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.

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Game Analysis: Lakers V. Spurs

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My Dad Pretending to be Kareem Before the Game 2.19.16

Hello LakHer fans! I know it has been a while, but here is a little post from my night at the Friday game. The Lakers faced the Spurs for the last time in Kobe Bryant’s career. Surprisingly, it was a competitive game. There were spurts where we actually looked like a good team, but we could not sustain that kind of momentum for a full 48 minutes.

The downfall really came in the final 2 minutes. Kobe dislocated his finger, but in true Mamba form he wouldn’t let a pesky injury stop him. Gary Vitti popped Kobe’s finger back into place and Kobe went back onto the floor. It was inspiring to see glimmers of the vintage Mamba throughout the game, but Kobe really stuck to his roots and insisted on trying to win the game by himself. He continued to throw up horrible shots that had not chance of becoming baskets until he finally left the game.

The end was disappointing, but not surprising. The Spurs are the second best team in the west, so we never really had a shot of winning. However, I was surprised by the energy we played with, and how the Spurs didn’t play quite up to their usual standards.

Here is my takeaway from the game: right now we are a terrible team, but we have some pieces to lead us into a bright future. This year is all about Kobe, but in a few short months he will take off the Lakers uniform for the last time, and our rookies will take over the team. They are very inexperienced, but I see some raw talent. I love Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., D’Angelo Russell, and Julius Randle. These are really young men with the potential to be all stars.

However, barring some blockbuster free agent signings or trades, the Lakers will not be making the playoffs for a few years. That is a tough pill to swallow, but we are in a complete rebuild mode. Currently, the only worthy veteran on our team (excluding Kobe) is Lou Williams. He is going to need some help. Mitch is going to sell the hell out of these young guys to get the likes of Kevin Durant to join our team.

Lastly, I wanted to put my fans on alert that I will be attending Kobe’s second to last game. He will be taking on the Celtics on April 3rd. I will try to write more posts in the next few months, but definitely be on the lookout for a post at the seasons end.

As usual, thank you to Mike Alder for the tickets!

Getting on the Buss

Jeannie and Jim Buss (I take no photo credit)

Jeannie and Jim Buss
(Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

It looks like I am a bit of a trend setter. After my post on Monday, a slew of writers have followed suit in writing scathing articles about Buss and Co. Additionally, both Kobe and Magic got on the criticism band wagon.

I am not going to focus on what the writers have been saying since they have basically been rehashing what I said, so instead I am going to focus on Kobe and Magic. I am not focusing on them because they are saying anything extremely different, but because their voices are actually heard.

I am going to start with Magic. If you recall, I voiced my disappointment in his decision to censor himself. Now I am going to rejoice because not only is he criticizing, but he is essentially quoting me:

Magic Johnson's Tweets

In case you all did not read my post on Monday, that is exactly what I said (minus the love part for the Buss kids). I am happy that Magic decided to speak out, not because I think it is healthy to kick a team when it is down, but because the Buss kids have shown their reluctance to listen to reason, and there are certain people out there that are hard to ignore. Magic is one of them.

Now, I am going to talk about Kobe Bryant and his extremely candid remarks. He talked about his disappointment in letting Phil get away (again you can look at my previous post), his lack of faith in management, and D’Antoni’s lack of direction. I agree with almost everything he said (clearly). Jim and Jeannie need to get it together and decide where to take the team. Bill Plaschke wrote a very similar article to mine and published it the next day, however he took it a step further (http://touch.latimes.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-79592695/). He suggested that the Buss kids sell the team because they simply cannot work together and live up to their father’s legacy. This is a possibility that they should consider. If they are going to be unwilling to bring in smarter people to help them make decisions (a la Phil Jackson), then the team will eventually plummet and Lakers fans will turn to the Clippers. I gagged writing that last sentence.

I cannot stress how much it hurts that Phil is about to sign with the Knicks. My family is from New York, so now I am going to have to endure the taunting from them for managing to do what the Lakers couldn’t. Not only has Jim Buss hurt me by hurting the Lakers, but now he has hit me on a personal level.

