Lakers Obituary: A Postmortem

4 Jul

Everyone knows the Lakers died on July 4th.  Its long, proud history and its 16 NBA championship trophies could not save it from its doom.  The team has not been a “destination” for a long time, but has now taken more downward step.  It has become an “anti-destination”.  Not only were the Lakers unable to land a single superstar free agent, they couldn’t a second tier big name like Greg Monroe and Robin Lopez.  Even the Knicks are signing more of them than the Lakers.  It’s time to admit the bitter truth: The Lakers are dead and it’s time to bury them.

But what really went wrong?  An analysis of everything that went wrong can be turned into a book.  It would make a must-read for any owner-wannabe as far as what NOT to do.

The list of “what went wrong” is long and disgraceful.  The number one reason for the Lakers demise is one word: Arrogance.

Arrogance: The team assumed everyone wanted to play for them and nobody else.  They considered themselves an unconditional, permanent “destination” regardless of how poorly they managed the team, how depleted the team was, how overpaid everyone was, and whether the ownership or front office knew anything about basketball. The Lakers wouldn’t have to do anything.  They would have to just show the statue of Magic Johnson and the 16 championship trophies and everyone would want to just beg to join the team.  You could say arrogance was the mother of all the other wrong steps.

Mismanagement: The team has poorly managed its assets.  It gave up four draft picks to Phoenix for the rights of an overpaid Steve Nash at the end of his career who commanded $15 million a year for three years, and played only a handful of games.  The team paid nearly $45 million for two years to a Kobe who has played another handful of games. The team paid $14 million to a laughable Jeremy Lin who had a handful of good games in New York before coming down to Earth to be the player he really is: someone who should be playing in Turkey, not in U.S..  Before those players, they were overpaying Ron Artest, Lamar Odom, Luke Walton, and Brian Grant and many others.  Speaking of Brian Grant, remember him? He was the bum the Lakers got in the Shaq trade.  Pat Riley dumped Grant on the Lakers and saddled them with a $45 million, 3 year contract.  After one year of miserable non-performance, the Lakers ate the remaining $30 millions and released the bum who lasted 3 more days in NBA before retiring to enjoy his unearned $45 million.  I’m sure Nash is keeping his company now.  Enjoy your unearned millions, bums!

Poor drafting: Over the years the team largely relied on free agents and trades to get quality players.  It stopped using the draft as a main contributor to their roster.  Other teams have invested much more in a system the scouts, targets, selects and develops quality players and have reaped the benefits.  The Lakers simply do not know how to do it any longer.

Loss of Leadership: Ever since Jerry West was driven out of town in early 2000s despite having a hand in putting together two of the three Lakers dynasties, the Lakers began going downhill because they never replaced Jerry West’s talent and leadership.  Their deep pockets and their luck saved them once when they landed Pau Gasol and won the trophy twice more, but their long decline had started prior to that.  The Lakers never rebuilt the team, never restocked young talent, never accumulated assets and never prepared for the future.  They spent like drunk sailors, squandering both their money and their draft picks.  They spent it on what amounts to instant gratification with no future value.

Lack of Vision: Can anyone tell what the Lakers vision of future is?  Has the management every laid it out convincingly for you?  Do they even have one? Was their vision that they would exhaust all their draft picks and go into mid-2010s with an aging Bryant coming to the end of his career, and then magically out of the thin air they would build a team with no assets? What were they thinking when they hired Mike Brown?  What was going to be the direction of the team?  What were they thinking when they hired Mike D’Antoni?  What kind of a team were they going to build?  And why did they stop whatever that thinking was, dumped both coaches and changed directions?  What was their thinking when they hired Byron Scott?  Did any one of these coaches bring in any new ideas?  If not, if these people only had old ideas, what were the Lakers thinking in hiring people with old ideas who had never won a championship?   In my previous columns I have been covering this gross lack of vision for years but nobody illustrated that lack of vision better than LaMarcus Aldrige.  In early July LaMarcus Aldrige wisely and amazingly embarrassed the Lakers when he went into their meeting, and came out like he was the NBA exec and they were amateurs.  He had gone in expecting a technical and vision oriented meeting and the Lakers had treated him like a stupid little kid, trying to entice him with what amounts to candy and ice cream.  They had bragged about their beaches, their wild parties, Hollywood, sponsorship opportunities, and… their past.  Aldrige was unimpressed and criticized their lack of basketball details.  The Lakers insisted on a second meeting to impress him with their basketball savvy, and Aldrige was even less impressed the second time because he realized the team had no vision, no assets, no players and no chance.  Why would he take a pay-cut from the Portland offer who have a better and more stable team to play for a lifeless and go-nowhere team?  In short, he exposed the fraud that the Lakers front office is.

