The NBA’s free agent period rolls on, and teams are scrambling to pick up the missing pieces to the championship puzzle.
Role players. Bench Guys. Hustle…dudes.
Every team needs them, even the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers. While many people think their crop of new signees has been very good already, GM Mitch Kupchak still has one more target to hit.
Kupchak announced Tuesday that the Lakers expect a resolution with Brown’s people by next Friday, but he needs to act faster than that. The Lakers can’t offer Brown as much money as other teams, but L.A. needs him more than anyone else.
Even more than the Globetrotters.
Kobe Bryant should be using his magical influence to get No. 12 back into purple and gold. He did it for Matt Barnes and Ron Artest, but why should he pull more strings for Brown?
As the Lakers roster starts to fill out, it’s necessary to look at each position and see depth before signing anyone.
PG: Derek Fisher and Steve Blake
SG: Kobe and Sasha Vujacic
SF: Artest, Barnes and Luke Walton (injured)
PF: Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom
C: Andrew Bynum and Theo Ratliff
Seems pretty balanced, right?
With two spots dog-earred for the two second round picks (Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter), it seems the team is well-suited up front. So, forwards are not an issue.
But the backcourt is dry, and Brown is a perfect way to freshen it up.
Look at the available free agents, and there’s no better fit for the Lakers' system. The available shooting guards range from the human disappointment, Larry Hughes, to one of the ugliest men alive, Sasha Pavlovic.
And one Sasha is enough.
L.A. clearly needs another ball handler, and while Brown may be a little turnover prone, he’s also one of the better discount points on the market.
Sorry Javaris “Sunshine Kid” Crittenton and former Laker Chucky Atkins, Brown’s got the skills and knowledge that would compliment the team best.
I’m going to be blunt about Maria Sharapova’s former fling.
Since 2007-2008, his shooting numbers are have gone down faster than the Hindenburg. And when he’s getting paid $5.5 million to fire away, that can’t happen.
The web has been abuzz with rumors that the Lakers are trying to trade Vujacic’s contract for cap relief. Even if they aren’t able to, they need Brown back to take some minutes away from the Rusty Machine.
Comparatively, the Michigan State alum is going up in all the areas Vujacic is going down. Last season, Brown’s field goal, free throw, and three-point percentage were all above his career average, and he improved his rebounds, assists, and steals from 2008-2009.
Sasha, on the other hand, took his talents to “South” Beach, with only his field goal percentage above his career numbers.
The Lakers have signed some guys in the past who came to the team as question marks.
Dennis Rodman was a nutcase. Karl Malone and Gary Payton used the Lakers to get to a ring. (Oh, wait…)
But in Brown’s case, it’s clear he just loves being a Laker, and that’s a big deal. Anyone can be out for all the glory and fame in the world, but when picking role players, it’s important to have guys who want to be there.
Even more important, however, is how much the fans want him.
There are people in California who legitimately think Brown is the third best player on the Lakers. His jersey has become a popular buy across town. His dunk against the Celtics may be one that purple and gold faithful remember for years.
It’s not often a bench player gets that kind of attention. Just ask Jordan Farmar.
Sure, fans won’t be upset if Brown leaves and the Lakers win another ring. But by signing Shannon now, the Lakers don’t alienate any fans, and can continue to make money off his highlight reel.
Which explains No. 2…
This near-dunk on Jason Richardson was one of the best plays in the entire postseason.
And looking at Richardson’s face, it’s also one of the funniest.
But let’s face the facts, Lakers fans: The team is getting old. Bryant has clearly seen his more athletic days pass, Gasol jumps about as high as two tortillas, and Artest’s dribble drives look like he’s completely drunk.
So how do the Lakers remedy that? By signing Ratliff and Blake, a guy who hasn’t dunked in years, and a guy who can’t dunk, period.
They need Brown’s flash and flare. Los Angeles sporting events are known for their lack of energy and passion, and there’s no better way to get Staples Center fired up than a monster throwdown.
Except maybe Michael Jackson’s funeral. Too soon?
Brown can dunk with the best of them, and if he comes back, maybe he can avenge his disappointing performance in the dunk contest. Watching highlights of Bryant win the competition as a rookie is no longer fun.
How did Shannon Brown get this magnificent dunk?
A) Outrunning all the Celtics with Kobe
C) Jumping off Nate Robinson’s face, since he refuses to stay on the bench.
While B) and C) are possible, the answer is A), and it points right at Brown’s most valuable asset.
No, he’s not Chris Johnson, but Brown has an explosive first step and drive to the rim. Whether he’s on the break or in the half-court, it takes a mighty quick guard to stay in front of No. 12.
On this play, even Rondo couldn’t keep up, and that’s saying something.
The rest of Los Angeles’ bench is rather slow. Fisher’s lost a step, Blake’s not known for his feet, and while Vujacic runs around plenty, he’s not super-quick.
Brown provides a change of pace and a different gear these other guys just don’t have. Any Lakers fan can tell you that keeping Boston on their heels down the stretch of Game 7 was key, and that was due to picking up their speed.
So while Brown may have some defensive breakdowns and may not be the world’s best triangle facilitator, he has the tools to fit in perfectly with the Lakers.
But that’s just my opinion. Why would you keep him?