Archives For August 2010

Talking Lakers Bigs

Jeff Skibiski —  August 8, 2010

Deciding which Lakers big man reigns supreme in the team’s history books is like trying to fill your plate up at a a really nice buffet; first you eye the carved turkey and mashed potatoes, then your attention shifts to the double molten chocolate cake. When it’s all said and done though, you want a little of everything on your plate. Start your Sunday off with a little nostalgia with this video featuring arguably the crème de la crème of Lakers big men—Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Then, check out this insightful article from Yahoo! Sports’ Kelly Dwyer about Shaquille O’Neal’s untapped potential as the greatest big man of all-time. Here’s an excerpt:

And Shaq’s gifts were never fully realized as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s were in his time with Oscar Robertson (who, left without Paul Silas setting screens for him, dumped it into the skilled young center), or Abdul-Jabbar’s time before Magic Johnson (when it was Kareem, all alone, taking the lumps but getting to put up the numbers). Shaq’s best years were spent in an offense that asked the center to think pass-first, and yet he dominated first, second, and last. If anything – and this isn’t some caveat put down to make myself feel better about ripping on the guy – his time spent with the Lakers under Phil Jackson has been underrated.

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Following Magic Johnson’s stunning retirement, the Lakers were desperate for a spark to reignite their depressed fan base. Enter: Nick Van Exel. With an array of NBA Jam-worthy moves, Nick the Quick catapulted the forum blue and gold back into NBA relevance, quickly becoming a fan favorite in the process. Nick’s outspoken nature on the court and Hollywood smile ushered in a new era of basketball in Los Angeles, while proving his naysayers wrong with every twisting turn to the hoop and soft mid-range floater. Van Exel was as accessible as any up-and-coming star in the league, regularly personifying the emotion inside of the Great Western Forum with his spectacular arsenal of aerial acrobatics, clutch shooting and tough-nosed nature. Nick was an arcade player for Lakers fans, responding to their whims, catching fire at any moment, surprising them with a dazzling drive to the basket when they least expected it.

Van Exel’s tenure in L.A. wasn’t always easygoing though, as he frequently found himself at the center of controversy—whether it be with Head Coach Del Harris, referees (how can we ever forget when he shoved referee Ron Garretson?) or his own teammates. Through it all, Lakers fans supported Nick with the type of fervor usually reserved for only superstar-level players. It’s that same level of passion that makes Van Exel one of the more popular Lakers players of the last two decades.

Van Exel wasn’t a perfect player and truth be told, his averages of 15 points and seven assists during his five years with the team hid his often questionable decision-making and wavering attitude. Despite his faults, the Cincinnati alum wore his heart on his sleeve every time he stepped foot on the court and was a much-needed stop-gap in the post-Showtime years leading up to his eventual trade to the Nuggets shortly after the arrival of the Shaq/Kobe tandem. While Van Exel didn’t get to take part in the Lakers budding dynasty, he’ll always be remembered fondly as one of the franchise’s most exciting entertainers.

Check out this great Beyond the Glory piece below for an interview with Jerry West and others who talk about why the Lakers were willing to take a risk on Nick and what made him such a special athlete.

Los Angeles Lakers' Ron Artest gets in the face of Boston Celtics Paul Pierce (R) as Rasheed Wallace looks on during the first half of Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals basketball series in Los Angeles, California, June 17, 2010. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

In late June, a brawl broke out at a kindergarten graduation involved 20 adults, two of which were arrested. Not that a brawl breaking out at a kindergarten graduation wasn’t bad enough, but the adults began fighting over a Facebook comment that mentioned the Lakers. Adults. Facebook. Fighting. Kindergarten graduation.

We are currently living in a world where society gets scarier and scarier for our children every day. I’m a firm believer in providing an environment in which the children of my life have the best opportunity to succeed. A little over two years ago, my sister gave birth to my first nephew. Not even as a father, my perspective on the lives of children changed dramatically. When you have young kids in your life, there is a burden of raised responsibility that is placed upon you. I’m not saying that I’ve become a dramatically different person since the birth of my nephew, but his mere existence reinforces the fact that there are more important things in life than sports – most notably our youth.

