You can sit back, take a deep breath and piece the following bit of logic together:
The Odom to Dallas deal was just a precursor to a bigger, better trade (I.e. Howard). I mean, it had to be, right? Why else would the Lakers trade one of their glue guys with a bargain contract to a team that swept them out of the playoffs last year? Why else would an $8.9m trade exception (plus a ’12 first rounder) be something worth acquiring at such a steep price? Why else would Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak risk evoking ill-feelings from their superstar, Kobe Bryant?
I mean, this couldn’t actually be a salary-dump move by the Lakers, could it? Not during the closing act of Bryant’s career? Not when a championship is still realistically within grasp? Not less than two weeks before the NBA season starts?
The problem with using simple reason and logic to comprehend what happened yesterday is that nothing about the NBA over the last 6 months has been logical or reasonable at all. Not to be forgotten, the NBA owners and players bitterly fought for more than five months primarily over a few hundred million dollars, a figure equal to the amount they both lost while they fought over it.
Because that makes sense.
The most obvious illustration of illogical behavior was Commissioner Stern making the unprecedented decision to reject the 3-team deal that would have (a) rid the Hornets of a disgruntled superstar (Paul) who had vowed to leave anyway, (b) cleared up a ton of cap space to improve down the line and (c) given them the reigning sixth man of the year on a bargain contract.
(Oh yeah, then he rejected a modified version of the deal a second time)
While it’s nice to blindly believe common sense will somehow rule the day, I’m just not so sure we can count on that… and once you eliminate rational thinking from the equation, when it comes to yesterday’s decision to move Odom, here’s what’s left for the Lakers:
Plan B was really the plan all along.
And by “Plan B”, I mean Dwight Howard. The Lakers newly acquired $8.9m trade exception could be packaged with Bynum (or Gasol) for Howard and Jameer Nelson (helping to fill the point guard hole), or if Orlando was willing to take on an additional player, for Howard and Hedo Turkoglu (who’s sizable contract the Magic would like to get off the books).
The complication arises from reports that Orlando wants both Bynum and Gasol in the deal, which seems completely illogical from the Lakers perspective. But again, we have to remember, good sense doesn’t necessarily exist here in the NBA.
In addition to that, Kevin Ding has reported that the Lakers will not part with Bynum and Gasol for Howard, so unless something gives, Dwight Howard in a Lakers jersey might be unrealistic in the short term.
There was a Plan C just in-case Plan B fell through.
That $8.9m trade exception is a nice deal-sweetener for any team trying to shed a large contract or get under the salary cap. Mitch and company could have reasoned that if Howard became unattainable (or went elsewhere) they could drop that into a package (or packages) to help them fill some the gaping holes in their roster.
Kobe Bryant spoke directly to the L.A. Times about that possibility, to which he responded:
“I’m not thinking that at all.”
Furthermore, it was later reported by a source familiar with the inner workings of the Lakers that:
“There’s nothing going on.”
Jim Buss is who we thought he probably was.
I wrote about this months’ ago, right after it was reported that Jim (not Jerry) was calling a large percentage of the executive shots for the Lakers. I went as far as calling Jim Buss the Billy Madison of the NBA. If you look back at the things that have happened when he’s asserted himself into Lakers decisions:
- Rid the Lakers of Phil Jackson. Not once, but twice.
- Made the decision to hire Rudy Tomjanovich in 2004.
- Alienated Kurt Rambis and canned longtime assistant GM Ronnie Lester.
- Once added a personal bartender onto the Lakers payroll.
- Didn’t bother letting his superstar, Kobe Bryant, know that he had hired Mike Brown.
The list can go on and on, but here’s the point:
You throw Jim Buss right into this Chris Paul/David Stern situation, and how does he respond? What does he say when an offended and emotional Lamar Odom tells him he wants to be traded? Does he panic? Does he take it personally? Does he puff out his chest and jump at the first possible chance to get rid of him? We have to consider the possibility that Jim Buss reacted poorly to Lamar’s frustration and hastily shipped him out of town without a Plan B (or C).
It doesn’t make any sense, and that’s exactly why it would make sense.
It’s hard to speculate where the Lakers go from here. The events of the last 72 hours in the NBA have ripped away the ceiling and crammed literally everything into the realm of possibility. No matter how you describe what’s happening in the league right now – exciting, stressful, stupid, catastrophic or confusing – you’re absolutely right.
If you’re looking for something to be thankful for, just remember, this column could have been a labor meeting update…
And no matter what happens, anything is still better than that.