NBA 2018-2019 Season

Rambo

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LOTS going on today. Draft is tonight. Tons of rumors flying around. Dwight out in LA. KG and Pierce possibly to Brooklyn. Cleveland shopping the #1 pick.
 

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Yeah, but they're going to have NO bench.

I was surprised with the NO/Philly trade. At least that Philly gave up on Holiday so quickly.
 

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PG CJ Watson is SOLID (backed up Rose, great defender)
SG Jason Terry and Marshon Brooks are SOLID
Now they just need three other benchers
Jason Terry is DOA. Marshon Brooks has gone down hill faster than a bobsled team.
 

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Free agency kicks off today and the Dwight Shithead sweepstakes is in full swing. Rumors are that Houston is willing to part with Asik and Lin in an effort to sign a 3rd superstar. God only knows who.

Bargnanni to the Knicks. I don't understand this one bit. He and Stoudamire going to play 20 minutes each at a cost of $15 mil each?
 

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Big 3 way trade between Phoenix, Milwaukee, and the Clippers. I really don't understand it for any of the teams. Phoenix gets Bledsoe and Butler from LA, LA gets Reddick from Milwaukee and Dudley from Phoenix, and Milwaukee gets 2 2nd round draft picks.
 

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Howard to the Rockets
Iguodala to the Warriors
Millsap to Atlanta
Smith to the Knicks

The dominoes have all fallen. Now to see what happens to the Lakers and Rockets.
 

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Lot of signings today - Josh Smith to the Pistons (only for the money), Carl Landry to Sacramento (?), Jarret Jack & Earl Clark to the Cavs (Love these).
 

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Jesus, Howard is the WORST:
http://espn.go.com/los-angeles/nba/...ht-howard-where-do-los-angeles-lakers-go-here
Money shot:
That tension came back to the surface when Bryant and Nash met with Howard last Tuesday. Howard came at them hard, telling them how upset he was that they never publicly went to bat to for him while he was injured.
He felt like they'd disrespected the effort he'd given by coming back from back surgery so quickly. He felt like they had done little to mitigate the criticism he was hearing for his play.
Bryant and Nash were stunned. He'd never told them any of this before, or asked them to defend him publicly. They'd known he was injured and appreciated he came back to play many months before the initial time frame given following his back surgery, but the code among players is that if you don't say anything to your teammates about an injury, it's something you can handle on your own. If you need help, you tell your teammates and they close ranks around you, defending your honor to the public and on the court.
Howard never asked that of his teammates. He'd tried to play his way back into shape after back surgery, and soldiered on after he tore the labrum in his shoulder, even with a long-term contract on the line. But instead of getting credit for such acts, he'd heard constant criticism. And over the course of a long, trying season, that wore on him.
Why weren't people rushing to his defense? Why wasn't he getting credit for playing with so much pain? Was he supposed to ask for help? But if he did, wouldn't that be making excuses?
After Dwight, what's next for Lakers?
By Ramona Shelburne

Nine years ago, the Lakers had no choice but to wait. No hints were forthcoming, no tweets to tip them off. The news came more slowly, not minute-by-minute. But the same sense of dread filled the air.
Every indication then pointed toward 25-year-old Kobe Bryant bolting for the younger, fresher Los Angeles Clippers. But there was time then. Enough time for the Lakers to turn him around. And ultimately that's what the Lakers owner at the time, Dr. Jerry Buss, did in a last-minute, face-to-face meeting with his young star.
This time around, with Dr. Buss gone and his son and GM Mitch Kupchak in his place, the Lakers weren't as persuasive. And instead of one last face-to-face meeting, they merely got the word from Dwight Howard when he reached his decision and Twitter quickened the pace of the news. Or maybe they never had a chance to retain Howard anyway.
Whatever the case, he's gone. The once-a-decade superstar the Lakers found a way to trade for, and had ticketed for face-of-the-franchise status, will be wearing red in Houston now.
What does this mean for the Lakers? Does it set them back? Is the mystique gone? Or does Howard's failure to launch in Los Angeles actually strengthen the brand as fans and Laker greats come together to howl that not everyone is worthy of the purple and gold?
The following look at the state of the Lakers and how we got here is based on conversations with many of the principals involved, both during the season and during the past week.

