Tag Archives: Los Angeles Lakers

Patience Pays Off for Lakers’ Front Office Duo

So what do I do when I have nothing to write about?

I write about what I know best – the Lakers.

So I was thinking yesterday about the Lakers and how the team added Dwight Howard, Steve Nash, and Antawn Jamison this offseason.

When you think about this, and you wind back the clock three, four, five months and you really think about this, you wonder – How the f*** did this happen?

Lakers executive Jim Buss and general manager Mitch Kupchack just don’t get enough credit for saving a declining Lakers team/era.

It starts and ends with Andrew Bynum.

From the day he drafted him, Jim Buss supported Andrew Bynum like no one else did. He believed the young kid could blossom into a superstar, and the Lakers next franchise player.

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The first time Mitch Kupchack has smiled in a few years…

In 2007, a struggling Lakers team was fighting to just make the playoffs. The deal was available – a package centered on Andrew Bynum for All-Star Jason Kidd. Many Lakers fans, and even Kobe Bryant, wanted the team’s management to pull the trigger on the deal. Jim Buss couldn’t do it. He couldn’t part ways with the 19-year-old center and his vast potential.

Then came the summer of chaos in 2007.

Kobe Bryant, frustrated with the Lakers front office for not making the Kidd deal, requested to be traded. He then trashed Bynum in a viral video that went public.

The Lakers and Minnesota Timberwolves began talking about trading Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom for Kevin Garnett, but the T-Wolves wanted more.

With their franchise in disarray and their superstar player unsatisfied, it would have been easy for Kupchack and Buss to cave.

They didn’t. They held firm, and did so again, with the Jason Kidd offer remaining on the table. So the Lakers moved on from the summer without making any significant moves.

In 2008, Bynum started showing the talent that Buss always believed he had. But when Bynum went down with a knee injury, Kupchack made the Gasol trade and the Lakers went on to make three NBA Finals and win two championships.

Eventually the team’s championship window closed, and Buss and Kupchack returned to work.

In February 2011, the Carmelo Anthony sweepstakes were on. The offer was on the table – Andrew Bynum for Carmelo Anthony, with other minor players involved.

Anthony, an impending free agent, was willing to sign an extension with the Lakers. Bynum was coming off two knee surgeries in the last three season, and concerns that he was “injury-prone” were rampant at the time. Also, the team had a better record without him, 18-7, than with him, 18-9, that season.

The Lakers front office didn’t budge, in large part because Jim Buss strong support of Bynum.

Months later, after the team was coming off an embarrassing sweep to the Dallas Mavericks, the debate raged – should the Lakers give their core another chance or should they make a major move?

In December 2011, Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchack decided on the latter and traded for Chris Paul in a deal involving Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, leaving the Lakers.

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So David Stern allows the heavily lopsided Gasol trade, rejects the fair CP3 trade, and allows the lopsided Dwight trade?

What happened next was out of their control – David Stern rejecting the trade. Reigning Sixth Man of the Year, Lamar Odom, then asked to be traded, and Mitch Kupchack granted his wish.

Lakers fans everywhere were upset that Kupchack actually traded Odom, and more importantly got “nothing” in return for him. Even Bryant said he didn’t like the move.

They didn’t get “nothing” though. They received a first round pick and a $8.9 million trade exception, which would come in handy later.

After another second round exit in the 2012 playoffs, the Lakers definitely needed help. With Gasol’s consecutive second-round disappearing acts, he was the player most likely to be traded. So the trade offers came in – Kevin Martin and Luis Scola from Houston, Josh Smith from Atlanta, and other potential draft day trades.

The Lakers were a desparate team, but Kupchack and Buss were a patient duo. They wanted the right move, not just any move to please a frustrated fan base.

That patience paid dividends as the Lakers completed a sign-and-trade for two-time MVP Steve Nash in July, a move only possible with the Odom trade exception.

Then a month later, Jim Buss finally gave up Andrew Bynum, and Mitch Kupchack delivered the Dwight Howard trade.

