Haters love to kick you when you’re down. Since Dwight Howard announced last Friday that he was leaving the Lakers to go to the Houston Rockets, we’ve had a slew of pundits writing backhanded articles on how to “fix” the Lakers. Others have suggested that they should tank the season in pursuit of Andrew Wiggins. Funny guys.
The Los Angeles Lakers don’t tank. Ever.
What many don’t grasp about why the Lakers’ fan base is so large and so rabid is the simple fact that its the one franchise in professional sports that does not accept mediocrity. The ticket prices for home games are exorbitant, the wait list for season tickets is endless.
This is so because the fans know the Lakers will do their absolute best to field a contending team. The team’s concept of a down season is a first or second round exit from the playoffs. That is the DNA of the franchise and it permeates through the fans, the players, and the city. Dwight never got that.
Dwight wanted credit for playing hurt. It’s a given Lakers’ players play hurt. Its part of the job description. Metta World Peace understood that, Steve Nash, Pau Gasol, and Kobe Bryant understood that. Heck, so did Mike D’Antoni.
Now that Dwight is gone, Jim Buss has taken repeated shots for his stewardship of the team. He responded this week by constructing a roster that quickly has the look of a mid level contender. Not necessarily a championship contender, but a team capable of a top 5 seed in an increasingly uncertain Western Conference.The three new additions brighten the outlook on the Lakers prospects for 2013-2014.
Chris Kaman is one of the best offensive centers in the league. He has a reliable mid range jump shot, an array of effective low post moves, and can be used in pick and pop situations.
Nick Young provides the Lakers with its first wing player who can create his own shot effectively to go alongside Kobe since Eddie Jones left. Young is known as an indiscriminate volume scorer. That’s probably accurate. Its also exactly what the team needs.
Lastly there is the homecoming of Jordan Farmar. Farmar is a much better player than the last time he was seen in Purple and Gold. His last season in New Jersey was his best in the NBA. He was 8th in the league in 3 point shooting percentage at 44%, and had career highs in assists and field goal percentage as well.
He also had a huge season last year in Turkey for the Euroleague powerhouse Anadolu Efes. Most importantly he will be playing in Mike D’Antoni’s wide open system that plays completely to his strengths as an athlete and shooter.
There are a few roster spots available, so the picture of the team isn’t complete, but the Lakers’ front office was able to re-establish itself as a destination franchise by signing, for the veteran minimum or mini mid-level exception, three players that could have received more money elsewhere.
A return of a versatile player like Lamar Odom and another small forward could salvage a season just days ago viewed as lost.
Bringing back so many players with Los Angeles ties helps potentially forge a team chemistry that usually would be frayed with an entire roster being on expiring deals.
Doubt Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak at your peril.