For many reasons, only some of which involve Howard or his decision, this is a monumental moment in Lakers history. Dr. Buss passed away this spring. His children are running the organization and still finding their own voices. Bryant is in his golden years, hoping for another championship run or two. Phil Jackson is in Montana, but always just a phone call -- or tweet -- away. Mike D'Antoni remains the coach, but with plenty of baggage.
There is some clarity now that Howard has finally made a decision. But there is still so much to be settled.
Many of the stories in the immediate aftermath of Howard's decision Friday focused on what it meant for him and said about his character. If Orlando was too small for him, Los Angeles seemed too big. His season with the Lakers served as a mirror, reflecting his flaws in the most unsightly, uncomfortable way.
But his exit means the Lakers must look in the mirror now. The reasons why Howard left are the issues the Lakers must confront now and in the future.
Howard looked at the Lakers and saw an aging roster, transitioning management, and a tenacious force of personality in Bryant that he would rather run from than try to change.
It wasn't all that different from 2004, when Bryant saw a golden franchise in a low moment and embraced the challenge. This time around though, Howard had seen enough in one season to know he wasn't the man for this job.
Are they simply two different men? Or have the Lakers changed? Is the value of the brand diminished in the eyes of Howard's AAU generation? Or will the franchise rally to land one of the coveted free agents who come on the market in 2014?
Midway through the season, on a snowy night in Denver, I'd asked Bryant a similar set of questions. About why he thought the Lakers had felt comfortable entrusting him with their franchise back in 2004, and whether the same would happen to Howard this offseason. He paused a second to chew on it, carefully considering his words and the implications of his answer.
"I think if you ask management, it was a very easy call," he said. "They'd been around me long enough to know my competitiveness, know my work ethic, and they knew that my drive was going to be enough that they felt safe putting the franchise in my hands."
As for Howard?
"That's a call they have to make," Bryant said. "This franchise has obviously seen some of the greats of all time, so they know what that looks like."

It's time for everyone to move on now, and that process started quickly Friday evening when Howard confirmed what the Lakers had suspected for some time already: This had been a bad marriage from the start, and he was ending it.
The relationship had become so toxic, there were those in Lakerland almost as afraid of what happened if he decided to stay as the fallout if he left.

Keeping Howard had been a priority, simply because of his talent and value. But from the start, there was a real sense that he was miscast as a Laker standard-bearer. And as disappointing as that reality was for both sides, at least Howard had the sense to recognize it and the guts to move on. The Lakers, like the Yankees, aren't for everyone.

In the process of courting Howard and ultimately failing to land him, the Lakers gave us a fascinating glimpse of what the franchise is now, and how it is operating.
General manager Mitch Kupchak led the campaign to keep Howard and remains the most public voice of the front office. Executive vice president of player personnel Jim Buss holds considerable power, but prefers -- at least for now -- to stay in the background. Executive vice president of business operations Jeanie Buss and her fiancée, former Lakers coach Phil Jackson, also hold considerable power, but are trying to stay in their lanes and keep their relationships with current players low-key. Bryant is Bryant: determined, ruthlessly competitive, the face of the franchise and often its most vocal member.
That's a tremendous amount of political clout inside one organization, but that's how it's always been for the Lakers. The challenge now, in this transition period, is to figure out a new equilibrium -- or if things are destined to remain eternally combustible here, at least a winning one.
That challenge starts at the top, where the six Buss children who inherited the franchise are still finding their footing after the death of their father.
Since Dr. Buss' death in February, the children have met regularly. Jeanie Buss has taken a lead role in business matters, after having been her father's top lieutenant on such things. It's her siblings who are accustomed to relying on their father for the final word, who have had to familiarize themselves with how things have been run. Their decisions now affect not only the family but everyone else in the Lakers organization.
After those first few months, things have "smoothed out" considerably, as one person close to the family put it. The relationship between Jeanie Buss and Jim Buss has improved somewhat. The two siblings and Kupchak meet almost weekly to keep abreast of each other's business. Jim and Jeanie Buss also socialize away from the Lakers offices from time to time. And both are determined to maintain the legacy their father left to them, no matter the challenges ahead.
Yes, the relationship will forever be strained by the way Jim Buss and Kupchak courted Jackson last November, leaving the legendary coach with the impression that the Lakers' job was his to turn down before abruptly hiring D'Antoni.
Jackson was interested in the job and had intended to accept it. But he also thought he was responding to a call for help from the family of his then-longtime girlfriend, as her father lay dying at a nearby hospital, and a record amount of money had been allocated for one last title chase while the old man was alive.
Later on, the elder Buss explained to his daughter that the final decision on the hire had been his, and it was not personal towards Jackson. He simply saw the NBA heading in a direction that seemed to fit D'Antoni's uptempo style.
It turned out to be a fateful decision as Howard, who had grown close to Jeanie Buss in his first few months in Los Angeles, asked -- via his agents -- if Jackson could coach the team on more than one occasion. He was told then and several other times that Jackson wasn't interested in coaching.
While Jackson would later say publically that he has no intention of coaching again, he would've coached the Lakers this season had it come to pass. But his hesitation at accepting (between a Saturday afternoon and Monday morning) caused Kupchak, Jim Buss and Jerry Buss to believe he wasn't gung ho about the job. In fact, Jackson mostly just needed to think about whether he was ready to come out of retirement for the coaching life again, and to ask his doctors if he could postpone a couple medical procedures.
Whatever the case or cause of all the confusion, the situation became a divisive issue for Howard, who felt like his "voice wasn't being heard" or "respected," according to a source close to him.
Jeanie, Jim and Jackson worked to repair ownership's relationship with Howard throughout the year. Jackson texted him a few times to offer encouragement. Jeanie Buss would offer kind words when she'd see Howard in the hallways of the team's training facility or at games. They both tweeted at him publically in the final week before he made his decision. Jim Buss reached out a few times over the phone, reminding Howard of how much his late father believed in him.
But Howard is the needy sort. Occasional gestures only go so far with him. To feel secure, he needs constant reinforcement. Which is why the Lakers greenlighted the controversial "STAY D12" billboards around Los Angeles.
Kupchak came the closest, calling, texting and reaching out to Howard several times a week to encourage him. He also was among the first to call attention to how Howard's recovery from back surgery was affecting his play on the court, albeit not loudly or early enough in the year for Howard or his camp's liking.
[+] Enlarge

Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty ImagesKobe and Dwight didn't always mesh well together on and off the court.
He even made a grand -- and well-publicized -- gesture on the opening night of the free agency period when he dropped by for a quick face-to-face meeting with Howard.
Ultimately though, Howard just needed more.
More attention, more support, more power.
Firing D'Antoni and replacing him with Jackson or his protégé Brian Shaw might have done that. But that would've been a major step, and Howard had done little in his year in Los Angeles to warrant such treatment, in the eyes of the front office.
That's especially true after the team had shown encouraging signs by going 28-12 in the second half of the season, when Howard acquiesced to running D'Antoni's offense with more gusto, and D'Antoni bent some of his philosophies to better fit the roster.
Hard as it was to swallow, management determined that if Howard left it would be for more reasons than just the decision to hire D'Antoni.
Ultimately, the Lakers decided that the franchise was bigger than one player. Or at least this particular player.
During his brief meeting with Howard last Tuesday, D'Antoni said very little. When Howard told him he just didn't think he'd ever be comfortable playing in his system, the coach showed him how his statistics last season had been some of the best in his career, he actually touched the ball in the post far more than he realized, and reminded him that he'd led the league in rebounding.
Howard listened and tried to absorb the information. But it didn't jibe with his experiences. And besides, he'd already grown enamored with the idea of being coached by Houston's Kevin McHale, one of the best post players of all time.
McHale and the Rockets had explained how they'd tailor their offense to highlight Howard, and D'Antoni was trying to convince him he hadn't given this other way a real chance.
He hadn't, of course. The Lakers had studied his production in pick-and-roll sets in Orlando carefully -- before hiring D'Antoni -- and concluded that he had been an excellent player out of those sets with the Magic. But almost from the start, he seemed uninterested in and uninspired by the offense.
It was a constant source of tension within the team during the season. His Lakers teammates complained both publicly and privately, frustrated to no end. Eventually after the All-Star break, Howard made a better effort to get on board, but he never truly embraced it.
That tension came back to the surface when Bryant and Nash met with Howard last Tuesday. Howard came at them hard, telling them how upset he was that they never publicly went to bat to for him while he was injured.
He felt like they'd disrespected the effort he'd given by coming back from back surgery so quickly. He felt like they had done little to mitigate the criticism he was hearing for his play.
2013 FREE AGENTS



Check out all the players who are on the market this summer. Free agents »
Bryant and Nash were stunned. He'd never told them any of this before, or asked them to defend him publicly. They'd known he was injured and appreciated he came back to play many months before the initial time frame given following his back surgery, but the code among players is that if you don't say anything to your teammates about an injury, it's something you can handle on your own. If you need help, you tell your teammates and they close ranks around you, defending your honor to the public and on the court.
Howard never asked that of his teammates. He'd tried to play his way back into shape after back surgery, and soldiered on after he tore the labrum in his shoulder, even with a long-term contract on the line. But instead of getting credit for such acts, he'd heard constant criticism. And over the course of a long, trying season, that wore on him.
Why weren't people rushing to his defense? Why wasn't he getting credit for playing with so much pain? Was he supposed to ask for help? But if he did, wouldn't that be making excuses?
Looking back on it now, it's easy to see why it became such a toxic situation. But it's also easy to see, once again, how it could've been avoided, with better communication.
Bryant and Nash digested what he had to say, and told him they understood him better now. If they tried it all again next season, things would be different. He should come to them with these kind of issues, instead of letting them fester. They all would learn and grow from this.
But mostly Bryant told him that no matter where he went or what team he chose to play for, there would be issues to deal with. All he could do was "plant his roots and grow" someplace. All this change -- all this drama that had sunk his personal brand and his mood these past three years -- would be over once he made this decision and committed to a team and a city.
It was a very Zen-like message, one that Jackson would've been proud of if he'd heard it. But it's different when it's a contemporary delivering that kind of advice, and when it's a coach.
Howard listened. It was good advice. And in the end he actually followed it by heading to the place he believes he can grow best.
To Houston, that is.
The fact that Howard had such a hard time saying "no" to the Lakers at the end of it all, after everything that had happened, speaks once again to the crux of the issue:
This seemed like a good marriage, and yet it was never even a good match.
Howard wasn't who the Lakers thought he was. And the Lakers weren't what Howard wanted them to be.
Who is Howard exactly, though? And what are the Lakers now?
For once there's an easy answer:
They all are what happens next.
 

