5 New Year's Resolutions for the LA Lakers
It's time for the Los Angeles Lakers to accept their fate and begin Riggin' for Wiggins, or get Sorry for Jabari, or start a Scandal for Randle, or any of five other synonym-for-tank/player name combos because there are that many potential franchise cornerstones in the 2014 draft.
We're a third of the way through the season, and while the Lakers have fought valiantly to stay in the race for the eighth seed in the West, it's clear that the talent isn't there to make a real playoff push.
What's the use of going all out and playing your way out of the chance to draft a future All-Star next June?
The Lakers need to dedicate the rest of the season to figuring out their future direction.
Here are five New Year's resolutions that L.A. should aim for.
No. 1: Tell Kobe Bryant to Take His Time
Kobe Bryant beat even the earliest suggested recovery times from his Achilles tear by a solid month.
While he maintains that his latest injury has nothing to do with the one he suffered back in April according to ESPN's Dave McMenamin, this does give him extra time to recover and strengthen the joints around that Achilles.
It will also put the Lakers in a deeper hole—with less time to dig out of it—when he comes back this time.
By then, even Bryant must recognize that the best thing for L.A. to do in order to hasten a rebuild is to snag an elite running mate for him from the college ranks.
And if he doesn't, the Lakers should make him see that. Keep him out until after the All-Star break at the earliest.
No. 2: Gently Remind Steve Nash That Medical Retirement Is an Option
It's a delicate situation.
Steve Nash is dealing with a complex injury that affects him more than just on the basketball court.
He's a competitor and—perhaps more importantly—still has one year and close to 10 million dollars remaining on his contract.
It's not right for the Lakers to push Nash out the door, but steering him towards that decision himself could be advantageous for L.A.
Removing that cap hit from the ledger would clear more space to go after prime free agents in the offseason. Even using the stretch provision to ensure Nash gets his money would free up a nice chunk of change for the team to fill some of its holes.
This could all be rendered unnecessary if the Lakers decide they would rather roll their cap space over until the summer of 2015 or 2016, but keeping this option on the table should be a goal for now.
No. 3: Explore Trades for Pau Gasol
Well, this is awkward.
One day before discovering the extent of Bryant's latest setback, sources told ESPN's Ramona Shelburne and Marc Stein that Gasol was no longer on the trade block.
However, it may be time to reconsider that stance.
If the Lakers can get back any sort of future assets or cap relief for Gasol, they should at least consider it. It's not likely that L.A. will get a return worth pulling the trigger on, but they owe it to themselves to do their due diligence instead of pulling Pau off the market with two months to go before the trade deadline.
Dealing Gasol for spare parts would further dampen L.A.'s win total, which would only increase their lottery odds. It's worth taking a look around.
No. 4: Free Jordan Hill
For some reason, Mike D'Antoni keeps a tight leash on Jordan Hill.
After consistently getting big minutes for a seven-game stretch last month, Hill has gone back to being a bit player.
He's cracked 30 minutes in a game just once over the past 14 games, and has played 20 minutes or less in 10 of those contests.
We're yet to get a reasonable explanation for why.
Hill leads the Lakers in PER by a mile at 21.7, the 19th-best mark in the entire league. The next five guys on the list are Eric Bledsoe, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Blake Griffin and Tim Duncan.
That's rarefied air.
He's averaging an insane 16 points and 14 rebounds per 36 minutes. So give him those minutes!
As a young player in a contract year, you have to see exactly what you have in Hill so you know whether he fits in to the team's future plans or not.
No. 5: Keep Firing Away
Just because tanking is the way to go doesn't mean the Lakers need to be unwatchable.
Thus far they have played a fun, exciting brand of basketball that keeps fans engaged—especially when Kobe Bryant is out of the lineup.
The Lakers rank fourth in the NBA in pace, fifth in three-pointers attempted per game, and eighth in percentage of field goals coming off an assist.
That combination of getting up and down the court, a constant green light to launch triples and the willingness to zip the ball around and find open guys produces a style of play that is pleasing to the eye.
It also keeps L.A. competitive.
Games like the Christmas Day affair against the Miami Heat are fun to watch. It's exciting to see the Lakers go toe-to-toe with the league's best and hold their own.
It's also productive for them to keep coming up just short.
Here's to more entertaining losses, a rejuvenated Mamba and some lottery luck in 2014. Happy New Year!