Professional Sports

SPORTS DIGEST: Lakers raise eyebrows with trade for Anthony Davis

Somehow the Lakers always find a way to get their big man.

Back in the summer of 1968, the Lakers added superstar center Wilt Chamberlain to a team that already had two future hall of famers in Jerry West and Elgin Baylor.

The Lakers were tired of coming up short against the Bill Russell-led Boston Celtics in the NBA Playoffs. Chamberlain never defeated Russell in the playoffs, but in 1972, he and West led the Lakers to their first Los Angeles championship.

Three years after that title, the Lakers swung another trade for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. It took five years for Abdul-Jabbar to produce another championship for the Lakers, but with Magic Johnson on the scene by then, the championships rolled on through the 1980s.

Last week, the Lakers announced a trade for Anthony Davis, arguably the best big man in the game today.

The trade does not become official until July 6. It cost the Lakers a big chunk of their roster, including Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart, and the New Orleans Pelicans now control the Lakers draft picks until 2025, or they get three more first rounders in addition to this year’s fourth overall pick.

But the Lakers now have a second superstar to team with LeBron James.

Reaction to the trade was swift. Las Vegas bookmakers installed the Lakers as 3-1 favorites to win the 2020 NBA Championship. Not bad for a team that hasn’t cracked the playoffs since 2013.

But the trade once again revealed the holes in the Lakers leadership. And the question remains: who will be in the rest of the starting lineup come opening night next October?

James, Davis and Kyle Kuzma will be there but the Lakers built last year’s team so there would be few holdovers, the better to free up enough salary cap space to sign two max — superstar — free agents.

But, because Davis doesn’t reach free agency until next year, the Lakers may not have freed up enough space for another major free agent signing.

In other words, there is no certainty that Kemba Walker, Kyrie Irving or Jimmy Butler will be following Davis in the door at Staples Center. 

Remaining on the Lakers roster from last year are James, Kuzma, second-year guard Isaac Bonga, second-year forward Mo Wagner, second-year center Johnathan Williams and second-year forward Jemarrio Jones.

In other words, the Lakers are going to have to resign some aging veterans to fill out the roster like they did last year. There are plenty of those players around who will play for the veterans’ minimum pay scale, but that is hardly the way to go about building a championship team.

Davis’ people, specifically Rich Paul, who is also James’ agent, wanted to get the trade with the Pelicans done before the June 20 draft.

The Pelicans wanted the deal done before the draft, but the Lakers needed to wait until the end of July if they wanted salary cap space to sign another star free agent.

Inexperienced general manager Rob pelinka pulled the trigger on the deal early and the Lakers have another mess — created by themselves — to clean up.

That doesn’t mean the Lakers aren’t a better team today than they were last week. In sports, no one ever knows how a trade will play out.

But the Lakers, didn’t give up as much for Chamberlain or Abdul-Jabbar as they did for Davis, and Davis is not likely to make anyone forget Wilt or Kareem 20 years from now.

For Chamberlain, the Lakers gave up veteran center Darrell Imhoff and two fine young players, forward Jerry Chambers and guard Archie Clark. Clark had the better NBA career.

For Abdul-Jabbar, the Lakers gave up center Elmore Smith, guard Brian Winters, forward Dave Myers and forward Junior Bridgeman. All had solid NBA careers. Myers, an all-American at UCLA, was hampered later in his career by back ailments.

For Davis, the Lakers gave up three solid rotation players, the fourth pick in this year’s draft and three more first round picks spread out between now and 2025.

James and Davis want to play together. Two gifted players may be able to create enough magic between them that it won’t matter who else is playing around them.

Kuzma has showed signs he could develop into a superstar. He had better keep developing. The same with Bonga and Wagner.

The Lakers may be a playoff team again. But those 3-1 odds in Vegas right now are a sucker bet if ever I saw one.

CLIPPERS DRAFT: The team the Lakers share Staples Center with doesn’t have a first-round draft pick in the NBA Draft, but the Clippers do have two picks in the second round. The Clippers will use those picks to create roster depth with the hope of finding a diamond or two in the rough.

The Clippers held closed-door workout sessions for many draft-eligible players, concentrating on players who had played three or four years in college with solid programs.

The Clippers hope to make their big offseason splash by signing Kawhi Leonard to a long-term contract. With the rest of their roster, he could be the player that finally makes the Clippers a champion contender.

BALLPARK VISIT: Paid my first visit to Dodger Stadium this season June 14 and watched the Dodgers defeat the Chicago Cubs, 5-3.

I still enjoy Dodger Stadium, but it was a lot more enjoyable in the old days when it was quiet. Whatever happened to sharing conversation throughout the game. Between innings was the worst with loud music, contests for the fans and other interruptions.

If I wanted noise surrounding the action, I would watch wrestling. The Dodgers have made it easier to get concessions without leaving your seat, but the price of those concessions makes it impossible to take a family to a ballgame more than once or twice a year a major strain on a family budget.

I bought a bag of peanuts at the market for $2 and took it with me. It was more than twice the size of the bag being sold in the stadium for $4.50.

Three years ago, the Dodgers started selling advanced parking tickets for $10. Those have gone up to $17, but some of the best parking in the is still being unused, the lots that used to surround the old Union 76 gas station behind center field.

The Dodgers are going through the motions this month, content to be leading the division by 10 games. Even when it seems they are spinning their wheels thay have still won 10 of 16 games this month.

Things will heat up in July when they face a seven-game road trip after the all-star break with three games against the Boston Red Sox and four more in Philadelphia.

That will be a true test of the team.

SOCCER’S OPEN CUP: While the U.S. women’s team is in France waiting for the knockout round of games to begin, L.A.’s two Major League Soccer teams may face each other in the U.S. Open Cup July 9 at Banc of California Stadium.

The Galaxy needed to defeat Portland June 19 in the round of 16 and LAFC needs to get past the San Jose Earthquake June 20 to make the July 9 match a reality.

Otherwise, the Galaxy doesn’t face LAFC until August

The U.S. Open Cup is being held for the 106th time, the longest ongoing competition in U.S. Soccer.