Apr 6, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) is pressured by Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) during the second half at American Airlines Arena. Miami won 102-91. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Lakers Are The Dark Horse Team This Summer

With the first few days of free agency in the books, the  Los Angeles Lakers have not committed to any free agent yet. Of course that will change in the next few weeks, but the Lakers find themselves going after the big fish on the open market: LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony. Now the question is, will a major superstar like James or Anthony come to the Lakers? The Lakers don’t exactly have a solid team in place now, but they do have the ability to sign two free agents to max contracts and build a foundation from there. At this point, no free agent has the Lakers at the top of their list. Due to shaky management and the stubborn, but talented Kobe Bryant who is coming off of two major injuries, and a season where he only played six games. The Lakers have turned into an unattractive destination over the last few years, but still linger as a dark horse team for every major free agent available due to their cap space.

The Lakers went into this off-season with one thing in mind; hit a home run for a top-tier free agent! This isn’t an organization that doesn’t exactly aim to just get on base, they want the instant success of a home run, but they keep striking out. At this point, they can’t even hit a single! This has led the organization to become one of the more unattractive spots for players around the NBA. At the moment, the Clippers are a more attractive destination, who would have ever thought?

Despite becoming an unattractive destination, the Lakers still hold prestige around the NBA. Their history for winning alone is why they can still be a viable option for free agents. They have shown that they are more than capable of building a team on the fly. This isn’t the Milwaukee Bucks or Toronto Raptors, where winning a playoff series is considered a successful season. The Lakers compete for championships, but building on the fly hasn’t exactly worked out for them as it has in the past lately. They hit rock bottom last year, and became the laughing-stock of the NBA. Every team knew it, and wanted to stick it to the Lakers night in and night out.

Instead of rebuilding through the draft and getting a solid young foundation in place, the Lakers are once again trying to build a team on the fly. They obviously do not like to rebuild, but with Kobe Bryant still on the team for the next two years, they are being forced to build on the fly. The other thing that management has to stop doing is over selling their past, when the future is clearly cloudy.

The problem at this point is they keep selling their past, while forgetting about the future. That is the one key to every available free agent this off-season. What does the future hold?

The Lakers have to sell their future, and sell it hard. LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony want to win now! They don’t care about the past; they care about how they can be in contention to win the title every year. With a clean slate, the Lakers can really build a solid team around James or Anthony, possibly around both. That’s with Kobe Bryant on the team of course. Sure Kobe has a reputation around the league as being a tough teammate to deal with, but Kobe has to realize as well that his time is winding down, and handing the keys of the franchise over to another star is going to have to happen if he wants his sixth ring.

Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Kobe Bryant himself has to know that this is a crucial summer for the Lakers. He has to stop thinking that he is the main guy! If the Lakers do somehow manage to acquire James or Anthony, he will easily turn into the second scoring option. But if the Lakers strike out on both than Kobe would still be the number one option, but at what point will Kobe sacrifice his own game and be willing to be the number two guy for the greater good of a championship?

Lakers management can’t just sell the Lakers as a franchise to potential suitors; they also have to sell the idea to Kobe potentially being the number two guy on the team. Kobe is getting older and can’t carry a team by himself anymore. He needs one of these superstar’s to make their way to Los Angeles if he wants that elusive sixth title. For Kobe being the warrior and leader that he has been for his entire career, he needs to sell himself as the “Robin” instead of “Batman” to both James and Anthony if the Lakers want a shot at signing either one.

Having Kobe Bryant selling himself as the number two guy is tough, but it’s the reality that the Lakers are in now. The Lakers need Kobe Bryant more than ever to not just win them games, but to help them with their tradition of winning with new stars donning the purple and gold.

The Los Angeles Lakers are in a very interesting position this summer with trying to build a team on the fly instead of the traditional rebuild that most other teams have to go through. With a vast amount of cap space, rich history of winning, but a cloudy future, the Lakers are once again the talk of the town. They will either strike gold or strike out this summer, but they still remain one destination that no one is talking about despite being the most successful franchise in the NBA. The organization has been lopsided for several years now, and a big comeback may be on the rise. That is with smart and witty moves from management of course.

Management can go after any free agent right now of its choosing, and build any kind of team! They don’t necessarily have to get James or Anthony, but if they did the Lakers would be more of an attractive destination for the next several years. If the Lakers end up signing a bunch of second tier free agents, that wouldn’t be a bad consolation prize. The San Antonio Spurs showed us all that a team can win a championship by sharing the ball, and playing team basketball. That is another route the Lakers can pursue if they strike out on both James and Anthony.

They have the ability to form the kind of team that they want right now. If they want a veteran team or a young team, they have the cap space, but shaping the roster around Kobe and another star possibly James or Anthony will give them more of an identity. The Lakers could have a dynamic duo that could easily cause problems in the western conference.

The Lakers find themselves as the underdogs in free agency this year, and that may be the key for striking potential gold. Being a dark horse team may not be such a bad identity to have for a franchise that has always been the favorites. Maybe a cloudy and dim future is what the Lakers needed to get the player or team that they wanted. Only time will tell if the Lakers are truly a desired destination in 2014.

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Tags: Carmelo Anthony Kobe Bryant LeBron James Los Angeles Lakers NBA Free Agency

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