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To Carmelo or not to Carmelo? That is the question…

Posted by on Jul 8, 2014 in Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant, Lakers Analysis, Opinion | 34 comments

It’s not a matter of the star you’d choose, but the stars you can choose from.

LeBron James and Kevin Durant require no thought. Plunk down the max and roll. Carmelo Anthony doesn’t generate that type of consensus. A dynamic offensive force, without question one of the league’s best pure scorers, but 30 years old with a reputation as a ball-sticker and less-than-stellar defender. Elite, but imperfect. Is he the hero L.A. deserves or the one they need right now?

Generally speaking, I subscribe to the theory of getting the elite guy and figuring it out later. Some very smart people are reporting the Lakers believe landing Anthony will facilitate the return of Pau Gasol on what I’m assuming will be a two-year contract. That would leave them with a starting five of Point Guard TBD, Kobe Bryant, Anthony, Julius Randle, and Gasol. If Randle isn’t ready to start, Anthony could play the four, and the Lakers could find another wing with Kobe playing either the two or the three. Regardless, if Melo chooses L.A. and Gasol re-ups, the Lakers almost surely would have no space to add other players of (financial) significance.

But what comes next? If the guard spot was filled by Steve Nash, the Lakers would have the honor of starting four potential Hall of Famers, which is cool, and they’d score a bunch of points, which is fun. They’d also give them up by the bushel, and would be placing a long odds wager on the whole crew staying healthy. Maybe the Lakers have other dominoes to topple should Anthony choo-choo-choose them, but on the surface at least this looks, more or less, like the plan. Meanwhile, they’d show the Lakers brand still has weight.

While they’d make a splash helping them win July – or at least be runners up, because the team signing LeBron wins – they won’t win the fall, winter and spring, when actual basketball is played.

I’ve said before, I’ll say again: A Bryant/Anthony/Gasol core won’t compete for a title in a stacked Western Conference. If they stay healthy – if, if, if, if – it’s still likely a bottom four team on the playoff ladder, thanks to almost inevitable roster holes and defensive questions. Then, how do they improve significantly in Year 2 of Kobe/Melo? Conceptually, the Lakers would be repeating the strategy of July 2012, swapping out Anthony for Howard. The results would likely be better in some ways – the stars wouldn’t hate each other, for example – but worse in others. Kobe wasn’t coming off two major injuries, Pau wasn’t two years older, Nash wasn’t bro– ok, Nash was broken then, too.

So in two years, the Lakers leave themselves with an excellent chance of landing right back at this point, with an aging star*, though one not as old as the incumbent for sure, and massive amounts of cap space but without the rest of the roster infrastructure required to attract the next wave of great FA’s. More and more, it seems, elite players want to see a constructed roster and the available assets to get and stay competitive.

Anyone listening to the podcast regularly or reading here likely knows the thing I find most fascinating about the Lakers right now isn’t simply the list of transactions potentially available to them, but how they attack the rebuilding process and what it reveals about the way the franchise views itself. All over TV and the web, we’ve seen handwringing over what might happen next year if the Lakers aren’t good, how nobody will tolerate an “encore” performance. I think it’s a gross over-reaction. Monday, I heard more on the same theme. Doom-and-gloom conclusions about what it would say about the Lakers if they weren’t able to land a big fish this summer. In the wake of Howard’s defection, it’s just more evidence of a once-great franchise in serious decline under new ownership.

In this scenario, the Lakers are the hot girl whose self-worth is tied to always having a boyfriend.

It’s one thing for the chattering mass of fans and media to think that way, assuming the franchise doesn’t. But if they do? If they buy into the premise the Lakers are diminished significantly by temporarily going without a star, or at the least a clear roadmap to one, consumed forever with the passing of torches? That the brand is lessened by a more patient rebuild? These are problems. The organization produces stars, it attracts stars, it cultivates stars, but the Lakers don’t have to be starfuckers.

