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Joe Chacon's Blog
Have the Lakers Bought Themselves a Title Contender? Stuck
Posted on August 15, 2012 at 01:18 PM.


The Los Angeles Lakers are the Southern California version of the Miami Heat.

And there is nothing wrong with that.

There are fans, like myself, who would prefer to go the traditional route of building a franchise -- to build from within through the draft. I don't like the idea of "buying a championship", but that is the direction the NBA has gone.

Call me crazy, but I would prefer to have a modest group of guys who play their heart out every night and squeeze into the playoffs than I would a "store-bought" team full of prima donnas who force me to watch a soap opera full of drama instead of pure basketball.

The 2011-12 Laker season was nothing short of a miserable experience. Consistent trade rumors regarding Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum combined with the uncertainty of how well the players were buying in to Coach Mike Brown's system left many fans in Los Angeles (and perhaps elsewhere) banging their heads against the wall.

Once the team was eliminated by Oklahoma City in the playoffs, Laker fans awaited the offseason and expected change. You'd be hard pressed to find a fan in Los Angeles who felt this team could win with the roster they had in place. There was also a very common feeling towards Bynum. Most were fed up with his selfishness and wanted him to be shipped out.

General Manager Mitch Kupchak did what many fans considered to be the impossible. He managed to bring in Dwight Howard without having to lose both Bynum and Gasol. This was in addition to the splash he made by landing Steve Nash to give the team the best point guard they have had in years. When was the last time the Lakers had somebody like Nash who could penetrate the lane and find an open teammate in the way that Nash can? It's been quite some time.

The Lakers now have a starting lineup of Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peach, Gasol, and Howard. Coming off the bench they currently have Antawn Jamison, Devin Ebanks, Jordan Hill, Jodie Meeks, and Steve Blake. The roster of the role players is subject to change at any time as Kupchak molds it into what he believes will complement the stellar starting lineup.

Have the Lakers bought a championship? I don't think so. I don't think any team ever buys a championship. Nothing is guaranteed, but I applaud Kupchak for being able to pull off the moves that he has.

If the Lakers fail to win a championship it will be disappointing though. When you have a starting five like the Lakers do now, anything short of a championship would be a failure.

For all the flack Miami received about forming "The Big Three", Los Angeles has taken it a step further with their big four (sorry, World Peach does not make it a big five).

The Lakers have purchased a title contender and the culture of the NBA has made it acceptable for big market teams to get stronger while the others get left further behind. Whenever an organization like Miami or Los Angeles goes "all-in" to win a championship regardless of the financial ramifications they should be applauded.

Because in the end, deep down, you would want your team to do the same thing if they could.


OS Voice: Do you have a problem with NBA franchises doing all they can to form "super teams"?

Joe Chacon is a staff writer for Operation Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @JoeChacon.
Comments
# 1 THE YAMA @ Aug 15
It's hard to argue a team that can beat that lineup. The two I would come up with are either the Heat or the Thunder. Even then, the Lakers' starting five is so balanced inside and out, they are going to be tough to beat in a 7-game series.
 
# 2 tarek @ Aug 15
Bah! Professional sports these days are such a cop out. Even the small market teams don't care anymore, as long as they make money from the suckers in the stands.
And god forbid they contract to a 20-24 team league, with true minor leagues and a promotion/relegation system.
But that won't happen, because each team sells its fans a different message. The lakers sell the chance for championships. Small market teams sell hope and entertainment, and if one if their teams contend for a 2-3 year period and then rebuild, it's okay, because we had the chance. See Phoenix and Cleveland.
But nobody seems to notice this, and hence why the NBA will always be ruled by the strong market, warm weather teams.
Teams like OKC and San Antonio sell a culture of hard work and success. Their windows have been extended but they are true exceptions.
 
# 3 Meast21Forever @ Aug 16
They didn't "buy" anything. They traded pieces for pieces. If anyone bought a championship it's the Heat. Signing 3 max players in one free agency is different than trading for an old (albeit still talented) point guard. The Dwight trade still cost LA a ton, now and in the future.

I hate that people are comparing the Heat with LA. The Heat made moves with money. LA traded players and picks. Not the same.
 
