Below is a collection of summaries of the end of the season Exit Interviews from the Lakers players and executives. Mike Trudell of Basket Blog put all of these summaries together over at Lakers.com. I had a few more links I would have liked to share, but I’m currently traveling through a mountain range and I’m not sure if my internet connection will hold up long enough for me to post them all. Also, I couldn’t find an Exit Interview from Josh Powell. I’ll get that to you guys as soon as one surfaces. Enjoy.
Phil Jackson: Nearly a week after Phil Jackson won his record 11th NBA coaching championship, he revealed that Game 7 against Boston may have been his last as coach of the Lakers.“I’m leaning towards retiring but I haven’t made up my mind yet,” he said. In his season-ending interview with the press after completing all but one of the organization’s exit interviews with players, Jackson said that he’d make a final decision by the end of next week.
Mitch Kupchak: Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak put together quite a team in Los Angeles, as witnessed by three straight trips to the NBA Finals, two straight championships and a core group in place to contend into the near future. He shared his thoughts about the 2009-10 season, Phil Jackson, some of the team’s players and more with the media:- (On the season): “Suffice to say we had a story book ending to a season that started out very promising. It was a wonderful run during the playoffs. I think the Oklahoma City series, to a degree, woke up a team that wasn’t ready to play their best basketball. I thought our team responded and played our best basketball going forward.”
Kobe Bryant: It wasn’t a bad 2009-10 for Kobe Bryant, who capped another All-Star and All-NBA First Team (not to mention All Defensive First Team) campaign with his second Finals MVP award and fifth championship. Bryant averaged 27 points, 5.4, 5.0 assists and 1.55 steals in the regular season, and 29.2 points, 6.0 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.35 steals in the postseason. Below is a summary of his exit interview comments: – Some World Cup banter to open: “I missed the (Landon Donovan of Team USA) goal in the 90th minute because I was coming down here. But I watched it.”
Derek Fisher: For the fifth straight season and seventh time in eight years, Derek Fisher played in all 82 regular season games, then went on to play his best basketball of 2009-10 in the playoffs. Fisher nailed a dagger three-pointer to beat Utah in Game 3 of Round 2, scored 11 huge points to carry L.A. to a Game 3 win in Boston and hit a game-tying three late in the fourth quarter of L.A.’s Finals-clinching Game 7 victory. Fisher averaged 7.5 points on 38 percent shooting with 2.5 assists in 27.2 regular season minutes per game, and went up to 10.3 points on 44.8 percent from the field with 2.8 assists in 32.8 postseason minutes.
Pau Gasol: Pau Gasol had a fantastic 2009-10 season for the Lakers, emerging into perhaps the NBA’s best all-around big man while helping Kobe Bryant lead L.A. to its third straight Finals appearance and second straight championship. The Spaniard, who again made the All-Star team and was named to the All-NBA Third Team despite missing 17 games with two different hamstring strains, averaged 18.3 points, 11.3 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.74 blocks on 53.6 percent shooting in the regular season and 19.6 points, 11.1 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.09 blocks on 53.9 percent shooting in the playoffs.
Andrew Bynum: Perhaps no Lakers player matured more during the 2009-10 campaign than Andrew Bynum, who battled through a painful right knee injury throughout the playoffs while giving the Lakers the paint presence they needed at both ends. Bynum averaged 15.0 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.45 blocks on 57 percent shooting in 30 minutes per game in a mostly-healthy regular season (he played 65 games and suffered a strained Achilles injury), then contributed 8.6 points and 6.9 rebounds with 1.57 blocks in 24 minutes per playoff game.
Ron Artest: Ron Artest saved his best games for when L.A. needed them most in the 2010 playoffs, putting up 20-5-5 while limiting Paul Pierce in the clinching Game 7 of the Finals, scoring 25 points in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals and tipping in the game winner of Game 5 against Phoenix, not to mention defending the opponent’s best offensive threat throughout. He averaged 11.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.4 steals in the regular season, and 11.2 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.5 steals in a postseason in which his primary responsibility was on D.
