Last week on Twitter, we asked the question: If you had THE Delorean and could go back and change ONE thing in Lakers history, what would you change? Tough question, right? Sure, every organization and person for that matter would take the opportunity to go back and change something in the past.
Things tend to work out eventually, but what you do if you had a chance to alter a decision, game or situation when it came to the team we all love? We had a group of writers here at Lakers Nation answer this question. Let’s see what they had to say.
Jabari Davis (@LA_SportsTalk): Hypothetical scenarios are always fun, as are the proverbial “if you could enter a time machine” debates, but I’m going to take a slightly different approach to this question. Upon being asked, my initial responses were: The rift between Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, or even being able to go back and plant a ‘bug’ in Pat Riley’s ear about dialing back the practice lengths and intensity levels towards the end of the 80’s in order to preserve the legs of veterans. While it would certainly be fun to hypothesize over whether those ‘Showtime’ Lakers could have completed the “3-peat” had Byron and Magic not suffered those hamstring injuries or what Bryant/Shaq could have accomplished, I’m going to focus on Magic’s HIV contraction.
Allow me to shock some of you by saying, after 21+ years of agonizing over that moment (November 7, 1991) Magic announced his retirement, I wouldn’t go back and change a thing about the scenario. Sounds crazy, yes, I know. Considering that Magic has always been my favorite basketball player, and the individual I would select to start a franchise with over anyone else, you would probably think otherwise. Had Magic never contracted HIV, sure, the Lakers could have had another run or two at a championship, and of course the transition into the post-Magic period could have been smoother, but consider what might not have happened to the causes of HIV/AIDS awareness?
If we’re being honest about things, for many of us, that announcement not only personalized the epidemic, but even ‘humanized’ it. Not saying it wasn’t an equally significant cause prior to the announcement, but to have a person with Magic’s stature and global magnitude as a ‘face’ of the focus can only help. Along with all of the additional acts of humanitarianism, I have no doubts that Magic became a better man with a much larger global imprint as a result, so I wouldn’t change a thing.
Daniel Buerge (@danielbuerge_LA): Oh, my. The ‘what if’ game. We’ve all played it over and over again in our minds for various aspects of our life. What if I never broke up with that girl? What if I never stole that police car? You know, things like that. But when it comes to sports it can be especially painful. So it took me a few minutes to think of what I would change in Laker history.
First of all, there isn’t a lot to really change. The Lakers have been so successful during their history that it would be remarkably spoiled of me to go back and find something to change. But, for the sake of the article, I’ll do it anyways.
December 3rd, 2011.
That was an interesting day. The Lakers woke up without Chris Paul. Then they had Chris Paul for an hour. Then they went to sleep, once again, without Chris Paul.
And what’s worse? They had a deal in place for Dwight Howard that was expected to be completed within 48 hours. Instead, the team was left reeling with an unhappy Lamar Odom and an aging Derek Fisher.
If that trade isn’t negated by the league office, the Lakers don’t miss a beat moving into the future. Assuming Chris Paul stays healthy, the Lakers not only have a chance to get Bryant his sixth title before he retires, they have a shot to pass the Celtics’ total of 17 NBA championships.
But instead we’re looking at a team that is in danger of missing the postseason despite four future Hall of Fame guys on the roster.
While the total magnitude of this vetoed trade won’t be known for probably five years (at least), there’s a likely possibility that this is going to be a memory that haunts Laker fans for decades to come.
Daniel Mulitauopele (@DanielMuli08): It’s not too often that us Lakers fans can go back and legitimately complain about decisions that were made by the front office. I feel that, under Dr. Jerry Buss’ tenure, the Lakers organization has been very attuned to the needs of the fans, all the while keeping pace with the demands of a multi-billion dollar business. Lakers fans have been very lucky.
I guess that for me, the most recent mistake that the Lakers have made was to fire Mike Brown. For all of the flak that Brown received in the early days of the season, the current state of this Lakers team demands reflection on the aforementioned dismissal. For the majority of the season, the Lakers’ struggles have come on the defensive end of the floor.
In this day and era, superstars are oft noted for their transcendent offensive abilities, and it is very rare that a superstar is exalted because of his defensive prowess. And while some superstars can receive praise for their defensive abilities, we all know they wouldn’t be in the discussion if they were a liability offensively.
Mike Brown was gifted with superior offensive players, and I was a firm believer that he could unite them by first emphasizing the defensive side of the ball. The Princeton Offense, as I’ve written before, had vast potential, and I’m not one who thought it wouldn’t work. And at the very least, the Princeton Offense fit the personnel of this team better than D’Antoni’s run and gun system did. I really think that the Lakers organization did a disservice to themselves and their fans by pulling the trigger early on Brown, something that has never characterized the Buss era.
Elizabeth Benson (@gobibs): This is a challenging question to give the right answer to. I say this because of all NBA teams, the Lakers’ “miscues” have a pretty phenomenal track record for working themselves out. We all wish that Magic Johnson didn’t contract the HIV virus that cut his career short. While I would not wish ill on anyone, think of how he changed everyone’s perception of that disease, and what a global ambassador he represents to the world. I really thought about answering this question with the whole Mike D’Antoni hire because I do not believe he is the right fit for this team, with this group of players, at this time. Plus, it’s a very hard concept for me to believe in that’s it was the right call to pass on the best coach basketball has seen (in my opinion), and choose to go with a coach that has no success in the playoffs.
However, the D’Antoni hire is not my answer for the simple fact that we still don’t know the end result. We can guess it, but it hasn’t happened yet. Therefore, my answer is the nixed Chris Paul trade. While I know I have to move on from the fact that it didn’t work out, every time I see Paul in games, I can’t help but cry a little inside thinking about what could have been.
The unique aspect of the nixed CP3 trade is that the Lakers did everything right in my opinion, as it was David Stern and the NBA’s undoing. The financial aspects were on target, New Orleans and Houston (the other teams involved in the trade) were happy and the Lakers set themselves up for a foreseeable future with Kobe and once he retired. I say this because there is no doubt in my mind that trading for Dwight Howard was the second shoe waiting to drop after acquiring CP3.
At the end of the day, Chris Paul is in LA, but on the wrong team. Don’t get me wrong; I am thrilled that Steve Nash is a Laker. However, the all-around type of player, the age and the impact that Chris Paul has makes getting over this event difficult.
So there you have it. Lakers fans have been incredibly lucky as the successes of the team heavily outweigh the regrets (if you want to call them that) throughout the entire history of the franchise. That fact in itself is what separates the team from the rest of the pack, and what make the Lakers, the Lakers.