Monday, July 6, 2015

And the Lakers get on the board this offseason

     Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Nick Young, Jordan Hill… 
     All of the players mentioned above have led the Lakers in scoring for at least one regular season. And if the final two players listed seem out of place, they should. “Swaggy P” and Jordan Hill cracking this list of illustrious Laker legends is a testament to the downward spiral LA currently finds itself in.
    Over the past two regular seasons, Los Angeles has: compiled a tumultuous 48-116 record, (obviously) failed to make the playoffs, and on a consistent-basis put out a starting lineup comprised of D-Leaguers, run-down veterans and no-name players within the professional basketball circle. “Tanking” has become a routine practice for one of the NBA’s most storied franchises, the Draft Lottery is common territory, and more than ever before the Lakers organization finds itself plastered with a big, fat “REBUILDING” label. The glorious championship banners which hang from the rafters of the Staples Center seem so distant now. Lakers nation finds itself asking, “Why does 2010 feel so long ago?”
      Needless to say, the Lakers find themselves in a state of turmoil, desperate for a turnaround. There is a heap of work to be done not only for the immediate future, but also for the distant one, considering that Kobe Bryant has publicly announced 2016 will be his final season as a Laker.
       Lakers team president Jeanie Buss has made it known that her brother, president of basketball operations Jim Buss, will resign should the Lakers not make a deep postseason run (Conference Finals) by the 2016-2017 season. Well, the clock’s ticking Jim, you’ve got some major work to do.
         Last week, the Lakers selected D’Angelo Russell with the second overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. There was some questioning about LA’s decision to go with the Ohio State guard instead of selecting Duke center Jahlil Okafor, who showed great interest in joining the Lakers. However, Russell’s tremendous upside and superstar potential rationalize Los Angeles’ decision to select him with the second pick.
       After falling short in both the LaMarcus Aldridge and DeAndre Jordan sweepstakes this past week, Los Angeles has been active in their offseason pursuits. Over the past 48 hours the Lakers have made several additions to their roster via free agency and the trading market.
       The Lakers signed power forward Brandon Bass from the Celtics, and former-Raptors guard Lou Williams on Sunday. While the Lakers are close to finalizing a deal with Bass, the team has already signed Williams, the 2015 NBA Sixth Man of the Year award winner, to a three-year, $21 million dollar contract. Bass brings a veteran presence to Los Angeles’ front court and can serve as a mentor to Julius Randle, the Lakers’ first-round draft selection of a year ago whose rookie campaign was cut short due to injury. While Williams has been evaluated as a defensive liability, he will serve as an excellent offensive asset for the Lakers. Whether Williams is a starter or is assigned a bench role, he will provide an offensive spark for the Lakers in seasons to come.
       On Saturday, LA also acquired center Roy Hibbert courtesy of a trade with the Indiana Pacers. The trade is currently in the finalization stages and Hibbert is expected to officially be a Laker by the end of the approaching week. Hibbert, 28, is a two-time All-Star (2012, 2014) who has displayed flashes of success throughout his career.
        In the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals, Hibbert had a breakout series against Miami in which the Pacers pushed the defending-champion Heat to seven games. In that series, Hibbert was a force, averaging 22.1 points per game (PPG) and 10.4 rebounds per contest (RPG). The Lakers are hopeful that Hibbert’s output can mimic these numbers, and not this past season’s statistics, in which he averaged 10.6 PPG and 7.1 RPG while shooting 44.6% from the field.
      While Laker activity has been high as of late this offseason, the front office realizes that these acquisitions are but baby steps on the road to rebuilding the storied franchise. Coming off of the worst regular season in franchise history (21-61 record), Los Angeles needs to think about .500 before harboring any thought of a playoff berth, especially in the killer Western Conference.

        Good luck Jim, your sister’s got the two-year leash on you. Time’s a wasting. 

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