Why Lakers Fans Need to be Prepared for Another Tough Season

lakers-ship-sinking1A lot has happened since my last blog post: we acquired Carlos Boozer via amnesty (see I told you so Bulls!), we also officially signed multiple players, but most importantly, we finally hired Byron Scott.

After D’Antoni mercifully resigned (for roughly $2 million), I wrote a post discussing all of our coaching options and threw my support behind Scott. He is a good coach who bleeds purple and gold, and he was Jerry’s pick, not Jim’s. I only mention this fact because Jerry had a fantastic record when it comes to picking coaches, and we all know how Jimmy’s choices worked out.

Now that our roster is mostly full, it is time to analyze our team. For the purposes of this blog post I am only going to analyze the changes. We lost Pau Gasol but gained Julius Randle, Ed Davis, and Carlos Boozer. Additionally, we lost Kendall Marshall but gained Jeremy Lin.

Starting at the power forward position, I believe we may be slightly weaker. I love Pau and was devastated to see him go. Carlos Boozer is a solid power forward, but he has injury problems and he is not the same man who dominated in Utah. I am pretty unfamiliar with Davis, but based upon my research, he has the potential but has never seemed to break out, so hopefully he can have a Swaggy P type year. Lastly, I have always admitted that I am unfamiliar with the NCAA, therefore I only know what has been reported about Randle. I am always hesitant to trust a rookie since we have seen so many high draft picks flounder in the NBA. I believe that Randle will be a good power forward, however, I am not going to put all my eggs in that basket, not yet at least. The reason I am concerned about our power forwards, is that none of these players have Pau’s shooting or passing abilities. Also, Pau can play the 4 or the 5, whereas these players are going to be at the 4 or 3 position. Defensively, I am concerned about our size. We saw how Miami struggled against teams with true centers, and we need to be a better defensive team then last year.

Next, I want to criticize the Lakers for waiving Kendall Marshall. I liked Kendall despite some of his deficiencies. Also, he was making less than $1 million this year, so I cannot comprehend why we decided to waive him for financial reasons instead of the injured 40-year-old point guard making $7 million. I am sorry but those numbers do not add up. Steve Nash will not play more than 30 games this year, and that number is extremely optimistic. I personally do not believe he will play that many. I would expect maybe 20 games at the most out of him, and he will be playing limited minutes. I do not understand why we did not waive Nash. We have no loyalty to him. He got injured almost immediately after we acquired him, and he has struggled to stay healthy since. I understand that we should respect him since he is a future Hall of Famer, but he had all of his accomplishments in Phoenix; we do not owe him anything. He has even admitted the only reason he isn’t retiring is because of the money. Therefore, we should have just paid him (via amnesty), and had the cap space to sign some other players.

I already discussed Jeremy Lin in my last post, so I am going to be brief. We did get an upgrade at the point guard position. I also said that we were only renting him for the year so we should not get too attached. However, Mitch came out at the press conference and admitted that this was the third time that he had gone after Lin. Apparently he wanted him since he played at Harvard. Therefore, we may actually try to resign him next summer.

In this post’s title I told fans to be prepared for another bad year. Basically it looks like our roster is slightly improved. However there is one big factor I have yet to mention, and I like to call it the “Mamba Factor.” Kobe only played a few games last year, hence our team only winning 27 games. Now, I want to believe more than anyone that Kobe will be back at full force next year. Unfortunately, if watching Steve Nash fall apart has taught me anything, it is that once a player suffers a serious injury, they may never be the same again. Kobe has now taken to huge breaks to rest up and heal. Both he and the Lakers organization say he will be ready next year, but it is important to not get too excited. We need to manage our expectations in case this blows up again.

If Kobe comes back and is still a great player, then the Lakers have a shot to be a decent team. However, that can only happen if he is able to score around 20 points per game. I know that the idea of Kobe not being able to put up 30 whenever he wants is a scary thought for Lakers fans, but we need to face reality. He is entering his 18th season and has suffered some career ending injuries. If he is able to play more than half the games and put up over 15 points, then we need to count our blessings.

