Let’s Get Ready for the New Season

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My dad and I at the game last year- April 3, 2016

After a 6 month long hiatus it is time for the Lakers to suit up for a new season! I am very excited to start watching them play again. Before I preview the new season, I must look back at our last game:

Kobe’s Last Game

At the time, I couldn’t bring myself to write a blog about it. I sat on the couch with tears streaming down my face as I watched Kobe put up 60 points for the last time. I went through all the stages of grief watching that game.

He single handedly won that match. He played 1 on 5, just like he did back in the mid 2000’s. It was pure domination, so I went through the denial phase. I began to think that maybe he didn’t need to retire, and that he still had it in him. Then I would see him panting on the bench. He was putting on a show, but he could barely breathe. It was time for him to walk away. Now I was angry, because I looked around at the players surrounding him and could not imagine any of them carrying this team the way he has. He has played this game almost my entire life. I cannot remember a time when Kobe didn’t suit up in the purple and gold. How could anyone else be the face of my team? Then I started think about the Lakers’ history. Before Kobe there was Magic, and before Magic there was Jerry, so surely there is someone out there that the Lakers will scoop up and turn into a superstar right? Then depression kicked in when I started to think about who was running this team. Jerry Buss wasn’t going to work with Jerry West to draft Magic, and then convince him into staying with LA instead of bolting for Detroit. Instead, all we have is the incompetent son, and a GM who’s best trade to date was Jerry West’ doing. I sat there, watching the game, and thinking about all of this before I finally came to acceptance. I realize that it might take years, before the Lakers are playing at a championship level, but we will eventually get there. The team wasn’t always owned by Jerry Buss, and we had great trades made by GM’s other than Jerry West. Eventually, the Buss kids will figure out how to run this team, or (more likely) will hand over the reins to someone who can.

It is still hard for me to think about Kobe being retired. When Shaq was traded, and they broke up the original championship team, I was very angry. However, they eventually brought in Pau Gasol, and Lamar Odom which lead to a new era. Kobe has always been the constant, but I know it is time to look toward the new talent to carry the torch.

Looking Ahead

Yesterday we had some big news. Yi Jianlian asked to be released from the Lakers, and they obliged. I was disappointed that we signed him in the first place. If you do not know who I am talking about, he was the star on the Chinese team during the Olympics this summer. I didn’t want him on the Lakers because I think he lacks the work ethic. Apparently Yao Ming really wanted him to be his mentee, but Jianlian was unwilling to put in the work. I can happily say good riddance. Now let’s take a look at the rest of the players on this finalized roster.

D’Angelo Russell may have butted heads with Byron Scott, but he appears to love Luke Walton. Thus far, the players are responding to him well, so that is a good thing. Russell did seem to improve over the summer, but he still has a lot of work to do. The same goes for Julius Randall and Brandon Ingram. We have a very young team, so there are going to be growing pains. I know fans are really excited that the Lakers did well in the pre-season, but please remember that those games are not indicative of how a team will play in the regular season. Most teams only play their stars for a few minutes. Those games are for the rookies and new acquisitions.

Remember back in 2012 when the Lakers went 0-8 in the preseason? That was the summer when we got Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. Fans couldn’t believe it, but I didn’t think much of it. People look back on that season and say it was terrible, and by Lakers standards it was. However, we made the playoffs in a competitive western conference. Granted, with that talent we should have done better, but Steve Nash went down in the beginning of the season, Kobe tore his Achilles, and then Dwight Howard was forced to lead the team while still coming back from a major back injury. All things considered, I think we did pretty damn good.

So, where does that leave us? Pretty much where we have been the last couple of seasons. I anticipate our young players improving substantially, but I still see us as a below .500 team, barring a major trade. Luke Walton is now our coach and leader, but this is going to take years, so let’s buckle in and play the long game. In the meantime, let’s enjoy our young, versatile, and athletic youngsters playing some Warrior style ball (with a ton of turnovers).

Managing our Expectations

Walton-600x400I am a little late to the party on this post. For that I am extremely sorry Teri and Christy. Now that my apologies are out of the way, why don’t I jump right in on the discussion of the Lakers’ new hire?

