The Los Angeles Lakers lost out on the Dwight Howard sweepstakes, as the big man turned down the extra year of job security and $30 million in guaranteed money to try to win a championship with the Houston Rockets.
While the Lakers reportedly had low expectations leading up to Friday’s big decision, there was still a small glimmer of hope that the team wouldn’t have to face the post-D12 era for at least another five years.
Unfortunately, it’s now time for L.A. to pick up the pieces and move on without the superstar center. Let’s take a look at how the Tinseltown club plans to forge ahead now that Howard has taken his talents to Houston.
Pau Gasol No Longer an Amnesty Candidate
Prior to Howard’s defection to the Rockets, there was some talk that the Lakers could exercise their amnesty clause on Pau Gasol. It would have freed the team of the $19.3 million it owes the 32-year-old for the last year of his contract in 2013-14.
However, the Spaniard is the only All-Star-caliber frontcourt player left on the roster and is now integral to L.A.’s plans going forward.
According to ESPN Los Angeles’ Ramona Shelburne, there is no chance that Gasol is amnestied and should actually play a larger role in coach Mike D’Antoni’s offense going forward.
How will Gasol perform as a center next year?
The organization wants to slide Gasol from his current power forward spot back to the center position, where he originally excelled upon being traded to the Lakers in 2009.
D’Antoni’s system could use a smart, experienced playmaker to run the offense from the inside out and set up the shooters surrounding him on the perimeter.
Shelburne notes that Metta World Peace, Jordan Hill and second-round pick Ryan Kelly are all candidates to assume major minutes at the 4 due to Gasol’s imminent transition.
Given Gasol’s late-season string of promising performances, Lakers fans should have something to look forward to at the start of the 2013-14 campaign.
LeBron James on Radar
The Lakers don’t have much wiggle room this summer, but they have the cap space to make a splash in 2014. Due to that flexibility, it is being rumored that the club is eyeing the biggest prize of all.
According to Hoopsworld’s Alex Kennedy, the Lakers are going to try their hardest to contend in 2013-14 with their current roster and then attempt to recruit LeBron James, the back-to-back defending champion and league’s four-time Most Valuable Player, to Hollywood.
What's next for the L.A. Lakers? They'll try to make a run in the 2013-14 season and then make a run at LeBron James, according to sources.— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) July 6, 2013
It’s a bold move and one that could easily blow up in general manager Mitch Kupchak’s face, but it’s a coup that only a top-tier franchise like the L.A. Lakers could conceivably pull off.
Throughout history, the Lakers’ mystique has attracted a multitude of marquee talent to Southern California. This is an organization that simply wins titles and is one of the league’s most popular franchises playing in one of America’s biggest markets.
While it will be hard for LeBron to leave the Heat—especially if they pull off the three-peat next year—it’s almost certain that he’s going to give L.A. some serious consideration and may even end up taking his talents to SoCal.