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Bill Simmons on how he'd fix the Lakers:
http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/9466869/lakers
How We'd Fix It: The Lakers

Bill Simmons knows he shouldn't help the purple and gold, but he's going to do it anyway
By Bill Simmons on July 10, 2013
I know a Celtics fan should never try to help the Lakers. I know I should bite my tongue. I know I should hope Jimmy Buss keeps ruining his family's team, I know I should be hoping that they'll kowtow to Kobe and make the Lakers juuuuuuuust decent enough to be irrelevant, and that a decade of Blowtime would be my best possible outcome here.
But here's the problem …
I love making fake NBA trades, figuring out blueprints for franchises and determining the fastest, most efficient ways to save them. That's just who I am. I'm a weirdo. I have a folder of iPad bookmarks called "NBA Nerd" that features links for the ESPN.com Trade Machine, HoopsHype's NBA salary page, ShamSports's NBA salary page, Basketball-Reference.com, Hoopdata.com, PER leaders, and the NBA Transactions Archive. I'm like a cross between the Wolf, Olivia Pope and Jerry West. Or I like to think that I am. Again, I'm a weirdo. I genuinely enjoy hypothetically fixing broken NBA franchises. Even ones I can't stand. So after Dwight Howard completed The Indecision and fled Kobe's clutches for the sanctity of barbecue, luxurious strip joints, no state taxes, lower expectations and low-key media pressure Houston, I found myself clicking on the Lakers' salary page just out of curiosity … but then my wheels started turning … and one thing led to another … and suddenly I found myself helping the Lakers. I couldn't resist. Within a few minutes, I was inadvertently hatching a plan that even Rachel Phelps would consider shameless.
In the NBA, you want to be either really good or really bad. You never want to land between those two "reallys" for long. You don't want to be squeezed into the no. 8 seed or keep finishing 12th or 13th in every lottery. Basically, you don't want to be the Milwaukee Bucks. (Cut to every Bucks fan nodding vigorously.) If you can't compete for the title, why not bottom out in the most flagrantly offensive way possible?
Of course, that's something the Lakers have never, ever done. They picked first in the 1979 and 1982 drafts (Magic and Worthy) by fleecing laughingstock franchises of their draft picks — not by being the laughingstock franchise. They miraculously turned Vlade Divac, three cartons of Marlboro Reds and a pound of phlegm into a raw high schooler named Kobe Bryant. They landed Shaq, Kareem, Wilt and Dwight for a variety of reasons, the biggest being that (a) they're the f-ing Lakers, and (b) celebrities love Los Angeles (we'll get to this). Since they moved to Southern California in 1960, they've won 63.3 percent of their games, appeared in 25 Finals, missed the playoffs just four times, and never won fewer than 30 games. They haven't picked higher than 10th with their own pick since 1975, when they selected Dave Meyers second and promptly traded him in a megadeal for Kareem. No professional sports franchise has been this consistently good for this long: not the Yankees, not the Canadiens, not the Steelers, not anybody.
But desperate times call for desperate measures. Their best player is hitting Year 18 and rehabbing from the worst sports injury an older player can have. Their second-best player just ditched them. Their third-best player becomes a free agent in 12 months. Their fourth-best player turns 40 this season. They can't improve one of the league's worst supporting casts because they're patently terrified of being a repeat offender in the luxury tax. Their coach is realistically two years away from taking over the Minnesota Lynx or the Pepperdine Waves. And they need to sell the illusion of hope to their fans, which means they need to save as much cap space as possible for LeBron, which means they can't add ANY contracts that expire after next summer.
Fact: This year's Lakers team will be undeniably worse than last year's Lakers team … a team that didn't make the playoffs until Game 82.
Fact: This is bleak. Really, really bleak.
Right now, these Lakers have three, and only three, inherent advantages. First, they have a terrific owner. Jimmy Buss has proven over the last year that … oh, wait a second, he's been an atrocity! I totally forgot! Last week, an L.A. reader named Jake B. even compared him to Tommy Boy, followed by me being unable to figure out if that was a bigger insult to Jimmy Buss or to Tommy Boy. (The answer: Tommy Boy. At least he eventually turned Callahan Auto Parts around.) If anyone needs my hypothetical help, it's Tommy Boy Buss.
OK, so they have two inherent advantages. First, the Lakers have only one contract on their books for the 2014-15 season: Steve Nash for $9.7 million. They might be $50 million under the cap next summer — perfect timing for an all-you-can-eat buffet of free-agent stars headlined by LeBron, who's only (a) the best player since Michael Jordan, (b) someone who wants to be a "global icon," and (c) someone with an established track record of treating free agency like he's organizing a bank heist with his buddies.
Second, the Lakers have a six-decade history of luring available basketball stars (ranging from all-timers like Wilt, Kareem and Shaq to in-demand-at-the-time free agents like Sam Perkins, Steve Nash and Mitch Kupchak) and keeping their stars nearly 100 percent of the time, with two notable exceptions: a celibate A.C. Green and a decidedly uncelibate Dwight Howard. Famous basketball players gravitate to the Lakers because of their storied history, and because Los Angeles remains the easiest American city for any wealthy celebrity to live in.
See, people rarely bother celebrities in Los Angeles. They can eat dinner or hit a nightclub without half the room staring at them like they're aliens. They can live on the ocean, or they can live in some souped-up mansion in Bel Air or the Hollywood Hills. The weather is consistently fantastic. The women are relentlessly beautiful. Celebrities in L.A. can be around other celebrities all the time, and if there's one thing celebrities love, it's being around other celebrities. If they want to dabble in music or movies or any other ego-fueled creative project, or meet just about any heavy hitter business dude on the planet, they have those options here. If they want to fly to Vegas, it's 50 minutes away. If they want to fly to Cabo, that's just over two hours away. It's the ultimate American city for famous people.
As recently as three years ago, had you told any fan of the other 29 teams, "In 2014, the Lakers will have $50 million in cap space during a loaded summer for free agents," their reaction would have been, "We're all screwed." But when they're being run by someone who can successfully be compared to Tommy Boy? That's a different story.
