clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Los Angeles Lakers Preview - With Malice

New, comment

lal.gifLos Angeles Lakers - With Malice

Man… the Lakers…

I gotta pre-empt this all with a statement:

Yes, I am a Lakers fan. But that doesn’t make me blind to the glaring flaws in the franchise, nor does it fill me with an unrealistic hope that this roster can take us to the Promised Land of the NBA Finals. I’m a fan… I’m not stupid. Maybe a lil’ bitter…

Where to begin?

Well, let’s start with that at this very late stage, with games to begin in but 2 days time, I am still uncertain as to whether Kobe Bryant will be a Laker. Yup, I know that there have been articles written by me in the not-so-distant-past that have declared it beyond sense to trade Bryant, but recent developments have me realizing that Doctor Buss has pretty much lost it… and as such is actually beyond sense. So who knows?

The thing about the current incarnation of the Lakers that frustrates me the most is that they are operating without a plan. Mitch Kupchak seems to operate without any true sense of direction, and Jerry Buss seems to be behaving on flights of whimsy. Such is the franchise at the moment that although possessing the best player in the game, they cannot get beyond the first round of the playoffs. Rather than surround Mr Bryant with good players, players that would compliment him, the supposed premier franchise in Los Angeles has - ever since getting rid of Shaq - placed players on the floor that are untested… or past their used-by-date, or simply cast offs no longer desired by their original team. Deals made have been bad (Kwame Brown anyone?), or not made. The franchise seems unwilling to make deals on fringe players that would make the team better, even after Buss promised both Bryant and Jackson to do as much as he can to make the team better… yet the franchise seems poised to make the block-buster deal of the century, perhaps bidding adieu to Kobe Bryant.

Make no mistake: there’s no getting equal value for Kobe.

No team will be willing to part with another superstar of equal value (only 2 or 3 in the entire league), and likewise no team will be willing to part with a group of young talent that equals Bryant’s value. Further skewing any trade is Kobe’s ‘no-trade’ clause. No way he okays a trade to, say the Bulls, if that means that his new team is gutted in the process.

After Kobe’s tirade-laden summer, suffice to say that I’m apprehensive about his silence at the moment… especially given the idiocy of the franchise’s owner over the past few weeks. Makes me feel that either he’s sucking it up… or something is imminent. And Kobe’s not known for ‘sucking it up’.

Now news that the Lakers & the Bulls have been talking? Let’s just hope that Buss keeps in mind the O’Neal-to-Miami trade, and how little the Lakers got in return.

Even so, my gut feeling is that the Lakers play with the ol’ Black Mamba for another season… and we go through all of this multiplied by 10 next year.

So… the team.

Kwame Brown - to be fair, Kwame’s developed into a reasonably solid defender. He has the upper body strength to defend most, but the thing that annoys me (and I’m betting most Laker fans) is his lack of passion. Oh, that and the fact that the Lakers are willing to throw truckloads of money at him, but reluctant to spend on proven players. Brown’s lack of enthusiasm for the game is frustrating from a fan’s viewpoint. I cannot imagine what Kobe thinks of him.

Kobe Bryant - quite simply the best player in the game, but one of the most selfish - and I’m not talking about assists. His ‘divattitude’ has caused him to be a constant source of frustration. Yes, he may well stay with the Lakers this season and play with a chip on his shoulder the size of Montana - thus assuring another playoff berth (and probable first round exit). One almost wishes that the Front Office would just move on…

Andrew Bynum - has this kid gotta be feeling he’s walking on eggshells or what? Really has to come through this season, and I hope the pressure doesn’t get to him. Has great potential - remember, he’s only just turned TWENTY… and has worked closely with Kareem, but how long do we have to wait for those skyhooks to rain down?

Brian Cook - Really hasn’t come through with much. His size should mean that he can do more than just play the occasionally decent game. Despite being a fairly big guy, doesn’t appear to want to do the tough things. Good shooter from outside, but in real danger of being passed by Turiaf this season.

