The Waiting Game

Kurt —  February 17, 2006

One moment of patience may ward off great disaster. One moment of impatience may ruin a whole life.
—Chinese proverb

Losses like the one to Atlanta remind Laker fans it’s a long way from here (a .500 basketball team) to there (back in the NBA finals while Kobe is still in his prime). It’s not going to happen this year, and the path back is not clear. There is no yellow brick road to follow, no great and powerful wizard with the answers, no quick-fix trade where we could click our collective heals three times and be where we want to be.

The team’s recent inconsistent and maddening play, along with the impending trade deadline, means there’s a natural desire to say the Lakers need to do something — anything — to improve this team Or at least light a fire under them.

But if the Lakers are going to get back to their own personal Kansas of the NBA Finals, we are all going to have to be patient. Both fans and management.

My goal when evaluating a trade or free agent pickup is to try to think of the long-term picture. ”Does this get us closer to competing for a championship?” For the Lakers right now, that needs to be qualified with a time window — the Lakers likely have about five or six more years before Kobe’s skills start to fade (or at least the number of minutes he can play at that level night in and night out start to fade). They can win after that, but Kobe may not be able to carry as much of the load (ala Kareem with Magic).

But while the window isn’t big, we still need to be patient. Look at the Laker needs right now. Personally, I think the biggest needs have not changed much from last season: 1) a more dominant scoring and defensive presence at the four or five; 2) better, more consistent play at the point. (There are other needs, but those two stand out to me.)

In regard to a big man, who can the Lakers affordably get that will be better in three years than Andrew Bynum? Sure, we’re not sure how good Bynum really will be, particularly in terms of scoring, but the early indications are he should be at least solid. There is a shortage of big men in the league right now — the cost for them is at a premium, both in terms of salary and what you have to give up in a trade. The Lakers could have two solid ones already in house. In three years, Mihm will still be in just his eighth year in the league — Bynum and Mihm of them would make a tall and potentially intimidating front line.

But we’re going to have to be patient for that to come around. The same is true out top — Smush was a good find, but he is best suited to be a back up. However, solid point guards can be found, veterans at reasonable prices or kids in the draft. You just have to be patient and make sure the one you end up with fits the system. And plays defense.

The Lakers don’t have the trade pieces to make an immediate big move (assuming Phil has not given up on Odom to play the initiator — I haven’t, I think he’ll get it by next season), they don’t have the cap space to get a big price free agent. But they will have some flexibility in a few years.

Being patient sucks. I know. But rash trades and not being patient or following a consistent rebuilding plan is how you end up like the Knicks. It’s going to take some shrewd moves to get the Lakers back, and I’m not sure any of us are completely convinced the current Laker front office is clever or creative enough to do it.

But there are no quick fixes, no ruby red slippers filled with the one player who will change everything for this team. As frustrating as it can be, the best move right now may be no move.

Kurt

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25 responses to The Waiting Game

  1. I would be able to be patient if I saw a plan for the future for the Lakers (I SEE NO PLAN)!!!! The plan should be to have a competitive team playing, not a bunch of scrubs which Parker, Vujasuck (Why do you not bring him up he sucks) and Kupsuck is also. As a life long Laker fan I loved them even after the post Magic because I saw a plan and they were hustle players which I love……No alpha player other than Bryant. Brynum I can be patient with but not the backcourt which is awful…..Parker misses a slam and smirks agggh…..Show me a plan and I will be there for the Lakers but as for other fans on this site I think they see no plan either. Bryant and the scrubs

  2. yeah, i wouldn’t make any moves either.

    but surely there is a little man on the planet somewhere we could pick up who’s hungry enough to play in the nba, with the athletic skills to just be a fabulous on the ball defender?

    that’s something you don’t have to pay millions for or make major trades that could help immensely, even if he was a liability on offense.

    you’re right, patience is needed. it just seems that we’ve been going backwards in a lot of ways. back to last year. i don’t mind losing, it’s HOW we’re losing.

    if the method stays the same i don’t think i’ll be able to watch anymore.

