New Year, same Lakers; how this will be a detriment to the franchise

2017 was a year steeped in nostalgia. IT, a movie set in the late 1980’s dominated the box office and was received critically. Stranger Things, another property set in the 1980’s, was one of the most hyped up TV series (despite it feeling like Hot Topic employees watched a few 80’s movies and decided to make a show out of it).

Ironically, a property that is known for its reliance on the past completely subverted it. talking about Star Wars: The Last Jedi’s underlying theme was to let go of the past and carve out your own path for yourself. Kylo Ren says it himself.

“Let the past die. Kill it if you have to. That’s the only way to become what you were meant to be”

I want to take that quote, put it on a loop, maybe put a trap beat on it, and just play that out of a speaker outside of the UCLA Health Training Center.

The Lakers simply cannot let the past die.

Our very own Anthony Irwin highlighted this in regard to Kobe Bryant and the Lakers’ inability to let the Kobe Bryant era stay in the past. Spectrum Sportsnet has been running with the “new era of Laker basketball” but who are they kidding? This isn’t anything new and despite the plethora of youthful talent that came in, nothing is being done differently and they don’t realize it. They’re going to just “be the Lakers.”

The Laker Way is not the way to go. This idea that this franchise is above any other franchise in the league is maddening. Lakers Exceptionalism needs to die, the hubris needs to go along with it.

The Los Angeles Lakers are a franchise built on the generations before it. The 1950’s had George Mikan, 1960’s had Jerry West, 1970’s Wilt, then Showtime, etc.

There is nothing wrong with celebrating the past. What’s wrong is dwelling on it. “What it means to be a Laker” seems to be a prerequisite to be hired. Laker fans need to realize too that in-house hirings are not always the best way to go about things. Instead of treating this team like a glorified fraternity, run it like a damn team. Cast a wide net. Don’t be afraid hiring outside of the Lakers organization.

I actually commend the Lakers for hiring Mike D’Antoni instead of going back to Phil Jackson. Look at what he did with the Knicks. Imagine what he would have done with the Lakers.

Was everything D’Antoni’s fault during his tenure as a Laker? Not at all. He’s an incredible coach. He was stuck in a bad situation after the Dwight departure, Kobe and Nash injuries, and a roster of journeymen. His resignation from the team saw fanfare. There was even more excitement when Byron Scott was hired. The guy who was hired by the Cavaliers after Mike Brown only for the Cavaliers to fire Scott for Mike Brown. How do you get fired to get replaced by the guy you were hired to take over for?

We know how his tenure went. April 2016 was an incredible month just for the fact that Byron Scott received a pink slip. I was elated. The coaching search proceeded and there were many names thrown around. Scott Brooks, Ettore Messina, Luke Walton, etc. Technically, Ettore Messina was a former Laker (consultant) and I thought that’d be enough. Of course, Luke was hired. The jury is still out on him as a coach but, this is pretty damning.

Walton, a former Laker, is now the head coach. Rob Pelinka, former Laker of Kobe Bryant, is now General Manger. Magic Johnson, former Laker great, is now President of basketball operations. This feels like nepotism.

Luke, I get. He has job experience he can point to. The other two? Prior experience with the Lakers is fine, but neither can point to any point in their careers where they had to run an NBA team.

“But Kendrew, what if they have a different game plan than that of Mitch and Jim before them?”

That’d be great! But they really don’t.

Accruing cap space to sign big names is what the Lakers have been trying to do each offseason for the last five summers.

Remember when they missed on Greg Monroe and LaMarcus Aldrige? Or how about this tweet?

 

The blind pursuit of free agents with just the allure of money and living in Los Angeles hasn’t worked in the past and this summer will not be any different.

“Look at my face, do you see that smile, do you see it?” he said Friday afternoon, lighting up his questioners with his giant trademark grin. “OK then! I’ve always bet on myself, right?”

He shook his head and added solemnly, “The tide has turned.”

This is from an article in which Plaschke profiled Magic Johnson and his brave proclamation that the franchise is going to be going in the right direction. Does he have a new plan? Doesn’t seem like it. But hey, he has his smile.

Hubris surrounds the Lakers and this is the perfect example. Magic essentially has the same plan as the front office that preceded him but is banking on his name. The Lakers, similarly, have been banking solely on their brand the past few seasons and results speak for themselves.

Look what they did with D’Angelo Russell. Sure, it was in part to get rid of Mozgov and his contract, but it was with the underlying thought that a superstar is on the way next summer. As if just because there is enough cap space, a star will appear. Instead of having a young core to build around, the Lakers are content on trading away that youth to further their pursuit of superstars. They set their price for what they’d give up to get rid of a contract. Want to get rid of Deng? Probably have to attach Ingram to do so.

Oh, and before you say anything about Russell’s character, there is a person on the Lakers literally serving jail time.

That player is being represented by Lebron James’s agent. Of course the Lakers are happy to oblige Rich Paul and give his client the extra bucks to have that connection to Lebron as opposed to keeping David Nwaba who is playing incredibly well for the overachieving Bulls at the moment.

Appeasing Rich Paul and Lebron by letting KCP run amok with the offense seems to be more important than focusing on players who should be a huge part of their future sends a troublesome message at best.

The front office’s master plan is affecting those who the Lakers don’t view as “part of their future.” Watching Randle rot on the bench while being the Lakers best player this year is tragic. He’s finally getting reps now, but that’s arguably due to the Lopez injury and potentially by the recent team meeting. Randle is represented by the same agent as Paul George (someone who seems hell bent on joining the Lakers) and I don’t think the mishandling of a Mintz client is the way to do things.

Simply having cap space does not mean you’ll be gifted free agents. Simply being the Lakers does not mean people will want to play for the team.

Let me bring it to my last point: No free agent cares about the Laker Brand.

Things aren’t going to happen because they’re the Lakers. They haven’t had a marquee free agent signing in years. They haven’t been relevant in half a decade.

The Lakers are not above any other franchise that’s in the league. The sooner they realize this and start making smarter moves, they won’t go anywhere. Lakers exceptionalism hasn’t really come into play since the Pau trade and that was nearly a decade ago. 10 years! Magic proclaiming “we’re back” like he’s done something to make the Lakers that much better is idiotic.

Truth be told the Lakers probably won’t get their free agents and will be in trouble moving forward. The franchise looks like an unorganized mess and I don’t see how many free agents would want to come. For a team that tanked and received 4 lottery picks in four consecutive years, they should have done the smart thing and built that core into something that showcases what is to come when the potential is realized.

D’Angelo Russell is out, Julius Randle is probably on the way out (he really shouldn’t but he deserves better), while Brandon Ingram and Lonzo are apparently untouchable. If the Lakers don’t have anything to show within the next few summers with some signings, they might have to take a look at making another change in the front office.

They need to start making smarter moves, build something foundational instead of trying to expedite the process with an aging Lebron James. The Laker name does not give them an advantage. There’s no weight to it anymore and the sooner the franchise and fans realize that and act realistically with the expectations of the team, the better.

If they continue on with these ways, they might end up like the Sacramento Kings except they play in a place that doesn’t look like the apocalypse hit early.  It’s certainly going to be an interesting free agency saga this upcoming summer, but expect the worst until the Lakers front office stop trying to recapture the glorious, glorious past with their old school way of thinking.

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