It has been an offseason of firsts for the Los Angeles Lakers, a franchise still without a leader.
Not literally, of course, but it sure feels like it. Lakers fans are accustomed to sitting idly by as the draft rolls by after postseason contention, yet this year the franchise missed the playoffs for the first time since 2004-05 and had a lottery pick.
Kobe Bryant is on his way back, but big names like Carmelo Anthony scoffed at the idea of moving to the West Coast, to a town where the Lakers are suddenly the little brother.
It hasn't been all bad, though, and news as of late has come with a bit of an uplifting vibe as Mitch Kupchak rebuilds his roster and begins the coaching search in earnest. Here's the latest.
Swaggy P is Official
It seemed but a matter of time before the Lakers would bring back fan favorite Nick Young, who is more than just a welcome sight for the team from a popularity standpoint.
As the numbers show, Young spread his wings quite a bit last season when given the chance with the team downright dreadful:
According to Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News, Young officially put ink to paper recently:
Lakers officially sign Nick Young to four-year, $21.5 million deal— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) July 21, 2014
Said Kupchak of the maneuver, per the Lakers' website:
“Nick was a bright spot for us last season, and we are happy to retain such a skilled player who is committed to being a part of what we are building as a franchise.”
The Los Angeles native made it clear earlier in the offseason that his desire was to remain with the team, as captured by Medina at InsideSoCal.com:
It depends how much the discount is. But as a player, everyone wants a place they feel comfortable at. I feel comfortable in L.A. But I can’t keep taking these discounts. I need a raise a little bit. But if it’s for the right cost and they’re bringing in players and I fit into the rotation, then I’ll probably take a pay cut.
It's safe to say the two sides found a happy medium once the organization realized it had plenty of cash to dish out with the major free-agency pieces off the market.
Much of Young's success next season is predicated on how he meshes with Kobe Bryant, should the star remain healthy. The USC product is a bit of a volume shooter, but a critical contributor nonetheless who pulled through during a tumultuous period.
Ed Davis' Fresh Start
A four-year veteran, there was a time when North Carolina product Ed Davis was pegged as the heir apparent to Zach Randolph in Memphis.
Yet Davis averaged a career-low 15.2 minutes last season, which saw him eke out 5.7 points, 4.1 rebounds and 0.7 blocks per game.
But there is a rather big light at the end of the tunnel for the Lakers and Davis, as it is critical to remember he is just 25 years old with an untapped ceiling. As Basketball Insiders' Alex Kennedy put it, the finances of the acquisition were a great move for the organization:
I still can't believe the Lakers were able to sign Ed Davis to a 2-year, $2 million deal (with a player option next season). That's a steal.— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) July 23, 2014
For Davis, he told Kennedy that the deal was more of a career decision than a financial one:
I just wanted to find the perfect situation for this upcoming season and for the future. I didn’t want to take a deal just because it was more money and it might look better – I really wanted to go somewhere that had a need for me and wanted me rather than just joining a team to fill out the roster. For me, it was really just waiting it out and seeing which team had the most interest and seeing where I could go to really help the team and get a chance to play.
Davis has yet to be given a fair shake at the pro level, as he was pushed aside for others in Toronto and for Marc Gasol and Randolph in Memphis. How he fits among Julius Randle, Carlos Boozer, Jordan Hill, Ryan Kelly and Robert Sacre remains to be seen.
Either way, the Lakers nabbed a cost-effective player who has yet to blossom. He'll be a key rotational piece if asked, and perhaps something even more special if given a large amount of time on the court.
The Evolution of Jeremy Lin
He was not necessarily the point guard Lakers fans had in mind this offseason, but there is no denying that Jeremy Lin is a great fit for the organization.
For one, he came with a first-round pick. Two, his slashing style will certainly create for others on the roster, including Bryant.
After really finding his groove in New York, the wheels fell off in Houston's system the past couple of years:
Lin is most effective when the offense runs through him, which was hard to do with the ball so often being deferred to James Harden and Dwight Howard. How apparent was Houston a detriment to his skill set? Quite, as illustrated by Darius Soriano of forumblueandgold:
Jeremy Lin shot nearly 5% better from the floor overall & over 6% better from behind the arc w/ Harden on the bench vs. playing w/ him.— Darius Soriano (@forumbluegold) July 17, 2014
For the Harvard product, he sees the opportunity with the Lakers as a chance to get more time on the court with the ball in his hands, per the China Times:
"I wish my role could become bigger and more important, and I also wish I could get more playing time next year."
All that really stands in the way of Lin seeing his desired minutes is 40-year-old Steve Nash, although one would have to think the coaching staff would not give the nod to the veteran just because he is getting paid more.
Lin is also just 25 years of age, a clear indication that the front office is committed to getting younger and building for the future. With both he and Jordan Clarkson at point guard, one position seems to be solidified, allowing the staff to work on the other major issues in the coming years.