The playoffs are showing each and every fan of the Lakers just how far away the team is from the level needed to play high stakes games in May and June. Look at the remaining five teams (bye, Chicago) and the same formula exists: superstar player (or players) in or approaching their prime, very good (if not elite) coaching, and role players who can perform steadily and/or reach a level where they turn a game in their team’s favor.
Look at the Lakers’ roster and there is no indication they have any of these things right now. While the playoffs offer fantastic entertainment (did you watch the drama of the Clippers’ collapse in game six vs. the Rockets?), they also offer a reminder the Lakers aren’t just at the bottom of the mountain, they are still in the supplies shop roaming the aisles looking for the right equipment to start their journey.
There are glimmers, however. Julius Randle may have missed his entire rookie season with a broken leg, but his season long commitment to his rehab — including weight loss which should help his already established quickness and athleticism — combined with an intriguing skill set is a nice piece to work with. As is Jordan Clarkson, a player who developed very nicely over the course of the season by showing a combination of athleticism, ball skills, and an ability to apply off-court teachings to on-court action. We do not yet know what these players will become, but their ceilings are high enough that envisioning them as contributors to a winning team isn’t far fetched.
The next piece of the puzzle, of course, is what occurs in the upcoming draft. Should the Lakers be able to keep their own pick, the ability to nab another player who has a combination of talent, pedigree, and potential to be able to provide similar impact to Clarkson and Randle is there. The Rockets’ pick (owed from the Jeremy Lin deal) and the Lakers own 2nd rounder offer less potential for immediate impact, but do provide additional avenues to improve the talent base.
Each one of those picks represents a potential step in the right direction. Just as every free agent signee is and every move to add or subtract from the coaching, training, and scouting staffs are. Mitch Kupchak has said many of the right things about not mortgaging the team’s future in the pursuit of quick gains, but that must also play out in strategy employed when managing the entire restoration of an on-court product which has been the worst, results-wise, the organization has ever seen.
The Lakers, even while a vocal sect of their fanbase festers with impatience, must understand they cannot skip steps. There is no such thing as a three-run homer when no one is on base. In order to be great once again, they must first merely be good. Good enough to develop winning habits, good enough to attract better talent, good enough so “making the leap” is realistic and not an endeavor destined to fail.
All of this will require several small — and some big — things going well. A foundation of success must be built and cultivated. And while we are in a time where, after two awful seasons, the desire is to be great again soon, simply being good may not just have to be enough, it may be necessary.
bryan S. says
On the money piece. Nice read, Darius.
Finger-on-the-pulse post, thanks Darius. You laid out the importance of a strong foundation and I agree that is ideal and sound strategy any Laker fan can get behind. However, I believe what we’ll actually see are some moves made with the impending TV contract bump in mind (short deals to allow renegotiating come next summer), which also surrounds Kobe with some players for old time’s sake (Kobe was selling Staples out anyway, but imagine if there was a chance at the postseason one last time?). Mitch won’t mortgage the future but I don’t think he has to, he can poach players who didn’t get an ideal max situation (with the promise of the opportunity to really cash in next yr) and basically do a suped-up version of the mercenary squads they’ve been rolling out the past two seasons. Or, if nothing looks good, walk down a different aisle of the supplies store, there’s no rush, just stay the course of foundation building.
Craig W. says
Thank you Darius.
This concept is why I really don’t see the plan – never mind the reality – of tanking a season, a-la the 76ers. One year will not cure things, but a year like this last year did yield some possible pieces. Besides Clarkson and Randle, there was Davis, Black, and even Brown. These are not central players, but they can be good support players and good support players who have specific roles is what good teams – see Spurs – have. They also become good pieces in a trade scenario.
“In order to be great once again, they must first merely be good:” Certainly not going to argue with that. However hopefully the Lakers are not initially realizing that right now. OK – so they went for the “three-run homer” with Nash and DH. Did not work but we can forgive them (somewhat). However after Nash was done, DH left, and KB was hurt, the home run was off the table. That was two full years ago.
