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Lakers' championship hopes hinge on front office moves

December 12, 2011 | 10:54 pm

The damage is done and, for better or worse, there's no going back.

The Lakers traded Lamar Odom to the Dallas Mavericks, leaving the defending champions harder to beat and the purple & gold without a key reserve and trade chip.

This would prove to be a genius move only if Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak somehow flipped the $8.9 million trade exception and future first-round pick they received in the deal from the Mavericks into something bigger. That could involve acquiring mid-level talent and/or utilizing the amnesty clause to create extra chips toward a blockbuster deal. Or it could involve remaining open to trading anyone except Kobe Bryant.

Either way, the Lakers' title hopes hinge more on what Lakers owner Jerry Buss, executive Jim Buss and Kupchak do in the negotiating room than what Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum do on the court. Kupchack has worked tirelessly, roughly 14 to 18 hour days, since the lockout ended. But even if he said in an interview with reporters Monday that the Lakers are "pursuing big deals," he acknowledged nothing remains imminent. 

As everyone has found out since training camp started, trade talks twist and change as fast as sending out a 140-character tweet. But the longer the Lakers go without making a signficant trade or free-agent acquisition, the more likely the purple & gold might as well just forget about enjoying a championship parade down Figueroa Street. 

 "The last I checked, I still have Pau [Gasol], I still have Andrew [Bynum], I still have Ron [Artest]," said Bryant, a perennial All-Star guard. "I like my chances."

I don't. The Lakers won't have Bynum for the first five games because he delivered a forearm blow to Dallas' J.J. Barea in the playoffs, and Odom won't be there to replace him. When Bynum returns, he'll enter the season at his healthiest, but who knows how long his knees will hold up. Artest, err, Metta World Peace remains unpredictable and admittedly out of shape, so that's another gamble. And the bench lacks any identity without Odom's presence. 

Even if Bryant is healthier and Gasol bounces back from a bad playoff showing, the Lakers' title hopes don't solely rest on them. That's why the Lakers' front office needs to secure better pieces to give that support. But with the Lakers miscalculating the Odom trade, it remains unclear if that's feasible. 

For better or worse, the Lakers' title hopes depend on it. 


Lamar Odom would've gotten over initial trade shock

Mitch Kupchak: Lakers 'pursuing big deals right now'

Mitch Kupchak defends Lamar Odom trade

--Mark Medina

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