LA Lakers enter 2018 offseason in unfamiliar position

NBA.com Global on Jun 25, 2018 08:32 AM
LA Lakers enter 2018 offseason in unfamiliar position
FILE - NBA Legend Magic Johnson waves as he is introduced during the first half of the NBA All-Star basketball game in New Orleans, Sunday (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

NBA.com staff report

The rich heritage of the Los Angeles Lakers is evident every time you walk into their sparkling practice facility in the shadow of the Pacific Ocean near the beach. All sixteen championship banners the franchise has won are on full display. And that makes the task of digesting what the Lakers' front office executives, both Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka, are dealing with this summer. Restoring the glory for this proud franchise will not be an easy task.

Even with a promising young group of players and enough cap space for potentially two max-salary contracts give them the right tools to work with. Leaning on that aforementioned championship heritage, however, is a bit trickier, according to longtime Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke. The Lakers sit in a spot in the NBA food chain that is unfamiliar to their passionate fan base, which makes the current rebuilding process a complicated affair for all involved:

Yes, the Lakers franchise, dating to its days in Minneapolis, has won 16 banners.

But no, the Lakers are not sitting at the top of the food chain. They’re scrambling close to the bottom. They haven’t made the playoffs in five years. They haven’t won a playoff series in six years. They haven’t made it past the second round in eight years.

Their last championship acquisition was Pau Gasol in 2008. Their last championship free-agent signing was Ron Artest in 2009.

Artest is no longer Artest, and the Lakers no longer are the Lakers. If they don’t approach the upcoming free-agent season with that understanding, they’re going to come up empty again.

In the fight to lure LeBron James and Paul George — outcomes that are mired in uncertainty — the Lakers do not need to emphasize all those hanging banners, but rather the emptiness where there are no banners.

They don’t need to expound on their greatness. They need to emphasize their need to be great again, and the legacy that awaits someone who can lead them there. Don’t talk about Kobe Bryant, talk about the void he left behind, and how this smart and savvy marketplace will embrace someone who can create his own story. Don’t sell this as being part of history, sell it as forging a new history.

Make it about the basketball. Make it all about the basketball. Keep owner Jeanie Buss involved; she’s the basketball history. Make coach Luke Walton part of the pitch; he’s the basketball present.

Sometimes it seems like the entire Lakers offseason strategy is the staging of the Magic and Pelinka Show, and in a room with sophisticated free agents and their reps, that’s not going to be enough.

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