Thursday, July 31, 2014
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Now that the NBA Finals have ended, the basketball world’s attention shifts to the off-season. Beginning with the NBA Draft yesterday and continuing with the beginning of free agency next week, the next three months will shape how the 2013-2014 NBA season goes down.

There might not be a team with a more uncertain future heading into the off-season than the Lakers. Will Dwight stay or will he go? (Here’s my opinion from yesterday in case you missed it)

Do you upgrade an aging roster? Stick to what you have? Get rid of everyone? What exactly should the Lakers do?

Let’s take a look at three options Los Angeles really has this off-season, and which is going to be best for the franchise.

Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles Lakers

Re-sign and Build Around Dwight

The most obvious solution would be to go all in and put everything you have to bringing Howard back to Los Angeles. While injuries caused a dip in his production this season, there is no doubt Dwight is a top ten talent in the NBA and the best center in the league when healthy. Howard is a game-changer, especially on the defensive end of the court. With a player like that in the fold, you have a solid core for the next 5-10 years that you can build around.

With gobs of cap space coming in the summer of 2014, and a very impressive list of free agents, the Lakers could secure Howard and be back in contention within a year.

That is of course if the big man wants to be back in the Purple and Gold. Reports have recently surfaced that the Lakers are a long-shot to bring him back. According to ESPN:

Howard is willing to forgo the extra $30 million the Lakers can pay him to play for a coach and in a system he feels will better use his skillset, one source said.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Boston Celtics

Sign-and-trade Dwight for Depth

So if there’s no bringing him back, what can the Lakers do? Another idea that has been thrown around lately has been the concept of sign-and-trading Dwight to a team of his choosing to bring back some assets in return. While Howard would obviously have to agree to sign with the team he is going to, getting something in return is better than allowing Dwight to walk for nothing. (Contrary to popular belief, the Lakers can send a player out in a sign-and-trade, they just can’t bring a player in via sign-and-trade.)

With reports that Chris Paul and Howard want to form their own super team, the most talked about sign-and-trade has D12 going to the Clippers in exchange for Eric Bledsoe and Blake Griffin. Which sounds like a decent deal, except for the fact that the Lakers don’t want to send Howard to their rivals (if you can even call them that) down the hall, and the contract owed Griffin is going to become increasingly tough to justify if all he ever does is dunk and make Kia commercials.

If the Lakers are going to move Howard they need to take advantage of this opportunity and bring in a young talent that can help transform the franchise. A trade that gets the Lakers younger and more talented in exchange for Dwight would be the main objective of the franchise.

So what trade accomplishes these goals? That’s easy. A three-way trade between the Lakers, Clippers, and… (drumroll please) the T’Wolves! Minnesota happens to have a very talented young power forward who most people (Minny included), don’t expect to stick around past his opt-out after this season. A trade sending Dwight to the Clippers, Blake Griffin to the Wolves and Bledsoe and All-Star Kevin Love to the Lakers makes sense for all involved.

Paul and Howard get to team up in Clipper uniforms, Ricky Rubio gets the perfect alley-oop target, and the Lakers get two young, dynamic players to upgrade their roster. Which sounds like the perfect trade, meaning it will be almost impossible to pull off.

Andrew Wiggins 2

Blow it Up and Start Over

So if Dwight doesn’t want to come back, and the Lakers can’t get the right assets in return with a sign-and-trade, what option lies behind the proverbial door number three?

Blow it all up and rebuild. Let Dwight walk. Trade Pau. Amnesty Metta. Don’t bring Kobe back to play this year. Tank, tank, tank, tank, tank. (Then fire D’Antoni, I beg of you.)

If we’ve learned anything from the OKC’s and Spurs of the league, it’s that drafting talent is as important as signing talent. Unless you have Lebron James, you just can’t win in the league today without cheap, young talent.

In Los Angeles, it’s title or bust every season for the Lakers. And with a championship looking less and less likely next season, blowing it up for a franchise-changing lottery pick (Andrew Wiggins anyone?) could be the best route to take.

