A common theme from the final two-plus months of the season was this idea that all of the players were now “on notice” regarding their future with the team. With Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka taking over for the dispatched Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak, the narrative (for lack of a better word) became one of the players needing to “impress their new bosses” and “show that they belong on the team” for the future.
It got to the point where an uptick in play by some of the young players (ahem, D’Angelo Russell) was, at times, attributed to Magic and Pelinka coming on board and inspiring guys to play better/harder. And I’m sure there’s some truth to that. In my experience, whenever a new boss comes on board, you want to reinforce your value by working hard and putting out your best effort. I would imagine this concept is even more relevant in professional sports.
How much this idea was real and how much of it was projecting by media, fans, etc doesn’t really matter, honestly. What does matter, though, is that the tables are now turning away from the players and back onto Magic and Pelinka who, in their first off-season running the team, are themselves about to be on notice.
While Pelinka noted in his media session following the team’s exit interviews that the players were going to be held to a certain standard of excellence, he also noted that the message of living up that standard applied to him, Magic, and their staff too. And while that’s a nice soundbite, the fact is, now is really their time to turn the vision they want for the team into an executable plan which can start to bear fruit.
None of this will be straight forward or easy. You cannot look forward to what this new front office will try to do without first acknowledging how they will be burdened by some of the mistakes their predecessors made. Whether it’s the presence of some bad contracts, the unbalanced nature of the roster, or the uncertainty of the team’s own lottery pick, there are challenges to work through. It should be noted, too, that I don’t think anyone expects everything to turn around in one summer.
But that doesn’t change the tenor of this summer. Even if the Lakers keep their draft pick, the margin for error is slim. The team needs to carry whatever momentum it has forward and continue to make positive strides which brighten the future outlook of the team. It goes without saying, but they must avoid mistakes entirely — even smaller ones which in a normal summer for a better team could be managed or smoothed over time. The hole is simply too deep, though, for any of that now.
In other words, it’s now time for Magic and Pelinka to show why they were good choices for their jobs. If that sounds dramatic, it kind of is. I don’t think anyone should be expecting them to move heaven and earth to build the next great Lakers team right away, but what the timing of their hires and the backdrop of several consecutive losing seasons looms. To their credit, I think they understand this too. Pelinka has preached excellence and Magic has talked about building things the right way to create a lasting contender which reflects the team’s history and that fans can be proud of.
And while both Rob and Magic have been careful with regards to timelines and, if anything, noted that they have a long ways to go, I think they both do want to get things back on track quickly. Which, like for some of their rookie players, makes this first summer a key one for their long term development and growth.
John Agyeman says
The lakere look good for the future,they have clarkson who is mini Westbrook, dlo self admitted ginobili,ingram junior Durant and promising youngsters like zupac,Nance,nwaba and black the team identity is shaping up because all the good teams have identity
I like what you say about identity. I like this team. The two or three seasons previous I just didn’t like the team, but I slogged through it with hope for the future because I’m a Lakers fan and nothing else. I don’t even consider myself a “sports” person, I’m just an LA native who learned to love the team. I have a lot of hope for the future. Not looking for a championship or anything, just to be following a team that entertains and gives me some kind of respite from the more serious things in life.
Someone who agrees with me that Clarkson is a mini Westbrook. Give him the keys instead of Russell. And don’t go after Westbrook, so talented, but we’ve been down his road before.
They’ve already made some good moves–got us a first, Corey Brewer, and Tyler Ennis, while moving Huertas and Calderon. There’s a good mixture of trade bait and draft picks–so the cupboard is not bare.
. . .Johnson and Pelinka are not without contacts and skills . . .
It’s hard not to be optimistic.
I like the sense of optimism expressed by the commenters to this thread. I agree that the Lakers have a lot to work with even if they are not necessarily a championship team as yet.
1) TALENT. The Lakers are not without talent (despite what others may say). There are some real athletes on this team. What they lack is not ability but maturity and seasoning. That, of course, will come with time. Nineteen-year-olds do not a championship team make. But 19-year olds eventually become 24-year olds. And when that happens, a team can become very dangerous. The Lakers have young talent. Some of that youth is on the verge of maturing. That is a good thing.
2) COHESION. The young core — DAR, Clarkson, Randle, Nance, Ingram, Zubac, Black — are learning to play with one another. This is crucial to any team’s success. The Spurs, Warriors, Cavaliers, and Raptors all have a core of players who know each other’s game inside and out. When you have that kind of symbiotic relationship, you cut down on turnovers; you know when to switch and when not to; you talk more on defense; and you learn how to cover for each other. There’s real gold in that. The Lakers are getting there. This may be an argument for keeping the core together.
3) COACHING. The Lakers, I believe, not only have excellent coaches but they have mentors who are adept at working with young players. When you have young, impressionable athletes, it’s vitally important to teach them the nuances of the sport without criticizing them harshly and destroying their sense of self-esteem. I think Luke and his staff excel at that. This can only result in good things for the future.
The Lakers, obviously, have a long ways to go. But I sense progress already. (It was very much in evidence at the end of the season.) I’m actually looking forward to the next 2-3 years.
I don’t think being “on notice” works in the long run.
Yes, it can produce short-term gains, such as when all-time-winningest Lakers coach (by percentage) Bernie Bickerstaff went 3-1 in 2012 by basically NOT coaching the Lakers between Mike Brown’s firing and Mike D’Antoni’s appointment.
Similarly, the 1991-1992 Lakers went 8-0 or 9-0 after Magic announced his HIV-driven retirement.
But eventually the short-term effect of being “on notice” fades and performance begins to once again reflect underlying fundamentals.
The Lakers have some promisiing players, a well-regarded coach, and some hope for adding to their talent pool either in 2017 or 2018. Those factors will have far more influence on the Lakers success going forward than whether Magic/Pelinka put players/staff “on notice” or not.
They will be alright. I just hope we aren’t two more championships behind Boston by the time the team is ready to compete.
I stand corrected. Boston looks overmatched inside.
Henry Boynton says
I like the core. I fear a big trade for a George or Butler that decimates the younguns, They deserve a chance to grow together. And please keep Thomas Robinson.
I like Thomas Robinson’s hustle also. Add David Nwaba and incumbent LNJ and you can out-hustle most teams with two scores to help them. No one but maybe BI should be considered untradible (sp) but to glut the youngsters for Westbrook, Butler or even PG13 would be a mistake. Westbrook is Kobe 2.0, Butler hasn’t shown that he makes the team better, PG13 not can be had a year later, but he looks like he’s lost so mobility after the Olympic accident. I would rather go in on Goran Hayward and hope that BI can play point SF and keep DLo as a hybrid guard.