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Ball Don't Lie

For the Lakers, the smart trade might not always be the best trade

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Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, and no point guard (Getty Images)

Minds could change, and Houston Rockets point man Kyle Lowry might become a Los Angeles Laker, if the two teams decide to sign off on revisiting last December's deal that could put Pau Gasol in a Houston Rocket uniform. The transaction would presumably also send big forward Luis Scola to Los Angeles. Boston Celtics All-Star Rajon Rondo could become a Los Angeles Laker, if the team decides to part with Gasol, as well. Both options would presumably work wonders for Los Angeles, gifting them a needed creator at a position that isn't ably being filled by Derek Fisher and Steve Blake at the moment. And though Gasol's all-around work would be missed, adding a player like Scola would ease in the transition.

Despite the nouveau Laker front office's desire to depart with Gasol, though, it wouldn't appear to make much of a difference. Because in spite of the team's newfound willingness to put the ball in Andrew Bynum's hands down the stretch of close games, this offense wouldn't appear to take to on-paper improvements. The ball is still going to be going to Kobe Bryant for long stretches, and the team would still need a lights-out shooter more than anything at the point guard position.

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It's a lovely luxury to have, if Los Angeles would just own up and realize it.

Taking down a brittle Boston Celtics team at home, even coming off the end of a tough road trip (that first game back is always the toughest) shouldn't be thought of as a major step forward for these Lakers. But it could be a start, especially with the Los Angeles Clippers fading in the Pacific standings. The team has just three days left to avoid making a deal; even if (on paper) adding a borderline All-Star (this year, at least) in Lowry and an 85 percent approximation of Gasol in Scola would help the team immeasurably.

That's on paper. Scola would still be asked to do the things that Gasol is often forced into, like shooting pick and pop jumpers as if he was Carlos Boozer or Kevin Garnett. Gasol (and Scola) don't have that sort of perimeter talent, despite the occasional outside flush. These are players that need the ball, and in a Kobe-centric offense, they're not going to get the ball.

The same goes for Lowry, and especially Rondo. Adding a penetrator and creator at that position would seem to be the right tonic when you add up the Efficiency Ratings and look at things from an "anything's better than Fisher"-angle, but in practice I'm having a hard time seeing this work. Let's say Lakers coach Mike Brown hands the keys to Lowry or Rondo, let's them dribble into the paint endlessly and find whoever's open. This makes Kobe Bryant (shooting 28 percent on 3-pointers this year) your spot-up shooter? You're asking the bigs to finish with baseline jumpers?

These are players that need to dominate the ball, and that's not a knock on Lowry or Rondo. This is just how they function, and how (not why) they put up those fantastic numbers. Adding that to the Lakers takes away Kobe Bryant's ability to dominate the ball, or the chance of dumping the ball into Gasol down low, just to see what he can create.

Worse, it means giving up on something that could lead the Lakers to another title. Despite the presence of Fisher and Blake. Despite Mike Brown's up and down coaching.

Kobe Bryant just isn't going to work with another creator. That's not some side-stepped way of telling you that Kobe is selfish, rather, that's just a function of his position. Kobe ain't Ray Allen or Kevin Martin, ready to roll off a dozen screens and go up for the jumper. He's an all-around destroyer of worlds, and you don't take away that ability just because you're able to trade for someone that contributes more than Fisher and Blake, or because you think dumping that big, softy, mopey (7-footer with incredible skill, and low-post anchor on two championship teams) in Gasol is worth it just to do something at the trade deadline.

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Los Angeles shouldn't pull the trigger because they can. This is a team that needs to look in house and realize what it has. A top-heavy unit, sure, but one that can succeed in a Western Conference that is looking more and more takeable by the day.

This isn't to pump up Fisher and Blake. The team is getting just 11 points, seven assists and 37 percent shooting in 50 damn minutes of per-game play from these two, to say nothing of the dodgy defense. We're not here to tell you about some intangible factor that these two exude, enough to keep you from dealing for a player like Lowry or Rondo.

And this isn't to tell you that everything is going swell in El Lay. This is a team that has won 25 games through what is usually half of an NBA season. You do the math. The Lakers don't do 50 wins. They do 60.

At least they should. And if the ball is moving from the inside-out, with Bynum, Bryant and Pau Gasol taking on equal offensive shares, then this will be a borderline unguardable team. This core is championship-worthy. It's only up to the core, and the executives that can break it up, to realize that.

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