23 January 2013

What should be done with the Los Angeles Lakers?

Yeah, things are not going so swell for Showtime. Widely thought to be one of the elite teams in the league this season after making trades for Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, the Los Angeles Lakers have been far and away the biggest disappointment in the league as they sit at 17-24 and four games out of the playoffs. They have already made one coaching change, dumping Mike Brown after only five games for Mike D'Antoni, and his tenure has not found much more success. Nash and Pau Gasol are having their worst seasons in years. Howard has produced but has never gotten comfortable with either Nash or Kobe Bryant, who may be having an excellent year but he has also gotten weird, live tweeting his 81-point performance from years back and playing piano after tough losses.

So what is next for the Lakers, as they try to scrap a run over the last 40 games until the playoffs?
The issues really got bad when the team panicked and fired Mike Brown after five games back in November and replaced him with Mike D'Antoni. Yes, the team had disappointed to that point but there really was no reason to dump him that early when Steve Nash was out and the team had to work on their chemistry together. I hated the firing then and I hate it now. I know Brown is not the greatest coach in the world but he at least deserved a shot with this roster, and it is easy to say that now because his offense was a much better fit for this roster than D'Antoni was and that is being proven now. D'Antoni is renowned for his uptempo attack, which is a horrible fit for this team, even with Steve Nash, because this is a team that should be playing slow, however painful it may be to watch. D'Antoni is so stuck to his system, and it is a shame because with the right roster it's fantastic but unfortunately for him, he has taken the wrong job twice since leaving Phoenix, that he is seriously giving more minutes to Earl Clark than Gasol. Just think about that. And how he has handled Gasol has been truly awful.

Speaking to Gasol, once again he is the scapegoat for the problems with the Lakers, which is a shame because I think he can still be a really good player if he was used properly. Yes his numbers are down but as Bill Simmons notes, the Lakers played their best when he was at the five and Lamar Odom was at the four (and how much do they miss him). Gasol is a true center, he isn't a four. And he showed that his skills are not really in decline because he was great in the Olympics, especially against the U.S. Trying to trade Gasol really will not solve much because the return the team will get will not be that great since his value has been butchered so much by D'Antoni, plus his contract is not that fun to deal with. A good fit would be somebody like Hornets forward Ryan Anderson, and the Hornets have no interest in that deal.

That's why what may be the best solution is to try and trade Howard. I know it certainly is not ideal as it was hoped that Howard would be the face of the team after Bryant retires but there is no guarantee that Howard will re-sign this summer, especially as there are reports that he is not happy, and while he is not a sympathetic figure after what happened in Orlando, one cannot really blame him. He never seemed willing to be a No. 2 guy behind Bryant and Bryant had no interest in shedding his role as face of the franchise and it is not his fault that the team defense has been mediocre, while he has played a role in it. After what they did to get Howard, the team cannot risk the chance that Howard leaves this summer and the team is left with nothing and since he is the biggest chip they've got, as well as his move would allow Gasol to move to his natural position, they have got to look to see what they can get for them. It is tough to see who would make a move for him. I am not sure that they can make a move with the Hawks and get Al Horford, and I doubt they would take any package from the Rockets. The Nets say they are not interested, a sharp change from how hard they tried to get him in the summer and last season, and honestly, it is not hard to see why. Brook Lopez is obviously not Howard's equal as a player, no matter what Shaq says, but he has been having a very good season for a team that is surging and would they want to bring Howard into what is already a delicate situation with Deron Williams?

I think the team most likely to trade for Howard would be the Mavericks, in my opinion. Dallas blew their chances at a repeat by letting Tyson Chandler leave for the Knicks and Dirk Nowitzki's final years are falling away due to bad personnel decisions and the team has nobody to build the team around when he retires. Mark Cuban is always aggressive and while the team does not have the assets to get him in a trade straight up, thus necessitating a third team in any potential deal, Dallas also has a lot of money to spend and are a prime location for Howard this offseason.

The bottom line is that something has to change quickly for the Lakers. They can't dump D'Antoni now, they'll have to wait until after the season because it would look really bad if they fired two coaches in one season. In all likelihood, they are going to deal Gasol, although talk is heating up about Howard. The playoffs are not impossible but the chance of this becoming an epic disaster is too high.

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