Kobe Bryant is untouchable, but will Andrew Bynum, Ron Artest, Derek Fisher, and Pau Gasol be in the Lakers long term plans? Photo by Jeff Lewis
By Michael Brown
Sentinel Sports Writer
Even before the Lakers were unceremoniously swept out of the playoffs by the Dallas Mavericks Sunday, there was already one voice calling for a complete overhaul of the roster in the event that the back-to-back champions didn’t three-peat.
That voice: none other than probably the greatest Laker Magic Johnson.
During a halftime ESPN telecast of Game 3 between Memphis and Oklahoma City, Magic said the Lakers, who then trailed 3-0 in the series, should undergo drastic changes.
“What it means is Dr. Buss has got a lot of work to do,” he said. “He’s going to have to probably blow up this team after the season if the Lakers lose this series, because now you’ve (got to) come back with some new faces.”
Since Magic’s comments and the Lakers’ 122-86 trouncing at the hands of Dallas, panic has set-in and now everybody wants to “blow up” a roster that’s appeared in three NBA Finals in four years, winning two.
The last time I recall this level of Lakers fans collectively losing their minds was after the 2007 season. That year, the Lakers were eliminated by the Suns 4-1 in the opening round and Kobe Bryant was publicly demanding a trade.
It was the second-year in a row the Lakers had been eliminated by the Suns and everything looked downhill.
Fortunately, calmer heads prevailed, Bryant wasn’t traded, Mitch Kupchak traded for Pau Gasol, and the rest was history. Two additional championship banners were raised to join 14 others in the rafters of the Staples Center because the Lakers didn’t panic.
Kupchak should exercise his best judgment by tuning out the nonsense from fans and the L.A. media.
Yes, the Lakers shouldn’t stand-pat with the same roster, but talk about blowing it up, and no one being “safe” except Bryant is over the top.
Perennial championship contenders don’t deserve to have complete roster makeovers. Teams such as New Jersey and Minnesota which are always in the draft lottery should be jettisoning their players and coaches left and right.
We all watched the Lakers this season and unless you were wearing purple and gold blinders, you recognized they needed a quicker point guard, bench and outside shooting.
The Lakers were hurt in all three categories during the Mavericks series. Dallas exposed every flaw the Lakers had, including being non-athletic on the perimeter.
How many times were players such as Jason Terry and Peja Stojakovic shooting at the three-point line without a defender in sight?
So this all begs the question: where do the Lakers go from here?
Losing in the semifinals isn’t acceptable, but unfortunately, everyone’s going to have to abandon the hyperbole and the sports talk radio trade fantasies.
With Phil Jackson likely retiring, the Lakers first job will be finding a new coach. Assistant Brian Shaw was assumed to be the leading candidate, but other names such as Rick Adelman, Doc Rivers and Byron Scott have begun to surface.
Hindrances to the Lakers making roster moves are current contracts. The Lakers are over the salary cap and no one knows for sure what the new collective bargaining agreement will include.
Chances are, if the owners get their way, the cap will shrink and player guaranteed years and salaries may not continue as they currently are agreed upon.
Shannon Brown and Matt Barnes both are restricted free agents with player options, meaning they can choose to opt out of their deals.
Both players were disappointments this season and choosing to opt out would be welcome. The Lakers could then use their money to rebuild the bench by targeting players such as Tayshaun Prince, Jamal Crawford and Jason Kapono, all unrestricted free agents.
Point guard has been a need for several years. Derek Fisher has been valiant over the years, but he’s well past his prime. Steve Blake was brought in to sure up the position, but he was a bust.
The free agent point guard market is slim pickings. Players such as Aaron Brooks, T.J. Ford and Earl Boykins are the best available.
There’s already been fan speculation about acquiring Chris Paul or Deron Williams, but here’s the problem, in order to get something you have to offer something.
Are Lakers fans willing to depart with either Andrew Bynum or Gasol for Paul or Williams? If not, forget a deal because that’s what it would take.
Dwight Howard’s name has been speculated about as well. He’s entering the final year of his contract in Orlando and that situation’s heating up.
Howard tweeted this week: “Y does it seem like the writers of Orlando sentinel are tryna push me out of Orlando with dumb articles. It’s annoying. Can I enjoy my summer and get ready for next season in Orlando. Pls. Same thing u guys did to Shaq. Smh.”
That tweet was in response to a rash of articles written about Howard’s future plans. He may want to play in L.A., but Orlando General Manager Otis Smith is likely to hold on to Howard in an attempt to woo the big man and convince him to re-sign.
However, I’m guessing Kupchak will be in contact with Smith through the off season just to get a feel for what it would take to bring Howard to L.A.
If a deal could be reached for Howard, it’s obvious; Bynum’s the odd man out. Gasol had his problems during the playoffs, but he and Howard could co-exist on the floor together.
Howard would also give the Lakers an heir apparent to Bryant. These moves, along with an off season of rest, and the Lakers will be ready to contend.
During the press conference following his exit interview Tuesday, Gasol uttered the words “come back with hunger” regarding next season.
I have a feeling Bryant and Co. haven’t satisfied their appetites just yet.
With a few additions, including possibly Howard joining the Lakers’ cast, semifinal exits could be a thing of the past for awhile.
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