Archives For August 2007

Fast Break Thoughts

Kurt —  August 7, 2007

Thoughts while waiting for the next episode of Mad Men on AMC…..

• Jermaine O’Neal wants to be a Laker. And we want him. So, what’s the hold up?

Well, a lot of things. The same things that have been holding it up all summer. And while O’Neal may have gone public with a non-demand statement, this deal is apparently no closer to getting done than it was a month ago. I’m not a fan of discussing trade scenarios in main blog posts, but the level of news here warrants a breakdown (even if this all seems a little redundant after the comments on yesterday’s post, which broke it down so well). Bottom line, this is not a pretty picture for the Lakers.

At the top of the list of hurdles apparently are the trade demands coming from Indiana (or, not willing to be given up by the Lakers, depending on what trade scenario you want to believe). I’ve said before and I think most Laker fans agree — trading both Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom for JO is a lateral move for the Lakers. To seriously contend fast, per Kobe’s diatribe demands, the Lakers need JO, LO and Kobe.

But centering a package around Bynum, Farmar or Crittenton, Kwame Brown as salary filler and some other pieces (likely sign-and-trade McKie) is filled with flaws as well. Starting with, would Indiana really want that? Could they sell that as a good deal to their fans as the start of a serious rebuilding? We may like to think so from our end, but it’s a hard sell — you are trading an All-Star in his prime for two guys who likely will develop into solid NBA starters/role players in Bynum and Farmar, plus some salary cap relief. Then there is the roster problems for Indy — Hoopshype says they have 15 guys under contract, although other bloggers for that team say only 12 are guaranteed. Still, they can’t take on more than a few guaranteed deals back, and to make the salaries work the Lakers have to send a lot bodies east.

Or, there is the scenario where the Lakers send LO east, somehow convince Larry the Legend not to take Bynum, then all Laker fans go to church and light a candle for Bynum to take a big step forward and be the third offensive cog in the triangle every night. Are you really comfortable with that?

Then, as commenter Mike in the Mountain West pointed out, any trade for JO would mean the Buss family is paying a lot of luxury tax the next couple of years. Eric Pincus breaks down the numbers. We fans tend to scoff at this issue, thinking the Buss family is made of money and not running a business. But they are running a business, it’s not our money and we are spending a lot of it over the luxury tax. That — plus how to get out of the tax down the line — has to be serious considerations for ownership.

There are a lot of hurdles. I still want to see it happen, but there are a lot of hurdles.

• I think the guy at Indy Cornrows said it best about JO’s original comments — he was trying to be everything to everybody, not ticking off the fans in Indiana while stoking the trade fire. That’s a hard line to walk.

• Great stuff from friend-of-the-site Tom Ziller over at Ballhype using graphs to map out the NBA — showing who is fun to watch and who is a little dull. Amazingly well done and researched piece. For those Laker focused, well, much like their record, the Lakers often fell into no-mans land on the charts.

• Long story, but the bottom line is I got to go last weekend for a $175-a-plate fundraising event for a summer arts camp for youth last weekend (my employer picked up the tab). As my wife and I are walking by a silent auction table with very nice items way outside my price range, I see two Clippers tickets that nobody has bid on. They were for a preseason game against the Kings at Staples. So, I bid $20. And that was enough to win.

I’m not sure which is worse — that the best the Clippers could come up to donate to charity is two above-the-luxury boxes tickets to a preseason game, or that $20 was enough to win them. Either way, I get to watch me some Spencer Hawes. Now that is exciting.

UPDATE: One other link worth checking out, especially if you read the odd “Baron Davis should play in LA because h’s from here” column in the LA Times the other day. A Bay Area writer (who used to write in LA) takes that column to task. It makes me miss the old “Fire Jim Tracy” blog which took on the Herculean task of trying to point out all of Bill Plaschke’s logic errors.

Rehashing Kobe

Kurt —  August 6, 2007

Well, NBA news has slowed down considerably. KG in the East storylines are tapped out, Team USA has yet to start playing a game, what is an NBA writer to do to drum up interest…

Kobe. He’s gone silent. Los Angeles is tired of hearing from him. But maybe that flame can be stoked.

So Ric Bucher said he has heard nothing new from Kobe since the summer rants, so that is the word that stands. Henry Abbot did a more thoughtful riff off of that, comparing Kobe to Pistol Pete. (The difference ultimately being Kobe has rings.) TJ Simers and crew were talking Kobe on the radio this morning because, well, that probably draws more listeners then more Beckham talk.

Despite all the talk around them, the principals in the saga remain quiet.

Maybe that’s because there is nothing to say. Nothing to be gained by spouting off by either Kobe or the Lakers’ front office.

For the Laker brass, Kobe is the guy selling the tickets right now, and trading him to start a rebuilding project this late in the summer would lead to a revolt from season ticket holders who have already paid to watch him play. Not to mention the anger from big-bucks paying sponsors trying to reach those ticket holders. At this point, with two years left on Kobe’s deal, fans want the team to build a winner, not throw in the towel. And Laker brass has said consistently in public he is not on the market right now. What are the Lakers going to say publicly that could seriously smooth the waters?

