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Lakers; Good or Bad? You Decide

Premier Free Agents Said No; Others Said Yes


By Mitch Chortkoff

Sports Editor

A sports columnist usually takes a stand on issues. The hope is the column will be read and whether or not the readers agree with the point they’ll have something to think about.

As sports editor of the Observer I encourage my columnists to present their opinions too. We try to give readers an opinion they probably won’t get in our rival papers.

But today it’s different. In doing research for this column in the last few days I realized I don’t feel strong enough with either side to go against the other one.

So, I’ll leave it to you, the reader. I’ll present the facts and you take sides if you wish.

The Lakers have just had a horrible time in free agency. Every player they wanted signed elsewhere. They started with LaMarcus Aldrich, Kevin Love and DeAndre Jordan.

After they all said no the Lakers went to their backup choice, Greg Monroe, but he chose Milwaukee. Tyson Chandler would have been nice but he landed in Phoenix.

Aldridge then said the Lakers’ presentation in his interview was all wrong. They tried to sell him in on being in Los Angeles, where he could join a franchise that’s won 16 NBA championships and in LA he’d have many endorsement opportunities.

Aldridge wanted to hear what the Lakers, coming off the worst season in their history, could do on the court.

His reaction left the impression the Lakers’ current front office is out of touch.

That’s very bad. The Lakers were humiliated and tried to repair their image by requesting a rare second interview with Aldridge. He was kind enough to go through with it but a few days later chose the San Antonio Spurs, one of the best organizations in professional sports.

So the word is out throughout the NBA. These aren’t the Lakers of Jerry Buss, Pete Newell, Bill Sharman, Wilt Chamberlain, Magic Johnson, Jerry West, Gail Goodrich, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, Michael Cooper and Kobe Bryant anymore.

These are the Lakers of Jim Buss, Jerry’s son, who has prevailed over the franchise for three years in which the Lakers haven’t won a single playoff game, let alone any championships.

Either the Lakers need new management or Jim Buss and general manager Mitch Kupchak need to realize today’s premier free agents are used to winning and want to play in the biggest games and compete for a championship. They don’t have much interest in what the Lakers used to be.

But here comes the other side of the story.

On Sunday the Lakers reached agreement with three established NBA players. None were on their preferred list but Roy Hibbert, Lou Williams and Brandon Bass combined with top draft choice DeAngelo Russell, Bryant, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle will help make the Lakers far more respectable than last season.

Most likely they won’t make the playoffs but they’ve taken a step forward. If they do better in free agency a year from now they’ll take another step forward.

Hibbert is the most interesting of the three. He’s 7-foot-2, 260 pounds and a few years ago was an all star. He fell out of grace with the Indiana Pacers, who wanted to dump his $15 million salary.

But he’s very good defensibly and he’ll challenge the many small guards who so frequently penetrated the Lakers’ defense last season.

A negative is only played an average of 25 minutes per game last season, so a backup center, perhaps Robert Sacre, will be needed to help too.

But here’s the best part. If the Lakers release Hibbert after the upcominbg season they’ll have $15 million to offer a player next summer.

Yes, he’s a rental but considering the Lakers’ dilemma it was wise for them to acquire him.

Williams was the NBA sixth man of the year for Toronto in the recently concluded season. He’ll be a double figure-scoring most welcome reserve.

Bass is a power forward and should divide time with Randle, last season’s first round draft choice who broke his leg in the first game of last season.

Bass comes from the Boston Celtics and didn’t miss a game in the last three seasons. He’s a 10-yeasr NBA veteran.

The Lakers are a long way from competing for a championship but they won’t be horrible. And that’s saying a lot.

Gradual progress is better than no progress.


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