Laker Trade in the Works?
By Eric Pincus
Feb 19, 2005, 14:00 Email this article
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Just when it seemed the Los Angeles Lakers were going to hold fast at the trade deadline, Jack Haley of Fox Sports in Los Angeles revealed late Friday that the Lakers were in serious discussions with an undisclosed team. Haley stated that LA was close to a deal that would send out three players for a single, impact player. He said that the Lakers have already warned one of their players that they're likely to be moved within the next 24 hours.

For those not familiar with Haley, he's the basketball analyst for the Southern California Sports Report on Fox Sports West. He is part of the Laker pre-game broadcast and is well connected with the organization. Can't quite remember him breaking a trade before, but it's safe to say the Lakers are working on some sort of deal. Whether it falls through or not is a different story. Jack was not able to reveal any names but did give one hint . . .

Host Lindsay Soto began the Haley segment with the following questions, "Any chance the Lakers get some front court help?"

After explaining the scenario, Jack concluded, "The player they're going after is someone that can definitely help in what you just asked me. I'm not allowed to say where."

A common practice in broadcasting is to feed the host of the show the introductory question. It would seem safe to say that by the exchange between Haley and Soto that the Lakers are close to a 3-1 deal for a big man.

(A few assumptions first: Kobe Bryant has a no trade clause. Chris Mihm is not likely in a the trade discussion. If Chucky Atkins is moved, a point guard must be the Laker trade target. Brian Grant's large contract is virtually immovable.)

Carlos Boozer?
It would seem that Carlos Boozer of the Utah Jazz would be the most likely acquisition. Chad Ford of ESPN Insider suggested the other day that the Jazz would entertain offers for their recently signed power forward. With the plan of putting Andrei Kirilenko at power forward, the Jazz could be in the market for a small forward. It just so happens that the Lakers have a plethora of threes on the roster. The Jazz publicly came out and said they weren't shopping Boozer, but that may have been a front . . . or a mind was changed.

Boozer is in the first year of a $70 million dollar contract. Although the league does not release exact salary information, he's slated to make roughly $11 million for the 2004/5 season.

Bboth Lamar Odom and Carlos Boozer sat out the Lakers\Jazz game right before the All-Star Break. That may be a coincidence. It would seem that the Jazz, should they agree to move Boozer, would like some level of salary relief. Odom makes roughly the same amount that Boozer does, though Lamar has one year less on his contract. Odom for Boozer would seem somewhat of a lateral move and doesn't seem likely.

The logical player the Jazz would seem to want in return would be Caron Butler. If that were the case, the additions of Vlade Divac and Devean George would be enough. Vlade and George have been injured throughout nearly the entire season. The Jazz could buy out the last year on Divac' contract for a couple of million dollars. Devean is close to health finally and would be a nice addition to the Jazz bench.

In other words, LA gives up a key piece in Caron, a bad signing in Vlade and a player who is no longer needed in Devean for a traditional, solid power forward. Should the Lakers fully commit to the triangle offense, it's possibly they may want to retain George, but to make a deal . . . that may be overlooked.

There are other variations, but this is probably the most likely scenario should a trade go down.

If Laker GM Mitch Kupchak is able to get Boozer to Los Angeles for a package without Caron or Odom, he'd be drastically upgrading the team. Although unlikely, Jumaine Jones along with Vlade, Devean and perhaps a number one pick works under the collective bargaining agreement but that would involve desperation by Utah to get rid of Boozer. That doesn't seem very likely.

Baron Davis?
There's always the possibility that the exchange between Haley and Soto was unplanned and mis-communicated, the suggestion of a front court player may be erroneous. In that case, New Orleans Hornets' point guard Baron Davis would seem to be the logical target. Laker Assistant GM Ronnie Lester reportedly told local radio that if the team made a trade, it'd be for a point guard. That information doesn't come first hand, but was passed along by usually reliable sources.

Baron has been injured most of the year and his trade value is at an all-time low. He's a former All-Star under contract for $70 million over five seasons. With Davis making roughly $11.3 million this season, the Hornets have found success at the point with Dan Dickau, who is under contract for just under $900K. Baron has suffered with a chronic bad back which was pre-existing before signing his extension with the club. The New York Post's Peter Vecsey reported recently that because of that condition, Davis' large contract is not completely insured.

It'd be a risk for the Lakers to take him on. If they can do it without giving up much, it may be an opportunity the team cannot pass up. Just how desperate the Hornets are to get rid of him is a good question. After Vince Carter and Kenyon Martin were traded for less "talent" than expected, perhaps the Lakers can get away with dumping Vlade Divac, Slava Medvedenko and Devean George on the Hornets. LA would probably have to send a draft pick. That's obviously the best case scenario.

