This is great news.
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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.
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:
Unless you live in a cave, you know Kevin Durant spurned the Thunder to join the Golden State Warriors in free agency. I have no hot takes on this topic, so if you’re looking for those I am sorry to disappoint. Once it was clear Durant was not a possibility for the Lakers, where he went was immaterial to me — well, I wouldn’t have wanted him to be a Celtic, but that’s another topic.
Anyways, Durant leaving OKC has put the spotlight right on his now former teammate, Russell Westbrook, and his own free agency which is only a season away. One can never know how these things will go, but without Durant in the fold, the angst surrounding Westbrook’s choice has now gone up tenfold. And with a future now cloudier than ever, national observers are saying the Lakers should make a play for Westbrook via trade to try and get the superstar they’ve sought, and not obtained, through free agency.
My thoughts on that are pretty straight forward and, if you follow me on twitter, you may have read them by now.
It’s been nearly a week since the Lakers’ season ended with Kobe Bryant adding to his myth by scoring 60 points on 50 shots while also slaying a dragon and eating an entire extra-large pepperoni pizza at the same time. Okay, two of those things didn’t happen, but maybe in 50 years, and the story is retold they will have.
In the days since the performance, the focus of those who we look to for Lakers’ news has been undeniably and unabashedly Kobe. This was to be expected, of course. 20 years of playing the game at the heights he did with the approach he took requires, no, demands, a retelling. The good, the bad, and everything in-between.
If you’re looking for more of that, look no further than Ramona Shelburne’s latest for ESPN/The Undefeated. Shelburne used great access to give us a peek inside Kobe’s world, from the rehab table to his Kobe Inc. office to the training room to the diner breakfast table and so many other moments that have not been told to this point. The entire thing is a fantastic read and is worth your time.
It’s articles like that, though, that you need now. You need them because while the rest of the basketball world moves forward, the Lakers’ world has not. The playoffs are in full swing, teams are letting go of their current coaches, hiring new ones, and interviewing big names with aims of managing the sideline and running the front office all at the same time.
Meanwhile, we wait.
Twelve games ago Byron Scott decided he wanted to shake up his starting lineup. The move was a controversial one as he demoted Julius Randle and D’Angelo Russell — the two players most considered cornerstones of the team’s rebuild and future — from the ranks of the starters to reserves. The young players have said all the right things, but when pressed have expressed a desire to start (at least Russell has – Randle has taken the “control what you can control” approach with the media).
With the change now 12 games deep and exactly three weeks old, now is as good a time as any to take stock and look at some of the numbers and trends which have emerged since the switch. Please note that while Randle has been a reserve for all 12 games, he has missed a contest with a sore ankle and that Russell did start two of the 12 contests while Jordan Clarkson sat out with his own ankle issue.
With that, let’s dig into some numbers:
My longform thoughts on what I believe the Lakers can and will be this year are pretty clear. If you don’t know them, click the link!
While that’s how I think things will go, though, that’s not why I watch. Whether my predictions or analysis holds up as the final word of truth isn’t why I run this site or why I make time for the Lakers. I love the game and I want to see the team I root for play it.
Underneath it all, too, I actually am optimistic about this team and where they are going. I believe the young players — especially Randle, Russell, and Clarkson — are going to be very good. I like the veterans brought in over the summer. And I still really enjoy watching Kobe Bryant. I like this team.
It’s late August. There is no NBA action anywhere in sight. What better time for a hodgepodge of links and notes than now? Onto our latest edition of Fast Break Thoughts…
*Yesterday we talked about the pressure D’Angelo Russell is facing as a #2 overall pick and playing for a Lakers’ organization looking for their next great player. Well, yesterday Russell also made an appearance on ESPN Radio and did an interview with Mike Trudell and Mychal Thompson. The interview was transcribed at Lakers.com and can be found here.
*The entire interview is worth your time, but one quote that stood out to me was when he discussed playing next to Jordan Clarkson:
I feel like we’re dangerous for our team. We both rebound. We both can push the break, and we both can run the wing. So if he gets it and I’m running the wing, he can set up the offense or make the right decisions and vice versa with me. I feel like it’s dangerous, and we can play together easily. I think it will just take some time.
*I’m glad Russell added the caveat that “it will just take some time” to his answer, because it will. The relationship he describes is only developed through reps and feeling each other out on the floor. Russell is correct that both guys can do a lot of the same things on the floor, the process of how they sort out how they get on the same wavelength is what will be interesting to watch.