You've seen it before. When a song like that gets the green light, at least half of the girls at the club show The Face. "I can't BELIEVE they're playing this song! This is my jam!" Facers unleash an I-haven't-done-The-Face-since-
last-weekend vibe. The Face is then usually coupled with fingers being pointed in the air, maybe a "Woooo Girl" moment, and obviously some inapprops dancing. Simply put, the Face is awesome. It exemplifies genuine happiness at a time when Facers don't expect to feel that way.
YOUR Los Angeles Lakers don't make The Face anymore. They've won too many titles, hoisted too many trophies, been fitted for too many rings, and raised too many banners. I mean, would you make The Face anymore? My friend Kato was so excited that Chipotle unveiled new chorizo burritos the other day. His version of The Face was using caps lock for a status message that definitely didn't need it. After burrito number 8, I'm hopeful that caps lock will be reserved for the next time the Mets win a game.
The Lakers believe that they should be reserved a spot in the Finals, and rightfully so. They are the two-time defending champions of the greatest sport in the world. Therefore, The Face only comes out when confetti drops from the rafters or when Shannon Brown defies the laws of gravity. This would be my ultimate goal as Lakers GM: restore The Face to every player, not just at the end of the tunnel, but for all the bumps in between. This is only possible if you tweak (but not change) the recipe. The finished product should hopefully taste better, but nonetheless remind you that you're still eating kobe beef. See what I did there?
Intangibles: The man I'm really looking to help out is Dr. Jerry Buss. Any guy with a daughter doesn't exactly dream of a scenario where Daddy's Little Girl gets involved with a guy other people call "The Zen Master." I mean, what do they do behind closed doors, really? I would watch that reality show as if my life depended on it. If you wouldn't, then we're probably not homies. And Jeanie...homegirl oozes cougar...except her squeeze is the one doing the coug-ing! Wasted opportunity! Anyway, I'd put my millions of dollars into some R&D thinktank in order to get a real-life Men in Black toy. You know, the one that erases memories. Everytime Phil Jackson parades the relationship in my face, I would press the button and make sure Kupchak created a new memory for me. Or better yet, flash it in front of Jackson and tell him to coach the Knicks next year.
Coaching Staff: Big issue here. I'm not just picking a new Laker coach. I'm picking Kobe's Next Coach. This is not a figurehead position; this is a title-changing position. Sure, the Lakers are so overloaded with talent that Rick Adelman or Mike Brown could easily win 50-60 games, but the trust will not be there. Trust between head coach and star player is essential to winning a championship. Therefore, there are two choices I would dig for KNC:
1. Mike Krzyzewski: Yeah, he probably won't leave Duke. Yeah, the Lakers already went down this road before. Doesn't mean it's still not the best choice. Let's paint this picture. Team USA assembles the Redeem Team to go to Beijing and reclaim gold for American basketball. LeBron, Wade, Melo, Dwight, Paul, Deron, and Bosh. That just made me giddy, and I didn't even mention Kobe. Kobe was our country's most valuable Olympic athlete not named Michael Phelps. He became the ultimate defensive stopper and guarded the best wing player on every team. He let the other big names score baskets while he suffocated people on the defensive end. You know why Amar'e is nearly unstoppable on offense? Because he doesn't expend any energy playing defense. Olympian Kobe was Real-life Amar'e, just on defense.
How many other coaches would Kobe do this for? I get that he was motivated by patriotism and playing with the best players in the world, but this is still a guy that refuses to do things in any way other than his own. Love him or hate him for it, but that's just who he is. Kobe respects Coach K. They can figure out Xs and Os later.
2. Morice Fredrick Winter: Two words - triangle offense. Better known as "Tex," Winter is the genius of the famed triangle offense. Tex originally innovated this strategy for the 1990s Bulls, but Kobe has been Jordan-ing this offense his whole career. The trust should be there.
However, it's valid to ask whether Tex can handle the spotlight after being Phil Jackson's bitch all these years. He also suffered a stroke two years ago, but it's 2011, we got stuff for that, right? Well, this could end in disaster, but regardless, even Kobe will have to admit that without Tex Winters, he'd have less rings.
I guess Brian Shaw is a possibility, but I really don't know anything about him other than the fact that he's been a Lakers assistant for years. Plus, I'm not a fan of coaches who used to play with the guys he's now coaching. It works every once in a while (think Girardi), but it's always such an awkward match (think Girardi).
