Over the weekend, the Los Angeles Lakers made a move to acquire Roy Hibbert from the Indiana Pacers for very little in return. The Lakers then followed that up by agreeing to deals with Lou Williams and Brandon Bass.
These weren’t terrible contingency moves by the Lakers – if that’s what you can even call them. Hibbert has north of $15 million left on his contract, but it expires at the conclusion of the season. Williams and Bass are two solid role players who can help you win games, but nothing all that exciting. With the team needing to spend at least 90 percent of its cap, these types of moves are plausible.
But all this shed a light on an issue seemingly on a grander scale for the franchise. Why is the persuasion process for the Lakers so rigorous? This is something that deserves scrutiny.
Outside of hearing “Game 7,” the most enticing two-word phrase might be “free food.” When you’re having a difficult time convincing people to come to an event where this is present, that’s a clear indication of how terrible the situation is.
Unfortunately, that’s tantamount to what can be said about what stands before the Lakers organization. They’re now in the midst of a free agency slump, going 0 for their last 3 in terms of making a splash.
After losing Dwight Howard to the Rockets back in 2013 and whiffing on Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James last year, they fell well short of landing any of the marquee names on the board this time around.
When players turning down lucrative deals doled out by your team becomes habitual, that’s an indictment on the franchise. Combine this with said players being given the opportunity to use the Hollywood galore and the success of the organization to significantly enhance their brand and still saying “Thanks, but no thanks.”
Los Angeles is no longer a star’s dream place to play basketball anymore, unless you’re looking across town at the Clippers (although apparently DeAndre Jordan was sick of that). With the new CBA rules pertaining to cap flexibility, the gap between the large and small markets has diminished, which has evened the playing field.
The Lakers can no longer use their stardom and conversations about the “old days” to entice free agents to come play alongside a now injury-ridden, 36-year old Kobe Bryant, especially when he’s making an exorbitant amount of money.
I’ve often said ad nauseam, cap space doesn’t mean too much of anything until it actually does. You can have all the money in the world, but until it’s used effectively on building a contender, it has no real merit.
For all the fan bases raving about how fortunate your team is financially, look at what two illustrious franchises, the Knicks and Lakers, have done this offseason. Despite being offered roughly the same amount by both of these teams, Greg Monroe elected to go play under Jason Kidd in Milwaukee. In this day and age, who’s choosing that over Los Angeles and New York?
The LaMarcus Aldridge sweepstakes most certainly caught some fire this offseason. The Knicks were willing to offer him all the money they had, and amalgamated that with a chance to share the spotlight with Carmelo Anthony, playing in the World’s Most Famous Arena. The Lakers threw him a max deal and requested a second interview with him to correct what they’d hoped wasn’t an incorrigible mistake in the first meeting.
Instead, he elected to go play for a coach who said he wasn’t staying up too late on the first night of free agency to meet with anyone because it was past his bedtime. Why? Because that model first-class organization can simply do no wrong and Aldridge knows that everything the Spurs touch turns to gold.
The guy who goes to the gym with increase on his mind, trying to lift a weight he’s never done before, only to find that there’s someone there who can do just that in his sleep? Yeah … that’s how the Knicks and Lakers feel.
As noted, reputation is everything. And for the Lakers, the disparity between what’s a contentious move versus what’s an intelligent one is at an all-time high. In fact, failing to choose the Lakers as a destination is no longer controversial, it makes you one of the smartest men in America, right? Ask Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol.
The organization is dysfunctional at this point. I remember back when they had the highly touted core of Bryant, Howard and Nash. Mike Brown had just been fired and there were rumblings that guru Phil Jackson was readying himself for a Jordan-like comeback, not wearing the “four-five” though – but, sitting on the bench and competing for a title.
Jim Buss stepped in and it was definitely not what the doctor ordered. He chose Mike D’Antoni instead and had aspirations of a rekindling of the good ol’ Phoenix Suns days. We all know that failed miserably.
That’s just like everything else that’s happened since they last won a title back in 2010. What are some vivid memories we have after that last hoorah? Vying for a third consecutive title, only to be swept by the eventual champion Mavs. Being so close, yet so far from being able to play a welcome home video during Jackson’s first game back…
Watching Howard spurn them for greener pastures in Houston. Painfully reading the three “out for the season” injury reports associated with Kobe Bryant. Coming to terms with the fact that LA isn’t the destination is used to be for free agents anymore.
What made them think Aldridge was the right fit? Could you imagine your starting shooting guard and power forward being among the league leaders in field goal attempts hovering around 40 percent? DeAndre Jordan was a perfect fit, but merely a pipedream; why was he heavily sought after?
The roster has myriad holes, so going after slam-dunks in heavy traffic when you have below-average players throwing the lobs isn’t worthy of adulation. In all actuality, it warrants condemnation.
There’s an underlying problem in existence. The maelstrom of uncertainty attached to the Lakers’ future is an issue. Jeanie Buss said that her brother is ready to step down as the president of basketball operations if they’re not a contender in three years.
When you’re a failure three times in a row in free agency, and you’ve missed the playoffs with historically bad seasons in back-to-back years, an overhaul should be on the “to-do” list. Not in three years, but right now.