Yes, there’s life after Dwight, even with Jim Buss and Mike D’Antoni, with Phil Jackson limited to tweeting bemused comments from Playa del Rey.
Cutting to the chase, here’s the Lakers’ target list:
1. LeBron James
2. Carmelo Anthony
1. Kyrie Irving
2. Kevin Love
(That’s as far as I’ve gotten. Come back next week when I do 2016-2100.)
If there’s no assurance any of the four will go anywhere, the Lakers aren’t kissing off rotation players like Earl Clark to save every penny of that $55 million in cap space for role players. None of the four are unrealistic. Sources say for any who decide to leave, the Lakers now figure as one of the two likeliest destinations. To take the obvious question first… am I delusional and/or whoring for attention?
No more than usual, I don’t think.
If Bron is the longest shot, the things that would have to line up are within the realm of possibility.
A) Miami fails to three-peat with the Big Three, on less-than-max deals, eligible to opt out.
B) At 32, oft-injured Dwyane Wade isn’t quite D-Wade any more.
C) The Cavaliers, co-faves with the Lakers if James leaves, according to a Bron insider, have a bad season.
D) The Lakers exceed their minimal expectations. With half their fans rooting for a tank job, making the playoffs would do.
I assumed Heat Pres. Pat Riley would keep Bron by hook or by crook… but reporting–talking to people on the ground– means finding how little your preconceptions mean.
This is what I was told:
Heat insiders hardly think in terms of “not six, not seven” titles James crowed about on arrival. With the injuries to Wade and an aging roster, the question is if the team reaches three. Are you ready for Pop Mode in Miami? After using up so much of themselves in their 27-game winning streak, which Wade limped out of on a sore knee, look for the Heat to conserve their key players as if they’re Gregg Popovich’s ancient Spurs.
“Home” for James is still his compound in the Cleveland suburbs where the fam spends summers. As opposed to moving to Miami, he’s adding onto the compound. Bron just donated $1 million to renovate the gym in his high school, St. Vincent-St. Mary, which is not only nice for the kids but gives him a state-of-the-art facility to train in during the summer.
With opt-outs in 2015 and 2016 as well as 2014, James doesn’t have to decide next summer.
However, if he leaves, his peeps insist he won’t care what he makes or who he plays with except as it bears on one thing: winning titles.
As for the others….
A) A disappointing Knick season. They started warming up for that last season, after starting 18-5.
B) Bryant, who has a big-brother-little-brother relationship with Melo, shows he can still play and re-ups with the Lakers. Bingo! That’s a 50% shot at Melo, at the very least. I’m not a big fan of Melo, who can really play but, stuck in post-adolescent mode, doesn’t always. On the other hand, with Kobe riding his big butt, that’s different.
Next, Kyrie Irving could try a Chris Paul-like power play as a 2015 RFA.
No young player on the rookie scale has turned down a max extension since they changed the rules in 1998.
On the other hand, Irving wasn’t brought up to be like anyone else. An insider notes, Kyrie was “raised from the crib to be a basketball savant” by his father, Drederick, a Boston University star in the ‘80s. Unlike James, who stayed seven years and tried to the end to get someone like Wade or Chris Bosh to go there, Irving isn’t from the area. The Cavaliers are on the clock and know it—hence the draft of NBA-ready Anthony Bennett instead of the missing big man they’re now seeking.
With a talented young roster and high hopes comes the realization they can’t screw up this season before trying to extend Kyrie next summer. Irving’s frustration with the Cavs is already showing, acknowledging being “disinterested” in one loss, causing a local furor by skipping out on Fan Appreciation Night ceremonies.
“If he says ‘no, thanks [in 2014],’ it would create a major firestorm in Cleveland,” wrote Bob Finnan of the Northern Ohio Morning Journal. “All this will become an issue next season. Time goes faster than you think.”
Finally there’s Kevin Love, a free agent in 2015. Suspected by Minnesota fans of hoping to bail for the Lakers before that.
All of this could happen. None of it has to happen. Every day in an NBA season is like turning one notch on a kaleidoscope, bringing up a whole new image. Everything rides on things that have yet to happen, with the all-important Last Thing That Happens farthest away.
Nevertheless, there’s little doubt outside Lakerdom that players will still come, as long as Jim Buss pays in American currency, like his father.
They’re still the Lakers. If you don’t believe it, see what it says on their uniforms next season… and what happens after that.
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