As sports fans, we are a different kind of emotional beings. We love to defend the players and teams that we’ve invested a considerable amount of emotional time in, but there has to reach a line in which our defense has to stop. There is no point in Ron Artest defending players on the bench because they’re out of bounds. I’m sure he can do a great job in guarding those players, but it’s pointless and it makes him look foolish in the same way that fighting at a kindergarten graduation does. We need to make sure that we understand where the realm of our sports fandom begins and ends. This isn’t about the Lakers v. the NBA, this is about unruly parents v. their children. If we can’t even give our kids a peaceful graduation during some of the earliest years of lives, than we are failing them.

TrueHoop’s Henry Abbot wrote about the Bill Simmons/Chuck Klosterman podcast where they talked extensively about LeBron James decision to go to Miami. An interesting exchange that Simmons and Klosterman have involves the question of the ultimate consequence of sport. Simmons argues that James doesn’t understand the “life and death” part of sports. Klosterman argues that there is no life and death part of sports – and this is an argument that needs to be hammered into adults across the nation. No matter how strongly you feel about your favorite basketball team, there is never a situation that should call for one to engage in an altercation over what may or may not happen on the basketball court.

We need to be more responsible about our actions around our children to ensure they grow up with as many opportunities to succeed as possible. It’s a cruel, cruel world we live in, there is no need for that cruelness to be extrapolated from the adults in lives of these children.

Los Angeles Lakers guard Shannon Brown (C) slam dunks over top of Phoenix Suns guard Jason Richardson as Amar'e Stoudemire (L) and Lakers' Kobe Bryant (R) watch during Game 1 of their NBA Western Conference final playoff series in Los Angeles May 17, 2010. REUTERS/Mark J. Terrill/Pool (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL IMAGES OF THE DAY)

*It’s being reported that Shannon Brown will return to the Lakers after exploring his other options in free agency.  The deal is reportedly a 2 year contract worth 4.6 million dollars that will pay him 2.2 million in year one with a player option at 2.4 million in year two.  And really, I’m quite happy about this.  Over the past few weeks, I’ve been someone that believed Shannon could really help the team next year and that his willingness to be coached, learn the nuances of the Lakers’ sets, and improve his game are traits that are welcomed on this particular team.  Not to mention, we all like seeing plays like these.  So really, it’s a can’t lose situation.  Brown knows the Lakers system, is respected by his teammates, and is comfortable with the role that he’s carved out.  And speaking of his role, some are wondering if Shannon will be used the same way next season (i.e as Kobe’s primary back up).  Honestly, I don’t see any other scenario that makes sense.  Many will point to Matt Barnes as being  the player that will take a lot of minutes at back up SG (and thus Shannon being more of an insurance combo guard), but I don’t really see it that way.  This isn’t to say that Barnes won’t play any SG next year, but as I’ve said in the past Barnes’ questionable handle and turnover rate (not to mention his unfamiliarity with the Lakers system) don’t really make him an ideal candidate to play SG in the Triangle.  Barnes, I think, is much more of a pure SF and is likely to play the “Ariza” role in the offense where ball handling and offensive initiation is limited, while slashing and spot up shooting is emphasized.  Meanwhile, Brown can continue to play as a secondary ball handler in both full and half court situations while also doing all the things he’s done up to this point with the Lakers. 

*We’ve touched on this topic some over the past couple of days, but Shaq will be a Celtic.  There are many different opinions on this from all anglesbut here’s my two cents in relation to Shaq as a player and his legacy as a Laker:  Shaq’s been a great player in his career.  And while many want to explore what he could have been had he only worked harder/committed himself to elite conditioning/not burned bridges with his other teams/fill in the blank, I celebrate the man for what he actually did do during his career.  Mind you, this doesn’t mean I ignore his faults or fail to recognize the legitimacy of “what could have been” when it comes to the Diesel.  But I am saying that Shaq was fantastic during his prime and his peak was higher than many other players (maybe every other player save Kobe) that we’ve seen in the past 10 to 15 years.  Despite Shaq’s shortcomings, he was the best Center of his era (by far) and I have him a hair above Duncan as the best big man of his generation (with Shaq’s peak dominance being valued a bit more than Duncan’s robotic – yet high level – consistency).  I will always remember Shaq’s tenure with the Lakers fondly as his exploits directly led to three consecutive championships.  Yes he was foolishly wrong at times.  Yes, his grass is always greener attitude bothered me.  And of course, as stated earlier, he could have worked harder and been even greater than he was.  But, in the end, Shaq was a monster that gave the Lakers and their fans some of the best years (and playoff performances) that we’ve ever seen.  That’s not opinion.  Look at some of his playoff performances and the impact he had on the court.  I understand many will not agree with me, but it’s where I am with Shaq.  All that said, ask me again after the first time the Lakers play the Celtics this year.

