playing around this time next year instead of waking up at 4:30 am to workout):
Off-season move # 1: Bring back “The Logo” as a consultant.
Off-season move # 2: Re-sign Luke Walton, Ronnie Turiaf, and Chris Mihm.
Off-season move # 3: Release Smush Parker, and do not trade Lamar Odom (Lakers will not receive full value for him in a trade because of the labrum injury).
Off-season move # 4: Sign a veteran point guard to a mid-level exception to compete with Jordan Farmar, or package Farmar in a trade to acquire a veteran point guard.
Before we get to the most important move of all, let’s make some trade rules:
1. Do not give up a plethora of young talent for a player like Jason Kidd. Kidd better not come to L.A, because if he does, the Lakers have made a huge mistake. Thorn insists that Bynum be included in the package and that’s something the Lakers should definitely not do when considering they’ll be getting a 34 year-old point guard in return with two or three years left in him.
2. As tempting as it might be, do not package Odom, Bynum, and a draft pick for Kevin Garnett.
And now for the grand daddy move of them all:
Off-season move # 5: Trade for Jermaine O’Neal. The Lakers could give the Pacers: Andrew Bynum, Kwame Brown (due $9.1 million next year, contract expires in 2008; a key piece in this trade but he could possibly undergo reconstructive ankle surgery, Lakers fans better hope not), a first round pick this year (19th overall), and whatever other filler is needed to match salaries (i.e. Cook $3.5 million over the next three years), FOR Jermaine O’Neal. I believe that’s a deal that puts the Lakers right back in the thick of things in the West.
The O’Neal trade scenario is far better than Kidd’s because you know your going to have O’Neal (28 years old) and Kobe (also 28) paired together for a number of years. Whereas with Kidd, it’s a two year plan (three at the most), and if it doesn’t work out right away, there’s going to be a ton of repercussions that’s going to result in a complete overhaul of the roster. If the Lakers give up Bynum, they must get an inside presence in return that’s going to be around for awhile. Think about it, three or four years from now Bynum’s going to be a really, really good player in this league; and if the Lakers trade him for Kidd and don’t win a championship, how bad of a deal is that going to turn out to be when Kidd is on the couch and Bynum is just entering his prime?
If the Lakers do trade for O’Neal, they’ll have a starting lineup that consists of Bryant, O’Neal, Farmar (or a veteran signee), Odom, and Walton (must re-sign him this off-season). They could then sign a veteran free agent point guard to the mid-level exception (5 years, 30 million) or trade for one this off-season, and all of the sudden they have a team that could not only win now, but for four of five years down the line.
Don’t be fooled by the panic attack the media wants to thrusts on Laker fans. The pieces are somewhat in place on this team, but Kobe and Laker fans also need to realize this isn’t fantasy basketball; you can’t just trade for Garnett, trade for Ron Artest, and sign Chauncey Billups.
Sometimes all it takes is one simple move to turn a mediocre team into a team that could realistically contend for a title. Plug an All-Star like Jermaine O’Neal into this lineup with the best player in the league in Kobe Bryant, an all around player in Lamar Odom, a nice role player in Luke Walton, and an athletic point guard like Jordan Farmar or a veteran signee; and all of the sudden you’ve got a starting lineup that is talented, experienced, young, and ready to contend.