Fury and Guestie fix the Lakers

Posted: May 23, 2012 by shawnfury in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Yes, we’re going to talk about the Lakers again. We’re going to talk about them until we get this thing figured out. We’ll stay here all night if we have to. We’ll write 25,000 words. We’ll circumvent the salary cap with a shady deal that lands a 48-year-old Joe Smith. We’ll bring Magic out of retirement – again. But the Lakers will return to the top of the NBA!

Probably not.

But in the meantime, a pair of Lakers fans channeled their grief and attempted to figure out what went wrong and how it can be fixed. I filed from the home office in New York City and was joined by Mark Harming, a South Dakota teacher and fellow Lakers rube. On Monday night, as the season slipped away, we chatted about their demise on Twitter. On Tuesday, we emailed about what was next. I picture Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak doing the same thing, hopefully with better ideas than ours.

You can follow Mark on Twitter here. And you can read his writing on his blog, From the Couch…musings of the sports doofus. I thank Mark for his time. And now…save the Lakers!

MARK
Our mission today is to fix the Lakers. Since all personnel moves in the NBA are so salary cap conscious… we need to consider who is paid what and for how long.

Matt Barnes, Troy Murphy, Devin Ebanks, and Derrick Caracter all have expiring contracts.

Who do you look to move? And for who?

Mike Brown didn’t quite have the aura – or success – of Phil Jackson, but the Lakers have bigger problems.

SHAWN
I’ll get to the players in a moment – or in 500 words. First I want to talk coaching. Will Mike Brown be back? Should he be back? Does he deserve any type of blame or was this just an inevitable result that no one could have prevented – after all, the Lakers were swept under Phil Jackson a year ago. Being that he’s Jim Buss’s hire, I’m sure he’ll return — and probably deserves a full season. I’m still bitter that the Lakers didn’t hire Rick Adelman after Jackson’s retirement, as I would have loved to see his offense with this group. I can almost guarantee Pau Gasol wouldn’t have been stuck out at the 3-point line or looking lost from 15 feet away. There would have been movement and cuts. The Lakers’ defense was outstanding at times during the season, but Brown’s offense was about as imaginative as Norman Dale’s four passes attack at Hickory. The in-game adjustments also left much to be desired. Still, barring a Phil Jackson Part III move, it’ll be Brown.

So who will he coach? Well, Caracter’s already gone as he was released in February, even though he seemed to have some potential. Barnes? He gave them some grit, some hustle, some timely threes, could attack the basket and could cause some damage on the glass. In the regular season. Two straight years he suffered an injury before the playoffs and two straight years he did nothing in the postseason. He’s gone. Ebanks has some potential, but I could see him looking to move on to a place where he’d get consistent time. Murphy? Nice minimum pickup, won’t be back. Those are the little guys, the role players. They are important – as the Lakers’ putrid bench performance in the OKC series showed – but ultimately it’s about the stars.

So do you move Gasol? Bynum? Pursue Howard? A legitimate perimeter player? Bring back Metta? Big problems…big moves to solve them? Or maybe bring back the core, with some tweaks to those role players?

Could the Lakers land Dwight Howard? Would they want to? Would he want to play there?

MARK
First off, I don’t think there’s any way that Mike Brown isn’t back, unless like you said Phil came back. I was in the Brian Shaw camp last summer, but I really don’t think Mike Brown was at fault. He did a pretty good job considering everything he had to deal with (The cancelled Chris Paul trade, the moving of Lamar Odom, Pouting Pau Gasol until after the trade deadline, and all the problems Metta World Peace brings to the table…) Coaching doesn’t seem to be a factor, or at least not the biggest one.

As far as making changes, We can look at it a few different ways.

1. Keep the core intact (Pau/Bynum/Kobe) and look to make some minor changes.
2. Make a move for a big player… Bynum for Dwight Howard? Pau Gasol for Deron Williams?
3. Move a big player for a number of pieces.

My thoughts are this… I’d move Bynum for Howard straight up, if Orlando would do it. Otherwise I don’t consider moving him. Yes, he’s immature and he disappears at times (like last night), but at his age and his ability, you’d have to get a great, and I mean Great Player for him. That, and the fact that he is Jim Buss’s favorite…I don’t see Bynum getting moved.

