Two “Big” Lakers Stories Not That Big

Kurt —  August 11, 2009

Lakers celebrate their 15th NBA Championship with a parade in Los Angeles
Welcome to the off-season, when little things become big things because there is nothing else to talk about.

To me, that’s the case with the two current “hot topics” around the Lakers this week.

First there is the finger injury to Pau Gasol, which according to the best report I’ve read a ruptured interphalangeal ligament on the index finger of his left hand. To be fair it is not nothing — they don’t do surgery on nothing (especially when you can consult your mom the doctor like Gasol, who apparently was good with the anti-Kobe approach). I’m no doctor, but the reading I did on this didn’t scare me, it seems easily reparable. It’s on his left hand, which is not his dominant had but with Gasol’s amazingly diversified attack he scores plenty of points and makes plenty of passes with that hand.

So he is going to be out of action for at least three weeks, and may or may not after that play for Spain in the European Championships. I wouldn’t go blaming this injury on his playing for Spain — this is the thing that could have happened at a pickup game in El Segundo. Gasol goes up for a block and things go bad, that’s just luck.

To me, here’s what matters: The Lakers do not report to training camp for about six weeks, and do not play a game that matters until October 27. Which means Gasol will be there when it matters and I bet his finger will be just fine when he slides that championship ring over it.

I feel sort of the same way about losing Kurt Rambis — I wish it didn’t happen but it’s not that big a deal for the Lakers. At least short term, in this case.

Yes, Rambis was essentially the defensive coordinator for the Lakers last season (and the Lakers finished sixth in the league in defensive efficiency), but what he devised was not of triangle offense level of complexity. Really, its focus was on simplicity and making it clear to the defender what his role and responsibilities were. This is the kind of thing that the rest of the staff should easily be able to take over.

I, for one, am glad Rambis finally got another chance — I think he is primed for this and is going to a good situation with core of good, young players and a GM willing to be aggressive. (How good a GM he is, the book is far from finished, but he will take chances,) And to me Rambis is a far, far better choice than the rumored other front-runner Mark Jackson.

Rambis could not sit around waiting for Jackson to retire and hoping that Buss decides to go with him instead of another big name from the outside. We may have thought Rambis the logical successor, but could he really bank on that? You have to take the opportunities in life when they present themselves, you can’t hold out for what might be.

The Lakers do have the “who’s next?” question, but first we have to see if Jackson really will walk away from the roughly $12 million Buss will offer for another season. Jackson has money, sure, but that is a lot to walk away from. Then the issue is simply Shaw — no experience but keeping things the same and a guy it is known the players like — or bringing in a big name from the outside. I would favor Shaw (although the leash would be pretty short) but we can cross that bridge when we come to it.

For now, it’s the off-season and the stories out there just aren’t really stories.



63 responses to Two “Big” Lakers Stories Not That Big

  1. Welcome back, Kurt. Agree on Rambis. I’m sorry to see him go–but not as sorry as I am to see Trevor go. People who say it is better to be a Laker assistant than a head coach in Minneapolis are crazy. I don’t know what e makes with the Lakers, but I’m betting it’s not in the neighborhood of $2 million per year for four years.

    As for Pau, it could turn out to be a blessing if he takes it easy for 3 weeks.

  2. Here’s hoping Pau rests more than his finger for a few weeks. And best of luck to Rambis (unless he’s coaching against us!). Any links to what the new championship ring might look like? Any possibilities of being able to purchase replicas?

  3. By the way, the link that follows is the official Lakers statement on the injury. It says the injury is to the Volar Plate, which is essentially the same thing as the interphalangeal ligament. It is caused by hyperextension, which makes sense if it happened during a block attempt.

