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Yes, I Said It: Trade Kobe for Iverson

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Back during the most heated moments of the Shaq vs. Kobe war that (probably) lead to the dismantling of the championship Lakers, I had an equally combative debate with a co-worker about which of the two players should get the heave-ho. My co-worker, a lifelong Lakers fan, said there was no way Kobe, the best player in the NBA and in the prime of his youth, should be traded instead of the frequently overweight Shaq. Shaq was divisive, he said, and didn’t give enough effort on the court during the regular season.

After reminding my co-worker that the same “lack of intensity” criticism was levelled against perennial Laker champ Kareem Abdul Jabbar, I explained my reason for preferring to keep Shaq and ditch Kobe, and it had nothing to do with the Kobester’s stand offishness. My argument was simple: shooting guard is the deepest position in the NBA, while center is the thinnest, so you could pair Shaq with more than half-dozen able guards in the league and still contend for an NBA title. Anyone from Ray Allen to Tracy McGrady paired with Shaq was a contender, I reasoned. But my personal preference would be for sparkplug Allen Iverson, the diminutive scoring machine who seems to elicit more passion (both good or bad) among fans than any other player in the NBA.

Fast forward a couple of years, and Shaq has another title, gained alongside yet another stellar shooting guard, and Kobe has demanded a trade. Die-hard fans once again say trading Kobe would be the greatest mistake the team could make, even though it’s pretty evident that Kobe will leave on his own once he becomes a free agent in another year. And once again, I say trade him for Iverson. Here are my reasons:

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1) One way or another, Kobe is GONE: You know the saying "hell hath no fury like a woman scorned?" Well, they should change it to "hell hath no fury like Kobe scorned," and boy does the Kobester feel scorned now. It's time to just suck it up and accept reality. Repeat after me, Laker faithful: "Kobe doesn't want to be here anymore."

2) Every team in the NBA KNOWS it: The unfortunate reality is, it's currently a buyer's market for Kobe. The Lakers might want to trade Kobe to an Eastern Conference team, but doing so means we will get a platoon of stiffs in return. Meanwhile, Kobe could be the missing championship component to more than half a dozen Western Conference squads. Either way, we lose. Here is what the Lakers apparently want for Kobe: either Lebron James or Dwayne Wade (not gonna happen), OR another team's two best players--especially if one is a point guard-- a young big man to go with Andrew Bynum and a draft pick. Translated to the Nuggets, that would mean Iverson (a combo point guard), Nene and a draft pick. That's a totally feasible deal.

3) The NBA loves youth: Kobe remains one of the best players in the NBA, but the youth movement is king, and names like Lebron and Wade are considered the future of the league, not Kobe. While Kobe's worth isn't being unfairly questioned yet, as is the case for Minnesota's Kevin Garnett, teams with more youthful All-Stars would seem terribly shortsighted to trade them away for Kobe.

4) Kobe's value remains high, while Iverson's has dropped: It's really sad seeing one of the most electrifying players in the league wearing a Nuggets jersey and playing the nice second banana to Carmelo Anthony. In a trade, the Lakers can probably nab Iverson and another top Nuggets player, such as Marcus Camby. Or take Iverson along with an up and coming youngster like high-flying J.R. Smith or Nene. Buy low and sell high is the key, and Iverson is selling at an all-time low despite yet another solid season.

5) The Lakers need HEAT to stay relevant: For the price of those Staples Center tickets, the Lakers need to put a player on the floor who will electrify the crowd, and Lamar Odom and Smush Parker just won't cut it. Yes, Iverson only has a few more good years left in him. But a few more years of The Answer's high flying antics are all the Lakers need to remain both entertaining and competitive for the two years they have to wait until the marquee free-agent class of 2009 comes online. That class includes Lebron James and Dwayne Wade. And think of how much better seeing Iverson on a nightly basis will be than seeing a crew of ex-Knicks stiffs or personality-free Bulls youngsters. Iverson is a workhorse on the court who is fearless when driving into the paint against men a foot taller. He can still easily light up opponents for 30 points a night. He never shies from the big shot. He's one of the top steals men alive. He is still the most difficult player in the league to guard one-on-one. And no one who has seen him play live can argue that they aren't seeing something special. Plus, The Answer is already an LA regular. Remember when Ashton Kutcher Punk'd him by not allowing him access to his 30th birthday party in a swanky LA club? Iverson just seems to fit here. Iverson Lakers jerseys would sell like hotcakes, and seeing him drop 50 points on opponents in the Staples Center would almost certainly keep Jack Nicholson happy.

5) Kobe won't get a championship in Denver: Sure, on paper, it looks scary. Kobe and Carmelo Anthony on the same team. But do you think Kobe will be willing to defer to younger star 'Melo in the name of team unity? Ha! The Nuggets will also have to trade away one of their big men (along with Iverson) to even make a deal happen, and LA's lack of post presence has been one of our biggest weaknesses (along with point guard, which Iverson would be alleviating). While Kobe to the Suns, Spurs, Mavs...hell, even the Warriors would mean us getting steamrolled by a conference opponent, Kobe to the Nuggets leaves LA with a much more palatable enemy.

6) Remember the Lakers vs. Sixers finals: Yes, the Lakers won that series, but every player on the Lakers except Kobe seemed to be in awe of Iverson's drive and skill. While the Lakers team boasted depth and talent at multiple positions, Iverson carried the Sixers to the finals on his back. Think about it...the second best player on that team was Mutombo, who isn't exactly a scoring threat. Not only that, but the Sixers managed to steal a game one win in LA before Zen master Phil forced Tyronn Lue to mug Iverson for the rest of the series. Plus, coach Phil's triangle seems perfectly suited to a player of Iverson's skill set.

The bottom line is, Kobe is not long for Los Angeles, and the time is now for the team to look towards a Kobe-free future. So ask yourself this: would you rather spend the two years before the 2009 free-agent class watching Stephon Marbury, Tracy McGrady, or Kirk Hinrich in Lakers gold, or could a certain Denver combo guard be The Answer to our short-term needs?

Photo by ebot via Flickr.