  3. good post kurt, i think laker fans do need to hear that everynow and then to keep the overall goal in mind. with that said we cannot have any patience for the gm. the gm ruined our chances of a four-peat by wasting the midlevel exception on samaki walker, drafted rush, cook, walton, vujachk over players like josh howard and david west, wasted another two midlevel expceptions on vlade and mckie and i dont need to get into the shaq, caron, chucky for lamar and kwame deal. look he needs to be fired, obviously, but there is still this season to be played and outside the top 2 teams in the west, with a move or better play the lakers can make noise in the playoffs. first and foremost we need to stop this rudy t ball weve fallen back into playing, shooting a minimum 22 three-pointers a game and not defending the perimter or rotating to help. what happened to the TRIPLE POST, if there’s no post.what happened to the much-ballyhooed full-court pressure we worked on in training camp. we can deal with the gm after the season, but for now we need to focus on hoping phil will wake up and start coaching again, this isnt some team that has mastered anything, teaching is needed and must be given

  4. I love Lamar Odom but shouldn’t LA consider trading him?

    He’s their onlyl ticket to landing one or a few solid players. And, LA desperately needs a few players.

    Is it time to start thinking this way, with no other flexibility to make a move on the horizon?

  5. In terms of what the realistic expectations of this season are and what players are likely available, I see your point of the Lakers standing pat right now. But the outlook is bleak, and in order to improve for the future, I think we should make a move.

    My greatest concern; however, is the team’s overall lack of talent. Other than Kobe, we’re pinning our hopes on an 18 year old rookie center who didn’t play all that much in high school. Granted, based on Bynum’s play, he does give us hope.

    The rest of the roster is either overpaid (Odom, Kwame) or lacking in talent (everybody else). What can we realistically expect from the young players in terms of development?

    Parker, as you said, is really a back-up. He’s got to work hard on his game and focus on game to game consistency.

    Sasha, though he’s made tremendous strides this season over last, is still horribly inconsistent and lacking in lateral quickness and strength.

    Luke lacks the footspeed and athleticism to stay on the floor for the most part. While his supposed passing skills make him an ideal fit for the triangle, he seems to be too error prone to deserve more minutes.

    Kwame is lost. I’ve had high hopes for him, but sadly, I think his problem is largely mental. It may be unrealistic to expect anything more from him other than a back-up center who provides solid low post defense…and if that’s the case, he’s vastly over paid.

    It’s way too early to tell Turiaf’s progress as a player. He was a solid college player, but how will that translate to the NBA, especially coming off major surgery.

    Cook provides some promise. His defense and effort have improved over last year and he still has that amazing jump shot. My friend’s and I talked about his development curve and some think he may be a 17 ppg 7 rpg type player.

    Mihm also shows potential. He plays aggressively (too aggressively sometimes) but also consistently makes stupid mistakes. He scores well, but isn’t really the low post presence the team needs right now.

    The point of all this is how are the Lakers going to bring in more talented players? Free agency? Not with our cap situation. The Draft? Not with Kobe being good enough to bring this untalented roster to the 8th seed of the playoffs every year. Trades? Yes, but only if we’re willing to part with our lone talented (but expensive) trade assett – Odom.

    As much as I like Odom and the things he brings to this team, I have no expectations of him being Kobe’s “Pippen.” Trade Odom to clear cap space and hopefully bringing back a nice player. The roster is not brimming with young talent needing only experience to really break out. Do we expect Sasha to become a Ginoboli type player? Do we really think Kwame will turn himself around?

    For now, and possibly due to frustrations, I don’t really see another way to bring in the type of players we need.

  6. Patience is one thing, stubborness is another. An argument could be made that the Lakers, as far as personnel is concerned, have regressed from last year. My question regarding patience is, while the Kobe years may go on, will the Dr. Buss years last to match? There is part of me that wonders if the last hurrah for the Lakers hasnt already sounded and soon the Buss children will sell out to Clear Channel or Fox Sports or whatever corporate interest comes knocking.

    I guess thats a ticking clock of another stripe.

  7. “…Take it slow and things will be just fine,
    You and I’ll just use a little patience…”

    Cheesy quote, I know. The frustration level in Laker Land seems to be at its zenith after the ATL loss. I think it hurts a little more this year because we have seen some flashes of what this team is capable of and our expectations have collectively risen from last season.

    Even the great Jerry West took 9 years to build a team that would again be a contender. It’s going to take not only patience, but timing and luck.

    “Sometimes the best action is no action at all.”

