Los Angeles Lakers' Ron Artest. (Photo: AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Magic Johnson suggested on national television last week that it was time Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry Buss “blow it up” when it comes to the team’s current roster.
And that was before the Lakers embarrassing exit from the playoffs Sunday.
Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak sought to bring some levity to the assertion of the Lakers’ great on Monday, a day after the two-time defending NBA champions were swept out of the playoffs by the Dallas Mavericks.
"I thought Earvin was trying to motivate our players," Kupchak said to Sports Illustrated. "He's great at cheering for us, and a lot of times saying stuff like he said can motivate a player to play harder. That's how I took it.
"I talk to Earvin from time to time, and I think Dr. Buss [owner Jerry Buss] does from time to time, and this moves too quickly for him to be intimately involved in what's going on day to day, so I would hesitate to think that was the case."
But does Magic, who is as famous for his no-look passes as he is for making ill-advised and poorly worded comments, actually have a point this time? It seems that he does.
We saw it during stretches of the season that this mix around All-Star Kobe Bryant that includes Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom, Ron Artest and Derek Fisher just doesn’t work anymore. Maybe it’s part age, perhaps even lack of motivation.
The bottom line is radical changes need to be made if the Lakers have any hopes of returning to the NBA primetime while Kobe has some prime left. Before the Lakers could exit the floor Sunday from their 122-86 loss that ended their season, there were already rumors of a deal that would ship erratic center Andrew Bynum to the Orlando Magic in exchange for All-Star center Dwight Howard.
Only a fool would make that trade, but we are talking about Magic general manager Otis Smith here. But more to the point, Orlando needs to move Howard before losing him for nothing via free agency in 2012. So at least you end up with some value in Bynum as opposed to the Cleveland Cavs situation last summer where they got nothing when LeBron James bounced for South Beach.
There has also been talk of moves that could bring Chris Paul to the Lakers to run the point guard spot prior to his impending free agency in 2012. That would be nice, but not likely realistic. Perhaps the Lakers can lure Mike Bibby, who is far from his prime but certainly a better option than Fisher, back to the West Coast?
Kupchak also would be wise to look at free agent options like Zach Randolph, Jamal Crawford and Caron Butler after the collective bargaining issues are hashed out this offseason. The assumption has been all along that the system retiring coach Phil Jackson has in place would remain under Brian Shaw. But with the way things ended for the Hall of Fame coach, all bets may be off and Kupchak may look to bring in, say, Rick Adelman for a completely fresh start.
Having some younger and more energetic players around Kobe could be just what the Lakers need to return to the top. So “blowing it up,” as Magic suggested, may actually be the answer.