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NBA Analysis: Lakers Wanted Lamar Odom Gone All Along

Three days of nonsense is long enough – let’s officially stop perpetuating the myth that the Los Angeles Lakers traded Lamar Odom because he asked to be traded.

Following the collapse of a three-team deal that was supposed to send Chris Paul to the Lakers, all hell broke loose in Hollywood. Odom, best known as the reigning NBA Sixth Man of the Year and beau of the “funny Kardashian sister” was supposed to be shipped off to the New Orleans Hornets in that deal, and apparently the notion of having to spend an entire year in The Big Easy shook him to his very core.

You know this was the case because he waited a whole ten minutes after word leaked about the trade to update his million-plus Twitter followers of his unparalleled sadness and then went on ESPN Radio to express his disappointment to the rest of Los Angeles. All of which is fine, mind you – just not in tune with what someone would do if they weren’t trying to add dramatic effect to a reality show.

Plus all the shock and faux surprise doesn’t really jive when you remember that Odom was rumored to be on his way out for Andre Iguodala less than a year ago. Not to mention the fact that Odom later admitted that his agent told him getting traded this offseason was in fact a possibility.

Shortly after the Paul-to-L.A. (Lakers version) deal died, Odom reportedly went into GM Mitch Kupchak’s office and demanded to be traded. One day later, Kupchak worked out a deal that sent his disgruntled reigning Sixth Man of the Year to the defending champion -- and team that swept L.A. out of the playoffs last year -- Dallas Mavericks for an $8.9 million trade exception and a future first round draft pick.

The company line -- as peddled by media and Lakers management alike -- was that L.A. merely accommodated Odom’s trade request with the transaction. Some have taken to parroting that joke of an excuse and assuming that it was truthful, but most are rightly skeptical.

Keep in mind, four years ago Kobe Bryant went on a scorch-the-earth media campaign and demanded to be traded. He called team owner Jerry Buss a liar, expressed shock and outrage over the then-state of the team, and said he wanted out ASAP. Unlike the case in the here and now with Odom, Bryant’s negative reaction could have caused the collapse of the Lakers dynasty in L.A. Under more pressure than anyone could ever imagine, Kupchak and Buss did the unimaginable – they temporarily placated Bryant and then swung a deal to bring Pau Gasol to Tinsel Town.

So with that ridiculous feat on management’s resume, does anyone actually believe that they would trade a piece as seemingly instrumental to the Lakers as Odom because he demanded a trade?

The truth of the matter is, obviously, L.A. wanted to peddle Odom to the highest bidder all along. It just so happened that the first legitimate prospect of it happening occurred during negotiations for Paul’s services.

Let’s take the reality show aspect of it out of the equation for a moment.

Odom is coming off arguably the best year of his career, and management likely realized that his trade value would never be higher than it is now. It’s been reported by numerous writers (and most notably Adrian Wojnarowski) that L.A. offered Odom up as a trade piece in multiple deals. The reaction to Khloe Kardashian’s better half was, however, lukewarm. Nobody really wanted to take on a 32-year-old roleplayer (albeit, a versatile one) for anything of actual value.

So, when the deal for Paul fell apart because the Lakers lacked the young pieces necessary to acquire him, the team realized that Odom wasn’t as shiny a transaction piece as folks were making him out to be. He’s a valuable cog on a championship team, no doubt, but to a young rebuilding team looking to replace a superstar – he’s almost completely useless.

Enter the Dallas Mavericks. By virtue of them losing Tyson Chandler to the New York Knicks, Mark Cuban’s Mavs were able to bring Odom in for virtually nothing to fill a need. The Lakers, in turn, at the very least got to save money and at most got a pair of assets (the pick and the exception) that they could either use for Paul/Howard or flip for more tradable assets.

Thus, everyone wins.

Sort of.

Clearly the Lakers lose a valuable component off the bench and now need to make up for that size and versatility, but that’s theoretically what Josh McRoberts is for. He doesn’t do what Odom did as well as Odom did it, but he does what he does cheaper.

And, of course, don’t discount the annoying reality show aspect. That no doubt played a marginal role in L.A.’s decision to cut ties with Odom. That being said, does anyone actually believe that if the Lakers felt as though they could win with Mr. Kardashian and that they were getting enough for the buck that they would really trade him?

Regardless of what you think of all that’s transpired, though – it’s clear that this wasn’t just some ill-advised, reactionary move by Kupchak in the face of a trade demand from Odom. An angry Odom undoubtedly stormed into Kupchak’s office and demanded a trade last week, but the notion that he wrote his ticket out of Hollywood is just spin designed to help the reality star save face and mask the fact that this was L.A.’s move before the move.

It may work out, it may not. The Lakers could end up with Paul or Howard, or they could end up trotting out a superstar lineup featuring McRoberts, Gerald Green and Jason Kapono in Bryant’s twilight years. That’s the nature of basketball gambles.

But either way, no matter what happens – don’t buy into the hype. Odom wasn’t traded because he’s the husband of an annoying reality TV star. He wasn’t traded because he had his feelings hurt and he demanded it. He wasn’t traded because he had eaten all the candy in Los Angeles and needed to move on to a new city’s reserves.

He was traded because the Lakers wanted him gone, plain and simple.

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