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Mamba y' Matrix?

September 26, 2007 |  2:02 am

(UPDATE:  Not to distract from a fun trade debate, but there are a couple of good Laker links today. There's news on Andrew Bynum's summer and a Kobe/PJ/front office update as they head into camp.  Also, to remind everyone, our show, "Purple, Gold and Blue," will be broadcast at noon today.  To get in on it all, you'll have to register with Now Live, a process that takes about 20 seconds, give or take. Then click on our show.  Call in or join the chatboard.  The podcast will be available this afternoon (here it is!), but we'd love it if y'all were part of the action!)

I don't remember if there's a specific Lakers Blog bandwagon involving Shawn Marion, as y'all have started about 30 of them since this site's inception.  But if such a vehicle does exist, card-carrying members will love an article by Sporting News' Sean Deveney about the Lakers' and Suns' front offices discussing a trade that would send Lamar Odom and salary filler (were I Brian Cook, I'd start googling "desert real estate") to Phoenix for Marion.  Deveney raises some interesting points about LO as a primo fit with the Suns.  How his passing and ball-handling abilities could help provide Steve Nash some rest.  How his ability to snag a rebound and run a fast break is tailor-made for Mike D'Antoni's system.  Both salient points I wish I'd considered more before speculating in today's chat that the Suns wouldn't be quite as interested in this swap as the Lakers (since I was comparing them on pure talent and Marion, in my opinion, is the better overall player).    

As I read the article, I also thought about how LO's ability with the rock could allow Nash to be utilized in long stretches as a pure shooting threat, where the dude is often deadly.  If I do say so myself, I think that's an interesting observation.  And if I do say so myself, I really wish I'd considered it more before speculating in today's chat that the Suns wouldn't be quite as interested in this swap as the Lakers.

I'm going to blame the brain cramp on me being distracted by having just concluded a phone interview with Lori Fetrick, better known as "Ice" from "American Gladiators."   I'm not kidding, by the way. 

As for Marion in L.A., I would never doubt his ability to succeed as a Laker.  With any team, really.  Anybody who's paid a lick of attention to what I've said since this blog began (and, frankly, I don't blame those who haven't) knows I think Marion is the NBA's most underrated player.  Underrated as a four-time All-Star/max-salary player can be, at any rate.  His combination of athletic ability, versatility and defensive prowess is pretty amazing.  He's also not only consistently aggressive when it comes to putting the ball in the basket (making him a more ideal No. 2 option than Odom), he's been putting up points in Phoenix without the ball in his hands much or having set plays run for him (unlike LO, who's at his best in all respects the more he has the ball).  Dude also hasn't missed more than three games since the 2000 season, which makes him not only an upgrade over LO but onetime-rumored Laker joiner Jermaine O'Neal, a great player who gets his mail forwarded to the trainer's room.

And whatever the team loses in LO's passing skills, they'd gain in defense.  LO is a solid defender, but Marion is terrific.  Not to mention unique.  I challenge folks to name four other players (if that many) who can guard Tony Parker AND Tim Duncan.  Throw in rebounding, shot-blocking and steals and you're talking about a seriously complete defender.  And you may not have noticed, but the Purple and Gold D last season kind of ... what's that description I'm thinking of ... oh, yeah!  Sucked.  I find it hard to believe that Marion's presence couldn't help along those lines.  If nothing else, Marion represents a guy who the team can finally put on Nash, since the Lakers seem destined to play the Suns in the first round of the playoffs until the end of time.   

Granted, I'm not gonna get too geeked over this proposal, since rumors have a nasty way of surfacing, then dying.  Throw in the fact that "A-list for A-List-ish player" trades are fairly uncommon and it becomes even tougher to buy.  That Phoenix might not even be interested were it not for Marion's unhappiness and the transaction is harder still to picture.  I'm also guessing any unwillingness on Doc B's part to extend Marion might be a deal breaker.  And obviously, the ideal scenario would be to add Marion (or another All-Star-level talent) as a third piece with Kobe and LO.  All things being equal, I would prefer to keep Lamar.  I'm a big fan of his game and even bigger fan of him as a person.  But unless Phoenix is willing to take Andrew Bynum, Kwame Brown's expiring contract (ignoring that Edward Scissorhands would be a better fit in Phoenix by comparison) and "name your role players" or a multi-team trade that I'm too lazy to create can be agreed upon, I don't see the Matrix and LO as SoCal teammates.

However, everything in life can't be ideal, so if I'm a certain age-inappropriate-dating billionaire, I'd jump at the chance to land someone of Marion's caliber while retaining a hot prospect like Bynum (either as the team's future 5 or to flip) and Kwame's expiring contract.  Shawn Marion for only one of the Lakers' three total trade assets of any real worth, a deal that doesn't gut the squad of much depth, is about as good as it gets.  Unlike the LO-Bynum for JO trade that seems to be at an impasse, I think this would make the Lakers better.  Or allows them to remain in a position to continue getting better, if nothing else.  And if showing Kobe that they're serious about building a winner remains a priority, I don't see how this wouldn't at least sort of make that point.  And if it doesn't, you can consider building around a Matrix-Bynum duo with the pieces you get after eventually dealing Kobe.  At worst, you're only on the hook for Marion until 2009, anyway.  Maybe even 2008, if he decided to opt out.

Again, Lakers fans should hold off on getting any Matrix tattoos just yet (unless they're just huge Neo Anderson fans and in that case ... whoa!), since this is probably a ways off from becoming a done deal.  But it's the most appealing trade rumor I've heard since a certain power forward became a Celtic, one I'd certainly be pleased to see come to fruition.  If this notion really has any legs to it, I'm hoping the powers that be work overtime to close the deal.

(An additional thought, one day later:  Another reason I like this trade is that Marion is actually healthy as we speak.  Odom is reportedly still recovering from shoulder surgery.  And if you check out the Lakers' opening month, it ain't all that easy.  The difference between making the playoffs and checking out in April could be a healthy Marion vs. a slow-to-go LO)   

-- AK