Archives For July 2010

Yesterday the Lakers played their first game of the Vegas Summer League against the Detroit Pistons, losing 89-85 to the summer squad from the motor city.  And while we all know it’s never safe to take too much from the games that happen in July, a few of the prospects on this years’ team looked good.  Below are some of my thoughts on what I saw:

Devin Ebanks: The WVU product has a reputation as a long athlete that excels at defense while also having a feel for finding open spaces on offense.  In game one, I saw some of these traits on display but was left looking for more in others.  On the positive side, Ebanks is definitely a plus athlete with long limbs that enable him to change ends quickly and get to loose balls.  He does seem to have a feel for finding creases in the defense as a slasher and showed good ability to finish in the lane on both the break and in the half court.  I was especially impressed with his body control around the bucket as on more than one occasion he was able to make difficult finishes look routine by turning his body to avoid defenders or take the hit and still get up a good look.  He also showed good instincts by collecting 2 steals and I was pleased with the way that he went to the glass, his rebound total (2) notwithstanding.

On the negative side, his on ball defense wasn’t too impressive.  He seemed overly reliant on his reach/length to disrupt plays and was often caught out of position and tried to reach to make up for being beat.  His ability to change of direction seemed only average and he showed a want to over help at times.  Some of these things should (and likely will) be corrected with more coaching and I also got the impression that some of his actions were based off instincts born from playing with an undersized group in college.  Remember, Ebanks was one of the better rebounders on his team and his height was surely something his coaches asked him to take advantage of by being a helper in the paint.  If he’s to be a productive defensive player in the league – and especially on the Lakers – he’ll need to understand that he has big men behind him to protect the basket and he’ll need to pressure ball handlers more on the wing while not sagging as much when off the ball.

Overall, I was pleased that he shot the ball efficiently (9-16) and that he rarely seemed to force the action when he had the ball in his hands.  He made one of his three attempts from 3 point range and he looked comfortable with the ball in his hands.  Obviously one game doesn’t make me think he’s suddenly going to be a contributor, but I do think his size and skill set match what the Lakers need and that he didn’t hurt himself at all with his performance.  If anything, he showed that he can have a role on the Lakers as a slasher that finds the gaps in the defense that are sure to be there when Kobe/Pau/Bynum/Odom/Artest are in the game.  And as a defender, while needing some work, I still think he’s got the body and athletic ability to be a very good perimeter stopper-type.  We’ll see if he can duplicate his offensive performance and pick up his defensive performance against Denver this afternoon.

Derrick Caracter: Coming into these games the word on Caracter was that he had first round talent but his attitude may cost him a spot in this league.  In his roundup from day 1 of the summer league, Kevin Arnovitz of TrueHoop quoted David Thorpe when discussing Caracter:

“His nine fouls show how aggressively he moved around the floor. He looked like he was in good shape — very nimble and agile. He was composed around the basket with both his left and right hand, but he doesn’t have a plan in the post yet. Still, he played with great attentiveness and a willingness to share the ball. Bottom line: He looked like a first-rounder.”

And really, I agree with Thorpe as Caracter did look like a first rounder out there.  He played with poise and with an above average skill level.  He knew how to get position in the post and looked very natural playing with his back to the basket.  He showed a nice jump hook with both hands to the middle of the floor and rebounded the ball well.  I thought he also showed very good outlet passing (an underrated trait) and initiated several running opportunities by picking out guards racing up the floor with on target heaves.  Overall, I think his offense is NBA ready.

However, his defense is not.  In an email exchange I had with Phillip, he told me that Caracter “looked disinterested at times” and I couldn’t agree more with that sentiment.  He sometimes jogged into recovery position after showing on the P&R and he didn’t always rotate well when trying to seal off the penetration of the opposing guards.  However, these are mistakes that a lot of players make every day in the big boys league, so it’s not time to sound the alarm.  Plus, there wasn’t a chronic lack of hustle from Caracter, there were just a few times that you could tell he wasn’t going hard.  Maybe his high minutes total had something to do with it as he played nearly 36 of the possible 40 minutes.  Like Ebanks, I’d like to see if Caracter can carry over the positives from his game performance (efficient shooting, above average rebounding) into game 2 while picking up his defensive effort and effectiveness.

Everyone else: The other players that impressed me were DJ Strawberry and Ibrahim Jaaber.  Both of these guys played to their strengths and played hard.  And while both players showed limited upside as shooters, they both excelled in different areas on offense.  Strawberry, like Ebanks, worked well off the ball and was a very good attack player with the rock in his hands.  He drove aggressively to the hoop and earned himself a team high 7 attempts from the foul line.  Jaaber, meanwhile, ran the offense well and showed his chops as a PG that can organize a team, handle defensive ball pressure, and play with poise in both the open court in when initiating half court sets.

As for the NBA names that we know, Rob Kurz played well scoring 11 points and grabbing 7 boards in his 24 minutes.  He showed a better feel around the basket than I anticipated and showed good instincts when going to the offensive glass.  I still see him as a bit of a tweener PF, but I thought he showed that he’s still an NBA level player – albeit an end of the bench guy.  As for Gerald Green…meh.  I just didn’t see any growth in his game from the last time we saw him.  Yes the athleticism is still there but so is the lack of awareness and poor feel for the game.  I really do think he’s one of those preps to pros players that really could have benefited from college coaching where he could have learned to utilize his ability in a productive way or found a niche where he could be successful in a way that translates to the pros.  Right now he still doesn’t seem to get it and I’m not sure he ever will.

As mentioned above the Lakers resume their summer league play this afternoon against Denver at 3pm here on the west coast.  We’ll get you more thoughts on that game after the results and hope to have some video up in the next couple of days with some examples of what we’re talking about in the reviews.

