Archives For July 2010

June 21, 2010 - Los Angeles, CALIFORNIA, United States - epa02215290 Los Angeles Lakers player Kobe Bryant smiles as he holds the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy, during the Lakers Victory Parade in Los Angeles, California, USA, 21 June 2010. The Lakers defeated the Boston Celtics to claim their second consecutive NBA championship title. Over 500,000 fans lined Figueroa Street as the Lakers players rode in flat-bed vehicles through downtown Los Angeles.

From Dexter Fishmore, Silver Screen and Roll: With Phil Jackson back in the fold and Steve Blake having soaked up most of the Lakers’ mid-level exception, attention now turns to filling out the low-cost end of the roster. Over at Yahoo!, Adrian Wojnarowski reports that the Lakers are asking Derek Fisher to accept a one-year deal for $2.5 million, which leaves ample space between the team’s bid and Fish’s ask of $10 million over two years. Once the Fish situation is resolved, Woj reports, the Lakers will attempt to bring Raja Bell on board with what’s left of their MLE money. Bell made $5.25 million last year but played in only six games for Charlotte and Golden State thanks to a season-ending wrist surgery. He’s also 34 years old and was eventually waived by Golden State in March. He can probably still shoot, though – he’s made at least 40% of his threes six years running – and he was second team NBA All Defense as recently as 2008, so as a possible addition to the bench, this isn’t a terrible idea. Raja did state last week that signing with the Miami Heat would be his first choice.

From Carl Franzen, AOL News: The story of Phil Jackson is already the stuff of legends, but after leading the Los Angeles Lakers to yet another championship victory this year, the so-called “Zen Master” isn’t ready to close the book on his sports career just yet. Today, 65-year-old Jackson — whose health has reportedly been ailing in recent years — reversed course on earlier statements indicating he would retire and announced that he will, in fact, be returning to coach the Lakers for a record-setting 11th tenured season.

From Russ Bengtson, SLAM Online: Kobe Bryant extends his right hand in greeting, , you reach out your own, and before you get there, you hesitate. Whoa. Hold on. Just look at that thing for a second. The fractured right ring finger swollen, wrapped from tip to palm in black tape, the pinkie stiffly extended. In medical terms, it’s totally f***’d up. You take it gently and think, “He hit a game-winning shot less than 24 hours ago with this?” True story. Just ask the Milwaukee Bucks, who withstood a misfired Kobe turnaround at the end of regulation only to go down on the same exact shot at the end of overtime. “I have to remind myself sometimes, like throughout the game, shots might go short because I got the old grip that I’m used to shootin’ with,” he says nonchalantly. “So, a couple times muscle memory will go back to the old way.”

From Mark Medina, Los Angeles Times: As the Lakers have reflected on their 2010 NBA championship, two themes have emerged. They especially appreciated this title because they earned it by beating their archrival, the Boston Celtics, and because it capped a season full of challenges stemming from injuries, inconsistent performances and fatigue. Yet, not all players have experienced the joy of winning in the same way. Their reactions can be different, and quite telling. Not everyone celebrated like Ron Artest, for instance, who proclaimed giddiness over a Wheaties championship box to reporters and shared his random, fun-filled thoughts in tweets.

From Dave McMenamin, ESPN Los Angeles: Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant is taking a break from basketball this summer. In an interview with AOL Fanhouse on Monday, USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo said Bryant, as well as every other player on the 2008 Olympic team except for Deron Williams and Chris Paul, will not compete in the FIBA World Championships in Turkey. “It’s a combination of three things: free agency, injuries and having gone hard for a long time,” Colangelo said. “And I’m OK with that.”

From William C. Rhoden, The New York Times: The 19-hour flight to New York from Johannesburg last week provided ample time for reflection. For thoughts about a month spent in South Africa, the World Cup and all its stellar performances. With so much to think about, it was easy to lose track of the burning issues of the sports world in the United States. Until the plane touched down. Not even five minutes after I got off the plane at Kennedy Airport, it was hard to miss the television monitors that were telling the story of the hour: LeBron James, the king without a championship throne. King James was home in Cleveland, in the middle of interviewing no fewer than six N.B.A. teams, all vying — begging — for him to play for them.

An interview with Rafael Nadal, Q. Pau Gasol wanted me to say hola to you. Congratulations. Can you compare this to what he did, back?to?back Lakers championships and your own as well, two straight here at Wimbledon for you? RAFAEL NADAL: Thanks a lot. Everything is difficult, and very difficult compare, two different sports, no? But I am in contact with him all the time. For sure to have unbelievable sportsman like Pau inside the court, inside the court and outside the court is very, very good for our country.

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With the 2009-10 season behind us and the free agency bonanza just getting started, ‘Forum Blue & Gold’ begins the first of a series of player reviews from your NBA champions. We begin with the player who left many fans and critics divided when he was signed before last season: the one and only Ron Artest.


