Free Agency

According to Mike Bresnahan and Eric Pincus of the LA Times, the Lakers’ plan back to prominence is slowly becoming clearer, but fans might need to wait one more season until that plan starts to take shape.

“The Lakers are not interested in possible free agent Carmelo Anthony, who claims he won’t break the New York Knicks’ bank to stay with them.”

The summer of 2014 was supposed to when the Lakers made a big splash in their attempt to become an NBA title contender again, but from the sound things, it is possible the team will look to 2015 to get the ball rolling.

But there is one scenario where the Lakers could make an impact this summer and that is if LeBron James opts-out of his contract and decides to enter free agency.

“If LeBron James opts out of his contract, they’ll make a phone call, but it’s a longshot he’ll leave Miami for the Lakers.”

If that scenario does not happen, why would the Lakers look to 2015?

“They do like Cleveland forward Luol Deng but don’t want to overpay for him this summer, meaning their eyes are firmly on Kevin Love in July 2015 and Kevin Durant in 2016.”

In 2015, Love has the ability to opt-out of his contract and become a free agent.   If that happens, he will be the premier target for the Lakers, which is not a surprise after the two have been linked over the past few seasons. 

In 2016, the Lakers, and really every other team with the ability to do, will pursue Kevin Durant, who could be a free agent that summer if he does not sign an extension with the Oklahoma City Thunder.  The intriguing part of Durant’s potential free agency is that will more than likely be Kobe Bryant’s final season, opening up a nice chunk of cap space to potentially sign one of the best players in the league today.

There is still plenty of time before Love and Durant become realistic options for the Lakers, but it is always fun to speculate and talk about.

With this news, it is going to be a very interesting off season for the Lakers.  If no big moves are made, is the team looking at a similar season to the one they are currently experiencing?  If that is the case, will the fans accept another year of below average results?  Does D’Antoni keep his job if next season is just a bridge to the following summer?  Many questions will need to be answered.  Answers that could come in April once the Lakers regular season concludes.

General Manager Mitch Kupchak mentioned a few days ago that the Lakers plan could extend past one summer, so this news would not be shocking:

“I don’t think that we’ll use our cap money to patch together a team for next year. We’re looking to bring something [big] to Los Angeles,” he said. “May take more than one year to build, I don’t know. But because we have a lot of money this summer doesn’t mean we’ll spend it all. We’ll spend it wisely.”

The difference between this year and next year, the Lakers has its 2014 first round pick in the draft.  Next year though, their first round pick will belong to the Phoenix Suns unless the Lakers end up in the lottery again with a top five pick.

While it is fun to think about Love and Durant in the purple and gold, I can’t help but have some concerns.  This does seem like an all or nothing plan and if both players were to sign extensions with their respective teams or go elsewhere during free agency, where does that leave the Lakers after the Kobe era comes to a close?  One thing is for certain, fans expect results and are historically impatient.

Progress needs to be made this summer.  At the very least, this team needs to become a playoff team again because back-to-back years of missing the playoffs just does not happen to this franchise.  It is up to the front office to make sure that does not happen.

Stay with LakerNation.com for all the latest news and rumors regarding the Los Angeles Lakers!

Saying there hasn’t been many positives this season may be an understatement.  While the injuries to the team have played a factor in the Lakers 16-31 record, it has also given the front office and fans a chance to get a good look at some of the younger players that could be kept past this season.

It is important to remember that a majority of the players on the current roster are on one-year deals.  Because of that, the question will come up at the end of the season, “Who stays and who goes?”

Jodie Meeks has shown quite the improvement this season, averaging 14.7 points per game while shooting 40 pct. from three (a career high) and is a player the Lakers have been able to count on to give his all, game in and game out.

Whether or not the team plans on bringing him back remains to be seen, but Meeks hopes he will be in the purple and gold for a ‘long time’.

“The coaching staff is great and it’s a storied organization. I always pictured playing in a organization that’s prideful about winning. I love it here and hope I can stay a long time.”

Meeks is currently earning around $1.5 million and is in the final year of his contract.  Despite his good play, it is a good bet that Meeks would ask for a similar salary but for more years.   He has definitely earned a spot here in Los Angeles based on his performance, but all we can do is wait to see what the front office has planned this off season.

Would you like to see the Lakers sign Jodie Meeks long-term this summer?

Courtesy of Lakers reporter Mike Trudell, an interview with Mitch Kupchak went online this morning on Lakers.com.

Kupchak provided some insight on the current state of the Lakers as well as the future of the team.

On the Lakers “tanking”:

“I’ve been here over 30 years, and it’s never something that’s been discussed or talked about.”

Kupchak noted that while expectations vary from season to season, the main goal is to win games.  Kupchak put it best when saying that ownership would never say, “It’s best to lose” and that it is the worst message you can send to a franchise, coaches, players, and it’s fans.

Although, he added that there are some teams that know realistically they will be a sub-.500 team, but it’s important to realize that is different from tanking which he defined as purposely telling the coach to lose, which is “unacceptable”.  Kupchak also said “rebuilding is another matter.”

