The Los Angeles Lakers are attempting to rebuild their franchise after four straight years of missing the playoffs. In order to do that they are going to need an infusion of talent, and given the current state of the NBA, the most likely source of a boost is the NBA draft.
While Los Angeles isn’t sure whether they will keep their top-three protected first round pick, they still have the Houston Rockets’ pick this year, so regardless of how the ping pong balls bounce they will have a chance to bring in fresh young talent this summer.
With that in mind, the team’s decision-makers traveled to the NBA draft combine in Chicago this week to get a look at some of the young up-and-coming players. While they were there, President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson bumped into New York Knicks President Phil Jackson, who had a little advice about the Lakers’ rebuild, via Al Iannazzone of Newsday:
“I told Magic after we bumped into each other and had a little exchange, not too many kids can come into this game and win a championship like he did back in ’80,” Jackson said at the NBA Draft Combine. “They’re just not that way. They’re not that mature…Of course, he was a sophomore when he came out. It’s just really tough. The maturation level, particularly the education the game has stepped to, the amount of work it takes physically, mentally, the preparation. We don’t expect a whole lot.”
Jackson’s take is certainly telling, as both the Knicks and the Lakers face mounting pressure to rebuild their teams. While the Lakers are currently built around a young core, the Knicks tried last summer to surround aging star Carmelo Anthony with pieces to help him win, including Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah.
Things didn’t work out as planned, and now Jackson is in a difficult position of trying to convince Anthony to waive his no-trade clause so that the Knicks can start a true rebuild around young star Kristaps Porzingis.
Jackson understands that, even in a much-heralded draft class like the current one, it’s going to take time for young players to pan out and eventually turn a franchise around. Players like Magic Johnson, who made an impact the moment he entered the league, are few and far between.
Today, much more patience is required, but it can also pay off if players are successfully developed. Jackson doesn’t come across as being too keen on waiting, but Johnson may see things differently as he works to bring the Lakers back to the top.