Lakers Hit the Jackpot – As Usual

Once again, the Los Angeles Lakers come out of a blockbuster trade smelling like roses.

Mr. Stern:  THIS is the trade you should block – not the Chris Paul trade you rejected last year.

To come out of a heavily one-sided trade happens with every team – but only once in a while.  But when it comes to the Lakers, time after time do they seem to get great players while not giving up too much in return.

Let’s just go down the list:  Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, Pau Gasol, and now Dwight Howard.  How many teams in NBA history have even sniffed the possibility of having one of those guys?  The Lakers have sniffed ALL of them.  Let’s look at what the Lakers have given up for this colossal collection of great big men:

Of all the combined “Players Traded in Exchange” column, how many of them were Hall of Famers?  Zero.  All-Stars?  Only a couple.  Scoring/rebounding champs?  Zero.  I know you’re never going to get equal value when trading a superstar, but no other franchise has acquired THAT much star power without giving up much in return.  The Pau Gasol acquisition was particularly horrendous – perhaps the most lopsided trade in NBA history.  Sure, brother Marc might be the better player now.  But to not give up any of your top 10 players in a given season in exchange for Gasol is outrageous.  At the time, Kwame Brown was the centerpiece on LA’s end for that trade.  Furthermore, getting Gasol spelled the end of a brief period of turmoil in LA, where Kobe was only a few months removed from demanding a trade from the Lakers unless they were able to make a big splash in a trade – which of course they eventually did.

The trade for Chamberlain was obviously one-sided, but they only won one title out of it – thanks to Bill Russell and the Celtics.  You can also argue that Wilt was on the downside of his career at the time.  Kareem, on the other hand, was a godsend – leading the Lakers along with Magic Johnson (one of the few great players the Lakers actually drafted – and not pried away via free agency or trades) to five titles with the Showtime Lakers.

Shaq was a different story, albeit similar to Dwight’s.  Much like Howard, Shaq had a lot of drama going on in Orlando – but it was a different type of drama; Shaq had run-ins with then-teammate Penny Hardaway, fighting over endorsement deals and things of that nature.  Also, Shaq claimed that then-coach Brian Hill did not respect him, and that the Magic were not willing to stand up for him.  Howard claims that the Magic franchise is mistreating him in a similar manner (just refer back to the drama with ex-coach Stan Van Gundy), but he has been stretching for reasons to leave Orlando long before he approached free agency.  In any case, Orlando lost Shaq without compensation, and Shaq went on to win three consecutive titles.

We all consider Kobe to be a homebred Laker, but he wasn’t exactly up for grabs to begin with; he was drafted 13th overall in the 1996 draft by the (then-) Charlotte Hornets.  However, rumor had it that he announced he would only want to play for the Lakers.  When the Hornets realized this, they had to trade him immediately for Vlade Divac.   Little did Kobe know that he would have the fortune of playing with not one, not two, but THREE great big men (four if you include Andrew Bynum, who got shipped to Philadelphia as part of the four-team trade) throughout his career.

Even outside of acquiring players, I don’t think ANY team has experienced the same plethora of lucky breaks over the last decade that the Lakers have.  Whether it was Robert Horry’s game-winning 3 in Game 4 vs. the Sacramento Kings in 2002, Derek Fisher’s shot with 0.4 seconds left vs. San Antonio in 2004, or their unfathomable Game 7 4th-quarter 15point deficit comeback vs. Portland in 2000, the Lakers always seem to come through an inordinate number of times.  But that’s another story, and you always have to give credit to teams that gut it out.

Now, what does this mean for the NBA?  Owners wanted the new CBA to prevent super-teams from forming.  They were weary of the Big 3’s that had been forming up to that point (Boston, Miami, etc.).  Now, they have to worry about a Big 4 in LA.  If I were Orlando, Philadelphia, or Denver, I would not have allowed this trade to happen.  At least, not with the Lakers keeping Gasol.  No way.

Sure, the Lakers are the NBA’s premier franchise – but they’ve had a whole lot of unexplainable and unfathomable luck to go with it.

Oh, and by the way, they also got two-time MVP Steve Nash for nothing.