    Also, Gary Vitti will get a vacation to Barcelona to check out the finger in a few weeks. And have some tappas and sangria. If he needs an assistant……

  4. Repost: from last post

    The post the other day about performance enhancing drugs in athletics had me thinking about a level playing field in sports today. Even without the advantages players get from the use of illegal drugs, what about the economic advantages effecting a level playing field. Does every team truly have a chance to win a champioship at the beginning of training camp? Nope, if your the Timberwolves, Pacers, or Kings do you really picture yourselves holding the trophy at the beginning of the year. The bad economy really details the big gap between the haves and the have nots in the sports world in todays times. Is the playing field really on the up and up anyway? If teams like LA, Yankees, Boston, and Orlando have deep pockets to spend on players to get to that next level. What about the teams just trying to munipulate the cap to fill roster spots with players that dont have a chance to do anything but collect a check. Is it fair if the players and teams aren’t all afforded the same benefits because of money. LA can sign five all stars, a team like the Bucks could only wish to have that buying power. The economic playing field would only be level if all teams had the same amount of money to spend on players. A city with 1 million people would have the same cap as a city with
    100,000. Wouldnt that ultimately even the playing field so to speak if the game is to be in its purist form. Then all that counts is hard work and the willingness to sacrifice for the sum of the whole. Every organization is trying to gain an advantage in some way or another. Whether it be by money, drugs, ficilities, or cutting edge training staff the art of competition is trying to find that advantage and using it to achieve what no one has accomplished. Drugs is only one of many ways for a team to make the playing field uneven, so dont just think that if you take the drugs out of the sport it will purify the game, and put every one on the same level, it is just one aspect.

    PS: If I was commish, I would allow the Bucks, Pirates, Kansas Citys, Bobcats, and Grizzles of the sporting world to take PED’s, maybe it would allow them to catch up to all the money burning teams at the top, and at least have a chance

  5. Sad about Pau’s finger, but I really do hope it makes him rest a bit and not play for Spain. This I would not be sad about.

    Regarding one of our Western Conference challengers, the Blazer’s Edge has a GREAT two-part article on their newest addition of Andre Miller. It’s long but of high quality and an enjoyable read.

    I’ve long thought Miller as underrated pg He’s not a superstar, but very solid. He’s one of those players I’ve found myself enjoying watching.

  6. Anyone have access to Hollinger’s look at the West?

    I’m not a big fan of his numbers typically so I’m wondering if he’s found a way to tweak his formula to rank the Lakers as the third-best team or some other ridiculousness. Wouldn’t surprise me in the least.

  7. Kurt sighting, great to see you back. I see you survived cruzing around Boston in your Lakers Championship gear, any stories to tell? I hope Pau just rests and does not try to play for Spain if the finger is not healed, he needs it after the last year or two. It will be fun next year in December when we play the Wolves for the first time with Rambis on the other sideline, trying to win a game against his old Lakers.

  8. 6. Chris J., he has the Lakers as the team to beat, with the Spurs/Nuggets/Blazers on the next level.

  9. Dunk Specialist August 11, 2009 at 7:25 pm

    4. I am going to have to disagree with you DirtySanchez. While we are at it why don’t we force the mircosofts of the world to only profit as much as every other company. Or how about forcing the supermodels to marry the ugliest guys so they can have average looking kids. Or how about the USA being on the same playing field of every other nation by giving up the GNP to be shared by all nations. How come Kobe is allowed to be better than every other player. We should limit how mch he is allowed to work. You know why this doesn’t work and pisses everyone off, because people who worker harder should get more. Buss invented the Laker girls (which every team has now done). He found ways to make the Lakers into showtime. The Spurs have won 4 championships and I don’t here them complaining. The Cavs couldn’t sell out for years but are championship contenders. It has nothing to do with city size or economic advantage. It has to do with luck (of the lottery). The knicks suck every year and they have AND spend more than the Lakers. Oh and the Magic in this economy lost money and STILL added payroll this offseason! The Lakers advantage has more to do with weather, legacy and the media that creates stars.

  10. bummed that Leon Powe went to the cavs for 2years 1.7M…..

    that was a STEALL

  11. travis i’d rather he be there than re-up with the celtics or go to the magic.

    pau should rest. no question. this is a blessing in disguise.

    interesting point aaron. but as long as phil’s there, whatever works for him is the team’s defensive strategy. if any, help defense won’t be that hard this time.

    re: hollinger. to me, one more signing that is likened to a steal takes us to an entirely different level. i don’t want to proclaim our team as being on another level. we’re the team to beat and even without LO i would maintain that opinion.

    welcome back kurt. GO LAKERS!

