Change is coming after a disastrous season for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Last year, the Lakers won a measly 27 games, their worst total since moving from Minneapolis in 1960. That's even including the 1998-99 and 2011-12 lockout-shortened seasons. After missing the playoffs for the first time in nine years, they will start fresh with most of their roster exiting the books.
Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Robert Sacre are currently the only players under contract, with the team also holding an option to retain Kendall Marshall. That gives Mitch Kupchak plenty of empty roster spots and cap space to bring in talent alongside Bryant and the newly drafted Julius Randle.
They also have a head coaching vacancy that they're taking their sweet time to fill. There's a tactical reason for their slow pursuit that will leave them without a leader for the time being.
Here's a look at some of the hottest talk from Tinseltown.
New York Pursuing Anthony-Gasol Pairing
The Lakers look ready to toss their hat in the race for most major free agents, but there doesn't seem to be much urgency to keep Pau Gasol.
Instead, a familiar face is looking to steal him in his quest to revive another depleted, big-market franchise. According to a report from ESPN's Marc Stein, Phil Jackson is trying to reunite with the 33-year-old center in the Big Apple to keep star free agent Carmelo Anthony on the New York Knicks.
Sources told ESPN.com that Knicks officials, while not willing to trumpet it publicly with free agency fast approaching, are quietly confident about their odds of retaining Anthony thanks in part to the idea that new team president Phil Jackson and the high-scoring forward have "connected" to some degree.
Furthermore, one source close to the process told ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne that Jackson is planning to make a determined attempt to try to recruit his former Los Angeles Lakers center Pau Gasol to replace the freshly traded Tyson Chandler alongside Anthony on the Knicks' front line, despite the fact New York is limited to offering Gasol less than $4 million for next season.
Gasol flourished in Jackson's triangle offense and helped procure two championships as Bryant's partner in crime, so it makes sense that the Zen Master wants to replicate that formula in New York. However, less than $4 million is a microscopic contract for someone who averaged 17.4 points, 9.7 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game last season.
Jackson has a way with words, and he potentially wiped out another suitor in the Dallas Mavericks by sending Tyson Chandler their way. But Stein said Gasol will meet with the Mavericks, Chicago Bulls and Houston Rockets upon officially entering free agency this week, and money doesn't need to speak to hold considerable sway.
Lakers fans may fear the first paragraph from Stein's excerpt more, as Anthony nears the top of the team's offseason wish list. Losing out on the star scorer will leave them in grave danger of suffering their first consecutive losing seasons in 20 years.
Lakers among Suitors for Chandler Parsons
Needing to assemble virtually an entirely new team, Los Angeles can't limit its sights on superstar names. There aren't enough LeBrons and Carmelos to go around for everyone, and the technology doesn't yet exist to clone a few of them to fill a 12-man roster.
Chandler Parsons isn't a marquee star, but he has established himself as more than a mundane role player over the past two seasons. The former second-round pick posted averages of 16.6 points, 5.5 boards and 4.0 assists, all career highs, for the Houston Rockets last season. That will make the 25-year-old a wanted man on the open market.
|Chandler Parson's Career Averages By Year|
|Year||PTS||FG %||3PT %||REB||AST||STL||PER|
The Rockets declined an incredibly affordable $964,750 to make the small forward a restricted free agent, a move that speaks to the team's desperation to sign a superstar this summer. The top names will continue to pursue Parsons, who Yahoo Sports Marc J. Spears said is a glorified Plan B for the Lakers and other squads.
"The Los Angeles Lakers, Chicago Bulls and Dallas Mavericks have primary interest in signing Anthony as a free agent," Spears said, "but also could chase Parsons if they don't, a source said."
Parsons relishes the opportunity to get paid earlier than expected, and he touted his versatility to Spears.
"I feel like I'm in a win-win situation because it's happening a year early," Parsons said. "I think a lot of teams could be interested. With the way I play and my versatility, I feel I can pretty much help any team."
He has developed into the total package in Houston, albeit one not as shiny as Anthony and others. One could even argue the Lakers would be better served signing Parsons and using the savings for other upgrades rather than pairing Bryant with another ball-stopping scorer in Anthony.
The Rockets has the right to match any deal he signs, but if they find a bigger name elsewhere, the Lakers would be well advised to scoop in and land Parsons, who ranked ninth among small forwards in Estimated Wins Added (EWA) last season, per ESPN.
Waiting Game Continues in Coaching Hunt
The Lakers are more concerned with their lineup than finding the guy to lead it. They had no head coach entering last Thursday's NBA draft and remain coachless heading into free agency.
According to USA Today's Sam Amick, the team has purposely waited before the free-agency smoke clears. While that tidbit is not new information, the recent development of James, Dwyane Wade and (likely) Chris Bosh opting out of their contracts with the Miami Heat has fortified the Lakers' decision to wait for the dust to settle, although they do have a favorite in place.
For the Lakers, that means there's still no benefit to making their coaching hire with so many moving parts possibly still in play. It also means there's more than enough time for them – and the rest of the basketball-loving world – to reassess their list of coaching candidates.
Former Lakers guard and head coaching veteran Byron Scott (New Jersey Nets, New Orleans Hornets, Cleveland Cavaliers) is considered the front-runner even by the rival candidates who have been under consideration. This is because of his deep ties with the organization and his longstanding relationship with Kobe Bryant that dates back to their time together as players in the 1996-97 season.
Amick added that they're not allowing the stars to choose a coach, "but rather giving them a chance to have some voice and avoid closing certain doors that may have otherwise been open had the coaching decision already been made." While nobody wants to appear weak by willingly catering to players, the Lakers would gladly let James pick the coach, the rest of the roster and a new logo if it brought him to Hollywood.
After ranking 28th in the NBA with 110.6 points allowed per 100 possessions, according to Basketball-Reference, they don't appear as anxious to make a big splash on the coaching front to replace the offensive-minded Mike D'Antoni. Scott isn't a flashy choice, but he's an experienced leader who the team believes will keep Bryant happy.
And a guy who earned more than $5 million per game played last season doesn't have many reasons to smile.
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