I wanted to do something different with my season preview this year. With the Lakers being the team from Hollywood, I wanted to take some inspiration from my television screen. I chose one of my favorite shows on right now, Boardwalk Empire. What follows are quotes from what’s been one of my favorite episodes this season, Spaghetti & Coffee. Hope you like it…
Gyp Rosetti: “What’s that? A gun? I gotta gun. I gotta gun, he gotta gun, he gotta gun…everybody got guns!”
If there’s a moment that defined last season for me, it was watching Mitch Kupchak in the stands in Oklahoma City standing there stone faced as the clock ticked down towards the Lakers’ getting eliminated. Kupchak looked…well…like a man who knew his team was not good enough and that he would need to do something about it.
Fast-forward to today and Mitch Kupchak is a man that is no longer outgunned. In acquiring Steve Nash and Dwight Howard without giving up — outside of Andrew Bynum — any players of substance, Kupchak pulled off a pretty remarkable feat. He rebuilt the Lakers on the fly and positioned them to contend this season and for several more to come (should Howard re-sign at the end of the year).
And it wasn’t just the big names that he hauled in. He inked Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks as free agents at bargain prices. He retained Devin Ebanks and Jordan Hill to bring back two younger players who still have promise and can grow. These four players should all be contributors in a revamped rotation that, while not sexy and still lacking a spark plug in the classic sense, is much better than the group of reserves that was trotted out last season.
This is not a perfect group of guys. The top of the roster is aged and the bottom still has some dead weight, but ultimately Mitch Kupchak reloaded this roster in a way that puts them right in the mix for a championship. I’m shaking my head at the notion as I type. He really did it.
Mickey Doyle: “You what’s goofy? Cash business like this? At the end of the day, I still have empty pockets.”
But in assembling such a high profile roster, the Lakers are paying a pretty penny in payroll. This season’s commitment is $100 million before a cent of luxury tax payments or revenue sharing goes to the league. Next year, the payroll has the potential to go down in terms of what the players make but overall spending will only go up due to the increase in luxury tax rates implemented in the new collective bargaining agreement.
There is relief down the road when Kobe, Pau, Ron, and Blake’s contracts come off the books all at the same time. But those contracts expiring only swap financial pressures for those associated with building a new roster that may be without one Kobe Bean Bryant (as well as Pau and Ron who, by any measure, will be vital to this team’s success).
Long story short, the Lakers have an open window to compete but it’s being propped open by a large wad of cash. At some point, that money — even with a ridiculously rich television contract — will not be enough and the strategy of spending to get where this team needs to go will be reevaluated. So, enjoy the splurging while you can. This is a super-team in the truest sense with talent other franchises could only dream of. But it’s being held together by the pocketbook of the Buss family and that will not last indefinitely.