Saturday, March 06, 2010

Lakers Talk: Kobe Is A Goner - Jerry Buss Is Preparing To Go All In One Last Time

Are the Lakers about to clean house at the Guard position, and start anew with a totally different backcourt in the 2010-2011 season?

Are they really going to let the awesome and developing talent of Shannon Brown just slip away into the dregs of the NBA?

Are the Lakers going to fire Kobe?

Yes, I think so.

From the LA Times:

The Lakers could be in a precarious situation this summer when it comes to their backcourt.

They could have just two guards signed to contracts — Kobe Bryant and Sasha Vujacic.

The Lakers could find themselves without Derek Fisher, Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown.

Fisher, who will be 36 next season, will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Fisher has been on record saying he wants to continue his career with the Lakers. He's in the last year of a deal that pays him $5.048 million.

Farmar wasn't offered a contract extension by the Lakers, making him a restricted free agent. The Lakers can match any offer he receives from another team. Farmar is in the final year of his deal that pays $1.947 million.

Brown signed a two-year "Bi-annual exception" last summer that pays $1.99 million this season and $2.149 million next season. But Brown has the option for the second season.

"When you look at our roster, it's obvious one of our needs this summer will be in our backcourt," Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said.

The Lakers are expecting Brown to opt out of his contract and seek a longer deal.

Brown and his representative wouldn't talk about his future plans.

But both Brown, his agent Mark Bartelstein and the Lakers know that it would be wise for Brown to opt out and get another deal before this contract is up after the 2011 season.

The collective bargaining agreement will expire after that 2011 season, and there have been threats of a lockout by the NBA owners. The rumor has been that owners want to cut down on the length of some long-term contracts.

But, no matter how much owners want to cut down on "some long-term contracts", there is one player available at the end of the season who every owner in the League would like to sign for the next 10 years; Lebron James.

Everyone has King James going to New York.

But, think about it; the New York Knicks are perennial losers. And, there's a reason for that.

Jerry Krause (GM of the Chicago Bulls back in the 1990's) famously said,

"Players don't win Championships. Organizations win Championships."

He then went on to prove himself wrong over the ensuing years. The Bulls have ponied up money and everything that went with the prestige of the Brand & Franchise that Jordan, Pippen, Rodman, and Phil Jackson built.

The Bulls have thrown everything at the wall, including the spaghetti, the toilet, and the proverbial kitchen sink. All to no avail. The Bulls will never win another Championship as long as ownership is what it is.

But, there are Owners who win Championships. George Steinbrenner is a winning Owner. The O'Malleys were winning owners.

And, Jerry Buss is a winning Owner.

And, you don't get to be a winner by playing it safe. Winners take big risks. And, when the risks don't pay off, they clean house quickly, and start over. They may never admit their mistakes, but they recognize them, and set about the work to change them quickly and with the sentimentality of Michael Corleone on the day of his Nephew's Baptism.

All season long it has been sticking in my craw; why the hell aren't the Lakers wrapping up Shannon Brown, like they did Kobe, Pau, Bynum, and hell, even Luke Walton. Anyone Buss thought of as a Championship piece, Buss has wrapped him up.

But, he stops at the diamond-in-the-rough Shannon? The bucks stop here? That makes no fucking sense.

Sure, Shannon and his agent have little reason to negotiate a contract now. Sure, with hops and hands like that, it seems to make more sense to test the Free Agency waters. But, not really. It doesn't make sense for either Brown or Buss.

This years market is going to be flooded with First Class Free Agents, the number and likes of which we have never seen. Among the players available are Lebron, D-Wade, Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Tyson Chandler, Manu Ginobili, Richard Jefferson, Joe Johnson, Tracy McGrady, Dirk Nowitzki and Michael Redd.

And this at a time when owners are tightening their belts.

Sure, there are a few owners who have set the table for a session of binge-eating this season, but they don't have the appetite for financial risk they did when they began setting the table.

So, bottom line is, if Shannon is not negotiating with Buss, it's not because his Agent is so confident in Shannon's next big contract. It's because Buss is not negotiating. Simple as that.

Buss has set a table of his own. He began negotiating an extension with Kobe, and then mysteriously stopped. He has a team that is set up to win Championships for the next three years, and yet he has failed to field a backcourt for next year. And, he is crying poor, complaining about luxury taxes, and ignoring the agents of Farmar, Brown, and Bryant.

But, he's got the young Center Andrew Bynum, and he's got an opportunity to set the table for Championships for the next 7-8 years.