First off, I want to discuss the firing of Byron Scott. I have thought a lot about it, and I have decided it was a good idea. Now, I do think he did almost everything he could do to win games. We had a lousy team, and you cannot win without talent. However, I feel that he did a bad job working with our rookies. He openly criticized them to reporters, and constantly benched them for long stretches. Overall, I think he failed them. I understand that he felt they needed to earn playing time, but he didn’t need to undermine them in the press. When D’Angelo Russell had his scandal with Nick Young, Scott said he was most disappointed that they were unable to keep this in house. I wish Scott could have listened to his own criticism. I believe he was fired because the rookies had lost all faith in him, so the Lakers needed to make a change. Now it is time to analyze that change.

The Lakers went ahead and hired Luke Walton right away without even interviewing anyone else. This move was not surprising. For months I have expected this to happen. Luke received a lot of praise for how he coached the Warriors, and he played for the Lakers under Phil Jackson. This hire seemed inevitable. However, I think it is really important that we manage our expectations.

We are getting Luke Walton, not Steph Curry. While I greatly admire Luke Walton and believe that he will make a great coach one day, we need to understand the situation. Luke was coaching a team that just came off of winning a championship and was fighting to repeat and break a record. He was not coaching a team full of rookies. Golden State was great under Steve Kerr, and they remained great under Luke Walton. I do not think he had too much to do with their success. He had the presence of mind to simply stay out of their way.

When Luke comes to L.A. he will be inheriting one of the worst teams in the NBA. Kobe has just retired and there is no one currently there to fill that void (another blog on that to come later). Barring Kevin Durant coming to the Lakers, (which seems extremely unlikely) we are going to be in an even worse position come October than we were last season.

I will remain hopeful that we will get the top pick, and that Mitch can pull of some free agency/trade miracles for us, but in the meantime I must give the hard truths to my readers. The hard truth is that Luke Walton is not our savior, he is merely a building block.

Luke wants to run the Lakers on a similar style to the Warriors. Since our roster is filled with young and athletic players, this seems like a good idea. However, we must remember that instead of Steph Curry setting up the plays, we will have Russell, and instead of Klay Thompson jacking up threes, we will have Jordan Clarkson. Needless to say, our current roster can’t hang with the champs.

The Sex and SnapChat Scandal

1280_dangelo_russell_gettyYesterday, I sat in my kitchen watching D’Angelo Russell give a press conference to apologize for recording a video of Nick Young confessing to cheating on his fiancé Iggy Azalea. All I could think was: “Are you kidding me? How could this kid be so stupid?”

Let’s back up a day and breakdown this whole situation. On Tuesday night this video went viral for the world to see. When that alert came up on my phone I simply stared at it for a minute in disbelief. Then I rolled my eyes because I could believe it. All year, both D’Angelo Russell and Nick Young have shown their immaturity and poor decision making.

Byron Scott has come under fire for constantly criticizing them, but they need it. Whenever Scott has complained about their maturity, they simply say they ignore his comments. That should show just how immature they are. If your coach and leader is telling you that he doesn’t approve of your behavior, then the appropriate response is to evaluate what you are doing and try to make adjustments.

This all came back into the media last week when Nick Young was accused of cat calling and sexually harassing two women. I didn’t write a blog about this issue when the story broke. Clearly this is a he-said-she-said situation. I have my own opinions about what happened, but I have no proof, so I will let you all come to your own conclusions.

Now that I have gone on my rant about their childish behavior, let me get back to the main scandal at hand. When I listen to all the excuses both Russell and his supporters have made for him, I just get annoyed.

He claims this was a personal video that he never intended for anyone to see. We all live in the digital age. We have seen a plethora of celebrity sex tapes and nude pictures. Nothing is safe from hackers, and if just one person gets something private, then the world will see. Russell knows this. In high school he was recruited for college. Since I went to college only a few years before him, I can assure you all they gave us the same warnings. We are all told to be careful on social media and not to post anything anywhere that might be damaging. After Russell went to college he was then scouted by the NBA teams. I am sure their PI’s looked into him even more closely. Therefore, he knows better. Any notion that he didn’t think this would be found is simply disingenuous.

Also, this video supposedly came from SnapChat. Everyone in my generation knows that nothing on SnapChat really disappears. People can save anything you send them. Additionally, now SnapChat also allows you to view pictures and videos for a second time. This gives a viewer ample opportunity to save the video/picture or just take a screen shot on their phone.

