Simply put, I don’t want Kobe to be traded, unless he wants to be traded. Put even simpler, I don’t know if Kobe wants to be traded. It seems like the turmoil from yesterday has died down significantly (… or not), so I won’t keep drawing up trade scenarios for Kobe — I’m sure the Laker haters (I know y’all are out there) are sick of this nonsense already. But all I’m saying is, if trading Kobe is in the Lakers’ future, it’s better done now than later.
The reason the Lakers got hosed so badly when they traded Shaq (besides the incompetence of their front office) was because they drew out the process way too long, and, in the end, they were left with no better offer than Lamar Odom (a solid player in his own right), Caron Butler (eventual trade bait, sadly) and Brian Grant (a massive contract). Teams saw that they didn’t have to convince the Lakers to give up Shaq, and thus, they saw the opportunity to possibly get him for a discount. If Kobe can change his mind in a matter of 6 hours, then what’s to say what tomorrow holds? The Lakers have a choice to make (and I thank all that is holy that it’s not my choice to make) — either see what’s available for Kobe now and possibly snag a franchise player (a la Paul Pierce, or perhaps Tracy McGrady or Joe Johnson) or a combination of playoff-tested veterans (see below); OR risk Kobe waking up on the wrong side of the bed next week, deciding again that he wants to be traded, and potentially set the franchise back another few seasons by having no choice but to trade Kobe for spare parts.
Last post, I brainstormed Kobe going to the New York Knicks. While that would be great for the NBA, the Knicks’ organization, Madison Square Garden, New York City, and Kobe’s wallet, it probably wouldn’t get him that much closer to that NBA championship which he so desires, even in the weaker Eastern Conference. There is a place in the Eastern Conference, however, where Kobe could play for a team that is nipping at the heels of title contention, has a solid young core of players, and has a statue outside of the greatest player to ever play basketball, and quite possibly the only man that Kobe is not better than.
There are two ways that the Chicago Bulls could go about trying to acquire Kobe from the Lakers while keeping within NBA salary rules. Their young core of Ben Gordon, Luol Deng, Chris Duhon, Tyrus Thomas and whoever they select with the #9 pick in the draft — that’s 5 players total — all make something in the range of $3-4 million/year, and when Kirk Hinrich’s contract extension kicks in, he’ll be set for $11 million (!!) next season. In order to get Kobe, the Bulls would have to trade about 4 of the 5 players in that group, or Hinrich and 2 of the players in that group, to the Lakers, which would pretty much leave the Bulls with Kobe, Ben Wallace, a couple secondary guys, and a pretty barren roster afterwards.
The other way for the Bulls would be a straight-up trade of Kobe for Ben Wallace. The Bulls have pretty much accepted that they overpaid for Wallace last offseason, and while Big Ben improved their already-stellar defense, their offense remained pretty inept at times, especially against Detroit in the playoffs. However, trading Kobe for Ben Wallace straight up would be worse than the Shaq trade. No need for the Lakers to be the laughing stock of the NBA twice in the last 3 years (if that hasn’t already happened).