The Los Angeles Lakers: Sometimes being rejected is a blessing in disguise

by Kinte Fergerson @KinteF  @SocalSportspage 

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Heading in to the 2018 NBA off-season the Los Angeles Lakers are poised to have a big summer.  As it stands “The Lakers now project to have $46.9M in room this summer. The cap space will increase to $69M if they do not bring back Julius Randle and stretch the $37M owed to Luol Deng over 5 years.” The worst kept secret in the NBA is that Magic Johnson, Rob Pelinka and the Lakers Brass are hoping to sign two Max Level Free Agents.  The word on the NBA beat is that their top targets are Cleveland Caviler’s All-Star Forward LeBron James and Oklahoma City Thunder’s Paul George.  If they are successful this summer it will a dream realized.  Since the summer of 2013 it has been nothing but Nightmares for the Los Angeles Lakers.  Each summer one disappointment after another.  But if we look back at each disappointing venture into free agency maybe it was a blessing in disguise.

The Start of the losing

Let’s go back to the year 2013 the Laker’s came off a very disappointing year.  That year was supposed to be fun, on the team you had Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and the for mentioned Dwight Howard.  The Laker’s was supposed to compete for a championship well that did not happen.  The team started off horrible with a 0 – 8 pre-season record.  The lack of chemistry on the team continued during the regular season which led to the firing of then Head Coach Mike Brown just 5 games into the season.  After flirting with bringing back coach Phil Jackson, the Lakers hired now Houston Rocket coach Mike D’Antoni.  D’Antoni struggled to bring this team together and clashed with Power Forward Pau Gasol and soon to be free agent center Dwight Howard.  The season concluded with Kobe Bryant suffering a season ending Achilles injury and the Laker’s getting bounced from the first round of the 2013 Playoffs.

2013 Free Agency “#StayD12”

Going into free agency in 2013 the Laker’s pulled out all stops to try to convince center Dwight Howard to return back to the team.  This included the embarrassing billboards and #StayD12.  The Laker’s tried their best but was un able to get him to stay and they watched Howard go to Texas to join the Rockets.  It was a crushing blow and a gut punch to Laker Nation.  That same summer the Laker’s would resign Kobe Bryant for a 2-year $48.5 million-dollar contract.

2013 – 14

After losing out in the Dwight Howard sweepstakes and Kobe nursing his Achilles injury the Laker’s missed the playoffs for the first time since the 2004 – 05 season.  The team finished the season with a 27 – 55 record.  The Laker’s were able to acquire the 7th pick in the draft and used it to select Forward Julius Randle.  Randle would be the first of 4 straight lottery picks for the team.

2014 Free Agency “the hunt for Melo”

Coming into 2014’s free agency the Laker’s had their sights on All Star forward from the New York Knicks Carmelo Anthony.  Once again, the team put on the full court press.  It was believed that they had a real good chance in obtaining his services.  For the second consecutive year the Laker’s were rebuffed by a prize free agent with Carmelo deciding to return back to the Knicks.  The Laker’s were 0 for 2.  There was a last-minute effort to sign free agent forward Greg Monroe.  Once again, the free agent decided to go elsewhere, Monroe signed with the Milwaukee Bucks.  That’s 2 years and 3 free agents that turned down the purple and gold.

2014 – 15  

The 2014 – 15 season saw a new coach after the firing of Mike D’Antoni in the offseason.  Former Showtime era guard Byron Scott would take over the coaching duties.  The team would be in the Lottery once again this time receiving the second pick in the draft.  This time the Laker’s would select point guard D’Angelo Russell.  The Laker’s season would be worst then last with the team finishing 21 – 61.

2015 Free Agency “LaMarcus Aldridge puts Laker’s on blast”

LaMarcus Aldridge the Portland Trailblazers all-star forward was 2015’s big free agent fish.  The Laker’s went after Aldridge with both guns blazing.  And not only did he turn the team down he was said to have hated their free agent pitch.  LaMarcus reportedly turned down the Lakers because they didn’t talk enough about basketball and focused on the past.  The team embarrassingly begged for a second meeting and was turned down once again.  This is now 3 years and 4 prominent free agents saying no.