With ridiculous amounts of cap space next summer, the Lakers could potentially have a great, young talent on a rookie contract and two or three max players in the starting line-up with him. Doesn’t that seem like the best option towards a quick rebuild back into title contention?

The Lakers have some big decisions to make in the next couple of weeks. Will they look for instant gratification again, or decide to finally bite the bullet and rebuild for the future? Either way, you can guarantee it will be an interesting summer in Laker Land.

Belal Abdelfattah is a sports addict, sneaker junkie, and Laker Nation contributor. Follow him on Twitter over at @ItsBelal_A

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Photo Credit: NY Daily News
Photo Credit: NBC LosAngeles
Photo Credit: NBC LosAngeles

The Los Angles Lakers seem to have turned on a switch as of late.  A switch that has the power to turn dismal teams into championship ones, a switch that could very well put the Lakers into title contention.  OK, probably getting ahead of myself there, but nonetheless The Lakers seem to have figured it out these past few games, and the one constant change from those 3 games has been Kobe Bryant.

Kobe isn’t ashamed to consider himself a scorer, and the one guy on the team who can always be counted on to hit clutch shots and make timely buckets. Unfortunately there is that horrible statistic floating around the sports world that states The Lakers are better when Kobe Bryant doesn’t score more than 30 points.  Back in December of this season that stat line read that The Lakers were 1-9 in those very games.  Yikes, that’s quite the horrifying statistic, and I for one thought it was a fluke and that the stat really didn’t mean anything because Kobe was shooting nearly 49% from the field.  When someone shoots that well it makes it hard to believe those shots are unnecessary.

And then suddenly he changed, The Black Mamba, Kobe Bryant, changed.  He changed his game for the sake of the team and boy has it paid off in the best way possible.

Photo Credit: Espn.go
Photo Credit: Espn

The Lakers last four games have been phenomenal (except the collapse in Phoenix) and a lot of it, if not all, is due to Kobe’s new game he’s bringing to the table.  Instead of shooting his average of 21 shots per game, he’s dialed it down to an average of 13 shots per game, and he’s making 53% of those attempts over the last 4 games.  Not only is he adjusting his shots per game but he’s also averaging 12 assists and about 8 rebounds per game over this span.

These kind of changes to Kobe’s game are unprecedented, (Kobe’s career averages are 5 assists and 5 rebounds per game), we have never seen him dish out this many assists in his entire career, it’s just not how he plays basketball.  These near triple-double numbers are exactly what The Lakers need right now and it seems to be paying off in wins.

Kobe Bryant has changed his game by passing up typical “Kobe” shots and instead sends sharp, zooming passes down the lane to a wide open cutter, or he drives to the hoop and kicks it out to an open man beyond the arc.  It’s this type of play that wins games and boosts that ever so elusive team chemistry and moral.  All Laker players are benefitting from Kobe’s unselfish play, and with everyone getting their touches and shots, one can only assume it’s a matter of time before LA gets on the right track.

Unfortunately the team lost their momentum a couple nights ago in Phoenix as they blew a 13 point lead with 9 minutes left in the fourth.  Regardless of the collapse, this is the way the Lakers must play in order to be successful and really make that push to be where they should be.

Photo Credit: MySanAntonio.com
Photo Credit: MySanAntonio.com

Kobe Bryant is a scorer and the one who always takes the open shot if he’s got it, and the fact that he has changed his game so drastically for the betterment of the team is fantastic.  As long as The Lakers continue to play team basketball, find the open man, and play a strong defense they will find themselves close to where they’d like to be.  Unfortunately the hole they dug themselves up to this point in the season is more than likely too deep to get completely out of, but they can fill it in a bit with the style of play they are exhibiting.

The Lakers will be tested again tonight against The Minnesota Timberwolves and I hope to see the new look Kobe Bryant out there on the court.  If the Lakers falter back to their old ways we may as well throw the rest of the season away, as most of you already have.  The Lakers seem to have found a silver lining in this disaster of a season and if they can look to that during hard times they will be successful and begin to chalk up some W’s when it counts.  Here we go Los Angeles, let’s see what we’re made of.

