L.A. Lakers: Well, This Isn't Exactly What They Had in Mind
How did it all go so wrong for the Los Angeles Lakers?
Back in October many had them pegged as a potential dynasty with Dwight Howard and Steve Nash on board. Now, just six months later, people are debating whether the Lakers should blow the team up or not.
Really, they never had a chance to come together and forge an identity. Howard's availability for the start of the season was in question following back surgery up until about 10 days prior to opening night. Resting Howard for the majority of training camp and preseason put the Lakers behind the eight-ball early on.
Five quarters into the season, they faced their first major injury issue, losing Nash to a seemingly innocuous leg injury that evolved from bone bruise to non-displaced fracture—which kept the starting point guard out for nearly two months.
It wasn't just the players who were constantly getting reshuffled. Mike Brown (remember him?) and the much-ballyhooed Princeton offense lasted all of five games before getting canned, essentially canceling out all the offseason work the Lakers had put in to adapt to each other in the new scheme.
After a dramatic coaching search, in came Mike D'Antoni or as Lakers fans like to think of him—not Phil Jackson.
D'Antoni immediately drew the ire of Pau Gasol by benching him during fourth quarters and generally not putting him in a position to succeed, which was just the first step to turning the fanbase soundly against him.
You know the rest of the story. The injuries piled up, and the Lakers kept sliding in the standings before rallying over the second half of the season to make the playoffs.
One day after the embarrassing sweep was completed, the city of L.A. was in full-fledged panic mode. Listening to local sports talk radio, it was hard not to get caught up in all the hysteria.
Every little thing was dissected in this edition of Overreaction Theater.
Howard's early ejection in the final contest meant he wasn't fit to be a Laker. D'Antoni's inability to win a postseason game with the worst group of guards to ever suit up for a playoff team meant his job was forfeit.
This was definitely not what the Lakers organization and the Buss family had in mind.
So where does L.A. go from here?
First of all, the coaching gig needs to be settled with some authority. Fans are calling for D'Antoni's head with one breath and pining for Phil Jackson with the next.
Hiring Jackson is a pipe dream at this point, as the championship coach craves a Pat Rileyesque executive role—something that Jim Buss is unwilling to concede to him.
And firing D'Antoni means the Lakers would be paying two different coaches to not coach them next year. Besides, who else is out there for L.A. to hire once you understand that Jackson isn't a realistic target?
Next, it's imperative that the Lakers re-sign Howard. His future in L.A. should never have been in doubt, but fans are seething after a lackluster effort in the playoffs, and we all know how important it is for Howard to feel liked.
As we were brutally reminded a couple of weeks ago, Kobe Bryant's playing days are winding down. Howard is the future of the franchise.
The people ranting about how he doesn't deserve a max deal and that the Lakers should just let him walk need to take a deep breath.
Howard is two years removed from being the second-best player in the league and is still only 27 years old.
Even the venerable Phil Jackson chose Dwight Howard over LeBron James as the player to start a franchise with just a couple of years ago. Obviously that's been proven wrong, but it came from the man the entire city is clamoring for to run the entire Lakers organization.
With a solid foundation to work with, the Lakers can rebuild a championship contender. That sentence would have sounded absurd six months ago, but here we are—somewhere the Lakers never envisioned they would be.
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