6-26-07 -- The Lakers are aggressively pursuing trades -- and their main target reportedly is Kevin Garnett in what would be a clear attempt to placate a disgruntled Kobe Bryant.
The Lakers' proposal, according to the Los Angeles Times, includes forward Lamar Odom and center Andrew Bynum. But that might not be enough to acquire the 31-year-old Garnett, one of the NBA's most talented and versatile big men.
It was first reported the Indiana Pacers and Boston Celtics were involved in four-team negotiations with the Lakers and Timberwolves, but those talks broke down, leaving Los Angeles and Minnesota alone in the discussions.
Pacers president Larry Bird said Bryant's talent and star power are undeniable, and he understands the Lakers' hesitance to trade him.
"I always thought Kobe, when Shaq started going down a little bit, was the best player in the league," Bird said. "It's hard to trade the best player in the league. I'm sure the Lakers are doing everything they can to try and mend fences.
"He's such a talent. It's just unfortunate. It's a little discouraging seeing him trying to get out of there," he said.
Considering the Lakers are all the way down at No. 19 in the first round of Thursday's draft, they might not have what it takes to acquire Garnett. The 10-time All-Star averaged 22.4 points, 12.8 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.7 blocked shots for a team that went 32-50 last season.
Lakers spokesman John Black declined comment Tuesday, and Timberwolves general manager Kevin McHale has done the same through team spokesman Mike Cristaldi.
"We felt the team underachieved last year," Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said last week. "We could stick with the group as it is today, or we can look to be aggressive and try to get to that next level. Either way, we think we'll be a talented team next year."
Bryant, the NBA's leading scorer the past two seasons, complained about a lack of talent around him at season's end, and later said he wanted to be traded, adding nothing could change his mind.
Despite that request, the Lakers have made clear that trading Bryant isn't in their plans. Bryant is owed $88.6 million over the next four seasons, but could terminate his contract in two years.
Garnett is under contract for two more years at $22 million next season and $23 million the following year, but he could opt out next summer -- a development that could spur the Timberwolves to action.
The 27-year-old Odom will earn $13.5 million next season and $14.6 million in 2008-09 -- the final year of his contract. The 19-year-old Bynum, taken with the 10th overall pick in the 2005 draft, is due $2.2 million next season.
Lakers center Kwame Brown, owed $9.1 next season in the final year of his contract, also could be involved, as could Minnesota guards Troy Hudson and/or Marko Jaric. Hudson has three years left on his contract and Jaric four.
Kupchak has said the Lakers are looking for a veteran ball-handling guard.
Odom and Brown both underwent surgery last month, but Kupchak believes both will be ready to go when training camp begins in October.
McHale said last week he has always listened to trade proposals involving Garnett, adding: "Nothing has changed. You always listen. You listen, and it doesn't go very far and it hasn't gone very far now."
That was last week. Perhaps that's changed.
Bird said it might be time for Garnett to go.
"Kevin Garnett's been with Minnesota for years," he said. "There comes a time where both parties might want to just separate."
Bird said it would be hard for him to part with Jermaine O'Neal, the Pacers player most often mentioned in trade rumors, but he would do so if it would improve the team.
"He's an awful good player," Bird said, "and anytime you've got a player of his caliber, you've got to be careful. If you do trade him, you have to get something back. It's all speculation. Hopefully we can do something that makes our team better, whether it's Jermaine or whoever, I just hate to give up on a guy with that much talent."
The Lakers and Timberwolves were Western Conference finalists following the 2003-04 season, but neither has been close in the last three years.
The Lakers traded Shaquille O'Neal to Miami after that season, and after missing the playoffs in 2005, they were eliminated in the first round by Phoenix each of the last two years. The Timberwolves haven't made the playoffs since 2004.
While he's expressed the hope of improving the Lakers, Kupchak knows how difficult making a major trade can be for several reasons.
"I can't say that until a deal is made," he said. "They change on a hairpin."
Bird said several factors make a major trade difficult.
"What's happening in the last few years is a lot of these so-called superstars, highly paid players get these extensions, and once they get their extensions, if they're not going to have a good team, they always want out," he said.
"It's hard to trade a player that makes a third of your cap because other teams can't take on the salaries. But they demand to be traded, and it puts a lot of pressure on the franchise," he said.