Gasol for a number of pieces really makes sense. He makes 19 million dollars next year. If you can divvy that up between a few other nice players that would help. Now as to who those players would be, and what they could get for him, I have no idea.

Metta World Peace should be moved, but I don’t know who would take him for his current salary? He’s due over 7 million next year. You can get defense out of Ebanks for not nearly the money, and use that salary space to get a better offensive player.

Watching ESPN this morning it was mentioned on Mike and Mike that the Magic will look to trade Dwight Howard within the month. Whatever happens that will have to go down first, before any other major moves are made.

Kobe isn’t going anywhere. The Laker fanbase would have a true meltdown if that happened. And he makes 27 million dollars next season.

Honestly, if they wanted to reboot the franchise…. just start over… you’d look to move Kobe. But that’s not going to happen.

They were maybe the best duo in the league for three years, but it’s probably time for Pau and Kobe to go their separate ways. And that means saying goodbye to the Spaniard.

SHAWN
First, I’m sorry you watched Mike & Mike. Please don’t tell me you’re a First Take guy, too.

In a dream world I’d love to keep Gasol and move Bynum. Gasol became one of my all-time favorite Lakers. Great player, unselfish, cool-looking with the beard and grace, the Black Swan nickname, the Spaniard nickname, smart guy off the court, well-spoken and helped transform a team lost in a sea of dropped Kwame Brown passes. Bynum hasn’t shown he can be the No. 2 guy on a title team, much less No. 1. In the three Finals runs, he basically missed two of them and battled through injury in the other to contribute, but it was still Gasol down low.

That said, I think Gasol’s the guy to go. And it’s probably time. As great as he’s been, he seems worn out with the Lakers, tired of Kobe and ready for a new team. And the Lakers — after seeing him struggle mightily two straight playoffs — are probably ready to see him go. Wait, they did send him off once and got Chris Paul in return. Sorry to bring back bad memories.

So I think they ship him again somewhere but what can they get? Another Paul? Probably no. Even with Howard’s potential back issues I’d trade Bynum straight up, but it seemed like Howard didn’t have much desire to come to LA — at least not with the purple and gold.

So keep Bynum, get some speed and perimeter help in exchange for Gasol. They really need another threat who can handle the ball. Not sure what happened to Sessions in the last month — whether it was Brown slowing him down too much until he lost his confidence or just a guy who’s bounced around showing why he bounced around — but I can’t see him being the answer at point. Bring Blake back as a backup. So perimeter guys in a Gasol deal, see if Hill can play the 4 and…how about bringing Odom back? I’d be for it, believing he could work his way back into shape — mentally and physically — and when he’s at the four it just works better than when Gasol and Bynum are together. Odom perfectly complements Gasol or Bynum in the paint and in this scenario, it’s Bynum.

Another need? How about a guy who can knock down a 3 once in awhile? How do the Spurs continue to find these guys who can drain corner 3s all night? Someone to stretch the D, take pressure off of Kobe’s drives and in the paint.

Hmmm, a lot of needs here. That said, I think they can still contend with some changes. As long as Kobe is still capable of dominating – even if it’s not as dominant as he once was — they can contend. Look at the Spurs. Past few years they were swept by the Suns and drilled by the Grizz. Everyone thought they were done. And here we are.

MARK
I’m agreed, I’d rather keep Gasol than Bynum… but I don’t think that will happen. The sad thing about Gasol was, I was actually looking forward to him in Mike Brown’s offense. Wasn’t one of his selling points about how they ran an effective two post offense with the Spurs when he was there?

I do think Jordan Hill showed me something in the playoffs. That guy is a hard worker and will voluntarily do the dirty work. Hill and Bynum in the post are kind of an intriguing combination, and they are both young. Hill can set screens and get rebounds.

Pau is such a gifted big man, and there are a million decent wing players in the league (it’s just the Lakers don’t really have any of them). I honestly could see Pau moved to a team with some decent wing players and possibly a decent draft pick.

