THE LAKERS traded forward Lamar Odom and a second-round draft pick to the Dallas Mavericks for a first-round pick and an $8.9 million trade exception, last night, capping Los Angeles' stunning 72-hour breakup with last season's top sixth man.
The Lakers and Mavericks reached a swift deal after Odom learned Thursday that Los Angeles was attempting to trade him in a megadeal for New Orleans superstar Chris Paul. After the NBA blocked that trade, Odom declined to report to the Lakers' training camp. He then requested a trade in a meeting with general manager Mitch Kupchak, and the Lakers improbably swung a deal with the rival Mavericks, who swept Los Angeles out of the second round of last season's playoffs.
Neither team formally acknowledged the deal until last night.
"To be honest with you, I don't like it," Kobe Bryant said. "It's tough to lose Lamar. Pau [Gasol] is still here, and we're all thankful for that. It's hard when you've been through so many battles with players to just see them go somewhere else. It's tough."
Dallas coach Rick Carlisle and star Dirk Nowitzki spoke eagerly about adding Odom to the defending NBA champions' roster without losing a player in return. Carlisle said Odom's partnership with Nowitzki and Shawn Marion would form the NBA's best frontcourt.
Odom, a veteran team leader and popular Hollywood celebrity, averaged 14.4 points, 8.7 rebounds and three assists while playing in all 82 games last season.
Bryant led a chorus of confused anger from the Lakers, who have no idea what their front office is planning just 2 weeks before the season opener. Los Angeles is thought to be working on a deal for Orlando center Dwight Howard, but the trade exception obtained from Dallas could be only a minor part of any potential deal.
Bryant said he hated seeing Odom leave: "Especially to [Dallas]. We were supposed to come back and get them back. It's tough. Do I think we got too little? Who did we get? I don't think [Mavericks owner] Mark Cuban is protesting this trade."
Gasol, the other main component in the squashed deal for Paul, has been at the Lakers' training complex for all 3 days of camp.
"I understand this is a business, and it's become more of a business than a sport nowadays," Gasol said. "It hasn't been extremely easy to be calm and quiet and not think about the different possibilities. But I'm still here, and I'm thankful for that."
Although Bryant expressed his faith in Kupchak, he would prefer to have Odom in camp as the Lakers regroup from last season's failed attempt at a threepeat.
"You're talking about the sixth man of the year," Bryant said of Odom. "He played lights-out. He had his best season last year, clearly wasn't a distraction, played his [rear] off. I don't get where that comes from."