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Lamar Odom trade: Lakers reach a crossroads

December 12, 2011 |  8:33 am

Racing to assemble a championship roster, the Lakers' front office finds itself at a crossroads.

Which way the team goes will quickly determine whether General Manager Mitch Kupchak and executive Jim Buss will give the Lakers a more solid foundation or cause them irreparable damage. The Lakers just traded versatile forward and locker-room favorite Lamar Odom and a 2012 second-round pick to the Dallas Mavericks for a 2012 first-round pick and an $8.9-milliion trade exception. Will this just save the Lakers nearly $18 million in salary and luxury taxes? Or will it help the Lakers land Magic center Dwight Howard or in some other way prove to be a cunning move?

The trade prompted Kobe Bryant to fume, "I don't like it," saying the Lakers appeared to receive nothing in return for last season's sixth man of the year. But in his next breath, a composed Bryant gives Kupchak a vote of confidence.

"We got to let Mitch do his job," Bryant said. "Mitch has proven himself through the course of the years that he can build a great team. We have to have all trust that he's going to do that. That being said, it's still hard to see one of my friends and one of our great players go somewhere, especially that team, seemingly for nothing. Whether they have something else going on, that's on them to decide. But it's tough."

Lakers forward Matt Barnes professed faith in the purple and gold, saying, "The Lakers always land on their feet it seems like." But there's no guarantee of that. The Times' Mike Bresnahan reported that the Lakers have made little or no progress in pursuing Howard. The trade exception can absorb a player only if he makes less than $9 million a season, meaning the Lakers can't use it to absorb Hedo Turkoglu's three-year, $32-million pay. And, of course, the Lakers just lost one of their most tradable assets in Odom.

"I would assume that the trade is not being made just for exercise purposes," Lakers guard Derek Fisher said. "But maybe I'm wrong in assuming. Maybe it's just something the team feels is better in the short or long term."

But no one knows for sure. The Lakers could turn toward greatness or destruction.

-- Mark Medina

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