Like basketball fans everywhere, I was glued to the game last night – the Miami Heat getting it done in convincing fashion. I was pulling for OKC the whole way but there’s a reason teams don’t come back from three games down – it’s nearly impossible to swing the tide of that kind of momentum, especially when you’re away from home. Regardless, the Thunder have now been close enough to taste it. They’re young, hungry, athletic, and they’ll come back stronger, and more determined.
And then there’s the rest of the league. We entered the off season at different points but somehow, it feels more official now. The summer of positioning begins, the draft and free agency and the power rankings and guessing games. The Lakers are one more year removed from the epicenter, bounced from the second round, twice in a row. For some organizations, summer begins with the cyclical process of “how can we ever get there?” For the Lakers, it’s how to find a way home.
There’s a glaring problem with that last statement – this organization has been divesting itself of ring holders ever since the Dallas series. A couple key trades and we could find ourselves down to the last man standing – Kobe Bryant. To an arguable extent. we’re in the same boat as much of the league, on the outside looking in. Odds-makers have put our chances of winning next year’s title at 12-1.
We have an organization that has feasted at the table, many times over. We have Kobe, and at least at this moment in time, we still have Pau and Andrew and even Metta, a guy who played with true heart this past season, and could possibly fit a new role next time around. Regardless, we’re at a crossroads. The Miami Heat have begun their summer party. The Thunder are going to try and settle their coaching situation.
It’s incredibly hard to win a championship. The competition is brutal, and we cannot succeed without change. So what should it be? Here’s a few possibilities: Jim Buss’s recent assertion, to keep the Kobe/Pau/Andrew nucleus intact, and shape Brown to fit them, rather than vice-versa – go all in on the power game, the system game.
Mitch Kupchak followed the same line of logic, that the likelihood of major change is slim. And yet as Darius wrote the other day, this is how a smart organization works, playing their cards close to the vest. It can work. It has in the past. That approach takes true discipline though – Phil Jackson had the stature and the success and the blueprint to make it work. Until it didn’t work.
The mixed grill approach – a little bit of this and a bit of that. Keep as much of our valuable resources as we can, and try to fill in the gaps, maybe find a way to pull the trigger on one or two vets with legit playoff experience, maybe trade up into the first round.
And then there’s the nuclear option – blow it up around Kobe – going young, fast, furious, and hungry. Surround an old assassin with young killers. No more Pau, as excellent and versatile, and smart as he is. He’s not bloodthirsty. And no more Andrew. He’s a beast, sometimes. He can can pull down 30 boards against the Spurs on their home court. And look off into space the next night. And loaf back down the court, hauling the bulkiest knee brace in the game with him.
I couldn’t find any links that actually support the idea of this final notion – probably because it’s the riskiest path possible. Nonetheless, it’s one that I almost like. Then again, I amuse myself by making up stories about Craig Sager. I’ll leave it up to you, readers, to figure out this dilemma. Have a great weekend.
– Dave Murphy