Javaris Crittendon - Tememdous upside, but is going to do the occasional monumental rookie blunder. Playing under Phabulous Phil, he’s not going to get a lot of court-time… but could be good in a few years beyond what Kobe will want.

Maurice Evans - Evans is a real talent. Just on the wrong team. He’s another player that I see the Lakers trading and becoming a good role player - for someone else.

Jordan Farmar - Jordan will be better this year, but that’s not a big statement because at times he was goddamn awful last season. Has promise, and is fast. He has to use this more and have confidence to use his outside shooting and actually CREATE. Lakers need him to step up, and then some.

Derek Fisher - Fish is great, but getting old. He’s an awesome back-up point-man, but his best years are well behind him. The locker room will benefit from sage wisdom from a wily veteran… but I’m not exactly sure how much he improves a team so desperate for an injection of talent. Will probably see quite a bit of time on the hardwood as Farmar’s still learning on the job.

Coby Karl - I like this kid. Has real fire, and can shoot. Hopefully stays on, but won’t see a helluva lot of court time due to Phil Jackson’s policy on rooks, and basically being bit of a gamble… may get a bit of a run if Phil gets frustrated - and that may happen quite a bit.

Chris Mihm - has really played better as a Laker than he did as a Celtic, but a starting center for one of the most storied franchises in the NBA? Please. Can score, and is frenetic on the court. Here’s to hoping that injuries haven’t stolen that from him.

Lamar Odom - clearly the second best player in the franchise, but just doesn’t combine well with Kobe. This is somewhat of a surprise, as Odom would probably be the best ball-handler his size in the NBA. Dunno, they just don’t work well together. Somewhat injury prone, and in his 3 years as a Laker generally only sees 75% of the season out.

Vladimir Radmanovic - err… what the hell is this guy still doing on the team? Why do the Lakers need him AND Brian Cook on the roster? Cut the bum!

Ronny Turiaf - I’m a big wrap for this guy. Guy plays with HEART. Sells his soul for it night in and night out on the floor. Not a huge talent, but makes up for it with hustle. A great injection of passion off the bench, and has gotten better each season. Rumour has it that during his open heart surgery of 2005, someone made an error and gave him the heart of a lion (ok… I’m overdoing it)… Did I mention that he plays with HEART???

Sasha Vujacic - Has ability, there is no denying that, but how long can potential keep this guy on the roster? Showed spark in a few games last season, but needs to do this game-in, game-out. Not an every-day performer… and right now, that’s exactly what the Lakers need.

Luke Walton - Each year getting better. Luke’s one of the only players that given a choice I’d not dump. Can play, is versatile, and turns up READY to play each and every game. Is exactly the sort of role-player the Lakers need. Just need others to put on the floor too.

Coach, Phil Jackson: there is no denying Phabulous Phil’s ability, but you have to have something to work with. Pretty much going to have to work magic with this crew… and I don’t know that anyone could do anything with ‘em.

The Front Office: So… the main issue with the Lakers is that they are never going to sit down & say "Hey guys, I think we suck it up for a few years and rebuild". Rebuilding would mean acknowledging that the product we currently have sucks, and it will suck for a couple of years to come. That means that the celebrity-fan base may not pay thousands to come sit courtside or thereabouts… Even tho’ the situation the Lakers find themselves in now is pretty much the same: the product sucks and it’s going to suck for a few more years to come. Mitch Cupcake Kupchak has mismanaged this team incredibly, and Jerry Buss’s recent comments and actions are incredible on a farcical level. The point-blank refusal to put players of quality around Kobe (other than the failed experiment with Odom), and the purchases the team has made, has put this team in a hole of soap operatic proportions.

There’s a very large part of me that wants failure with this group. Abject failure… then perhaps the powers that be in LA La land would have to acknowledge that the only way forward is through change. Whatever that word would entail… change.