by: Oliver Layco
After a long and grueling season, the nightmare is finally over. In a season that saw a record high of 51 points in a quarter and a record low in a 48 point loss, the Los Angeles Lakers have finished with the worst record in franchise history at 27-55. Even before the season started everyone knew this year was going to be a struggle. Kobe Bryant was practically non-existent while he recovered from his torn Achilles then his knee injury. Then there’s the great Steve Nash who had everything go wrong for him. Everyone from Pau Gasol to Kent Bazemore suffered injuries which led the team to miss a combined 300+games. With all those injuries, there was no real way for the team to gain any sort of consistent chemistry or for coach to have set rotations. When the team was playing at full potential, they did show that they could have been a dangerous team that could have vied for a playoff spot. That’s why I believe if our entire team was completely healthy, we would have easily qualified for the playoffs. Yet that is not the case and the Lakers are looking for the ping pong balls to bounce their way.
One major change that the Buss family needs to make involves Mike D’Antoni. Usually I don’t like to go to the coach as the source of a team’s problem; which is why I was supporting him all through this year hoping that a full training camp would give him the time needed. While this year’s injuries did affect his coaching decisions and results, his time is up. As the season wore on, he would give inconsistent minutes without any real explanation. The biggest victims of his style have been Chris Kaman and Jordan Hill. Kaman is a former All-Star who has shown that he can put up respectable numbers. Yet coach would bench him for several games in a row for no apparent reason. It was only when his hand was forced would D’Antoni put Kaman in; then he would be on the bench again! Hill is another victim of D’Antoni that didn’t make sense. Hill was easily our best rebounder and energy player off the bench. While he did not strive as a starter when he was given the chance, his real home was coming off the bench and playing a solid 25+minutes when given the chance. If D’Antoni isn’t gone for next season, we may see players avoid the Lakers because of his reputation. With the players we had, they didn’t fit his system perfectly and I would have expected coach to modify it a little if the players would meet him halfway. Instead it seemed that he kept forcing his system down their throats; especially when he went with players like Robert Sacre or Ryan Kelly. While they are commendable players and it’s good that they got exposure, I would much rather have had Kaman and Hill get their minutes. If the Lakers do let go of D’Antoni, then there’s a good chance a majority of our roster and other free agents would want to resign with us; it just depends on who it is. Names like Kurt Rambis, Byron Scott, and others would be floating around again. Everyone knows Phil Jackson is out of the picture; which is unfortunate.
This year will be one of the rare ones that the Lakers get a top draft pick. Unfortunately, I don’t normally pay attention to the draft, but position wise they should pick up a guard. With Nash and Kobe retiring in the next few years, we need a guard who can learn from two of the best while he can. After that, there’s free agency but I honestly think the likes of Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James aren’t leaving their respective teams. As for the current roster, only Sacre, Kobe, and Nash are guaranteed back. With that, our biggest priority should be Pau Gasol. He still has a couple good years left in him, and he actually had a pretty good season statistically so he can only improve from there. I would say sign him at least for another 2-3 years so he can finish out with Kobe. I would then say make offers to Farmar, Young, Hill, Henry, Meeks, Johnson, and Kaman. However, we will be limited by the cap and other free agents we may sign so I know that my whole list of preferences will not happen. One thing I do know is that the Los Angeles Lakers will not play second fiddle to the Clippers for too long. Failure is not an option for this franchise and we will rise again to prove everyone wrong.