Buss waited on Bynum as he developed from a 17-year-old project into the NBA’s second best center and then traded him for the league’s best center. Buss, the rich kid who supposedly lived off his father’s reputation, showed that he’s more than capable of managing the franchise.

To most Lakers fans, Buss and Kupchack will be remembered as the duo who brought Steve Nash and Dwight Howard to LA.

Instead though they should be remembered for all the moves they didn’t make.

Imagine the Lakers having Jason Kidd now? Or Kevin Garnett? Or even Carmelo?

Or they could have Steve Nash AND Dwight Howard now?

And that’s why every Lakers fan should send Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchack a card plus chocolates this Christmas.

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What was Orlando Thinking?

The parallel careers careers of Dwight Howard and Shaq just got even more paralleled. After already sharing the most intimidating bodies of their times, the same first team, the Superman nickname, and the off court shenanigans, leaving Orlando for the Lakers can now be added to the list of similarities.

But what will not be a similarity is Orlando’s roster following the departure of the Supermen. Whereas the 1996 team was still left with Penny Hardaway and finished their first post-Shaq season 45-37, the best player on their 2012 roster is…Aaron Afflalo? And their record, well, it’s not going to get close to 45 wins.

Even Dwight is surprised by how little the Magic got for him.

The Magic traded away a top-5 player in the league and got back a defensive specialist (Afflalo), a chucker (Al Harrington), two unproven youngsters (Nikola Vucevic and Moe Harkless), and three late 1st round picks. That’s kind of a terrible trade.

Philadelphia gave up Vucevic, Harkless, and Andre Iguodala, who combined make nowhere near the impact as Howard, and still got back Andrew Bynum, a much better piece than the Magic’s whole package.

Several questions arise from this deal. One, why did Orlando not want to take back Bynum or Pau Gasol (or even Iguodala)? And secondly, after all these months of Dwight Drama and nearly the whole league interested, are we supposed believe that Aaron Afflalo and Al Harrington is the best deal Orlando got for Dwight Howard?

The first question might have an answer already. Orlando GM Rob Hennigan has been saying this summer that he wants to rebuild the Magic the “Oklahoma City way,” hoping to build a team from scratch through the draft and with young players. That’s understandable. No point in getting a player like Gasol who is in the later stages of his career if you have no chance of contending for a while. But it’s not like Bynum is an old guy. He’s 24 and already arguably the second best center in the league behind Howard. Sounds like a pretty good young piece to rebuild around.

The new face of the franchise in Orlando.

And it’s not as if they got a ton of good young players instead. Afflalo, the “centerpiece” of the trade for Orlando is 26. Harrington is 32. Harkless and Vucevic are 19 and 21 respectively, but have yet to prove they can contribute. And the three draft pick Orlando is getting come from the Nuggets, Sixers, and Lakers who all got better in the trade. Those picks will get Orlando a marginal role player in the late first round. Maybe the Magic just want to be really terrible and hope the lottery goes there way (which I’m sure will miraculously happen this year with absolutely no involvement by David Stern).

Regardless of the draft picks, the Magic should have came away from this deal with the best pieces to build around seeing as they gave up the most. Instead they got the least in return. Even within the trade they made, there was a better deal to be had for Orlando that could have gotten them Bynum.

So if Orlando ends up getting the short end of the stick in this trade, why make it? There were plenty of trade options available to them over the past year that could have given them a better young core to build around.

The Nets didn’t have a great offer for Howard, but the Magic could have gotten Brook Lopez, a solid young center, in return.

The Rockets had a ton of young pieces to offer, including Royce White, Patrick Patterson, Jeremy Lamb, Terrence Jones, Chandler Parsons, and Kevin Martin (not really young, he’s 29). I’m not sure which of those Houston was willing to part with, but a package of three of those players plus a few draft picks would given Orlando some young talent that is slightly more proven.