2015 – 16

The 2015 – 16 season would be Kobe Bryant’s last.  He would end the regular season with a 60-point game against the Utah Jazz ending his wonderful career.  The Laker’s would finish this year with an even worst record then the previous 3 season 17 – 65 which led to the firing of Coach Bryon Scott and the hiring of his successor and current coach Luke Walton.  The Laker’s would also receive the 2nd pick in the draft once again and use it on Duke Blue Devil Forward Brandon Ingram.

2016 Free Agency “Kevin Durant won’t even meet with us”

In 2016 the Big Free agent was all-star forward Kevin Durant.  And unlike the last 3 years Durant refused to even meet with the team.  The Laker’s hit rock bottom as a franchise.  As an answer to Durant’s refusal to grant the team with a meeting.  Mitch Kupchak then team general manager signed two free agents. Timofey Mozgov, 4-year, $64 million and Luol Deng, four-year, $72 million deal.  Finally, the Lakers have free agents who did not turn them down.

2016 – 17

 

2016 – 17 saw the Laker’s making a slight improvement with there

record going 26 – 56.  The Laker’s missed the playoffs fo
r the 4th consecutive year.  During this season team owner Jeanie Buss fires her brother Jim Buss and general manager Mitch Kupchak.  Jeanie replaces the two with Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka. They were

able to acquire the 2nd pick in the draft once again and draft UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball.

 

2017 Free Agency “Lakers look for 1-year deals”

Entering 2017 Free Agency the Los Angeles Laker’s use restraint by not attempting to sign big named players electing to create more cap room for 2018.  Lakers trade D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov to the Brooklyn Nets for Brook Lopez and 27th pick.  They get Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to agree to one-year contract is for $18 million.

2017 – 18 trade deadline deal

At the trade deadline The Cleveland Cavaliers traded Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye, and their own protected 2018 first-round pick to the Lakers in exchange for Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr.  This move frees up 2018 cap space.  As noted above the Laker’s will no doubt go after the 2-big fish LeBron James and Paul George hopefully for them with a different outcome then the previous year’s journeys into free agency.

Here is my summary

When looking back at the Laker’s previous failures you can say they were blessings in disguise.  Let’s take a look:

2013 Dwight Howard 

Dwight Howard is on his 3rd team since leaving the Laker’s.  He is a shell of his former self, I doubt you can find a Laker fan would take him on the team now.

2014 Carmelo Anthony

Carmelo Anthony is on his 2nd team since spurning the Laker’s and has lost a lot of his game.  The Knick’s wanted him gone so bad they were willing to do just about anything to get rid of him.

2014 Greg Monroe

Greg Monroe is on his 3rd team since saying no to the purple and gold.  Monroe’s production is way down from his years with the Piston’s and was recently bought out by the Phoenix Sun’s.

2015 LaMarcus Aldridge

LaMarcus Aldridge has been up and down with the Spurs.  In 2017 – 18 he is having an all-star season but I think most of Laker Nation would take a pass if Aldridge was on the open market now.

2016 Kevin Durant

I am not going to lie there is no sane person in Laker nation who would not take Kevin Durant.  So out of the 5 missed free agents that one is the only that kind of stings.  But we were never in the game with Durant so that makes that one a little easier to deal with.

The Silver Lining

Being 0 for 5 in free Agency since 2013 means the team does not have money committed to players that are no longer in their primes.  It also means other mediocre players did not receive contracts from the Laker’s in an effort to put together a tittle run.   Now the team did give big contracts to Timofey Mozgov, and Luol Deng and they are doing their best to erase that mistake.  So far Mozgov contract is gone and Deng’s can be stretched to acquire to max players this summer.

Another good thing that came out of this bad situation is 4 straight lottery selections.  Even though D’Angelo Russell had to be traded to get rid of the Mozgov contract.  The Laker’s have done an excellent job drafting early and late.

In Summary

This summer looks promising, the team is playing much better with the young talent.  Laker’s have a lot of cap space to chase free agents if not this summer 2018 they can preserve the cap till 2019 and chase that crop of free agents.  I often wonder where would be at now if Dwight, Carmelo, Monroe or Aldridge said yes.  What kind of team would we be now.  I can look back as an unapologetic Laker fan and say missing out on those players (minus Kevin Durant) was a blessing in disguise.

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