The NBA Finals are here, and they've brought with them an idea for a retrospective article, looking back at how the Lakers got here. Like the title suggests, I'm going to focus on an event that has occurred twice in L.A.'s storied past.
And I guess the picture does tell you that Kwame will be included. Our tale begins thusly:
Eddie Jones and Brown have something in common. They've both been dumped by the Lakers for a younger, rising, and more talented player.
Now, I know what you're thinking: How can you compare those two, since Eddie Jones was an All-Star and Kwame Brown is one of the biggest busts in NBA history? After all, the Lakers wanted to get rid of Brown.
Well, I'm only comparing the situations of the team at the time, in that they had a plan for this guy but quickly some young buck in the game caught their attention, and the guy who originally had the starting job got traded for the missing piece to championship contention at the trade deadline. If The Lakers beat Orlando this year, it could happen in exactly the same amount of time as before (although I hope Pau Gasol stays, unlike Glen Rice, but I'm getting ahead of myself).
Let's look at the first occurence.
Eddie Jones was acquired in the '94 draft and quickly became the starting shooting guard. In his rookie season, he averaged 14 points, 3.9 rebounds, two steals, two assists, and 31 minutes per, and shot 37 percent from the three-point line and 46 percent overall.
Then, in '96, the Charlotte Hornets selected Kobe Bryant 13th overall and immediately traded him to the Lakers for Vlade Divac. In Kobe's rookie season, he averaged 7.6 points, 1.3 assists, 1.9 rebounds, in 15.5 minutes per, which admittedly aren't great numbers, especially compared to his current production.
Bryant teamed with Jones upon his arrival in L.A., though of course Kobe was Eddie's backup in the beginning. In the third year, Kobe had improved his play enough that he became the starter.
Then, on March 10, 1999, the Lakers traded Eddie Jones and Elden Campbell to the Hornets for Glen Rice, J.R. Reid, and B.J. Armstrong. There were two very good reasons the Lakers made this swap: First, the Lakers needed a sharpshooter like Rice to help in the quest for a title, and second, the Lakers wanted to free up playing time for (you guessed it) Kobe Bryant.
In the end, Kobe became a bonafide superstar, the Lakers won three straight 'chips, and although Jones played well for the rest of his career, he bounced around Charlotte, Miami, Memphis, Dallas, and finally Indiana, a team he wouldn't even play a game for.
Now, here's the similar but more current (and a bit more negative) story:
Kwame Brown was acquired by the Lakers on August 2, 2005. The team traded Caron Butler and Chucky Atkins to Washington for Kwame Brown and Laron Profit, and yes, I'm still pretty pissed off about it.
Kwame was inserted into the starting lineup at power forward, and when Chris Mihm got injured he became the starting center. At the four, he averaged 6.1 points and 6.3 rebounds per game, but as a center he averaged 12.3 points and 9.1 rebounds in the 2005-2006 season.
Andrew Bynum was acquired by the then-weak Lakers as the 10th overall pick in the 2005 NBA Draft. In Andrew's rookie season, he averaged 1.6 points and 1.7 rebounds, awful numbers to say the least. He improved, though, and ironically enough it was in his third year that Bynum became the starting center for the Lakers and Kwame became the backup.
Unfortunately for the Lakers, though, Andrew got injured and Kwame went back to being the starter. He played awfully, and on February 1, 2008, L.A. traded him, Javaris Crittenton, Aaron McKie, Marc Gasol, and first-round draft picks in 2008 and 2010 to the Memphis Grizzlies for Pau Gasol.
The two ironies here are that Brown was traded three years into Andrew Bynum's career, like Eddie Jones was with Kobe, and that both deals turned the Lakers into championship contenders. If the Lakers win the championship this year, you can add to the list of coincidences that Pau helped the Lakers win a championship exactly a year and a half after he arrived, just like Glen Rice did.
Since the trade, Kwame has bounced around the league to Memphis, Detroit, and some other team after he ends his stint there. Hopefully he doesn't return to the Lakers; he would certainly get a different reaction from fans than Eddie, who enjoyed a chant of "Eddie, Eddie, Eddie!" and signs expressing how fans missed him upon his homecoming.
Before Kwame left, he was booed, and when he left, Laker fans said "good riddance!"
Jones and Brown may not have the same talent level overall, but they both had a similar ending to their careers as Lakers, and their departures could mean the exact same thing for Showtime.