Archives For May 2011

From Andy Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: Pau Gasol’s disastrous postseason has already been dissected like a biology class frog, so we’ll skip the rehash. The dirty little secret of this wipe out, however, is that his regular season actually signaled what laid ahead, albeit in more subtle fashion. Gasol’s 2011 campaign was, by his high standards, spotty. That’s not to say Pau played badly, because he didn’t. Plenty of big men would be plenty satisfied with his numbers — 18.8 points, 10.2 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.6 blocks — in line with the best of his career, much less as a Laker. But one of El Spaniard’s greatest strengths is his consistency, and he wasn’t nearly as reliable game to game this season. The inconsistencies are revealed in his splits: December and January scoring averages below 17 points, including a December in which he shot below 50 percent from the field, which is basically unheard of for Pau. The inconsistencies are also revealed in his game log. Seven games with 16+ rebounds, but also pockets of multiple-game streaks with single digit grabs. Even during the Lakers’ post All-Star break dominance, there were four consecutive games with just five rebounds. That’s a modest haul by Kobe Bryant’s standard, much less a seven-footer’s.

From Actuarially Sound, Silver Screen and Roll: It should not surprise anyone that the head coaching search being undertaken by the Los Angeles Lakers is different than any other coaching search in the leauge. After all, the Lakers are a high profile team to begin with, and this particular job comes with the added pleasure, and pressure, of inheriting a roster that has championship quality talent. It remains to be seen whether this season’s flame out was simply a combination of unfortunate circumstances, or the beginning of the end of the Kobe Bryant era, but there can be no doubt that next season will be held to the exact same standard of success or failure that this season was.It will be championship or bust. But the high profile of the position is not what makes the Lakers’ search so unique. Instead, what makes this search so different from what is going on in Golden State or Houston is the stark similarity between the Lakers coaching search and a political campaign.  The candidates are not being judged simply by their qualities and merits as a person.  Instead, their ideologies are center stage in helping to make this selection.  The process itself may not be democratic, but the choice will be made based on the answer to this question:  Should we stay the course, and maintain the current system?  Or is now the time for change?

From Brian Champlin, Lakers Nation: Brian Shaw is as familiar  to Lakers fans as cracker jacks are to a baseball game. We all have fond memories of his clutch threes in the epic comeback against Portland, his steady veteran leadership, his defense and of course his alley-oop passes as part of the Shaw-Shaq redemption. But the question on Lakers’ fans minds now is, would he make a good head coach? There is something to be said for continuity and the of hiring Shaw would represent the ultimate in that respect. He would almost certainly run the triangle offense and there is probably no other available candidate more qualified to do so than he. The triangle has been good to the Lakers over the years and as recently a season ago it was the system that brought them a second consecutive title. And really the truth is that with their current roster of aging players and non-athletes, it tough to foresee the Lakers changing styles of play with their current personnel. But keeping the system in tact isn’t the only reason to go with Shaw.

From Elizabeth Benson, Lakers Nation: There was one reason why Mitch Kupchak brought Ron Artest to the Los Angeles Lakers: defense. Artest’s hiring brought many questions to the Lakers’ community because of his erratic and sometimes violent behavior on the court. In fact, it was Ron Artest who got into a verbal altercation on the court with Kobe Bryant a few months prior to his joining the Lakers’ squad.  This altercation took place during the playoff series between the Lakers and the then Ron Artest led, Houston Rockets. Not to my surprise, Bryant shrugged off the situation and called it a part of the competition of the game. But what surprised me, was how Artest was able to forget the conflict and move on as a new Laker. The man behind the “Malice in the Palace” is a different man. His revelation that he is suffering from mental illness – which is the true reasoning behind his angered past – seemed to lift the monkey off of Artest’s back and inspire others.  His further commitment to bringing awareness and helping those who also suffer from mental illness could only be commended and has in fact been rewarded.  On the court, Artest has the defensive ability to frustrate his opponent’s mind and game.  During his first season with the Lakers, he understood his mainly defensive role, but was still able to hit the jumper when necessary.

From Tim Kawakami, Talking Points: Jerry West, one of the most respected executives in NBA history, has agreed to join the Warriors front office in a non-decision-making, advisory role, multiple NBA sources confirmed tonight. An announcement is expected within a few days. West’s exact title has not yet been formalized, but he is expected to be reporting to co-owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber and possibly act as a sounding board in many areas. The addition of an icon like West is another aggressive and surprising move by Lacob, who brought in agent Bob Myers last month as his GM-apparent. West and Myers have a long relationship via West’s close friend Arn Tellem, Myers’ mentor in the agenting industry. West, a Hall of Famer player, was the Lakers’ GM from 1982 to 2000, when the franchise won 7 titles. West also was GM of the Memphis Grizzlies from 2002 to 2007, and was a consultant for a few years after that.