Basically, this year, I think that the Lakers need to try to/hope to create a roster where they have four young/youngish guys who can be legit NBA starters–Randle, Clarkson, draft pick, one FA–and play those guys with Kobe next year. I think that is pretty much Step 1.
As I have said in other posts, IMO Davis and Kelly are the only two bench guys who are relevant. Davis can be a decent 3rd big and Kelly can–maybe–be a 4th/5th big/floor spacer. Black and Brown are both fun guys to have around, and have some skills, but make little difference big-picture in all likelihood.
Very true. In order to be great you need to first be good. And in order to be good you first need to be really really bad. Or you just sign LeBron James and go from average to great (Miami) or this year bad to great (cle).
My issue with the Lakers is the fact that they had no Plan B after the failure of the Chris Paul trade. They let one of the best players in history wither away on a bad team when he still had a chance to compete. I look at the Spurs and get disgusted with the Lakers’ organization. We had a Big 3 of Kobe, Pau, Odom with Bynum being the young player who was basically in the Kahwi Leonard role. I’m not upset, that they went for the big deal, is that they had no back up plan. They trade Odom for a exception, go after an old Nash, and demean Pau until the point where he wanted nothing to do with the team.
My point in bringing all this up is I don’t think they have a plan at all. They have this “we’re the Lakers” attitude and just going after names. They did nothing last summer to put any faith into what they can do this summer. Now let’s hope we keep our top 5 and we draft smart for our later picks, Randle, Clarkson, and the trade for Black were all solid moves. If the Lakers play their card right, they can have a good mix of vets and young players. But now I’m worried that we’re going to throw money at Rondo, which would be a horrible idea.
I just don’t have any confidence at all in the organization. I know teams can’t be good forever, but I felt like that with Kobe still playing at a high level, there was no need for the team to bottom out as bad as it did. Hopefully they prove me wrong.
bryan S. says
Mansa: Rondo gets a small, short deal if anything. Lakers aren’t that dumb. Really.
Great post, Darius! I agree that we need to start taking steps to gather assets and start getting good. From there, we can build into greatness. Obviously easier said than done.
My only caveat is that if we lose our pick this year, I would look to tank hard next season when our draft pick will not have any restrictions.
A few guys next year look worthy enough to adopt the Sixers’ level of tanking dedication.
Chris J says
Not to defend every move the front office has made, but to expect a Plan B that was anywhere close to Plan A (Chris Paul) is a bit tough, don’t you think? That was an unprecedented intervention and overreaching extension of the commissioner’s powers. No one in any sport could have been prepped to adequately react to that.
Odom could have chosen to act like a pro and realize the trade effort was just business, but he freaked out and played the petulant child role, forcing the Lakers to trade him for pennies on the dollar. (And he’s never been an NBA contributor since.) Again, I can’t blame the front office there, either.
I was never a fan of Howard, but I get why they rolled the dice. He was the better player, and even one season of Howard was more than Bynum has given any team since he left L.A.
The real crusher — all-time worst trade in franchise history — was the Nash deal. Aside from that, some moves have missed badly, some worked OK… What I don’t get was dealing a guy like Blake, getting some young talent back, and then letting those ex-Warriors roll off.
It’s definitely been hit and miss.
bryan S: I agree. I think that Lakers are not as incompetent as some are making them out to be. Rondo lowered his value with his play this year and absolutely sank it in the playoffs. If the Lakers do sign him, I can’t imagine it would be for a long term deal.
Not to defend every move the front office has made, but to expect a Plan B that was anywhere close to Plan A (Chris Paul) is a bit tough, don’t you think?
Yeah. The Veto of the Paul deal completely changed the trajectories of three franchises, and has affected the entire Western Conference. Basically, the Clippers got Paul, the Pelicans got Davis, the Lakers got kicked in the balls, and are still doubled over and gasping, 3 1/2 years later.
-Spot on piece D. Big question is does this new ownership realize this…finally.
-Let’s look at a few “good” teams this season w/ an aging superstar:
*Dallas w/ Dirk, Monte Ellis became the 1st scoring option, Dirk the 2nd
*Washington w/ Pierce, he was the fourth scoring option
*Spurs w/ Duncan, 2nd scoring option to Leonard
Somehow their front office and coaching staff realized your aging superstar can be more effective when less is expected. It also is helpful when the aging legend is bright enough to realizes his own mortality…BEFORE it’s soooo obvious to all.
