The Summer Of Mitch and Jim Is Almost Here


Twenty four months of car wreck basketball is on its very last lap, having run a long and brutal road race of destruction and despair that has made everyone sick to their stomach.

The Lakers loss in Denver pretty much wrapped up its 4th worst record in the NBA. Orlando cannot catch them at number four. Philadelphia is in front of the Lakers at 3. But, the 76ers would have to win all three remaining games: Bulls, Bucks and Heat, for the Lakers to have any shot at moving up one spot.

Even if they could, Philly is not beating playoff teams.

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Apr 8, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward Wesley Johnson (11) shoots the ball against Denver Nuggets forward Wilson Chandler (21) during the second half at Pepsi Center. The Nuggets won 119-101. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

So, the Lakers will finish at four which doesn’t guarantee them a top 5 pick. The way these two years have gone, no one would be surprised if the 82% shot they have at keeping their pick gets usurped by some bad Jim Buss karma, maybe his punishment for hiring Mike D’antoni and not Phil Jackson.

Next week, mercifully, this year will be over. The Lakers will spend two days on exit interviews where every player will give the same rehearsed line: I want to come back next year. But, that will all depend on free agency decisions, on Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss and their ability to not fall asleep at the wheel.

Jordan Hill has an option to be picked up, or not. If the Lakers get lucky and land the #1 or #2 pick, Hill’s Lakers days will be in the archives. Jahlil Okafor or Karl Anthony Towns will be the Lakers new starting center. If not, if the Lakers stay at four or fall to five, or if they lose their pick altogether, Hill will return.

The rest of the Lakers are treading water. They are dependent on the Lakers free agent acquisitions and how much money they have left. Goran Dragic wants a big payday. With Miami he’s shooting 50% and dropping in 17 points. Is that worth $20 million a year. I say no.

Rajon Rondo is having a mediocre year with the Mavericks, after he was mediocre with the Celtics, after he ripped up his ACL. Rondo, brilliant in the mind, clueless about perception and very hard to coach, is a dilemma because every evaluation of him comes down to how much of his past is he still clinging to and how much of the Rondo you see now is all there is.

Byron Scott is the type of coach that Rondo is going to engage in a power struggle, a silent war. But, Rondo always comes back to the island and really that is not the point. With young guys such as Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle and the two first rounders, do you want Rondo’s infectious surliness and dogmatic brilliance to infect the psychological development of young players?

If you can get Rondo at around $12 million, that’s a pretty good deal. Anything else, is walking on a cliff, falling and then asking, why in the hell did that happen?

Kevin Love will opt-out, it makes no sense not to, he can make more money. If he’s happy in Cleveland, he stays. If he’s not, he leaves. It is that simple. The unanswered question about Kevin Love is his ability to be Chris Bosh.

Before Bosh left Toronto, he was a 20-10 player who was the center of the team. With Lebron James in Miami, Bosh was an afterthought. But, he took the demotion well. He agreed to those principles when he joined the Heat.

Mar 25, 2015; Memphis, TN, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love during warmups prior to the game against the Memphis Grizzlies at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Love seems less inclined to make that sort of bargain- to trade playoff success for marginalization. David Blatt still has not figured out how to feature Lebron and Love and Kyrie Irving. If Love is available, the Lakers will move heaven and earth to sign him.

Kevin Love would compliment everyone the Lakers have on deck. There’d be no conflict in getting him the ball. And if the Lakers were able to snag Okafor, Love would run back home. Okafor’s game and Love’s game compliment each other. Okafor is allergic to defense of any kind. He doesn’t rebound or play physical in the post. He’s skilled and finesse in the mold of Pau Gasol.

Kevin Love is a rebounder extraordinaire who loves to be in the paint and can stretch the floor with his perimeter shooting. Scott would never camp Love on the three point line. Never.

Other free agents like Greg Monroe, Tobias Harris and Reggie Jackson would be nice pieces for the Lakers to consider if they can’t reel in the big fish.

This summer is the first summer the bright light will be on Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss. They will be scrutinized, judged, blamed, applauded, praised or they will make Laker fans sick.

They have zero excuses. They have money to sign free agents. They have a high draft pick (hopefully). They have a partially filled cupboard with Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle. They have a Kobe Bryant return. They have fans who have been patient for two years and who expect them to do what leaders do, earn their money. Do their jobs.

What comes next for the Lakers? That is an easy question to answer. Everything comes next.


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