Two “Big” Lakers Stories Not That Big

Kurt —  August 11, 2009

Lakers celebrate their 15th NBA Championship with a parade in Los Angeles
Welcome to the off-season, when little things become big things because there is nothing else to talk about.

To me, that’s the case with the two current “hot topics” around the Lakers this week.

First there is the finger injury to Pau Gasol, which according to the best report I’ve read a ruptured interphalangeal ligament on the index finger of his left hand. To be fair it is not nothing — they don’t do surgery on nothing (especially when you can consult your mom the doctor like Gasol, who apparently was good with the anti-Kobe approach). I’m no doctor, but the reading I did on this didn’t scare me, it seems easily reparable. It’s on his left hand, which is not his dominant had but with Gasol’s amazingly diversified attack he scores plenty of points and makes plenty of passes with that hand.

So he is going to be out of action for at least three weeks, and may or may not after that play for Spain in the European Championships. I wouldn’t go blaming this injury on his playing for Spain — this is the thing that could have happened at a pickup game in El Segundo. Gasol goes up for a block and things go bad, that’s just luck.

To me, here’s what matters: The Lakers do not report to training camp for about six weeks, and do not play a game that matters until October 27. Which means Gasol will be there when it matters and I bet his finger will be just fine when he slides that championship ring over it.

I feel sort of the same way about losing Kurt Rambis — I wish it didn’t happen but it’s not that big a deal for the Lakers. At least short term, in this case.

Yes, Rambis was essentially the defensive coordinator for the Lakers last season (and the Lakers finished sixth in the league in defensive efficiency), but what he devised was not of triangle offense level of complexity. Really, its focus was on simplicity and making it clear to the defender what his role and responsibilities were. This is the kind of thing that the rest of the staff should easily be able to take over.

I, for one, am glad Rambis finally got another chance — I think he is primed for this and is going to a good situation with core of good, young players and a GM willing to be aggressive. (How good a GM he is, the book is far from finished, but he will take chances,) And to me Rambis is a far, far better choice than the rumored other front-runner Mark Jackson.

Rambis could not sit around waiting for Jackson to retire and hoping that Buss decides to go with him instead of another big name from the outside. We may have thought Rambis the logical successor, but could he really bank on that? You have to take the opportunities in life when they present themselves, you can’t hold out for what might be.

The Lakers do have the “who’s next?” question, but first we have to see if Jackson really will walk away from the roughly $12 million Buss will offer for another season. Jackson has money, sure, but that is a lot to walk away from. Then the issue is simply Shaw — no experience but keeping things the same and a guy it is known the players like — or bringing in a big name from the outside. I would favor Shaw (although the leash would be pretty short) but we can cross that bridge when we come to it.

For now, it’s the off-season and the stories out there just aren’t really stories.