  12. 9 – “Or how about forcing the supermodels to marry the ugliest guys so they can have average looking kids.”

    lol – no need to force them; they tend to do it on their own, often enough!

  13. 9 – “The Lakers advantage has more to do with weather, legacy and the media that creates stars.”

    Not to mention the best fans ever …

  14. The fanship is a big one considering how much revenue we generate.

    Which is pretty critical seeing as how the Lakers aren’t a hobby-business as with some owners, and we’ve got to build trust funds for the entire Buss line.

  15. If Pau rests and the finger heals well,no sweat. But you never know about any surgery, and we know Kobe continued to have hand problems thru the finals. I hope he decides to skip the Euro finals and rests his body and rehabs the hand.

  16. I wonder if Rambis’ decision to take the TWolves job means that PJ is likely to stick around for at least a couple more years. Rambis was surely the favorite to take over as head coach after PJ left, and I have to think that he did his due diligence and asked PJ what his future plans held. Assuming he did so, you would also have to assume that if Phil had given any inkling that he might be hanging it up soon that Rambis would have chosen to stay.

  17. dave in hillsboro August 11, 2009 at 11:38 pm

    From LAT: “Rambis predicted Jackson — barring any health issues — is ‘fully capable of coaching for five or six years on that team.'”,0,7156016.story

  18. 18 – I’m not so sure. We have no idea what Kurt’s reasoning was. It could have been that he remembers how short a leash he would have in LA, and preferred to have greater freedom and room for growth with a young team that he could make his stamp on.

  19. Rambis will be on the DP radio show today according to their website.

    Should be interesting to hear him in real time.

  20. 12- yeah, good point on Powe. But for as cheap as he went I’d rather him sign with LA, or with any non-contender team. I really like the guy’s game, and I don’t like when we play against him (08 finals). Plus, in my opinion the Cav’s frontcourt is their weakest point and adding Powe is a nice boost once he gets healthy. They got him for less than we got Shannon.

  21. That is a good deal on Powe and he helps the Cleveland front line have some depth, no doubt. Combined with Shaq taking Ben Wallace’s minutes and the Cavs got better this offseason.

    But, the best teams address what knocked them out of the playoffs the previous year. What got the Cavs in trouble was: 1) inability to defend the pick and roll; 2) inconsistent outside shooting. Bringing in Shaq does not help your P&R defense, and while I like Anthony Carter he is not some great outside shooter. Basically, I think they are better for the regular season but still can be beat in the playoffs. I think a healthy Orlando or Boston beats them in a series.

  22. 18. I think part of it is that Rambis, like everyone else on the planet, really has no idea what Phil Jackson is thinking or planning. That includes the entire Buss family. So, Rambis did the smart thing and took the opportunity presented to him. Honestly, PJ could retire after this season or stick around for four more years and neither would surprise me.

  23. Kurt, unfortunately it is Anthony Parker, who has a career 3pt % of 0,415. Mo Williams is at 0,386, Delonte West 0,378, Daniel Gibson 0,412, and Jamrio Moon 0,344.

    Only the first and the last name on this list are new, Williams/West/Gibson weren’t enough last year. But if believe in those career numbers not suddenly dropping off a cliff, and that they’ll have a lot of space after LeBron or sometimes Shaq will draw their defender, I think they’ll be a bit improved in that regard.

  24. 25. You’re right, I don’t know why I had Carter in my head. Parker is a better shooter from three (my memory on him is not a great guy from the midrange) but he and Moon will help some there.

    Still, they had West and Gibson last year and couldn’t be consistent. We’ll see how much Parker helps, but I still think there are places you can attack the Cavs.