Sessions I think we are stuck with. I like his game, and think he can be a pretty good one, but you’re right he didn’t look himself in the playoffs.

Lamar Odom I would also welcome back, at a reduced salary. He would fit really well with what they were doing this year with Pau, and he could be the “crunch time” guy with Bynum out there. I like this idea a lot. Of course, he’d have to get his mind right, and I’m not sure if that’s possible in Kardashian world.

I also liked what I saw from Josh McRoberts this year. (Which as a Tar Heels fan kills me to say). This was another Mike Brown fault in that he switched to Jordan Hill as his 3rd post in the last week of the season.

I would think that Pau Gasol and Ramon Sessions to Brooklyn for Deron Williams and Lopez or Humphries wouldn’t be bad, but the Nets are holding on to Williams so they can attract Dwight Howard. And also that doesn’t solve the Lakers lack of depth on the wings.

There’s certainly a lot of different ways to go.

SHAWN
Brown’s rotations were odd. McRoberts and Murphy went from playing a decent amount to being the Chuck Nevitts of 2012. Jordan Hill never played and then became backup big man. Barnes, Morris, etc., all suffered similar fates. And he also ran Kobe into the ground during the regular season, which I think caught up with him in the playoffs. Then again, maybe he had to or they would have been a seventh or 8th seed. A backup shooting guard isn’t among their greatest needs, but it’s a need.

My current fantasy is Steve Nash coming to the Lakers. He signs for less money for that cliched chance to have a final run at the title. Although knowing what happens to people who sign on to play point for the Lakers — Gary Payton, Sessions — he will become a tentative dribbler who hits 25 percent of his 3-pointers. But I would love to see him out there creating, dribbling, taking the ballhandling pressure off of Kobe. And the Lakers would finally have someone who can make a post-entry pass.

The two-post offense I think was a Brown selling point. I don’t know, I’m beginning to think maybe Popovich had more to do with the Spurs’ success than Brown. I should stop ripping on Brown. They do have much bigger issues than the coach.

Deron Williams would be the ultimate but I can’t see the Nets taking Gasol in any package for him and I don’t think they can afford to sign him just as an outright free agent. So now we’re back to my Nash dream.

So how’s this all end? Honestly, I expect to be underwhelmed. I think they’ll get some okay players in exchange for Gasol. They’ll sign their yearly quota of over-the-hill guys for the bench who play well sometimes but otherwise disappoint. Sessions and Blake will be back. Bynum will be back. And he will be the key to whether they can hang in as a top team in the West. Can he bring it every night? And, of course, can Kobe still score 27 a game, preferably while shooting better than 43 percent? If he remains elite, they also always have a chance. I think he has two or three great years left so I’m not worried about him. The rest? Worried. A few changes, 48 wins next year…second-round defeat. Hopefully I’m wrong and it’s an exciting offseason.

MARK
I agree with a lot of what you say there. Bynum and Kobe will be there, Gasol will be moved for some pieces, and Sessions (who holds a player option… it’s up to him) will be back.

So you’ll have a starting lineup of Bynum, Hill (probably, if he’s brought back), World Peace, Kobe, and Sessions… backed up by Blake, 2 players traded for Gasol, McRoberts, and someone else to take Troy Murphy’s spot (maybe Troy Murphy?)

I also agree that they would probably be beaten in the second round, and possibly the first, depending on who the wing players are.

Honestly, unless Kobe takes a pay cut (which is not allowed under the new CBA, unfortunately), this team is going to struggle to win a title. He’s due $27 million next year! Shoot, if he cuts that to 20 (which is still a top 5 salary), that is 7 million dollars more they can spend. That’s a decent wing player (that’s what Metta makes now). But since it’s against the rules, I guess that point is moot.

I’m intrigued by your Steve Nash idea… so just throwing this out there… Jason Kidd? His contract is up. He’s already talking about being a back-up. He’d be a decent option as a reserve point guard, which could free up Blake to be traded in any Gasol package.

One thing I do have to give the Lakers credit for, is that their front office has generally done a very good job over the years of acquiring talent. Mitch Kupchak does a good job of finding players, and the Buss family does not have an issue paying the luxury tax. So, “we’ve got that going for us, which is nice.” (Caddyshack)

Thanks for taking the time to break this down with me, Shawn. I really enjoyed it.

