The bad news for the other 28 teams in the NBA is that the Lakers brain trust, fresh off the defection of Jerry West, are quietly laying the groundwork to inject the team with a vital shot of athleticism and youth. While the Lakers beat the Nets senseless in East Rutherford this week, Lakers brass will cross the river to conduct a secret workout for community college phenom Qyntel Woods.
Woods told ESPN.com this weekend he'll fly to New York and conduct a private workout with the Lakers on Thursday. The Lakers' workout will come on the heels of a big workout for Woods in Denver early this week against other top prospects like Drew Gooden, Caron Butler and Jared Jeffries.
Who is Woods you ask? Some people in the NBA feel he might be the next Tracy McGrady. He's a 6-foot-9, 230-pound scoring maniac who handles like a guard. He averaged more than 30 points a game and can jump out of the gym. Scouts say he's an excellent passer, has a killer jumper and a certain "knack" that just can't be taught. That's just what Laker-haters everywhere wanted to hear.
"He (Woods) can do some things with the ball at 6-foot-9 that most 6-foot point guards can't," one veteran scout told ESPN.com. "He can hit the NBA 3, no question. He's got a great feel for the game. I don't think the comparisons to a young Tracy McGrady are that far off. He's not there now. But he has that potential."
While the Lakers are still undeniably the kings of the NBA, the team is concerned about their depth and the age of the team. One of their brightest young players, Devean George, is an unrestricted free agent this summer and there are rumblings he's looking for a team that will allow him to better showcase his skills.
The Lakers began ordering tapes of Woods more than a month ago, and according to Woods, finally convinced him to come in for a workout last week. Woods had refused earlier requests because of the Lakers' draft position. However, the Lakers finally convinced Woods after revealing their plan to move up into the draft.
To get Woods, L.A. will likely have to move up into the top seven or eight choices to get a realistic shot. With Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant basically untouchable, the Lakers would likely have to offer a player like Robert Horry or Rick Fox to get that high in the draft. Both the Clippers, who draft No. 8 and the Bucks, who draft No. 13, are interested in moving their picks.
Rumors flying around the league about Woods' marijuana use as a teenager have caused his stock to slip a bit. However, Woods addressed those issues again Saturday and claimed it is no longer an issue.
"It's in the past," Woods told ESPN.com. "Everybody makes mistakes or has things they wish they could go back and change. I'm a good kid. I've never been in trouble with the law or anything like that. There are a lot of kids in this draft who have done worse things than me."
Northeast Mississippi Community College coach Mike Lewis said scouts have asked him "in a round-about way" about Woods' drug use.
"I just tell them that I never had a problem," he told the Memphis Commercial Appeal recently. "We have random tests, and Qyn passed them all. And I never thought that way of him anyway."
"It's really not an issue," one league executive who interviewed Woods told ESPN.com on condition of anonymity. "We did our homework, talked to the kid and don't think it will be a problem. Given all of the problems some of these kids face, it wasn't an issue."
Woods already has worked out for the Rockets, Suns, Bucks, Wizards and Knicks and still has workouts scheduled with the Nuggets, Knicks (for a second visit), Cavs, Clippers and Warriors. Clearly, he isn't putting all of his eggs in one basket.
His early workouts have went well. Teams are learning that what he lacks in experience he makes up in ability and drive. During a game last season against Holmes Community College, football players in the stands began taunting Woods, chanting "overrated" as he struggled to score 12 points in the first half. By halftime, Woods was determined to prove them wrong. He went out and scored 40 points in the second half.
"They made me aspire to go after it," Woods said. "After the game those same football players wanted my autograph."
Did he give it to them? "Hell no."
If the Lakers were to make the move, it would be their first major draft deal since 1996 when the Lakers sent Vlade Divac to the Hornets in exchange for a high school kid named Kobe Bryant.
Heaven help the NBA.
Chad Ford writes the daily NBA Insider column for ESPN Insider.