Kyrie Irving

The next team on Bosh’s wish-list is the Los Angeles Lakers, who have the curse of needing to always field a contending team. Their current crop looks to be on path to get to the finals for the third straight year, having won the championship last season.

With their core aging, they need to bring in players who can help compete for championships now, while building a solid core for the future. I checked in with Phillip Barnett of the ESPN TrueHoop Lakers blog Forum Blue and Gold to get his thoughts on the Lakers championship aspirations, Bosh rumours and Phil Jackson. Heeerreeeeeee we gooooooo! (sorry Steve, couldn’t resist):

Sam Holako: Chris Bosh was linked to the Lakers around the trade deadline with Bynums name coming up as possibly coming back to the Raptors. Given that Bosh just gave his wishlist of 5 destinations. the Lakers being one of them, how interested would Kupchak/Buss be in making a deal work?

Phillip Barnett: It would be impossible for the Kupchak/Buss contingent to not take a look at possibly making a move for Bosh, but at this time, I don’t think any deal would happen. I think a lot of it will hinder on how effective Andrew Bynum is against the Celtics in the Finals (this is, of course, assuming that both Conference Finals play out the way they’ve began), but in the end, I see ‘Drew in a Lakers jersey next year. There are just too many factors that lead me to believe that the Lakers are, and will remain, content with their Gasol/Bynum front court, no matter how versatile they’ll look on paper with Bosh on the floor.

SH: Even though they are championship contenders for the next 3-4 years, you have to start looking to the future. Chris Bosh represents the type of player who fills both short and long term needs of a team that needs to be relevant at all times.

PB: It would be impossible for the Kupchak/Buss contingent to not take a look at possibly making a move for Bosh, but at this time, I don’t think any deal would happen. I think a lot of it will hinder on how effective Andrew Bynum is against the Celtics in the Finals (this is, of course, assuming that both Conference Finals play out the way they’ve began), but in the end, I see ‘Drew in a Lakers jersey next year. There are just too many factors that lead me to believe that the Lakers are, and will remain, content with their Gasol/Bynum front court, no matter how versatile they’ll look on paper with Bosh on the floor. Andrew Bynum has shown flashes of becoming a better center than Dwight Howard, he just hasn’t really had a chance to prove that he can be consistent because of injuries. If a deal is done that sends Bosh to Los Angeles, Bynum’s propensity to be injured for long stretches of the year.

Chris Bosh would open up the Lakers offense tremendously as he is a better face up player than Pau Gasol is. I think he could fit in great in the triangle offense playing at the pinch post and with Gasol on the low block. He wouldn’t have to shoulder so much of a scoring load with Gasol and Kobe on the floor with him and would immediately give the Lakers the most athletic front court in basketball. The Odom/Gasol/Bynum lineup hasn’t worked out as well as some thought it would, but I think it could work a whole lot better if Bynum is substituted for Bosh. But then again, with the economy not as solid as it once was, having three of the top 20 contracts on your payroll wouldn’t be such a great idea (Kobe, Gasol and Bosh). Also, ‘Drew has been a great anchor for the Lakers defense when he’s been able to stay on the floor. Although Bosh isn’t terrible defensively, I don’t think he can replicate what Bynum has been able to do for the Lakers this season.

Lastly, Jim Buss, Jerry Buss’ son, does not want to give up Bynum. ‘Drew was his personal project, his first draft pick and has been very stubborn when talks of moving him have come up. Jim is the future of the Lakers organization, or better or for worse, and when it comes down to it, I have a tough time seeing him giving up Bynum right now. Not when he’s seen flashes of Bynum’s potential.

Do you think Bosh showing up at the Lakers/Jazz playoff game has anything to do with him adding the Lakers to his list of teams?

SH: I don’t know how much of being at the game has to do with it as opposed to everyone wanting to play with Kobe for a first rate organization. If a trade was in the works, how much interest would there be in taking Calderon as well? With Fisher on his last legs, Jose’s ability to hit threes, and his connection with Gasol, there could be a great fit.

PB: I’m actually a big fan of Jose Calderon. I think he has great vision and is a much better shooter than Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown. Calderon didn’t have his greatest season last year and I think he could get back on track with a simple change in scenery. It wouldn’t take too long for him to fit in playing with the likes of Bosh and Gasol, both of whom he’s played with for years. Derek Fisher is, as he’s done in the previous two years, showing his worth in the post season. Just a month and a half ago, it was hard to imagine Fish coming back in a Lakers jersey next season, but if the Lakers put up another banner in the rafters, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Lakers brought him back for one more year. If he’s gone, there will be a definite need for a point guard. Both Farmar and Brown’s contracts are up, with Brown having a player option and the Lakers able to offer Farmar a qualifying offer, it is very realistic that all three of the Lakers point guards could be gone next season. So to answer your question, if the Lakers make a move for Bosh, I do think they’ll have to find a way to work Calderon in the deal.

