SI’s Arash Markazi is reporting that the Pacers’ Jermaine O’Neal is now openly campaigning to be dealt to the Lakers, saying he would “welcome” a trade to L.A. — and I feel a need to apologize to all Laker fans that might be reading this in advance, because you all know already that Mitch Kupchak won’t do jack on this.
“I would welcome a trade to the Lakers,” said O’Neal, who averaged 19.4 points, 9.6 rebounds and 2.6 blocked shots last season. “Indiana has given me the opportunity to establish myself as a really good player in this league, but they’re into rebuilding and going really young, and I’m just not in a position physically to go through another five to six years with a lot of losses and a lot of down time.”
The Lakers have tried to acquire O’Neal, 28, several times this offseason, but talks have reportedly stalled over Indiana’s insistence that the Lakers’ package include both Lamar Odom and 19-year-old center Andrew Bynum. The Lakers’ refusal to part with Bynum, the 10th pick in the 2005 draft, cost them a chance at Jason Kidd during last year’s trading deadline. The failed trade was the basis of Bryant’s infamous videotaped tirade in a shopping center parking lot in which he said the Lakers should have dealt Bynum for Kidd.
Sadly, the organization is much too much in love with Andrew Bynum to cough him up — they wouldn’t do it for Kidd, they wouldn’t do it for Garnett, and they certainly won’t do it for O’Neal now, despite it obviously being the best course of action for keeping Kobe happy and fielding a more competitive team. Odom just gets hurt a bit too often now to be any sort of complement — and while you may say, “well, O’Neal is injury prone, too,” his mileage isn’t quite as high as Odom’s. You think Bynum feels the pressure? Considering what the Lakers won’t give him up for, he better turn out to be the Second Coming in about three years.
(Side note: Brooks asks how ESPN will handle it, as it’s been SI’s lead for a bit — I suspect they’ll “confirm” it through their own expert’s sources — let’s say Marc Stein or Ric Bucher gets a phone call — and then runs it.)