  25. Agreed, and who knows if they’ll even be there at the end. I’d put my money om Boston or Orlando as well.

  26. Welcome back Kurt. I was listening to am 710 yesterday and Jeanie Buss was stating how Jackson was mostly thinking of leaving because he felt that Rambis would succeed him but now that he’s gone she said she doesn’t imagine him leaving anytime soon. Not sure about that but if Jeanie says it then I’m sure it does have some inkling of truth.

    As for Pau Gasol, does anyone think he shouldn’t go for the FIBA tournament due to this injury? He’s out pretty much all of August, I believe Sept. 7th is the 1st game and then he reports to training came in October only a month away. I understand playing for ones country is a sense of nationalistic pride & honor but do any of you think it’s alright for the Lakers to ask him to sit this out?

    He is under contract by the Lakers and if he reinjures that finger then who knows how serious the injury would become and that’s detrimental to the teams success, any thoughts?

  27. My question about the Cavs is twofold:

    First, have their secondary players gained enough experience to play through the pressure of a deep playoff run. Sure Lebron, Gibson, and Big Z had been to the Finals before, but Williams and Delonte had not – I think that showed last season. So, have those guys learned the lessons needed to withstand the higher intensity? And also, now that they’ve added Moon and Parker (who both will be relied upon, assumingly) will those guys have the proper mentality to excel in those situations right out of the gate? Last years Lakers proved that teams/players can make that leap in one year, especially after a heartbreaking loss. Will the Cavs do the same?

    Second, against the Magic, the Cavs’ offensive principles broke down the team fell back into the “stand around and watch Lebron” offense that isn’t enough to get you to the top. The Magic really did force Lebron to carry the load and clamped down on the other Cavs – forcing the Cavs’ offense to suffer over the course of the series. Will the Cavs’ show enough diversity on offense to ensure that the same thing doesn’t happen this season? I have my doubts that Brown can muster up the offensive sets to accomplish this UNLESS Lebron has diversified his game more where his best option for getting his own shot isn’t a P&R or isolation drive from the top of the key. Lebron needs to establish a better post game and he needs to be a better mid-range shooter. Relying on freight train drives and three pointers (while incredibly effective for him; he is so damn good) doesn’t always generate the best *team* offense.

    Anyways, those are my questions on the Cavs. Are they ready for another deep run and will their role players have the offensive chops to break teams down and make them pay for singling Lebron (essentially an invitation for those other guys to beat them)?

  28. Kurt,
    I would be very surprised if Phil Jackson left championships on the table to fish in Montana. He isn’t in the business of leaving loaded teams in big cities with star players growing out like weeds. Not only does Rambis agree with me but so does Mitch Kupchack who said on the herd last week that he would be very surprised if Phil left a championship contending team.

    As far as Rambis leaving… would you think with our SSZ master now in Minny, the Lakers will play man to man with Artest now locking down SF’s?

  29. Anyone heard an update on Sasha’s knee? While we’re on the subject of (not that) big stories…

    Sure hope Sasha has a better season this year. Still can’t quite believe he went 0 for the Finals.

  30. 30. RE: the strong side zone, I think the reason it was put in place had less to do with our guys on the perimeter and more with our bigs missing help assignments. There was two parts to Pierce destroying us in the 08 finals — we couldn’t stop him on the wing and nobody protected the rim. With the current rules, Artest can slow and guide a Pierce/LeBron but nobody stops them without some help. The SSZ made the help decision for the bigs very simple, basically you always help and do it early. The perimeter defender just had to make sure he shaded the slasher to the help.

    That said, Phil has always preferred a straight man-to-man, and I’d bet he’d like to play it more and likely will. But remember that last season he admitted that the new way the rules are called with touch fouls/no hand checks on the perimeter forced the defensive change more than anything. Under the rules as currently called, no one man can lock down a Kobe/LeBron/Wade/Peirce/etc.

    As for PJ retiring, I agree he may well stick around. But I also don’t think he’s very predictable. Watching him hobble around, he clearly is in some pain, and so nothing he decides would shock me.

  31. I seriously doubt Rambis staying or going will effect PJ’s decision to stay or go in the slightest.

    I think Phil bases his decsions on what #1 (that’s Phil) wants to do.

