I once dated a girl named Heather. Heather was tall and beautiful and she had a degree in comparative literature from one of America’s top universities. She was funny, adventurous, and liked most of the same things I did.
She was perfect, except for one thing: together, we didn’t work. Our relationship was less than the sum of its parts.
The Los Angeles Lakers should be a dominant NBA basketball team. The team employs a man who might be one of the five greatest basketball players who’s ever put on shoes, and it gives money to two other men who are probably among the top three inside players currently classified as homo sapiens.
However, all of those transcendent players are now lounging in their respective palatial estates and tropical vacation homes, victims of the same problem that faced Heather and me: they are better in the laboratory than in the street.
As Lakers fans search for answers, the first tanned fingers will be pointed at Pau Gasol. That blame is not unreasonable; Gasol does make 19 million American dollars per year to play basketball and in this year’s playoffs, he mostly avoided doing that. But while Pau Gasol was part of the problem, jettisoning him isn’t part of the solution.
That honor falls on Andrew Bynum.
This year’s Lakers operated with Kobe Bryant as the first option, Bynum as the second, and Gasol as the third. It worked about as well as a one-legged ladder.
The only plausible solution is to make a change; to trade one of those three players. Bryant is out, because China will be a democracy before the Lakers trade Kobe. Gasol will be the trade everyone expects, because Gasol makes an easy culprit, especially because he’s foreign and Americans distrust nothing like they distrust foreigners.
But trading Gasol is not the answer. Trading Bynum is, because on the open market, Bynum is overrated, while Gasol is underrated.
Despite a lack of evidence that he’s any good at winning basketball games, newly-minted All-Star Andrew Bynum is seen as a hot commodity on the basketball stock market. Gasol, on the other hand, is a stock in decline, even though the reason for that decline is likely psychological – he spent all of 2012 angry with his employer after the aborted Chris Paul trade.
We have evidence (the years 2008-10) that the one-two of Bryant-Gasol works. We don’t have evidence that the one-two of Bryant-Bynum works.
In other words, the Lakers should do what Heather and I did: recognize that it’s not working and give up on it. For Heather and me, that didn’t mean giving up on dating; it meant noting what we liked about each other and hoping we could find that somewhere else, in a relationship that functioned.
If the Lakers can’t make the mature decision – if they can’t grow up and say, “Sorry, Andrew, it’s not us, it’s you” – they risk another year of a dysfunctional relationship that will result in another early playoff exit.
Oh, and they have to fire Mike Brown, but I assumed we all knew that.
This piece originally appeared in the May 28, 2012 edition of the Spanish daily El Pais. To read the Spanish version, click here.
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