Friday, December 19, 2014
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Photo Credit | Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

With free agency well underway now, the two biggest names on the market have chosen their landing spots. Lebron James has decided to return to his hometown of Cleveland, and Carmelo Anthony decided to return to New York and work under Phil Jackson.  James was essentially the first domino to fall as once he made his decision most other free agents began to make theirs.  The Lakers did their best to try and land Anthony but it was futile in the end.  Anthony not signing with the Lakers, unfortunately, meant the departure of long-time PF Pau Gasol, as he declined two separate offers from LA and decided instead to sign with the Chicago Bulls.

The Lakers currently have Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Jeremy Lin, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, Nick “Swaggy P” Young, Kendall Marshall, Jordan Hill, and Robert Sacre filling out the roster for the upcoming season.  The roster is far from what the Lakers would like to have for next season, but it’s going to have to do.  There are a few more roster spots to fill out and it is yet to be seen who will fill those spots but it won’t be a big name as the Lakers don’t have much money to work with now.

The starting five currently lacks a decent small forward, and the Lakers will likely sign someone in free agency who can fill that need.  Here’s what it looks like right now.

PG Jeremy Lin

SG Kobe Bryant

SF ???

PF Julius Randle

C Jordan Hill

It’s not terrible, but it’s not that great either.  The Lakers are sure to go through another dull year without the talent to get them through a formidable Western Conference.

No one knows who Bryant will be when he returns this season, 36 years old when the season starts and he’s coming off two severe injuries stemming Lin-Lakers from two seasons ago.  Jeremy Lin, who was nothing short of a superstar when he truly debuted in New York, has since come back down to earth and is a rather average point guard in the league. We’re yet to see Randle in an NBA game so it’s realistic to expect Randle to put up decent numbers this season as he starts his career with the purple and gold.  Jordan Hill brings his game every night and is a wonderful offensive rebounder who always fights for boards on both sides of the floor.  It should be nice to see him in a starting roll where he can play the majority of the position’s minutes.

And of course there’s always Swaggy P, whose crazy antics and celebrations brought a strong energy to the court every night, that will surely be a welcome sign once again.

The sleeper pick for this season is Jordan Clarkson.  Yes, Jordan Clarkson, I told a friend of mine about him and he replied “Who is that?”.  Exactly.  He isn’t necessarily someone you would have heard of unless you’re an avid follower of Laker basketball, but believe me, this kid has talent and he was an absolute steal at #46 in the second round of this years draft.  Look for him to make his mark this season.

Photo Credit | John Locher / Associated Press
Photo Credit | John Locher / Associated Press

So where do the Lakers stand right now?  Well they definitely don’t look like what many fans felt they would look like a few months ago that’s for sure.  Missing out on the big free agent names is something that the Lakers aren’t used to, normally players are chomping at the bit to play for the Lakers.

This hasn’t been the case since the Lakers missed out on Chris Paul.  By this I mean that ever since that trade was nixed, the Lakers have really been in a downward spiral.  After that, Lamar Odom was traded away to Dallas for basically nothing, and Gasol was to be in trade talks for the next three years.  Phil Jackson had retired from coaching, and the Lakers went on to hire Mike Brown.  Following that, the Lakers looked to get back on track with the sign and trade of Steve Nash and the acquisition of Dwight Howard through a three-team trade.  This turned out to be a miserable failure which led to Brown being fired.  Then the Lakers had to chance to get Jackson back, but NOPE, they threw a total curveball and went with Mike D’Antoni instead.  Yeah, that worked out well.  Howard despised playing in LA under D’Antoni, who couldn’t effectively utilize a big man to save his life, and he didn’t get along so well with Bryant either.  Nash broke his leg in the first week of the season which led him to suddenly become “old” and he never performed like he did in his Phoenix days.  Bryant tore his Achilles tendon in the final game of the 2012-13 season against Golden State, and then the Lakers were swept in the first round by San Antonio. Howard then left for Houston, and the Lakers had a lot of questions facing them for the upcoming 2013-14 season.  Well, Bryant came back mid-season and subsequently broke a bone in his knee and was then out the rest of the season which led the Lakers to finishing with 27 wins and a lottery pick.  Even after getting in the lottery they still managed to only get the seventh pick out of it.

So, now they’re here, a shell of the championship teams that won in 2009, and 2010; Bryant being the only remaining player from those teams.  Gasol is gone and the Lakers seem to be facing more and more questions each season with hopes of future free agents wanting to come to LA in the coming years.  The Lakers have lost that luster they’ve had for so many years, they just don’t have it, and who knows when it will return.

The current roster doesn’t scream success, heck, it barely even whispers mediocrity.  I don’t see this team making the playoffs this season in such a tough Western Conference, unless someone plays out of their mind and carries the team. Unlikely though.  To top it all off the Lakers don’t even have a first-round pick unless it’s top five; that pick was sent over to Phoenix in the Nash deal.

