December 26, 2006

In light of yesterday's Christmas traditional between the Lakers and Miami, I wonder if it's time to do a post-mortem on the trade between the clubs two years ago, the one that basically created the rivalry. At the time, it seemed like a desperation ploy by the Lakers, a move to dump one of their stars because of his incompatibility with another star. But over time, it's beginning to look like it has the makings of one of the most one-sided trades in history, but in favor of the Lakers. In exchange for an injury-prone, declining athlete at the tail-end of his career, the Lakers obtained one star (27-year old Lamar Odom), one potential star (24-year old Kwame Brown, who has thrived under Phil Jackson) and a 20-year old rookie with impressive offensive skills (Jordan Farmar). Plus, they freed up a bunch of room under the salary cap, and are clearly a team on the upswing; no prolonged decline, followed by a slow retooling while Kobe ages, for them.

The Heat won a title with Shaq, of course, and on those occasions when he's healthy, he can still play like one of the top centers in the NBA, but last year's Heat was more Dwyane Wade's team, and there's no way the Lakers were going to win another one with Shaq on the inside if he couldn't lead a team that had Kobe, Gary Payton and Karl Malone to a title three years ago. Trading O'Neal allowed the Lakers to resign Kobe, and break up what had become a dysfunctional relationship. Kudos to Mitch Kupchak and Jerry Buss for making a ballsy move when they had to.

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