Mandatory Credit: USA Today
The Los Angeles Lakers have always been known as a power house team and a franchise that has never accepted the losing culture that haunts so many other teams. That clearly was not the case this year. They assembled a team filled with cast-offs and hoped that an aging trio of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Steve Nash could carry them into the playoffs. That was a clear pipe dream that quickly turned into a nightmare that has been the 2013-2014 season, a season that will go down in Lakers history as the most forgettable one. This season didn’t just happen overnight though, the Lakers front office has made countless bad decisions over the last three years, and this season was the result of all those decisions.
Who’s to blame? Everyone who has been a part of the Lakers this year should probably shoulder some kind of it. In reality, Lakers management should shoulder all the blame because they are the decision makers and should be held accountable for the team that they have assembled.
Los Angeles has branded itself as a Lakers town and the Lakers front office clearly forgot about that. They have made one bad decision after another that resulted in the clubs first 50 loss season since moving to Los Angeles. Former owner Jerry Buss never allowed his teams to go over 50 loses in one season, but his children have lost sight of what the Lakers brand truly revolves around, and that’s winning.
Yes, Owner Jim Buss and General Manager Mitch Kupchak made the Chris Paul trade that was vetoed by the league and brought in Dwight Howard , but those moves didn’t pan out. The pair has made two highly questionable coaching hires that have made every Lakers fan pull their hair and pinch themselves, and asking if this is for real. But it is real, because the decisions that have been made were not the right ones. They were all risky moves that back fired and turned the mighty Lakers into another dysfunctional franchise.
One thing about this season was that the Lakers wanted to tank this season, but made it seem to everyone that they wanted to be competitive. They have never tanked a season before, but it’s clear that they had to gain some kind of assets. The franchise is in danger of becoming a place that’s filled with broken dreams and promises, not just to their players, but to the fans. The string of bad decisions started when Mike Brown was hired and then fired in favor of Mike D’Antoni .
The decision to hire Mike D’Antoni over Phil Jackson, and gave the notion that D’Antoni would bring back the era of “Showtime.” It was a puzzling hire that has turned into a disaster. The front office may have finally seen the light after James Harden and the Houston Rockets lit up the Lakers for 140 points! The crazy part is, Dwight Howard didn’t even suit up. The score may have shot up to 160! That is of course, the D’Antoni way.
D’Antoni’s thinking of outscoring opponents without playing defense has done nothing more than put them in the record books for allowing these constant totals. The Lakers scored 120 points many times this year, but were still on the losing end. That right there is a head scratcher. If the Heat, Thunder, or Spurs score 120, they win, but they play defense, and have no problem doing it.
The philosophies that D’Antoni has preached have not been the best. He’s not the kind of coach that can lead a team to a title, let alone play defense. His offense may be one that most teams have, but defense is more important than ever. Offense will take any team far, as long as stops are made. D’Antoni will never be a defensive wizard, and will never gain the proper respect from star players because of his philosophies and being a pushover. Sure he and Kobe got along at the beginning, but a lot can change in a year especially as losses start to pile up.
The Lakers didn’t seem to care about D’Antoni’s lack of a defensive strategy at the time of his hire. They were more enamored with former rivals coming to provide a high energy offense that would be entertaining. People love to be entertained in Hollywood, but they also like winners as well.
Mike D’Antoni and Steve Nash used to kill the Lakers in the mid 2000’s, but the Lakers once again made a bad decision to reunite former rivals. The truth is it was never going to work out. They were destined from the start to fail in Los Angeles. Steve Nash’s health went south, and D’Antoni had to rely on others to run his offense. It just never panned out; the Lakers gambled on these two and lost all their chips in the processes.
Like the Lakers have done over the last decade, they go for the big name players who are past their prime and a big name coach with a shaky history without any thought of how it will affect the team going forward.
Hanging on to players for too long has also contributed to this horrid season. Pau Gasol should have been dealt long ago and their biggest trade chip, Dwight Howard left without any consolation last year. The Lakers have been too loyal to their players in an age where loyalty is an afterthought among players.
It pains me to say it, but signing Kobe Bryant to a hefty two-year extension for over $20 million a year was not the best decision either. The Lakers again were too loyal. They could have waited until the off-season, and seen if Kobe was truly loyal to them. Now, Bryant is complaining about how lousy the team has been, but Kobe has failed to realize his mistake; accepting his contract extension. This will leave the Lakers with less cap space, and maybe less of a chance at a sixth title. Arguably, both sides made a bad decision and will now have to live with it, no matter what the outcome is.
Gaining no assets or having trade chips hurts more than anything. They can no longer trade their peanuts for gold. The days of handing a franchise player to the Lakers are in the rear view mirror. It’s an equal level playing field in the NBA now, where small market teams have the same salary cap as the big market ones. And the Lakers might have forgotten that no one in the league wants to see them succeed. Many owners love to see the Lakers rot, but the Lakers can’t allow themselves to rot for too long.
These bad decisions have hurt the Lakers in so many ways and this season was a reflection of all those decisions. The Lakers are now faced with a rebuild that will be difficult because of past decisions, but making the right decisions going forward is all they can do at this point. Signing Mitch Kupchak to a new multi-year extension was a good start and a vote of confidence that he can fix this sinking ship. Getting lucky, having a few miracles, and making good decisions are what will bring the Lakers back to life, but certainly not bad decisions