*Over at TrueHoop, Henry Abbott has a great post up where he’s looking at how thinking can get in the way of performing well.  There’s more to it than that, but go over and give it a read.  After I read what Henry wrote (and the article he references in the post) I had so many thoughts about the Lakers.  I thought about game 7 of this past season’s Finals against the Celtics and how everyone seemed to play tight.  It was as if the moment was so big and the players wanted to play so well that they were over thinking the game and it led to nearly every player having a sub par shooting game.  The article also made me think of an interview with Robert Horry and him talking about the art of making clutch shots (you know, like this one) and how the key was not thinking about the moment and just shooting the ball as he normally would.  Anyways, go check out Henry’s post and let me know if you can think of any other Lakers moments that fall into this category.

*And speaking of reading other sites, I’m still always impressed with the high quality work that so many writers put out there when it comes to basketball.  Just in the past couple days, a couple of pieces that I really liked were Eddy Rivera’s post on Tracy McGrady’s wasted prime years in Orlando (and how good T-Mac really was) and Rob Mahoney’s piece on positional revolution in basketball.  Just two excellent pieces of writing that I enjoyed.

*On a side note, still looking for more mailbag questions.  So, send them in as I’m looking to put together another post with answers to questions in the next week.

INGLEWOOD, CA - JANUARY 19:  (FILE PHOTO) Lakers T.V. and radio broadcaster Chick Hearn speaks during the Los Angeles Lakers 92-89 win over the Orlando Magic on January 19, 1998 at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, California.  Hearn, famous for his basketball phrases like 'slam dunk' and 'air ball' during his 42-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, died on August 5, 2002.  He was 85.  (Photo by Elsa Hasch/Getty Images)

Below are some Lakers related links and after the break are some links dedicated to leaguewide news.  Enjoy.

From Rey Moralde, The No Look Pass: It was eight years ago today (August 5, 2002) that the legendary late, great play-by-play announcer of the Los Angeles Lakers, Chick Hearn, passed away. In many ways, Chick Hearn was the Los Angeles Lakers. For a long time, it was him that completed your Laker games and he was the constant for many years of that franchise. If you weren’t at the Great Western Forum or the Staples Center, Chick made you feel like you were there yourself. His non-stop play-by-play is incredible. He can describe what’s going on during a game, whether it’s television or radio, and never made you feel lost. And he does it in remarkable rapid-fire delivery that only he can. Chick Hearn never seemed to run out of ways to describe a current situation and, even at his advanced age, you wonder how he did it. He was the best at describing what was going on in a ballgame with his endless basketball jargon. (Listen to his awesome play-by-play over here.)

From Zach Lowe, Celtics Hub: As I contemplated the reality that the Celtics had signed Shaquille O’Neal to a two-year deal, I started thinking about how Shaq immediately becomes the greatest player ever to have suited up for both of the league’s two historic powers. That got me thinking that it would be a fun waste of time thought exercise to try and build an actual basketball team composed only of players who have played for both the Lakers and Celtics. It’s a smaller group than you think—around two dozen—but we can build a pretty damn good team from this group. Two rules: 1) We are going to imagine each of these players in their prime. Gary Payton was obviously a shell of himself during his seasons in Boston and LA, but Gary Payton in his prime is indisputably the starting point guard of this all-time team. It’s just more fun—and a bit simpler—to do things this way. 2) No Minneapolis Lakers. Apologies to Clyde Lovellette, a Hall of Famer who won multiple titles with both the Minneapolis Lakers and the C’s.

From Vincent Goodwill, The Detroit News: Somewhere, Kobe Bryant is rocking a broad smile. Bryant, who used to own the title of “most compelling offseason NBA figure,” has ceded the spotlight in recent years. From being charged with sexual assault in Colorado (later dismissed) to his beef with former teammate Shaquille O’Neal to his on-again, off-again trade demands, Bryant is used to holding court in the offseason. Now, going on 32, he seemingly has left the drama to LeBron James. Bryant is the forgotten man in the NBA’s summer of hype, which should scare the living daylights out of his closest competitors. If there’s one way in which Bryant is most like Michael Jordan, it’s how he takes perceived slights. In Jordan’s Hall of Fame speech, he told everyone how his psyche worked. Whether it was Isiah Thomas, Pat Riley or Bryon Russell, anything Jordan could used as fuel to his fire, he did.