Ron Artest has been called many things in his career—defender, instigator…even crazy. In 2010, the Lakers small forward finally added a new title to his résumé: champion. After fan-favorite Trevor Ariza bolted for the Houston Rockets, the Lakers quickly snatched up the former Defensive Player of the Year with their mid-level exception—a steal by most anyone’s standards, albeit one that represented a notable risk-reward type of proposition for a team coming off of a championship victory.

“He wants to win a ring,” said Artest’s agent David Bauman shortly after his signing last summer. “He’s a winner and a hard worker and he went looking for a team with whom he could find some justification for what he does. He plays his best when he’s in that kind of an environment.”

Bauman’s comments set the tone for Artest’s inaugural season in a Lakers jersey, even if from a purely statistical standpoint, the former St. John’s star had one of the most underwhelming seasons of his career. Over 77 games, Ron put up fairly pedestrian averages of 11 points per game on 41% shooting, to go along with four rebounds and a little over one steal. As is usually the case with Artest though, what you see is not always what you get as his defensive toughness and hunger for an NBA title provided a huge—and in many ways underrated—boost to a team that battled through injuries and post-championship complacency for much of the regular season’s second half.

As a defensive master, Artest didn’t disappoint—methodically disassembling the games of Kevin Durant and Paul Pierce among others, while ensuring that Kobe didn’t have to waste vital energy chasing the other teams’ star player around for 48 minutes. His playoff performance also served as a reminder to the league that #37 remains an elite on-ball defender and that much like Kobe, rumors of his demise were premature. After all, Artest was similarly injured toward the end of the regular season, yet still gutted it out and missed only five games.

On offense, it goes without saying that Ron spent much of the season dazed and confused, admittedly struggling with the intricacies of the vaunted triangle offense and an outside shooting touch that betrayed him most nights. These issues aside though, Ron still provided what were arguably the two biggest offensive plays of the post-season with his instant redemption game-winning put-back in Game 5 against the Suns and his clutch three-point dagger with just over a minute remaining in Game 7 against the Celtics.

On its face, Artest’s overall season arc provided a bit of a mixed bag. However, Ron was never a Pau Gasol-type of of player who was going to integrate flawlessly (and immediately) into the team’s ebb and flow. He wasn’t signed for his suave game or consistent shooting. To the contrary, the forward was brought to L.A. for exactly the opposite reasons—to create discord on the floor for other teams. In that bruiser type of role, he succeeded with flying colors.


Kobe initially called out the Spaniard during the Finals trophy presentation, but without Ron Artest’s Game 7 heroics, the Larry O’Brien trophy is likely headed back east. With 20 points and five steals, Artest buoyed the team during a historically sluggish first three quarters, reminding his teammates that his fingers were still ringless with each and every timely put-back. Ever the drama king, Ron saved his best for last—connecting on a dramatic trey in the game’s final minute that not only sent the STAPLES Center crowd into a state of bedlam, but also proved to be the final nail in the Celtic’s coffin.

(Honorable mention goes to Artest’s kid-in-a-candy-store antics during his post-Game 7 interview.)


Truth be told, Artest is far from the only player who has failed to grasp the triangle on first attempt; future Hall-of-Famer’s Gary Payton and Karl Malone also experienced difficulty in their one year with the Lakers. Luckily, the Lakers have Ron under contract for four more years and he will only continue to grow within the offense, especially now that Coach Jackson has announced his return.

For better or worse, Artest has proven himself as a difference maker during his 11 up-and-down years in the league. He maintained his composure as well as any Laker this year though, showing a sense of maturity that few thought was possible for the player who once played a key role in the worst player-fan altercation in NBA history. Similar to the way Jackson helped Dennis Rodman harness his often combustible energy, Artest understood his role on this team and remained steadfast in his desire to do whatever it took to help the team win games. The forward willingly checked his ego at the door on day one as a member of the forum blue and gold, which is something that shouldn’t be overlooked when you consider that Ron has played the alpha dog on more than one team in the past.

“It’s amazing I can be the same person and a world champion,” said Artest in a post-championship interview with KHTK in Sacramento. “I always thought that I had to be someone else to be a world champion.”

The Lakers were fully aware of what they were getting into when they made the controversial decision to sign Artest, yet they never asked him to be anything other than himself. In turn, the 16-time NBA champions still got the pitbull they were hoping for and for the first time in his career, it was Artest who was perfectly comfortably walking with the rest of the pack. It’s that fundamental change in mentality that helped him transition from longtime misfit to the much more fitting title of NBA champion.

I’m hoping all of you guys are enjoying your time off for Independence Day. I waited until Noon PT to see if any new news on Derek Fisher surfaced, nothing yet. So in light of the holiday, I’ll leave you guys with one of Kobe Bryant’s most spectacular performances of his career. The fireworks were going off in the Staples Center on January 22, 2006, and it’s only natural that we display fireworks here on FB&G for the 4th of July. From all of us at Forum Blue and Gold, Happy Independence Day.

NBA: April 14, 2010: Los Angeles Clippers d Los Angeles Lakers 107-91. Clippers Steve Blake gets a shot blocked by Lakers Pau Gasol.

