Peeking into the future

Kurt —  April 2, 2007

The Lakers have always been somewhat shrouded in mystery — it may be the most prominent franchise in the NBA but it is run by just a few, a tight-knit family that rarely tips their hand in public (think the anti-Steinbrenners).

So last week, when heir-apparent Jim Buss did a radio interview on 570 AM, it was a rare glimpse behind the curtain to see what he and the Laker brass are thinking. Well, as much as he tipped his hand. I did not hear the interview, so I am relying on Ross Siler of the Daily News for the quotes (and thanks to Ian for providing the link).

Let’s look at what was said in a little detail, with Jim Buss quotes included:

“The way I look at it is I believed last year this current roster could win it this year. The way things are going, it’s going to be very difficult because we didn’t home court. We’d have to go through Phoenix, Dallas, San Antonio – - all three of them – - to get to the Finals.

“If we had played without the injuries that we sustained, then I think we would have had a home-court advantage and we wouldn’t have had such a tough road to get to. And yes, I would believe this team is good enough.’’

I think a large part of this is what you say in a radio interview, not what you believe in your heart of hearts. You always say this team could win it all this year, even if you run the Atlanta Hawks. At least I hope that is why he said this — if the top Laker brass really believed this roster was better than Dallas/Phoenix/San Antonio then we should be worried for the future because they clearly don’t judge talent well. I don’t think they are that misguided. This is a second-tier roster when healthy, one that needs another piece or two, they have to realize that.

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The juicy part of the interview was when Buss said the Lakers were targeting bringing in a major free agent in the next couple of years, something they have been planning for.

“Those things start way before a player becomes available,’’ Buss said. “Everything we do is planning to be in a position if you can get an All-Star-caliber player to help your team go to the next level. You have to have it planned out years before.’’

As Rob L. quickly pointed out in the comments on this site, any signing is not likely to happen next year. The Lakers have $57.6 million committed in salary for next season, and that is before resigning Luke Walton (plus maybe Chris Mihm and Shammond Williams, and Smush coming back is not impossible), paying your top draft pick or filling a couple other holes. This team doesn’t have the cap room to make a big move this summer, unless it is a trade where Odom and/or Kwame are involved. But Buss said free agent signing, not big trade.

That following summer (heading into the 08-09 season), the Lakers have $45 million on the books (plus likely the Walton deal and more), which includes the last year of Lamar Odom’s deal. I’m not sure how much the Lakers could offer any free agent just like this coming summer. But that is the time-frame Buss offered up.

Now, the summer of 2009 is the summer Kevin Garnett can opt out of his deal in Minnesota. Would he walk away from $24 million? Maybe, is this the point at which a then 32-year-old Garnett is willing to take less money for a chance to win (alongside Kobe)? If, as Buss said, the Lakers are laying the groundwork for something this makes the most sense. That summer Lamar Odom’s deal will be up and the Lakers currently have about $33 million on the books, even with the added contracts they can have plenty of room to make an offer. Not a huge one, but a decent one.

Also, it makes the most sense because he can opt out. When the three-year deals for Wade, LeBron and others come due they are not just going to jump ship — their current teams can offer basically 30% more over the life of a deal. They are going to come in a sign and trade, because they are not going to leave that much money on the table. So you’d have to have valuable tradable assets to get them, and the Lakers do not and likely will not. The days of the Lakers basically winning the bidding war for Shaq are gone, you have to be savvy now.

“Mitch (Kupchak) is very good at watching the cap and so am I,’’ Buss said. “We have a plan to move forward and when somebody drops the ball and drops one of their All-Star players, we’re there to get them. You don’t go over the cap like some of these other teams and be mediocre. That’s like the cardinal sin in my book….

“What you do is you manage your money until you can spend it on the right thing. And it will happen. It will happen maybe next year or the year after but it’s going to happen. And when that happens, then we go right back to winning championships.’’

So apparently there is a plan. Of course, there was the 2007 plan which included the pipe dream of Yao or LeBron jumping ship. Let’s hope this plan is a little more realistic.

Kurt

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20 responses to Peeking into the future

  1. The Garnett thing is (and has been for the past two years) interesting. But at this point, I’m so burnt out on the discussion of its possibility that I’d rather just forget that he even exists for the next 2 years.

