Archives For June 2007

Let Us Shed A Tear Together

Kurt —  June 30, 2007

So long, Brian Grant’s contract. Godspeed.

Now Things Get Serious

Kurt —  June 29, 2007

It was a nice draft for the Lakers.

That’s basically how I’ve felt about most of the personnel moves of the team in the past couple of years — they were nice. Nothing wrong with them, but they certainly weren’t not thrilling or aggressive.

However, come Sunday, the time for something thrilling is upon us.

Back to the draft, Jarvis Crittenton is a quality pick up — yes we have Farmar but is having two young point guards with potential a problem? Let them push each other, let them fight for playing time and may the best player win. (And, by the way, Lakers staff said they are not in the running for the Greek PG.) Crittenton was the best guy left on the board when the Lakers drafted, he was the best choice. And the fact he played the triangle offense in high school gives him a leg up.

Marc Gasol provides potential depth if Kwame and/or Bynum gets traded. Sun Yue is a gamble, but that’s what should be done with second round picks — take a flier and see if it pans out down the line.

While Thursday night may not have been thrilling for Lakers fans, there were a lot of good things that happened (as Reed pointed out in a must-read comment). First and foremost, Kevin Garnett did not get traded. Minnesota did not get the picks and expiring contracts they sought, and now have to rethink their plans. Indiana is in the same boat, still having Jermaine O’Neal and decreasing options.

The Lakers are still in the mix if either of them get moved, and that’s why I say that come July 1 — when free agency opens and sign-and-trade deals can happen — it is the time for something thrilling. Not that the Lakers should overpay, but if a superstar is to be moved the Lakers are in as good a position as any to still be in the mix.

Fans wanted something to happen fast, ideally before the draft. But the Lakers as buyers better understood the market than the sellers. They were right to be patient, let the sellers see that the market is not quite what they thought. Both Minnesota and Indiana are under some pressure to make deals, and while things previously stalled the Lakers need to make sure they stay in the mix as the sellers re-evaluate their options.

What is not an option — based on the comments of Kupchak and Jackson — is trading Kobe. Trading Kobe because he demands it would leave the Lakers with the same problems other sellers face — a market not paying what you’d want in return. The Internet (and the comments of this blog at times) have been awash in Kobe trade scenarios, with most Laker fans thinking they could get a fair deal for Kobe. But right now that is not the case. Trading Kobe this summer, unless a spectacular deal comes out of nowhere, sets this franchise back a decade.

Patience is a hard thing for fans, but the Lakers are in a good position to be aggressive now. They are in a pretty good position in the market to make a move. It is the time to be aggressive — smart, but aggressive. That would be thrilling.

Draft Night 2007

Kurt —  June 28, 2007

UPDATE: The Lakers first pick is Jarvis Crittenton, a 6-4 PG out of Georgia Tech. The upside is he can defend and is long, very athletic and the pick gives the Lakers two young PGs to develop. There are questions about his decision-making and if he can shoot consistently, and one blogger I really trust has big concerns.

That said, I like the pick. He was likely the best player left on the board at one of two need positions, and there was nobody at the other positions that was a guy you had to get. You only take a big if there is one worth taking, and nobody left on the board impressed.

This selection does raise the question about the effort to get Theodoros Papaloukas (scan down this post for more). Would the Lakers use all three at PG, with the elder Papaloukas mentoring the two youngsters? Is there enough playing time for all of them?

UPDATE 2: Sun Yue is the guy the Lakers take with the 40th pick. Some quick research shows him as a point/forward who played in the ABA last year. As I said below, second round picks will have a hard time making this team, maybe he hangs on and gets to spend a year in the D-League.

UPDATE 3: The Lakers got Gasol!!! Oh, not that Gasol. Instead the Lakers took Marc Gasol from Spain with the 48th pick. He’s the brother of Pau and is a 7-0 center. The book on him is he is smart and fundamentally sound, but not very athletic. May be good guy at the end of the bench, if he can make the team. Thoughts from those of you who have seen him in Europe?