Coming into the free agency period, most everyone agreed that point guard was the Lakers biggest need.  After not addressing this position in the draft, the Lakers would surely look to upgrade the position in the off-season by signing one of the available point guards on the open market.  And on the second day of free agency, the Lakers did just that by agreeing to a 4 year/$16 million dollar contract with Steve Blake.  And honestly, I couldn’t be happier.

Yes, there were sexier names on the free agent market.  And with reports stating the Lakers were making an attempt to acquire Mike Miller, many fans were hoping that the Lakers would ink the versatile swing man to a contract and add another very talented piece to an already extremely talented core.  So, in the wake of those reports, I can understand that signing Steve Blake can seem like a bit of a step down in talent.  And while that’s technically true, I really don’t care.

You see, getting another capable player to play point guard was a real need for the Lakers.  All season, PG was the position that every fan and pundit could point to as the Lakers weakest position.  And while the veteran experience and clutch play of Fisher again proved very valuable in a great playoff run, the Lakers could not afford to ignore the position after all three (if you count Shannon Brown) of the Laker point guards became free agents this summer.  And even though the Lakers hope to still bring back Fisher (something that I hope happens soon), bringing in Blake is a fantastic grab.  When you examine the entire crop of free agent point guards, there were surely younger prospects with more upside (Felton, Foye) and better shooters that would have been ideal targets had they not been restricted free agents (Redick, Morrow), but when you looked at the entire field, I don’t think there was a better fit than Blake for the Lakers to pick up.

From an offensive standpoint, Blake is the exact type of PG that can excel in the Triangle.  He’s a good ball handler and good decision maker (though he was a bit turnover prone in his stint with the Clippers).  He’s a good spot up shooter and can make the three ball with consistency (career 39% 3pt FG, 43.7% in his 21 games with the Clippers last season).  But most important, he’s a smart and heady player that rarely tries to do too much and knows his limitations.  He knows what he can and can’t do and is successful on the court because he plays to his strengths and does not force the action.  So, while Blake will rarely give the Lakers the spectacular play that gets the crowd out of their seats, he’ll also avoid the boneheaded one that has fans cursing him.  He’s a steady and mature player that will bring a consistency that we’ve not seen much of from any Lakers PG not named Derek Fisher and that will surely be a welcome sight.

And it’s in this steadiness that I see Blake helping the Lakers most.  Understand that, in essence, Blake is replacing Jordan Farmar as the lead guard on the second unit (assuming Fisher returns).  And it’s on the second unit where the Lakers have traditionally struggled to maintain offensive discipline and cohesion as a group.  Not to pin all of that on Farmar (he had his accomplices), but by bringing in Blake the Lakers will now have another player capable of organizing the offensive sets and getting everyone on the same page.  Forced jumpers early in the shot clock?  Over aggressive drives into the paint that have little hope of succeeding?  Over dribbling while looking for the perfect play, rather than depending on the offense to generate good looks?  These should all be things of the past with Blake now in the fold.  I expect that he’ll better organize the Lakers’ sets and the other players will be better positioned to effectively run the offense, leading to much better consistency from the second unit.  And sure, some of those explosive runs that the “bench mob” provided may end up being a thing of the past, but I believe that those extended droughts where big leads are forfeited will be as well.  I expect players like Odom, Bynum, and Gasol to see receive much more attention when paired with the backup guards and that’s surely a good thing.

That said, it won’t be all roses with Blake coming on board.  On defense, he will be challenged.  Based off some of his defensive metrics, he is not the best defender (while with Portland he had a PER against of 15.7, and a 17.6 with the Clippers).  He is hampered by his limited athleticism and slight-ish frame and can be beaten off the dribble by the quick penetrating guards that seem to populate every team (a familiar theme for the Lakers).  But from what I’ve seen of him, he’s a fundamentally sound defender that gives effort and won’t often be caught out of position, and I’m comforted by the fact that like Fisher, he’ll be flanked by very good defenders that will provide strong help and block shots at the rim.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Blake’s defensive numbers were better with Portland where he had a much better defensive lineup around him and with the Lakers he’ll be joining a group that was in the top 5 in defensive efficiency for nearly the entire season.

As I said, this isn’t the sexiest signing.  Steve Blake is not a household name and won’t knock anyone’s socks off with his natural talent or physical ability.  However, Blake is the type of role player that championship teams want and need.  It’s not a coincidence that contending teams like the Magic were looking to acquire Blake to fill the same role that the Lakers just scooped him up to play.  The Lakers just made themselves stronger and that is something that every team around the league recognizes.  And surely, they’re not happy about the world champs filling a hole on a roster that didn’t have many to begin with.  And sure, Blake may never be a classic “impact player” that others lean on as one of the better players on the team.  He’s not an all-star and could even be considered a lower rung starter if he were put into that position.  However, I never look at the structure of a team in that way – especially not this one.  The Lakers aren’t a PG-driven team and don’t run a system that is dependent on their PG being an impact player.  This is a team with Kobe, Pau, Bynum, Artest, and Odom on its roster.  I’ve said this for years about Fisher, but what the Lakers need is a steady hand that can step up in big moments and for the rest of the time blend in to the tapestry of the team while allowing the team’s best players to do what they’re paid to.  And in Blake, the Lakers just got that guy.  Today, I’m a happy Lakers fan.  The rich just got a bit richer.