  32. Phil’s limping around, but Jeannie Buss was talking about how he’s back on the motorcycle these days.

  33. One thing Rambis did was work with the “bigs” day in day out. He will need to be replaced. Kareem?

  34. anyone still wondering why Bill Simmons gets any respect at all should read his latest column on Big Papi and steroids a read:

  35. 35. The Lakers have said they do not intend to replace Rambis.

  36. 36- tsuwm. I agree, that’s one of the most insightful pieces on the steroids era I’ve seen. But there’s a subplot there, too. Bill mentioned something about equating the Sox getting swept by the Yanks last week to the Sox season being effectively over, even though they lead the wild card race. Two world series titles since 04, and Boston fans are still neurotic.

  37. Interesting, Kurt.

    They do have alot of very experienced assistant coaches who probably know everything there is to know, but they do have young bigs in Andrew, DJ and Powell.

    Well, Phil Jackson knows a heck of a lot more than I do …

  38. 10, re: defending against pgs, the lakers can turn a liability into an advantage by going to a bigger lineup. Let Kobe punish the Chris Pauls and Tony Parkers in the post.

  39. kobynum gasodom August 12, 2009 at 5:41 pm

    Kurt’s loss, isnt a deal at all, Pau’s finger isnt a big deal, but if his mid range suffers throughout the season, we arent the same team

  40. 40. we should’ve been doing that already with Kobe/Ariza back courts, we didn’t really have another adequate SF to go “big” with other than Luke (and there’s a reason why we never played the vaunted Bynum/Gasol/Odom front court, it doesn’t work)

    With Artest replacing Ariza, we really don’t have that option any more (although by default he gives us the “gone big” front court of Bynum/Gasol or Odom/Artest). I thought Kobe/Ariza was our best defensive solution to small guards, and now I have to hope for ShanWOW/Kobe with Artest and Odom providing lengthy switching nearer the rim, and Bynum or Gasol anchoring the last line.

  41. Rambis wanted 4 yrs because he was looking down the road, not at immediate success.

    Other coaches are wondering just how they will try to play the Lakers.

    And we are arguing about how many angels are on the head of a pin – i.e. will ShanWOW be enough of a defensive presence in our big lineup without Ariza?

    Maybe we all should go on vacation and start up again in October.

  42. 42,
    “and there’s a reason why we never played the vaunted Bynum/Gasol/Odom front court, it doesn’t work)”

    What? How do we know it doesn’t work? They played it for 1 minute in one preseason game. And it worked very well in that one minute.

    Phil said we didn’t go big last year in the backcourt because Trevor didn’t have guard skills. (he said Artest does btw). So I think we will see a Kobe and Artest backcourt pretty often next year.

  43. IF Phil does decide to walk away in the next few years, what do people think about the chance that Jeff Van Gundy could be brought in for 2 or 3 years to give Shaw a little bit more time on the bench before assuming the head job?

    I personally love Brian Shaw. He is among my top 5 favorite Lakers but considering how recently he retired I don’t think it would hurt to have him learn under a coach not named Phil Jackson.

    I’m sorry to see Rambo go but at the same time I’m happy for him to be given an opportunity with a team that has an intriguing and exciting future.

  44. 45. re Jeff Van Gundy as next Laker coach:

    re BShaw:

  45. yes travis, i was on the camp wanting him to go the lakers’ way. anything in addition that makes us better than pat is welcome to me.

    of course, i won’t go far as saying A.I. should backup kobe but should that happen you won’t see me crying foul or fearing for “chemistry issue” the same way i think ronron will work for us. we’re the lakers. that’s one of our pluses. GO LAKERS!

    nice point kurt. am interested to see man-on-man D this year and if it holds up. if only our boys were some levels quicker, man i’d love us playing pressure and causing havoc on the passing lanes.

  46. “Someone suggested that we should bubble wrap all the Lakers players for the rest of the summer to insure nobody gets injured. Sounds like a great idea. While we’re at it, let’s go one step further with Sasha and place him in a nice UPS box and ship him off as well – nicely bubble wrapped and all.”

