The biggest domino in the Los Angeles Lakers offseason fell when Dwight Howard informed the team he would be signing with the Houston Rockets. Now that the Lakers know where they stand with Howard, they can move on with building their team for the 2013-14 season.
On the surface, the Lakers will make every effort to be competitive in 2013-14. The reality is though that everyone knows they have their sights set on 2014-15 when all of their contracts (except Steve Nash) will be off the books. Even the recent free agent signings of Chris Kaman and Jordan Farmar are only for one season providing more proof that the team wants to hit the reset button after this upcoming year.
So if this season is looked at as a speed bump before a rebuild, what is the grand plan? Here are some questions Laker fans should be thinking about long term
1) Can the team land LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony?
Obviously, the name on everyone’s mind is LeBron James. James is expected to be a free agent after this season and could have his pick of where he wants to go. The Miami Heat will most likely make every effort to retain him as their center piece, even if it meant parting ways with Dwyane Wade and/or Chris Bosh. Their have also been rumors of James reuniting with the Cleveland Cavaliers. With Kyrie Irving and Andrew Bynum in Cleveland, they could become an intriguing option. While the Lakers will no doubt put on a full court press for James, would he really leave a Heat team in which he’s built his legacy with?
The other big fish will be Carmelo Anthony. The New York Knicks will be on the hook for 77.4 million dollars in 2014-15 which will be over whatever the NBA cap is at that time. They have no flexibility to bring in more talent to help be a legitimate title contender. This, coupled with the fact that James could still be dominating the eastern conference, could make Anthony bolt for greener pastures. The Lakers will have the cap room for Anthony and Los Angeles is the only other place that can rival New York City in terms of playing under the bright lights, something Anthony seems to enjoy.
2) Who’s the coach?
If the Lakers didn’t fire Mike D’Antoni to keep Dwight Howard around, he’s probably safe for at least one more year. It’s after 2013-14 though, his status will be a mystery. D’Antoni’s history and reputation for soft defense could scare some possible free agents away. D’Antoni was Anthony’s coach with the Knicks for a while and the two didn’t exactly hit it off. D’Antoni could be a roadblock for Carmelo. Odds are D’Antoni will be a sacrificial lamb for a bad Lakers team this season and they will look elsewhere in 2014-15. If D’Antoni is let go the Lakers would owe him 4 million dollars. Couple that with the 7 million they still owe Mike Brown and his departure could be a tough, but necessary, pill to swallow
3) Will Kobe be Kobe?
On the surface, it’s almost comical to think Kobe Bryant can share the lead role with a LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony. Given Lebron’s all around game, he might be a better fit on the court as Anthony and Bryant are both scorers who need the ball in their hands. The two are friends, however, and that could help make it work.
Another issue is Kobe’s health. It’s unknown exactly when he will be back next season and if the Lakers are out of it come January or February, it might just make sense to have him sit out the entire year. Finally, Kobe will be 36 in 2014. At that age and coming off of injury, Kobe may have to resign himself to not being the same player he was and be in more of a supporting role. That could be a tough sell for one of the best players in the history of the NBA, especially one without a contract. Kobe’s deal expires after this season and he will no doubt have to take far less than the 30 million dollars he will make this year.
4) Did the apple fall far from the tree?
The elephant in the room is Jim Buss. His initial run as owner of the Lakers has not gone smoothly. He mishandled the hiring of D’Antoni by ignoring his players pleas to give the job to Brian Shaw or Phil Jackson. he stood by D’Antoni as Howard bolted for Houston. He will take a lot of heat for what looks to be a bad Laker team. He can still redeem himself in the coming years and has a good general manager in Mitch Kupchak to help guide him. Replacing his legendary father (the late Jerry Buss) will be a tall order and Jim will always be held to an incredibly high standard. Fans will have to hope the rocky waters early on are just part of his learning curve and not a preview of things to come.
Photo Credit: Getty Images
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