D’Angelo said this video was a prank gone wrong. My question is: How is this funny? Do you see anyone laughing? Nick Young and Iggy Azalea are clearly not laughing since their engagement might be over. The Lakers organization doesn’t find this negative publicity amusing.

People have been saying that Russell broke the “Bro Code.” I resent that statement. He didn’t break “Bro Code,” he broke the “Friendship Code.” Friends never secretly record each other making incriminating statements. That is something a blackmailer would do. Friends do not break up relationships. Friends do not make their friends look bad. Friends do not publicize their friends’ secrets.

Some of my feminist readers might be wondering why I am not yelling at Nick Young for cheating in this post. My answer is simple: it is none of my damn business. Whether or not Iggy decides to leave Nick is her decision. Nick Young is not my fiancé. He is the player on the Lakers. I only care about him in a professional capacity. If I could only root for players who were faithful to their wives, then I would never watch sports. Players “extracurricular activities” are none of my business, and never should be made public.

0330-sub-azelea-russell-young-twitter-4

Now that the video is public, you might be wondering how this will affect the Lakers. Well, on Monday night (the Lakers were aware of this video going public) the Lakers suffered their worst lost. They lost by 48 point to Utah. In that game, the players refused to pass to Russell or even sit next to him on the bench. At the team breakfast he was also forced to sit alone.

Russell

The trust is gone from the locker room. I have spoken a lot about having faith in the future of the franchise. I was very hopeful for this young core group. However, this incident is going to cause a huge problem. There have already been trade rumors. I believe that we will see Nick Young either traded or waived this summer.This is the core of my anger: Russell screwed up the chemistry and the future of my team.

Despite everything, Russell is still the future of the franchise and the Lakers need to hope that he can mend fences with his teammates. They were able to win in overtime yesterday, so maybe not all hope is lost.

Time is on his side, and it is possible. Kobe did reveal Shaq’s infidelities back in the day, but no one seems to care anymore. After the game, Kobe spoke to the press about forgiveness and being human. For one more week, Kobe will be the leader of this team, so we will see how much he can influence his team.

Maybe Russell will take this new found hatred and develop a mamba type alter ego like Kobe did after his arrest. Only time will tell, but it will be a long road.

Tomorrow is April Fool’s Day aka national practical joke day, but I have a feeling that the Lakers two biggest jokesters will not be playing any pranks.

Draft Day: Predictions for the Number 2 Pick

Byron Scott Representing the Lakers at the Lottery

Byron Scott Representing the Lakers at the Lottery

Yesterday Lakers fans were rewarded with a rare win when the Lakers procured the #2 pick in the lottery. Less than an hour after the victory, I was already being bombarded with questions. My fans want to know who they will draft. Have no fear LakHer fans, I am here! Christy and Teri, this blog is for you as promised.

I will fully admit, that I am not a big college basketball fan. It is simply not my cup of tea. However, I did watch the championship game, and I have done my research on the top picks, so here is my assessment:

All indications seem to point to the Lakers picking Jahlil Okafor. He is the center from Duke, and there are certainly some great reasons to pick him. Offensively he is a great and polished center. My biggest problem with him is his deficient defensive ability. He lacks shot blocking skills and appears to need a lot of work defending the paint. Also, he cannot shoot his free throws, and as Lakers fans we are all familiar with having centers who can’t hit their free throws. ***Cough Cough*** “Hack a Shaq” ***Cough Cough*** “Hack a Howard.” Do you catch my drift?

Do not get me wrong, I am not opposed to us drafting Okafor. I think he is very promising. If we keep Julius Randle and Okafor, then we can have “Twin Towers” again, and I really miss having two bigs. Additionally, the Lakers have been known to utilize Kareem’s coaching skills to polish players. I think a Coach K student would be very receptive to taking advice from one of the greatest centers of all time. Dwight and Bynum proved to be poor students, but I think Okafor would be Kareem’s sponge. Therefore, I have faith that under Kareem’s guidance, Okafor can improve his defensive game.

