This is the thirteenth and final part of a series grading the Lakers’ efforts on the 2012-13 season.
Lakers front office
The Good:You can’t fault the Lakers for the offseason moves they made. Despite punitive luxury taxes on the horizon, the Lakers scoffed at the NBA’s new labor deal and devoted a $100 million payroll in hopes to secure another NBA championship (it also helps to have a lucrative deal with Time Warner Cable). But the Lakers have never been just about throwing money at players. They’ve been good at securing top level talent through smart and calculated risks. They somehow flipped the trade exception stemmed from the controversial Lamar Odom deal into acquiring Steve Nash from the Phoenix Suns to a three-year, $27 million deal. The Lakers provided a happy ending to the “Dwightmare” saga by acquiring Dwight Howard from the Orlando Magic in a four-team, 12-player deal that only involved Andrew Bynum going to Philadelphia 76ers and Josh McRoberts and Christian Eyenga and a flurry of draft picks to the Orlando Magic. And, by the way, they did this while keeping Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace.
The Lakers may have been pretty limited in bolstering their bench. Yet, they somehow did that too. They acquired elite secondary scorer Antawn Jamison to the veteran’s minimum ($1.4 million). The Lakers improved their three-point shooting by getting young gunner Jodie Meeks. They re-signed some reserves with promising futures (Jordan Hill, Devin Ebanks, Darius Morris).
The fact that this championship caliber team has nothing to do with the front office making poor offseason acquisitions. Sure, the Lakers understood the risks in collecting Howard after receiving back surgery. They knew Nash was on the down part of his career. They knew it was hard to equate whether the bench would actually play to its capabilities. But the Lakers’ still benefitted from such moves. Howard’s fourth place finish in rebounding still trumpets Bynum missing the entire season because of knee issues. Nash may have missed 32 regular-season games and two playoffs games (fractured left leg, persisting hip and hamstring soreness. But his numbers (12.7 points on 49.7 percent shooting and 6.7 assists) still trumpeted what Ramon Sessions provided for Charlotte (14 points albeit on 40.8 percent shooting and 3.8 assists).
Meanwhile, Jamison still provided value in a reduced role. Hill provided consistent energy before having a hip injury in January. Despite Meeks’ streaky shooting (35.7% from three-point range), the Lakers’ outside shooting (35.5%) still trumpeted last year’s marks (32.6%). No one could envision Devin Ebanks checking out the way he did after showing some potential his first two seasons.
Even with the benefit of hindsight, the Lakers did everything right in assembling the roster.
The Bad:There’s three variances of opinion on how the Lakers handled their coaching staff. Some believed the Lakers fired Mike Brown too early after a 1-4 start and didn’t give him enough of a chance to fully implement his Princeton-based offense. Some liked the Mike D’Antoni hire, but believe the roster didn’t fully fit his system. And then there’s plenty who think the front office botched the process entirely on talking with Phil Jackson only to pass him over at the last minute. Regardless, it’s indisputable that Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak, vice president of player personnel Jim Buss and the late owner Jerry Buss (who made the final call on D’Antoni) took an irrevocable risk in making a coaching change so early in the season.
Such a move denied D’Antoni the chance to have a full training camp, forcing him to learn things on the fly. All team accounts, ranging from Kupchak, D’Antoni and the players themselves, fully admit that lack of time only exacerbating the team’s learning curve as it handled overlapping injuries among its key players. It’s not guaranteed that Jackson’s third stint with the Lakers would’ve resulted in another championship considering the extensive injuries. But it’s clear he would’ve had a better handle on stars such as Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard, both because of his familiarity and his pedigree. The Lakers outside of Bryant and Gasol may have struggled with the triangle offense. But Jackson’s pace would’ve better suited the Lakers’ older personnel.
Grade: C+ The Lakers assembled an amazing roster that only they could pull. But an early coaching firing and the wrong hire played a strong part in compromising such talent.
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