Fast Break Thoughts

Darius Soriano —  July 9, 2010

LeBron James (L) of the Cleveland Cavaliers shoots as Dwayne Wade of the Miami Heat watches during practice for the National Basketball Association All-Star game in New Orleans, Louisiana in this February 16, 2008 file photo. James said Thursday he is leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers to join forces with fellow All-Stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh at the Miami Heat next season in the hope of winning an elusive NBA championship.   REUTERS/Jeff Haynes (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

There’s a bit too much on my mind to offer any sigular idea today.  So, you get some fast break thoughts on Summer League, Lebron, and the future prospects of the Heat…

*The Lakers have their first Summer League game today in Las Vegas so we finally get a chance to see the Lakers two 2nd round picks playing actual basketball against other pro-quality players.  If you haven’t bought the NBA’s Summer League Broadband service you can actually watch the Lakers vs. the Pistons at 5pm (PT) online via ESPN at this link.  I won’t say the game itself will be entertaining, but it will be interesting to see if Ebanks and Caracter can perform well and if any of the other pick ups show enough promise tonight (and in future games) to maybe earn and invite to training camp.  If you’d like to know more about the Lakers’ roster, check out Land O’ Lakers’ breakdown of the team or Silver Screen and Roll’s take on what the summer sqaud has to offer us Lakers’ fans.  Personally, I don’t think any of the Lakers’ pickups (outside of the draft picks) are going to make the team, but I’ll still be watching intently because the Lakers still do have some holes to fill and one of these guys may be the inexpensive player that shows enough promise to get picked up.

*I really can’t say anything about Lebron’s decision that hasn’t already been said, but I’ll give my two cents anyway.  First of all, I thought Phillip had an excellent take on the subject this morning and if you haven’t read it, you should stop and go that now.  As for what I think, I look at the desicion two ways – from a basketball standpoint, I think he did the right thing.  Lebron went to the place where he thinks he can get the players and can play for an organization with great owners, a very successful GM in place, and two of the best players in the league to flank him. Some may want to disparage him for that, but I won’t do it. He’s giving himself what he (presumably thinks) is the best chance to win. And while his singular ability would likely give him that chance anywhere, if given the option to choose your teammates and you know who is really great and who is merely really good, I think I too may choose the guys that are really great and see where that takes me. Why should we expect a guy to put himself in a situation where he’s potentially less likely to be successful based his own judgements? So he can prove his own greatness? Based off what many have already said about him and his outsized ego, he already thinks he’s the cow’s milk so do we really believe he thinks he has to prove anything to anyone? Based off what he’s said, winning matters most and based off how fans respond, he’s right. And on a side note, we consistently have said that Kobe’s great and that those who tried to discount his performances and contributions during the Shaq era were fools. And we’d be right to call those people fools. I don’t care what trumped up stories the media throws out there, Kobe was a champion before 2009 and he was integral to those teams. If he retired with only three titles because he never had another team good enough to win, I wouldn’t have thought any less of him. So, at this point, I’m not going to say that Lebron is less a player because he’s on “Wade’s team” and they happen to win a title. I’m pretty damned sure if the Heat end up winning with this group, Lebron will have a big hand in why it happened. The man is a great, great player and trying to tear him down or make him seem less of a talent comes off as petty to me. As fans of one of the most divisive players of the last 25 years (that guy that wears #24), I would think we’d understand this phenomenon best.

But from the standpoint of how the decision was made – the one hour special, the Jim Gray interview, etc – I thought it was a poor decision and it made me feel awful for the Cavs and their fans.  The people that root for that organization and the employees of that franchise got kicked in the stomach on national television and it didn’t need to be that way at all.  Lebron chose to advertise himself and turn his leaving the Cavs into a spectacle.  It was done behind the good will of charity and seemingly with no malice intended, but in the end I can’t agree with the way this played out nor with how it was presented to the viewing public.  A simple press conference with his new team with a heads up to the Cavs that he was leaving would have been a more mature way to handle this situation, but that’s just my two cents.  In the end, I think Lebron could have saved a lot of people some grief and torment and the reactions that he’s receiving right now would not be nearly as harsh.  So, yeah, I wouldn’t have done it this way.

*As for the Heat as a team moving forward, even though Lebron, Wade, and Bosh gave us their answers, I’m still left with more questions.  I’m interested in which players fill out the roster.  Can they get the shooting necessary to flank their big three?  The signing of Mike Miller would be a good start, but he’s only one player and they’ll need more than just him.  Can they find the types of defensive minded big men who can protect the paint, rebound, and play selfless basketball in the name of the greater success of the team?  Those guys don’t grow on trees and every team in the league is looking for more of those guys.  The market for those players has exploded to the point that Brendan Haywood got over $50 million and Shaq is receiving interest from multiple teams for the full mid-level.  Even guys like Jermaine O’Neal and Brad Miller will likely command more than minimum salaries.  So, I have my doubts Miami will find the big men they need to effectively ensure that Bosh is not on an island defending the likes of Dwight Howard, Yao Ming, Pau, Bynum, etc – at least next season.

