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).

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.

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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.

Top Free Agency Targets

nba_free_agentsAs I promised, it is time for me to cover the Lakers free agency targets and strategy. We are currently on the cusp of one of the greatest NBA free agency summers in recent history. The Lakers are in a great position to pick up some talent since they have cleaned up the roster and picked up 3 draft picks (including our #2 D’Angelo Russell). There are a plethora of agents to choose from, so in order to keep this blog short and sweet, I am only going to list the free agents that I think we should recruit, and who I think we have a legitimate shot of getting. Therefore, LeBron James will not be on this list. With that said here are my top free agent targets:

Forwards/Centers:

LaMarcus Aldridge

Before I discuss LaMarcus Aldridge, I want to concede that I believe he will go to San Antonio. However, there have been rampant rumors recently that L.A. has moved up his list. I think he might just be using this as a strategy to get more money, but he is a game changer so I believe that we should try to lure him to L.A. He would be a perfect power forward to partner up with Russell. That combo would instantly put us in the playoff discussion.

Paul Millsap/Greg Monroe/Brook Lopez/Robin Lopez

Since we already have a point guard, we obviously need a big to partner up with him. Aldridge is my first choice, but if we can’t convince him that to play in L.A. then we will need a backup plan. Any of these four choices would be solid. I am concerned about these players being overpaid, but the Lakers can afford it.

Guards:

Aaron Brooks/Rajon Rondo/Goran Dragic

I know we just drafted a guard so all of our attention should be on bigs, but Russell is a rookie and we might want to consider getting a more veteran guard to play with him. Kobe is on his way out the door, so we will need another player to take his starting position. Russell is a combo guard so we can put a second point guard into the mix and really run the floor. I think these 3 choices would be great to work with him. I have always loved Brooks, and Rondo has the ability to average a triple double. I also love Dragic and how he ran the floor in Pheonix. L.A. would love a Showtime-esque type of point guard again.

Dark Horse Picks:

DeAndre Jordan/Marc Gasol/Wesley Matthews/ Jimmy Butler

I have selected quite a melting pot of dark horse picks. These pics I have selected are dark horses for various reasons. Some of these I do not think will leave/come to L.A., whereas others I am not sure are really on L.A.’s radar. I would look for L.A. to get some role players in order to make some trades. Mitch has already said he wants to get rid of some of our rookies, but we will need more assets in order to make these trades worthwhile.

Stay tuned to see what the Lakers and other teams do this summer. I will post an update after some moves are made and we have an idea of what our roster will look like this year.

Post Draft Day Analysis

cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwy2mjgzntk1mtrlzwvhy2m2zgywndawm2y3yza2yjey-e1435290349615Yesterday was a pretty historic day for Lakers fans. We got to draft our number 2 pick, and Mitch Kupchak managed to shock everyone by selecting D’Angelo Russell. I am hearing a lot of complaints from my fans, but I am very happy with this decision.

If you take a look at my draft day prediction blog, you will actually see that I wanted the Lakers to consider Russell:

“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.”

Therefore, my LakHer fans should not be too surprised by this decision. I did say that I thought we would pick Okafor, but to keep an eye out for Russell. I actually believe that Russell will be a better fit for the Lakers in the long run. Many analysts are actually predicting that Russell will be the best player in the draft. ESPN’s Statistical Plus/Minus (SPM) numbers

Additionally, a lot of people are complaining that we passed on a great center, and this franchise is known for great centers. I would like to counter that argument. There are 3 Lakers players statues outside of Staples Center: Kareem, Magic, and Jerry. Only one of those players is a center, and the other two are guards. The Lakers are known for having great players. Period. Magic defined Showtime, not Kareem. Between Kobe and Shaq, only one of them stuck around. The Lakers picking a point guard and not a center just shows that they are paying attention to what is happening in the league. Golden State just won the championship behind dynamic guards. Every great team in this era needs a great guard.

Also, Mitch made the point that he wasn’t convinced that Okafor would be a franchise player. I mentioned his deficiencies in my previous draft blog, so I can agree with his point. I am not convinced that Okafor will be great. Drafts are always gambles, so we can definitely revisit this topic at a later date.

Picking a point guard should also give Lakers fans great hope for the future. It has been reported that the Lakers wanted a point guard because Mitch is confident that we will score one of the free agent big men this summer (Marc Gasol, Aldridge, Love). There have been a lot of rumors flying that these players are looking at the Lakers with renewed interest, so stay tuned. I think we have put ourselves in a great position to lure one of them in with the starting line up of Russell and Randle.

Lastly, I know that there was a lot of speculation that the Lakers will trade Russell, but I am not buying it. I think Russell is here to stay, but that our 27th pick is a goner. We used that pick to draft Larry Nance Jr. but I do not think Kobe wants this guy around. Three years ago Larry stupidly tweeted this: “Gee I sure hope Kobe can keep his hands to himself in Denver this time. #rapist”

Everyone has his or her own opinions about that case, and I will certainly not be diving into it. That case happened over a decade ago. Needless to say though, I do not think Kobe and his ego are going to want this guy on the team. He did delete this tweet minutes after he was drafted, but I really do not think it matters. It will be a distraction, and will cause a feud before these two even meet.

Mitch has said from the beginning that he would trade at least one of these rookies, so I think Larry shouldn’t be making any plans to move it L.A. yet.

One final note about Russel, here is what he said after he was drafted, “I want [Kobe] to take me under his wing and gain every piece of knowledge I can possibly gain. That franchise isn’t used to losing, and I’m a winning player.” Thank you Russell for proving my point and proving that you are here to win and learn. I can tell I like you already.

Knick’s Pick

I am not going to cover the other teams picks, since I find them to be irrelevant to the Lakers, but my Uncle Rick and cousin Aidan are Knicks fans and were very distraught yesterday by the selection, so I will discuss that one for them.

I am not sure about this pick. Kristaps Porzingis is a huge gamble. He is not NBA ready, but he has a lot of potential. Unfortunately for Phil Jackson this pick will either be praised for being the diamond in the rough, or he will be slaughtered for squelching the Knicks opportunity to rebuild in the draft.

The biggest problem for Phil, is that he selected this player because he fits the mold for the triangle offense. While the Lakers are evolving their game plan to stay relevant in this league, Phil is sticking with the triangle offense, no matter how many games the Knicks lose.

Analysts are pretty split on whether this was a good decision or not. Personally, I do not know how this will play out, but if I were Phil, I would not be gambling right now. He has lost favor with the Knicks fans, as it was obvious when the fans booed this decision, and now Carmelo Anthony is complaining about it. I know that Dolan gave him a huge contract, but he has been known in the past to fire employees. Phil should be careful. Knicks fans had high expectations for Phil to come in and turn this franchise around, but Phil only has bad deals and records to show for his time in New York.