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Friday, December 9, 2011
Lakers: The damage is done, all that's unknown is degree

By Brian Kamenetzky

It takes a lot to unite the world of NBA fans and observers on the side of the Lakers, but credit David Stern for finding a way, killing the proposed trade sending Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol to New Orleans for Chris Paul.

Where everything goes from here remains to be seen, but one thing is clear: The Lakers lose in the exchange, the only question is to what degree. With a little luck, the damage will be limited, but there's a legitimate chance the repercussions from Thursday's events could reach well into the future.

Potential problems can be seen in near and long term:
In an effort to address perceived needs, the Lakers sent a four-time All-Star and the reigning NBA Sixth Man of the Year to bring back Paul. If that deal isn't acceptable, how will the league react to a different one?

Keep in mind, whether the trade is wise or not -- certainly some very smart basketball minds thought it was a bad one for L.A. -- the Lakers are trying to set themselves up for the future. Despite all the apparent whinging from small- and mid-market owners, the new collective bargaining agreement affords them a very limited window to do so. Sign-and-trades for taxpaying teams are only available for this and next season. Extend and trades, like the one sending Carmelo Anthony to New York last year, have also been limited. Free-agent options are almost nonexistent.

Because the rest of the league flipped out and Stern caved, we may never get a chance to find out if the long-term provisions of the new agreement actually do what many owners hope.

Maybe the Lakers repair their relationships with the "traded" players. With tampering charges now flying around regarding the Nets and Dwight Howard, maybe the Lakers are able to make that deal instead. Maybe much of the potential damage dissipates and years from now we all reflect on how the Lakers actually dodged a bullet. It's certainly possible, as the Paul acquisition came with real risk to the Lakers.

If not, the fallout could be measured in seasons.