Joe-Pinions: Sports

17 Mar 2012 – Lakers Upgrade on Trade Deadline Day

Posted in Basketball by txtmstrjoe on 17/03/2012

March 15 was the NBA’s trade deadline.

It was billed to be Dwight Howard’s day of days, when he would finally leave Orlando and move on to his next NBA destination.

Instead, Howard stayed put, nixing his opt-out clause and guaranteeing that he would see out the completion of his current contract with theMagic.

No, this season’s trade deadline was dominated by the moves that the Los Angeles Lakers made.

First, they moved forwards Jason Kapono and Luke Walton, an old fan favorite who unfortunately has not seen any significant playing time for the last two and half seasons, to the hapless Cleveland Cavaliers.  In return, the Lakers received point guard Ramon Sessions and little-known forward Christian Eyenga.

Trading Walton and Kapono away for a demonstrably effective point guard (whilst shedding a good amount of money from the payroll) was a master stroke for the Lakers front office, led by General Manger Mitch Kupchak and Lakers Executive Vice President of Player Personnel Jim Buss.  The Lakers immediately solved two big problems:  1)  They acquired an athletic and effective (and cheap) point guard, thereby shoring up the team’s longest-standing personnel weakness; and 2)  by moving Walton, they freed up a significant amount of money from their payroll going forward from this season.  Luke Walton’s contract was expensive, and since his athletic limitations meant that he was never going to see any significant playing time on a team as loaded at forward as the Lakers are, Walton’s contract was a gigantic impediment.

But the Lakers weren’t done making moves yet.

Just prior to the official close of the trading period at 3PM EST/12PM PST, the Lakers traded team leader Derek Fisher and a future first-round draft pick to the Houston Rockets.  The Rockets sent power forward/center Jordan Hill in exchange.

Losing the draft pick is no problem for the Lakers, who traditionally pick from the back end of each round of the draft anyway due to their end-of-season record.  But losing Fisher is a gigantic shock to the Lakers universe.  Smart fans have long recognized that “Fish” has long been a liability for most of the time he is on the floor; his lack of foot speed means that he is a match-up nightmare for the Lakers, with the opposing team’s point guard routinely beating Fisher anywhere and everywhere on the floor.  Not only that, but with the Lakers eschewing the so-called Triangle Offense, the Lakers now cannot “hide” Fisher’s lack of athleticism on offense:  He is too slow with and without the ball to get open on his own or to create his own shot.  Finally, his shooting percentage from long range has never been particularly stellar.  On both ends of the court, then, the Lakers with Fisher on the floor are akin to having just four men going up against the opposition’s five.

But Fisher’s value has always been his leadership ability and the fact that he is probably the only Laker player who has ever been able to balance Kobe Bryant’s temperament.  Fisher’s voice is one of the few that Bryant values and respects; he acts as a sort of check and balance to Kobe’s wilder and more selfish tendencies.  Fisher’s role in maintaining and sustaining and generating the Lakers’ positive chemistry is impossible to quantify, a fact readily acknowledged by GM Kupchak when he formally announced the team’s trade deadline activities.

More than the catalog of Fisher’s last-second heroics (and there is a list of them), the question now is how will the Lakers players move on from losing a friend, mentor, and leader?  Will the price of improving the team’s roster (if Jordan Hill is effective at spelling both Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol) be worth the loss of such a valuable, impossible-to-quantify asset as Derek Fisher?

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