-Please let’s not use the “Kobe is younger” defense. Even w/ all the time Kobe has missed over the last few years due to injury, he’s still played more regular season career games than Dirk & Pierce. And that’s the only reason Tim passed him. And there’s no need to discuss the number of post season games is there?
-And no, I’m not going to discuss the salary cap implications well known to all.
-Better times are coming, simply because it’s a lot easier for the Lakers to become better than it is for them to become worst.
Chris J and rr,
Very good posts. My kidneys still hurt.
The VETO was certainly a bad break for our franchise at the hands of the commissioner. However, I do not think it happens if Jerry Buss and Jerry West were at the helm. That said – I am not counting this against the FO. I will count that as a very bad break. However it is one of what I would call the 6 major moves of the Jim Buss era. They are the VETO (which is now 4 full seasons ago – how long are we going to point to this), the inexplicable signing of Mike Brown, the horrible Steve Nash deal, the Dwight Howard nightmare, the Phil/Mike D’Antoni debacle, and the Kobe Bryant extension. They not only all turned out horribly, but the “process” surrounding most of them was completely flawed (the way the coaching decisions were handled, the timing of the KB deal, the DH meetings and billboards). Yes – these are not the only decisions the FO has made, but the next set of decisions down the list are way less significant. On the positive side we could site the drafting of Clarkson, or obtaining the pick by taking on the Lin salary dump. However on the negative side there is letting Pau walk for nothing, and alienating guys like Kaman and Jamison to the point of despondency. These are all minor issues in the overall scheme. The amount of damage done by the big 6 decisions is what has put us in this hole. The fact that we need to be “patient” and wait “years” before we are contenders again is obvious. Often, people on this site equate those of us who criticize the FO, with those who want a “quick fix”. Not so in my case. This is going to take years. However – before we start the full re-build, we need to complete the demolition.
Stop with the ‘it’s ok to sign Rondo to a short deal.’ It’s not ok, the guy can’t play anymore and just imploded the Mavs playoff chances. How could you want him on your team?
He can’t defend like he used to, could never shoot from the outside, is among the ten worst free throw shooters in the league, is selfish and a horrible locker room guy. Tell me why are we even mentioning him?
Chris J says
How long are we going to point out the Veto? — I can’t say when it’ll stop, but I know it won’t be on a weekend in which Chris Paul is playing a game that could send the Clippers to the Western Conference Finals.
Every time I see him do well, it’s like a little knife twisting in my side. And I am confident many other Laker fans feel the same. He was a Laker, and then because David Stern felt otherwise, he wasn’t.
It was like being engaged to a supermodel, then walking down the aisle only to find you fat, hairy uncle had instead forced her onto your jobless, incompetent little cousin instead. And now we get to see them going on dates and doing fun things together… I’m not going to forget that anytime soon, maybe ever.
He can’t defend like he used to, could never shoot from the outside, is among the ten worst free throw shooters in the league, is selfish and a horrible locker room guy.
Tell me why are we even mentioning him?
4 words: His .. Relationship .. With .. Kobe
Given everything that Todd stated up above and if one was to include the more then likely scenario that next years team will only be marginally better – unless a miracle takes place – what logical reason does the FO have for showing an even remote interest in Rondo? My answer? What I stated up above. Truth be told, take Kobe’s relationship with Rajon out of the equation and I don’t believe that there would be any connection between Rondo and the organization.
Craig W. says
Probably the Veto talk will stop when repeating ‘the front office can’t find their shoes comments’ also stop. Both belong in the past and most discussions should be focusing on what we can do now. When the front office does something you disagree with, then certainly speak up, but don’t continually bring up the ‘can’t do anything right’ talk.
It is well know here the many posters are simply waiting for the time when Jim Buss steps down. Repeating the request, however, doesn’t bring it any closer to reality.