Making matters worse, the Lakers lost their L.A. basketball monopoly. Lately, the lowly Clippers — a team that threw away the last three decades despite having the same inherent advantages as the Lakers — finally kinda sorta maybe figured out what they were doing. They've been spending money in the most anti–Donald Sterling ways possible, building around the league's most expensive coach (Doc Rivers), a $107 million point guard (Chris Paul), a $95 million, high-flying power forward (Blake Griffin) and a slew of quality role players. It's almost like the Lakers and Clippers switched bodies. And actually, we can't rule this out.
So if we ever needed a "Save the Lakers" plan, it's right now. Here's how Wolf Pope Simmons would hypothetically save the Lakers in 10 hypothetical steps.
1. Don't be afraid to suck all kinds of suck for one season.
Hey, Jimmy? You already have everyone's 2013-14 season ticket money! They're helpless. They're stuck at your Thanksgiving table of basketball hell for six solid months — just keep force-feeding oily turkey and runny cranberry sauce down their throats. Why? Because you don't want to be the West Coast Bucks, and because one of the greatest NBA drafts in 30 years is coming.
Two facts about the 2014 draft. First, if you were ranking the Can't-Miss NBA Prospects of the 21st Century, Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins would rank behind LeBron, but would probably land right on that second tier with Durant, Oden and Carmelo. He's T-Mac 2.0 by all accounts. Seriously, check him out. There's a reason the Tankapalooza committee (I'm the chairman) is thinking about changing the name of Tankapalooza 2014 to Riggin' for Wiggins.
Second, it's the rare NBA draft that's deep AND top-heavy. On Tuesday's B.S. Report, ESPN draft guru and former The O.C. star Chad Ford pointed out that, in 2013, he broke the draft down by tiers — with Tier 1 being "potential franchise players," Tier 2 being "potential All-Stars," Tier 3 being "potential starters," and so on — and there wasn't a single 2013 draft prospect in Tier 1 or Tier 2. In 2014? Right now, we have eight guys in those top two tiers, and that's without factoring in the possibility of one or two more breakout stars. There's also a chance that Kentucky power forward Julius Randle might turn "Wiggins vs. Randle" into a "Durant vs. Oden"–type debate, and that Duke's Jabari Parker might be looming as a Carmelo-like sleeper.
If there was ever a season for hopeless or semi-hopeless NBA teams to throw away like a half-eaten banana, it's this one. Going 42-40 makes no sense. Why not take your lumps, Jimmy? Your fan base is more sophisticated than anyone realizes. They've had four generations of success. They're even savvy enough to realize that it wasn't the worst thing in the world that a wishy-washy, oversensitive, possibly breaking-down-and-maybe-even-past-his-prime Dwight fled for Texas. They get it. They'd be fine with throwing away ONE season. Just not two.
2. Clear every dollar off your 2014-15 cap. Get to zero, or close.
The goal: replicating what Pat Riley achieved four seasons ago, when he talked Dwyane Wade into playing with expiring contracts just so Miami could become a free-agent player in the summer of 2010 (with South Beach as the carrot).
Whether that was a calculated risk or a nefarious plan hatched during the summer of 2008 — you know, when LeBron, Wade and Bosh played on Team USA and befriended team ball boy Nick Arison (son of Miami owner Micky Arison), then won Olympic gold in China, followed by two years of whispers that those three players had made a pact to play together, and then it actually happened while David Stern and Adam Silver twiddled their thumbs and repeatedly yelled "Nothing to see here!" at each other — we'll never know the real truth. But look how that gamble played out. Three Finals trips, two titles … and we're still going.
On paper, the 2013-14 Lakers could take the 2009-10 Heat's game plan to another level by jettisoning every contract while also landing a top-five lottery pick. But they have to worsen this year's roster. Which means …
3. Trade Steve Nash to Toronto.
Admittedly, Nash doesn't have much market value right now. He's 39 years old, his body is breaking down in a variety of ways, he seemed a step and a half slow last season, he's a turnstile defensively, and he's making $9.3 million in 2014 and $9.7 million in 2015. Other than that, he's pretty enticing. But you know where he's still a hero? CANADA! What would be better than Nash finishing his career on Canada's only NBA team?
Now here's where you say, Wait a second, the Raptors just hired Masai Ujiri from Denver. That dude is a shrewd mf'er — he'd never trade for Nash. Au contraire! Thanks to Rudy Gay's onerously onerous deal, DeMar DeRozan's extension, the cap-clogging quartet of Landry Fields, Marcus Camby, Tyler Hansbrough and Steve Novak (nearly $20 million combined in 2014-15) and a few other commitments, Toronto can't become a free-agent player until the summer of 2015 ... right as Nash's deal is expiring. So why not bring him aboard as their feel-good Canadian basketball ambassador?
Do you realize trading for Nash would immediately become one of Canada's five greatest NBA moments ever? Since Toronto and Vancouver were added as expansion teams in 1995, here's that list right now:
Highlight No. 1: Vince Carter wins the 2000 Slam Dunk Contest.
Highlight No. 2: The Raptors come within a missed Vince jumper of advancing to the 2001 Eastern finals.
Highlight No. 3: Kobe scores 81 points against the Raptors. Hey, at least they were part of history.
Highlight No. 4: The Grizzlies move to Memphis (so Vancouver doesn't have to watch them anymore).
Highlight No. 5: Actually, we're done. You want to know what the greatest running Canadian NBA moment is? Every time Vince comes back to Toronto, they boo him lustily for four quarters. It's the only real Canadian basketball tradition they have. I'd say they need to rent a basketball ambassador. Call me crazy.
Anyway, here's my offer: Nash for Linas Kleiza's expiring contract and Aaron Gray's expiring contract. I can't do better than that. I'M GIVING YOU CANADIAN BASKETBALL HERO STEVE NASH FOR TWO SCRUBS!!!!!! Take him! I'm putting a ribbon on him, including a Labatt hat and everything! Just call this trade into the commissioner's office already.
(By the way, I just downgraded the Lakers' 2014-15 salary cap to $0.00.)
4. Trade Pau Gasol.
You know who's not helping us Riggin' for Wiggins? A future Hall of Famer playing for a new contract. I don't need Pau dropping 23 and 11 every night. No thanks. That leaves two possible trade destinations for him.