Before we all jump on the Okafor bandwagon, I would like the Lakers to take a good look at D’Angelo Russell: a combo guard from Ohio State. Personally, I would love for the Lakers to acquire a young guard for Kobe to mentor and take over the team. I think it would be a great transition for Kobe to use his last months with the Lakers prepping his predecessor. Theoretically, Kobe could do this with Okafor, but Okafor is a big with a completely different game. Plus, Kobe tends to clash with our centers. ***Cough Cough*** “Shaq” ***Cough Cough*** “Howard.” Sensing a theme yet?

I think Russell could be a great addition, and the Lakers are in dire need of a quality point guard. Despite his faults, I believe the Lakers will end up with Okafor, but Russell is my dark horse pick.

P.S. Stay tuned this summer for my full analysis covering free agency. I will discuss the players the Lakers should target, and the approach they should use.

Kobe reacting to the Lakers winning the #2 pick

Misery Loves Company

(Chris Carlson, AP)

Photo Credit: (Chris Carlson, AP)

We all know the saying, “Misery Loves Company.” I am assuming a lot of my fans still read my blog in this tumultuous season for that reason alone. However, today I do not want to talk about our misery. Instead, I want to talk about other teams’ misery, and how we can take advantage.

It’s the time of the season where the bad teams face reality and start making changes. We just saw the 3 team trade go down today between the Cavs, OKC, and Knicks. Now it is time to take advantage of everyone else who is also suffering and making some changes.

Byron Scott can monitor Kobe’s minutes and have him miss games, but let’s call a spade a spade, this season is done for the Lakers. I am not in favor of clearing out cap space, instead I want the Lakers to acquire some quality players so we have some good free agency bait.

I have said it before, and I will say it again, players are not going to come to the Lakers simply because we can afford them, we have the legacy, we have Kobe, and or LA is awesome. Those reasons don’t fly anymore. This generation of players want it all: the money, the city, and the championship. Right now we can only offer 2/3.

We have a lot of players with contracts that expire this year. Mitch/Jim did that on purpose so we would have cap space. Basically, they went with the Miami Heat strategy. Here is the problem with that strategy. Miami had Dwayne Wade rallying the troops to Miami. No matter how hard LeBron tried, Wade and Bosh refused to go Cleveland. There was brief talk about going to Chicago, but Wade and Bosh decided to force LeBron’s hand. Bosh was going to follow Wade wherever he went, but only Miami could afford to sign all 3. If Wade and Bosh decided to go Chicago, then LeBron would be a lose canon and probably would have gone back to Cleveland.

It was a brilliant strategy. One that I have no doubt Pat Riley played some role in, but my point is that we cannot play that game. Kobe (unlike the previously mentioned big 3) is not in the prime of his career. I can also mention the fact that many people seem to think playing with him is a nightmare, but I refuse to give that topic any more credence. Needless to say, he doesn’t hold the same stock as those players did 4.5 years ago.

Regardless, Jim Buss said the strategy is that we have enough money to sign 2 big free agents. I already discussed at length the stupidity of that statement, so here is my new strategy: Kobe needs to reach out to players and have them decide to pull a Wade-LeBron-Bosh move to come to LA. He needs to promise to mentor and then hand the team over. Basically, he needs to give them what he refused to give Dwight Howard.

Players do not want to gamble and see if big cities can turn it around. We have watched the Knicks struggle for years, much to Melo and Amare’s horror. Instead, players want to go to teams that have good building blocks so they won’t be stuck in purgatory for years (sound familiar?). Dwight Howard jumped ship because he hated playing for this team (D’Antoni and Kobe) and he could see the destructive path we were on. His move has obviously paid off since Houston is a contender in the west.

Luckily, we have a good amount of teams who will look to revamp their roster. The entire eastern conference (minus the top 4 teams) is a disaster. All those teams all crumbling and need to make changes if they ever want to compete with the west. Also, the west is so competitive that teams will look to add in the missing piece to take them to the next level. While the Lakers do not have anyone on the team to trade to fulfill that purpose, they do have assets they can trade to a third party in order to make that trade happen. Expiring contracts are useful and the Lakers are full of those.

My point, is that we have plenty of options. I am not going to sit here and give a list simply because there are so many directions to take this team. The Brooklyn Nets have put their entire team on the trading block, and players like Kevin Love and Rajon Rondo do not appear to be set in their new teams.

