L.A. Lakers: 5 Signs the Team's Future Is Still Bright
The NBA has cancelled the first two weeks of the season, so in theory, there isn’t much to celebrate NBA-wise right now. As far as the Lakers are concerned, losing games will either keep them rested or, as the LA Times’ Mike Bresnahan reported, hasten the end of this run by forcing an old team to play more games with little rest.
Despite the lockout, though, there are still a few reasons to be optimistic about the Lakers’ future. Most expect that after the 2011-12 season, the team will be back in rebuilding mode and wondering what the future will hold.
Kobe Bryant will probably see his skills start to decline a bit more. Derek Fisher will eventually transition into the coaching ranks. Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol will be one year closer to leaving their primes while still being productive players. Metta World Peace will unfortunately become more of a spark plug than one of the league's top defenders.
Here are five signs the Lakers will be all right this next decade and why the future isn’t so bleak.
A Solid Rookie Class
Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock probably won’t see the floor for the Lakers this season if we have one. For the first time, however, the team has two young point guards it can groom to play lead behind Derek Fisher and Steve Blake.
Morris is a pass-first guard and a Los Angeles native who’ll no doubt excite the home crowd. Goudelock is a shooter who appears to be undersized but prolific. With the right amount of seasoning, both could be groomed to play major minutes, especially Morris.
There’s a youth movement bubbling under the surface, and it's reason for optimism as the Lakers eventually transition into the post-Derek Fisher/Kobe Bryant era.
This is a gamble because we don’t know much about what Ebanks can do. He appeared in limited action over the last two years. But it's about time that he gets some more playing time next year to see what he can do.
What we do know is he can be valuable because he is young and athletic. In a guard-heavy league, the Lakers need youth and quickness, and he can be a spark since Shannon Brown appears to have regressed the last two years.
Besides, if we have a logjam, they can always be traded for better parts.
Okay, so Brown isn’t an offensive genius, and he wasn’t supported in Cleveland, where the will of LeBron James trumped everyone. But the man didn’t win Coach of the Year for no reason, and he has something to prove over a year after being fired from Cleveland.
He’ll force the team to play better defense, and as they transition from an older to a younger team, his willingness to play his bench could determine how well the team goes.
It’s not a typical Hollywood hire, but the Lakers don’t necessarily need a big name right now. They need someone who will shake the team up where it counts, and Brown, while a nice guy, isn’t afraid to do just that.
I know, I know. He’s frustrating to watch. He’s injury-prone. He’s inconsistent and might never develop into an All-Star over a full season. Yet it’s time to realize that Bynum is one of the top five centers in the league, and he’s wearing purple and gold.
Bynum finally has confidence in his abilities, and he’s not afraid to use them. He unfortunately used it to stupid levels in his last game of the season, which overshadowed that he might have been the Lakers’ best player against Dallas.
If Bynum can escape the shadow of his big ifs, then the Lakers have a cornerstone who’ll at least be a double-double player and defensive presence.
A Big Free Agent/Trade Is Coming
Throughout their history, the Lakers have always made shrewd trades or signed a big free agent. Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, Byron Scott and Pau Gasol are just five of the examples of trades or signings that led to championships.
I’ve already made the argument for why Paul should be the Lakers’ target next summer, and if history’s any indication, Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak won’t hesitate to target him or Howard aggressively to be next big star in L.A.