Dr. Jerry Buss was noted for being a strong poker player. Poker players are great are hiding what they have, and showing patience. Timing is everything in the game. When done right, a player maximizes his or her wins no matter what cards are being dealt.
Two summers ago, the Lakers made a big move in acquiring Dwight Howard. Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard, and Kobe Bryant make a great triumvirate for a championship run. The Lakers chose to go all-in when they acquired Steve Nash for multiple first round picks. While he’s an MVP talent, he was clearly on the decline.
Whoever played point guard next to Howard, Gasol, and Bryant was going to be marginalized. That’s part of what made Derek Fisher great. He’s not an MVP-talent at point guard, but fit in the cracks where Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal couldn’t fulfill. He provided leadership and critical shots when others drew too much attention. He hit the best layup I’ve ever seen against the Celtics against Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Glen Davis for an And-1 with less than a minute to go. He fit the team perfectly.
Steve Nash didn’t. There isn’t enough basketball to go around between Dwight, Bryant, and Gasol. Bryant and Gasol are good playmakers in their own right.
The acquisition of Steve Nash led to a series of events. Who better to get influence from coaching than to bring in Nash’s former coach, Mike D’Antoni? Who better to bring the mentality of offense over defense?
The Lakers suffered injuries last year as well. Gasol looked burned out. Bryant played out of his mind and tore his ACL. The Laker unit struggled just to get to the 7th place in the Pacific Division.
Dwight wanted the ball more in the post. Gasol adjusted as much as he could. Bryant, essentially, was playing point guard with Steve Nash out with injury. There was no team meld. There was talent leading different directions. Steve Nash may be the best at sharing the basketball, but even he needs it in his hands before he can share it.
A year later, the Laker franchise is stuck with only one lottery pick this season.
Now, look at Phoenix. Look at the Los Angeles Lakers. Who is the ascending team? Phoenix rotates a three guard line-up with a solid front line, and fighting for playoff position. They have young talent worth at least the near max, and the projection looks only better for the team with more young talent coming in. The Lakers? They now have to wait. This is the worst season the Lakers have ever had. They have to regroup and find talent any way they can. A lottery pick can fix that. Additional first and second rounders can fix that too.
After all, that’s what the Lakers did in the 1980’s. They were the king of scouting talent from the depths. A.C. Green? Late 1st-rounder. Elden Campbell? Late 1st-rounder. Vlade Divac? Late 1st-rounder. Nick Van Exel? Mid-2nd rounder. Tony Smith? 2nd rounder. Derek Fisher? Late 1st-rounder. More often, they would hit than miss, especially compared to the rest of the league.
Now, it’s time to look within, demonstrate patience, and see what Kupchak’s legacy can build. After all, he learned from the Logo himself.
We just need some patience to make that happen. It all starts with the lottery pick.