It could prove to be a very long season for the purple and gold this year.
The Lakers are stuck in a difficult paradox of going through a rebuilding process with an aging superstar. It has been seen many times before; where a team loses key players after a championship run, has a great player soaking up a significant portion of the team’s salary cap and attention, and because of that, the team can find it difficult to bring in other big name players. What is the answer?
For better or worse, Kobe Bryant is signed for the next few years, and is unlikely to restructure his contract any further. The players signed to lead the team during Kobe’s final years have either left in an abrasive manner, or have injured themselves to the point of no return. The only other traditional solution to the Lakers’ problems would be to build through the NBA Draft.
The player picked first in this year’s draft by the Lakers was Julius Randle, a dominant freshman big man known for hard nose rebounding. In his NBA debut, he was carted off with his leg in an air cast having broken his tibia on a routine layup.
Thankfully, the one thing that has not seemed to have changed since the Lakers west coast dominance only a few years ago is Bryant’s ability to score when healthy. He’s shooting 45 percent within the 3-point line, and he’s averaging 25 points per game through the first week with some highlight reel plays to boot. His name will undoubtedly be thrown around a lot as analysts attempt to point out the flaws with the Lakers system, but ask Lakers fans and you’ll begin to see that they’ll take the good with the bad when it comes to the Mamba, because his “good” can be nothing short of astounding.
Jeremy Lin and Carlos Boozer were the two biggest free agent acquisitions by the Lake Show this year, and they’ll be called on to provide a lot of the scoring and ball handling this year. Boozer is a veteran forward on the downswing of his career who can still hit good looks from mid range, and Lin is a point guard with deceptive speed who needs to show more assertion on the offensive side of the ball.
Lakers fans will be awaiting anxiously to see which role players will step up and become consistent contributors, as Bryant will need some considerable help to get this team to the playoffs.
It is a new era for Los Angeles Clippers basketball. That phrase sounds very cliché considering it has been said at the beginning of every season for the past few years.
It was first heard in 2011 when the Clippers acquired all-star point guard Chris Paul which had the whole town buzzing since the organization has never had a player of his caliber in its history.
It seemed like a new era once again when championship-winning coach Doc Rivers took over as the team’s new leader last year. But it truly is a new era for Los Angeles’ other team because the franchise now belongs to owner Steve Ballmer. After 33 years of plaguing the team with unbearable ownership, Clippers fans can feel optimistic now that they are in good hands with Ballmer.
Despite setting a franchise record for wins in the regular season last year, the Clippers were left with a sour taste in their mouth after suffering a second round exit in the playoffs to the Oklahoma City Thunder. This year, the Clippers will look to make another push for the title with help from all stars Paul, Blake Griffin and defensive player of the year candidate DeAndre Jordan.
An important key to the Clippers’ success is that the core players from last year remain on the roster in 2014. Continuity and culture are significant factors to winning in sports.
The notable offseason additions include versatile seven-footer Spencer Hawes and hometown hero Jordan Farmer of UCLA. Hawes was brought in to become the primary big man off the bench, which was desperately needed after experimenting with a combination of the not-so-stellar Byron Mullens and Antawn Jamison in 2013-2014. After Darren Collison’s departure to the Sacramento Kings, Farmar was signed to become the backup point guard and is arguably a better fit with his ability to shoot from long distance.
Staying healthy will also prove to be vital to the Clippers’ success, obviously. A shoulder injury hampered Paul in January, causing him to miss 20 games. His partner in the backcourt, J.J. Redick, was sidelined for more than half the season, thanks to a fractured wrist.
The silver lining for Paul’s absence was the emergence of Griffin as a bonafide superstar. The high-flying power forward averaged 27.5 points per game along with 8.1 rebounds and 4.4 assists in the 18-game span Paul was out. Proving he was able to carry the load as the focal point of the offense, Griffin elevated himself as a dark horse MVP candidate.
Despite the Lakers’ current troubles, the Western Conference is still a tough battle with multiple strong contenders vying for the top spot in the playoffs. The Clippers will have their hands full this season but if a few things go right, they might finally make a deep run in the playoffs.