From Mark Medina, LA Times: Sitting on the team plane, plenty of thoughts raced around Lamar Odom’s mind.  The Lakers just lost in a four-game sweep to the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference semifinals, officially ending the defending champions’ chance to three-peat. He had ended that effort in embarrassing fashion, committing a flagrant foul on Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki in the fourth quarter, a defining moment that symbolized the Lakers’ loss of composure. And then Odom’s thoughts quickly raced about his improved individual season, where his third-best 14.4 points on 53% shooting and a third-best 8.7 rebounds earned him the NBA sixth man of the year and coincided with his increased celebrity brand, most notably featuring he and wife Khloe Kardashian starring in a reality television show dubbed “Khloe and Lamar,” and the launching of a unisex fragrance line titled “Unbreakable.” But Odom’s emotions on the team plane provided more compelling drama than anything that reality television might capture and brought into question the validity of the name of his fragrance.

From Royce Young, Daily Thunder: The Thunder pulled out an incredibly gutsy, hard-fought Game 2 to even the series 1-1 with a 106-100 win. But more than likely, there’s going to be more talk about how the Thunder won the game than actually that they won the game. Scott Brooks is the main reason the word “gutsy” is in that lede. Brooks made what I’m sure was an extremely difficult decision to go with his bench the entire fourth quarter. Russell Westbrook — who was very good the first three quarters — didn’t play a second. It was Eric Maynor’s team to run. In fact, only one starter played the bulk of the fourth and it was Kevin Durant. (Thabo and Serge Ibaka played the closing minutes.) I’ve already heard people saying Westbrook was pouting, furious or a lot of other negative things about his “benching.” I’ve heard people speculating that Brooks wanted to teach him a lesson. But that’s not at all what this was about. This was about the five players on the floor and how well they were playing. This was about going with what was going to win you a game. Russell Westbrook isn’t stupid. The Thunder won the game and that’s what matters. He understands that. I’m sure he’s going to be a little upset. I’m sure he’s offended he didn’t come in. But the win is what matters and he gets that.

From Kenny Masenda, Ed The Sports Fan: When people think of the Oklahoma City Thunder, the first two names that usually come to mind are Kevin Durant and Kyle Lee Wa– err, I mean Russell Westbrook. It’s totally understandable, as they are the faces of the team. However, there’s another man on that team who is easily my favorite player and has been ever since he put on a Thunder uniform. The man looks about as athletic as a jar of applesauce, but when he gets on the court, he is a serious problem. That man is none other than James Harden. The story of Harden on ETSF is like others on here, in the sense that an opinion of a player is divided between Ed and myself. When OKC drafted him third overall last year, I preached to Ed how great of a pick it was. Shoot, the man was instant offense, a decent facilitator, and with the make-up of their team, he could be a legitimate sixth man of the year candidate for the Thunder.

As we slog through the off-season, the questions about how to improve the Lakers are plentiful. A repeat of this season’s disappointments will not be acceptable for this group next season. However, nearly every conversation about how the Lakers can improve next season is focused on some sort of major change that needs to occur. Whether it’s finding a replacement for Phil Jackson or trading current players for other pieces that help this team get better, our instinct is to find that new shiny toy that will improve the 2012 version of the Lakers.

However, what I’ve found to be true more often than not is that when you have a championship caliber team (as the Lakers do), sometimes the best way to improve is from within. After the 2008 loss to Boston, the Lakers came back with nearly the exact same roster and claimed the championship the following season. The reason that they were able to win the next year had to do with the fact that Pau Gasol got stronger, Andrew Bynum got healthy (for the most part) and improved his game, Trevor Ariza worked on his shooting, etc, etc. The same Lakers that lost the year before got better the next season and reached their goal.

With that in mind, my thoughts drift to what this current group of players can do to improve their individual games to come back next season as better, more productive players. We start off looking at Kobe Bryant.

This past season was an interesting one for Kobe as he played fewer minutes and practiced less as a result of dealing with the residual affects of nagging issues with his off-season knee surgery and his in-season ankle sprain. Plus, whether he’d admit it or not, the ongoing problems with his arthritic index finger on his shooting hand remains an everyday impediment to his ball handling and security (and, potentially, his jump shot).

That said, going into this off-season Kobe is as close to 100% healthy as he’s been in many seasons. There will be no off-season surgery that limits his workout regimen; no deep playoff run that requires a longer recuperation period or pushes back when he can begin his off-season program. This summer Kobe should be able to put in a lot of work to strengthen his body and be in prime physical condition for the start of next season (whenever that may be). In his exit interview, Kobe stated that:

This is a good summer for me to train and get strong. There’s a difference between feeling healthy and feeling as strong as I know I can be … there’s another level I can get to.

With a stronger Kobe, the hope is that he can once again assert himself on both ends of the floor to be the difference maker that he’s been in the last two championship seasons.

Understand that despite first team honors for both All-Defense and All-NBA, Kobe didn’t have one of his trademark years on either side of the ball. While I support Kobe’s inclusion on the All-NBA 1st team (I believe it was a toss up between Kobe and Wade and would have been okay with either being selected), Kobe’s inclusion on the All-Defensive team isn’t something that I can defend easily. His knee issues at the beginning of the year and ankle problems near the end of the season affected Kobe’s defense more than many are willing to admit. The hope is that if he’s fully healthy next season, we can see more of the tenacious defender that has the ability to impact the game on D the same way he does on O.