I also have questions about the X’s and O’s that will be employed by Coach Spoelstra.  By all accounts he’s a very good coach that will take advantage of these players’ fantastic gifts.  However, there is some duplication in Lebron and Wade’s respective games and it will be interesting how this all comes together and what plays/schemes will be used to ensure that both of these players excel.  The first comparison that comes up when discussing Wade/Lebron is Jordan/Pippen.  However, it must be noted that those two had their greatest success running a read and react system where they were used in a variety of areas on the court and developed their games to the point that they were effective attacking from nearly every position on the floor.  Whether it was shooting from the perimeter, posting up, driving to the basket, or slashing off the ball Jordan/Pippen developed games to match the needs of the system.  And despite the greatness of Lebron and Wade, they’re not that well rounded yet.  Both have been mostly isolation players or ball handlers in the P&R for most of their careers and have been the primary offensive creators for their teams.  Both have good mid-range games (Wade’s is superior to Lebron’s) and both are okay three point shooters (and that may be generous).  So, since both players excel at driving the ball, it will be interesting to see how their games diversify or how the schemes employed ask them to grow their games in order to better mesh.  I don’t have concerns about chemistry because both players are unselfish and have typically made the right basketball play when on the court.  But finding the right sets to get the most out of them will be an issue that needs to be resolved.  And I haven’t even mentioned Bosh yet and how his particular skill set as a turn and face post player vs. being a traditional banger probably means fewer double teams on the post and a heavier reliance on either P&R’s or isolations to get him going.  Which brings me back to what scheme is going to work best for everyone.  There’s a lot of talent in these three but cultivating it to the point that it flourishes is on the head coach and we’ll just have to see how it goes.

July 08, 2010 - Greenwich, CONNECTICUT, United States - epa02241970 Photo made from television screen showing LeBron James (L), NBA's reigning two-time MVP, as he ends months of speculation and announces 08 July 2010 on ESPN 'The Decision' in Greenwich, Connecticut, USA, that he will go to the Miami Heat where he will play basketball next 2010-11 season. James said his decision was based on the fact that he wanted to play with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

They ended up with that split-screen of the King’s jersey burned live on his infomercial, as this sad, lost robot sat in a leafy suburban gymnasium with children as props and the world watching, those empty eyes masking a lost, dazed LeBron James. This was the champagne shower for the Championship of Me, an exercise in self-aggrandizement and self-loathing that will have far-reaching implications for the NBA and James. What a spectacle, what a train wreck.

As the worst idea in the history of marketing unfolded, James looked trapped somewhere between despondence and defiance. His bumbling buddy Maverick Carter had walked him into the public execution of his legacy, his image, and there was a part of James that clearly wished he could turn back through the doors and hide. Only, it was too late. No going back now. James goes to the Miami Heat, Cleveland goes into a basketball Hades and LeBron’s legacy becomes that of a callous carpetbagger.

-Yahoo! Sports, Adrian Wojnarowski

It took me a while to make sense of this whole LeBron James debacle. I couldn’t stand the fact that he was taking a full one-hour segment on ESPN just to announce a decision. I thought this whole thing had been over blown and over hyped. And when he finally made his decision, my knee jerk reaction on twitter was not of kind words. However, now that I’ve had some time to sleep on it, I’ve realized that LeBron James’ decision was not so bad. In fact, I think he might have made the right move for him. As much as I want to share the sentiments of Wojnarowski, I just don’t. I don’t necessarily like the way he went about letting people know his decision, but I can’t be mad at him for joining the Miami Heat.

The reality of it is, this was one of the most culturally relevant decisions in sports history. It didn’t really change the balance of power in the NBA as much as it changed the balance of power between star athletes and everyone else – including owners, general managers, coaches and fans. One man, LeBron James, held the basketball world in the palm of his hand for months. There were grown men begging for him to join his respective city, creating custom made cartoons, Soprano’s episodes, songs were written, rallies were thrown and for what? For LeBron [bleeping] James. Can we be mad at the way he decided to let the world know where he would play next season? Sure. But should we? Not at all. For there to be a “king”, there have to be subjects willing to bow down – and during the course of LeBron’s basketball career, from high school to the NBA, we’ve seen a fair share of people bow down in the name of LeBron James.

Again, I’m not mad at him, I’m intrigued by the possibilities. Not just by this upcoming Heat season, but for seasons to follow. Yes, I think following the Heat will be absolutely fascinating, but following how star players build their own teams from now one will be more fascinating. If star players were watching this free agency period, and I know they were, I believe that we’re only scratching the surface of something quite revolutionary – players building their own teams. Amar’e Stoudemire has already said that he’ll be reaching out to Carmelo Anthony to join him on the Knicks next season. Chris Paul will have an interesting decision to make when his contract comes up and the same for all of the high marquee players. What this free agency period has taught us is that general managers are willing to clear cap space for star basketball players, and will overspend on others when they realize that they’re not going to get the star.

The fact of the matter is, what LeBron James did is not worthy of crucifixion. All he did was rip the collective hearts out of the Cleveland fan base, he ripped the hearts out of the people of his home town. And to me, that’s not a big deal. As a Lakers fan, I can respect that sense of ruthlessness, because it was Kobe Bryant who admittedly said that he wanted to rip the collective hearts out of Philadelphia back in 2001. You need to be that kind of ruthless to win NBA Titles. Look back at past champions, the Kobes, the Duncans, the Jordans, the Magics and Birds – they all showed no mercy, and it didn’t matter who was on the other side of the ball. It was all about winning for these guys, and now for LeBron, it has become all about winning. He has combined with the two best teammates he possibly could while sacrificing millions of dollars in the process, destroying his brand and adding a “yeah, but” in the minds of millions of fans if he does eventually end up winning the big one. But now, more than ever, he does have that chance. And to this point, Pro Basketball Talk’s John Krolic says it best:

Obviously, that wasn’t what happened, and all of a sudden there was no getting around the truth: LeBron James had failed. He had all the tools to win a championship at his disposal, and he ended up failing miserably. LeBron James was supposed to be the next golden boy of the NBA. He will never be that player, and that would have been true regardless of what team LeBron decided to go to. LeBron James, Golden Boy died the moment LeBron lost to the Celtics in this year’s playoffs. The decision LeBron made on Thursday night was nothing more than LeBron’s acknowledgement of that reality.

