LA Circus – 08/09

23 06 2008

Well… enough time’s elapsed for the pain to have subsided somewhat for me to look at the Lakers and what the future holds for them.

Wait… I need sunglasses – the future for LA looks damn bright from here.

Yes, coming off a loss in 6 to the Celtics, and including the absolute thrashing that the Lakers received in game 6 – the outlook for the Lakers is bright… sunshiney-bright.

Why? Well, for a start, the way the Lakers finished the regular season puts the development of the team ahead of schedule. Way ahead. And how many teams in the league finish that well with their second best player sitting for the majority of the season?  LA did what they did, when they did, much, much earlier than expected.

Andrew Bynum… a lot of critics are downplaying the impact he’ll have. You only need to open a magazine, a webpage, or speak to a Boston fan, and you’ll hear the same stuff:

  • “Andrew Bynum’s not going to make that much difference…”
  • “Who knows if his knees will ever be the same?…”
  • “He’s only played a handful of games at an elite level…”

All well & true.
The thing that amazes me is that there’s a helluva lot of hype over what Greg Oden’s expected to do in the NBA, all of it positive. But bring up Bynum and the cynics have a field day. The simple facts of the matter are that Greg Oden’s not yet played a game at the NBA level, and his knee surgery was of a far more serious nature than Bynum’s.
Yes, Oden has tremendous potential, and I’m not stating that he won’t reach it… but the games Bynum did play last season would indicate that he has the potential to be one of the elite centers at the top level.
And something that most seem to forget: less than 3 months separate Andrew Bynum and Greg Oden. They are both very, very young.
Everyone’s agreed that Greg Oden is a big man going places, a chance to be a great center – before he’s played an NBA minute. With one of the truly great centers as his personal mentor/coach in Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Bynum could be special too.

The impact Andrew Bynum’s return to the Lakers will have is far greater than simply slotting a better center into the line-up. Not only does it add a center with toughness and and a physical presence, it means that Pau Gasol can play at power forward – a position he’s far, far more suited to.
The domino effect moves Lamar Odom to small forward – again, a slot he’s more able in. There’s also some talk of moving Kobe to small forward, and Odom out to the 2-spot.

If it doesn’t work? Well… trade options are out there. From the New Jersey side I’ve heard talk of a “Jefferson-for-Odom” trade in the works – this is a trade that’s being re-visited… NJ offered it up while ago, and the Lakers said ‘no thanks’.
With Bynum’s return imminent, it’s something that the Lakers might now consider. Jefferson on Pierce or his ilk work a lot better than what we saw in the Finals.
‘Where/if-to-play-Odom’ is a problem that many GMs would kill to have.

Lots of other options will be out there – and it will be interesting to see how the summer pans out. With a team with as much potential for success as LA, will we see some veterans headed out West for a less-than-going-rate in search of an elusive ring? Who knows…
Boston will be a destination of choice for some (tho’ let’s be honest, not a helluva lot of players can actually write their own ticket) in that situation, but LA will be another. Unfortunately for the league, that’s a trend that doesn’t look to be ending soon. The rich get richer…

And of course, there’s Kobe.  Anyone who doesn’t think that the result of 07/08 won’t motivate him simply still doesn’t realise who he is.

Talk is talk, and as they say, it’s cheap… but the bottom line is that with Bynum back, the Lakers have options, options that without him simply didn’t exist.

The draft fast approaches, and although the Lakers only have one pick at #28 in the second round (#58 overall), with the roster the next season presents – Gasol/Ariza with a full camp… Bynum back – things are fine. Such a low pick should be used to take a chance… swing for the fences Mitch! Perhaps Dave Padgett’s knees aren’t as bad as feared? Take a chance on a guy who might make it, or might not.

Whilst I’ll stop short of declaring that the future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades… it is looking pretty good.

Pretty good indeed.

Other outlooks on the Lakers:

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