With the playoffs in full swing and the draft lottery not for a few more weeks, all is quiet out of El Segundo for these Lakers. The players have surely started their off-season routines, building on the season that was and using their exit interviews to inform their path ahead. For fans, out focus naturally drifts to them — the people on the court playing the games. Can they improve their craft and come back ready to make an impact on the floor next year?
This is the natural approach and the answers for each individual player are pertinent. But we’d be lying if we said that was the only area which needed improvement or where change could be used to elevate the team. When examining the Lakers’ front office and coaching staff, we should also be looking for them to take positive steps forward and come back improved for next season.
In at least one spot, this is by necessity. In early April, it was announced that assistant/player development coach Theo Robertson was leaving the organization to join the coaching staff at his alma mater UC Berkeley. Robertson once starred at Forward for Cal’s Golden Bears and is from the Bay Area, so this move home is a great opportunity for him. I am interested in seeing what direction Luke and the Lakers go in replacing Robertson, however.
As noted, Robertson served as an assistant/player development coach and the Lakers certainly do need to ensure they are well staffed in that area. With so many young players on the roster, coaches of that ilk who can put in the time for individual skill development are a necessity. So, it would be easy to see Luke and the FO determine that is the best way to proceed and simply find a new Robertson-type to fill the void he vacated.
That said, I would also like to see the team bring on another experienced coach who can not only help with player development, but schemes and strategy — especially on defense. The Lakers’ current staff does has a nice mix of guys who have been around the block (Brian Shaw, Brian Keefe, Jesse Mermuys to a somewhat lesser extent) and coaches who are newer (Mark Madsen, Jud Buechler). But what the staff currently lacks is that one grey-beard, that basketball lifer who can serve as a guidepost while taking a secondary leadership role behind Walton along with Shaw and the other assistants.
Beyond the coaching staff, though, there tweaks to be made in the front office too. During his exit interview, Rob Pelinka noted he was still in the process of examining the front office and making determinations on what additions to make. He brought up the idea of a “wellness coordinator” who would work with the players on things like nutrition, sleep habits, and more, but intimated there would be even more additions.
Remember, too, that Assistant GM Glenn Carraro resigned before the end of the season, so there is at least one empty chair in the room which could, theoretically, be filled still. As I wrote when Carraro stepped down, I would like to see the Lakers not only give those who have earned a larger voice (Jesse Buss, Ryan West) more input, but to also bring in voices from outside the organization to help bolster their ranks. The Lakers have long operated like the family business they are, looking within to fill roles whenever possible (hiring Magic Johnson and Kobe’s former agent only add to this perception).
That said, this type of approach can often be insular, leaving outside options off the table and eliminating what could be potentially valuable perspectives from becoming a part of the process. Further, and I hate to sound like a broken record, I remain committed to the idea that the Lakers should be leveraging their resources (financial and otherwise) into areas which are not governed by the salary cap nor the collective bargaining agreement. The team has moved down this road in the construction of their new practice facility and organizational office space, but can do similar things by investing even more in analytics, specialist coaching (shooting, etc), and other front office talent.
This stuff may not be as sexy has Randle developing his right hand or becoming a viable three point shooter, Ingram getting stronger and getting more consistent footwork, or Russell becoming a more consistent player. Those things will be easy to see on the court and will have a tangible impact on winning games. But changes to the staff and tweaks to the front office are just as important to the strides the players can hopefully make. Which makes this summer an important one for everyone in the organization.