For years both my mother and brother Adam have been nagging me to start a Lakers blog. I have resisted for a long time, but I became inspired last week. Last week Adam asked me to help him prep for an interview at a Sports Law firm. He asked me to list what I thought were the most important things happening in the league and with individual teams. Here is what I listed for the Lakers:
1. Lakers brand is in jeopardy: for the first time in history a superstar turned them down, the Buss siblings are fighting, and people don’t know what the future looks like post Jerry Buss
2. Lakers fans are having to readjust their expectations for this season
3. The Lakers organization is going to have to figure out how to keep Kobe since he wants to stay without overpaying him and be able to build for the future
After I gave him this list he told me that as a Lakers fan he felt very depressed. He said my list painted a bleak picture for the Lakers’s future. His depression finally got me to write this post to cheer him up and all Lakers fans who are feeling blue. This post is dedicated to him and Lakers fans looking for a glimmer of hope in this situation.
I’ll admit, on its surface it does look bad. The league is evolving and instead of having the powerhouse Jerry Buss leading the way, we have one incompetent kid with a giant ego and a mullet, and another kid who is basically a glorified groupie. What is even worse about having sub par ownership is the fact that there is infighting. Now I get that siblings fight. I have two brothers but the worse thing I will say about either of them in public is that one nagged me to start a blog. As my co-nagger mother likes to say, “There are two types of people in the world: family and everybody else.” The Buss siblings need to unite and show a good front, because a big part of the Lakers brand was Dr. Buss, so without him around they need to figure out how to keep LALA land the place to play. Now I get that Jeannie is mad about Jimbo publicly snubbing her fiance, so is all of Lakernation. However, she needs to see the big picture: the Lakers will inevitably fire D’Antoni and then bring Phil back (for a lot more money and concessions of course).
Next thing Lakers fans are upset about is the future outcome of this season. Lakers fans are high maintenance and believe anything less then a championship is a wasted season. I understand and empathize with that philosophy. However, I would like to point out that those few years int he mid 2000’s led to us getting Pau Gasol and 2 championships. Sometimes we need to suffer in order to do better in the long term. However the Lakers aren’t taking the best approach. Like last year this will be a mediocre team. Come March we will be in 9th or 10th place fighting for that last playoff spot, and if we by some miracle get it, then we will be swept in the first round. I take an issue with this approach because we are in for a historic draft in 2014. That means that mediocre teams will get solid players, but the worst teams who don’t make the playoffs get potential superstars. I know that Mitch is making a play to get LeBron or Carmelo, however those are both long shots. Something drastic has to happen for those boys to leave the teams they took so much heat for (no pun intended). The only play I see working out is Mitch somehow pulling off a Jerry West and trading for one of those superstars in the draft (ala Vlade Divak for Kobe Bryant). However this will be tough to pull off since the only player we will have on the roster for 2014 is Steve Nash, and let’s be real, if he has another injury crippling season like last year, no one will trade a young star in the making for him. Our hope is that Nash holds up and that Toronto gets a good pick because they want to bring the Canadian back to the homeland.
Lastly, is the Kobe Bryant issue. The man has proclaimed he has no desire to take a pay cut. However here is the catch, he knows the collective bargaining agreement prevents him from making the kind of money he made in the past, and his injury makes him less valuable. The question becomes how much of a pay cut can you give him before snubbing him? Unfortunately he won’t want to pull a Magic Johnson and take a massive pay cut to buy players, as much as I love Kobe he is one selfish son of a bitch. That is what makes him great. My guess is that Mitch will modify his contract so that he makes more some years then others to accommodate the other contracts and minimize the luxury tax.
I know that what I said seems very negative and like there is no hope. Despite everything I said, I still believe the Lakers will come through in the long term. First off, as much as I don’t respect the Buss duo, Jerry was sick for a very long time. He knew he was going to die and has been prepping the kiddies to take over the franchise. I have to believe that some of what he taught rubbed off on them and once they get settled, they will be able to be a fraction of the great owner that he was, and honestly isn’t that all we can ask for? Plus once Jeannie and Phil get married, they will have to put all that messiness behind them. At the end of the day they are siblings and will figure out how to work together. Also, this is still Lakerville: home of 16 championships and celebrity fans. Athletes will still want to play here even if the brand is not as strong as it once was. Look, the brand changed once Showtime ended and Jerry Buss was still the owner. At the end of the day all teams go through cycles and unfortunately we are in a rough patch, but I truly believe that there are certain facts that will keep the Lakers strong in the long term.
Second, I may disagree with how Mitch put the team together for this year, however he pulls off impossible trades. He gave us Pau, CP3 (for like an hour), Dwight, and Steve Nash. He has managed to bring in tons of solid players and build winning teams. I may not be able to see how this ends with a superstar at the end of the tunnel, but I trust Mitch to build a championship team. I think losing Dwight Howard was the best thing that could have happened to us this summer because it relieves us of cap space and of a player who couldn’t handle the pressure of the lime light. Despite all my concerns for the team this year, I have complete faith that Mitch will bring in the tools for another championship, because he has proved it before.
Lastly, we as Lakers fans need to come to terms with the fact that Kobe may not get ring number 6. I have little doubt that Kobe will be back on the floor by Christmas, but I have no idea how much longer he can now play. The contract will be an issue but I know that management will figure it out, even if it unfortunately means overpaying the man. What we as fans need to hope for is for Kobe to recognize his light is at the end of the tunnel and that he is going to need the help he so publicly refused from Shaq. In order to get that help, he needs to take a massive pay cut, because that kind of assistance comes with a very big price tag. Kobe has proven over the last few years that he has become more patient and understanding with age. He still has a long way to go but he certainly has grown from the 17 year old ball hog with no friends. I believe he wants that 6th ring more than anything and will do whatever it takes to get it. I believe that if he is forced to take a big pay cut to bring in big guns he will do it because he wants to win that badly. That is why Laker fans should not lose hope. Kobe is so competitive it scares people. He is a true Laker and will want to ensure its success even after he is gone. His desire to do whatever it takes to win on the court will play out off the court, and let’s be real, the Buss kids and Mitch listen to him.