Once Again Elite Free Agents Tell Lakers No


In discussing NBA free agent possibilities with colleagues who cover teams in other cities I find a consensus.

My colleagues agree with me that the Lakers are kidding themselves by believing they might land the elite free agents. In recent years they’ve talked about LeBron James, they’ve interviewed LaMarcus Aldridge, they tried to make an appointment with Kevin Durant but didn’t even get an interview.

Since every NBA team has a new $20 million to spend the Lakers, like most of them, were assured of getting some help in the current free agent frenzy.

However, my colleagues agreed with my thought that the Lakers would strike out with the most prominent free agents, then overpay to sign a few of the lesser ones.

That’s what is happening. The Lakers have agreed to pay journeyman center Timofy Mozgov $64 million over four years.

Mozgov was a better player at Denver than he’s been at Cleveland the last two years. Now he’s coming here and Laker fans better hope he’s more productive than Roy Hibbert, the starting center on the Lakers’ 17-65 team this season when he was paid $15 million for his services.

The Lakers also signed forward Luol Deng (four years, $72 million) and their returning guard, Jordan Clarkson (four years, $50 million).

The result is the Lakers spent $186 million for these three players and they’ll be a better team next season. But they didn’t get a marquee free agent.

Deng, who is 31, played well at power forward last season for Miami. If he becomes a starter for the Lakers he’d force either Julius Randle or Brian Ingram into a reserve role.

Deng has a reputation as a stable leader and can help young players in a variety of ways. But four years? That’s a gamble for a player of his age.

The Lakers had their eye on Hassan Whiteside, a late-blooming 27-year-old center who did outstanding work for Miami last season. But he’s staying with the Heat.

Joakim Noah is another pretty good big man who could have helped the Lakers but the New York Knicks want him too and are in the lead.

Well, there’s still Al Horford and the Lakers could sure use his rebounding. Oh, he’s leaving Atlanta to play for Boston..

There was talk that the Lakers would have a good chance of signing DeMar DeRosan, who played at USC and reportedly likes Los Angeles. But he didn’t even grant the Lakers an interview and decided to stay with the Toronto Raptors.

The years go on and with every dismal Laker season (that’s four so far) they fall further and further behind more successful teams among players looking for a new home.

The Lakers try to sell them on their tradition (16 NBA championships), the glamour of LA. the good weather. But the modern players want to make the playoffs, play in the big games, be on national TV more often. They’re not interested in hearing about how good the Lakers used to be.

Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak try but they don’t have very much to sell. Sure the Lakers have some promising youngsters but they haven’t converted their potential into star status.

I’ve suggested the Lakers hire Jerry West, who has the clout they need to lure free agents.

The former Laker great lives in Los Angeles and admits to being intrigued by what he could do for his old franchise.

But he hasn’t been approached as the Lakers are apparently waiting for Phil Jackson to escape his New York contract in a year.

So West, currently a consultant for Golden State, helped the Warriors acquire Durant the other day.

“The Lakers have hit rock bottom,” wrote prominent NBA journalist Brian Windhorst.

“They’re acting like a small market team. Those teams can’t compete for the major free agents so they overpay to get lesser ones. That’s the best they can do.”

Here’s my very early thinking about the Western Conference playoff contenders for next season: Golden State, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Clippers, Portland, Memphis, Dallas and Houston, The others with the best chance figure to be Utah, New Orleans and Sacramento.


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