Ding Dong Jimmy’s Gone

magic-johnson-calls-out-jim-buss-just-say-you-made-mistakes-2015True LakHer fans will notice that I have somewhat recycled my blog post title, but it was too fitting not to reuse. After years of torture, Jeanie finally fired her brother and Mitch. When I wrote my blog earlier this month, I thought we would have to wait until this summer to see this moment. However, Jeanie realized we needed new blood to get us through the trade deadline. Kudos to her.

My jubilation is mostly focused on Jimmy, but Mitch has proven to have questionable judgment so I am glad he is gone too. The Lakers needed a clean slate with new management. This opinion was only amplified after Bleacher Report released this scathing article about Jim and Mitch. This article outlined all their questionable decisions, but the worst one by far was the Chris Paul trade. It was revealed that we could have traded Andrew Bynum for Chris Paul without Stern vetoing the trade. However, Jim Buss refused because of his obsession with Bynum. I didn’t think I could hate Jim more, until I read that piece.

Twenty four hours after this article was released, and Jeanie finaly made the right decision, even if it took her “too long.” Now our legendary Magic Johnson will replace Jim Buss (talk about twisting the knife). I am going to start off by being cautiously optimistic and also skeptical. I am not sure if Magic can flourish in this role. Ex-players have struggled in this role (Jerry West excluded). While putting this post together, he made is first trade with the Houston Rockets. They got Lou Williams, and we got Corey Brewer and a first round draft pick. My initial reaction wasn’t positive, but I will wait until after the trade deadline on Thursday. It appears that Magic wants to play the draft game and stockpile those assets, but I want to see the strategy behind this move before I commit to a position. Magic sold Jeanie on a vision and plan, something that Mitch and Jim clearly lacked, so I want to watch this play out over the next couple of days.

Also, while putting this blog together it appears that the Lakers are going to hire Rob Pelinka as the new GM. He is a famous agent for athletes, and represents our very own Kobe Bryant. I have mixed feelings about this move. On the one hand he has relationships with players all over the league. Additionally, he appears to have a high basketball IQ and business mind. These are key factors in assembling and recruiting a team. He has been on the other end of these trades for players before, so he knows a different angle. The biggest con for him is his lack of front office experience. He is an agent, not an exec. I see this being either a completely brilliant move, or one that will blow up in our faces. Again, I am choosing to be cautiously optimistic.

Until Thursday, I am choosing to focus on my joy. We are turning the page on this very dark chapter in Lakers history. We will not fix this team overnight, but Jeanie has finally untethered the Lakers from her incompetent brother. Now she can run this team the way she wants without worrying about his feelings. If Magic and Rob turn out to be busts, I do not think it will take her this long to fire them, or for me to criticize them.

Rules I Would Like to See the NBA Address

Jeff Van Gundy (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)

Jeff Van Gundy (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)

With the Free Agency Season coming to an end (post on that coming soon), I have another topic I want to cover: NBA rules. Whenever I watch an NBA game with Jeff Van Gundy giving play by play analysis, I always love to hear his takes on the rules. Usually, I roll my eyes and laugh at how much he contradicts himself, but every once in a while I will agree with him. The NBA rules are definitely not perfect, and the refs who enforce them are only human. This is why every summer the NBA looks at the rules and tries improve the game. After being an impartial viewer during this post season, I have put together the rules I would like the NBA to either create or edit.

Expand Instant Replay- Challenges

I think the NBA has done a very good job at trying to use instant replay to make the right calls. However, they can take it a step further. Right now, the referees can only check to see who the ball went off of, if the play happened in the last 2 minutes of the game. I understand that those are crucial minutes, but when a game is close for 48 minutes, then every possession matters. This is why I think they should give coaches a limited number of “challenges.” In tennis, players can challenge if they think the ball was in or out, and I would like to see the NBA implement the same rule. Give both coaches a few challenges each to use at their leisure. If a coach challenges the play and the coach is correct, then they get to keep that challenge and the play is ruled in their favor, however, if the coach is wrong, then they lose the challenge and are limited in how many more they can use. This rule will keep teams from challenging every single play, but will force the referees to take a second look at a play if there is a serious question.

