Archives For June 2008

“Free” Agents

Kurt —  June 30, 2008

The term free agent applies to the players and their status, but for the Lakers any signings will be anything but free. Which is why we can expect limited if any action from the Lakers on the open market that starts tonight.

Let’s start with this — the Lakers payroll right now is about $75 million with 10 players signed. Next year’s salary cap will be about $58.5 million, meaning the Lakers can only resign their own players or offer the mid-level exception (about $5.6 million this year) to other team’s players. Those signings are allowed over the cap, which is a “soft” number.

However, the luxury tax is a “hard” number and next season should be about $71 million. For every dollar the Lakers are over that (and right now they are $4 million over it) Jerry Buss and friends will pay a dollar-for-dollar penalty.

So, resign Sasha to $4 million a year and that is actually an $8 million payout by the owners. Throw in Ronny at $1 mil + and suddenly the idea of the Lakers bringing in a big free agent seems less and less likely. Buss is willing to spend some over the tax number to win, but he has never gone Cuban/Knicks crazy with that philosophy. (And, both of those franchises have learned doing that is not the way to win anyway.)

So what do the Lakers do starting tonight at 9 p.m. (Pacific, midnight along the Eastern Seaboard):

1) Call Sasha Vujacic and his agent. There is going to be some interest in him, but the Lakers appear willing to go to up to $5 million a year to keep their key shooter off the bench. And they should keep him, because for all the ribbing Sasha took from fans, coaches and teammates he has developed into a very nice contributor off the bench, a guy who knows the offense and how to work in it. When you look at the list of free agents available, there is not someone out there who better fits the Lakers needs.

2) Call Ronny Turiaf. Like with Sasha there will be some interest in him, although not as much. Maybe his is worth up to $2 million a season. But his skill set is easier to replace, if it comes to that, but Ronny is a solid big off the bench. What would be harder to replace is the infectious energy and how much he is loved by the fans. And the dancing, it would be hard to replace the dancing.

3) Make a couple of free agent calls, and take any calls from agents, just to see what is out there. Don’t expect much, but you’ve got to look and listen. Reality just intrudes on deals. Lakers fans would love to see Posey in Lakers colors but look at the reality: 1) That is going to cost at least $5 million of the Midlevel Exception, which means a $10 million payout by the Lakers owners for a bench role player; 2) There is almost no way he leaves Boston.

Look up and down the list of available unrestricted free agents — it’s not a deep or exciting class. (Forget the restricted ones, anybody worth having the team would match what the Lakers can offer.) Who on that list really improves the Lakers and would really be worth double what you are going to have to pay him due to the tax? Not a lot of names leap off that list. Commenter Kwame a. suggested James Jones as a possibility.

A year ago I would have been thinking about Chris Duhon at the MLE to be at the point, but that doesn’t work well now. That said, in the next couple of years the Lakers need to decide what to do long term about that position — give Farmar the starting job and find a backup, or bring in some free agent and keep Farmar on the bench. Not a decision that has to happen now, nor should it (let’s see how Farmar grows from the playoff experience last season) but it has to be on the radar.

One thing the Lakers can consider is getting a cheap backup center, in case they think Mihm is not really going to be able to fill that role. Someone like Primoz Brezec of Toronto that you may be able to get for $1 million or so. Francisco Ellison and Pietrus may fit into that same mold, and there are other names out there. Again, that is only something to consider based on what the people who have seen more of Mihm think he can do next year. (Don’t base your thoughts solely on the Finals, that was a brutal situation to throw a guy into who hadn’t played in forever.)

The more likely option is the Laker roster looks exactly like last year’s with Sasha and Ronny back and the last two spots on the bench going to the inexpensive Coby Karl and Joe Crawford (both of whom should make the D-Fenders much better next season).

And that would be fine with me — I think some blew out of proportion what happened in the Finals. If the Lakers come back next year with a healthy Andrew Bynum in the paint, a healthy Trevor Ariza to defend on the perimeter and the lessons of the finals burned into those young players memories, they will be a serious title contender next year. And, going into the season, that is all you can ask.

Draft Thoughts

Kurt —  June 27, 2008

Lots of things to talk about, but as this is a Lakers blog and all, maybe we should start there. As word filtered through the Kentucky faithful that Crawford had been drafted, more information on the newest Laker came out.

That starts with long-time reader here Zach who is a UK fan, lives in Louisville and saw a lot of Crawford.

Since I’m a UK fan, Crawford has been one of the most frustrating players in recent memory, almost as frustrating as watching Rondo mature into everything that we thought we should’ve had at UK, now only see him win a title w/ the Celtics compounds the frustration tenfold. Crawford is a Tubby Smith guy. He came to UK w/ Rondo and Randolph Morris (and Ramel Bradley) w/ the hopes that this was going to be the recruiting class that got UK back to the Final Four. 3 McDonalds All-Americans, you had to like your chances. Well, to say the least it didn’t work out as planned.

