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Friday, December 09, 2011

Commissioner Stern Should Not Have Voided the Chris Paul Trade

Remember the old Saturday Night Live skit about "Bad Idea Jeans"? The NBA created a real-life version a year ago when it assumed ownership of the troubled New Orleans Hornets franchise. What could possibly go wrong when the league office--which is supposed to impartially run the NBA's affairs without showing favor to any team or player--is in charge of a specific team? Phil Jackson, then the L.A. Lakers' Coach, immediately mentioned one possibly unsavory scenario: "When Chris (Paul) says he has to be traded, how's that going to go?...Someone's going to have to make a very nonjudgmental decision on that part that's not going to irritate anyone else in the league." If this were an SNL routine, one character would say, "Nah, that could never happen" and then the "Bad Idea" logo would fill the screen.

In theory, the NBA is running the Hornets essentially like a blind trust, assuming formal ownership until a suitor can be found who will hopefully keep the team in New Orleans: the league technically owns the team but the team's front office executives are supposed to be free to make whatever decisions they think are in the team's best interests without interference from league headquarters. That theory went up in smoke in stunning fashion on Thursday when Hornets General Manager Dell Demps completed a three team deal that would have shipped Chris Paul to the L.A. Lakers in exchange for Lamar Odom, Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Goran Dragic and a first round pick while sending Pau Gasol to the Houston Rockets. The NBA cliche is that the team that receives the best player "wins" a trade; technically this would be considered a "win" for the Lakers but it was hardly a lopsided transaction: the Lakers received an elite point guard but gave up two quality big men, the Hornets gave up an elite point guard but received four potential starters and the Rockets gave up a lot of depth but received an All-Star big man to replace Yao Ming in the middle. Obviously, the Hornets would be disinclined to trade Paul if they thought that they had a realistic chance to re-sign him after this season but the so-called Derrick Rose rule in the new CBA will unfortunately not be of much use to New Orleans or Orlando (in the future, young superstars who have made the All-NBA Team and/or won an MVP will receive much more lucrative contracts by re-signing with their original teams than they would by seeking their fortunes elsewhere but this stipulation does not apply to Paul or to Orlando's Dwight Howard).

After word of the proposed deal had already leaked out, NBA Commissioner David Stern announced that the league had voided the entire transaction, supposedly for "basketball reasons." There is much speculation about who may have pressured Stern to take this action: perhaps "small market" owners do not want to see the Lakers profit at the expense of the Hornets or perhaps "large market" owners do not want to see Paul go to the Lakers because they had their own designs to woo Paul either now or after this season. Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert reportedly sent an email to Stern complaining that if such deals are permitted it will only be a matter of time before the NBA consists of five superteams and 25 other teams that should each be known as the Washington Generals. This is indeed a valid theoretical concern in the sense that, if the NBA operated as a totally free market with no salary cap or other restrictions, all of the top players would probably end up in New York, L.A. and Miami. Henry Abbott and others keep banging the same drum saying that it is wrong for the league to in any way restrict how much money stars can make and/or prevent stars from deciding where they want to play but a league run by Abbott's rules would not last very long; a successful professional sports league needs a common draft that gives weaker teams first crack at young talent and it needs a business model that provides for ample compensation to the best players while also making sure that all of the best players do not end up on one or two teams. If you take Abbott's way of thinking to its (ill)logical conclusion, then the NBA should not have a draft, a salary cap or any free agency rules: the New York Knicks should be able to offer $150 million to Chris Paul and $100 million to Jared Sullinger (or whichever college star they like next summer), while Dan Gilbert fills out his roster with players from Cleveland State University--but once you accept/understand why a league should have a draft, a salary cap and rules regarding free agency then the next step is to figure out specifically how to construct a business model containing those elements; such issues can only be solved through collective bargaining and that is why the NBA just had the second longest work stoppage in its history: the business model needed to be fixed. Abbott and his favorite economist may have determined that LeBron James and other stars are supposedly underpaid relative to their alleged true market value but if the NBA paid James what Abbott thinks James is worth then the whole enterprise would collapse and James would ultimately receive nothing. If James or other players dislike the terms of the league's CBA then they are certainly free to sell their services to the highest bidder in other leagues--but until Abbott and Costello (Dave Berri) find someone with very deep pockets to put their economic "theories" to a real world test (by creating a rival league based on "advanced basketball statistics") the fact is that James' true "market value" is what the NBA can afford to pay him without destroying its entire business model.

