As the 2015-16 season comes to an end for the Los Angeles Lakers, the self-imposed “deadline” Jim Buss set for himself in 2014 continues to draw closer and closer.
“If this doesn’t work in three to four years, if we’re not back on the top — and the definition of top means contending for the Western Conference, contending for a championship — then I will step down because that means I have failed,” Buss, the team’s head of basketball operations, told the L.A. Times’ Mike Bresnahan. “I don’t know if you can fire yourself if you own the team … but what I would say is I’d walk away and you guys figure out who’s going to run basketball operations because I obviously couldn’t do the job.”
Since Buss made that statement, the Lakers have only gotten worse (in the win-loss column, at least) and have yet to make a big splash in the free agency or trade market.
Though they have collected some nice young players via the draft in recent years, the fact remains that the team has yet to show any real progress since their last playoff appearance in 2013.
However, Buss remains optimistic about the team’s chances of improving their roster in the not so distant future.
In a mid-game interview with ESPN 710’s John Ireland and Mychal Thompson during last night’s Lakers-Thunder game, Buss shared that he thinks the team can “turn it around immediately” if all goes to plan this summer.
“The best thing we can do is get ourselves in a position to acquire players, trade for players [and get] draft picks,” Buss said. “I think we have $50-60 million to spend in the offseason. With our draft picks, we have core players, we have some veterans that are going to stick around. To me, I think we’re going to turn it around immediately. We need the dominoes to fall and if that happens I think we’ll be right back on top.”
While the Lakers will have an incredible amount of cap room to spend this summer, they still will have a hard time convincing the biggest domino of them all, Kevin Durant, to sign with them.
Due to modern day league rules, the Lakers will not be able to offer Durant the most money this summer. Plus, Durant will likely value winning over all else at this point, and the Lakers are just about to end with their worst record in franchise history.
Still, there are other valuable players set to hit the free agent market this summer such as DeMar DeRozan, Al Horford, Nicolas Batum and Hassan Whiteside. Any one of those pieces would be a nice addition to this young Lakers team.
But such an addition likely wouldn’t put the Lakers “right back on top” as Buss puts it.
“Back on top” surely means “contending for the Western Conference, contending for a championship” as Buss promised a couple of years ago, doesn’t it?
The fact of the matter is that the Lakers are at a crossroads right now. Buss’ job would be much easier if he had a prime Kobe Bryant on his roster to build around, but he doesn’t. And just like every other team in the league, the Lakers are learning that it’s just not that easy to put together a title contender.
But then again, all it takes is a few of the “dominoes” to fall in the right places and all of a sudden you’re back on track.
One thing’s for certain, though: Laker fans and Jim Buss alike will be praying for that kind of outcome this summer, because there’s only so much losing that this storied franchise can take.