The NBA’s greatest franchise is experiencing a situation it is unfamiliar with.
Their animalistically primal leader has seen his best days fade into the rear vision mirror and now heads into every game trying to prove that he can still perform to his own standards.
The rest of the roster is as talentless as any title contender the franchise has ever seen.
It is certainly pleasing to the Laker haters, but is it a good thing for the league to have a Los Angeles Lakers team as something of a championship outcast?
That is not for me to say, but I do see a way for the unrivalled ambition of the Lakers to continue to be fulfilled even with the inevitable end of the Kobe Bryant era.
The Lakers will not have anything close to a lottery choice until Kobe Bryant retires, so obviously the draft is not the way to do so. Free agency again is of no real use to LAL as they have been the biggest luxury cap spender of this millennium.
It is clear the Lakers need to make a trade.
The Lakers were seconds away from acquiring the game’s finest point guard, Chris Paul, just before the season began in December, only to have their hearts broken by David Stern.
Stern didn’t believe the Hornets received appropriate compensation for the loss of their superstar, and received overwhelming disapproval by the majority of the league’s owners who had fought to ensure star players didn’t dictate their moves away from small market franchises, therefore vetoing the proposed deal.
That left the Lakers reeling, livid and in a hugely awkward situation having to welcome Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol back into the training the following day. Odom couldn’t handle the ‘deceit’ and demanded a trade, ending up in Dallas in return for a trade exception.
Paul would have filled a huge need for the Lakers. They needed a true ball handler, someone that could run the offense, help Bryant and Bynum get their shots, whilst also taking a load off the two in terms of scoring the basketball. Paul is one of very few players in the league that makes everyone around him better, which would have helped the Lakers under-talented roster make a greater impact.
There now remain a couple of possibilities for the Lakers if they decide trading is their best way of moving forward and sustaining excellence.
The most obvious and discussed move is for Orlando’s Dwight Howard.
Howard has made it very clear he wants out of the Magic and has the Lakers as one of his preferred destinations. The Lakers can offer something of an attractive package for the reigning defensive play of the year, which would most likely include Gasol and Bynum.
If I am the Lakers I am throwing everything but Kobe Bryant at this potential deal. Dwight Howard would immediately propel the Lakers back into the conversation of the very elite title contenders, it would reinvigorate the franchise, the fan base and the roster and give them the star appeal they so crave. He would vastly improve their inconsistent defense and give Bryant a teammate with talent he has not seen since Shaquille O’Neal controversially departed in 2004.
However, that name may be the greatest stumbling block for the Lakers. O’Neal and Howard built up something of a rivalry towards the end of the former’s career, as he took displeasure at the latter’s self proclamation of a nickname O’Neal held during his prime. The two constantly went at it in the media and had some scrappy moments on the court. Howard has publicly criticised Shaq for jumping ships and bailing to Hollywood, something that looks to be a real possibility for him now.
Dwight is aware of the hypocrisy of this and does not want to follow directly in O’Neal’s footsteps, rather to create his own path.
If that deal is not destined to be, there are a few other potential moves.
The New Jersey Nets made the hugely ambitious and risky move of giving away several of their young building blocks and trade picks for Deron Williams in an effort to restore themselves to their glory days under the playmaking of Jason Kidd.
Williams has looked lost in New Jersey and has refused to commit to the team even with their impending move to Brooklyn. He is able to leave the franchise at the end of the season, as is Howard.
The Nets have been the most aggressive in trying to trade for Dwight Howard and they are believed to be his first choice destination. That may be the only way the Nets can keep Deron Williams.
The Lakers should not stand idly by as they allow the Nets to dictate their future, they should move now for Deron Williams.
Williams offers much of the things Chris Paul does. Some even believe Williams is the better player. Should the Lakers be able to acquire Williams without losing either Bynum or Gasol, they would find themselves back atop the West. If the Nets cannot entice Howard to their team before the deadline, they may look to cash in on Williams and accept a cut price.
The Lakers cannot continue on the path they are currently on. The growing power within their own building, in the form of the Clippers, is only worsening the situation. They are no longer the hottest ticket in town and you know this does not sit well with any of the Buss’.
Bryant is clearly frustrated and is slowing resorting back to the post O’Neal and pre Gasol days when he was taking 30 shots in order to keep the Lakers in the game. He will not accept mediocrity.
The Lakers have never frayed away from making a controversial nor risky move in order to stay relevant and ensure sustained success. Their relevance will continue to wane and their success be seldom should they settle for what they currently have.
Whilst their rivals teams and fans (myself included) are enjoying the long overdue decline of the Lakers, there is no doubting the league is at it’s most competitive and exciting when the Lakers are in the middle of the championship battle.
It is not too late to see the dream Finals showdown of LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. I daresay LeBron will be there waiting. It is now time for the Lakers to repay their fearless leader and help him reach the grandest stage in basketball.
He cannot do it with this current team. Perhaps he cannot do it at all. But you are a brave man if you wish to count out Kobe Bryant. It can’t hurt Los Angeles to go all in for arguably their greatest ever as they attempt to take one last run at glory and immortality.
Tags: Chris Paul David Stern Derek Fisher Deron Williams Dwight Howard Jason Kidd Kobe Bryant La Clippers LA Lakers Lebron James Los Angeles Clippers Los Angeles Lakers Metta World Peace Miami Heat New Jersey Nets Orlando Magic Ron Artest Shaquille O'neal