Dateline Los Angeles Lakers, where losing has washed away all the great years and decades of winning.
But in the NBA, one night can change everything, and possibly last night, coupled with what happened a day before, will turn the Lakers back into greatness.
In a span of 24-hours, the Lakers made two surprise picks in the NBA draft, and were surprised also when two top big men, opted out of contracts, and headed for the NBA free agent window, that opens next week.
Rumored ready to make a run and make a trade to acquire unhappy Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins, a deal that hasn’t come down, the Lakers instead stayed put with the second pick in the draft.
They went guard, not big man, and in the process set themselves up for an acquisition of a big man, big money, free agent.
The Lakers elected not to choose Jahlil Okafor, the 6-11 Duke center, a quality player and person. Maybe because there are some limitations to his game, or maybe the truth is, D’Angelo Russell of Ohio State, is everything they need and want, as a lead guard, a shooter, a feeder, and speed freak. The Lakers still have Julius Randle, last year’s number one pick, who got hurt opening night, broken leg, and might be the same type player as Okafor.
At the end of the opening round, another surprise, the drafting of Wyoming’s 6-10 shooting forward Larry Nance, son of the ex Cleveland Cavalier-Phoenix Sun. He is not the leaper his dad was, but more of a grinder. Most everyone was stunned anyone would take him as an opening round pick. But beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.
But Thursday’s nights draft will be superseded now by what happened on Wednesday. Because the day before the draft, two marquee big men jumped into the free agent water.
Kevin Love is bolting Cleveland, after just one season. He is casting eyes towards coming home, an ex-UCLA star, and he will command a 4-year max contract. Then LeMarcus Aldridge, the leading scorer in Portland, opted out of his deal, putting his 6-11 frame squarely in the spotlight. A banger and a fierce inside scorer..he wants to be surrounded by star players.
Connect all the dots here. The Lakers have 23M cap space, have a healthy Kobe Bryant, developed a bright guard in Jordan Clarkson, just drafted the blazer Russell from Ohio State, and want a veteran star-status player to join the roster..
They figure to be a player for either Love or Aldridge. They just have to find out which one is the better fit. Which one is the better team player. Which one wants to play in LA.
You can turn an NBA team around in one night in the draft. The day before may wind up playing as big a part in returning Lakers basketball to greatness as anything.
Draft night was much anticipated in Lakerland. Day one in free agency will likely surpass that.