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Old 08-19-2007, 08:20 AM   #1
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Default Yahoo article: Trade Kobe sooner than later

Trade Kobe sooner rather than later

The trade of Kevin Garnett to the Celtics has been the most important transaction of this NBA summer, but, for the most part, it sounds like a one-way deal. The storyline is simple: Garnett going to the Celtics is supposed to resuscitate Boston's once-proud franchise and help balance the yawning divide between the Eastern and Western Conferences.

But what about the franchise Garnett just left? What about the now-downtrodden Timberwolves? General manager Kevin McHale has made a string of bad transactions over the past decade and this sure looks like yet another one.

McHale, though, is not alone when it comes to being low-balled in a deal involving a star player. That's because he waited too long to make the deal happen, and his player's trade value dropped because of it. You just can't do that. This lesson has been demonstrated over and over in the NBA, but still, general managers just don't seem to be paying attention.

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It'll be interesting to see whether the Lakers are paying attention. What happened with Garnett doesn't seem to have anything to do with what L.A. is going through with the very unhappy Kobe Bryant. But it should.

Teams hate giving up their marquee-fillers, and there's no marquee man who has quite the stature of Bryant. But the Lakers, like all teams, fear the repercussions from season-ticket holders and sponsors that come with moving along a star. Every team prefers the safety of trotting out its big-name player, even if his tenure has gone stale, rather than the risk of making a deal when the dealing's good. Given their ticket and sponsorship prices, the Lakers would face a wave of negative repercussions in a post-Kobe-trade season. They know it. That's why they're not even considering Bryant deals at this point.

But if a trade becomes inevitable, as it did in Garnett's case, history shows it's better to make the deal early, before the rest of the league knows you're desperate. I know, I know -- you'd hate to see a team capitulate to a player who is under contract and ought to fulfill that contract. Bryant is a hardheaded guy, though. If he doesn't come off his trade demand, he could make life miserable for his team and as he does, his trade value will diminish. If the Lakers know he is going to stick to his demand, they'd be wise to quietly explore trade possibilities now, before it's too late.

Just look at the Timberwolves. McHale would sure be looking good now if he had accepted the reported offer, made before the 2006 draft, of Luol Deng, Tyson Chandler (plus some players to fill out the cap differential) and the No. 2 overall pick from the Bulls for Garnett. Such a trade could have yielded LaMarcus Aldridge, giving the Timberwolves an impressive young duo in the middle, with Deng and point guard Randy Foye. Alas, Chandler is posting double-doubles in New Orleans now, while Deng blossomed into a nearly 20-point-per-game scorer last year. The Bulls have since yanked him out of all trade talks.

By the time McHale was ready to deal Garnett, the best he could do was the package from the Celtics, of Al Jefferson, a couple of decent young prospects -- Ryan Gomes and Gerald Green -- plus Sebastian Telfair, two draft picks and the cap space offered by Theo Ratliff's contract. Compare that to the trifecta the Bulls deal might have brought.

Last year's trade of Allen Iverson to Denver is another prime example of the danger of holding onto a star too long. The Sixers-Nuggets deal was actually the resurrection of a trade that nearly happened in the summer of 2005, when the Nuggets were prepared to ship a package of Andre Miller, Nene and draft picks to Philadelphia for Iverson. But the Sixers balked, and kept Iverson. They paid the price. By last winter, the Sixers-Iverson relationship publicly deteriorated, to the point that Iverson was not even playing. The Nuggets had a much stronger trading position, and pulled Nene out of the deal. Instead, the Sixers got Miller, Joe Smith and draft picks. Now, which guy would better help the rebuilding Sixers? Nene or Smith?

In 2004, the Vince Carter situation deteriorated into a debacle in Toronto. Despite the fact that Carter publicly asked for a trade in September, the Raptors held onto him. One rumored deal would have netted Mike Miller and Bonzi Wells from Memphis. In another possibility, the Raptors overloaded a deal with Portland for Shareef Abdur-Rahim, trying to unload bad contracts, until the Blazers finally said, "Forget it." Toronto passed on P.J. Brown and draft picks from the Hornets -- a light offer, but one that would have given Chris Bosh the help he desperately needed.

In the end, the Raptors allowed Carter's value to decline so far that the only deal they could muster was this package from the Nets: Eric Williams, Aaron Williams and Alonzo Mourning, along with two draft picks. Mourning refused to play in Toronto. It was one of the most disastrous trades in NBA history.

Think about it. What did the Hornets get for Baron Davis? Speedy Claxton and Dale Davis. What did the Magic get for Tracy McGrady? Steve Francis and Cuttino Mobley. There seem to be endless examples of what happens when a team waits too long to trade its star player. The result is always the same: They get low-balled.

We saw that with Garnett this summer. If you're a Lakers fan, you have to wonder: Are we going to see it again with Bryant?
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