5 Reasons Los Angeles Lakers Fans Should Be Thankful Chris Paul Trade Was Nixed
It was the biggest story of the preseason.
David Stern, the power-mad dictator that he is, nixed a three-team trade that would have sent Chris Paul to the Lakers. Well, "power-mad dictator" is probably a little strong, but then again, it's probably not.
The Lakers had been aging at the point for years, and no one knew what to expect from Mike Brown offensively after the end of the triangle era.
But we did know one thing—Chris Paul is an incredible basketball player. He's not just a perennial All-Star point guard; he's the kind of player than can change a team's mentality and push them over the hump with just his presence and his leadership.
Chris Paul is a game changer.
So what gives? Shouldn't Lakers fans still be bristling at the thought of being robbed of the best point guard on the planet?
I say no, and here's why.
It Would Mean Losing Pau Gasol
This season, people forgot pretty quickly how integral Pau Gasol was to the Lakers' most recent championship.
He may not have Kobe's intensity or Bynum's flare for the dramatic, but Gasol is up there with Nowitzki and Love in terms of offensive skill at the power-forward position. He's long; he can take his shot out to about 20 feet, and his footwork and patience in the paint are impeccable.
So he's going through a rough stretch—a lot of players in the league have been affected by this lockout season.
The great Kobe Bryant is only shooting 43 percent from the field this year and 29 percent from three. But no one is getting on his case.
The Gasol-Bynum combination still makes for one of the most imposing frontcourts in the league, even without Lamar Odom. A distinct size advantage in the playoffs would have been lost if Gasol had made his way to Houston in favor of CP3.
Gasol was arguably deserving of the Finals MVP award in 2010, and his trade to the Lakers instantly made them title contenders. That was not that long ago. He's still got a lot to offer this team.
Kobe Bryant Has Never Played with an Elite Point Guard
Kobe Bryant has been the primary perimeter threat on five championship teams. He's never been an off-the-ball scorer, usually preferring to setup his own shots, utilizing picks and isolation plays.
The triangle offense was not designed for a pass-first point guard. And the bulk of the Lakers holdovers from 2011 may have had difficulty getting used to dealing with a point who's used to having the ball in his hands all the time.
We have no proof that Mike Brown was prepared to coach a system that incorporated both CP3's and Kobe's considerable talents. He preferred to let LeBron play a free-flowing point-forward back in Cleveland, where James had much less talent around him than the Lakers would have boasted.
And it's obvious now that he even has difficulty with the simpler offense the Lakers run currently.
Additionally, Chris Paul is a game manager, and Kobe Bryant is not of a mind to be managed.
They may have been able to make it work given time, but the sense of urgency associated with the lockout season's hectic schedule would have meant a number of serious stumbles for the Lakers.
The Lakers and Hornets Have a Little History
The Lakers and Hornets fought an exciting, heated playoff battle in the 2011 postseason. In a six-game series, only one game was decided by less than six points, but the drama begun the obvious dislike and aggression that each team exhibited.
We got to see Chris Paul and all his competitive spirit on display, and we really developed an understanding of what kind of player he actually is. Like Kobe, he wants to win at all costs. He also doesn't appreciate being underestimated or disrespected.
The Lakers realized it was not going to be a walkover series after a 109-100 loss in the opening game at Staples. They fought back to overpower the Hornets with their talent, but this was by no means a cordial series.
There was no love lost between the two teams after the Lakers advanced.
When CP3 met the Lakers in a Clippers uniform this season, he once again showed his tough side after Pau Gasol patted him on the head during the game. He took offense and accused Gasol of treating him like a child.
Kobe Bryant has never been shy about bringing former foes into the Lakers fold, lobbying for Matt Barnes and Ron Artest to join the team after hard-fought battles. However, Chris Paul is a different animal. He's on Kobe's level, and he would not play the subordinate.
That is a recipe for implosion.
That Sessions Guy Fits Right In
Ramon Sessions has been a breath of fresh air for the Lakers since the deadline deal that brought him from Cleveland.
First things first, he was cheap.
To get CP3, the Lakers would have had to give up Gasol and Odom, and they would have had to paid Paul's considerably higher salary. To get Sessions, they gave up Luke Walton and a first-round pick.
Am I missing something here?
And Sessions' play has been exactly what the doctor ordered for LA. He knows his place and obviously does not challenge Kobe for alpha-dog status. It's not clear how that dynamic would have worked out with Chris Paul in his place.
Additionally, he's shooting 44 percent from distance this year, including above 50 percent since he joined LA. The Lakers have been seriously lacking in three-point threats, and his shooting is much appreciated. His assist-to-turnover ratio is very good, hovering somewhere above 2.6 at the moment, and he's averaging close to seven dimes in the process.
Sessions is going to be a great role player for this Lakers team.
A Rivalry Is More Exciting
The Clippers have been a laughing stock in major sports for most (read: "all") of their existence. That completely changed when Chris Paul made his move to Los Angeles.
We finally get to see what life will be like in LA with two teams contending for championships. While no one can write off history—and with sixteen championships, the Lakers certainly have a lot of it—how satisfying would it be to see the Lakers and Clippers square off in the playoffs?
To utilize a Will Smith quote, it's not exactly a matchup of "old and busted" versus "new hotness." The Lakers still have a great deal of talent.
And Staples Center would be a madhouse with the Lakers faithful set to butt heads against the Clippers slew of supporters, both old and new. There's no guarantee the purple-and-gold would come out on top, but wouldn't it be that much more exciting if the Lakers trumped Lob City on their way to a seventeenth title?
With both teams set to contend for a significant amount of time, this could become one of the best geographical rivalries in sports.