COMMENTARY | There were two things Lakers fans likely learned from watching Thursday's NBA draft. And another they likely missed.
First, how nauseating it was to see the continuous ESPN ticker: "(Dwight) Howard unlikely to re-sign with Lakers, sources tell Chris Broussard."
Second, the Lakers drafting R. Kelly (no not the R&B artist, and no, I won't go there) in the second round.
As for the one transaction Lakers faithful likely missed? Well, it involved Mark Madsen.
Madsen, who was named L.A. D-Fenders head coach on May 14, will now be a member of Mike D'Antoni's staff as a big-man player-development coach. Maybe a move to help Howard with his post game?
In what may be the Lakers' most important offseason outside of re-signing then free agent Kobe Bryant in 2004, the franchise stayed dead silent. Irrelevant at best.
Even the Boston Celtics, which still had workable pieces and Rajon Rondo recovering from a torn ACL, made a move by realizing they needed to plan for the future, trading away Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Brooklyn Nets for a host of players and three future first-round picks.
While I'm not advocating blowing up the entire Lakers roster, what I am saying is that barring a monumental trade before the July 1 free agency period, the Lakers have been handling the whole offseason poorly.
Here is a top-5 list of moves/non-moves that has made this offseason a forgettable one for the Lakers thus far:
1) Not firing D'Antoni
The Lakers made it abundantly clear that they want to sign Howard to a max contract (five-year, $118 million which is $30 million more than any other team can offer Howard). Problem is that it's been well documented that Howard doesn't fit in D'Antoni's system.
As many times as Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak wants to say he's "optimistic" that Howard will re-sign, the reality is that it starts with making changes at the head coaching position. Interesting, considering how quickly the Lakers fired Mike Brown (five games), yet when it comes to locking up the team's future franchise player the Lakers appear to have lost their trigger finger.
2) Watching the Clippers get better
The "other" team that plays in the Staples Center is willing to keep its players satisfied. Clippers guard Chris Paul wanted Doc Rivers as head coach, and the Clippers made it happen.
Also, to Howard, the Clippers are everything the Lakers are not.
The Clippers - fun, exciting, and young. They also have Paul.
The Lakers - slow, injured, and old.
Living in LA, it's hard to miss the five or so #STAYD12 billboards that have been put up this week by the Lakers organization (exhibit 1, exhibit 2, exhibit 3). Kupchak told reporters that the billboards went up to show Howard that "we care about him & would like him to stay," according to the Lakers official Twitter page. As much as the #STAYD12 is circulating social media, so is #LEAVED12.
Here are some examples of #LEAVED12 tweets:
The Lakers could have avoided this Dwightmare all together (as I mentioned in my previous column back in January), but now the Lakers might see Howard walk away only to get nothing in return. Los Angeles may soon know what it feels like to be Toronto (when Chris Bosh left) and Cleveland (when James left). In the Lakers' defense, however, they could have been stuck with Andrew Bynum, who didn't play a single minute for the Sixers last season and who also has a huge question mark on his health going forward.
4) Bryant's Future
Bryant said he sees himself playing three to four more years. That doesn't help Howard, who wants to be the alpha dog. And at what point do the Lakers keep paying Bryant at a premium?
5) Lack of moves this offseason to get younger
It's still the same old guys.
Nash turns 40 years old next season. Bryant, who turns 35 next season, is recovering from a torn Achilles tendon. Metta World Peace will be 34. Pau Gasol turns 33.
Granted, being over the salary cap limits the Lakers' moves, but they do have two: Gasol, who has some market value but the door is closing, and a one-time amnesty clause they could use on World Peace, saving them close to $30 million in luxury taxes. Sure, moving Gasol may not be the move if Howard skips town, but how much the Lakers are toying around with freeing up cap space if the worst case scenario occurs remains to be seen. The Lakers may just be waiting for the summer of 2014 also known as the summer of James.
But, regardless if they get Howard to re-sign, the Lakers need affordable, younger shooters. And no, Jodie Meeks, who signed a two-year contract this week, isn't enough.
Here is a list of unrestricted free agent shooters who can play the 2 or 3 position:
Philadelphia 76ers' Nick Young
- PRO: 37.4% career three point shooter; ties to Los Angeles having played at USC
- CON: Maturity issues
Denver Nuggets' Corey Brewer
- PRO: Versatile; instant offense
- CON: Won't come cheap; inconsistent 3-point shooter (29.6% career)
- PRO: When given minutes has shown to be an all-around player; 36.1% career 3-point shooter
- CON: Missed on average a third of the season for the past three seasons
- PRO: Lights out shooter from deep (41.9% career)
- CON: 32 years old; only a shooter
- PRO: 36.7% career shooter from distance
- CON: Doesn't provide much outside of offense
- PRO: Likely will be a bargain; 38.4% career 3-point shooter
- CON: Started 62 games with the Wizards last season and provided little outside of shooting; next on this list for least athletic (Korver heads that list)
- PRO: 37.2% career 3-point and shot a career-high 42.8% last season
- CON: Turns 33 later this year; injury prone
- PRO: LA ties being a Trojan; shot a career-high 40.7% from long range
- CON: Won't be cheap after last season's performance; plays the same position as Bryant
Bryan Chu is a multi-award winning journalist who has covered the Los Angeles Lakers for NBA.com and worked as a sports and criminal justice reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, San Antonio Express-News and the Albany Times Union. During his career, the Los Angeles native has covered everything from Jeremy Lin (pre and post Linsanity) to Lance Armstrong. You can follow him on Twitter: BryanChuNBA.
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