The Dream Team was fun to watch in 1992 in the Olympics but if the NBA's rules permitted a handful of wealthy owners to buy up all of the elite players then the NBA would indeed become nothing more than the Harlem Globetrotters versus the Washington Generals. Abbott and others say that competitive balance has never existed in NBA history but that depends on how you define competitive balance with regard to pro basketball. Competitive balance does not mean that every team has a 100% equal chance to win a title in a given year or even in the next 10 years; obviously, history has shown that to win an NBA title you almost always must have an elite player on your roster and there are only a handful of elite players in the NBA at any given time (plus another 20-25 All-Star caliber players). Competitive balance means two things in the context of the NBA: (1) No one team can simply spend $1 billion and buy up the All-NBA First Team; (2) any team that drafts well and makes sound free agency decisions has the opportunity to put together a solid playoff team and that the handful of teams that acquire/nurture an All-NBA First Team caliber performer have a reasonable opportunity to contend for a title and to retain the services of that All-NBA First Team player when his initial contract expires.

The Showtime Lakers were not built because top players decided to leave small market teams; while the Lakers acquired Kareem Abdul-Jabbar via a trade with a small market team, they did not become a dynasty until they surrounded him with shrewd draft picks (including Norm Nixon, Magic Johnson and James Worthy). The 1980s Boston Celtics drafted Larry Bird and his Hall of Fame frontcourt partner Kevin McHale. LeBron James had every right under the old CBA to form a power trio in Miami but it is historically incorrect to suggest that this is how dynasties have previously been built in the NBA--and it is foolish to think that what James, Carmelo Anthony and Deron Williams did last year set a healthy precedent for the NBA. How many casual fans really missed the NBA during the lockout? There was a very real backlash against the NBA, a "pox on their houses" mentality that can be largely traced back to the resentment that fans outside of New York/New Jersey and Miami feel about what James, Anthony and Williams did.

So, I understand Gilbert's concerns and I can even understand why Stern felt that he had to stop the Paul trade--but I think that Stern has made a horrible mistake and that, ultimately, this trade (or one like it) is inevitable. The new CBA does not prevent Paul and Howard from following in the footsteps of James, Anthony and Williams so there is no way that the NBA can stop them from forcing their way out of New Orleans and Orlando respectively; moreover, it is a horrible conflict of interest for the NBA to reject a deal unless that deal is clearly lopsided--particularly when the NBA technically owns one of the teams involved in the deal. Stern has potentially disrupted the functioning of not only the Hornets (who now have a very disgruntled Paul on their roster) but also the Lakers and Rockets, who now have to welcome back players they just tried to ship out.

The extremely ironic sidebar to this situation is that, while I agree with Gilbert's theoretical objection about big market teams trying to corner the market on elite players, I disagree with Gilbert's apparent belief that the specific deal in question is lopsided in favor of the Lakers. While the Lakers certainly need to upgrade the point guard position (something that I have been saying for years, much to the chagrin of Lakers' fans/Derek Fisher lovers), two quality big men is a steep price to pay for a small point guard who has been somewhat brittle in recent years. Gilbert seems to think that this deal would have paved the way for the Lakers to also acquire Dwight Howard; if that were true, then the Lakers would indeed be in great shape with a Bryant-Howard-Paul trio but with Gasol and Odom out of the picture it is unlikely that the Lakers could have persuaded Orlando to part with Howard. An aging Bryant paired with a brittle Paul and an even more brittle Andrew Bynum hardly looks like a sure-fire championship nucleus; Bryant and Paul could perhaps have carried a team to a title three years ago or perhaps could do so now if they (and Bynum) stayed healthy but what the Lakers really need to do to make a last run at a Bryant-led title while also laying the groundwork to contend as Bryant declines is to acquire Howard in exchange for Bynum and Gasol or (preferably) Bynum and Odom.

