By now, hopefully you’ve heard our newest podcast, in which AK and I break down the 2013-14 season, making bold — bold! — Lakers predictions left and right (all while accidentally discovering a NSFW conjugation of Nick Young’s nickname and breaking down Sasha Vujacic’s new winery)
If you missed it, click here to download.
But with the season kicking off tonight at Staples against the Clippers, it seems appropriate to get all of the big prognostications down in writing for posterity, and so people can return months from now and marvel at my this guy-esque foresight (or mock my idiocy). But you get your say as well. I’ll hold my finger to the wind, Lakers fans get to blow. Or something like that. Here are five big questions for the 2013-14 season…
My take: No. They certainly could, but the odds don’t favor it. First, the Lakers are going to be, at best, ordinary defensively. At worst, they’re the mayors of Abominationville. Particularly if they suffer injuries. Which, let’s be honest, they probably will. Steve Nash is already dinged up. Kobe may not return until 10-20 games in, and even then it’s unrealistic to expect him to be KOBE BRYANT from the get go. And it’s not like other guys on the team don’t have checkered health histories. Add in a brutally tough Western Conference in which six teams (OKC, LAC, SAS, MEM, HOU, GSW, in no particular order) are obviously better than the purple and gold, and five more (DEN, DAL, POR, MIN, N.O.) have legitimate playoff hopes, and it gets that much tougher. The Lakers won 45 games last year, with Dwight Howard and Metta World Peace available defensively, and Kobe balling his ass off offensively. Two of those things can’t happen again, and the third is a tall order even for Bryant. Whether he returns to the court faster than expected, slower, or right on the mark (see Question 2), Kobe still won’t be himself for weeks.
I understand the team added youth and more versatility on the bench. They’re a happier bunch, more in sync with the coach’s system. What they aren’t, though, is more talented, and in the NBA nothing matters more. All in all, there are too many favorable breaks required for these Lakers to hit the higher levels of their potential.
My take: No. Talking this summer to a few league execs, they all agreed Gasol had little value this offseason, thanks to knee procedures, advancing age, sketchy performances over the last couple of seasons, and a massive contract. They also agreed if he plays well, Pau could change that dynamic quickly. By mid-season, when teams might be looking to bolster a playoff run, Gasol ought to be an appealing figure. A vast skill set and compulsively team-oriented mindset make him easy to integrate into a new system, and as the year goes on whatever team might be interested can pay a pro-rated portion of his salary (minus whatever they send back to L.A.). I don’t think the Lakers can get a lottery pick for him, but this is an organization sorely lacking in assets for a rebuild. If they can get something useful without compromising future plans, and I think the opportunity will be there, even if it’s not equal value the Lakers would be foolish not to pull the trigger. They’re not winning a title this year, no matter how well Gasol plays.
Philosophically, the same holds for everyone on the roster. The Lakers should hang the “Everything Must Go! No Reasonable Offers Refused!” shingle on the front door now, and leave it there all season.
(I’ll be very, very sad the day Gasol is traded, as will everyone in the organization. But sentiment only gets teams in trouble.)Read More