It is pretty clear how I feel about Jim and Jeannie, and now it is extremely clear how Kobe feels. I appreciate him stepping up and speaking out against them, even if it goes against my philosophy of keeping things in house. Based on Kobe’s remarks, it sounds like he has spoken with management at length about how he feels, but they aren’t listening to him. The fact that they traded Steve Blake without giving Kobe a heads up is a low blow.

Obviously I love and support the Black Mamba, but I have one point that I need to bring up and dissect. He was adamant that he did not want to go through the rebuilding process. He said that he had no patience and wanted to compete next year.

I only partially agree with Kobe. I stressed in my last post that we need to hold out and spend our money wisely in 2015, however we still need to be a “good” team in the 2014-2015 season. In order to entice the big names, we need to show them that we are not a rebuilding project, but only a couple of pieces away from a championship. Therefore, we need to use our pick wisely, and sign some solid people to one year deals so that we are a competitive team. We need to make it to the playoffs next year. This year I stressed against being a mediocre 8th seed, now we need to reach for that goal. We are playing different games in the next two summers. This summer is about the draft and next summer is about free agents.

Kobe loves Carmelo Anthony and I am sure would love for him to come to the Lakers, however you all know my strong opinion about that move. Besides, that might be a moot point now that the Knicks are getting Phil Jackson. That was a great move to keep Carmelo, and another example of a reason why the Lakers failed.

I am confident that Kobe will not be thrilled this upcoming season, but he might get one wish. Lakers insiders have been reporting that management has been telling Kobe and Pau that Mike will be fired over the summer. Since it has been reported that Kobe has “no interest” in playing for him next season, he can at least take some solace in that fact. Here’s to the Lakers paying 3 coaches next season because Jim Buss has proven his failure to pick a good one or sign a willing great one.

Since all reports indicate the Phil will sign with the Knicks, I will be posting about future coaching possibilities. Stay tuned.

The Lakers Silver Linings Playbook

There has not been a lot for Lakers fans to celebrate so far this season. We have a 6-7 record, Kobe is still on the mend, Pau has been mostly a non factor, and Steve Nash is showing his age (both through constant injury and telling long stories that put me to sleep while he is trying out being an analyst.) However, there is one positive note in this otherwise bleak season: the bench.

Our bench is hot, and I am not just talking about their physical appearance. The bench is the reason why the Lakers have won those 6 games. It is astounding how well they have played. When I look at this bench I think of the movie “The Replacements.” Like the movie, our bench is made up of pieces that no one really wanted or thought would accomplish anything, but they have managed to be the number 1 scoring bench in the league.

This bench has revitalized the Lakers and have given us fans something to be excited about. They are young, fast, and athletic. One thing we have learned this season is that it doesn’t matter how well Steve Nash or Pau Gasol play, instead the Lakers live and die by the bench.

What I find so fascinating about this bench’s success, is the fact that it is a true team effort. None of these players could win the “6th Man of the Year” Award, yet they are the most offensively successful bench in the league. This is a testament to a successful strategy that does not rely on a single individual. However, no plan is full proof.

As we have seen, these players are young and mostly inexperienced. While there are times when they are explosive, they can also let their immaturity and egos get in the way. This fact was blatantly obvious to me when I attended the Pelicans game 2 weeks ago. I only wish that the middle aged man repeatedly grabbing me anytime those birds scored was the worst thing I had to endure that game. The bench was incapable of passing the ball and instead played one on five and took stupid Kobe-esque shots. Unfortunately, none of these players are Kobe (I am looking at you Nick Young, get your ego in check).

The Lakers are by no means set to win the Championship this year. They are lacking guards and someone to take the shot at the end of the game (I don’t trust Jodie Meeks to consistently make game winners). However, I chose to take the Bradley Cooper approve and see the silver lining.

Lakers v Rockets: Let the Emotion Fest Commense

Tonight the Lakers face off against the man they once believed to be the future face of their franchise: Dwight Howard. This will be an interesting game simply because there is so much animosity spread out amongst both teams. The Lakers are embarrassed that Dwight walk away, Harden is presumably still upset about former Laker MWP giving him a concussion, and then there is always the legendary animosity between Rambis and McHale. All in all, this should be fun.

