The four new Lakers this summer represent the challenge next summer

Kevork Djansezian

The Lakers have made a handful of roster moves this summer since the departure of Dwight Howard. Jim Buss believes them to be fits, but filling out the team with journeymen one-year contracts won't be acceptable next summer.

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.

Chris Kaman, Nick Young, Wesley Johnson and Jordan Farmar -- your 2013 Los Angeles Lakers summer.

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.

The Kaman signing is a fine signing. For $3.2 million the Lakers are getting a player who -- by all intents and purposes -- should fit into the offense next to Gasol. Mike D'Antoni echoed that sentiment when Silver Screen and Roll discussed the roster with him earlier in the week during summer league.
We've been handcuffed. We basically can only offer the one-year contracts to keep that flexibility that we need desperately -Jim Buss
That doesn't make the take away the elbow holes or make the coat like new. It's being sold on a front lawn for a few bucks for a reason, which is all the Lakers have anyway. Match made a heaven, one could say.

"We've been handcuffed. We basically can only offer the one-year contracts to keep that flexibility that we need desperately," Buss replied when asked about the limitations the collective bargaining agreement has placed on the organization. The trick for the Lakers isn't in finding a way to get the cap space they need on July 1, 2014. It's that they desperately need to fill it out with elite talent.

The upside of these one year, minimum contracts? Players love to perform knowing a better contract is 82 games and the off chance of a few playoff games away. The Lakers have plenty of rotation minutes, and starter minutes, to fill out with these one-year additions. Time and time again the Lakers fall victim to losing players after they become a known entity in Southern California. The latest example is Earl Clark, who was under Mike Brown's radar prior to being fired five games into the season. Now, he'll join Brown with the Cleveland Cavaliers to the tune of $9 million over two years. Devin Ebanks was ahead of him on the depth chart prior to his "breakout."

"It kind of fell to us. There's players that need us. Kaman's kind of, the last two years, been under the radar. He needs to shine. It's a perfect spotlight for him. Take a one year deal. Get back going again. Same thing with Jordan Farmar. Nick Young same thing. Wesley Johnson basically same thing. You see the talent those four guys have. We got real lucky there. That's Mitch [Kupchak] working hard," Buss explained, acknowledging the motivational power of one-year contracts.

The addition that could thrive, or dive, the most under Mike D'Antoni's tutelage is Nick Young. A known gunner without a conscience, Young now has the opportunity to play for the Lakers, something he called a "dream." Young will have plenty of opportunity to take aim at the hoop. More importantly, with only optimistic hypothetical timetables and no official date on Kobe Bryant's return, there's a lion's share of minutes waiting to be taken by the man known as Swaggy P.

"[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.

The last addition to the roster is Jordan Farmar. After spending time overseas he was ready to come home for a minimum contract. Farmar joins a crowded backcourt featuring Steve Blake and Steve Nash.

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

- Drew

- Follow this author on Twitter @DrewGarrisonSBN

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