Dec 8, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant (24) handles the ball against Toronto Raptors shooting guard DeMar DeRozan (10) during the first half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Lakers, Knicks & Raptors: different routes to rebuilding

Apr 11, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (7) goes to the basket against Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas (17) at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Since the Toronto Raptors bottomed out in the 2010-2011 NBA season with a record of 22-60, the team’s winning percentage has improved every year. This past season was the first one since ’06-’07 above .500, but at least the trend line in the dry seasons headed in the right direction, albeit with excruciating slowness.

Contrast that with the record of the Los Angeles Lakers. Since ’06-’07, this team has won 2 titles, lost another in the finals, and always gone deep into the playoffs – until the ’13-’14 season, when the music stopped abruptly. To my eyes, the Lakers are in considerable difficulty. They have committed several supertankers worth of money to their injured and aging superstar, Kobe Bryant, for two more seasons. Any other organization would have cold-heartedly said to Kobe “Thanks for the memories” and cut ties, but they have a fetish about superstars there, and can’t imagine being without one. Steve Nash is owed some serious dough for another year. Whether he can drag his broken-down body onto the court, or be effective once he’s there, is anyone’s guess. Pau Gasol, who’s hardly a spring chicken, may leave. The only player of any skill who’s returning is Nick Young. It’s highly probable the legendary Lakers are about to enter a multi-season down period, in which playoff games are a fading memory for Angelenos. If so, one wonders how much longer Mitch Kupchak can remain as GM. I can’t imagine LA fans, or the Buss family, will tolerate another losing season without finding a scapegoat, and casting him out. The collective pressure forced the resignation of coach Mike D’Antoni, but no amount of brilliance with Xs and Os can fix a bad roster. The Lakers enjoy the #7 pick in next week’s draft, which should provide them a solid player for the future, but they still appear miles away from playoff contention.

Which coach’s name is inextricably linked with both the Lakers and New York Knicks? Phil Jackson, of course, who won 5 championships as Lakers’ coach, and is now head honcho with the Knicks, for whom he once played. New York hoops fans, who should be used to interminable rebuilds by now (42 years and counting since their last championship), were bitterly disappointed by sliding from 54 to 37 wins last season. In retribution, coach Mike Woodson was thrown under the bus, but interfering owner James Dolan should have fired himself.

The Knicks have no first-round picks this year or in 2016 (oops!). Carmelo Anthony, a free agent actively being courted by sound squads like Chicago and Houston, may decide his desire to win outweighs his love of the Big Apple. That leaves a Knicks core of Andrea Bargnani, Amar’e Stoudamire and Raymond Felton. How in the world is Phil Jackson going to craft a winner out of that bunch?

Raptors fans know what rebuilding is like (think root canal, sans anaesthetic). We realized a price needed to be paid in losses, and it was. Now our patience and trust is about to be rewarded. We have a young, talented and relatively inexpensive team, and a battle-scarred coach to believe in. By contrast, Derek Fisher, who’s never coached a game of hoops in his life, is the Knicks bench boss, and the Lakers don’t have a coach at all. The NBA’s marquee franchises in New York and L.A. are likely to endure several poor seasons. Will the fans and media in those cities allow management the time to draft and develop young players, or will they demand a fast rebuild? We in RaptorLand know which of those options works – and which doesn’t.



Tags: Los Angeles Lakers New York Knicks Toronto Raptors

  • hookedonnews

    Laker fans, like Kobe Bryant, don’t have a lot of patience. They better start learning to be patient because rebuilding is never easy. Management has suffered a lot of criticism (some of it unwarranted), but I hope they will exercise patience as well and build this team in the right way instead of looking for quick fixes. If the next coach is expected to perform miracles and given the kind of “support” MDA received, it’s going to be a rocky road forward.

    • Newmarket_Brian

      The biggest problem I see in the Lakers’ immediate future is trying to get a coach whom Kobe will accept. This is a situtation which should never transpire in pro sports; i.e., a player has de facto veto power over “his” coach. Where does that end? Does Kobe pick his teammates next?
      MDA wanted to play a certain style, and his players couldn’t/wouldn’t make it work. Instead of changing the players, they turfed the coach. Now who wants the job?
      You and I are on the same page for the medium to longer term. LA is in trouble, and I can’t see how they can spend their way out of it. Accept it, fans – you’re going in the tank.
      Thanks for commenting.

  • J Taylor

    Lakers fans trust Mitch.
    we’re just impatient.

    • Newmarket_Brian

      Hi J:
      So what happens when the Lakers open the season 6-20 – will fans learn patience, while retaining their trust in Mitch? As I suspect you know, your statements are mutually exclusive.
      I’m glad to read Kobe is healthy again. He’ll need to be. I’ve been watching the NBA a loooong time, and Kobe is one of the top 10 players I’ve set eyes on. I hope he’s got 2 more great years in him.
      Thanks for commenting.

      • thor09

        I’m not sure what you guys know about Lakers basketball but Mitch isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. For one, a top 2 or 3 GM in this league. The man is brilliant. Also, he has been the Gm of 5 championship rings. And the most important reason is that Jim Buss now has a big say in basketball decisions and that is the reason why the team is struggling. There is no way Jimmy let’s go of his right hand man and no way the fans will be calling for Mitch’s head. If you follow the Lakers, you will know the fans are calling for Jimmy’s head and have been for the last year.

        With that said, the Knicks can be a playoff team next year with losing melo. The east is that weak! The Lakers can retool and also be a playoff team but they will see a quick first round exit if that happens. However these 2 teams aren’t looking for mediocrity, they want elite status and that could take a couple years or more.

