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MARK HEISLER / ON THE NBA

Where do the Lakers go from here? A five-step plan

After their second-round playoff flameout, the Lakers have a lot of decisions ahead, primarily involving systems and personnel. But everything springs from the first one: picking a new coach.

May 09, 2011|Mark Heisler
  • It's a good bet that Andrew Bynum will remain the man in the middle for the Lakers since he showed in the playoffs that he's capable of carrying an offensive load as well as anchoring the interior defense.
It's a good bet that Andrew Bynum will remain the man in the middle for… (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles…)

So that truck finally backed up to the loading dock in Lakerdom.

In your dreams.

Whatever happens won't be as dramatic as the Lakers would like, or as soon.

Their future revolves around questions they couldn't answer now if a genie popped out of the water barrel and gave them three wishes.

They didn't get old overnight, can't get young by fall — and trying may mean cutting off better options.

This isn't a fantasy league or talk radio jocks doing their Queen-of-Hearts off-with-their-heads number, like ESPN 710's Dave Miller, bumped up to community spokesman for an appearance on the mother ship, "SportsCenter."

"A large majority was disgusted with Andrew Bynum's stupid foul," Miller reported of his audience.

"It was a disgrace to the Lakers and an embarrassment to the league and I really heard no remorse in his postgame comments."

Happily for Lakers fans who weren't stuck in traffic, a stupid foul as darkness fell over the land will mean less to team officials than things like talent, age and size.

Two Lakers aren't going anywhere:

•Kobe Bryant, who's Kobe Bryant . . . limited as he may have been by that ankle (five makes inside 10 feet in the Dallas series?).

•Bynum, who's 23 and goes 7-1, 275.

Aside from being beloved by Jim Buss, he's their biggest, best and most physical big man and the only one who busted it at the end, going out on the floor, jumping in passing lanes.

Building around Bynum means assuming the risk of injury — but I think they will, as long as he's upright.

Not that anyone is likely to go anywhere soon.

The NBA lockout will freeze everything on July 1.

Uncertainty is likely to paralyze everything until then.

In any case, the Lakers have to pick a coach first, since it means picking a system.

The roster got so old and slow because it was set up to run the triangle offense.

(Former coach Phil Jackson's Bulls won titles No. 4-6 with even older teams, with Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Ron Harper and Dennis Rodman 35-32-34-37 at the end of their run in 1998.)

Jerry Buss, who wants something more "Showtime," tried to junk the triangle after showing Jackson the door in 2004.

Now unless they go with Brian Shaw . . . a longer shot after they went down in flames than it would have been if they'd won a title . . . the triangle is gonzo.

So Decisions Nos. 1-2 are intertwined:

Who's the new coach and what's the new system?

I'm guessing they go outside (choose one: Doc Rivers, Rick Adelman, Larry Brown) and go up-tempo.

That would make Decision No. 3:

Where do they get a point guard?

In the triangle, "initiator" Derek Fisher made the first pass and went off the ball, a role that didn't require a Chris Paul or Deron Williams.

If they abandon the triangle, Paul and Williams may jump over Dwight Howard on their wish list.

Unfortunately for the Lakers, Knicks, et al., the prize 2012 free agents aren't going anywhere in 2011.

The NBA won't let Paul out of New Orleans until it sells the team, one more thing awaiting a labor deal.

Orlando is adamant about keeping Howard, as is New Jersey about Williams.

So Decision No. 4 for the Lakers is:

Do they make a big move now or wait for Paul, Williams or Howard next summer?

If they wait, Decision No. 5 becomes:

What do they do for a point guard in the meantime?

Let's take a look at the teams with more than one:

Denver — Ty Lawson is the Nuggets' guy. Ray Felton can be had.

San Antonio — Tony Parker makes a lot of money for someone with a backup the Spurs love (George Hill), could be available although the Spurs would have to get back a real prize — Pau Gasol? — to deal with the Lakers.

In the East: Jose Calderon, Toronto; Chauncey Billups, New York; Jamal Crawford, Atlanta; Ramon Sessions, Cleveland; Will Bynum, Detroit.

In the most important decision of all:

Will the Busses run their wishes by the basketball people for a reality check this time?

In 2004, Jerry and Jim, harking back to some gauzy memory of Showtime, decided they wanted to run, as in the '80s.

Unfortunately for them, the game had changed dramatically. You could no longer get the ball off the defensive board, outlet it to someone like Magic Johnson and know you'd come down 3-on-2 or 2-on-1.

The game had slowed. Offenses emphasized shooting and spacing, with two players spotted up on the arc who dropped back against fastbreaks.

If hiring Rudy Tomjanovich was OK, his $6-million salary — as much as Jackson had been getting — was on the high side, by a factor of two.

Jim reportedly told his sister, Jeanie, that that was what coaches made.

Who knows how close they get to their miracle turnaround if Rudy T doesn't go over the hill, three months into his five-year, $30-million deal.

When Jackson said he was open to returning, Jim and Jerry were obliged to take him back.

Then all it took was drafting Bynum at No. 10 in 2005, chilling out Kobe in 2007 and landing Gasol in 2008.

Better think this one over, guys.

mark.heisler@latimes.com

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