It seems as if there is a level of perplexity to how bad the Los Angeles Lakers are these days, but the convenient excuse points to all of the injuries. Yet even if this was a fully healthy squad, the team would be fighting just to get in the playoffs in the stacked Western Conference. How did this franchise go from dominating the entire league to what it has become now?
Pretty simple — it comes down to horrible management. The Lakers had one of the most talented cores in the NBA just three years ago, and instead of turning those assets and using them to acquire new ones, they are now left with nothing. Kobe Bryant was never going to be traded so the organization gets a pass on that one. You have to take care of your superstars; that’s a given. It doesn’t excuse the numerous chances Jim Buss and company have had to trade Pau Gasol for something — anything!
The Lakers had a deal in place to send Gasol to the Houston Rockets where the Lakers would have acquired Chris Paul from the New Orleans Hornets in a three-team trade which we all know never happened because of David Stern and other bitter NBA owners. It doesn’t excuse the organization for not getting a deal done while his trade value was still high sometime after that since it was pretty clear that Gasol’s game had dropped off so significantly since the championship runs.
Another player the Lakers wasted was Lamar Odom; soon after the Paul veto, Odom went into a fit questioning why the Lakers would even think about making him expendable and quickly demanded a trade. Fine, if he wanted out then you figure out a way to make a move that will benefit your team, but the Lakers decided to trade him soon after for a trade exception to the Dallas Mavericks! We were talking about Odom at the peak of his career coming off a Sixth Man of the Year campaign, and the team went ahead and has nothing to show for it now. Not a pick, not a young player, diddly.
Next is Andrew Bynum. They finally got this one right and sold high as they were able to move him for Dwight Howard. Now we’re talking, right? Yet disaster soon struck as Howard and the Lakers struggled in the 2012-13 season and it seemed very apparent that Howard was unhappy, not just with how the team was playing but by the thought of having to play with Bryant for years to come. So the logical thing to do was ship Howard away at the trade deadline while the team was struggling and a championship seemed bleak to get some nice pieces in return.
Once again, Los Angeles dropped the ball and refused to entertain this thought as they held onto Howard and let his contract expire. They then proceeded to embarrass themselves by hanging “Stay” banners for Howard during the free agent moratorium period. Naturally, to almost no one’s surprise, Howard signed with the Rockets. More importantly, if Buss hired Phil Jackson and not Mike D’Antoni, no decision by Howard would have needed to be made. So there’s another gaffe.
Lastly, management amnestied Metta World Peace after having him stick around probably one year too long. So once more, nothing. It’s extremely disappointing to see all of what the Lakers built go to waste like that. You have to believe Buss’s incompetence played a huge role as there are credible sources that maintain that Laker brass aren’t on the same page when it comes to decision-making. When this is the case, you tend to produce ill-fated results.
Some years earlier, that same brass under the guidance of Dr. Jerry Buss handled the Shaquille O’Neal situation perfectly. Gasol, Odom, Bynum and Jordan Farmar were all descendants from the O’Neal trade. Gasol through the Caron Butler– Kwame Brown bloodline, Odom directly, Bynum through the draft directly as a result of having one down season and Farmar from the draft pick the Miami Heat gave them. Those four along with ensuring Bryant stayed on board helped the Lakers win two more championships.
Since then the Lakers organization has metamorphosed into something unrecognizable.