What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
Last night, I watched the Los Angeles Lakers lose by nineteen to the exceptionally mediocre Indiana Pacers. There were times in that game where the Lakers were trailing by over thirty points. That was the moment I realized this may very well be the worst Laker team I’ve ever seen.
There’s two types of Lakers’ fans. There’s the “front-runners;” the ones who will be long gone by the end of this season, off to whatever other NBA bandwagon is available. Then there’s the guys like me who have been watching the Lakers since Elgin Baylor. We’re the guys who grew up on Lakers play-by-play from the legendary Chick Hearn, we’re they guys who remember the days when the Lakers simply couldn’t beat the goddamn Boston Celtics, and we’re the guys who remember when the trade with Milwaukee to get Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was going to end the Laker’s 1-in-20 year title woes.
We are also the guys who remember it took four years for the Jabbar trade to pay off, three of which were spent finding out Jerry West wasn’t a great coach. Like it or not, the Lakers are NBA royalty, and it is bad for business to have the Lakers playing the role of the Washington Generals. Thankfully, the Lakers have a lot of resources, which means with a few simple moves, they can be back at the top of the NBA heap.
1) It’s time to admit the Kobe Bryant era is over.
We’ve already given ourselves four years at the outside to make this transformation, so the key here is to understand that this is really year #1 of a two-year deal. Kobe need to go away after next season. While I’m not really interested in using the “amnesty” clause on one of the greatest players in NBA history, I’ll do it if Kobe doesn’t play along with the plan. Next year, Kobe gets the Jabbar-style retirement tour, and the Lakers then give him some sort of Magic Johnson-type job in the organization.
However it happens really isn’t the point. The simple fact is Kobe is not the future; he’s the past. Presently, he’s the only reason anybody will watch this team, but that won’t be the case once the rebuild is completed. Eventually, Kobe will need to be replaced, but right now this team is missing so many of the aspects which have defined Laker basketball across the eras…which leads to the rest of my plan.
What are those characteristics I’m talking about? Whether it was the Pat Riley “Showtime” Lakers or those of the Phil Jackson era, successful Laker basketball has been built with a particular recipe.
Kobe used to be two of those, now he’s only an occasional scoring threat. In the meantime, Kobe can continue to be the attraction who every once in a while drops 30 points on somebody.
2) Draft Frank Kaminsky.
Winning Laker basketball is now, and has always been about bigs who can dominate at least one end of the floor. This is why the Dwight Howard experiment was such a failure; his back was in such bad shape he couldn’t have dominated a pick-up game at the YMCA. Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky immediately solve a couple of problems the Lakers have.
First of all, he’s not getting any attention from so-called draft experts, which means the Lakers will easily be able to get him given they should be be picking early come. I don’t get why this guy isn’t higher on everybody’s draft boards, but that fine with me. Kaminsky is NBA-ready right now, and more importantly he’s Laker-ready as he solve two problems for them. Kaminsky is a scoring threat from anywhere on the floor. In fact, he compares favorably to some other Laker bigs of the past.
At 7 feet, Kaminsky can play a Pau Gasol-type wing, and he can shoot that little 10-foot jump hook over anybody in the league. But he’s also got a dribble-drive, which makes him a defensive mismatch. He can play the low post, he can drive the lane, oh…and he’s a legitimate threat from three-point territory as well.
3) Get a “big” who can defend the rim.
There’s a couple of possibilities here, all of which revolve around the Lakers making a trade. The real challenge here is because the way the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement is constructed, trades are difficult because there are restrictions based on salaries and other considerations. Couple that with some simple economic realities (such as the fact the Lakers still have Steve Nash under contract, but we all know has zero trade value), and the Lakers only really have a few options when it comes to the trade market.
We can debate over which players they have which have deal value, but the inescapable reality is that to make any deal work, the Lakers are likely going to have to eat some salary. That means looking for a “big” with a price-tag to match and who is on a team that might be looking to make a change.
The two most likely possibilities:
Another solid possibility:
Another, albeit less likely option:
If you haven’t noticed, Jeremy Lin and Nick Young are the two Lakers with the best trade value, although there are some other deals which could be made. Of course, the Lakers haven’t been too interested in playing Let’s Make a Deal since the league killed the Chris Paul trade. However, David Stern is gone, and the Lakers need to create a future where there now is none.
4) Get a perimeter scoring threat.
Drafting Frank Kaminsky is part of this strategy. He address the front court scorer need, and the perimeter need. But he can’t do both all the time. That’s why there is another interesting deal out there that also solves two Laker problems. It’s a little something I call the New Orleans Import Project. The deal works like this:
The deal is really about getting Asik, who is a rebounder and rim protector of the first order. But Fredette is a pure shooter who can be had for nothing. Granted, he can’t make his own shot, but coupled with Kaminsky and a backcourt rotation which if it still includes Jeremy Lin (or another shooting guard if need be) Fredette easily can be that guy who can hit threes when needed and can be a guy on the floor not to foul late in games.
5) Guards who can play defense
This is the area I haven’t addressed yet, and this is the toughest to deal with, because solid defensive guards don’t come around every day. but htere is on who has been availabe seemingly everyday for the last five years, but nobody ever seems to pull the trigger to get him. Hopefully, I can change that.
Rondo may be the best back court defender in the game. Not to mention, it’s not hard to tell the fire sale in Boston is coming soon.
So, after all the potential deals I’ve mentioned, the three I would love to pull off are:
This would leave the Lakers with a 2015 Opening Day Roster of:
You will note Steve Nash is not included on this list; the assumption being he will either retire or not be re-signed. As far as the other free agents are concerned, I’m willing to re-sign Boozer to a on-year deal, and the working hypothesis is that the free-agents I brought in are on “sign-and-trade” deals. In any event, the idea here is this is the team I take into 2015. Obviously, this team is not intended to be an NBA Finals contender. Rather this team is intended to be a #7 or #8 seed in the Western conference, get some post-season experience, and look forward to 2016, when after I’m out from under Kobe Bryant’s and Steve Nash’s contracts, I may have nearly $30 million in cap space to play with, depending on the circumstances. That matters because there’s some really interesting names who will be available in 2016.
There you have it. It took years for the arguably greatest NBA franchise in the history of the league to descend to this sub-Dante level of hoops hell. It’s going to take more than a single season to get out of this hole. But that’s why we here at Dubsism do this series.