OK, so the long and harsh winter for the Lakers is over. They didn’t fall to 0-3 for the first time since the 1978-79 season. Kobe Bryant didn’t go on a locker room rampage. Metta World Peace didn’t change back to Ron Artest out of panic.
They blew out the Jazz despite playing for the third time in three nights, held a Utah team playing its first game of the season to 32 percent shooting and 71 points (the Jazz missed 17 of their first 19 shots in the second quarter. Yikes). Even better for the Lakers, Andrew Bynum is almost ready to pull on a uniform.
(Before we go on, get this: The fans at Staples Center chanted “We Want World Peace” which alone makes you glad Artest changed his name. So let’s all join in. Everyone should stick their head out of their window, as William Holden instructed in the movie “Network” and yell … )
The last time we saw Bynum, he was acting like a punk, treating J.J. Barea like a cockroach and getting himself tossed from Phil Jackson’s final game. That childish act earned Bynum a five-game suspension that was reduced to four when the league shrank the schedule to 66 games. You wonder whether the Lakers would be 3-0 or maybe 2-1 with Bynum these three games, but that’s in the past. He’ll sit the next game, at home against the Knicks, and that’s it. Once Bynum returns Saturday against the Nuggets, we get to see how good the Lakers can be, with their center in the fold, ready to make Pau Gasol and maybe even Kobe play better and more relaxed.
T.J. Simers of the L.A. Times scolded everyone in Lakerland for panicking and making armchair trades for Dwight Howard even before giving Bynum a chance to play this season.
Well, if the Lakers can swing a deal for Howard, with Bynum as the trading chip, then it’s really a no-brainer. You send Bynum on his way. But if the Magic demand Bynum and Gasol, then it gets a bit trickier. The Lakers would be giving up a pair of quality big men and would probably have to take back a bad contract or two to make the numbers work. Even then, it’s probably worth doing if only to give Kobe another shot at a ring. Remember, this very same Laker team went out weakly against the Mavericks last spring and doesn’t scare anyone as a title contender.
We already know the Lakers are open to dealing Gasol; they “dumped” him in the aborted Chris Paul deal. Whether subtracting Bynum and Gasol and adding Howard makes them a better team, that’s up for debate. That would depend on what else the Lakers can do, in terms of adding quality help. At this point, it’s all up to Orlando, anyway. If the Magic wanted to make the deal, it would’ve been done by now. There’s the belief the Magic are willing to wait until after the All-Star Game, which Orlando is hosting, before pulling the trigger on any deal.
In case you missed it, here’s TJ’s interview with Jim Buss, to get an idea what Laker ownership is thinking.