Something to note, Kupchak said “coaches are defined by their record.”  Very interesting to say the least.

On the repeater tax penalty impacting roster decisions this year and in the future:

“You have to be out of the luxury tax in two out of five years to avoid a repeater penalty. If we stay in the tax this season, it will be three consecutive seasons as taxpayers.”

It’s important to note that Kupchak says ownership has NEVER been afraid to be in the tax.  He then goes on to explain the rules of the tax, saying if your $30 million over the tax as a repeater, the bill will around $130 million, while if you’re only $1 million over, it will be near $2.5 million so it definitely makes a difference.

On the upcoming draft:

“One through ten is as good as I’ve seen in a long time.”

When comparing it to the 2003 draft, which included LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Dwayne Wade, he says that going into that draft, no one knew it would be that good but when you look back on it, it was a great draft.  He says that he doesn’t know if this draft will be that way, but the potential of players one through 10 is very good.

He says they are scouting all players in the draft and groups them in the top five, top 10, etc. all the way up to 70.  Once May/June come around, Kupchak says they will narrow their focus on particular players because they will know their draft position at that time.

On the 2014 free agency plan:

“Several years ago, we made a conscious decision to line contracts up for this coming year of free agency.”

 The only payer on the books for next year was Steve Nash, which obviously changed with the extension of Kobe Bryant but says they will still have “significant” financial flexibility this summer, as well as next summer.

On the Lakers’ next star:

Kupchak says that in meetings with the front office and scouts, they will talk about if they got a certain players just like the public and fans do.   While it’s all speculation at that point, the only thing they know for certain is that the rush starts at 9 p.m. on June 30th for free agency.

On Kobe Bryant’s extension:

“One of the premier free agents this coming summer was going to be Kobe Bryant. He’ll no longer be a free agent. We have acquired him.”

He notes that when looking at free agency this summer, they will look at what’s the best basketball and business decisions.

Also, Kupchak says that they will not only look at free agency, but at adding players through trades, while also weighing the option of waiting another year for a big acquisition.

On Pau Gasol’s status and future in Los Angeles:

“I think he’s had a great year. I do.”

Also goes on to say that Gasol is playing some of his best basketball and that he probably did not expect to play with the current group of players due to injuries.   Under the circumstances, he thinks Gasol has done a great job.

As for Gasol’s future, Kupchak notes that he will be a free agent this year and that he sees no reason he can’t finish the season as a Laker.   Says that he’ll have options to move on to other teams and that years/money will be a factor in his decision.  Kupchak adds that he loves Los Angeles and the franchise and if he wants to continue to play here, the Lakers would love to have him.

The interview is a must-read for all Lakers fans.  There is more from Kupchak regarding role players such as Xavier Henry, Kendall Marshall, and Nick Young, plus more on Gasol being an asset for other teams in the league.

To read the full interview, click here.

According to Ken Berger of CBS Sports, an NBA executive has said that it is known around the league that Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love wants to join the Lakers when he becomes a free agent:

“They should trade him,” one Eastern Conference executive said. “No one thinks he’s staying. Everyone knows he wants to go to the Lakers.”

The feeling could be mutual as it has been rumored that the Lakers have targeted the all-star forward for some time now.

This season, Love is averaging 26.1 points and 13.2 rebounds per game.  He is considered one of the league’s elite rebounders, with his best season coming back in 2010-2011 when he pulled down 15.2 rebounds per game.

Love, 25, has the ability to opt-out of his contract after the 2015 season.  His situation could heavily impact this off-season for the Lakers as they look to become contenders once again.

Stay tuned with LakerNation for more on this situation!

 

Carmelo Anthony
Carmelo Anthony

Credit: USATSI

It is well-known throughout the NBA that the Lakers will have a nice amount of cap space this upcoming offseason even with the new $48.5 million contract of Kobe Bryant on the books.  What is unclear is the direction the team may be looking to go in.

Will the Lakers attempt to make a splash by adding a big name free agent such as Carmelo Anthony?  In previous weeks, the Lakers and the 29-year-old small forward have been linked, saying it was an obvious pairing, but yesterday Steve Kyler of HOOPSWORLD noted that the interest from the Lakers may not be as high as originally thought.

“For weeks its been Anthony and the LA Lakers talked about as a likely pairing, however insiders doubted that the Lakers would make Anthony a max-level contract offer.”

While Anthony is the most likely big name free agent to come to the Lakers, I can see why the team may not want to head in that direction.  Pairing a soon to be 30-year-old Anthony along with a 36-year-old Kobe may not exactly scream championship with a lack of financial ability to add more quality pieces around those two.  Anthony has an opt out clause after this season but there is a chance he could opt in if traded during this season.

Although, I would not call this situation dead in any sense.  Anthony considers Kobe to be an older brother and mentor entering the league.  The relationship could ultimately drive the Lakers to add Anthony this offseason which would bring excitement back to Staples Center for the purple and gold and give the team a dynamic scoring duo.  One other question that needs to be asked, what is the relationship between Anthony and coach Mike D’Antoni?  It was reportedly anything but good in New York and that could play a big factor in any decision moving forward.

