The Fallout of Forward Thinking

Darius Soriano —  January 27, 2014

With that said, you have to continue to monitor your roster as the season goes on. That’s the job as a general manager. You have to be more realistic. Most of the time, we start the season with a certain ratio in mind. It could be 80 percent looking at the current season, and 20 percent at the next season. If you have a chance to win a title in a given season, maybe you sacrifice the next year to a certain extent. Or, maybe that ratio changes with injuries, from 60-40 in December, to 50-50 in January or 30-70 in February looking to the future. Now, the coach is 100 percent focused on winning that year, but part of the manager’s job is to have the future of the organization in mind.

(Via Q & A With Mitch Kupchak, Lakers.com)

The Lakers are, for all intents and purposes, a bad team. Losers of a large amount of their last many (do the actual numbers even matter?), they are in a position where they must start to tinker with the ratios Mitch Kupchak mentioned in his candid, revealing sit-down with Mike Trudell earlier this month.

Injures have decimated this roster beyond a level where they can be truly competitive night to night. The injuries have gone on for so long, however, that the roster we see in front of us has become the new norm and we start to evaluate them based off whether they are winning and losing.

I do this myself.

A bad defensive approach to a final play cost the team a game in Chicago. Playing an overmatched Ryan Kelly against Carmelo Anthony while limiting the minutes of Jordan Hill and Chris Kaman (as the Lakers got killed on the glass) might have done the same against the Knicks. I find myself frustrated with the details that, for all the team’s lack of competitiveness, seem to cost the team games.

But should I be?

The Lakers are, for all intents and purposes, a bad team.

Forget, for a moment, about tanking and the potential talented draft pick that may come the team’s way this summer. Forget the salary cap limitations of Kobe’s extension. Forget who is available in free agency next year (or even the year after) too. Instead focus on what talent is on the roster now and what is most valuable about them.

Is maximizing their talent and trying to win as many games as possible what’s best? Is finding out what the team has in younger players who have not yet had the opportunity via extended minutes to prove if they really belong?

As someone who hates losing, I can identify with the mindset of wanting to win now. Why does Jordan Hill play so few minutes when the team struggles so much on the backboards while Ryan Kelly is grabbing so few of the available caroms? Why is Chris Kaman a regular recipient of DNP-CD’s while Robert Sacre is a fixture (even in limited minutes) of the rotation? These are questions I find myself asking on nearly a nightly basis and I know I’m not alone. Especially since I don’t think it can really be argued who are the better, more refined professional players at this stage of their respective careers.

As someone who appreciates the idea of player development, however, I can also sympathize with the idea that, at some point, the Lakers need to find out what they have in these players. Is Sacre more than a 4th or 5th big man on a good team? Can Ryan Kelly, with some of his athletic limitations, actually be a rotation player in a league that is demanding more and more from its power forwards on both sides of the ball? The sad reality is, that while I want to win as much as the next guy, there really may not be a better time to seek information that helps answer these questions than this season.

This is the fallout of forward thinking.

Maybe that’s why, in the heat of the moment when the battle is being decided, it can seem so backward.

I find myself struggling with this idea more and more, especially when remembering that these decisions really don’t exist in a vacuum; that we really cannot forget about the draft in June, free agency in July, and how to build a roster with an aging Kobe Bryant taking up a substantial portion of the salary cap. The answers to questions about the young players on the roster are vital when put in the context of roster construction for future seasons.

That doesn’t make accepting the decisions that go into seeking out those answers any easier. And, for all we know, this isn’t even what the head coach is doing.

But as Mitch Kupchak said, at some point an organization has to start to adjust its view from the current season to the next. For Lakers’ fans, maybe the hardest part is that the reality of that usually comes around May, not in late January.

Darius Soriano

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52 responses to The Fallout of Forward Thinking

  1. Good points.

  2. Well said Darius,
    Things have gotten so bad that even the optimist I am simply cannot avoid the critiques of how our coach handles his rotations game-to-game. Much as I try to look into the future, I am not paid to do so.

    What I expect to see is some growing consistency or approach. Perhaps the players, as a group, are not talented enough to implement any growth as a team over a season’s time. Perhaps that is no longer the goal of the organization – as you say above.

    I understand you statement. I just find it impossible to get out rebounded each game and leave Jordan Hill sitting on the bench. I find it hard to replace Pau with Sacre when Kaman is playing zero minutes in back-to-back situations. We have effectively killed Kaman’s dedication to this team permanently – IMO – with this approach, but that perhaps doesn’t matter to the front office.

    The only thing that keeps me going is that I have faith in Mitch Kupchek to put one foot in front of the other until we get out of this mess.

  3. Darius, I think the one difference between you and I (at least regarding the subject of this post) is that the context does make the losing easier for me. The less enjoyment I am getting from watching the Lakers lose, I am gaining by scouting potential top-6 picks in the draft. I am appreciating the skill set I am seeing from those players I hope will stay on with the Lakers. It’s not the same as watching a championship caliber team compete but it’s not just one loss after another, and all the joy and hope sucked out of fandome. I guess I can see the point to all the losing and the losing makes sense considering the talent. It is weird seeing the Lakers at the second to last spot in the west but I guess I see that as part of the process of getting back up to the top.

  4. I’m with P. Ami on this on. I get a perverse pleasure in seeing the Lakers improve their draft position. I’ve never really paid much attention to incoming draftees until this year, and I’ve enjoyed scouting them to see how they’d fit with the Lakers, how likely Lakers could draft so-and-so, etc. I’m watching a lot less games than I used to, but that has actually turned out for the best, since I can get more sleep on weeknights (on East Coast).

