Rebuilding, Not Patience, Is The Lakers Best Option
When the L.A. Lakers signed two-time MVP Steve Nash and traded for All-Star center Dwight Howard, the league’s most dazzling franchise envisioned returning to title contention, once again.
At least that was the plan.
Starting off the season 1-4, the Lakers began the season with the worst mark in franchise history, which resulted in the unceremonious dismissal of second-year Head Coach Mike Brown.
After a flirtation with former Lakers’ coach Phil Jackson, the Lakers shocked the basketball community–hiring former Knicks’ coach and offensive guru–Mike D’Antoni. D’Antoni didn’t think the job would be offered to him–as he expected Jackson to get the position.
“Sure I did,” he said according to the NY Daily News. “For sure I did. Didn’t everybody? When I got the call that it was me, my first reaction was, ‘Are you serious?’”
The seven-seconds-or-less coach was unable to join the Lakers immediately–due to a recent knee-replacement surgery. Bernie Bickerstaff, who was named the interim head coach after Brown’s firing, led the team to a 3-1 record in his stead.
D’Antoni did eventually make his debut in spectacular fashion–defeating the Brooklyn Nets and Houston Rockets in his first two games as the coach. Following his solid start, the Lakers have only managed five wins–including a four-game losing streak–highlighted by a loss to the lottery-bound Cavaliers.
The once-perennial title contender now stands at 11-14 and 12th in the Western Conference.
Lakers franchise player and all-time leading scorer, Kobe Bryant, still has faith that the team can be turned around–beliefs he expressed in an interview with ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith, last Wednesday.
“Togetherness,” Bryant said. “Finding a way to play that maximizes each other’s talents. I believe we have the intelligence to do it. Mike is very, very smart. Steve obviously has a high basketball IQ. Myself, Gasol, we’ve all been there before. We know how to conduct this thing. It’s just a matter of figuring that out.”
Bryant, though, has shown frustration with the team and its performance. Pau Gasol, the Lakers starting power forward, incurred his ire for complaining about his role in D’Antoni’s system.
Bryant said, “Put your big boy pants on. Just adjust.” “You can’t whine about it. I’m 34 years old. I’m running screen-and-rolls out there. Steve Nash is out and my [tail] is running up and down the court more than I have my entire career. You have to adjust to it. I stay after practice and work on my ball-handling, my screen and roll.”
Howard, who is slated to take the reins from Bryant once he retires, hasn’t shown the same confidence in the team. The three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year hinted that he may explore his options in free agency, saying, “You only get one shot. People might not ever understand that, but at the end of the day it’s not their life. You can’t let anybody else dictate how they want your life to be. I only have one shot to play and do something that I love. Not everybody is blessed and have an opportunity to do what they love.”
“So I want to do it the best that I can and I’m going to take everything in I can to get what I can out of the NBA. Which, for me, is winning a championship,” he added. “So if I have to play on another team or do whatever I have to do to get one, that’s my goal. This is my passion, so I’ll continue to fight.”
There may be help on the way for the struggling Lakers. Nash’s return, in two weeks, is expected to spark the team and, presumably, save the day. I feel that it could be too little…too late.
As I sit and evaluate the Lakers’ short and long-term prospects, they only have one option: REBUILD.
Lakers’ fans reading this column are probably thinking: Rebuild, we got the Black Mamba, Superman, Gasol and Nash.
Yes, you do have the big four…But who else.
Ron Artest, the Lakers other starter, is having a solid year–averaging 13.3 points per game, but their bench may have two players–Antwan Jamison (7.2 ppg.) and Jodie Meeks (8.0 ppg.) that could actually make another NBA teams’ rotation. It’s a far cry from a bench once led by do-everything forward Lamar Odom.
I’m sure you’re asking: How do you rebuild the Lakers? Sometimes you have to take two steps back…to take three steps forwards. There are two ways this can be done: the easy way or the hard way.
Be Patient And See If They Can Come Together: Once the Lakers get back Gasol and Nash, they could very well put it together. The 6th, 7th or 8th playoff seed is still the best they can hope for. A first-round exit would then follow shortly behind. Howard will leave via free agency and the Lakers will lose him for nothing.
Be Proactive And Trade The Big Four: Or the Lakers could be proactive…trade the Big Four for young NBA talent and draft picks and get a jump-start on the next era of Lakers’ basketball. They would be terrible in 2013-2014…but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing–as Andrew Wiggins–a high school player hyped as the best since LeBron James–is the presumptive number-one pick in 2014 NBA Draft. If the Lakers were unable to secure the first draft choice, Jabari Parker and Julius Randle, two highly-rated power forwards in the same high school class as Wiggins, aren’t bad consolation prizes.
After the 2013-2014 season, the Lakers are only the hook for one contract–Nash’s; so, they are positioned to make a big splash in the 2014 free agent market, which could be potentially headlined by superstars–LeBron James( Early Termination Option) and Zach Randolph(Player Option)and young talents–Monta Ellis and Eric Bledsoe.
The Lakers return to prominence every couple of years…they will be back. The only question now is: How many years will it take?
It’s all up to them.
Which approach do you think the Lakers should take?
By Jeremiah Short
Follow this writer @DaRealJShort or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.