We have until the All Star break to make moves, and if we play our hand correctly, then we can put ourselves in a great position to acquire free agents. Or we can do what Jim wants, and simply sit back and do nothing while we all go down with the ship. Let’s see how this plays out.

 

P.S. We had 2 tragic loses in the NBA community this week: Stuart Scott and Mitch Kupchak’s 15 year old daughter Alina. I would like to send my condolences to both families. There are no words.

Mamba Busters

LakersKobe has been taking heat his entire career, but recently, critics have stepped it up a notch. Now they are claiming that the Lakers would be better off without him. We would certainly be better off without the massive contract, but not without the man.

That theory has floated around a bit for years, but it really came to head when the Lakers crushed the Golden State Warriors last week without Kobe. Kobe took the night off to rest due to all the ailments that come with old age.

After the impressive win, the reporters started asking whether the Lakers would be better without him. After all, they did play an amazing game without him. However, this game was a fluke. Sorry to burst your bubble Lakers fans. It is very common for teams to rally together and play a great game after their leader goes down.

My theory proved to be true when the Lakers suffered yet another Christmas Day Massacre. This one hurt even more since it was dished out by former Laker Pau Gasol.

Kobe did return last night, but unfortunately we still lost. You may say that this fact busts my theory. You may say that once Kobe returned everything went bag again but in reality it just shows the simple fact: the Lakers are a terrible team. Regardless of whether or not Kobe plays, we are going to lose and we are going to lose a lot. Sorry for the pessimistic note. However, with Kobe we at least have a fighting chance. The Lakers are 8-20 with Kobe, but without him we would have lost even more games. Remember, we went 1-2 without him in the lineup. We need players who can get their own shot, and right now he and Nick Young are the only ones doing that.

Instead of discussing whether or not the Lakers are better with or without Kobe, we should be discussing the inconsistency of Boozer and Lin. Right now the Lakers only have 2 consistent scoring threats. However, when Lin and Boozer play well, then they open up the entire floor. I am singling them out since we know they are capable. It is not unreasonable for me to expect at least 15 points per game from each of them. They have done it in the past, and they managed to step it up in Kobe’s absence, so now they need to do it on a consistent basis and stop relying so much on the Mamba. Otherwise they can say adios to LALA land.

The only way in which the Lakers benefit from Kobe’s absence is that it does force other players (like Lin and Boozer) not to rely on him. We constantly see them “Kobe watch”: that is when they just pass him the ball and stand around to see what he does. I do not blame Kobe for that, I blame the players. They need to stop being so dependent on him. He is 36 years old and has suffered multiple injuries; give the poor guy a break!

We are going through tough times in Lakerville, and I know that we all want to blame it on a scape goat (that’s what my favorite Buss siblings are here for right?), but we have to remember to appreciate Kobe. He is a legend, and we are so lucky to be able to witness his greatness. Years from now the next generation will ask us about watching him play, just like how I ask my dad about the Magic and Jerry West days.

Kobe is a hop skip and a jump away from retirement, so instead of wondering whether or not the Lakers play better without him, we need to cherish every single minute he is on the floor, because it won’t be long before his jersey is hanging in Staples with the rest of our legends.

Let the Countdown Begin

NBA1400-LAL-ZM-1It is no secret that I am not Jim Buss’ biggest fan. I have written many blog posts criticizing his management style (and hair). Today though, Ben Bolch of the LA Times impressed me with his analysis of Jim Buss, and the time line he laid out for Lakers fans. Just to recap: back in April Jim promised us Lakers fans that the Lakers would be contenders in 3-4 years, if he could not deliver on that promise, then he promised to step back from the team. Bolch discusses two very important issues in this article: the Lakers approach in the off season, and actually waiting 3 more years to see in the inevitable. While I agree with many of Bolch’s points, I see things slightly differently.

When it comes to the off season, I mostly agree with Bolch’s initial analysis, “[Jim Buss] used an all-or-nothing approach the last two summers and there was no need to guess which side the Lakers came out on. Their resulting rosters weren’t going to make the playoffs, fully intact or not…Buss and General Manager Mitch Kupchak failed to bring in the kind of mid-tier free agents who would have kept the Lakers competitive and provided tradable assets, instead waiting for, well, what, exactly? The summer of 2015?” I have always preached that the Lakers needed to be bulk up and be prepared for the summer of 2015, but I didn’t mean that they should fill their roster with scrubs. You need to have assets to lure free agents to come play for you, and right now the Lakers are severely lacking in that department.