    I just hope that if we do end up with a prime pick in the draft, we use it with an eye towards the future as well as short term needs. I have full faith in Mitch to assess talent as well as need, but I would prefer if the Lakers favored talent. For example, Julius Randle probably suits D’Antoni’s system better, and would be more of a need, however I believe Embiid would be a better choice given his talent and potential. Having said that, I think if the Lakers had the choice between the two, they would pick Embiid given the Lakers tradition of great big men, and Jimmy Buss’s apparent desire to further that legacy (Bynum, Howard).

  5. From the same interview –
    “MT: What’s your ratio right now with this team?
    Kupchak: I wouldn’t share where I’m at right now, but we monitor it very closely game by game and week to week. The actual end of a season is clear: when you’re mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. But up until that point you monitor where you are constantly.”

    At some point i think the FO was hoping that they could patchwork a team together to keep them semi-comp till injured players could return and keep this team in the hunt for a playoff spot but it’s just too far gone now. Hollinger Playoff odds give Lakers 0 chance as of now – they would still have to go 25-13 the rest of the season just to make .500 and it’s gonna take better than that to get in the playoffs this year. Given how well Pau is playing (good offensive stats, a bit far gone on d but has way more effort than earlier in the season at least) you’d think the FO must be looking at what possible assets could they get in the way of draft picks or young player to audition for the rest of the season and flip him to another team vs not recieving anything beyond cap space when he’s gone this year.

    As Mitch says – the season is over when you’re mathematically eliminated and for all intents and purposes getting worse to get better makes more sense from a drafting perspective at this point – they must be edging towards that point of no return shortly. Obviously Kobe wants to play and win, but if the FO moves Pau – that might allow reality to set in that for the betterment of his own health and the teams drafting chances/player development (if you’re still going to lose, better to let unproven young guys play 20-30 mins instead of having Kobe doing so) that he’ll take the long view and insure that he’s taking a slow and gradual resumption of high level bball.

    Feel bad for Nash – played against him in high school once and have followed him ever since. He thought coming to LA would be his best chance to get a real shot at a ring while contributing but instead has a freak broken shin/leg derails everything so he can’t even play out his last seasons relatively healthy. I don’t share the overall angst against MDA given what he’s had to work with this year – and he did get a decent record once things settled down last season – though some late game decisions as of late do make one raise a spockian eye brow.

  6. Last year, the Lakers put the pedal to the metal and burned out their roster but made the playoffs. This year, the early injury bug removed any pretense of being a playoff team. The players are not competing hard on the defensive end and are not aggressively going after rebounds. The “benefit” is that they do not win very many close games but the downside is that they are practicing some really bad habits. It is going to make it hard to decide who to keep since they need players who are strong on both ends of the court. When most of the team is playing soft defense, how do you tell who is doing their job?

    Also, the way the NBA is set up now, practice time during the regular season is greatly limited and games are used to develop players. Players are coming out of school early and need more time to develop. That development time is coming at the expense of well played games. Right now Pau is doing his best to keep things organized on the offensive end but there is not anyone to do the same on the defensive end. The rotations appear totally random with players consistently getting caught too far from the player they should be guarding. Personally, I would be willing to give up some of the offense for a more disciplined and organized defense.

  7. Great read Darius, like P.ami and others i dont mind the losing much considering the injuries and the lack of talent, everybody here knows that i dont like to critisize the coaching too much. But why Kelly and Sacre are eating away more minutes is beyond me, like i said before its not the losing is the allowing 120 points and getting outrebounded by + 10 that kills me. I was ready for the lumps we were going to take this season but not this. Cant wait for summer…

  8. Darius,
    Your article is very well thought out and I think in prior years the fan base is much more understanding if they thought that is what was occurring, but it sure feels like much of the fan base has lost any confidence that this group (ownership, FO and coaching staff) are the right people to be making those decisions.

  9. Good article.

    The problem with trying out younger players (Kelly, Sacre) is that, in my opinion, they’re not developing necessary habits to be effective and productive in this league for years to come. Staying in game with one rebound in 20 minutes teaches Kelly nothing. Having a solid and productive veteran get consecutive DNP-CD’s shows no loyalty to the guy who took a discount to be in LA, at least to the guy playing in his place. Not holding a player accountable for defensive mistakes does not improve the team for the future.

    I agree with the plan of getting them some minutes to see what we have in our hands. I just think we’re not doing it the “right” way, and that’s what scares me the most about the FO/coaching combo we have…

  10. Believe me, rather than micromanaging THIS season, we could be best debating who to pick: Parker, Embiid or Wiggins.

    I am one of the people that predicted we would grab 50 wins. I wasn’t too far off considering 50-32 record means a 6th seed in the West and is tantamount to a .610 record. That said, we never accounted for Nash still not being back; Pau with his early struggles; All point guards being injured on a wholesale basis; Kobe coming back and having another injury. Its not an excuse but it cannot be discounted either.

    We cannot truly assume our position until things happen. With the playoff probability dwindling significantly, its conceivable to see our team trade away 2 guys: Blake and Kaman, both for TPEs and 2nd rounders that won’t see the light of day to get under tax. Its also possible to see Jordan Hill be traded or be starting – that means Pau is traded to help this cause of getting under the tax plus getting assets for the future. What might be important to note and understand is how the FA wants to build its next team.

    Do we try to lure Thibodeau? Do we hire Hollins? Do we keep MDA? If we undergo coaching changes, how do we account for the other factors? Scouts, Player Developers, etc.

    As quiet as things seem to be right now, believe me, the Lakers are NOT standing pat with the same team on Feb 15th.