However, the actual skill set evaluation of the proposed Chris Paul trade is going to be largely ignored because of the serious implications of how the trade was cancelled. I wonder how many casual NBA fans even realized that the NBA has owned the Hornets for the past year, let alone thought about all of the potential ramifications of this: not only is it a bad idea for a league to own a team but the fact that for more than a year the NBA has searched in vain for a suitable owner tends to reinforce the contention that the league did in fact have a broken business model under the terms of the old CBA. Sure, it might be easy to find someone who wants to buy an NBA team in Philadelphia (or to move a team to Brooklyn) but who wants to buy one in New Orleans? New Orleans is home to a championship team under the NFL's business model but under the NBA's old business model it hardly attracted much interest among prospective NBA owners. It cannot be emphasized enough that the San Antonio Spurs--considered a small market team in NBA parlance even though San Antonio is hardly a small city--lost money in recent seasons even though they have won four titles in the past dozen years and are considered to be a model franchise. The NBA has some deep seated problems with its business model that the new CBA tentatively addresses but the Chris Paul trade/non-trade fiasco could potentially not only overshadow those issues but perhaps even scuttle the tenuous peace agreement between the owners and the players.

The NBA may be back but it is hardly in good shape: the compressed 66 game season is going to be tough to watch--featuring a lot of out of shape and/or fatigued players--and whatever happens on the court is likely to attract less attention than the off court dramas surrounding Howard and Paul.

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posted by David Friedman @ 5:41 AM

18 comments

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18 Comments:

At Friday, December 09, 2011 11:09:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice post David. I think the bigger issue was the rumors that a deal in place for Howard for Bynum was in place right as CP3 for Odom was going to go through. Once owners caught wind of another superteam building in LA, they complained. Also, the Lakers would've saved major luxury tax dollars through this trade as oppose to waiting till free agency. That also ticked the owners off.

 
At Friday, December 09, 2011 3:43:00 PM, Anonymous boyer said...

This is so annoying. Now, I thought Stern was finally making some sense, he goes and does this. And I have to believe that if the clips or warriors were going to get Paul, the deal goes through. This is pathetic.

The biggest problems now is that how can the Hornets be allowed to trade Paul to anyone else for nothing short of Kobe, Howard, and Lebron combined? 2nd: why weren't complaints of this proposed trade happening before it the trade was finalized, so we never had to deal with all this? 3rd: how are the players that were to be traded going to perform now? Odom and Paul are completely unhappy, and not reporting today to camp. This makes a bad situation for the lakers, rockets, and hornets.

The hornets have to trade Paul since he won't sign an extension next year. But, can they trade him now after this?

Also, yes, getting Paul for pau/odom is only worth it if the lakers can get Howard for Bynum/other pieces. This trade alone wasn't the greatest for the lakers, but they need some type of upgrade at PG at some pt.

Is this collusion? Maybe not. But, a lot of owners, presumedly, complained to Stern, and Stern stepped in when he shouldn't have. Lawsuits await, as they should.

 
At Friday, December 09, 2011 3:54:00 PM, Anonymous Ilhan said...

Totally agree on points of principle. Plus, the deal is the best I can remember that a small market team has gotten for a discontented superstar.

One thing I can not wrap my mind around: How can David Stern or someone from the league office not let Dell Demps know in advance, months in advance, that he cannot trade Paul to a big market team or at least that he needs to check in with them before sigining on a deal? We can disagree with the nixing of the deal on principle for sure, but the real surprise for me is that Stern has to "kill the deal" after it is done and the players and the public gets to know about it! If the NBA is to act in the same way an ordinary NBA ownership group does, then they should be very much involved in all trade talks and not just come after the fact and say "NO". This is a PR disaster for the NBA and I cannot understand how it could happen.

Second, I cannot think about Dan Gilbert anymore without grinding my teeth. He actively sabotages the deal in the name of parity, yet he and Cuban and Stern have simply detonated the Lakers, who now have to suit up 2 very unhappy starters in Gasol and Odom. This is very much different from blocking a deal without letting the players involved know about it. As you have pointed out, it is not clear that the deal, had it gone down as reported, would make the Lakers better. One ball-dominating point guard, however great, for Odom and Gasol seems excessive. However, barring a Howard deal, the nixed deal made everything even worse. An injustice has been done to the Lakers. The same will be true for the Hornets if, and when, they have to trade Paul in a much worse deal.

Having written all this, I see now that boyer has already made most of my points.

 
At Friday, December 09, 2011 5:27:00 PM, Anonymous JLK1 said...