  2. 32-year-old Garnett wouldn’t be so bad…I mean, sure he’d be all burned the **** out from carrying a crap team on his back for nigh on a decade (minus the one year they were decent), and even veterans have difficulty picking up the tri (so that’s another year gone), but why not?

  3. I’m just not sure what other All-Star free agents he could be talking about. Buss said they are ready for another team to make a mistake, but that’s a risky thing to wait on, to hope that some team low-balls an All Star player and lets them walk. Unless it’s from the Gary Payton washed up all star camp.

  4. The good thing for Buss is that he knows some media savvy player might pull a Shaq and come to L.A. because of the opportunity it opens up for them marketing wise.

    In regards to KG, I think the Lakers can make that move. And at this point, I think I would give Bynum up to do it. If they could Keep Lamar, and get Garnett, that would give the Lakers an AMAZING front court.

    Bynum might be good one day, but Garnett is GREAT now. A Kobe, Lamar, Garnett combo is as good of a threesome as anyone in the league, right?

  5. Does anyone else think that Jim Buss sounds like a high school cheerleader talking about sports? He clearly doesn’t know the game of basketball. I don’t care if he was bluffing or not on the Lakers’ future plans.

    He is riding his daddy’s coat tails for as long as he can before he gets kicked out of town. We need a guy that has savvy business skills, basketball knowledge, and someone who can think outside the box. All qualities in which Jimmy doesn’t possess.

    We do have a good team, but not a contender yet. I don’t think we need a KG type of move to be a better team. Simple trades to get rid of talented players we have a surplus of can get us players we do need (PG).

    But please spare the fans of your pathetic speaches Jim.

  6. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, with a defensive minded three point shooting PG and a healthy roster this team would have faired soooo much better this year. I think they’d probably be right there with Houston and Utah fighting for the 4th spot. Even so, I would still jump at the opportunity to get KG. He’s a one of a kind player that would instantly make them one of the top 5 teams in the entire league.

  7. By the way, the Lakers are 20-8 when they have their normal starting line up of Kwame, Lamar, Kobe, Luke, and Smush. Shows what injuries have done to the team.

  8. The problem with giving up Bynum to get KG is that Minnesota probably says Lamar AND Bynum or no deal. The Lakers will never do that. I think McHale has been burned by so much bad press over past trades that he’ll play hardball on any KG deal. This will result in Minnesota losing KG for nothing (someday). But that is still better politically for McHale than any deal which is not a complete steal for the Timberwolves. Anything less than that costs McHale his job.

  9. KG is a Shaq caliber player. That means he merits what Shaq did in return. A trade would have to include:

    KG and Mike James

    for

    Lamar Odom
    Kwame Brown
    Vlade Radmanovic
    1st round pick

    Leaving our lineup like this:

    PG: Mike James / Jordan Farmar
    SG: Kobe Bryant / Sasha Vujacic
    SF: Luke Walton / Maurice Evans
    PF: Kevin Garnett / Rony Turiaf
    C: Andrew Bynum / Chris Mihm

    I say hell yeah.

    MInnesota gets a probable all-star in Odom, a huge expiring contact in Kwame, a three point specialist in Vlade, and a first round pick.

    Minny’s lineup:

    PG: Randy Foye / Troy Hudson / Marko Jaric
    SG: Ricky Davis / Rashad Mccants
    SF: Vlade Radmanovic / Trenton Hassell
    PF: Lamar Odom / Craig Smith
    C: Kwame Brown / Mark Blount / Mad Dawg Madsen

    Not too shabby.

  10. Derek Banducci April 2, 2007 at 8:48 pm

    what about ron-ron? he’s signed through 2007-2008, when he has an option to become a free agent.

    and it’s not a pipe dream to think that he could leave sac-town for the lakers.

  11. I actually heard the Buss interview on “Loose Canons.” They had a pre interview in which listeners were asked to call in with questions–followed by a live question and answer session with Jim and mostly Steve Hartmann asking the tough questions–with his “sidekicks” mostly supporting or echoing Buss.

    Ground rules forbade asking about specific players.

    Jim agreed to come back to be interviewed regularly.

    I think that the most interesting thing Jim hinted at as a member of the Buss family has been mentioned in a slightly different way in the quote above: that the Lakers want championships or nothing and are willing to gamble “big” and risk it all–with the salary cap as no obstacle.