From Marc Berman, The New York Post: The Knicks’ chances of landing free-agent shooting guard Shannon Brown are just about over. Mark Bartelstein, Brown’s agent, told The Post the Lakers guard is “leaning” toward returning to the Lakers to go for a “three-peat.” Brown is expected to make his final decision today. The Knicks, according to a source, offered Brown just a one-year contract as they moved to protect their 2011 salary cap for a run at Carmelo Anthony. The Knicks offered him the full $2.7 million that they are under the cap. The Lakers have offered the fourth-year guard less per season, but multiple years.

From Mike Trudell, Basket Blog: As the NBA’s offseason months roll on, we dialed up ESPN’s Ric Bucher to chat about covering the Finals, Kobe Bryant’s “unquenchable thirst” (not to mention his tussling of Bucher’s hair), the additions of Steve Blake and Matt Barnes to L.A., Bucher’s questions about LeBron James going to Miami and more. Bucher also offered up his most underrated NBA city, favorite road meal and stated why he thinks the Lakers should consider moving a major piece at some point of the season.

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From Dan Wolken, The Commercial Appeal: Lorenzen Wright was remembered Wednesday not only as a local basketball star but as a devoted family man with a deep affection for his community as thousands gathered inside FedExForum to mourn a life taken too soon. The memorial service for Wright, who was found dead last week in Southeast Memphis from gunshot wounds, lasted nearly three hours and included speeches from his siblings, local dignitaries and members of the basketball community tracing his journey from Booker T. Washington High to the University of Memphis and the Memphis Grizzlies. “He was a young man who never forgot who he was, where he came from, the values that shaped him and the people who encouraged him along the way,” Mayor AC Wharton said. “Lorenzen’s story was one of those special Memphis stories where a man is able to transcend his roots even while he represents those roots proudly.”

From George Diaz, The Orlando Sentinel: There were about 50 foster kids in the auditorium Wednesday afternoon. David Vaughn’s story did not resonate with all of them, but hopefully a handful of faces in the crowd heard every word, and found strength in his journey sprinkled with desperation and determination. Vaughn told them about his highs as a first-round draft pick of the Orlando Magic in 1995, the $1.8 million contract, the cars and all the other extravagant toys; his lows of depression and violence, and how he ended up as a wayward husband, homeless and destitute. “It’s a great experience to share my story,” Vaughn said. David Vaughn’s comeback likely won’t be documented in Sports Illustrated or ESPN, but it is worth telling because it reflects a tenacity not often seen on the competitive fields of play.

From Chris Tomasson, NBA Fanhouse: There goes another big man. Team USA has lost New Jersey’s Brook Lopez, the sixth significant post player to have departed in the past three weeks. Lopez dropped off the team due to his bout with mono and was replaced Wednesday by Washington center JaVale McGee as Team USA prepares for the World Championship, Aug. 28-Sept. 12 in Turkey. McGee had been with the team for a July 20-24 Las Vegas training camp and was cut last Wednesday when the roster was reduced from 19 to 15 for a training camp next week in New York. However, USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo had said at the time of the cuts that McGee could be invited back. That’s what happened after Lopez bowed out. Lopez got mono last spring and lost 25 pounds, although he has gained most of it back. However, he got out of shape and played poorly in Las Vegas.

From Matt Hubert, D-Leauge Digest: Dating back to the 2005-06 season, each D-League franchise has one (or more) NBA affiliate each season. Although there are exceptions, most of the affiliations are renewed each year, allowing the corresponding D-League and NBA franchises to build a relationship over time. During the NBA season, every NBA team has the option to assign any of its first- and second-year players to their D-League affiliate. The NBA team retains the player’s rights and has the right to recall him to the NBA at any time. When an assigned player is recalled, that ends the assignment. A player can be assigned up to three times during a season, and there is no cap on how long an individual assignment can last. There are two common misconceptions regarding NBA affiliations in the D-League.

Apr. 30, 2010 - Oklahoma City, OKLAHOMA, UNITED STATES - epa02138257 Los Angeles Lakers player Kobe Bryant (R) takes the ball in against Oklahoma City Thunder player Kevin Durant (L) in the second half of their Western Conference first round playoff game at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma USA, 30 April 2010.

