Friday, February 1, 2008

The Rich Get Richer And Memphis Gets Memphisier: The Lakers Side Of The Gasol Trade

There's no denying it. The more we've gotten away from it, the more it's clear. This was a pretty genius move. It's a no-lose for the Lakers. If Gasol comes in and gets nasty down low, he's a decent replacement for Bynum till he gets back, if he gets back. And when he gets back, Gasol is an excellent compliment. Gasol provides scoring. He provides rebounding. It's become clear. As much as we hate it.

This was a damn fine trade for the Lakers.

It's stunning to us that the Lakers could be this... what's the word? Blessed? Fortunate? Smart? Ballsy? Superior? In a league where every GM that has an immediate issue is seemingly incapable of pulling the trigger, the Lakers are granted every maneuver they want. Want Shaquille O'Neal? Sure thing. What? Shaq's a problem? Gone with the wind! And you get Caron Butler and Lamar Odom back for it! Granted, they screwed up and let Caron go, but still. What's that? Kobe doesn't have enough backup? Who's the best big man available on the market? Pau Gasol! What do we want for him? Kwame freaking Brown, Pau's little brother, and some picks that will of course be late in the respective rounds. Even!

What are you, kidding me? There hasn't been a ripoff this bad since I took that hologram slammer off that kid for some lowly TMNT pogs.

But I suppose that's how it goes in a major market.

We're still not totally convinced. Nor will we be until Kobe proves he can consistently distribute the ball and helphis teammates win. We're funny about ball-hogs like that.

But it's obvious that this was a considerably positive move.

What really is perplexing is how we like all the other Lakers. I mean, all of them. We admire Turiaf's passion and his resiliency. We like Farmar's basketball IQ potential, and his tempered aggressiveness towards the basket. We like Odom and his softness in a big man. We like Fisher for being a good father and three point shooter. We like Sasha...okay, no, he's kind of a douche. But still. And we, like anyone, else, can't wait for a Bynum vs. Howard finals in a few years. And now we have another Laker to like. The soft-touch foreign big man with the crazy beard.

And yet, we'll always be forced to root against them, because they are, have been for 10 years, and will be until he retires, Kobe's team. And we're not juvenile in our disapproval. We don't dislike him because he "sux" or because he's "overrated." He's obviously the best scorer in the game. But for all his accolades, for all his praise, there's always been something missing. And no one wants to say it (aside from Jeff Van Gundy). But there's something that separates him from the rest of his elite set of peers. It's the same thing we find ourselves marveling at in LeBron. A willingness to win, no matter the cost, and an outright will to make your teammates better. That's what we find so preposterous about the Kobe for MVP talk. Aside from the asinine "How is it right that he's never won" argument (to which we say, "Really? It's a lifetime achievement award now? How about we give some to retired players that never got one? That should be fair."), we're bothered by the fact that people attribute the Lakers success to Kobe. If he has the same team year after year, and suddenly, they start winning consistently, doesn't that probably mean it has more to do with his supporting cast than with him?

Which leads us back to Pau. Gasol now becomes a valuable part of an already potent lineup, They are huge now. Bynum and Gasol are over 7'. Odom is 6'10'' and Kobe's 6'6''. Apparently, Gasol will fit well into the triangle. He provides a dearth of skills the Lakers need, and his weaknesses won't be glaring because they won't be needed on the Lakers. What's more, Odom no longer has to pretend he's a big bruiser and can be an oversized forward, like God intended.

My eyes almost bulged out of my head this morning when I read this over at Forum Blue and Gold:

How often have we looked at one of those seemingly lopsided trades — ones that would be protested in any fantasy league — and say, “Why can’t our GM pull one of those off?”

Well, now he has, and Mitch Kupchak deserves a lot of credit. He’s taken an unworldly amount of heat from fans and media, but note what commenter kwame a. pointed out:

every player on this team except Kobe has been acquired or drafted by Mitch.

This just goes to show you that every single fan thinks that his or her team never makes big trades. This is the same team that got Shaquille O'Neal and when he got old, traded him for valuable assets. Their star center went down, so what do they do? Go out and get the best power forward on the trading block. Lakers fans better appreciate how good they have it. For the rest of us, who don't think this is good for the NBA because we think Lakers-Celtics is played out and things that are new are good for the league, this is pretty daunting news. The more I've gone over the matchup problems this creates for the rest of the West, the more it sounds pure genius for the Lakers, and that's before the fact that they gave up ABSOLUTELY NOTHING for it.

Consider this.

The biggest reason the Suns have been trounced by the Lakers this season? Because the Lakers interior has played so much better. Phoenix is highly vulnerable in the paint. Now they add a guy, who, while not a bruiser, is still 7 feet freaking tall and can rebound and play with high energy. That's bad. Because Marion can guard Odom and STAT... well, STAT can't guard anyone. They have no answer for Gasol. None.

The Spurs, on the other hand, have relied on two levels of defensive support, the perimeter, and the paint. With Gasol, you have a player that can work from the elbows. One of the reasons the Suns have had any level of success against them is when their mid range jumper is working. That's going to be a huge up for the Lakers. And it provides them an offensive rebounder, which is a key in beating the Spurs.

The Mavericks used to have the highest level of advantage against them, with the combo guards and forwards being able to counter anything the Lakers have. But now with Gasol, they have a tremendous combo-F-C that can play at any level and score. Plus he's a great counter to Nowitski, who they've had issues with in the past.

For the Lakers, this deal gets sweeter by the minute. What that means for the rest of us is a return to Lakers dominance, and the continued squashing of the smaller markets. Hurrah.

I can recognize the advantage for the league in known quantities being popular. People watched when it was Celtics-Lakers then, they'll watch now. And I'm certainly not debating that they're more exciting than the Spurs But really, wouldn't you rather watch someone who's unlikely to be a force? How cool would it be to have the Hornets and Suns in a point guard match-up for the ages in the West and Dwight Howard's unlikely Magic with Hedo Turkoglu versus the Wizards, or even the newly offensively formidable Pistons in the East? But no. Hype sells. And that's the world we live in. That's what depresses me most about this trade. It wasn't some unknown team making the move that puts them over the top. It was the Lakers. With 14 Championships. Great.

It'll be interesting to see if the Gasol trade prompts a Cold-War-like arms buildup in the West. The Suns, Hornets, and Mavericks all have to be looking at this as a situation that demands they upgrade in order to keep pace. The Spurs won't worry about it, because, you know, they're the Spurs. If Kidd goes to Dallas, do they become better? The Suns have said they're not making any trades, but will they keep that stance after the Gasol trade?

As always with the Association, things get more interesting from here on out.


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