December 08, 2011
Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that the Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets and New Orleans Hornets have struck a deal that would send MVP-level point guard Chris Paul to the Lakers. Wow.
In the deal, Houston would ship Kevin Martin, Luis Scola and Goran Dragic to the Hornets and receive Pau Gasol in return from the Lakers. Los Angeles would also have to send Lamar Odom to the Hornets, and this is about as massive as these things get. Big names, giant moves, heaps of questions and 17 days between now and the Christmas evening which will see the Lakers tip their season off against the Chicago Bulls.
And at least 17 days to try and figure out just what the New Orleans Hornets and Houston are after, here. Unless they're not finished trading. The same goes, honestly, for the Lakers. This deal puts some amazing talent in interesting places, but leaves plenty to be desired for each team.
The Hornets had to dump Paul, and quickly. They had to attempt to get something for the All-Star before training camp started on Friday, before the questions rolled in and before Paul had to sit through media day on Sunday. Yahoo! Sports first reported last week that Paul's agent informed the Hornets (as of Thursday afternoon, players were still allowed to speak to team officials) that he would not be signing a contract extension, essentially a non-request trade request because asking for a trade publicly would result in a fine for Paul.
From there, the Hornets got to work. Ignoring New York, thinking about Boston and considering offers from the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors. When the Clippers and Warriors wouldn't budge on sending Eric Gordon or Stephen Curry to New Orleans, the Hornets just about ran out of good options.
But this? New Orleans just traded for one of the most versatile big men in the game, but Odom has to go and quickly. Scola, perhaps just as soon -- if not sooner -- and I have unending respect for those two as players. Still, you don't start a rebuilding process by trading for two guys in their 30s making nearly $9 million a year.
That's assuming New Orleans won't attempt, immediately, to flip Odom (32 years old) and possibly Scola (31) elsewhere. Lord knows they'll have about 29 teams looking to line up to take both on. Of course, New Orleans probably has less leverage in a move like that than the Hornets did while attempting to trade Paul. Odom does make a chunk of change this season, as noted above, but only $2.4 million of his 2012-13 salary is guaranteed for next season. That will be very attractive to trading partners.
The Lakers? I hate to be the cold-water guy, again, but Chris Paul dominates the ball. I mean, he really dominates the ball. Those who are about to compare this deal to the one that sent Earl Monroe to the New York Knicks nearly 40 years ago need to step off, because Chris Paul makes Walt Frazier look like, well, Derek Fisher in terms of dominating the rock.
Which wouldn't be a big deal on most teams, because you have the best point guard in the NBA dominating the rock. But the Lakers have one of the best shooting guards of all time looking to make his moves as well. All while Kobe Bryant attempts to play out of a triangle offense that, save for one truncated season in 2005, he's been working in exclusively since 1999.
That's significant. Bryant was in for a massive re-adjustment as it was, and now he has to give up the rock? This isn't to say Kobe can't drop 50 in any system, but there will be a lot of instincts to overcome for even a player as smart as Kobe. And Mike Brown is going to be coaching this thing?
That's the worry. The luxurious leaving-Laker-fans-giddy worry.
For now the Lakers get to field a terrible frontcourt and the NBA's best backcourt, and that's with an All-Star level center in Andrew Bynum on board. Ron Artest struggled mightily last year, Pau Gasol and Odom are gone, and Luke Walton's body is shot, and … the Lakers don't mind. They have Chris Paul, probably for many years beyond this season. This could be spectacular, if the two can find chemistry.
Houston? They picked up, by far, the second best player in this deal. They also gave up players in Scola and Kevin Martin who border on All-Star level talent on most nights, at least offensively. Paramount to the Rockets, apparently, is the cost-cutting. The team gets to acquire Pau Gasol while coming out about $13 million below the salary cap, enough to potentially sign Denver Nugget free-agent center Nene.
New Orleans? Plenty of assets. Martin continues to be underrated, the Hornets have those trade chips, and a few weeks before the season starts.
Worried NBA onlookers? The biggest team in the basketball world got the best player available. And, yes, the Lakers still have the NBA's best trading chip in hopes of getting Dwight Howard from the Orlando Magic. Chris Paul and Dwight Howard could actually play on the Lakers, if you can believe it, with Kobe Bryant. Mitch Kupchak would have to come out of retirement to play power forward, but this could happen.
The Lakers earned this, though. They cut salary and took advantage of bad GMs in Vancouver, New Jersey and Charlotte on their way toward securing Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant in 1996. They took advantage of bad ownership (which had turned down more talent-laden offers in years prior) in Memphis to pick up Pau Gasol in 2008. They made the gutsy move of selling high with Shaq in 2004, when Bryant wasn't even under contract, to pick up Odom and payroll flexibility. They ignored Bryant's pleas and hung onto Andrew Bynum instead of trading him for Jason Kidd. The Lakers earned the right to make this deal for Chris Paul and possibly more with a decade and a half of shrewd moves.
Moves that have also left them embarrassed after getting swept out of the playoffs a few times, or lacking any semblance of a rotation outside of the superstars, and plenty of criticism along the way.
But the reason they're able to deal for Kobe, for Odom, for Gasol, for Chris Paul and possibly Dwight Howard is because they have the pieces in place. Not because they make more money than anyone else (though this did help them hang onto Odom two offseasons ago), but because they have the parts.
This isn't over, which might be the most astonishing thing of all. The NBA is back. How u?