The Bobcats better watch out. Orlando’s going to be gunning for the fewest wins title this season.

Golden State reportedly dangled Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis at Orlando, offering a package centered around one of those two players. Both those players have more star power than Afflalo.

The Hawks made Josh Smith and perhaps Al Horford available, while clearing a ton of cap space to be able to resign Howard in his hometown. Smith or Horford alone would give Orlando a better piece to build around than what they got.

While it’s doubtful the Heat ever came close to offering this, many people believed Dwyane Wade for Howard would be a logical trade for both teams. From rumors of getting Wade in return to actually getting a few role players and picks shows just how miserably Orlando failed in this trade.

The saddest part is that Orlando eventually traded Howard to the team that had the best player to give back in return. But somehow, Andrew Bynum did not end up on the Magic.

On the bright side, we have a full season ahead of us with no chance of any Dwight Howard trade rumors. Then the drama can start all over again when Dwight’s a free agent.

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Steve Nash’s Arrival Brings About Many Questions For Lakers

“We’ll try to hit a home run,” Lakers’ general manager Mitch Kupchack said a few weeks ago on the Lakers’ offseason plans.

Well the addition of Steve Nash was a bomb worthy of the Home Run Derby. Nash instantly turns the Lakers into serious title contenders.

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That was one clutch phone call by Kobe Bryant…

By acquiring Nash the Lakers fixed one major problem but made another one much worse.

The Lakers were already reaching deep in their pockets with Kobe Bryant’s, Pau Gasol’s, and Andrew Bynum’s high salaries already on the books. Taking on Nash and his three-year, $25 million plus contract only makes things worse, financially.

Under the previous collective bargaining agreement, an NBA team had to pay an additional dollar for every dollar it went over the luxury tax threshold.

But under the new CBA, the consequences for going over the threshold become much harsher. Take a look at it here:

  • If a team is $0 to $5M over the tax, they pay $1.50 per dollar (so if you’re $3M over, you pay $4.5M in taxes).
  • If a team is $5M to $10M over the tax, they pay $1.75 per dollar
  • If a team is $10M to $15M over the tax, they pay $2.50 per dollar
  • If a team is $15M to $20M over a tax, they pay $3.25 per dollar
  • If a team is $20M over, they pay $3.75 per dollar, with the penalty increasing by .50 for every additional $5M it goes over

The system was made to prevent big market teams like the Lakers, Knicks and Mavs from becoming the ‘Yankees’ of the NBA.

The Lakers would have payed over $50 million in luxury taxes last season under this new system. Next season with Nash, this number would blossom much higher. Along with that, the Lakers still have to pay the players their actual salaries. Even the real Yankees would have a tough time swallowing that bill.

Financially the Lakers can’t keep everyone. Though the new CBA’s luxury taxes don’t kick in until the 2013 – 2014 season, expect the Lakers to cut salary soon, just as they did with Lamar Odom and Derek Fisher last season.

Mitch Kupchuck will now have the task of deciding where to cut salary. Who stays? Who goes? Who comes?

The Lakers still have yet to use their one-time amnesty clause and Metta World Peace would be a prime candidate for that. But who better to guard Durant and Lebron than World Peace with his size and strength?

Trade Gasol? Gasol’s value to the Lakers just went through the roof. Nash will create off pick-and-rolls and find Gasol all day on cuts and open mid-range jump shots, which he knocks down routinely. Don’t be surprised to see Gasol rebound from a less-than-stellar season and return to the All-Star game, if he’s still in purple and gold next season.

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Is Bynum the Lakers’ next team leader? If you have to think about, then probably not.

What about Bynum? Bynum will only become better with Nash. The Lakers’ issues of not being able to get the ball into Bynum on the low block disappear with Nash at the helm.

But the real question for Lakers management is, ‘Is Bynum the next superstar to lead this team’?

