If you haven’t heard by now, current Suns shooting guard Mickael Pietrus wants to play for a championship contender and says Kobe wants him on the Lakers.
Being that this is the off-season, I’m taking all reports like this with a grain of salt. The whole shaker, even. Pietrus is unhappy with his role in Phoenix and could easily be voicing his discontent in a French paper to try and stir up his cause to either get more run (whenever the season begins) or find a new home where he’d prefer to play. He could also just be dropping a juicy quote in a foreign periodical because that’s what foreign born players do in the off-season. Needless to say, I don’t expect Pietrus to be playing in Los Angeles next year.
However, Piertrus’ quote – whether true or not - raises a more serious question for the Lakers going into next season. Namely, who is going to back up Kobe Bryant?
Now that Shannon Brown has opted out of his contract, the likelihood of him returning to the Lakers is relatively low. Sure, it could happen. But the prospect of him finding a long term deal or a role on a team that doesn’t involve backing up one of the best players in the game is pretty strong. If I were an odds maker, I’d say it’s a 25% chance (or lower) that Shannon returns to the Lakers. Even if the Lakers think they can get Shannon back, they need a contingency plan in case he bolts anyway.
Mind you, there are internal options. Devin Ebanks showed promise in limited minutes and was told to improve on his guard skills with the implication being he could see more time as a shooting guard. The Lakers drafted a combo guard in Andrew Goudelock who was a prolific college scorer and would likely be more comfortable as a scorer off the bench than a PG anyway. Plus, Darius Morris is a bigger PG and that gives the Lakers flexibility to play Fisher or Blake as SG’s next to him with the possibility that the bigger rookie guard the opposing SG. These options, however, involve relying on young players to produce right away – a tough predicament considering we don’t even know how good they are at this point.
There are always the veteran options on the team as well. I pointed out that Fisher could play next to Morris, but he could just as easily play next to Blake in a small back court. Fisher already defends some SG’s around the league and his lack of quickness is less exposed on SG’s than the speedy PG’s that populate the NBA. The Lakers could also ask Artest to slide over to SG as he did in Houston and Sacramento during his time with those teams. However, these options also have their limitations and relying on either as the primary solution isn’t exactly comforting.
This then leaves the Lakers with acquiring a player from outside the organization to fill this hole. But the uncertainty surrounding the new CBA creates the problem of not knowing how the salary cap will work which dominoes into not knowing what the rules surrounding free agency or trades will be. That’s a lot of unknowns for what will be a vital hole to fill.
As we stand now, this isn’t so much a pressing issue as it is a festering problem that will need resolution eventually. The Lakers will need a replacement but will need to find one in an environment that is to be determined while staring at several less than inspiring in house options. In the current locked out world of player/owner negotiations, this may seem trivial. But if the last lockout taught us anything it’s that the league can go from a standstill to business as usual in a day. And at that point, the Lakers – like every other franchise – will need to fill its holes in preparation for a new campaign.