Talent: Mitch Kupchak has done a bang-up job. He swindled the Grizzlies to get exactly what the Lakers needed, only the riches didn't stop there. Marc Gasol has evolved to the point where one of the Lakers' biggest roadblocks to the title, the Spurs, are now in danger of peacing out. Kupchak is laughing right now as he reads this blog. (Wet Dream.)
2011-12 Roster Projection:
Derek Fisher - 3.4M
Bryant - 25.2M
Ron Artest - 6.8M
Pau Gasol - 18.7M
Andrew Bynum - 15.1M
Lamar Odom - 8.9M
Steve Blake - 4M
Luke Walton - 5.7M
Devin Ebanks - 736K
Doesn't take an Asian to figure out that we're over the salary cap here. Dr. Buss will be paying the luxury tax for a couple more years, but the Lakers are a cash cow. He doesn't give a crap. So I won't address the need to get under the cap, because it's not exactly a "need" in Lakerland. I also won't address the Draft since we all now know that this year's class is weak. This post is already way too long as is. I have one move to make this summer, and it's risky:
Trade Pau Gasol for J.J. Redick, Ryan Anderson, Brandon Bass, and a #1 Pick.
I have to go on the assumption that the Lakers will not win the 2011 title. Not because they can't or won't, but because this entire post becomes unnecessary if they do. If they three-peat, then I'm not gonna tinker with it. Danny Ainge ain't running this franchise.
1. Everybody knows that Khlomar fills in admirably when a frontline member can't play. Whether it's for Gasol, Bynum, or even Artest, Lamar is a monster when he gets starter's minutes. He'll step in at PF and get his well-deserved first All-Star selection.
2. Ryan Anderson and Brandon Bass provide some frontcourt depth. I mean, what are the Lakers gonna do when Joe Smith retires? Besides, these dudes are essentially a two-headed Power Forward. Need bench offense and more Caucasian consumers of your product? Anderson. Need bench defense and general thugitude? Bass.
3. J.J. Redick gives the Lakers what they need: a bullseye shooter that will stretch the court. Additionally, and what most people have failed to notice, Redick's defense has improved every year. He won't exactly be a Chris Paul stopper, but he's also not Derek Fisher. Seriously Fish, hang em up. Bonus points if my plan actually comes to fruition by getting my top pick for KNC. Redick has slammed, and likely continues to slam, so many Duke chicks that he will run through a brick wall for Coach K.
To address the potential haterade: Yes, I know Pau was an indispensable part of two straight titles. But if the Lakers lose the 2011 title, couldn't you see yourself blaming Pau? I always get the feeling that most Lakers losses are due to the fact that Pau didn't game up. The guy is about 4-5 Kobe death stares away from owning a starting spot on the "I'm Afraid of the NBA" All-Stars, alongside fellow Spaniard Ricky Rubio and Frederic "They Picked Me Instead of Artest" Weis.
Remember, we're trying to tweak the recipe. So let's have a little fun with it. I don't want to trade Bynum because his value is too low. The guy would be a superstar on most other teams if he could stay healthy. I have to bank on the fact that Bynum will be better every single year; if I don't, then I'm selling an asset far below what it could be worth. Odom does too many things on a basketball court to help the team, so he's here too. Artest is slowly understanding his role: he takes less shots and punishes his opponent on both ends...he stays. The easy thing to do would be to trade Blake, Fisher, Walton, et al., but I'm in real-life GM mode. I wish I could be a 12-year-old playing videogames again so I can trade all the studs to the Knicks, but I'm not.
This leaves Gasol, who has plenty of value. If you don't like the Redick-Bass-Anderson-1 combo, then do this post yourself. I guess I could have found superstars, instead of role players, to get in return for Pau, but wouldn't that be boring and overplayed? I wrote this mainly to express the concept of trading Gasol, and not necessarily what the Lakers would get back.
OUTLOOK: GUARDEDLY BRIGHT
Every Lakers-oriented question is irrelevant until their season is over. As long as another banner is in play, table everything.
Note: I always thought that doing a GM column on the Lakers would be impossible. Blake would probably have found a way to deport me to the Philippines if I just randomly posted it. Oddly enough, I got the go-ahead to do this because I have enough Laker friends who wanted to see the outsider's perspective on them. To those guys and girls, I hope I munched on Kobe's proverbial dong for enough of this post to quell the potential anger you may have for trading Gasol.
Beat Boston. Please.