* – This column is more a viable idea than an exact solution. That said, it’s worth considering.
So apparently Kobe wants out again. He even said so on his own website.
My initial reaction to the day of Kobe was, “Holy crap, he needs to come to New York!”
I say, get ‘er done. The time is now.
Lee, Frye and Crawford are rumored to be on the table. Obviously, that’s not enough talent to get Kobe back, but here’s what can get the deal done: Draft picks. Lots of them.
Excluding this year’s draft, the Knicks give the Lakers their next four first-round picks (08-11). (Update: I did not recall the Ted Stepien rule when I was writing this. My bad. In truth, this column was a bit rushed because I feared Kobe would change his mind again.) The Lakers give the Knicks their next four second-round picks (they’ll have 2 to play with in ’09). The Knicks throw in 2 or 3 more long-term future draft picks to sweeten the deal. Because really, what are the Knicks, if they aren’t sacrificing the future for the pressure of the win-now present?
The Lakers will have money freed up from Kobe’s contract—remember, these are two teams operating outside the confining parameters of the salary cap—so they’ll be able to afford signing multiple picks to rookie scale contracts and free agents.
The thinking behind this is as follows:
From the Knicks perspective:
Let’s get the obvious out of the way: Arguably the best player in the game comes to the Mecca and immediately the Knicks are a playoff team in the woeful Eastern conference.
The last thing a team with Kobe Bryant, Eddy Curry and Stephon Marbury needs is players that need to create their own shots to be effective, the kind you often find high in the draft. The team would need selfless bruisers and role players that will defer. Zeke is “great” at drafting players, so give the boss a real challenge and make every June the Paul Millsap derby. They could even go as far as scouring the various minor leagues in search of tough guys that could add a thuggish Riley-ball element to counterbalance Eddy Curry’s soft center.
They’d also need to find a shooter or two to spread the defense and benefit from the vast openness provided by dribble penetration endemic to a Steph and Kobe backcourt. If all else fails in that regard (trades, second round picks, European free agents), they clone Matt Carroll.
(The Knicks could even toy with the idea taking Kwame Brown off the Lakers’ hands, if only to open a “Jerome and Kwame daycare center” at the end of the bench—FREE CAKE! They could also do this to in an effort to make sure they become the first team ever to come close to tripling the salary cap.)
And come on, after all the drama in Hell-A, culminating with the absurdity that has been the last two weeks, do you really think—this is really twisted, but so is Kobe, so bear with me—Kobe wants anything less than the day to day scrutiny that is the New York media? Chicago? Even with MJ’s shadow looming large, comparatively, the Chi-town media is small potatoes. Phoenix? Not happening.
From the Lakers perspective:
Lee, Frye and Crawford do their best to try and fill Kobe’s shoes. It’s an impossible task, but Lee is a commodity and Frye and Crawford will get their shots up, giving the Lakers the opportunity to see if they’re worthy scorers in the triangle offense.
Lee and Luke Walton (if re-signed) get their own reality show spin-off called “Curly Hair is Awesome.”
With two first round draft picks for four consecutive years following this one and LA’s ever-present appeal to future free agents, it shouldn’t be hard to rebuild the Lakers. After one down year, they’ll be able to make themselves better and better, restocking the talent shelves every year for four years. Excess draft picks also lead to trade flexibility, another need in rebuilding.
Phil Jackson gets the opportunity answer nagging questions by trying to win without a mega star. The Lakers rid themselves of the soap opera style drama that has plagued them since the turn of the century. (Some might argue that isn’t a good thing.)
At current construction, the West is so loaded and the Lakers are so stuck, nothing short of retooling will give them the opportunity to get back to the top of the mountain.
Plus, if the Lakers actually succumb to trading Kobe and acquiesce by dealing him to one of his three preferred teams, wouldn’t they want to avenge his demand by dealing him to the most combustible situation? If you trade Kobe to Chicago and his annual Eastern Conference Finals duels with LeBron create the greatest rivalry in the game, you’ve failed. If you deal him to Phoenix…forget that, you can’t trade him in-conference to a championship contender. And odds are, he wins a chip in either of those two places. They’ve already gone that route with Shaq. They’d be wise to try and avoid it this time around.
As for the Knicks? They’d win some, but it’d be a dicey proposition to become a true contender.