ORLANDO, Fla. — Imagine it’s June 2014 and the Heat have managed to duck enough times to survive another championship parade with all of their heads still attached.
There’s a posh meeting room inside a swank Beverly Hills hotel and the heavily muscled security guard keeps stepping aside and opening the door for the guests who arrive one at a time.
Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
When they’ve settled into luxurious leather chairs and opened bottles of overpriced imported sparkling water, an NBA general manager arrives and points to a blank yellow legal pad in the middle of the conference table and five pencils.
“You guys divide it up anyway you want,” says Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak.
The Lakers are back. Instant Dream Team.
OK, maybe it’s not quite that easy. Or maybe it is. After all, to paraphrase Chevy Chase from a long time ago, they’re the Lakers and you’re not. And always will be.
Having salary cap space in Milwaukee, Charlotte, Salt Lake City or maybe a dozen other places in the NBA is just that — space. In L.A. it’s a magnet.
Walk the sidelines and the hallways of the Amway Center as the rookies and long shots of the Orlando Pro Summer League pour their perspiration all over the practice court, and the consensus is that even in the wake of Dwight Howard’s departure, the return to prominence of the league’s most glamorous franchise is no sweat.
“Don’t even think about them going into a long period of losing or mediocrity,” said one NBA general manager.
“For other teams losing Dwight would be a crippling blow,” said another. “They’d have to retrench, rethink their position and go into a long-term rebuilding plan.”
That’s the Celtics, where boss Danny Ainge decided to move on from the era of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce and brought in 36-year-old Brad Stevens as coach/midwife for a new incarnation.
The Sixers new GM Sam Hinkie is stripping his roster down to the bone by trading All-Star Jrue Holiday and letting Andrew Bynum walk. It will be at least a couple of years before the plan bears fruit.
The Jazz and GM Dennis Lindsey have made no secret that the payoff is over the horizon as they enter a season where youth will be served from the menu no matter how difficult it might be to swallow at times.
“You don’t do that if you’re the Lakers,” said yet another GM, “because you don’t have to. OK, everybody has to take a deep breath for next season, but then they’re right back in it in a year. And if you don’t think they can think big, big and bigger, then you haven’t been paying attention.”
Who thought Miami was going to be able to reel in all of James, Wade and Bosh in 2010?
Why would LeBron even give a thought to teaming up with Kobe? Because it would actually add to his legacy to resurrect the Lakers and to be clearly defined as the lead horse pulling the wagon.
Why would Kobe consider it? One word: rings. Especially after spending a difficult season literally getting his legs back under him following the torn Achilles’ tendon and having the Clippers’ glare becoming blinding and annoying.
Wade? Anthony? Bosh? Didn’t those gold medals glitter just as bright from the Olympic experiences?
All five of them could even wear their old Team USA jerseys.
Let everyone else plot and scheme and draw up their recruiting pitches for the free agent lollapalooza of next summer.
All Kupchak and the Lakers need is an empty room and a legal pad.
“You guys divide it up anyway you want.”