May 4, 2012; Denver, CO, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (24) during the second half of game one against the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference quarterfinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at the Pepsi Center. The Nuggets won 99-84. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-US PRESSWIRE

Why Are The Lakers No Longer A Premier Destination?

The Los Angeles Lakers have had their hopes of landing key free agents since the beginning of the 2011-12 season. This includes wingmen like Shane Battier and J.R. Smith, both of which didn’t wind up signing with the Lakers despite some mutual interest.

The latest player to supposedly not consider dressing in purple and gold is all-world point guard Deron Williams, who recently cut his list of desired teams to the Brooklyn Nets or Dallas Mavericks. As our fearless leader Chris Shellcroft noted, the Lakers aren’t a premier destination these days, which feels weird, even considering we weren’t all that much of a premier destination between 2005 and 2007.

But why aren’t the Lakers a top-tier destination for to-be free agents and would-be tradees? There’s quite a few reasons, and they get pretty deep, and pretty depressing.

Let’s go over them, one by one, and throw coffee at our computer screens (if those exist anymore) in anger.

Jimmy Buss is a douchebag, and now he has total control over operations

Owners generally shouldn’t be so heavy-handed in any sports franchise. The reason Jerry Buss has been so successful is his ability to hold his wad and let Mitch Kupchak and Jerry West take over major basketball operations while being patient amidst a rabid fan-base always demanding more of its team.

Jim Buss? He’s more heavy-handed, and that’s been evident since 2005, when he lobbied to pick Andrew Bynum in the NBA draft and then refused to trade him despite pressure from their superstar Kobe Bryant to “ship his ass out” for Jason Kidd or Kevin Garnett. Now, he has total control. He was responsible for the Lakers moving entirely away from the triangle offense, refusing to hire Brian Shaw and instead going in the direction of Mike Brown, who may or may not be worth the huge contract he has as head honcho of the current squad.

Buss might just be intervening with players far too much, and players are aware that owners like that are nothing but trouble for them, personally. It also hurts building a serious contender, and that, itself, will shoo away a lot of prospective new Lakers.

Kobe Bryant thinks he’s the only person who should have the ball for the final 45 minutes of the game. 

I get lambasted quite a bit for disliking Kobe Bryant, and for good reason: Kobe’s an icon in Los Angeles, and in a few years time, he’ll be a damn legend.

But he’s not a great basketball player, at least not these days. That normally won’t be such an issue, because he’s still a good one (not first-option good, but second- to third-option good). However, try telling him that, and I will give you a few bucks if you still live to tell the tale.

Because Kobe’s a stubborn bastard, as we’d expect from a great player with his attitude. He seems, though, to be tone-deaf to his own limitations. He is no longer 27 and although his knees might not be hurting, he isn’t what he used to be, and he doesn’t seem to get that.

Earlier in the year, Kobe had reportedly texted Dwight Howard to tell him he’d be the third option behind Bryant and Pau Gasol. Although many will say Pau should’ve been relegated to a third option, why didn’t Kobe decide he’d be OK with deferring to a much better basketball player at a position that seems so much more important to the team’s success?

If Kobe can’t get his ego to match his capabilities, playing alongside Bryant will be a pain in the ass. Well, more than usual.

Mike Brown is not Phil Jackson

Piss-poor rotations, weak-minded in regards to his superstars, inconsistent defensive game-planning, lacking in offensive creativity, and immaturity. These are the words you’d use to describe Mike Brown, who may or may not have the potential to become L.A.’s next Phil Jackson. As of now, Brown has a track record of winning regular season games but coming up short when the aforementioned flaws become more evident, namely in close situations.

Before, free agents would take salary reductions to sign with L.A., because Phil Jackson’s ability to connect with players, and his ability to involve anyone who took the time to learn the triangle offense, was a major draw. Now, that’s gone, with Mike Brown being a run-of-the-mill coach, nothing much more different than any other head coach in the NBA.

The Lakers’ team, currently constructed, aren’t contenders

Signing key players is dependent upon selling the players that they would be the piece that could push them over the top. Although it’s possible that the Pau Gasol-Kobe Bryant-Andrew Bynum core can still contend for championships, it’s a lot less likely, since that core is pretty old (save Andrew Bynum). Two of the three are far past their prime and the other has a perceived attitude/effort issue, although it’s probably because the other two force Bynum out of the offense on a consistent basis.

