In this photo taken Feb. 26, 2009, Los Angeles Lakers forward Lamar Odom dunks during the second half of their NBA basketball game against the Phoenix Suns in Los Angeles. The Lakers have acquired the Dallas Mavericks first-round selection in the 2012 NBA Draft in exchange for Odom and the Lakers' 2012 second-round draft pick, it was announced on Sunday, Dec. 11, 2011, by general manager Mitch Kupchak. In addition, the Lakers will receive a trade exception. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — The Lakers traded forward Lamar Odom and a second-round draft pick to the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday night for a first-round pick and an $8.9 million trade exception, capping Los Angeles’ stunning 72-hour breakup with last season’s Sixth Man of the Year.
The Lakers and Mavericks reached a swift deal after Odom learned Thursday that Los Angeles was attempting to trade him in a megadeal for New Orleans superstar Chris Paul.
After the NBA blocked that trade, Odom declined to report to the Lakers’ opening day of training camp on Friday. Odom then requested a trade in a meeting with general manager Mitch Kupchak, and the Lakers improbably swung a deal with the rival Mavericks, who swept Los Angeles out of the second round of last season’s playoffs.
“Lamar was a fine player for us in his seven years with the Lakers and was a key to helping us win two championships,” Kupchak said in a statement. “In addition, he always conducted himself with class and professionalism, and we wish him well in the remainder of his career.”
Neither team formally acknowledged the deal until Sunday night, but both teams knew all about the surprising transaction when they reported for training camp practices that morning.
“To be honest with you, I don’t like it,” Kobe Bryant said. “It’s tough to lose Lamar. Pau (Gasol) is still here, and we’re all thankful for that. It’s hard when you’ve been through so many battles with players to just see them go somewhere else. It’s tough.”
Dallas coach Rick Carlisle and star Dirk Nowitzki spoke eagerly about adding Odom to the defending NBA champions’ roster without losing a player in return. Odom will aid the Mavs’ recovery from Tyson Chandler’s departure, and Carlisle said Odom’s partnership with Nowitzki and Shawn Marion would form the NBA’s best frontcourt.
The Lakers used to have what was considered the NBA’s best frontcourt — until they broke it up for reasons that are unclear to their players. Odom, a veteran team leader and a popular Hollywood celebrity, averaged 14.4 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3 assists while playing in all 82 games last season with his smooth, well-rounded game.
Bryant and Derek Fisher led a chorus of confused anger from the Lakers, who have no idea what their front office is planning just two weeks before the season opener. Los Angeles is thought to be working on a deal for Orlando center Dwight Howard, but the trade exception obtained from Dallas could be only a minor part of any potential deal.
“As a basketball player, it confuses you as to what your focus should be,” Fisher said. “I’m very disappointed and frustrated for (Odom and Gasol). If I had my choice, Lamar would be a Laker for life.”
Bryant said he hated seeing Odom leave Los Angeles: “Especially to them. We were supposed to come back and get them back. It’s tough. ... Do I think we got too little? Who did we get? I don’t think Mark Cuban is protesting this trade.”
Although Odom was excited about the Lakers’ prospects as recently as Wednesday, he never practiced with the Lakers in their first three workouts under new coach Mike Brown while the club attempted to move him to New Orleans. After that three-team deal fell through, the Lakers apparently changed their focus to Howard, who loves Los Angeles and has requested a trade from the Magic.
Gasol, the other main component in the squashed deal for Paul, has been at the Lakers’ training complex for all three days of camp, working out the past two days. He remains hopeful he’ll stay in Los Angeles, but the four-time All-Star no longer knows what to think about his near future.
“I understand this is a business, and it’s become more of a business than a sport nowadays,” Gasol said. “It hasn’t been extremely easy to be calm and quiet and not think about the different possibilities. But I’m still here, and I’m thankful for that.”
Although Bryant expressed his faith in Kupchak, he would prefer to have Odom in camp as the Lakers regroup from last season’s failed attempt at a threepeat. Odom starred in a reality show last season with his wife, Khloe Kardashian, clearly enjoying his celebrity at the main intersection of sports and entertainment.
“You’re talking about the sixth man of the year last year,” Bryant said of Odom. “He played lights-out. I don’t understand the criticism of reality shows and this. I don’t get that. He had his best season last year, clearly wasn’t a distraction, played his (rear) off. I don’t get where that comes from.”
Even Odom’s contract is a good deal for his new employers: He will make $8.9 million this season in the third year of a four-year deal, which can be bought out next season for a modest amount. The Lakers’ trade exception means they can acquire a player making Odom’s salary or less without the usual complications, but it would be only one part of a hypothetical deal for Howard or another star.
With this chaos on top of the usual amount of drama surrounding the high-profile Lakers, Brown is attempting to plan for a season with no idea who will be in his lineup in two weeks when Los Angeles hosts the Chicago Bulls in their Christmas season opener. Gasol and fellow big man Andrew Bynum went through their third day of workouts on Sunday not knowing whether they would have a chance to use all this new information.
Lakers forward Matt Barnes has been in contact with Howard, his former teammate in Orlando. Barnes said he doesn’t need to sell Howard on the Lakers — but this team now might have to sell its own players on their future in purple and gold.
“If I’m here, I’m looking forward to the season,” said Bynum, who knows he’s rumored to be the main component in any proposed deal for Howard. “If they were able to pull a move like that off, it would be great for the organization, and I’d be in Orlando hooping.”