  47. 40) going big is a terrible solution to the defensive weakness at PG. We turn one weak spot into 2, by forcing Kobe to guard PG’s and and LO to guard perimeter players.

    Yeah, the Bynum/Gasol/LO/Ron/Kobe lineup would be an offensive juggernaut, but our offense is potent enough as it is. Kobe can punish Manu and Mo Pete in the post just as well as he can punish Tony Parker and Chris Paul. I’d rather have Kobe guarded by a good defender than have Kobe chasing quick PG’s around.

  48. At this point in his career, Kobe only tries to play defense once every 5 possessions or so. Putting in the effort required to defend a quick PG for more than a minute is not something he will do. He himself said in “Kobe Doin’ Work” that he loves the “roamer” role, so it’s probability 0 that we’ll see the lineup of Kobe-Artest-Odom-Gasol-Bynum on the floor, ever, let alone going with it for multiple extended periods of time.

  49. Ever notice how lame the posts on RealGm are? Thank god for blue and gold.

  50. As I see it, Shannon Brown and Andrew Bynum have the opportunity to shore up every defensive weakness we have. The reason we struggle against penetrating PG’s is because A) they get by us, and B) our bigs have trouble rotating.

    Bynum will get his mobility back, but even healthy he has shown an inconsistency with timing his help rotations. This, I’m confident he can improve upon.

    If Shannon, with his length and superior quicks, can stay in front of the Parkers and Rondo’s more often than Fish/Farmar has shown in the past, not only will he take the starting job (IMO), he will also turn us into a top 2 or 3 defensive team.

  51. The Dude Abides August 13, 2009 at 10:21 am

    In this TrueHoop link, Jerry Stackhouse talks about his summer, and getting dunked on by 6-2 high schooler John Wall. He does mention that he himself blocked a couple dunk attempts in that same pickup game, including one dunk try by….Josh Powell. Ouch.

  52. in other ex-Laker news…
    anybody know the outcome of this-
    (except from the LA Times article)
    Shaquille O’Neal spent Sunday afternoon at Hermosa Beach playing volleyball against a pair of Olympic gold medalists. It was for his ABC reality show, “Shaq vs.,” and the deal was, if O’Neal and gold medalist Todd Rogers lost to Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh, the NBA center would dash down the beach in a pink Speedo.

    just curious if he won or not, cause of the bet he made…I’m just saying, that’s got to be news.

  53. hahaha!! Shaq has got to be one of the best entertainers of his generation. He knows how to draw us in.

  54. Shaq swims against Michael Phelps in one episode, so you may get your Shaq in a Speedo wish either way. I just threw up in my mouth a little.

  55. I’d love it if Stack were willing to sign with LA for the absolute minimum.

    He would be handiest 12th man in recent NBA history – particularly if Kobe or Ron have any injury woes.

  56. Shaq should wear the polyeurthane (sp?) full body suit to troll Phelps

  57. Supposedly Shaq’s show contacted Tony Hawk about a skateboarding challenge but the Cavs wouldn’t let him do it. Not sure how true that is, but the idea of Shaq on a skateboard is kind of funny. He would probably break the board.

  58. I think this is Rambis going down to the D-league to cut his teeth, and we got at least 4/5 more years of Phil, until he slides over to Tex’s chair to mentor his buddy.

  59. is there any chance of the lakers signing bruce bowen, since they let sun yu go?

  60. The Lakers have said they are not adding anyone to the roster. Plus, Bowen was let go for a reason, he is not that Bruce Bowen anymore.

  61. I wish Rambis tons of luck and success, but I never saw him as a future Laker coach.

    He lacks gravitas. That magical quality that makes people stop talking and listen. A serious demeanor. He is too much one of the boys. A coach has to change players’ attitudes, create a climate where they will leave their comfort zone and take risks, put the team first. Charisma, whatever you want to call it.

    Minnesota and young players is the best place for Rambis to start.

    Remember even West and Magic couldn’t coach the Lakers. LA is a tough town.