Lakers Have Eye On The Prize

Suddenly the Lakers are the bold kid on the block. No longer afraid of consequences, they are going big. It’s been a while since the Lakers front office took a risk and then celebrated their aggression.

It has been dull ineptitude that marked these past few years of misery. The Lakers went the safe route that bored just about everyone. The most risky thing the Lakers have done since Dr. Jerry Buss died was hire Mike D’antoni and then fire him. Other than that, it’s been a pretty traditional Lakers way of doing things except for this small, minute detail: they didn’t create any sort of achievement. They were one of the worst teams in the NBA.

The NBA Draft was supposed to awaken the Lakers from their two year nap. The logical choice for the #2 pick was Jahlil Okafor. By everyone’s accounting, Okafor had the goods to be Rookie of the Year. His offensive talent, even for someone 19 years old, was stunning. Squint and Okafor’s post moves were a reminder of Tim Duncan when he was young. He was seven feet tall, had a nice wingspan, great character to go with his deep voice. It all made sense.

Except, there was something about Okafor that screamed good player but not great. Not transcedent. Not superstar. Not dynamic. Not post-Kobe interesting. Not spectacular. In other words, not D’angelo Russell.

A point guard reminiscent of the Magic Johnson who put zip on the ball or dished a cross court pass out of a double team or a behind the back dish in the paint, D’angelo Russel’s has been identified as gifted. But he still is a guard, a point guard. Historically, the Lakers don’t pass up big men for guards. Or, do they?

The truth is the Lakers get big men through free agency. They draft guards. Jerry West and Gail Goodrich and Magic Johnson and Nick Van Exel and Eddie Jones and Derek Fisher were draft picks.

Still, choosing D’angelo Russell was bold.

The Lakers are not done. They are pitching LaMarcus Aldridge as free agency begins, a power forward who can score both right and left, finish at the rim and rebound the ball at a high clip. Aldridge is a mid-range shooter who has spent 9 years developing his skill. He was the only player in the NBA these past two years who averaged 23 points and 12 rebounds. The Lakers are all in for Aldridge.

But that isn’t the bold part.

The bold part, as reported by Adrian Wojnarwoski, was doing more. Trying to create cap space to add DeAndre Jordan, steal him from the little brother Clippers.  It’s not for revenge purposes to stick it to the Clippers. It is math. Jordan pulled in 15 rebounds a game last year and averaged two blocks. He changes what happens in the paint and leaves his imprint on the game even when he can’t make free throws. But, DeAndre is not a possibility, not even close, even if the Lakers can make a deal for Aldridge. The Lakers don’t have enough cap room for both.

But they do have cap room for Aldridge and Tobias Harris. Or, Aldridge and Greg Monroe. Or Aldridge and someone else if they start moving pieces like Nick Young. The Lakers can get everything they want or they can get nothing and that is the intrigue and fuels the anticipation.

The Lakers have no time for the weary. Aldridge on Tuesday night was followed by Monroe on Wednesday and will continue through the end of the week and Kevin Love . It is all part of this new strategy to turn the page and get the train rolling again. After two years, it is about damned time.



photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons