The Lakers are (Almost) Back

Magic Johnson (Vimeo)

As the summer comes to a close, here are five things for Laker fans to look forward to

The Purple & Gold are a franchise accustomed to making the playoffs, but that certainly hasn’t been the case for them the past four seasons. Since 2012 they have had four head coaches, a testament to the disarray existing within the front office. Although the decision for Jeanie Buss to fire her brother was likely excruciatingly painful, bringing in Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka has already proven to be the correct choice.

The franchise possessed the perfect amount of luck when the lottery ping pong balls bounced their way, allowing them to draft local player Lonzo Ball, who Johnson has already declared the “face of the Lakers.” They were also able to collect talent through free agency and trades, adding valuable starters such as Brook Lopez and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

Following the agonizing recent years that Laker fans have been forced to endure, this upcoming NBA season looks promising for the youthful team. As a result, there are various possibilities that Los Angeles has to look forward to.

The Lonzo Ball circus

This is the most blatantly apparent thing to get excited about for Laker fans, but that doesn’t detract from the anticipation behind the young phenom. Sure, Ball’s father, Lavar Ball, has stirred up a constant news cycle due to his outlandish statements, but it is crucial to not allow Lavar’s antics to take away from Lonzo’s incredibly unique game.

Lonzo Ball passes the basketball in a way that screams a selfless desire to win. An incredibly intriguing component of basketball is the ego behind each individual player, and whether or not it hinders a team’s chances of winning. Ball shares the rock in a way that is solely meant to help his team score points, which can’t be said about many other players in the league. Even proficient passers like Chris Paul and John Wall, who both averaged at least nine assists, can be found dominating the ball while over dribbling for numerous possessions. Pounding the ball will never be an issue for Lonzo, which will immediately make the Lakers better on offense.

Besides Lonzo’s obvious skills on the court, the lure of his name and family will cause the Staples Center to be filled to the brim every night. Even during the NBA Summer League, which is notorious for horrid play, the Lakers sold out arenas with over 17,000 fans at their exhibition games. Part of this is due to the immense Laker fandom in Las Vegas, but this mostly should be attributed to the star power that Lonzo possesses.

While the Lakers likely won’t make the playoffs, which is contradictory to what Lavar Ball proclaimed, the Lonzo Ball circus will not fail in resurrecting a dormant franchise.

Julius Randle’s contract season

Something that proved to be of massive importance for NBA teams is cap space. The summer of 2016 will go down in history for many franchises recklessly over-paying for role players at best. Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchack took part in this ludicrous endeavor, inking the two worst contracts in the league in a last effort to save their jobs.

It didn’t work.

Packaging a young, promising player in D’Angelo Russell is what it took to get rid of the wretched Timofey Mozgov deal, and it is likely that in order to unload Luol Deng’s remaining contract Julius Randle will have to be part of the deal.

NBA players are notorious for having breakout seasons right before they are due for a new contract, which is what Randle appears poised to do. The Kentucky product has dropped weight this summer, transforming his body from a bulky power forward into a Greek God type of figure. Conditioning has been a major issue for the player so far in his career, but it appears that he has dedicated himself to staying fit for the foreseeable future.

Lonzo Ball will also help Randle add to his stat line, due to his transcendent playmaking ability. It will take a vastly improved version of Randle to get other teams interested in a trade involving Deng, but that idealistic goal is beginning to look like more of a possibility.

It is no secret that Pelinka plans on signing two or three max free agents next year, which could possibly include the likes of LeBron James, Paul George, and so on. In order to make singing three max players possible, more cap space will need to be created.

Even if the Lakers don’t end up trading Randle, having a rededicated young star could boost the franchise in profound ways. So no matter the decision Magic and Pelinka decide to make, all Laker fans should be ecstatic to watch the improved Julius Randle.

Rob Pelinka’s (faulty) biblical knowledge

The new Laker’s general manager possesses a myriad of skills that will certainly aid him in his quest to bring the team back to relevance. Following his years as an agent, Pelinka is very informed on the CBA and cap space of every team. He also thrives in the field of flattery, as he attempts to charm free agents and agents alike. But perhaps his most unique set of talents is his ability to casually, and often falsely, reference biblical stories.

This was exemplified at a press conference following the singing of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who the Lakers luckily snagged on a one year deal. While this was certainly a good signing for the team, Pelinka perceived it to be more along the lines of life-changing.

When attempting to explain what this signing meant to the team, he said, “I would venture to guess there’s people in the room that are familiar with the stories in the Book of Genesis. Where there was a time when the Israelites were wandering in the desert and, all of a sudden, bread came down from heaven. That’s kind of what today feels like for us.”

First off, this story comes from the Old Testament book of Exodus, not Genesis. And secondly, this signing is not comparable to a starving nation being saved with bread out of the sky. Sure, Laker Nation has been hungry for new, young talent, but lets clearly differentiate hungry from starving.

These comical and absurd biblical references make every Laker’s press conference a joy to behold, which is something that fans should look forward to this upcoming year. Personally, I cannot wait for the seemingly inevitable Lonzo Ball – Jesus Christ comparison.

Never ending free agency talk

The presiding theme of the summer of 2017 has been the preparation for the summer of 2018. Rob Pelinka has even openly stated that the Lakers are being conservative in free agency due to their desire to sign multiple max stars next summer. Considering the summer’s ample amount of discussion regarding potential signings a year from now, one would be naive to expect these talks to simmer down throughout the course of the season.

Paul George has been penciled in by many to be a for sure Laker in the future, which was shown when his agent reportedly told NBA teams about his clients plans to relocate to Los Angeles.

Surprisingly, LeBron James to the Lakers rumors began circling around during the NBA Finals. James owns a media company and a mansion in Los Angeles, which only further exacerbated these talks. Along with the conditions of his free agency, front office turmoil in Cleveland and drama with Kyrie Irving has made the future of the Cavaliers look even more problematic.

The Lakers are a franchise that appear to be rising to the surface of competitiveness, and the lure of the Los Angeles media market along with ample cap space will ignite various headlines regarding the upcoming free agency.

While the Lakers may not land multiple stars, all of this hype around the team will only serve to benefit their standing throughout the league. King James may not end up playing nightly at Staples Center, but players of his status simply considering the Lakers as a destination will attract other free agents as well.

No reason to tank




Tanking has prevailed as a constant theme the past four seasons for the Lakers, especially considering the fact that most of their draft picks have only been awarded to them due to protections and sheer luck. But this years pick belongs to the 76ers, which means that losing games will reap no benefit for the Purple and Gold.

While there is a downside to not having a draft slot, the Lakers should be past the tanking for high picks stage of their franchise. Projecting future careers is a crab shoot anyways, and the Lakers have accumulated enough young talent to build off of.

Fans can finally expect optimal effort from the team in every game for now on. A huge part of this season revolves around attracting free agents, and below 30 win seasons will not cut it for Los Angeles moving forward. Magic Johnson and Luke Walton are well-aware of this, and the players will be as well.

Most NBA fans understand the value of high draft picks, and they are also cognizant of the fact that losing games aids in the quest for these lottery ping pong balls. However, there comes a point where benefits of losing detracts from the joy of winning.

Even though the Lakers likely won’t conclude the season with a winning record, the mere fact that they will be trying to win every night will provide a breath of fresh air to a fan base that has been drowning in mediocrity.