Lack of Ideas: While other teams were taking the next step in professional sports, experimenting with new ideas, with new coaches with bold approaches to the game, with incorporating scientific methods to the game such as they do in Houston and their analytics as well as Phoenix and their training staff who is famous for prolonging careers and improving physical quality of players… The Lakers still rely on old methods, and even then not in a good way.

Poor Business Skills: In addition to its horrible management, the front office has run the organization with all the business savvy of a baboon in diapers.  One would imagine  a business that stays in a family ought to do better than most, that children who grow up in the basketball world learn things better because they’re immersed in it, that by not having outside parties involved they can make better decisions.  Not so with the Lakers.  Jim Buss has now proven to be the worst owner in sports history.  You can’t impress big name free agents when the team is run by a dysfunctional family of spoiled know-nothings with little accomplishment to show for all their years.  The daughter has been dating Phil Jackson who happens to have kids older than her, who coached the team twice while dating her, who was offered the job of being the coach a third time and then rejected, and who has gone on to run a rival team.  It doesn’t help that this daughter hurt her own business creds by having once posed nude for Playboy.  The team has gone on to sign a hefty contract with Time Warner which has created its own issues as now they want to have a say in the affairs and they are unhappy with the horrible product they’re stuck with. The Lakers took the money and the money corrupted them further as they took it as a sign of accomplishment.

Too much Kobe: By giving Kobe the keys to the ranch they hitched their wagons to everything that was good and bad about Kobe.  Sure, Kobe helped give them championships before, but what have you done for me lately?  By never controlling Kobe they risked alienating other players and it came back to haunt them time after time.  By their inability to rein in Kobe they ran Shaq (who had his own problems) out of town, they ran Phil Jackson out of town one of the times he left (the last time it was because of Jim Buss), they ran the immature and fragile Dwight Howard out of town, and beyond getting lucky with Pao Gasol they were never again able to sign a major free agent who could play.  Big names, including Kobe’s own friend, ‘Melo, learned to stay clear.  Furthermore, Kobe has been very greedy.  At a time when Wade takes far less than what he’s worth in order to bring in other big players, and Duncan has been playing for the Spurs for practically nothing, Kobe insisted on sucking up every dollar he could out of the Lakers and along with it he helped suck life out of them.

Toxicity: Add all of the above, and the town has become toxic to any big name player who wants a ring and recognition.  They all know what they are stepping into if they sign with the Lakers.  Out of all the big names in the last three years, not a single one has come close to signing with the Lakers on his own and not through a trade.

The Lakers were once a destination and deservedly so as they were champions and pioneering in their ways.  In the ‘80s they revived the NBA and introduced many of what is today practiced.  They invented the concept of “showtime”, an incredibly exciting, innovative and entertaining brand of basketball.  They brought celebrities and put them in the front row.  They made the players feel like they owned the whole town.  That’s how they became a destination. Now they are the complete opposite.  Now even Phoenix and Sacramento are doing better.  All the big names are gravitating to a few teams while excluding the Lakers first and foremost.  Even the Knicks with all their problems have been able to sign or retain more big names than the Lakers.  In their current state, the only players willing to play for the Lakers are those not in high demand, those rejected by other teams, or those who need a big paycheck with not much responsibility.  When the Lakers give up Dwight Howard to Houston and end up taking Houston’s rejects (like the overpaid Jeremy Lin) then the only type of destination they can consider themselves to be is “dumping grounds”.

You look at how San Antonio has been a force for twenty years and counting you realize by comparison how badly the Lakers have run their affairs to be where they are today.  San Antonio has consistently picked great talent and been able to retain them, has been able to make incredible deals (like stealing Leonard by trading who for him?), has been able to keep megastars like Duncan and Parker do it at a fraction of the cost, to have the same coaching staff firmly in charge, and continued to win over other teams when wooing big name free agents.  When the time comes for free agents they invariably takes San Antonios of the NBA over LAs.  At a smaller payroll that team is packed with far more talent than three Lakers teams combined.

