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Thread: 2004-02-26 [Read at your own risk]

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    Default 2004-02-26 [Read at your own risk]

    Lakers' run could be coming to an end
    By Chad Ford
    NBA Insider
    Send an Email to Chad Ford Wednesday, February 25
    Updated: February 26
    10:54 AM ET

    Begin dream sequence: It's July 14, 2004.

    Kobe Bryant has just announced he'll be leaving the Lakers to sign with the
    cross-town rival Clippers.

    Phil Jackson, unable to get the big bucks he wants in his contract extension,
    hops on his Hog and rides off into the sunset toward Jackson Hole, Wyo.
    Gary Payton and Karl Malone already have fled for the hills. Both took huge pay
    cuts to come and play for a potential world championship in Los Angeles. With
    Phil and Kobe gone, both guys begin their quest for a team with more money and a
    better shot at a title in 2005.

    The once-mighty Lakers now look something like this: Derek Fisher at the point,
    Kareem Rush at the two, Devean George and Rick Fox at small forward, Brian Cook
    at the four and the mighty Shaquille O'Neal looking bewildered in the middle of
    this crap.

    The phone rings ... it's Shaq. He isn't happy.

    End dream sequence, with Lakers owner Jerry Buss waking up in a cold sweat.


    Buss' beloved Lakers once looked destined to run roughshod over the NBA this
    season. The combo of Payton, Kobe, Malone and Shaq gave the Lakers one of the
    most dominant starting fives in the history of the NBA. They had power, speed,
    athleticism and veteran leadership. But a season of injuries, controversy and
    uninspired play have destroyed any notion that the Lakers are locks for the NBA
    title.

    Kobe's eyes are wandering, should he ever get out of his legal mess in Colorado.
    Phil seems in desperate need of a pick-me-up from Dr. Phil. Payton is calling
    L.A. a circus. The Mailman hasn't delivered in months. And Shaq is starting to
    look a little human as his body struggles to handle the pounding of the NBA
    season.

    How quickly the best of times disintegrate into the worst of times.

    As the Lakers Turn

    The Lakers' problems have been well documented this season and seemingly get
    rehashed, by the Lakers themselves, daily.

    Wednesday, Kobe told reporters in Denver that "at the end of the season I'm
    really going to sit down and evaluate every option, break down every team.
    Denver is one of them."

    He also threw some love in the direction of Nuggets GM Kiki Vandeweghe after
    Vandeweghe pled with Nuggets fans to go easy on Kobe.

    "I appreciate that," he said. "I appreciate his support. That is something that
    he didn't have to do, but he did it. That shows a lot of support on his part. I
    really appreciate that. It goes a long way with me."

    Shaq was in rare form as well, criticizing Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak for not
    giving him an extension at Shaq's going rate. The two sides reportedly are
    nearly $10 million per season apart on the contract.

    "The general manager we have needs to take notes from me," Shaq said. "It's a
    fact. Because if I was general manager, with a team like this, there'd be no
    problems. No problems with the Diesel, no problems with the coach, no problems
    with the Kobester, no problems with the owner."

    Did we mention that Jackson on Sunday began laying out the conditions upon which
    he might leave the Lakers this summer?

    "My deal all along with this club has been how willing are the players to work
    under the duration of how long I stay and coach?" Jackson said. "It's reciprocal
    in that direction. If these guys are willing to do the work that's necessary for
    me to coach, then I have no problem. If they make it difficult for me to coach,
    then I don't want to put up with it."

    Did anyone bother to tell the Lakers there are still 25 games to go in the
    regular season?

    Trade Shaq?

    Let's just go ahead and fast forward to the future. There is a very good chance,
    if you listen to those close to Kobe, that he'll flee the Lakers this summer in
    an effort to find himself and prove he can win a title without Shaq. There's
    also a very good chance, if you listen to Phil, that he, too, may be at the end
    of his rope. The constant turmoil in L.A. has taken his toll. If Jackson still
    wants to coach, why not do it somewhere more peaceful?

    If Kobe and Phil bolt, what happens next has been less speculated. Payton and
    Malone already are giving indications they may leave the Lakers this summer --
    even if Kobe and Phil stick around. The constant pain of dealing with the media
    circus has worn them raw. Going from the serene hills of Salt Lake to the smoggy
    press in L.A. was probably enough to put Malone on the IL without the knee
    injury.

    If Kobe, Phil, Payton and Malone are all gone -- and that's a lot more likely
    than you want to believe, Laker fans -- Buss has a serious problem.

    He'll be left with Shaq, still the most dominant player in the NBA, but no real
    players or cap space.