June 16, 2010 - Los Angeles, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES - epa02205959 Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson during practice on the off day before game seven of the NBA Finals at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, USA 16 June 2010. The series is tied 3-3 for the best of seven games.

You’ve read it in a thousand other places (including right here, yesterday), but Phil Jackson is coming back to coach the Lakers for one last year in the 2010-11 season.  I know many are waiting on the big name players to commit and sign on the dotted line, but in my mind there was no bigger decision looming than what Mr. Eleven Coaching Titles was going to do next season.  And now that he’s made up his mind, it’s time to explore what this really means to the Lakers and to the rest of the league.

Obviously from the Lakers standpoint, this is just tremendous news.  We know that Kobe and Fisher (and to a lesser extent, but still important way, Odom and Gasol) are the leaders of this team.  But Phil Jackson is the leader.  He’s the man that pushes all the right buttons.  The one that empowers others to take leadership roles and guides the rest of the players towards those voices.  The one that plants the seeds of success in practices, the film room, and timeouts.  The man is simply the best and having him sitting in that high chair on the sidelines is a sight that inspires calm from his team and demands respect from the opposition.

But superlatives aside, Phil Jackson is what this particular team needs – even if it’s only for one more year.  Understand that what the Lakers look to accomplish next season – a third consecutive championship – is damned hard.  It’s only been achieved three times since the mighty Bill Russell led Celtics of the 50’s and 60’s had their last hurrah and each time it was accomplished by a Jackson led team.  Phil is the only coach in the modern era to really know what it takes to complete this task and he’s the only one that I’d trust to actually pull it off (no disrespect intended to Brian Shaw or any other head coach in the league).

And really, what Phil will provide to this team is continuity and motivation to achieve.  The continuity part is self explanatory.  Jackson’s schemes – the Triangle on offense and the dogged man to man style on defesne – will remain in tact.  His communication style and established relationships with the current players will provide a stability that will surely be needed considering the task at hand.  There will be no disruptions in how practices/meetings are run; no differences in the points of emphasis that are communicated to the players.  The messages and the style in which they’re delivered will remain the status quo and for a group that needs to stay on the path towards repeating for a 2nd consecutive season, this will be invaluable.

And from a motivation standpoint, there be none bigger than winning one last ring for the coach making his final stand.  Going into this next season, every player will know that this will be the coach’s last season.  Every player’s focus will be on getting Phil that last championship that he can ride into the sunset with.  The want to send out the league’s greatest winner on one last winning note will be strong and will (hopefully) motivate every player on the roster to give their best effort in order to achieve this for the coach that they all lobbied to return.  There is no better way to show appreciation towards one of the best coaches ever than by giving him the swan song that he deserves.  So, besides the standard motivation that will come from trying to win a championship, I do expect this group of Lakers to give Phil their all.


But now that Phil has committed, who will be the players that he’s directing?  In his initial statement to the press, he stated that it’s now time to build a roster that can properly compete.  And the Lakers still do have holes to fill.  They’ve yet to make a free agent signing but they have been linked to several players already.  So, in an effort to gauge what this team will look like come the start of next seasaon, I thought I’d look at a few of the names out there and explore their fit on this particular team:

*Derek Fisher: We’ll start with easiest name.  In my mind, Fisher is a must to return.  His leadership, knowledge of the Lakers’ systems, and dogged comptetiveness makes his signing the first priority for this team.  I do think his minutes will be reduced next season as the Lakers find a suitable player (either internally or on the open market) that will run the offense with discipline and work hard on defense (something that Farmar couldn’t always do).  But, in order for the Lakers to have the type of veteran presence and institutional knowledge that they’ll need on their journey, Fisher is a must to return.  Hopefully a deal to bring back the Lakers’ captain happens soon.  So that the Lakers can turn their full attention to…

*Mike Miller: I’ve stated that acquiring Miller is a pipe dream.  But he’s been the name that has been strongly thrown out as a Lakers’ target and that can’t be ignored.  As Reed mentioned to me in an email, “Miller is the prototypical non-superstar wing player for this offense” as his shooting, ball handling, and basketball IQ are all above average.  Defensively, he’s an above average rebounder (led the league in defensive rebound rate as a SG among players that played 10+ min/g and had a rate in line with Lebron if classified as a SF) and at least tries at the defensive end.  As a SF, his PER against is 15.7 (which isn’t bad, but is 16.9 as a SG) and he has the length to bother shooters and would surely benefit from playing with other elite defensive players that the Lakers could surround him with.  In the end, there are much more positives associated with Miller the player than negatives and he would be an outstanding get for the Lakers.  However, the cost of acquiring his services that are being floated by some media outlets – $30mil/5yrs is high in both total dollars and years commitment.  In the end, I could rationalize a deal like that, but it could potentially be a tough deal for the Lakers to take on both because of the luxury tax implicactions and his status as a 10 year veteran in this league.  Believe me, I’m hopeful the Lakers can land Miller but I’m not holding my breath nor am I getting to committed to the idea of it actually happening.

