By DeArbea Walker
Laker Nation expects to see a different team this season after two failed runs at the playoffs. After two disastrous campaigns, this team has lost a sense of direction and the franchises winning face is tarnished.
When talks began to trade Pau Gasol during the 2013-2014 season, it became clear something was wrong. Gasol, an NBA All-star, one of the most dominate big men in the league and had won two NBA Championships (post-Shaq era) for the Lakers franchise was being bounced from one of the most prominent franchises. This does not sound like one of the most decorated franchises in NBA history. The Lakers are a franchise that prided itself on drawing the most dominate players during their championship runs of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. Yes, Pau was approaching the end of his prime but he was better than anyone else the team could add, especially after the dreadful end to the Dwight Howard saga. Rumors within the media of a rift in Kobe and Pau’s relationship began to swirl. If this is true, the Lakers should have tried everything they could to resolve the problem and keep Gasol. If the tables were turned, and Kobe Bryant wanted to leave the team, the Lakers wouldn’t have allowed that to happen.Embed from Getty Images
It became abundantly clear the Lakers were not looking at what was best for the team. The team was more concerned with pleasing Kobe Bryant. Once Gasol was on the trade block, many NBA teams were interested but the Chicago Bulls were the winner.
The passing of Jerry Buss was the initial trigger to the fall of the Laker franchise. The Pau Gasol trade was one of the first missteps by new ownership, but the lost sense of direction began before Gasol’s departure. The desire to pay and thank Kobe Bryant for his loyalty to the franchise was the priority for the team the past two seasons. When you have a players’ salary occupying the majority of the salary cap, it limits your ability to sign other quality players. The desire to win was placed on the back burner, which wasn’t the case before Jerry Buss’s death.
Attempts to attract players through free agency to the Lakers franchise have failed over the past two seasons. The “Showtime Lakers” of the 80’s of Magic Johnson and James Worthy would have never known a Laker team not to attract the best free agents in the league. Trade talks in early April 2015 to acquire Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins put the team in great position to salvage a dreadful 2014-2015 season. To this very moment, the Lakers are rumored to be still in trade talks with the Kings over a potential deal that could send the big man to Southern California. Whatever the case is, the ego of this franchise has not changed, but their sense of direction has changed. Everyone is waiting for this era of the team to live up to the hype.Embed from Getty Images
Although the Lakers faced a lot of backlash over their free agency struggles, their younger talent presents a bright future for the team. Since the Lakers had losing records the past two seasons, they’ve in return had high draft picks. D’Angelo Russell, the second overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft, is the most recent young addition to the team. During the 2014, draft the team added Julius Randle, seventh overall pick, and Jordan Clarkson 46th overall pick. These additions to starting lineup have only added to expectations.
The team was able to showcase all of their additions during their first preseason game Sunday against a youthful Utah Jazz ball club. The team walked away with a loss but showed promise. This does not mean they have shown the growth to make the jump into the playoffs this season. Their first steps in rebuilding Laker nation will officially begin October 28th against a young and talented Minnesota Timberwolves team.