For the first seven years of his career, LeBron James desperately wanted to be all things to all people. He wanted to be the hometown kid who loved his town, loved his mom, but could still be a global icon. He wanted to be a team-first player while also establishing himself as a dominant individual force. He wanted to be a goofy kid and the NBA’s big man on campus. After he failed to deliver a championship, his all-encompassing persona didn’t work for anybody anymore. You can’t please everybody all the time, especially if you don’t have a championship. Somewhere along the line, LeBron realized that.

… LeBron James has left his hometown, and did it during a one-hour television special celebrating his move to greener pastures. He is trying to take the easy way to a championship. He’s given up his hometown and his undisputed alpha dog status in order to give himself an easier path to the rings he was supposedly destined to earned. He is a quitter. He is an egomaniac. He is every bad thing that you want him to be.

And this is where we stand in this LeBron James ordeal. Yes, he essentially stabbed Cleveland in the back. Yes, he added a new level of ego-centralism by having a one hour show on ESPN to announce his decision and yes, he joined Dwyane Wade’s team effectively killing his opportunity to win as “the man,” but he now has an opportunity to win. And in the history books, a champion is a champion. If he does go on to win one, that’s what he’ll be. A lot of us will always have that “he didn’t win one alone” argument in our back pockets when the ubiquitous Kobe v. LeBron debate comes along, but in reality, no one ever has. LeBron felt that this was the right team for him, and there is no reason to fault him for that.

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Sources tell me there’s an announcement special airing tonight and in this program a famous basketball player is going to decide where he wants to play basketball for the foreseeable future.  This was confirmed by me checking my cable box and actually seeing that it will be on tv. 

Honestly, I’ve avoided writing about Lebron because I really don’t have much to say on the matter.  I think he’s a fantastic player who happens to be a highly sought after free agent.  In this regard, he’s no different than Shaq in ’96.  And just like Shaq, his decision is newsworthy as I think Lebron’s decision will have a big impact on the league (hence a post at this site about him).  Again, he’s one of the best players in the world (and arguably the best player if evaluating solely on physical ability and statistical dominance) and whatever team he joins will be vastly improved if only because he’s now on that roster.  He’s one of the few players that instantly makes a team a contender.  You can talk about his playoff flameouts or the limitations in his game, but in the end this is a player that took the Cleveland Cavs from the cellar to a championship level team.  And while James has not reached the peak of the sport, he’s done very well in working his way up the mountain.

So, tonight I’ll be watching where he goes and doing so with interest.  Because whether he joins Wade and Bosh in Miami, Amar’e and D’Antoni in New York, or stays home in Cleveland, some team is getting (or keeping) a fantastic player tonight.  A player that the Lakers may actually see in an NBA Finals in the next year or two.  A player that I like to watch, even if I may not enjoy the circus or the spectacle surrounding his persona. 

And I have a feeling that a lot of you will be watching too.  This should be interesting if only because this has been the biggest NBA story this entire season – outside of the Lakers winning their second consecutive NBA championship (it never gets old typing that) – and tonight it comes to a head with a decision.  On a related note, there have been some very good pieces on Lebron today, but few are better than what David Thorpe told TrueHoop about the potential success of a Heat team with Lebron, Wade, and Bosh or the piece that Andy Kamenetzky wrote at Land O’ Lakers on the focus, after tonight, now shifting from Lebron’s free agency to his success in winning titles.  Give them both a read as they’re both worth your time.  And let me know if you’ll be watching in the comments.

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Forum Blue & Gold takes a look at the Lakers’ own version of the Energizer Bunny—Sasha Vujacic. Check out Phillip’s post for Sasha’s comments from his exit interview.


“I knew we were about to win the game,” said Vujacic after Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals. “We didn’t want to give them a chance to come back or make some crazy shots. I had to make two free throws. I did it.”

From hero to zero…back to hero? To say Sasha Vujacic’s last three seasons have been a roller coaster ride would be an understatement; the Slovenian guard has gone from playing a major role on the self-dubbed “bench mob” during the Lakers 2008 title run to barely having any impact at all during the last two seasons. That is, until his two clutch free throws with 11.7 seconds to go in Game 7 preserved a Lakers victory over the hated Celtics. I vividly remember a January game during the 2006-07 season against the Dallas Mavericks when Sasha lit up the Mavs to end what was a 13-game winning streak. Despite posting a horrible shooting percentage for most of that season, Sasha attributed his unwavering confidence for his unexpected 16-point outburst and go-ahead three-pointer with less than 30 seconds to go in the game. It is this same confidence that allowed the 26 year-old to calmly step to the free throw line this year with a championship on the line.

“That’s what I live for,” said Vujacic. “As a little kid, as a professional athlete…as someone that loves the game of basketball, I’ve got an opportunity to go out there and I knew they were going to foul me and I just live for the moments like that.”

Two free throws in Game 7 of the Finals can make you forget many things, but make no mistake about it—Vujacic struggled mightily for much of the regular season and playoffs. Sasha averaged just three points per game in 9 minutes of play over 67 games. More importantly, he fell out of favor with the coaching staff, with his minutes instead going to the likes of Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmar. Toward the end of the season though, he appeared to have turned a corner with a string of solid outings in the season’s final two weeks. Unfortunately, Vujacic’s improved play was short-lived as he suffered a bad ankle sprain in the regular season finale against the Clippers that left him in street clothes during the first two rounds of the playoffs. Give Sasha credit for refusing to accept the fate of his poor season though as he returned with a vengeance (emotionally speaking, anyway) that led to an on-court sparring with Suns’ guard Goran Dragic in Game 6 of the Conference Finals. Despite bearing the wrath of his teammates over the incident, he maintained his composure when it mattered most in the Finals and his season ended on a memorable up-note.


It probably goes without saying at this point, but his two free throws to close out the Lakers’ sixteenth championship were just as important as Artest’s huge three-pointer and the team’s other clutch plays in the dramatic final minute of Game 7.