  11. Meeks went into the off season with a bad wheel, a less than desired 3 point% and a terrible inability to finish layups. He came back this year with (not going to jinx it), more consistent shooting and far less aneurysms per viewer when going to the hole. He’s even stepped up his defensive hustle. His opportunity to show his off season work has come through Kobe’s and other’s injury. Henry’s skill wasn’t improving because of in-season opportunity but his confidence was.

    Kelly and Sacre seem to me to be the only players who were purposely thrust into the “forward thinking” role. Everyone else’s opportunity has come squarely due to injury scramble. Kelly is more of an unknown, so test him. Sacre’s improvements were shown in Summer league and he’s not going to magically show new game no matter which 6’10 – 7 footer sits. Playing him over superior options becomes a matter of how much do you win/lose otherwise and that suggests curious thoughts about coaching aptitude/ineptitude and FO’s capitulation/strategy. This season is about if they are going to wind up eating 1 or 2 years of D’Antoni’s remaining contract and if Xavier Henry, Marshall, Johnson et al are going to get anymore time/money invested in them. Personally, I think the answers are fairly obviously who you try and keep but who cares.

    But the flip side is that the luster can easily be stripped from the Lakers. There might be the notion out there that the team will give a Kaman-level free agent a song and dance then pull the rug on them, that cripples your recruitment. How is Kaman going to get a contract next year bigger than what he came here for if he’s sitting behind Dan Gadzurich’s younger clone? Agents see that. Team’s build reps. Yes, they have the reputation for taking care of Kobe but now they might have also developed the rep for urinating on their other veterans. Could it be that the past ILLUSION of Laker loyalty/family has eroded into a projection of a snake pit?

    You have to gauge a team by who is playing — not the injuries– otherwise you’re (universal you) going to whine about “the V*to” and a bunch of ghost decisions as much as Al Bundy laments the passing of the day of his 6 touchdown in one day.

    Side note: I don’t foresee MDA being fired this season or next. If some how they wind up with Embiid (wrong spelling possibly), they’ll have to fire MDA instantaneously or he’ll be behind Sacre or launching 5 threes a game while having to recite “The ball finds energy”.

  12. One note about Kelly’s rebounds or lack there of – yes he might be the power forward in name but if his defensive assignment is carmelo -who starts alot of his possessions in triple threat position 20 ft or farther from the hoop and shoots a lot of pull/spot ups, quick jumpers- being the rookie that he is, you know he’s going to stay glued to melo even when he doesn’t have the ball – which leaves Kelly far out of position to grab any boards. Add to the that the fact that he’s a rangier player than a post up on offense and his chance for boards starts getting limited. Would it be nice for him to get more boards – sure, but i think that comes w him maturing as a player and learning more when and where to leave his guy to help out on the glass w/o letting his guy get free looks.

    As for Hill vs kelly – hill is a known quantity and him being on the flr tends to pack things in a bit for pau since his range is limited and he’s not offensively necessarily gifted beyond hustle plays. He may be a better defender (though i think he’s overrated a bit) than kelly, but perhaps to the coaching staff Kelly’s overall basketball acumen (shooting passing bball iq etc..) is the priority in developing. This team is perhaps one of the weakest i’ve ever seen in the league 1-12 defensively so while Hill’s abilities may win a few short possesions/boards, perhaps coaching staff is looking at trying to put as much talent – as raw as it is on the flr – and trying to win via offense.

  13. Ok correct me if im wrong but the FO dont coach the team, MDA does, so that Kaman and Hill are not playing enough minutes its Jim Buss and Mitch fault?C’mon now the blaming the FO for everything its just getting to ridiculous levels. Unbeliavable…

  14. What people need to remember is that most of this team is one year players and the vast mayority will be gone after the season, we were’nt compiting for a chip this year , healthy, at best we could had sneaked in the playoffs and a quick 1st round exit that was it. The injury epidemic buried this team we are not making the playoffs NOT A CHANCE even with Dwight we were not winning anything this year, all my gripes with the Lakers right now are on the basketball floor, the FO did the best it could with the hand dealt. The thing is that the Lakers can whip the team back into shape in 2 or 3 years and that dont mean winning a championship it means building a contender. The Lakers are not even going to be that much better next year a lower seed at best, thats my guess unless Mitch pull one of his rabbits out of that hat of his but i doubt it. What i understand is that if Lebron stays in Miami( which is like 99% a sure thing) they will stay put and wait for 2015 and 2016 in the hopes to net those guys we all know all about. That is a sound and reasonable strategy and its the way to go in my opinion. Im hoping we get a serviceable player on this draft and start from there. We be out of the spotlight for a bit but is nothing new.

  15. Jerke

    Your post makes sense but is also not fair. If the team is going to experament and tests D-Leagers and rookies as starters don’t they have an obligation to duly compensate the fans?

    Front row seats are still $4000, parking the same and the price of hot dogs and beer unchanged

    Lakers are running a tec league team or D-league team but charging professional pricing?

    Kind of like Flemming Steak House serving ground beef for $200 a plate.

  16. Ko remember the injuries this is not the team that was assembled and this rash of injuries is unprecedented in Lakers history.

  17. Im right there with you P.AMI … I hope we land a top six pick and select the best player available, not best fit…

  18. Kobe was already down.

    Nash may never play

    Blake is a reserve not a starter

    Henry didn’t ‘t exist

    So that leaves one bad break in Farmer.

    None if those players would or could solve Lakers biggest problems.
    1-Defense
    2- rebounds
    3-coaching

  19. Hale, hilarious post.

    Ko, thems the breaks. You really don’t have to buy tickets if you don’t want to watch a rec league team. If you decided to buy season tickets, you don’t have to renew them if you don’t have faith in the FO. At least you got season tickets to a team that has consistently fielded a championship level team. Even when they didn’t quite reach that level, you had Kobe. This is one of those years where you see the downside of owning season tickets. I don’t think the FO is going to make a habit of giving us stinky teams. Next season we watch the development of a nice talent, the season after that we break in a FA, and then lets see how much bang you’re getting for your buck.

  20. I’m not buying what Kupchack is selling.

    Does he really expect fans to believe that the front office’s initial goal was to contend this season? The moment the front office announced that MDA would return was the moment the front office revealed their plan for this season…..which was to save money, tank, and save more money.

    It was clear that Dwight would never sign with MDA on board. Dwight’s camp even stated that management did everything in their power to turn Dwight off from signing. Don’t let a couple desperate billboards fool you into thinking management wanted to keep Dwight….and don’t let Mitch’s comments fool you into thinking this year wasn’t a tank job from the very get go.

    Plain and simple, we’ve been bamboozled.

    Its time to face reality. Under Jimbo, this team has become toxic. There is a power struggle in the front office. Laker greats (Phil and Magic), are still talking smack about Jim. Free agents are leaving the Lakers. We have become the Cavs, except the Cavs have a young superstar, are developing young talent, haven’t traded away most of their draft picks, and seem to be one of the contenders to sign Lebron.

    The best chance the Lakers have of turning this ship around is through free agency and trades. That’s the Lakers way….always has been. The Time Warner deal gives the Lakers a huge advantage over most teams when it comes to signing/trading players and going over the cap. The problem is, as Magic stated last week, the Lakers don’t have a face to represent the franchise. Players think this organization has become dysfunctional, and fair or not, players (and fans) have very little faith in Jimbo. Until Jimbo hires a Jerry West, a Phil Jackson, a Riley, a Magic, or even a Jeannie, to represent this organization…I don’t see the toxic atmosphere of this organization changing anytime soon. In only a few years, this team went from being the gold standard to a laughingstock, and if you are wondering how this happened….it always starts from the top.

  21. i sympathize Ko, i live in Edmonton, Ab and have traveled half a continent to see specific games only to have the big names sit out etc… so i know the pain :P As a fan who is a bit more removed from the situation, I was with those that thought this team was capable of 45-50 wins and playoff appearance if everyone had been healthy – but that hasn’t been the case obviously. I have a feeling that FO/MDA have been ahead of the current “coming to terms w a losing season” that the fan base has been undergoing and they’re seeing what they got and if they can sell any of these guys high and pick up some extra picks etc… At this point, winning games doesn’t do anything but mess draft position – so given that Hill is a known entity, I understand why they’re playing everyone else. Yeah a couple more wins might qualify as moral victory, but in reality doesn’t help this team much.

    Now if MDA had lost the team/lockerroom because of his decisions the I’d say get rid of him – but the fact is guys are still playing hard most nights and will continue for the rest of the season because they’re all for the most part 8th man or worse on a reg team and this is their only chance to have a legit shot to show what they can do. Also I can understand specifically blaming MDA for mins guys play or overall philosphy if you disagree, but hammering him because he’s stuck w d-leaguers that don’t have basic skills (boxing out etc…) isn’t his fault. That coaching/developement lies w the Player Development coaches in Mark Madson/Larry Lewis – head coaches don’t work one on one w/ players and Rambis is the defensive coach so he should be shouldering some of the public blame in that area. But it is what it is this season. It’s painful for some of you, bt it’s definitly bandaid like, in that there will be an almost clear slate this summer and the FO can try and put together another grandiose plan for world domination again. This will be a quick rebuild for this franchise – not dragged out and painful like the Nets and Knicks are inevitably going to be.

  22. LT – i don’t think this team is a laughstock at all- aside from bitter non LA fans who troll and delight that LA has an off year and those who view not making the playoffs/being a contender once in a decade. The FO brokered 2 homerun deals (on paper anyways) that were ruined via the Veto, and then injuries to Nash/Howard/Pau/kobe etc.. the next year. That’s what left this team where it is right now – which all things considered having one off year to get a high draft pick and clean financial slate, (plus get under the salary cap to avoid the repeater tax so they can go way over if necessary to sign a difference maker for a championship squad) is way better than the other reality of being a mediocre constant fringe playoff team ala ATL or Millwaukee, etc…

    As for Laker greats, i don’t believe that PJ had the outrageous demands that were reported, but he waffled a bit when approached about coaching, Lakers wanted an immediate commitment and went their own way. And Magic was a horrible coach in his own right and has his own agenda as does PJ. At some point the franchise has to move beyond those players/eras and forward and redefine itself again. The FO hasn’t done anything other than swing for the fences so far – which is what you want your team to do – and now they have blank canvas to do it again. yes it is uncertain and no they don’t have a long track record of success – but nor of any sustained failures either. There’s too much doom and gloom – this will be a much quicker phoenix rreborn situation than people think

  23. LT: So what do you expect Mitch to say to the fans? Would you prefer a doom and gloom approach where he comes out and says “we are in trouble, oh my god, please help us fans, what can we do, please tell me what to do”?

    Also, the problem is not that we lack a “legendary figure head” as you imply. If so, every single NBA team without Jerry West and Riley would be in trouble. I also think you are extrapolating your lack of faith in Jimbo onto Mitch and then somehow coming to the conclusion that no one in the league will return Mitch’s phone calls because they do not respect him. The problem is that we have no worthwhile trade assets.