Outside that core, this team has no point guard worth starting (sorry, Ramon Sessions) and no outside shooters worth a damn thing except filling up a roster spot for the veteran’s minimum, while having absolutely no athletes with any sort of legit basketball I.Q. This team is deficient in a lot of areas that one signing cannot fix.


Tags: Deron Williams Dwight Howard J.r. Smith Kobe Bryant Lakers Shane Battier

  • JesseKnight

    Kobe’s not a great bball player anymore?  I think the everyone else would beg to differ.  You do realize he was 3rd in the MVP voting, right?  Is the the absolute beast he was from a few years ago, no, but that doesn’t mean he’s “not a very good” basketball player anymore.  That’s idiotic.  In fact, it’s SO ridiculous that you’ve lost any ounce of credibility you might have had.  This will be the last article I read from you, not because I’m some Kobe fanboy, but because if you can’t separate your admitted dislike for the man from his true worth on the court, then there’s no point in reading any of your other opinions.

  • BobbyWright1

    1st He’s got some points. Kobe is not gonna age gracefully. texting Howard (prob the best young big man in the game) that he will be the third option is in FACT ridiculous. Kobe needs to do what D-Wade did in Miami, move aside and let the better younger player be the man.
    2nd because of the way the Lakers are being handled in the front office, no intelligent players would want to get stuck in a system where they’re being micro managed by the owners idiot kid. And having a mediocre coaching staff wont help. 
    3rd, NO Kobe came in 4th in MVP voting. A distant 4th mind you. Kobe hasn’t been Kobe for the last two years now.  
    This dude has some points, but you need to get real and understand that Kobe and the Lakers are done. Just ask OKC.. 

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  • homerj1

    I’ve been a Lakers fan since Kareem moved there in the 70′s, and I’m sad to say that it will be years before they compete for a title.  Kobe is way too stubborn and prideful to defer to others.  MVP voting means nothing.  Look at the stats, especially end of game performance.  Worse than his play, his contract will hurt them for years, taking nearly half of the cap space.  Sure, they can afford to go over, but not as much as they used to.  Business-wise they’ll keep him, but basketball-wise they’d be smart to dump him and load up with less expensive talent. 

  • carlosatUCLA

    @homerj1 this is a fair assessment. He brings in a lot of money because of his popularity but his attitude is a team killer, especially now since he is trying to prove something, which counters his age. If lobe acted as a playmaker, he could extend his production for years. He is way too prideful to take a step back.

  • carlosatUCLA

    @JesseKnight my dislike for him is solely built around his on-court demeanor.

    He is the least efficient first option in the NBA, im convinced, and if not, he is at least the least efficient he has been his entire career. Don’t make me spew stats already…

  • KennethGuda

    this assessment seems wrong, especially if we consider the level of play bryant did during the regular season. remember that he was a few points removed from topping durant as scoring champ. he was still top 4 in the mvp voting. he was pretty good in most games, though i’d concede he had the ball for too long in many occasions. regarding age, remember that the celtics were a game away from going back to the finals this season — and they presented stiffer competition for the miami heat than eventual finals runner-up oklahoma city thunder. and how old is garnett now? and pierce? ray allen?

  • carlosatUCLA

     @KennethGuda Why is everything about Kobe whenever he’s bad-mouthed?
    He was top 4 in MVP voting, and it wasn’t close. Anyone outside of LBJ and KD never had a chance. He was nearly a scoring champ, but that doesn’t mean anything. This is the lowest field goal percentage he’s shot since his rookie year, hoisting up 23 shots a game on just 43 percent shooting while using up the most possessions since 2005-06, when his main options weren’t Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. 

  • jwilliams73

    Carlos, I think if you did look at stats his assis numbers were up this season and if he had teamates that could consistently drain open shots, he would have had many more. I will concede his holding the ball too long and having to take very hard, contested shots on way too many occassions. When you have a center that many times wouldn’t work his way into position to get the ball in scoring position,a PF that is way too soft, though still very good but can be taken out of games with minimal physical play, a PG that was good initially,then disappeared except when he was turning the ball over and a bunch of forwards and guards that simply aren’t consistent enough to be trusted on either side of the ball and don’t understand spacing, and a coaching staff that failed to put them in  position to be succussful against teams that execute well. Like him or hate him, he just wants to win and I think he’s proven that he’ll pass the damn ball if you’ll make the damn shots.