The Lakers are not the Lakers as we've come to know them. In fact the latest NBA Dynasty ended last month when the Detroit Pistons steamrolled Los Angeles and its four future Hall of Fame starters in an uneventful five game series.
Shortly after the loss the dominoes began to fall for owner Jerry Buss and GM Mitch Kupchak. First head coach Phil Jackson grew tired of trying to manage the ego wars of his stars and rode off into the sunset. Then Kobe Bryant (pictured right) made it clear that he would test the free agent market prompting LA to make the mistake of placing the game's most dominating force, Shaquille O'Neal, on the trading block.
If that wasn't bad enough, guard Derrick Fisher is an unrestricted free agent along with back up big man Slava Medvedenko. After a good run in the finals, rookie Luke Walton is also a free agent though the Lakers have an option on him.
While Bryant has made it known that he will resign with the Lakers if Krzyzewski is brought in, it would likely leave Los Angeles with the following lineup:
In the new look Pacific division that team may be able to hold off the Warriors and former Stanford head coach Mike Montgomery for fourth place behind Sacramento, Phoenix, and the Clippers.
Certainly strides could be made in free agency, but is Kobe really good enough to shoulder the responsibility of putting that team in the hunt for the playoffs? Is Payton willing to put aside his ego and run Krzyzewski's system? How would Coach K react the first time a player cries to the media about his role?
Of course the bigger question is will Bryant, who's apparently calling the shots here, be in Laker yellow or prison orange?
The LA Media and Lifestyle:
Coach K has enjoyed relative freedom when it comes to the media in North Carolina and the country. He's probably the only coach in the country who's able to meet with the press on his terms (even when those terms include no contact at all), and never is really badgered by reporters.
In the LA media market that won't happen, and Krzyzewski won't be able to maintain a filter when it comes to players airing their grievances to the public.
Can you imagine the first time Kobe complains about only getting 48 shots per game? Or what if other players decide that practice isn't required? Or even worse, what if the Lakers go through the regular season as if it doesn't matter. Can Coach K deal with that kind of apathy after demanding each player to give it his all for a quarter of a century?
The Health Concerns:
Two hip replacements. One episode of exhaustion that caused him to miss most of a season. Father Time.
While Coach K admits he's in the best shape he's been in for a long time, there are still times when he appears to be exhausted. Normally that comes around the end of each season before he gets a new adrenaline rush and starts on the recruiting trail.
Of course those seasons consist of around 30 games at a clip of two per week. Then there's preseason, practices, and preparation for each and every contest. Imagine if that season was tripled in length and the travel did the same? That's exactly what the NBA would mean only with a stress factor that's much higher.
A Legacy Lost:
It's been 24 years since Krzyzewski took the podium and spelled his name to reporters for the first time. In that time he's built a modern day dynasty. No there aren't 10 straight titles as was the case at UCLA, but Duke has come to symbolize NCAA basketball excellence.
No matter the successor, Duke would suffer a swift and sudden drop in the eyes of the national community. Not only that, but there's a chance that committed recruits and current players may opt to look elsewhere, leaving Duke with major problems on the court to say nothing of the state of the program.
The most likely candidates being mentioned are associate head coach Johnny Dawkins, Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey, and Michigan's Tommy Amaker. However Brey and Amaker are just now reaping the rewards of the programs they have built on the recruiting trail and beyond. Meanwhile Dawkins has yet to coach anywhere other than Duke. Would the Blue Devils feel comfortable turning to a qualified, yet inexperienced candidate?
And who's to say that members of the Duke family would want to take over for their legendary mentor? It certainly didn't work for North Carolina when Bill Gutheridge's recruiting landed the Tar Heels without bonafide stars. It's taken three years, two coaching searches, and a messy divorce for Duke's top rival to get out of ACC purgatory and Krzyzewski had a front row seat. It's hard to imagine he's not aware of a similar fate that would await his program.
Krzyzewski recently completed renovations on his home in Durham and as recently as last season told several people that this was the house in which he expected to grow old. While his three daughters have all grown up and been married, his grandchildren and their families have settled in and around the area – something that Krzyzewski admits has mellowed him in recent years. Would he be willing to leave that for between eight and nine months per year?
Aside from running the NCAA's top basketball program, Coach K has recently been granted a professorship at the Fuqua School of Business where he enjoys lecturing and teaching. Then there's the Emily Krzyzewski Life Center, which will be completed in Durham soon, though funding must continue to materialize.
Simply put Coach K is one of the biggest parts of Duke and he's said for many years that Duke is a huge part of him. Is the Lakers' deal worth giving all that up? That's the question that he'll have to answer in the coming days.
Photo courtesy of Associated Press and Eagle County Sheriff's Dept.