Offensively, Kobe can also take a step forward this upcoming season just by being a bit healthier. When looking at his shot location data at Hoop Data, Kobe took nearly 1.5 less shots at the rim this past season than he did the year before. And while some of his inside scoring was supplemented by the fact that he shot a higher percentage at the rim and also took more shots in the 3-9 foot range, the fact is that Kobe did not drive as much and instead worked more from the post or shot pull up jumpers and runners when he did get by his man. This next season, a Kobe Bryant that has his legs under him may be able to turn some of those short jumpers and runners into lay-ins and dunks at the basket.

A stronger Kobe can also be more effective in the post this year than he was this past season. So much of establishing good position in the post is lower body strength and ability to quickly cut and reposition in order to be available for a post entry. This past year, Kobe depended much more on dribbling into the post to earn his position or relied more on his upper body strength to ward off defenders before giving up some of his position to go and meet the ball. With better leg strength, Kobe should be able to move better off the ball to earn position and better hold that spot when fighting with a defender before making the catch. With Kobe’s tremendous footwork, any inch in better positioning can lead to an easier shot attempt – be it a turnaround jumper or a step through for a finish at the rim.

Beyond any strength improvement from extra training or a more refined skill set based off his renowned work ethic, don’t discount how hunger and drive can also produce a better Kobe Bryant next year. This is a player that’s long took slights personally and used failure as a strong motivator to come back even more focused and prepared to dominate. With the Lakers 2nd round ouster fresh on his mind and people questioning whether this team’s window is closing (which could be construed as a dig at his own ability to be the best player on a championship team) I anticipate Kobe being a better player next year than he was this past season.

And if you’re looking for a way to improve this team the fastest, a better Kobe is nice place to start.

From Ramona Shellbourne, ESPNLA: Phil Jackson is retired, we think. The Los Angeles Lakers season is over, we know. But that’s about all the certainty in longtime assistant coach Frank Hamblen’s world these days. “I’m not looking to retire yet,” said Hamblen, who has been with the Lakers for 12 years and is the longest-tenured assistant coach in the NBA. “I think I have a good two or three years left in me. So I just have to wait and see what [the Lakers] do, and keep my options open.” Hamblen, 64, played a key role on Jackson’s staff for seven of his 11 NBA titles. He also coached the Lakers for the last three months of the 2005 season, after Rudy Tomjanovich abruptly stepped down.

From Dave McMenamin, ESPNLA: Less than a week has passed since Phil Jackson limped his long body out of the Lakers’ practice facility for the last time. Since then the team has pieced together a short list of candidates: two tested veterans (Rick Adelman and Mike Dunleavy) and two guys looking for their first stint on the sidelines (Lakers assistants Brian Shaw and Chuck Person). Keep in mind, it’s still early in the Lakers’ coaching search, but those are the first names to draw interest. Interviews with L.A. general manager Mitch Kupchak will go on hold for about a week because he flew to Chicago on Tuesday to attend a pre-draft camp and will continue on to another camp in Minnesota to look at prospects; the Lakers have four second-round draft picks, but no first-rounder. Kupchak is scheduled to return to Los Angeles next Tuesday night.

From Dexter Fishmore, Silver Screen and Roll: Much of the chatter surrounding the Lakers’ search for their next head coach has focused on the Triangle offense. What will become of it now that Phil Jackson, its zealous apostle, has left town? Do the Lakers need someone who will preserve Triangle purity? Do they even want someone who will? Much less overt thought has been given to the Lakers’ defense, even though it’s equally in need of a strategic reassessment. This past season, the effectiveness of the Laker D came and went. At the All-Star break, they ranked 10th in the league with a defensive efficiency (i.e., points allowed per 100 possessions) of 105.7. Not a bad mark, but not really up to championship snuff. Then Andrew Bynum began dominating fools, and after the break the Lakers posted a defensive efficiency of 102.1. That was more like it!

From Kevin Arnovitz, Heat Index: Lost amid the inspiring return of Udonis Haslem and the late-game heroics of LeBron James was the best performance nobody is talking about this morning — Dwyane Wade’s defense in Game 2. Wade was simply brilliant on the Bulls’ side of the floor on Wednesday night. His 40 minutes in Game 2 were a composite of his best defensive attributes, both his instincts and his fundamentals. Over the course of the evening, he covered all three of the Bulls’ shooting guards then, when the game was on the line in the fourth quarter, he took on the assignment of handling Derrick Rose. Wade’s electrifying defensive effort began 15 seconds into the game on Chicago’s very first possession. Wade was covering Keith Bogans, who has been a lightning rod for Chicago fans all season. With Bogans on the court in the postseason, the Bulls are scoring only 94.4 points per 100 possessions. When he’s on the bench, they’re a robust 106.8 points per 100 possessions.

From Matt McHale, By The Horns: In Game 1, the Bulls won with defense and rebounding. In Game 2, the Heat won with defense and rebounding. Don’t get me wrong. There were other factors. Plenty of them. The Bulls missed on a lot of open looks. Shots they hit in Game 1 became shots they bricked in Game 2. I lost count of how many shots rattled around the rim or went halfway down before popping back out…but there were several. If two or three of those wide open looks had snapped through the nylon, maybe things turn out differently. Or maybe they don’t. We’ll never know. The Bulls also shanked 10 free throws. The most painful of those misses came when Derrick Rose short-armed two in a row with 9:08 left in the fourth quarter and the Heat leading only 73-69. It also hurt when Taj Gibson failed to convert the free throw on an “And 1? opportunity with 2:29 left and the Heat up 78-75.

