Conveniently enough, the Wizards played the Timberwolves the very week of the trade deadline, serving to drive home to the extent to which the basketball universe must demand a Garnett-to-Chicago trade. Garnett is a historic figure, not only one of the best players but literally an integral element of turn-of-the-century Association history; the prime mover in the death of positionality, the return of the high schooler and the subsequent Age Limit Era, the Contract Explosiion and subsequent max salary rule, etc. A guy like that deserves to be on a good team, one that pushes into the playoffs and (who knows?) could play for it all. As of now, all we have was the 2003-2004 run, and — forgetting for a moment what Garnett deserves — we deserve more. This is especially true given that there are a number of perfectly logical Minnesota-Chicago trade scenarios.
The other big name possibility is Jason Kidd going to the Los Angeles. Obviously, if the Lakers really do somehow manage to snag Kidd without giving up Odom or Bynum, they’ve got to pull the trigger on that, but as a fan, I don’t really want to see it. For five season the Lakers were a delightful Evil Empire, the team I Loved to Hate. And, like many people, I found Kobe more loathsome than Shaq, and though the Lakers per se became less loathsome following the Shaq trade (how could you hate such a devastated squad) the Black Mamba became even more so. In the 2004-2005 season, however, Kobe voyaged to the underworld and appeared to re-emerge the stronger for it in his 2005-2006 campaign. Now, from the vantage point of this year, I actually believe Kobe might win another championship at some point. Not this spring, to be sure. But next year or the year after? If Bynum keeps developing? If everyone stays healthy? It would be . . . redemption. I’m not sure I could root for him, but (barring an Eastern Conference Championship for the Wizards, of course) I certainly couldn’t root against him.
A return to contention through the deus ex machina of a one-sided trade for aging star Jason Kidd, however, is not the path of redemption. What makes the emerging Kobe Bryant story so unlikely is the way the Lakers dependence on development-from-within depends on precisely what we Kobe-haters never thought he could do — become a leader, a teacher, a mentor — and lucking into Kidd would rob what we’re seeing of all its appealing qualities. The trade I’d like to see would be Andre Miller for Kwame Brown or something.