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Image Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn | US PRESSWIRE
Image Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn | US PRESSWIRE
Image Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn | US PRESSWIRE

The Los Angeles Lakers visit the Target Center Friday night to face the Minnesota Timberwolves. The T-Wolves enter the matchup on a five game losing streak, losers of 10 out of their last 11 games. Similar to the Lakers, the T-Wolves have been hampered by injuries all season. Minnesota has been somewhat rejuvenated by the recent returns of Alexey Shved and Nikola Pekovic, so expect the T-Wolves to come out scratching and clawing for a win.

The Lakers, winners of 3 out of their last 4 games, enter Minnesota riding some momentum. Coming off an embarrassing loss in Phoenix, however, the Lakers will look to snap their current 8-game road-losing streak. Unfortunately, the Lakers could be without All-Star center Dwight Howard, who is listed as day-to-day with a ‘sore right shoulder’.

Expect Kobe Bryant to continue his stellar facilitating on offense Friday night, although he may need to shoulder more of the scoring load if Howard is unable to go. The Lakers, like the T-Wolves, have struggled with consistency this season, so it will be interesting to see which teams show up for this one.

While the Lakers prepare for Friday night’s game in frigid Minnesota, I linked up with John Flesta from the Timberpups blog for a Q&A game preview.

Here’s our Q&A …

Pups Question #1 for John:

After a promising off-season, this regular season has gone in similar fashion as the Lakers’ season. Injuries have played a major factor in this season’s disappointment, but with Kevin Love out at least another five weeks and Brandon Roy still out indefinitely, is there still time to salvage this season? Or is it time to start looking towards next season?

John:

While I am probably not supposed to admit this, I am no longer expecting the T-Wolves to make the playoffs this season.  At the beginning of the season I went on record saying that they were a lock to make the tournament.  I think it was less than a week after that article went on our site when Kevin Love broke his hand doing knuckle push-ups.  The Wolves are going to need a good amount of help and a lot more luck on their side to sneak into the playoffs.

However, I have a hard time looking towards next season in January/February.  There are still a lot of intriguing storylines for the team; A. Can Rubio return to form, B. Does Love come back this season if the team falls way behind in the standings, and C. Is Derrick Williams on this team after the trade deadline?  I really do not want to think about ping-pong balls when this season had so much promise!

Lakers Question #1 for Alex:

Let’s get right to the gorilla in the room; what is your take on Mike D’Antoni and will he be the coach for the Lakers next season?  I’ve always viewed him as the perfect assistant coach who can run the offensive side/end of a practice, similar to an offensive coordinator in the NFL that is terrible when they get a head coaching gig. Your thoughts?

Alex:

I agree with that assessment. Mike D’Antoni was certainly a mistake by the Lakers’ front office this season. Along with his inability to utilize the Lakers’ unique culmination of talent, D’Antoni has remained stubborn in forcing his up-tempo system upon a roster that simply doesn’t fit. D’Antoni’s controversial benching of players late in games, as well as his inability to manage superstars, have also hampered the Lakers’ team chemistry lately.

The Lakers, more specifically the players, have since gone away from his failed system and are now finding success with better ball movement and spacing. Kobe Bryant’s facilitating and offensive leadership have spearheaded this newfound success.

The Lakers will not terminate D’Antoni’s three-year contract this season, due to the obvious financial ramifications, but it is certainly possible that D’Antoni is replaced in the off-season. If the Lakers really want to make pending free agent Dwight Howard the future face of the franchise, they may need to bring in a coach with a system more tailored to the Lakers’ premiere big man.

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D12
Photo Credit | NBC Sports

When a team plays poorly there are always some options that the GM has at their disposal.  They can trade for some players, look to the free agent market for some sort of spark, or maybe the coach is to blame. In the case of the Los Angeles Lakers, Mitch Kupchak really hasn’t been left with any except to trade one of our All Star pieces.

