The Los Angeles Lakers are now what Italians refer to as “The once-beautiful woman.” That is, her name and reputation will alwauys be there but the lines and the wrinkles and the loss of muscle tone are more evident with each passing day. What I don’t fully understand about the Lakers is why they did not prepare — over a 10-year period — for this eventuality. Of course, that’s tough to do in Los Angeles or New York, where the fans and the mass media excpect results … NOW. That means it’s hard to work in younger players and bring them along gradually.
Maybe that’s just easier to do in other cities, with other clubs. Look at how the San Antonio Spurs, over the last few years, have kept their ‘old’ core three — Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili — while totally changing the supporting cast of the other 9 players (12, if we include the taxi squad). What about the Houston Rockets, who have gone for a couple of big-name free agents — Dwight Howard and James Harden — but have carefully built around the edges, so as to have a younger, deeper, more versatile supporting cast? The Lakers have not done that.
The Lakers sent a still-productive Shaquille O’Neal away (he won a title with Miami after that) and dealt Pau Gasol last summer. Of course, Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum self-destructed while on their property. They did what the New York Yankees have been doing in recent years, going for the quick fix with ‘name’ players that are up in years, perhaps not 100% physically and no longer as effective as they once were … such as Steve Nash. In that same category, you might put Ron Artest, Matt Barnes, Steve Blake and Troy Murphy. So, they are presently 5-16 and sinking fast.
In international coaching, you have to make changes, one or two, every year. That goes for both club teams and national teams. Hall of Fame coach Mirko Novosel had Yugoslavia for many years. His idea: Cut the 11th and 12th man every year and bring in the two best youngsters in Yugoslavia: younger legs, lungs, hearts, minds. He kept his Core-7 but consantly changed the other five. When the Big 7 left, the ‘New 5’ of Vlade Divac and Co. were ready. The hardest thing to do is tear down and start over, as the Lakers must now do.