Defense is probably what he’ll need to do to be able to make the team….I don’t think his stroke is anything special…but he is a “scorer”, not a spot up shooter by any means. Offensively he’s a scorer, gets in the lane, could hit the college 3 well enough for defenses to have to cover it, because he can drive to the rack, now with the bigger bodies he’s going to face, he’s going to have to become a better shooter. Did I trust him to hit a big jumper when need be? I wanted him to shoot it because that’s all UK had, but was I confident…eh…not so much. I would trust him to make a move and get a shot though, which is a plus.

Zach also pointed me to an article on Crawford in the Louisville Courier-Journal that summed up what seems to be a lot of UK fans thinking.

Prince, Bogans, Rondo, Azubuike, Hayes – all Tubby guys, all guys that have their knocks, but have lasted in the pros. Whether it’s the toughness that Smith instilled, or the defensive work ethic, not sure, but they’ve all seem to have made some sort of impact in the league. Crawford didn’t flourish under Smith, he really picked it up under Gillespie, who’s a defense first coach, and who made Joe play defense. There are no doubts about his offensive capabilities, the only doubts I have is whether or not he’s good enough. He played thru injuries, and I think he’s been mentally toughened by Gillespie, but there are still doubts to whether or not he could play, and whether or not the Lakers could’ve waited and invited him to a tryout, instead of wasting a draft pick on him.

There also was some interesting stuff at Sea Of Blue, what looks to be a very good UK blog (SB nation really only has quality guys)

Crawford really came on in the last 2/3 of this season after a slow recovery from minor knee surgery last year and a bit of a rocky start with Kentucky’s new coach, Billy Gillispie. As the year progressed, Crawford and teammate Ramel Bradley developed into a dynamic duo and became the backbone of a Kentucky team that reinvented itself after a rocky non-conference season to finish second in the SEC East.

What I will always remember is the sudden appearance of noticeable heart and passion in Crawford, who for three years at Kentucky played with a kind of disinterested and even surly demeanor. Later in his senior year, it became obvious that he was leaving it on the floor every single game, and Crawford became an unmistakable leader for the Wildcats.

As has been said before, it is basically down to Crawford, Coby Karl and some summer league free agents to get that last roster spot (assuming Sasha and Turiaf return, and some money is spent on one vet off the bench and/or another backup center). That should make summer league more interesting to watch.


As for other thoughts, count me in the group that loved what New Jersey did. I think they waited a couple years to long to start to rebuild, but when they did they did it right. Darius summed it up well:

Lopez, Anderson, CDR. That’s a 7 footer with a low post game, a 6?10? PF with perimeter skills, and everyone’s fave CDR. As I mentioned yesterday, you add that to Devin Harris, Marcus Williams, Yi, VC, Josh Boone, and Sean Williams and you’ve got some good, high regarded talent and a lot of youth. They’ve also dumped all their contracts except for Carters and can make a run at FA’s in the Summer of 2010 when Wade, Melo, Lebron, and Bosh are all their. Not bad work in a season for Thorn and Kiki.

The Knicks are willing to move David Lee? I thought he’d be a great fit with D’Antoni, so color me confused.

Wow I really don’t get what Memphis did. Well, I think if that had been a Love for Mayo swap it would have been fine (but can you see Love throwing the outlet to Gay in transition — that would have been impressive). But putting Mike Miller in that deal? That’s a win for Minny now. It’s pretty clear that Memphis loved Mayo (unless the trade for Beasely rumors are true) and wanted to totally shake up the roster in rebuilding, but they paid a very high price to do that. Unless Mayo turns out to be better than we all thought….

If I were the Clippers, and I thought I needed passing and a true PG to start to use the talent on the roster, I might be calling Chicago today about Kirk. Not cheap, but he’s a quality PG they could really use.

NBA Draft Chat

Kurt —  June 26, 2008

UPDATE: The Lakers took Joe Crawford, a guard out of Kentucky. He’s 6-4, 210 and described as a bit of a tweener. Last season was his senior year at Kentucky and he took 32% of the team’s shots when he was on the floor, still shooting a nice 54% eFG% and a more average 36% from three. Apparently he had a pretty good pre-draft camp in Orlando. Here is what caught my eye from the Draft Express profile: “Crawford’s spot-up jump shot has very good form, boasting a fairly deliberate release (but not in a bad way), with near textbook mechanics and a high and consistent release point.” Now, they go on to dismiss his pull up jumper, but you can at least see what the Lakers front office is thinking — can this guy become a spot up shooter in the triangle? Maybe, not a bad risk at 58.

