It’s the last day of February, post trade deadline, and with roughly 25 games remaining in the regular season it has become plain to see that neither the LA Lakers or the Philadelphia 76ers have benefitted from what was, by far, the biggest trade of the year. Who would’ve thought that at this point the Lakers would be two games below .500 and 2.5 games back of the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference. Sometimes I have to remind myself that they have done this bad with the roster that they have. Kobe Bryant, enough said. Dwight Howard is arguably the best big man in the league. Steve Nash is past his prime, but still has the experience, passing ability, and jump-shot to fill any point guard position effectively. Pau Gasol, despite having consistency issues, is a solid offensive option that any franchise would throw in their starting five. The fact of the matter is that these guys can’t perform together and through 58 game examples we have witnessed that.
While the outcome has been the same for the 76ers, they got there in a different way. The Lakers only had to give up one piece of their puzzle to get Howard and on top of that it was an injured piece in Andrew Bynum. Bynum hasn’t played in one game this season and the sixers, largely influenced by Doug Collins direction, gave up an arm and a leg to acquire him. Philly, like the Lake Show, are also sitting at the nine spot in the eastern conference standings, but they will have to invest much more labor to get into the playoff picture. At 22-33, they have lost six in a row and are 5 1/2 games back of Milwaukee for the eighth spot. Over the past several seasons, the 6-10 spots in the Eastern Conference have often flirted with .500 or been below it, so that part isn’t uncommon, but for a franchise to give up what they did to acquire what they got just doesn’t add up.
The complexity of these two teams’ issues now makes you wonder where they would be this season if they hadn’t had moved anyone at all. The Lakers finished with the third best record in the western conference last season and played their way to the western conference semis before falling to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Granted, if there is any franchise that compares to the philosophy of the New York Yankees it’s the Lakers–championship or bust. And maybe you and I part opinions here, but I truly believe that last season’s Lakers were only a few adjustments away from taking the next step with the same roster. Unfortunately for the larger market teams, time and patience aren’t viewed as virtues. Only performance is.
I have always been fond of Doug Collins. He seems like a personable, down-to-earth guy with a teaching mentality, but it’s apparent now that he had the prophesy wrong with this one. Don’t get me wrong, Bynum is an outstanding young talent who has the sky for his limit, but as we’re two-thirds through the season and the sixers are sitting where they are at, I think they gave up way too much to get a player who hasn’t even played yet. Keep in mind, this trade wasn’t supposed to be a “rebuilding the franchise” trade where you bring in guys now, develop them, and succeed later. This was a trade that was all about winning now. The 76ers were one of my favorite teams to watch last year. They were highly competitive with the best teams in the league and even though they had room to grow I believed they overstepped their boundary with this one.
While I still view the LA Lakers of last season as a championship team, I didn’t (and don’t) think that the 76ers were. Bottom line is the Lakers didn’t need this trade to be successful and Philadelphia, despite needing one, made the wrong one.