Dwight Howard dealt the Los Angeles Lakers a huge blow on Friday when he announced he’d chosen to take his talents to the Houston Rockets by agreeing to a four-year deal worth $87.6 million. There are many questions surrounding all aspects of the team as the organization heads into a period of uncertainty next season. Howard leaving has major implications, but LA can bounce back by making sound basketball decisions and get back to the top.
Here are five ways they can do so:
1. Sign a superstar in 2014
After the 2013-14 season, Los Angeles will have a plethora of salary cap space due to in large part that Steve Nash will be the only player remaining under contract for the team after next season. Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol will be coming off the books which will free up $49 million between those two players.
The Lakers will have the ability to sign two max contract players in a free agency field that is expected to include LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, John Wall, Danny Granger, Dirk Nowitzki, Rudy Gay, and Demarcus Cousins.
Luring one or two of these star players to Los Angeles will be a great step toward transforming the team back into a championship contender and it will certainly help restore the Lakers’ image as one of the greatest franchises in sports.
2. Bryant comes back quickly and strong
A speedy recovery from Kobe from his devastating injury could be the spark plug that ignites the Lakers. The team could use Bryant’s quick recovery as inspiration to prove the critics wrong that an older team can succeed in the NBA. This is exemplified through the San Antonio Spurs, who are built around three aging players in Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili that went to the NBA Finals this past season.
As Bryant progresses through his rehabilitation in an effort to join the Lakers as soon as possible, an early recovery may be what the team needs to push them to the next level.
3. Bring back Lamar Odom
As silly as this sounds, the Lakers need a power forward because Gasol is expected to slide over to the starting center position, which is a spot he thrived in the 2007-08 season when the team first acquired him. Odom can bring his all-around skill set to fill in the starting power forward position or become the team’s sixth man which he won the award for as a Laker in the 2010-11 season.
The Lakers can sign Odom to a deal by using their mid-level exception. Odom already has a familiarity with the team, franchise and ownership. He was a fan favorite, and adding him could be a big help to the Lakers’ potential success in the immediate future.
4. Win in the 2014 NBA draft
The 2014 draft class is deemed by many as one that will be very deep and feature an abundance of talent. The suggestion of Los Angeles tanking a season is something that is unspeakable in Laker-land, but if the franchise were to experience another troublesome season next year the draft could be something they could lean back upon.
The ability to acquire young talent through the draft on less expensive contracts coupled with plenty of cap space to sign multiple max contract superstar players looks and sounds very appalling in helping the Lakers once again become one of the top teams in the NBA.
5. Al Davis said it best: “Just win baby”
The best remedy for a loss of this caliber is for the Lakers to start winning games. The team has a strong but aging core of Bryant, Nash, and Gasol to work with this upcoming season.
A team led by Bryant will be highly-motivated, even more so by Howard choosing to leave Los Angeles because he felt he had a better chance at winning a championship in Houston. The Lakers will be hungry to prove doubters wrong that they are too old, slow and injury-prone.
One thing that remains certain for this Lakers team is there is no lack of material for motivation for the upcoming season.
Bob Garcia IV
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