A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

8 thoughts on the Lakers’ demise

with 4 comments

1. I feel the Lakers’ loss quite a bit more than the Spurs’. Maybe it’s just me being an Angeleno, but then again, I never felt that sold on the Spurs. The team played so different from their Tim Duncan-peak game, it was hard to look at them as a scrappy champion. The Lakers, after last year’s emergences from late season mediocrity felt like they’d be tough to kill.

2. With that said, the funny thing about a dynasty-type team that has been shown to perform better in the biggest game is that eventually, it’s inexactly one of those situations where the team will sputter.

3. Something that is noteworthy though is something that Silver Screen and Roll actually pointed out: When Kobe Bryant’s teams go down, they do so with utter surrender. Obviously it’s unreasonable to call Kobe weak mentally. We see how he’s willing to play through pain something heroic.

I don’t think there can be much doubt though, that when it comes to being the guy who will find to the death for a (possibly) lost cause, that ain’t Kobe. When we knock LeBron James for blinking last year against the Celtics when it became clear his team was overmatched, we should at least remember that proven champions have shown plenty of similar tendencies.

4. Now the question on everyone’s mind is whether the Lakers should blow up the team. I think they are crazy.

Reports of the Lakers’ demise have been greatly exaggerated.

No, you don’t blow up this team simply because they played poorly and lost. This is the same team that went 17-1 out of the all-star break. Any team that can do that, still has IT. It’s just damn hard to win a title.

5. How could they get swept if they’re that good? Because it’s a heck of a lot easier to get swept than anyone realizes. The Lakers would have been up 2-1 instead of down 0-3 with a few good breaks. So with a couple bad breaks you can end up in an almost unwinnable situations, and then if you give up…

6. btw, although I wouldn’t blow up the team, I’d certainly do everything within my power to acquire Dwight Howard if I could. Literally, no player would be untouchable. I’d even trade Kobe – though I doubt that’s really the deal the Magic would look to make. More realistically, I’d trade both Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum for him if I was sold that Howard would resign with me with enthusiasm and drive.

As far as the changes I’d expect to make going in ’11-12:

7) Obviously, a solution other than Derek Fisher at the 1. If Brian Shaw thinks that can be Steve Blake, okay. I dream about Kirk Hinrich, but couldn’t tell you how they could get him.

Consider whether it’s time to increase Bynum’s prominence in the offense. His track record and immaturity aren’t encouraging, but in the playoffs he wasn’t simply the best Laker big man, he was arguably the best Laker. Short of a Hail Mary acquisition of Howard or another A-list star, Bynum is clearly the guy they have to expect to be the man within the next few years if they are going to remain a contender. Banking on that is itself a Hail Mary, and it makes sense to get everything out of Bryant & Gasol they can, but if Bynum’s ready to take on a bigger role, that growth needs to be encouraged.

Written by Matt Johnson

May 8, 2011 at 6:49 pm

4 Responses

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  1. A Gasol/Howard frontcourt would be intriguing (given Pau’s quite reasonable range), but you’re right in that the back-court is where the problems lie.

    Kobe’s a tough nut, absolutely, but when the mind starts to write cheques that the body can’t cash…

    You need a good backup 2, who might show the potential to transition to starter if Kobe’s game falls off a cliff (I’ve got a funny feeling that it will… don’t ask me why). You need a 1 who’s solid on both ends (Felton? Maybe dump Gasol or Bynum to NJ in a S-and-T for Williams?).

    How you do that without stripping the Laker’s greatest advantage, their frontcourt depth, is of course the tricky bit. I feel that the first Phil-less year is going to be rough on Laker fans as a new coach tries to fill some big shoes.

    The Lakers do, in my view, need to re-tool. It isn’t necessarily the players, but the personality of the team. The “disease of more” can be a terrible thing to counter, and one of the best ways to do that is to bring in outside players with the right mindset (e.g McAdoo on the Lakers, Walton on the Celtics, to a degree Grant Hill on the Suns, definitely NOT Artest) who can reinvigorate the team and be a motivational coach on the floor, on the bench and in the locker room.

    Having the same personalities on a team can mean stagnation as much as it can stability.


    May 8, 2011 at 9:50 pm

  2. “You need a good backup 2, who might show the potential to transition to starter if Kobe’s game falls off a cliff (I’ve got a funny feeling that it will… don’t ask me why.”

    Can’t afford a quality two when you’re spending $25 million a year on Kobe. There are more pressing needs elsewhere, anyway – with that kind of money committed to one player you have to try and improve in other areas and hope for the best from 24.

    LA’s long-term contract commitments make it hard for them to wheel and deal. I don’t think they’ll have any cap space to out and out sign people. They’ve got $85 million on the books next year for just these eight players: Bryant, Gasol, Odom, Artest, Bynum, Fisher, Blake and Walton.

    They can improve through trades, but as the piece mentions that means trading away their strength (frontcourt size, depth and flexibility). Nobody wants Artest, Blake or Walton – turning those pieces into value would require another massive gift from the heavens or Kevin McHale.

    Quick side note: who has the worst value out of those three albatross contracts? Blake has three more years at $4 mil a year. Walton gets 5.7m in 2012 and 6.1m in 2013. Artest gets 6.8m and then decides whether to stay for 7.3m and 7.7m in 2013 and 14.

    Artest’s contract structure is brutal for the Lakers, but he still has trade value unlike Walton or Blake. Either way, the Lakers have succeeded in part by not tying up money in players who aren’t contributing.

    With players from ‘the core’ declining and the newer contracts not panning out as well as hoped, LA might not be able to offer the right pieces to improve the point guard spot or wing depth. I’m pretty sure they’re stuck with Artest and Walton whether they play or not.

    They can improve through trades, but


    May 9, 2011 at 8:50 am

  3. You mentioned all the bad contracts on the lakers. I definitely agree. The likes of walton, artest, blake, fisher, Odom will be hard to move and will have to come as part of a bigger trade, one that must include either Bynum or Gasol.(fisher can be bought out and return to the Lakers if need be) The Lakers need to decide which one of these big men it wants to deal. Bynum obviously has bigger upside, but Kobe can push Gasol around, which is how he likes it. Kobe doesn’t want to win another ring playing second fiddle. He’s already got three of those. He can’t push Bynum around anymore, and soon that dude is going to realize that HE is the best Laker. (I think he already does)

    I’ve never seen good chemistry between Pau and Bynum so I don’t think a team is going to want both of them. The Lakers could try for a megadeal with multiple teams, but those are few and far between. Another problem is that the Lakers have no appealing draft assets because they end up in the playoffs 9 times out of 10.

    At the end of the day, the Laker will not have any trouble finding suitors for Pau and Bynum. Pau had one bad season for pete’s sake, and bynum has franchise potential. (and glass knees I know, I know)

    It’s funny, but I actually think the most realistic option is in fact the best: Dwight Howard, for the simple fact that he will refuse to sign an extension and that way force Orlando’s hand. He can also refuse to sign an extension with potential trade partners so he will pretty much decide where he ends up. (Like Carmelo did) I think what is going to make or break this scenario is whether or not Howard thinks Kobe has anything left. It’s obvious he wants to win now.


    May 9, 2011 at 9:39 pm

    • You don’t know why the Lakers would want Pau & Bynum? C’mon now, the Lakers were a championship team with Pau and half-a-Bynum, that’s reason to want him.

      Pau’s not untradable (I trade him for Howard in a heartbeat), but man, I wouldn’t want to trade him for spare parts.

      Matt Johnson

      May 14, 2011 at 6:29 pm

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