Kobe Bryant has notoriously come down hard on Vujacic throughout his Lakers tenure—not for his work ethic, but for his often-questionable decision-making on the court. In fact, if you ask any of his teammates, they will tell you that Sasha is one of the hardest working players on the team. While that has not led to consistent success in live games, “The Machine,” who is entering the final year of his contract, will once again look to prove his worth to the team in 2010-11.

“It’s no secret,” said Vujacic in a recent interview when discussing his contract status. “Not only for myself, but I really want to do good for the team. The team wants it.”

Looking ahead to next season, the hope is that Sasha will be able to harness the confidence gained from sinking the two biggest shots of his life into a renewed sense of consistency. The team expects Vujacic to play his usual brand of pesky defense, but if he wants to see extended playing time at either guard slot, he’ll need to improve his shot selection too. With the addition of Steve Blake, along with the anticipated signing of Derek Fisher and possible departure of Shannon Brown, Sasha will certainly have an opportunity to spell Kobe at the two spot. If the Lakers are not able to reach an agreement with Fisher, there will be an even greater need at backup point guard—a challenge Vujacic says he is ready to accept.

“I love it; I’m not going to lie to you,” said Vujacic about seeing more time at the point. “It’s a big responsibility…I’m up for the challenge.”

Regardless of the capacity in which he will be used next season, steady play from Sasha would go a long way toward reestablishing the bench mob that propelled the Lakers to a Finals run in 2008. Championship moxie is an underrated quality in the league and it is something that Vujacic can now lay claim to. Sasha’s primary task next season will be to find a way to translate that invaluable experience onto the court.

It’s Mailbag Time

Darius Soriano —  July 7, 2010

May 04, 2010 - Los Angeles, California, U.S. - Los Angeles Lakers head coach PHIL JACKSON (center), assistant coaches BRIAN SHAW (L) and FRANK HAMBLEN in the Game 2 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series. The Lakers won 111-103.

Welcome to FB&G’s first attempt at a mailbag.  Thanks to all of you that submitted questions.  If you’d like to submit a question for future installments just send me an email and put “mailbag question” in the subject line.  Here we go…

Do you see a possibility of Phil sliding into a Tex Winter type role after next year?  Come in during training camp and a couple times during the season to help out and tweak things.  Or is the personality going to be so strong and Shaw still trying to establish himself that it would be a bad idea?  Or at least not the first year of Shaw being the head man.  But the second year.  Phil had no problem acknowledging that Tex mentored him right from the get go.  It’d be an interesting proposition.


While I think Phil will have some sort of role with the Lakers after he’s finished coaching, I don’t think he’ll be a “Tex Winter” type of advisor to Brian Shaw.  Remember, Tex was very visible in practices and behind the bench and his voice was heard consistently while his health permitted him to be part of the team.  I hope that Phil would make himself available as a resource to Shaw (assuming Brian is the man chosen to replace Phil), but I think those communications would happen behind the scenes, not in practices or in training camp.  In the end, I think Phil taking too active a role after his retirement from coaching would be a bit of a conflict for the players and could potentially undermine Shaw’s role as the head man.  Remember too that by the end of next season, Shaw will have just completed his 6th season as an assistant to Jackson.  He’ll likely have learned as much as possible from Phil in terms of schemes and tactics and it will then be up to Shaw to take what he’s learned and incorporate that into his own coaching style.  From everything I’ve read, Shaw has the respect and ear of the players so his message should be well received.  It’s just a matter of his message and guidance then producing results.  And while I have confidence in Shaw as a head man, we’ll see how he does when that day comes.

If Ron Artest plays at more or less the same level as he did in Game 7, is any team going to be able to beat the Lakers if they stay healthy?


If Ron plays at his game 7 level, no, the Lakers can’t be beaten with an otherwise healthy roster.  That said, I don’t think the Lakers are going to get that type of performance consistently from Ron.  In that game, Ron not only played excellent defense (which is a given) but his jumper was falling (for the most part) and he was making the type of instinctive basketball plays – at least on offense – that he hadn’t for most of the year.  Playing at that level consistently is difficult when the opportunities are packaged to fit a role player.  What I mean by that is, in game 7 Ron took 18 shots which was his high FGA for the season and in the future, I think he’ll still be slotted behind Kobe, Pau, and Bynum and will have to continue to try and do more with less.  However, I do believe that Ron will improve in future seasons and we’ll see better efficiency in his shooting numbers and a greater understanding of how to play within the Triangle.  That may not equate to a “game 7 level  performance” all the time, but I think we’ll see less extremes in performance where Artest gains consistency.  Which, in the end, will mean an even stronger Lakers team.

There has been a movement throughout the NBA to look past traditional statistics and look deeper into what the numbers mean. Many teams are adopting ABPRMetrics, such  as the Rockets, Mavs, Nuggetsand Trailblazers, even going as far as to employ a statistician on staff. Then there are teams that are “old school” and rely almost solely on the word of scouts. Which camp do the Lakers fall into, or is it somewhere in between?


