It’s been an awful time of late for a once proud franchise.
The LA Lakers are not what they used to be. Maybe it was ego and arrogance. Maybe it was stupidity of leadership. Maybe it was the salary cap. Maybe it was age-injury and the cycle of talent.
What was a long time ago, is no longer right now, a dynastic franchise, where trophies-rings and the bling were the norm. Lakers fans would give anything to see a playoff game, or even have to rationalize, ‘we got to the finals but lost’. Hasn’t been that way recently, surely won’t be that way for awhile to come.
But at least there is some hope going forward with what just happened earlier this week. The draft lottery finally shined some golden sunshine of the franchise.
The Lakers have had great periods of dominance. Early on they were in the NBA finals yearly, but always blocked by Red Auerbach and the greatness of the Boston Celtics, Cousy, Russell, Sanders, the Jones boys, Havlicek and Siegfried.
The lost in the finals 7-times in a row because of all things Boston Gardens, from 1961-1970.
Then came greatness, the era of West-Baylor-Chamberlain. The arrival of all things “Showtime”, Magic, Big Game James Worthy, Silk Wilkes, Cooper, McAdoo.
And then there was Kobe-Shaq, D-Fish, Robert Horry and so many others.
From 1971 on, they won 6-trophies, even in the reincarnation of the Michael Jordan-Bulls and Larry Bird-Boston eras.
The one constant was Jerry Buss the philanthropic owner, and great on-floor leadership, from Pat Riley to Phil Jackson to Mitch Kupchack.
Times changed, rules changed, mistakes were made. The Lakers no longer became a destination point. The passing of Dr. Buss ended an era. It led to in-house fighting. Jerry West left as GM. Phil Jackson left as coach. Shaquille O’Neal left in an ego fight. Dwight Howard came and was gone. And coaches were hired, only to be fired, mistake after mistake.
Whereas there was stability and leadership, and LA was a destination point for stars, it was replaced by an ill-fitted son, Jim Buss, as a leader, and a rag-tag roster full of players. By the end of last year, you’d think you were watching an NBA-D League minor team.
Did you ever think you’d sit here and read a Lakers record that is (48-116) over the last two non playoff seasons? Kobe Bryant is the last man standing of the greatness, when he is not down and out on the NBA injured list. 3-straight seasons of surgeries-injuries have brought him to the brink of retirement. No one wants to go out a loser.
The Lakers may have one last chance. The lottery for losers did not come up ‘craps’ for them. They get the second choice in next month’s college draft. They have 3-solid picks in a deep athletic draft. They could hit the jackpot, and back on the rebuild road quick.
They draft 2nd, 27th and 34th. Solid positions to be in. Kobe comes back healthy. So does last year’s first round pick, Julius Randle, who went out with season ending surgery at the beginning of last season. Jahlil Okafor (Duke), Karl Townes (Kentucky) or DeAngelo Russell (Ohio State) are at the top of the board. They are going to get a great player.
If Mitch Kupchack can make the right choices the other two top picks should be rock-solid. And they have cap space with Steve Nash’s expiring contract and a combination of players off last year’s roster, they don’t want back.
The colors are Purple and Gold. More recently the franchise has become a punching bag around the league, turning Black and Blue. It should end quickly. Anything is better than the last two years, and it will be better in the next few years.
The lottery has given them a life-line. Soon the Lakers line will be buzzing with fans who believe this franchise can come back. Golden State did. Oklahoma City did. The Lakers can.