I grew up watching hockey, so I am not ashamed to admit that I love it when fights break out on the floor. Granted it is never in good in basketball as it is in hockey, but I will take what I can get. I don’t expect Rambis to charge at McHale and then have McHale take him out with a close line tonight, but I will admit that would be awesome.

Instead, I will be looking for more subtle jabs. First, the Lakers will implement Hack-a-Howard (by the way, every analyst always said Hack-a-Dwight and missed such an obvious alliteration, so I will be changing the term). The Lakers will take advantage of a tactic that hurt them so much last year that it put them in the bottom of the pack for free throw percentage.  I expect them to take some aggression out on Howard using this method. Pau of course won’t be aggressive, because that is not his style, but I expect major hits from Jordan Hill. I wouldn’t be surprised to see if Mike puts in a few scrubs just to teach D12 a lesson. I assume all this hacking will lead to technicals and maybe even a little scuffle.

The issues between the Lakers and Dwight are pretty obvious, however I don’t think it will take much to set Harden over the edge either. Harden can play dirty. We have seen this on multiple occasions, and if this game gets physical then I think it is very likely he can get into an altercation. A lot of this will depend on how competitive the game becomes. If it is a blowout on either end then I would expect a fight involving multiple techs near the end of the game. If it is a close game then it will be physical throughout and the refs will keep both teams on a tight leash leading to multiple techs through out the game.

I am most intrigued to see how the coaches behave throughout the game. Kevin McHale has been very public about his hatred for everything purple and gold. He may just be the fuel that turns this current spark into a fire. Mike on the other hand has continually put his foot in his mouth. He keeps saying stupid things regarded Dwight and is universally blamed for his departure. He has a lot to prove. He knows he is coaching on borrowed time and needs to try to extend it as far as he can before the Lakers inevitably fire him and bring back Phil. Being embarrassed by Dwight in the beginning of the season will not earn him any brownie points.

I hope this game brings entertainment from the court and not just from the off court drama. Here’s to hoping Steve Nash can play real minutes and make this game interesting, as opposed to games against the Mavs and Warriors. If not, at least we can all enjoy the commentary from the half time report. Always love Shaq making fun of Dwight, and Kenny making fun of Charles.

Hey Clippers, the Lakers Didn’t Die and Make You King of the Hill

Yesterday it came out that the Clippers are trying to make Staples Center cover up the Lakers’ banners during Clippers home games. My response to the Clippers (in particular Doc Rivers) is, “Who the hell do you think you are?” For 10 years the Clippers were nothing more then a punch line. Now they are a decent team who makes it to the playoffs but have no real chance of winning a championship. They have a lot of good players, including two all stars, but lack the chemistry to face adversity. The organization hopes that Doc Rivers will put them in line, and he probably will make them significantly better, but as we learned from the Shaq and Kobe days, you cannot make players like each other.

Now that I have mentioned the lack of Clippers accomplishments, why don’t I list just a few of the Lakers accomplishments. The Lakers have 16 championships, a former player who is literally the logo of the NBA, a former player who is the highest scorer of all time, and 21 Hall of Famers. Therefore I reiterate, “Who the hell do the Clippers think they are to make such demands?”

The Clippers should feel honored that they get to play in a stadium that houses such greatness. I will stipulate that the Clippers have been a better team then the Lakers the last couple of years. However, the Clippers have not been great. They were eliminated in the second and then the first round. Lakers fans will agree that isn’t greatness, and we would know since we have faced two swift first round play off exists the last two years.

This movement is being spearheaded by Doc Rivers. As a Lakers fan, I both loath and respect the man. It is nice to see that just because he traded in his Celtic green for the Clippers red doesn’t mean he lost an ounce of his hatred. However, I disagree with his approach. Honestly, what is a better way to inspire a team then to have them look up and see all of big brother’s accomplishments? Doc should make his players stare at those banners every time they lose to remind them that until they start winning championships they are nothing in LA. Not only would I have them stare at the Lakers banners, I would also have them stare at the Kings’ and Sparks’ banners. I would remind them that they are the only team in that stadium who has not won a championship or even a Western Conference Final.