The fact of the matter is that at some point the team should have gone through the painful but necessary rebuilding process.  It should have built up assets and dumped salary in the process.  It should have blown up the team, gotten rid of all the big salaries (yes, that would have meant either Kobe takes a big pay-cut or he’d have to leave too) and started to develop some players without the baggage of old guys on their last legs trying to win another one with nothing left.  Those two things are completely incompatible, because the Lakers never fully committed to a rebuilding process and did a half-assed job of it.

Jim Buss has claimed he will step down in two years if he can’t get the Lakers to play-offs.  Mind you, not a championship, but just the play-offs!  Really?  So he wants years of honeymoon to simply take the team to play-offs which was always a given for even the previous Lakers teams, even the mediocre ones?  After missing the play-offs only a couple of times in decades, anyone in charge of the team who misses the play-offs even once should be out of a job.  Furthermore, seeing the horrendous downward spiral you don’t to wait.  You can see the team is going in the wrong direction fast, is overpaying players, is toxic to big name free agents, hasn’t accumulated big assets and is in complete disarray.  Any good businessman would see the problem and would immediately move for a profound course-correction.  The Lakers have not done that.  The team languished in the hands of a bad set of owners, a bad front office, an egomaniacal Kobe and little by little lost its luster and its way.  The old, proud and once powerful version of the Lakers died on July 4th, 2015, and a new version of the Lakers was born.  The new version is a copy of the old version of the Clippers and destined to permanent mediocrity.

Lakers fans, welcome to the dark ages of your team.  If there is ever going to be a revival of the team, it won’t come any time soon.  If there is going to be one, it is going to be a long, painful, long, disgraceful, long, miserable ride.

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18 Responses to “Lakers Obituary: A Postmortem”

  1. John July 4, 2015 at 8:41 pm #

    Unbelievably spot-on. The institutional arrogance starting with Jeanie and her sycophants that she’s allowed to run wild are at the root of the decay. Living in the past, they expect anyone else to drink the kool-aid but no one’s that thirsty.

    • ronhawkster July 4, 2015 at 11:41 pm #

      Absolutely, my friend. She has the nerve to keep going on radio and TV and continue to drink the kool-aid publicly, expecting others to join in. How many times can she repeat the stuff she has claimed about all the success that’s going to be had in the upcoming season, be wrong about it, and go on saying the same thing all over again? The ownership and the management are complete hacks.

  2. John July 4, 2015 at 11:20 pm #

    Very biased. Your hatred for the Lakers shows. This is a fluff piece and nothing else.

    • ronhawkster July 4, 2015 at 11:39 pm #

      Usually when people disagree with something they use these things called “reasons” and “arguments”. You got none of that. You must have aced your debate class because the one thing your post glaringly lacks is “substance”. By the way, look up “fluff piece” because you don’t even know what it means. No, my friend. Get your head out of sand. Have you seen any success in the last few years? Any progress?

  3. josephf July 5, 2015 at 12:35 am #

    i knew we were in trouble when jeanne buss offered kobe 48 million and pronounced “that’s what my father would have done.” so much for original thinking thinking.

    • ronhawkster July 7, 2015 at 4:39 pm #

      Exactly! Not a business savvy family without their father.

  4. Rags July 5, 2015 at 1:39 am #

    Spot on analysis. As a Lakers fan who enjoyed the 2010 championship, it is hard to see the team take such a nosedive. Hope things better – this is absolutely the worst case scenario playing out.

  5. George Ortega July 5, 2015 at 7:41 am #

    And the organization thats being critical of the Lakers have won exactly how many championships? Sure it is a hard time but every organization has them. GSW had to wait 40 yrs before they won a title since their last title. No other team has had the dominance since 2000, a three peat to usher in the turn of the century then in less than 10 years a back to back. The media has villianized Kobe and nowadays you’re all but guilty in the public forum due to social platforms no to mention the “sources”. If any other team was given this time line the Lakers have had since 2000 every team would take it. Its just the Lakers turn now to rebuild.

    • ronhawkster July 5, 2015 at 8:51 pm #

      There are so many things wrong with your defensive comment one does not know where to begin. Since you didn’t address a single point from the many points of analysis in my article, I will only address your first one. Nobody cares that Golden State hasn’t won in 40 years. Not even the Lakers front office has used that argument to explain it’s okay for them to be mediocre for some stretches. If they saw themselves as a Golden State they wouldn’t be spending more than most other teams in the league year after year, they wouldn’t be charging an arm and a leg to buy a ticket, to pay for parking, to buy a stupid hotdog with a drink. A family of four has to be well over 400 dollars for a night at the Staples Center to watch a bunch of nobodies win 20 games and lose 60 for a few years in a row. Nor does San Antonio Spurs use that lame argument as yours to slow down. They have had a near dynasty for nearly 17 years and continue to be excellent. Mediocrity might be okay for you, it’s not okay for the rest and the people who rooted for the Lakers through thick or thin as long as they were not being knuckleheads reserve the right to make valid criticism. Your argument was mighty weak. Try harder next time.