One of my biggest dreams for the Lakers has been for them to acquire Brandon Jennings. I have wanted him on our team since he was drafted in in 2009. A couple of weeks ago he came out and staunchly defended Kobe Bryant. He proclaimed his desire to play with the superstar and said he would have multiple rings by now if he was a Laker. He will be a free agent in 2016, but he could have been a free agent in 2013 if we could have gotten involved and stopped his sign and trade to Detroit. This talented point guard was the runner up to “Rookie of the Year” and will be a superstar. I want him on our team! Block is right, we need more mid-tier free agents, and he is one of them!

Bolch discussed the 2015 free agency class, and essentially dismissed it. He doesn’t think we can get any of the big players and downgraded a bunch of the high valued players. I disagree with Block on his assessment of Rondo. The relationship between Rondo and the Celtics has been deteriorating for years, and everyone knows he will leave if he isn’t traded first. I can see no better way for Rondo to give that organization the middle finger, then by leaving it for its biggest rival. I will however agree with the injury concerns that Bolch mentioned. I do not believe they are as bad as Nash, but it is something we would have to be aware of.

I will also agree with Bolch’s assessment of Kevin Love, Dragic, and Gasol. Barring some big catastrophe, I do not see him walking away from James and Irving. Once that trade was completed that eliminated all hope of him playing for the Lakers in the near future. I also agree that Dragic and Marc Gasol are long shots. They will probably stay put unless something major happens. Sorry to burst your bubble fans, but I do not want to fill your head with false hope.

I still think Aldridge is a possibility since I do not see Portland getting out of the second round. Portland does not have the same allure as LA, so I think it is very possible he could jump ship with the hopes of luring in other players with him.

I will also concur that Greg Monroe, DeAndre Jordan, Paul Millsap, Omer Asik and Wesley Matthews are more “complementary pieces than franchise-altering stars,” but we already discussed the Lakers need to get those types of players. Therefore it is crucial that the Lakers acquire at least one of those, especially if they are unable to catch one of the big fish.

Lastly, I would like to discuss Ben’s fear of waiting 3 years for the inevitable to occur. Unlike Ben, I am going to take a more optimistic approach. Since Buss set this deadline there are really only 2 outcomes.

First possible outcome: the Lakers are still dreadful and Buss steps down. This appears to be the most likely scenario, especially given the Lakers current 3-13 standing. This is the worst case scenario, but it will end up working out for the best. After the 2018 season if the Lakers are still bad, then Buss will step down and put someone else in charge, and that person will most likely be more competent than Jimbo. They can’t be worse right? Therefore we will actually have someone to put the Lakers on track to greatness again. Sure it will suck to be terrible for multiple years, but it may be a necessary sacrifice for Buss to see that he is not the man for the job. Once the Lakers can get good management in place, then LA will be a desirable destination again. Change in management can change everything (just ask the Clippers).

Second possible outcome: Jim rises to the pressure and actually puts together a good team. This outcome would be fantastic for the Lakers. Everyone is happy (except for Mark Cuban) and we have a young management team that proves they can put a good team together. As long as players have faith in an owner/GM then they will gamble on them. No one ever doubted Jerry’s ability to put together a great team, and that is why every player in the league wanted to play for the Lakers.

Technically, there is a third possible outcome: the Lakers are still terrible in 2018, but Jim Buss refuses to leave. Personally, I do not see this being very likely. The media in LA would hound him, and I do not think anyone would take him seriously again. Jimbo has put himself into a corner and he is going to face the music. The worst case scenario if the Lakers were still terrible in 2018 would be that he hires a figure head who takes credit for all the decisions, but is the one actually making the decisions.

Despite all my instincts telling me otherwise, I am going to choose to remain optimistic and hope that Buss rises to the challenge. Mitch is a great GM and I highly doubt that he is on board with all the decisions and strategies that Buss is currently implementing. My hope is that Buss realizes he is over is head, and starts taking Mitch’s advice more seriously. Otherwise, we will always have 2018.

P.S. Great win against the Raptors!