According to Magic Johnson on ESPN, if the Lakers lose to the Nuggets tonight (and if George Karl could just remember who his best players are, and, you know, play them, they very well could), Bynum and Gasol will be on their way out:
”They’re going to run Mike Brown first out of town,” Johnson said. “Then second will be Bynum. Then third will be Gasol.”
Well, Mike Brown I certainly understand. I mean, the man's pretty much just been blindly praising Kobe from day 1 in a desparate effort to keep a job that's about as impossible as they come. But then LA is going to run Bynum out of town!? And Pau Gasol!?
I realize that most people in LA have insane notions about who their best player is, but...REALLY? There's one center in the NBA better than Bynum. You don't trade away guys like this, unless you hate championships.
And if we're all about the wrath of god when our players fail to live up to Lakeresque expectations of championships, then where the hell is the accountability for the 34-year old ball-hogging shooting guard who will make $28 million next year!? He makes one-third of the Lakers Salary, but he gets 0% of the blame from Magic, and the 24 year-old center that Kobe never passes to in the fourth quarter gets all of it?
And poor Pau Gasol. In the history of the NBA, has there ever been a more dominant big man who has gotten less respect than him? First, the Grizzlies respected him so little that they traded him for a pick and his chubby, unproven little brother (I realize the brother is pretty damn good now. This wasn't true at the time of the trade. He wasn't quite this bad, but he wasn't the svelte version of 2011 either.). Then, the Lakers ride him, Lamar, and Kobe to the finals (Bynum was out for the year in the playoffs), and Kobe gets all the credit (despite having won....how many?...rings without Shaq) and Pau gets all the blame for the loss because he was "soft" despite the fact that he shot really well from the field those few times that Kobe passed to him (did anyone notice that Kevin Garnett was still in his prime back then, and, oh yeah, he plays really ****ing good defense!?). The next season he gets even better, and turns in a truly dominant performance in the finals, and again, Kobe gets all the credit (Kobe deserved lots of credit. Not all of it).
In 2009-10, Gasol is far and away the Lakers best player, putting up career-best rebounding numbers, but everyone considers Kobe the best player (even though he's now starting to age like milk), culminating in his 18-rebound performance in game 7.
I'm pretty sure he's been more-or-less on the trading block ever since.
What's interesting to me is that I imagine the Lakers think that their window is passing, and that they need an injection of youthful star power to continue their dynasty. And they probably wouldn't mind trading Kobe, but they can't. He's got a no-trade clause, and seriously, who wants that salary?!?
But as I have pointed out before, there is a simple solution: amnesty Kobe. And do it now while everyone still thinks he's an MVP-caliber player. Nobobdy wants to pay $28 million for him, sure, but plenty of teams probably think he's a bargain at $15. If they were to amnesty Kobe, the Lakers would save upwards of $40 million ($28 million in luxury taxes not paid + $10-$15million from whatever some other team pays Kobe).
Getting rid of your best player, who happens to be 24 years old and virtually impossible to replace due to being 7' tall, hardly seems like the ideal way to handle the fact that you are pissed off about exiting in the first round.