Trade Pau Gasol. Trade Andrew Bynum and get Dwight Howard. Amnesty Metta World Peace. Blow the whole thing up.
Lakers message boards and Los Angeles talk radio was filled with those kinds of comments from a rabid fan base from before the Lakers fell in the second round of the playoffs for the second consecutive year. Los Angeles media fuels this. Even I said the Lakers needed to look at trading a big man.
But from Bill Sharman through Jerry West to Mitch Kupchak, one of the hallmarks of the Lakers front office has been patience. They don’t panic. They don’t make a move just to make a move, they wait for the right move.
That move came like fireworks over Dodger Stadium on Wednesday — the Lakers traded for Steve Nash.
With Nash the Lakers live for the moment — they instantly vault up to the level of the Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder. They are contenders.
There are things to find out yet. Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash will have to learn to play together and play off each other, and not unlike LeBron James and Dwyane Wade that will have some bumps and take some time to smooth out. There are questions about how Nash works with two big men. The Lakers will need to both up their tempo and add a lot more pick-and-roll with the point guard to maximize what Steve Nash can do. Do the Lakers still need to consider moving Pau Gasol to add depth and keep salaries down?
And make no mistake, there is a price to be paid for what the Lakers did on the Fourth of July. There are huge salary cap implications coming (remember Kobe Bryant makes $30 million in 2013-14) the same year Andrew Bynum’s new deal kicks in and Gasol is due $19.3 million. The Lakers also traded away first round picks they may need to help rebuild after Kobe and Steve Nash walk away — which is not that far off, Nash is 38.
But this move was not about the future. It was about the now. The Lakers are a team that judges success by trying to catch the Boston Celtics for how many banners hang in the rafters. They are a franchise about stars and exciting play and players.
In one bold move, they brought all that back to Staples Center for a few more years.
But they only got to do that because they were patient first.
Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry is having an excellent year for the Eastern Conference Finals hopefuls, and part of that is due to his vision. On Saturday, Lowry threw a full-court lob to Pascal Siakam that was mighty impressive.
After a missed shot in the middle of the third quarter by the Atlanta Hawks, Lowry gathered the rebound on the left block and quickly turned his eyes downcourt.
Siakam, the No. 27 overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, was streaking toward the Raptors basket and behind the Hawks defense.
Lowry took advantage with a long-distance heave after one dribble at the free-throw line, and Pascal was able to gather and softly lay the ball up at the rim.
Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green was not punished with an additional fine for kicking Houston Rockets G James Harden in the face on Dec. 1. Perhaps that emboldened him to kick another opponent just two days later in Phoenix Suns rookie Marquese Chriss.
While attempting a rip through move on Chriss in the third quarter of Saturday night’s game, Green could be seen kicking Chriss in the hand.
Chriss, in some obvious pain, immediately ran over to the bench and was replaced by Jared Dudley.
Meanwhile, Green didn’t even draw a foul. On the other end of the floor, P.J. Tucker was trying to fight through a screen and was called for both a personal foul and a technical foul after arguing.
It seems that there’s not much stopping Green from trying to damage opponents. He infamously missed Game 5 of the 2016 NBA Finals due to his extracurricular activity, his absence perhaps acting as the catalyst to swing a series in which the Warriors blew a 3-1 lead to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
There was no fine for kicking the league’s best MVP candidate in Harden, and no reaction from officials for kicking Chriss.
This came just a day after Green complained about how the league was treating him and how he should control his body.
In the last six months, Green has hit or kicked Harden, Chriss, Kyrie Irving, Allen Crabbe, and Steven Adams (twice).
Warriors’ coach Steve Kerr is a thoughtful, measured adult who made a very rational decision: He was battling debilitating back pain that was keeping him away from the Warriors, so he chose to try marijuana to try to ease that pain. It didn’t work for Kerr, but he advocated for professional sports leagues to have a more open mind toward allowing the drug to be used for pain management.