SHAWN
Thanks for joining us, folks. Come back next year after they’re again eliminated in the second round.

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Comments
  1. Lance Nelson says:

    There is no fixing the Lakers. Fact is they have Kobe and thats is. Gasol isn’t what he used to be. And I am sorry to inform you guys that Bynum, in my opinion, is the most over-rated player in the league. He is an underacheiver and injury prone. The latter probably has a lot to do with the first but he has not lived up to the hype on a consistant basis. The names on the bench that you guys make a great effort to convince yourselves that they are servicable NBA players, are laughable. And I am amused at all the trade scenarios to bring more All-Stars to the team to try and win a title. It’s not quite as bad as what I have to listen to in the South Florida area with the Heat but its starting to border on that. Heat fans, even though they have 2 of the top 10 players and probably another in the top 20 continue talk about how they need to add another superstar to get a title. Now I am starting to hear it from Laker supporters. Here is a grand idea. How about the current players on the team just PLAY BETTER or work harder to improve. OKC has 1 superstar and an emerging star in Westbrook and they seem to find a way to get it done. SA has a few aging superstars who are not what they were in there prime. Most people couldn’t name 3 players on the 76ers team. Outside the Heat the Celtics are the one team that have a legit group of superstars but I never hear them saying, lets bring in more stars. They just go out and compete with what they have with the expectation that them winning depends on them as players, not the coaches or some new aquisition. The Lakers as a franchise is in trouble with Kobe getting older and I don’t see another Title for him unless they can somehow fleece somebody in a trade like they did for Gasol. But my guess is that they will need some very unflattering photos of the owner the make the trade with to make that happen again.

  2. shawnfury says:

    Lance, Great to hear from you! And thanks for the comment, glad you could get yourself away from Heat victory parties long enough to type it.

    Unfortunately, I have to swat away some of your opinions the same way I did your jumpshots in practice (that did happen once, I think. Right?).

    I think I did say the bench was putrid and they were. They definitely need better role players. The Horry/Fox/Shaw types who were so key. That said, McRoberts wasn’t horrific during the season, he just wasn’t a difference maker or anything. Barnes same thing, until he got hurt and then he was really, really, really bad and unusable at the end.

    Agree on Gasol. I hope he does turn it around with another team – maybe one that actually puts him back in the post – but he also could just be on the natural decline. He’ll probably kick ass in the Olympics this year but I don’t know if he has the drive anymore to do it in the NBA for 82 games, even if he’s someplace where Kobe isn’t screaming at him.

    You’re right about the Sixers but let’s be real – the East is a joke. Always has been, always will be. Always totally top heavy and then 4-8 is abysmal (I know Celtics were 5 this year but that’s because of injuries/tanking at the end, whatever).

    The Celtics never talk about bringing in more superstars? The brought three hall of Famers together!!!!!! ANd they have a star point guard. Yeah, I can see why they don’t think they need more superstars now. And that’s the only way they could snap a streak of 22 years without a title. Yes, those plucky Celtics winning with no-names. Meanwhile, you’re criticizing us for hoping the Lakers get some decent pieces for Pau (I don’t think they’ll get a Paul like guy back for him again).

    And I like OKC, hope they win the title. And their GM has done a great, great job. Love how that team is constructed with everyone knowing their roles, whether it’s the stars or inside role players. That said…they only got those guys because of how lucky they were in the lottery. First, if they had the first pick they probably take Oden. Then they were still terrible with him so got high picks that allowed them to get WEstbrook and Harden (the credit does go to Presti for taking those guys). I mean, it’s a little tougher for the Lakers to build through the draft like you want them to when they’re picking 28th.

    Spurs are the exception of course, they do manage to find guys who somehow step up their games. The Lakers havent’ found guys like that (Ariza was probably the last one, where he struggled with other franchises before finding his way in LA). But they also have those Big Three still who “get it,” as far as knowing what it takes to win. Lakers have Kobe, had Gasol before he fell and who knows with Bynum.

