At the moment nothing is finished and we don’t know for sure where LaMarcus Aldridge will go but it doesn’t look like it’s to Los Angeles. Apparently the basketball pitch that they made to him wasn’t as strong as he wanted it to be. Some have speculated that Kobe Bryant didn’t make Aldridge feel as valuable in the meeting. Kobe allegedly said Aldridge would play the role that Pau Gasol did when he was in LA. That displeased Aldridge and here we are. Another NBA offseason without the Lakers getting one of the top free agents they covet. Aldridge said no, Carmelo Anthony said no and Dwight Howard pressed the eject button as soon as he could. Maybe we’re in the middle of a shift in the NBA when it comes to the Lakers. Maybe it’s not as valuable as we think.
Years ago, (and by years I mean 2004) being in Los Angeles was enough to recruit high priced free agents. You had Kobe in his prime and the ability to show free agents the beach. You had the history of legendary players like Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Jerry West. You had an adored and respected owner in Dr. Jerry Buss and a fan base with one of the most iconic movie stars on the sideline (Jack Nicholson).
Now you have an almost retired Kobe talking about having no friends, only banners. You have the owner’s son running the team (which almost never works) and instead of the history of Magic, Kareem and West you now have the history of Dwight Howard bailing from the team because he didn’t want to play alongside Kobe anymore and a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2013.
Maybe this will all turn around in a year or so when Kobe retires. After all, some of the recent demises seem to be directly linked to him. Maybe this is the calm before the storm. After all, the Lakers had a down period after Shaq was traded to the Miami Heat. After trading Shaw away the Lakers missed the playoffs the next season and Chris Mihm and Chucky Atkins were two of the top five leading scorers. That’s not even a joke, look it up.
Then, out of nowhere the team acquired Pau Gasol to play with Kobe. Then the team drafted Andrew Bynum and, all of a sudden, had a championship contender again. Voilà!
As of right now the Lakers don’t have much. If the Lakers sign free agents to one year contracts this year then the only guaranteed money the Lakers will owe in the 2016-17 season will be Nick Young’s $5.4 million contract. That will give the Lakers unheard of cap space to give to free agents including Kevin Durant, Joe Johnson or even Joakim Noah.
If they don’t hit a home run with that then the only life raft that Laker fans have left is the dreams of Russell Westbrook in 2017. If the Westbrook dream fails then Laker fans may need to reevaluate how good of a team they’ll have. Right now your team hasn’t made the playoffs for two years, your team, in all likelihood, won’t make it next year and free agents don’t seem to care that you’re located in Los Angeles Maybe DeAngelo Russell and Julius Randle emerge as cornerstone pieces but they’re both too young to produce right away. Right now your best hope is that Kobe stays healthy and mentors the rookies into a champion. Good luck with that. Welcome to 2015 Laker fans. You’re officially just like everybody else. How does that feel?