The Lakers are not a team that can attempt to undergo a traditional rebuilding of the roster, where they bottom out without any stars in place for an extended period of time in hopes of landing a future franchise cornerstone via a high draft pick.
Los Angeles is a market that demands star-level talent so that it can continue to sell those high-priced floor seats and luxury suites at Staples Center — which is a big reason why Kobe Bryant was given such a high-dollar contract in the twilight of his career, despite the fact that it hurt the franchise from a salary cap standpoint.
The plan for the Lakers has always been to sign an established All-Star or two in free agency. The problem has been, however, that they haven’t been able to convince anyone to come, even though they had a max contract slot available as recently as last summer.
That plan will continue once this dismal season is finished. And Nick Young plans to work the phones in order to help that cause.
“It’s tough, but I know it’s going to get better,” Young told the Los Angeles News Group. “This offseason is going to be big for us. It’s going to work out.” …
“I told Goran Dragic on the court, ‘You might be my teammate next year.’” Young told the L.A. News Group shortly after the Lakers’ loss on Monday to the Phoenix Suns. “I’ll talk to Marc (Gasol.) Me and him are cool. Kevin Love, I’ll talk to him.”
Swaggy P, the Lakers’ free-agent pitchman?
The Lakers’ success in the free-agent market will rely on other factors, of course. The Lakers have enough cap space to sign one maximum-salary free agent. It appears likely recruiting efforts will mostly fall on Kobe Bryant, the Lakers’ 36-year-old star currently intent on playing out the final year of his contract next season that will pay him $25 million.
It’s tough to envision max-contract-level players being swayed by Swaggy P’s pitches. The way Kobe Bryant has handled this season, though, may in fact carry some serious weight if anyone is truly considering Los Angeles as a free agent destination.
A report that surfaced earlier this season that said players didn’t want to come to the Lakers because of Bryant was pure nonsense; the reality is, no one was going to leave their current team (and an extra year, and tens of millions of dollars on the table) to come to a franchise as in disarray as the Lakers are from a roster construction standpoint.
But since passing Michael Jordan on the all-time scoring list, Kobe has dialed it back considerably. He’s not only sat out plenty of games due to rest, but he’s also been a much more willing facilitator who’s been less intent on getting his from a pure scoring perspective.
Bryant as a willing role player may be enticing to someone like Kevin Love, who’s really the only big name free agent that you could see pursuing other options if his first season in Cleveland ends up in disaster; LaMarcus Aldridge and Marc Gasol probably aren’t leaving winning situations (and max contract offers).
Goran Dragic (whom Young mentioned) is interesting, because of the wealth of guards already in place in Phoenix, and the Suns’ potential reluctance to give him an offer approaching the max. The Lakers may be able to swoop in by overpaying if the Suns are unwilling to do so, but Young making a phone call or two is unlikely to sway that decision.