Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Assessing The Damage--The Lakers' Bleak Future

 The Lakers are a complete, unadulterated mess, a franchise skidding toward the cliff--with no brakes.

They were desperate to get free-agent center Dwight Howard to sign a long-term contract. He was the savior of the franchise, the player they needed if they had any chance to be competitive for the next few years. But Howard saw the future. Peering into that crystal ball all he could see was dark clouds and the sour puss of coach Mike D'Antoni.That was enough to make him pack his bags and go house-hunting in Houston.

Without Howard, the Lakers are the west-coast version of the Charlotte Bobcats. Where are they going with a second-rate coach like D'Antoni? With his idiotic, race-horse system and indifference to defense, D'Antoni is the main reason Howard left. D'Antoni has never won a championship and he never will. Even with a team loaded with talent he'd find a way to screw it up. Howard, who doesn't like DAntoni, personally or professionally, knows that. To him, any ship captained by D'Antoni is the Titanic.

The Lakers are no dummies. They had to know Howard hates D'Antoni, that he wouldn't sign as long as D'Antoni was coach. So what do they do? They ignore the negative coaching situation and even include D'Antoni as part of the team trying to convince Howard to stay. That made absolutely no sense. It was like they were sabotaging their own efforts. Owners Jim and Jeanie Buss can't be that stupid--can they?

If D'Antoni can't get anywhere with a talented team, what is he going to do with a group made up of flotsam and jetsam? The team's best player is a broken-down Kobe Bryant, due back a few months into the season after rehabbing an Achilles-tendon break, the kind that ends careers. Between age and injury, it will be a miracle if Bryant is 75% of his old self. The Lakers' big man is Pau Gasol, who is not only battling age and bad knees, but he's a horrible fit for D'Antoni's uptempo system. Point guard Steve Nash is running on empty, creeping up on 40. Metta World Peace, once a defensive monster, is a shadow of his former self.

And the rest of the bunch--Jordan Hill, Steve Blake and journeyman center Chris Kaman, who was just signed? Nothing special, none of them. The Lakers are talking about signing 33-year-old Lamar Odom who, with the Clippers, spent half of last season out of shape. When he was finally in shape, he was mostly ineffective. If he was any good, do you think new Clippers coach Doc Rivers would let him go?

Here's a sobering question. On this Lakers team, who's the defensive stopper? In fact, which of these players is any good at playing defense? The scary answer? Not one of them.

In the tough Western conference, this ragtag crew, led by a lousy coach, has just an outside chance of making the playoffs. Next season will be a lost season. The Lakers be piling up cap money to make a run at some of the big time free agents who will be available the following season. The big prize is LeBron James.

Then the Lakers will be coming off a bad season, in total rebuild-mode. Will LeBron look at the Charlotte-Bobcats West and be enticed to abandon Miami and sign up? Maybe, or possibly some other superstar will  be lured to LA, seeing something rosy in the franchise's future, something Dwight Howard didn't see..

Meanwhile the Lakers will stumble along, in tatters, a horrible mess.