NBA@2: Lakers Outfox Dallas (Twice)
Making snap judgments on seemingly one-sided trades is sometimes a dangerous practice.
Case in point: When the Dallas Mavericks acquired Lamar Odom from the Los Angeles Lakers for a traded-player exception, the NBA world reacted with surprise that the Lakers would help their arch rivals in such a seemingly significant way. After all, Odom was LA’s Sixth Man of the Year and had been a huge part of several championship runs. Without him, the Lakers were clearly missing something, and as a direct result they were swept in the second round of the playoffs for the second year in a row.
Clear win for Dallas, right?
First and foremost, the way Odom played and behaved in Dallas, one could almost have believed he was a sleeper agent for Kobe Bryant, sent to infiltrate the enemy and sabotage them from within. He roamed around the court at American Airlines Center like a zombie, who had completely forgotten how to play basketball. On more than one occasion, as we sat watching this shadow of Lamar Odom jog up and down the court, the press row media crowd couldn’t help but compare him to another Maverick – Tom Cruise’s character from Top Gun, who wouldn’t engage the enemy after losing his best friend in a training accident.
At one point, Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle turned to Odom’s wife in the stands and mouthed the words: “How do I get him to shoot?”
Eventually, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban had enough of Odom’s drama and told him to stay away from the team for the final weeks of the season and the playoffs.
The Mavs went on to lose in the first round to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Mission accomplished, right?
Yesterday, the news came out that the Lakers had acquired Dallas’ prized free agency target, former Mavericks and longtime Suns point guard Steve Nash. After missing out on Deron Williams, the Mavs hoped to bring Nash back to Dallas to finish his career with friend and former teammate Dirk Nowitzki. The Lakers, however, had other plans. Offering nothing more than two first-round draft picks that are likely to be in the 28-30 range and two second-round picks, the Lakers swooped in to land Nash and leave Dallas, again, empty-handed.
The worst part? The piece that really made that deal happen for the Lakers was the traded-player exception they got from Dallas in the Odom deal.
Now, this is all really circumstantial. The Lakers did not set out to sabotage the Mavs with Odom, they were simply honoring a trade request from Odom’s camp. Nash landing in Los Angeles, similarly, had nothing to do with screwing Dallas; in fact, the New York Knicks and Toronto Raptors were more likely to land Nash than were the Mavs. The Suns were also honoring a request from Nash to keep him close to his family, which is firmly rooted in Phoenix.
All of that said, this is a perfect example of why it’s better not to make snap judgments on trades that seem extremely one-sided. One season after Dallas seemed to steal Odom from the Lakers, L.A. is right back in the championship chase and Dallas is still hoping to find some pieces to put around Nowitzki to keep the team respectable.
Hasheem Thabeet’s Last Chance?
As HOOPSWORLD’s Steve Kyler reported this morning, the Oklahoma City Thunder came to terms on a two-year agreement with free agent center Hasheem Thabeet yesterday, making OKC his fourth team three seasons. He was drafted by the Memphis Grizzlies with the second pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, and has since played for Houston, Portland and now the Thunder.
The term “played” is used loosely, as Thabeet has never done enough on the court to warrant much playing time. The Grizzlies gave him significant minutes as a rookie, hoping he would make a big impact on the team despite what scouts were predicting. He averaged 13 minutes per game and even started 13 times, but managed just 3.1 points and 3.8 rebounds. The Grizzlies would ultimately trade him to the Houston Rockets for Shane Battier, who helped Memphis upset the top-ranked San Antonio Spurs in the first round of last year’s playoffs.
Thabeet wasn’t in Houston long, however, and after appearing in just seven games spanning parts of two seasons, the Rockets sent him to Portland. The Blazers gave him a look, but his play was so unimpressive that he became little more than a salary dump for them. They let him walk without a second thought at the end of the 2011-12 season.
That could have been the end of the story for Thabeet. He could have disappeared into the sunset, his name added to a long list of disappointing NBA lottery picks. But as the old saying goes, you can’t teach 7’0″, and Thabeet is every inch of his 7’3″ listing. Can the Thunder coaching staff and system, which has repeatedly made stars out of questionable prospects, finally help Thabeet realize his potential?
It’s a stretch, but if anyone can do it, the Thunder staff can.
Point Guard Solutions
Today’s free agency news is being dominated by point guards, as teams look to lock in the remaining names now that Deron Williams and Steve Nash are off the market.
The Dallas Mavericks are on the verge of locking up Jason Kidd with what will likely be the final contract of Kidd’s career. The Mavs swung and missed on both Williams and Nash, and so they’ll bring back the old reliable. The contract is rumored to be in the neighborhood of three years and $9 million.
The Orlando Magic may lose Dwight Howard in the coming days, but starting point guard Jameer Nelson is going nowhere. The Magic have a deal for a multi-year contract with Nelson, according to HOOPSWORLD’s Alex Kennedy.
Jeremy Lin is talking with the Houston Rockets today about a possible offer sheet, but the New York Knicks are said to be “extremely likely” to match anything Houston might put on the table. The Knicks, of course, were working to land Steve Nash via sign-and-trade, but now that Nash is headed to the Lakers, Lin has once again become the Knicks’ top priority.
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