    • "real" Lakers fan July 5, 2015 at 9:08 pm #

      exactly 5 championships from 2000-2015 thats 1/3 almost every other year lakers are in the NBA finals or winning it all. this guy is just another Laker hater. thats what is a fact and proven i can see. is Kobe overpaid? you can say he deserves less or more Kobe basically carried this team since shaq left in 2004. 11 years and unlike miami la payed Kobe his millions what has miami done to dwade? dwade was ready to run away. at least Kobe played 1 team his whole life 1996-2015 Lakers 4 life and you can keep hating all day. you wont change my mind or anything about the Lakers with your hate statements. are the spurs better yes but even non NBA fans could tell that much lol.

      • ronhawkster July 5, 2015 at 9:48 pm #

        Right… 2000-2015… If you’re a real Lakers fan how come you don’t know that the team that lasted throughout most of 2000s was engineered by Doctor Buss and Jerry West, not by the spoiled children and the current inept front office? Even the last two championships happened while Jerry Buss oversaw most everything. The team went downhill when the kids took over, the last touches of Jerry West disappeared, Jim Buss ran Phil Jackson out of town and then Jerry Buss passed away and those were the points of this blog which you obviously missed and went into your infantile rage. Those are facts. The label “hater” was invented by lazy people like you who know little, who can’t put a coherent argument together, who are really sycophants and not real fans because they blindly follow a team without knowing the ins and outs of the game. Sure, call everyone a “hater” because you can’t use real reasons. And sure, hang on to your fantasy that the Lakers don’t suck under the current regime, that everything is fine and dandy, the old Lakers way isn’t dead and that the Lakers are losing their fan base quicker than Tiger Woods losing his swing. See if believing in that fantasy really hard is going to change the sad reality that you’re stuck with as long as Jim Buss runs your favorite team.

  6. myau July 6, 2015 at 10:22 pm #

    Good points. I disagree about Lin’s deal. Lakers used some cap room to get him after they struck out on FA and still had room for a max after that. We didn’t give up any assets to get him AND 2 draft picks.

    Now on his way out we might get ANOTHER asset for him in a sign and trade. He might be one of the best things that’s happened to Lakers recently lol.

    • ronhawkster July 6, 2015 at 10:33 pm #

      Thanks for your comments. Regarding Lin, Houston took (or stole) Dwight Howard and then the Lakers did them a favor by taking Lin off their hands. With the freed up money they added more depth to their team. So even if the Lakers were going to blow away $15 mils it needed not go to a team who stole DH from them. Furthermore why waste that money on a known commodity like Lin who had proven he wasn’t as good as “Linsanity” had made him out to be? Why not try a few other young prospects and find a diamond in the rough, such as the case with Clarkson? The answer is easy: This team has lost its way. It was looking for some big names to fill its roster with to appears TW even though they had no long term value to the team. You would never see a savvy organization like San Antonio blow away its fortune like that.

      • myau July 6, 2015 at 11:25 pm #

        Well yes, Rockets stole howard in 2013. This is the season after. Rockets needed cap room to go for Bosh so they moved Lin, Asik but since Bosh stayed with Miami they wasted it. Who did Rockets get with that extra cap room? Ariza was in a sign/trade deal not cap space. That whole deal was a big bust to the Rockets (but they took the chance) and boom for Lakers. Even if your enemy gives you something great for free, you take it.

        It didn’t hurt Lakers cap space..they had cap room for another max contract and didn’t use it. Unless you argue they could have gotten that Max player if Lin didn’t take it and they got someone else? That’s a stretch. Lin’s contract was big but it’s off the books now and he brought in more money than his cost (big tire advertising contract 20M+). But the big thing is regaining some picks we lost with the Nash deal and possibly more as I mentioned in a upcoming deal.

