There is much blame to go around in a big city for the Lakers’ free agency failures. The Busses’ plan to sign a top free agent this summer is an absolute disaster, the same exact way it all unfolded a year ago when they desperately tried to woo Knicks star Carmelo Anthony. The mystique surrounding a storied franchise suddenly fades in this bleak era when an incompetent ownership is to blame for the team’s recent failures.
The Lakers are a preeminent franchise in professional sports, with fans watching all over the globe, from Hollywood to Australia. There is no guarantee they will win anytime this year, next year or the year after. If Jim Buss is running the business, don’t expect much from an organization that is operated by an idiot who has dismantled his daddy’s once-precious franchise. If he’s still around running the show, don’t expect them to have much luck.
Rest in peace. The Lakers’ glamour is long gone, their mystique is dead, and their tradition of dominance has disappeared. They are no longer winning offseason prizes, and have not been themselves since their last championship in 2010, and deteriorated at the beginning of the Buss children era. The reality is, the aura of invincibility died when the late owner Dr. Jim Buss died in 2013, and the family carried out their father’s legacy. There is a sense that — believe it or not — Jim and Jeanie’s dad is turning in his grave, as his kids inherited a pro basketball team known for building dynasties. You get the idea Buss’ kids have destroyed what he had worked so hard to achieve. That’s because his kids evidently don’t give a rat’s ass about the franchise. That’s because the only thing Jim and Jeanie care about is stealing money from emotional, hardworking Lakers fans. So you get the idea they are committing consumer’s fraud.
Quite unbelievably, the Lakers may be the dumbest franchise in professional sports, dumber than Jim Carry and Jeff Daniels. The blame here falls on Jim, Jeanie Buss and general manager Mitch Kupchak, who, for a second straight year, lost out on big-name free agents. Jimmy Butler tested the market as a restricted free agent, but he postponed meetings with Los Angeles and several other teams after electing to sign a five-year, $90 million deal with the Bulls. Kevin Love has ties to Southern California. He was born in Santa Monica, and played collegiately at UCLA and lives in L.A. during the offseason with his fiancée, yet he agreed to a five-year, $110 million contract with the Cavaliers to stay in Cleveland.
No one thought going into free agency that the Lakers would miss out on a top free agent, and two days later, they still have failed to land a big name. So here are the Lakers, a week after selecting prized guard D’Angelo Russell, expecting fans to have patience in Los Angeles for a lousy sports team — in particular, a historically bad NBA team. If Jimmy didn’t have issues running the business side, maybe the Lakers could have lured their top target LaMarcus Aldridge instead of missing out on the best available talent in this year’s free agency. It’s believed he still hasn’t ruled out the possibility of joining the Lakers next season, scheduled to have a second meeting, but it’s unlikely that he will sign with them.
There’s certainly no player who’s more attractive than Aldridge, and although the 29-year-old All-Star walked away from the Lakers’ two-hour meeting Tuesday unimpressed with the team’s pitch, they are still aggressively pursuing arguably the game’s best power forward. He’s one of the great big men in the game, and with the Lakers choosing a point guard over Duke’s Jahlil Okafor with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, they are without a post presence. They missed out in the free-agency sweepstakes, unable to land Aldridge. He is solid post defender, and an excellent offensive player. He is an All-Star forward/center who can step out and hit jumpers. He can defend against the pick-and-roll and chase guards on the perimeter.
Aldridge, who was the most talented player available in the market this summer, left Portland as a free agent and rejected the Lakers’ 4-year, $90-million contract. It’s not hard to imagine him signing with the Spurs. It’s more difficult to see him joining the Lakers, particularly after he wasn’t too happy with the presentation. The devastating reality of the Lakers failures is that they blew it with Aldridge by focusing too much on glamour and the Hollywood lifestyle over basketball. They tried to sell him on marketing opportunities, and tried to convince him of the team’s commitment to winning championships and raising championship banners to the rafters of Staples Center, but none of that mattered to him. The Lakers made their pitch to Aldridge and missed badly. The only reason the Lakers are meeting with Aldridge for a second time is to repair what has been damaged following an embarrassing assembly.
If Jerry Buss were still alive, Aldridge would have been a Laker on Day 1 of free agency. If not him, the Lakers would have signed a top free agent by now. Buss was a true visionary whose wisdom and influence spread far beyond the basketball court, and he always pursued big names and spent what it took to win championships. But it turns out that Buss’ children failed to plan meticulously, ignored the values of analytics, used the same clichés, and faces a level of uncertainty, even moreso now that they’ve missed out on attractive names. It’s as if no player wants to come to LA and share the ball with Kobe Bryant because the Lakers have to cultivate and develop young talent. It’s not that they are afraid of the spotlight in a city where the Lakers are a beloved franchise, given their rich tradition of winning and Hall of Fame players. It’s that free agents want to play in cities where they have a chance to win.
It puts everything that happened since their father’s steady decline in health into context. The fiascoes came on the heels of Dr. Buss’ illness amid a rebuilding process for a storied franchise. And now it’s time to realize that the Lakers have fallen on hard times, not only during the regular season, but also the offseason. It used to be that every star player wanted to come to L.A., but now it seems the Lakers are begging for every star to join as they are in dire need of free agents to have a chance. The free agency failures are becoming a very glaring trend in Los Angeles.
This might not be their last shot, but DeAndre Jordan and Marc Gasol are longshots to sign with the Lakers, too. It’s rare that one of the world’s most famous sports franchises come away empty-handed, left with no choice but to depend on useless players who are placeholders, not long-term solutions. The reality for the Lakers is they now have confidence in their young prospects like Julius Randle and Russell.
The lack of basketball focus is mitigating the mystique of a beloved franchise with championship banners that hang above the court. The Lakers are in a difficult position with which, to one’s knowledge, it’s not only because there is a dearth of leadership in the Lakers’ dysfunctional front office, but also because Buss’ kids have no clue what direction they are going in the post-Dr. Jerry Buss era. They lamented the opportunity to win a championship for Bryant, who has insinuated that next year will be his final year in a Lakers uniform. It’s maybe now wishful thinking to sell free agents on the idea of Showtime and Hollywood, and even though it could have been a workable strategy to lure a big name, it resulted in embarrassment and failure as it has been for the last couple of years now.
They are no longer the storied franchise we once knew. Worsening the matter, the culture of basketball excellence has shrunk, and the Lakers no longer make hard sale pitches. It’s not what it used to be here in Southern California. They now struggle to land a big-name free agent. They don’t sign all the big names anymore.
The owners of the Lakers have to turn it around, or they won’t ever raise another championship banner.