by Daniel Buerge / @danielbuergeLA
Even for those rooting for losses, that one was tough to swallow. After the Lakers were thoroughly trounced on Sunday night at Staples Center, not even the future promise of an exceptional Lottery pick will turn the morale around right away.
In other words, that one was rough.
Coming off an exciting win against the Utah Jazz, who despite being the Jazz, are still an NBA team, the Lakers thought they might have been able to put a little momentum together and try to beat an ailing Nuggets team that was 1-8 in their previous nine games. Instead, the Lakers were humiliated on their own court by a team that has made more news lately for off-court player/coach confrontations than on-court success.
Following the game, the Lakers seemed about as inspired in the locker room as they looked on the court.
“You can’t just let the air go out,” head coach Mike D’Antoni said after the game. “You can’t just not have enthusiasm or run back (on defense).”
And that’s the sentiment shared by most fans following the 137-115 loss, at home, to a Nuggets team that is still under .500 following the win. To most, it seems like a team that lacks intensity, desire and effort. It also seems like a team that no longer has any heart. When the environment feels more like a funeral than a locker room following a game, there’s something to be said for that. There’s something to be said for completely demoralizing losses that leave the team with very little positivity moving forward.
Even Kendall Marshall, the breakout star of Friday night’s win over Utah, who followed up the action on Sunday with another strong game (9 points, 17 assists), seemed down and dejected following the game.
“When you lose by 25, it really doesn’t matter.”
Marshall went on to tweet that the loss was a “learning experience,” but that doesn’t remove the initial sting from his post-game comments.
Ultimately this just continues to feel like a team without an identity. And, in many ways, how can you blame them? Half of their roster is injured, the other half is rumored to be traded by the end of the week. It’s a team in complete flux without much consistent ground to stand on.
Even those calling for Mike D’Antoni’s job aren’t necessarily in the right. You could call Phil Jackson, John Wooden or Red Auerbach if you wanted, nobody is winning with a team completely depleted of all its resources. To somehow say this is D’Antoni’s fault is more asinine than analytical. It’s just an enormous, purple and gold dumpster fire. And it’s going to continue to be that until the team completely commits to rebuilding.
Which brings us to the next step.
After rumors swirled that the Lakers and Cleveland Cavaliers were attempting to make a trade happen involving Pau Gasol by Sunday night, the weekend passed quietly with Gasol still in Los Angeles. The idea behind any trade is to attempt to improve your team, so it’s foolish to blame Mitch Kupchak for trying to pry as much away from any trade partner as he possibly can. But where things get dicey is when those teams push back, essentially low-balling an offer to a team rapidly going nowhere. Essentially, the GM on the other end of the line understands Kupchak’s plight, and realizes that all the leverage is on his end of the table.
Gone are the days of sending expiring contracts for franchise-changing pieces. The Lakers aren’t a minor tweak from patching the leak that’s bringing the ship down. It’s going to be a long, multi-step process that will involve several draft picks as well as multiple free agents before this team can legitimately contend for a postseason slot. Then, even after all that, they’re still likely a couple players and a whole lot of luck away from contending for another championship.
The point is, it’s not easy and it’s not quick. Acting now, and dumping Gasol for whatever they’re able to get is the best course of action. It may seem disrespectful to trade Gasol for nothing more than salary space and a second round pick, but the market dictates value; and right now that’s what Gasol’s value is.
You can say it’s disrespectful. You can say Pau deserves better. You can say all of those things and more.
I say it’s reality. And reality always wins.
For a team struggling with identity and chemistry issues, an ailing big man committed to a dead regime isn’t going to turn those things around. The franchise needs an infusion of fresh, young talent. It needs youth, energy, and hunger; three things it’s not getting from Pau Gasol (or the rest of the roster, for the most part).
The loss on Sunday night was, in many ways, to be expected. This is a floundering team with nowhere to go but down, and a patchwork roster that would have trouble competing against the Globetrotters.
Pack it up. Ship it out. Move along.
So, even though Gasol played well Sunday night (25 points, 10 rebounds, five assists), this team needs change. It needs anything resembling some form of life injected into it. Maybe a trade will do that.
At the very least, a trade brings a (slightly) more promising future. And right now that’s what’s most important.