Thursday , May , 31 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

Can the Lakers get Kobe Bryant some help?

(Sports Network) – Wow, how things change! One minute superstar Kobe Bryant
wants the Los Angeles Lakers to trade him, and the next he doesn’t want to go
anywhere.

What’s the deal?

Bryant obviously wants to be the go-to guy wherever he plays. He is arguably
the best player in the game. If he is not at the top of the list he is
definitely two or three at the least,

Now that the Lakers are supposedly going to try and win with Kobe leading
the way, what can management do to get their All-Star guard the necessary help
to get the franchise back to elite status?

Since sending Shaquille O’Neal packing on July 14, 2004, the Lakers are below
.500 (121-125) in three seasons without the All-Star center. They have
qualified for the playoffs in two of the three seasons, but have been
eliminated twice in the first round. Los Angeles fell in five games to the
Pacific Division champion Phoenix Suns in round one of this year’s playoffs.
In 2006, the Lakers blew a 3-1 lead in the opening round against Phoenix. They
fell in seven contests and were eliminated in the quarterfinals for the first
time since 1996.

All of the sudden, this offseason has become a very important one for the
franchise. Kobe wants to win now, and he knows his current supporting cast is
not good enough to compete with Dallas, San Antonio and Phoenix. The Lakers
aren’t even in the same class as Denver, Houston or Utah.

The Lakers have the 19th overall pick in this year’s draft. They should be
able to get a decent player, but it won’t be someone who can step in and have
an immediate impact.

Trades and free agency will be the places that Los Angeles will look to
improve its roster. What do the Lakers need and what can they do?

Forward Lamar Odom, who was acquired from the Miami Heat in the Shaq deal,
Kwame Brown, Smush Parker, Luke Walton and Andrew Bynum are all decent players
with value. But the fact remains, none of them seem to have what it takes to
help Kobe lead the Lakers to the promised land.

The seven-foot Bynum is just 19-years-old and has shown that he should
eventually develop into a productive NBA center. He played all 82 regular-
season games in 2006-07, and averaged 7.8 points and 5.9 rebounds.

Bryant, who averaged an NBA-best 31.6 points per game in 77 contests this past
season, probably does not want to wait around for Bynum to develop. It may
take three-to-five years for the teenager to hit his stride and become a force
in the middle.

Trading Bynum, who probably has the most value after Bryant, could become a
reality in the offseason. While the Lakers love Bynum’s potential, they know
he could be the player that helps them get the player they need to become
contenders once again.

Who’s available?

Rashard Lewis is the big catch in this year’s free agent pool. The 6-10 Lewis
averaged 22.4 points and 6.6 boards in 60 games for the Seattle SuperSonics
this past season. Lewis, who could be headed to Orlando, is an excellent
player, but is not the missing piece to the puzzle.

The Lakers need to make a blockbuster trade without including Bryant. What
about Indiana’s Jermaine O’Neal or Pau Gasol of Memphis? Those are two big men
who could help the Lakers immediately. Any deal involving the two would have
to include Bynum.

Jermaine O’Neal is a perennial All-Star. He averaged 19.4 points and 9.6
rebounds in 2006-07. Gasol, who was an All-Star in 2005-06 and would probably
welcome a trade to the Lakers, posted 20.8 points and 9.8 boards in 59
contests for the Grizzlies.

LA will try and rebuild once again with Kobe as the center piece. Adding a
dominant big man is the answer, and Jermaine O’Neal or Gasol would fit
perfectly.

The Pacers and Grizzlies both did not qualify for the 2007 playoffs, and could
be headed for a makeover this summer. Acquiring Jermaine O’Neal or Gasol
would make Bryant a very happy camper. What would it take?

Indiana will consider a deal if it makes sense. Including Bynum would keep
Pacers president of basketball operations Larry Bird on the phone. However, it
would be a tricky deal with the strict rules of the salary cap, as O’Neal
makes a lot of money.

Here is a deal that makes sense. Jermaine O’Neal and Mike Dunleavy, who was
acquired by the Pacers in a blockbuster deal with Golden State during last
season, for Bynum, Odom, who averaged 15.9 points and a team-high 9.8 boards
in 2006-07, Brown and the 19th pick in this year’s draft.

And if that doesn’t work. What about Bynum, Brown, Odom and LA’s first-round
pick in this year’s draft for Gasol and sharp-shooting Mike Miller? Memphis
missed the playoffs for the first time in four years and was 0-12 in the
postseason during its three-year playoff run. The Grizzlies are headed in a
new direction and they may primed to make a blockbuster deal.

The Lakers have to be bold during the offseason, and get Kobe the help that he
needs. Or the next time Bryant demands a trade will probably be the real deal.