This current Lakers team is a disaster… or should I say General Manager Mitch Kupchak is a disaster. No this team is not the Charlotte Bobcats, or the New Orleans Hornets, but this is definitely not your “power house” Laker squad of recent memory.
First off, I’m not a Lakers fan – nor is Kobe Bryant my favourite player – however, I’m a huge fan of the NBA and respect has to be given where it’s warranted. Just so there’s no debate, the Lakers are a great organization and Kobe Bryant is hands down, the best player in the world, has been for several years now. While people try to debate this with the current crop of “Super Stars” the reality is no there is no debate.
The disastrous year began at the end of last season when coach Phil Jackson retired. Kupchak decides to head in another direction with the coaching staff. Why would you go and hire a new coach, Mike Brown, and change your entire playing system, especially when you already had the proper coaching staff in place? The team already had a coach in the waiting with lead assistant Brian Shaw. I’m pretty sure he would’ve kept the coaching staff and playing principals intact. Bryant and Shaw were former teammates and I’m pretty sure the rest of the team, including Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, Derek Fisher, etc. would’ve been more than comfortable with Shaw (a former player, Laker and assistant coach). Why in the world would you want to disrupt the chemistry of your team? It makes no sense.
After the NBA lockout and the beginning of the season, Kupchak traded raining sixth man of the year and all star Lamar Odom to the Dallas Mavericks for a Trade Exemption (valued at 8.9 million) and Dallas’s 2012 first round draft pick. This was done after the Lakers failed to get league approval for a trade involving Chris Paul. So you can’t get Paul and you decide to make a trade, for what reason? What Kupchak did was trade away what I believe to be a “glue” guy, a player who has started at both forward positions at some point or another, your first guy off the bench and part of the nucleus that has helped you win your last two world championships. He, along with Bryant, Gasol, Fisher and supporting cast, have helped keep the Lakers at the top of the league.
The trade deadline followed, just after the mid-point of the season, which had some teams scrambling to position themselves for the playoffs, while others had the draft in mind. Kupchak decides the Lakers are playoff contenders and decides to trade Derek Fisher? You must be kidding me. I can’t imagine what Bryant thought of this move. Yes Kupchak did indeed pick up a younger point guard who should definitely help, but you could’ve kept Fisher as your first point guard/player off the bench. His leadership on and off the court is invaluable. He has five rings and is a world champion. That has to mean something.
Can’t say much for the actual youth and future of the team either, as they had two first round draft picks before the trade deadline and currently have none, after trading both of them. From possibly wanting to have future progress with your current crop of veterans, to now having little to no up and coming young players. What makes the future even darker, the team has no room to do anything significant in terms of free agency this off season, as they’re over the salary cap. This down word slide will continue and will not be good. Watch out Lake Show fans.
Let’s give some credit to Kupchak as he did have the balls to trade for Pau Gasol a few years back, only after realizing he had to do something after trading Shaquille O’Neal. He had to show Bryant he was serious in his pursue of a world championship.
I really wonder, what if Kupchak didn’t have Bryant? He never drafted him. What if Phil Jackson hadn’t been the coach of the Lakers? Who by the way led the team to five championships. While Jackson retired, this was in the plans for a couple of years before he made the final decision, the heir apparent coach and new bench boss was being trained by one of the greatest of all time. This is where Brian Shaw was supposed to do his thing and keep this dynasty going.
Bottom line, make necessary changes to key role players, but don’t change your nucleus. Don’t disrupt the chemistry. Once you have a winning formula, you should stick with it and ride it as long as you can. Kobe Bryant will at some point retire. Why not continue to build your team around him and go strong until his contract is up at the end of the 2013/2014 season? At that point, at age 35, let him decide if he wants to play another one, two, three years and let this incarnation of Lakers go strong and hard. I’m sure he can play as long as he wants. Look at two time MVP Steve Nash.
At the end of the day sports is about winning championships, no matter what you do, or what has to get done, the ring is what it’s all about. How you get there makes no difference in the record books. Unfortunately, Mitch Kupchak has dropped the ball, no pun intended, and his team for the second year in a row, will not have the privilege in raising another championship banner at the Staples Center. While he tried to be creative, he totally missed the mark and seriously has put the organization several steps behind other top tier teams in the league.
Don’t look now, but the other tenant at the Staples Center, the Clippers, look great this season and have a very bright future, with a very talented squad. Rumor has it they may be looking at a new coach for next season… Do you think Brian Shaw remembers his way to the Staples Center?