The Los Angeles Lakers’ past two seasons without a championship have caused the fan-base to become volatile and impatient, as the Lakers’ fan-base is wont to do.
Cries from Magic Johnson to “blow up the team” back in 2011 started the trend, and another awful postseason from Pau Gasol (and numerous piss-poor efforts from Andrew Bynum, scattered consistently throughout the season, and one of the least successful seasons for Kobe Bryant in the past half-decade or more) has everyone thinking “blow-up” mode, with Pau Gasol being the consensus fall guy whom the Lakers will likely seek to trade for legit talent at the point guard position.
But what if the Lakers didn’t trade Pau Gasol, or didn’t entertain offers for top-two-center-in-the-game Andrew Bynum? What if the Lakers kept this core, and tried to improve the talent surrounding them so they can have a go at another title in 2012-13?
In other words, what kind of talent do we have to surround this squad with, what means do we have to acquire this talent, and just how damn far will a team led by this core get us?
First, the answer: It’s a championship team, under certain circumstances.
The first being that this squad somehow pull a starting-worthy point guard out of its ass. Ramon Sessions is, sorry, not very good, at least not good enough to start on a championship team that doesn’t rely on the triangle offense anymore. Acquisition of a point guard via trade(s) is unlikely, since we’ll have come to the conclusion that Pau Gasol is sticking around, meaning L.A.’s best shot at a starting, pass-first point guard (that’s competent enough to knock down wide-ass open threes) is coercing Steve Nash to sign on for the veteran’s minimum. Because if he’s leaving Phoenix, he’s doing so in pursuit of a title, not to bank one more big paycheck.
Of course, a ton of teams are going to be throwing themselves at Nash to sign on for the veteran’s minimum (namely the Miami Heat, especially if they don’t beat these Thunder), and the Lakers have been jilted in the past season already. The odds of the Lakers getting Steve Nash seem slim, or maybe I’m just pessimistic.
But let’s continue on this hypothetical past, and pretend the Lakers can convince Nash that this team is a title contender. It isn’t as if Steve Nash is a solid defender — has he ever been? — and the competition at point just in the Western Conference is tough (Chris Paul, Tony Parker, Russell Westbrook, Ty Lawson, MAKE IT STOP), and asking Kobe to do damn near everything on defense (as has been their custom) is stupid as hell.
What about the bench? Is there any way at all to replace this pile of trash with something that smells somewhat more appealing? Adding Lamar Odom back for the veteran’s minimum seems fine because 1) his perfume is pretty arousing, so I hear, and 2) because he gives us a crap-load of length and versatility off the bench, provided he’s not 2011-12 Lamar Odom anymore. The caveat here, though, is that he can’t come back to LA until December; is he desperate enough to come back in purple and gold to sit down, making zero dollars and doing jack squat, for six weeks? Doubtful.
Retaining Ramon Sessions by picking up his option, and keeping Jordan Hill by exercising his option, seems like a legit way to round out a nine-man rotation (if we’re including any combination of Metta World Peace, Devin Ebanks or a healthy Matt Barnes) if the dice roll the right way for LA, especially considering Sessions had a metric crap-load of success as a sixth man for LA before Mike Brown thought it’d be a great idea to have Sessions as the team’s starting point, while having the bulk of his minutes playing with three playmakers instead of bolstering a lackadaisical bench (and we shouldn’t have to tell you that this was such a stupid idea on Brown’s part).
Personnel changes won’t be the only things that need to take place. Mike Brown needs to pull his players by the ear and get him to listen. Specifically, Brown needs to get on Kobe’s ass for taking fade-away, off-one-foot, spinning-in-the-air, one-handed, hand-in-his-face 23-foot jumpers (OK, we’re exaggerating, chill), while also getting Andrew Bynum motivated to play 48 minutes of basketball — or at the very damn least, hustling for 94 percent of the time he’s on the floor. Plus, he’ll also have to send Pau Gasol to Ron Artest’s therapist before the playoffs so we have none of that “where the f**k am I?”-type play from Gasol in late-April/early-May.
Overall, a lot of shit has to happen for L.A. to win a title with this core. Unlikely acquisitions and retention will be the central focus while player management and rotations play a supplementary — but significant — role when the personnel is in place.
Can it happen? Sure. Size matters in the NBA still, and getting athletic isn’t the only way to an NBA title, contrary to what many TV talking points will have you believe.
But it’s unlikely that this team gets lucky in every necessary aspect. Possible, but improbable.
God, I hope I’m wrong.