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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.


Yeah, Pau. You might have won Rookie of the Year and been an all-star. But don't you forget, I was the No. 1 pick. Take that. (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

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.


Down goes Brown! (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

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.


Don't drop your head, Kobe. I was an all-star before you changed jersey numbers. Really. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

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.


Thank you, Mitch! Want Shaq back? I'd be willing to take Lamar, Pau. . .You can keep Jordan Farmar. I'm a nice guy.

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."

By Michael Lee  |  February 1, 2008; 4:39 PM ET
 
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Comments

Memphis can try to trade K.Brown to Knicks to see if they can rescue David Lee and Balkman.

Posted by: fire starter | February 1, 2008 4:54 PM | Report abuse

So who got the better of the trade?

I say the Lakers in a rout. I do not like them and I'm severely disappointed that Tiny Hands Kwame will not be in the phone booth on Sunday.

I was going to get t-shirts made and everything!

Posted by: TruthAboutIt.net | February 1, 2008 4:54 PM | Report abuse

"So who got the better of the trade?"

Duh!;)

The Lakers essentially gave picks for Gasol. I think it's a good trade as long as the Lakers can compete for the West.

I'd laugh if Memphis turned around and traded Kwame again. :)

So Mike...you bringing back your Kobe loving on here or what? Watch Mike gush on the blog like former Laker girl Paula Abdul everyone. ;)

- Ray

Posted by: Ray | February 1, 2008 5:06 PM | Report abuse

I didn't know Kevin McHale was Memphis' GM, too.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2008 5:08 PM | Report abuse

The Lakers got the better of this deal by far. They are now elevated to front-runners for the NBA finals. Remember Gasol was once an all-star and is still young. Bynum is close to being an all-star from the West. That makes the next "Big-3"

Koby
Bynum
Gasol

Good deal for the lakers. They had to eat the money though.

Posted by: Manny | February 1, 2008 5:13 PM | Report abuse

You know what, I whole heartedly take that back Mike.

John Hollinger is already kissing LA's buttocks and declaring them NBA champs.

Season is over everyone, Hollinger has stated as much. Cancel all of the games and see you next year.....

I can't stand that guy.

- Ray

Posted by: Ray | February 1, 2008 5:13 PM | Report abuse

This is what Hollinger said that was apparently so offensive:

"Can the Lakers win the title with this team? Absolutely. That doesn't mean they will, mind you, but L.A. has the best team on paper once Bynum comes back. The lineup of Gasol, Bynum, Lamar Odom, Kobe and Derek Fisher, backed by one of the league's deepest benches, should strike fear in the hearts of other Western teams -- especially with Phil Jackson coaching them. Given how even things have been in the West so far, you'd have to look at L.A. as the favorite."

I don't think I would necessarily call them THE favorite, but everything else seems pretty reasonable to me.

Posted by: Gus | February 1, 2008 5:21 PM | Report abuse

Wow. Just wow.

Posted by: Barno | February 1, 2008 5:32 PM | Report abuse

I was wondering how the Gasol trade impacts the Wizards. We have a 1st round pick from Memphis which is top 19 protected. I expect the Lakers pick will be in the 20s so does this mean that it will go to the Wizards?

Posted by: Philip | February 1, 2008 5:35 PM | Report abuse

"So who got the better of the trade?"

Right now it looks like the Lakers "stole" Gasol from Memphis, but look at the larger picture. Memphis was going NO WHERE this year.

By trading for Kwame Brown's expiring contract, they will be $30 - $35 Million under the Salary Cap this off season. They could make a BIG play in the Free Agent market with that kind of scratch.

Let's wait to see who Memphis picks up this Summer before we christen this trade as the steal of the century.

Posted by: Rook | February 1, 2008 5:37 PM | Report abuse

For fantasy basketball fans, it is good news for Hakim Warrick, Juan Carlos Navarro and Darko Milicic -- that is according to www.nbaroto.com

However, as a Lakers fan, I'm just thrilled that the Lakers have a good big man again. Plus, once Bynum is healed-up, Pau can move over to forward. Great move by the Lakers.

Posted by: Trevor | February 1, 2008 5:37 PM | Report abuse

I assume this means we will never see that pick for Navarro, since the Griz will now be in the Lottery for years to come . . .

Posted by: Levinems | February 1, 2008 5:47 PM | Report abuse

I assume this means we will never see that pick for Navarro, since the Griz will now be in the Lottery for years to come . . .

Posted by: Levinems | February 1, 2008 05:47 PM

Cheer up Levinems. Memphis only 'rented' Navarro. If you want Navarro so bad, he'll be an unrestricted Free Agent at the end of this year - with nothing to hold him in Memphis. The Wiz could sign him; and still keep the Memphis restricted 1st round pick.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 1, 2008 5:54 PM | Report abuse

I know everybody calls Kwame the worst number 1 pick of all time, but so far at least, he's fallen short of surpassing 1972 pick LaRue Martin's record for futility (5.3 ppg and 4.6 rpg career). In fairness, though, he has managed to underperform Si Green (9.2 ppg career), the guy that the Rochester Royals took with the number one pick in 1956 instead of Bill Russell. (If you think MJ screwed up by not drafting Gasol, imagine how much of an idiot that GM must have been.)