I remember reading an interview with Jerry West in the wake of the Lakers acquisition of Shaquille O'Neal. West had been un-nerved by Buss' strategy; trade Divac for Kobe, leaving the Lakers Centerless, while negotiating for the chance to make the mighty Shaq a Laker.

Jerry Buss got Shaq because he went all in. He set the table with mind of a strategist and the nerves of a master poker player. And, of course, with the confidence that comes with being the owner of the greatest modern-day sports franchise, the Los Angeles Lakers.

Cleveland can't hold a star like Lebron. Even if they win a Championship, it's still Cleveland, and everyone knows it, especially LeBron. That's why everyone expects him to go to New York. That's the big stage. As the classic song, become a hoary adage, says, "If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere."

But, the problem is, in NBA basketball, that is absolutely true. If you can win with the Knicks, you could win anywhere. Cuz, the Knicks SUCK.

For instance, there are only two NBA franchises stupid enough to want to work with Isaiah Thomas after he failed as a broadcaster, ran the CBA into bankruptcy, and poisoned the Indiana Pacers. Those two franchises; the New York Knicks and the LA Clippers.

You are defined by the company you keep. The Knicks have been retroactively defined by the Clippers recent interest in Isaiah Thomas. Thomas is an idiot, and Knicks ownership should have known it. It had been proven time and time again. But, Knicks ownership didn't know it, because, like Clipppers-owner Donald Sterling, Knicks-owner James Dolan can't distinguish his ass from his brain when it comes to basketball.

Let's look at a little of the Dolan-era record:
Like the Rangers, the Knicks performed abysmally in the early 2000s, and have yet to recover, mostly thanks to Dolan. Since the 2000-2001 NBA season, the franchise has currently not posted a winning season, nor have they won a playoff game since, and have not made the playoffs since 2004. Dolan has come under fire from many Knicks' fans for the Knicks' run of consecutive losing seasons. Numerous media and informal fan polls, including a recent Sports Illustrated poll have ranked Dolan the worst owner in the NBA. In 2007, NBA Commissioner David Stern criticized Dolan's management of the Knicks, saying "they're not a model of intelligent management."[4][5] One widely criticized decision was to give shooting guard Allan Houston a 6-year, $100 million maximum contract in 2001, when no other team had offered Houston more than $75 million. Houston retired due to injury after just four seasons and over $40 million remaining on his contract.

In 2003, Dolan hired Isiah Thomas as Team President of Basketball Operations and General Manager to replace embattled executive Scott Layden. Thomas made aggressive moves to re-tool and upgrade the Knicks roster through trades, the NBA Draft, and free agency. Despite the talent Thomas imported, the team underperformed and Thomas was mired in turmoil; Dolan subsequently received the ire of the New York media and Knicks' fans for his commitment to Thomas, who kept on making questionable moves, which never got the Knicks anywhere.

After the 2004-2005 season, the Knicks signed head coach Larry Brown to a 5 year, $50 million contract. After just one (losing) season, Brown was fired and the team bought-out Brown's contract for $18 million. Brown walked away with a total of $28 million for coaching the Knicks for just one year.

After firing Larry Brown, Isiah Thomas assumed duties as head coach of the Knicks. During a staged interview on MSG Network, which has marked the last time Dolan answered questions from any media, Dolan gave Thomas an ultimatum to show "evident progress" or potentially be fired. In the latter half of the 2006-2007 season, with the Knicks within reach of a playoff spot Dolan signed Thomas to a multi-year contract extension.
You really think Lebron James is going to go play for that?

Hell no!

Kobe is a goner. After the season, he will be traded for a top-notch backcourt. He will only accept a trade to New York, or Chicago, but obviously a deal could involve multiple players.

My prediction is Kobe will be to the Bulls. The Bulls will send Derrick Rose to Phoenix for a sign-and-trade with Amare Stoudemire, and Steve Nash (whose contract is up after the 2011 season) and Leandro Barbosa (locked up through 2012) will go to the Lakers.

The Lakers don't need a Point Guard like Nash, but Nash possesses the native basketball intelligence to fit into Phil Jackson's Triangle Offense.

And, oh yeah, Phil Jackson ain't going anywhere. He'll be back with the Lakers, no doubt. PJ will be needed to ensure that Lebron makes the move. Expect Phil Jackson to be signed to a one-year contract immediately following the season.

The signal will be clear to Lebron: You are wanted by the NBA gods, the Los Angeles Lakers.

And when the gods call to another potential god, come join us on Mount Olympus, the call is usually answered.

Goodbye Kobe. It's been nice knowing you.

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