From everything I’ve read, the Lakers have yet to fully embrace the “Moneyball” movement in Basketball.  But, this shouldn’t be surprising considering the philosophy of Phil Jackson’s coaching style.  Phil teaches a specific system that isn’t about statistical value but rather how pieces fit to form a team.  From an outsiders perspective, Phil’s approach is one where the team is  a living, breathing organism that must find a way to function together in a way where stat driven lineups don’t matter as much as the decision making as a group being on the same page with the results produced being dependent on the team seeing the same picture while on the court together.  And while I think there is merit to looking at advanced stats or adjusted plus/minus to seek out trends and what helps or hurts a team, I also think there is value in things that can’t be measured by stats.  A great example of this would be the debate about whether Fisher or Farmar should have been the starting PG this season.  All the advanced stats showed Farmar to be the more effective player on both offense and defense and that the team performed just as well, if not better when Farmar played with the player combinations that Fisher played the majority of his minutes with.  However, what the stats didn’t measure was Fisher’s propensity to hit the big shots, organize the offense in a way where the best players got more touches, or how his leadership helped stabilize the team in moments where it was needed most.  I do think as advanced stats become more common place in the NBA, more teams will embrace them as a tool, but I think there will always be a place for making coaching decisions without the influence of numbers and by following a “gut feeling” or by judging a situation based off how the pieces “fit” from a chemistry standpoint rather than a pure production one.

How long will Bynum be out at the start of the season? How long does a full recovery take?  Since Kobe’s taking time off from playing for the first time in years, will all his various ailments be 100% come the start of the season?  I know it’s for developmental players, but the triangle is so hard to learn and fit into for most players, would it make sense for Blake to get some burn in the summer league?  Thanks, love the site.


We’ll take these in order.  First, I think Bynum will be fully recovered by the time that the season starts.  Estimates on recovery time are from anywhere from 2-4 weeks (Brandon Roy came back in less than two weeks these past playoffs), so I think if Bynum has his surgery by the end of this month, he’ll be ready to go by the time training camp in underway in late September/early October.  Second, I think Kobe’s ailments will be as good to go as possible by the time the season starts.  However, understand that Kobe’s ailments aren’t the type that will magically go away.  His finger is arthritic and it may never be the same again.  He also has tendinitis in his knee and that is something he’ll have to deal with for the rest of his career.  All that said, Kobe’s shown a dedication to his body and physical conditioning that few others have and he’s consistently finding ways to be effective as his athleticism/physical peak decreases.  So, I’m confident that Kobe will be good to go and that he’ll definitely benefit from the time off.  As for Blake and Summer League, I just don’t see it happening.  Blake is a smart player and I trust that he’ll pick up the schemes rather quickly.  He’s known to be a student of the game and as a traditional Point Guard, a player that prides himself on being an extension of the coach on the floor.  So, while the nuance of playing in the Triangle can be something that takes time to learn, I think Blake will adapt well and be able to contribute rather quickly without much hesitation in where he needs to be within the confines of the Lakers’ sets.

Would you please provide a primer on seeing Summer League games in person?  I think I – and perhaps many others – are ready to take this next step to basketball geekdom.


When looking at a team like the Lakers, I think the best way is to focus on the players that the Lakers have an investment in first (Ebanks, Carracter) and then see if anyone else stands out in any meaningful way.  I know that I’ll be focusing on the two Lakers rookies, but then I’ll also be paying special attention to Green and Kurz, just because of their past NBA experience and the fact that they have skill sets that the Lakers could use on their team.  All that said, when you have a championship roster (like the Lakers do) there’s little chance that any player from Summer League team is going to make any sort of meaningful impact during the regular season.  And while some of these guys may get a camp invite, most are likely using their time on the Lakers’ roster as an audition for other teams.  Remember, there are scouts and talent evaluators from every team at the Summer League’s and they’re all looking for that potential player that can come in and compete for a roster spot.  And while the Lakers may not be the team that takes a flyer on a player, another team may.

Did the lakers not try to sell the Bynum for Bosh deal?  Bynum is not going to last and we would be smart trying to deal him while he is young and has value. The lakers are in their last 3 year run starting now so a Bosh or top talent would make sense. You go for the gold now.


With Bosh seemingly about to sign with the Heat, I thought this would be a good chance to put this Bosh/Bynum thing to rest for a while.  I’m unsure of how “real” these Bosh for Bynum rumors ever were.  From a media and fan standpoint, this was a deal that made sense and I know there was speculation about both sides being “open” to the deal.  However, from the standpoint of what we know about the Lakers I’m not sure this information being out there actually makes sense.  Just consider this one point – How often, in the past several seasons, have we heard about a Lakers trade from the media before it actually happened?  There weren’t any indications of the Gasol trade or the Shannon/Ammo trade.  So, I have a hard time believing that the Lakers were actually the ones making waves about acquiring Bosh as they’ve proven that these types of leaks don’t happen when they’re serious about making a deal. 

As for the assumption that Bynum is not built to last, as cliche as this sounds – only time will tell.  The early results don’t look extremely promising as Bynum has endured several injuries that have limited him over the last three seasons.  However, the flip side of that coin is that most of these injuries have been fluke-ish and I’m not convinced there’s a trend of injuries as much as there’s been a trend of bad luck.  I’d feel different is this were a Sam Bowie situation where the same foot problem cropped up year after year, but that’s not been the case with ‘Drew.  His knee injuries haven’t been of the same variety and both happened in ways where you could easily say he just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Granted, this doesn’t erase the fact that he’s been injured and his future is cloudy in this regard.  But, I do think he’s a player worth holding onto based off his (still promising) upside and the role that he fills on this team as a defender/rebounder and a guy that also allows Gasol to play PF for the majority of his minutes.  Within the context of this team, I think the Lakers mix of big men is the perfect blend and Bynum is – figuratively and literally – a big part of that.

James and Wade seem to be players that operate best when they have the ball, and are clearly double-alpha guys.  Does it really make sense to have them on the same team, or does that dilute their individual value?  Will they be at odds over control of the team?


