BY: EMILIO ALDEA
Who are these people and what have you done with my Lakers? My Lakers, of 16 NBA Championships. My Lakers, of Kareem, Magic, and Shaq. My Lakers, that of “Showtime.” My Lakers, the most consistent franchise in the NBA over the course of its history. My Lakers, who don’t even bother putting up division title banners and don’t need to put up pictures of their players to hide the accolades of other building tenants. My Lakers, the greatest team in the NBA.
To say this season has been an unmitigated disaster for the Lakers would be an understatement. Fans of the team want to be mad at someone for the lack of success lately, but who do we blame for this travesty?
Over the last two years, the management has brought over several key pieces that, on paper, would have helped the team tremendously. Chris Paul (commissioner’s veto), Dwight Howard (free agency), and Steve Nash (injury) have all been traded for in the last several years and have gone on to contribute nothing of value to the team. Any one of them paired with Pau Gasol, Kobe Bryant, and a decent supporting cast would ideally be enough to get to another NBA Finals series, if not enough to win the championship outright.
In Lakerland, anything short of winning the championship is an abject failure. The Lakers have appeared in nearly half of all NBA Finals matchups (31) and have won more than half of those, with 16. So who can we blame for the sudden lack of success and seemingly hopeless situation?
Mike D’Antoni is no Phil Jackson. Mike D’Antoni’s certainly no Pat Riley. Hell, Mike D’Antoni isn't even Lionel Hollins. While D’Antoni certainly hasn't been placed in the most ideal situation (coming in after the season opener last year, injuries this year) he has still got a level of production out of his players that is less than what we would expect from the Lakers (does anyone play defense on this team?). The injury situation this year has been untenable for the Lakers at times. There have even been points this season where the Lakers have had only FIVE dressed players and FOUR eligible players at the end of the game. FOUR! Is that D’Antoni’s fault? Of course not.
Jimmy Buss and Mitch Kupchack are the guys signing the players and coaches, so who else could possibly be to blame? Although the team looked decent on paper before the year started, what could we realistically expect from the team? They didn’t have a mid-level exception to offer anyone this offseason because of their salary cap situation, and were relying on three players with nearly a semicentennial’s worth of NBA experience to take them to a championship. It only sounds ridiculous because it is.
Most fans who tune in to a Laker game these days may have trouble finding their favorite players without a “GASOL” on the back of a jersey. The Lake Show has a few good complementary pieces on the team: Ryan Kelly, Chris Kaman, Jordan Hill, Kendall Marshall, and Nick Young. The problem is that those guys are now starting AND finishing games for the Lakers. Most people would probably not recognize them if they were walking down the street. No one could miss Derek Fisher or Robert Horry. The glory days are far behind us, and Laker fans would be better served hoping that the team is horrible enough to luck into Jabari Parker/Andrew Wiggins/Marcus Smart in the draft this year. As Laker fans, we’d better hope so. After all, that lone pick is the only one the Lakers have until 2016, after we traded the other ones for Dwight and Steve.