“Kobe Bryant welcomes youngsters to the Kobe Basketball Academy at UCSB, Wednesday, July 9, 2014. The five-day camp focuses on the Flex offense, the Princeton offense and the Triangle offense. (Photo by Michael Owen Baker/Los Angeles Daily News)”
Below is a Q&A on the Lakers’ offseason with NBA TV analyst Rick Fox, who is hosting a show titled “Fox After Dark” airing Saturday, Sunday and Monday at 9:30 p.m. PST. The show will feature a behind-the-scenes look at the NBA Las Vegas Summer League as well as interviews with NBA personalities and celebrities, including New Kids on the Block’s Donnie Wahlberg and Danny Wood, rapper Common, Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Terry Crews, illusionist Criss Angel and the cast of VH1’s basketball drama Hit the Floor, among others.
How would you analyze the Lakers’ free agency period?
Fox: A lot went down. Most of it was centered on LeBron James’ decision to go home. That was really the big piece that toppled the rest of free agency. Pau Gasol went to Chicago, which makes them stronger. Carmelo Anthony stayed home in New York. I think for me the storylines were the shift to Cleveland for LeBron and the future potential top free agents coming in and joining him and where does the Heat go from here. Obviously they’re not going to fold a tent. But I don’t think they’re expecting to make such an adjustment so quickly.
As far as the Lakers, I thought there was potential for them to lose Jordan Hill and Nick Young to free agency. Those are young talented players in the organization that had really good years. They probably wanted to continue to build some of that back. In bringing Jeremy Lin, they were obviously in need of a healthy point guard. He played in a big market in New York and he understands what that is like. I think he’ll be received well by Lakers fans. The draft picks definitely helped considering we lost a ton of them in a trade for Dwight Howard and Steve Nash.
Historically, the Lakers have built through free agency. But it just seems it’s harder to get players to be patient enough to be unrestricted free agents. Even then, the advantage goes to the teams that can pay them the most money. It’s hard for a player to leave money on the table with a no real guarantee of winning a championship. You still have to go out and compete and pursue it. I think the era of making free agent moves at least in this collective bargaining agreement is real slow. That puts the Lakers in a really difficult position where you have to build through trades and drafts. Unfortunately to trade with pieces, I don’t think that can happen. Players will have to develop to warrant getting a player of All-Star development in a trade.
Are these defections from star players a sign the Lakers don’t have the lure to attract a big free agents, or unique circumstances with each player?
Fox: From a business standpoint, Pau was offered three years and $29 million. But he left for Chicago, who can compete in the Eastern Conference and has a chance to go to the Finals. For him, it was about finding the right situation where he could contribute to and compete for championships. Guys aren’t just going to leave L.A. out of desire. I think it speaks more to the uncertainty of who the coach is and the direction of the team. But they chose to make a run at LeBron and Carmelo. That put the Lakers slowly behind in the pursuit of some of the secondary guys.
But do you still like that the Lakers swung for the fences even when you weigh the consequence?
Fox: Oh yeah. It’s L.A. and the it’s the Lakers. That’s what they’re supposed to do. That’s what I ‘d expect them to do. I wouldn’t expect anything else. Carmelo went back home and got the additional $30 million and LeBron wanted to go home to Cleveland. You can’t fault both of those guys for going into situations where they felt most connected. Either one of them now has a brighter chance at winning a championship next year.