No front office is ever able to escape criticism. In this age of savvy fans that scour the internet for scouting reports on draft prospects, learn the ins and outs of the collective bargaining agreement and keep tabs on every transaction, there will always be voices of dissent amongst the crowd.
Amongst the Lakers fanbase, though, this trend of hypercritical analysis seems even more prevalent. After all, the Lakers as an organization are about chasing championships, and with the success they've had over the years, the fans have come to expect that the front office will do everything within its power to reach that goal.
If you rewind to the start of this past season, you'd find fans and critics of the team openly wondering if the organization was on the right track. The just concluded campaign ended in a sweep at the hands of the Mavericks. To add insult to injury, the front office traded reigning sixth man of the year, Lamar Odom, to those same Mavericks with speculation running wild—as much as the trade was about concern over Odom's state of mind, dumping his salary could have also been a key factor in the deal.
Then, throughout this past season, the Lakers didn't use the trade exception generated from the Odom trade, made every move with finances in mind (even deals that involved talent upgrades were ones that involved salary dumps) and ultimately suffered the same fate that they did a year earlier in failing to advance past the second round of the playoffs.
Needless to say, coming into this offseason, there were strong doubts about whether or not the Lakers were moving in the right direction. Jim Buss' leadership was questioned, and there were open concerns about whether or not the Lakers would spend the money to improve the roster or that they were even capable of getting the players that could catapult the team back into contention.
Fast forward to today and those doubts should be all but buried.
Three days after the start of the free agency period, the Lakers not only used the trade exception from the Lamar Odom deal but used it to acquire Steve Nash. In one swoop, the Lakers not only added a premier player at their weakest position but added a hefty chunk of payroll to do so. In giving Nash a guaranteed third year on his contract, the Lakers extended payroll commitments into the year when they'll be eligible for the repeater tax and did it without blinking.
After signing Nash, however, the team was not done. A key free agent whose rights the Lakers held was Jordan Hill. The back up PF/C was a key rotation player down the stretch of the season and into the playoffs, and retaining him was said to be a priority. Due to a rule in the collective bargaining agreement, the Lakers could only offer about $3.6 million per season, but there were doubts that the team would pay that much to retain his services. But the front office erased those doubts by inking Hill.
Then, of course, the Lakers made the biggest move they could have made this summer by trading for Dwight Howard. The details of this deal have been well spelled out but bear repeating. In trading Andrew Bynum, the Lakers surrendered the player they were most reluctant to trade. In not surrendering Gasol, the Lakers not only made a deft personnel move but committed to paying Pau's hefty salary. Then, in taking on Howard—who makes more money than Bynum—Earl Clark and Chris Duhon, the Lakers have added even more payroll.
The recent addition of Jodie Meeks, while dipping into their mini-mid level exception—even after Meeks' agent said that his client wouldn't play for the minimum—is the icing on the cake.
When adding all these signings together, the Lakers have effectively remade their roster with some of the best available players on the market and spent big to do so. In making these moves, the front office has erased any doubts about what it is capable of and the lengths it is willing to go to accomplish its goals.
In a recent interview about the Buss family and their willingness to do everything it takes to win, Mitch Kupchak from ESPN LA laid it out perfectly when he stated,
When it comes down to it, and I’ve always said it, certainly nobody who owns a family owned business doesn’t want to make a profit so their business can survive and prosper. But when it comes down to it, Dr. Buss is a very competitive owner, and his family is also very competitive. And when it comes down to making a decision about a couple dollars or a million dollars or 10 million dollars or putting another banner up? He can’t help himself. He chooses to go for the banner.
There probably shouldn't have been any doubts in the first place.
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