    I’m not asking for another superstar to join the Lakers (although again, they had one until the NBA took him away). Just some athletic wings, and a decent point guard. Would Steve Nash still be considered a superstar? I don’t think so, but he’d be a great piece.

    But you very well might be right that Kobe’s won his last title. Still, Lakers fans have a reason to be delusional and to think things will turn around quickly – since 1980 the team has been in 16 NBA Finals. So basically every other year. It’s now been two years without a finals appearance! The horror! So yes, we expect the Lakers to fleece someone or to get lucky with a trade or…something. And if they don’t, well, something’ wrong with the world.

  3. Rich Jensen says:

    Also, Lakers got massive cap problems. They’re $22M over the cap now. And in 2014, they owe Kobe & Bynum like $50M and the cap’s going to be like what? $60M then? And that’s when the repeat offender penalty kicks in. They’re stuck for the next few years. And I don’t think many other teams have the same “Bynum can only be traded for a Great Player” attitude about Bynum.

    Lakers have got to do something about salary, but do you think Jim Buss has the slightest clue about that? Yeah, me neither. I’m not sorry to see the Lakers struggle any more than Lakers fans were sorry to see the miserable teams Boston put on the court in the late 70s and that 15 year stretch from ’92 to ’07.

  4. Mark says:

    Rich, you are correct that the Lakers are hamstrung with cap troubles. Kobe makes an absurd amount of money, and on top of that… Gasol and Bynum and Artest make so much that it’s difficult to do much, which is why one of them probably has to go.

    I’m not worried about them being over the cap too much, they always have been. They don’t seem to mind paying the luxury tax.

    About Bynum… while I won’t disagree that he sometimes mails it in, and that he’s a headcase at times, and completely frustrating.

    He IS the second best center in the League, without a doubt. And he’s younger than Dwight Howard, with a much better offensive skill set. That, and he’s a Giant. Look at him on the floor sometime next to other supposed 7 footers… He’s half a head taller than most of them. He’s got the best post footwork of any 7 footer in the league, and he’s still improving. If anyone thinks that is an overrated quality… look around the league and see how many other bigs there are that can do that?

    And fans of all teams talk about bringing in stars. Shoot, the biggest Celtic supporter of all, Bill Simmons, wrote a column this winter completely eviscerating Danny Ainge, and talking about trading Rondo for Gasol or another big player, and making moves to bring in a good player.

    OKC has a superstar in Durant, a star in Westbrook, and sixth man of the year player in Harden. And they are all 22-23. All lottery picks in consecutive years. Presti should get credit for picking them (especially Westbrook), but it wasn’t through any fancy maneuvers.

    Anytime you have a team with a couple of good pieces, like Kobe and Gasol or Kobe and Bynum I think it’s just natural to try and fill in the gaps.

    Don’t mean to sound confrontational, if that does. Just trying to make a few points.

    Good Conversation!

  5. Rich Jensen says:

    See, here’s the thing about Bynum–and it’s the same problem I’ve got with Rondo, FWIW.

    Bynum is the second best center in the NBA–when he feels like it. And apart from that, he’s either dead weight or a liability (“Easy closeout games”). That’s why I would think long and hard about trading my best player for an immature brat. And Howard for Bynum straight up is a mistake because Bynum will be worse than Howard and will immediately want out of Orlando. Might as well tear up the team and get a bunch of young guys in exchange for Howard. Of course if Orlando were smart like that, they’d never have let Howard fire Van Gundy & Smith.

    The bigger issue, the 800lb gorilla, is Kobe. On the plus side: He’s one of an increasingly small number of players with a work ethic on par with his talent. On the minus side: He’s poisoned the chemistry of two championship teams now. His comments after game 4 were inexcusable. As long as the Lakers have Kobe, they’re in trouble. He’s peaked, he won’t admit it, and he won’t accept a diminished role in any team. The price of enjoying young Kobe, Lakers fans, is that you will have to suffer through old Kobe.

  6. shawnfury says:

    Bynum on another team might actually get his act completely together, though, as he’d assumedly be the No. 1 option. If I’m Orlando, I don’t do a straight-up deal either, but it’s tempting because he can be dominant and you can’t lose Howard for nothing. Offensively he’s more developed than Howard. But it’s the bringing it every night thing, coupled with the injuries (although he was healthy this year).

