a couple of years ago the lakers brought in metta world peace (nee ron artest) and let trevor ariza go. this made the team physically stronger, but slower. why’d they do it? to match up better with the celtics, who had mauled them in the 2008 finals, and looked to be the team they’d have to face in the finals again. last year, kobe and the kobettes added steve blake and matt barnes to the bench, otherwise stood pretty much pat, got badly scorched by every team with a quick, penetrating guard (which was more than half the league last time i looked), and were swept unceremoniously out of the playoffs by the dallas mavericks, who went on to win the title.
ever since, the thinking has been that the lakers need to pull off a big trade or follow the celtics down the path to the retirement home and nba irrelevance. but anyone watching kobe et al these days will notice that despite their penchant to give up big leads, they are looking better and better, and more and more like a dangerous playoff team due to their size and passing. they are going to be a bear when the game slows down to a half-court cage match.
still, they are going to get torched, badly, by teams that spread the floor, make j’s, and have quick penetrating point guards. they need a quickster at the point, and they still don’t have it. and until they resolve that issue, it is hard to imagine them competing for a championship.
as usual of course, there is a swirl of rumor around the lakers, of late centering on potential trades involving pau gasol and the notion that it now appears to be jim buss’ show to run, with mitch kupchak playing the role of gofer for jimmy b.
so who out there has what the lakers need, a quick point guard, and need what the lakers have, a top scoring, passing forward/center not known for his power game? well, of course houston leaps to mind, but they’re probably not going to give up kyle lowry, because they’d need both lowry *and* gasol to be the force they want to be. phoenix? does steve nash still count as quick? well, he probably can’t contain quick point guards much better than derek fisher, and besides, from all accounts kobe hates him, so we don’t even need to ponder the popular uprising that would happen in phoenix if nash got shipped to the lakers…not happening.
who else? tony parker for gasol? interesting…interesting…just think about tony and kobe making the party circuit…girls (and boys with girlfriends they want to hang onto) beware. but in basketball terms, does san antonio do that deal? hard to imagine. splitter is no pau gasol, but would you rather have parker and splitter or gasol and splitter? (hint: parker and splitter is the right answer here). and how good would the lakers be with a quick guard but no pau? hard to say, but i think the answer is, not good enough to get past whoever is best in the west by the end of the season, and almost certainly not good enough to get past the heat in a 7-game series where they won’t have home-court advantage. if the lakers had a coach whose offensive sophistication and flexibility i had more faith in than mike brown, i might say that a parker-kobe-bynum triumvirate might make more sense than kobe-pau-bynum (especially because the lakers are much better stocked with bigs than smalls to fill in). but as things stand now…well, i still don’t think it does the trick (the trick, in la, being winning a championship)…and again, i don’t think san antonio does this deal in any case.
how about pau for rondo? that’s an idea bill simmons has been promoting a lot of late, having become fed up by rondo’s limitations (specifically the fact that you don’t have to worry about him making a j). well, yes, but from the lakers’ perspective, why would you want to pair a mercurial pg with a flawed game who needs to feel it’s his team around a mercurial 2-guard whose team it really is, especially as the latter’s skills begin to erode noticeably in the years to come? doesn’t work…i’d rather have parker, and they’re not getting parker, so lets just move along…
ultimately, it seems to me that the lakers ought not trade gasol at all. what the they need is to find a way to get aaron brooks from phoenix (brooks is a restricted free agent) when he gets back from china, without giving up any of their own “big three” (bryant, gasol, bynum). according to john hollinger, brooks is a weak defender who can be beat laterally, and that’s true. but in the playoffs, with some good coaching (and mike brown is a pretty decent defensive coach, whatever you think of his offensive limitations), he might be just the answer the lakers need to deal with opposing speed at the point. certainly, he’d make for a better change of pace at the point than steve blake, and add an offensive dimension the lakers don’t presently have and badly need.