On the eve of this year’s Free Agency deadline, I had to think back to last year and the Lakers’ dilemma.
Do you remember how everyone was on pins and needles?
Would Kobe opt out and become a free agent? Would the Lakers be able to sign Lamar Odom? Would he take a salary cut?
What about Trevor Ariza? Would he sign for the mid-level exception?
It is really amazing how everything worked out a year ago.
Kobe Bryant did not opt out and toward the end of this season, he signed a new three-year deal.
Lamar Odom fell for one of the Kardashian girls at the same time he and his agent were holding the Lakers and all of us fans hostage, just to keep the drama going. Would he or wouldn’t he?
Finally, he said, “I do!” to both Khloe Kardashian and Mitch Kupchak.
Ron Artest might have said, “Thank you very much, Trevor. I think I’ll take that mid-level exception your agent just turned down. Have fun in Houston.”
So, as it turns out, despite all the rigmarole, in the end Ariza and Artest traded places, and that was that for the 2009-2010 Lakers.
Of course all season long, fans kept checking the Rockets’ box scores comparing Artest with Ariza, who was having the best season of his career.
For many fans, it looked as though the Lakers had been burned in the free agent swap. They didn’t like the fact that Ron-Ron was coming up empty on many of his three-point shots.
In fact, by the end of the regular season, as Artest took a pass beyond the arc all along and straightened, you could hear fans shout, “No, don’t shoot Ron, don’t shoot!”
The shouts resounded throughout the Lakers first round series with the Oklahoma City Thunder, but by the very end of the playoffs, the fans were changing their tune.
As the playoffs drew on, fans saw what a defensive stalwart Artest has been, covering the opponent’s best shooter.
Then in Game Seven of the NBA Finals against archrival Boston, Artest ironically traded places with Kobe Bryant, himself. Usually it had been Bryant bailing out Artest and the Lakers.
But this time it was the other way around. Ron Artest bailed out Kobe Bryant while keeping the lid on the Celtics’ Paul Pierce, as he had done the entire series.
In the end, Artest showed everyone that Mitch Kupchak had made the right decision, and he had his picture on a Wheaties box to prove it.
So, who will it be this year? Who will be trading places with the Lakers.
Of course, the Lakers biggest free agent is head coach Phil Jackson. Right now, he is holding a couple of other coaches and teams hostage while he decides what he wants to do.
Both former Lakers Byron Scott and Brian Shaw, also a Lakers’ assistant coach, are being considered for the Cleveland job. Shaw was supposed to be close to a deal, but reports state that he left Cleveland without a contract earlier today.
Jackson has said that he is leaning toward retirement. Whether it will be a full retirement or just a sabbatical is anyone’s guess. If he departs the Purple and Gold, he could possibly wind up coaching another team come next year or possibly even this year. Like I said, it’s anyone’s guess.
The other key figure as the clock nears 9:01 tomorrow night is King James. None of the other free agents are willing to commit to their futures until LeBron commits to his.
Even the Lakers’ main free agents Derek Fisher, Shannon Brown, who has opted out of his contract, and Jordan Farmar must wait to see what King James decides and what other top free agents, if any, will partner with him.
Right now there are several in the mix: Chris Bosh, Dwayne Wade, Joe Johnson, Dirk Nowitzki, and Paul Pierce. Those last two have just opted out of their present contracts.
Nowitzki opted out of his contract with Dallas the other day, and today, Pierce opted out of his contract with Boston.
None of the teams in a race for the services of King James and company will be attempting to sign Fisher, Brown, or Farmar until the big guns come off the table. However, some other teams may have an interest.
But don’t expect anything much to happen, except for those rumors flying back and forth on ESPN and various blog sites over the next couple of days.
The only thing you can count on with the Lakers is that they are going to get very economical this summer. They are letting Adam Morrison, Josh Powell, and D.J. Mbenga go, while hoping that newly drafted forwards Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter can fill in for $473,000 each.
Ebanks and Caracter are both unproven second-round picks. But considering the output or actually lack of output from Powell, Morrison, and Mbenga, the two draftees couldn’t do much worse.