Saturday, March 12, 2016
Saturday Slam: Will the Los Angeles Lakers ever win another NBA championship?
Will the Los Angeles Lakers ever win another NBA championship? They've won 16 in their storied history, so on the surface, this question seems like a stupid one. Due to their rich history and location, most people would say it's not a matter of "if" but rather a matter of "when" the Los Angeles Lakers once again climb to the top the basketball world. However, when looking at the current state of the team (15-54) and the ever-changing climate of the NBA, it become a lot less clear that the Los Angeles Lakers will inevitably become a championship contender in the near future.
What has to alarm the Los Angeles Lakers is to see teams like the Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs, and Oklahoma City Thunder contend in the Western Conference while they continue to suck. Even more frightening is the fact that they are becoming less and less of a destination for top free agents. Hell, they lost the most dominant big man since Shaquille O'Neal to the Houston Rockets because he didn't like all the distraction and pressure that came with being in Los Angeles.
While the Los Angeles Lakers continue to bank on landing top free agents because of their brand and location, they keep on failing to land the quality of talent that they think they deserve to get. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Stephen Curry, the biggest stars of this generation, are highly unlikely to ever wear a Los Angeles Lakers uniform. Those guys are much more likely to stay where they are or go to a team that is a lot closer to winning a championship such as the Los Angeles Clippers, a team that shares the same building and city with the Lakers.
If you think the concept of the Los Angeles Lakers never winning another NBA championship is ridiculous, let me introduce you to the New York Knicks. The Knicks play their home games at Madison Square Garden a.k.a The Mecca of basketball and they haven't won a championship since 1973. What's even more disturbing is the fact that New York Knicks have only won two NBA championships in their history, the other coming in 1970.
If I wrote a blog post about the New York Knicks never winning another NBA championship, you would likely agree with my thesis or at least not find it to be all that objectionable. If I reframed this current blog post under the premise that the Los Angeles Lakers could become like the New York Knicks, that too would likely jibe with you, unless you are the most hard core Lakers fan who still believes Kobe Bryant has it in him to lead a team to a championship.
If the New York Knicks, who play in the biggest market of all, have failed to win a championship for 40+ years, who is to say that the Los Angeles Lakers don't have a similar fate? Most Lakers fans believe that their team will soon rise from the ashes and once again win another NBA championship because winning championships is all that they've ever known. The Del Harris era has been erased from the minds of most Lakers fans, who think of the Pat Riley era and then the Phil Jackson era. So while the Del Harris era existed, Lakers fans feel as if they went from Magic & Kareem to Shaq & Kobe to Kobe & Gasol without any break in between.
In essence, this is the first era where it doesn't feel like a championship is coming anytime soon and Lakers fans at the moment are handling this by going into denial. It's one thing for fans to go into denial like this, but what is worse is that it appears as though the entire organization is going into denial. The organization is just expecting the basketball gods to magically make things better for them because they are the Lakers and unfortunately for them, that's not how the real world works.
So, to answer the question I posed at beginning of this blog post, I will respond by saying that it is not clear that the Lakers will win another NBA championship because their management is incompetent and the NBA is a lot more friendly to nontraditional powerhouse teams. The NBA doesn't want the Lakers to fail, don't get me wrong, they love it when they are winning, but at the same time, the NBA wants to have a healthy 30 team league where every franchise feels as though they have a chance to win a championship if they apply themselves.
30 years ago, the NBA was not this way. It was a league with 6-8 championship contending teams and the Lakers and Celtics were always in that pool of contenders. But times have changed and it appears as though the Lakers are yet to accept this. They still want things to be like they were in the 1980s where everybody wanted to play for either them or the Celtics. But now, with so many great options and franchises to choose from, NBA free agents feel less drawn to Boston and Los Angeles and more inclined to either stay put or go elsewhere. Until the Lakers find a way to adapt to the new climate of the NBA, odds are good they'll remain stuck in mediocrity and ineptitude.