    Click your “heals” was intentional, right? Very clever.

  8. Why are we getting bogged down in discussion of “salary cap.” Forbes lists the value of the Lakers at 529 million. (Now slipping to number 2) Let’s suppose that the Lakers make the playoffs and get to the 2nd round. There is capital apreciation (perhaps back to number 1 ranking. ) What would the revenue of a playoff series or two generate in ticket sales/ advertising/food sales and merchandise? Certainly more than the few million Buss refuses to pay in luxary tax. The Lakers are in danger of turning into the Raiders if Buss doesn’t get a real manager to operate this franchise.

  9. Salary cap talk is relevent because the Lakers are a family owned team. Yes, it’s a rich family, but they are not willing to go way, way over the cap and pay those penalties (like the Knicks and their corporate parents). Even the ultra-rich Mark Cuban has started to reign in his wild spending.

  10. I just did a quick calculation of the Lakers revenue. Last season the team generated approx $2 million per game played. A two series palyoff team would produce upwards of $20 million.

  11. Here is how I view the tradabilty (is that a word?) of the Lakers:

    Kobe = untouchable.
    Odom, Bynum = virtually untouchable. You can get them but you’re going to have to give an ungodly amount in return.
    Mihm = I need to get a good big back as part of the deal because you’re getting my only good one.

    From there it is a sliding scale of availablity, down to Slava, who you can get for one of those cool Rhode Island quarters. Some guys, for instance Kwame, are going to be hard to move because of how much they make compared to how good they are.

    If I’m mitch, I’d consider trading D. George at the deadline, if I can get anything interesting back. I’m just not sure he can.

  12. I think trading Bynum would be a HUGE mistake. The kid’s going to be good. I think that by next year he can make a significant impact. Just watching him on the floor, you can see he plays with heart.

    And if Bynum comes into his own, imagine pairing him with the likes of Chris Bosh in 2 years. Should open things up for Kobe, if it comes to pass!

  13. One other comment: I’m not sure there is a plan, but Phil Jackson does give them a direction. They are a triangle team, and they need to find players that fit within that system. This year’s Lakers do not have the offensive skill of last year’s team, but they are better on defense, and the tradeoff is they are just about as good.

    Right now, with what the Lakers have to offer even Jerry West couldn’t pull a rabbit out of a hat and make a good trade. Mitch’s real tests come in the next couple of off-seasons (it appears not to be just Mitch, also Jim Buss) as they build a team for the triangle.

  14. What is the situation with Kwame’s third year garauntee? I don’t believe the Lakers would abolish their 2007 cap space plan based on Kwame’s performance this year.

  15. Hoopshype.com and other sites that track salary stuff now list Kwame’s third season as garunteed. My only guess (and that’s all it is) on why it would be extended is he met some performance goal, for example, start “X” number of games and we’ll pick up the third year. Maybe they really thought Amare would come to them and when he extended in Phoenix they felt Kwame should be kept around.

    While I have been the one preaching patience, this move both confuses and angers me.

  16. It’s one thing to be patient, but to be patient with a team with no direction is rough. If Bynum is your future, why not give him more minutes now to gain some experience? If you’re really trying to make the playoffs, why not try and make a deal for a quality player that can help you on the short term. Case in point, tony Delk. Everyone says the Lakers need back court help. Well he’s burried on the Hawks bench. Imagine that. And his contract is up after this year. Why not grab him, see if he helps (because he sure wouldn’t hurt) and if it works out, fine. If not, what did you really loose anyway?

  17. I agree with your points, Tony B. Once Mihm returns, I’d love to see less Kwame and more Bynum. And I’d take Delk for a rest of the season trial.

  18. I have a feeling about this team. Yes, somethimes i want to kill all of them but you have to take the good with the bad. I strongly believe they will make the playoffs with better than a 7th seed. Once the playoffs start all the bad games we’ve seen this season dont matter, its a new season.

    Even if we dont get that far in the playoffs, that experinece will help our younger guys. Next season could be the ONE. The first season is always toughtest for a new player on a new team. Smuch has a huge up side and after this season i think he will become more comfortable with the team and his position.

    Next season starting line-up looks great:
    5) Bynum
    4) Mihm
    3) Odom
    2) Kobe
    1) Smush

    Come on guys dont give up on them just yet!!

