Rarely have the Lakers ever suggested to wait until next year. After all, the franchise has collected 16 NBA championships, and usually expects to win another one both to surpass the Boston Celtic’s 17 and because the Lakers are used to hoisting up the Larry O’Brien trophy. But the Lakers have plenty of uncertainty this offseason. Kobe Bryant has continuously rehabbed on his left Achilles tendon, while Steve Nash and Pau Gasol are recovering from their respective hamstring and knee injuries. Dwight Howard left for Houston on his own, while Metta World Peace went to New York so the Lakers could save money. Skepticism remains on whether a full training camp and a crop of younger players more suited for his system will be enough in coach Mike D’Antoni leading the Lakers toward success.
So with few hardly predicting they will win the 2013 NBA championship, the Lakers are looking toward the 2014 offseason when they have a high amount of cap flexibility. Steve Nash and Robert Sacre remain the lone two players with guaranteed contracts after next season for a combined $10.5 million, giving the Lakers next July plenty of money to pursue high-level players that could become free agents, including LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Zach Randolph, Chris Bosh, Rudy Gay and Luol Deng.
James Worthy, who won three NBA titles with the Lakers during the Showtime Era and is an analyst for Time Warner Cable SportsNet, shared mixed feelings on whether the Lakers can attract another top-level free agent.
“I personally think L.A. is a desirable place to play,” Worthy said in an interview with this newspaper. “But I don’t know what the rest of the league and other players are thinking. Dwight Howard just came here for one year and then left for Houston, Texas.”
Howard could’ve signed with the Lakers for a five-year deal worth $118 million, as opposed to the four-year deal worth $87.6 million he will earn with the Houston Rockets. What did Worthy make of Howard’s departure?
“Dwight is a little bit too aloof for me to be that dominant player,” Worthy said. “I don’t think he can be a LeBron James, a Kobe Bryant or a Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or a Hakeem Olajuwon. He’s a good player and a very effective defensive player. But I just don’t think he was ready to handle the pressure.”
Read more in part two of my interview with Worthy, who talks on a wide-range of topics, including Howard, the Lakers’ 2014 offseason and expectations for Pau Gasol and Steve Nash.