Like we said before, he will likely be fighting Coby Karl and some free agents on the Summer League team for a roster spot.


It’s going to be interesting tonight, it looks like a lot of movement on the board. This thread is up to talk draft as the picks go on, and any moves made today (sounds like the Clippers really want Bayless, and he’d be a good fit for them).

While we’re talking, there will be plenty of really interesting stuff on the Web today. Maybe the person most on top of it is Matt at Blog-a-Bull, and I would be too if my team were about to pick Rose. If you are looking for updates on trade rumors throughout the day, that is a great place to start.

If you want more analysis, friend of the site Kevin Pelton has an interesting statistical breakdown of the incoming class, including a discussion of why it is harder to predict point guards than any other position.

In part, this might be because rookie performance tends to be less meaningful for point guards. If you followed the 2005 link, you saw I was way down on Deron Williams. Lo and behold, Williams did struggle as a rookie, but that hasn’t stopped him from developing into an elite player. In the case of a player like Rose, a relatively low rating is not exactly encouraging, but not entirely damning either.

Another place worth checking out tonight is Deadspin, where Bethlehem Shoals (the blogger we all wish we were) will be live blogging the draft, and getting a little weepy about Will.

If the Lakers are going to do anything, it likely will be some sort of cash deal to move up and get one of Seattle or Portland’s many second round picks. Apparently, the Lakers have their eye on George Hill. Pelton had an interesting comment about him as well:

Hill is an interesting second-round prospect. The numbers suggest he should be able to hold his own at the point while providing offense off the bench. If Eddie House can play point guard in the NBA Finals, there’s a spot in the league for Hill.

We’ll be posting updates if the Lakers make any moves today, and we’ll be talking about who is hiding out in the green room as he plummets down the draft board.

Who Can You Draft At #58?

Kurt —  June 25, 2008

As was said when going through the roster, it is clear that whomever the Lakers end up taking in this draft (if anyone) is going to have to fight to make the roster. They are going to have to beat out Coby Karl for that last roster spot, and we know Coby can throw it down. The winner of that tussle for the end of the bench seat likely would spend most of the season with the D-Fenders. The Lakers roster is stacked, and while maybe one more vet may be added to the rotation, any rookie that comes in will be treated as a potential project.

Which means this is a good place to take a “flier” — pick some guy that has potential but needs a lot of work. Dare I say it, a guy with huge upside and motor.

First things first, if the Lakers brass really like Karl, they may trade this pick for some minor consideration. That would not be a shock.

Or, the Lakers may try to trade up to early in the second round, as was rumored on Draft Express. The target would be George Hill, who comes out of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. Needless to say, I have seen none of his games (if you have send me a note), so what follows in terms of a preview is culled from Draft Express and other places. Hill is a 6-2, 180 pound guy who is projected as a point at the NBA level. He can shoot the ball from the outside — he took 26% of his team’s shots while on the floor (so you know defenses were focused on him) and still shot 60% eFG% and 45% from three. Despite his size he was also his team’s best defensive rebounder. He turned the heads of a lot of scouts in Orlando with very solid play, and had guys talking about his basketball IQ. Also, his team ran the triangle offense in college. The knocks are that he is not a traditional point guard (not a problem in the triangle) and that he can turn the ball over some. Also, scouts were divided on his athleticism. He may be a guy who can be groomed into a backup PG in the triangle.

Hill is projected to go in the middle of the second round, so if the Lakers want him they would have to move up and get him. The question is, what are you willing to give up to move up in the second round? Not anything of consequence. So this may well not happen.

If they decide not to trade up or trade out, who might the Lakers get at 58? Predicting anything this late in the draft is very difficult, but here are a few names from people who follow this more closely that I do.

Draft Express has them taking James Mays, a power forward out of Clemson. This is a guy who may fit that project mold — he is 6’9”, 218 pound power forward with a lot of athleticism and is very active on the inside. Reports out of the Orlando pre-draft camp suggest that he is not very polished, particularly on offense, but that he works his tail off and is willing to do the dirty work inside. His numbers at Clemson show sort of the same thing — he only shot 48% this past season and had an offensive rating of 100 (points per 100 possessions) which is not impressive. But he did grab 12% of his team’s missed shots, which shows tenacity on the boards. Apparently in Orlando he tried to show a face-up, dribble penetration game that had a little promise. Bottom line, he could develop into an energy guy off the bench, but as he is already 22 years old how much better is his game going to get?