What a horrible way to kick off the season. So much has been written about this already that I'm not sure what I can really add. It just seems like a remarkable error on Stern's part that damages the Hornets franchise and the league as a whole. It's a PR disaster. I can only hope that the rest of the preseason goes by without another episode like this one.

 
At Friday, December 09, 2011 6:21:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is no logical explanation to block the trade - which has been in the works for months. Does this mean the NBA can revoke any trade it likes? People can cry about a failed business model, but how can you fix it with guys like Cuban, Gilbert and Stern involved? This is simply the dumbest decision ever made in sports and the absolute lack of a transparent and logical explanation makes the NBA resemble a dictatorship. Bryant's plantation comparision, while still flawed, has garnered a shred of truth with this. If the NBA and some of its idiotic owners were so concerned about parity, why not play the bucks and wolves on christmas day?

 
At Friday, December 09, 2011 9:37:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the proposed deal was fair in a purely basketball sense. If anything, I think the Hornets came out on top. They got a pretty good haul. The Lakers would have paid dearly for Paul. As a fan of a rival team, the cancellation of the trade was pretty disappointing. The only thing lopsided in that deal was the "package" that the Rockets received. Scola is not that far off from Gasol, so the price of Kevin Martin is a bit high. I guess there were money reasons.

Funny that the ESPN 5-on-5 all think that the Lakers would have "won" that trade.

 
At Saturday, December 10, 2011 1:55:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Anonymous:

The plantation analogy is still way off base; there is no comparison between being forced to work on a plantation with no hope of ever being set free and being told that you have to make millions of dollars living in one city as opposed to making millions of dollars living in a different city.

 
At Saturday, December 10, 2011 1:58:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Anonymous:

The only way that the proposed deal makes sense for the Lakers is if in fact it would have enabled them to acquire Dwight Howard for Bynum. A Kobe-Howard-CP3 trio would be better than the Heat's trio (at least for the next couple years until Kobe really declines) because the Lakers' hypothetical trio would have complementary skill sets while James and Wade do not (and they also have yet to figure out how to utilize Bosh, while Kobe figured out how to utilize Gasol immediately and would surely have no problem utilizing Howard and Paul).

I did not read the 5 by 5 "analysis" because I try to not waste my time with nonsense--but since so many "stat gurus" kept saying that Gasol is better than Kobe I am a little surprised that the ESPN "analysts" would be in favor of giving up the Lakers' best player (in their warped view).

 
At Saturday, December 10, 2011 10:19:00 AM, Anonymous Aaron said...

European sports leagues operate without a draft, a salary cap, or limits on how much you can pay particular players and funnily enough they haven't gone bankrupt. It's widely agreed that salary caps and other such restrictions exist not to promote competitive balance (in achieving which goal they are useless) but to enhance the profits of owners.

 
At Saturday, December 10, 2011 9:49:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Aaron:

I am not familiar with "European sports leagues" and am not even sure which leagues you are talking about but the NFL seems to be doing pretty well with a salary cap and a draft--and the salary cap idea actually originated with the NBA, if I am not mistaken. Some things that go over big in Europe will not work here; 1-1 soccer games are apparently thrilling to Europeans but Americans are less than enthralled by such contests.

 
At Monday, December 12, 2011 12:58:00 PM, Blogger beep said...

well, Aaron is not right actually. There's just a handful of big clubs which can afford such salaries, usually a few per league. Those play in Euroleague each year, so you can get such illusion. It's like football (soccer) Champions League, a handful of big clubs from major leagues play each other each year. You won't really find any surprises in final 8. I don't know if it's for better or worse, it's the highest quality of football most of the time, but I got bored after 10 years or so.

As for 1-1 results, you totally miss a point. There can be 5-0 boring match and 0-0 thriller holding your breath till the final whistle.

 
At Monday, December 12, 2011 3:05:00 PM, Blogger Scott G said...

Great post.

I didn't really like this deal for either of the Hornets or the Lakers, personally. I think the Lakers gave up way too much, and, as you note, this deal only makes sense if DH12 were to join the team. Do you think a package centered around Bynum and Artest would be enough to get that done? I'm not sure - if I were Otis Smith and that was the best thing on the table, I might just do my best to make DH12 happy during the season and try to re-sign him.

