Lamar Odom traded to the Mavs

Dallas Mavericks’ Dirk Nowitzski, right, goes up to block a shot off Los Angeles Lakers’ Lamar Odom in the second half of Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals on May 4, 2011. The Mavericks defeated the Lakers 93-81and lead the best-of-seven playoff series 2-0. UPI/Christine Cotter

The Dallas Mavericks acquired Lamar Odom from the Los Angeles Lakers, which will have ripple effects throughout the NBA as teams try to finalize rosters in this chaotic period following the NBA lockout. Above you see a photo of Odom battling Dirk Nowitzski last year in the NBA playoffs. Instead of working to get revenge for the Lakers, Odom will now be a crucial part of the Dallas effort to return to the NBA finals.

This trade signals the end of the bizarre saga surrounding the Chris Paul trade that was rejected by David Stern. That controversial decision has rocked the NBA, and now we’ll be hearing about it over and over again as New Orleans tries to unload Paul to another team. The Lakers decided to back out of the talks rather than submit a new trade from Chris Paul to the league, and in dealing Odom put an abrupt end to that scenario. Meanwhile, the Lakers now seem to be focusing their attention on acquiring Dwight Howard in a deal that would involve Andrew Bynum.

As for the Mavericks, this trade for Odom became possible when they decided to work a deal with the New York Knicks when it became clear they would be losing center Tyson Chandler to the Knicks. That gave the Mavs an $11 million trade exception which they then used to acquire Odom. Odom made it clear he didn’t want to leave LA, but the powers that be clearly decided to go in another direction.

Dallas has more moves to make as it reworks in roster in the wake of losing Chandler. Chandler was a very important piece of their championship puzzle, but he’s the kind of player that can be replaced. Dallas is now one of the teams that might get a shot at landing Dwight Howard as the Orlando Magic have permitted them along with the Lakers and the New Jersey Nets. There’s also buzz out there that Vince Carter will land in Dallas as well. Carter can still score, but he’s not the kind of player one thinks of to help a championship team. Maybe he’ll be better in a reduced role.

The Dwight Howard sweepstakes will be the next big story that will have ripple effects around the league. We’ll see how serious Dallas is in that contest.

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Maybe Vince Carter just doesn’t get it

Florida Today spoke with Carter about his disappointing series against the Celtics, and he said some troubling things.

Particularly telling was Game 4 of the Boston series, when the Magic were down 0-3. It was almost as if Carter had one foot on the court and the other on his summer vacation plans. How else do you explain ol’ Vince, whom the Magic brought in specifically for these situations, stepping up in a closeout game with only three points? Vinsanity? Indeed.

Put it this way, Hedo Turkoglu, the player Carter replaced on Orlando’s roster, stepped up in a deciding Game 7 against Boston last year with 25 points and 12 rebounds.

Now that is clutch.

I twice asked Carter if he would evaluate his postseason performance.

“I don’t do that,” he said.

You don’t assess and evaluate your own performance? Really?

Carter shook his head.

“I don’t.”

When the Orlando Sentinel asked him about being dealt, this is what he had to say:

“I’m not worried about that. I know how the business works. I think I can stand on my body of work.”

So Carter doesn’t assess his performance after the playoffs and feels like he can stand on his “body of work,” which prior to this season did not include an appearance in the conference semifinals.

You would think that a 33-year-old eight-time All-Star who just shot 37% from the field and 21% from long range would be a little more thoughtful about his role in the Magic’s loss in the ECF.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

Vince Carter expected to be back with the Magic

Over the weekend, I outlined the Magic’s options with regard to Vince Carter, but it looks like GM Otis Smith is intent on keeping him around, assuming he’s being forthcoming (which is not his strong suit).

Carter is expected to remain with the Magic through next season, according to Smith. Carter, 33, fell short of being the go-to guy that many expected. “I think that Vince will tell you he’d like to have had a better season, but I’m not putting it on one guy. We failed as a unit,” Smith said. Carter has an expiring contract next season at $17 million — salary-cap friendly for other teams in a trade. But Smith said he “anticipates” Carter staying the entire season. Asked about the prospect of being dealt, Carter told the Sentinel, “I’m not worried about that. I know how the business works. I think I can stand on my body of work.”

When asked how close he thought the Magic were to winning a title, Smith responded:

General Manager Otis Smith put his thumb and index finger together and there was very little space left in between.

