Despite the product that’ll step on the hardwood opening night, the Los Angeles Lakers have had their best summer in years. It might not have been the type of off season that will lend itself to a parade in June, and it seems we’ve come close to the culmination of moves Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss will make. However with a new coach and a few key roster additions, there’s definitely reason for optimism.
The Lakers waited patiently to take their swing at Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James in free agency and they missed. They watched Pau Gasol turn his back on seven years with the Lakers and bolt for new opportunity with the Chicago Bulls. Not devastating losses in the least.
There’s every reason to believe the Lakers were losers this offseason — for the untrained eye. There’s more reason to rest assured that the Lakers have began to take the necessary steps in getting back to purple and gold brand of basketball.
There are two common denominators for all of the Lakers big moves this summer (Kobe Bryant‘s contract, drafting Julius Randle, trading for Jeremy Lin, hiring Byron Scott). There’s a high amount of respect for the Lakers organization which will translate to pride in wearing a Lakers jersey and each man has something to prove.
Not to beat a dead horse, but Kobe Bryant’s two-year deal was ridiculous. The idea of paying superstars for what they’ve done for a franchise versus what they’re willing to do in the future is even more crazy.
A salary of that size can be a thorn in the side of a rebuilding franchise, as is Kobe’s space-eating $48.5 million extension. However the Lakers have always been an organization that thrives on a family element. They’ve received bad publicity recently after Dr. Jerry Buss’ death as there’s seemed to be a struggle for front office control between Jim and Jeanie Buss. Not very “family-like”. Paying respect to one of the greatest guards in franchise history is a start towards getting back to that family principle.
Although it could be considered a detriment to greater plans, creating culture is important for NBA teams. Teams with clear identities rise to the top of the league in speedy fashion, and the Lakers have made their first strides towards regaining the qualities that made them special and (more) successful.
Drafting rookie Julius Randle will add to that success as well. Randle grew up emulating Kobe Bryant, and when his name was called on draft night he was elated to know he’d be reporting to Los Angeles.
He grew up a fan of Bryant. He’s familiar with the hard-nosed focus Bryant works out, practices and plays with. He’s prepared to commit to matching that work ethic while making GMs regret not taking him higher in the draft.
Jeremy Lin is another acquisition that’s a great fit for the Lakers. Although the $15 million he’ll be paid this season isn’t commensurate with his recent level of play, Lin was originally born in Torrance, Calif., but grew up in Palo Alto, Calif. Naturally he was a Golden State Warriors fan; however, when you grow up in any part of California, Lakers reign supreme. Their notoriety stands above other franchises residing in the same state and out-of-town. They’re the standard and always have been.
Lin’s proved his worth throughout his basketball career. He longed to attend Stanford University and defaulted to Harvard when that was the only university to recruit him.
To Lin’s surprise he went undrafted, and after a stellar summer league showcase the Lakers were in negotiations to sign Lin as a rookie. Lin eventually accepted a similar contract offer with the Warriors to be closer to home.
He traveled back and forth to the D-league (three times) with the Warriors. Eventually he’d be waived by the Warriors for good and the Lakers would fail to claim him off the waiver wire as the Houston Rockets beat them to it. His time in Houston was short-lived as he’d be waived and finally end up with the New York Knicks.
When New York didn’t want to give him big money after “Linsanity,” he left to get paid with the Houston Rockets. He’d eventually lose his starting job to Patrick Beverley, although their minutes played were very similar (29 for Lin and 31 for Beverley). Beverley and Lin really shared the starting duties.
Lin’s now back where he started. In his home state of California needing to prove he belongs more than ever.
He’s a humble kid who will benefit from the tutelage of Bryant and Steve Nash. He’s a serviceable short-term solution, and a viable long-term Lakers role player. Lin doesn’t mind deferring to Kobe (since it seems Kobe isn’t ready to defer to anyone else) and he won’t win you over with much flash, but he’ll become a fan favorite for doing most things good.
Last, newly appointed Lakers head coach Byron Scott was raised in Inglewood and attended Morningside High School. After three championships with the Showtime Lakers crew, Scott spent 11 years in a Lakers uniform. He knows what it means to play Lakers basketball and he’s committed to coaching by the principles he gained during his time as a Lakers guard. That’s what makes Scott’s hire so pristine. He’s thoroughly L.A.
Scott as head coach was long overdue, and hiring a coach capable of creating solid culture was more overdue for the Lakers franchise.
Many forget that Scott has coached the All-Star Game twice and was NBA Coach of the Year in 2008. He owns a resume that doesn’t belong to scrubs or the inexperienced. Scott will contribute his experience but most importantly, he will operate by a Lakers standard.
The Lakers have been fortunate to avoid a full rebuild for almost two decades. They’ve always been a free-agent draw. The reputation that served as a beacon for talented coaches and free agents has been silenced. Acquiring talent that’s proud to be in a Lakers uniform is key towards creating a new era of winning. It will take time, but they’re slowly getting on the right track.
Tags: Los Angeles Lakers