Time to pass the torch—hey anyone know where we put it?
Ask Rudy Garciduenas, our equipment guy.
Oh, right. We laid him off before the lockout, with most of the support staff, all the way up to assistant GM Ronnie Lester.
I remember now! We haven’t had our torch since Dallas blew us out of the water a year ago.
Forget about passing it to the Thunderkinder. We already gave it to the Mavs, who were even older than we were.
You know what they say in the dynasty biz:
“Nothing is forever, not even us.”
Actually, they put on a happier face after the merciful end of their 4-1 loss to the Thunder.
Hey, it could have been worse. If this was best-of-9 instead of best-of-7, they would have had to bring in new players to replace all the ones who were gassed by Game 5.
Then they flew home and started work on their recriminations—er, future.
One thing you have to understand about the Lakers is they don’t rebuild.
The second thing you have to understand is that even in transition seasons—like this one—they think they’re still a championship contender.
This was their first step, tiptoeing the high wire that leads to their future—oops!
Not that their post-Phil Jackson era hasn’t started so well, but a lot of Laker players, officials and fans are now dreaming of Phil’s Return III.
In the real world, Mike Brown isn’t going anywhere, yet.
Jim Buss hired him, was torched for it by the local press, including moi, and may not be ready to give up on his first decision running his father’s team.
Of course, another season that ends in the second round—which looks like the way to bet–and Brown will be gonzo.
Nothing ever counts anywhere until the last thing that happens.
So it doesn’t matter, except as a poignant memory of the way they were, that the Lakers started the playoffs feeling like the Lakers again with their new Kobe-Pau-Drew-Ramon Sessions nucleus and even Metta World Peace looking like an NBA starter, when not serving a suspension.
Then Andrew Bynum, who had been merely punky until then, fired up the Nuggets, who turned a five-game romp into a seven-game escape.
And Pau Gasol, who struggled in his new role as No. 3 option, averaging 18 points, dropped to 12 in the playoffs and was called out by Kobe Bryant.
And Sessions went from looking like the Lakers’ missing point guard to missing, period, dropping from 13 points and 5.9 assists, shooting 45% in April to 10 points, 3.6 assists and 39% in the playoffs, watching Steve Blake, a shooter as opposed to a playmaker, finish games.
So who, exactly do they build around now?
Let’s start with what we know: Bryant isn’t going anywhere.
Bynum, another Jim Buss fave, isn’t going anywhere, despite his antics, even if he’ll be going into a contract year, nor should he be, since 23-year-old, 7-0, 285-pound All-Stars don’t grow on trees.
The only others who are safe are those who are under contract but have no trade value and can’t be amnestied.
So you’ve got a decent chance of seeing Josh McRoberts, Andrew Goudelock and Christian Eyenga in purple and gold next season, at least in training camp.
The curtain drops on Bryant in the interview room, charming, eloquent and positive as only he can be if he feels like it, vowing they’ll be back—as opposed to 2007 when he tried to bail, thinking the Lakers time as contenders was over.
“I’m not going for that shit,” he said Monday night, smiling his boyish smile, showing he hasn’t lost his edge with that expletive that went out over NBA-TV.
“I’m just not. Come hell or high water, we’re going to be there again….
“You can see over the last few years, it’s the usual suspects at the top because management has done a phenomenal job, the scouts have done a phenomenal job, and they will again.”
Happily, this is the NBA. In the NFL, Kobe might have been suspended for next season.
Anyway, things could be worse. The Lakers can count on building around Kobe, at least for another season!
And Kobe won’t have the other Lakers to beat up anymore, at least this season.