We’ve learned more about the presentation made to Anthony, laying out a vision for Melo as the next franchise face and the business plan coming with it. Strong stuff, well presented, by all accounts. At a time where the natural advantages of Los Angeles, from endorsements to spending power are, whether by mass media or the current CBA, eroded relative to 15 or 20 years before, for the Lakers to convincingly sell the financial advantage of being a Laker is powerful. It’s also the only pitch they can make, because one centered on the roster and assets isn’t nearly as compelling.

Now imagine a world in which they can sell both. Here are our players, picks, and other assets that can make you a champion, not just a marketing monster, because you can’t be the latter without the former. We’ve got the young, quality talent capable of spectacular achievement with the injection of someone truly elite. Be a champion, be an icon. Going all out for Melo isn’t a disastrous idea. He’s an excellent player. There are many things worse than having him on your team. It’s also the safest play, showing less vision and self-confidence, and makes the Lakers’ chances of sustained, high level success going forward harder than a well-executed, ground-up rebuild, not easier.

Whether they feel it’s the right path or simply the mandatory one, in courting Melo the Lakers are cultivating only half of a winning pitch.

*Those believing you need a star to attract more stars must also believe a nearly 33 year old Anthony is an attractive draw. Not sure that’s the case. 

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PODCAST! NBA free agency, Jeanie’s mind games, Jason Kidd, sports Twitter Mt. Rushmore

Posted by on Jul 3, 2014 in free agency, Jeanie Buss, Jim Buss, Kamenetzky Brothers Land O'Lakers Podcast, Kobe Bryant, Lance Stephenson, LeBron James, Mitch Kupchak, Pau Gasol, Podcast | 4 comments

With the stroke of 12:01 am Eastern time on July 1, the calendar marked the official beginning of Silly Season! NBA free agency is upon us, a magical, glorious time filled with insane rumors, surprise signings, and head coaches flexing their muscles to join the Bucks. (I admittedly did not see the third item coming.) The Lakers are expected to be active participants in Silly Season, with several other high profile teams also looking to do damage. Let the madness begin!!!

The show can be heard by clicking on the module above and a list of talking points can be found below. Among the highlights:

  • With free agency now underway, folks like LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Greg Monroe, Chandler Parsons, Eric Bledsoe and Lance Stephenson (among many others) are up for grabs. Who can the Lakers target? Who should the Lakers target? What constitutes “too long” or “too much money?”
  • Will Jeanie Buss engage in dirty pool to lure Melo away from her boo Phil Jackson?
  • How disastrous is the outcome if no A-List (Or even B+ List) name is added to the roster?
  • Reportedly, the Lakers are pitching heavy input on the new coach as a carrot to elite free agents. If a free agent were so inclined, he could really exercise his leverage by taking this to ridiculous extremes.
  • Seriously, Jason Kidd and the Milwaukee Bucks… What the hell?
  • AAK!!! What current NBA player would we most want on our side in a bar fight? Who would we etch into the “Sports Twitter” Mount Rushmore? Were BK and I to follow the Miami Heat template and form a Big 3 of sportswriters, who makes the cut?
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Being super-rich means the Lakers can be super-patient

Posted by on Jul 2, 2014 in Uncategorized | 5 comments

If you haven’t read the breakdown by Zach Lowe on Jason Kidd’s exodus from Brooklyn for Grantland, it’s well worth the time. But beyond some excellent details of how that whole unquestionably strange mess came to be, the story contained an eye-popping little nugget sure to interest Lakers fans:

“The Thunder are indeed paying into the revenue-sharing system, rare for such a tiny market, but they’re slated to make nearly $29 million in profit when everything is netted out. That’s the fifth-best projection in the league, trailing only the Lakers ($100.1 million), Bulls ($61 million), Rockets ($40.7 million), and Celtics ($33.1 million)… Holy cow, the Lakers! They end up with that huge profit despite contributing a league-high $49 million to revenue sharing.”

Yes, the Lakers cleared $39 million more (!) than any other team in the league, despite suffering the worst season on record since packing up the trailers and moving from Minneapolis. Despite Kobe missing all but six games, despite failing to sell out every game at Staples, luxury tax payments, and the aforementioned revenue sharing bill.

