"Do something and do it now. Personally for me, it’s beyond frustration — three years and still being at ground zero. This summer’s a big summer. We have to see what direction we want to take as an organization and make those steps and make them now."
--Kobe Bryant Wednesday night
Kobe Bryant is frustrated. He should be. When the Kobe/Shaq feud reached the point that one of them had to go three years ago the choice for Dr. Jerry Buss was pretty simple -- you always take the 26-year-old with the great work ethic over the 30-something guy who shows up out of shape every fall.
(And by the way, don’t even start the “Kobe forced Shaq out” argument, it’s BS. It takes two enormous egos not to tango, and Shaq was far from blameless. Go read Roland Lazenby’s “The Show” to get a balanced picture.)
But when the Lakers went with Kobe, the plan needed to be to rebuild around him and do it quickly, even now his window for a title is probably only four or five years tops. His first three years without Shaq seem wasted, and that has more to do with the organization than Kobe. In the first year, with Rudy Tomjanovich as the coach with his unconcerned defense and shoot-the-three offense, the Laker organization looked like a rudderless ship. Phil Jackson came back and provided direction, but another first-round playoff loss this week shows that he does not have the talent needed to win.
So, what’s next?
It’s not so simple as going out and trading for a superstar like Kevin Garnett (which really is far from simple). The Lakers management has backed itself into somewhat of a corner with the NBA salary cap and can’t just go on a spending spree. Mitch Kupchak is going to need to be smart and clever, although trades are more likely than big free agent signings.
However it gets done, here’s the areas he has to address: