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It is the summer of 2016 and, as a Lakers’ fan, it is finally okay to dream again.

For most of my life, or at least the part where I understood what I was watching on TV, being a Lakers fan meant dreaming of the team and its players reaching heights reserved for only the greats of the sport. How far would they go in the playoffs? Would they win the championship? Would player X win the MVP? How many players would go to the all-star game? Etc, etc.

For nearly 5 years, those types of dreams have ceased. They dissipated with a ruptured achilles, free agents walking without compensation, a bloated contract extension, the bringing on of stop-gap players, and the hiring of coaches who either couldn’t live up to the memories of those who came before them or reveled so much in the past that embracing the future seemed like an afterthought.

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The Lakers officially announced they have re-signed point guard Marcelo Huertas. From their press release:

“Marcelo’s understanding of the game, unselfishness, and professionalism are assets to our team and he has an uncanny ability to change the pace of the game,” said Kupchak. “He’s fundamentally solid but also has a flair and excitement to his style of play, which makes him a fan favorite.”

In his first NBA season with the Lakers last year after playing professionally in Brazil, Spain, and Italy since 2001, Huertas averaged a team-best 3.4 assists per game in addition to 4.5 points and 1.7 rebounds over 53 games. Prior to coming stateside, he spent the previous four seasons (2011-15) with Spanish power FC Barcelona, where he was a key piece on their 2011-12 and 2013-14 Spanish National Championship and 2013 Spanish National Cup-winning teams. He also has 165 games of Euroleague experience, and was the 2013-14 Euroleague Top 16 Round Two MVP.

While the Lakers did not announce the terms of the deal, the contract is believed to be worth $3.3 million over two season with the 2nd year non-guaranteed.

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Some rumors take on a life of their own even if there isn’t much meat to them. The Russell Westbrook/Lakers speculation would qualify as this type of rumor. With Westbrook’s pending free agency next summer, the Lakers working the CBA to create max cap space next summer while also maintaining flexibility right now, Kevin Durant’s recent departure, and Westbrook being from LA, there were a lot of dots being connected even if there were never any reports of discussions between the Lakers and Thunder.

Those rumors, though, can now be put to rest as Westbrook is on the verge of signing an extension to stay in OKC for at least the next two seasons and maybe the next three:

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Brandon Ingram is very skinny. I know, this is not breaking news. But when looking at Ingram and his rail-thin physique, numerous questions arise about how effective he will be and how the lack of bulk on his frame will hamper him in his rookie season. At 6’9″ and only 190 pounds, this is understandable. After all, guys his size would typically carry anywhere between 30-40 pounds fairly easily.

That weight matters. I matters when anchoring both offensively and defensively. You want to hold position in the post? You want to battle a guy trying to back you down? You want to move a player on a box out or avoid having him move you out? That extra weight matters. There is no way around this.

What also matters, though, is strength. With a prospect like Ingram, it’s important to note the distinction between strength and weight. While he is actively working to put on pounds and improve his strength, the likelihood is that only the latter will improve much over the course of his rookie season.

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I don’t blame anyone for doing it. After all, I do it myself. After the Lakers hired Luke Walton and added talent through the draft and free agency, I started to look at the Warriors, their players, the roles they played, and then sought out analogues on the Lakers’ roster for players who would and/or could be slotted into a similar position or role.

Can D’Angelo Russell and his sweet shooting become the Lakers’ Steph Curry? Can Brandon Ingram be their Klay Thompson? Their Kevin Durant? The Lakers need a Draymond Green — can Julius Randle be that guy? Maybe Larry Nance, Jr. could be? Oh, maybe Deng can fill that Andre Iguodala role? I’ve even compared Lou Williams to Leandro Barbosa. My ability seek out Lakers/Warriors comps knows no bounds.

I need to stop, though. And you do to.

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We have discussed at length the Lakers looking to use the mechanics of the collective bargaining agreement to their advantage to keep cap space open. The key to holding that space open is Tarik Black and the difference between his cap hold and the contract the Lakers have agreed to with him, but the deals for Marcelo Huertas and Brandon Ingram also play a role in this.

With Ingram, though, the difference actually isn’t all that much. His cap hold, dictated by the collectively bargained and already established salary slotted to the the #2 overall pick is roughly $4.4 million for this upcoming season. Rookie 1st rounders can sign for anywhere between 80% – 120% of that amount with most picks getting 120% based on historical standard.

The difference between his cap hold and the 120% standard is roughly $820K. Not a small sum of cash in real world standards and certainly enough where it could be meaningful in any sort of deal which the team wants to leverage its cap space, but it’s also not a huge enough where it is likely to make a big difference.

Ingram, though, isn’t the only 1st round pick who is unsigned. He is, in fact, one of three:

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Moving on from Kobe Bryant is both difficult and exciting. For the first time in 20 years the Lakers will not have him in the lineup and that changes the calculus of how you build a roster, deploy lineups, and even talk about what to expect out of the season.

I, for one, will miss Kobe but will also look forward to the next chapter in Lakers’ basketball. We have already gotten a glimpse of what that will look like this past summer, but the real journey begins in earnest this fall.

Until then, though, I will happily take in some flashes of glory from Kobe’s final season. And thanks to @DawkinsMTA we get a taste of some Kobe’s best plays from his 20th and final campaign:

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About a month after Kobe Bryant’s last game and in the wake of the Lakers hiring Luke Walton as their head coach, Mitch Kupchak spoke about the hire, the direction of the team, what his expectations were for the upcoming season. It was, for me at least, a refreshing five minutes where Kupchak acknowledged his goals for this season were to play a fun brand of basketball and to see incremental improvement from his young players.

Of course, since that time a lot has happened to affect the outlook of the team.

In the two months since that interview to today, the Lakers found out they would keep their draft pick. They then selected Brandon Ingram #2 overall and Ivica Zubac — who ranked 16th on their draft board — fell to them in the 2nd round. They signed Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov as outside free agents and re-upped Jordan Clarkson, Tarik Black, and Marcelo Huertas. They also traded for Jose Calderon.

They really do have a new team now. So have expectations changed? If you listen to Luke Walton tell it, not really.  Continue Reading…