EL SEGUNDO – They made for an impressive gathering, four former NBA stars and the processors of a combined 18 league titles, 16 of which came with the Lakers.
A celebration of the past, that’s what this gathering was. And that’s a great way to go, especially when there’s no reason to celebrate the present.
At one point, Magic Johnson joked to Byron Scott that he wished “we could put on a uniform and help ya.” But, frankly, how much of a joke was Johnson’s remark?
Honestly, would the Lakers really be that much worse right now playing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Jamaal Wilkes over Robert Sacre and Ryan Kelly?
The team formally introduced Scott as its new coach Tuesday, and, while the presence of Johnson, Abdul-Jabbar and Wilkes at the news conference was a cool, classy surprise, it also was a convenient way to, at least briefly, forget how awful the Lakers could again be in 2014-15.
Last year’s version was the worst team since the franchise moved to L.A., finishing 22 games out of the playoffs.
Since ending with the second-poorest record in the Western Conference, the Lakers have done nothing to suggest this coming season will bring significant improvement.
Sure, a healthy Kobe Bryant could make a measureable difference, but how much will that matter when the distance being measured is 22 games long?
Maybe now we can all agree on why the Lakers re-signed Bryant last year, while the debate about the strange, roster-crippling price they paid lingers.
Keeping Bryant around was the easiest way to guarantee the Lakers would remain pertinent, even as the team continues to play a brand of basketball that’s generally irrelevant.
Sorry to be keeping things so real, especially on a day when it was OK to dream, Scott referencing the timing of the Lakers’ return to glory when telling everyone, “I don’t see this as a long process.”
But it also was Scott who so fittingly gave context to where the Lakers are at the moment, context that was more negative than anything else you’ll read here.
“This organization is all about championships, period,” he proclaimed. “We don’t look at Western Conference finals, Western Conference championships. We look at championships.”
So, where does that leave everyone exactly, considering what we’ll be looking at from the Lakers during the 2014-15 season?
In the end, we now can officially report that the Lakers and General Manager Mitch Kupchak did produce Magic this offseason, while failing to produce magic. With the current Lakers, unfortunately, you have to expect the expected.