  19. there is one guy I haven’t heard mention of that could help us, and that is Jamaal Crawford. I remember early on before the season started, there was some interest in him from the Lakers, while they shopped for a PG.
    then when I heard some talks again between NY and LA, involving LO and Channing Frye, I had hoped the Crawford name might come up,(it seemed that NY had to add some value to make the trade work financially) but it didn’t. I’ve been watching him and I think he could be a nice player for us, so while I am not saying the Jamaal Crawford is our answer, I am saying that maybe he should’ve been considered when the LO for Frye talks were alive. it seems like NY would move anybody at this time, they are one team in worse shape that us…

  20. I think they should just dump LO for cap space like Penny Hardaway and start the rebuilding process for next year (and years in the future). Everyone would be pissed but i’d prefer it over a few years of mediocrity…With Slava’s, Devean’s, and Odom’s contract off the books this year we could atleast have Philip build the roster with players he wants…

    They need players who fit with Kobe, that basically requires one player who can somewhat consistenly create his shot when Kobe is tired/hurt/sleepy/grumpy/whatever, a plethora of 3 point specialists for Kobe double-teams (easier to find than people who can consistently drive to the basket off double teams), and good defense across the board..this team isn’t capable of doing that anymore and players who can be capable should be brought in..

    I do believe though, that if they stood still, they would for sure make the playoffs and perhaps make it up to the 6th seed if they regain their composure and start playing like the team we saw in Dec/Jan…the Lakers I believe have the easiest schedule after the ASB, even if they can’t beat the Hawks…

  21. I refuse to believe Hoopshype or Hoopsworld regarding Kwame Brown’s third year garauntee because it just doesn’t make any sense. None.

    Jamal Crawford? We already have Smush. Crawford makes $6.8 million compared to Smush’s $800,000. Considering Smush’s stats are better than Crawford’s I don’t see any reason adding him.

  22. alright now that everyone on the western hemesphere has said something I have to say something.. The lakers are going to be okay.. (Not great until they get another player…. And I don’t mean another 2 or 3 players I meant another 1 player) and with the rest that they get over the all start break they are going to have time to sit there on their couches and watch the all star game like I am going to do and say to themselves.. “wow I wish that I could be that good one day and make it on tv. because people out there think that I am an all star and not just a roll player behind the second best player ever.” (kobe bean bryant.) And then they are going to say to them selves “well self lets think. I can play defense but I can’t catch a ball that is thrown to my hands.. so you know what lets stop worrying about it and play like everyone knows that I can play and not like my head is allowing me to play.” (mind quotes from Kwame..lol..) I think that not only this one player but the rest of the team is going to have similiar thoughts and play a lot better this season.. because if we all look back at the beggining of the year and ask ourselves where we realisticly think that the team is going to be at this point in the year.. then we should be almost there.. I love the NBA… and I hope to see Kobe get the all star MVP because that is the only mvp he is going to get unless this laker squad plays like a brand new team after the ASB.

  23. I agree with the post. I think for lots of teams, in lots of sports, this is the answer. Too often GMs think that doing >> is better than doing nothing. The Lakers have no leverage to do anything, and like you said, really don’t have enough attractive parts to really attract any potentially useful players. I agree though with others that Kupchak is useless. I just have no faith in him-going back to even trading Shaq. Still, I am impressed by the job Phil has done by even keeping the club .500. But really, we can’t expect much to change over the next few years. If you get ripped off for Shaq and lose such a crucial part of a squad so cheaply, it’s going to take years to recover from such a loss. I say we’re still four or five years away from really getting another dominant low-post player who can catapult us back into the stratosphere.

  24. By rebuilding, I did not mean, trade Odom for Steve Francis. So Mitchell, if you’re reading, go back to the drawing board..

  25. The Lakers didn’t overpay for Derek Anderson/Antonio Daniels, that looks like a good move on their part. I don’t know who/what they need, but I’d say get rid of anyone buy Kobe, Bynum. I used to think Odom was untouchable, but if the Lakers can land a 4 who can defend and rebound, why not? If anybody wants Mihm, take him.

    Garnett next year, where have those rumors gone to?

    Anyone see LeBron disappear in the final minute of the all-star game? Not an encouraging theme.