I thought the Hornets certainly got some talent, but also got some hefty contracts. A lineup of Jack, Martin, Ariza, Scola and Okafor, with Odom, Dragic, Bellinelli and Pondexter off the bench is probably a playoff team, but not one with any chance of making noise in the playoffs. Plus, without acquiring meaningful draft picks or young talent, they're left without the ability to build off that base (and have limited financial flexibility to do so via FA's).

Houston, on the other hand, did quite well for itself. Martin is overpaid, and I didn't really like Scola's deal either. Moreover, they didn't even have to give up ANY of their young talent. Pau plus youngsters is a base you can work from, I thought.

It's all academic now, it seems. The NBA has set a terrible precedent here, and picked the wrong deal on which to take a stand, IMO.

It will be interesting to see whether the proposed Clips deal comes to fruition. Although I like Aminu a lot, if the Clips can unload Kaman and keep Gordon, I like this deal for them (other than including Minny's pick, which seems unneccessary and from what's been reported seems linked to CP's exercise of his player option). It would be even better if Bledsoe were not part of the package either.

Anyhow, great work at this site -- always an informative and insightful read!

 
At Monday, December 12, 2011 3:47:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Beep:

I suspect that Aaron is not right but I don't follow "European sports leagues" and I don't see any validity in comparing them to the NBA so I did not bother to investigate what he said: his point, whether or not it is true, simply has no relevance to a discussion about the NBA.

I realize that soccer is viewed as a very exciting sport in many countries other than the United States but my point is that U.S. sports fans look at things differently than sports fans elsewhere and that this could have something to do with why the NBA needs a different business model than "European sports leagues" (if, in fact, it is even the case that "European sports leagues" have the kind of business model that Aaron described). I am not taking a position on whether or not soccer is boring but merely indicating that the reality of how U.S. fans view sports impacts the kind of business models that U.S. sports leagues form; the business model that the NBA had in the previous CBA proved to not be a very good one and that is why it had to be changed.

 
At Monday, December 12, 2011 4:05:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Scott G:

It is pointless for me to speculate specifically about what the Magic are looking for or what will actually happen because it seems like the NBA can just cancel deals on a whim anyway; in general terms, the Magic are trying to get as much for Howard as they can right now so that they don't end up like the LeBron-less Cavaliers if they let Howard just walk after this season.

The Lakers' window of opportunity to win a title with their current roster closed last season, as I explained after they got swept by the Mavs. They need to restructure the roster with two goals in mind: provide Kobe with a supporting cast that is good enough to contend for a championship as his effectivness slowly declines with his career winding down but also acquire a young superstar who can be the focal point for the franchise after Kobe retires. Clearly, Dwight Howard would be the perfect choice to play alongside Kobe in the short term before becoming the franchise player after Kobe's career ends. I am sure that the Lakers would be willing to give up any combination of players not including Kobe in order to acquire Howard. A nucleus of Bryant and Howard surrounded by decent role players can contend for the 2012 championship (assuming that Bryant and Howard are both healthy, of course), while a Bryant-Howard-Paul trio (which probably will not happen now) would be--in the short term--better than Miami's power trio because the Lakers' trio would have complementary skill sets.

I am skeptical about the idea of building a championship team around Pau Gasol but it would have been interesting to see Houston try to do this. Gasol made just one All-Star team and never won a playoff game before teaming up with Bryant and if Gasol finishes his career without playing alongside Bryant I suspect that Gasol will have similar success (i.e., not much success at all).

 
At Monday, December 12, 2011 5:35:00 PM, Blogger Scott G said...

I agree that the Lakers would do anything to acquire DH12, as they should! That's what made it so confusing that they went after Paul as an initial matter. IMO, they'd have been better served to first get DH12, and see what they could do from there. Perhaps that is indeed what happened behind the scenes, but doesn't seem to be the case from reports.

Regarding building around Pau -- I agree that Pau simply cannot be the best player on a championship team. But, I think that on balance, getting rid of Scola's contract (not great) and Martin's contract (bad) was worth it, since I think Pau is far better than either of those two. Your point is well-taken, though, that it will be interesting to see how Pau performs as the main man once again.

 
At Monday, December 12, 2011 9:27:00 PM, Anonymous boyer said...

I love your recognition of how the stat gurus keep saying Gasol is the lakers best player, but somehow the lakers still won if this trade happened. Yea, doesn't make sense to me either.