    The reason we are not making trades right now is that the only worthy asset we have is Gasol and we are not about to give him away. Unfortunately, Gasol’s value is on the decline so there is little incentive for other teams to trade for him now, and overpay him, when most teams can simply wait to the offseason and probably get him on a cheaper deal. So short of a contender suddenly finding out their starting PF is out for the season, we are stuck with this roster for now.

    As far as Phil’s criticisms, well, there’s a bit of family history there – but even with that Phil’s last comments suggest that he thinks Jim is still finding his way – as opposed to completely lost as you imply. Also, with respect to Magic, I recommend that you go to you tube and query for some of his “analytical insights” while he was commenting on TNT. The guy was an awesome player, but a tactician and in-depth guy he is not. Plus, he keeps changing his mind. 18 months ago he called Jim a genius and said Mitch was doing a phenomenal job. Now Jim is an idiot and Mitch is not qualified to be a GM. Of course, in the same interview he implies that he could help solve the problem, if he were only given the chance. His solution: hop on a plane and commit an egregious act of tampering by talking to potential free agents. Yeah, quite the tactician.

    Where we have a common a ground is with respect to Dwight. I think that the team was less than thrilled about his attitude and may have felt he wanted too much without first earning it. I can see the FO going through the motions of trying to sign him, but not bending over backwards to accommodate him.

  24. Interesting thoughts LT. Could be right on..

    Jerke what is Magic’s agenda? He got paid lots of money and unless he felt Jim forced him to sell his shares I am confused. Only other agenda would be he is trying to further discredit Jim so he can put group together to buy the team.

    Now that would be an agenda!

  25. I have been giving the FO, and the discussion surrounding it, a lot of thought lately, and have heard both sides, focusing on the case for the defense, made by both the reasonably calm types here, and by a phalanx of wild-eyed FO defenders at another site.

    The defense of the Jim Buss regime essentially begins and ends with the Veto of the Paul deal. If Paul were a Laker, everything would be different, probably better, and if that were the case we probably wouldn’t hear nearly as much about Phil, Magic, etc. I think Howard would probably be here, and either Mike Brown or a guy whom Paul, Howard and Kobe all wanted would be the coach. Tiresome as the topic is, it is still very relevant to any objective eval of the FO.

    OTOH, defenders of the FO should acknowledge that none of Jim Buss’ big decisions has actually worked:

    1. The Brown Hire
    2. The Nash Deal
    3. The D’Antoni Hire
    4. Keeping MDA during Howard’s free agency
    5. Kobe’s extension

    For the record, I supported 2 and 3, but not 1, 4 and 5. And there are all the caveats–Nash got hurt, Phil didn’t really want the job, Old Man Buss wanted MDA, Howard is a jerk so MDA is not at fault for not connecting with him, Howard would have left anyway, and of course Kobe’s extension hasn’t even kicked in yet, CBA…etc etc etc. But the fact is that Buss is basically 0-for-4, and while it is very early on Kobe, The Last Chapter could not have really started off much worse than it has.

    The other thing is this: Jim Buss’ entire regime has sent a three-word message to the fan base: “I got this.” Bertka and Kupchak are still around, but Buss has shown no hesitation in cutting ties with other long-time Lakers fixtures, from Phil Jackson to Ronnie Lester to Alex McKechnie to Rudy Garciduenas. And, three of his major decisions–hiring Brown over Shaw, not at least publicly offering the job to Phil and letting him turn it down, and giving Kobe a massive two-year extension before Kobe had suited up–all went against the conventional grain and therefore sent that same message.

    So, since Buss has done things his way and nothing big he has done has really worked yet, defending him involves a lot of explaining and apologizing, a lot Yeah, buts, and a lot of you gotta have faith and look at those bloodlines arguments. That is what happens when you are 16-29, have no really good young players, and most of the draft picks are gone.

    The Veto is a big enough Yeah, but, that I think we need to see what the organization does over the next two years. But the Jim Buss FO needs to start some making big decisions that its supporters don’t need to explain away.

  26. At some point the franchise has to move beyond those players/eras and forward and redefine itself again

    This is sort of like saying that the New York Yankees need to get rid of all those dumb monuments and un-retire Mickey Mantle’s number. If they are smart about it, the Lakers can simultaneously be modern and hip and cool and honor their history. Houston made heavy PR use of their history of centers in recruiting Howard and in marketing his signing, and Howard has spoken many times of his respect for Hakeem Olajuwon.

    Was it a huge factor in Howard’s choice to sign there? Almost certainly not, but it clearly didn’t hurt, either. I think Robert overstates the point sometimes, but his point–that image matters–is still valid.

  27. in no way did i suggest that the history and past players associated with the franchise be thrown out – only that its time for a new chapter to be written for the Lakers and that it begins this summer and from that point going forward is what the FO/org needs to be judged on. The FO had a plan and was foiled by outside forces via Veto/injury bug – which has now – in combination with the rejigged salary cap penalties has forced a major reset – which is probably better that it came quicker and faster than later – whichs means the rebuild and return to prominence will be quicker. The Lakers have had several different era’s, this is just now a period of flux as they move from the Kobe/Pau/PJ era and move onto something new.

  28. Lakers defense is atrocious. Always give up the baseline, late on rotations. I’ve tried, but MDA is not the answer. By now, they’re tuning him out anyway.

    Lakers had Gerald Green in camp a few years ago, wonder how he’s doing? (Check his line for Phoenix tonight 1/27)…

  29. LT Mitchell,

    I’m with you. The real action that will make a difference is not trades and drafts, but rather in the FO–and up.. I wouldn’t bet that Magic is speaking for himself these days. When and who is anyone’s guess, but a complete sweep of Mike, Jimmy, and Mitch does not seem impossible to me. This summer? Next summer? Who knows?