This point leads to my next question: Do the Clippers want all the banners covered, or just the Lakers? I honestly believe there is no good answer. If they want just the Lakers’ banners covered then they will show they are petty, and are trying to replace the Lakers any way they can, since they obviously can’t do it with any substantial accomplishments. If they have all the banners covered, then they are just showing their inferiority complex, and teams will not respect them.

I have another question for Doc: Why stop at the banners? Why don’t you cover up all the retired jerseys? It must be tough to see how many great players have played for the Lakers, especially since the Clippers are known for getting good players and then losing them to the Lakers.

Doc should just return to his old tricks and hide a Clippers jersey in the Lakers’ ceiling. We all know he loves doing that.

This movement brings up a running, and yet disturbing trend in the league: players and teams wanting accolades before they actually accomplish anything. The Heat held a parade just for signing the big three. They had to face the critics since it took them 2 years to bring in their first championship. Recently, both LeBron and Dwight have expressed their desire to have their former teams retire their jerseys. I am particularly amused by this request for the same reason. Neither player brought their team a championship and only made it to the finals once. If the Lakers retired a player’s jersey for doing that, well it is easy to say that they would have no numbers left. I have no doubt that LeBron will end up in the Hall of Fame, or that the Heat will retire his number, but I would not be surprised if the Cavs decided he was not worth it. Dwight on the other hand may not make the Hall of Fame. He was a very good player, but he is a shell of his former self and has proved that he cannot be the number 1 option. That type of player isn’t worth retiring a number, just like making it to the playoffs twice does not give you the right to ask a stadium to cover another team’s accomplishments.

I am amused that Doc is becoming an LA style diva and is making demands, but he clearly has not learned from the stars. The stars who make demands have to be star worthy. The Lakers are the big kahuna in LA, even if the Clippers are on the rise. Until the Clipps reach the same level they should be careful. Careers have been ruined in LA because they have been seen as too difficult to work with or make too many demands, just ask Katherine Heigl.

Message to Lakers Fans: There is Hope

For years both my mother and brother Adam have been nagging me to start a Lakers blog. I have resisted for a long time, but I became inspired last week. Last week Adam asked me to help him prep for an interview at a Sports Law firm. He asked me to list what I thought were the most important things happening in the league and with individual teams. Here is what I listed for the Lakers:

1. Lakers brand is in jeopardy: for the first time in history a superstar turned them down, the Buss siblings are fighting, and people don’t know what the future looks like post Jerry Buss
2. Lakers fans are having to readjust their expectations for this season
3. The Lakers organization is going to have to figure out how to keep Kobe since he wants to stay without overpaying him and be able to build for the future

After I gave him this list he told me that as a Lakers fan he felt very depressed. He said my list painted a bleak picture for the Lakers’s future. His depression finally got me to write this post to cheer him up and all Lakers fans who are feeling blue. This post is dedicated to him and Lakers fans looking for a glimmer of hope in this situation.

I’ll admit, on its surface it does look bad. The league is evolving and instead of having the powerhouse Jerry Buss leading the way, we have one incompetent kid with a giant ego and a mullet, and another kid who is basically a glorified groupie. What is even worse about having sub par ownership is the fact that there is infighting. Now I get that siblings fight. I have two brothers but the worse thing I will say about either of them in public is that one nagged me to start a blog. As my co-nagger mother likes to say, “There are two types of people in the world: family and everybody else.” The Buss siblings need to unite and show a good front, because a big part of the Lakers brand was Dr. Buss, so without him around they need to figure out how to keep LALA land the place to play. Now I get that Jeannie is mad about Jimbo publicly snubbing her fiance, so is all of Lakernation. However, she needs to see the big picture: the Lakers will inevitably fire D’Antoni and then bring Phil back (for a lot more money and concessions of course).