• Destination No. 1: Hey, Cleveland, why roll the dice on Andrew Bynum's fusilli knee ligaments when you can rent Pau in a contract year? You know he'll be motivated. You know he's one of the league's best 25 players when healthy — a superior low-post player, a proven playoff guy and a perennial staple on the NBA's "Most Fun Guys to Play Basketball With" All-Stars. Why not use your excess cap space to upgrade from Anderson Varejao ($9.8 million expiring) to Gasol ($19.3 million) and flip the Lakers your 2014 no. 1 pick for their trouble? The Lakers save $30 million in luxury tax money, add a first-rounder and willingly worsen their team. Cleveland becomes a pseudo-contender while preserving their cap space to get their hearts broken by LeBron again next summer. Everyone wins!
Even better — this trade gives the Lakers a low-post combo of Chris Kaman (always gets hurt) and Varejao (always gets hurt). They could be the Twin Owww-ers. (Sorry, I couldn't resist.) You're not getting more than 75 games combined from Kaman and Varejao next season unless they're borrowing copious amounts of PEDs from the Seattle Seahawks defense. And even then, you're probably not getting there. Who's ready for a little Robert Sacre next season! Check that — who's ready for A LOT OF ROBERT SACRE next season!
• Destination No. 2: Flip Gasol's expiring contract to Chicago for Luol Deng's and Kirk Hinrich's expiring contracts. Just a fascinating trade. The Bulls know Jimmy Butler can replace Deng's minutes, and that a crunch-time five of Gasol, Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose, Butler and Mike Dunleavy Jr. (to spread the floor) would be more potent than Noah, Carlos Boozer, Deng, Butler and Rose. They'd have to say yes.
For the Lakers, they'd keep Deng for a couple of months before rerouting him to a contender for expiring deals and a pick. (You don't need Deng in a contract year making you slightly better than you need to be.) But here's the crucial part …
The Lakers can't sign LeBron after he wins his third straight NBA title for the simple reason that, in the history of basketball, the best player on a championship team has NEVER subsequently ditched that team. Shit, even Wilt wouldn't have done that. LeBron would get crucified for turning his back on a chance to win four straight. No competitive person would ever, in a million years, do something like that. That's why the Lakers need to improve the Bulls — they can't get LeBron unless Chicago, Houston, Oklahoma City, Indiana or Golden State beats the Heat. And Chicago's the best bet of them all.
(Wolf Pope Simmons's recommendation: Make the Deng-Gasol trade.)
5. Don't amnesty Metta World Peace unless you absolutely have to.
I hate losing Metta when he's the Kendrick Perkins of small forwards. Ideally, we'd need him playing 35 minutes a game, missing 60 percent of his shots, throwing passes into the third row, getting dumb technicals, and letting faster small forwards blow by him for six solid months. He's a big part of Riggin' for Wiggins. So if the Bulls won't flip Deng and Hinrich for Gasol, you make the Cleveland deal, save $30 million in luxury tax and keep Metta around.
6. Since you're sucking anyway, bring back as many popular former Lakers as possible.
I'm convinced that the Lakers bugged my house because, ever since I started working on this column on Monday, they signed Jordan Farmar (someone Lakers fans irrationally loved because he's a UCLA guy) and they're courting Sasha Vujacic (another guy the Lakers have irrationally loved, while the rest of America irrationally hated him). I'd go further than that — I'd also bring back beloved veterans Derek Fisher and Luke Walton for the veteran's minimum, then keep my 15th roster spot open and spend the season signing old Lakers favorites (Robert Horry, Rick Fox, Michael Cooper, Sam Perkins, etc.) to a series of 10-day contracts.
Important note: Lakers fans would LOVE this. Shit, they'd even enjoy 10 days of Slava Medvedenko. As long as Kwame Brown and Smush Parker aren't involved in 10-day roulette, we're good.
7. Tell Jack Nicholson to stay away for the entire season.
We don't want Jack sitting there and enduring a willfully bad Lakers team. It might kill him. You know, assuming he's still alive and they haven't been propping up his body for home games like he's Bernie Lomax.
Initially, I was thinking that Jack should turn over his 2013-14 tickets to this guy …
… just to bang home to everyone that we're having the most depressing Lakers season ever. But clearly, there's a better answer. You know who should be sitting in Jack's seat all year? Phil Jackson. With one of those smug half-smiles on his face that says "Can you believe this shit?" crossed with "Can you believe my idiot brother-in-law didn't hire me back?" And what could be better than that the crowd chats "PHIL! PHIL! PHIL!" 10 times a game? Jack, you're giving Phil your seat. See you in October 2014.
8. Keep Mike D'Antoni for the entire year.
When I was going over my tentative "Save the Lakers" plan last night with my friend Lewis (a Lakers nut who's onboard with everything you just read), I jokingly asked him, "OK, what would you do with D'Antoni?"
"Are you kidding?" Lewis yelped. "YOU KEEP HIM! YOU KEEP HIM THE WHOLE SEASON! WE WANT THE WORST COACH POSSIBLE!!!!! WHY WOULD YOU EVER FIRE D'ANTONI!"
(Ladies and gentlemen, the Mike D'Antoni era!)
9. Delay Kobe's return for as long as possible.
I'm not gonna lie — this is the shakiest part of my rehab plan. Too many people have said publicly that (a) Kobe can't return in less than 10 months from that torn Achilles, and (b) even if he DOES come back, he'll never be the same. He's one of the 10 most competitive people alive. He's not going down like this. He's just not.
I'd believe anything about Kobe's summer rehab process. He's sleeping in a hyperbaric healing chamber underneath a pile of broken deer antlers? Absolutely. He's on a beach right now running wind sprints against Carl Weathers? Sure. He figured out a way to steal hemoglobin from his daughters, then have that hemoglobin injected right into his healing Achilles, but this procedure is only legal in Austria so he's been flying there twice a week? You can't rule it out.
Kobe cares about two things right now: Ring No. 6, and Kareem's record. In that order. We could talk him into playing for a historically lousy Lakers team for one season if Ring No. 6 (and maybe LeBron) was the carrot dangling on the other end. But giving up a chance at Kareem's record? That's a tougher ask. Our all-time scoring leaders right now …
  1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: 38,387 points
  2. Karl Malone: 36,928 points
  3. Michael Jordan: 32,292 points
  4. Kobe Bryant: 31,617 points

