The once proud Los Angeles Lakers, normally an automatic entry into the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) post season, are a team in a rebuilding mode. They missed the playoffs last year and had a rare losing record. Playing in the tough Western Conference of the NBA, and with star player Kobe Bryant’s talents on the decline and facing the end of his career, the future does not look bright.
General Manager Mitch Kupchack is orchestrating a monumental rebuilding effort that could last for years. Earlier this year the Lakers pursued major free agents but were unable to sign Carmelo Anthony or other big named stars. They wound up settling for Carlos Boozer through the amnesty provision for $3.25 million. The Chicago Bulls released Boozer to clear cap space while they were also pursuing Anthony.
Coming off a terrible 27-55 record last season, the Lakers need a major overhaul. They lost a productive player, Pau Gasol, to the Chicago Bulls through free agency. While the return of Kobe Bryant will certainly help, his age and return from injury pose major questions about his ability to play at the exceptional level that fans have become accustomed to. Landing Carlos Boozer off amnesty waivers will certainly help. He joins new additions Ed Davis and Jeremy Lin on a team that will look vastly different this upcoming season. Jeremy Lin is a one-year investment whose $15 million contract expires next year when the Lakers are expected to make a serious run on upcoming free agents. They also received future first and second round picks in the Lin trade. It is a no-lose situation for the team.
Within the last few seasons, the team’s players have changed dramatically, placing the Lakers in a full rebuilding mode. Big-time free agent players scheduled to hit the open market next year include: LaMarcus Aldridge, Marc Gasol, Al Jefferson and Rajon Rondo. Should he still be available in 2015, the team will still have the financial capacity to make a serious run at Kevin Love. In spite of the rebuilding plans, Los Angeles is still Kobe’s team. However, there are questions about his ability to lead and carry the team, as he was prone to do previously. Despite entering the twilight of his career, the return of Steve Nash from injury should also help.
There are also changes being made in the coaching ranks. Mike D’Antoni and his freewheeling offense is gone and Byron Scott is the new coach. While his coaching resume’ is not overwhelming, he does have the support of Bryant. Scott has been coaching for thirteen years with a record of 416-521. He was also a long-time player for past Laker championship teams.
Los Angeles, however, has history on its side. It is one of the NBA’s elite franchises with a long list of star players and championships. Their offseason can still be looked at as a success. While they were unable to sign Carmelo Anthony or LeBron James during free agency, they managed to retain Bryant and their sizeable salary cap space for 2015.
Being in rebuilding mode is never easy for a team. However, a team with the history of the Los Angeles Lakers will not be losing for long. They have the market, financial resources, and history to turn things around very quickly.
Commentary by Hans Benes