    One bit of good news for Kobe and Steve. When they come back, the team won’t get worse. When all the players are back from injury, they might be decent.

    Interesting times lie ahead.

  30. I believe Mitch K to be consistently honest and extremely competent.
    I also believe that Jim Buss deserves some credit along w Mitch for orchestrating the Chris Paul deal (vetoed) and the Dwight and Nash trades, which everyone thought looked amazing on paper.

    Unfortunately, those glorious attempts failed, and the reasons are no longer relevant.

    Today’s issues remain:
    If we finish the season poorly enough to land a good draft pick, is Dantoni the right coach for the team’s future?
    Will Kobe’s overly generous extension cripple the team’s ability to add a sufficient number of free agents for the team to compete in the West?
    What will the fallout be from tarnishing Kaman’s career, as the TEAM has done (not only Dantoni) when it comes to signing other veteran players?

    Mitch and Jim Buss must now be held accountable for decisions the coach is making now that may adversely affect the Laker brand going forward, the team’s perception around the league and to free agents that may become available in the next two years.

    Dantoni’s coaching staff and style existed in a perfect storm in Phoenix.
    Those days are behind him.

    FO must soon consider who they’ll choose as MDA’s successor before another two years are squandered.

  31. Not quite sure why reality seems so shocking. For those of you who want to forget, the Lakers were predicted to finish 12th in the West in the preseason. Please let’s not talk Lakers & injuries like our team was the only one affected by such. For those of you looking to “blame” someone for our present issue, it can only be present ownership. His decisions have been awful. For the optimistic among you, maybe you look at Jim Buss 1st year and sum it up as “rookie mistakes”. For the pessimistic, the Lakers are doomed, after all can you name the last team to win a title in spite of bad/stupid/stubborn ownership?

    It looks like it’s time to give ESPN’s B-Ball experts credit. The Lakers are what they thought they would be…a bad team this year.

  32. Umm right ,MDA is expendable, Mitch who happens to be one of the best if not the best GMs in the entire league not said by me but by people that actually know, not so much and about Jim Buss? Well the Buss family has a controlling interest on the Lakers organization and unless all the Buss’ siblings agree and somebody comes up with the almost 600 million that would cost to buy them out aint happening and the Buss family have no interest whatsoever on selling the team this aint the playoffs where teams get swept. I need to withdraw from this blog for a bit the amount of whinning and headhunting because the Lakers are in a transision phase that happen to every succesful team on every sport is becoming increasingly annoying. I been a fan for almost my entire life and i see a lot of sucess and some failures, no other team in the league and very few in all of sports is even close to the level of sucess this team has brought us. Now that we are in a rough temporary spot people act like is doom and gloom if in 2 or three years we still have a team like this mess of this season then i would understand but its too damn early to tell specially when the Lakers will beggining to start to have some financial flexibility after this season after paying thru the nose in cap penalties for so long to put a contender on the floor. Gee i wonder how people survived here when the Lakers when 12 years w/o winning a championship or the 7th before the Gasol trade. Bye

  33. Off to Vegas to drop hard earned funds on Seattle and forgetting about Lakers for a week.

    Have a good week my fellow pained Laker fans.

    Ken O

  34. Jerke and Fern said it all – over and out.

  35. We be facing the best team in the league tomorrow. The best defense too. Since we’re quite the opposite, anyone wanna take my money and give me +10.5?

  36. Jerke and Fern said it all

    Sure. Explanations, caveats, apologies, bloodlines, and faith. I am not saying that they’re wrong; in fact, I very much hope that they are right. But the non-Veto defense of the FO right now is basically: We are talking about the Lakers; they’ll be back. Just hang in there and stop complaining.

    There is virtually no chance that the Busses are going to sell the team any time soon IMO. But some people, including Brian Kamenetzky, BTW, feel that Jim should have a less prominent role in the day-to-day basketball operations. If you don’t agree with that, that’s fine.

  37. Sid-

    I made a comment in preseason that since many people here had higher hopes for the team than I (and others) did and saw them as being better than the consensus of observers, that MDA night get targeted here if the team was really bad. That is not to say some of the questions about his rotation are not legit, but this team simply lacks talent.

    The injuries that have really hurt the Lakers, and that people can also hold up, are IMO those to Blake and Farmar. Henry is certainly useful in some games, but he is the 9th guy, pretty much. What is going on with Nash and Kobe is unfortunate but not really unexpected. If the team had Blake and Farmar, they would probably have 2-4 more wins, I think–but this is probably still a sub-500 team.

  38. drrayeye – so now Mitch should be gone too?? OMG. Give it a rest. Mitch is one of the best, most respected executives in the NBA. You hate MDA. You hate Jim. I get it. But why is Mitch so incompetent to you?

    In this age of internet and 24-hour-news-cycles we have forgotten to be patient. We prefer immediate results, and want to be informed of everything right as it happens. We have also fallen into the belief that only dynasties matter. Some of you here will only be content if the Lakers win three championships (or more) in a row. If frankly believe that if we had this technology in the 80′s one of you complainers would have liked the Riley hiring and probably would have asked for a rebuilding of the team after the several losses to the Celtics in the finals. In fact, many of you would have criticized the Logo for not winning enough ‘chips as a player. In short, you wouldn’t have lasted as Laker fans.

    So yeah, HANG IN THERE AND STOP COMPLAINING. This team will not turn around overnight. Get over your gripes and live with the reality that this is a multi year transition – with our without MDA or Jim.

  39. Some of you here will only be content if the Lakers win three championships (or more) in a row

    Perhaps, but as I said: this FO, whether it’s mostly Buss, mostly Mitch, or both of them together, needs to make some decisions that work. I don’t think people expect titles every year. They do expect some big moves that work, don’t require incessant explanation, and make the team better.