CP3 is past but FO moves were past, will be there in present and future. Repeating the request to Jimbo to step down may not happen immediately because he is the owner and the main decision maker, however it is better to sound it off than just putting our heads under the sand. Sometimes, a leaky door gets oiled. or depicting the matter in a harsh analogy, “evil triumphs when good men do nothing”.
You should actually encourage Veto talk, because it is by far the best defense of the FO that there is–much better than any of the arguments that you repeat day after day.
As to when it will stop, that is very simple: when the Lakers once again have a good enough/interesting enough team again such that people are able to focus on the present instead of focusing on the recent past that has landed the franchise in this terrible place. And in some respects, the Veto, like Kobe’s deal, is not really the past–those things are part of the present, since they affect the present.
Also, this is kind of a dead time for Lakers fans–and given that Paul and Howard are set to square off in a Game 7 in the conference semis, it is understandable that some people’s thoughts have returned to that sequence of events. Once we know what happens with the lottery, conversations will return to the draft,etc, which is where they have been quite a bit anyway.
Nice post at 1005 am.
Why is everyone so angry at the FO? Could they have gotten worse records to ensure better picks the last two years? Yes. But they are right there at the bottom. They couldn’t be much worse. Oh… People want to win a championship without rebuilding? No that can’t be it. Nobody could possibly think that.
Another fine post Darius
the Lakers got kicked in the balls, and are still doubled over and gasping, 3 1/2 years later.
Friggin´ A, ain´t it the truth
Chris J: I am with u on probably never forgetting that day. The VETO, KB’s achilles, and Robert Horry’s in and out pointer against the Spurs in Game 5 of 2003 were my worst Laker moments this century.
Tra/Todd: I have not seen anyone say that they really want Rondo. What is going on here is hedging, because the FO might actually sign him. People will spin it as a good financial move, a good tanking move, or good for KB’s last year. They do not want to go on record as we have, that it will be a bad move.
Shoes: I have never said that Jim could not find his shoes. He is perfectly adept at finding his own shoes. It is filling Jerry’s shoes where he is sorely lacking.
Craig W. says
We all need a little humor. It just doesn’t come across in a blog well. Congratulations! You did it!
Craig: Glad I could amuse you. Let’s hope we are both laughing when we beat the odds and land the top pick !
Craig W. says
I’m not sure I want that. If we pick first the arguments over who we should have picked will seem like WWII. At least if we pick 3-4 there will not be as much conflict.
My attempt a humor wasn’t as natural as yours.
— I guess the censor didn’t like my humor either —
In the event that some of you may not have seen Jordan Clarkson’s most recent workout this week, I suggest that you glance at the following link: .silverscreenandroll.com/2015/5/14/8610129/jordan-clarkson-summer-workout-la-lakers-offseason-2015
It not only shows JC looking really good but also offers excerpts from an interview between Mike Trudell of Lakers.com and Tim DiFrancesco, the Lakers’ trainer who is in charge of having the players lift weights and build up their bodies. (The article is by Harrison Faigen of Silver Screen and Roll, May 14, “Jordan Clarkson shows Off Summer Workout.”)
According to DiFancesco, apparently Clarkson has already added 10 pounds of muscle to his frame since the end of the season. DiFrancesco feels he can add more. He believes that Clarkson needs the “body armor” to better absorb contact and punishment at the NBA level. This will probably help Clarkson get to the line more often as, say, James Harden does. As an 82.9% free throw shooter, Clarkson should spend as much time at the line as possible. If he were to shoot, say, 6 or 7 FTs per game, that could be a major addition to his game.
At any rate, check out the link. It’s worth a peek.
I respectfully disagree with the idea that it’s advantageous to bring in Rondo because of his relationship real or imagined with Kobe. It’s not 2005 and it’s no longer necessary to patronize Kobe; he’s not exactly the future of the franchise.
Now, if one is of the opinion that Rondo needs to come in to help the Lakers be terrible again next year, well OK …. that would be a big step in the “right” direction.
bryan S. says
Could you? Would you? Should you?
