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It’s a fastbreak to new teams for NBA players

By Ben Bolch, Los Angeles Times –

LOS ANGELES — David West traveled north by northeast, signing with Indiana after eight seasons in New Orleans.

Lamar Odom was a Laker, then a Hornet, then a Laker, then a Maverick, all in the span of 48 hours.

Andrew Bynum remained a Laker, although he could be under Orlando’s tree if the Magic finds itself in the mood for some last-minute Christmas shopping.

And you thought keeping up with the Kardashians was tough.

The lockout-shortened NBA free-agency/trading period has been a whirlwind of biblical proportions, answering the Clippers’ prayers while depositing Tyson Chandler and Baron Davis at the feet of Amare Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks.

The pro basketball monopoly isn’t over in Los Angeles, although the Lakers may feel as if Commissioner David Stern sent them to trade jail while allowing the Clippers to pass “go” and collect Chris Paul on the way to the playoffs.

The Clippers also landed savvy point guard Chauncey Billups via the amnesty clause and signed veteran free-agent small forward Caron Butler via the promise of no longer being the old Clippers.

“Wow, the Clippers are relevant,” Lakers legend Magic Johnson said Tuesday during a conference call with reporters. “For the first time, I’m going to be watching Clippers games too.”

Johnson said the Clippers and Knicks were the biggest winners in the free-agency scrum, describing the Clippers as “1A” and the Knicks as “1B.”

What does that make the Lakers, who traded Odom to the team that knocked them out of the playoffs and lost free agent Shannon Brown to Phoenix, another Western Conference rival? Are they 30Z?

“They did pull off a trade, it just didn’t happen,” Johnson said of the Lakers’ plan to land Paul before Stern blocked the deal. “It’s not like they didn’t go to work. You still have to give them a B for effort.”

Lakers fans clung to hopes of getting Orlando’s Dwight Howard as the ultimate stocking stuffer, a scenario that would entail plucking the All-Star center away from other suitors while offering Bynum and/or Pau Gasol.

The Lakers signed free agents Josh McRoberts and Troy Murphy to try and fill the gap in the frontcourt left by Odom’s departure. Not that those were the “big deals” General Manager Mitch Kupchak was most hotly pursuing.

The Mavericks were full of good cheer after the acquisitions of Odom and Vince Carter, the aging superstar who hopes to take flight once more.

Yet, it remained unclear if those moves would constitute a net gain considering that the defending NBA champions also lost defensive stalwart Chandler to New York and Lakers nemesis Jose Barea to Minnesota. Chandler certainly downgraded in ownership, going from the dynamic Mark Cuban to the notorious James Dolan.

A fresh start awaits Gilbert Arenas, among the players cast into the bargain bin by teams eager to avoid luxury-tax penalties through the amnesty clause. Possible destinations for the oft-troubled player are thought to include Miami or wherever Howard ends up.

Chicago was wielding more firepower after signing free-agent shooting guard Richard Hamilton, who could compound the Lakers’ holiday headache when he shows up at Staples Center for their Christmas opener alongside most valuable player Derrick Rose.

Shane Battier doesn’t exactly give Miami a Big Four, although when the rugged free-agent forward signed with the Heat it removed some defensive pressure from LeBron James.

“Now LeBron doesn’t have to take the best player on the opposite team anymore,” Johnson said.

The free-agent winners also included a handful of former Bruins and Trojans.

Jason Kapono, a former UCLA sharpshooter, latched onto the Lakers, fulfilling a lifelong dream.

Gabe Pruitt, a former USC guard, signed with Orlando three years after his flameout with the Boston Celtics landed him in NBA purgatory. His most recent stop was with the Sioux Falls Skyforce of the Development League.

Washington swingman Nick Young, whose turnaround jump shots once made the Trojans a winner, reversed course and re-signed with the Wizards after holding out early in training camp.

There are more moves to come. If your team’s Christmas wishes don’t come true, blame it on Stern or the nearest Kardashian.

“I am curious as to how I am the cause for any trade? LOL,” Khloe Kardashian tweeted after her hubby Lamar was sent to Dallas. “Some people just say anything behind their computer screens.”


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