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It’s going to be an exciting draft, but probably not in the way Laker fans had hoped for. Heading into the draft, here’s what I think we know:

1) There will be big trades tonight, but almost certainly not involving the Lakers.

2) The Blazers will take Oden, the Sonics Durant, and then who knows.

3) The Lakers have made an offer to Theodoros Papaloukas, a 30-year-old PG playing for CSKA Moscow. He is listed at 6-7 and is considered a top PG in Europe. Rather than me speculating, I’ll ask our very knowledgeable European readers to chime in on this. It is allegedly a multi-year deal, where he and Farmar would share PG duties.

4) If the Lakers use both their second-round picks, don’t count on them making the team. Right now the Lakers have 10 guys under contract for next year, a resigned Luke Walton means 11. The guy drafted in the first round becomes 12. Someone picked up with the mid-level exception is 13. Chris Mihm could be 14. And we haven’t even gotten into trades yet. The Lakers only plan to carry 14 players next year, leaving maybe one, maybe no roster spots for any second rounders. (The reason for carrying just 14, not the max 15, is to have room to pick up a Chris Webber type who is let go. Last season the Lakers would have had to buy out Aaron McKie to do that.)

5) The Lakers say they don’t want another young guard to bring along. That implies they are leaning toward drafting a big. Of course, that not what the draft guides think they will do:

Draft Express
: Rudy Fernández, SG, Spain

Chad Ford (ESPN.com): Rudy Fernández, SG, Spain

Chris Ekstrand (Sports Illustrated): Gabe Pruitt, PG, USC

NBAdraft.net: Rudy Fernández, SG, Spain

Plissken at the Buzzer (that would be Chopperdave from the comments, if you didn’t know): Marco Belinelli, SG, Italy

That is a sampling; there are more mocks than I could possibly link to. I’d be happy with Rudy Fernandez, personally. But if the Lakers are going to go big, if that is the goal, then maybe BC’s Sean Williams is the call. I think the Bill Simmons/Chad Ford mock yesterday said it well about him — this guy is going to be a star or a bust. There is no middle ground, whoever picks him could be called brilliant in a couple years or could be mocked for wasting the pick on a guy already out of the league. But for the Lakers, maybe that’s the kind of risk they need to take.

So, everyone, let’s talk draft. The Lakers as an organization have a lot of big decisions to make in the coming weeks, but for one night we can dream about a young player who goes on to become one of our fan favorites.

“You can’t pass up a great player at the big position for a great player at a another position…history bears this out.”

-Bill Fitch

On the eve of the 2007 draft the Portland Trailblazers are caught, once again.

Select the anchor in the middle, the man who has the back to the basket game that so many teams have as their number one need?

Or select the dynamic wing player. The man who may be that combination of creativity, athleticism, and desire to win that only comes along a handful of times per generation?

Well, the Trailblazers have been there before.

Filip Bondy’s Tip-Off: How the 1984 NBA Draft Changed Basketball Forever, chronicles the last time the fans in Rip City anxiously awaited and then desperately tried to forget what it was like to have a top 2 pick.

Bondy’s work goes in depth to show the machinations and thoughts that go along with the difficult process of evaluating talent and extrapolating what it will look like in the future.

The book is a treasure trove of anecdotal wealth. With multiple stories and story lines, one can gain a more dramatic view of the events of that draft and how they are still repercussing throughout the league and the fate of its individual franchises.

The novel describes the series of events and the main players of the ’84 draft who became difference makers and follows them from college, through the draft process, into their early NBA impact, and finally to where and if they fit into the pantheon of legends.

Hakeem Olajuwon, picked first by Houston, Charles Barkley, picked 5th by the 76ers, John Stockton, picked 16th by the Jazz and, of course, Michael Jordan, somehow drafted third.

