Why the L.A. Lakers Will Never Be Forced to Rebuild
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I should be clear about this before I get to why the Lakers will never be forced to rebuild: Never is a long time.
A lot of things will happen between now and when time ceases entirely. The Lakers taking a step backwards and not being a contender will likely be one of them. This is the nature of professional sports, and it's best to understand this going in.
However, the Lakers have proven through their history that they never stay down for long. Since their inception in 1948, they've won more games than any other franchise, been to 31 championship series (winning 16) and have only missed the playoffs five times.
So, while never is a long time, history tells us we're not off-base in saying they'll never be forced to rebuild. Their success has been sustained through a move from Minneapolis to Los Angeles, multiple owners, countless head coaches, and hundreds of players.
And, in forecasting to the future, it is set to continue.
The Lakers are one of the few (only?) organizations that have the holy trinity of traits in order to build and maintain a winning roster: They're located in a large market with nice weather, they have a storied history, and they spend money.
These advantages matter for a lot of reasons, but first and foremost because they make the Lakers an ideal destination for free agents.
If the money is anywhere close to equal, the Lakers can always sell the extra incentives of a fantastic market and a winning culture to close the deal. Said another way, the same motivations that drew Shaq to L.A. 15 years ago as a free agent will likely keep Dwight Howard in town when he enters into unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2013.
These same draws apply to role players as well. The list of veterans who have taken less money to play for the Lakers, either to try to win a championship or simply because they enjoy the city, is too long to write out. And while many focus on the big-name players who sign as free agents, it is often these lesser-known veteran contributors who round out contending teams and help make them into champions.
Beyond the outside factors like weather or prestige, the Lakers have also traditionally had smart basketball people in charge who make the right decisions at the right time. The presence of decision makers like Jerry West and Mitch Kupchak has been the difference between hundreds of wins and losses.
Moving forward, the Lakers will surely keep an emphasis on hiring the types of smart executives that are willing to take chances when appropriate, make a trade when needed, and, most importantly, carry out the organization's long-term vision in maintaining a winning team.
And this all starts with the Buss family.
Jerry Buss has been one of sports' best owners from the day he bought the team. In recent years, as his son Jim has taken more control over the direction of the franchise, the team hasn't skipped a beat.
Sure, there were questions about Jim's competence at first. But over time that perception has started to shift dramatically. The ability of the organization to deal for Steve Nash and Dwight Howard in one offseason (not to mention nearly pull off a trade for Chris Paul before the 2011-12 campaign) shows that, like his father, Jim can be a calculated risk taker that isn't scared to gamble on a big move.
In addition to Jim, his sister Jeanie also figures prominently into the business side of the organization, ensuring that the brand stays strong and desirable for decades to come. The end result is a family business that brings the best of both worlds, merging basketball smarts with business savvy that can be the foundation for a long, long time.
When taking a step back, it's now easier to see why the Lakers will never have to rebuild. They've created a model of success that has snowballed to the point where it continues to sustain itself.
The people on the inside of the organization are smart risk takers that stick to long-term plans to achieve their goals. People on the outside of the organization—namely players and agents—see the Lakers as a marquee franchise that will spend the money to build a winner and remain competitive year after year.
The scary part for the rest of the NBA is that none of it looks to be ending anytime soon.
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