Suns’ coach Earl Watson is a thoughtful, measured adult who comes from a very different world than Kerr, and that gives him a different perspective. Watson’s story is that of a child who grew up in poverty, surrounded by violence, in Kansas City, and used basketball to pull himself out of that world.
Watson urged caution in NBA coaches endorsing the use of marijuana, speaking to Chris Haynes of ESPN.
“I think our rhetoric on it has to be very careful because you have a lot of kids where I’m from that’s reading this, and they think [marijuana use is] cool,” Watson told ESPN on Saturday after the Suns’ 138-109 loss to the Warriors. “It’s not cool. Where I’m from, you don’t get six fouls to foul out. You get three strikes. One strike leads to another. I’m just being honest with you, so you have to be very careful with your rhetoric…
“I think it would have to come from a physician — not a coach,” Watson said. “And for me, I’ve lived in that other life [of crime and drugs]. I’m from that area, so I’ve seen a lot of guys go through that experience of using it and doing other things with that were both illegal. And a lot of those times, those guys never make it to the NBA, they never make it to college, and somehow it leads to something else, and they never make it past 18.
“So when we really talk about it and we open up that, I call it that slippery slope. We have to be very careful on the rhetoric and how we speak on it and how we express it and explain it to the youth.”
There is no doubt that as a society, the United States is moving toward the legalization of marijuana. More and more states move that way each election, and the generational shift in attitudes toward the drug is an unstoppable trend.
How the NBA (and other professional sports leagues) adjust their rules and procedures in dealing with this will be a topic in the coming years. With that is the issue Watson brings up — the image the NBA projects on the issue. NBA players are free to drink alcohol, but it can’t impact them at work (like just about every other job), but the NBA doesn’t want to be seen as pro-drinking. It will have to find a way to walk that same line with marijuana.
Dirk Nowitzki has played in just two of the Mavericks’ last 13 games, and five games total all season. When he has played he hasn’t been his vintage self, he’s been slowed by injury. This is a 38-year-old battling a sore Achilles, and Dallas doesn’t want to see its future Hall of Famer limping off into retirement, and he is out indefinitely. They are being cautious.
But make no mistake, Nowitzki wants to play. He doesn’t see himself as done.
Here is what he told Tim MacMahon of ESPN.
“I’m all-in. I want to play,” Nowitzki said in front of his locker after his teammates pulled off the Mavs’ most lopsided win of the season, a 107-82 victory over the Chicago Bulls that improved Dallas’ record to a Western Conference-worst 4-15. “This is obviously not a career-ending injury that I’ve got. It’s something that just keeps lingering unfortunately. I can hopefully get over it.
“There’s still a lot of season left. December just started. We know that there’s a lot of games coming, so hopefully sometime soon I’ll be out there and then stay out there. I don’t want to jump in and out of the lineup with soreness or fight this whole year. I’d love to be healthy and stay out there once I go….
“It’s frustrating for me,” said Nowitzki, a 19-year veteran who has missed more than 10 games in a season only once before in his career. “The whole situation is frustrating to be dealing with something I never have before in my career, so it’s tough. But once I’m out there, I don’t want the same thing to happen again that just happened last week, so I want to make sure now it’s good to go. At this stage of my career, I don’t move well anyways, so if I’m out there at 80-90 percent, I don’t think I’m a big help. I want to make sure my body’s responding the right way and we’ll go from there.”
At this point, Dallas has dug too deep a hole to climb back up and make the playoffs, but Nowitzki doesn’t want the Kobe Bryant send-off tour. When he returns, Dallas will get better.
Watch Nowitzki get in a sweat before a game now — even when he is not playing he puts in a thorough workout — and you see a model for how other players should take both their craft and conditioning more seriously. He is meticulous about the details but is going to get in his work. The problem for him is with an Achilles it’s going to be about rest. He can get treatments, but time is his biggest ally.
Being patient sucks. But that’s where we are with getting to see Nowitzki play again.