Lakers share mixed perspective on trades made around the NBA
It's a time period the Lakers and many of their fans don't like to revisit. The 2004 NBA Finals, you know, the one where the Detroit Pistons upset the Lakers and denied them their fourth championship in five years.
But Coach Phil Jackson brought up that season in context with the latest trading deadline. After Rasheed Wallace was traded to the Atlanta Hawks from the Portland Trail Blazers, the Pistons acquired the current Boston Celtics forward in a three-team trade involving Boston and Atlanta. The effect was felt instantly that season, resulting in an NBA championship.
Jackson didn't see any of the trades this past week bearing the same magnitude. And the Lakers made no moves before the deadline, meaning they'll look to defend their NBA championship with nearly the same roster as last season's, with exception to the essentially off-season swap with Trevor Ariza to Houston and Ron Artest to L.A. Nonetheless, Jackson still kept an eye on specific moves from the perspective on how it could affect the Lakers in the postseason.
Jackson seconded the viewpoint of General Manager Mitch Kupchak, who recently told The Times' Mike Bresnahan that Dallas' acquisition of Washington forward Caron Butler and center Brendan Haywood will be significant. The Clippers trade involving shipping defensive specialist Marcus Camby to Portland also caught Jackson's eye because the Trail Blazers (32-15) are slated to face the top-seeded Lakers (42-14) in the first round of the playoffs.
But there was one trade Jackson initially refused to discuss, that one involving Cleveland's acquisition of forward Antawn Jamison from Washington for center Zydrunas Ilgauskas. A little bit of prodding revealed Jackson's true feelings.
"I don't know what that does for them to tell you the truth," Jackson said. "They're going to get Ilgauskas back and it's going to be one of those scenarios we see in the NBA where you ship a player out, then you get another player, then that player retires and they pay him off. Then he comes back in 30 days. I don't know what that does for the league. I think it's kind of a weird situation."
The Lakers themselves weren't as analytical regarding the trades. Forward Lamar Odom was pretty honest why he didn't want to dissect the latest transactions.
"If somebody got better, I wouldn't want to admit it," Odom said. "I wouldn't want to tell them and boost their confidence."
Odom maintained the stock I'm-only-worried-about-the-next-game-in-front-us attitude regarding the trade conversation. Although it's understandable he may not want to talk up other teams, the bigger narrative is that teams, such as Dallas and Cleveland, are stocking up to bolster their championship chances. That gives one added layer of pressure for the Lakers to defend their turf, as if they haven't been trying to do that already.
"We're considered a deep team," Odom said. "We got a lot of guys who can play. If you feel like you need to compete, we're one of the teams you need to compete against."
Although opponents may depend on these trades providing them a push come postseason play, the Lakers will depend on their championship experience last season. At this point, one quality isn't superior to the other. But as far as the Lakers go, it's understandable they didn't make any moves even if there are valid concerns regarding the point guard spot, their outside shooting and their injuries.
There are salary cap implications to consider, as well as how quickly a new player could adjust to the triangle (just ask Artest; he's still learning). Staying healthy is something the Lakers will want to maintain, but the two other problems (point guard play, outside shooting) are areas the Lakers are capable of correcting or at least masking the leaks.
Because of the aforementioned problems, Lakers guard Jordan Farmar admitted many members of the team (presumably on the reserve list) were unsure this week how long their future with the Lakers would last.
"I'm sure there's a lot of guys here who feel they should be playing more and getting more of an opportunity and not getting our chance at all," said Farmar, who is without a doubt also talking about himself with that statement. "So you never know with those situations what could happen."
Yet, despite any frustrations, Farmar is glad everyone stayed on board.
"We're the defending champs. We don't feel we need to change much."
-- Mark Medina
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Photo: Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak didn't make any deals before Thursday's trade deadline. Credit: Alex Gallardo / Los Angeles Times