Lakers Must Play the Hand They’ve Been Dealt

Darius Soriano —  May 10, 2013

No one likes to hear that they’re stuck in their current lot in life. The hope for better is what everyone strives for, especially when they’ve been down in the dumps.

For Lakers’ fans, this is no more true than it is today. This past season, though filled with a valiant run to even make the playoffs, was pretty much a disaster relative to their expectations. Injuries, inconsistency and ,some would argue, a certain amount of incompetence left this team grasping for heights they could not reach.

What’s resulted is a hollow feeling that many hope to fill with change. Change that will improve the team. Trade player X. Let player Y walk. This didn’t work is the rallying cry for those who reflect back and see the disappointment of a year, essentially, wasted.

The issue with this approach is that the Lakers will struggle to make this type of change this upcoming season.

First of all, the Lakers have limited assets to make substantial change. Second, even if they decided that flipping one or more of those assets for a “better” asset (or two) was the best course of action, there’s no guarantee the right offer materializes nor that the offer falls in line with what is the long term plan for organization. For example, if trading Gasol is really on the table — and by all accounts it is — the goal would be to get back solid rotation pieces who fill in the gaps in skills this team lacks but doing so while also preserving the team’s cap space for next summer. Those deals aren’t so easy to find.

When taking all this into account, it’s no wonder the team’s most important principles have spoken mostly of making another run with this core of players mostly intact. The plan, would go something like this:

  1. Sign Dwight Howard to a new contract to remain a Laker
  2. Get Kobe Bryant back healthy as quickly as possible
  3. Work around the edges of the core to sign free agents who improve the talent base and complement that current core
  4. Wait until next summer to make a big splash

If you’re a Lakers’ fan hungry for change, that list likely resembles a steaming bowl of dog food. That list equates to trying the same thing again and hoping for a different result. There’s an old saying about insanity that rolls off the tongue nicely after reading the previous sentence, right?

Yes and no.

The Lakers have legitimate issues to overcome heading into next season should they stick to their guns and only make a few cosmetic changes to the roster’s core. Everyone will be a year older. And while the hope is the Dwight, Pau, and Nash will be healthier next year than the one that just passed, the health of that Kobe guy — who is pretty important — is an unknown. If there was an inability to build chemistry and develop the cohesiveness on the court that comes will all the off-court togetherness last season, a recovering-from-a-major-injury Kobe will be similarly complicate matters next season too.

That said, this is what the Lakers have set themselves up for. Entering last off-season the Lakers made a calculated gamble. They tried to rebuild and reload at the same time. They flipped their would be franchise center for the game’s best franchise center while also adding an aged, but still very effective point guard. They tacked on a couple of reserve players who had limitations, but could contribute. The hope was that those two major moves plus the minor ones and the holdovers from championship teams past could provide the core for a contender over the next two years. After those two years, nearly every contract would be off the books and another attempt to rebuild while reloading would be attempted.

The Lakers are one year into that two year plan. They can make a few moves to try and shore up what’s already in place and I expect them to do so. But the major moves were made last summer. More will likely be made next summer. This summer? Not so much. At least the writing on the wall doesn’t imply it.

That’s a tough pill to swallow for many, I’m sure. But the fact remains that the expectations heading into this season while high, weren’t totally off-base. The team suffered through a Murphy’s Law season and didn’t come close to reaching their peak. Next season, there will be more ups and downs but I’ve a feeling they’ll be willing to live through those while understanding this is the gamble they took. It’s time for the Lakers to play the hand they were dealt. Again.

Darius Soriano

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