Yowza!

With free agency officially underway, the Lakers have been connected in one way or another to just about every name on the market, from the obvious big fish (LeBron, Carmelo, Bosh) to the guys a tier below (Kyle Lowry, Greg Monroe, Luol Deng, and so on). That’ll happen, in part because the Lakers, who don’t even have half a roster, are probably interested in just about every name on the market, and also because every name on the market has a vested interest in making the Lakers appear interested. Without question, the Lakers would like to figure out a way to beat the odds and improve quickly, whether by straight signings or trades absorbing players into their vast, verdant meadows of cap space. I can accept the possibility the Lakers become a decent enough team next year. Title contending, no. Playoff contending? I can accept that (even while not betting on it).

What I can’t accept, though, is the thought process stating the Lakers MUST do something bold, because they CAN’T POSSIBLY go through another year like last. Fans will revolt! They’ll stop showing up! Ratings will tank! And so on! Except assuming Kobe plays, a lot of that won’t happen. Watching the team again struggle would suck but with likely only two years of Bryant remaining, people aren’t going to skip their last handful of opportunities to see him live, whether at home and especially on the road. That’s part of the value he has to the organization.

But let’s say I’m wrong. Let’s say people don’t show up. It’ll look bad for people to see empty seats, but those tickets will still be sold. The Lakers have a wait list for season tickets thousands of applicants deep. Anyone giving theirs up in a fit of pique won’t be getting them back. And even if the Lakers lose sales for a couple years, and they won’t, at least in any meaningful way… they have to figure out how to lose $100 million in profits before landing in the red.

There will be angst. There will be anger. But if the Lakers can’t hit a home run this offseason and are forced by circumstance to keep their proverbial powder dry (or most of it, at least), absolutely nothing will happen that won’t be instantly be cured by getting good again in a year or two. Lakers fans aren’t going to abandon the franchise over a couple years of necessary futility, and nor should they. So the Lakers can do what they think is right, without worrying what media types, or celebs in the lower bowl, think. Yes, it’s uncomfortable for fans not to know who’s next after Kobe. I’m sure it’s uncomfortable for the Lakers, too. But finding a good answer is far more important than finding any answer.

The idea is to build a genuine championship contender, not to compete for a six-seed every year, and to that end the news passed along by Lowe has the potential to be a positive force for the Lakers.

A few more thoughts on free agency…

  • I get waiting to see what Melo and LeBron do, but the Lakers need to be careful about waiting too long. There’s a good chance most of the big action, whatever it is, happens after James and Anthony are off the market, but teams who don’t feel they have a shot at either won’t stand still, and secondary players interested in security might snap up solid offers sooner rather than later. The Lakers have to balance the home run swing with the need to make contact. The cheap, young, lesser known players of the world – think Kent Bazemore – could be gone quickly. There are opportunity costs associated with trying for, and not getting, the superstars.
  • The idea LA won’t sign any non-elite FA to deals longer than a year or two, and there’s been plenty of chatter about that, basically means they won’t get any of them. Jodie Meeks got three years and nearly $20 million from the Pistons. Golden State gave Shaun Livingston 3/$16 million. Do the Lakers really think Kyle Lowry is going to take two years? Or that two years might be enough to get Greg Monroe to sign an offer sheet, or have the Pistons not match? In the end, I don’t really believe the Lakers will limit themselves to that degree for players the genuinely want and believe can grow with the rebuild.
  • That the Lakers would want to keep a clean cap sheet to woo the Durants and Westbrooks of the world makes sense, but at the same time they have to build a real team to attract them. The “blank slate, we’ll build a winner around you, we always have and always will and look at the pile of money!” sales pitch doesn’t really work these days, it seems. Elite players want to join a team with infrastructure, meaning the Lakers need to build some even if (ok, when) James and (probably) Melo end up somewhere else. Assuming they don’t wildly overspend on Genuinely Bad Idea Players, it’s ok to shell out three or four years. Most good talent can be moved in a pinch.
  • Whatever the Lakers can do to absorb talent through trades, they should. As we’ve already seen with the Meeks deal, player contracts can inflate quickly. The Lakers could, and probably will, have to pay more than performance might merit, particularly with any restricted free agents. It’s the price of doing business.
  • My appreciation for Anthony grew a ton this year, given how he handled a dumpster fire of a season in New York. That said, the idea of giving a 30-year old Melo $96 million for four years, knowing it might not be until the third year the Lakers are title-competitive, makes me squeamish. Not saying I wouldn’t do it, but his will be a giant contract on the books while his skills are, at the very least, not ascending.
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PODCAST! Kobe Bryant vs. rebuilding, Pau’s vertigo, Swaggy robbed, Kanye as the lesser of three evils

