The media is in a frenzy today over the struggling Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers sport four future Hall-of-Famers, a former Defensive Player of the Year in Metta World Peace, and a former Sixth Man of the Year in Antawn Jamison. They have an assortment of riches, yet they have lost 9 of their last 11 games. The two games that the Lakers won were a glimmer of hope spearheaded by the defense of Kobe Bryant, who shut down Kyrie Irving and Brandon Jennings in consecutive games. The problem is that Bryant is 34 years old and the fatigue that comes as a result of chasing Irving and Jennings caught up to him, causing Bryant to shoot 8-for-25, 10-for-32, and 7-for-22 in the last three game respectively.
The team is getting frustrated and Bryant has finally hinted that the Lakers need to make a trade or a coaching change. One thing is for certain: the Lakers will not make a coaching change. They still owe $10 million to Mike Brown and a guaranteed $12 million to Mike D’Antoni. The only coaching change they’d consider making is trying to get Phil Jackson but the Lakers would have to throw the bank (and then some) at him. One thing the Lakers front office could have done was to sit D’Antoni down and tell him to change his scheme to take advantage of the fact that the Lakers have two of the best big men in the NBA. Even if D’Antoni does this, it could take weeks for the “new” D’Antoni offense to be implemented smoothly. The Lakers have played 41 games and are exactly mid-way through the season; they don’t have time to wait it out and see if the Lakers can fix themselves.
To make the playoffs the Lakers must win at least 45 games in a loaded Western Conference. That means Los Angeles must go 28-13 (a winning percentage of 68%) in order to finish in the eighth spot. The Lakers would then most likely face either the Oklahoma City Thunder or the Los Angeles Clippers, and neither series would last six games. Winning 68% of their remaining games isn’t impossible for the Lakers, but with the scheme they have decided to run and with the roster they have, it will not happen. They must take the risk and trade Pau Gasol or Dwight Howard.
Dwight Howard is in the last year of his contract and the Lakers are assuming, perhaps naively, that Howard will re-sign with the Lakers long-term. Pau Gasol is under contract for the 2013-2014 season and is due to make almost $19.3 million dollars. The Lakers have been notorious for making moves that put them in a position to win in now-mode and might drastically impact their future in negative fashion.. For once, Los Angeles has the option of taking a risk that could put them in a better position to make the playoffs this year and possibly secure their future, and that is to trade Pau Gasol. The Lakers front office has to put a premium on possibly re-signing Dwight Howard. In other words, having Pau Gasol for one more season is not worth the risk of seeing Dwight Howard leave for Dallas, Houston, or any other team following this year. There is plenty of interest in Pau Gasol throughout the league. GM Mitch Kupchak must work his magic, the same magic that landed the Lakers Dwight Howard in exchange for Andrew-hasn’t-played-a-minute-all-season-Bynum, to get a “stretch four” that fits the current D’Antoni System and an additional player to bolster the Laker bench.
The NBA trade deadline is less than a month away and time is running low for arguably the best franchise in the history of sport. The Lakers begin the second half of their tumultuous season Wednesday night in Memphis.
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