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PHOENIX - DECEMBER 28: Sasha Vujacic #18 of the Los Angeles Lakers talks with a referee during the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center on December 28, 2009 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns defeated the Lakers 118-103. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
But the Lakers have weaknesses, too. Ones that could cost them another title. Ones they are trying to address before Thursday’s trading deadline.
Specifically, the Lakers want another point guard. Lakers fans still love Derek Fisher, but reality is that he has lost a step on defense, and while his shot is not what it used to be he keeps putting it up. He is the matchup teams will try to exploit in the playoffs. Jordan Farmar has played better of last as his backup, but the Lakers coaches are not totally sold on Farmar making good decisions consistently — he tends to over-dribble and take the Lakers out of their offense.
Who the Lakers like is Chicago’s Kirk Hinrich (even though is offensive numbers this year are basically the same as Derek Fisher's). Chicago wants to move Hinrich… but that is where things start to get complicated.
Hinrich is overpaid and expensive -- he is owed $9 million next year, $8 million the year after that. The Lakers are already paying Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom and Ron Artest a lot of money in that time. Hinrich would be another $17 million for offensive option number five in the Lakers scheme.
To make it work, the Lakers need to shed salary; they need to trade Sasha Vujacic and the $5.5 million he is owed next season.
Reports are the Lakers are working on a complex, three-team trade that would send Hinrich to the Lakers. Chicago’s talented forward Tyrus Thomas plus Vujacic to Portland, and Adam Morrison plus another expiring deal and a first round pick to Chicago. However, another team’s general manager said there was one big problem with that:
"What has, or will kill this," one GM said, "is that Portland just won't take Vujacic on."
Nobody wants Sasha. Next year will be the last year of a deal that he signed right after the 2008 Finals, when he closed out games alongside Kobe and played the best basketball of his career. Since then, his shot has come and gone like Punxsutawney Phil. His defense has mostly just gone. And $5.5 million is a lot to pay a guy who can't help you much on the floor.
If the Lakers are going to make a move before Thursday’s trade deadline, they need to find someone to take on Sahsa’s salary.
Which is to say, don’t expect a move to be made.