    The Kobe comment can not go unchallenged. Can not! His contract could be a huge problem, no doubt about that. And if he’s 38 and still jacking up 30 shots in playoff games, could be a problem. But he didn’t poison any chemistry. Teams have a lifespan. You could argue that it was Kobe’s, umm, Kobe-ness (or a-holishness) that got Gasol to compete like he did for three years. The Lakers needed Gasol and he did transform the team. But remember, he was also a guy who was 0-12 in playoff games as a No. 1 option. Playing with Kobe, he becomes “the most talented big man in the game.” People weren’t saying that when he was a Grizz, and not just because he was playing in Memphis. And the fact is he is laidback and often nonchalant. Kobe’s comments were nothing new after Game 4. And for what it’s worth, Gasol has always – as he should – given as good as he got in the press. Every year after losses he’d talk about the need for guys to take fewer shots and to work the ball inside and take little digs at Kobe. As an aside, would still love to see KG and Kobe paired, even as old guys. The intensity would be off the charts, as would the jerk factor.

    The chemistry wasn’t poisoned – they just weren’t as good. It happens. And when it does, people are going to be frustrated. Magic was ticked at his teammates following the 1990 loss to Phoenix and the 1991 Finals.

    And poisoning the chemistry of two title teams…there’s no room – well there is – to go through the entire Shaq-Kobe rivalry. But Shaq had to share a lot of the blame too. Kobe thought he was fat and lazy. And…Shaq did nothing to really disprove that his remaining years. And it was time for them to split up. Yet somehow, this guy who poisons teams took a team where the third best guy was Robert Horry (!) to three straight titles. And won two in a row post-Shaq. He’s a guy who doesn’t get it…except he does. And he still thinks he’s the best player on the team. And he’s right. Will he be in 5 years? Probably not. But outside of the 2004 Finals there’s never really been a season where the Lakers’ year ended because Kobe was selfish or ruined team chemistry or whatever.

    Suffering through an old Kobe? Sure, could be ugly. But could also be fun. And even if it ends badly, you do take what he brought for 16 years as payment for the struggles at the end.

    This guy always has great takes on the Lakers.
    http://20secondtimeout.blogspot.com/2012/05/thunder-domination-conclusively-proves.html#links

  7. Rich Jensen says:

    I can’t let your defense of Kobe go unchallenged!

    It’s not that teams have lifespans, it’s that teams with Kobe have lifespans. At least Kobe’s wife isn’t hovering around in the background doing damage these days.

    My counterpoints: Magic’s Lakers and Tim Duncan’s Spurs. Magic became a better teammate as he matured, and Duncan has never really had a problem being a team player. Kobe? That’s issue number one with him, and as his physical abilities diminish, it will become a bigger and bigger issue.

    I think PJ put it best when he said, “You don’t want to be coaching Kobe when Kobe stops being Kobe”

    On the less controversial point, I don’t think Bynum will mature if given additional responsibilities. That’s like saying, “maybe that lazy sales rep will really put in some effort if we make him a manager.” I mean, maybe he grows up, but I wouldn’t bet a dozen donuts on it, let alone a max contract. Of course, I’m also not an NBA GM…..

    About the only thing in Bynum’s favor, at least on the face of it, is that he seems unlikely to view Orlando as some sort of exile, wherein he has little opportunity to ‘build his brand.’

    And, by the way, when did “Brand building” become so important to basketball players? And why? On the positive side of Kobe’s ledger, he clearly isn’t in LA in order to bask in the star making power of LA. Kobe would’ve been Kobe anywhere. Good and bad.

  8. Rich Jensen says:

    I mean, he won’t like being in Orlando. But that’s because it’s a small market and a genuinely odd city.

  9. L.A. has a team besides the Clippers? Who knew?
    (Just didn’t want to be left out of the conversation. You’re welcome.)

  10. Mark says:

    Good One, TV. Love breaking down the team.

  11. Rich Jensen says:

    It’s funny how Los Angeles has two teams: “LA” and “The Clippers”

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