The Los Angeles Lakers are on the verge of matching their longest winning streak of the season, yet general manager Mitch Kupchak couldn't ignore the lack of production from the point guard position any longer.
Whether team chemistry will suffer remains to be seen.
Pau Gasol is still a Laker after Thursday's trade deadline, but Los Angeles must overcome the emotional trade of veteran Derek Fisher when it seeks its 18th consecutive victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves and fifth straight win overall Friday night at Staples Center.
The Pacific Division-leading Lakers (27-16) beat New Orleans 107-101 in overtime Wednesday behind 33 points from Kobe Bryant and 25 points and 18 rebounds from Andrew Bynum.
Los Angeles overcame a 14-point deficit to earn the victory and complete a 2-0 road trip, and with a win Friday they would match their season-high five-game overall winning streak from Jan. 6-13.
"We don't get down whenever we trail by 14, 15, whatever points. We don't get discouraged,'' Bryant said. "We've been through it before. We've been down big in Game 7 of an NBA finals, so this is really nothing to us to maintain our composure.''
Gasol was the player most mentioned in trade speculation approaching the deadline, but it was Fisher whom the Lakers sent to Houston for center Jordan Hill.
The deal came shortly after Los Angeles traded Luke Walton, Jason Kapono and a first-round pick to Cleveland for Ramon Sessions and little-used guard Christian Eyenga.
Fisher was part of five NBA championship teams with the Lakers, but Kupchak said the deal - though difficult to make - was necessary.
"It's hard to put into words what (Fisher's) meant to this organization, on the court and off the court,'' Kupchak said. "It's one of the hardest parts of the job that a general manager has, separating the emotions of a relationship you've had.
"We think Ramon will make an immediate impact. Despite Derek's presence, we felt that we needed more speed and more quickness in the backcourt.''
It's unclear if Sessions will be join the Lakers in time for Friday's contest, though it may not matter given the team's recent history against Minnesota (22-22).
Bryant scored 34 points in a 105-102 road win last Friday, giving Los Angeles its 17th straight victory over the Timberwolves - the longest active streak in the league by one team over another.
Minnesota lost rookie point guard Ricky Rubio to a torn ACL toward the end of that contest, which began the club's current stretch of three losses in four games including a 111-105 overtime defeat at Utah on Thursday.
Kevin Love, who sat out last week's loss to the Lakers because of back spasms, had 25 points and 16 rebounds in the loss to the Jazz to continue his recent torrid play. He's averaged 32.7 points and 13.7 rebounds in the last six games he's played.
The Wolves, who have split the first two contests on their season-high seven-game road trip, remained two games back of the Western Conference's final playoff spot Thursday night after eighth-place Denver fell to Oklahoma City.
- Mitch Kupchak
- Derek Fisher
- Minnesota Timberwolves
- Los Angeles
- Kobe Bryant