Chad Ford’s latest mock at has the Lakers taking Davon Jefferson out of USC. Somebody we have seen a lot of. He came around as the season went on and showed great athleticism in his 6-8, 215-pound body. He shot 58% on the year and grabbed 16% of the available defensive rebounds. His explosive leaping ability meant a lot of blocked shots. He likes to get out and run on the break. He turned the ball over a bit much, but the kid has the skills. But here is what scares me off of him — he showed up to pre-draft workouts woefully out of shape (12% body fat) and not showing a lot of fire. Here he is trying to impress people he should be paid to play and he isn’t working out? If you take a risk on someone, you do it on a guy with great work ethic and I’m not sold that is the case here (maybe there are extenuating circumstances, but they’d have to be biggies). has the Lakers taking JR Giddens, a 6-5 two guard out of New Mexico. He was the focus of the Lobo’s offense and shot 54.7% (eFG%) and 33% from three. He is supposed to be a great leaper, a good athlete who likes to run the floor and has deep range as a shooter. But the questions here are much like Jefferson — what kind of work ethic does he have. That was questioned while he was at Kentucky, and when he transfered to New Mexico he actually was suspended by the team for the second half of the 06-07 season for “being a bad teammate.” Reports are his defense is shaky because he doesn’t really work at that end of the floor. This is another case (like Jefferson) where if he can play up to his potential he would be a second-round steal, but the question is do you want to take that risk on a guy with a questionable work ethic. Personally, I don’t, but I have not interviewed the guy to see if he has matured.

Another guy that may or may not be on the board, but is worth a look, is Luc Richard Mbah A Moute, who is 6′ 7″. 224 lbs. Those of us in Southern California have seen a lot of him in recent years and at the next level he will be a defense and hustle guy who can guard threes out on the perimeter. He can get out and run but his offensive game in a half-court set is limited (he shot 48% last year). His rebounding numbers were down a little last year but I think that had more to do with Kevin Love than anything else. Reports out of pre-draft workouts were that he showed well on the defensive end. Frankly, I don’t think you can go wrong with a guy who can defend on the wings — you can teach him to shoot threes (see Bowen, Bruce).

He may not fall that far, but if Mbah A Moute is on the board I would like to see the Lakers grab him (some mock drafts have him going higher, some have him undrafted). If not, someone like Mays would be good, or maybe a Euro we don’t know much about that could be stashed overseas for a few years (ala Sun Yue).

Whatever happens, this is a guy for down the line, not next year. But it should be fun to watch.

Fast Break Thoughts

Kurt —  June 23, 2008

As the frustration level subsides in the Lakers nation, we should look at some odds and ends issues that did not get much discussion here. What that means is that for now we return to the regular rules for discussion an Odom (or any other) trade — it is off the table until credible media sources say talks are taking place. For the many new readers here, that does not mean some media guy saying “the Lakers can expect a call” or a mention from Peter Vessey. It means more like Bresnahan at the Times or Ding at the Register saying talks are taking place. The hypothetical trade conversation can continue in the thread of the last post.

There are a lot of other interesting topics to discuss.

• It’s official, Kobe is on the US Olympic team. No shock there. I look at the roster and while it may be small (all the better to run with) like the balance — having Redd and Prince will be key in international ball. Kidd will help push the pace (although I sympathize with Cuban here, Kidd is the player most likely to feel the impact next season from no summer off).

The two complaints I heard were: 1) Not enough big men; personally, with international ball and the “big men” being more Dirk than Shaq, I think having Howard and Bosh with Boozer for muscle will be fine (it’s more about quickness and team defense, we’ll see if they get the rotations together); 2) Too many stars. I don’t look at this lineup and see a ball-hogging group, they guys on this roster can pass and the shooters (Redd) fit a need. Frankly, there are no Iversons on this squad.

Should be interesting, because Spain and Argentina (if Manu plays) should be right there with the US.

• By the way, it’s interesting to see the “club or country” debate in the USA about basketball after reading so many of the same arguments around international soccer for so many years.

• And while I’m on soccer, a Russia/Spain Euro 08 finals next weekend semifinal Thursday will be fun. I love watching Andrei Arshavin play.

• Rose or Beasley?

For me this comes down to my draft philosophy — take the best player, regardless of position. From what I saw during the season and Tournament (I saw Rose on television maybe five times, Beasley twice), I like Rose. I think in a league not allowing hand checking on the perimeter, his quickness and strength are going to make him a very valuable force for a decade or more. But, if the Bulls took a close look at Beasley and thought he was basically just as good, they should go that direction as he does fit their needs more. I’m just not sure he’s as good. Hollinger disagrees.

• Anybody have any draft sleepers they think will be good? I saw a good question the other day — who will be next year’s Carl Landry?