More realistic perhaps would be different combinations: Caron Butler, Chucky Atkins and Vlade Divac . . . or Caron, George and Vlade.

Lamar Odom wouldn't seem to be in play for a guard with the Laker front court as thin as it is.

In either case (Boozer or Davis), Caron Butler would seem like the odd man out.

Other Big Men Options
The Portland Trail Blazers are said to have Shareef Abdur-Rahim on the block. Portland badly needs a shooting guard. Unless the Lakers were willing to move Odom, it would take Chucky Atkins, Devean George and Vlade Divac to match salaries. Since there is not point guard coming in to replace Atkins, it would seem the only deal possible with the Blazers for Shareef would include Lamar. LA would have to send two more players - it just doesn't seem likely.

Also rumored to be on the block are Theo Ratliff, but his contract seems cost prohibitive to the Lakers. Zach Randolph cannot be traded to LA since he has a "poison pill" contract since his large extension hasn't kicked in yet.

Another name bandied about would be Antoine Walker. Similar to Abdur-Rahim, the Lakers would have to move Chucky without getting a point in return. It'd likely take Odom, but the Lakers would not be upgrading. Cross Walker off the list.

Guys like PJ Brown, Joe Smith and Keith Van Horn wouldn't seem to be the right fit, unless Jack Haley overstated the talent level of the alleged Laker acquisition.

Chris Webber and Peja Stojakovic are forwards, but the Sacramento Kings trading with the Lakers? Can't see Caron for Peja going through. LA would have to include Odom to get Webber, which doesn't make a lot of sense with Chris' age, larger contract and injury history.

No way the Timberwolves trade the Lakers Kevin Garnett. Neither do the Clippers or Pacers send Elton Brand or Jermaine O'Neal, respectively. Sorry Laker fans.

Another name not mentioned often is Kenyon Martin. The Denver season has been a disappointment, but with Nene going down with a sprained MCL, KMart just doesn't seem likely. The Nuggets are desperate for a shooting guard and the Lakers can' t help them there . . . so scratch Martin off the list.

That leaves the Baby Bulls (Eddy Curry, Tyson Chandler) and the Wizards' Kwame Brown. Chicago is finally winning. Doesn't seem likely they blow it up to acquire Caron Butler and various Lakers.

Kwame would seem to be the most likely out of the three. If the Wizards had their sites set on Butler, it would take Jumaine Jones and Brian Cook as well. That seems a lot to give up for a restricted free agent who was yet to really blossom in the NBA. After a nice stretch or two last season, Kwame has yet to recover from injury. If the Lakers could nab Kwame for package of Luke Walton, Tierre Brown and Devean George . . . Kupchak will have given up very little to take on somewhat of a risky player.

Obviously there's more options available, but the Boozer scenario seems to make the most sense for both teams.

Other Guard Options
The Lakers cannot trade Lamar Odom for Jason Kidd, when the Lakers so desperately need rebounding help and size. Unless the Nets want to give away Kidd for relatively nothing, a Los Angeles\New Jersey trade would seem far fetched.

Other fantasy pick ups like Steve Francis, Allen Iverson, Stephon Marbury, Paul Pierce or Michael Redd are just not in the cards. Ray Allen may be on the block, but he plays the same position as Kobe and there doesn't seem to be any reasonable deal to be done.

Jason Williams of the Memphis Grizzlies would be a relatively big name point guard acquisition, but the Grizzlies don't have the roster space to add on additional players. They also don't need any small forwards . . . Memphis just isn't a likely trade partner.

The Lakers could be looking at the Portland point guards, Nick Van Exel and Damon Stoudamire, but neither makes real sense.

The Bottom Line
Phil Jackson is likely to be the Lakers' next coach. The rumor is that a five-year deal worth $50 million dollars was negotiated and agreed to in Hawaii by Phil's agent who was (allegedly) meeting with Laker owner Dr. Buss. Jackson has engagements scheduled throughout the next couple of months. He'd take over after the season.

All the signs were there, including Brian Shaw and Kurt Rambis taking on assistant coaching duties. Were the New York Knicks even close to contending this season, LA might have had some competition. The final straw was LA offering Tex Winter a job (he declined).

Sure this is just rumor and until the contract is signed, it's not valid, but expect Phil and the triangle offense.

In the meantime, the Lakers could have this major trade done before the end of the All-Star Game.

My money is on Carlos Boozer . . . but either way I lose $50 to fellow Hoopsworld columnist, Mario Morgan. Betting that the Lakers don't make a move at the deadline may have been a mistake.