If we are to believe LaVar Ball, the Los Angeles Lakers are going to make the playoffs this season, ending a four-year drought. LaVar envisions his son Lonzo leading them there, transforming the team into a run-and-gun, pass-happy powerhouse that will bring back the Showtime vibe and show superstars that Hollywood is the place to be. Then, of course, LeBron James will sign with the Lakers in free agency, share notes with Magic Johnson about empire-building and perhaps even attract another marquee player to come along and try to take down the Golden State Warriors. Easy-peasy.
Unfortunately for the Lakers, hoping LaVar will speak things into existence is not a sound rebuilding plan. Neither is simply waiting for future Hall of Famers to show up and say they want to save the storied franchise. While Los Angeles has at times been able to attract superstars with its history and location, the late-and-post-Kobe years have been humbling. There is nothing wrong with chasing the very best players in the world, but those guys increasingly don’t want to join organizations that reek of desperation or dysfunction. If you want a seat at the table with someone like LeBron, you must first have your house in order.
After their first preseason game, coach Luke Walton had to remind himself that his team is young: Lonzo is a few weeks away from his 20th birthday, second-year forward Brandon Ingram just turned 20 last month and five more under-25-year-olds — Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Julius Randle, Larry Nance Jr., Kyle Kuzma and Ivica Zubac — are expected to be regulars in the rotation, with a few others on the fringes. Teams constructed this way usually lose tons of games, and there isn’t a compelling reason to think this group will be the exception to the rule.