Posted by on Mar 26, 2014 in Kamenetzky Brothers Land O'Lakers Podcast, Kobe Bryant, Lakers Analysis, Mike D'Antoni, Mitch Kupchak, Nick Young, Opinion, Pau Gasol, Phil Jackson, Podcast | 2 comments

The Lakers are now undefeated in games played at Staples Center where Phil Jackson watches as Knicks President from a luxury suite. If Mike D’Antoni can figure out a way to replicate this formula, the team may be able to end this season on a surprisingly positive note.

The show can be heard by clicking on the module, and a list of talking points can be found below. Among the high points.

  • We stroll through the latest headlines. LeBron James and Adam Silver will meet this offseason to discuss the possible elimination of sherseys. Greveis Vasquez declares Kevin Durant “Jesus.” Mark Cuban calls out the NFL’s impending business model.  Is the Eastern Conference now a legitimate playoff race?
  • Kobe Bryant sat down with ESPN’s Darren Rovell to discuss basketball and business. As far as hoops goes, Kobe offered his faith in Jeanie and Jim Buss, but reiterated his impatience with a slow and steady rebuild. How big of a problem is this moving forward?
  • In the meantime, Kobe Inc. has opened up shop, with Bryant lending his presence and dollars to a sports drink called BodyArmour. How does this investment reflect the prospects of Kobe’s post-playing career?
  • Pau Gasol has vertigo. No. Seriously. Vertigo. At this points, are there any bizarre injuries and ailments left for the Lakers to endure?
  • Nick Young got robbed Sunday night, but the joke may actually be on the assholes who stole his clothes and jewelry.
  • It’s time for AAK!!! What movies have scared the K Bros most over the years? Rank the following in terms of quality company: Kanye West, Lindsay Lohan, Justin Bieber.
  • The New York Post reported Monday that former NBA player Quinton Ross was found murdered. As it turns out, the deceased was a different man named Quinton Ross. But hey, at least the Post was “first!”

Click above to play, or just download the show here. Hope you enjoy it. To subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, click here. You can also find us on TuneIn.com by heading here.

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Podcast! Phil Jackson is gone… so what now?

Posted by on Mar 21, 2014 in Jeanie Buss, Jerry Buss, Jim Buss, Jordan Farmar, Kamenetzky Brothers Land O'Lakers Podcast, Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers, Mike D'Antoni, Mitch Kupchak, Phil Jackson | 5 comments

It’s not necessarily that a ton of things have happened in the land o’ Lakers since we last recorded the Land O’Lakers podcast, just that the thing that did go down was a doozie.

Jordan Hill missed the team picture.

That, and Phil Jackson took a pretty plum gig with the Knicks. (Do I really need to add a link-to-the-news, here? If PJ-to-NY is information you haven’t yet heard, I suspect you’re here on accident.) And fair to say, the average Lakers fan reacted with a combination of anger, fear, and… no, anger and fear pretty much covers it. No surprise, it was the major topic of conversation for the newest show, which can be heard by clicking the module above (or the link below). A list of the major talking points…

Click above to play, or just download the show hereHope you enjoy it. To subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, click here. You can also find us on TuneIn.com by heading here.

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