From Danny Savizky, Hardwood Paroxysm: There’s such a stigma about softness in the NBA. It’s commonplace to idolize those players who embody toughness, who sweat blood, who play through pain, who seek out contact like Eddy Curry seeks out all-you-can-eat buffets, who fear no opponent. Now it’s just as normal to belittle the finesse players — the ones who spare viewers the macho routine, who don’t need to feel dominant to play basketball. Basketball is a sport of grace, that requires the utmost focus and skill — the greatest player will be a meticulous tactician, a heady player who knows what he’s doing. Basketball is a game of grace and fluidity, but it seems that those qualities can only be appreciated if there’s a ferocity underscoring them. It’s really not surprising that the embrace of manliness has come to the fore. As the NBA has evolved, the game has become decreasingly physical, metamorphosing from a game primarily defined by bruisers to a game appreciably defined by skill. Many feel a need for sports to be contests of strength and hatred for one’s opponents, so it makes sense that these fans would cling to those aspects of classic basketball and long for more of that style.

From Janis Carr, OC Register: An oversight or are the Lakers taking Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for granted? Those are two explanations offered up by the former Lakers great as to why he doesn’t have a statue outside of Staples Center, leaving him feeling “slighted.” Abdul-Jabbar, who helped the Lakers attain five NBA championships, said the team owes him a statue, alongside other former Lakers Magic Johnson and Jerry West. There also are statues of Chick Hearn, Wayne Gretzky and Oscar De La Hoya. “I don’t understand (it). It’s either an oversight or they’re taking me for granted,” Abdul-Jabbar told The Sporting News in a recent interview. “I’m not going to try to read people’s minds, but it doesn’t make me happy. It’s definitely a slight. I feel slighted.”

From Mark Medina, LA Times: Any Laker fan who goes through their DVR can find countless clips documenting Pau Gasol’s lackluster showing in the playoffs. There’s the dramatic: Lakers Coach Phil Jackson berating Gasol and thumping him on his chest during a timeout in the team’s Game 3 loss to Dallas in the Western Conference semifinals. Gasol expressed frustration whenever Dirk Nowitzki nailed a difficult jumper over him; when his (Gasol’s) shooting slump continued or when he missed a defensive rotation. There’s the execution: Gasol appeared passive on offense and avoided contact in the lane. He mostly gave up on defense. And he left most of the rebounding duties to Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom and Ron Artest. From Drew Cleszynski, Stadium Journey: There are a handful of venues in each sport that seem to transcend the balance. Baseball enthusiasts enjoy the historical venues – Fenway Park, Wrigley Park, and the old Yankee Stadium. The NFL loves its modern bells and whistles in Lucas Oil Stadium and Cowboy Stadium while the NHL tends to judge its best venues in terms of fan bases. Certainly Madison Square Garden in New York and the banners hanging at TD Garden in Boston hold a place in a basketball fan’s heart. In recent years however, the Staples Center has seemingly become the basketball capital of the world. With its’ futuristic look and cascading lights atop the arena, the venue has become one of the most identifiable in all of sports. It hosts not one, but two NBA franchises and can facilitate a home game for both the Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers in the same day!

At FB&G, we’ve long said that the Lakers will go as far as their defense takes them; that for the Lakers to be successful, they’ll need a defensive identity Against the Mavs, this proved accurate as the Lakers couldn’t get the stops they needed, ultimately getting swept out of the playoffs when Dirk, Terry, Barrea, and Peja compromised their defensive schemes so completely that the Lakers looked clueless on how to play defense by the time game 4 rolled around. With this being the case, it seems strange that nearly every coaching candidate discussed has been spoken about in terms of what their offensive system would be.

When the name Brian Shaw comes up, we turn our minds to the continuation of the triangle offense. When Rick Adelman is mentioned, we instantly bring up his “corner” offense that incorporates a lot of the same read and react principles that the Lakers are used to from running the triangle all these years. Even when Jerry Sloan’s name is floated, one of the first things mentioned is his “flex” offense that is also based off ball and player movement where diverse skill sets from the players are needed to successfully run his offense. I’ve been guilty of this myself.

But, the Lakers mustn’t forget defense when considering their next head coach. Whoever is hired will not only need to inspire the players to play top shelf D, but will need to devise a scheme and system that the players can execute to be successful. As Luke Walton mentioned in his exit interview:

I don’t think this team was ready for all that adjustment (on defense). I think we were just too inconsistent on the defensive end, teams were getting too many open shots…if we do keep the same defense, having that much more time starting it in training camp. It was a complex defense, and it took all five people (being) on the same page.

