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Los Angeles Lakers and Chris Paul: 3 Months Later, Better off Without Him?

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Los Angeles Lakers and Chris Paul: 3 Months Later, Better off Without Him?
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Three-and-a-half months have passed since David Stern nixed a trade that would have sent Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers, Pau Gasol to the Houston Rockets and Lamar Odom to the New Orleans Hornets.

A few days later, Paul was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers, and everyone started talking about how the Clippers were going to overtake the Lakers as Los Angeles' premier basketball team.

Fast forward three months and it seems like the Lakers may have actually been extremely fortunate the trade fell through.

Because of the veto, the Lakers were able to keep Pau Gasol, who has continued to be a key figure in the Lakers successes this season. He's averaging 17 points and 10 rebounds per game and he's done most of that while there was rampant speculation about trades that would ship him away to another team.

With Andrew Bynum also in the lineup, the Twin Towers of Gasol and Bynum have been able to clog up the paint with their size and strength. Bynum has turned into one of the most dominant centers in the league and because of that, it has also opened up Pau's mid-range game. 

Finally, with Mike Brown's coaching system, the Lakers have turned into one of the best defensive teams in the league and a lot of that has to do with Bynum and Gasol's play in the paint. They are in the top five in rebounding and in the top 10 in opponents' field-goal percentage. 

If the trade had gone through, the Lakers would've been a smaller team today.

It's also important to note that because the trade was nixed, the Lakers were able to trade Lamar Odom for an $8 million trade exception. This helped the team save some money, which is key because of the treacherous luxury tax rules that will kick in soon. 

Also, there was no way the Lakers weren't going to give Paul an extension after losing Gasol. This just means they were going to be even closer to the cap and this wouldn't have given the Lakers much to work with in the future in terms of cap space.

That being said, the Lakers were stuck with Derek Fisher as their starting point guard for much of the season. They knew they weren't going to be able to win a title without him and a change was needed, so they went and acquired Ramon Sessions.

You'd have to be blind if you haven't noticed the improvement in the Lakers offense with Sessions in the lineup. They now use the pick-and-roll effectively and there's just more flow and energy in the offense.

Also, Fisher was having a difficult time against seemingly every point guard in the league. Guys like Jose Calderon were lighting him up. Sessions brings more defensive stability because of his youth and athleticism. 

He's not CP3, but Sessions is decent. He has some awesome talent to work with, too. Guys like Bynum, Gasol and Kobe make Sessions' job easier and quite frankly, he makes their job easier because of the way he distributes the ball and facilitates the offense.

The point is, the Lakers roster was deep enough to win without an elite point guard. All they needed was somebody that was younger, quicker and more athletic than what they had at the time. Sessions is that man. His Player Efficiency Rating (PER) is above average and his presence has made the Lakers a tougher team to play against.

Last but not least, the nixed trade gave the Lakers some sense of urgency to do well. When the trade was vetoed, the sky was falling for Laker fans. Many thought that there was no way that this team was going to survive.

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However, they've played well enough for the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference. Although the Lakers aren't achieving the same success they had under Phil Jackson, it must be noted that the team has gone through an unbelievable amount of adversity in these past few months.

They've had to deal with a new coach, his new system, whether or not the new coach could handle all the egos on the Lakers, Kobe's divorce, incessant trade speculation surrounding Bynum and Gasol, Bynum's sudden love with shooting three-pointers and his defiance toward the team, road woes and a lack of a decent point guard. 

Half of the list mentioned above is enough to make a team crumble, but the Lakers have handled the adversity professionally and it's made them a stronger team. They're ready for what's in front of them and they're brimming with confidence.

Kobe Bryant put it best when he recently asked a legitimate question to the media. Yahoo! Sports' Marc Spears tweeted Kobe's quote:

Why is everybody acting like we are in 8th place? You guys were kissing the Clippers’ ass at the start of the season and now here we are in the third seed and everybody is acting like we suck. I don’t understand.

Kobe's right.

One of the best things that resulted from the vetoed trade was the fact that the Lakers didn't have any more expectations to deal with.

In fact, they were expected to lose.

And while a recent loss to Oklahoma City showed them that they still have plenty of work to do to reach the top, at least they know that they can handle adversity and they have the talent to do it. 

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