*Anthony Morrow: This is another player that has reportedly been contacted by the Lakers.  Like Miller, Morrow’s shooting and versatile game would be a welcomed addition to the Lakers.  What hurts Morrow’s chances of joining the Lakers is his status as a restricted free agent.  The Warriors have a chance to match any deal that Morrow signs and would have a week to make up their mind about whether or not to do so.  So, while Morrow would be a good fit, there are a few hurdles to overcome if you hope to see him wearing a Lakers jersey next season.  For those that have put their eggs in the Morrow basket, you may want to adjust your hopes.

*Steve Blake:  Blake is the name that’s been on the Lakers radar for months and is the fall back name for those that want to fill a need, but do so with a player that doesn’t have a lot of cachet.  Blake would be a great fit, splitting time with Fisher at PG and would provide that steady hand that the Lakers need from whatever PG is on the floor for them.  However, Blakes services will be in demand amongst many teams whose needs match the Lakers.  Orlando and Miami are two teams that come to mind immediately that could use a guard like Blake to help them in their pursuit of contending next season.  So, while Blake has seemed like a fall back plan and a guy that would surely be available I say not so fast.  Nothing is assured with this guy, but he is a player that I’d like to have as I think he’d be a real help to his roster with his ability to shoot, lead the second (and sometimes first) unit, and provide that veteran presence that the Lakers have been lacking in their reserve back court.

*Raja Bell: Bell is a player that the Lakers seemed hot after in the days leading up to free agency, but whose name has now dipped below the ones above his in this piece.  Bell’s “3 and D” game would be a welcome fit in the Lakers lineup, but going above a minimum salary offer is unlikely.  And if it’s a minimum offer from the Lakers or one from the Heat (Bell is from Floriday and played his college ball there), I’d have to think Miami would have the upper hand.

*Tracy McGrady: Ahh, the sexiest name of them all.  If there’s one player that many fans would love to see on the Lakers, it seems like it’s T-Mac.  Let’s just say I’m not as enthused.  Yes the upside and potential for a huge impact is there with McGrady.  Supporters see the all around offensive game, the size, and the pedigree and want him to run with LO on the second unit and envision dominant stretches from the LA bench.  Detractors see a player that is habitually injured, as streak shooter, a suspect “role” player, and someone that has never been known to play defense.  What the Lakers could actually expect from T-Mac is the biggest unknown from the group of players that’s been listted to this point.  And frankly, I’d rather have any of them before McGrady (with it being a close call between T-Mac and Bell).

*UPDATED, Dorell Wright: Wright is a sleeper candidate to be picked up by the Lakers this off-season.  He’s likely to be a cheap alternative to some of the other names mentioned (specifically Miller and Blake) and has an intriguing skill set that would blend nicely with the Lakers.  And while his name is not frequently mentioned as a target of the Lakers by folks in the media, Wright is a favorite amongst some fans due to his skill set and potential.  Wright is a multi-dimensional player that has improved his shooting (39% from 3pt range, 88% FT’s) and ball handling during his time in the league.  He’s also a very good athlete that possesses good size and excellent length and could be used as a defensive stopper on both the wing and on PG’s (a recurring problem for the Lakers over the years).  At best, Wright is a slicker shooting version of Ariza (and recent draft pick Ebanks) with a better natural shot and ball handling skills.  At worst, he’s an immature player that hasn’t shown to rise to the moment and could end up being let go by a team that is looking for reasonably priced young talent like he supposedly is.  If Wright could be had for a minimum contract, he’d definitely be worth the gamble as a prospect with upside and could potentially be groomed to play multiple positions on offense while guarding diverse players on defense.  He’d also give the Lakers an infusion of youth (24 years old) while still  being a veteran player (6 seasons of experience).  If the Lakers strike out with Miller and/or Blake, I would not mind if the Lakers took a flyer on Wright to be a multi-purpose back up that could be groomed by veteran players like Kobe, Fisher, Odom, and Artest to play a role in seasons to come.

*Big Men: There really aren’t that many bigs to choose from and it’s looking more likely that the Lakers may keep one of their own free agents here.  Powell and Mbenga have a familiarity that could be a welcome sight after many of the other teams make their pitches to the available bigs.  That said, Kurt Thomas, Anthony Tolliver, Craig Smith, and Joe Smith are all names that seem like good fits and are all still available.  It really just depends on what the Lakers want from a reserve big.  Last season, Mbenga and Powell barely played and surely would have liked more court time (though, being the professionals that they are, they never made waves or openly stated they were unhappy).  So, would Tolliver be happy in that role?  Would Craig Smith?  I have my doubts.  If the Lakers are going to pick up a big from the outside, it’s looking more likely that it will be a veteran player that’s a bit long in the tooth, but one that is a “pro’s-pro” and would be ready to play when his number is called and wouldn’t say a peep when his number wasn’t.  Honestly, if Kurt Thomas filled that role for the Lakers next season, things could be a lot worse.

