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During this off-season there was a word that served as a factor to all Lakers involved individuals especially the fans. That word is pressure.
All Laker fans know that the starting point was the Kobe media frenzy. I must admit that the Lakers accomplished nothing during the post-Shaq era and are yet to prove themselves as the best franchise the Western Coast ever known. They have been waiting anxiously for a move that would transform their team from pretenders to contenders.
The pressure is now higher than ever on the Lakers’ front office. This “mess” of an office never did what it takes to maintain the image and reputation the franchise once had. As Kobe said, “we are still at ground zero!” That is absolutely true.
Not to mention, the departure of Kevin Garnett to their archrival, the Boston Celtics from Minny’s Timberwolves without them being able to make a move.
Now is the time, the Lakers front office must make a move to put things back to normal; Kobe is not satisfied with the Lakers management for one bit and is going to opt out when he gets the chance if nothing changes soon to restore the team to be title contenders.
The Laker fans have always dreamt to see Kevin Garnett in the famous purple and gold uniform, but that dream has turned into a nightmare when Kevin McHale the Timberwolves VP alongside his buddy Danny Ainge the Celtics’ GM finalized one of the biggest trades in NBA history by sending Garnett to Boston in return for five players; thus, making the Celtics a contender in the wide open east.
However, not all hope is lost. There still remains a player of that caliber that can save the Lakers and get them back to be a formidable team and that player is Jermaine O’Neal.
O’Neal has told the world media that he would prefer to be a Lakers or Nets player IF the Pacers do decide to enter the rebuilding phase. Other than that, his main interest is to remain with the same franchise that made him what he is today.
With these comments out and time is running out, O’Neal such as Bryant, holds the cards. He can opt out of his contract next year and become an unrestricted free agent, therefore, can sign with any other team of choice. If that ever happens then the Pacers would get nothing in return for their superstar.
Now the pressure is on the Pacers’ President of Basketball Operations Larry Bird to make a move. Bird said what he was saying all season long, that if the right deal were to be offered only then would he deal his player. However, Bird knows perfectly well that if he does not deal his superstar player this off-season he might not have the chance to do that again.
Bird’s asking price for O’Neal was forever high to other teams and, as a result, would not make any deals. O’Neal did mention what is it like to do business with Larry Bird in one of his interviews, stating that Bird was a tough man to deal with and would gut the team he is dealing with. Bird must now realize that he cannot keep O’Neal under his power for long.
Another point that he must take, and probably does, into consideration is that O’Neal is an injury-prone player and that lowers his value in the trade market. Furthermore, if he does decide to hold on to O’Neal ‘til the start of the season any early injury to his superstar can end his chances of dealing him before the trade deadline.
The Lakers front office, on the other hand, is not willing to trade both their promising young center Andrew Bynum and their second best player Lamar Odom. They think that this price is way too high for O’Neal. For once, it seems that they have made the right decision. Dealing both of them means that the Lakers did not go far in their pursuit of creating a contender.
They still need Odom to form a deadly trio (similar to Boston’s only better). Bynum needs his tutor Lakers legend and Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Everyone knows that without the Lakers immortal Bynum won’t be half as good and promising as he is today.
The pressure is on all of us as we wait for what the remaining days of the off-season holds for us. Will the Lakers trade Odom and Bynum for JO or will the Pacers decrease their asking price? Who will crumble under pressure first Kobe, the Lakers, or the Pacers?