That would be trading the top five pick rights for a guaranteed pick, say 8-12? Why would Mitch consider this? Well, although the odds of retaining the pick are high, (84%), there is a 17% chance the pick will fall out of the top five. If they lose it, their next pick is the 27th from the Rockets. That possibility is awful to entertain, and it has Mitch worried, per lakers.com. As most here well know, the draft lake for the Lakers is nearly dry, a drought brought on by trading away an absurd number of picks for the young and healthy Steve Nash. Simply put, the Lakers cannot afford to lose this pick. So, how about moving down to say, the 12th spot by trading our top five protected pick to the Jazz? Why would the Jazz do it? Maybe because as a loaded young team, they can afford to take a gamble with excellent odds to get a top five pick. They can afford the risk/reward. It they lose it to the 76ers, no big deal. They are still an upcoming juggernaut with ridiculously good young talent. If they land it, wow.
The Lakers on the other hand, need a quality player (starter or better) to speed up the rebuild and make the Lakers a more attractive destination for free agents with their fast approaching mega cap room. They don’t need a star really; but they can get a high quality prospect with the
12th pick. For example: Myles Turner or Sam Dekker. Truth is, the prospects from say 7-12 are more or less interchangeable in potential value. I personally think that either of these examples would be tremendous gets. The more I think about this, the more inclined I would be to do it if I were Mitch and had a trading partner who would be willing to take nice odds.
Bryan S — an intriguing idea, but the Lakers can’t afford to play it safe; they must swing for the fences, so to speak. Or be doomed to years of totally sucking. Actually they may well be doomed to years of totally sucking no matter how this years draft plays out.
Chris J says
Bryan — Is there anything to suggest another team would even take that risk? I find it hard to believe an NBA GM with a Top 10-12 pick would risk giving up a high first-rounder for the rights to move up, at best, a few slots while at worst risk losing their first-round pick altogether should the Lakers lose their pick to the Sixers.
For academic argument’s sake, if I were Kupchak I would not trade down as you have suggested, if in fact there were a willing dealer out there.
There’s more upside to being in the Top 5, and if they fall out of the Top 5 next season will be another intermission to the inevitable rebuild. Trading it to get a decent pick at 10-12 may be safer, but the Lakers need a real difference maker and the chances of that live at the top of the first round.
Craig W. says
7-12 may be interchangeable, but there is a definite drop off after 5. We need real talent, not role players. An 84% chance are very good odds and the Lakers need this. I say we all watch Tuesday – at least Cleveland isn’t in the lottery.
Darius Soriano says
The Lakers aren’t trading this pick before they know if they keep it. Not sure why this is even being discussed.
Darius, fair enough however not much else to talk about in Lakerland right now. Guess the main alternative is to speculate on whether the Clips complete their melt down today.
A writer in the LA Times today was actually speculating if they would consider trading Griffin for Durant if they lose game 7. That may be one of the dumbest things I’ve read recently in ANY context.
There’s more upside to being in the Top 5, and if they fall out of the Top 5 next season will be another intermission to the inevitable rebuild.
Another thing to remember: If they keep this year’s pick, the 2016 pick is only Top-3 protected. That is one reason I am not on board with tanking again if they keep this pick, although the Lakers could easily:
a) Keep the pick and actually make a good choice with it
b) Try really hard to get better this off-season
c) Still be one of the 2-3 worst teams in the NBA next year.
But, as I and others have said a few times, even having the worst record in the league does not guarantee a spot in the Top 3, and tanking is tricky. Philadelphia has aggressively and openly tanked and has not had the worst record in the league either of the last two years.
If we pick first the arguments over who we should have picked will seem like WWII.
I actually think that almost everybody would want Towns at #1, and that there will be more arguments at 3-5 (Mudiay, Russell, Winslow, Okafor if he slips).
And I expect that if the Lakers get a pick in the Top 3, Buss and Kupchak will be getting some offers for it (player + a lower pick).
Actually having the worst record in the league does guarantee a top three pick. And Philly isn’t the only team tanking. NY, LA, and Minny all tanked this year.
… Correction… The worst record gets a top four pick. But the odds are great you get a top three pick. I don’t know of a team with the worst record that didn’t get a top three pick.
