As the Lakers tanked their way through Kobe’s final season, there was always the light at the end of the tunnel that was the 2016 free agent class.
The holy grail was always Kevin Durant, with other big names like DeMar DeRozan and Al Horford looming if they were unable to lure KD.
And we, as fans of the game, thought that they’d pull off at least one of those blockbuster signings. Simply because of the fact that they’re the Lakers, the NBA’s premier franchise, and have a history of enticing some of the league’s top players.But the prestige that contributed to the “Laker Way” and netted them 17 championships is now done and dusted.
The appeal that LA brought to the table had been in question for a few years, after being denied by LeBron and Carmelo in the summer of 2014.
But when owner Jim Buss had reportedly told people that the 17-time champions would sign Kevin Durant this summer, and partner-in-crime Russell Westbrook the following summer, it looked as though the “Laker Way” had returned. With Kobe’s disastrous contract off the books, it seemed as though Lakers were primed to return to the glory days.
However, they were caught up in the “appeal factor” that they believed they had, and in the process forgot that bottomfeeders in sports never attract superstars. No matter how many off the court sponsorship deals are promised. Because that’s not how the NBA works anymore. You can be a superstar anywhere.
Think about it, the three biggest stars in the league today are undoubtably LeBron, Kevin Durant, and Steph Curry. One plays in Cleveland, another in Oklahoma, and the other for a team that was always supposed to be in the shadow of the Lakers.
And despite their lofty free agent aspirations, when the clock hit 12:00 on July 1st, the first free agent agent to receive a call from LA was Timofey Mozgov. And in a desperate attempt to sign someone, they dropped $64 million on a center that averaged a laughable six points last season, and just doesn’t fit in to the modern-day NBA.
But we should’ve seen this coming.
This steady tumble towards irrelevance began when Jim Buss’ last-ditch attempt to get Kobe his 6th ring failed miserably. The Dwight Howard acquisition became a clash of polar-opposite personalities with Kobe Bryant. But that move can be justified; Howard was in his prime, and partering Kobe with an all-star center had been the recipe that won Los Angeles their last five NBA titles (Shaq and Bynum).
Rather, it was the Steve Nash trade that showed just how desperate the Lakers were to show the world that they were still the “alpha-male” in the group that was NBA franchises.
LA gave up multiple first round picks for a 40-year old point guard with his best days clearly in the rearview mirror.
And it’s only gotten worse from there, with the Lakers becoming one of the laughing stocks of the league, and only making headlines for ridiculous and childish rifts within the locker room.
This franchise is stuck in the past. They spent big money on an aging center that doesn’t fit the structure of today’s NBA, and are fastened on the idea that they’ll attract big time free agents just because they play in LA. But the “Laker appeal” is dead, and if management doesn’t adjust according, they’ll continue to be a laughing stock for years to come.