Below is a recent interview I had with TNT analyst Steve Kerr surrounding the contrasting approach both the Lakers and Celtics have taken toward rebuilding.
How would you compare and contrast the Lakers and Celtics’ rebuilding plans?
Kerr: The Celtics have a really clear plan with how they’re approaching the future. The plan was made clear when they moved Pierce and Garnett. There’s no better indicator to the fanbase that the next phase is upon us or we’re going to move on from the last phase by trading a series of stars. The Lakers obviously haven’t gotten to that point yet with re-signing Kobe and Gasol is up in the air. Everyone around the Lakers and around the league is waiting to see which direction the team is going to take. With Boston, it’s pretty clear. They’ve got picks and they got a clear sight on their future.
What do you think the Lakers’ plan is?
Kerr: They’re hanging on to their tradition with Kobe and their history. That’s understandable. It’s Kobe Bryant. It’s tough to see him in another jersey or part ways with someone like that. The biggest criticism that would be offered is not re-signing but what they resigned him for given the climate of the league and the collective bargaining agreement and how tight the money is. It doesn’t leave them with a ton of options. But because of that, they just don’t have as much flexibility going forward. In the end, it may just delay the inevitable, which is rebuilding. Phoenix went through the same thing with Steve Nash. He was maybe the greatest player in franchise history. The run and championship hopes are gone. You can’t part with a guy that means so much for you. Phoenix for two years tried to figure out can they win with him and keep going. In the end, you’re treading water. I’m sure it was very painful for Boston to trade Pierce and Garnett. And I’m sure a lot of the fans weren’t happy about it. But the Celtics will be in much better shape sooner because of that trade. They accelerated their likelihood of being good again making the move now.
Under this new labor deal, is there a better approach teams should take toward rebuilding?
It’s case by case. Every franchise has to figure out where they are each year and where they’re heading and plan for it accordingly. That can mean different things. Everybody is in a different situation and circumstance. I do think teams are making a point of triyng to be leaner and more flexible as much as they can You saw that with the Bulls. They said we’re not going to win it. We have to move Deng. If we re-sign them. we’ll be capped out. I’d hate to see Luol Deng leave Chicago. As [Tom] Thibodeau said, he embodies what the city is all about. But the current rules make it necessary to make a kind of move like that. You have to be as flexible and lean as possible to deal with the new rules.
What’s the best case scenario for the Lakers’ rebuilding?
It’s hard to define best case scenario. I think it’s two different scenarios. One is two years Kobe is under contract is one thing. Once he leaves, that’s another. I suppose an answer would be the best thing the Lakers can do is keep as much of their flexibility as they can for 2015. If they can get Kevin Love or Russell Westbrook or somebody like that in 2015, go for it. The last thing you want to do is take on years and money of any players you don’t consider star core players going forward. That’s why they were smart this year to sign a bunch of one year guys in Nick Young, Jordan Farmar and Wesley Johnson. That all made sense. To stay lean and try to find some young guys to help them in the future but without mortgaging your future. Ironically by signing Kobe to that number, they wiped out a lot of that possibility.
How important then does it make the Lakers to trade Pau Gasol for a mix of young talent, draft picks and/or to get under the luxury tax?
Kerr: They absolutely have to see what they can get for Pau and if they can get a good pick without taking on long term money. It makes sense. I can’t imagine he’ll be back next year. If he did, it would have to be on a reduced salary. They’re not going to be in the playoff hunt. It’s impossible to see that in the west. It makes sense to move him.
With the approach Boston has taken, how long do you envision its rebuilding process taking?
Kerr: Boston was smart getting those picks form Brooklyn. It’s hard to find a superstar player on the league. When you can get your hand on unrestricted future first round picks, you do it. That’s what Boston has done. There’s no guarantee they get anybody significant out of those picks. But ask the Lakers how important it was when they traded Gail Goodrich to New Orleans for a future 1st round pick that turned into Magic Johnson and traded Don Ford to Cleveland and that turned into James Worthy. Those were things that historically have become really important deals and moves. Boston is in position not only with their own picks, but with Brooklyn’s picks. They also should be flexible the next few years.
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