Over the past couple of days, leaks of the upcoming NBA schedule have begun.  National websites and local papers alike are giving fans the skinny on what marquee match ups lie ahead and what games fans can look forward to on the most special of days.   We’ve already been told who the Lakers will open with (Houston), who’ll they’ll play on Christmas (Miami) and who’ll they’ll play on MLK’s Birthday (OKC).  (On a side note, MLK’s Birthday is one of my favorite days of basketball.  The match ups are always good and the league always has a heavy slate of games that start early and go late into the night.)  So, with us Lakers fans now in the know (at least partially) of what lies ahead for the 2010-11 season, I figured we should take a look at the three aforementioned games and give a small preview with some extra thoughts sprinkled in.

Opening Night:

For the 2nd time in 4 campaigns the Lakers will begin their season against the Houston Rockets.  So, on the night where the players will receive their championship jewelry (remember last years?) and where banner #16 will go up into the Staples Center rafters, one of the Lakers toughest foes of the past several seasons will be looking to spoil the show. 

And Houston will come in stocked full of talent and ready to roll.  Well known Lakers killer Carl Landry will (thankfully) not be in attendance due to his trade to the Kings, but the Rockets will have many other players to test the Lakers resolve.  And it all starts with the return of Yao Ming.  After breaking his foot against the Lakers in the 2009 playoffs, Yao will get to get his revenge out of the way quickly by facing the team that eliminated his Rockets as he stared from the sideline.  Joining Yao in the starting line up will be Luis Scola (who just re-upped with Houston), Shane Battier, Kevin Martin, and Aaron Brooks.  And off the bench the Rox will once again roll out Trevor Ariza, Kyle Lowry, Chuck Hayes, Jared Jeffries, Chase Buddinger, (rookie) Patrick Patterson, and Jordan Hill.  This is deep Houston team (a very good top eight) that can play a variety of styles on offense while also playing hard nosed defense.

This will easily be a tough test for the Lakers as the return of Yao will invigorate the Rockets while the combination of the ring ceremony and incorporating new players may have the Lakers not as sharp as normal (think to last season’s opener against the Clippers for an example of what I mean).  And while I’m not going to predict a win or loss at this point (we haven’t even seen any pre-season games), I can already say that the Lakers are going to face a stiff opponent that will be ready to take them down.  Remember, Houston is a team that fancies itself a championship contender with all their players healthy.  So, what better way to prove that than taking down the champions on the first night of the season?

Christmas Day:

This is the match up that everyone is salivating over.  Fans, league officials, players from other teams, media, and advertisers will all be planted in front of their TV’s with their glass of egg nog and wrapping paper thrown around their living rooms.  We’ll all be watching this contest to see the two (presumed) best teams in the league square off.

And while I’m excited about this match up (already), I must say that I really don’t know what to expect.  Take into account the following factors:

• We still don’t know how this Heat team will play together. They are obviously supremely talented, but they have a brand new team that will have only played together a couple of months up to this point. Will they have the kinks worked out? Only time will tell and right now we haven’t had any time.

• The Lakers will surely be motivated to play well in this game and will want to bring their best effort. However, will that cause some of them to press? The Lakers usually perform well in spotlight games and for once, they may be the team that the majority of NBA fans are rooting for, but sometimes wanting something too much can be a detriment to success.

• The Lakers play poorly on Christmas. I’ve had plenty of recent Christmases at least partially spoiled by a Lakers loss. Look at last year’s match up with Cleveland. Or the three straight years the Lakers lost to Miami on Christmas (’04-’06). Really, when looking at the past 10 seasons, the Lakers have only won 3 games on December 25th and at one point lost 6 of 7 (and 5 in a row). And it’s not like this lack of success can be blamed on being on the road as the Lakers have played 8 of those 10 games at home. (Although, if you want my theory, I actually think being at home hinders you in a Christmas day game as you’ve got all of your family commitments and the good times of the holiday broken up by a basketball game. When you’re on the road, I would think it’s easier to focus on the game itself without all the other commitments swirling around you. But I digress.)  And maybe the Lakers weren’t the most talented team in that stretch (especially in the middle of the decade), but considering the Lakers have won 5 championsips in the last 10 seasons but have only won 3 games on this particular holiday…let’s just say I’m prepared for any result.

However it turns out though, I can say that it will surely be a spectacle rarely exhibited in professional sports.  It may not be the Super Bowl, but I could easily see it rivaling the NBA All-Star game in that it will be an incredibly tough ticket with celebrities all wanting to see and be seen as the concentration of talent on the court will be the most a seen since the Lakers faced the Celtics in their 80’s hayday. 

