Just in from the Lakers: Andrew Bynum is expected to miss two to three months with a torn ligament in his right knee, a timeline that raises the possibility he will miss at least the rest of the regular season and possibly the playoffs as well.
Obviously crushing news for the Lakers. Not only does it cost them their No. 1 center, but Bynum had just started to look like the prodigy who last season rewarded front-office patience by averaging 13.1 points and 10.2 rebounds as a 21-year-old before surgery on the left knee cost him the second half and the playoffs.
This season, he's at 14 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.87 blocks and 55.8 percent from the field. But the last five games were 26.2 points, 14 rebounds and 3.20 blocks as West coaches voted Gasol an All-Star reserve, a public end to previous uncertainties, even within the Lakers, about whether Bynum and Gasol could mesh when both preferred to play from the post.
But, suddenly, it's decision time in Los Angeles:
Put Gasol at center and Lamar Odom at power forward, the same alignment that helped drive the Lakers to a great 2007-08 second half and a Western Conference championship, or use Odom's expiring contract to trade for a true center?
Brad Miller is a true center. Brad Miller is available. Brad Miller passes well and shoots well for a big man, and those are perfect fits for Phil Jackson's triangle offense.
Huge call for the Lakers. Major implications. Go with what worked for much of last season, before the Celtics out-hearted and out-teamed them in the Finals, while maintaining the chance to re-sign Odom in the summer, or use the Odom trade chip to solidify a spot that for the moment is Gasol backed up by Chris Mihm.
Aquiring Miller would also be a safety net for the Lakers -- that makes two major knee injuries for Bynum in a young career, one surgery for each leg, and there would be a lot worse things than having Miller as the No. 2 in 2009-10, even at $12.25 million. Brad will be an expiring contract then and L.A. would have the flexibility to move him, try to re-sign him or let him walk as a free agent in July 2010.
A Kings-Lakers deal would be Odom for Miller plus loose change. Miller and Shelden Williams' expiring contract, maybe a Quincy Douby thrown in. (A Lakers first-round pick won't be worth much, projecting to be in the late 20s or even 30 the next couple seasons at least, but the next No. 1 that L.A. can move is 2012 anyway.)
The value for the Kings is moving Miller and picking up Odom's expiring contract. Maybe they flip Odom into a sign-and-trade in the summer, but it's hard to imagine them paying big to keep the small forward/power forward on a roster that has Jason Thompson at PF and a stock of small forwards. Maybe SF changes by the trade deadline as well.
The value for the Lakers is the actual lineup:
PG -- Derek Fisher.
SG -- Kobe Bryant.
SF -- Some mix of Luke Walton and Vladimir Radmanovic.
PF -- Gasol.
C -- Miller.
Compared to standing pat:
PG -- Fisher.
SG -- Bryant.
SF -- The unsettled Walton/Radmanovic situation.
PF -- Odom.
C -- Gasol.
Tough call. But it's hard to imagine at the moment, in the immediate wake of the news, that someone from the Kings and someone from the Lakers won't at least have the conversation. What happens from there is a big decision by both sides.