The LAKERS opened training camp in an already bizarre season, with a new coach, and two of their starters in limbo. LAMAR ODOM and PAU GASOL reported to training camp on Friday, but neither showed their face much to the media.
On Saturday, LAMAR was delat to the Dallas Mavericks for a draft pick and a salary cap exception. What a lousy end to LAMAR'S run as a LAKER. It was he, who demanded to be traded, after rumors of the trade for CHRIS PAUL hit the airwaves Thursday. On a radio interview Thrusday night with STEPHEN A. JACKSON it was clear LAMAR was devastated by the news, which even then was struck down by the intervening veto by DAVID STERN.
No matter, LAMAR'S ego was hurt and by Saturday the LAKERS aceeded to his demands, trading him to the world champions in a highly inadvisable move. First, the team got little or nothing for him. Second, he now plays for the team which swept the LAKERS in the playoffs last year. Something bigger had better come from this.
By Sunday's media day, GASOL had already spoken to the hoards of media hanging out at the practice facility during all of this drama, and in his tupical, even-tempoered nature, went about the business of practicing with the team and learning coach MIKE BROWN'S new system. GASOL is the ultimate professional.
KOBE expressed some dismay about the move of ODOM, saying the team was "worse" off without him. But KOBE did bow to GM MITCH KUPCHAK, acknowledging that he has earned the right to pursue his vision for improving the team, and could very well make acquisitions that would make the LAKERS better contenders for the title in this shortened season.
Many questions remain.
Will Coach MIKE BROWN have the goods to inspire this team, after the departure of guru and legend PHIL JACKSON?
Who will be the starting backcourt, with an aging DEREK FISHER, and a lackluster STEVE BALKE currently the go to guys? SHANNON BROWN was signed by the Phoenix Suns, and he was about all the quickness the LAKERS had in guards. The acquisition of CHRIS PAUL would have marked a huge accomplishment for the LAKERS to finally have a dangerous, fast point guard. JJ BAREA killed them last year, and Oklahoma City, with RUSSELL WESTGBROOK always gave the LAKERS "fits", as CHICK HEARN used to say.
The LAKERS did sign 3-point shooter, and ex-Bruin, JASON KOPONO, but he certainly won't add any quickness to the lineup.
Will PAU GASOL remain, after the embarrassing handling of his possible trade for CHRIS PAUL. He certainly has the temperment to get over the snafu, but does management see him in the future of this franchise, particularly after his "weak" performance in the playoffs last year.
It should be said, GASOL, and ODOM were instrumental in bringing the LAKERS 2 championships, and 3 consecutive finals appearances. They may not have needed much tinkering. But I suppose it is too late for that.
Will DWIGHT HOWARD replace the rickety ANDREW BYNUM at center? BYNAUM'S knees are the stuff of legend here in Los Angeles, and HOWARD has missed only a handful of games in his 6 years. But, HOWARD had a full compliment of talent the year the LAKERS dismissed Orlando for their first of back to back championships. And, HOWARD hasn't exactly been tearing up the East. Where was Orlando in the mix last year?
Can BYNUM finally take ownership of this team, with KOB of course? Can he play a full sesaon, and go into the playoffs healthy? Will he mature in now his 6th season in the NBA, and grow into the dominating center that the LAKERS envisioned drafting him out of high school?
And last but not least, are KOBE'S knees really giving out on him? Has he lost that last bit of quickness that he used to have in blowing by opponents on his way to the rim for a spectacular dunk? Does he really have 3 or 4 more good years, or is his body ravaged by 15 seasons in the NBA? And, will he be able to transition from being "the guy", to being just "one of the guys?"
We shall see.