There will be ample time available to ponder and/or discover answers — much more than anyone would have guessed eight months ago — but for now, as the last shovel of dirt is dropped atop L.A.’s 2012-13 season, it’s all about questions.
Here are 23, in no particular order…
1. Does Dwight Howard come back?
2. If Dwight comes back, does Mike D’Antoni return, as well? Mitch Kupchack says D’Antoni will be back, but while Mitch shouldn’t be accused of lying, you wouldn’t expect him to say otherwise. Particularly in April.
3. Even if he’d prefer someone else, would Dwight feel strongly enough about D’Antoni to pull a “him or me?”
4. How long will it take for Kobe to return from his torn Achilles, and how will the injury impact his game? (Technically two questions. Sorry.)
5. How does the injury impact Kobe’s bigger picture career timeline? (While earlier Bryant said he’d announce his intentions regarding retirement sometime this summer, presumably that plan has changed.)
6. How does Kobe’s decision impact Dwight’s? (Meaning if Howard knew Kobe might stick around an extra year or two, would that make staying more or less desirable an option?)
7. If the Lakers decide to can D’Antoni (I don’t think they will, for what it’s worth), who replaces him?
8. Even if the Lakers want Phil Jackson, would Phil actually want these Lakers?
9. Do the Lakers try to trade Pau Gasol?
10. If the answer is yes, how much can/would they be wiling to get in return?
11. If the Lakers decide to keep Pau (whether because they want to or the offers aren’t good enough) but his role stays essentially unchanged compared to most of this season, does he even want to come back? (Kevin Ding’s column Sunday suggests the answer is no.)
12. If Dwight decides to bolt, do the Lakers try and build a contender in his wake, or use it as an opportunity to strip it down to the studs and start the rebuild a year early?
13. Can the Lakers choose the latter if, in fact, Kobe decides to call it a career following the 2013-14 season? (They wouldn’t make his farewell tour a race to the lottery, would they?)
14. If the Lakers decide to just try again with (more or less) this year’s team, is it totally absurd to expect a better celebrity porn pics result?
15. Kobe’s Achilles will get most of the attention, but how well does Steve Nash bounce back from his hamstring/back/hip/nerve issues? (One orthopedist I spoke to, obviously not Nash’s treating physician, expressed concern.)
16. They can’t amnesty him, but the Lakers can use their stretch provision on Nash. That they’d do it after next season to create more cap space isn’t hard to picture, but would they consider doing it earlier?
17. Do the Lakers use their amnesty provision?
18. If so, on which guy? (Options: Kobe, Pau, Metta World Peace, Steve Blake)
19. And how do they replace the guy they just let go?
20. Earl Clark can be retained if the Lakers want him. Do they want him, and at what cost?
21. Assuming the preservation of cap space and flexibility next summer (along with the ability to dip below the tax line), how competitive can the Lakers really be this summer on the free agent market?
22. Jodie Meeks was brought in as a shooter, but in only two months did he crack 40 percent from downtown. In the other four, Meeks was at or below 35 percent. In March and April he shot 32 percent and 28.6 percent, respectively. He can be retained for a reasonable $1.5 million player option, but will the Lakers do it or try and find an upgrade?
23. I think we all know where Devin Ebanks won’t be playing next year, but do the Lakers make qualifying offers to Darius Morris and Robert Sacre?
It’s incredible to think the Lakers, after creating what appeared to be a clear two-year window with four All-Stars, actually face more uncertainty now than they did heading into last offseason.
Yet here we are.
Have answers? Did I leave out more good questions? Leave ‘em below, or on our FB page.