The Los Angeles Lakers can’t get lower than their current levels, can they? If the Lakers keep losing games Jack Nicholson won’t have any hair left. I mean we are talking about one of the most storied franchises in NBA history, right? Fans are up in arms with many already talking ‘tankjob’ while the team soldiers on as best as they can. This is a Laker team on a serious shoestring budget and the results have proven that, but can ownership buy their way out of their slump? It’s unlikely.
To examine where the Lakers go from here we have to first account for who will be on the team next season. Pau Gasol has been the subject of many trade scenarios, but the team has backed off on those talks — though I’m sure Lakers’ brass would move the big Spaniard for some pieces in return. Pau’s contract is up after this season so a trade now would be a good idea, but let’s say Gasol is offered an extension and stays a Laker. He will be joined by Kobe Bryant — who should sit out this season in my opinion — Robert Sacre, an aging hobbled Steve Nash and Nick Young. Not exactly a murderer’s row of players.
With just a few players under contract it’s easy to see that general manager Mitch Kupchak is possibly biding time before opening up the bank of Staples Center to sign some lucrative free agents. The stars the Lakers covet include Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love who is growing increasingly frustrated in Minnesota. The Lakers will also take a strong look at nabbing Carmelo Anthony who many say is well on his way out with the New York Knicks. But with stiff luxury tax initiatives in place under the new collective bargaining agreement, Mitch won’t exactly be handing out checks left and right. But let’s say the Lakers are able to somehow land both stars; then what?
The Lakers are still aging at core positions, and Kobe Bryant, while still lethal, is long in the tooth with tons of mileage on his balky knees. Besides the last time the Lakers cobbled together an All-Star team it didn’t exactly work out like they hoped. That was in 2004 when the Lakers were beaten by the Detroit Pistons in the Finals. Kobe went 28-for-86 in that series and publicly stated he wouldn’t re-sign with the team. Karl Malone and Gary Payton left La-La land ringless and bruised, and Malone didn’t even suit for the Game 5 finale.
Of course this Laker squad will have much better pieces going into next season but still face the same uncertainty of that 2004 season. How well can Kobe play if and when he does return? Are the Lakers still a viable landing spot for free agents? That answer is likely a yes as stars are always attracted to the Hollywood lights, but all that glitters is not gold. If you’re a free agent to be you better be careful what you wish for. This team may shell out some bucks, but with so much tied to Kobe there’s not much left over to rebuild.
This team faces more questions than it has answers, and we haven’t even touched on the subject of what the Lakers will do in the draft. Either way, the Lakers have some serious soul-searching to do because I’m not exactly sure they know how to fix their problems. For once money might not be enough to get the job done.