Another question that is relevant with the Lebron about make his decision tomorrow.  I’m honestly a bit on the fence with this one.  I think there will be times that one of either Lebron or Wade would be frozen out of the offense as the other player tries to create in a way that’s most comfortable to him.  However, I’m a firm believer in great players finding ways to figure things out and there aren’t too many players better than James and Wade.  Also, I think both players understand the game and play with a level of unselfishness that would aid in any potential partnership.  Remember too, these guys have played together on All-Star teams and on Team USA for the past several years.  They understand each other’s games and would find ways to compliment each other.  I also think that both players would be able to add on to and improve their respective games so that they’d find an even better way to mesh as their careers advanced.  In the end, there could possibly be issues of “control” or “who takes the last shot”, but I think a lot of those issues could be worked out if the team is winning and if there are people in coaching/management strong enough to corral their egos and have them focus on the ultimate prize.  And again, I think with great players that’s easier than with ones who “think” they’re great but really aren’t that caliber of player.  Wade and Lebron are the goods.  I think they’d work it out.

BEIJING - AUGUST 24:  Dwyane Wade #9 helps up teammate Chris Bosh #12 of the United States in the gold medal game during Day 16 of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games at the Beijing Olympic Basketball Gymnasium on August 24, 2008 in Beijing, China.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

From Chris Broussard, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are teaming up together on the Miami Heat, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. ESPN’s Shelley Smith also reported the pending move through independent sources. Whether LeBron James, the kingpin of this summer’s celebrated free-agent class, will join them remains to be seen. James will announce his decision at 9 p.m. ET Thursday during a one-hour special on ESPN. Wade and Bosh are expected to announce their decision on Wednesday afternoon, according to the source, and continue to lobby James, along with Heat president Pat Riley, to join them in Miami, despite the financial complexities involved for the Heat to make room for all three.

From Kevin Durant says he’s reached a deal on a five-year contract extension with the Oklahoma City Thunder. On his Twitter page Wednesday, Durant said that “God Is Great, me and my family came a long way.” Durant’s agent, Aaron Goodwin, told’s J.A. Adande the deal will be worth about $86 million over five years. The specific amount will be determined when the salary cap numbers are finalized on July 8, when Durant can officially sign the contract. The deal does not contain an opt-out clause after the fourth season, which means Oklahoma City holds Durant’s rights through the 2015-16. The new contract kicks in starting with the 2011-12 campaign.

From Sekou Smith, Hangtime Blog: Every second we wait for a decision from LeBron James is a small victory for Kobe Bryant. Seriously. The longer James waits to make a decision on where he will play the next five or six seasons of his career, the more time we have to admire Bryant and not only what he and the Los Angeles Lakers have accomplished and what might be in store as they chase a championship three-peat next season.

From Dexter Fishmore, Silver Screen and Roll: Starting this Friday, you’ll once again get to watch grown men playing basketball with the word Lakers across the front of their jerseys. That’s when the Lakers – or “Lakers” – will begin a five-game summer league sked in Las Vegas. If you’d like a visual metaphor to help you anticipate the experience, imagine receiving a Tiffany’s jewelry box and opening it to find a chunk of cubic zirconium therein. You’re not getting a Tiffany’s rock. Not even close. Because of the packaging, though, your brain might fool itself for a second or two into thinking you’re about to enjoy some lavish gift. (Incidentally, this is totally my plan if I can ever find a girl to propose to and someone to lend me a Tiffany’s box.)

From Brian Kamenentzky, Land O’ Lakers: Halfway through the season, that so many fans would be worried about the state of contract negotiations with Derek Fisher would have seemed odd. He was struggling and at the center of multiple criticisms surrounding the team, from weakness at point guard to a lack of consistent outside shooting. Then the playoffs rolled around, and Fish, as he tends to do, stepped up, highlighted by a monster fourth quarter in Game 3 of the Finals in Boston. Suddenly, the notion of a Fisherless Lakers squad is enough to make people nervous.

From Mike Trudell, Basket Blog: On July 6, 1980, Pau Gasol was born in Barcelona, Spain. Thirty years later, he’s a two-time NBA champion. The Spaniard just completed quite a year, having played a critical role in his first NBA championship a few weeks before turning 29 when L.A. beat Orlando 4-1 in the 2009 Finals, and then offering his best season as a professional and ultimately winning his second straight title with a 4-3 defeat of Boston in the 2010 Finals.

From Ramona Shelbourne, ESPN Los Angeles: Derek Fisher speaks in paragraphs, not sound bites. Like his remarkable career, every answer is filled with an uncommon depth and thoughtfulness. But on this afternoon, I expected him to be talked out. Less than a week had passed since the Lakers had closed out the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the NBA Finals to win their second straight title, and Fisher had spent most of that time on a dizzying coast-to-coast run of public appearances. After meeting with Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak and coach Phil Jackson for an exit interview last Thursday, he flew to Las Vegas for three days of meetings with the NBA Players Association meetings, helping the union draft a new collective bargaining proposal.

From Kevin Ding, OC Register: The job, believe it or not, will be Steve Blake’s to lose. And Blake is no loser. He certainly has not won Derek Fisher’s five NBA titles, but Blake has similar solidity that makes him the Lakers’ ideal free-agent addition. The reason it’ll be his job to lose is simple: Even assuming that Fisher and the Lakers eventually find that number that results in his re-signing, the club will go into next season expecting Blake to be on the court more at lead guard than Fisher … the very same way Jordan Farmar was expected to be but wasn’t good enough to be. Blake, 30, is good enough, experienced enough and defensively tough enough to be a wizard when Farmar, Shannon Brown and Sasha Vujacic have only been the tin man, scarecrow and cowardly lion.

From Mark Medina, Los Angeles Times: A season after Ron Artest stormed cross court to get in Kobe Bryant’s face during the 2009 NBA playoffs, Bryant welcomed his arrival in L.A. with open arms. Four seasons after Raja Bell clotheslined him in a Lakers’ playoff game against the Phoenix Suns, Bryant apparently is doing the same thing. Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski recently reported that both the Lakers and Bell share a “strong mutual interest to reach agreement on a deal,” with Bryant being what Wojnarowski described as a “strong advocate” for a deal to happen. For those wondering how Bryant can go from enemy to friend in a heartbeat simply don’t understand that he views adversaries and teammates simply in the context of basketball. It’s fair to say Bryant doesn’t have many friends in the game within his inner circle, although he created bonds with several teammates in the 2008 Olympics.

