Welcome to ‘End-of-the-Season’ Laker Nation Mailbag with staff writer Ash Kargaran!
Send in your Lakers-related questions or comments below and be on the lookout for Ash’s mailbag each month.
With many questions regarding the Lakers needing to be answered this offseason, it looks like two point guards will continue to don the purple and gold next season while the head coach’s future in Los Angeles remains a mystery.
According to Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times, both Steve Nash and Kendall Marshall will both be brought back by the team.
For financial reasons, the Lakers currently plan to keep (Nash) next season, The Times has learned, eating the remainder of his contract ($9.7 million) in one swoop instead of waiving him and spreading the money out over three years… They also plan to keep Marshall, the 13th selection in the 2012 draft, whom they signed as a free agent a little more than three months ago.
A few months ago, it seemed as if it were going to be a foregone conclusion the Lakers would waive Nash using the stretch provision, but now it seems as if the team would rather wait and allow all of Nash’s salary to come off the books next summer, opposed to paying his contract over the next three years.
Marshall has a non-guaranteed option worth $915,243, so it makes sense to bring him back regardless of his role moving forward. Marshall does average 8.9 assists, but his shooting ability has declined every month since joining the team in December.
As for Mike D’Antoni, his future will reportedly be decided immediately after the season ends in April:
The Lakers have a dilemma with D’Antoni, who coached the Suns for five successful seasons. They still owe him $4million next season and don’t want to look like a franchise with a coaching turnstile. But Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol don’t support his small-ball offense and Lakers fans don’t support him, period. So the team will decide fairly quickly after the April 16 regular-season finale — pay him to not coach the team, just like Mike Brown, or try to make it work next season….
Despite the injuries, it is very difficult to see the team bringing back D’Antoni after one of the worst seasons in Lakers history. His poor game-management, troubled relationships with veteran players, and lack of defensive system are just some of the reasons working against the coach.
His job security was in question even before reports of Kobe being against retaining the coach due to offensive system preference and as Bresnahan says, the fans are not very fond of him either.
According to ESPN’s Marc Stein, the Los Angeles Lakers could make a strong play for Kevin Love at this year’s NBA Draft by offering its lottery pick to the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for the all-star power forward.
The suggestion is already in circulation that the Lakers will attempt to use their forthcoming high lottery pick in June to assemble the sort of trade package that finally convinces the Wolves to part with Love and end the uncertainty that hangs over this franchise even before the 25-year-old enters the final year of his contract.
As the report says, Love will have one more season on his contract before he can opt-out which could leave the T’Wolves without anything in return come next summer if he chose to sign with another team via free agency.
With the T’Wolves, Love has yet to make the playoffs in six seasons and this season will be no different. His frustrations have been known over the past few seasons and it did not make things better when the T’Wolves refused to give Love a five-year extension, but later gave center Nikola Pekovic the fifth-year that Love coveted.
Heading into June’s NBA draft, it will be interesting to see what the Lakers do in regards to their pick but it will certainly be contingent on where they land in the lottery. If the Lakers were to land a top three pick and have a shot at prospects Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, or Joel Embiid (if they are to enter the draft), would the Lakers entertain any trade offers?
With Kobe Bryant wanting to content the last two years, it would not be a surprise to see the Lakers trade the pick in order to contend right away instead of waiting for the future. Answers should become clearer over the next few weeks.
Enter the OFFICIAL 2014 Laker Nation ‘Bracket Challenge’ group here: http://laker.co/ln-bracket
As the Lakers wind down what has arguably been the worst season in franchise history, fans and media alike are asking what does the future hold for the purple and gold.
The summer of 2014 has been a key point of the Lakers plan to return to prominence for the last few years, it is the reason why a number of players were signed to one-year deals as the free agent class has some significant players that could turn teams drastically into contenders.
While it remains to be seen what the Lakers will do on the player personnel front this offseason, there is one move the team can make over the final two months of the season and it is a necessary one.
Fire Mike D’Antoni.
Now before you start thinking this is another hate-fueled article you read on other Lakers websites, blaming D’Antoni for all the Lakers troubles this season, please note that this is not one of them.
Do I expect the Lakers to be title contenders next season with or without D’Antoni? I would be unrealistic if I said yes without hesitation. The fact is we do not know how the roster will look next season and we are not sure how Kobe Bryant looks in his return (although I would put money on him looking close to the Kobe we have all come to expect).
One thing is for certain, the Lakers cannot go through another season like the one they are currently having.
Firing D’Antoni is not about turning the team around with a single coaching change, nor am I saying another coach would have done a better job with the current roster situation.
What it is about is laying a foundation for future Lakers teams and its success, something that needs to start this summer instead of accepting another season of transition.
If the Lakers were to allow D’Antoni to stay on for one more season, the decision could have a crippling affect on the franchise past next season and here are some reasons why D’Antoni should not be in any plans moving forward:
The thought that players will want to come play for the Lakers because they are the Lakers is no longer viable.
Are the Lakers still an attractive destination? Yes, it always will be because of the tradition and history of legendary players, but make no mistake, it is not viewed the same as it was when Dr. Jerry Buss was running the team.
Will elite players come play for Mike D’Antoni? History says no as the biggest free agent that signed with a D’Antoni led team was Amare Stoudemire and the New York Knicks in 2010, but also struck out on signing LeBron James and Dwayne Wade.
He is known as a coach that could get role players to play up to their potential but from his time in New York and short-time in Los Angeles, his inability to deal with star players as well as veterans is concerning to say the least. Dwight Howard did what no superstar had done before … leave the Lakers. For whatever reasons that are said about that decision, one constant was his relationship with D’Antoni.
In New York, he eventually wore out his welcome with players such as Carmelo Anthony and even players like Stoudemire, who played for D’Antoni previously in Phoenix.
Looking ahead to 2015, the Lakers are expected to be major players in the Kevin Love sweepstakes but with his recent comments that Minnesota has a better foundation than the Lakers, the team undoubtedly needs to show progress next season in the form of being a playoff team or Love will look at potentially re-signing with the T’Wolves or looking at teams other than the Lakers in his free agency.
The Lakers have never accepted mediocrity. A bad season here and there happens, but there is a reason why the Lakers will miss the playoffs for only the sixth time in franchise history. If the team were to stand pat this summer and accept another year of transition, what message does that send to the players in the league? That’s a very non-Laker message to convey.
The Lakers wouldn’t dare waste $46 million over two years right?
That is what it would do if D’Antoni were to return. His up-tempo system hoped to bring back memories of the Showtime Era but that has not happened despite having the second-fastest pace in the NBA, instead resulting in one of the worst defensive teams in the league.
At this stage in his career, is it wise to put Kobe in a fast-pace system? Logic says no, although I do not doubt Kobe can succeed in any system.
With his recent string of injuries, a half-court system involving Kobe in the post is the best thing for the Black Mamba and the final two years of his career. It would also be nice to have a coach limit Kobe’s minute’s ala Greg Popovich with the Spurs, something D’Antoni has failed to do in his time here.
With the extension given to Kobe, the Lakers made it known this is Kobe’s team and since that is the case, the offensive system should be suited to his abilities at this point and time. To maximize Kobe over the next two years and also preserve his health, a new offensive system needs to be implemented and D’Antoni simply is not going away from what he knows best, the run-and-gun style of play.
The relationship between Gasol and D’Antoni has deteriorated from the day the head coach walked into the practice facility in El Segundo. Feelings expressed both privately and publically have left the two at odds and as we enter this summer, one thing is certain…
One of them will have to go.
There is no scenario where Gasol returns to play in a system that puts post play on the back burner and there is no scenario where D’Antoni adjusts his system to emphasize post play.
While Gasol’s return to the Lakers is not certain even if D’Antoni were to be fired, it certainly increases the chances significantly if it were to happen. Gasol would need to take a pay cut to re-sign with the Lakers and at this point of his career he may have to.
Keeping D’Antoni while letting Gasol leave would also take another close friend of Kobe away and that is something that will not go over well after the Derek Fisher trade from two seasons ago. While the franchise looks to reload, is letting a veteran with championship experience like Gasol a wise thing to do?
Will the Lakers let go of a player who can still produce consistent numbers on the offensive end? Fans have been down on Gasol from the past two seasons but fact remains it is difficult in today’s NBA to find a post player like Gasol who can score, rebound, and pass. While the defense is not there, as long as he is not expected to be a defensive anchor, the Lakers can get by.
Laker fans are a different breed. A very proud fan base, the purple and gold faithful are also a impatient bunch and do not take losing seasons very well.
Attendance has dropped this season and fans have voiced their displeasure through out the season with style of offense, lack of defense, and non-existent passion the team has displayed at different times this season.
As with free agents, if the team were to commit to D’Antoni for one more season, what message is the front office sending to the fans? With a lack of fan support, this franchise loses another defining quality that makes the Lakers the Lakers.
At the end of the day, I ask Laker fans and management alike, if D’Antoni is not part of the solution, what is the point of keeping him around? One thing in sports that is a constant, if the discussion is when a coach will be fired, that situation is already resolved, it is just about when the firing will take place.
For the fans, I understand it is a rough season, but with every bad season, there are another 10-15 better seasons coming for the purple and gold. Be patient although it may be difficult to do so.
For the Lakers franchise, it is time to move out of this dark cloud of uncertainty and frustration. Well firing a coach will not mean much in the short team (this season), it will pay off in the future.
And that is what matters the most.
Every few weeks, our staff writers chime in on the trending topics, rumors and storylines surrounding the Lakers. In this post-All-Star Break edition of State of the Nation, they answer five questions that will ultimately decide the fate of the Lakers.
Johnny Navarrette // @JohnnyNav: It is hard to see the Lakers not being active this deadline. With the Lakers fighting for lottery positioning at this point, they have some goals financially they need to accomplish like getting under the tax threshold. I think the most realistic trade options are Pau Gasol, Steve Blake, Jordan Hill, and Chris Kaman.
Oren Levy // @LakersOren: They should be active at the deadline. The Lakers’ season is effectively over, and the Lakers have some parts that could be valuable to contenders. Ideally, the Lakers should accomplish two things before the deadline: Get below the luxury tax, and acquire future assets. If they can get below the tax line (to avoid repeater tax in future years), and turn Gasol/Kaman/Hill/Blake/Whoever into a 1st round pick and a couple of 2nd rounders, they’ve improved their position.
Jory Dreher // @Jay_Laker: With the impending tax bill looming for a team that’s not going to make the playoffs, they almost have to deal for cap relief purposes. The Lakers have held discussions with the Brooklyn Nets in regards to a possible Jordan Hill deal, and we still hear the chatter about Pau to Phoenix–so I would be surprised if they stand pat.
Ash Kargaran // @aakargaran: Yes. The Lakers will be trying to find a trade partner for Pau Gasol. At this point, the Lakers may even take less value for Gasol just so they can guarantee he doesn’t walk away for nothing, a la Dwight Howard last year.
Kanta Ito // @Kanta_B_Ito: They have to be, but in order to build for the future. Players like Kaman, Hill, and Blake might get involved in minor deals in order for the Lakers to get under the luxury tax this season. However, reports of Pau Gasol getting shopped around creates a possibility that a blockbuster deal could occur before the trade deadline.
Garrett Garcia // @GarrettGarcia: The Lakers will be active at the trade deadline I believe, however it won’t necessarily be a big move like many may think. Could be a series of small moves to help the team get under the luxury tax threshold or help the business side of the team.
Robert Benitez // @beeb0: Yes, whether it will be Pau or some small pieces, a change is definitely coming.
Melvin Taylor // @MelvinTaylorII: No I do not believe they will be. With all of the rumors surrounding the team I think they will keep what they have currently and finish out the season as best they can.
Next Question: How will the Lakers fare over the final 29 games?
One of the biggest issues regarding the front court is the lack of time for bigs in coach Mike D’Antoni’s system (Kaman 16.7 mpg, Hill 19.7 mpg, and Sacre 14.0 mpg). As a result, the performance of the front court has been average at best. Tied for 19th in rebounding and playing terrible defense in the paint, what used to be strengths of the Lakers are now weaknesses. The bright spot has certainly been Pau Gasol (16.4 points & 10.0 rebounds per game) and while his defense in the paint is not elite by any means, he is ranked 13th in blocked shots amongst centers. Has Gasol’s recent stellar play done enough to save him from the trade deadline next month? We’ll see. Another player who has earned himself recognition and playing time is that of rookie Ryan Kelly. The second round pick out of Duke, Kelly has averaged 14.7 points a game over his last four games (34.2 minutes per game) and looks like a player who could be with the Lakers for some time.
You cannot talk about the Lakers backcourt without mentioning injuries and unfortunately there have been plenty of them (Steve Nash, Steve Blake, Jordan Farmar, Xavier Henry). The biggest name on the injury list is that of Kobe Bryant. After returning from an Achilles injury after nearly eight months, Kobe was thrown right into the thick of things (29.5 minutes per game) and taking over point guard duties due to injuries. Did any of that have a direct result on Kobe and his fracture of the lateral tibial plateau in his knee? Some say yes and some will disagree with that. When will the Lakers see any type of relief on the injury front? February seems like the best bet, but at the current moment, it looks like it may be too late to save the season.
Ranked 16th in the league with 100.6 points a game, the remaining Lakers have definitely done their part despite the rash of injuries plaguing the team. One of the biggest additions to the team has been Kendall Marshall (10.1 points and 9.1 assists per game) who helped stabilize the point guard position, well somewhat since he is the only healthy point guard. The biggest concern with the offense is they seem to live and die by the three point shot. It is a great thing to watch when they are hitting over 50% from beyond the arc but when they struggle, we’ve seen some of the worst Lakers performances in recent memory.
Where do we start? Allowing 105.8 points per game (2nd worst in the league), this has been the biggest issue this season for the Lakers. Yes, injuries have played a part in it, but truth be told, this roster is not a defensive juggernaut when healthy. Pace on offense (third in the league) directly affects the defense, tired legs leading to bad transition defense for example. Interior defense has been horrible but the ironic thing is the Lakers are tied for 6th in the league in blocked shots. Worst stat on defense? Out of the 26 losses, 17 of those have seen the Lakers allow 110 or more points.
Did you really think I was going to forget Swaggy P? Nick Young has been the life of the Lakers this season and has definitely shown he loves to wear the purple and gold. Despite coming off the bench, he leads the team in scoring at 17.1 points a game and has his name in the sixth man of the year conversation. The bench has been excellent this season, averaging 42.4 points a game, which ranks 2nd in the league. That is a huge improvement after the Lakers bench was ranked 28th in scoring last season. Another thing to note, the bench players can all be brought back for cheap which will help as the Lakers move forward.
No coach would do well with the amount of injures D’Antoni’s squad has suffered. The one thing that has been constant about D’Antoni is his ability to get role players to play at a high level due to his system not being restrictive. Although, there are many concerns regarding the second year Lakers coach such as upsetting veterans like Chris Kaman with lack of playing time, not utilizing his roster to the best of their ability, and of course the defense. After clashing with Dwight Howard last season which certainly played a factor in his departure, can D’Antoni’s team play well enough to save his job heading into a crucial offseason where the Lakers could acquire some big name players? We are about to find out.
A couple days after Nick Young’s ejection and criticism of fellow Laker teammates, all seems well as the team prepares to face the rival Boston Celtics.
According to LA Daily News reporter Mark Medina, the Lakers held a team meeting after Young’s post-game comments which implied his teammates did not have his back as multiple Suns’ players surrounded him after Young shoved Suns’ center Alex Len due to a hard foul. Young was suspended without pay for Friday’s game versus Boston.
“We just talked. We’re all on the same page now. It’s just a misunderstanding,” Young said after the Lakers’ morning shootaround at TD Garden. “We all know what to do now in situations like that. Once we talked we air everything out, we’re all good.”
The teammate at the center of the controversy was guard Kendall Marshall, who responded to Young’s comments by saying that Young “wanted to see what he wanted to see” at the time. After pictures were posted on Twitter and Instagram (which Young “liked” then “unliked” showing Marshall standing at the three point line while the altercation was occurring, he took blame for his non-actions and comments.
“I take full blame being that I was on the court and being a point guard, I should’ve been the first one over there to pull him out there with what was going on, regardless of what I thought was happening,” Marshall said. “He had every right to get upset. It’s our job as teammates to be there for each other. I went up to him, squashed it and told him it will never happen again.”
With the situation seemingly behind them, the Lakers are focused on moving forward and say they know how to handle any future situations like the one in Phoenix.
“You have to get in. You don’t have to fight,” Young said. “You just have to step in between. Nobody wants to fight. Nobody wants to get beat up on national TV.”
