Los Angeles Lakers fans sit at home licking their wounds, preparing to watch the start of the NBA Playoffs, and wondering what it will take to bring Showtime back to the City of Angels. Following a dismal 27-55 record, the worse since the Lakers moved to Los Angeles in 1961, fans can only be cautiously optimistic about next season.
How is it possible that one of the most historic franchises in NBA history has gone into such a spiraling freefall, landing near the bottom of the Western Conference, with little at this time to suggest that they’ll return to glory any time soon? It’s simple. Right now, they’re a team filled with a bunch of has-been superstars, including all-time great Kobe Bryant, and others whose bodies have all but given out on them. To make matters worse, when the trio of Bryant, Nash and Gasol happen to be on the court at the same time, the man on the sidelines dressed in suit and tie is barking out orders to once great thoroughbreds, believing that they’re still able to race in the Kentucky Derby.
Luckily, for the City of Angels and Los Angeles Lakers fan nationwide, the season has ended—a season that never got off the ground, or even gave fans the thrill of a turbulent roller coaster ride. So, what’s next for the Lakers, and what’s needed for them to regain status as the cream of the crop? First and foremost, it’s time to stop trying to attack opposing teams with bows and arrows. It’s time to bring the fire power back to the Forum. Fire power in the form of Showtime, featuring high-flying and basketball-savvy players that will complement the aging veterans.
In 1979, the Lakers selected Earvin “Magic” Johnson with the first overall pick in the NBA Draft, teaming him up with the man that some argue is the best basketball player ever, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Together, the two of them formed the cornerstone of what would become Showtime in L.A., solidifying the dynasty when they drafted James Worthy with the first overall pick in 1982. With draft day a little more than two months away, it’s important for the Lakers to make a wise decision, choosing a player that will not only be able to adapt to the NBA style of play, but have the ability to rise to the occasion, lift people from their seat cushions and electrify the Laker faithful.
Currently, the Lakers have a 6.3% chance at securing the No. 1 overall pick, and a 21.5% chance at a top three pick. Odds are they end up with the sixth pick, and with players like Wiggins, Embiid, Parker and Vonleh most likely gone once their selection hits, and with the need for a forward, they would have the opportunity at players like Aaron Gordon from Arizona or Julius Randle from Kentucky.
Randle, the star freshman, averaged 15 ppg, 10.4 rebounds, and helped lead the east coast Wildcats to the NCAA National Championship game, only to lose to the UConn Huskies. While Randle lacks the elite athleticism of some of the other top players in this year’s draft, he makes up for it with some well-defined skills. The 6’9, 250 lb power forward is very strong around the hoop, with the ability to bully his way through the lane and finish strong with his left hand. He would be a solid pick for the Lakers with the sixth pick, but if Los Angeles is looking to bring Showtime back to the City of Angels, their pick is west coast Wildcat, Aaron Gordon. Gordon, a 6’8 forward is an absolute freak of an athlete, and easily one of the most athletic players in the draft. For a team desperately in need of a defensive stopper, they could not do much better than Gordon, who can step out and guard smaller players and also cause havoc with his quickness and athletic ability when defending bigger players. While not as polished as Randle, Gordon, who lots of people like to compare to Blake Griffin, is more like a Shawn Marion type—freakishly athletic with a strong work ethic that should help him improve his perimeter game.
If the Los Angeles Lakers are looking to bring Showtime back to the City of Angels, they need to not only be wise in their draft selections, but they will need to bring in other young players whose bodies don’t break down twenty games into the season. Until then, Laker fans better invest in more seat cushions.
Commentary by Johnny Caito