Lakers made right moves on paper, but they didn’t live up to the hype
The Los Angeles Lakers are currently in the midst of possibly the most challenging rebuilding effort of its storied franchise history. While professional sports dominance hardly lasts forever, it ‘s surprising to witness how fast the Lakers have fallen from the ranks of the elite over the past two years.
Rewinding back to the summer of 2012 you’d find very few, if any, who would place the Lakers as a team on the verge of missing the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since the mid 1970s. However, after news broke on Thursday about former two-time MVP Steve Nash being declared out for the season, with a recurring back injury, an already grim outlook for the team in 2014-15, took an even more substantial hit.
Back in 2012, on paper, the Lakers were sitting pretty.
During that summer the franchise orchestrated a sign-and-trade with the Phoenix Suns to acquire Nash in exchange for four draft picks – first rounders in 2013 (Nemanja Nedovic) and 2015 and second rounders in 2013 (Alex Oriakhi) and 2014. Roughly a month later the Lakers completed a four-team blockbuster deal to acquire All-Star center Dwight Howard from the Orlando Magic.
The stage was set for the Lakers now led by, Kobe Bryant, Howard and Nash to compete for titles in relatively short order.
But games aren’t played on paper and just two years later the future is getting even more cloudy for the franchise. Howard played in just 76 games with the franchise and bolted in free agency the next summer. Nash would appear in just 65 regular season games, missing 99 contests, in his first two seasons with the franchise.
While the popular trend as of late has been to put most of the blame for the Lakers’ deterioration on Bryant’s shoulders, in reality the franchise made the right moves from a player personnel standpoint.
But now the Lakers are left scrambling and are seemingly victims of their own aggressive ambition to remain relevant among the league’s top teams. Bryant’s body hasn’t cooperated with the vision, Howard chose not to stick around for the long term plan and Nash was no longer able to handle the rigors of a NBA season.
“As disappointed as we are for ourselves and our fans, we’re even more disappointed for Steve,” said Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak. “We know how hard he’s worked the last two years to try to get his body right for the rigors of the NBA, and how badly he wants to play, but unfortunately he simply hasn’t been able to get there up to this point in time. Steve has been a consummate professional, and we greatly appreciate his efforts.”
Nash, 40, will likely retire after the season ends. He is currently on the books for $9.7 million this season.
Communication Gap between Lance Stephenson and Indiana Pacers, led to his departure
The Indiana Pacers organization is living in a world of uncertainty this season. During the summer the franchise lost its top two scorers, top two playmakers and top two perimeter defenders. The first defection was emerging swingman Lance Stephenson who unexpectedly bolted in free agency to the Charlotte Hornets. The second absence was the season ending injury suffered by All-Star forward Paul George while preparing for the 2014 World Cup with Team USA.
While the Pacers’ future is still bright when George returns to action, the loss of Stephenson undoubtedly sets the franchise back a few paces in the talent department.
The Pacers have long been on record stating they would have preferred a Stephenson return into the fold as well, but why didn’t it happen? Especially considering Stephenson signed with the Hornets for three-years and $27 million and the Pacers offered a five-year $44 million deal at the beginning of free agency.
Stephenson says the Pacers’ front office wanted to him to sign the deal quickly, but he wanted to evaluate the market fully.
“I wanted to stay there but they gave me a deadline where I had to choose,” Stephenson said. “So there wasn’t no time for me to make a decision. They gave me a deadline (before) how long it (was) going to take for them to go somewhere else.
“I had to make a quick decision and me and my agent decided we would see what other teams (were) talking about.”
The Pacers were true to their word about moving quickly and didn’t wait on Stephenson to peruse the market for more lucrative offers. Indiana came to terms with forward C.J. Miles on a four-year roughly $18 million deal. The deal pushed the Pacers closer to the cap and essentially out of Stephenson’s price range.
“They didn’t have nothing else,” Stephenson says about the Pacers’ cap situation after the Miles agreement. “They had no more money or anything. That was basically it right there.
“Soon as I said no to that offer, they went and signed CJ. I figured they thought I had no chance of coming back, they just went on and signed CJ. … I felt like it was a wrap after that.”
Stephenson figures to play a prominent role in the Hornets’ rotation alongside center Al Jefferson and talented point guard Kemba Walker as the team looks to build off last season’s playoff campaign.
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