Let’s face it: the Lakers are terrible. Go back their back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010. If you’d have told Laker fans that in four years the team would be in flames, led by a dude named Swaggy P and that the Clippers would be running Staples Center, they’d probably giggle and hit ‘replay’ on this video one more time. But the reality is the Lakers have been pretty awful since they traded for Dwight Howard before the 2012 season. Sure, injuries played a part in that. Howard hardly got to play with Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant, and no amount of Bengay would’ve made that trio gel enough to challenge in a Western Conference now run by Oklahoma City, Portland and, oh yeah, San Antonio. Thanks to Kobe’s monster extension and salary cap restrictions, the Lakers roster has been shaky for sure. Still, General Manager Mitch Kupchak has been handed the same task as in past summers: rebuild another championship team. He didn’t ask, but it looks like he could use some help restarting Showtime.
Lakers fans everywhere rejoiced when Mike D’Antoni stepped down as head coach and Magic Johnson went all Magic on Twitter. Well, it’s been nine weeks and still no new coach. With Steve Kerr and Stan Van Gundy off the board, the rumors have had L.A. in the running for such in-demand coaches as…Kurt Rambis and Byron Scott.
Mark Jackson – Fresh off a successful run with Golden State, where Jackson reportedly butted heads with ownership over his refusal to move to the Bay from SoCal, Jackson might relish the chance to coach in the same division as his former team. He has playing career and the win percentage to command Kobe’s respect.2 of 5
The NBA Draft
The Lakers had the seventh pick in the draft and we can’t lie, they got a player who can step in immediately and produce. Kentucky forward Julius Randle has size and go-to post moves. He’s also go the right, uhhh, demeanor to past the Mamba sniff test. With that pick, the Lakers committed to developing a player that will have to contend with the likes of Serge Ibaka, Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge for years to come.3 of 5
The best thing Kupchak did was set up the roster to open up significant cap space for this season. There’s approximately $30 million available, and that’s without throwing in cash from the Steve Blake player trade exception. The first order of business should be finding a trade partner for Steve Nash’s $9.6 million contract, a move even Nash himself admits makes sense.
Carmelo Anthony – Melo is coming off arguably his best individual season, which was ironically his the first in which he missed out on the playoffs. Now he’s out in L.A. listening to Kupchak’s pitch on why he should switch coasts, a meeting that Kobe flew in from Europe to sit in on. The sell probably involves surrounding Melo with talented skill players since it would make no sense leaving one mess for another, taking a paycut to do so. For all we know Kobe could be detailing how he’ll let Melo take the lead while he plays more of a distributor role. Kupchak could be wowing Melo with the plan to bring LeBron or Chris Bosh into the fold, too. Those sweet utterances might, theoretically, maybe convince Melo to leave close to $50 million on the table in New York. Sike.
Luol Deng - The former Bull and Cavalier offers more versatility (16.0 points and 5.7 rebound) PLUS DEFENSE. Deng got traded after balking at Chicago’s $10 million per offer last season, so he won’t be the cheapest option, just the safest.
Chandler Parsons – The Rockets declined to pick up his $964,750 option so the fourth-year player can be had for the low.
Danny Granger – Granger went from being the Man and an All-Star with the Pacers to coming off the bench of a deep Clippers squad. Granger opted out of a $1.9 million option and his fall from grace could allow Kupchak to scoop him cheap.
Chill and Plan for Life After Bean
Life After Bean
Let’s face it. As long as a depleted Kobe Bryant is the focal point, this can only be a solid team, not a champion. They’ll need to replace a superstar with a superstar and the best way to make that happen is to hold out for the Kevin Durant Summer of 2016. That’s when Kobe’s $25 million comes off the books, when the reigning MVP will be turning 27 years-old and could be the undisputed best player in the league.