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The Lakers, the off-season

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Ok… frank appraisal.

First of all, I think that LA will be better off for having had a season under their collective belt under a new coach/new system.  The extra time spent in a complete off-season will have a huge impact on the roster knowing what they’re supposed to do.  No other team had as big a change in their offensive system as LA did last season, and it’s not like last year’s off-season went smoothly and without hitches.  Herr Stern through a major spanner in the works, and I honestly don’t think the Lakers recovered from that.
But anyway: the roster…
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The Lakers start/end with Kobe, so let’s start there.
Kobe’s been amazing this past season, and it’s hard to believe that the guy has played 16 seasons in the NBA and is 33 years of age. He had five dunks in game 5 of the OKC series.  Hell, it can usually go several games without him having one, so the wheels are still there. Of that I am not worried.  And with the reports coming in that he’s Deutsch-bound to get a repeat of the “German Procedure” – well, I’m confident.

However… I do think he needs to change his MO with regards to the way he treats his teammates. The calling-out-of-Pau didn’t work the way he intended it, and I honestly question whether it’s going to work when it’s done with the frequency Kobe does it. Calling guys out, if it needs to be done, do it behind closed doors… but in general save that for extreme occasions. I’d love Kobe to become more moderate, and surely a “wily veteran” should be able to recognise what’s going to work, and what hasn’t… but let’s face it: it probably simply boils down to that being who he is.
On the court I really hope he learns to facilitate a bit more… to pick his spots. If he could play like he did in game 5 – well, I don’t care. I don’t think he can tho’, not all the time – it’ll be a case of him choosing ‘special games’.
LA have to use Andrew Bynum more, and have to put some better scorers around.
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Speaking of Bynum: well… he’s way up on the food chain now.  Way up.
And with that comes a bit more responsibility. Time to put out a season that silences the critics… and keep quiet off the court until you’ve done something that warrants actually talking.  Even then: sheesh… I’d love him to let his game talk rather than throwing out media fodder.
Good news is that he can do just that. There have been times this season where he’s been better than good: he has been great.  However, there are times when he looks lackadaisical, and disinterested on court… and gets at best a tie against clearly inferior teams/players.
Still – guy’s 24 and that’s VERY young for a center.

The main issue is that LA need to get more athletic, and do so now – whilst there’s still some left on Kobe’s odometer.  Avoid getting ‘older’ guys – that did not work at all with McRoberts/Murphy/Blake/Barnes/et al.  You want to gamble, head to a Poker Blog.  But it’s time to stop taking chances on squeezing minutes from guys who for all intents and purposes have all but finished their basketball careers.
(might be a bit unfair to put Barnes in there – he was doing VERY well up until his injury… but his play in the playoffs was completely abysmal)

Gasol…
The Lakers have one of the most overloaded rosters $-wise, so there’s very little opportunity to add things via free agency, so the only way this roster changes is via trades.
Guess what Pau? You’re gonna be it! 
In his exit interview with Mitch Kupchak, Pau pretty much said he did not want to be the third wheel on the team – he wants to go, LA pretty much have to trade him.  I have no doubt that this happens in the off-season.

Listening to NBA Today a few weeks ago, Ryen Russillo texted an unnamed NBA Exec. regarding Gasol’s market, and got a reply:

  • Houston: would give them their best players (Russillo speculated that this would mean Martin/Lowry)…
  • Atlanta would do Josh Smith… 
  • Chicago would do Boozer (Russillo immediately dismisses this)… 
  • Indiana might do Hibbert/West
  • Memphis maybe Zach & something…
  • Milwaukee: Jennings, Gooden & a pick…
  • If Miami wins the whole thing, would they do it with Wade?
  • Would Minnesota do it with Love (Russillo dismisses this too)…
  • Brooklyn: Wallace/Lopez
  • KnicksStoudemire/Lin (Russillo dismisses this too)

Russillo then talked to Chris Mullin about Gasol’s market value. Mullin’s reply was immediate:
“Oh he’s highly coveted.”
“Still?”
“Oh absolutely. One of the most versatile big men, most skilled big men in the league. You can play him all over the floor, not just the low post or high post. He’s a gifted passer. So I think his market will be very high.”

Russillo questions him then on Minnesota/Love. Mullins says that it’s “interesting”…

For me, on those ideas:
- Martin/Lowry… do it.  If LA could (as reported by some) get Scola as well?  Giddy.
- Josh Smith… sheesh… dunno. Maybe.
- Boozer. Ugh. Hell no.
- Hibbert/West… I very much doubt that’s available.
- Zach/+? Interesting. Possibly yes… depends what the “+” is.
- Jennings/Gooden/pick. Depends on where the pick is!
- Wade: I doubt Wade would ever be available… and far too much overlap between Kobe/Wade.
- Love: I also can’t ever picture Minnesota willingly trading Love.  But hell, if they would…
- Wallace/Lopez, whilst Wallace would be a good fit, and you could probably move Lopez… both are too injury-riddled.
- Hell no. Stoudemire???

The rest of the roster… I like what Ron Artest (can we call him Metta World Peace ever again?) did end of the season/playoffs. There’s very little value in moving him, and no value in amnesty-ing him.
Jordan Hill – I actually like what he’s got. Guy’s still new to the NBA (kinda), and could be very handy moving forward.
Ramon Sessions – bit of a reality check: he’s not elite. No newsflash, huh? Still, he’s markedly better than what LA was running at the point. If they can upgrade, great. If not, well… it is what it is.
Andrew Goudelock/Darius Morris/Christian Eyenga/Devin Ebanks – still really young. Who knows? They’re never going to be much beyond bench fodder tho’. I think.
Barnes – never the same coming back from injury. Hard to say what he will be moving forward.

Blake/McBob/Murphy – complete and utter junk. Hell… tempted to put Barnes in there too. Goudelock/Morris/Eyenga/Ebanks could well be in there as well, but time will tell I guess. If they’re at the very end of the bench, fine.

LA will move Gasol, of that I am certain. 
And Kupchak has shown a willingness to move pieces, and an ability to pull rabbits-outta-hats.  
LA are going to need some good rabbits in the off-season if there’s to be any chance of any semblance of competing in the 2012/13 season.

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