In the end, there will be a new journey next season and their are good odds that one (or more) of the above names will join the Lakers in their pursuit of a ring in Phil’s final stand.  If I had to make a guess, I’d say that Miller is the primary target and Blake is the most likely addition. But, that’s just my guess.  What’s yours?

June 17, 2010 - Los Angeles, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES - epa02208508 Los Angeles Lakers' head coach Phil Jackson (L) hugs teammate Ron Artest after defeating the Boston Celtics during game seven of the NBA Finals at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, USA, 17 June 2010. The Lakers defeated the Celtics 83-79 to win their 16th championships.


From Kurt Helin, Pro Basketball Talk: The Lakers just won a title depending on Ron Artest and Sasha Vujacic to be their three point threats. Which is to say, they won despite having no consistent outside threats. They just count on things like Artest getting hot in Game 7. Mike Miller would change that. That’s why the Lakers are negotiating with him, as has been reported in multiple locations. The Lakers, with the highest payroll in basketball last year and all the key parts back, are way, way over the salary cap. So all they can offer is the mid-level exception (about $5.8 million) or some part of that. The negotiations are about how much. The Lakers would like to save some of that to bring in a point guard, as well.

From Brian Kamenentzky, Land O’ Lakers: Those were not the Santa Ana winds you just felt, but instead the collective exhale of Lakers fans across Southern California and beyond. Phil Jackson, the Lakers announced this afternoon, has decided to return for the 2010-11 season. This is good news, to say the least. “Count me in,” Jackson said in a statement. “After a couple weeks of deliberation, it is time to get back to the challenge of putting together a team that can defend its title in the 2010-11 season. It’ll be the last stand for me, and I hope a grand one.”


From Kevin Ding, Orange County Register: Here’s what Phil Jackson wants now. Not just to go out on top. He wants to go out with the greatness that is appropriate to the greatest coach of all time.He wants his Lakers team to win gloriously next spring. He wants this fourth three-peat of his incomparable career to be a suitable capper. He wants dominance, excellence, grace. He wants this Lakers team to be better than those that handled an unworthy Orlando Magic team and staggered against a tough Boston Celtics team. There is plenty of room for improvement, and he wants the Lakers to move into that room, smell the incense he’ll light in there and be living there on self-built pedestals every single day.

From Mark Medina, Los Angeles Times: Sasha Vujacic’s eyes lit up. His smile widened. And his enthusiasm bubbled. A reporter had asked him about the possibility he’d play more at point guard next season, what with the uncertainty regarding the future of Derek Fisher, Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmar, as well as Mitch Kupchak’s contention that the team’s back court is the biggest area of concern during the off-season. Though the Lakers’ roster for 2010-2011 is far from complete, the mere chance that Vujacic would assume a greater role at point guard left him giddy and excited.


From Dave Mcmenamin, ESPN Los Angeles: The idea of his fourth three-peat must have been too much for Phil Jackson to pass up. The Los Angeles Lakers coach told the team Thursday that he will return for his 11th season on the bench in L.A. and an even 20th to cap his NBA coaching career. “Count me in,” Jackson said in a statement. “After a couple weeks of deliberation, it is time to get back to the challenge of putting together a team that can defend its title in the 2010-11 season. It’ll be the last stand for me, and I hope a grand one.”

From Dave McMenamin, ESPN Los Angeles: The Lakers have opened discussions with free-agent swingman Mike Miller, a source close to the situation said Thursday. Miller is a former NBA rookie of the year and sixth man of the year. He averaged 10.9 points on 50 percent shooting from the field and 48 percent shooting on 3-pointers for Washington last season, his 10th in the league.

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With all due respect to Lebron and Wade, the biggest free agent of them all has made his decision on his plans for next season. Phil Jackson will return to coach the Lakers for one final year.  Phil said simply:

“Count me in.  After a couple weeks of deliberation, it is time to get back to the challenge of putting together a team that can defend its title in the 2010-11 season. It’ll be the last stand for me, and I hope a grand one.”

It goes without saying that this is fantastic news for the Lakers.  For the rest of the league? Not so much.  Phil has been at the top of the pyramid and the orchestrator of 11 championship teams and his unique style and leadership has meant a level of success that has been unmatched in the history of the league.  I think Phillip sums up the situation perfectly in this email to me:

The signing of Phil Jackson is obviously huge. Not only will the Lakers set out on a quest to three peat with their core players still in tact, the coaching staff will be back as it was also. Now, all of the Phil Jackson and Brian Shaw questions have been answered, we’re just waiting to see what pieces will be added to fill out the roster for next season. No matter what happens in free agency with other teams, the Lakers will still start the season with the best 1-6 rotation, a back-to-back Finals MVP and the best coach this league has ever witnessed. This eliminates a slew of potentially distracting story lines that would have plagued this Lakers team if Phil Jackson did not return this year, they’ll just have to take the court and take care of business. This situation couldn’t have worked out better for the Lakers. As long as they play the free agency period safe, it’ll be hard to find any flaws with the way the Lakers handle this offseason. More than anything else, I’m just glad he’s back and I’m ready for another title run.