    Their next big move will probably be the draft pick, and I think this is the most important pick the organization has made since 1980. That is not to say that I expect a franchise savior, but they do need to get a guy who moves the team forward.

  40. rr: Agreed across the board. “Jim should have a less prominent role in the day-to-day basketball operations.” I have been saying that for years (literally now). I do not want Jim to “learn”, I want him to be like Jerry and take a step back, which he could do immediately (well he could step back – we can work on the charisma etc)
    J C: “Unfortunately, those glorious attempts failed” Yes – as per rr’s list – all of the large decisions have ultimately failed. Some of them have mitigating circumstances – the VETO being the largest one of those. So if we were a jump shooter, we would be 0-6. Yes – the referee waived off one on a bad call, and a couple went in and out, but nonetheless we are 0-6. Those “explaining” have the burden of proof on them. Track records and results are a true yardstick.
    Jerke: With regard to “eras”: Yes we are transitioning form the Kobe/Phil era. And yes we have had transitions before between “eras”. However this is our 3rd year without Phil. And we still have 2 1/2 years with Kobe. So how long exactly is this transition going to be. Fern mentioned 12 years without a title during the 90′s, and I often cite the team record of 8 years without going to the Finals. If we break those 67 year records it is a bit more than a transition. And at this point – I think we are a favorite to break my 8 year mark (most of the optimists will even agree to that as many of their posts are writing off the next couple of years). If you run a business for 67 years and the current management ends up with the worst track record in the business’ history, then they must be held accountable. No amount of excuses, bad luck, or VETOs is going to change that. And the current management does not get credit for our history (except for Mitch gets some).
    BigCity: “Not quite sure why reality seems so shocking…..Lakers were predicted to finish 12th” Many of us are not shocked, but there were endless posts on this and other boards about how the Lakers were going to be better than expected, how they were fun, and how everything was looking bright for the future. Nobody is posting any of that now because none of it is remotely true. Yet what we are discussing is whether this is all due to bad luck, or might there have been some missteps along the way.
    drrayeye: “a complete sweep of Mike, Jimmy, and Mitch does not seem impossible to me.” Please tell me why you feel this way. You could give me a whole new outlook on life : )

  41. Isn’t this a basketball blog? I believe the main complaint around here is MDA, the lack of defense and the lack of rebounding. Those are basketball issues and if people want to stick their head in the sand and keep talking about how “great were the moves the FO made but bad luck/veto happened and now we’re stuck with this roster” then go ahead. Move on. Every team is dealt a bad hand from time to time and it happens in every sport all over the world. It’s how you deal with it that matters…

    And to my knowledge, nobody is expecting one of those Jerry West trades that lands a 20-12 guy for a couple of 2nd rounders and season tickets for the Lakers. The most important mistakes done by the FO were hiring Mike Brown and then hiring Mike D’Antoni. And yes, I hold them accountable for that because the coaching problem is easy to fix and plenty of coaching options were available (and still are).

    Most of us (the ones who complain) actually explained the reasons to want MDA gone. It involves bad defense, bad rebounding and terrible use of the frontcourt players available in the roster. Remember Gasol’s benching last year? These are true basketball reasons. And for those who say “it’s not the coach’s fault if the player doesn’t box out”, you’re just wrong. It is the coach’s fault! You can sub the player for not boxing out and tell him what to do when he gets back on court. You can work boxing out in practices, even if you’re a NBA professional. You can work on defensive rotations. You can do a bunch of things as the coach, since they’re actually paying you to do that kind of stuff (see Vogel or Pop or Carlisle…). And good coaching even on a losing team leads to winning habits (boxing out, help defense, staying with your man, playing within the context of the offense) regardless of how bad the roster is. But if you want to root for ping-pong balls and say “we will be back because we always do” then go ahead. Just don’t expect us to say that there’s nothing to fix because of that line of thought…

  42. The post and Jerke’s comments look like a development of my comments at the end of last the last thread. So I agree mostly with it.

    Complaints about rotations and such stem mostly from fan’s overvaluations of some players vs others on this roster without respect to role. Really the only thing that has baffled me is Kaman’s DNP status. I could understand if there was some sorta trade in the works but, its been an awfully long string of benchings.

    On the trade front I think the Lakers have desirable assets. A lot of small contracts that could fairly easily be absorbed into a contender’s roster to fill out a need here and there. Pick up a late 1st or 2nd round pick. I see this as a strong possibility. Gasol’s contract is just big. Even if a team really needed him it just hard to swap salaries without gutting your own team.

  43. Any Laker fan who thinks Jim Bus is incompetent is not a smart Laker Fan. Same logic goes with Mitch Kupchak. The only mistakes these guys have made was hiring bad coaches. Those two coaching decisions were on Jerry buss since he was in charge.

    We (lakers) will be fine. Wait til we are healthy and able to get another max guy. Mitch has brought us back before and will again. It will take 2 years maximum before we are competing for a chip.

  44. “Their next big move will probably be the draft pick, and I think this is the most important pick the organization has made since 1980. That is not to say that I expect a franchise savior, but they do need to get a guy who moves the team forward.”

    This statement is so true its scary. The Lakers better get this pick right. Every “major” decision this organization has made since Phil left has gone wrong. The really need to get this one right.