The other direction the team could go in is to use the money on quality role players that would allow them to go into the 2015 offseason with a chance of adding a player like Kevin Love, if he decides to opt out of his respective contract. While there are many options this offseason, Alex Kennedy of HOOPSWORLD wondered if soon-to be free agent Luol Deng would consider the Lakers this offseason and even posed the question to Deng to which he responded:

“When the summer comes, I can probably answer that,” Deng told HOOPSWORLD. “To be honest with you I’ve done my best – I’ve been in a contract situation before when I was young and it affected me. This year, during the summer, I told myself that no matter what, I’m just going to be in the gym working. … I don’t know what it’s like in any other locker room or any other organization — maybe it’s better, maybe it’s not. I have no complaints with how blessed and how lucky I’ve been to be in such an organization for 10 years. Not a lot people could say that. I don’t know if the grass is greener. Maybe it is, but my grass is green enough.”

Deng would be a nice piece to the puzzle for the Lakers and wouldn’t command a max contract on the market. In his career, the Sudan born forward has averaged 16.1 ppg and 6.4 rpg while also playing excellent perimeter defense.  The concern with Deng is his history of injuries over recent seasons although that could help the Lakers in negotiations if it gets to that point.

There will be plenty of names linked to the Lakers over the next two seasons.  As we get closer to the end of the season, the plan for the Lakers to return to relevancy in the NBA will be clearer.   How the Lakers execute the plan will be the interesting part but as we’ve seen in the past, this franchise will find a way.

The Lakers extending Kobe Bryant’s contract is a lot like asking someone to prom. They are essentially asking this one special person to spend one of the most memorable nights of their lives, or rest of their career, with you. It could either turn out great or be one of the worst nights you have ever had or will have in your life. With that being said, signing Bryant pre-return could either be great or costly moving forward.

If you were following the news yesterday, or in case you missed it, the Lakers signed Kobe Bryant to a two year extension worth $48.5 million dollars. This extension appears to be the first move the Lakers are making in terms of free agency for the summer of 2014. By extending Bryant, the Lakers get to keep the face of the franchise for a couple more seasons while notifying the league and any future free agents that they will have the opportunity to play alongside the future Hall of Famer. That is, if his health allows it.

With Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose now ruled out for the season, fans hope that Bryant will take a more relaxed approach to returning in hopes to prevent a similar situation from occurring. Having watched Kobe Bryant from afar and knowing the type of competitor he is I can assure you that he will return when he is ready and he feels that his body is as well. Not only is Laker Nation hoping that Bryant returns when he is ready but, future free agents also want him to be in order to consider signing for the purple and gold.

Photo Credit: IB Times

Sam Amick of USA Sports spoke to Carmelo Anthony about Bryant’s extension recently. Anthony essentially spoke light to thoughts that are entertaining many free agents’ minds when considering the Lakers. Will Kobe be himself as a teammate of mine?

When asked if free agents like himself would see Bryant as a star who is still worthy of joining in order to contend for a title, Anthony said, “I mean you’ll have to see. It’s hard to gauge at this point, not until he comes back (from his April Achilles tendon tear) and figures some things out. So I don’t know. They might have some plans up their sleeve.”

Looking long term, Bryant’s extension is enough for the Lakers to still look like the prom queen come free agency. Taking the pay cut of almost $10 million dollars provides room to sign a Carmelo Anthony if he opts out, a LeBron James if he does the same, or any other marquee free agents who are looking to win now. Not only will it allow that flexibility, but it also opens the door to retool the bench to its more formidable years. Maybe even keeping active, young players like Nick Young, Xavier Henry, Jordan Hill, Wesley Johnson or Jordan Farmar. Regardless of the what speculation may arise, this move says that the franchise is making a push the last few years of Bryant’s career to win now.

Bryant will retire with the Lakers. As for who he’ll be playing with and the question of whether that team will be worth talking about, that much remains to be seen.

“I think (Bryant) wanted to get that done,” Anthony told USA TODAY Sports. “Especially now, coming off that injury, that he wanted to solidify that (contract). I don’t think he ever had any doubt of leaving the Lakers, so he got that done early…He wants to win. I want to win. Everybody in the league, we want to win, so I just figured he was going to get that done.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images

I’m not saying that it was the best move for the Lakers to sign Bryant this early, but I will say it provides intrigue if he is or is not able to produce highly. If Bryant is not the same will the Lakers be able to attract those superstar players? Or will they have to settle for players similar to those signed this past off-season?

On the other other hand, if Bryant is healthy and can produce at the level he was pre-injury then the possibilities are endless. With a healthy Bryant, cap space, and the allure of Los Angeles, Mitch Kupchak will have an arsenal ready to reload the Lakers and compete for another title. Yet all of this depends on how healthy Bryant is when he returns to the team.

No matter what does happen, prom just got a lot more interesting.

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