SH: So what are your thoughts on the playoffs? This years playoffs have been very interesting to me, sweep after sweep, with both the Lakers and Celtics being able to turn “it” on when people said it’s not possible. How do you like your chances against the Celtics in the finals?

PB: I know it’s been discussed around the blogosphere ad nausium, but I really think the Lakers needed to be waken up and that’s exactly what the Thunder did. Now the Lakers are playing their best basketball of the season, finding their opposition’s weaknesses and taking advantage of them. Pau Gasol has raised his game, Kobe has found his shooting touch and the bench is contributing. During the Lakers previous seven games, Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown have shot over 50 percent from three point range. What were Lakers’ weaknesses during the regular season have been strengths after their first four post season games.

As far as the Finals, I still can’t really bring myself to look too far ahead. I’m a bit superstitious about those kind of things. But I will say this: The advantages that the Celtics had in 2008 aren’t as prevalent now as they were two years ago. I think Garnett isn’t as mobile, James Posey is one less defender they can throw at Kobe and the Lakers have home court. I am excited about the possibility of another Lakers/Celtics Finals, but I really want the Lakers to close out this Phoenix playing well. They were up 2-0 in 2006 to the Suns and ended up losing in seven. Anything can happen, I don’t think the Suns coming back is likely, but I’m not going to count them out until it’s actually over.

SH: Unless Gentry can make big adjustments, it looks good for you guys. By some accounts, this could be Phil Jacksons last season as the Lakers coach. I’ve read that Buss doesn’t wants to cut his salary to less than half the levels they are at now. I’m wondering why he wouldn’t want to keep this core together and compete for as many championships as possible while Kobe is the best player on the planet. What are your thoughts on the coaching situation, who could be lined up to take his spot if Jackson doesn’t return?

PB: This is one of the tougher questions to answer because we’ve heard about the Phil Jackson situation from so many angles. Is his salary going to be cut in half? Is he coming back for the same amount of money? Have Jackson and Buss even discussed his contract yet? Jeanie Buss said she wasn’t sure that PJax would be back with the Lakers next season. There are ridiculous rumors that Jackson is going to leave to go coach Lebron. The thing is, there hasn’t been any definite answer yet. I’ve heard that Buss would love to have Jackson back and I know that Kobe certainly would love to have him back. If I had to guess, I’d say that Jackson would be back next season with a contract paying him less, but not significantly less, than what he’s making now — especially if they go on to win another ring.

As far as his replacement, it seemed like they were grooming Kurt Rambis to take over, but he’s now in Minnesota. Knowing the Lakers history, they usually get what they want, and if they want Rambis to replace Jackson, they’ll have him. I’ve always been a fan of Brian Shaw. I don’t know if he’s ready to move into a head coaching position yet, but from what I’ve heard, the players (sans Vujacic), all respond really well to him. Fish and Kobe played with him back in the 3-peat years and both respect him. We saw what happened the last time they brought in an outsider (Rudy T in ’05). He didn’t last the full season. So with this Lakers group, I think they should stay within the organization with a guy who knows the system and can command the respect from a group of very strong personalities.

SH: Are Kurt Rambis and Brian Shaw really able to coach a championship calibre team though? I don’t know enough about them to make a judgement, but it would seem that to manage personalities like Kobe, Artest, Gasol and Odom, you would need someone like Jackson if your intention is to win championships.

PB: That’s really a question that can’t really be answered until they’re given the opportunity. Kurt Rambis is in his first head coaching job in Minnesota, a team that didn’t have a particularly good record, but they also don’t have particularly good talent. He’s over there trying to run the triangle with a relatively young core who are taking a while to figure it out. With the Lakers, he’ll have a veteran core that already understands the offense, and it would just be on him to make game-to-game adjustments. With the Xs and Os aspect of the game, I have no doubt that both Rambis and Brian Shaw have very good basketball minds, but when it comes with dealing with a group of such high profile players, you need to command the respect of your top rotations guys.

I don’t think the Lakers would have been grooming Rambis to take over the job if he didn’t command that respect nor would Brian Shaw have been added to Phil Jackson’s staff after playing with some of the very guys he’d be coaching. Besides, I don’t think any of the available coaches would fit within the Lakers system. Kobe is a very detail oriented basketball player who finally started meshing with Jackson when they both realized that they have the same attention to detail for the game. I don’t think guys like Mark Jackson, Mike Brown and Byron Scott share that same attention to detail. If you’re not going to find another Phil Jackson, why not keep someone who is at least going to keep the same system in place to keep this team on the same page going into another season where they’ll be in a position to contend again?