“Getting better for us, you’re talking one-eighth of an inch, not two feet,” Smith said Monday as the Magic met for the last time until training camp in October.

Hmm. I’m not sure how you can see this season as progress when you were nearly swept in the Eastern Conference Finals a year after losing 4-1 in the Finals with two of those losses coming in overtime. Unless, of course, you’re a general manager and want to spin the job you’ve done over the last year.

By nearly any measure, the Magic are further away from a title than they were a year ago and that has a lot to do with the addition of Vince Carter. For the sake of Magic fans everywhere, I sure hope that Smith is blowing smoke.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

Where do the Magic go from here?

While it takes more than one player to lose a series, this season was about Vince Carter, and the Magic’s decision to trade for him last summer in lieu of re-signing Hedo Turkoglu. Here’s what I wrote about the move in mid-July:

Let’s see, your team just lost in the Finals — losing two games in overtime — and your main ballhandler is a free agent. What do you do? It’s tough to create the kind of chemistry that gets a team to the Finals, so you re-sign him, right? Not the Orlando Magic, who balked at Hedo Turkoglu’s $10 million-per-season asking price and instead pulled the trigger on a trade for Vince Carter. So essentially they gave up their most consistent player (Turkoglu) and a budding star (Courtney Lee) for the 32-year-old Carter. A healthy Jameer Nelson (along with a savvy mid-level signing) may have been enough to put this Magic team over the top, but now we’ll never know.

Turkoglu has had his problems in Toronto, but on a per minute and per shot basis, he was just about as productive as he was in Orlando. We’ll never know if the Magic would have beaten the Celtics if they had kept their Finals core intact, but one thing is for sure — the Vince Carter move was a bust. Against Boston, he averaged 14-4-2, shot 37% from the field and just 21% from long range. The question remains: Does Vince Carter have what it takes to win an NBA Championship?

If the Magic have learned their lesson, they’ll try to move Carter this summer. He has one more year on his contract (at the tune of $17.5 million) and another year that is a team option. So he essentially has an expiring deal, which could be valuable to a team trying to get out of another big contract. Three trade partners spring to mind…

Perhaps Golden State would be willing to take on Carter’s contract for a year to get out of the four years remaining on Monta Ellis’ (26-4-5, 45% shooting) deal, which would allow the Warriors to fully commit to rebuilding around Stephen Curry. Along with Jameer Nelson, Ellis would give the Magic the league’s smallest backcourt, so that may not be a very good idea.

The 76ers would almost certainly be willing to trade Elton Brand (13-6, 48% shooting), though that would force Rashard Lewis to the three. (Andre Iguodala is another possibility, but the Sixers would want something else in return, like Marcin Gortat.)

Finally, the Wizards would love to unload Gilbert Arenas (23-4-7, 41% shooting), and Carter would take some of the scoring pressure off of rookie John Wall. The move would also create a ton of cap space (for the Wizards) in the summer of 2011 for a possible run at Carmelo Anthony. Arenas would represent another roll of the dice for Orlando, but if he can get back to All-Star form, he could give the Magic the playmaker on the perimeter that they had hoped to find in Carter.

I’m not sure if any of those options sound good to Magic fans, but this is where the team is at with regard to Carter. Given his inability to win in the postseason, no one will want him at his current salary, so the possible trade partners are limited to teams looking to dump a bad contract of their own.

Or the Magic could elect to hold onto Vinsanity and tweak the roster around the edges, hoping that this core has better luck next season. Clearly, that hasn’t been Otis Smith’s style, so I’d expect a big change or two as Orlando tries to find the right players to surround Dwight Howard.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

ECF Game 6: Celtics close out the Magic

Paul Pierce led the way with 31-13-5 and four other Celtics scored in double figures — including a timely 13-point second quarter from Nate Robinson while Rajon Rondo was sidelined with a bad back — as Boston closed out Orlando, 96-84.

I wrote earlier about how the Magic needed to get to the line (30+ times) and shoot reasonably well from long range (8+ threes) and they failed in both areas tonight. They shot just 27 free throws and hit just 6-of-22 threes.

Vince Carter 17-7-3 was more aggressive than in the last two games, but he shot just 6-of-15 from the field and shot just 37% in the series. I think it’s safe to say that the trade backfired on the Magic.

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