Let’s Get Ready for the New Season

laker_dad

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.