I have decided to be optimistic and say that Kobe will make it through a decent amount of games and put up solid numbers, and I am basing that on our new coach. I have always blamed the plethora of injuries on D’Antoni and his crazy offensive system, but Scott is smarter and will take Kobe’s health into consideration. Scott is a defensive minded coach, but he did play for Showtime and understands the importance of having a good system. Scott may not slow down the game to “triangle speeds” but he won’t make the Lakers run around like D’Antoni.

If the stars line up perfectly, and the Lakers are healthy, and all the players exceed expectations, then the Lakers have a shot of making it into the playoffs and getting eliminated in the first round. However, I always feel that it is my job to tell my readers the truth and not fill you with false hope. As we currently stand, the Lakers will probably not make the playoffs this year unless the stars align for them and everything else goes to hell for the elite western conference teams.

Lastly, since this free agency cycle is coming to an end, I think it is good for the Lakers to learn from their mistakes so they can retool for next summer when the stakes are higher. First off, I think it was stupid that they let all these solid free agents get away because they played the waiting game with LeBron and Melo. They were never going to come to the Lakers, and that is fine that they wanted to give it a shot, but then you need to keep building as if they are not coming. If either one of those guys decided that they wanted to come play for the Lakers, then the Lakers would have figured out a way to move pieces around to sign them. You do not put everything on hold hoping for one of them to save the day. Remember my comment about putting all of your eggs in one basket?

Now I also think the Lakers need to work on damage control and get their publicist working over time. Whenever I watch ESPN or hear any of the analysts talking about the Lakers, they always say that it is no longer a premier destination. The more they say it, the more it becomes a reality. It does not matter that the Lakers were the most profitable team last year (by about $100 million) despite having one of the worst records. Ever since Jerry died people think that the culture died with him. Jim Buss needs to get his ego in check and start following in daddy’s footsteps. Jerry was famous for caring about his players without going overboard like Mark Cuban. He would invite the players over and constantly take them out to dinner.

Kobe came out a few months ago and criticized Jim Buss. It is not a secret that Jim has spent no time with his star player, and Kobe has not been happy about it. The reason why both Lakers fans and players like Jeannie more is because of Phil. Phil would take the players out and spend time with them, and of course he would bring his longtime girl friend with him. Jeannie has more of a voice in the organization because of Phil, not her father. Recently Kobe has been speaking very favorably about the wonder siblings because he realizes that the Lakers will keep missing out on free agents if they think the owners are a problem. If we have learned anything from the Sterling scandal, it is that the owners do matter to the players, even if it is not their first priority.

Per usual, I do not like to criticize the Lakers without offering up some suggestions. Jim Buss needs to get his face out there more, and it needs to be in a favorable light. He needs to take Kobe and maybe the entire team out to dinner at one of the paparazzi favorite restaurants (Mr. Chows?) and then make sure the story ends up in the media. If he starts giving off the impression that he cares about his players, then people will start to believe it. The more he acts like his beloved father, the more people will start to see him that way.

My business professors at Tulane always stressed to me the importance of relationships; I even took a Relationship Marketing Class. Jim needs to develop relationships with his players, staff, and the media. Until we retool the image problem around the Lakers, we will not be able to get back to an elite competitive status.

 

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East Coast v. West Coast: The Battle Between the Lakers and the Knicks, and a Free Agency Update

Carmelo and Kobe Staying PutThere has always been a rivalry between LA and NY, and I’m not just talking about Tupac and Biggie. People have always taken sides in the battle of the two cities. This spring the battlefield was on an ice rink, as the LA Kings took down the NY Rangers in the Stanley Cup finals (Ranger fans can suck it! Sorry I am still in cutthroat mode).

