Almost two years ago to the day, I woke up on an air-mattress with my phone lighting up next to my head. Texts and e-mails were pouring in, unusual at 7am Eastern Time in the days following Thanksgiving. For anyone that’s received a barrage of telecommunications at that point of the morning, there is, quite frequently, a conversation of terrifying consequence on the other line.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. Friends and hoopheads from all over had let me know that the NBA Lockout was over. It was Christmas in November.
In the days that followed, my dormant Lakers fandom had sparked and sputtered like a dusty old car coming back to life. My mind raced with the thoughts of how the team–just 18 months removed from a Game 7 NBA Finals win over the Boston Celtics–would try and rebound from a tepid title defense and second round sweep at the hands of the eventual champion Dallas Mavericks. Kobe Bryant was an elite player, Pau Gasol one of the best bigs in the game and Andrew Bynum primed for a breakout season. There was no reason why the Lakers couldn’t win a title with some minor tweaks.
Minor tweaking wasn’t what GM Mitch Kupchak and the Buss family had in mind.
On Thursday, December 8th, the Los Angeles Lakers and New Orleans Hornets consummated a trade that no one saw coming. The Lakers had dismantled their three-time NBA Finalists, dealing the front court that had been on the floor when championship confetti had fallen from the rafters not once, but twice. In the agreed upon three-team deal, LA would send Gasol to the Houston Rockets and Lamar Odom, along with Kevin Martin, Goran Dragic, Luis Scola and a first-round pick would be sent to New Orleans. In return, NOLA would send Chris Paul to the Lakers. Additionally, the Show would end up saving nearly $40 million dollars in combined salary and luxury taxes for the upcoming season. It was an absolute heist, but one that was agreed upon by three general managers and two ownership groups.
(Read on at Silver Screen & Roll)