Wow! Kwame for Pau!
With the reception Kwame Brown was receiving at home games in Los Angeles and Pau Gasol's constant gripes about his plight in Memphis, it seemed obvious that their days with the Lakers and Grizzlies, respectively, were nearing an end.
Gasol was begging the Grizzlies to deal him, Brown was bound to walk if the Lakers didn't trade him before the trade deadline.
But until this week, it didn't seem like there was any way that they would be dealt for each other.
There had been discussions that the Grizzlies - who have been losing millions ever since they left the beautiful city of Vancouver (every NBA writer I know hated that move, by the way) - were thinking about simply dumping Gasol's remaining salary ($13.7 this season; $49 over the next three seasons) to build from the ground up around stud second-year star Rudy Gay and rookie point guard Michael Conley Jr.
Then, finally, this afternoon, the Lakers used Brown's expiring contract (worth $9 million) as the primary piece in luring Gasol away from the Grizzlies. The entire deal works out like this: The Lakers get Gasol in exchange for Kwame Brown, rookie Javaris Crittendon, Aaron McKie, the draft rights to Gasol's brother, Marc, and first round picks in 2008 and 2010. McKie was signed to make the salary exchange more balanced.
Side note: If I'm a Chicago Bulls fan, I'm sick right now. I'm looking for John Paxson. I mean, c'mon. That's all it took?Pau was available. The Bulls really need help. They almost got him last year. And the Lakers get him for Kwame Brown's expiring contract? I don't know. Oh, well.
Gasol, the cornerstone of the franchise since it arrived in Memphis, is averaging 18.9 points and 8.8 rebounds this season for the Grizzlies, who are 13-33 and haven't been to the playoffs since 2006 - when Gasol made his only all-star appearance. Gasol suffered a broken foot in the world championships that summer and the Grizzlies have never recovered.
Brown has worn out his welcome with his second franchise. Say this for Kwame, he might not have panned out to be much of a pro, but he sure does get a lot of return in trade proposals - whether it's for his potential (which was the case when the Caron Butler deal in the summer of 2009) or an expiring contract (the reason Memphis moved Gasol).
Brown, the Wizards former No. 1 pick in 2001, was taken two spots ahead of Gasol, but don't get it confused that this was a talent-for-talent swap. Brown flopped after being inserted into the starting lineup when promising center Andrew Bynum sprained his right medial collateral ligament, ironically, against Memphis. He averaged 7.5 points and 7.6 rebounds - which is close to his career averages (7.6 points, 5.7 rebounds) - but the Lakers have dropped to 3-5 without Bynum and were losing ground in a highly-competitive Western Conference that is there for the taking this season.
Brown was rumored to be involved with trade talks for Jason Kidd the past two seasons, but the Lakers obviously felt the need to upgrade their front court.
This move may officially take the heat from from Mitch Kupchak head for good - or at least until this summer. Kupchak has been ripped for not getting enough for Shaquille O'Neal. Then he used one of those pieces from the O'Neal deal to get Brown, only to watch Butler blossom into a two-time all-star.
Bryant was his main critic last summer when asked for the Lakers to bring back Jerry West before demanding a trade. This move may also help Bryant take his hands away from the red, "Trade me" button and finally allow Gasol to make up for going 0-12 in the postseason.
"We're extremely pleased to make this trade," Lakers General Manger Mitch Kupchak said in a statement. "Pau is a proven player of All-Star caliber in this league who can score and rebound and he's still a young player. We feel this move strengthens our team in the short term as well as the long term."
So in a roundabout way, Kupchak traded Shaq for Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and Jordan Farmar. I know more than three years after the fact, the Miami Heat has a championship, but which players do you think Dwyane Wade would like to be playing with going forward the next two seasons?
Gasol will start at center until Bynum returns, then slide down to power forward, which should give the Lakers a rather potent front line with two seven-footers (Bynum and Gasol) and 6-10 Lamar Odom at small forward.
Right now, with no team establishing itself as the top dog in the West, the Lakers move to the front of the line. I don't care about Pau's adjustment to the triangle offense. They have the talent to compete and possibly beat any team in the West.
San Antonio just added Damon Stoudemire, but needs and injection of youth because the Spurs are shaky if Tony Parker isn't healthy. Phoenix is looking a little iffy right now. And, Dallas couldn't beat Boston without Kevin Garnett the other night. That's not good (Hello? Jason Kidd, anyone?). The trade deadline just got a bit more interesting. Teams out West are going to have to make a counter move. Ooh, this will be exciting - I hope.
The messed up part about this deal is that fans won't get the chance to boo Kwame on Sunday. The great part is that Pau might make his debut at Verizon Center. Yes, sir.
I'm just interested in seeing what the Grizzlies send out as their starting front court the rest of the season. In addition to dumping Gasol, the Grizzlies are close to shipping former No. 2 pick Stromile Swift to New Jersey for Jason Collins, which would give Memphis three of the most offensively-challenged big men in the NBA with Collins, Brown and Darko Milicic.
If new coach Marc Iavaroni decides to start Darko and Kwame . . . I'm laughing as I write that. But the Grizzlies now have two players considered the greatest busts of the seven years. It might not last past April, but it should be fun.
Putting Kwame and Darko together takes me back to a conversation I had with Kwame my first year on the beat. Kwame didn't pull back any punches when he said that it was unfair how he received so much criticism when Milicic hadn't done anything. At the time, Brown was entering his fourth season and Milicic was going into his second.
"[Y]ou've got Darko Milicic sitting in Detroit and I haven't heard one thing about this guy," Brown said. "I don't talk about players, but I'm going to say it. This guy was the number two pick and he did not play. Nobody said nothing. What's the difference between one and two? It's not much difference."
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