Jun. 09, 2010 - Boston, MASSACHUSETTS, UNITED STATES - epa02194092 Los Angeles Lakers' Derek Fisher during practice at TD Gardens in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, 09 June 2010. The Lakers lead the series over the Boston Celtics 2-1 in a best of seven games NBA Finals.

With it being a bit of a slow news day around the Lakers, it’s time to take a look around the league and see what’s going on in the rest of the NBA world…

*The Lakers have posted their roster and schedule for the upcoming Summer League in Las Vegas.  This is a list that has been floating around for a few days, but it’s good to see this right from the horses mouth.  One name that’s notably absent is Javaris Crittenton who was reportedly going to play for the Lakers in Vegas.  That is seemingly not (or no longer) the case.  The last I heard (which was before the holiday weekend) Crittenton’s agent said that his client had yet to commit to playing Summer ball and surely had not yet chosen which team he would play for if he did suit up.  So, with that up in the air, we should get used to the idea of Critt not joining the Lakers this summer or next season.  And, for me, that’s a shame.  I was hopeful the Lakers could get Javaris back into the fold and hopefully restart his career and development process with the Lakers.  And while that’s still a possibility, I’m less hopeful if he doesn’t actually join the team this summer.  Any team that picks him up would want to see him in some game action and since he’s still such a young player, some summer action would give everyone that chance.  We’ll follow this situation and give updates when we get them, but for now, it looks like Critt won’t be wearing a Lakers jersey.

*However, there are some interesting names on that list of invitees.  Gerald Green and Rob Kurz are players with NBA experience and enough talent to play in the league.  And, they actually play positions (Green – SG/SF, Kurz – PF) that the Lakers have needs still to fill on their roster.  Plus, Lakers’ draftees Devin Ebanks and Derek Carracter are going to suit up.  I actually think it will be an interesting “competition” to see if the veteran players outperform the Lakers’ rookies as that could make an impact on roster decisions as we get deeper into the summer.  If Kurz plays a lot better than Carracter will that spell doom for the #58 pick?  If Ebanks can play as well or better than Green, doesn’t that make him a lock to make the team?  What if Green plays extremely well – will he be the extra wing player that the Lakers grab?  I don’t know the answer to these questions or if they’ll even happen but I’ll be watching closely to see.  And no, I won’t be in Vegas (so no first hand takes from the stands this year), but I will be watching online (click the link and you can too). 

*Despite the fact that summer league is getting started and there are actual NBA games on, the focus is still on free agency.  If you want a good place to follow all the agreements and the latest news as to where players are leaning, you can’t do much better than Pro Basketball Talk’s “top 25 free agent tracker” post that Kurt is updating daily (sometimes multiple times, daily).  In it, you’ll see that despite there not being a lot of movement at the top with Lebron, Wade, and Bosh still all undecided, we’ve already seen a fair amount of deals agreed to.  Pierce, Dirk, Amar’e, Rudy Gay, and Joe Johnson all look to have agreed to terms with teams (with Amar’e being the only guy that left his old team to join a new one – the Knicks).  Salmons, has also agreed to terms and a few other players are close to getting a new deal signed.

*One piece of interesting free agent news is Shaq potentially getting a contract offer from the Hawks.  I’m neither for or against this move for either side.  At this point in his career, Shaq is who he is and will help with an offensive post presence and can still defend stationary players and rebound reasonably well.  He’ll hurt his team in other ways, but at least he’s a known commodity and a team could do worse than signing the deisel as a back up Center (or starter that plays limited minutes).  But, I’m more interested in this deal because this would completely cement Shaq as one of the NBA’s best players that also happened to be a vagabond.  The Hawks would be Shaq’s 6th team.  That’s a lot of unis for one of the league’s “best ever” to have worn (and Shaq is one of the game’s best ever).  No one will ever be able to take away what Shaq’s done in this league – the championships, the MVP awards (league and Finals), and the complete dominance his showed during his peak – but to have gotten around as much as he did, I don’t know how that will impact his legacy.  Maybe it won’t at all, but I think it’s a question that will get asked 15 years from now when looking back at Shaq’s career.

*And it wouldn’t be a free agent update without exploring what’s going on with the Lakers.  Derek Fisher is still unsigned and it looks like the parties are still a bit apart on getting a deal hammered out.  If you ask Fish (and Ramona Shelburne did– h/t to Land O’ Lakers) he’d say that there aren’t any players on the market that can provide the Lakers with what he does.  And, to a certain extent, I agree with that as Fisher is a leader in a locker room of some out-sized personalities and his experience and stature with the team are irreplaceable.  That said, putting a price tag on that value will be tricky and it’s situations like these why I try not to knock general managers too often.  They’ve got a tough gig and I don’t envy them.  Anyone can play armchair GM and assemble a roster on paper that’s a world beater, but there are players like Fisher that transcend stats and provide so much to team besides on court production.  Deciding what that’s actually worth is something that I’m glad I don’t have to do this summer.

*Lastly, I’m still planning on doing a mailbag for Forum Blue and Gold.  All you have to do is send me some questions and I’ll pick and choose some to get answered in a post for the site.  I’m happy to touch on any Lakers topics or even other questions from around the league if that’s your cup of tea.  All you have to do is email me and in the subject line write “mailbag question”.  I’ll try to do this at least once a month (or more depending on the volume of questions), so drop me a line and we’ll go from there.