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.

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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.

Game Analysis: Lakers V. Spurs

IMG_1341

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!

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.

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.

Misery Loves Company

(Chris Carlson, AP)

Photo Credit: (Chris Carlson, AP)

We all know the saying, “Misery Loves Company.” I am assuming a lot of my fans still read my blog in this tumultuous season for that reason alone. However, today I do not want to talk about our misery. Instead, I want to talk about other teams’ misery, and how we can take advantage.

It’s the time of the season where the bad teams face reality and start making changes. We just saw the 3 team trade go down today between the Cavs, OKC, and Knicks. Now it is time to take advantage of everyone else who is also suffering and making some changes.

Byron Scott can monitor Kobe’s minutes and have him miss games, but let’s call a spade a spade, this season is done for the Lakers. I am not in favor of clearing out cap space, instead I want the Lakers to acquire some quality players so we have some good free agency bait.

I have said it before, and I will say it again, players are not going to come to the Lakers simply because we can afford them, we have the legacy, we have Kobe, and or LA is awesome. Those reasons don’t fly anymore. This generation of players want it all: the money, the city, and the championship. Right now we can only offer 2/3.

We have a lot of players with contracts that expire this year. Mitch/Jim did that on purpose so we would have cap space. Basically, they went with the Miami Heat strategy. Here is the problem with that strategy. Miami had Dwayne Wade rallying the troops to Miami. No matter how hard LeBron tried, Wade and Bosh refused to go Cleveland. There was brief talk about going to Chicago, but Wade and Bosh decided to force LeBron’s hand. Bosh was going to follow Wade wherever he went, but only Miami could afford to sign all 3. If Wade and Bosh decided to go Chicago, then LeBron would be a lose canon and probably would have gone back to Cleveland.

It was a brilliant strategy. One that I have no doubt Pat Riley played some role in, but my point is that we cannot play that game. Kobe (unlike the previously mentioned big 3) is not in the prime of his career. I can also mention the fact that many people seem to think playing with him is a nightmare, but I refuse to give that topic any more credence. Needless to say, he doesn’t hold the same stock as those players did 4.5 years ago.

Regardless, Jim Buss said the strategy is that we have enough money to sign 2 big free agents. I already discussed at length the stupidity of that statement, so here is my new strategy: Kobe needs to reach out to players and have them decide to pull a Wade-LeBron-Bosh move to come to LA. He needs to promise to mentor and then hand the team over. Basically, he needs to give them what he refused to give Dwight Howard.

Players do not want to gamble and see if big cities can turn it around. We have watched the Knicks struggle for years, much to Melo and Amare’s horror. Instead, players want to go to teams that have good building blocks so they won’t be stuck in purgatory for years (sound familiar?). Dwight Howard jumped ship because he hated playing for this team (D’Antoni and Kobe) and he could see the destructive path we were on. His move has obviously paid off since Houston is a contender in the west.

Luckily, we have a good amount of teams who will look to revamp their roster. The entire eastern conference (minus the top 4 teams) is a disaster. All those teams all crumbling and need to make changes if they ever want to compete with the west. Also, the west is so competitive that teams will look to add in the missing piece to take them to the next level. While the Lakers do not have anyone on the team to trade to fulfill that purpose, they do have assets they can trade to a third party in order to make that trade happen. Expiring contracts are useful and the Lakers are full of those.

My point, is that we have plenty of options. I am not going to sit here and give a list simply because there are so many directions to take this team. The Brooklyn Nets have put their entire team on the trading block, and players like Kevin Love and Rajon Rondo do not appear to be set in their new teams.

We have until the All Star break to make moves, and if we play our hand correctly, then we can put ourselves in a great position to acquire free agents. Or we can do what Jim wants, and simply sit back and do nothing while we all go down with the ship. Let’s see how this plays out.

 

P.S. We had 2 tragic loses in the NBA community this week: Stuart Scott and Mitch Kupchak’s 15 year old daughter Alina. I would like to send my condolences to both families. There are no words.

The Battle of LALA Land

cartoons_kobe_bryant_-1280x800I was reading this article and immediately wanted to share it with my readers. http://espn.go.com/blog/truehoop/post/_/id/67116/los-angeles-lakers-kobe-bryant-civil-war

It discusses the new clash between Kobe fans and Lakers fans. It was an interesting perspective that I had never considered. It certainly explains why fans tend to fall into two groups when it comes to this new rebuild process. I particularly found this to be true after my post last week:

https://nwaksblog.wordpress.com/2014/03/28/rumor-has-it/

After I wrote this post I spoke to one of my fans who believes we should trade our pick for Kevin Love and try to win now. I clearly fall into the Lakers first camp by believing we should be cautious and take our time, but it appears that he applies to the Kobe before team way of thinking because he thinks trading for Kevin Love is worth the risk.

Now I want to my readers to brace themselves because I am about to do something shocking: compliment Jim Buss. When Kobe got his contract extension back in the fall, I will admit I was a bit surprised. I was surprised that the Lakers settled so quickly on such a high price. After taking a Negotiations class, I was even more surprised. Time was on the organizations’ side. It appeared to be within their best interest to drag it out because they had more to bargain with: Kobe has repeatedly said he wants to retire with the Lakers, Kobe was still injured, Kobe is old, and the CBA makes it difficult to pay high prices for players and be competitive. These were all elements the Lakers could use to drive down the price. Instead, the negotiated very quickly and on a very high price.

Unlike most fans, I did not blame Kobe; I blamed the organization. Honestly, who would turn down $50 million? Would you? Instead I put the blame on the organization for not either pushing harder, or deciding to wait. Now, here is where I compliment Jim Buss.

I think Jim Buss actually was using good foresight when he signed Kobe so early. Maybe he realized that this season was going to be a crap shoot and Kobe was going to lash out and complain anyway. Instead of allowing Kobe to be unattached for next year, Jim tied him into an expensive contract that no other team would touch. Now, even though Kobe is angry at the organization, he is stuck. This isn’t 2007. He is not at the prime of his career and no one is going to take him for $50 million now.

Kobe can complain all he wants, but once he signed that lavish deal, he gave up the only bargaining power that he had. Now Jim Buss holds the cards and can build the team however he desires, without the threat of Kobe walking away.

It is completely possible that I am giving Jim Buss way too much credit. Maybe this was all Mitch’s idea, or I am just reading too much into the situation. However, if I am right about those decisions, that would significantly increase my confidence in the ownership. I mean, he had to learn something from his father, right?