I love basketball. I believe that it is one of the most exciting sports. As a Southern Californian, I have been a Lakers fans since the “Showtime” days of the eighties. As a fan, I have gone through my joys and sorrows based on Lakers successes and failures, but I always felt that most of the time, the Lakers were being competently managed and coached.
However, I am frustrated with the current Lakers Management who has managed the Lakers for the past couple of years. Some of their decisions seem to lack serious strategic thinking for this great team. The major responsibilities for Management include selection of the head coach, player recruitment and their compensation and other activities related to providing facilities, training etc. This article discusses the two significant areas, Coach Selection and Players’ recruitment, since the baton was passed to the new Management.
- Head Coach Selection:
During last two years, the Lakers selected two outside coaches Mike Brown and Mike D’Antoni. Mike Brown was let go and it appears Mike D’Antoni is also not working out.
As I stated in my earlier article, Keep it simple Lakers, while, Mike Brown had a reputation of being an ardent basketball lover and a highly qualified X-O type of coach, sometimes, this can also become a weakness while coaching the highly talented and well paid NBA players where skills and players’ ego management are equally important. These players need a coach who acts more like a manager and is a strategic thinker, who understands his players, can manage their egos constructively to inspire them to put their selfish interests aside and motivate them to play as a team. He has to have fast thinking so that in an actual game situation, he can evaluate his team’s momentum and energy level to come up with right substitutions, and also study the opponents’ strategies to design the right plays to counter them.
As far as Mike D’Antoni is concerned, he has a reputation of a great offensive coach but is lacking when it comes to defense. This is showing up in games played by the Lakers so far. Normally, championships are won by the teams which are good both in offense and defense. Mike D’Antoni’s record is already known and he is not likely to improve much even when Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant rejoin the team.
In my opinion, the long term solution lies in giving an opportunity to someone with experience within the Lakers organization. It worked marvelously when the Lakers picked up Pat Riley from within the organization after the forced exit of another coach during the “Showtime” years. It may work again.
The Lakers should therefore consider Kurt Rambis for an Interim Coaching position for rest of this season. Rambis has a couple of years of head coaching experience and is known for his defense. He has won multiple rings as a Lakers player. He has served as Assistant Coach on Lakers Championship teams in the past and is also an Assistant on the current team. He is familiar with the Lakers organization and the players and deserves a chance. If he does not work out, the Lakers can look for another coach for the next season.
- Players Recruitment & Retention
The Lakers record in last couple of years has not been very impressive in this area either. They had done a good job in trading Bynum and getting Dwight Howard in his place. From then it was downhill. Once Howard refused to sign a long term contract, the Lakers should have traded him for whatever value they could have got for him. But they kept hoping that Howard will stay and did not get anything for him. They seem to be making a similar mistake with Pau Gasol.
Another questionable decision the Lakers made was signing the 38 year old Steve Nash for three years. Because of the health problems, Steve has not been able to play much this season. Even when he was healthy he was not strong in defense. As has been reported some time ago, Nash being a Canadian icon, Toronto may be interested to have him retiring with them. Lakers should explore trading Steve Nash along with Nick Young to Toronto for Delmar DeRozen and another young player.
Despite their woes, the Lakers have been lucky to get a number of young and experienced players this year. Most of these were initially drafted in the first round and later dropped or traded by their original teams and became available to the Lakers at a reasonable price as free agents. They seem to be performing well with the Lakers this year. As discussed below, many of these players deserve consideration for longer term contracts.
These include young players like Kendal Marshall, Xavier Henry, Ryan Kelly and Robert Sacre who have potential to become strong bench members or even starters after a few years of experience and nurturing.
Among the more experienced players in mid or late twenties are Nick Young, Jodie Meeks, Wesley Johnson, Jordan Farmar and Jordan Hill. The veteran Steve Blake and Chris Kaman should also be good for couple of more years.
The Lakers will likely have a high 1st round pick this year and they currently have a mix of young and experienced players who along with Kobe Bryant can make a good team for them for next few years. The Lakers Management needs to make longer term commitment to these players who have potential.
The Lakers management needs to use strategic thinking and make some tough decisions. The fact remains that mistakes have been made in the past couple of years but it is important to recognize and correct them otherwise they will only prolong the agony.
The first and foremost decision which needs be taken is about the coach. This is the perfect time to give Kurt Rambis a try as an interim coach for the remainder of this season. If he does not work out, the Lakers will have time to look for another coach during this summer.
The next step is to start signing up the current talented players for longer term contracts. This supplemented by a high draft pick and with the addition of a free agent or two should help the Lakers have a more competitive team next season.
Is the Lakers management up to the tasks?
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