Los Angeles Lakers Rumors: The man in the middle for Cleveland Cavaliers west

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /
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Los Angeles Lakers
(Photo by Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images for SiriusXM) /

This is not far from what Jerry West had to endure with the salary cap back in 1996

The more I write about the Lakers, the more I start to understand why Lakers fans (the real ones, not the ones when LeBron showed up) say that the Lakers will eventually figure it out. Many on social media said the same thing while the Lakers franchise was playing the dartboard for the last couple of months.

The questions were, Who’s going to land major free agents? Will the team have enough cap space? Who’s going to want to come to play for the Lakers? How will the team be constructed?

Well, it seems that Jerry West had to answer those questions around 1996. He had his eyes set on a top-level free agent named Shaquille O’Neal. At the time the Lakers were in a bidding war with the Orlando Magic. Even at that time, that Lakers were strapped by the salary cap.

According to the New York Times back then, the Magic offered O’Neal a seven-year deal worth $115 million dollars. Man, the Lakers basically gutted the roster (Sound familiar to anyone?) to get the room in the cap to sign Shaq to a seven-year $121 million dollar contract.

The Orlando Magic was left with a rumored $130 million dollar offer and a voice mail message (To the millennial fans out there, that was our text message back then) because O’Neal never gave the Magic a chance to make a counteroffer.

Well, things turned out okay and the money was well spent.

For the deal to happen, the Lakers, led by Jerry West, had a lot of work to do. First, he had to trade incumbent center, Vlade Divac to Charlotte for some skinny high school kid named Kobe Bryant.

Now here’s where the myths come in. Some say that Bryant wanted to play with the Lakers and nobody else. Kobe has a different story courtesy of ESPN’s Baxter Holmes.

"“Charlotte never wanted me,” Bryant said. “[Hornets coach Dave] Cowens told me he didn’t want me. It wasn’t a question of me even playing here. They had a couple of guards already, a couple small forwards already. So it wasn’t like I would be off the bench much. ” “I mean, I had grown up watching basketball,” Bryant said. “I knew who Dave Cowens was and [was] pretty excited [to play for him]. Then I was like, ‘Oh, all right.’ I quickly transitioned from smiley kid to killer instinct.” “Cowens told me, ‘We don’t really need you here,'” Bryant said."

Would it shock you that Vlade Divac NEARLY RETIRED over this deal? CBS Sports has the story.

"The morning of that draft we got a tip at the Observer that the Hornets were discussing a trade to acquire a center. Eventually, working with Scott Howard-Cooper, then of the Los Angeles Times, we figured out this was the deal: If Bryant lasted to the Hornets’ 13th pick, they would select him and deal him to the Lakers for Divac’s pre-existing contract. That gave West both Bryant and the cap space to pursue O’Neal. This got a little complicated when Divac threatened to retire, rather than report to the Hornets. I asked Bass what he’d do if Divac didn’t relent and Bass said he’d keep Bryant. That put Tellem in a nasty mood. Eighteen years later I remember him screaming at me over the phone from Southern California that Bryant would be a Laker no matter what. Divac gave in and the deal was completed in July."

You really would think that was the end of the story right? Come on fans, this is the Lakers! Even with all that drama, the Lakers could still only offer $95.5 million dollars at that time.

It was only when West traded Anthony Peeler and George Lynch off at the last-minute to the then Vancouver Grizzlies. I mean does any of this sound familiar? This franchise does not vary from the variable Hollywood script.

Soon after these two players became Shaq and Kobe, who turned the Lakers into a 3-peat dynasty.

To work this magic again, the Lakers have to fill out the bench in what Shaquille O’Neal calls “the others”. Now we take a look at some centers that can take the role of Samaki Walker, Jelani McCoy and Greg Foster.

Let’s start with the two centers from last year.