The 2014-15 season hasn't started quite exactly like the Los Angeles Lakers hoped, and things may just get worse before they get better.
It won’t be long before Lakers fans are uttering phrases like “there’s always next year,” but the front office has to think about the rest of this season as well. The loss of Julius Randle to injury is a difficult pill to swallow, and there will be some expectant fallout in the short and long terms.
With that in mind, here is a look at the latest news from Los Angeles.
Potential Roster Moves
Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders pointed out some of the potential roster moves the Lakers could make if the injury situation doesn’t get any better moving forward:
Los Angeles already lost Steve Nash and Randle for the season, which means two of those maximum 15 roster spots are dedicated to injured pieces. One more injury means the Lakers could temporarily carry 16 players with a hardship increase, which would certainly help.
Adding a 16th player to the roster wouldn’t make the difference between a playoff spot and the lottery for this struggling Lakers team, but it would improve depth. The last thing Los Angeles needs as it tries to evaluate potential trade chips or long-term assets is more injuries.
Even in what could be a lost season, injuries are difficult to deal with because there is more to basketball for a rebuilding franchise than just the immediate wins and losses. Player evaluation can only be done if the players are on the floor.
Julius Randle Upside?
The Lakers drafted Randle with the No. 7 pick in the NBA draft, but he only played 14 minutes in the season opener before going down with a devastating injury. The Kentucky product fractured his tibia and is lost for the season.
J.A. Adande of ESPN.com called Randle’s development the most important factor in L.A.'s season:
The most important aspect of the Los Angeles Lakers' season just vanished.
Kobe Bryant's return was the headline and Byron Scott's homecoming to coach his favorite childhood team was a prominent theme of opening night, but both are more representative of the Lakers' glorious past than their uncertain future. Rookie Julius Randle was the one growth stock, the player to cultivate into the next star.
However, Adande also hinted at what could be a sliver of a silver lining.
Los Angeles could struggle enough this year to land a top-five draft pick since it gets to retain the pick it traded the Phoenix Suns in the Nash deal if it's in the top five. Considering the fact that Lakers may just be the worst team in a loaded Western Conference after the latest injuries, landing a top-five pick is definitely in the realm of possibility.
The future is more important than the present for a Lakers squad that only has Randle and Nick Young on the books for 2016-17 (and only Randle in 2018-19). Given that reality, Lakers fans may find themselves cheering against their team sooner rather than later this season.
That future would look a lot brighter with an additional top-five pick in the bargain.
Michael Jordan Comments on Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant will be paid $48.5 million over two years from the Lakers, which certainly hamstrings a franchise looking to rebuild from a financial standpoint.
Michael Jordan actually discussed the Bryant deal, via DeAntae Prince of Sporting News:
Can I criticize him for maximizing his opportunity from a financial standpoint? No. Does his decision have an effect on how the team will structure certain things? Maybe.
But that's something the team didn't have to give to him. They could easily give him a different scenario and Kobe could make his choice from that standpoint. It's easy to criticize where we sit, and you don't know all the dynamics of why or what the opportunities were for him. I'm not going to criticize him for taking advantage of the opportunity presented to him.
There may not be a human being on earth who is in a better position or more qualified to comment on the Bryant contract than His Airness himself. Jordan earned about $90.2 million in 11 years with the Chicago Bulls, but $24.9 million came in the first nine years and $63.2 million came in the final two.
There are at least some parallels to Bryant’s situation.
However, it is easy to see the ownership side of Jordan creeping in on some of those comments as well.
You could make the argument that Bryant is handicapping the team from making any serious moves in the immediate future, but there are a number of banners hanging from the rafters that he helped put there.
That’s worth the $48.5 million.
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