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NBA AM: Should the Lakers Rebuild?
Posted By Derek Page On May 2, 2013 @ 9:48 am In Main Page,NBA | No Comments
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Should the Los Angeles Lakers Rebuild?
There comes a time in every successful NBA team’s natural cycle that the run has come to an end and rebuilding becomes the only clear option. Time to turn out the lights, the party’s over and it’s prudent to start thinking toward the future and put championship pipe dreams on the backburner.
Kobe Bryant faces the difficult task of rehabilitating and coming back from a torn Achilles tendon at 35 years old when next season starts, which is also the final year of his contract. Blockbuster offseason trade acquisition Dwight Howard hasn’t committed to returning to L.A. Not surprisingly, as has been the case for the last few seasons, Pau Gasol’s name is already being tossed around among the Lakers’ potential trade options this summer.
Along with the uncertain future of the team’s top three players, the supporting cast isn’t getting any younger. Only Earl Clark, Jordan Hill and Jodie Meeks were contributors under 26 years old for the Lakers this season, with older veterans populating the rest of the roster. Clark is a free agent after the season, while the Lakers hold a team option on the underachieving Meeks.
After signing this past summer at the veteran minimum, Antawn Jamison is a free agent after the season. Steve Nash, who struggled to stay on the court this season, has two years left with roughly $18.5 million owed to him. Metta World Peace has an early termination option for next season at $7.7 million and it’s highly doubtful that he could get more than that on the open market.
Aside from trying to re-sign their own players, L.A. won’t have much flexibility when it comes to free agency this offseason. Potentially, the Lakers could go into next season missing both Howard and Bryant while trying to recapture contender status with a makeshift roster. Even if Howard returns, there’s no guarantee that this team can fight for more than a fringe playoff spot with Bryant on the mend.
There’s little question that this offseason is going to be huge in determining which direction this Lakers team in headed going into the 2013-14 NBA season.
“It’s a tough call to make,” Bryant told ESPN Los Angeles’ Ramona Shelburne. “But then again, it is one more year. One more year. That’s how I look at it. One more year of this thing. Our contracts are ending. … Pau [Gasol] is up after next year. Hopefully, we get Dwight [Howard] locked up so he’s here for a while and the future is kind of set already. So let’s take a crack at this thing.”
The 33-year-old Gasol, who dealt with his share of injuries as well as questions about his overall effectiveness this season, could be the Lakers’ only attractive trade asset heading into the summer.
“The future is uncertain,” Gasol told ESPN Los Angeles’ Dave McMenamin. “There’s no doubt about it. It’s a possibility that I could be gone and there’s a possibility that I could stay. I don’t know the exact percentages of it. But I’m prepared for either way.
“I understand the challenges that the franchise is facing, the decisions that they have to make in order to keep the team in the direction that they want to — looking at the present and the future and also understanding the business side of it. So, it’s a lot going on. I wish things were a little simpler, but they’re not. So we’ll see.”
Even if the Lakers are able to find a potential suitor for Gasol that nets some youthful talent, are able to re-sign Howard, and Bryant returns fully healthy, contention is still not guaranteed in 2014. The Oklahoma City Thunder will be fully healthy to start next season, the San Antonio Spurs will still be the Spurs and numerous young teams like the Golden State Warriors and Denver Nuggets are only getting better.
In the brutal Western Conference, the Lakers will have to improve dramatically this offseason to be legitimate title contenders next season.
As of right now, the Lakers have just one player – Nash – set to be on the roster after next year, which could potentially set up a complete roster overhaul over the next few years. A top draft pick, possibly Howard in uniform and the allure of playing in Los Angeles could be enough to kick start a significant rebuild that could have the Lakers back in contention sooner rather than later.
West’s Best on Verge of Unparalleled Collapse?
After winning the first three games of their opening round playoff series against the Houston Rockets, the Oklahoma City Thunder have lost two straight to give the Rockets some fleeting hope. The Thunder haven’t looked the same without All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook and Houston has taken advantage.
“We have to forget about this one,” Kevin Durant said. “We have a quick turnaround to get ready for the next game. They came out and played well. We’ve got to give them their credit. Of course it’s tough not having your starting point guard there but we can’t make any excuses. We’ve got Reggie Jackson, he’s filling in pretty well but altogether we’ve got to do a better job of bringing more energy on the defensive end. On offense, that’ll take care of itself but on defense we’ve got to do a better job from top to bottom.”
Despite Durant having a game-high 38 and 36 points respectively over the last two contests, OKC has looked discombobulated without their floor leader. Houston has loaded up defensively on Durant and is daring the Thunder’s supporting cast to beat them. Kevin Martin, a key piece in the offseason trade of James Harden to Houston, was just 1-10 from the field in OKC’s 107-100 Game 5 defeat.
“We’re going to have wide-open shots, we’ve just got to knock them down,” Durant said. “We’ve got to continue to just believe in ourselves and have faith and we’ll be fine.
“We’ve got a tough test ahead of us in Houston and we’re looking forward to it.”
Despite the momentum shift in the series, the Thunder still need to win just one more game to get into the second round with a potential Game 7 Sunday night at home.
No NBA team has ever come back from a 0-3 deficit in the NBA playoffs.
“We’re taking it one game at a time,” Harden said. “We don’t worry about situations like that, we just go out there and focus on that particular game. Three minutes spurts in each quarter: that’s what we focus on and then we live with the results after. Now, we go back home for Game 6 and it should be interesting.”
Game 6 will be played in Houston on Friday night at 9:30 p.m. EST.
Lillard Unanimous Choice for NBA Rookie of the Year
For just the fourth time in NBA history, this season’s Rookie of the Year received every first place vote en route to a unanimous selection. The Portland Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard received 121 first-place votes, with New Orleans Pelicans’ number one overall pick Anthony Davis finishing second in the balloting with 96 second-place votes.
“I can’t stop smiling,” Lillard told NBA.com. “I think the best thing for me is to take it all in. Then tomorrow I’ve got to let it go. I’ve got my whole career in front of me.”
Lillard led all rookies in minutes (38.6), scoring (19), and assists (6.5) per game this season. The Blazers’ point guard won every Rookie of the Month award this season as it became increasingly clear that the Weber State standout was the cream of the crop in this year’s draft class.
The fourth Blazers player to win the award, Lillard is Portland’s first Rookie of the Year since Brandon Roy in 2007.
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