It’s the season opener. The crowd is hyped up – ESPN says that “Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, Will Ferrell, Alibaba founder Jack Ma, Yasiel Puig, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Gerard Butler, Adam Levine and Behati Prinsloo” were all in attendance. Kobe is back – healthy and ready to lead the team.
The game doesn’t go great – they trail most of he game. Then the fourth quarter injury to Julius Randle cast a long shadow over the season.
Randle had the potential to become the “next” star in LA, coming onto the team like Kobe did years and years ago – as the second to an established star in an environment ready to cultivate him into a new star for the future.
This all comes on the tail of the news last week that Steve Nash will miss the entire season with nerve damage to his back. Nash was expected to be the starting point guard (as he turned 41 this year), and would have provided a ball-control option to feed Kobe, Boozer, and Randle.
Instead, the Lakers now face a hard year with only Boozer, Lin, and the ever-shooting Kobe.
Opening night, the Lakers managed 90 points against 3 1/2 quarters of the Rockets. Randle, by the time he was carted off, had only 2 points in 14 minutes. More importantly, Jordan Hill managed only 10 rebounds – only because Boozer (the star off-season acquisition) landed 7. They got totally dismantled by a Rockets team featuring two all-stars but having failed in their offseason goals to land a third.
Follow that with loses to Phoenix and the Clippers and you’re off to a tough 0-3 start. Tonight they face the Warriors, another top team in the west, and are currently 15 point underdogs.
We all know that the Lakers are sad this year. But are they “cursed”?
I’m going to say it out loud – Dwight Howard’s departure cursed the Lakers.
Let’s take the time machine back two short years, when Howard was the first big man to choose a team other than the Lakers. Like many before him, Shaq, by contrast, left when it was mutually recognized that the team was going in a different direction. For Howard, however, the Lakers rolled out the red carpet – and Dwight chose to head to Houston.
So what are the Lakers to do. Curses aren’t easily broken – and usually require a token sacrifice of some kind. Is that sacrifice trading away the face of your franchise? The man who is prepared to become the all-time leading scorer in your storied history?
In terms of money, Kobe currently makes $23.5 Million dollars this year. That’s a tough salary to pass on to another team – but not impossible if the bundle is correct. The Lakers also have possible benefits of “tanking” to consider – they retain their first round pick next year if it’s top-5.
The problem here is two-fold, however. Would Kobe go, and who would take him.
The question in my mind, though, is whether this will solve the curse – perhaps there are other ways to get there. Jim Buss has proven to be incompetent, and Mitch Kupchak could be the fall guy eventually.
No matter what, the Lakers need a change. Not a “lets put together a cheap short-term team to clear room for 2016” change – a REAL change. That’s not happening until Kobe is gone, via trade or retirement.