The Lakers fired head coach Mike Brown, only 5 games into the 2012-13 NBA season, and soon after hired Mike D’Antoni, completely snubbing 11-time World Champion Phil Jackson.  So that makes it very difficult to fire D’Antoni to hire yet ANOTHER head coach. The Lakers would then have three head coaches on their payroll, with two of them at home laughing at how the Lakers can’t seem to get their act together.

D12
Ronald Martinez | Getty Images

Kupchak has been pushed to this point by the poor and lackluster play by the Lakers thus far this season.  I feel (as I know many of you feel also) that there needs to be a change; I truly wish that the Lakers organization had hired Phil when they had the chance, but that didn’t happen, and we will have to look elsewhere now.  Trading seems to be the only logical thing to do at this point and there are a few players that would be perfect center pieces, most notably Dwight Howard.

There has been the idea that Dwight isn’t truly happy here in LA, and his true home lies in Brooklyn with the Nets.  The Nets know this and have since began looking for a possible trade scenario that would land Howard in Brooklyn.  However, the Nets’ GM Billy King has been looking for a third team in which to facilitate this trade, and most recently, that team had been the Minnesota Timberwolves.  The possible trade called for Howard going to Brooklyn, Brook Lopez to Minnesota, and Kevin Love to Los Angeles, with some other smaller pieces thrown in to make the trade work.  More from that trade scenario can be read here.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Denver Nuggets
Garrett W. Ellwood | Getty Images

Unfortunately, Kevin Love has since been sidelined for 8-10 weeks due to re-injuring his broken hand.  That kind of makes this trade impossible as Los Angeles doesn’t want an injured Kevin Love for All-Star Dwight Howard, even if his performance has been sub-par recently.  The Nets will continue to find a suitable third team for the trade, as they clearly want Dwight Howard on their roster so they can make a strong playoff push.

Personally, I feel our problem isn’t Howard or Gasol and trading them would make things worse at this point. That said, as I noted earlier, a new head coach isn’t an option.  D’Antoni is a great head coach for a team that can mesh with his system, but the Los Angeles Lakers are NOT that team.  As long as D’Antoni is head coach and Jim Buss is still running the organization, the Lakers cannot be successful with this current roster.

Trading Dwight is the best option that the Los Angeles Lakers have right now and receiving a great couple of pieces in return would be best.  After such a thrilling off season and excitement building up to this season it kills me to say that we need to trade the player the Lakers worked so hard to acquire, but it has to be done.

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(Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

As we move closer to the March 15th NBA trade deadline, expect more and more of these stories to surface. According to Chris Tommason from Fox Sports the Minnesota Timberwolves have expressed interest in trading for Lakers F Pau Gasol.

…a source said Wednesday that Minnesota continues to pursue a possible trade for Lakers forward Pau Gasol, dangling rookie Derrick Williams, who is from the Los Angeles area, and draft choices. The only players considered untouchable by the Timberwolves, who are seeking to add a veteran by the trade deadline, are Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio.

Williams is a promising young prospect out of La Mirada high school in southern california and has shown flashes in limited minutes for the T-Wolves this season. But as our friend Kurt Helin from Pro Basketball Talk points out, this would be a move more in the vein of a team that is rebuilding, not one that sees itself as a championship contender.

For the Lakers to consummate any deal with the Timberwolves, one would have to assume that the talks would begin and end with Kevin Love, who just signed a contract extension to remain in Minnesota. Since the “source” tabbed Love as untouchable, I would categorize this rumor along with the 5,000 others that we will all hear about in the next month that nothing will ever come of.

Although, one thing to keep in mind is that with higher luxury tax penalties levied against teams significantly over the cap, one can’t discount the fact that Gasol is owed nearly $40 million over the next two seasons. So to think that the Lakers wouldn’t be interested in moving him for multiple players to add depth, and be more financially efficient with the roster would be a mistake as well. Of course the major caveat of that is, it has to be the right package of players, and something tells me Derrick Williams, a few mediocre throw-ins and a collection of draft picks wouldn’t come close to cutting it.

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