Additionally, I want to see the NBA expand instant replay for goal tending. It is rarely a subjective call, and they can make the rule that they can only overrule the decision if the replay is clear. That call is miscalled all the time and effects the game.

Eliminate Hack-a-Shaq

Going back to the “last 2 minutes of the game,” rule the NBA is very fond of, I want the NBA to eliminate all hacking throughout the game, not just the last 2 minutes. Right now teams are using this rule as a strategy to foul either throughout the entire game, or for the 4th quarter to climb back into the game. It is bad basketball. Let’s simply make the rule that if you foul away from the ball, and you are in the penalty, then the team gets 2 free throws and the ball regardless of what quarter or time it is.

These first 2 rules I want edited because I believe in consistency. If something is not allowed in the last 2 minutes of the game, then it shouldn’t be allowed in the first 46.

Fouling Jump Shooters

Another rule that players have taken full advantage of, is the rule that rewards jump shooters if the defender jumps to try and block the ball. We are seeing jump shooters now jump into the defenders to draw the foul. I think we need to edit that rule. If a defender jumps onto a shooter because he pump fakes, then the shooter deserves to be rewarded and go to the foul line. However, if the shooter contorts or jumps into the defender, then I believe there should either be a no-call or an offensive foul call.

Flagrant Fouls

There is way too much grey area with this rule. I think the NBA needs to simply admit a few aspects of this rule. First, they need to acknowledge that they are looking at intent. Intent is never mentioned in the rule book, but clearly that is the biggest issue at hand. If a player inadvertently elbows someone going for a rebound, then it is a simple foul. However, if Ron Artest winds up his elbow and gives James Harden a concussion then it is clearly intention (sorry Metta I am still not buying it was an accident). Second, I agree with Van Gundy that there might need to be different rules for the playoffs and regular season. I know I am contradicting myself after I stated that I wanted consistency, but I am simply calling out the facts. In the playoffs, players get away with much more physical content then they would in the regular season, so if this is the case, then the flagrant fouls also need to follow this trend. Third, we need to look at who is committing the flagrant foul. Again, if Ron Artest fouls someone hard, then you are going to want to air on the side of caution and punish him since he is a repeat offender. The same goes for bigs like Dwight Howard and Kendrick Perkins. Fourth, we need to look at impact. A hit from a big guy like Dwight is going to hurt a lot more than an elbow from J.R. Smith. This may seem unfair to the bigs, but I believe in the punishment fitting the crime. Remember that saying, “No harm, no foul?” Well I believe that perfectly describes flagrant fouls. I am not saying that someone needs to get injured for a flagrant foul to be called, but I thought it was fitting that Ron Artest was suspended for 7 games after that hit to James Harder. Harden was out for a quite a few games, so if he can’t play, then neither should the man that hurt him (if it was intentional).

Free Agency Commitments

In case you haven’t heard yet, De’Andre Jordan decided at the 11th hour to go back to the Clippers. He made this decision 5 days after committing to the Dallas Mavericks. I think this is appalling. I cannot believe that Jordan is allowed to simply walk away from a verbal contract without any repercussions. The Dallas Mavericks negotiated in good faith, and proceeded with their free agency season under the impression that Jordan would be wearing their uniform come fall.

The NBA apparently allows players to re-neg on verbal agreements as long as they have not signed a contract. Players are not allowed to sign a contract before July 9th, so before that deadline players can change their mind. Jordan and the Clippers took advantage of this fact.

After Jordan called Doc Rivers and revealed he was having second thoughts, the Clippers contingent (including owner Steve Balmer, Doc Rivers, Blake Griffin and Chris Paul) flew to his Texas home and refused to leave his side until he signed a Clippers contract at midnight. This actually lead to a Twitter emoji war. Blake Griffin even went as far as barricading the door to keep Mark Cuban from entering to try to talk to Jordan.

Blake Barricades Door

Blake Barricades Door

This is all completely unprofessional and I believe there should be consequences. I believe the league should either treat these agreements as verbal contracts and not allow players to change their mind, or they should implement punishments like the NCAA does for players who switch schools.

