Numbers Game: Debunking Myths and Misconceptions About Lakers’ Management

For some of the most ardent anti-Jim (Buss) folks out there, no matter what I say, the opinions are likely to remain the same. I’m hoping a bit of perspective and reality can shed some light upon my level-headed Laker-loving brethren. After a disappointing ending to both the 2010 and 2011 seasons, I couldn’t fault people for being frustrated. Admittedly, I was every bit as disgusted by the 9-total semi-final games fans suffered through, and wanted broad-sweeping trades/moves more than most.

Unlike some, I didn’t feel Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss were to “blame” for the failures. Quite frankly, sometimes, you simply don’t get it done. No need for scapegoats, no need to point the finger, as there was plenty of blame to go around. Without rehashing the myriad of things that went wrong over the last two seasons, I’d like to address some of the misconceptions we’ve all had to endure. I heard everything from “Jim Buss is cheap, and he’d NEVER trade Andrew Bynum  toMitch Kupchak is the worst GM in the league, and he’s been holding the Lakers (Kobe) back for years.”

Are you kidding me?

First of all, the Lakers have routinely paid gargantuan amounts of money in luxury tax fees. The NBA salary cap has hovered around the $58.044 million dollar mark for the last couple seasons, meanwhile (according to the Lakers already have an expected (guaranteed) $93.586 million dollars on their books, and are reportedly looking to add an additional guard/forward off the bench. Secondly, according to HoopsWorld writer Eric Pincus, the Lakers have paid $19.9 million and $12.6 million dollars in luxury tax penalties over the past two seasons (respectively), and are already slated to forfeit an additional $25 million dollars in luxury tax penalties for this upcoming season. Again, this figure is prior to adding any additional pieces.

Does this sound like a cheap organization to you? I mean, the way some fans spoke of Lakers’ management, you’d think they were running things akin to the manner by which the Clippers make decisions. Before Lob City fans get up in arms, I’m obviously referring to the manner by which they traditionally conducted business prior to the last two seasons. I promised myself I wouldn’t touch the Dwight Howard rumors, but I’m fairly certain the ongoing saga should at the very least dispel the notion of a flat-out unwillingness to part ways with Bynum. Fact is, the Lakers are not in the business of trading assets on a whim, and are one of only a handful of teams that routinely stack their war-chest and strike when the proper opportunity presents itself.

For the life of me, I cannot understand the repeated acts of criticism and slander aimed at Mitch Kupchak. As though, when deals we prefer (as fans) don’t take place, somehow Mitch is solely at fault. Consider this, aren’t we thankful Mitch, Jim, and Jerry didn’t pull the trigger on the Andrew Bynum for Jason Kidd idea? Keep in mind, that is the same power trio (reportedly, along with the help of ex-Assistant GM Ronnie Lester) that had the foresight to draft Bynum with the 10th pick of the 2005 NBA Draft. You think the teams that drafted Marvin Williams (2nd to Atlanta), Raymond Felton (5th to Charlotte) and Ike Diogu (9th to Golden State) aren’t kicking themselves on a daily basis?

Here’s another one for you.

If Kupchak had utilized the $8.9 million dollar trade exception obtained in the Lamar Odom deal on doing whatever it took to obtain the rights to Michael Beasley (which most of us were openly opining for), they wouldn’t have been in the financial position to trade for newly acquired point guard Steve Nash.

There’s time to list all of the favorable moves and deals Mitch has pulled off, but I would be remiss not to remind each of you of the masterful deal they’d constructed for Chris Paul just prior to last season. A deal that would have not only netted them (arguably) the league’s top point guard, but would have also saved the franchise upwards of $20 million dollars in luxury taxes. We all know how that ended, but even with the shocking set-back, Mitch and Jim were able to regroup, avoid panicking, and acquire Nash without giving up one of their prized assets. To quote one of the league’s most entertaining characters, Delonte West, “how ‘player‘ is that?”

Whether the Lakers are able to obtain another guard/forward or even that “home run deal” Kupchak has made mention of, the front office has already made serious improvements to an anemic bench unit by signing Antawn Jamison and re-signing Jordan Hill.

I, for one, will not be criticizing Mitch Kupchak anytime soon.

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