Posted by: John Brisker | February 1, 2008 6:21 PM | Report abuse

This would probably put pressure on Cuban to get Kidd. I don't see the Mavs going far with their current team.

Posted by: DC Man88 | February 1, 2008 6:52 PM | Report abuse

Having all that FA money only helps Memphis if they can convince a FA of consequence to sign with them.

Good luck with that.

There won't be that many top flight unrestricted FAs on the market, not unless a lot of guys with opt out clauses (e.g., Brand, Arenas, Iverson, Baron Davis) decide to leave money on the table and roll the dice with a lottery team. They'll have the money to possibly pry away someone else's restricted FA, but only if they're willing to overpay them by a significant amount to stop their current team from matching.

Sure they'll find someone willing to take their money. But the question will be whether they can find someone who's really worth all the money they're willing to spend?

Chicago was in a similar position in 2000-01, after they cleared out a bunch of expiring deals off their books in hopes of luring Grant Hill, Tim Duncan, Tracy McGrady, or Eddie Jones (all still young and/or in their primes). None of those guys wanted anything to do with Chicago, one of the worst teams in the NBA at the time. They ended up throwing a bunch of money at Ron Mercer and trading for Marcus Fizer, just so it would look like they did something. I can easily see the Grizzlies in the same situation.

Posted by: kalorama | February 1, 2008 6:52 PM | Report abuse

I'm not sure Gasol is that great. When it counts, well see if he steps up.

Posted by: Oakton | February 2, 2008 8:18 AM | Report abuse

Short term the Lakers. Even with Kwame's expiring contract not sure that they could have shook loose enough money to have been a player in FA next summer.

So Gasol might be as big of an upgrade as they could get. Bottem line is they needed to make some move to keep Kobe happy and stop the slide since Bynum went down. So the move has a double effect for them, got help now and kept Kobe from pouting. Two future number ones is all they really gave up, not a bad price for an Allstar quality big man.

The Wizards were in no position to be a player in the Gasol derby because the only expiring deal they had to work with was Jamison's. And as far as I'm concerned the idea of a Gasol for Jamison deal was way to high of a price to pay. But in the end I was thinking this guy was going to move for pennies on the dollar. And he did.

Glad to see he ended up in the West and not on Chicago, we didn't need to see him up there. The trade does bring up some interesting thoughts as far as the Wizards are concerned.

First of all the lottery protected pick that the Wiz are to get for Navarro. Wondering does that apply to any other first rounders that Memphis may acquire? If it does, does that mean the Wizards have the option of claiming the Lakers' pick that was sent to Memphis? Would really be interested in that answer Micheal.

Secondly, the trade leaves Memphis with THREE young point guards, all first round draft picks in the last two seasons. Since The Wiz are sitting with a problem at backup point and Memphis owes them considerations in a trade there would seem to be some possibility of a trade partner there.

I'd think that Lowry would be the odd man out unless Memphis is thinking that Crittendon can play the two some. Crittendon is a project because he's so very young, but a really talented one that is big enough to guard two's and quick enough and talented enough to play the point. He just a year or two away from being a real contributor.

Lowry is a little defensive spark plug that could guard the small quick points that have bedeviled Daniels and Arenas. Either guy would be young enough to play a backup role until Daniels' contract expires and then step into a bigger role.

To keep the Wizards from going over the Luxury Tax Threshold Ernie could send along Mason or possibly Songaila in a deal. Since it seems Memphis is in salary dump mode Mason's expiring deal would appear to be what they're looking for.

The Wizards could address one of the club's weak points and not really give up a player that is in their longterm plans. Since the pick received for Navarro is so conditional the Wiz might have to throw in a future number one to make it work.

A trade for what would have been Navarro, Mason and a future Number one for Crittendon is a deal I'd think the Wizards would be willing to make. Accumulating future picks and maximizing their FA dollars seems to be the mode Memphis is in. It might fit.

Posted by: GM | February 2, 2008 10:12 AM | Report abuse

Memphis gets four first rounders (two picks, plus Crittenden and young Marc Gasol) and will have a lottery pick this June. Kwame, Swift, Stoudamire, and soon Cardinal gone by seasons end. For a team that has resigned itself to rebuilding, they seem to be doing all of the right things. Shed dead-wood and bad contracts, nuturing young players, keeping better vet salaries (Mike Miller). They can go out and build a team this summer around Gay and whichever pg prevails. Iavaroni gets 100% player buy-in, Heisley loses less money. A bitter pill, to be sure, but I see them getting healthy in a hurry.

Gasol (Catalan for "bad wheels") doesn't have to be great to help the Lakers. Good for him.

Posted by: Pauly B. | February 2, 2008 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Does anybody out there know the specifics of the Grizzlies 1st rounder to the Wizards? Does it only apply to one pick? What if the Lakers pick is a late 1st rounder?

Posted by: Geezy | February 2, 2008 1:29 PM | Report abuse

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