Summer League and Other Thoughts

Kurt —  July 14, 2008

I’ve now watched both Lakers Summer League games (which makes me miss being there in person, back when this took place in Long Beach, a lot). So I’ve started off this post with thoughts there, and thrown in a few more along the way.

• Coby Karl has simply been the best Laker on the floor, both games. We knew he could shoot (although he was off from the outside against Memphis), but he showed a more rounded game and growth from last year. He has shown some determination and aggression trying to get to the rim, some good play in transition and some good hoops IQ. Early in the Grizzlies game Laker Bryant Dunston got a block then ran the floor, and Karl worked to reward his big with the ball in the paint. Karl’s passing has been good, he showed some ability to see the floor and get the ball to the player in the best spot (including some nice passes to cutters).

One thing Karl clearly has been working on is his defense, and he had some good moments matched up on OJ Mayo. Karl is a pretty long, big body who can get a hand up and bother shooters, which he did at times to Mayo, even blocking a Mayo jumper at one point. He even did a decent job on Crittenton, which is a bad matchup for him. Karl did a nice job getting back in transition to take away easy buckets on several occasions and getting a steal. He drew a charge on a big at one point on a down screen. Where he got in trouble was indecisiveness. At one point in the Grizzlies game Crittenton came off the high pick and roll and split the defense, and went to the rim. The rotations were poor, but welcome to summer league ball. What Karl did was start to leave Mayo in the corner to help, do it half-heartedly and allow Crittenton to kick-out to an open Mayo for three. A version of that happened a few times. He also needs to work on fighting through picks. That said, his defense is much better and he did a solid job on the very athletic Mayo.

• Recent draft pick Joe Crawford has been a mixed bag. A good example is two consecutive Laker possessions in the first quarter of the second game. On the first one he comes off a down screen, gets the feed at the top of the key and quickly spins and buries the shot, a nice bit of recognition and shooting. Next time down on the wing, he makes a poor post entry pass that gets picked off. Another point in that game he makes a nice crossover dribble on the wing and gets into the lane, then just runs over a big who rotates over and gives the charge. He’s sort of been like that through two games, a mix of nice plays and errors.

• I thought OJ Mayo looked professional. In the scattershot style of play in Summer League that is saying something. He handled pressure well when he had the ball, showed range with his shot, the ability to shoot with a hand in his face and some good athleticism (the dunk opening night, a pretty up and under against the three Laker defenders at the rim). He looked like a guy more than ready for the league. Three summer games is far from enough time to tell how good he is going to be, but I liked what I saw. Paired with Rudy Gay, that is going to be some athletic wings (and an entertaining team) in Memphis.

• Mike Conley has a very nice hesitation dribble.

• Memphis went with some three guard lineups — Conley, Crittenton and Mayo — and they should do that come the season. It was a fast, energetic group (which they will need without any post presence to speak of).

• Lakers Nik Caner-Medley and Sharrod Ford play hard on both ends of the floor. That is not going to be enough to get them a spot the Lakers or likely any NBA roster, but I see why they gets paid to play overseas. They probably are on their way to getting a camp invite.

• Two thoughts on the continuing Artest saga, a couple of these reiterations of things said in the comments:

1) Last year the Lakers made two trades, getting Ariza out of Orlando and Gasol out of Memphis. In both cases, there was no pre-trade leaks and discussion. However, last summer there was plenty of leaks and discussion about Jermaine O’Neal for Bynum and other trades that did not happen. Which category does this fall into?

2) To me and just about anyone else, adding Kenny Thomas would be a deal breaker. No way we are taking on $7.5 million this year and more than $8 mil next year, the same year we will have to pay Bynum, Ariza (and in this scenario re-sign Artest). Plus, if you haven’t noticed, Thomas has nothing left in the tank, he had a PER of 2.6 last year. For comparison, the Laker with the worst PER last year was Chris Mihm at 7.6.

Concerns from Spurs fans that I think are pretty valid. That said, they are still title contenders.

• There are some good teams in the final qualifying tournament to get into the Olympics. That includes Sasha Vujacic’s Slovenia team. Here is a breakdown.