Given the Los Angeles Lakers’ reputation as one of the most successful and well-respected franchises in all of sports, there have been very few instances in which fans have been able to say the team’s front office did not treat a player fairly.
Since taking over as owner of the Lakers in 1979, Jerry Buss has done a tremendous job running the team. In addition, Jerry West and Mitch Kupchak have both done stellar work in their respective stints as the team’s general manager.
But that’s not to say there haven’t been a few instances, especially recently, where fans have questioned the intentions of the team's management.
In the following slides, you will find three former Lakers—and one current one—who I believe a person could legitimately argue was screwed (or is currently being screwed) by the team’s front office.
And remember, hindsight is always 20/20. Some of the reasons why I chose certain players for this article could have happened many years ago, which means those reasons may not look so terrible in present day (for example, the Shaquille O’Neal trade).
Glen Rice spent one-and-a-half seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, helping them clinch the 2000 championship. After the 2000 season, Rice was set to become a free agent. But instead of letting Rice test the free-agent waters or working harder to reach a new deal with the former Michigan Wolverine, the Lakers traded him to the New York Knicks in a four-team deal that brought Horace Grant to Los Angeles.
I for one have always felt the team should have done more to keep Rice, despite winning championships in 2001 and 2002 without him.
During their championship run in 2000, Rice averaged 15 points and led the team in three-point field-goal percentage.
Grant proved to be a good role player for the team, but Rice’s ability to hit from beyond the arc filled a void the team is still trying to fill to this day. Outside of flashes of brilliance from Derek Fisher and Kobe Bryant, the Lakers have not had a legitimate three-point threat since Rice was traded in the summer of 2000.
After finding out he was part of the vetoed trade that would have landed the Los Angeles Lakers Chris Paul, Lamar Odom felt so slighted that he demanded to be traded. Upper management didn’t think twice, sending him to the Dallas Mavericks for...well...uh...nothing!
Yes, you could definitely say Odom should have been more careful what he wished for. But given his struggles in Dallas this season, and the recent reports he is yearning to be back in a purple and gold uniform, I am sure upper management could have burnt the midnight oil and convinced Odom, who was coming off his best season in 2010-11, to stay with the Lakers.
But maybe the team didn’t want Odom to stay and are content for the time being not having anything to show for trading him. It was reported by Chris Broussard last week that the Lakers are being forced into being more financially savvy thanks to the new CBA. Here is what Broussard said, according to the report:
With one of the league's highest payrolls at roughly $88 million—well above the luxury tax threshold of $70 million—the Lakers are due to pay $18 million in taxes this season. Since there is a dollar-for-dollar penalty for tax-paying teams, taking on Beasley's $6.2 million deal would add another $6.2 million to their tax bill and cost the Lakers a pro-rated shortened-season total of $7.331 million.
But given the team’s dreadful bench play this season and inability to produce offense at times, maybe the team screwed Odom and themselves all at once when they decided to trade the lanky southpaw.
Let’s go back to the summer of 2004. The Los Angeles Lakers had just been shockingly defeated by the Detroit Pistons in the NBA Finals. And shortly after their embarrassing defeat, the Lakers traded Shaquille O’Neal to the Miami Heat.
Looking back, the trade was the right move. The Lakers have made three finals appearances and won two championships since, in addition to Kobe establishing himself as one of the game’s best outside of Shaq’s shadow.
But when the trade first happened nearly eight years ago, there was plenty of backlash from Lakers fans. Many thought the organization should have kept Shaq instead of Kobe Bryant. Making matters worse were the theories, which were never proven or reported, that Kobe influenced management's decision to trade Shaq and to not re-sign Phil Jackson following the 2004 season.
Until the Lakers acquired Pau Gasol in 2008, I would predict one out of every two Lakers fans thought Shaq was screwed in the summer of 2004. Did the disgruntled Shaq fans really think he was screwed, or did it have more to do with the fact the team didn’t win a playoff series until the spring of 2008?
Next week at this time (March 15th is the NBA trade deadline) we will know if Pau Gasol will end the season with the Lakers. Or as I like to look at it: If the Lakers are planning on fully screwing Gasol, or if they are content with the little they have done already.
Even if Gasol remains a Laker past the deadline, it’s certainly arguable the team has screwed him already. After Gasol was set to be traded to the Houston Rockets—in the eventually vetoed Chris Paul trade last December—the front office did nothing to let Gasol know one way or another if they were still planning on trading him, or if he was safe for the remainder of the season.
Kobe Bryant spoke up in a news conference in February, saying the team needed to let Gasol know one way or another if they had any plans on trading him.
This week, it was reported Mitch Kupchak and Gasol set down man to man and finally talked the whole thing over. My question is: Why did it take three months for the GM to talk to a player who has meant so much to the team over the last four seasons about his future with the team?
If the Lakers do give up Gasol, that means they will have traded both Gasol and Lamar Odom in a span of three months. The Lakers would be silly to trade Gasol, unless they can get an elite-level point guard. And based on the botched CP3 deal, the ship may have already sailed.