Bryan S says
Darius: From my perspective , all possibilities should be examined. Another maxim I repeat to the many people who work for me is to assume nothing. You are very likely right that the lakers won’t trade the pick before knowing the position, but the argument I make comes right out of risk assessment 101.
Ironically perhaps, the NYK tank gives PJ a chance to affirm his B Ball brilliance.
Minnesota and New York had tanks roll up on them and they had to get on, just like Milwaukee did in 2014. The Lakers we have covered.
Chris J says
I am so conflicted on today’s game. I want the Clippers to lose because of the Chris Paul nexus to the Lakers, not to mention my disdain for their Johnny Come Lately “fans.” But on the other side, I don’t ever want to see Howard advance, either.
Go Warriors… Best I can do.
The Knicks traded away every good player they had aside from Melo. I’m assuming that was to tank. Minny traded away their established “star” for a 19 year old rookie.
“The Los Angeles Lakers made a top-five pick last year with Kentucky’s Julius Randle, yet figure to do so again this year as they follow through on a normal rebuilding plan. It might turn out for the better, too, considering the franchise’s past instant-gratification ways produced the Steve Nash and Dwight Howard debacles.
Speaking of Nash, Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times notes what is at stake for the Lakers Tuesday:
For general manager Mitch Kupchak and the front office, it’s imperative to hang on to this top selection and grab another elite talent. Pairing a Karl-Anthony Towns or Jahlil Okafor with Randle down low, or maybe even an Emmanuel Mudiay or D’Angelo Russell to run the offense would work wonders.
Two top-five talents on the roster not only braces for a future without Kobe Bryant, it helps to lure top free agents to the team this summer and the next. There’s not a team with more riding on Tuesday’s lottery”
bryan S. says
my reply to Darius re: my post @ 9:50pm is stuck in mod.
-@ Chris J, so sorry you can’t just sit back w/ a brew and enjoy a game 7, especially since it’s the only game on the last couple days.
– Howard having a great 1st half. His fingerprint are all over the Rockets 10 point halftime lead. 12 points, 10-11 rebounds, 5 for 5 from the field, even 2 of 3 from the line.
– Lol, if the Lakers traded down their draft pick based on a 16 – 17% chance of losing it, Little Jimmy Buss might as well hang it up. What over move has he made that had a 84% chance of successing?
“Beat LA … Beat LA … Beat LA …”
This chant should be a Lakers copyright, but even this has been “appropriated” by the Clips. Sheesh.
No ugly Clippers banner inside Staples.
My condolences to those who root against the Rocket because they accepted our gift.
Front running Clippers can only make shots and strut when they have a lead! Posers! You can hear Clippers fans jumping off that wagon. Now they have to resign DeAndre. Los Angeles is Dodgers, Raiders, Kings, and Lakers country!
Thank you Houston. Highly appreciated .. Now go on ahead and get smashed by Golden State
Not buying it.
This Pincus Tweet ties back to what I said originally about the Nash deal–the main problem IMO always including the 4th pick:
Eric Pincus ?@EricPincus
Thus far, Lakers haven’t really given up much to get Nash – obviously that changes if they lose their pick in lottery.
And of course the Lakers are giving up that pick–we just don’t know when
It’ll be a little more clear Tuesday night :0)
Agree Robert! no ugly banner for the time being!
I kind of feel badly for the Clippers…
but I mainly don’t.
I had a feeling the Rockets would win. Well, since I live in Oakland, I won’t have any problem blending in with the rest of the Warriors fans until the WCF is over. Here’s a funny gif for all you Clippers haters out there….
One for Clippershaters:
Earvin Magic Johnson
I thought the Spurs taught the Clippers how to win after a tough 7 game series. I was wrong. The Clippers are still the Clippers.
And one for the Byronbashers:
@espnAnd then there were four. The teams that led the NBA in playoff 3-point attempts per game heading into today are the last four standing.
And one for the Byronbashers:
Lol poor Byron…
Is it just me or do you guys read Magic’s tweets in his voice too? If the Clips pay DJ the max, then this will most likely be their fate for the foreseeable future. They need serious bench help. Of course…if they could have just dug a little deeper and closed the Rockets out in game 6, then no one would be having these conversations.
