|For the most part I'll try not to get to bogged down in
the common rhetoric, that usually gets written when discussing the Lakers... I won't
assign all the blame to just one player, but will try to dish it out as evenly as
possible. And, since volumes have already been written about Dennis Rodman (which is what
he wants), I will not rehash that one.
Derek Fisher- The scapegoat
aura is starting to gravitate towards him, but this is unfair. A point guard on a team
with this kind of talent, is supposed to provide consistent play, and be the glue that
holds the team together. But how can he be consistent when his playing situation is
constantly changing? How can he hold the team together when the peices are constantly
changing (including the coach!)? Basically Fish is a tough defensive player, who works
hard, plays hard, and when his shot is dropping makes the Lakers unstoppable. Fisher
however is a free agent, who may not be back depending on the draft and whether Harper
Derek Harper- The man is
old... too old, so old that he pretty much broke down halfway through the season (yeah the
games were packed tight, but so what). Harper was brought in to be the backup and provide
leadership. He ended up starting many games, and I think his leadership skills are
overrated. Shaq and Kobe might listen if this guy had any rings, but all he really has is
a conference championship, which isn't exactly eye-popping. He tried to provide the same
role for Dallas a few years ago and flopped, which is pretty much how I would describe
this season. He is a FA who might work for the minimum again, but might retire. If it
comes down to a roster spot for him or Fisher, I go with Fish... perhaps he may agree to
be the IR jockey next season who will practice, teach, and be available should the one of
the other guys get injured.
Tyronn Lue- I love this guy,
he was the only Laker who can claim to have played at full speed in every minute he
played. Sure he's tiny and makes mistakes, but his energy and effort are infectious, if
not to the other players... then to the crowd. His defense is underated as he is as pesky
as they come, his shot could use some work but he shoots with confidence, and he gets up
the court as fast as anyone on the planet. He is signed through 2003 and should be a good
player by then. May be given the opportunity to try out for the starting spot in the fall.
Overall- This is probably the second weakest spot on the
team as there is no clear favorite to start next season. They could try to upgrade this
position, but at their draft postion no PG left will have the talent to compete with Fish
& Lue, let alone Harper. They may try to trade up to get Miller or Davis as both are
local guys, but I doubt Jerry can swing a deal for either. On the whole there will
probably be little change at PG here in the offseason, as the players are all of stable
nature, unless someone like Payton becomes available.
Kobe Bryant- Say what you
will about his shot selection, and turnovers, but Iverson had a lower shooting percentage,
and more TO's. I have to admit he likes to make things hard on himself with his mediocre
turnaround jumper, but at times he is pure genius. Some will criticize lack of
improvement, or maturity... but he is only 21. He may not have the college credentials of
Jordan or Magic, but at the same age it would be hard to claim either was better than
Kobe. Whether he joins that caliber of player remains to be seen, but he is not the source
of the Laker problems...PERIOD!
He may need to work on defense but he did show flashes of
brilliance this season. I actually thought he played better at SF earlier in the season,
but the team as a whole was playing better, so its hard to judge, however I would suggest
they experiment more with this possibility. Would have been a FA after this season, but
was locked up for seven at the maximum.
Rick Fox- Yeah he's more of
a SF but the difference is negligible, and he logged more minutes backing up Kobe than
anyone else... so I'll review him here. The guy plays hard and tough but at times he
looked like a thug this season, and I think the frustration might have set in. A good
shooter, tough defender, finesse penetrator, and team player there is little to argue with
when talking about his skills. Unfortunately for the Lakers he may have had it with their
bickering ways. A FA who gave up money under a $1.75-mil exemption in order to win a
title, he may leave. This would be a shame because he deserved better.
Ruben Patterson- As stated
earlier he has athleticism, and D but no shot and no confidence. If you disagree with the
last statement, check out how many layups he missed... I bet he led the league per minute
played. Patterson is apparently a good practice player though, and as a FA my guess is
that he is given the choice to come back and fight for a roster spot, or leave on good
Overall- Kobe is locked up for the next seven, and backup
SG's are a dime a dozen, so the Lakers are in pretty good shape here.
Glen Rice- As the key to
what I consider to be the worst trade the Lakers ever made, I already have something
against this guy. He did a lot of complaining and I'm not sure that any of it helped. At
times he seemed like a superstar, and others a black hole. On defense he reminded all just
how good Eddie Jones was... as Rice constantly missed defensive switches or helping with
the double-team. He has a one year team option at I beleive $14-mil, which is steep. One
posibility is that the Lakers pass on the option, and then either sign him at a lower
price, or sign and trade for a PG or PF. If they do keep him I would try moving him to SG
and Kobe to SF as Kobe is a better rebounder.
