Throughout the Kobe/Lakers summer drama, we’ve all just been waiting for L.A. to rope a star, a perfect running mate for Bryant to make a move on another championship with. Well, I’m sure the Lakers most recent move will totally placate their temperamental star. Early this afternoon the Lakers came to terms with 27-year-old free agent forward, Luke Walton.
Yes, the Lakers finally made that bold move we’ve all been waiting for, signing Walton to a six-year, $30 million contract. Walton, a southern California native, who has been a Laker for his entire career, wanted to sign with the Lakers before even looking at other teams. Mitch Kupchak called called Walton’s agent, Lon Babby, at one minute past midnight to express the team’s interest in locking the forward up.
“They called at the earliest possible moment, and we worked on it all day,” Babby said. “They wanted him back, and Luke wanted to be there. We wanted to make every effort to get an agreement before we went out and looked at any other teams.”
Look I’m excited that Walton is back, he’s a great player who is getting better. And, as I’ve said before, I went to elementary school with him, we go way back. Great kid, great fit for the triangle offense and a big time fan favorite. We also know Kobe appreciates what Luke brings to the table, he even attributed his increase in scoring at the end of the season to the Walton’s return. But the larger issue here is that the Lakers are waiting too long to pull the trigger on a bigger deal.
It’s well known that they could have Jermaine O’Neal for Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom – apparently Larry Bird draws wood if you even whisper Bynum’s name in his presence. It also looks like they don’t have the pieces to obtain Kevin Garnett. Therefore, they should just go ahead and snag O’Neal, who is a good friend of Bryant, and plan around those two, with Walton playing the “facilitator” role that Lamar Odom had. A starting lineup of Jordan Farmar, Bryant, Walton, O’Neal and a healthy Vlade Radmanovic wouldn’t be half bad, it would certainly be better than what they have currently. Throw in Javaris Crittenton, Maurice Evans, Ronny Turiaf, Brian Cook and Sasha Vujacic coming off the bench (I’m assuming that Kwame Brown will be moved for another piece as well) and you don’t have the Suns or the Spurs, but you’ve got a lineup that can compete.
If they are really serious about snagging Garnett, make a move for him now. Ask the T-Wolves what it will take and try to make it work. If you can’t get it done, get O’Neal and let Phil Jackson and his staff set up a game plan. If they just stand pat, it makes it look like they’re satisfied with where they’re at. And there is no way they should be content right now.