The Los Angeles Lakers offered LaMarcus Aldridge a lot of glitz; they offered a lot of glamour.
But in the end, they offered little substance.
Aldridge reportedly came away from his free-agent meeting with the Lakers feeling a tad underwhelmed. Then again, perhaps that shouldn’t be surprising. The Lakers were one of the worst teams in basketball last year, and their best player, Kobe Bryant, turns 37 in August and has played in just 41 games over the last two seasons due to injury.
But if you’re looking for a Lakers scapegoat, Bryant isn’t it.
“I think a lot of it is just general shade being thrown Kobe’s way – and I don’t know if it’s fair,” NBA-TV and NBA.com analyst Sekou Smith said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “I’m not sure if it’s actually legit. This is something much bigger than Kobe. Go back to when Dr. (Jerry) Buss passed away (in 2013). The Lakers have never really been able to regain their footing as an organization. (They are a) proud, championship-filled organization that has always been able to go into the free-agent market and handle business a certain way. Unfortunately, since Dr. Buss has passed, they just have not been the same behemoths in free agency in the summers that we’re used to seeing.”
With Bryant nearing the end of his career, the Lakers find themselves without a legitimate superstar for the first time in decades. Who’s the next star in the pipeline? D’Angelo Russell?
“I don’t know that there’s anybody that’s currently in the family,” Smith said. “I think honestly they’re going to have to go into free agency again next summer. I think next summer is when they can land their big fish, when Kevin Durant and all these guys are available. But that has to start now. You have to lay the ground work for what you’re going to do in free agency two or three years ahead of time. Kind of like what Miami did. Somebody has to formulate the master plan to get players to come to your franchise and help turn it around. Right now the Lakers are at the lowest point they’ve been in in my lifetime. We’re talking about four decades – my entire life – the Lakers have always been factors. This last couple years is the first time I’ve ever remembered them being just completely out of the mix and with no prospects. It doesn’t look good. You don’t have a young Kobe Bryant. You don’t (have) Shaq. You don’t have that upward tick on the way.”
Sticking in the Staples Center, the Clippers have plenty of star power in Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, but they must re-sign DeAndre Jordan, who might be the most underrated big man in basketball. Jordan, 26, averaged 11.5 points, 15.0 rebounds and 2.2 blocks last season.
For whatever reason, though, Jordan seems very open to leaving Los Angeles, with Dallas emerging as a potential landing spot.
“His best bet is to stick around in L.A. with Chris Paul and the Clippers,” Smith said. “I’m not sure why he’s so hell-bent on getting out of town. He started his career and the Clippers were an afterthought, and now they’ve become a factor and he needs to make sure he rides that as long as he can. They got a chance to compete for championships in the next few years if he sticks around.”