Robert Horry- Talk about
going downhill... Horry one of the key members of the championship Rockets, he is now a
part-time role player. The reasons: 1) he lost his outside shot, 2) he forgot how he used
to play GREAT defense, and 3) he rarely uses the athleticism he was blessed with anymore.
There is still a chance for this guy, and Phil Jackson might help, but don't hold your
breath. Horry is also tied into a ridiculous longterm deal that pays him something like
five a year for the next five... making him untradeable!
Sam Jacobson- So many have
hyped him recently but I can't figure out why. I know he has a good shot, but if he's so
good how come he couldn't push Patterson off the roster onto the IR? Did not play a minute
(that I can remember) so I won't judge him further. Jacobson is signed to a 3+1 rookie
contract and may end up somewhere along the lines of a Jon Barry (who the Lakers chose not
Overall- This position has the talent/personnel, just not
the right stability/chemistry. They may be tmpted to tinker, but I would give it one more
J.R. Reid- I may never
forgive him for shattering AC Green's face (even though AC has), but his game merits
neither praise nor scorn. I mean the guy is a has-been/never-was that played about as
mediocre as possible. If anything can be said it must be stated that no team that starts
this guy will ever win a championship... he just doesn't care enough. JR is a FA and
probably wo't be signed by the Lakers for anything above the veteran minimum.
Travis Knight- This guy is
not a center, he proved that in Boston, and nothing has changed. He is however a
young,decent power player who compliments Shaq. He is tall, runs well, and moves great
without the ball (especially on the weak side). Most importantly he has no ego and
requires no special plays to be effective. The only knock on him has been his defense, on
which he is foul prone. In defense of his defense, I would mention that many of his fouls
are a result of someone else's error. Either Shaq or somebody blew a coverage, or the
coach let him guard somebody he was incapable of guarding (like Karl Malone). He is not an
innocent victim on D but he is far from the joke he is portrayed as. Knight has a long
term deal for five more years at three each.
Overall- This is the weakest position with no clear
starter, and no one with starter level talent. This is where they will focus their draft,
should they decide to draft on need. Otherwise look for some off-season action.
Shaquille O'Neal- There
isn't much I can say that hasn't already been said here, except that while blessed with
superstar talent, his ego and maturity for the most part are bush league. If you don't
agree check out that replay of his scissor lock on Chris Dudley... I mean did he expect
Chris to give him a clear path to the hoop just cause he's "the diesel?" As a
Laker and Shaq fan I'm glad Dudley beaned him with the ball, maybe one day he'll stop
being such a bully. And if anyone can help him get there Phil Jackson can. Shaq has the
option to get out of his contract, but even if he is dissatified with LA, he would end up
making less money... which is something Mr. Ego-tron would never do.
Sean Rooks- Another
scapegoat for the teams troubles, but its not Sean's fault that he has little talent.
Plays well on the offensive side, but needs work on defense. Considering some of the
offensive talent on this team one would hope to get the opposite from Shaq's replacement,
but he is signed for four more years at $2-mil per, which means he'll continue to be the
Overall- Although Shaq may be a problem, he is not going
anywhere since his trade value could never equal his real value. Thus the Lakers are stuck
at this position with more that capable players who just have limitations.
Kurt Rambis- He would have
been a good coach if he had been given the time to mature, or at the very least a stable
situation. Unfortunately, Clark Kent won't get either as he was replaced by Phil Jackson.
Its to bad the Lakers were unable to keep him around to groom under Jackson, but I guess
when you sign a coach for seven years, you don't groom anybody.
Phil Jackson- I'm not the
biggest fan of his, but every coaching situation is different (look at what Chris Ford did
with the Clipps for instance) and I won't form an opinion until I get a test drive.
Overall- The Lakers, unlike with player personnel,
haven't had a game plan regarding their coaches since Riley left years ago. Lets hope they
Jerry West- I can't figure
him out anymore, he seems to have let his passion and expertise drift into reckless
obsession. He either learned from this season, or is only going to go downhill from here
Jerry Buss/Magic Johnson-
Meddling owners beware... look at Los Angeles before you decide to tinker. The Lakers (and
Dodgers for that matter) have become the poster children for owners who aren't content to
just own. The moral of the story is that just because you have a lot of money doesn't mean
you can run a sports franchise. If you need an example look at Buss'es involvment in the
Campbell-Jones trade and the Rodman disaster.