        I agree that Lakers tried for big names..probably to give Kobe one more shot at the ring. Clearly he won’t be getting another one (not on our team) so it’s time to rebuild and get modern. As a fan, I don’t even mind a few bad rebuilding years as long as their future team is super solid. I do however despise the current old school mindset of Byron Scott (offensively)

      • ronhawkster July 6, 2015 at 11:46 pm #

        I understand what you’re saying. Nevertheless, Asik and Lin both had to go regardless of the attempt to get Bosh. Lin had proven to be a failed experiment so they wanted to unload him anyway given that they had other assets. Asik also had to go because once they got DH Asik pouted and pretty much demanded a trade. So to me they didn’t waste anything. I’m saying there was nothing in it for the Lakers and was a wasted move because in their state Lin couldn’t help make much of a difference unless they actually believed they could revive “Linsanity”. In their state they shouldn’t be going after $15 players that other teams have given up on EVEN if they have the cap space. As important as that cap space is the roster spot and their chance to develop young, undiscovered talent. That chance was blown away with Lin who didn’t work out anyway. I agree that if your enemy gives you something for free you take it. I’m saying this wasn’t free, and from Houston’s point of view it helped them take a shot at Bosh and unload unwanted salary which they did. If the Lakers can make something out of it through a sign and trade, great but that wasn’t the intent when they got him. Now, the one free thing their enemy gave them which I agreed with was the Tarick Black which they got for nothing and could turn into something with some development. That’s the sort of opportunism they should have done more of during rebuilding instead of picking up large contracts of big risk players. Very good comment. You’re thoughtful and knowledgeable and I appreciate your comments.

  7. myau July 7, 2015 at 12:14 am #

    Yes, great points again Lin and Asik were expendable given Rockets’ assets. Harden needs a pass first pg so Lin wasn’t a good fit. Howard takes most of the minutes. I also do love Tariq Black..what a bargain.

    Maybe people were hopefully for Linsanity but there’s no chance of it on ANY team without lots of pick and roll, spread floor with 3s, and fast game, lack of iso/ballstopers, coach who trusts him and gives him some freedom to run offense. Also known as complete opposite of Lakers 🙂

    I do hope their scouting gets some of these players you are referring to. What’s the best way to rebuild? I was just looking at Lakers past draft choices.

    http://www.basketball-reference.com/teams/LAL/draft.html

    In the past 10-15 years the best is Marc Gasol and Andrew Bynum. It’s amazing we maintained so well during that time and usually later picks due to success..I’d like to think West is the genius behind getting Kobe for Divac, getting Shaq and a lot of the success in the past. Wish he was in charge.

    • ronhawkster July 7, 2015 at 12:54 am #

      We have converged on an agreement! Sentence by sentence I agree with everything you said, especially about how Lin was effective during Linsanity, and a great lesson for any exec that just because a player does well within a very specific system on one team doesn’t mean they can be just as effective outside of that system. That’s just lazy wishful thinking. Remember when years ago the Lakers made a similar mistake, getting Glen Rice in a big trade and then wondering why he wasn’t as effective here? The best way to rebuild is to have a vision and a system, to have discipline and hard work, good scouting and patience, shrewdness and most of all, humility. The success formula is out there, staring everyone in the face. San Antonio has been doing it for almost 20 years. It’s the same system. They have great scouting, deal shrewdly, hardly ever go after the biggest names and throw too much money at them. They have created a system that’s stable, sustainable, makes everyone check their egos and give it all up for the team. It’s a system that is not built on instant gratification of one player or two, and nobody is immune to Pop’s wrath thinking if you yell at me tomorrow I’ll demand a trade. Spurs steal talent that other teams are too stupid to see and in too much of a rush to be willing to develop. They stole Leonard for nothing. Jerry West is a genius and yet he is humble and very personable. Players love him. Shaq might not have fled the coop if West had still been around. He gamed the system to have nobody else draft Kobe so that the pick was available when it was the Lakers’ turn way down the draft. He dumped Divac to get Kobe before Shaq had even agreed to a deal. That was part of what convinced Shaq how committed the team was. Other teams have used that same move to impress free agents since. Jerry West should have never been let go of. In between the egos of the spoiled Buss kids (and to some extent Phil Jackson’s own power grab), Jerry West who is a Lakers monument and should have been for life was let go. Now all we hear is a silly girl Jeanie Buss represent the Lakers in her sweet but immature and simple-minded enthusiastic view of the world. Kupchak is an average exec. He was mentored by West but is not West.

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  1. The Lakers Are Dead: An Obituary | hawksterreport - July 4, 2015

    […] ← Lakers Obituary: A Postmortem […]

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