So he's 6,770 points away. To put that in perspective, he scored 2,133 points in 78 games last season before his Achilles ripped. This is doable … you know, assuming he recovers from that devastating leg injury. I bet we see him sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Noted.
10. When Kobe comes back, allow him to hog the ball to alarming degrees.
Wait until he's fully healed. And when he comes back (to what you're hoping will be a 0-12 team), here's what you tell him …
Kobe, remember your ball-hogging binge in 2006 when you averaged 27.2 field goal attempts and 10.2 free throws a game because we didn't have anything else? Now we REALLY don't have anything else. We just gutted our team. Other than watching Bieber lapse in and out of consciousness in Jack's seat, Sasha and Jordan high-fiving, and Big Shot Rob cramming himself into a Lakers jersey, your scoring binges will be the only thing that keeps this godforsaken season even remotely interesting. Go for the scoring title. Play 70 games to qualify for the scoring title, then try to average 37 a game. Only Wilt and MJ have ever done it. More importantly, that's about 2,200 points in the bank. You'll pass MJ and move within 4,600 of Kareem. Shoot every time. We don't care.
You know what the best part of that plan is? Kobe's quest to score 40 every night will inadvertently become one of the more entertaining subplots of the 2013-14 season. I'd flip over to every Lakers game just to see how many points he had. So would you.
And after the regular season ended and Kobe won another scoring title, Lakers fans could spend May and June rooting against Miami, sweating out the lottery and watching DraftExpress YouTube clips. Of course, they'd still be hoping that Jimmy Buss hired the right coach, made the right lottery pick, lured LeBron, kept Kobe and spent $60 million in cap space in the best possible way … while deep down fearing that this moment might be coming.
Removing all the hypotheticals, what will the Lakers ACTUALLY do? Nothing I just laid out — that's why I didn't mind laying it out.
See, you need a strong owner or a front-office voice to execute a long-term plan — like what Miami had with Pat Riley and Micky Arison four years ago. These Lakers don't have that voice. Kobe will convince them to compete next season because he's nearing the end of his career, and he wants to shove it in Dwight Howard's face, and he probably believes that he and Pau can still battle anyone on any given night. That's what makes him Kobe. And that's why I didn't mind trying to "save" the Lakers. I know they won't do the right thing.
You know who they SHOULD be emulating, actually? My beloved Celtics. In the span of five weeks, Boston mortally wounded next year's team by dealing Garnett and Pierce (improving their Riggin' for Wiggins chances); turned the roster over to Brad Stevens (the perfect guy for a rebuild); stockpiled nine first-rounders over the next five years (along with the right to swap first-rounders with Brooklyn in 2017); and set themselves up to flagrantly stink (with the inevitable Rondo trade being the final piece).1 That's a team that knows who it is, and where it is, and where it needs to be.
Can you say the same about the Lakers? My gut feeling is no … and that in April, we'll be watching Kobe and Pau fighting for a no. 8 seed. Just know that this sounds great to me.
 