Uncertainty faces this team to say the least, the Lakers are in an extreme rebuilding process and it could take a while before Staples Center raises another purple and gold banner.

 

Where will the Lakers finish this season?

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PhotoCredit: Bleacherreport.com
PhotoCredit:Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
PhotoCredit:Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Trade deadline looming, rumors heating up, players wanting out, oh the joys and familiar sounds of the second half of the season.  Days before the trade deadline tend to be the most exciting as rumors buzz around like flies and GM’s scramble to make the best deal possible to put their team in position for a deep playoff run. These rumors certainly have not evaded Los Angeles which is one of the biggest targets on the board before the deadline.

General Manager Mitch Kupchak has come out and publicly said he has no plans of trading the best center in the NBA, it’s just not a good idea.  Here’s what Kupchak said via Realgm.com:

“Dwight is our future,” Kupchak said. “He deserves to have his name on the wall and a statue in front of Staples at some point in time.”

And Howard’s response regarding whether he feels Los Angeles is his future via Realgm.com:

“I do,” Howard said about whether he feels the same way. “We talked about it plenty of times.”

“The only thing that matters is right now. Nobody can control what happens this offseason,” Howard said. “But like I said to you guys before, it’s not something I need to talk about every day. There’s no need for me to make a decision. Right now, it’s where I want to be in the future. My goal hasn’t changed. I want to win a championship and want to win one here. I’m here right now and this is our chance to get one this season. It’s been tough. But we have an opportunity to change all that.”

Considering what Laker fans have been hearing lately, that statement from Howard is a breath of fresh air.  He didn’t guarantee he’d stay here, but he didn’t rule it out either.  And from what I saw, it looks like he truly believes he can make it work here in LA.  So if Kupchak says he’s not being traded and Howard believes it can work in LA, why are we even discussing this?  Because all this talk and all these quotes can be so easily discredited with a simple phone call.

A phone call regarding a blockbuster deal that comes along to LA that makes Kupchak pull the trigger on trading Howard is always a possibility. He says he won’t trade him and is pretty adamant about that, but stranger things have occurred in the NBA, and I wouldn’t put a trade past Mitch if the right deal came along.

PhotoCredit: Sam Forencich:NBAE via Getty Images
PhotoCredit: Sam Forencich:NBAE via Getty Images

However I truly believe Howard is our future in Los Angeles and we need to do everything in our power to keep him here.  Although maybe I spoke to soon as everything can mean a lot.  One possibility floating around is that Howard won’t stay in LA as long as Kobe Bryant is there.  Here’s the quote via Realgm.com:

“I’ve heard rumblings that if Howard told Laker officials this summer that the only way he’d stay in LA is if Kobe leaves, the Lakers could end up choosing Howard over Kobe,” wrote Chad Ford. “It’s an unlikely scenario, but one worth watching.”

I want to put everything I’m made of into believing this scenario would not occur.  I just can’t see Los Angeles parting ways with their superstar and quite possibly the best Laker of all time.  Another option Los Angeles has is to use their amnesty clause on Bryant, cutting ties with the star and removing his $30.45 million contract from their books.  I still find it incredibly difficult to believe that The Lakers would do this just to keep Howard, Bryant has just meant too much to the franchise to kick him to the curb like that.

So it looks like The Lakers have options.

1.  Trade Howard, receive good pieces and throw in the towel on this season to try and rebuild.

2.  Amnesty Bryant (trading is unlikely due to his NTC) and keep Howard happy while signing him to a long term deal.

3.  Or they could manage to find a way where Bryant and Howard both stick with LA, they set aside their differences, and become best friends.

Ok, I probably took that one a bit far, but I do believe that Howard and Bryant can coexist together in Los Angeles to win a championship, in fact they need to.

PhotoCredit: MICHAEL GOULDING/ZUMAPRESS.COM
PhotoCredit: MICHAEL GOULDING/ZUMAPRESS.COM

Howard is the future of Los Angeles.  Whether fans like him, hate him, want him traded, or can’t wait to see him leave to free agency, Los Angeles needs Howard.  They need him to play his best, most powerful basketball he is capable of night in and night out.  When Kobe Bryant, the man who has brought such fame and fortune to the city of Los Angeles, sends his final goodbyes and retires from the game he loves so much, The Lakers will need to turn to Dwight Howard.  Once the trade deadline passes and (hopefully) Dwight is still member of the purple and gold, The Lakers can begin to turn their current season around and convince Howard to stay.

Not to sound like I’m giving up on this season, but I believe next season will be LA’s.  A healthy re-signed Howard, a championship hungry Kobe Bryant, and a plan to work together to win that championship will give fans of The Los Angeles Lakers a very bright future to look forward to for years to come.

So I ask you this LakerNation:

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With the Lakers off to a poor start, trade rumors have begun to swirl around Kobe Bryant, leading many to speculate if he'll leave for greener pastures. Kobe puts those rumors to rest in his interview with Yahoo Sports.