Originally posted on Fox Sports West  |  Last updated 12/12/11
The next time Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak emerges from a phone booth? he had best have Superman in tow. If not, there's no telling what type of insurrection he might have on his hands. Pitchforks and torches are only a start. That's the way things are looking in Los Angeles, where the fallout from commissioner David Stern putting the kibosh on the Lakers' trade for Chris Paul is looking severe. After Stern's veto of a deal that would have sent Pau Gasol to Houston and Lamar Odom to New Orleans in exchange for Paul, the Lakers sent Odom to Dallas on Sunday for a first-round pick and an 8.9 million trade exception. Such a salary dump which would save 18 million in salary and luxury tax, and came at Odom's request figures to be a precursor to another move, presumably a play for a caped Dwight Howard. But Kobe Bryant was one of several wary Lakers who expressed their displeasure. "I don't like it," Bryant told reporters Sunday, noting that the deal not only weakens the Lakers, it strengthens the team that swept them out of the playoffs. "Especially to (Dallas). We were supposed to come back and get them back, know what I mean?" As if that were not enough, now it looks as though Paul will be sent down the hallway, to the Clippers, who reportedly are finalizing a trade of center Chris Kaman, guard Eric Bledsoe, forward Al-Farouq Aminu and the No. 1 pick of the Timberwolves that is unprotected in the 2012 draft for Paul, according to the Los Angeles Times. Notably, this proposal does not include Clippers guard Eric Gordon, the budding star whom they have adamantly wanted to hang on to or any Clippers starter. If this is not enough for the Lakers to do a slow burn, then consider what the team next door will look like if this deal goes down: a lineup of DeAndre Jordan (with the Clippers expected to match Golden State's four-year, 43 million offer sheet), Blake Griffin, newly signed Caron Butler, Gordon and Paul. They would also have Mo Williams, Randy Foye and Ryan Gomes as reservestrade chips. At least the Lakers signed Jason Kapono. The Lakers were doing that sort of math Sunday, when expressing their uneasiness about where this retooling is going. (It did not help matters that instead of the reassuring Phil Jackson, they had new coach Mike Brown telling reporters he knew nothing about the Odom deal that had been widely reported but not made official.) In Mitch we trust? Well, yeah, sort of. The benefit of the doubt that Kupchak earned when he slipped Gasol away from Memphis nearly four years ago a deal that enabled back-to-back titles and three consecutive trips to the Finals is eroding. The Lakers have traded their past four first-round picks (in part to save money), have been hamstrung by the immovable contracts of Luke Walton and Ron Artest and had one of the league's least productive point guard positions last season in Derek Fisher and Steve Blake. Picking up Chauncey Billups, who was waived under the amnesty provision by the Knicks, would be nice, but is it enough to keep pace with the Mavericks or hold off the surging Thunder and Grizzlies, and retooling Spurs? That may be measured in the tone of Bryant. He did not go scorched earth, as he did in his Summer of '07 media tour, angrily lashing out and demanding a trade after management had saddled him with Smush Parker and Kwame Brown, and refused to trade Andrew Bynum for Jason Kidd. That worked out well enough. But Bryant is now 33, and he acknowledged at the end of last season that his tender knees, which prevented him from practicing, had kept him from being at his best. So they better get him some help and now. When Bryant discussed the possibility of getting Paul on Friday, when it looked like the teams would try to reconstitute the trade, he shrugged about the possible loss of Odom and Gasol. "Unfortunately, it's just the nature of the beast," Bryant said. Less than 48 hours later, when Odom was gone to their rival for nothing but accounting credits in return, Bryant was saddened to be losing such a wonderful player and teammate. All of that is certainly true in the case of Odom, but it did not bother Bryant so much if he thought Paul might be coming in return. "I trust management knows what they're doing," is the best endorsement Bryant could come up with. "I let them do their jobs. I never get in the way, but it's tough." If Superman doesn't come walking through that door anytime soon, it's about to get tougher.
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