Commissioner Adam Silver and the NBA need the Los Angeles Lakers and the New York Knicks to turn around their franchises once again. For far too long, the Lakers have hardly been a team that has been worth watching on television. And as far as the Knicks, they have been a mockery to the game of basketball with what they display in the World’s Greatest Arena. But year after year, the Los Angeles Lakers and the New York Knicks get games that are nationally televised on TNT and ESPN. Why? They’re the two largest markets in America, despite being the two worst teams in the NBA.
Showing an Atlanta Hawks game on TNT is not going to attract a large audience even though they have the best record in the Eastern Conference and have been affectionately called “Spurs East.” Watching guys like Kyle Korver shoot 3-pointers, Al Horford shoot a boring 15-footer, and guys like Pero Antic that nobody has ever heard of, is not going to draw any ratings. What will draw ratings are Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony. However, both teams are threatening to shut their star players down for the rest of the season, and it will be yet another year where the two largest markets in the NBA have two of the worst teams.
So, how do you resurrect a franchise like the Los Angeles Lakers that have been historically good, but are now so bad? How do you make a team that the NBA needs desperately to be good, respectable, and at least somewhat watchable once again? Here are the top 10 ways to bring Showtime back to this JV squad.
10 Trade Kobe Bryant
What?!?! Trade one of the best players to have ever played for the gold and purple? Trade the only player that Los Angelinos would pay money to watch? Trade the third leading scorer in NBA history? The answer is yes. That is, if any general manager is gullible enough to take him. Let’s face it, Kobe Bryant is coming off of two major injuries and has barely played basketball the past two years. Furthermore, he is 36-years-old, going on 40. He has already been shut down for multiple games, he hardly ever practices with the team in order to preserve his legs, and oh yeah, he consumes one-third of the salary cap with his current contract.
9 Fire Byron Scott
Mike D’Antoni took a lot of heat for his lack of emphasis on defense, but it seems as though Byron Scott, who was mentored in the school of hard knocks, has little resemblance with his mentor Pat Riley. Let’s face it, D’Antoni is lying in his hammock with a mojito in his hand somewhere in the Caribbean and is not feeling so bad anymore. Scott has also recently admitted that he went against Kobe’s desire for a minute’s restriction and has played him more than he should have. A coach should know what his players can and cannot handle, and Scott has already worn Kobe to the ground.
8 Limit Kobe’s Minutes and Sit Him on Back-to-Backs
Kobe should never be in the same conversation as Josh Smith as the poster boy for the Ewing Theory, but the truth of the matter is that the Lakers have a better net rating with Kobe sitting than playing (+4.7). When Kobe is on the floor, the Lakers have a rating of -12.6. Their winning percentage, however, is about the same as him not playing. When Kobe is not playing they have a winning percentage of 33% and when he is not playing they have a winning percentage of 31%. What this means is that the best way of getting the most out of Kobe and this debacle of a roster is by limiting his minutes and occasionally sitting him on back-to-backs, so that they can get the maximum output out of their aging shooting guard, while simultaneously allowing the other players on this roster to develop and gel.
7 Start Jeremy Lin
When Carmelo Anthony went down, Jeremy Lin was born. The same principal can apply to Kobe Bryant going down and Linsanity being born once again. Lin needs the ball in his hands in order to be affective, but that can never happen with Kobe dominating the ball the way that he does. With the Lakers possibly shutting Kobe down for the rest of the season, they should let Jeremy be Jeremy. But that can only happen if Byron Scott allows him to start again, and if he lets the Lakers run more loosely than he is willing to do with his strict offensive schemes.
6 Fire Mitch Kupchak
The Lakers were major players this past summer, but they struck out in a major way when they missed out on Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, and even lost out on Pau Gasol, who left Los Angeles for greener pastures in Chicago. Instead, the Lakers acquired Jeremy Lin who has now become the back-up point guard at a price of $8.7 million per year and they acquired Carlos Boozer, who the Chicago Bulls basically paid to leave. For other general managers, these moves or lack thereof, may have been acceptable, but not for a franchise like the Lakers. It’s supposed to be easy getting players to come to Los Angeles, but Mitch has been a part of making Los Angeles one of the most undesirable places to come to.
5 Sell Los Angeles, Not the Roster
Beautiful people. Beautiful weather. Beautiful scenery. Los Angeles is an easy sell. The city itself should make the Los Angeles Lakers a desirable destination for NBA players. Instead, Los Angeles Lakers may as well be playing in Oklahoma City or Sacramento. What other team in the NBA has Jack Nicholson and other Hollywood stars sitting right there in the front row. What other arenas resemble the Staples Center? What other cities have 70-degree weather in the middle of January? Living in Los Angeles needs to be as much of the sell as the players on the Lakers, if this franchise is going to rise once again from the dead.
4 Trade Jordan Hill
For some inexplicable reason, the Lakers signed Jordan Hill to a two-year deal worth $18 million. In contrast to Jordan Hill, Ed Davis makes a little more than $1 million per year. Now, you can make the case that Hill is better than Davis, but how much better? Is he $8 million better? I’m not sure any general manager in the NBA would think so. Shedding Hill’s contract, which is the third highest on the roster, would help alleviate some of the cap that Kobe has taken up. Additionally, with Nash’s contract about to come off the books after this year, the Lakers could have up to $18 million per year to spend on a major free agent player next year. Hill’s contract is only for another year, with next year being a club option, so getting him off the books is definitely possible.
3 Shut Kobe Down
The fact of the matter is that it will be almost impossible to trade Kobe with his contract. Nobody wants a 36-year-old shooting guard that never practices, absorbs one-third of the salary cap, and is known for stopping ball movement. So, what are the Lakers to do? They have zero shot at making the playoffs with their current record at 12-26. So, they can either save what’s left of Kobe for a season where they actually have a shot at winning or they can wear him to the ground. However, the rumors are that the Lakers are already considering shutting Kobe down, which would be wise since they have no shot at winning, and it would simultaneously allow them to develop some of the other players that they have on their roster.
2 Have Jeanie Buss and Jim Buss Switch Roles
Out of their desire to obey their father’s last wishes, Jim Buss became the head of basketball operations, while Jeanie Buss took on the other aspects of the Lakers as the part-owner. This means that Jim has the final say on a lot of the basketball decisions that pertain to the roster. Clearly, however, Jeanie has always been the fan favorite and the player favorite for running the organization. Additionally, her association with Phil Jackson has always made her a natural candidate because if Jeanie was totally in charge of everything, Phil would be more inclined to come on board once again. It’s becoming pretty obvious that Phil does not want to be a part of the mess that is the New York Knicks.
1 Beg Kobe To Restructure His Contract
Kobe is the highest paid player in the NBA and his contract is for this year and next year. On November 25th, 2013, Kobe Bryant signed a two-year deal worth $48,500,000. This year, Kobe will be making $23,500,000 and next year Kobe will be making $25,000,000. If general manager Mitch Kupchak and the front office of the Lakers can somehow con Kobe into cutting his contract in half, they have the ability to attract another major player, otherwise, it is a fiscal impossibility.