Having completed one week of abbreviated camp, the Los Angeles Lakers are heading down the preseason home stretch – the regular season is little more than a week away. Mega-deals mostly seem a pipe dream now – Dwight Howard’s off the market and CP3’s now one of the kids down the hall, joining another Clippers’ squad full of sound and fury. What that signifies, remains to be seen. For the Lakers, it’s become the annual rite of filling gaps and plugging holes, including the rather large sucking wound left by a departing Lamar Odom. With recent events still ringing fresh, some writers weigh in below:
Brian Kamenetzky, ESPN’s Land O’Lakers: The problem for the Lakers is one of timing, because fundamentally, that obsession with Howard/Paul is based on two basic fears surrounding the team. First, that it’s not good enough to win a title this season, squandering one of Kobe’s last years as a truly elite player. Second, that the Lakers don’t have another superstar in the fold to take over for Kobe when that day comes, ensuring a seamless, star-to-star transfer of power. Kobe runs his flag down the pole, the other guy runs his up. Easy peasy. Except it’s very difficult to do both of those things at the same time. Rebuilding, which is really what we’re talking about here, is never a fully painless process in the NBA. Think of a Venn diagram in which one circle is “Improving Now” and the other is “Securing the Future.” The overlap between the two, that sweet spot where the colors change and all good things happen, isn’t very big.
Ben Rosales, Silver Screen and Roll: Altogether, the message, as it was yesterday, is patience. We all want some recompense for Odom immediately and to go into the season with more confidence, but there is little for the Lakers to gain by rash action right now and a potentially big reward by seeing how the season plays out until the deadline. At worst, the Lakers find themselves in the same spot they are in right now and are forced into offering Gasol and Bynum for Howard. However, with both the Howard trade saga and the Odom TPE things that could produce very different results in the long-term, it behooves the Lakers to wait and see what can be garnered at the trade deadline. And before then, the Lakers will still have one of the league’s best frontcourts between Gasol and Bynum, a certain Kobe Bryant on the roster, and a system that should work well for the strengths of the aforementioned players. The last few days have not been kind to the Lakers franchise or their fans, but this is not the end. Far from it.
Kevin Ding, the OC Register: One look into Pau Gasol’s eyes Tuesday showed his emotions. Yes, the so-damning word applies, and I’ll go ahead and use it freely: Gasol’s eyes were soft – representative of the pain he feels from lifting the Lakers to three NBA Finals in four tries and becoming more disposable than the razors he rarely uses. Even so, what we’re getting from Gasol is as great a display of mental toughness as we’ll see all season. You can have soft eyes, because you’re only real if you do feel things. But if you still get your you-know-what done, stay true to your goals and can even be inspirational rather than a weak, shameful drain on those around you (cough, Lamar Odom, cough) … that’s being a man.
Dave McMenamin, ESPN LA: Kobe Bryant swears he’s moved on from the three-team trade that was nixed by NBA commissioner David Stern last week, ultimately preventing the Los Angeles Lakers from acquiring Chris Paul. But that doesn’t mean Bryant is buying Stern’s explanation that he acted independently of the protests of owners and vetoed the trade purely because of “basketball reasons.” Bryant, “I think other owners did not want the Lakers to make significant improvements again,” Bryant said after practice Thursday, hours before Paul’s introductory news conference with the Los Angeles Clippers, less than five miles across town. “We always contended as players that the lockout was really more so about the owners fighting amongst themselves, which is what you just saw [with the vetoed trade],” Bryant said. “You got Chris Paul coming here and the other owners weren’t with that, because you don’t want another great player coming to L.A., and all of the sudden Los Angeles has another player that can carry them on well after I retire. So, it’s more about the owners bickering amongst themselves.”
Mark Medina, L.A. Times, Lakers blog: The Lakers continue to make moves. But in this case it has nothing to do with the “big deals” General Manager Mitch Kupchak wanted to make. For the pessimistic, it has everything to do with shuffling the deck of a sinking ship. For the optimistic, it has everything to do with making adjustments and upgrading from within. Or perhaps, a bit of both. After the Lakers missed out on acquiring Chris Paul, Lakers Coach Mike Brown said he’s planning on starting Derek Fisher at point guard because of his experience and locker-room standing, though he stressed it’s not a binding decision. What appears more binding involves playing Metta World Peace off the bench. And the player formerly known as Ron Artest loves the idea. “It’s going to be good,” said World Peace, who last season averaged a career-low 8.5 points per game in 29.4 minutes per contest. “I get a chance to come in with extra responsibility, which I’ve had my whole career. It’s going to put the other team off balance. When Kobe [Bryant], Pau [Gasol] and [Andrew] Bynum are out, you still have to double-team me. You can’t leave me open. At all times on the floor, there will be a threat.”
Emile Avanessian, Hardwood Hype: As has been the case with countless inefficient markets comprised of valuable assets, the NBA is now a playground for financial engineers. What’s resulted is fascinating, if simultaneously infuriating. Always seen as the most stage-managed of the sports’ insular old boys clubs, the NBA is now a near-perfect microcosm of the world’s corrupt oligopolies. There is the appearance of a general rule of law, and economic and human rights rules are followed sufficiently to justify continued relations, but, from the manner in which the Seattle Supersonics became the Oklahoma City Thunder, to disputed claims of financial distress that led to, and prolonged the lockout, to the inexplicable veto of an agreed-upon trade of Chris Paul to the Lakers, it’s clear that business-as-usual is pretty shady.
As it stands today, the Lakers are at that awkward in-between state – not long removed from greatness, but aging rapidly and lacking some key elements. Add a new coaching staff and a greatly enhanced role for Jim Buss, and you’ve got a team heading into uncharted waters. The good news is that most of the league is in the same boat. Dallas and Miami seem poised to take up where they left off, but a truncated season could well end up being a messy roman chariot race to the finish. If there’s a theme to Lakers’ discussion over the past few days, it’s about what we don’t have as opposed to what we do. The lingering anger is understandable – David Stern is playing handicapper when it’s not his business to. Nonetheless, we begged for the season for five long months and now it’s here. So what comes next?
– Dave Murphy