Editor's Note: Please welcome Daman to our staff! He's been doing some great work on his own site, is a great guy to talk Lakers with, which I had the chance to do during Las Vegas Summer League, and should be a great addition to the staff. Give him a follow on Twitter @damanr, and you can see some of his other work over at False Hypothesis.
The Los Angeles Lakers have built their reputation and brand through years of consistent success and historically great teams, perhaps most notably and fondly with the Showtime Lakers of the 1980's. The Lakers have understandably kept close ties to the players that were a part of that team from roles within management, coaching, and broadcasting. Strong organizations like the San Antonio Spurs, Miami Heat and Boston Celtics have done the same, and contribute to the culture of the team in a positive way.
In recent years, however, the players from the Lakers glory days have unfortunately begun to weigh down and shift to being a liability to this franchise. With the massive void left by Dr. Buss and the frustrating lack of public voice from both Jeanie and Jim Buss, the Showtime Lakers' public commentary has become the de facto voice of the organization. From Magic Johnson's personal comments about Jim Buss directly, to James Worthy's lack of criticism about the job that fellow Showtime alumnus Byron Scott is doing with the Lakers, the mixed messages are poisoning the perception of the franchise. They all mean well, in their own way. They, like Lakers fans, want to see the next title run happen sooner rather than later, and great champions like Magic will always demand success -- that is how they are wired.
However, let's examine the facts. The Lakers last won a championship in 2010, only six years ago. Only the Mavs, Heat, Spurs and Warriors have won since that time. On top of that, the front office stayed aggressive, trading for Chris Paul, Dwight Howard and Steve Nash to try to keep Kobe and the Lakers' championship window open. Do you know what happens when you take huge swings like that? Sometimes they miss, but I'd rather be a fan of an organization that is willing to be aggressive at the plate rather than let pitches fly by them.
The front office does deserve criticism, without any question. Letting players like Kent Bazemore leave for nothing while signing Nick Young to a long-term deal is unacceptable for a team trying to collect assets. The coaching hires of the Jim Buss-Mitch Kupchak era have ranged from strange to comically inept (guess where Byron Scott falls). The insulting pursuit of a player like LaMarcus Aldridge, including their terrible pitch meeting, versus trying to sign young players on value contracts shows a lack of awareness of where the team is in the rebuilding cycle. All good context.
At the same time, how can a "weak organization that needs overhaul" crowd explain away the fact that with extremely difficult draft protections to navigate, the Lakers currently have Julius Randle (7th pick, 2014), Jordan Clarkson (purchased from Washington 46th pick, 2014), D'Angelo Russell (2nd pick, 2015), Larry Nance, Jr. (27th pick, 2015) and Anthony Brown (34th, 2014), Tarik Black (claimed off waivers) and Robert Upshaw (undrafted)?
Contrary to popular opinion, the Lakers' future is bright. Yes, their rebuild will end up following a more traditional time period than Lakers fans are used to, but that has more to do with the changing CBA than any prestige issues the franchise may be having. The era of the Showtime Lakers and the Kobe-Phil Jackson Lakers is done, and now it's time to allow the next era to gracefully develop.
The aforementioned Lakers legends may not understand this, but now is the time to support the organization to instill confidence in the fans that things are going in the right direction. Die-hard fans, "Lakers Twitter" may dismiss their comments, but nationally these are the only voices being heard. That is why you have Reggie Miller on TNT broadcasts and Mike Wilbon on PTI oddly singling out D'Angelo Russell's maturity (a Byron Scott talking point). That is why Magic Johnson making comments on First Take about imploring Jim Buss to resign hurt the franchise's perception and perhaps how free agent's and potential coaches will view the team.
So amid rampant speculation that the Lakers may be looking at a complete overhaul, I ask Jeanie Buss to R-E-L-A-X. Now is the time for Jeanie to drown out the voices of the past and examine the situation for herself. She needs to recapture the voice of the organization and at least publicly show more support for Jim and Mitch than she has so far, and I trust that the Lakers legends will follow. In the short term, all the energy of the organization needs to be directed at finding the right coach. The front office must find a leader to develop the youth and show the rest of the league that the Lakers' next era of greatness is coming sooner than people think.