• By the way, a post looking at the Lakers options at #58 in the draft will be going up in the next few days. On Draft Day I’ll have an open chat going for people who want to swing by and make fun of what Kevin Love wears to the event (can he top this?), as well as follow the happenings.

• In case you didn’t see it, Ariza did exercise is option and will be a Laker next season. After that he is an unrestricted free agent.

• I’m excited to see Wimbledon starting, although to be honest the French Open is still my favorite to watch. Even if Nadal is unbeatable on the red clay. (I think he may win on grass, too.)

• I am surprised the Suns are shopping Barbosa around. If I were a GM of a team that wanted to get out and run…..

RIP George Carlin. Fuck I’m going to miss that son of a bitch.

• Yes, I just broke one of my own rules for this site, but in that one instance it seemed appropriate.

Your 08-09 Laker Roster

Kurt —  June 20, 2008

I think the best way to start a look at the off-season and any potential moves is to see what you’ve got. So what follows is a break-down of the Lakers roster by position going into next year, with a few comments after each player (some longer than others). At the end we’ll break down the total numbers and I’ll give some general thoughts. Almost all the salary info comes from the best source for that on the Web, Draft Express.

    Point Guards

Derek Fisher. back for sure. Under contract for two more years, about $8 million total. He need to spend this summer getting his foot healthy(remember he played the last couple months with ligament issues). One priority for Phil Jackson is to keep his minutes down during the regular season next year (whether he comes off the bench or starts). He is not getting younger and the legs need to be rested.

Jordan Farmar, back for sure. Signed for next year at $1.1 Mil, team option for 2009-10 at $1.9 mil, restricted free agent after that (meaning the Lakers can match any offer). One thing I’m not worried about is Jordan Farmar working hard this summer — he may have the second best work ethic on the team. He’s always going to struggle some to cover strong PGs (ala Deron Williams) but he is a solid defender (opposing PG’s shot a pretty average 47.5% eFG% against him last year and had a slightly higher than average 16.5 PER). The real question here is, what do you sign him for in two years?

    Shooting Guards

Kobe Bryant, back for sure. On the books for three more years at $69 mil total , but can opt out of his contract in June of 2009. I don’t know about you guys, but I think we should keep him. Seriously, he’s not going anywhere, but if the Lakers want to they could start a conversation about extending his deal after next season (not much negotiation involved, this is a max deal). He’ll play in the Olympics then get surgery. Some guys you worry about not getting rest in the summer, not so much with Kobe. He wouldn’t have let himself rest anyway.

Sasha Vujacic, Restricted free agent. That means he can shop around but the Lakers can match whatever another team offers. After the way he played this year there might be some teams interested, but nobody really makes offers on restricted free agents because if he’s a decent player and its not a crazy Thomas-era Knicks overpriced offer the team with rights matches it. The question is, what is he worth — he made $1.8 mil this year. I’d say somewhere between $3 mil and $4 mil.

Which brings us to the second, and a bigger question: Do the Lakers use some of their mid-level exception (MLE) to sign Vujacic to save the luxury tax problems, or do they bite the bullet on Sasha to keep the MLE for a free agent? Fans always want to spend, but it’s not their money.

Coby Karl, who knows if he is back. The Lakers have a team option for $711,000 for next year. It’s hard to say much about how he’ll fit in down the line because we haven’t seen him enough. However, with a pretty full roster and he likely will be battling this year’s second-round pick and some summer camp guys for the last roster spot.

    Small Forwards

Lamar Odom, very likely will be back. He has owed $14.1 mil for next season but has an expiring contract. He’s become a favorite whipping boy of some Lakers fans after the finals, and he played much of the year at the power forward spot.

Next year, with Bynum and Gasol, he would be asked to play the three spot in the triangle, and ultimately the big question is can he fit in playing that role? What is expected of the guy playing the three? I’ll let Darius explain.

From my standpoint, ideally, the SF must be a versatile player that does many things well. I mean, a SF in this system should be a good ballhandler, be able to shoot with range, be able to score inside, be a good passer, move well off the ball, be able to read defenses, play strong perimeter D, and ultimately have a high BB IQ (think Pippen and, though a much lesser athlete, Rick Fox). In my honest opinion, we don’t have the prototypical Triangle SF on this roster, but we do have guys that possess many of the traits/skills needed (just not all of them in the same player).

Before you start saying “Odom doesn’t have all those qualities” ask yourself this: How many guys in the league do? He can rebound, he can lead the break, his is a good ballhandler and his hoops IQ is good. The questions are how well he can defend opposing small forwards and can he be a good enough shooter to spread the floor. The reason Radmanovic started in the playoffs and Finals despite mental lapses on defense was he could stretch the floor. Guys can’t sag off Radman, they can sag off Odom. I like that Odom said he planned to work on his outside shot this summer, that will be a big key for next year, and I think he understands that.

For those of you who think Odom may not fit at the three, you have some good company. David Thorpe (the best of’s analysts and the executive director pro hoops training at IMG) said in an email he isn’t sold either:

Odom is not as good of a 3 as he is a 4. His lack of quickness for the position and his willingness to be a “floater” as a 3 are both problematic. Stan van Gundy saved his career by playing him as a 4 and really challenging him to be a rebounder/scorer (that season still marks as his best ever, I think). Playing the 4 often forces him to be near the rim, which both allows him to use his terrific length to make paint plays and keeps him from launching too many three-pointers (he’s just able enough as a 3 point shooter to be dangerously bad for LA) or long and medium range two’s. He’s not good at either. He plays too much of the game, as a ball handler, at one speed, and that speed is 3rd gear (out of 5). That works against many power forwards, but not against most small ones. Yes, he’d be a tough matchup on the offensive glass, but that would not make up for his struggles to score efficiently as a 3. And he’d get exposed often on defense as well. Ultimately, I just feel like his overall effectiveness would drop.

Here’s my bottom line: I don’t know if the front line of Odom/Gasol/Bynum will work. Ultimately nobody does because we haven’t seen it. But getting a player who is a better fit for what the Lakers want at the three is going to be very hard to find. Trades are not going to come easily. The only way I’d make a summer deal is if it was too good to pass up. I think you need to give all that potential of LO/Gasol/Bynum chance then, if it is not working out, see what deadline trades may be available.

Trevor Ariza, almost certainly back. Player option for next year for $3.1 mil. While he could test the market after that injury it would be impossible to find someone willing to pay more than what the Lakers will pay him, so expect him to say. I think he could be what we need at the three save for one thing — his outside shooting. Last year he shot 33% on jump shots and 27.8% from three, that is not going to stretch the floor. Someone said in the comments he should shoot 300 corner threes a day, and I think that sounds about right. How much he plays next year will depend on how consistent his outside shot becomes.

Vladimir Radmanovic, back for sure. Two years left on his deal, plus a player option for a third, next year at $6 mil. You may want to trade him, but nobody wants him at that price. I think he can be a solid player off the bench, a guy who could come in and light up second units with threes, he’s valuable as one of those flexible pieces that Phil can use for matchups. Just asking him to be a starter in the finals is too much.

Luke Walton, back for sure. Four years left on his deal, at $4.2 mil next year. I could pretty much cut and past my Radmanovic comments here. There is not going to be much trade interest at that price and length of contract. He can be valuable off the bench and in certain matchups, but asking him to do things like cover Paul Pierce is inviting disaster. He’s a nice role player to have, though.

Ira Newble, likely not back. Look at it this way — when the Lakers needed a defensive stopper for Pierce in the Finals, Ira was glued to the bench. Phil clearly felt that whatever Ira could give was not going to be as good as what was out there (rumors are he never really understood the offense). That tells you plenty.

    Power Forwards

Pau Gasol, back for sure. Three more seasons on his deal, makes $15 mil next year. As a Laker he shot 58.9% from the floor, scored 18.9 points per game, grabbed 12.2% of the rebounds available and had a PER very close to Kobe’s. Yes, he got thee “soft” tag in the Finals, but again we had to ask him to be what he is not. He is not a banger and a physical force, he is more finesse. Nothing wrong with that if he is paired with a more physical front line guy, right?

Well, again, we have to see it in action to believe it. David Thorpe, for one, isn’t sold:

Four years ago I think Gasol could have been an excellent 4 next to Bynum. But he’s not the shooter he once was, and is far more effective inside the paint or close by. Study his Hot Spot stats at I’ve heard this from International scouts as well, who feel Gasol was a much better face up player on the perimeter a few years back. His very poor perimeter shooting in the playoffs hurt LA. I’m a big fan of his, but not as a 4, anymore. Could he prove me wrong-absolutely, and it’s far more likely than Odom playing great as a 3, but it’s not close to a sure thing.

According to, 35% of Gasol’s shots were jumpers and he hit 45% of those. Not bad numbers for a seven footer, but to be sure his midrange game was off in the playoffs. Gasol will be playing for Spain this summer (it’s going to be interesting on this board if USA and Spain meet) and maybe playing international ball helps him find that midrange game again. He needs to because it will be a key to the front line working next year.

Ronny Turiaf: Restricted free agent. I guess we’re going to see what kind of love there is for Ronny out on the open market. First off, I think I speak for most Laker fans when I say we want him back, maybe at a higher price than he is really worth. We love this guy. And as with Sasha, other teams will be hesitant to come after him because the Lakers can match any offer, but you know there is some interest out there. Turiaf made $770,000 last year, and I think his real value is about double that and a contract of three years. Also like Sasha, do the Lakers use part of their MLE here?


Andrew Bynum, back for sure. He is under contract next year for $2.7 mil and is a restricted free agent the year after that. This is the summer the Lakers need to make a long-term offer for Bynum, which leads to the question what is he worth? My gut reaction is a five year deal at about $50-$55 mil, not quite a max deal but he is coming off an injury. If I were Bynum I’d want a three-year deal at $11 per, with the thinking I would be 24 at the end of it and in the perfect spot for a five-year max deal. We’ll see what gets worked out.

As for him this off-season, get healthy and hit the gym. Come back in shape like he did last fall (or better) and be ready for what will be a fun year.

Chris Mihm, back for sure. Player option for next year at $2.7 mil. Lakers fans may not want him back but there is no way Mihm does not pick up that option. Personally, I don’t mind having him back because I may be one of the three people left on the planet holding out hope he can return to his pre-injury form. If so, he is the backup big we need. Remember in the 04-05 season he shot 50% from the floor, grabbed 15% of the available rebounds, blocked 1.4 shots per game and had a PER of 15.7 (just above average), plus he was the second most consistent Laker in terms of hustle that year. I want that Chris Mihm back.

DJ Mbenga, likely not back. He’s an unrestricted free agent. I like the guy, but we may be able to find a better backup big out on the open market. If not, he’s an inexpensive fallback.


Here is where the Lakers are next year as of now: 10 guys who are back for sure, and that makes up the core of the starters and key role guys. That kind of consistency is huge, as is having them all for a training camp and entire season next year. I think the Lakers want to bring back Sasha and Turiaf, so long as another team does not make a crazy offer for them. That would be 12 players, and the Lakers want 14 on the roster. That leaves room to find one veteran free agent with the MLE and keep either Kobe Carl or this year’s second-round pick (either way that guy is spending most of the year with the D-Fenders).

Already, without Sasha and Turiaf, the Lakers salary is at $70 million for next year, way over the cap and pushing the luxury tax. Buss will be paying some tax next year, the question is how much is he willing to pay?

Bottom line, as constructed now this is a roster that will contend for a title next year. Some tweaks may be needed, but even if nothing happens the Lakers are in a good spot. And that makes me as a Lakers fan happy. We are in a position this summer to wait for good offers, not just take what comes along. We can bargain from a position of power.


Here is how we are going to handle the comments on this post. I am going to allow some leeway in discussing other players the Lakers should go after, guys the Lakers should look at in trades or free agency. For example, to say the Lakers should look at Posey is totally fair game (he is an unrestricted free agent). What will not be allowed is: 1) Detailed five-team trade proposals, those things almost never happen and this is not your fantasy league; 2) Absolute crazy talk, like that the Lakers should trade LO for Wade (I’ll give you a hint, I don’t think Miami is going to let him go). Know this, just because it goes through on the ESPN trade machine doesn’t mean the teams involved want to do it. Think it through. In the spirit of the site, let’s keep this thoughtful and well reasoned. And play nice with one another. Know that I will bring the editing hammer down hard and fast on this if it starts to get out of control.

First things first — congratulations to the Celtics and their fans. Boston was the better team in this series, the team that played with more focus and a more veteran mentality. They deserved the title, and I’m happy for Jeff and other Celtics fans I know.

Personally, I’m not that happy today. That was a hard way to lose, and that leads to a lot of frustration — for the fans, the players, the coaches. Everyone. There’s going to be a little venting that goes along with an effortless loss like that in game six of the Finals.

But as that frustration ebbs out we need to remember this season for the fun ride that it was. We started in October thinking we had a second-tier team in the West with an ugly soap opera swirling around it. The goal was to get out of the first round of the playoffs. Then seemingly out of nowhere Andrew Bynum emerged as a force in the paint, the Lakers were getting out and running, they were fun exciting and fresh. And winning. At the end of the 2007 the Lakers were flirting with the best record in basketball and we were all wondering if we really could compete with the best in the West when it mattered. Then Bynum went down, for what we thought would be a couple months. The team reverted to what we expected before the season, a streaky and frustrating .500 team.

Then came two trades, one good and one unfathomable. The first was getting Trevor Ariza, giving the Lakers a real perimeter defender to go with Kobe. Then there was the Pau Gasol theft. And it was a theft, the Lakers gave up a prospect and a pick and a contract for a seven-footer built for the triangle. Suddenly there was amazing energy around the team again and the offense was humming as it never has before. It was a joy to watch.

All of that led to a fantastic playoff run — an impressive sweep of the Nuggets, an hard-fought battle with the improving Jazz then a five-game win against the Spurs that made us feel like we really belonged, like we had really reached the elite.

In the Finals the Lakers ran into an aberration — a team that didn’t need to learn to win as a team (I think because its Big Three were veterans and there were a lot of veterans coming in off the bench). Most teams have to learn the hard way. Jordan’s Bulls lost to Detroit three times in the playoffs before they became a dynasty. The three-pete Lakers lost a lot in the playoffs plenty before they won with that unit. The list goes on and on.

And I think that’s what we ultimately take from this — the Lakers saw first-hand what it takes to win a title on Tuesday night. They saw the commitment needed on defense. They saw the will needed to get the rebounds and the loose balls. They saw the focus of a team that didn’t deviate from who it was or what it wanted to do. They saw a real hunger.

As Lakers fans we hope — we believe — that our team will come back next year with that fire. We know they will come back better with Bynum being the shot blocker and rebounder so needed in this series (and throughout the playoffs). We know they will come back with the best and most passionate player in the game. (Although, you have to wonder who will be first in the mainstream media to start suggesting Kobe wants out. We should start a pool.) We know we have a coach who knows how to make that step to a championship.

And we know we will come back with a core roster good enough to compete for a title and win one if they learned the lessons from this last series. There may be some roster tweaks, but the bottom line is the core of this team is a title contender and not much needs to be done to improve upon this year’s finish. The key for the players coming back having put in the work to take that next step. The hope is that this game six disaster drives them this summer, drives them into the gym and into the workouts.

It’s okay to be frustrated today. But know that tomorrow looks damn good. And next season it is going to be a lot of fun to be a Lakers fan.

Lakers/Celtics Game 6 Chat

Kurt —  June 17, 2008

Let’s be honest: This is the game that scares Lakers fans.

We know that the Celtics fans will come and be loud, expecting a coronation. We know that the Celtics themselves will come out and play like this is their game seven. We know it will be physical and the refs are not going to be as much help as we’d like.

We also know every game in this series has been close, and that the Lakers can win — but to do so they will have play their best game of the series.

Usually by this point in a seven-game series there are no secrets, no big matchup changes that can be sprung to turn the tide. And that is largely true coming into this game, although because of injuries and lack of execution there are some things that can be changed up for the Lakers.

On offense, the Lakers need to get to the basket and finish strong — it would be nice if Kobe could do more of that but the Celtics have worked hard to take that part of his game away. Kwame a. had a one suggestion on what to try to get Kobe going:

I think it imperative to play Kobe OFF the ball more. Whether this means cross-screens on the block to give him good post position, or running him off single-doubles on the baseline like Rip Hamilton and Ray Allen, or off the slice cut in the triangle, getting him a head-start to the basket. No matter what, we cannot stick with this top-of-the-key iso, it is asking Boston to flex its defensive prowess.

It is obvious that Odom and Gasol both need to be forces inside, both getting to the rim and on the offensive boards. They were more aggressive in game five but will have to take that to another level tonight.

Defensively, the Lakers need to play off of Paul Pierce more, make sure he doesn’t get to the rim, something coach Anthony Macri talked about at Basketball Prospectus:

The Lakers were largely successful in defending the Spurs’ side pick-and-pop action in the Western Conference Finals. However, their ability to guard high ball-screen action against an offensive player as big, versatile, and strong as Paul Pierce is has been a bugaboo for Los Angeles during this series. If they have any hope of defeating the Celtics, the Lakers must find an effective method of defending this ball-screen action. Because Garnett is such a capable outside shooter, L.A. cannot afford to trap the ball-handler. Their typical soft-hedge and fight over technique has also proven ineffective. Instead, in Games Six and Seven, expect the Lakers to find a way under the screen, daring Pierce to shoot the long jumper off the dribble but preventing him from wreaking havoc in the lane. Again, defense in the NBA is all about making choices, and at this point, with their proverbial “backs against the wall,” the Lakers have little choice but to attempt the high-risk solution.

Pierce is going to hit jumpers, he’s a great player, but fewer jumpers will fall than lay-ups. The Lakers have to force him into help, they have to be smarter on their defensive rotations. The Lakers need to take advantage of when Rondo is in the game by helping off him — but stop doing that on House.

But after five games, this game is going to come down to execution. So far in this series it is the one area the Celtics have outplayed the Lakers consistently — they have done what they wanted to do while the Lakers have seemed to take some mental vacations.

As fans, all we can do is wear our lucky rally cap, hope the Lakers execute tonight and cheer (and not some creepy government-approved cheer but something from the heart). It’s one game at a time still, for us and the team.

May the best team win tonight.