When the NBA, as owner of the Hornets, torpedoed the three-team, six-player trade that would have sent All-Star point guard Chris Paul from New Orleans to the Lakers last week, a pressing question lingered: How would the players who had been part of the scuttled deal react? In the case of forward Lamar Odom: badly. On Friday he asked Los Angeles to be traded, a request that G.M. Mitch Kupchak granted two days later when he sent Odom and a second-round pick to the Mavericks for an $8.9 million trade exception and a protected first-round pick.
The loss for L.A. is considerable: Size has been its biggest asset the past four years, with the 6'10" Odom joining 7-footers Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum in a frontcourt rotation that helped the Lakers finish third in the league in rebounding (44.0 per game) and seventh in points in the paint (42.1) last season. Backups Derrick Caracter and Luke Walton, who combined for 3.7 points and 2.2 rebounds, must now try to make up for Odom's production (14.4 points, 8.7 boards). "I don't like it," said Kobe Bryant. "You're talking about the Sixth Man of the Year last year. He played lights out."
That the Lakers moved Odom to a conference rival—one that swept them in the playoffs last year en route to the championship—can't be overlooked either. The durable Odom (82 games in each of the last two seasons) will back up Dirk Nowitzki and play alongside Nowitzki and Shawn Marion in a dynamic offensive lineup. He should also help offset the loss of center Tyson Chandler, who last Saturday was sent to the Knicks in a sign-and-trade deal. "Dirk can play center against a lot of teams," says a Western Conference scout. "With Lamar's versatility they are going to be tough to match up with."
A possible silver lining for the Lakers is that the assets they acquired from Dallas for Odom could be pivotal in trade talks for Magic center Dwight Howard. Bynum would be the centerpiece of that deal, but the trade exception would help the Lakers to absorb one of Orlando's bad contracts (Jameer Nelson's, for example). The draft pick is also desirable for a Magic team that, without Howard, will be looking to rebuild.
Howard, a rival executive says, "has always been L.A.'s Number 1 target." While acquiring Paul—who as of Monday was still with the Hornets after another proposed deal, to the Clippers, fell through—would have given the Lakers a premier playmaker, Howard is more valuable to them. He would pair with Gasol (who has not been involved in discussions with Orlando) to give L.A. one of the most prolific big-man tandems in history. But first they have to agree on a deal, and as last week showed, that's easier said than done.