So which coaches have proven that they can coach defense? Some numbers and information on the defenses from some of the candidates:

*Brian Shaw has never been a head coach, but this past season the Lakers finished 6th in defensive efficiency. However, that number isn’t really representative of how well the Lakers actually played D nor necessarily representative of Brian Shaw. For most of the season, the Lakers hovered around the 10th most efficient D and when they did make their jump to 6th it was mostly attributed to the work that Chuck Person did in revamping the Lakers’ scheme. At this point, it’s tough to say how much Shaw influenced the defensive side of the ball over his tenure with the Lakers.

*Rick Adelman’s defenses have given mixed results. Last year the Rockets ranked 19th in defensive efficiency. The season before that they were 17th. However, in the two seasons before those the Rockets ranked 4th and 2nd in defensive efficiency. Those results show a wide variance in success and it’s fair to question how much his schemes and ability to motivate are responsible or how much the personnel limitations he faced (with Yao Ming missing nearly all of the last two years) affected his team’s ability to defend.

*Mike Dunleavy’s defenses followed a similar path to those of Rick Adelman’s. After the Clippers defended terribly in his first season (28th in defensive efficiency), they jumped to 13th then to 8th then to 10th in the following three seasons. However, those years of strong defensive numbers were followed by seasons of ranking 19th and then 27th in his last two complete years as Clipper head man.

*In Jerry Sloan’s last 4 complete seasons with the Jazz his teams had defensive efficiency rankings of 18th, 12th, 10th, and 10th. He was known as a coach that preached physical play and the Jazz consistently led the league in FT’s allowed. This is a stark contrast from the style of defense the Lakers played this past season as they were one of the teams that fouled the least and consistently tried to protect the paint by using length rather than brute force.

*In Jeff Van Gundy’s 4 years in Houston, his teams played stellar defense and as a head coach he’s the only person listed who’s probably better known for his work on that side of the ball. His teams ranked 4th, 6th, 3rd, and 3rd in defensive efficiency using a physical, disciplined style that consistently limited the opposition’s offense. However, it should be noted that Tom Thibodeau was the lead assistant on those Rockets teams and it’s been proven since Van Gundy’s retirement that any credit that JVG’s defenses have earned should be shared with Coach Thibs. This isn’t to discount Van Gundy, but in working with Doc Rivers in Boston and now as the head man in Chicago, it’s obvious that Thibodeau has a great mind for defensive basketball and having him on a staff truly does create a better defensive team.

Obviously these numbers don’t tell the entire story. All of these coaches have had at least one top 10 defense in their recent coaching histories all have shown that they can work effectively on that side of the ball. Personnel will also play a part in any defense’s success as having anchors on the wing and in the paint will boost the ability of any D to get stops.

The Lakers have proven that they have some good defensive pieces (Artest, Bynum, Gasol, and Kobe are all above average defenders) so there will not be a lack of talent to work with. Where these coaches will need to succeed is limiting the areas where the Lakers are weaker defensively (at point guard, in defending the P&R) and getting this team to focus consistently on getting stops. Who that coach will be is still a mystery, but in choosing him it needs to be a variable that informs the decision.

There will be many things that the Lakers will not be able to control about this coming off-season. Uncertainty surrounds the expiring collective bargaining agreement. Other teams needs will dicatate what players will be available via free agency and trade to improve the roster. And, of course, there’s always what the brain-trust of this team actually feels is the right path to proceed down in trying to help them get back to championship form. A lot of what happens this off-season will depend not only on what the Lakers want, but what the league and players agree to and what other teams front offices think is best for their teams. When viewed this way, the Lakers don’t have a lot of control in how their off-season unfolds.

The one thing the Lakers can control is their search for a head coach. There will be no league or union action to interfere; no opposing GM to sweet talk. The Lakers simply have to interview the people on their short list, make an offer, and hire their guy. Obviously there are logistics involved that I’ve not mentioned, but you get my point. The Lakers are a premier franchise with championship caliber players on their roster; this is a marquee job. They’ll make a choice and get their guy, I’m sure of it.

The question is, who will that guy be?

Kevin Ding reports that Mike Dunleavy is a real candidate that needs to be taken seriously. I have many thoughts on this subject, but our old friend Kurt Helin did a good job of summing up some of my same concerns earlier today:

But the shift from Phil Jackson to Dunleavy would be radical. Jackson is a system guy — the triangle offense gives the players freedom and is predicated on players reading the defense and reacting to it, taking what is given them. Dunleavy is a micro-manager with a playbook, he calls the plays he wants run from the sideline every time down and expects the players to execute his orders. If Barron Davis chaffed against Dunleavy, how do you think Kobe Bryant is going to react?

This isn’t to completely bury Dunleavy as a coach as he’s had some success in this league. After taking over for Pat Riley, he coached the last run of the Showtime Lakers to a Finals berth against the Bulls in 1991. He coached the Blazers to several successful seasons and deep playoff runs in the late 90’s early 2000’s. His stint with the Clippers ended terribly, but he also took them to the playoffs when he harnessed the games of Sam Cassell and Elton Brand to a first round win and a Raja Bell corner three away from putting the Suns on the brink in the second round. I’m not endorsing him to be the next sideline man for this Laker group, but the man can coach and his past experience with the Lakers lends a familiarity that can’t be totally dismissed.

