Around the NBA: What Should The Lakers Do Now?
Posted by Rich Keefe on May 10, 2011
The joy and satisfaction that Celtics fans felt after watching the Lakers get swept was short lived, thanks to the Heat taking a 3-1 series lead. But the question still haunts the ’09 and ’10 champs, what do the Lakers do now? (Unfortunately a similar story might be written about the C’s sooner, rather than later as well.) However if the Celtics go down in the Conference Semifinals, you can guarantee they do it with far more class than the Lakers. In fact the Celts have already had amble opportunities for cheap shots, following the ones they received, but decided to instead keep their heads and play basketball.
The Lakers, specifically Andrew Bynum, were just embarrassing. In what could be Phil Jackson’s last game, not only is his team swept (the 1st time EVER for Phil) but they lose by 36. Two of his best four players get thrown out.
The Lamar Odom play wasn’t that bad to me. He was clearly frustrated, he took it out on the other team’s best player, and after the game said he was embarrassed by it. Ok. Bynum, on the other hand, drilled the smallest guy on the other team when he was already in the air. He threw a forearm into him, removed his jersey to reveal how not ready for the beach he really is, and then sounded even dumber in the post game.
Bynum has been quite active this post season. He stayed healthy (shocker) and proved to be a legitimate Top 5, maybe higher, center in the league (shocker to me). He also called out his team for not trusting each other (looking at you Kobe) and then cheap shots J.J. Barea and disgraces himself as the final image of Phil Jackson’s coaching career. Nice work Andrew, what a player.
When trying to understand what the Lakers might look like next year and the seasons ahead it has to start with the head coach. Quick side note on Phil Jackson. You’ve probably seen all the stats about him already, but they are worth mentioning again. It could be the end for one of the best ever. Doc Rivers was asked about Phil prior to Game 4 and said he could be the greatest coach in sports, not just basketball, he also believes Phil could be back down the road as well…
- 20 Seasons, 20 Playoff Appearances
- W-L = 1,155-485; .704
- 229-104 playoff record
- 11 NBA Championships
- 13 Conference Championships
- Never had a losing record
- 9 seasons with Bulls
- 11 seasons with Lakers
- Coached: Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Horace Grant, Toni Kukoc, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Glen Rice, Karl Malone, Gary Payton, Pau Gasol, and Lamar Odom.
Phil also coached Brian Shaw from 2000-2003 (the Lakers 3-peat) and since 2004 has had the back up guard as an assistant coach with LA. Does the Lakers front office feel comfortable giving the head coaching job to a guy who has never been an NBA head coach? If they want to keep the triangle offense, then Shaw could be the guy. But if they decide to shake up the roster then keeping the same offensive system would no longer be a priority.
There seems to be two schools of thought when it comes to the Lakers roster going forward, and they are led by a pair of Hall of Famers. ESPN analyst and the greatest Laker ever, Magic Johnson, feels like LA should blow the whole thing up and start over. (Perhaps hoping Kobe doesn’t surpass his 5 titles…) And TNT’s Charles Barkley believes the Lakers have 4 great players, they just need to get more athletic, and bring in more speed.
Here is what the current roster situation looks like for Los Angeles.
- Kobe Bryant, 3 years $83.5 million
- Pau Gasol, 3 years $56.9 million
- Andrew Bynum, 2 years $31.5 million (second year is team option)
- Lamar Odom, 2 years $17.1 million (second year is team option)
- Ron Artest, 3 years $21.7 million (third year is player option)
- Luke Walton, 2 years $11.7 million
- Steve Blake, 3 years $12 million
- Derek Fisher, 2 years $6.8 million (second year is player option)
- Devin Ebanks, 1 year $736K
Player Options for ’11-‘12
- Shannon Brown – $2.4 million
- Matt Barnes – $1.9 million
- Theo Ratliff
- Joe Smith
- Trey Johnson
All of their key guys are locked up for the next couple of years. Next season they owe $68 million to Kobe-Pau-Bynum-Odom alone. They clearly won’t have a lot of flexibility, and they are getting old. Next year Kobe will be 33, Pau – 31, Odom – 32, Artest – 32, Fisher – 37. Their two most athletic players (Brown and Barnes) both have player options for next season. What should they do?
I think “blowing it up” is a lot easier said then done. Are teams around the league going to be knocking down the Lakers door trying to trade for Gasol, Artest, or Fisher with those contracts? And we don’t even know what the next CBA will look like.
There is so much talk already about Dwight Howard going to LA. I think there is a possibility he ends up there, but it won’t be from just a Lakers-Magic deal. Keep in mind Orlando still has to pay a ridiculous sum to Gilbert Arenas and Hedo Turkoglu; they won’t be interested in bringing back some more huge contracts for Howard. He’ll have to pull a Carmelo and force the Magic to say, “Well we better get something instead of watching him walk this summer.”
The league is getting younger, faster, and more athletic. Hello Oklahoma City! But the Lakers actually lost to a fellow veteran team, one they had never faced before in the playoffs. I understand the Lakers are getting or are already old. No one thought the Celtics would make the NBA Finals last season, and they did. IF the Lakers bring back this team next year they have 2 All-Stars (Bryant and Gasol) the 6th man of the year (Odom) and a potential All-Star/ Top 5 center (Bynum). The problem with that, as Bill Simmons has pointed out time and again; they can’t play their 4 best players at the same time.
Not only that, but I wonder if Bynum wants to play with those guys, and if those guys want to play with Bynum. He’s their best trade piece (23 years old, signed for next year and a club option in ’12-’13.) He stayed healthy and averaged 14.4 points and 9.6 rebounds in the playoffs this year.
The Lakers clearly need to get more athletic; however I don’t think blowing it up is the best way. Sure that might help them 5 years from now, but Kobe Bryant still has something to play for (a 6th title to tie Jordan and a 7th to pass him) and although he is no longer in the debate for best player in the NBA, he’s better than 99% of the league. Hopefully for their sake, Pau Gasol will have whatever he was dealing with off the court over and done with by next season and Lamar Odom duplicates his solid year.
If I’m the Lakers, I probably hire Brian Shaw and keep the triangle in tact. Forget about Rick Adelman (who would be my pick if they want to forget the triangle) and certainly pass on Mike Brown. Keep Shaw, along with Kobe, Pau, Lamar and convince Shannon Brown to pick up his player option. This is where it gets, once again easier said than done, but I would shop Andrew Bynum around big time. Maybe work a 3-way deal and get Rudy Gay or Chris Paul, maybe even Dwight Howard, but I would be more inclined to get an athletic or highly skilled point guard or small forward.
LA is clearly at a crossroads right now, and frankly I’m glad it’s not my problem. Does the Lakers turmoil make me feel better considering the Celtics are down 3-1? Yes, yes it does.