NBA Free Agents 2010: L.A. Lakers Need Answers To Return To NBA Finals
Fans filled the streets and yelled louder than any vuvuzela during the Lakers Victory Parade. Lovers of the purple and gold drove from hundreds of miles away just to see their favorite players on a bus from a distance.
Sure, there were some riots, resulting in six arrests and two missing children, according to ESPN.com.
But even a trip to Neverland Ranch has those problems.
Monday in Los Angeles made me happier than Albert Haynesworth at all-you-can-eat buffet. Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, and the rest of the defending NBA champions made some of the attendees’ lives complete with a simple wave.
Sadly, even Artest knew the party would only last a little longer.
It’s almost time to get back to work.
Many people think the Lakers are as far from an important team in free agency as possible. While the cross-town rival Clippers have more money to spend, it’s possible that Los Angeles’ only real basketball squad may have more critical decisions to make this offseason.
So what will the Lakers do? Here are the top five impending decisions that could make or break Kobe & Co’s title defense.
And no, giving a raise to Artest’s therapist isn’t one of them.
5) Who Gets The 13th Roster Spot?
This might not seem important to the average basketball fan, but if you know the Lakers, you know even the deep bench is critical.
Plus, you get to look at the new lead in Schindler’s Fist. Oh wait, that’s not a porn star.
That’s Adam Morrison.
Despite Kobe's praise for Morrison on Jimmy Kimmel Live, he must be released ASAP. He has a qualifying offer for more than $6.8 million next season, and if the Lakers take it, I might go all Gerard Butler in 300 on Jerry Buss.
Unless he wants to come back with a minimum deal, his roster spot is open. While it’s reasonable to expect the Lakers to re-sign Josh Powell and D.J. Mbenga for as low as possible, Los Angeles shouldn’t expect the Legend of Zorro stand-in to return.
But this slot will be critical in the upcoming season. With all the minutes logged by the Lakers’ stars coupled with their age, they need people to come off the bench and keep them well rested.
Also, the Black Mamba needs to be fed. He requires more people to toast in practice.
Los Angeles would be wise to invest in a 3-point specialist, because they have had trouble spreading the floor in the triangle. He may not play much, but practicing against a sharpshooter can help them prepare for the Ray Allens of the world.
Unlike Ray Allen, however, his new teammates would be champions.
4) Who Will Be The Backup Point Guard?
As every Laker knows, getting in Phil Jackson’s doghouse is easy.
For back-up Laker guards, it’s easier than Monica Lewinski.
All three of the Lakers reserve backcourt players spent some time on the Zen Master’s bad side during the playoffs. But when Sasha Vujacic gets credit for his clutch free throws in Game Seven and Shannon Brown gets love for his massive dunks in Game Six, who gets left out?
Jordan Farmar. The only real point guard on the pine.
I would love The Machine with the ball if he didn’t shoot every single time he touched the ball with Dick Cheney’s accuracy. I would love Brown with the ball if he didn’t lead an offense about as effectively as Smush Parker.
And I hate Smush Parker.
Farmar, or someone similar to him, must join the Lakers in their 2010-2011 campaign. His deal may be pricey at more than $2.8 million, but to keep a point guard who knows the offense and has his speed will go along way in keeping the Lary O’Brien in L.A.
Plus, without him, Reggie Miller will only mispronounce half of the Lakers' names. That’s no fun.
3) How Can They Bring Back Derek Fisher?
El Presidente cried his eyes out when he first touched that trophy on Thursday. But that's not the only reason he shed a tear.
He knew his end might be near.
Say what you want about Fish. At 36-years-old, he gets burned like Casper at the beach when guarding the elite point guards and his shooting numbers have been falling like an avalanche.
But he’s clutch. Everyone knows it.
Without his playoff heroics year after year (http://bit.ly/9JwkFZ), Bryant wouldn’t be near the conversation about the greatest player ever. The Lakers may not have won the title these past two years either.
Fisher has five rings for a reason. And it’s by no means because he piggy-backed on the greats. This man has earned his money, unlike many people in the Los Angeles sporting world.
I’m looking at you, Lane Kiffin.
The Lakers need to pay him his gouda. He doesn’t deserve a huge raise, but they should show him how much he means to the organization and the fans.
Plus, I can’t bear to see him on Utah again. Those people don’t deserve it.
2) Is Andrew Bynum A Mainstay?
People may read this title and go “WHAAAAAT?!” Spitting your water isn’t encouraged, but I’ll allow it.
But first, let me explain myself.
I love Andrew Bynum. My only Lakers jersey? Sunday white No. 17. He could be the key to keeping the dynasty around for years after Bryant and Gasol hang it up. At only 23 years old, he has the upside to dominate the NBA.
On the other hand, he has dealt with injuries almost annually. He may be injury prone, or just really unlucky, but Bynum seems to get hurt more often than a preteen girl.
Then there is the "trust in the organization" factor. For a couple seasons, the Lakers have entertained the idea of dealing Bynum across the NBA. Jason Kidd, Kevin Garnett, and Chris Bosh have all popped up as possible people to switch places with the young behemoth.
If this keeps happening, Bynum has the right to be upset with Mr. Buss. He is conveyed as a purple and gold appendix: totally expendable.
For a guy who can be the franchise’s future, that’s not acceptable.
With July 1 approaching quickly, the Lakers have to make a choice. Keep the youngest player ever to play in the NBA, or decide to shop him. Don’t alienate him to the point where he leaves disgruntled and for nothing.
1) Will Phil Jackson Return as Head Coach?
This may be the obvious choice, but it’s still the right one.
Phil Jackson is to winning as the Clippers are to losing. No one in U.S. professional sports has coached better than the Zen Master, and for him to leave would be catastrophic.
Suddenly, the triangle offense that won 11 titles is in jeopardy. Would a new Lakers coach run the same style, or would he change what has worked for Bryant and Michael Jordan? Only an idiot messes with something that isn’t broke.
But then again, Eddie Jordan is available.
And even if the Lakers promote someone from within, there’s no guarantee of success. Jackson carries an authority over his players that Jim Cleamons or Brian Shaw have only while playing NBA Live.
Also, it’s not a coincidence the teams that win NBA Titles are consistently coached by the best. Jackson, Gregg Popovich, Doc Rivers, and Pat Riley are the last four coaches to bring home hardware, and they are all extremely successful and respected men in the league.
Excuse me, complimenting a Celtic made me bleed internally.
If the Lakers want to go for Kobe’s second three-peat, they need Phil to go for his fourth. He may not seem like he is doing a lot on the sidelines, but there is no arguing with results, and Jackson has the best results money can buy.
And if he returns, I’ll start a fund to get him an even bigger throne.