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Where are our BBall fans at?

Tonight's Lakers game was ridiculous. Chris Kaman sleeping on the bench:



And the still fucking won! God, Cleveland is a mess.
 

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Apparently my hometown team is doing well but honestly I've lost interest in the Raptors and the league in general.

What happened to the Lakers?
 

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Lakers are tanking the season. Everyone's injured and Pringles D'Antoni is still in charge.

The Raps aren't doing half bad. Too bad they play in Toronto.
 

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Any basketball fans around this desert?

Kobe giving the business to the Lakers organization tonight after Phil announced he's signing on to 'manage' the Knicks organization.
 

Fwiffo

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How were they so good and ended up so bad? Then again I could say the same thing about the Knicks but they were really never *that* good.
 

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How were they so good and ended up so bad? Then again I could say the same thing about the Knicks but they were really never *that* good.
Some of the same reasons as the Knicks (incompetent man child in charge, horrible coaching hires), some of it bad luck (Kobe injuries, Dwight leaving, Nash injuries, etc.). If they can stay the course they could be in good shape come 2015. Next year is pretty much a wash.
 

Fwiffo

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Well the Raptors lost - at least in the last five minutes it was evident. I haven't watched basketball since Shaq played for the Celtics against the Raptors in Toronto. Did the Nets go around and sign all the old guys? I thought that was a Heat or Lakers thing.

I'm so glad I'm not at my flat today and went to my parents for Easter. It looked like a zoo down at the stadium and I live a block away.
 

Fwiffo

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NBA must have changed since I was a kid. I thought people were supposed to foul people with less than two minutes to go - not run around and try to outshoot the other team with 3 point attempts. Anyway, the next game is on Tuesday which means I have to change the route I go home and take the happy hour date to another part of town.
 

Rambo

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NBA must have changed since I was a kid. I thought people were supposed to foul people with less than two minutes to go - not run around and try to outshoot the other team with 3 point attempts. Anyway, the next game is on Tuesday which means I have to change the route I go home and take the happy hour date to another part of town.
Why not go to the game?

Also, why are you not posting about these dates in the dating thread?
 

Fwiffo

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The tickets, if they aren't rare, are allegedly more expensive than any of the NBA teams in the playoffs. Unlike my brother, I also have some sense of pride not to wait at the end of the block until the second quarter closes or third quarter starts to rob the scalpers.
 

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The tickets, if they aren't rare, are allegedly more expensive than any of the NBA teams in the playoffs. Unlike my brother, I also have some sense of pride not to wait at the end of the block until the second quarter closes or third quarter starts to rob the scalpers.
Tell me more about this brother of yours...
 

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The Knicks axed the entire coaching staff including Woodson.

And the Trailblazers pulled out a thriller with the Rockets in OT.
 

Fwiffo

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Even I know the Hawks are the worst team that made it into the playoffs. Definitely diverting tomorrow to another watering hole instead of wading through a morass of people to get back to my flat.

Maybe I should wish for the Raptors to lose it won't disrupt my evening walk back home.
 
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