"Imagination is More Important Than Knowledge"

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Melo to the Lakers?

By Pat Mixon

Could the Los Angeles Lakers and their risk-taking owner Dr. Jerry Buss be planning the boldest secret move of all: trading for Carmelo Anthony? And, does the latest trade of Sasha Vujacic for Joe Smith open the door to an Andrew Bynum-for-'Melo move?

All answers point to a resounding yes. This is the hush-hush story of the league. And, Laker management wants it that way.

Or, could this all simply be fairy tale rumors? Sure, we can’t deny that. But, there is actually meat to this story.

Picking up Joe Smith meant the Lakers accomplished three things that could lead to this bold trade:

-Freed up the $5.4 million salary paid to Sasha.

-Qualified for a $5 million free exception on any trade difference. This means that the Lakers can play this “get out of jail card” on a trade to make the numbers work.

-Smith is another big off the bench.

Joe Smith adds another big to the Lakers’ bench and makes the case that Andrew Bynum is now tradeable. The real reason is that the Lakers will ride out the Kobe Bryant era with the foot fully pressed to the metal, with no regard to the future.

I used to make the case that Andrew Bynum was the Lakers’ future.

The idea went like this. After Kobe and Pau Gasol are done racking up rings, Andrew Bynum would then take over as the franchise player. And, with Kobe, Pau, Lamar Odom and Co.’s salaries off the books at that time, the Lakers would have a money war chest to sign new free agents.

This plan was all predicated on Drew being the center for the next 10 years. But now, there are serious doubts to that scenario, including will he ever be 100 percent healthy or play a full season, and it opens the door to this move. The trade last week of Sasha Vujacic for Joe Smith makes it more plausible.

Now, could the Lakers flush the Andrew Bynum plan on the chance to get 'Melo?

Absolutely, yes. Carmelo is only 26 years old. Yes, still that young. Amazing.

You team him now with Kobe and Pau. He’ll carry the load as Kobe winds down his career (not happening soon, sorry!!). So, the Lakers would be loaded for the next five-plus years.

And, what LA loses in height with Drew leaving, they gain with 'Melo. He’s still a forward with size. And, 'Melo would give the Lakers legitimately three players on the floor that could demand double teams, in Kobe, Pau and 'Melo. How do opposing teams defend that?

With Joe Smith, the Lakers would also have height to still deal with any of the teams with real length like the Boston Celtics (their window is closing with the Big Three really getting up in age), the Orlando Magic (who knows if they will ever gel or get a consistent lineup), and the Dallas Mavericks (still Texas’ best team. Sorry, Spurs fans.)

The Lakers not only still have Pau and Lamar, who can easily start, but add Joe Smith and Theo Ratliff coming off the bench. This is a league of running and gunning teams and by adding 'Melo to the mix, the Lakers could pick up their tempo as well. But they don't need to.

Do the numbers work? If you use Drew’s salary, the exemption and maybe a Luke Walton or Ron Artest (Matt Barnes has taken away some of his minutes already this year), it’s much closer than you realize.

This is not fantasy GM going here. While everyone is talking about New York or New Jersey or how 'Melo and Chris Paul are going to hook up, the Lakers are sitting in the wings.

Here's one last thing that is nearly a guarantee: Denver will trade 'Melo this year. Period. If they don’t, they get nothing. And, 'Melo must approve any trade.

Lastly, don’t underestimate the fact that Kobe and 'Melo are very close, with 'Melo being literally the only person Kobe hung out with on the 2008 Olympic team.

No, the time has come. The Lakers will pull the rip cord on Andrew Bynum as the center for the future and Dr. Buss will roll the dice again and come up lucky 7’s.

This is the secret scenario that will blow everyone away. And, it actually has merit.

Laker Carmelo Anthony has a ring to it. Don’t you think? Many rings, actually.