That said, if the Lakers are going to look to the past for a coach, there’s more than one way to look at and learn from history. I’ll let commenter Jodial, in supporting Brian Shaw, explain:

I have no idea whether Brian Shaw will make a great head coach or not, but I would sure hate it if he turned out to be one for a team other than the Lakers. For years, Mike Scioscia was the clear heir apparent to manage the Dodgers. People talked about his special leadership ability and his knowledge of the game. He had a championship career as a Dodger player, albeit in a supportive role, and he embodied the Dodger style of baseball (when it was still a winning style!) Unfortunately, ownership frittered away the chance to promote him and give him his first job, instead going with a long and forgettable series of retreads in the manager’s position, while watching Scioscia move across town and bring the old Dodger style to the Angels, with all the success that had been predicted for him. I’d just hate to see that happen with Brian Shaw…

He then adds:

The Lakers have actually been down a similar road before, exactly 30 years ago. That’s when an assistant with zero head coaching experience came in to lead a Laker roster that featured a mix of aging veterans and young stars, and that had flamed out spectacularly in the playoffs (in the first round!) the year after winning it all. Pat Riley did a pretty good job with that Laker team that year. And in the years to come too.

This support of Shaw doesn’t speak to his ability to diagram a play. Nor does it guarantee that Shaw will be able to get through to the players successfully. But it does show that choosing an assistant coach with no history of being a head man has actually worked out in the past for this organization. (For what it’s worth, Dunleavy was also an assistant with no head coaching history before he took over for Riles.)

While the potential lockout, new CBA, and other teams’ wants/needs will shape how the Lakers attack personnel moves, this act of choosing their next sideline steward will be just as important as any roster change that can happen. There will be several strong candidates to choose from and the Lakers’ history of success and ready made roster dictate that the correct decision be made now. I only hope that their trademark patience leads them to explore all options from all angles before making their decision.

From Brian Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: In broad terms, Derek Fisher was largely the player this season he was the season before. In one important respect — 3-point shooting — Fisher was actually better, boosting his percentage from 34.8 to 39.6 percent, while shooting 39 percent from the floor, overall. While neither number is exactly slathered with “wow” factor, the figure from downtown actually exceeds, and the mark from the floor matches, Fisher’s career norms. Basically, they reinforce an important reality: Fisher has never, on a night-in, night-out basis, been a particularly good or consistent shooter. It also emphasizes how complaints about Fisher’s age and general lack of NBA-caliber quickness miss the point: While Fisher’s D garners most of the attention, he hurts the Lakers more offensively than at the other end.

From C.A. Clark, Silver Screen and Roll: Individually, all of these questions are difficult ones.  They deal in the unknown, and therefore can not be answered with any kind of finality.  We can surmise things from what we’ve seen and heard about Brian Shaw as a person, we can piece together the quotes from the players and front office and owners regarding the team’s direction, but at the end of the day, this is all just advanced guesswork.  If the future were easy to predict, we’d all be rich. But it is the questions themselves that cause this situation to be so intriguing.  Normally, in any coaching search, all that matters is the guesswork towards figuring out the answers to those first few questions.  What kind of system does a coach run?  Is that system a good fit with our team?  Does the coach run that system well?  Is the coach an effective motivator?  If you know, or think you know, the answers to those questions, then you have the ability to figure out whether a candidate will be a good head coach.  But, in the crazy world of the Los Angeles Lakers, we don’t even know whether the “right” answers to those questions are good or bad.

From Jeff Weiss, The Basketball Jones: We’ll probably never know what a goon is to a goblin, but it’s clear what happens when goblin meets goon. It looks like Andrew Bynum going full Macho Man Savage on an undrafted Puerto Rican ex-boy scout named J.J. Suddenly, the Lakers’ Three Mile meltdown was symbolized in a few frames, the footage as hideously memorable as a Craig Sager suit. Bynum’s crack up was one of those moments that crystallized every Lakers flaw: their lead-footed resistance to defensive rotations, their sour petulance, their inveterate ability to turn every middling point from Aaron Brooks to Goran Dragic into the second coming of A.I. Somehow, J.J. Barea — whose greatest prior achievement had been landing this woman — smacked the taste out of the Lakers mouth and made Mark Cuban jizz … in his … pants. Apologies for the grotesque imagery, but there is no other way to explain those flushed Frankenstein victory faces.

From Eddie Maisonet, Ed The Sports Fan: Mark Madsen, 2000-01 Los Angeles Lakers – Also known as the dancing mistrel, Madsen was the original Psycho T aka Tyler Hansbrough…just with a lot less talent. Mr. Go Hard was always playing a half-step too hard, and when he got those garbage minutes everyone feared for their life. But ummmm, yeah about that dance… [The video is there in the post]

From Mike Trudell, Basket Blog: For the first time since 2007, Andrew Bynum is heading into an offseason with a clean bill of health. This is no small victory for Bynum, or for the Lakers, who could consider their 7-foot center’s current medical report the best news going after being unexpectedly swept out of the second round of the playoffs. In the summers of 2008, 2009 and 2010, Bynum was either recovering from surgery, or about to head under the knife, but as he detailed in his exit interview, the word “rehabilitation” is no longer an essential part of his offseason vocabulary: It’s going to change greatly how I approach the summer because I’m going to be able to work on my own. I don’t have to go through rehab, I don’t have to sit down for four months … physically I feel great, I have no injuries going into the summer. On that note, I’m definitely looking forward to becoming a better player.

