While I prepared predictions for the remainder of the NBA season, I penciled in my Lakers as the six-seed out west.
After dropping a thrilling game to the Pistons Thursday night, the Lakers dropped below San Antonio in the playoff race.
Andrew Bynum is expected back in late March, but as with most knee injuries, his performance in not guaranteed.
Kwame Brown appears to be one of the league's most overpaid players, averaging just 7.5 points and 7.6 rebounds since Bynum's injury.
Throw in the lack of a point guard outside of the aging Derek Fisher, and the Lakers emergence this season was starting to come into focus.
I was resigned to the fact that, although he has upped his game without Bynum, Kobe Bryant simply could not carry this team through a first-round matchup against the class of the West
Then came the call.
On the other end all I heard was, "The Lakers just traded for Gasol."
This coming from a Bulls fan who had visions of Gasol dancing through his head for over a year now. I got a little too much excitement out of the moment.
The deal reportedly sends the 27 year old Gasol along with a future second-round pick from the Grizzlies to Los Angeles.
In exchange, the Lakers part ways with the aforementioned Kwame Brown—a former number one draft pick of the Washington Wizards—point guard Javaris Crittenton, Aaron McKie, Pau's brother Marc Gasol, plus two of the Lakers first-round draft picks.
I just had a conversation the other day over how I felt there was absolutely no way the Grizzlies could trade Pau Gasol. He was too big of a figure for the franchise, and seemed to be a building block as Memphis struggled to turn the team around.
However, it appears that the price was enough for the Grizzlies.
Although it seemingly will be difficult to find minutes for Crittenton, with young point guards Mike Conley and Kyle Lowry embedded in Marc Iavaroni's rotation, it's quickly forgotten that Crittenton was a first-round pick by the Lakers in last year's draft.
Aaron McKie was signed today by the Lakers and appears to hold no role aside from allowing the number-crunching needed for this deal to go through the league offices.
I cannot remember a situation in which a man was involved in a trade for his own brother.
However, Marc Gasol, whom the Lakers chose with the 48th overall pick in this year's draft will do just that. Despite not playing an NBA minute, the 7-foot-1 Marc has his rights shipped to Memphis.
Although considered a project, Marc Gasol has already had success as a member of Team Spain's 2006 FIBA championship
In Kwame Brown, the Grizz obtain his nine-million dollar expiring contract. The deal offers flexibility for the Grizzlies to obtain a mid-level free agent in the offseason—much like the four-year $28 million dollar deal handed to Darko Milicic last season—Brown has been an extremely large under-achiever in the league since being taken #1 overall by the Washington Wizards. He should be able to fit into a role in the Grizzlies front court for the remainder of the season.
For the Lakers, they bring in one of the premier big men in the NBA. The 7-foot Gasol will step into the Lakers, when healthy, figuring to man the middle in the absence of Andrew Bynum.
After a slow start, Gasol has come into his own over the past month, averaging 22 points to go along with 11 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 blocks per game. Pau has the size and quickness to stretch a defense and causes fits from outside against some of the West's more physical defenders.
With the return of Bynum, Gasol will move to power forward, bumping Lamar Odom to the three-position.
With three big players on the floor, the Lakers could be a matchup disaster come playoff time, not to mention
Phil Jackson may just have the proper tools in place to run his triangle offense.
Already out of the playoff picture in the very deep Western Conference, Memphis falls deeper into rebuilding mode.
Young guards Lowry and Conley, along with sharpshooter Mike Miller, and emerging superstar Rudy Gay provide a strong nucleus for the Grizzlies, who look to improve through free agency, as well as their lottery pick to go along with the Lakers' mid-to-late first rounder.
As for the Lakers, they gave up little more than draft picks for the chance to add another superstar to the equation, proving they will not be a flash in the pan and are ready to contend this year.
The Lakers on paper have shifted the balance of power in the West and immediately become a huge force this season. If the deal pans out for Los Angeles, they have themselves two stars in Bryant and Gasol, complimented by pass-first forward Lamar Odom, all in their prime. Throw in the 20-year-old Andrew Bynum and the Lakers have a team built to contend for years to come
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