  45. MannyP: I agree – Mitch can stay but only if it is not a package deal : ) By the way – the logo did not win enough chips. He was a legendary executive though. And I know you are aware, but you linked Riley and several losses to the Celtics in the same sentence. We have only lost to the Celtics twice in the modern era and have beat them three times. The moth ball titles they have – had nothing to do with Riley – not even as a player : ) And with regard to us complainers not lasting – not true. I complained and moaned every single day of the Del Harris era. Called for his head regularly. Finally got my wish. This time will be no different – it is just a question of how long, and I am hoping for a shorter duration.

  46. Robert: My point with Jerry West was that when he joined the Laker FO in 1982, all he had under his belt was a championship and three very good coaching (but championship-less) years. It would be akin to having the Lakers announce tomorrow that Byron Scott will be the new vice president of basketball operations. Sure, BScott knows basketball, but surely plenty of folks on this board would question whether he is the right guy for such a role given that he has not been “groomed” by a legend for such a post.

    Also, folks need to remember that it took a few seasons and a few championships in the 80s to make Jerry West a “legendary” FO guy. And these same folks should also not forget that this legendary guy taught Mitch first hand how to run a FO. So, why in the world would we fire Mitch as some have suggested above? Isnt he more worthwhile as a part of this organization and not as an adversary in another team’s Front Office?

    As far as Riley, his hire was a very risky move, widely panned by many a sport writer. You are probably way too young to know this, but it was quite a circus atmosphere when Dr Buss named Riley as his coach (co-coach, with Jerry West actually). Many sports writers, particularly in the Times, considered the move by Dr Buss a knee-jerk reaction to keeping Magic happy and lambasted the Doctor – specially after Westfall having just delivered a much needed championship. If I remember correctly, some even brought up the fact that Dr Buss may not know what he was doing since he had only owned the team for about 4 years at that point and perhaps he was better off selling real estate and not playing basketball owner.

    Of course, hindsight is always 20/20 so its easy to say these were the “right” moves now, but I guarantee you that if this site and the 24 hour newscycle was around back then and many of our current contributors to this site were around back then, some would have fumed at these moves and would have been asking for Dr Buss head.

    So, with this in mind, do you perhaps see why Jim Buss sometimes makes risky moves? Isn’t it possible that Dr Buss, in hand picking his successor, taught him that sometimes you have to take risks, take chances and call bluffs is you want to win the big pot? I’m not saying Jim is infallible, he deserves plenty of criticism for the Brown hire and for the way the MDA hire was handled, but even the legendary Dr Buss had his string of back-to-back-to-back-to-back coaching mistakes (Dunleavy, Pfund,Magic and Del Harris).

  47. There is no quick fix lakers fans. The Lakers were able to sign Shaq as a free agent because they drafted well for several years before Shaq became a free agent. They had a roster stacked with young talented players. Nick Van Exel, Eddie Jones, Elden Cambell, Cedric Ceballos, and of course Kobe Bryant. You need young talent to attract a young superstar. It’s not rocket science. The Lakers don’t need to tank for this year… They need to tank for at least three straight years. That’s the only way to seduce a Kevin Durant.

  48. … Most likely this draft pick will be a number two or number three or a number four on the Lakers of the future. And that’s fine and dandy because as of right now we don’t have any of those. We need to start adding pieces.

  49. Renato: That was an enjoyable read

    MannyP: Good Post – lots of good topics: Your comments about B Scott are interesting, because as you may know – he is on my possible list. Shaw was my guy three years ago. Let’s say we had “gambled” on him then and the last three year’s results had been the same. I would being saying the same thing “outta here”. Of course I don’t think they would be the same. DH would still be here, we would be running the triangle, and we would have Phil as a built in “free” consultant. And yes hindsight is 20/20, but as you know in my case I make my thoughts “repeatedly” known in advance : ) Shaw instead of Brown; Phil instead of MD; Keep DH instead of MD. I can’t guarantee you things would have been better, but they would certainly not be worse : ) Riley: Yes – was a gamble and he won the title in his first year. Had he not won in his first couple of years – then he would have been gone – as it should be (when you have an 80′s Lakers team). Gambling: You are talking my language: I love to take gambles. I love it when the Lakers do. And yes sometimes you lose – that is why it is a gamble. So you can’t judge a gambler on one bet, but if they make a few bets that all lose and then throw in a few clearly wrong decisions (Brown to use a universally accepted one) then I am beginning to question the “Gambler”. We as fans are personally invested in the Lakers, so we do not want just anyone gambling with our investment (in any of the three key pieces of management).

    Aaron: Yes -I refer to it as the multi-year tank. I think it is worth considering. I actually understand people who never want to tank out of principal. I do not quite get the ones who think we can tank for one year and all will be well.

  50. The Lakers were able to sign Shaq as a free agent because they drafted well for several years before Shaq became a free agent.

    I would add the words “in part” to this sentence, but this is a good point and an under-recognized part of Jerry West’s legacy.

    Renato,

    I am not as down on MDA as you and some other guys are, but I appreciate the input. To be honest, it is simply hard for me as a fan to get worked up about rotations and tactics when the team just does not have the horses, but those things are certainly worth talking about.

  51. I think it is worth considering.

    To the degree anyone actually tries it, it seldom works. Ask Charlotte, Washington, Minnesota, Cleveland, Toronto, and Sacramento. OKC is an outlier because they nailed three straight high lottery picks, getting one franchise player and two All-Stars. That is very rare. In addition to that, the Lakers don’t own enough first-round draft picks to make it a reasonable risk. Boston does, but not the Lakers. The Lakers may be bad for the next five years in any case, but it will not and should not be by design.

    The way back, if there is one, is to nail this pick, get a couple of major adds in FA, and do a good job with the roster 5-8. None of that is going to be easy, much less all of it–and that is before you get to “Pray that Kobe can stay healthy and produce.”