In contrast we also follow the paths of the lesser lights, Sam Perkins, a solid pro, drafted 4th by Dallas and the outright blunder of the Sam Bowie pick, drafted second by Portland ahead of Jordan. The subtitle of this book could easily have been The Ballad of Sam Bowie.

The profile of Barkley is driven by his quotable quotes and shows how intelligent and unique of personality he is and was. It puts readers back in touch with the college “Porky Pig on a Trampoline” Barkley and the pro “I’m not a role model” Barkley. His verbal exasperation at being drafted by the Sixers allows for a laugh out loud moment, one of a bundle that the book provides.

The career arc of Sleepy Sam Perkins illuminates the unpredictability and human element of the outcome of this yearly crap shoot. Bondy shows that there are dissenting evaluations about the career and success of Perkins as a draft pick still unsettled in the present day.

Was he a great pick ‘chemistry-wise’? He had a long career littered with playoff trips. Or was he an under aggressive and undersized player who never found his niche until his teams and coaches recognized his weaknesses and emphasized his strengths?

Stockton turns out to be an unlikely star in the novel, just as he was in the NBA. Frank Layden was the man doing the drafting in Utah in 1984 and hearing Stockton’s story told through his sarcastic sense of humor makes it that much more enjoyable. Bondy gives us insight into the always stoic Stockton, fleshing out the man who would be passed on by 15 teams only to later become one of the game’s greatest.

But the title of the novel and its bold hypothesis seem ambitious for the books content. It floats through your head as you turn the pages and there never seems to be that moment, “Oh, that’s how the 1984 draft changed the NBA forever.” It left me thinking that we could say that about a lot of NBA drafts, but it is more appropriate for 1984 because of the anomaly and innovator that Michael Jordan would come to be. As the 1984 draft unfolds you can’t help thinking about Barkley, Stockton, and Olajuwon. While he was playing, Jordan single-handedly kept the rings off the hands of this draft class.

He changed the NBA forever through his impact on the marketing of NBA players, his career beginning the oft-criticized era of players being marketed ahead of teams, and through his ground breaking ability to make money as salesman off the court. It was previously thought that an African-American athlete couldn’t be a pitchman for big brands, and Jordan definitely put all that on its ear.

The question becomes what was changed inside the game? After Jordan didn’t every GM’s dream return to being about drafting the next great big man? Are GM’s any less covetous of the next back to the basket center that will forever change the way the opposition defends their team?

1984 changed the NBA “forever” in that it was the impetus for the draft lottery after teams suspiciously lost games down the stretch. But did the lottery really change that or are we still watching players sit with suspicious injuries while they giggle on the bench in street clothes?

If anything Tip-Off does a wonderful job of chronicling the continuing nuances and pitfalls of the draft. Bondy has painstakingly researched and interviewed the players in this drama to create a book that is almost encyclopedic in knowledge. His straight-forward newspaper style will not put him among the more romantic sports novelists, but this book deserves its place.

If Tip-Off were to be paralleled with an ’84 draftee, it would be the other pick Portland made in the draft, the pick that a Portland fan may point to when being ridden about the Sam Bowie debacle, Jerome Kersey. Kersey, drafted 46th, would play 11 years with the Blazers, score 12,000 points and get 6,000 rebounds over his career. He was a solid workman-like pro that would be an important cog in the contending Blazers of the early 90’s.

This might be a difficult read for Portland fans who suffered through the ‘84 draft and the subsequent thrashings by the man they could have drafted, but to say that they are once again between a rock and a hard place is laughable. What team or fan wouldn’t want their Oden or Durant dilemma?

For this draft and any other, the cliche of “time will tell” rules.

“Always pick the best athlete…to choose by position or need [is] utter folly.”

-Scott Thompson aka Gatinho

The Draft and The Police

Kurt —  June 25, 2007

I did two things of note this weekend — went and saw The Police at Dodger Stadium, on Sunday watched NBA TV reshowing some NBA draft coverage from the 1980s. So, what follows are some draft and Lakers thoughts, with a Police theme. Because I can.