Lamar Odom: Lakers forward Lamar Odom averaged 10.8 points and 9.8 rebounds with 3.3 assists in the regular season, and 9.7 points with 8.6 boards and 2.0 assists in the postseason en route to his second straight championship. Odom’s defense was strong throughout the season, particularly late in games, capped by a terrific effort in L.A.’s championship-clinching Game 7, part of the reason he said he was so tired that he could fall asleep in his chair while doing the interview.
Luke Walton: While winning the team championship of course made the 2010 campaign an ultimate success for every Lakers player, Luke Walton’s season was a difficult one from a personal standpoint as he was limited to only 27 regular season games and limited action in 16 playoff games due to his back injury. Walton managed only 9.4 minutes in the regular season games in which he did appear, averaging 2.4 points and 1.4 assists, and is primarily focused upon getting his back right for the 2010-2011 campaign.
Jordan Farmar: Jordan Farmar posted averages of 7.2 points and 1.5 assists while leading the Lakers in three-point shooting (37.6 percent) in 18 minutes per game, and offered 4.6 points and 1.4 assists in 13 playoff minutes. Farmar’s exit interview, however, dealt mostly with the fact that he’s a restricted free agent and will have the opportunity to sign a contract with any NBA team on July 1. Since he is restricted, the Lakers could match any offer he receives if they so choose.
Sasha Vujacic: Sasha Vujacic battled various minor injuries throughout the 2009-10 season and struggled to get into a rhythm, playing only 8.6 minutes per game in the regular season to average 2.8 points and 1.2 rebounds. He missed the first two rounds of the playoffs after suffering a severely sprained ankle in L.A.’s regular season finale, but had his best game of the playoffs in Game 6 of the Finals, scoring nine points in 14 minutes off the bench.
Shannon Brown: Shannon Brown averaged 7.6 minutes in the 2008-09 regular season after getting traded to L.A. in February, then 13 minutes during the 2009 playoffs before jumping up to 20.7 minutes in the 2009-10 regular season, averaging 8.1 points and 2.2 rebounds. In the playoffs, his minutes dipped back to around 14 per contest as Kobe Bryant and Ron Artest played the vast majority of the time, and Brown averaged 4.9 points off the bench. Brown has the option of opting out of a two-year contract he signed prior to the 2009-10 campaign.
D.J. Mbenga: DJ Mbenga appeared in 49 regular season games, starting two, and three playoff games, offering relief duty particularly during the points of 2009-10 in which Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol missed time with respective injuries. In 355 total regular season minutes (7.2 per game), Mbenga blocked 29 shots (.59 per game), adding 2.1 points and 1.8 rebounds per game.
Adam Morrison: Adam Morrison saw action in only 31 regular season and two playoff games, scoring a total of 82 points. Acquired along with Shannon Brown in February of 2009, Morrison won two rings with the Lakers, but was never able to garner significant playing time heading into free agency. Below is a summary of his exit interview: – (On his experience with the team): “It was cool. It was tough not playing as much, at all really, but being a part of the team was fun. Being with the group of guys we had was cool.”
UPDATE: I’ve also got a few extra links that I’d like to share. -Darius
*At this point in his career, we’re all pretty familiar with the lengths Kobe will go to in order to prepare for an opponent. In the 2009 playoffs, there were stories of Kobe calling on legendary trainer Tim Grover to travel with him on the road to ensure that his peak physical condition could be maintained through the victory over the Magic. Well, this season Kobe called on one of Grover’s partners (who just so happened to be a former Celtic employee) to get him the advanced scouting information that helped him prepare for the rigors of facing the Celtic’s defense.
*We often hear about all the work the players do to improve their game or to prepare to play (like the previous story on Kobe). And as fans, we all appreciate that work because of how it leads to the wins that we celebrate. But players can inspire off the court as well. Check out this feel good and inspirational story between a young child and Pau Gasol that was passed on to me by the fine folks at drawthedog.com.
*Lastly, today is a day where all Lakers’ fans are concerned about what the future of Phil Jackson will be. There are plenty of great pieces out there, but check out Kevin Ding’s take on why he thinks Phil is actually riding off into the sunset, Dave McMenamin’s summary of yesterday’s interview with the press corps, and Lee Jenkin’s excellent piece on what the questionable future of Phil means for the future of the Lakers team.