As Phillip states, this now sets up the Lakers perfectly for the rest of the off-season.  They now have their head coach back and know exactly what their offensive and defensive systems will look like.  This continuity now makes it clear what types of players should be targeted in free agency and allows potential additions to make an informed decision on what the future entails with this team.  I think this also sets up a clear succession plan for Shaw to step in after next season and for this upcoming year to serve as a bridge to the future where Shaw can take an even bigger leadership role while still sitting at the side of Phil.

I really can’t think of a better way for Lakers fans to celebrate the beginning of the free agency period.  Phil’s coming back, the Lakers have their championship core in tact, and there are still many valuable (yet still low cost) free agents on the market to recruit and potentially add to a team that should be the favorite to win their third straight title next season.  Wow.  My holiday weekend just came early.


It’s not really a free agency signing, and it’s far from a done deal, but I still think it’s significant: The Oklahoma City Thunder are currently in negotiations with Kevin Durant to extend his contract through the next five seasons for $80 million. Now THIS is a deal that makes sense. Not only is he 21 and the current scoring champion, but he is the face of a young and up-coming franchise that has a lot of promise. Keeping KD around for the next five seasons not only keeps their playoff team together, but it gives their fan base something to hold onto in the same way we received a sense of star-security every time Kobe extended his contract. This is a great move by the Thunder. They have until October to finish negotiations, but I doubt it will take that long. Durant loves playing in Oklahoma City and they love having him out there.

– Phillip


I’m absolutely floored by the Grizzlies decision to give Rudy Gay a max deal. I can understand wanting to bring him back, he’s 23, can score with the best of them and is awfully athletic and the small forwards on the market are far from desirable (LeBron is not in their market), but seriously, you don’t give max deals to guys who don’t make the playoffs. Anyone can NOT make the playoffs. Rudy Gay would best be served as a complimentary player for an actual max-deal type player, not the top dog himself. Not to mention that he’s had a questionable work ethic and has been a black hole on the offensive end his whole career. He doesn’t have the same will to win that you’d expect from your teams best paid guy (re: Kobe Bryant). I think this move is way too reactionary to Gay scheduling meetings with other teams. Having him back is huge, but for that much money is ridiculous. Yes, someone else would have offered him a max contract, but let that other team deal with that problem. Way too much of the Grizzlies cap is going to be taken up by Gay for this next half decade, really limiting what they can do to build their team. They had been doing a great job of putting that team together – as of right now, their building process has basically stopped unless they’re willing to take on the luxury tax. Just a terrible move.



To me, this John Salmons deal for Milwaukee is huge. This was a team that played extremely well after his acquisition down the stretch of the season and will now have him locked up for the next five years. This deal makes even more sense knowing that they just picked up Corey Maggette about a month ago. They are now looking at a very solid eight man rotation with Brandon Jennings, John Salmons, Maggette, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Andrew Bogut, Drew Gooden and Ersan Ilyasova. This team takes a significant hit without John Salmons so extending him was huge. Salmons has made a difference at every stop he’s made in this league and should, at the very least, be on the all star ballot this season. He’s very deserving of this extension as he is one of the least talked about players in the league who is making a positive difference on his respective team. I love this deal for Milwaukee. It’s not a done deal yet, but Milwaukee isn’t going to let Salmons go.



With thoughts on the Darko signing, I introduce Zach Harper, the creator of Cowbell Kingdom and He is also a regular contributor to Hardwood Paroxysm, Raptors Republic, A Wolf Among Wolves and the ESPN Daily Dime – not to mention the biggest, and only, Timberwolves fan that I know. He basically owns the internet and is a great writer, it was only a matter of time he wrote his peace here:

I’m not opposed to Darko Milicic being on the Timberwolves but it’s the terms that put him on this team that bother me. First, to sign someone to a four-year deal when they’ve never even had one good full season is really ridiculous. These are the kind of signings that kill future cap space when teams need flexibility. Second, with the addition of Nikola Pekovic from Europe, the Wolves now have too many players in the frontcourt for their liking. Since no one will acquire the unnecessary contract they already gave to Ryan Hollins, their next move will most likely be shipping Al Jefferson to a team for 40 cents on the dollar.

Trading Al Jefferson wouldn’t be a bad thing if they hadn’t killed his trade value during the week before the NBA Draft with offering him to everybody who has ever been a part of a basketball organization. And this is what the Darko signing does for them. It not only gives them a bench player for the next four years but it also justifies trading one of their best players for a pitiful return. This wouldn’t be so bad if they had taken DeMarcus Cousins in the draft but instead, they’re completely shaping their roster in an imbalanced and inefficient way. Darko’s signing just symbolizes this and that’s why it’s a bad signing. It’s a reminder of missteps and the bad things to come.