    . . . .and even Jim resigning (or getting fired) if it failed!

  12. You know, I have had a change of heart. Please, don’t take my Kwame Brown away. I, for some damn reason like him more and more than ever before.

    I think his presence on this team will be a big part in our future success. he is still a young kid. what is he, 24 tops? that’s baby years with that banger of a body. His job on Yao, Dwight Howard, and Shaq over the past 2 years makes me feel like he is a defensive stopper down low.

  13. I agree about Kwame. I think he just has to stay healthy and devop. Have you seen his interior passing as of late? Kwame has the tools to be much better than he is. His biggest problem is is his head.

  14. (12) Cary D,

    I’m glad you realize Kwame’s value to the Lakers. For those of us who dream of defense, he’s the foundation of hope. If we believe that development of big men in the NBA takes off at age 25, Kwame may finally truly flower next year (and Bynum is 6 years away!).

    I already can hear Kwame singing:

    “gonna miss me miss me miss me when I’m gone

    Yea, you’re gonna miss me when I’m gone”

    And we’re singing:

    “Kwame don’t go

    The Laker defense needs you so

    A few bloggers are in the know

    Kwame, Kwame, please don’t go!”

  15. chris henderson April 3, 2007 at 9:39 am

    can they let basketball players use gloves like those wide recievers in football? (the ones with sticky tips?)
    then Kwame would truely be awesome.
    seriously though, I agree as well about KB/UPS there were times last year when he did a very athletic put back rebound or something like that, that brought me up outta my chair. then I would mumble to myself asking how come he can’t do that more often…
    he needs to (stating the OBVIOUS!) work on his hands, in this off season, soften them up, and learn how to catch difficult passes, and he will be a great assett for the team.

  16. There seems to be a little confusion about Kevin Garnett’s contract. Here’s the deal: He does NOT have an opt-out clause in ’09. He has an opt-out in ’08. If he doesn’t use his opt-out and doesn’t sign an extension, his contract is over and he becomes a free agent in ’09.

    Also, summer ’09 has the potential to have the biggest crop of top-shelf free agents ever. Here is the list of potential free agents in ’09:

    Dwight Howard, Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, Gilbert Arenas, Shawn Marion, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, Emeka Okafor, Lamar Odom, Rashard Lewis, Ben Gordon, Jermaine O’Neal, Elton Brand, Andris Biedrins, Kevin Martin, Nenad Krstic, Wally Szczerbiak, Devin Harris, Shaun Livingston, Jason Kidd, Paul Milsap, Mike Bibby

    Keep in mind that this list will certainly change. Many of these guys will probably sign extensions before then, especially the guys who are currently on their rookie deals (like Deng, Okafor, Howard, etc.), taking them off this list. And some of these guys (like Shawn Marion and Rashard Lewis) have opt-outs before ’09 and could sign long-term deals sooner, also taking them off this list.

    But I think there’s a pretty good chance that Garnett, O’Neal, Brand and a couple others could all be available, and one of them might be willing to take a little less money to play for the Lakers.

  17. Oh, and I would rather gouge my eyes out than see Ron Artest in a Lakers’ uniform.

  18. matt, you are right. This is what I had thought but when I googled KG’s contract I read a Marc Stein piece that had it wrong, but I just assumed he had it right.

    Still, I think Buss had to be talking about KG coming here, he said in two years. He must think KG will opt out, and if they don’t make some big off-season moves I would think he will.

  19. Yeah I think everone in the Lakers’ organization is drooling over the idea of KG’s offensive skills in the triangle, not to mention his impact on defense. But I think they probably realize that if they don’t get Garnett, signing Brand/O’Neal/Boozer would be a pretty good plan B.

    Personally I think that McHale gets the boot this summer and Garnett’s buddy Fred Hoiberg takes over and shakes up the roster and they all give it one more year to try to make it work. I don’t think KG’s going anywhere until summer ’08.

    But we can still dream.

  20. I like the sounds of this. There’s no way we’d be able to keep Lamar though I don’t believe, although, as Jones on the NBA said, what a frontcourt that would be. I would imagine they’d want Andrew and Lamar. Still, to me that would be fine. Kwame at the 5, KG at the four, etc. etc. I”m definitely down with that….