The Lakers will be at that the center of the NBA universe when the season opens in October. LeBron James will attempt to redeem himself after a tough first season in Hollywood. Anthony Davis got his wish and will face a lot of pressure after the big trade request debacle last season. The team has already suffered a big loss with the DeMarcus Cousins injury and will have to deal with a rotation that includes Dwight Howard, Rajon Rondo and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
(Listen to the latest Open Floor podcast here. The following transcript has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Andrew Sharp: I can’t just make sense of that Lakers team whatsoever. The more I think about it, the more I go back and forth. I think LeBron is going to have a nice bounce back year. I think he has one more really good season in him. Obviously, Anthony Davis is one of the six or seven or eight best players in the league and that’s a big deal. It is hard to ever pick against them, but the rest of that team is such a mess. I can’t wrap my head around a team that is going to be rolling with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Danny Green. Danny Green sounds solid in theory, but he was also asked to not do very much for the Raptors last year and that continued through the playoffs—he was a good placeholder for them but rarely broke into double digits. Then you have Rajon Rondo, Alex Caruso, I just can’t believe their rotation outside of LeBron and AD.
Ben Golliver: You know what else has me a little bit concerned? The sniping from Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart about the Lakers organization about their feelings leaving Los Angeles. You know it’s not this omerta that you might have expected. These guys are taking full-fledged swipes at the entire organization. We still have questions at coaching. We still have a big question in the front office, the Dwight Howard signing only underlines that fact to me. You have a question with ownership and that’s pretty much all of the type of questions you can have. Those are the big shaky things we have seen that fell apart for the Lakers in the past.
I am not sure there is going to be that consistency factor from them, that stability you need to get one of their guys into the MVP conversation. If LeBron does have that bounce back season that you were describing and says forget about load management and wants to go out there and make a statement and tell everybody that you forgot about Dre basically. If he has that kind of season, then I can see the career achievement angle coming and seeing people go let’s give the MVP to LeBron. I am not sold yet on the odds for Anthony Davis.
Sharp: In the LeBron angle, AD could miss 10-15 games and LeBron could keep them afloat and that can be part of his candidacy as well. The Dwight Howard signing is what ultimately tipped the scales for me. When we were talking in the middle of the summer, I was ready to buy in on the Lakers being underrated and all the jokes being misplaced, I understand they needed another big man, but I don’t know why you choose Dwight over Joakim Noah.
A lot of people talk about the maturity with him, but Dwight is so tough to handle at times, so people have overlooked that his body has not been the same since that back injury. For that reason, more than the maturity can do to locker-room chemistry, I just wouldn’t want to bet on that dude at this point. Four or five other teams have already made that mistake and I can’t believe that is the direction the Lakers went.
Golliver: It was just so bad. I ripped it apart in a column and a newsletter. I just think that how they got to this point, I just don’t get it. I understand the desperation factor and feeling that you are out of the mix with the horrible timing of the DeMarcus Cousins’ injury and everything else but the one thing you don’t want when you are running spread pick-and-roll with LeBron and Anthony Davis is a guy who has the range of five feet who is camping in the paint at all times.
You can’t spread him out. You can’t stretch him out to the corner and you can’t put him anywhere else. He wants the ball and he has always tried to say the right things and made it about a week and a half and then reverted to give me the ball on the block, which has just become less and less effective as he gone on. If you look back at his track record of winning, I think he has won like one playoff series practically in the last eight or nine years, that does not bode well.
If you are only putting him in a small backup role, is taking on all the baggage and the questions worth it? I am with you; I would have rather had Noah or would have tried to trade any future draft picks that could have come up with to get your typical minimum salary type younger player. I worry about him being able to hold up and stay healthy. I worry about his defensive impact, it really hasn’t been there in a big time. I worry about his personality and the distraction factor. I just feel so sorry for Frank Vogel.