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Lakers report card: Front office has mixed results

June 05, 2012|By Mark Medina

This is the seventh in a series of posts grading the Lakers on the 2011-12 season.

Owner Jerry Buss

Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak

Executive Jim Buss

The good: If it wasn't for NBA Commissioner David Stern deciding to play God, the Lakers' front office likely would've landed an A+ this season. The Lakers addressed their point guard needs by striking a deal for Chris Paul. They also managed to lower payroll by shipping off Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom. Too bad, but that reality suddenly vanished. The Lakers deserve credit for pulling off the deal that should've happened.

The Lakers still managed to upgrade at point guard and reduce payroll before the deadline, albeit on a smaller scale. They acquired Ramon Sessions from Cleveland, while sending a first-round draft pick, an outside shooting bust in Jason Kapono and the hefty contract that Luke Walton carried while riding the bench. I'll explain below why I disliked the Derek Fisher trade, but at least the front office mitigated it to some degree by acquiring Jordan Hill. He proved everyone wrong, including yours truly, that he could produce if given a chance.

The Lakers front office also deserves credit for moves they didn't make. They didn't fall into the trap in shipping Gasol just for the sake of it, showing patience that the Lakers forward would only be sent in a blockbuster deal. As tempting as it would've been to use the amnesty provision on Metta World Peace, he showed he still has some juice left.

After remaining out of the public eye, Jim Buss has spoken more in radio interviews. Whether you agree or disagree with the direction he's taking the Lakers, it's good he's at least explaining his decision-making.

The bad: The Lakers have already used the lockout-shortened season as a built-in excuse for some of the team's mishaps. Coach Mike Brown and his players remain justified in citing that factor because it played a huge part in their struggles. But the front office can't lean on that variable. They knew there was a strong likelihood there would be a lockout, yet still pursued a fundamentally different direction by hiring Brown. Had the front office hired Brian Shaw or Rick Adelman, the transition process wouldn't have been quite as bumpy.

Regardless of whether you like Brown's work ethic or think he's in over his head, the Lakers' hiring set the tone for the course of the season. Whether this pans out long term remains unclear. But they shouldn't be taken aback that the compacted schedule made it challenging for Brown and his players to know each other tendencies.

The front office's personnel decisions also had severe long-term implications. It might seem like the Lakers averted disaster by shipping off an emotional Odom to Dallas and seeing him combust. Even if Odom might have played inconsistently, it's unlikely it would've been as severe with the Lakers because of his attachment here and his strong locker-room popularity. Besides, it's a 100% guarantee that anything Odom provided would've yielded a net positive relative to what the league's worst bench brought. Say all you want about the Lakers' need to cut payroll. It is a harsh reality, but the harsher luxury tax penalties don't kick in until after next season. The Lakers easily could've passed on exercising their team option on him for this season instead of ridding themselves of a critical bench player.

The same issue applies to Derek Fisher. Yes, he's aging, slow and inconsistent. But the concern that he wouldn't accept reduced bench role as the team's third point guard deviates from his usual character. Yes, he's a prideful guy and wouldn't like a reduced role. But Fisher is also a consummate professional and wouldn't let such an issue detract from the team goal. It's also hardly a coincidence that Andrew Bynum's immaturity popped up as soon as Fisher was gone. He would've had enough locker-room respect to minmize the severity of that issue.

Grade: C+

The Lakers took a few steps forward in the Sessions deal and a few steps backward in the Odom and Fisher trades. Yes, the Lakers have to worry more about reducing payroll. But they have to make sure that their approach won't completely dilute its roster.


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