Lakers swept away, begin transition

For a franchise that’s coming to grips with a season ending on
Mother’s Day, not closer to Father’s Day, with getting swept into the
dustpan instead of holding a broom, to losing with classless cheap shots
instead of winning with grace, you can add another foreign concept that
the denizens of Lakersland will have to swallow: patience.

last time a Los Angeles Lakers championship reign ended, in 2003, the
Lakers responded by adding two Hall of Fame-bound players within two
months: Karl Malone and Gary Payton.
It wasn’t quite the Heat bringing in the reigning MVP and another
All-Star in their primes, but it was kind of a big deal — and the
Lakers did return to the NBA Finals the next season.
It won’t happen so quickly this time. There are no landscape-changing free agents available this summer; all eyes are on Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and Deron Williams,
who can hit free agency in 2012. And before anyone signs anywhere
there’s the matter of the expiring collective bargaining agreement and
the lockout that’s presumably coming afterward.

the NBA does resume operations it’s expected to do so with a lower, more
restrictive salary cap, which would make it more difficult to acquiring
star free agents or consummate trades. Wherever the new salary cap
level is set, the Lakers will be far beyond it. They’re committed to an
$88.5 million payroll next season even if Shannon Brown and Matt Barnes
don’t exercise their player options worth a combined $4.3 million. Even
if you wanted to connect the dots and match the Lakers’ earliest salary
cap space with the first opportunity Blake Griffin
has to become a free agent, that wouldn’t happen until 2014. That’s a
millennium to fans of a franchise that has reached the NBA Finals, on
average, every other season in the three decades that Jerry Buss has
owned the team.

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