DENVER - NOVEMBER 11: Pau Gasol #16 (L) and the Los Angeles Lakers observe the national anthem prior to facing the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center on November 11, 2010 in Denver, Colorado. The Nuggets defeated the Lakers 118-112. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Stop with the Lakers trade rumors. Just stop it. Now.
Yes, none other than Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak started all the talk by saying that the way the Lakers performed last Sunday -- or more accurately didn't perform -- had him opening the door to trades.
Now come reports Ron Artest wouldn't mind being the one that gets traded.
Stop it. Now. All of you. That goes for Lakers fans as well.
First -- this core has won two consecutive NBA championships and been to three straight finals, and you want to talk about breaking it up because of some bad games in January? If you are contemplating trading Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom or Andrew Bynum, I'd say lay off the edibles. You do not break up the heart of a title team while the championship window is still open.
You want to make a move on the periphery? Fine. But good luck with that. Kupchak has a team where most of the players have long deals and are over 30 years old -- teams are not looking to trade for those guys.
Let's take Ron Artest, who plenty of Lakers fans seem surprisingly eager to ship out considering he was the MVP of Game 7 of the finals last year.
Artest is in the second year of a five-year contract at age 31 -- he has three years and $22 million left after this season. That is a toxic asset in today's NBA. Heading into an uncertain economic future for the NBA -- nobody knows what the rules of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement will look like after the coming lockout-- teams are not going to take on that kind of salary.
To use an easy example, Detroit's Tayshaun Prince would be a good fit for the Lakers at the three. He is in the last year of a deal paying him $11.1 million, so a trade like Artest and Luke Walton or Steve Blake would work -- except Detroit would never do that. Never. They are a team trying to rebuild, and Walton has two years and Blake three after this season on their deals. Detroit would be committing to years of salary for older players. Only Isiah Thomas made those kind of the trades, and he's banished from the halls of the Knicks front office.
That basic problem repeats itself around the league and all the Lakers players. There are no real options for Kupchak unless some team loses its grip on sanity and falls in love with Artest or Walton or Blake.
This team has the talent to be right there for a three-peat. They are that good when focused. But on the big stages of the regular season, they still play as if they are bored. Part of the problem is the games where they are board they are not executing and honing the offense, so when they hit real pressure situations, they don't have a base of execution to fall back on. That is all still there from the last couple finals runs. But it needs to be brought out, dusted off and used to get it ready for the playoffs.
We'll see if that starts to happen for the Lakers against the Spurs Thursday night -- another team playing well right now and looking like a serious threat to the Lakers.
The Lakers still have time to wake up and get it right, but it needs to happen soon. And with this group, because there are no trade options. The cavalry is not riding in over the hill to save the day. The Lakers will live or die with this group this season.
Like it or not.