Let me start off by saying that this is a sad day for me. I hated to see Shaquille O'Neal leave the Los Angeles Lakers. He was my favorite Laker since James Worthy retired. The Lakers were a decent team when he arrived. But once he got to LA....he energized a franchise that was stuck in neutral. And I'll never forget that.
A month ago....I pretty much thought that Rudy T would be the new coach once Phil was gone. Shaq would be traded to Orlando. Kobe would test the market and stay with the Lakers. Payton would pick up his option. I did think Karl would stay and Fisher wouldn't leave....but those moves are minor compared to "the big 3".
No matter what.....the Lakers couldn't get equal value for Shaq. Okay....maybe if they traded for Tim Duncan and Tony Parker....but really that isn't even the same. There is only one Shaq. They did get back, I guess, the best they could while still sending him out East. Odom could develop into an All Star. Grant will give you 8 and 6 a night. Butler will most likely be dealt again.
The whole shame in this is the fact that it came down to people not getting along. Namely Shaq and Dr. Jerry Buss. Where this stems from....I don't know? But I do know that Shaq is also The Big Drama Queen.....and he has thin skin. It happened in Orlando when Penny started getting a lot of the buzz. It just happened in LA when the Lakers let it be known that they want Kobe to lead the team's next chapter of life. And judging by his interview with ESPN....he did seem bitter and snappy. Please, Shaq....if you think Kobe drove you out....just say it.
Yeah....maybe Kobe was the reason Shaq is gone too. Maybe, just maybe, Kobe really didn't ever tell the Lakers that once Shaq goes he'll stay. But the whole timing of everything suggests otherwise. Shaq dealt one day....Kobe re-signs the next. Brilliant. That doesn't look like the ol' "ducks in a row" scenerio, does it?
Alright. So now it is a new day. It looks like the lineup will be Payton, Kobe, Odom, Butler and Grant. Possibly Vlade will be coming back to help out up front. The bench still has Rush, Walton, Cook, George, Vujavic and Fox. Not great....but okay.
The Lakers, as it stands, will not be elite. They will have to fight to make the playoffs. And if they do....they shouldn't last too long.