Archives For April 2005

Sunderland Out. Who Is In?

 —  April 15, 2005

Next fall, when we turn on Laker television broadcast’s with a renewed sense of hope, whose voice is going to greet us?

Not Paul Sunderland. The reliable Bob Kaiser in the Long Beach Press Telegram reports that Sunderland is out.

Does that mean Joel Meyers moves up from radio to television? The LA Times has reported he’s lobbied for the job, but he also appears to be up for the gig as the San Diego Charger’s play-by-play voice. (Hey Clipper fans, so is Ted Leitner. By the way, I found that link at Ben Maller’s site.) Meyers did both college and pro football broadcasts — including Sunday Night pro games — around his Laker schedule this past season.

Kaiser is reporting that Laker brass is looking at more than just Meyers. This is a prime gig and I’m sure some big names will be interested.

I’ll miss Sunderland, who was solid if not spectacular — he stepped into an impossible situation in the wake of losing Chick Hearn and did so admirably.

Town Hall Meeting

 —  April 14, 2005

Mitch Kupchak stood on the firing line in front of about 350 season ticket holders last night at Staples Center and took — and dodged — questions for about an hour. As I said before I had a friend/spy at the event (who wished to remain nameless, so he will heretofore be referred to as “trench coat”) who passed along highlights from the event. (Attendees also got a tour of the locker room and free hot dogs.)

Mitch wanted to make the theme of the night that the Lakers were about winning championships and that the team was going to return to that. He said he accepted that responsibility.

For the fans, the theme of the night was “Why did you trade Shaq?” (Well, that and “Why are ticket prices so high?”) Trench coat said the Shaq question came up a lot in a lot of different ways (and often as part of long rants). Mitch’s answer was that it was Shaq who forced the Lakers hand by demanding an extension that would have strapped the Lakers against the cap/luxury tax, throwing out some numbers in the process. Mitch said he had talked to Shaq for more than a year about a better extension but could get no middle ground. Fans were having none of it — Mitch took a verbal beating.

When it came time to trade Shaq, there weren’t many offers, he said. He said he did ask for Dwyane Wade. As for Phil Jackson leaving, the decision to part ways was made well before the season ended, Mitch said.

While many in attendance talked about the past, I asked trench coat what Mitch said about the future.

The top priority is to get a coach in place and then make player decisions based on that (very good to hear). He said several times that there is no blue print on how to this rebuilding process would be done (not as good to hear).

While fans were eager to talk about specific players — both current and potential — Mitch did his best to avoid all of that. He did say that Chucky Atkins was not an ideal starting point guard and that the team needed to upgrade at the point and inside.

As for Sasha not playing, Mitch said that was a coaches decision and he had stayed out of it.

About the draft, he said the decision that needs to be made as to whether to get someone who can play now or draft a younger, project player. Specifically he said there was one high school player this year that he wants to see in a Laker uniform in three years, someone who could be a big star.

The one thing that worried me from trench coat’s report was this this high schooler idea. The consensus leading high school player is Gerald Green out of Houston who is 6-8, 200 pounds and is projected to play the two or three. He is expected to be around when the Lakers draft. No doubt he’s got some skills (and a 40-inch vertical) averaging 29 points a game and shining in high school all-star events. But he also is skinny and the book on him is he tends to settle for jumpers instead of driving to the hole. He’s a project.

Is what the Lakers need a project perimeter player? I hope that Mitch is not leaning that way (or was knowing this would get on the Web here and at other sites with recaps and wanted to create a diversion). I’m not sure they Lakers are going to get a real impact player in the draft (unless they get very lucky in the lottery) but we don’t need a three-year project at the end of the bench soaking up first-round money.

Fast Break

 —  April 13, 2005

Clearing out my inbox:

• Those plans we’ve all been hatching in our head about trading Lamar Odom this off-season just took a big blow with discussion of shoulder surgery. It was going to be a challenge to get value for him before, coming out of surgery on his shooting arm it may be next to impossible.

• If you didn’t get to see the Fox Sports West feed of the Laker game Monday night, you missed something fun. The network celebrated 20 years of broadcasting Lakers basketball by pulling out old clips and interviewing members of the 1985 championship team (taking your attention away from the current Lakers’ defense). That said, my favorite part was pulling out the 1986 Prime Ticket opening and graphics for the broadcast.

