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.