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Friday, October 24, 2014

Los Angeles Lakers Should Look to Past on how to Fix Team for Future

Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum killed the Los Angeles Lakers. Ron Artest is a mess. Lamar Odom could net L.A. some great pieces. The Lakers should trade for LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Dwight Howard and Chris Paul. It’s the only chance L.A. has to ever win another title again. That’s the only way Mitch Kupchak and Dr. Jerry Buss can fix the Lakers in the offseason!”

Seems ludicrous? Nonsense! This is Hollywood and there are no limits to one’s imagination, regardless of how asinine and improbable the notions may be.

You think I’m making this up? I wish I were this crazy creative. Unfortunately, I’m not but I do happen to live in Los Angeles, where what seems to be the End Of Days was triggered when the Dallas Mavericks, a very capable team, swept the Lakers out of the playoffs in the second round. As soon as the season ended, the chaos began. Just tune in to any LA sports radio station and listen for yourself. Laker fans are going crazy with their opinions on how to “fix” the Lakers thinking of every conceivable method except for the most obvious and correct one.

The best way to “fix” the Lakers is by hiring a good coach to replace Phil Jackson. Then they need to find nice young point guard and a wing or two that can shoot the long ball — chicks dig the long ball.

But the core of this team? You absolutely do not mess around with this core. Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom aren’t just vital; they should be considered untouchable.

I should not have to remind any of you about who Kobe Bean Bryant is and what he is capable of. He’s going to finish his career in the top 10 of every stat and record in the NBA. Even when his game falls off a cliff in the next year or two, the Lakers still owe him the decency of letting him gracefully retire as a Laker.

For the time being, I’ll leave his longtime teammate, Derek Fisher, alone. Same goes for the village drunk, Ron Artest. These two are no longer the players they once were but their presence is a neccesary evil whether it’s for their leadership, to be a scapegoat, or for their performances in Game 3 and 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals. These players are two wrongs that can every once in a while make a right.

Andrew Bynum, regardless of his recent immaturity, is the last legit two-way 7-footer left in the game of basketball. When healthy, I dare you to find a better scoring center than the 23-year-old Andrew Bynum. Will Andrew ever play a full 82-game season? Probably not. However, the 50-60 games plus playoffs that he will contribute are still more valuable than whatever other center you’re going to get.

Yes, even Dwight Howard.

I say this only because Drew is capable of being as low as 5th on the pecking order and still playing with 100% focus. Dwight is, wants, and needs to be “THE man.” How that works with Kobe and Pau still in the mix is nearly inconceivable, especially if the master of ego management is retiring. Plus, Bynum is the only asset the Lakers have that is still improving in all aspects of basketball.

Lamar Odom is what makes the Lakers the match-up nightmare that they are. Odom is a 6’10” power forward that shot 38% from downtown yet is still capable of putting up a 20-point, 20-rebound box score when he decides to do so. He’s the reason Derek Fisher is still able to be a Laker; Lamar can grab a rebound and go coast-to-coast with the rock or setup and initiate the offense. L.O. can then come back and lock down positions 1-to-5 with relative ease and flexibility. About how many other 6’10” players can that be said? Only one, and he’s already a Laker.

Pau Gasol is the reason all Lakers fans are disappointed. Not because he deflated due to reasons that are both unclear and confusing. Not because his mediocrity in the most crucial moments of the season shattered any chance of a three-peat.

You’re disappointed because of Pau Gasol and shouldn’t be disappointed in Pau Gasol.

Gasol’s presence on the team is the main reason Laker fans even had hopes and aspirations of a another three-peat. And for that fans should be thankful, not spiteful. However that’s not the case today, where fans are calling for the trade of Gasol for just about anyone. How soon do people forget that it was only when Kupchak paired the supremely skilled and hyper-efficient Pau with the equally skilled yet somewhat inefficient Kobe that this new Lakers dynasty was born.

Three finals appearances and two back-to-back titles later, Laker fans are up in arms as if they were suddenly part of the Clippers fan base. I can appreciate the enthusiasm, passion and concern, but Lakers fans also need to look at reality. Most fans can only dream of cheering for an organization this dedicated to winning, and only a handful of teams are lucky enough to have fans this enslaved to the well being of their team.

Passion is what sports should be all about. After all, we live and die on the triumphs and misfortunes of our teams. Sometimes that passion turns to lust which turns to greed. Right now the Lakers fan base is becoming greedy. They’re greedy for victories, greedy for superstars, and greedy for titles. When an individual begins to act out of pure greed, they develop tunnel vision and fail to realize how coveted their own possessions are and begin to idolize grander goals, most of which are impossible to reach.

This Lakers team and their fans should look back to the Lakers dynasty of the 80s. The Lakers squeezed five titles out of that group and nine Finals appearances. From the time they drafted Magic Johnson in 1979, to the 1984-85 playoffs, the Lakers had steered through the competition to appear in five Finals and win three rings. The following season they failed to make the Finals with essentially the same roster that had helped them win the title the year before when they got worked 4-1 in the Western Conference Finals.

L.A. could have looked at the situation and said “this team might be all out of juice” despite no one of significance, outside of Kareem, being over the age of 25. Instead, they kept that core of the roster together, tinkered with the role players and made it back to the finals four more times in the next five years, winning two of them. But for some reason fans today are calling for a dismantling of the current roster.

Mitch Kupchak should know what to do; he was on some of those 80s championship teams. Now only if he remembers what transpired back then and applies it today, the Lakers should be fine. This team is tired, both mentally and physically. They’ve had virtually no down time since the summer of 2007. What this roster needs is a long summer off and a few key role players to be replaced. Outside of that, this is a roster that has another two or three championship runs left, they just need to refill that gas tank to reach their Finals destination.



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