    Shaq makes so much money ($28 million next year) that he almost single-handedly
    puts the Lakers over the cap. Even once you trim Kobe, Payton and Malone from
    the roster, the team is still a paltry $700,000 under the cap this summer. It
    will be difficult -- no, impossible -- to replace the three Lakers' starters
    with that.

    Figure in Shaq's desire for an extension, without a pay cut, and his declining
    production brought on by age and injuries, and the Lakers will be stuck with the
    most difficult decision a team has had to face in the last decade -- is it be
    time to trade Shaq?

    I can tell you this. GMs already are circling the Staples Center like vultures.
    Many of them have seen the writing on the wall and believe the future will
    unfold much as we have just written here.

    GMs already are laying plans to woo Kobe, based on intel they're getting from
    Kobe's camp. A few other GMs already are dreaming about what it may take to pry
    away Shaq.

    Are we getting ahead of ourselves here? Would Buss ever trade him?

    "He'd be crazy to," one league executive told Insider. "I think there are only
    two or three players in this league that are untradeable, and Shaq is one of
    them. We had these same questions in Chicago when it was clear that the Bulls
    dynasty was at an end. I still believe that Shaq is the piece that you build
    around. If you can find one more good piece, you're right back on the road to a
    championship."

    You can clearly make an argument that Shaq, alongside any supporting cast, is
    good enough to get a team to the playoffs. He remains the one player in the
    league for whom no team has an answer. But with no cap room, a low draft pick
    and few, if any, tradeable assets, can Shaq do it alone?

    Another GM has a very different take. "Shaq's trade value begins slipping every
    year now. He's getting older, his body has all kinds of aches and pains, and his
    motivation just isn't what it was. I think you trade him now, while he can still
    bring you a young all-star or two in return. Otherwise, if things get worse in
    L.A., you're going to be stuck."

    Nowitzki for Shaq?

    What could you get for Shaq? Would the Mavs give up Dirk Nowitzki and Steve
    Nash? Laugh all you want Mavs fans, but a combo of Michael Finley, Antoine
    Walker, Antawn Jamison and Shaq would still be enough to easily make the Mavs
    favorites for the NBA crown.

    Would the Pacers trade a much younger Jermaine O'Neal and perhaps a young player
    like Al Harrington or Jonathan Bender in return for Shaq? Before you scoff at
    it, Pacers fans, Larry Bird would be the first to tell you the move would
    install the Pacers as favorites to win a championship in the next two or three
    seasons.

    Would the Kings hand off Chris Webber, Mike Bibby and Vlade Divac for Shaq?
    Would the Nets give up Kenyon Martin and Richard Jefferson? Would the Grizzlies
    give up Pau Gasol, Bonzi Wells and Mike Miller? Would the Nuggets part ways with
    Carmelo Anthony, Nene and Marcus Camby?

    The possibilities are endless and here's why:

    "With a healthy, motivated Shaq, you're one really good player away from winning
    an NBA title," another GM told Insider. "I really believe that. The Lakers may
    be the only team in the league who wouldn't have the flexibility to pair Shaq
    with someone else if Kobe and those guys all leave. Everyone else, assuming you
    could keep one good player on your roster, becomes the team to beat. That's how
    dominant he is. And that's how hungry everyone is to bring home a NBA title."

    Begin dream sequence ...

    While thoughts of Shaq playing in Dallas, Indiana, Sacramento, New Jersey and
    Memphis dance inside GMs' heads ... Buss is having a different dream.

    The Lakers have just won an NBA Championship. Kobe looks around and decides that
    playing with the Lakers -- not the Clippers, Suns, Spurs or Nuggets -- is where
    he really belongs. Phil signs on to be the ring leader a few more years. Gary
    and Karl, basking in the glow of their first NBA championship, see their
    sacrifice rewarded with that coveted ring. Shaq follows Kevin Garnett's lead and
    takes a hefty pay cut to ensure Laker dominance for the rest of the decade.

    Everyone lives happily ever after.

    Sleep tight Jerry. We won't bother waking you until it's over.


    Around the League

    McDyess a Net? Antonio McDyess will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.
    From the sound of things, he may already know where he wants to play next.
    McDyess has a great relationship with Jason Kidd and said Wednesday he'd love to
    hook up with Kidd again.

    "That would be great, definitely would be great," McDyess told the N.Y. Daily
    News. "Who wouldn't want to play with Jason Kidd, who I'd say is the best point
    guard in the league? To play with him again would be great; to get up the court
    with him, getting easy baskets. It just makes things so much easier. It would be
    good if it ever happens."

    The Nets won't have cap room to sign a free agent straight away, but they could
    throw all or a part of their mid-level exception (roughly $5 million next year)
    his way. It's unlikely McDyess, with his history of knee troubles, will command
    anything more than that on the open market.