If it’s a yes, then Gasol has to go. If it’s a no, then it’s time to go after Howard. The chances that Howard leaves as a free agent after next season are real. Still the Lakers would have a superstar point guard, they are an annual title contender, would be able to offer him the most years and money (like in the D-Will Nets situation), and it’s LA where he’ll get all the attention he craves; Hey Dwight, are you sure you want to leave?

But with the addition of Nash and the Lakers’ dire financial issues, is the Dwight Howard deal even possible?

It was a real possibility before, but less likely now. Orlando remains stubborn in wanting the Lakers to take back either Hedo Turkoglu or Jason Richardson along with Dwight Howard.

Asking the Lakers to take on additional money? Somewhere Jerry Buss just ‘LOL’, literally. Turkoglu has 2 years, $23.8 million left and Richardson has 3 years, $18.6 million. The Lakers would have to send back at least Metta World Peace, if not more, to match salaries.

The Magic are going to have to lower their demands for the Lakers to move in. They just might though because the Lakers’ offer appears to be the best on the table.

Tough, franchise-altering decisions lay ahead for the Lakers.

Hey Mitch, how about one more home run? Don’t hit too many though, you’ll make the Dodgers jealous.

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NBA Draft Lottery: The David Stern Conspiracy Continues

It’s been a rough year for David Stern’s PR team. As the NBA commissioner, much of the blame of the lockout fell on his shoulders. The refusal of the owners, which he represented, to concede to the demands of the Players Union elongated the process and resulted in missed games and a truncated regular season.

Then came the Chris Paul debacle. Shortly after the league-owned New Orleans Hornets agreed to trade their superstar point guard to the Los Angeles Lakers, the league announced that Stern had shot down the deal for “basketball reasons.”

This set a pack of rabid Laker fans on Stern, and their complaints made some sense.

Jack Nicholson and a hoard of crazed Lakers fans protested David Stern’s decision to cancel the Chris Paul trade to the Lakers.

It seemed to be a conflict of interest that NBA commissioner was the owner of a franchise that was controlling the fate of two other franchises (the Houston Rockets would have gotten Pau Gasol in the trade).

Matters only grew worse when Paul was instead traded to LA’s other team, the Clippers, to team up with the NBA’s newest superstar in Blake Griffin. While the trade with the Clippers did land the Hornets some younger pieces to build around than the Lakers/Houston deal, things just smelt a tad fishy.

New Orleans better be ready for this handsome mug on their billboards.

Fast forward five months and Stern and the Hornets are in the news again. New Orleans won tonight’s NBA Draft Lottery, or better known as the Unibrow Sweepstakes as the Hornets will undoubtedly select Kentucky’s Anthony David first overall.

The league recently sold the Hornets to New Orleans Saints’ owner Tom Benson, and I’m sure Stern wishes the  deal wasn’t struck until after tonight’s results, as the addition of Davis will significantly boost the team’s value. But Stern and the league technically are still the team’s owners while the deal with Benson is finalized and approved by the other NBA owners.

After last year’s lottery went to Cleveland, allowing them to replace their lost superstar with

Vince McMahon might just be the perfect choice to replace David Stern as commissioner, given his background in WWE and their honest and not-rigged wrestling.

a new one in Kyrie Irving, it just so happens that this year’s lottery winner also lost their former franchise player. Conspiracy? Who knows, but if these types of “coincidences” keep happening, Vince McMahon might need to take Stern’s job.

Other story lines from the Draft Lottery:

