For Lakers Nation, things just haven’t gone right since Phil Jackson’s departure following a sweep at the hands of the eventual champion Dallas Mavericks back in the 2010-11 playoffs. In the ensuing postseasons it has been: a second-round exit in five games to the Finals-bound Thunder, a first-round sweep against the Finals-bound Spurs (the infamous Dwight Howard season) and back-to-back lottery seasons.
But on Tuesday night when the NBA conducted its Draft Lottery, an enormous smile from head coach Byron Scott glistened across the stage and made its way to Lakerland as some good news finally filled the atmosphere: The second overall pick in the draft was awarded to the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Lakers would unequivocally have preferred the first pick, as any team would, but given the conspicuous circumstances, they’re delighted with the outcome of what transpired. Had they fallen out of the top five, the pick would have gone to the Philadelphia 76ers because of the Steve Nash trade and then the three-team trade between the Sixers, Phoenix Suns and Milwaukee Bucks.
As everyone watched the draft board display the order in which teams would pick, Lakers Nation, including myself, waited with anticipation. Many of us had trepidations as it pertained to losing the pick. With everything that has occurred over the last few years, it would have been fitting and would have set the all-important rebuilding process back.
With the second pick, the Lakers are in position to take either Duke’s Jahlil Okafor or Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns. (Or maybe one of the talented guards?) Both big men have high upside and have garnered the attention of all the executives throughout the league. The Lakers have often been infatuated with skilled big men in the past, especially during the Phil Jackson era because it was conducive to the system they ran. Although Jackson is no longer with the team, that hasn’t wavered.
The nebulous plan the front office has put in place to get the Lakers back to relevancy has drawn excoriation from the fan base. We just aren’t accustomed to seeing this team struggle, and it’s even more unbearable when you watch the Clippers concurrently ascend to a level of greatness.
The Lakers missed the playoffs this season for just the seventh time in franchise history. But having done so for the second consecutive season, it no longer feels like an aberration.
The measurement of the ineptitude of the Lakers goes back to the hiring of Mike D’Antoni. This contentious move angered the fan base particularly because of the rumors emanating from the situation that linked Phil Jackson to the coaching vacancy. They elected to spurn the 11-time champion in favor of an offensive coach who showed no interest in defense and was devoid of any championship caliber experience. And this was all done with the mindset of recreating and rekindling the dynamic duo’s synergy between he and Steve Nash, which ultimately never came to fruition.
This franchise isn’t used to great players coming here and leaving them high and dry for other teams. Howard sported the purple and gold for one season before bolting to Houston.
Kobe Bryant ended up missing significant time this season due to a torn rotator cuff in his shoulder that required surgery and extensive rehabilitation. This marked the third straight season that he went down with a season-ending injury.
The only benefit that came from the Lakers’ woes over the last few seasons was the netting of lottery picks. They drafted Julius Randle out of Kentucky with the seventh pick of the 2014 NBA Draft, but unfortunately lost him to season-ending leg surgery, an injury he suffered in the first game of the season. And as I alluded to, they’ll be blessed with the services of one of the highly touted collegiate athletes in this draft.
With Kobe’s career winding down, Jeanie Buss has made it known that she intends to do everything in her power to build a championship contender. Lakers brass feels they owe it to him for all he has done for the franchise. The preliminary step will occur on Thursday, June 25.
At this moment it’s hard to genuinely trust the Buss family because of their recent inept behavior. But trust is all we’ve got for now. We’ll see if it translates into positive results during the offseason.