    Negotiations with restricted free agent Kenyon Martin are expected to turn ugly
    this summer, and McDyess could be the insurance Rod Thorn needs to take a hard
    line on Martin.

    Will Damp opt out? One of the bigger questions heading into free agency this
    summer surrounds Warriors center Erick Dampier. Dampier has two more years, at
    more than $8 million per, left on his contract, but he can opt out this summer
    and become an unrestricted free agent.

    With as many as six teams now looking at $9 million-plus in cap room, there
    seems to enough cash in the market for Dampier to get a better deal. But
    questions about his creaky knees and his lack of inspired play before this
    season will make GMs think twice before inking him to a big deal.

    So does Damp play it safe and collect the last two years of his contract, or
    does he take the advice of new agent Dan Fegan and opt out?

    Dampier claims that at this point in his career the most important thing is
    winning.

    "I haven't been to the playoffs, and I'm not getting any younger," he told the
    Indianapolis Star. "I'm to the point now where I want to win games."

    Dampier claims if he does opt out, he'd like to return to the Eastern
    Conference, where the trees in the middle are little easier to cut down.

    "I'd have a chance to be an All-Star," he said. "How many centers are there in
    the East? Not to take anything away from Jamaal Magloire. But he made the
    All-Star team in the East, so I know I can definitely (succeed)."

    Who would have the money to pay Dampier? The Hawks, Bobcats and Pistons are the
    only Eastern Conference teams with enough cash to give Dampier the type of deal
    he's looking for. Unfortunately the Hawks and Bobcats won't give him the playoff
    appearances he's looking for, and the Pistons have all their off-season money
    earmarked for Mehmet Okur and Rasheed Wallace.

    In the West, the Jazz, Nuggets, Clippers and Spurs will have a lot of cash, and
    there figures to be interest from all four teams.

    If Dampier was willing to take a paycut (to the $5 million, mid-level exception)
    to play for a contender (unlikely when you consider who he just hired as his
    agent) then teams like the Pacers, Mavericks and Knicks quickly move into the
    picture.

    Hawks dump Glover: The Hawks continued their housecleaning Wednesday when they
    waived Dion Glover. Glover asked to be released after practice on Wednesday. He
    was upset about losing his starting job to rookie Boris Diaw after the Hawks
    traded away Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Theo Ratliff.

    A source close to the Hawks told Insider recently that Glover, along with point
    guard Jason Terry, were among the most disruptive players on the team. Glover
    should clear waivers by Friday and be free to join a team of his choosing.
    Why do the things that we treasure most, slip away in time
    Till to the music we grow deaf, to God's beauty blind
    Why do the things that connect us slowly pull us apart?
    Till we fall away in our own darkness, a stranger to our own hearts
    And life itself, rushing over me
    Life itself, the wind in black elms,
    Life itself in your heart and in your eyes, I can't make it without you


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    Default Re: 2004-02-26 [Read at your own risk]

    Once BYC's clear, JO + Al + JB = Shaq in salary, fyi.

    That would leave us as something like this:

    Tinsley/Johnson
    Miller/Jones
    Artest/J.Jones
    Foster/Croshere
    O'Neal/Pollard

    Umm.... as awful as that trade sounds, we could still win a title pretty easily. Our backcourt is the same, we still have Artest, and we have SHAQ.

    I mean, you wouldn't know until you saw it on the floor, but...

    Imagine the cartwheels this coaching staff would be doing playing the percentages game with SHAQ

    I don't know.

  3. #3
    Member Ragnar's Avatar
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    Default Re: 2004-02-26 [Read at your own risk]

    So we get 40 games next year out of Shaq (since he's rapidly becoming the league's single largest p****). Then we're also admitting that were making a one-year-run since Reggie won't last any longer than that, and we wouldn't have any trade or payroll flexibility with Shaq. We're also handing away the young core of our team, all of which should have trade value if we ever decided to trade them. Plus, I doubt he would have any motivation to play here, so you would be lucky to even get 40 games. I'll pass.
    I agree. You offer me Shaq three years ago I take it in a heart beat. The thing that gives me hope with the Pacers chances in the years to come, Is that they are pretty much done rebuilding right when Shaq's production is starting to fall off a cliff. I think he will retire in a couple of years.

    Of course he could get motivated and decide to loose weight and storm the NBA again. I am just not willing to bet the farm on it.

  4. #4

    Default Re: 2004-02-26 [Read at your own risk]

    NO.. I HATE THE GUY. I would NOT cheer for the pacers again.
    Don't ask Marvin Harrison what he did during the bye week. "Batman never told where the Bat Cave is," he explained.

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