When the moves went down, many people – fans and league employees alike – felt as if it was unfair or lucky that the Lakers were able to land two of the game’s top players – again.
But, there was nothing lucky about these moves. The Lakers weren’t gifted Steve Nash or Dwight Howard. Getting the two took years of sacrifice and planning.
Yes, the Lakers “only” moved four picks for Nash, but picks are at a premium in today’s NBA where most teams are looking to save money. Having guys on rookie contracts is the cheapest option now.
They also had to have the $8.9 million trade exception waiting so they could sign-and-trade Nash. How did they get the exception? They traded Lamar Odom to the Dallas Mavericks, who had just swept them out of the playoffs and went onto win the NBA Championship, for a first-round pick.
At the time, many said the the Odom-to-Dallas move was a salary dump. Even Laker fans began to throw Jim Buss under the…umm…bus, as it seemed he was heading a direction where the Lakers saved money instead of wanting to compete for a ring.
I always said Jim needed time, and I was willing to give him it; besides, he had landed Chris Paul just days earlier before David Stern got involved.
Speaking of the Paul saga, the move the Lakers attempted to make to land CP3 was (once again) a very smart one. Not only would they save money, but they’d be picking up a young guard who would be around long after Bryant’s retired. They’d even hang onto Bynum, meaning they could trade for Howard down the road.
But, of course, feeling outsmarted and scared, the league owners complained and pressured Stern to veto the move.
It wasn’t daylight robbery; the Lakers were giving up Pau Gasol – their second best player – and the reigning Sixth Man of the Year in Odom. Either way, the rest of the league didn’t enjoy the idea of L.A. starting another dynasty and so they essentially ended the talks.
The Lakers would respond though, by acquiring Nash and Howard about seven months later. Plus, they got to keep Gasol.
While some were probably not too pissed by the acquisition of Nash due to his age, they were pretty much fuming by the time Howard ended up being traded to Los Angeles.
Again, though, this took careful planning by the Lakers. Howard wasn’t “gifted” to them at all.
The Lakers took a chance on a 17-year-old coming out of high school in 1996 and they did it again in 2005 when they drafted Andrew Bynum. It was a risk, but it paid off. Bynum became and All-Star and one of the best big men in the league by the age of 24.
However, through the years, Bynum has been involved in many different trade rumors. From Jason Kidd to Jermaine O’Neal to Kevin Garnett and even Carmelo Anthony, Bynum’s name has been in the mix for all of them. The Lakers never pulled the trigger though. They could’ve and then by this point they probably wouldn’t have a chance to trade for Dwight.
Jim Buss said that he and Kupchak had a conversation where they said the only guy they’d probably trade Bynum for would be Howard. They held out for Dwight and they got him.
Many teams would jump at the opportunity to land any one of those guys listed above – at least they would when they were rumored to be involved in trade talks – but the Lakers held out and kept their young center.
It took great restraint and timing to finally land Howard; even once the Lakers got in discussions for him, the two teams took an extremely long time to come to an agreement. Other franchises would probably give up and move on. But the Lakers knew how valuable Howard would be to the franchise, both on-and-off the court, now-and-after Bryant has retired.
Yes, the Lakers continue to reload – they never rebuild – but why are you mad at them? They get the best in the business to scout, develop and manage players. They’re also not afraid to spend money when it means they’ll become a contender.
Yes, players want to play in Los Angeles, but that’s due to the brand the Lakers have built. Sure, Los Angeles is a great city, but it’s the Lakers’ continuous success and history that attracts players to the purple and gold.
Fans of other teams should stop being mad at the Lakers at look at their own front office; why aren’t they doing better?
The Lakers put themselves in a position to win time and time again. That’s because they are great at what they do; they’re not lucky.
And continually landing the game’s top players is not unfair, either. It’s a game at the end of the day and the Lakers play it the best.