Considering some of the backlash the Lakers have taken because of their post-LeBron James moves you would think L.A. was fielding the “Little Giants” and employing Rick Moranis as their head coach.
Yes, the Lakers are a colorful collection of polarizing personalities. Yes, the roster reads more like an NBA reality show than it does a championship contender.
But many of you are missing the greater point. This roster is packed with possibility and toughness. It’s molded to take on the best this league has to offer.
Granted, some of the Lakers’ newest acquisitions are better for creating absurd dinner party conversations than they are at making all-star teams.
Take Michael Beasley, the newest addition.
Michael Beasley is joining the Lakers. We’d like to take this opportunity to remind you who he is pic.twitter.com/r2zcrJkgGt
— HIGH NOON (9am Pacific) (@HIGHNOONonESPN) July 23, 2018
That is the 2017 SNY video when Beasley went back to the 10% of our brains well that has fueled not only movies but also weird sports interviews.
The Lakers indeed signed the 29-year old to a one-year, $3.5 million contract.
Beasley was the fourth and presumably final major signing following James’ arrival in Laker land: Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee and Rajon Rondo preceded him.
Beasley is already assisting his renowned teammates on the bluster that they are more comedy troupe than gifted athletes, via ESPN.
For there to even be a narrative of the personalities in this room is judgment enough for me, and I don’t want to be a part of that. You being a critic doing your job, [if] everybody do their job and stop judging a lot of players — me mainly — you will figure out that guys like me, Nick Young, JR Smith and Lance Stephenson and guys like that know how to play basketball and win basketball games, know how to get along with others. It is nothing to do with my maturity.
This is hardly the kind of team that will rest on the laurels of playing next to the game’s greatest player. Guys who have for years been lambasted and scoffed at will have a chance to prove they can not only cooperate with one another but compete for a title.
Lance Stephenson’s career has been typified by, well, exuberant defensive measures, most notably against his new teammate LeBron James.
Stephenson is that player you love to hate unless he wears your team’s jersey, then you are somehow in on the joke. You actually root for the unrelenting coverage and mind games being played on the floor.
Starting in just seven games last season, it’s more about what Stephenson will get you in bursts than what he offers over the course of a game. Averaging just over 22 minutes a game, the 27-year-old still managed 5.2 rebounds. Extrapolated over 36 minutes a contest, Stephenson offers 8.3 rebounds and 4.6 assists in production. His passing and rebounding can’t be undersold.
Rajon Rondo is that veteran who will demand a great deal from the younger players and isn’t one to back down from an opponent.
At 32 years, Rondo proved he could still improve. His field goal percentage, assists and points per game were all up from the previous year. He remains a leader the Pelicans will miss next season.
JaVale McGee comes to the Lakers somewhat removed from his prolific Shaqtin’ a Fool cameos. He’s not only a champion but an animated contributor who sparks energy on the court when needed. He also had a 22.3 player efficiency rating last season and shot 62.1% from the field.
As for Beasley, the Lakers get scoring that can hit as quickly as a shot of 5-Hour Energy. In just 22.3 minutes played per game last season, Beasley garnered 13.2 points per contest on .507 shooting.
What’s clear is that the Lakers aren’t necessarily going to lean heavily on the above-mentioned vets for offense.
Remember, the Lakers have young talent that can score. The team ranked 11th in points per game without James on the roster.
What they lacked was aggression and depth on both sides of the floor. The Lakers not only satisfied that need but also procured the few players who are out to prove they are more than their lowlight reels.
Beasley explains, “I’m not really here to beat anybody out of minutes, or play more than this guy. I’m here to play a team game and do as much winning as I can.”
All we can do at this point of the summer is believe him.
If you look at the vets that were signed, you get the sense that the Lakers are sold on the youth movement improving early enough to shoulder the load while these energetic, passionate vets contribute where and when they can.
The Lakers seemingly desired players that would play with determination, confidence and a passion for defense. The front office wanted guys who would rattle opposing shooters while bringing along the future of the franchise with examples of on-court grit.
It just so happens that a narrative has played out in the media that most certainly resonates with at least one of the newer players.
Beasley can’t be the only veteran hungry to prove the detractors wrong. With all the recently signed vets playing on one-year contracts, you can all but guarantee they will not only be on their best behavior but will also give maximum effort for the duration of the season.
Yeah, they might be knuckleheads from time to time. But gauging by the amount of respect they are getting this summer, they are hungry knuckleheads who are out to prove to the league that their story hasn’t been fully written.