Top Storyline of 2013
Colin Lopez - There have been plenty of juicy storylines for the Lakers in 2013, but nothing is bigger than Kobe’s extension. The Lakers re-signed the face of their franchise to a two year extension, making him a Laker for life. This wasn’t a cheap move or one that happened without scrutiny. Kobe will be the highest paid player in the NBA until he retires, a distinction that was important for the Lakers and Kobe. As it has been stated, there was no negotiation. The team offered Bryant a deal and he accepted. He has been lambasted for not taking a Tim Duncan-type pay cut, but Kobe isn’t a guy who takes games off for rest or limited to fewer than 30 minutes per night. Although some Lakers fans will get upset he “ruined” the team’s chances of luring multiple high priced free agents, the reality is there is no guarantee the team would be able to sign one of them. So the team bet on a sure thing and made a statement to all future free agents. Come to the Lakers and you’ll be taken care of until the day your retire.
Brian Booth - Have to go with the the injury bug that struck late in 2012, and continues to plague the purple & gold today. The Lakers were poised to have a super-team & dream season last year, but continuous injuries to the roster were one of the many reasons that season turned into a nightmare instead. A I write this, the Lakers are on the road vs. Utah, and Mike D’Antoni is being forced to use his 15th different starting line-up this season alone because of injuries (out tonight for LAL are Gasol, Nash, Bryant and Blake). Steve Nash’s body has unfortunately failed him, and Kobe Bryant remains on the recovery table with a new knee injury, after having only played 6 games so far this season. I would says the Lakers can’t catch a break, but it seems that is all they’ve been able to catch this year.
Valerie Morales - The Good: If a coach’s basketball epitaph is written in stone, then the first line about Mike D’Antoni will be of his ability with the working class. He is too remote for the rich, for the ruling class, he does not want to communicate. But for the underachievers he pulls out of them what they did not know they had by playing a fast paced free thinking game. The results speak for themselves. Nick Young is averaging a career high in offensive rebounds and free throw attempts and is playing defense. Wes Johnson is shooting 41% and is rebounding, blocking shots and creating steals at a rate he never has. Jodie Meeks is shooting a career high in 2 point shoots, a career high in three point shots, has career numbers in rebounding, assists, steals and points. Before his injury Steve Blake was having a career year in assists and rebounding. Jordan Hill is shooting a career high 57%, has career numbers in rebounding, assists and scoring. Xavier Henry is shooting a career high 42%, has career high numbers in rebounding, assists, steals and points. Shawne Williams has a career high in rebounding. Yes, they are 13-17 but no one said D’Antoni was a miracle worker.
The Bad: D’Antoni’s offensive system has never won anything and his defensive system has never stopped anyone. One of the great coaches of all time, Vince Lombardi, had this to say of coaching: to win is important. If you have any kind of pride or any kind of dedication or any kind of backbone or spunk to you- you should try to be the best in your own profession. Anybody who has the idea that just to play or just to take part and that is all that is necessary is in the wrong business. The best, again, is signified by winning.” And yet D’Antoni has not made the connection that his system is antithetical to winning. It is entertaining but it is not a formula tested to withstand the rigors of a season. No NBA champion has won a title based upon three point shots. No NBA champion has won a title with the worst defense in the league. No NBA coach has won a title by being too stubborn to adapt his system to meet the specific talents of his players, and, who has not communicated with his players what he wants from them.
The Ugly: D’Antoni’s war against big men. Pau Gasol and then Dwight Howard were the victims of D’Antoni’s indifference and neglect. He does not like post play and because he is a bad communicator the message he sends to his big men is he does not like them. They revolt. D’Antoni digs in and you have a mess like what you had with Howard and now what you have with Gasol. D’Antoni’s stubbornness is his biggest crime. On January 23, the Lakers lost again. It was ten losses out of their first twelve games in 2013. It prompted a team meeting in Memphis. Afterwards Kobe commandeered the offense to a post game first, a perimeter game second and the Lakers went 28-12. It was a lesson on how to win NBA games but a lesson D’Antoni has yet to heed.
Jacob Rude - Can it be anything other than the injury bug, and specifically speaking Kobe Bryant’s injury? Lakers fan were blessed with over 15 years of a healthy Kobe Bryant, save for a few minor blips in the road. That’s why, when Bryant crumpled to the floor in front of Harrison Barnes, a sense of shock, pain, and confusion overwhelmed those in the arena and those watching live. Even as last season drew close and into the summer, Bryant was the center of LA storylines. The closer we got to his return, the bigger the media attention was. The announcement of his return was bizarre, but Bryant has never been but abnormal. And considering that Bryant will start 2014 injured, expect more of the same next year.
Blair Hicks - The top storyline of 2013 is that the 2014 NBA Draft is full of talented players, many of them franchise type players. If the Lakers were going to pick a year to be terrible, this is the year to do it. Hopefully it works out for Jim Buss because he is in dire need of reboot. The growing perception is that the Lakers are heading downhill fast with no lifeline. A Jabari Parker, Dante Exum, or Aaron Gordon would change that perception.