They broke ankles, stepped back, and shot a trey.
All the hype over the franchise-changing big man the Lakers would be miraculously handed with their second pick?
They didn't want him.
The celebration over the acquisition of a kid who can lead the Lakers into their next championship era?
That kid might actually be a 29-year-old dude from Portland.
In their best no-look pass since Magic, the Lakers snubbed Duke center
The Lakers committed the unthinkable act of ignoring an impact big man for a streaky shooter because they are convinced they can acquire a certain big man in free agency, which begins next week. That man is Portland's
Mitch Kupchak, the general manager who had the final call on this pick and thus has put a bit of his legacy on the line with it, denied that free agency was a factor ... but explained exactly why it could be a factor.
"It so turns out that there are a lot of big men that may be available during free agency and if you look at the guys in the backcourt, there may not be as many," said Kupchak at a news conference. "But that wasn't a factor."
Hmmm, sounds like a huge factor, which makes this a huge gamble that Aldridge will take as much as $30 million less — per NBA rules — to sign here. But then again, why would Kupchak base the most important draft pick of his career around a wish? Here's guessing Aldridge, who has been unhappy with the direction of the
In going with the 6-foot-5 Russell and potentially Aldridge instead of Okafor and potentially a free agent guard such as Goran Dragic, it could be a sweet hit, or it could be an absolute bust.
During recent interviews, Kupchak often referred to this draft as being dangerously like the 1984 draft, where big man
But what if, instead, it's like the 2010 draft, where another smooth Ohio State shooter,
It's not that the 19-year-old Russell, who played one collegiate season, is a terrible choice. He's a smooth shooter, a creative passer, and potentially the draft's closest thing to this year's NBA MVP, Stephen Curry. But he could also be this draft's closest thing to
The Lakers took a streaky guard who was three-for-19 shooting in his most recent game, a blowout loss to Arizona in the NCAA tournament. The Lakers passed on a big man who set a Duke record with 35 double-digit scoring games. Depending on his development, there could be lots of D'Angelo Russells out there. But, already without question, there's barely a handful of Okafors.
Yet Lakers Coach
"I think Okafor is going to be a good center in this league," Scott said. "I just think D'Angelo has a chance to be a superstar."
Scott said he made his decision during Russell's second workout with the Lakers, a series of three-on-three games that showed his competitive skills. Scott marveled at Russell's leadership qualities, his ability to make the smart pass, get to the basket, shoot the three-ball, and play tough defense. During Scott's news conference Tuesday he actually brought up the names
"He has a little bit of an edge to himself," Scott said.
During a conference call interview with reporters, Russell showed a bit of that edge when he said he wanted to "definitely bring back that winning attitude."
Russell acknowledged he was stunned to be chosen ahead of Okafor, but then said one needed only to watch the NBA Finals to understand why.
"Who won the championship?" he said. "[
For the Lakers, Thursday was about guards and wings and a prayer, one that will be answered when they replace the big man they didn't take, the one everyone will now be waiting for them to find.
Follow Bill Plaschke on Twitter @billplaschke
MORE ON NBA DRAFT: