June 19, 2004
The Lakers

I flipped open the newspaper this morning as was suprised to see so much drama in Lakerville. Overnight, two major things happened. First, Phil Jackson will not be the coach of the Lakers next year. Second, Shaq wants to leave the Lakers in a trade to another team. I expected the first, not the second.

Coach Jackson is taking the fall for the Kobe/Shaq personality trouble that refuses to go away. So be it. Phil's made $30 million in the last five years, he was paid well to be the scapegoat in the end.

Shaq on the other hand is a different story. I like Shaq the player and lockerroom sound bite creator, but Shaq the business man is a problem. For all the good he's done the Lakers, at this point, he's become a problem. Instead of riding the gravy train a bit longer, he's got to rock the boat, simply because he can.

Take a look at the salary structure of the Lakers:


2003/04 Salary

Shaquille O'Neal $26,223,215
Kobe Bryant $13,497,500
Gary Payton $4,897,000
Rick Fox $4,549,500
Devean George $4,545,000
Derek Fisher $3,000,000
Stanislav Medvedenko $1,500,000
Karl Malone $1,475,833
Kareem Rush $1,096,000
Horace Grant $1,070,000
Bryon Russell $1,070,000
Brian Cook $752,800
Jamal Sampson $563,679
Luke Walton $366,931
Jannero Pargo $194,156
Maurice Carter $40,770
Ime Udoka $24,462
TOTALS: $64,499,915

To put this more visually and understandable, here's a simple graph:

Notice that of the cost of Shaq is more than 15 of the 17 players on the Lakers. Kobe makes HALF of what Shaq makes. It's out of whack.

Shaq is probably the most dominant player in the game now, but he's 32 and fading. For all his skills, he's not in top shape and isn't playing in every game. He's got a few more great years ahead of him, but you need to compare him to Kobe. And to top it off, next year his salary goes up by FIVE million dollars.

Kobe is 25. If he stays out of jail, the next five years will be Kobe's best ever. He is the best player in the NBA, PERIOD. Offense, defense, speed, health, Kobe's got it all. Best of all, he handles pressure as well as anyone in the league. And he's getting better.

So if you are the management of the Lakers you can see that giving Shaq an INCREASE, which he's been asking for, is nearly impossible. The money just doesn't work. Shaq, for all his skill, costs too much to field a great team going forward. With his guaranteed increase and the desire for even more money, where will the Laker Management find the cash under the salary cap? Who will they cut?

For all the drama facing the Lakers, Shaq has made it easy for them. By leaving, the Lakers will probably get three top players in trade for Shaq. The salary cap problem is broken, and the team can coalesce around rising Kobe. The Lakers will become a team of speed and multiple shooters, like the Pistons who just spanked the Lakers.

Yes, the Lakers will have to face Shaq on another team, but the way to play Shaq has been made clear. Speed is the thing that Shaq cannot handle now. He simple is going to get outrun and outshot on a team without a partner the caliber of Kobe.

I'll miss the Big Aristole, but it's his pride that is doing the damage to the Lakers, not Kobe's lack of sharing.

Posted by michael at June 19, 2004 09:15 AM