MLK’s Birthday:

In all honesty, the match up with the Thunder on this day may be my favorite game of the three we’ve discussed.  Sure the Heat game is the glamorous one, but the Thunder are an up and coming team that the Lakers just faced in the playoffs this past season.  There’s a recent history with this team that can’t be ignored and I’ll be giddy every time these two teams match up.

There’s just so much goodness to explore in this match up.  Will Durant solve Artest’s pestering defense?  Will Kobe guard Westbrook? Will Gasol and Bynum continue to dominate the Thunder front line?  How much better will Serge Ibaka be?  How about the Thunder trio that are all participating in the training camp for Team USA?  You have to figure that all of those guys will raise their respective games a notch and with the added motivation of revenge on their minds, this is a can’t miss game for fans of both sides (and die hard fans around the league that don’t even have a rooting interest).  Again, I’m very excited for this game.

We’ll obviously get more into more analysis of the schedule as more details come out.  We’ll talk about potential win totals and highlight other match ups when the time comes.  But for now, these are three games that jump to the forefront for me.  Do you have a favorite?  If you could only watch one, which would it be?  Let me know in the comments.

Mar. 04, 2010 - Miami, FLORIDA, UNITED STATES - epa02065582 Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (L) drives the ball past Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade (R) during their game at the American Airlines arena in Miami, Florida, USA 04 March 2010. The Heat defeated the Lakers in overtime 114-111.

From Ramona Shellbourne, ESPN Los Angeles: Phil Jackson has officially signed a contract to return to the Los Angeles Lakers. The 11-time NBA champion coach announced on July 1 that he would return for what he called “the last stand for me” but it took until last week to finalize a new contract, according to a source close to the situation. Terms of Jackson’s new contract have not been released. A message left for his agent Todd Musburger Monday evening was not returned.

From Brian Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: Because Timberwolves vs. Kings is too big to waste on a day where fans might be distracted by toys or ham. Fortunately, the NBA was left with a decent consolation prize, insofar as ratings go. For the second straight season, LeBron James will return to Los Angeles on Christmas Day, though this time it’ll be in a different uniform (perhaps you heard he changed teams). There was certainly a chance the league could have gone Lakers vs. Celtics … but not really. L.A. vs. the SuperTeam! is the true made-for-X-Mas matchup, hypnotic as the yule log. Just as Christmas seems to arrive in stores earlier and earlier every year, so too will the hype and buildup for this game. As in … now.

From ESPN.com: Free-agent center Shaquille O’Neal will likely sign with the Boston Celtics, as soon as Tuesday night or Wednesday, sources told ESPN The Magazine’s Chris Broussard. O’Neal had said earlier Tuesday that he hopes to make a decision about his future soon, and both NBA.com and Comcast SportsNet New England indicated that the Celtics were “close” to signing the four-time NBA champion. Later Tuesday, The Associated Press cited a person with knowledge of the negotiations as saying the Celtics were making progress on a deal for O’Neal. The Atlanta Hawks had been the front-runner to land O’Neal last month and are not completely out of the picture, sources told Broussard, but they have fallen behind the Celtics.

From Jorge Arce, Bettor.com: Can the conversation be started now? as Kobe Bryant won his 5th title this year. Basketball enthusiasts say Kobe Bryant might be a great player but he is still not at par with all time Legend Michael Jordan statically or charismatically. Considering statistically, Kobe is still shy of one championship compared to Jordan’s 6 world championship titles, which he acquired in 15 years. However, Michael took the Bulls to win 3 consecutive titles from 1991-93 and then from 1996-98. Experts say if Michael had not left in-between to pursue his dad’s dream of becoming a baseball player, undoubtedly his reign would not have come to an end and Bulls could have won 8 consecutive titles for certain.

From David Brickley, The Lakers Nation: What if Mitch Kupchak wasn’t one of the best GM’s in the league? A man that has assembled a championship team, who isn’t satisfied with just one championship, the thrill of victory makes him hungry for more. Whether it was the devastating loss in the Finals to Boston in 2008, or the last two seasons in which the Lakers have won it all, Mitch Kupchak continues to improve the roster year in and year out. One may say he is never satisfied, that he always looks forward to the next season. We all know what he is most famous for, trading away Kwame Brown for All-Star Pau Gasol. But what about Brian Cook for Trevor Ariza, or Vladimir Radmonivic for Shannon Brown, signing Ron Artest to the MLE, bringing in Steve Blake, or Matt Barnes at the vets minimum. Or what about not doing anything at all.