If he’s not being traded, what are Kobe’s options? He could sit out, but for a guy who has spent the last few years working hard to rebuild his reputation — and his marketing presence — coming off as the ultimate prima donna would be a huge step backwards. Kobe would risk his legacy being about petulance rather than the championships he craves.

He could say he gets injured playing for Team USA and miss most of camp and even some games of the season. But what message does that really send? I’m unhappy so I’m going to sit out for a little but, but ultimately come back to you? Does that strengthen his position?

Or, he plays the good soldier and comes to camp ready to compete, to see how far he can take this team. This Lakers squad is not a contender, but it is not horrible either. It has little margin for error the way it is constructed, but it can be a good team. Kobe could do what he does again this year, come up with a standard line when asked about this past summers rants (along the lines of “I just want this franchise to be the best it can be”) and let his actions remind Lakers brass and fans why they don’t want him to leave.

None of those three options are bettered by him doing another cathartic round of media interviews.

Ultimately, just as he did in the Shaq situation three summers ago, Kobe has the hammer. He has the opt out in two years. He can walk. He knows it, the Lakers know it. The front office knows there is a deadline to find a way to compete. Maybe they worried about this before Kobe’s summer rants, maybe they didn’t, but they sure do now.

If a move to make the Lakers a contender can’t happen by around the next draft, maybe Mitch starts to quietly ask around about what he could get for Kobe. Maybe.

But for the coming season, the die are cast.

And I don’t think talking to the media about it does anyone any good.

Lakers Schedule Out

Kurt —  August 2, 2007

Two years ago, the Lakers schedule looked tough early but softer later, and that plus growth of the team in the triangle set the team up for a strong late run into the playoffs. Last season, the schedule was favorable early then it got harder, the Lakers got injured, and the wheels came off.

The 2007-08 schedule is now out, and it looks more like two years ago.

The Lakers open at Staples against Houston, the second half of a TNT double header (so, don’t worry about arriving late to that game, you know TNT will run long and push the start back), then they go on the road to Phoenix, then come back home to face Utah. Later that month the Lakers do a Texas two-step against Houston and San Antonio, then get two of the best teams in the East at Staples, Detroit and Chicago.

While there are certainly winnable games, the Lakers are going to be put to a test in November.

The Lakers do not get Christmas off, are home to Phoenix to celebrate a surfing Santa holiday against the Suns. Maybe, if Steve Nash eats a lot of turkey before the game……

Those of you who were dying to see Kevin Garnett play at Staples Center, Dec. 30th is your only chance.

Other things of note include a nine-game East Coast (and some Midwest) road swing that starts Jan. 31. Right after that the Lakers come home for one game against Atlanta then head out on the road for three more (although one of those is the Clippers).

I won’t call the final month of the season (the last 14 games) easy, but if the Lakers are going to be a serious playoff team then they should win a lot of them. Those matchups are: Seattle; and home and home against Golden State; Charlotte; Memphis; Portland; Dallas at Sacramento; at Portland; at the LA Clippers; at New Orleans; San Antonio; and Sacramento.

Overall the Lakers have 33 games on national television and 17 back-to-backs. The schedule is heavy on Friday then Sunday games, with 15 Sunday whites games at Staples. The Lakers have more home games late in the season than early on.

Not to get Zen about it, but the schedule is the schedule. You have to play it. But on first glance, we need to remind ourselves when we see the Lakers record at the end of November that things are going to get better later. If they can put together decent numbers early they can make a big push late and carry that momentum into the playoffs.

Fast Break Thoughts

Kurt —  August 1, 2007

Thoughts while trying to figure out how I would react if I were in the crowd when Barry Bonds broke the record…..

• A quick thought on the Lakers giving Coby Karl a non-guaranteed contract — good on him. The young man has been through more than I can imagine and clearly worked hard to get everything he could out of his game. Unless there are roster shakeups (or major injuries) in the Lakers future Karl will not be with the team opening day, but hopefully the time in camp will help him land a good spot in Europe, or at least the D-League. I want to see the kid do well.

• Hey, I watch games involving Eastern Conference teams. Well, at least half a game since by the time I get home from work its halftime in New York. So it’s not totally out of place for Henry at True Hoop to throw me in there with people who actually know stuff talking early Eastern previews. (I like what Boston did, but I’ll still take the Bulls to come out of the East.)

• It’s an interesting question that the smart Smushaphobe Drrayeye brings up about Boston — how do the big three coexist? My gut feel is that these guys are veterans whose “I’m the man, I need the ball” egos are not those of some 25 year old trying to prove his worth. I think they and their games will meld pretty well. The problem that now faces the Boston GM — the Celtics player I hated most during his days in green — is getting decent role players in the fold. Rondo and Perkins start right now, and the bench is horrid and short. There are a few decent free agents on the market (and now Troy Hudson) and the C’s still have their MLE, so maybe that’s a start.

• By the way, I borrowed Drrayeye’s Smushaphobes line (with credit, of course) in an email with a Heat blogger about Smush.

• Everything you ever wanted to know about bloggers but were afraid to ask.

• August is the time I try to make modifications to this Web site, so there will be some changes to the sidebar and more. I know one common request is for links from the site to jump to a new window/tab. That we should be able to do pretty easily. I’m open to other suggestions as well.

• Update: The Blowtorch has a picture and short preview of Crittenton up. Funny, I thought he was taller.