Trust the process: How the Lakers have rebuilt in the past

Trust the process: How the Lakers have rebuilt in the past

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“Larry Nance Jr should start over Julius!!!”

“Anthony Brown is a bust!!!”

“D’Angelo is too slow!!!”

“Jordan Clarkson is a Sixth Man!!!”

“Trade all the young guys for (insert superstar here)!!!”

None of these opinions are prudent. To build a true contender, a franchise usually must bottom out to get draft picks, hope those picks develop into great players, which will encourage free agent stars to sign with them or become attractive enough for trade considerations. The Lakers have barely started this process. They finally got the young talent they need to have something sustainable for the future. Hopefully, this young talent will develop so that the team becomes attractive to free agents in the near future (i.e. DeMarcus Cousins and Paul George). For those who are claiming that the Lakers never rebuild, that is a false statement. A Lakers rebuild created the foundation for the last 2 great championship runs. Let me explain:

In the early 1990s, the Lakers were in a dire position. Magic Johnson abruptly retired and the players who shared championships with him were old. The Lakers were trending downward with no hope in sight. They drafted Nick Van Exel in 1993 and finished that season with a 33-49 record and the first non-playoff season in years. With their lottery pick in 1994, the Lakers drafted Eddie Jones and many pundits and analysts expected them to finish out of the playoffs yet again.

However, the team played extremely well during the 1994-95 season and surprised everyone with a 48-34 record and a first round match up against a formidable Seattle Supersonics team. No one gave them a shot against that Sonics team, but the Lakers upset them to play the San Antonio Spurs, and MVP David Robinson, in the second round. They brought the Spurs to 6 games with most games being tightly contested. The following year (1995-96), Magic Johnson made a brief comeback as a player. Although, this interfered with team chemistry (Cedric Ceballos ended up going AWOL and jet skiing in Lake Havasu during the season), the Lakers still made the playoffs but got eliminated in the first round by the Houston Rockets.

The Lakers did not make any major signings in those two years. However, they exceeded expectations and became a free agent destination. The Lakers convinced Shaquille O’Neal to leave the Orlando Magic (who had just went to the NBA Finals and Eastern Conference Finals the previous two years) and traded the rights to Vlade Divac for Kobe Bryant during the 1996 NBA Draft. The Lakers ended up becoming title contenders for 15 of the next 20 years. None of this would have happened if the Lakers foundational players did not perform, the team became attractive enough for free agents, and their players enticing enough for other teams to trade for.

The point is, you cannot make extravagant free agent signings and trades without having assets attractive enough to make such deals possible. The Lakers must go through the process of developing their young talent as quickly as possible and see who will be part of the core of the team moving forward. The only way to do this is to maximize each of the young core’s talent and see what they are capable of. Rushing the process, such as making trades that deprive the roster of talent just for one superstar or automatically labeling players without maximizing their abilities may cause temporary satisfaction, but mortgage the future. The proper process is to develop the young talent and make the team attractive for free agents and trade options. This can only happen through patience. The Laker front office, coaching staff, and players understand that success will not happen instantaneously. They have consistently preached patience so they can build something sustainable for years to come. Maybe many individuals in the fanbase should take heed to this.

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