June 17, 2010 - Los Angeles, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES - epa02208512 Los Angeles Lakers' head coach Phil Jackson points during a play against the Boston Celtics during the second half of game seven of the NBA Finals at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, USA, 17 June 2010. The Lakers defeated the Celtics 83-79.

The calendar has turned to August and news surrounding the Lakers roster is starting to dry up.  However, there’s still some news to report and we’re here to give you the most updated information we can…

*For those concerned about the hold up in Phil actually signing his new contract to coach the Lakers, fret no more.  Mr. Eleven Championships has finally put pen to paper to return as head man of the defending champs.  And while there aren’t a lot of details about the deal (really, there aren’t any details in regards to years, dollar amounts, incentives), we can all breath a bit easier now that Phil is officially back pacingsitting on the sidelines and stoically not calling timeouts as the Lakers pursue another championship.  Not that I was ever concerned about his return.  I will, however, be waiting on any information about the actual terms of the deal whenever those are released.  Is it a one year deal as expected?  How much (if any) of a paycut did Phil take?  Do incentives still exist for winning the championship?  Curious minds want to know.

*Phil’s assistants – Brian Shaw, Frank Hamblen, and Jim Cleamons – have also all been brought back into the fold.  And special assistant Chuck Person has had the “special” lifted from his title and is now just a plain ol’ assistant coach.  I’m happy for the return of “The Rifleman” as he did a lot of good work behind the scenes(h/t to Land O’ Lakers) and got a lot of good ink during the playoffs for helping Kobe refine the release on his shot due to his busted index finger.  On a side note, Person was a player that I always liked during his playing days.  He may not have been much of a defender, but he was a fiery competitor that could fill it up from anywhere on the court. 

*With the coaching staff now settled and back in full, the last questions have to do with who (if anyone) will fill out the Lakers roster.  The Lakers are still in talks with Shannon Brown’s agent about a return of WOW and I’m hopeful that something can be worked out so that he does indeed return.  I’ve noted (and we can all agree) that Shannon has holes in his game and that he’ll likely never be a starter on a team the caliber of the Lakers (especially not with #24 in the mix).  However, his athleticism and want to play the right way are excellent traits to have on a team and I think he’ll continue to make strides in his development to the point that he can be a steadier contributor in future seasons.  Plus, as we’ve discussed, Sasha’s contract runs out after next season and Matt Barnes’ deal has a player option after next season.  It’s quite realistic that the Lakers could be looking for another back up on the wing after next season and Brown could easily be that guy if Sasha/Barnes do in fact leave.  If the Lakers really like Shannon (and it seems like they do), it seems like a good idea to make a commitment to him now so that in another year they’re not right back where they are now – looking for a back up for Kobe.

*Speaking of Sasha, there have been reports recently that the Lakers are looking to get rid of his contract.  One report had the Lakers looking to trade Sasha for Delonte West in a deal that would save a couple million dollars (including the luxury tax payment) as West makes less than the Machine.  This led to speculation that the Lakers would add another head casein the talented, yet troubled combo guard.  However, now that West has been waived by the T-Wolves that rumor can go away as West is a UFA and can’t be traded for any longer.  All that said, I think we should point out (as Kurt did) that any acquisition of West would likely have led to the Lakers waiving the guard who only had a partial guarantee on next year’s contract.  That would have saved the Lakers some real money and freed up both the cash and minutes that Shannon probably craves from any of his suitors.  Anyways, now that any deal for West is dead the Lakers are likely still trying make a move with Sasha though no one knows if they’ll actually make progress on that front.  It will be interesting to see, however, if the Sasha’s status with the Lakers influences any of the ongoing talks with Shannon’s agent.

*The Lakers still have not signed either of their rookies to contracts, but I have not heard of any snags in that department and anticipate that both Ebanks and Caracter will be signed to deals at some point before camp begins.  As I’ve expressed before, I’m high on both of these kids as talents and think that Mitch got two steals at points in the draft that don’t typically produce NBA caliber players.  And while I hesitate to take too much from their summer league performances, I believe that both of these players have enough ability to step in and play moderate minutes in a pinch as they both have a maturity to their physiques and games that could translate to the NBA right away.