Players’ lack of long-term security could help or hinder Lakers
Good news for the Lakers: Almost everybody on their team is in a contract year.
Bad news for the Lakers: Almost everybody on their team is in a contract year.
Such players have incentive to deliver with an added hunger, according to the long-held sports theory. But if the team starts to disintegrate in the standings, will individuals start jacking up shots to pad their stats?
“They’re more professional than that. You’re not going to have any selfish play,” said Coach Mike D’Antoni.
What if they start thinking dollars instead of sense?
“They probably won’t be playing a whole lot. It kind of takes care of itself,” D’Antoni said.
Steve Nash, Robert Sacre and Nick Young are the only Lakers with contracts after this season. Young holds a player option for a relatively small $1.2 million in 2014-15, meaning he’ll look for more money if he has a solid season.
“Guys are going to go all out,” said Pau Gasol. “That’s the positive part of it. There’s no security for next season. You’re in a position to give it your best, give it your all, earn your next paycheck, next contract.
“The better I perform, I’m sure the more interested they’ll be to try and sign me, I guess.”
Gasol will earn $19.3 million this season before becoming a free agent. Maybe the Lakers will put up billboards to ask him to stay.
“I don’t expect that. I don’t need that at all,” Gasol said.
Other Lakers in the last contract years include Kobe Bryant ($30.5 million), Steve Blake ($4 million), Jordan Hill ($3.5 million), Chris Kaman ($3.2 million), Jodie Meeks ($1.6 million), Jordan Farmar ($884,293) and Wesley Johnson ($884,293).
Good? Bad? Ugly?
“It’s a pretty unique situation and a bit of a strange one,” Nash said. “But at the same time, it’s really important that we find a chemistry that you don’t want it to feel transient. You want this year to feel legitimate and guys feel like they’re really getting an opportunity to audition for the future and build a great team this year at the same time.”
The Lakers drowned amid expectations last season, a championship-or-bust campaign that started with Mike Brown being fired, lurched along with the awkward coexistence between Bryant and Dwight Howard, and concluded with a playoff sweep by San Antonio.
The outlook has been lowered this season. Significantly.
“Last year was tough just from the start. It was hard to really feel a lot of positive energy,” Nash said. “It always seemed like a challenge.”
Howard never seemed to find his way with the Lakers before bolting for Houston. Metta World Peace was a quote machine and solid defender but often freelanced on offense with poor shot selection.
D’Antoni seems more settled after being unexpectedly thrust into a coaching job last November.
“I think he’s enjoying the group more,” said Nash, who played four seasons for D’Antoni in Phoenix. “This year it feels a lot more fun and energetic to start here.”
D’Antoni acknowledged that players were “very attentive on what we’re doing and trying to buy in.”
“It’s a nice atmosphere.”
Gasol getting there
Gasol will take part in every other practice during two-a-days, easing into a routine after being sidelined most of the summer because of a medical procedure to reduce tendon pain in his knees.
“I don’t think I’ll ever be 100% anymore, but I think I’ll be a lot better than I was last year and that would be a big improvement,” he said. “On images and tests it looks good, and now it’s just how I feel.”
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