Odom, Summer League Notes, Part Deux

Kurt —  July 15, 2009

Game 5 - Magic vs. Lakers
Here’s what I think is the ultimate truth about the Lakers/Odom negotiations: They still need each other.

Unless Odom wants to walk away for the MLE — and he doesn’t, he already turned up his nose at more money than that from the Lakers — Odom and the Lakers have to agree on whatever deal gets done.

Here are the most-likely outcomes: 1) Odom signs some kind of deal with the Lakers; 2) Odom’s agent sets up a sign-and-trade with Miami (it will not be Dallas, the Lakers will not send Odom to a potential title contender in the West). Either of those options involves the Lakers signing off on the deal. So, to borrow Tom Ziller’s line, this is really more or less that the Lakers and Odom have hit the pause button on negotiations. They are going to have to talk again. Right now it sounds as if Buss and others are almost letting this get personal, a cooling off period could be good.

Don’t delude yourself into thinking the Lakers are better off without Odom — the best proof is that last season he led the Lakers in +/-, the Lakers outscored opponents by 16.4 points per 48 minutes when he was on the floor. Second was Kobe at 12.1. The simple truth is that good things happened for the Lakers when he was on the floor. He came up big in the playoffs. His versatility cannot easily be replaced. There are some intriguing pieces on the Heat roster (Chalmers, for one) but any move the Lakers make here is not going to make a title more likely.

Can the Lakers win a title without Odom? Yes, but the margin of error is now non-existent. Bynum has to be healthy and playing at his peak. Artest has to fit in swimmingly. Bench guys like Sasha and Jordan cannot struggle for long stretches. Everything has to go right. And that’s a lot to ask.

• By the way, people keep talking about the state tax issue in Texas and Florida. That is not as big a deal as you think — the players are taxed per game at the rates in the states they play. Meaning, when the Heat come and play the Lakers, Wade et al get taxed at California rates. When the Lakers go to Dallas, they get taxed at Texas rates. Basically, to play in a state with no income tax impacts only 50% of your checks, and while there are some savings it’s not as dramatic as some lead to believe.

• Watched two Lakers Summer League games now and here’s what I’ve learned about Adam Morrison: His knee is healthy. Everything else that he has shown we already knew.

When he is given space, his shot is still pure. Part of the challenge for Morrison in Summer League is that while his role should be spot-up shooter, he is the guy expected to create offense in Vegas. He is crowded by defenders and is having to create off the dribble, which he cannot do at the NBA (or even Summer League) level. When he is just asked to shoot — Tuesday there was one inbounds play where he comes off two screens and gets a baseline 18-foot catch-and-shoot — he looks good. But when asked here to show off more dimensions to his game he struggles.

The question going forward a simple one: Come training camp can he prove he can play to his strengths 10 minutes a night? When out with the second unit and Odom/Artest/Gasol draws the double and kicks out, does he understand his role well enough to get to the open space then can he drain the open shot. Two years ago Sasha played that role well, and if he gets his shot back it could be hard for Morrison to get the minutes (Sasha is the better defender). But that is all that Morrison is going to be — a 10-minute-a-night gunner. Don’t think the scoring totals from Vegas means anything more.

• James Harden is smooth. Strong first step and made some nice plays coming off the high pick, can finish in traffic, has the great J. On several occasions he was the outlet and led the fast break. Pretty much loved everything he did, and he is going to be a great fit next to Westbrook. I think I underestimated him at Arizona State but as Ty from lakers.com pointed out, in college he was constantly tripled teamed because, well, who else did you fear on that squad?

• Toney Douglas, the Florida State guard the Lakers drafted in the first round then traded to the Knicks, impressed. He was confident and making smart decisions with the ball, had some nice drive and kicks, just ran the offense like a pro (although much slower than D’Antonio must have wanted, it was basically an “at least 7 seconds” system). He had a rough game shooting (2-11) but nobody thought that was the trend. He’s not super athletic, he’s not going to be the next Chris Paul, but he will be a serviceable, smart backup PG for years in the league.

• Another guy in that same mold is Ty Lawson, who will be backing up Billups in Denver this year. Smart choices, especially in transition. Real floor general.

• Eric Gordon and Blake Griffin make a deadly pick-and-roll combo. Often bigs coming out of college are not very good at setting picks, but Griffin is a wall. Gordon hugs tighter off the pick than most guards than explodes, and is great at keeping his defender on his hip. Blake rolls hard to the basket and has great hands. They are going to score a lot of points with that next season.

• Tweet of the day from David Thorpe (and expressed what I thought exactly): I’m not sure what Hasheem means in his native language, but I’d guess it’s not “plays with fire”.

• Maybe the two best dunks I’ve seen here came from Anthony Randolph in one game (a game where he scored 42 to tie the Vegas Summer League record). First he got the ball on the wing (left alone) and made a big one dribble-move, the help defender rotated over late and Randolph pushed him out of the way with a Dwight Howard like move and threw down the tomahawk. Later in the same game Stephen Curry is leading the break and does the off-the-backboard pass to a trailing Randolph. The guy can finish.

• By the way, the other two guys to score 42 in a Summer League game? Von Wafer and Marcus Banks. That should tell you all you need to know about the level of play in Vegas.