Questioning Mitch Kupchak’s Judgment

Mitch-on-phoneThe other day I offered my opinions and analysis after the trade deadline, now it is Kupchak’s turn. I have to say that despite all the bad times the Lakers have experienced over the last few years, I have never once questioned Mitch’s vision or judgment, until now. Reading this Q&A has left some serious doubts in my head, so lets dive in and look at the highlights:

On Expectations for the Season:

“I’m not gonna cry about injuries, but we were hopeful certainly that Kobe and Julius Randle would be able to play the full season, and that would be fun. I thought Julius would make us into a 60-win team”

That quote tells me that Mitch may have become a bit delusional. First of all, Julius was struggling in the pre-season. There were serious doubts about him being able to make the transition into the NBA. We see a lot of great draft picks flounder in the NBA, and it looked like Julius might be one of them. Second of all, Kobe is 36 years old coming off back-to-back career ending injuries, so the fact that Mitch thought he could play a full season is ridiculous. Kobe had battled injuries for years and has needed to sit out games. However, lets enter this beautiful imagination land and assume all the best-case scenarios. Lets assume for a moment that both Kobe and Julius were able to play a full season. Lets also pretend that Kobe was playing at his all-star best, and that Julius was on the verge of winning “Rookie of the Year.” Even if all those things happened, they still wouldn’t be a 60 game winning team. It is incredibly difficult to win that many games, and it would be nearly impossible to do that in this current western conference, especially with the remaining supporting cast.

On Magic Johnson’s Criticism:

(Recap: Magic recently took more shots at Jimmy for not listening to Mitch)

“I didn’t see all of Earvin’s comments. I have the same authority that I had with Dr. Buss. Jerry West had the same authority with Dr. Buss, and I’ve got that same authority with Jimmy. Jimmy and I work very closely together, and he does not make decisions in a vacuum. For some reason, he gets a lot of the criticism, and maybe that just comes along with a transition from an owner like Dr. Buss, but that’s not fair. Any decision or anything that’s happened in the last two or three years that people have a problem with, I was involved or leading the way. So, if there’s criticism, then it should then be directed at me as well. He is not making decisions in a vacuum. He and I work very closely together. And quite frankly, if it gets to the point where he and I don’t agree, I think he would defer to me, which is pretty much what Dr. Buss would do, although from time to time, Dr. Buss would say, ‘Well Mitch…’ or ‘Well Jerry, I hear you, but we’re gonna do this.’ But most of the time, Dr. Buss and Jimmy would defer to the basketball person.”

Well I believe that statement is half true. I believe he has the exact same authority that he had under Jerry that he now has under Jimmy. I believe that Mitch is allowed to pursue trades and deals, but not take any action without the owner’s approval. However, I believe the next step/statement is where everything falls apart. I do believe that Jerry mostly listened to Mitch, but I believe that Jimmy has simply stuck his head in the sand. Why do I believe that? Because we saw amazing deals happen and adjustments happen under Jerry, but with Jimmy we have seen nothing but consistently bad ideas.

Remember when we drafted Andrew Bynum? That was when Jerry was grooming Jimmy to take over. Jimmy was the one who decided to draft Andrew; despite the fact that we knew he was going to have knee issues. Then for years Jimmy refused to allow any trade talks to revolve around him. Kobe hated Andrew Bynum, but Jimmy stuck to his guns despite Kobe even threatening to leave the Lakers. That’s right he was so stubborn we almost lost our super star over him. Then remember that Chris Paul trade that was vetoed? Notice how we were going to ship out Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol, aka 2 out of our big 3, but Andrew Bynum was conveniently staying put? The only reason we ever got rid of Andrew was because Mitch was able to convince Jerry in a moment of lucidity to swap him for Dwight Howard. Publicly Jimmy said that he supported that decision, but there have been rampant rumors that there was fighting over this deal.