Next thing Lakers fans are upset about is the future outcome of this season. Lakers fans are high maintenance and believe anything less then a championship is a wasted season. I understand and empathize with that philosophy. However, I would like to point out that those few years int he mid 2000’s led to us getting Pau Gasol and 2 championships. Sometimes we need to suffer in order to do better in the long term. However the Lakers aren’t taking the best approach. Like last year this will be a mediocre team. Come March we will be in 9th or 10th place fighting for that last playoff spot, and if we by some miracle get it, then we will be swept in the first round. I take an issue with this approach because we are in for a historic draft in 2014. That means that mediocre teams will get solid players, but the worst teams who don’t make the playoffs get potential superstars. I know that Mitch is making a play to get LeBron or Carmelo, however those are both long shots. Something drastic has to happen for those boys to leave the teams they took so much heat for (no pun intended). The only play I see working out is Mitch somehow pulling off a Jerry West and trading for one of those superstars in the draft (ala Vlade Divak for Kobe Bryant). However this will be tough to pull off since the only player we will have on the roster for 2014 is Steve Nash, and let’s be real, if he has another injury crippling season like last year, no one will trade a young star in the making for him. Our hope is that Nash holds up and that Toronto gets a good pick because they want to bring the Canadian back to the homeland.

Lastly, is the Kobe Bryant issue. The man has proclaimed he has no desire to take a pay cut. However here is the catch, he knows the collective bargaining agreement prevents him from making the kind of money he made in the past, and his injury makes him less valuable. The question becomes how much of a pay cut can you give him before snubbing him? Unfortunately he won’t want to pull a Magic Johnson and take a massive pay cut to buy players, as much as I love Kobe he is one selfish son of a bitch. That is what makes him great. My guess is that Mitch will modify his contract so that he makes more some years then others to accommodate the other contracts and minimize the luxury tax.

I know that what I said seems very negative and like there is no hope. Despite everything I said, I still believe the Lakers will come through in the long term. First off, as much as I don’t respect the Buss duo, Jerry was sick for a very long time. He knew he was going to die and has been prepping the kiddies to take over the franchise. I have to believe that some of what he taught rubbed off on them and once they get settled, they will be able to be a fraction of the great owner that he was, and honestly isn’t that all we can ask for? Plus once Jeannie and Phil get married, they will have to put all that messiness behind them. At the end of the day they are siblings and will figure out how to work together. Also, this is still Lakerville: home of 16 championships and celebrity fans. Athletes will still want to play here even if the brand is not as strong as it once was. Look, the brand changed once Showtime ended and Jerry Buss was still the owner. At the end of the day all teams go through cycles and unfortunately we are in a rough patch, but I truly believe that there are certain facts that will keep the Lakers strong in the long term.

Second, I may disagree with how Mitch put the team together for this year, however he pulls off impossible trades. He gave us Pau, CP3 (for like an hour), Dwight, and Steve Nash. He has managed to bring in tons of solid players and build winning teams. I may not be able to see how this ends with a superstar at the end of the tunnel, but I trust Mitch to build a championship team. I think losing Dwight Howard was the best thing that could have happened to us this summer because it relieves us of cap space and of a player who couldn’t handle the pressure of the lime light. Despite all my concerns for the team this year, I have complete faith that Mitch will bring in the tools for another championship, because he has proved it before.

Lastly, we as Lakers fans need to come to terms with the fact that Kobe may not get ring number 6. I have little doubt that Kobe will be back on the floor by Christmas, but I have no idea how much longer he can now play. The contract will be an issue but I know that management will figure it out, even if it unfortunately means overpaying the man. What we as fans need to hope for is for Kobe to recognize his light is at the end of the tunnel and that he is going to need the help he so publicly refused from Shaq. In order to get that help, he needs to take a massive pay cut, because that kind of assistance comes with a very big price tag. Kobe has proven over the last few years that he has become more patient and understanding with age. He still has a long way to go but he certainly has grown from the 17 year old ball hog with no friends. I believe he wants that 6th ring more than anything and will do whatever it takes to get it. I believe that if he is forced to take a big pay cut to bring in big guns he will do it because he wants to win that badly. That is why Laker fans should not lose hope. Kobe is so competitive it scares people. He is a true Laker and will want to ensure its success even after he is gone. His desire to do whatever it takes to win on the court will play out off the court, and let’s be real, the Buss kids and Mitch listen to him.