Regular season 3pa rank of Conference finalists:
4. Golden State
Houston took 2680, 427 more than Cleveland. The Lakers were 25th, and two semi-finalists, WAS and MEM, were 27th and 29th.
One other factoid: the top 5 in regular season 3P makes were the four conference finalists, and the Clippers.
Darius, would you please weigh in on the Clippers collapse?
Darius Soriano says
The Clippers looked mentally and physically worn out. To me it’s mostly an indictment of Doc Rivers the GM hamstringing Doc Rivers the coach where he had so few options on his bench that he had to play his starters too much and they were worn down in the process. Honestly don’t see that changing in one off-season, either. Though I could be wrong.
Chris J says
I wonder what Doc Rivers will use as his excuse this time. After all, his starting five in Boston never lost a game (in his mind.)
The Lakers assumed they had formed a super team for the price of a few picks that would not be very valuable. That much is a given. In a rebuild that involves Kobe in the transition this the first year I believe the F.O. has a reasonable chance of turning things around. They have draft picks this year, a few key players under contract, and cap space. I don’t think the Lakers are out of the woods yet but, there is reason to be somewhat optimistic. Last year they just didn’t have enough cap space, defined role players, or picks to put around anyone they could have signed.
Doc is a decent coach but a bad GM. He has no bench at all — and that is on him. They have plateaued with this roster and changes will need to be made. The seeds of this fail were sown a few years back when the Clippers blew the Bledsoe trade. Bledsoe is a star and the Clips got a spot up shooter in Redick (who can’t create his own shot) and a bust in Jared Dudley.
However, no one should write them off. Their core is young enough: Jordan and Blake are 26 and Paul just turned 30. Jordan will be resigned and Blake will not be flipped for Durant as so many in the media speculate.
I think they have a three year window. They are one of the teams that will gladly welcome the league’s growing cap space. The Clippers would be a better destination, this summer, for two Lakers free agent targets: Khris Middleton and Tobias Harris. Or, imagine next summer when cap really blows up and Kevin Durant (if healthy) is available as a FA.
It will be interesting to see what impact Steve Ballmer has on the team in this his first off-season as owner. Ballmer was known as a no-nonsense executive at Microsoft and I expect he will be equally demanding with Doc.
The Lakers’ FO can breathe a sigh of relief that with the Clippers’ loss there won’t be further scrutiny of how and why the Lakers’ have imploded so badly. However, my sense is that this summer will be very telling for the future. I think Ballmer senses he has momentum and knows the Lakers will be down for another three or four years. I suspect the Clippers will be very aggressive going forward.
Full disclaimer: I am a Lakers fan. But I think folks that believe that LA will always be a Lakers’ city are mistaken. Gone are the days when our FO can mail in full seasons like the last two. I think the Clippers will be raising the bar and the question is are Jeanie and Jim up to it?
Follow-up thought from my post above: Will the Clippers ever be as historically relevant as the Lakers? No, I’m not saying that – unless they win double digits in championships. What I’m saying is that the Lakers have never had to worry about their hapless little brother down the hall because Sterling was in it just for the money. If he had to choose between making less to put a winner on the court or putting more money in his pocket — he always chose himself.
I believe Ballmer is 180 degrees different. The Clippers have been the best team in LA for two years running. If the Lakers miss out on this pick and continue to stumble it’s not farfetched that the Clippers can dominate the balance of the decade. If you are an advocate of change then a strong Clippers team is just another pressure point to force the Lakers to embrace moving forward.
Darius Soriano says
I’d argue the Lakers don’t need additional pressure to do better. Regardless of how well people think any of the Busses (or Mitch or anyone else) are at their respective jobs, I don’t think anyone would argue they want anything less than the team to do well and to compete for championships. The Clippers being an excellent team or Ballmer’s shift from Sterling or any other external factor doesn’t change that the Lakers want to win. The question will be, of course, if they can make the right decisions and have enough things break their way for that to happen. Whether those things occur will have little to do with the Clippers, imo.