# 4 tarek @ Aug 16
I agree with the comments on the Heat. If the league were on a level playing field then teams like Memphis and Indiana (who are solid and have overachieved) would be getting respect from media and analysts. However, you don't hear a peep from anyone talking about those teams. You only hear about how Lebron is now 'matured' and taken 'the leap'. What a shame.

But as the old saying goes, "don't hate the player hate the game." and really I just use Lebron as a scapegoat. A reason to be disgruntled. But it's tha game. The Lakers proved that. The Heat have proved it. The strong will always feast on the weak, because it's good business. And business is great at the moment. Ratings are through the roof. And us NBA diehards are struggling because with every blow that cracks this beautiful sport, there are a bunch of casual fans who fill the gaps.
 
# 5 tril @ Aug 16
@Tarek. SA and OKC got the luck of the draw by landing a high draft pick and drafting an Elite player. In S.A case, theyw ere fortunate enough to have DAvid Robinson injuredthe year before they drafted Duncan. If Robinson never got injured theyw ould even have been in the NBA lottery.
with that said,
There is no such thing as buying a championship. Miami, built its team through signing free agents. Lakers built through trades and signing free agents. Celtics did the same thing.
The only other way is through the draft, through the luck of landing that coveted top 3 pick. S.A was fortunate in the draft as well as Oklahoma City, the 90s Chjicago Bulls were also fortunate etc.
The only way the NBA will ever get a level playing feel would be to get rid of guarenteed contracts, and enforce a strict hard salary cap.
 
# 6 tril @ Aug 16
@Tarek, SA and OKC got the luck of the draw by landing a high draft pick and drafting an Elite player. In S.A case, they were fortunate enough to have David Robinson injured the year before they drafted Duncan. If Robinson never got injured they wouldnt even have been in the NBA lottery.

With that said,
There is no such thing as buying a championship. Miami, built its team through signing free agents. Lakers built through trades and signing free agents. Celtics did the same thing.
The only other way is through a high draft pick, a top 3-5 pick. S.A was fortunate in the draft as well as Oklahoma City, the 90s Chjicago Bulls were also fortunate etc.
The yearly picks outside of the top picks generally does not land the top tier elite players that bring home championships. They land you great players that fit into a puzzle. They keep your team competitive, until you run into the team with a group of top tier elite players

The only way the NBA will ever get a level playing feel would be to get rid of guarenteed contracts, and enforce a strict hard salary cap.
 
# 7 DirtyNeedles @ Aug 16
I hate the lakers alot, but they didn't BUY themselves a title contender. They traded assets that helped them win 2 championships to get nash/howard. I do know 1 thing tho, the orlando magic gave away howard for peanuts. They should have at least got Bynum and Pau for Howard.
 
# 8 tarek @ Aug 16
@tril
I agree that teams are built in different ways. As you've described. I also think that something, whatever that may be, needs to be done to place basketball on a more level playing field.
However, basketball it seems, more so than other professional sports is defined by its elite players both through success on the court and success financially for the NBA product.
Like you said, a team may have solid pieces but up against a team with elite pieces, over a 7 game series, has statistically a very poor chance at an upset (barring injury and a spectacular 4 game run of execution).
So with that said, if you follow a team without an elite player you might as well be hoping for the next draft or upcoming free agents etc etc rather than the games (unless they are played against an ex player you now hate, a rival team, or a well matched team that will provide a close exciting competition). Most fans nowadays aren't even considering being in the mix for a title, it's just assumed OKC, LA or MIA have it in the bag.
So how is that healthy? You can even see that the draft and free agency is becoming more popular than the season itself, because those aspects bring hope to over 75-80% of teams and their fans. Then the season starts and they lose interest (or just watch the televised games) because the stakes their team is playing for are not really worth the investment. Except for the casuals and the die hards.
 
# 9 Joobieo @ Aug 17
Lakers made trades to make themselves contenders, they didn't buy it so to speak.
 
# 10 fsufan4423 @ Aug 19
If they bought anything...it would be another head case like world peace. Howard IMO isn't worth the trouble.
 
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