Anyway, I'm glad and disappointed at the same time that even now the clips/hornets trade didn't happen. If Stern is consistent, he shouldn't let anyone trade with NO who offers anything less than kobe and gasol or lebron and wade for Paul. You have to trade him. This is his last season in NO. And then Howard and the magic keep waffling on what they're doing. Will be interesting to see what happens.

Gilbert is right to an extent about how it's bad for the league overall to have most of the stars in a few markets, but at the same time, that was exactly what Gilbert was trying to do in cleveland when he had lebron. So, he is being highly inconsistent at best here. But also, it was highly contradictory how nobody complained about the clips/hornets trade, as far as we know. Also, Stern and league throw down our throats competitive balance, but the dream finals is always lakers/celtics. I don't get a lot of this stuff.

The thing with the intial Paul trade is that everyone was happy. I agree a Pau-led team won't be anything special, but where are the rockets at right now? A scola-led team or a martin-led team? They have no current AS on the team. It's definitely an upgrade for them, especially if they can land another good FA or 2 this year.

But, now we're already seeing the backfire from this failed trade. Odom had to pretty much be shipped out, and the lakers got virtually nothing for him. I don't get that. That doesn't make sense to me. What are the lakers going to do now or what can they do?

 
At Tuesday, December 13, 2011 5:09:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Scott G:

I agree that the Lakers should focus on acquiring Howard but (1) I don't know if that is actually possible and (2) it is possible that the original CP3 deal enabled them to line up things (salary cap space, etc.) in order to then make a move to get Howard--that is apparently what so greatly irritated Dan Gilbert and motivated him to send the now infamous email to David Stern.

I did not mean to imply that the trade would have been bad for Houston but I just wanted to reemphasize that I do not believe that Gasol can be the lead guy on a championship-caliber team. The Rockets are run by a well known "stat guru" (Daryl Morey) and, though they have had some bad luck regarding injuries to Yao and T-Mac, their use of "advanced basketball statistics" had hardly led to much tangible success thus far--and it is interesting that after they touted Shane Battier as a great player whose greatness is not appreciated by regular stats they got rid of him! If "advanced stats" have convinced the Rockets that Pau Gasol is a franchise player then they are in for a rude awakening if they ever end up acquiring him and building their franchise around him.

 
At Tuesday, December 13, 2011 5:21:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Boyer:

I am not sure what you mean by saying "that was exactly what Gilbert was trying to do in cleveland when he had lebron." Gilbert is a small market (in NBA terms at least) owner who spent tons of cash bringing in players to play alongside LeBron and who built a team that won 66 and 61 games in back to back seasons, plus made it to the NBA Finals in 2007--yet LeBron left anyway and did so in a way to maximize Cleveland's (and Gilbert's) humiliation. There are only five to 10 legit franchise players in the NBA at one time and I think that it is in the best interests of the league that those guys are spread around as opposed to being concentrated together on just a few teams. If a team is clever or fortunate enough to draft multiple such players (like the 1980s Lakers and Celtics) that is one thing but having such players essentially collude to all end up in the same place is bad for the league. The new CBA has the so-called Derrick Rose rule that will provide a great incentive for young, elite (MVP/All-NBA caliber) players to re-sign with their original teams and the stiff luxury tax provisions will also make it difficult for teams to stockpile elite talent; so, in the future we will not likely see sagas like the current ones with CP3 and Dwight Howard but it is obvious that Stern and the owners are struggling to figure out how to deal with the last remnants of the broken business model.

As I indicated with the link that I included in my initial response to Scott G, after the Lakers got swept by the Mavs I felt that the Lakers had to make major changes if they want to squeeze one more title out of the Kobe Bryant era. They must get younger and more athletic. Odom fits in neither category, so I understand why they got rid of him--but they obviously must acquire something other than draft picks if they don't want this season to be a waste (in terms of Kobe's closing window). The fact that they sent Odom to the reigning champions tells you exactly what the Lakers think both of Odom (not much) and the Mavericks (much weaker now that Chandler and Butler have departed, with Barea probably out the door as well); this is kind of like the Eagles sending McNabb to the Redskins (a team in their own division), a move that you only make if you are fairly sure that the departing player is not going to do much damage to you. I don't think that the Lakers are very concerned about matching up with Odom in the playoffs.

 

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