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!