Personally, I’m torn. While I’m from LA and love living here, I definitely have the NY spirit since my family is from the Big Apple. As torn as I am between my love for the two cities, I am not at all torn in my allegiance to LA sports teams or my feelings about Phil Jackson going to the Knicks. I was furious the Lakers dropped the ball and allowed him to go to the Knicks, taking our basketball culture with him.

So far Phil signed Lamar Odom (of course he also waived him today), made Derrick Fisher head coach, and stole Kurt Rambis to make him an assistant coach. He tried to lure Pau Gasol back to his side and is planning to establish the triangle in NY.

When he signed with the Knicks a few months ago, this was my biggest fear. Now we are literally fighting with the Knicks over free agents, and so far Phil’s Knicks have been victorious in every battle. His latest “win,” the “coveted” Carmelo Anthony.

I have already expressed my opinions about Melo; he is both overrated and overpaid. Basically, that was one battle I hoped we would lose. I’m glad they’re stuck overpaying him (Phil Jackson knows it and tried selling Melo on a smaller contract last month, but failed); better them than us. Meanwhile, we re-signed Jordan Hill and Nick Young, two moves which make me very happy.

That brings me to Jeremy Lin. People seem to be happy that Linsanity is coming to LA, but hold your horses everyone; we are simply renting him for a year. He is massively overpaid and his contract expires in 2015. He is a solid player and will be entertaining to watch, but letting him go after one year will give the Lakers space to go after the plethora of available free agents in 2015 (management must be listening to me).

Unfortunately, I need to talk about Pau Gasol since his departure is imminent. He just tweeted that he has chosen to play for the Bulls (sorry Teri), and it is happening without a sign and trade deal. Back in February I said we needed to trade him in order to get something rather than just lose him in free agency. We didn’t, and now he is leaving. It’s unfortunate that the Lakers and Bulls couldn’t work out a sign and trade deal with Pau for Boozer and a draft pick. Chicago could have dumped Boozer’s contract and I honestly would have had no problem with us taking Carlos Boozer for one year plus a draft pick. Like Jeremy Lin he is overpaid, but his contract also expires after this season. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen so the Bulls are stuck with Boozer, and the Lakers lose Pau and get nothing in return.

On that happy note, I would like to point out that the Lakers are now 0-2 for keeping our players in free agency under “new” management. First Dwight walked away, and now Pau is leaving. This morning my mother asked me who is really running the Lakers now. Is it Mitch, Jeannie, or Kobe? She was not convinced that Jim was in charge. I told her he is, in fact, running things (which is why we are in our current state), and Jeannie’s recent public involvement is purely meant to appease the fans, players, and analysts. My mother sighed, rolled her eyes, and walked away. I feel that sums up how all of us Lakers fans feel at the moment.

Before I end, since it is the biggest NBA story right now, I feel it is my duty to mention LeBron. I take great pride in being right about my basketball analysis; just see my “I Told You So” blog. However, I have to admit I was wrong about LeBron. My Miami based Grandma Barbara called Thursday night in a panic over the prospect of LeBron leaving the Heat. I assured her that was not going to happen. Sorry Grandma. Although I prepared her months in advance for the Heat’s defeat in the finals – I told her they’d cruise there and then get crushed (sound familiar?), I did not prepare her for LeBron’s departure. In fairness, I was unaware that LeBron had changed his priorities. When he went to the Heat, he said he expected to win more than 7 championships while he was there. In his recent SI article, however, LeBron made it clear his legacy and heart are in Cleveland and that is more important than winning, “My relationship with Northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball.”

Since this blog is all about us Lakers fans, here is the good news about LeBron’s return to the Cavs: comparisons between Kobe and LeBron now end. While I am intrigued to see how LeBron will play with his new young teammates, I highly doubt that they will win a championship. If they do win, it will not be for years. I do not think LeBron will be able to get free agents to come to Cleveland. He couldn’t do it the first time around, and I do not think the 2 rings he won under Pat Riley in Miami will change that. Kobe will, and should, be compared to Michael and Magic, not to LeBron; 5>2.