        • Newmarket_Brian

          Hi Thor:
          I’m glad to hear from someone who clearly is close to the Lakers.
          You’ll note I’m not down on Kupchak; the man’s record speaks for itself. I’m postulating that the losing in Laker-land will not be confined to the season just ended, and Jimmy isn’t likely to throw himself overboard, no matter what the fans say. The Lakers need to draft and develop young players, while being patient. Can they do it?
          As for the Knicks being a playoff team next season – I ain’t buyin’ it, whether ‘Melo stays or goes. There are too many up and coming teams in the East for NY to be able to retool on the fly. Hornets, Wizards, Bulls, my Raptors – all are poised to shove the Knicks aside. I look for the Celtics, Hawks and Cavaliers to be better. Miami and Indiana should still be formidable.
          Thanks for commenting, and please stay in touch.

  • Jensan

    IMO, Lakers choose Julius Randle , so that here is someone in the paint. Personally I think Pau is gone to Dallas or to Miami, whoever will give him 8 million for three years. He can play Center there…..

    • Newmarket_Brian

      Hi Jensan:
      I agree about Pau. It’s hard to imagine him spending his final seasons with a losing program.
      Randle would be a sound pick. They don’t have much interior defense currently. They also don’t have much shooting. Could they “reach” for Stauskas?
      Thanks as always for dropping in.

  • Jensan

    Stauskas is a 2 Guard, and do you think Kobe will let him see the Ball, and Nick Young who was the backup guard is a Free Agent, and he has no problems shooting the rock. So no duplication is necessary there. Randle or Embid.

    • Newmarket_Brian

      I’d like Nick Young in Raptor red. The man can shoot.

  • Guy

    It’s safe to say I’m in complete disagreement with you on this one Brian, as I don’t see either the Lakers or Knicks going thru down seasons over the next several years. I’d agree with next season being a struggle, but that’s it. I feel that way for two reasons. 1) It’s the Lakers & Knicks. LA & New York. The two biggest, sexiest destinations in the NBA. And 2) Cap space.

    In my view, both teams would be wise to muddle through next season by filling the empty spots on their rosters with inexpensive, one year deals. Ideally, the Knicks do not re-sign Carmelo Anthony, & this would allow both teams to enter the off-season prior to 15/16 with a tremendous amount of cap space. Combine that with the high profile nature of the two teams & their respective rosters(be it via trade, free agency or both) could be turned around in the space of a few weeks. This could be especially true of the Knicks who would be able to float Phil Jackson’s name as added incentive.

    I expect both teams to be fully in the mix of their respective conferences in the 15/16 season.

    • Newmarket_Brian

      Hi Guy:
      You’re more than welcome to disagree.
      This is one of those topics which is unlikely to be resolved any time soon, unless either the Lakers or Knicks are above .500 next season, in which case I’ll give you a hat tip. As to 15-16, I’m not a believer in slapping teams together from free agents. Yes, both teams are sexy, but the Knicks have been a winning squad only 3 times since 00-01. Cap space and a hot location haven’t been of much use.
      Phil Jackson’s name doesn’t seem to be enough to keep Carmelo in harness, though I agree with you that they should let him go.
      Anyway, we’ll be keeping an eye on both teams, but I maintain they will both need at least 2 seasons to even get within hailing distance of the playoffs.
      Thanks for commenting.

  • AM

    The Lakers and Knicks in my eyes are hooped (pardon the pun), for at least a few seasons.

    Yes the Knicks are a huge market, but does nobody remember the complete mediocrity they sat in for the last 14 years or so? They got out of the first round in the ’12-’13 season and prior to that back in ’99-’00. The last time they really built a team was back in those late 90′s with JVG, Ewing, Johnson, Houston etc.. So, that’s once in over a decade they were able to have some success. This sort of shows that even though it’s a big basketball market, it won’t simply translate into attracting FA’s and having success. If Anthony does choose to leave, yes this leaves a large void in cap, however, they also need to look at examples from other teams management (and their own) and learn from them. Signing one player for a disproportionally large contract in comparison to the other players on the roster seldomly works. So it will take time to add multiple pieces needed.

    For the Lakers, their last couple championships were in large part to the acquisition of Gasol and Odom. Both played large roles in those couple seasons of success. They were acquired when Kobe was not the highest paid player in the league. Since then, Kobe has been the highest paid player in the league and, as of now, I think his last extension will keep him atop the list. But with only four players signed as of now for the next season, they will have more flexibility and roster space to sign more talent (Knicks will have to wait one more season for that). But as they themselves have proved a few times now, you can’t simply purchase big name FA’s and hope for success. I think it will be hard to attract the calibre player(s) they need until Kobe is done. He needs to swallow his pride and admit he needs to take a lesser role now. Unfortunately, I don’t see that happening until he retires. I think the Lakers would be better off doing an actual rebuild but they made that very difficult by resigning Kobe to that ridiculously high extension. Many vets take pay cuts for one last hurrah as their careers come to an end as this clearly enables the team to acquire more talent. But not the Lakers and not Kobe.

    As some have mentioned, it comes down to patience. As a Raptor fan, I’m glad I had to endure those loosing seasons for now the future is bright for the team and I’m excited about it. Knicks and Lakers management need to resist immediate success in favour of an actual rebuilding process for greater success in the future as Raptor fans can attest to.

    • Newmarket_Brian

      Hi AM:
      An admirable synopsis of the problems of both teams – well done.
      It does indeed come down to patience. Even before that, both teams need to recognize the deep mess they are in, and lay out a long-term plan. Will either one do that, or will they attempt an on-the-fly rebuild?
      San Antonio has drafted and developed its way to sporting glory. I’m deeply skeptical as to whether either the Lakers or Knicks have the backbone to go that way.
      Thanks for commenting.