– Currently the Clipper product on the court is better. It’s more exciting, more talented, and gives customers more bang for the buck. I’ll also add the Clippers’s ownership and coach rate higher than the Lakers, mainly because the Lakers ownership and coach(es) have been pretty bad lately. I do prefer Mitch to Doc as a GM. Obviously the Clips are not there yet, but much closer than our Lakers.
– I see them being a formidable foe for free agents who are attracted to the L. A. lifestyle. Particularly those with title dreams who want to have the best chance of winning in the next two years as opposed to growing with a developing team. Clips need a new GM, have to resign Jordan, and replace either Barnes and/or JJ in the starting line-up (putting one or both of them on the bench). And they’ll be ready for another run.
Thinking the success of the Clips doesn’t influence the Lakers in any way is unrealistic. I’m simply hoping it doesn’t make then overreact and change their plans (plans??? what plans?)… Scratch that, I just hope it doesn’t influence them to do something stupid.
-FB&G will be an interesting place during the off-season…draft lottery order becomes clearer tomorrow, can’t wait.
Darius: The question will be, of course, if they can make the right decisions and have enough things break their way for that to happen. Whether those things occur will have little to do with the Clippers, imo.
Agreed that the Clippers are a non-issue if the Lakers go about their business and start making decisions that work. The first decision is tomorrow night. If the Lakers lose their pick the masses will be asking the FO why they chose to pursue so many meangless wins with so much riding on keeping this pick.
The reality is that neither team can operate in a vacuum. The Lakers and Clippers are going to be vying for the same free agent talent in the coming years and for the first time in my memory the Clippers actually have a better story to tell. Up to now the Lakers have had a monopoly on the LA market. A position, which gave the FO a huge margin for error with the media and the fan base. My gut says that will be changing.
Ballmer helped make Microsoft an incredibly effective brand marketing company. What if the Clippers start to woo the casual basketball fan? Current basketball loyalties in LA probably skew 80/20 in the Lakers favor — what happens when that percentage slips to 60/40 or 55/45 Lakers? What happens to the Lakers’ ancillary revenues? You can’t tell me that wouldn’t be cause for concern in Lakerland.
Darius Soriano says
No offense, but it’s a leap to say “what happens when that percentage slips to 60/40 or 55/45 Lakers?” as if it’s simply a given it happens. When the announcement was made at the Dodgers game that the Clippers had been eliminated, the crowed cheered. Yes, that’s one venue, but it’s indicative of where the city leans in terms of basketball allegiance. I know you acknowledged that in your comment, but to say it and then imply as if a drastic shift in that isn’t just probable, but likely seems far fetched.
Chris J says
But I think folks that believe that LA will always be a Lakers’ city are mistaken.
Counterpoint — The Angels have won a World Series, and made the playoffs several times since, whereas the Dodger haven’t won a title since Reagan was still in the White House. But L.A. is still a Dodgers town.
Likewise, the White Sox have won a Series but Chicago is still a Cubs town, aside from a small part in the South Side. And the Yankees didn’t make the playoffs for years in the 80s, early 90s, while the crosstown Mets won a World Series and had the town’s biggest stars. But New York was and always will be a Yankees town.
The Clippers will grow their fan base — how could they not, playing in front of 7,000 people for so many seasons? But the reports of the Lakers’ overall demise as L.A.’s top dog are greatly exaggerated. You can’t replicate decades of dominance, and a few bad years won’t erase the connection fans have with the Laker organization.
Just my two cents…
Darius: “… Doc Rivers the GM ham stringing Doc Rivers the coach where he had so few options on his bench that he had to play his starters too much and they were worn down in the process. Honestly don’t see that changing in one off-season, either. Though I could be wrong.”
Darius, thank you for your reply. Yes, it seems the Clips will have a tough time upgrading in one off season. Per Ben Bolch/ Eric Pincus in an LA Times article this morning, the Clippers have “the mini mid level plus … (a number of) veteran’s minimum contracts.” to work with for next year, barring trades. If DeAndre Jordan leaves, they would have the full mid level, which would of course be a net huge set back for the team.
The article also states Jordan “could” command a max contract. Heh, that must be an error: change “could” to “will”.