At this point, we have already seen three baffling deals/offers: Atlanta giving Joe Johnson a max contract, six years, 119 million; Milwaukee giving Drew Gooden 32 million over five years; and Minnesota giving Darko Milicic 20 million over four years.

Joe Johnson has only been offered that contract, nothing is official yet, but it was something that was expected, but still shocking. With so many teams with cap-space trying to woo Johnson as a sidekick in hopes to bring in LeBron James, a lot of us expected Johnson to receive a max deal – but not back with Atlanta. We’re talking about a 29-year-old guard whose best season saw his averages at 25 points, 4.4 assists and 4.4 rebounds. At best, Joe Johnson is a second option on a really good team – as a first option, he has failed to produce a conference finals appearance. He is a good scorer and one of the league’s best shooters, but by no means should he be making more money per season than a Lebron James (who can only make that amount of money by resigning with Cleveland). For Atlanta, this would be a horrible, horrible deal. I don’t even see Johnson playing at his best for another three years, much less six for 20 million for each of those years. If it happens, it puts them in a position to make the postseason for the next few years, but nothing more outside of that.

The Drew Gooden deal is the least shocking. This will be the eighth team that he has been employed by within the last year and a half. He isn’t the smartest big man in the league, but he plays hard and seems genuinely interested in his team’s best interest. He has decent numbers per 48 minutes (18.9 and 13.7). Milwaukee definitely needed some help at the power forward spot, especially someone with Gooden’s size, so it’s not a terrible fit. But then again, this is a guy who has played for A LOT of teams in a short amount of time. He seems to frequently get lost on the defensive end, which seems counter productive to what Scott Skiles is trying to do with the Bucks. But if anyone can improve the defensive play of a player, it’s Skiles. If it doesn’t work, Gooden’s contract isn’t too terrible that they can’t move him at some point down the line.

Thoughts on Darko coming soon. And I JUST read that the Bucks have reached an agreement with John Salmons to keep him there. Thoughts on this also coming soon.



The day that so many have been waiting for is finally here.  Last night the phones started (officially and openly) ringing and discussions began with selling points and recruting occurring in an attempt to woo that coveted target into committing.  And today, we plan to try and cover it all for you.  We’ll obviously keep you in tune with what’s going on with the Lakers and their goings on with everything free agency related, but we’ll also try to keep you tied in with updates from around the league.  Today is one of those days that it’s fun to be an NBA fan as all the movement and rumors keep us locked into what every team is doing.

First, there is some Lakers news to report.  Last night, the Lakers officially renounced the rights to Jordan Farmar who is now, officially, an unrestricted free agent.  Farmar is now free to sign with whomever offers him a contract with no concerns about the Lakers matching the offer and keeping him handcuffed as a 7th banana in an offense that does not suit him.  Reports are already surfacing that the Pacers, Knicks, and ‘Blazers are showing some interest in Farmar but may not be offering anything more than a one year deal.

And while the Lakers look like they’ll be losing one point guard, they’re actively trying to retain another.  The LA Times is reporting that when the clock struck midnight (on the east coast) the Lakers reached out to their own Derek Fisher tyring to get him to commit to returning to the Lakers.  The report states that they still may be a bit far apart on a dollar amount on the contract, but I think it’s fair to say that both sides are looking to continue this pretty successful relationship.  In that same report, it’s also mentioned that Brian Shaw withdrew his name from cosideration for the Cav’s vacant head coaching gig and is looking to return to the Lakers (in a role that is yet to be determined – assistant to Phil? Head coach?).  Shaw stated that the Cavs were looking for a decision before free agency began and he was not prepared to make up his mind on that timeline.  So, it looks like the new coach of the Cavs will be Byron Scott.  As a guy that was supportive of Shaw staying with the Lakers and Scott not (potentially) replacing Phil Jackson, this is good news to me.  We’ll see how it all works out in the end, but I wish Byron nothing but the best of luck with the Cavs.

Around the rest of the league, nothing major has happened yet as none of the top flight free agents have made up their minds.  However, there have been a few head scratching decisions.  Richard Jefferson opted out of the last year of his contract (love this headline from Dwyer), leaving $15mil on the table to become an unrestricted free agent.  Uh, wow.  That’s a lot of coin and I hope RJ knows what he’s doing.  Also curious was the Bucks decision to give Drew Gooden $32mil for 5 years of service.  Many liked Gooden in this market, but the full mid-level is awfully steep for a guy that I thought would be offered (maybe) $2-3mil for 3 years.  Plus, it looks like the Hawks are set on offering Joe Johnson the max they possibly can in an attempt to keep their best player in the ATL for a long time.  I can kind of see the logic of wanting to keep Joe (he’s been very good for the Hawks), but at that price for that long?  Again, curious decisions all around.

So stick with us throughout the day as Phillip and I will try to keep you tied in to the happenings from all around the league.  Any Lakers news will surely see an update in this thread – we’ll update at the top of the page – and if any deals from other teams tickle our fancy, you’ll get some choice words on those too.  Enjoy, as commenter DY called it, the NBA version of Black Friday as all these teams go shopping.