From Elliot Teaford, Inside The Lakers: Kobe Bryant and Stephen Jackson were both born in 1978. Bryant began playing professionally for the Lakers in 1996-97 and Jackson the following season in the CBA. Bryant has played 21,186 minutes or seven 82-game seasons (averaging 40 minutes per game) more than Jackson if you add up all the playoff games, according to research done by Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News. That helps to explain why Bryant looked slow and old during the Lakers’ second-round playoff ouster at the hands of Dallas. Here’s Bryant’s workload in the last four seasons:

From Broderick Turner, LA Times: Do the Lakers try to find a copycat coach to replace Phil Jackson, or someone completely different in personality and coaching style? Or hire someone who is a composite of both?Now that Jackson has retired, it leaves the Lakers with giant shoes to fill as they search for the right candidate to replace the winningest coach in NBA history. “I don’t envy the person that has to fill those shoes. That’s for sure,” said Steve Kerr, who played for Jackson with the Chicago Bulls and is now a TNT basketball analyst working the Eastern Conference finals between the Miami Heat and Chicago. Jackson performed his annual team exorcism before the Lakers began the 2011 playoffs, lighting a bundle of sage that he took throughout the team’s facility, doing it to get rid of bad spirits and to cleanse whatever ailed the team during the regular season.

From Mark Medina, LA Times: In the midst of the All-Star afterparties, Blake Griffin’s electrifying slam dunk performance and Kobe Bryant’s collecting his fourth All-Star MVP, Andrew Bynum’s conversation with Phil Jackson during the break helped lay the groundwork for what became a career-building season for the 23-year-old center. After missing the first 24 games of the season because of off-season surgery on his right knee, Bynum at the time lamented his role in the offensive system and his two-of-12 outing in the Lakers’ most embarrassing regular-season loss to Cleveland. That’s when Jackson implored him to take ownership of the Lakers’ defensive scheme that emphasized funneling players into the lane so the frontline could disrupt their opponents’ shots. Bynum laid out the perfect blueprint, averaging 11.2 points and a Western Conference leading 12.3 rebounds and 2.36 blocks per game, disrupting passing lanes and significantly altering the shots he didn’t block.

Fast Break Thoughts

Phillip Barnett —  May 16, 2011

With the retirement of Phil Jackson, there have been myriad reports on who should replace him as the Lakers head man. Many pundits suggest that either Brian Shaw or Rick Adelman, however, Laker Nation’s Kevin Figgers thinks the Lakers should be looking in a different direction when he writes, “[…]but for a veteran team like the Lakers, with a number strong personalities, they need a veteran coach that will come in and command respect and preach accountability. No coach fits that mold better than Jerry Sloan.”

Brian Kamenetzky also has a short piece on Mike Dunleavy being on a short list of guys to replace PJax.

Both of Sunday’s games weren’t fun to watch come the fourth quarter, but both games featured fantastic individual plays. There was Taj Gibson’s garbage time tip-dunk, his lethal dunk on Dwyane Wade, and my personal favorite from this weekend — James Harden’s silky smooth tip back pass to Kevin Durant on the fast break. I’m probably in the minority in ranking these plays, but this pass is beautiful to me.

The following is an excerpt from Andy Kamenetzky’s post about the possibility of Dwight Howard becoming a Laker: Do you make a deal for Howard with Andrew Bynum as the centerpiece? In a nanosecond. Talented as Bynum is, Howard’s better, and his odds of attending games in a uniform rather than street clothes are considerably higher. He and Pau Gasol would complement each other exceptionally well, almost the perfect yin and yang. For that matter, Howard and Lamar Odom could co-exist nicely. Plus, I get the distinct sense Bynum desperately (and even understandably) wants to spread his wings, which may not be happening any time soon. The longer he maintains this role, the more dissatisfied he could grow, which could mean an eventual departure anyway. Throw in the legitimate questions about committing to a player with Bynum’s injury history, and Howard makes even more sense if feasible.

There are some players that some of us can’t seem to let go. Allen Iverson was one of those players for Kenny Masenda over at Ed the Sports Fan. Time and time again, Iverson stepped on the floor and did something that we hadn’t seen before, or if we had seen it, he did it in a way that was unique to his personal style. In this post, Kenny recounts the night Iverson gave the basketball world a 52-point playoff performance against the Toronto Raptors.

The New York Times Dan Barry has an exceptional feature on Rick Welts, an NBA Executive who has recently confessed to co-workers and friends about his homosexuality. Barry write that Welts wants to “be a mentor to gay people who harbor doubts about a sports career, whether on the court or in the front office.” The feature is largely about a conversation that has been largely off limits within the scope of professional sports, and may be the first step in the acceptance of everyone and another step forward toward equal rights in the sports world.

