Tomorrow’s column today …
Mitch Kupchak, general manager
Jim Buss, executive vice president
555 N. Nash Street
El Segundo, Calif.
Do the deal. Do it now. Today. Yesterday. Whenever.
Just get it done.
Trade one knucklehead for another knucklehead.
Swap immature center Andrew Bynum for immature center Dwight Howard.
Don’t listen to the hand-ringers who say you’d be dealing one problem child for another. The air has gotten stale around here since you celebrated your last NBA championship in 2010. The fire has gone out and complacency has taken hold.
You were passed up by the Dallas Mavericks in 2011 and the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2012. The Mavericks kicked you guys to the curb in the second round of the playoffs two seasons ago and the Thunder did the same thing this spring.
It’s time for a change.
You’re stuck on 16 titles, with an aging Kobe Bryant desperate to win a least one more before he calls it a career. One more would give you 17 and him six. You would finally tie the hated Boston Celtics and he would match the sainted Michael Jordan.
Mitch, you said the other day it would be difficult to imagine a day without Bryant working his magic for the Lakers. You made it sound as if you didn’t wish to think about it. Understood. Totally get how you were feeling at that moment.
The next question is, is Bynum the future of the franchise without Bryant?
I don’t think so.
Deep down, and not for publication, neither do you.
So, dump Bynum and start fresh with Howard.
I know you’re the one who persuaded Mitch to take a chance on Bynum, drafting him 10th overall in 2005. I understand why you’ve stood by him while he’s taken baby steps to reach this point, to become a forceful player in the low post.
Look, Wilt Chamberlain got traded.
So did Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
You guys dealt Shaquille O’Neal, remember?
As I see it, you’ve gone as far as you can with Bynum. He was a locker room distraction last season, a pain in the neck to his teammates, to the coaching staff and to you, too. Mike Brown had to bench him for chucking that 3-pointer against Golden State.
Mitch, you had to fine him for blowing off a meeting with you.
Bynum stopped talking to reporters before games, but he started walking around the locker room with music blaring from his headphones. He was defiant and petulant and a complete and utter pain in the butt, and not worth the trouble.
Bryant said several times last season he liked Bynum’s edgy side.
Right, and next season they’ll be at each other’s throats because Bryant won’t like Bynum’s edgy side. Time isn’t on Bryant side, and it’s not on the Lakers’ side either. And Bynum isn’t the solution, he’s the problem. He’s not going to win you titles.
So, do the deal. Trade him to the Orlando Magic for Howard. Toss small forward Metta World Peace into the deal. Take back a bad contract. Take back Jason Richardson or Hedo Turkoglu if that’s what it takes to make this thing work.
You want to save money because the new luxury tax rules that go into effect for the 2014-15 make it too difficult to splurge. You’re not alone in wanting to cut payroll now to save for the future and yet still put a contender on the Staples Center court.
But the deal you can offer Orlando is better than anyone else’s.
The Brooklyn Nets can offer Brook Lopez.
The Atlanta Hawks can offer Al Horford.
The Houston Rockets can offer, what, humidity and mosquitoes?
You’ve got the best hand at the table.
So play it.
Sure, Howard’s immaturity is on a level that might be unmatched in professional sports today. His back is jacked up and he might not be able to participate in the opening of training camp in October after undergoing surgery in April.
Trade for him anyway.
No question, it’s a risk to acquire a player who says he won’t sign a new contract with anyone but the Nets. It’s a gamble to take on a player who says he wants to make his own history somewhere else, and Brooklyn is the only place he thinks he can do it.
Do the deal anyway.
Give him the history lesson, take him in the gym and point out the retired numbers and the championship banners. Show him how the linage of centers starts with George Mikan then goes to Chamberlain and then Abdul-Jabbar and then O’Neal.
Don’t have anything like that in Brooklyn, do they?
Besides, Howard has been in Los Angeles since having surgery.
He’s not in Brooklyn.
He’s already part of the landscape.
Trade for him and lock him up long term.
Bryant and Brown will teach him the ways of the purple and gold.
P.S. Do it now before it’s too late and you regret it for the rest of your lives.