Another moment that showed his absolute stubbornness at the detriment of the team: picking D’Antoni or Phil Jackson. Publicly, he has blamed that decision on his dead father, and his own sister shut him up and said that their father was way too sick to be involved in that discussion. I believe Jeannie since Jerry passed away shortly after. It is known publicly that Jimmy doesn’t like Phil and is intimidated by his knowledge. Smart leaders surround themselves with smart people that will challenge them. Remember Lincoln’s “Team of Rivals” or JFK’s “Devils Advocate?” I remember listening to Charles Barkley criticize Michael Jordan as an owner because he went out to dinner with him before draft night, and realized that Michael had surrounded himself with all “Yes Men.” In the end the Bobcats ended up drafting Adam Morrison instead of Brandon Roy. Unfortunately, that appears to be what Jimmy wants too, despite what Mitch is saying publicly.

I do not blame Mitch for making those comments. The Lakers have an image problem and it doesn’t do him any good to throw his owner under the bus. That never works out for anyone (just ask Charlie Sheen). However, that will not stop people like Magic and me from pointing out the obvious.

How Stern Exacerbated the Sterling Saga

chris-paul-sternHey LakHer fans! Hope you didn’t miss me too much!  I am back after letting “legal expert” Adam Waks take over for a few days. The Sterling debacle has lead to a lot of discussion and debate. It has stirred up a lot of emotions for everyone who has been touched by this story.

Adam covered some of the legal issues surrounding this saga in the last few days, but now I want to look back a bit further. People have been criticizing the NBA for failing to take action against Donald Sterling sooner. There have been accusations for years: between the DOJ settlement and the Elgin Baylor termination lawsuit. People want to know why the NBA didn’t take action in those cases. Well, without going too deep into the legal issues (since I like to leave those to Adam), I can say that they probably did not have a choice.

The DOJ case was settled, and that does not necessarily mean Sterling was guilty. Of course, we now can all believe that Sterling was guilty, but people settle for various reasons. He may have thought it was cheaper to settle than fight, certain pieces of evidence brought up at trial could have tarnished his reputation, or he simply did not want to deal with the negative publicity. During his press conference, Silver explained that every allegation was investigated; unfortunately, once the case was settled, their investigation probably ended as well.

The same goes for Elgin Baylor. I will always have faith in my Laker, but he lost his case in court. Sterling was given due process, so the NBA was cornered. The NBA cannot punish Sterling on Baylor’s word alone, especially once the courts ruled in Sterling’s favor. My fans may be unhappy with this view, but since I come from a family of lawyers (sorry Grandma Barbara), I must respect the process.

Of course, there have been other allegations over the years. Baron Davis accused Sterling of heckling him during practice. I have no idea if those allegations were investigated. However, it is public knowledge that NBA have tried to convince Sterling to sell in the past, therefore it would make sense that they would try to get as much ammunition as possible to entice him to sell.

Now, here is where there is a wrinkle in the story. In December 2011, David Stern forever tainted his reputation as commissioner by vetoing the Chis Paul trade to the Lakers. Stern let owners like Dan Gilbert bully him into overturning a trade. There was no legitimate reason for this veto; the owners were simply tired of the Lakers getting superstars.

There is a reason why the Lakers attract superstars. We had a wonderful owner in Dr. Buss, we are located in beautiful Los Angeles, and we are one of the most successful franchises in history.

Owners can bemoan all they want, but we are a great organization. However, that year David Stern had the power to veto a trade made by the Hornets. It is ironic that I am complaining about how Stern took over a team from an owner, but I am rejoicing in Silver doing the exact same thing to Sterling. Believe me, I see it.

However, this move was catastrophic for everyone. First off, we ended up with two unhappy all stars, and eventually had to trade Lamar Odom for draft picks. Those draft picks eventually led to the acquisition of Steve Nash (see this whole veto is still biting us in the ass).

Next, and more importantly, Stern gave CP3 to Sterling on a silver platter. For 30 years the Clippers had been a punch line, but now they are contenders.

The acquisition of Chris Paul substantially increased the value of the Clippers. Sterling bought the Clippers for $12.5 million back in 1981. However, the Milwaukee Bucks were recently sold for a cool $550 million. The Bucks are a small market, unsuccessful team. This means that we can expect Sterling to make a huge profit by selling the team. Big offers will come in from the ever expanding list of interested celebrities. He will make a much more substantial profit now, then he would have if that trade had never been vetoed.