When a general manager says he expects his team to win in the 2013-2014 NBA season, what does he mean exactly? Kobe Bryant is one huge question mark coming off his injury, when he actually returns. Pau Gasol probably will never be 100% with his knee problems, while Steve Nash has a very low ceiling. The rest? Athletic players who have disappointed in the league. What is exactly winning?
Mitch Kupchak, under the guidance of Jim Buss, has put the Lakers in this position, which is in a state of limbo – having an expensive team without a chance to actually contend for anything this season and as it turns out, not really being close for the past three, but being the kind of franchise that can’t declare or even seem like it’s heading into a tanking-mode season, thinking about the highest possible draft pick.
Our plan was to bring back Dwight Howard and that would have sky-rocketed our payroll. That’s never a plan here with our fan base, to throw in the towel before the season begins. We always try to win, and that’s what we’re going to do this year.
We have challenges. There’s no doubt. We don’t know when Kobe’s coming back, and we don’t know what level he’s going to come back at, although we’re optimistic. Everything’s good with Steve Nash. Pau Gasol should be fine. We’ve added some athleticism. We’re hopefully putting ourselves in position where we can compete in every game.
The Lakers have only Steve Nash signed up for the 2014-2015 season, meaning there huge questions looming beyond the horizon, with the Lakers going into the 2013-2014 season as long-shots to make the postseason, something that hasn’t been a reality in about a decade. The question isn’t what they’re going to do this year, but how quickly will they manage to get out of where they are now?
And yet the Lakers never like thinking too far ahead. Big-name free agents always have their time and place, and for now, putting up the largest number of wins and making the 2014 NBA playoffs is the first goal. How? Hoping Kobe Bryant is the same player after his injury from last season. Hoping Pau Gasol is suddenly the same guy from two years ago, with no injury issues to slow him down. Hoping Steve Nash won’t act like a 40-year old and be available for more than 70 games, which he wasn’t even remotely close to last season.
Maybe Nick Young and Wesley Johnson can be more than fringe players on the perimeter. Maybe Steve Blake can outdo himself and show some actual point guarding skills offensively to make up for Steve Nash not being able to play too many minutes anymore. Maybe Chris Kaman can suddenly play some defense. But there’s just too much speculating and risk taking into this team, if the Lakers are actually thinking about winning next season.
Kobe Bryant is the key to it all. The Lakers won’t be able to defend well – they don’t have the players or the head coach for it. They’ll have to score, and a lot, every night, especially in the West. The only way that happens is if Kobe Bryant doesn’t miss a beat coming off his injury, and for that to be the leading reason to build your entire hopes for next season upon seems like the same kind of bad thinking that put the Lakers at this position in the first place.