Meanwhile, Marshall threw in some humor about what would happen if Young were to get into a scuffle again.
“We’ll run over there, have 15 guys pick up Nick and carry him away.”
“We’ll run over there, have 15 guys pick up Nick and carry him away.”
At 14-25 (second worst in the Western Conference), the Lakers desperately need to get back on track. Boston (14-26) have had struggles of their own and both teams are far different than when the two teams met in the Finals a few seasons ago. Despite that, the team continues to shed positive light on the team’s current state.
“When you’ve lost 12 of 13, if you don’t have a little adversity, something is wrong,” Marshall said. “I think it’s good for [Young] to get upset with us over that and show some passion. Maybe it will light a fire under all of us and we can build on it.”
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.
Still battling the upper respiratory infection that kept him out versus the Golden State Warriors last week, Pau Gasol will not travel with the team today as the Lakers prepare for their Friday night matchup versus the Utah Jazz.
It is unknown whether Gasol will play as he is listed as day-to-day, but at the very least will not be with the team when they land in Utah later this evening.
Pau Gasol not going on trip to Utah because of upper-respiratory infection.
— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) December 26, 2013
Officially being listed as day-to-day. RT @mcten: Pau Gasol (upper respiratory infection) is not traveling with the team to Utah today.
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) December 26, 2013
It’s disappointing news for the Lakers as they look to snap a three game losing streak. Battling an array of injuries and inconsistent play, the purple and gold are 4-8 in December. We’ll have more news on Gasol’s status for tomorrow as we receive it.
As many have heard, the Clippers recently covered up the Lakers’ championship banners and retired numbers at Staples Center, something that will be done for Clippers home games this season.
I have no problem with the Clippers trying to make their home games feel more “Clipper-ish”. What I do have a problem with are the steps they are taking to do so.
Covering up championship banners is one thing, but covering up retired numbers of Lakers’ legends, including that of the great late Chick Hearn is ridiculous. I don’t even want to start with the fact that the jerseys are covered with a picture of guard Jamal Crawford.
The decision, which was reportedly that of Doc Rivers, raises some questions as to the thought process behind it. Considering he was the head coach of the Boston Celtics, the move makes sense since he was associated with the Lakers’ rivals, but one has to believe he would not be okay with the move if another NBA team played at TD Garden and covered up the Celtics’ championship banners for their home games.
A rivalry with the Lakers is nothing new for Rivers, who coached the Celtics in the 2008 and 2010 Finals, prevailing in 2008.
“Listen, I think this is our arena when we play,” Rivers told the Los Angeles Times. “So I just thought it would be good that we show our guys. No disrespect to them. But when we play, it’s the Clippers’ arena as far as I know.” – Sports Illustrated article
Let’s face it, the banners being covered up is not just to make the arena feel more like a Clippers’ game. It is clearly an attempt to step out of the shadow of the Lakers’ storied history and try to create a new identity for themselves.
Although, there are other alternatives to accomplish that, such as hanging a banner of your own, which is usually something that get’s you noticed. Or even moving out out of Staples Center to Anaheim or back to San Diego is another option. As long as the Clippers stay in Los Angeles, they will be known as the other basketball team in LA.
Yes, Staples Center belongs to the Clippers too. It also belongs to the Sparks (WNBA) and Kings (NHL) as well. Stop and think how people would react if those franchises decided to start covering up other team’s banners to make their game feel more like a home game. It is silly to even think about.
Unfortunately for the Clippers, this move is irrelevant. You can’t cover up the reputation of the purple and gold. Covering up banners only puts more emphasis on the fact that the Lakers have won 16 NBA titles and that the Clippers have to hang glorified Fathead posters in an attempt to make people forget about the Lakers at their home games.
Fans of the Clippers that I have spoken to have all surprisingly been against the covering of the banners, even to the point where they called it childish. All fans will have different opinions on it, but I’m sure that their fan base would be more than happy with not bringing any attention to the Lakers, which is what this has resulted in.
The Clippers will be one of the top teams in the league this season. They have the talent and coaching to do so, it’s just unfortunate that this move can be seen as something Donald Sterling would have done years ago when they were down and out.
Let’s just hope that statues aren’t the next thing to be covered up or that Doc Rivers forces the Team LA store to not sell any Lakers gear during home games.