Walking on the moon. The dream part of the “classic” drafts was watching the 1982 draft, which by the way had originally been broadcast on USA Network. That was the draft the Lakers took James Worthy with the first overall pick, part of a fleecing of Cleveland that allowed the Lakers to add Worthy to Magic, Kareem and a squad that already had a ring.

Right after the pick, which was turned in by Chick Hearn, a much younger Jerry Buss (wearing a leather jacket that only could be brought out in public in the 80s without incurring massive public ridicule) spoke to an interviewer. When asked how Worthy would fit in, Buss said how much run Worthy would get as a rookie really would depend on how healthy Mitch Kupchak was. That made me laugh. Not to knock Mitch, who was a quality role player for a championship caliber team (the kind of guy I wish the current Lakers had more of on the roster) but he was never any James Worthy.

Bring On The Night. My guess, and it is just that, is that any deal the Lakers make will come after July 1 when a sign and trade can balance out the salaries one way or anther.

So, bring on Draft Night (and remember we are doing a draft comment thread here that night). I am putting a cigar and some rum in my alter to Jobu that Acie Law, Nick Young or Rodney Stuckey fall to 19. Not optimistic about any of that, but a little a cigar and rum seems a worthy sacrifice to make that happen.

I’m also falling off the Sean Williams bandwagon, the more I read the more I see this guy as talented but a head case that may not be worth the risk. Are we better off with a Rudy Fernandez? A Thaddeus Young? If you are sure you have a re-energized Kobe and Phil and some other veterans with strong personalities in the clubhouse, maybe I’m more willing to take a risk. But if the clubhouse is a potential mess come the season, do you need another headache on top of it?

Murder by numbers.
What I do if we draft Josh McRoberts.

De do do do, De da da da. Media members are still not done with the rehashed-but-easy columns on Kobe, but I think Laker fans mostly have moved beyond the simplistic “Kobe good/Kobe bad” or “Kobe goes/Kobe stays” that gets played out. Hard and fast, black and white pronouncements are the way of columnists and sports talk radio guys, but the real world exists in shades of gray.

Secret Journey. We read rumors and guesses all the time. But here’s part of the challenge of being a fan — and playing GM from our computers — this time of year: We only know a fraction of what is really going on.

Already, as the draft nears, the hard line in Indiana has apparently crumbled in the effort to move Jermaine O’Neal (they no longer demand the Odom/Bynum/19th pick stance). I know there is more taking place on the Garnett front than is public. Not that any of this means a deal is imminent.

Here’s one thing to remember — what we hear of trade negotiations is the tip of the iceberg as to what is really going on. Is Kobe calling up and working KG (or JO) to come to LA after the Kobe/Mitch summit? (I hope so, without him pitching in the Lakers couldn’t land Pargo.) What about Buss? What about a three-way deal if Minnesota wants youth and not Odom? I’d bet a lot those things are going on, and it has a big impact on what will come down (if anything), but we really are just guessing what is below the water based on what we see above it.

UPDATE: As reported in the Times this afternoon, high level talks about a Garnett trade are taking place between the Lakers, Minnesota, and potentially others. After the experience of the Kobe “media frenzy day,” I’m not going to chase and post every twist in the story in the main post. There will be updates from myself and others in the comments. However, I think it fits in with the message of this the post — the talks are happening at a lot of levels, not just ownership, and have been for at least a week, and we know little of what is actually happening. (Thanks to kwame a. for pointing out the link.)

When the world is running down, you make the best of what’s still around. This made me laugh. (Hat tip to Henry.)

Man in a suitcase.
Since this site has developed such a loyal and regular readership, let me update you on some personal stuff for a second. Nothing bad — my family and I are in the process of moving, back to the LBC. But, as you all know, moving sucks. Moving with two kids really, really sucks. So, if as happened this weekend, posts go a few days without an update I’m sorry. I’ll be on top of any news that comes down as fast as I can, but just be warned as my time is overbooked for the next couple weeks.