A worthy quote for this season from my favorite thrash metal band, Anthrax.
Not a whole heck of a lot to come out of this 82 game span. We saw the best and worst out of a lot of NBA players, young and old. From the moment the banners went up #asking Dwight to stay it has been one long discordant note. What started promisingly when we were sitting at .500 and Kobe came back ended Hindenburg-like with the worst season in Los Angeles Laker history. All the camaraderie and team spirit that saw us fight and grit our way to .500 had vanished by the All Star break.
You can blame all sorts of things. Dwight didn’t sign with us. Kobe only played 6 games, Nash only 15. Our entire team lost over 300 total games to player injury, It was pretty much a whole new team that had never played together with a ton of guys on one year deals. Jim. Jeannie. Mike. Phil (or a lack thereof). Pau. Luke Walton, somehow, some way, Luke Walton. Time.
The recent blood moon floating by planet Earth recently got me-a-thinking, always a long-winded and ebullient prospect, and I came up with a stumper of a query: how terrible was this season? During training camp we all hedged our bets, a lot of us here tossed around the notion that we were almost guaranteed a losing season and ought to embrace the Apocalypse, if you will. Hug the fiery blast of the nuclear 82 game implosion and go all in on getting a young super star in a sure fire hit draft in the off-season. DJKB24, FWTBT were advocates of this pretty early on and have been quite consistently.
A lot of us started with a very positive outlook, Michael H, LakerTom, tate are a few that come to mind, that we’d hold the fort until Kobe’s return, maybe Nash could give us half a season (or limited production that equated to as much) and we could squeak into the playoffs and then who knows. The hope was that the one year deals would create chemistry in a bottle, we’re all in this together and if we light a fire under Laker Nation there will be money and a role somewhere, if not here.
In the end, the weight of all of it proved too much. the failure to re-sign Dwight, which I was not a fan of re-signing D12 to a max deal and don’t want to come off as revisionist, the one year deals for so many young guys, the injuries, Kobe’s shadow all dragged this squad down like an albatross. Mike D’Antoni was powerless to stop it, slick system and all. And so it ends. Finale.
It’s a little early, but I’d like to toast and raise a glass to a few coach’s assistants and players. I think Mike stays but Kurt Rambis might be looking at that Time Warner Cable pre/post game seat, again, after his stint as defensive coach. Certainly the Rootin’ Tootin’ Shootin’ Mike D’Antoni System bears some of the blame but there never looked like there was much of a cohesive defensive philosophy displayed on the court. Rambis will go and they’ll bring in someone else. It might help if they draft a defensive minded player.
Chris Duhon’s salary comes off the books although we still owe Mike Brown $5.5 mil for coaching in Cleveland (it would be $8 mil but Cleveland re-signed him to coach for them…again!) Chris Kaman is as close to a guarantee to leave as it is to be sunny most days round these parts. MarShon Brooks may have played his way out of the NBA after not being able to bust into the rotation on a team with nothing to lose. He’s certainly played his way off the Lakers.
Two-time NBA champion Pau Gasol has a low probability of sticking around as a Laker, however, I’ll bet he has a better chance of winning a title next year than Kobe does. I’ve been a fan of Pau since he came into the league. Besides Lamar Odom, Pau has been my favorite Laker for the last 6 years. If he sticks around it’ll be for less money and a reduced role as it’s obvious he’s no longer a 35 mpg player, but he’ll find a home somewhere and I’ll wish him well wherever he lands.
We can all blame whatever elements of this season that we want. The truth is, there was no small amount of decision making and choice into assembling this particular team. There is a lot about this squad we just didn’t get a chance to see. However, there was also a lot of stubbornness and lunk headed behavior that contributed to the disaster we just bore witness to. From top to bottom. To ignore or deny this, or that this season has been a long time coming because of desperate moves that just didn’t work out, is a folly equal to pointing the passionate finger of blame at one individual or another within the Laker hierarchy.
Winning defines the Laker franchise. To fail at the level we did this year would be rough in any decade, fortunately we live in an era of instant world wide opinionating 24/7/365! Any nimrod with a keyboard and an internet connection can spew whatever fleeting thought flitters into his mental periphery. Thus we will see the most public and un-flitered of Laker opinionating EVER. Regardless of whether anyone think it earned or not, it will come. This team means too much to so many people, there will be a mourning.
But then, so too must we begin again.
It starts May 20th with the Falling of the Ping Pong Balls. This will be the first in a series of many steps the front office takes to start rebuilding this team into a winner. Regardless of where it falls within the first 10 picks the potential for them to find a guy that can contribute at a significant level is high, at least on one end of the court or another. The earlier we pick, the more kinetic energy that pick will possess, both to do good or to destroy. A bad pick, someone that pretty much bombs next year and draws the wrath of Laker Nation and Kobe, will be devastating. Likewise, someone that locks it down defensively or scores in the clutch and leads to wins will be a resounding victory. That’s how it is in Laker Land, there are no small, incremental steps.
It continues in the training room. Getting Kobe healthy, getting Nash healthy enough to contribute at a Derek Fisher-esque level, if they re-sign any of these guys get the right. The only way it makes good sense not to waive and stretch Nash is if they think that, with a whole summer of him re-training his body, maybe doing some acupuncture and see if he can get his body calmed down to play 10-15 mpg. Marshall and Sacre should play in the summer league.
Come July 1st they’ll need to show us what the plan is. We only have a few weeks before guys can opt out of their deals, I believe they have up to two weeks to do so. Maybe less, didn’t look all that hard to find out. If they’re moving forward with at least one more season of D’Antoni, possibly two (team holds the option for 2015-16), they’ll need to find some players that fit a lot better than many of these guys. We could use an upgrade at every single position in the starting line up, especially defensively.
It’s going to be hard with the current CBA. We only get the first rounder this year and only have one second rounder next season in regards to the draft. We re-signed Kobe to a large 2 year deal (I think it was as good a move that could’ve been made, there was no Jeter Situation to further divide the ranks) that hampers our flexibility. We have to pay Nash, sooner or later. As regaled as the upcoming draft has been, the free agent pool has been equally dissed. Cobbling together a playoff team won’t be easy.
Now that we’re done with these 82 games it’s time to look forward. Choices yet to be made will be the topics of conversation of the summer. Lying dormant, hibernating, waiting for the spark that sets them off and gets us a chattering. Until then, I think I’d like to see either Golden State or Portland go all the way with the Wizards as my east coast dark horse candidate.
You’ve all been tremendous and highly entertaining. Quite a petri dish of opinion and thought we have here and I hope you’ve all had as much fun as I have. Whether you agree with me or I agree with you isn’t the point. For me, it’s that we can share ideas, see the game and team from different vantage points and hopefully get some laughs in. You all get top marks in my book and I hope next year makes us all forget this long hard slog ever happened. Here’s to all of you. Thanks.