What was the Lockout for Again?

ORLANDO, FL - FEBRUARY 26: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers and the Western Conference looks to pass as he is defended by Dwight Howard #12 of the Orlando Magic and the Eastern Conference during the 2012 NBA All-Star Game at the Amway Center on February 26, 2012 in Orlando, Florida. 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 Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

There must be some alternate universe where this makes sense, because it sure doesn't make any sense in this one.

The last NBA lockout was supposed to return power to the ownership. It was supposed to keep players from holding their teams hostage, prevent the formation of 'super-teams', and return competitive balance to the league.

And so, this season, the Los Angeles Lakers will have a starting likeup of Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard.

It turns out all the player fuss and media predictions are true: the owners simply cannot save themselves from themselves.

Let's start with the Magic. What are they thinking??? They gave up the best big man in the NBA (and arguably the 2nd or 3rd best player, period) and got....not the second best player in the deal in return. Or even the third best player. Somehow they sent away Dwight Howard to also send Andrew Bynum to Philadelphia and Andre Iguodala to Denver. Their own haul (a term used quite generously under these circumstances) was Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington('s contract), a collection of young unprovens with limited potential and bit players, and a trio of draft picks that are unlikely to be worth much of anything in the end.

Think about that for a second. The Magic traded Dwight Howard for a package headlined by Arron Afflalo. At one point, they were offered Brook Lopez, all of New Jersey's picks forever and ever (not really, but it sure seemed like it...) and the opportunity to unload both Jason Richardson and Hedo Turkoglu. They were also offered....well, it's hard to say what Houston all put on the table, but it certainly would have included the draft picks that became Jeremy Lamb and Royce White, as probably some other very worthwhile players...Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, etc. For the Magic to turn those kinds of deals down for Arron Afflalo is unabashedly perplexing. Someone in Orlando must not know Afflalo's limited ceiling, or thinks very very highly of Moe Harkless or Nikola Vucavic.

Philadelphia and Denver both got better, albeit in a potentially temporary way. Both Andrew Bynum and Andre Iguodala are set to be free agents next summer. But until then, the Sixers have the true defensive anchor Doug Collins has been looking for, and the Nuggets have an explosive, lockdown defender of a wing who should compliment Ty Lawson, Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari perfectly. Running those four out with JaVale McGee at center makes for a very good team.

And the Lakers....well, it changes the whole landscape of the NBA, doesn't it. The Thunder can't claim to be the undisputed favorites in the West, and even the Heat have to be a little intimidated. Where do you even start to attack this Laker team? You can't overpower them; they have Howard and Gasol. You can't outrun them; they have Howard and Nash. You can't out-'clever' them; they have Nash and Gasol. And you can't outwill them; they have Kobe. This seems like what LA was trying to build with the Kobe/Shaq/Malone/Payton team, except they're better balanced with far less volatile personalities. Nash is the ultimate glue guy....everyone plays well under his leadership. And Howard is the ultimate eraser...no team is bad defensively with him on the floor. I know the Heat have their big three, with one of them being the best basketball player on the planet. But I just don't see how the Heat find a real advantage against this Lakers team now.

And so for all their grandstanding, the owners once again sabotage their own plans by being their own worst enemies. Instead of balance, we have another super team in a city that historically has continuously dominated with super teams. Balyor and West. West and Chaimberlain. Magic/Kareem. Kobe/Shaq. On and on and on.

50 wins makes your GM good. Anything beyond that makes him good and lucky. Now even lucky isn't enough. Drafting Kevin Durant doesn't get you past LeBron and friends. Drafting Blake Griffin doesn't even make you the best team in your own city. I can't imagine what Orlando fans must be thinking watching Shaq-to-LA happen all over again. It's a player's league....always has been, always will be. Owners need to stop trying to change that, and start being smart about keeping the good players where they are.

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