LAS VEGAS -- Los Angeles Lakers vice president Jim Buss has been at Las Vegas Summer League since day one. He's watching games and can often be found surrounded by Mike D'Antoni and Kurt Rambis. He's keeping an eye on players like Lazar Hayward, Chris Douglas-Roberts and Marcus Landry who could potentially make the next step to becoming Lakers by receiving a training camp invite.
Fringe-NBA talent might be the only thing more readily available than free drinks around blackjack tables during summer league. The Lakers are combing over these prospects in hopes they can find another cheap option to add to their roster.
The Lakers have made their post-Dwight roster transactions while these hardly-known players fight for the chance to wear purple and gold, get a few pairs of Kobe's signature Nikes and lay claim to a few hundred thousand dollars.
This summer was an episode of the Twilight Zone for the Lakers. A superstar center willingly walked away from the 80 degrees with a pretty swell breeze of Los Angeles. Instead of going out on a shopping spree at the Beverly Center the Lakers were forced to go yard sale picking.
Sure, that's a nice sports coat for the price but it's used, missing buttons and has a small hole on the elbow. In a worst case scenario it can be worn.
Welcome to the Lakers worst case scenario. Don't let anybody see that elbow, and you may want to get a hold of a lint roller as soon as possible.
"This is the first year we've had Mike D'Antoni. He came in at the beginning of the season last' year. We've had the time to start picking players that fit his system a little bit better, and I think Kaman is perfect fit," Buss said while being interviewed on NBA TV.
"[Nick Young] can shoot the lights out, and we need shooters. Especially in this system. He's very athletic, he can sprint the floor. Another one that fit's D'Antoni's system perfectly," Buss said about the addition of Los Angeles native Young.
Former fourth-overall draft pick Wesley Johnson will join the Lakers. Another wing player who has enough rubber left around his rims to kick. The 26-year-old former lottery pick will join his third team in four years after being labeled a bust going into year four of his career.
Now, he could see significant minutes after seeing his time on the floor decrease each year while he played for both the Phoenix Suns and Minnesota Timberwolves. From 26, to 22, to 19 minutes Johnson will now have a fresh start with a Lakers team low on what he represents -- youth, athleticism and maybe a drop or two of potential to extract. With a glaring hole at small forward, the Lakers will try to fill the gap left by Metta World Peace with some combination of Young, Johnson and Kobe Bryant once he returns.
"He came and worked out for us. He was sensational, he couldn't miss a shot. You can see how long he is and athletic. Another guy who fits the system," Buss said of adding Johnson to the fold.
"We're looking forward to it, D'Antoni likes the kid a lot. He's going to develop him. We might have a little sleeper there," Buss said. Likely something both Suns and Timberwolves executives have thought and said a few times over the last four seasons.
Farmar put up career numbers when he was last playing in the United States and could help D'Antoni stagger minutes for the Stevii, who could play together in the Lakers' backcourt as they did last season. Nash turns the big four-oh on February 7 after looking every bit 50 last season. Blake, on the other hand, has had a career filled with injuries and oddities since becoming a Laker. From chicken pox to parking lot spikes, Steve Blake have it all.
"I'm excited. He took a lot less money. He was making some very good money in Turkey. He just missed being a Laker. That's kinda the story of a lot of people, they want to be Lakers. We're happy to accommodate them," Buss said of returning-Laker Jordan Farmar.
"Jordan Farmar's going to fit real well with this system," Buss said. All four additions are expected to fit well into into D'Antoni's system, according the the vice president of personnel Jim Buss.
That's the challenge for Jim Buss as the new face of the Lakers front office. He needs people to want to be Lakers. This summer, Jordan Farmar, Nick Young, Wesley Johnson and Chris Kaman wanted to be Lakers. Dwight Howard did not.
Living under the shadow of a giant is no easy task. Performing with the city of Los Angeles watching your every move, writing about your every quote and magnifying every perceived failure makes this an incredibly difficult period for Jim Buss. This summer the Lakers can get away with filling out the roster with journeymen who might "fit the system" as much as they fit the salary structure. In a year, Jim Buss can't find himself sitting on NBA TV discussing the Chris Kamans and Wesley Johnsons that just inked deals for the legendary franchise.
With cap space and a fresh slate the process should be smooth for Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak to begin the first real push for the future. If there's anything to be learned between the day the Lakers traded for Steve Nash till now, though, it's the danger of banking on something that feels like a sure thing.
All quotes taken from NBA's interview with Jim Buss
- Follow this author on Twitter @DrewGarrisonSBN