  • The Bobcats fell to No. 2 in the draft, continuing to hold onto the unlucky claim to be one of just two teams (the other being the Phoenix Suns) to never have won the draft lottery. This news will be especially hard to swallow this year, coming off the worst season in NBA history based on winning percentage and drafting second in a draft with just one elite player.
  • The Brooklyn Nets did not move into the top three, meaning their pick at No. 6 will go to the Portland Trailblazers as part of the Gerald Wallace deal. Again, a tough break for a team that could have used extra help with the return of Deron Williams in doubt and the chances of acquiring Dwight Howard having disappeared. You can’t sympathize too much, though, because this was just a poor trade. The trade for Wallace could have been completed for a much lower pick, so even if the Nets only liked the draft’s top three players (their reasoning for only placing top-3 protection on the pick) they could have traded the No. 6 pick for a useful player to entice Williams to stay.
  • The Warriors, on the other hand, were able to keep their pick, which was top-7 protected, thanks to a terrific tanking job to end their season (they went 5-22 to finish the season, moving from the 10th worst team to the 7th over that span and securing the No. 7 pick). There have been rumblings in Golden State that trading the pick is a possibility, with Andre Iguodala’s name popping up frequently, but given Philadelphia’s admirable performance getting deep into the second round of the playoffs, it seems unlikely they would trade away a key player for a chance to draft an unproven rookie. Golden State will have four picks in the draft, though, so it is likely at least one of those will be traded away.

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Tips for a Panicked Lakers Front Office

Well, here you have it Lakers fans.  Your team is once again out of the playoffs and the Western Conference Semifinals are quickly becoming your kryptonite.

It seems as though next season there are only two certainties with the team—that Kobe Bryant will continue to be the centerpiece and that Jack Nicholson will be courtside.

Andrew Bynum consistently showed his All-Star ability but always remains an injury risk.

An absent Pau Gasol appears at the moment to be an immovable piece with not too many teams having the financial means to take on the 19-million dollar contract of a man who appeared to be taking a vacation from boxing out and dunking.

Ramon Sessions flashed potential at the point guard position but is unsigned beyond the 2012-2013 season.

Los Angeles is a basketball city with a rich tradition that refuses to accept mediocrity.  To quote Saturday Night Live’s “Bob and Bill Schwersky’s Superfans,” the expectation is generally a “minimum eight-peat.”

Since the snow-covered moving vans pulled into the Forum back in 1960, the Lakers have reigned as the crown jewel (sorry, LA Kings) of the city.  In order to prevent the Lake Show from being cast aside in favor of a younger, livelier Lob City brand, I have devised a few guidelines the Lakers should consider.

1. Give Mike Brown a couple of years– Sure, his hiring went unrecognized by Kobe for nearly a month and his team failed to mesh down the stretch but Phil Jackson’s last hurrah against the Dallas Mavericks will go down as one of the most notorious playoff beat-downs in NBA history.  In 2007, Brown coached LeBron James and the Nonexistent Supporting Cast (my future band name) to the NBA Finals and there is no reason he can’t do the same with the Lakers.

The Cleveland Cavaliers: Practicing bench dance moves since 2003.

2. Make things right with Derek Fisher– Everyone knows Derek Fisher is not the point guard he once was and has never been a piece to build a team around, but his trade gave the Lakers a black eye that they certainly didn’t need in mid-May.  If the season ends and he decides to hang up the sneakers, Lakers management needs to do the right thing and reach out to Fisher to silence all the rabble-rousers.

No. 2 doesn’t have to hang from the rafters any time soon, but the two sides need to reconcile their differences.

3. Sign Dwight Howard and put him in couples therapy with Kobe- If only NBA signings came with a test drive.  On paper, a Kobe Bryant-Dwight Howard dynamic duo (if Dwight even wants to make the trip out West) is a match made in heaven, but personality-wise it has the makings of a battle between two divas.  Whatever changes the Lakers decide to make (and they will make changes), they need to be sure to receive an affirmative Kobe face before putting pen to paper.

Lakers fans haven’t seen this Blue Steel-esque look in over two years.

4. Relax! Didn’t you just come off of back-to-back titles?- Amidst all this post-elimination turmoil, the Lakers are still just two seasons removed from Kobe’s fifth NBA title and one offseason move away from once again hoisting the trophy.  No Kobe-led squad will ever imitate the Bobcats.  If all else fails, Magic Johnson can just buy the team.

Wouldn’t it be easier if everything was owned by Magic?

 

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