• By the way, what were we thinking in the 80s with pastels being the colors of choice?

• Did anyone watch the NBA TV feed of the Lakers/Suns game Monday? I’m curious because NBA technicians put mics on director Penny Marshall, James Denton of “Desperate Housewives,” Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Ice Cube to get their reactions during the game. I’d be curious what they said.

• Joel Meyers said recently his people were talking up Syracuse forward Hakim Warrick as a draft pick. Apparently his people didn’t watch Warrick flounder against Vermont’s double teams in the NCAA tournament (he had 10 turnovers in that game being covered by guys with half his athleticism). He is also a tweener, he not big or strong enough to play the four in the NBA, certainly not the true power forward the Lakers need. I just hope Meyer’s people aren’t Laker people. If Kupchak drafts Warrick in the first round, I’ll jump on the fire Mitch bandwagon.

• Speaking of the draft, has a mock draft up that has the Lakers taking North Carolina point guard Raymond Felton with the 10th pick overall. Some of the choices are questionable — they have Martynas Andriuskevicius being drafted second overall but rumor is his stock is dropping — but if the Lakers got Felton I’d be thrilled. He’s the kind of quick point that I think the league is moving toward (and away from the big, slower pg).

Laker Throwback’s Are Keepers?

 —  April 12, 2005

With all the nostalgia around last night’s Laker game and the great 1985 team (something I may touch on more in a future post, I enjoyed the trip down memory lane), it reminded me of what a great passing team that was.

Obviously, any team with Magic Johnson at the point is going to move the ball well, but that team had other guys — Michael Cooper, Byron Scott, James Worthy, Kareem out of the post — who knew how to pass the ball. Even Ronnie Lester in garbage time could hit the open man (he averaged 13.8 assists per 48 minutes, thing is he only played 278 minutes total that year). The open guy got the shot.

That kind of ball movement is just one of the many things lacking this season. Kobe leads the team averaging 5.8 assists per 40 minutes, but that can be deceiving. The game against the Suns Monday was a perfect example: Kobe had 10 assists but there were multiple times when he took on three defenders as well, ignoring the open man.

This year’s Lakers have two guys who are throwbacks, two guys who can move the ball. Unfortunately, they both have had limited playing time — Vlade Divac and Luke Walton. Both have skills might have blended well with that ’85 squad. And both may not be back next season.

Vlade has played only 12 games this season and the problem is he is due $5.4 million next season. Yet in the last five games (when he has played regularly) we have seen what he can bring to the offense — he’s averaging 14.8 points, 7.1 assists and 10.1 rebounds (5.3 of them offensive) per 48 minutes. He’s only averaging 16.2 minutes per game in that span, so that’s a small statistical sample we’re going off of, but with him at the pinch post the triangle has looked much smoother. He’s hit more guys with passes for backdoor layups in the last five games than I remember all season.

But is he worth keeping next year, or should he be bought out at $2 million? Or another way of looking at it is: Can you find another good backup center for $3.4 million next season?

I’d say the key question here — as with all the Laker off-season moves — is who the next coach is and what style of play the Lakers choose to go with. If it is a triangle-style offense or a slower style of play, Vlade, even at 38, would be a good fit. If the Lakers go young and want to run, Vlade may make a better consultant to the team.

That same key question is going to be a part of the determining factor with Walton — does the new coach want him? But the other question is at what price. Other teams will definitely covet his game, but what is the going price for Luke, likely a backup three? What’s more, the Lakers are already are committed to paying Lamar Odom, Caron Butler, Jumaine Jones, Devean George, Brian Cook — all of whom basically play the three and won’t all be traded despite how much some of us would like that. The Lakers are overloaded at forward, and while I’d miss Luke he may have to be allowed to walk.

I know the readership demographics of this site are quite affluent (or, at least I like to believe they are in my delusional little world), so I’m passing along this rare opportunity.

Sotheby’s will be auctioning off a set of nine Laker NBA championship rings. You can own the same rings as Jerry West does for the ’72 team and Kobe does for the 2001 team, not to mention all those ’80s rings. You even get your name engraved on the rings.

Show them off in your home or use them to convince women at blackjack tables in Vegas that you used to play in the NBA.

Money raised will go to Laker Youth Foundation. So, be sure to get your bid in — I’ll be bidding everything in my savings account. (Sadly, that will barely buy me a package of Sour Skittles, let alone the rings.)