From Bill Simmons, ESPN.com: When I think of Phil Jackson, two guys come to mind: Young Phil and Old Phil. Young Phil was skinny with dark hair and a goofy mustache; he looked like he came from another era, like someone Larry Dallas would bring over to the Regal Beagle to meet Jack Tripper. Old Phil didn’t look anything like Young Phil: white hair, a clean-shaven face, a heavier frame, and a body that was scattered in nine different directions. Still, Young Phil and Old Phil had one thing in common: They kept their cool at all times. That trait defined Jackson as a coach. He couldn’t be rattled. He never overreacted. He measured every response, thought out every media barb, dealt with every player with the same steady hand. These past 20 years weren’t exactly easy for Jackson, even if the narrative has morphed into “Well, anyone could win eleven titles with Jordan, Shaq and Kobe!” In 1992, a best-selling book called “The Jordan Rules” nearly imploded the Bulls. In 1993, his best player disappeared for 18 months. In 1997, the relationship between Scottie Pippen, Michael Jordan and Bulls general manager Jerry Krause became so contentious that Jackson asked Krause to stop traveling with the team. In 1998, Dennis Rodman started partying so much that Jackson and a few others had to have a makeshift intervention. In 2001, Shaq and Kobe’s relationship started to deteriorate, a three-year spiral that bottomed out when Kobe was accused of sexual assault. In 2005, his general manager traded his second-best player for Kwame Brown. In 2007, Kobe spent the summer and the first month of the regular season desperately pushing for a trade. Jackson managed everything. There were times when he failed — the 2004 Finals, most notably — but you could never say he lost his cool.

From Kelly Dwyer, Ball Don’t LieThe last time Phil Jackson left the Los Angeles Lakers, the team was chafing under his guidance, and abandoning its defensive and offensive principals. 2003-04 was a tough, soap opera-y go of things, and Jackson wanted out. The team, though it preferred him staying, wasn’t exactly broken up about it. The Lakers, looking for veteran guidance, then hired former Rockets player and coach Rudy Tomjanovich. He had led Houston to two titles just a decade before, and he was itching to get back on the sidelines after Jeff Van Gundy usurped him in Texas. He was a vet, he knew all the players, and he was more than comfortable on a sideline. He kind of stunk as a Lakers coach, though. His isolation style didn’t sit well with the players who had worked through Jackson’s ball movement offense for several years prior, and both Rudy T and the Lakers amicably parted ways midway into 2004-05. So why would Rick Adelman be different?

From C.A. Clark, Silver Screen & Roll: After the Los Angeles Lakers of current vintage exited the playoffs disgracefully, in more ways than one, it behooves us to travel back in time to remember this franchise the way we should, as one of the classiest and most successful in the league.  No era epitomizes that style and grace from the top down better than Showtime.  Behind Magic Johnson’s charismatic smile, and Pat Riley’s can do anything attitude, the Showtime Lakers were the toast of the NBA.  They won five championships in eight years, and they did it without having to make any sacrifices in either substance or aesthetic.  Their winning got people’s attention.  Their style made them stand out.  Their stars made them adored.  But it was their love for each other, and their commitment to the team, that gave them class.

From Mike Bresnahan, The LA Times: My editor called with the chance to think like an NBA general manager for a day. I jumped at it. Can’t be that difficult, no? The assignment: List five trades that would help the Lakers, would not be laughed at by an opposing team and would be allowable under the NBA’s complicated trade guidelines.The trades target the Lakers’ need for speed in the backcourt, better shooters and/or a backup center who can rebound and block shots. Next season’s salaries are listed for comparison’s sake. Keep in mind that teams don’t like giving long contracts to players who are not superstars. Translation: Nobody is barging through the Lakers’ doors and demanding Ron Artest(three more years, $21.5 million). So, here are the hypothetical trades:

From Andy Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: Even when the Lakers were playing well and a title felt possible, “Dwight Howard to L.A.?” was a common talking point among media and fans. So you can only imagine the traction this topic has gained since the Lakers were unceremoniously bounced by the Dallas Mavericks one round later than the Orlando Magic were eliminated. The din has grown so loud, Howard recently tweeted complaints about the Orlando Sentinel trying to “push him out of” town. (Sentinel writer Mike Bianchi acknowledged the paper’s speculation about Howard’s future, but correctly noted how several outlets, including ESPN, have also busted out Tarot cards.) Like it or not, the big lug has officially reached “water cooler” status. With that in mind, here’s a look at some of the commonly asked questions regarding a potential acquisition of Howard by the Lakers.

From Mike Trudell, Basketblog: To further translate, Bryant has been selected by a panel of selected media members as a top two guard in the NBA for 60 percent of his career, and as one of the top six for 86.7 percent of his years. Shaquille O’Neal used to join him as the center on the first team in the early portion of Bryant’s career, while Pau Gasol has now been there alongside him for the past three seasons, in 2009 and 2010 on the third team, and now the second team in 2011. Yet another selection brings Bryant still further into elite status, just two behind record holder Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (15). Karl Malone and Shaq are next with 14 total honors, with Kobe and Tim Duncan next with their 13. Duncan was a third-team selection in 2010, but did not make the cut this season. Malone’s 11 selections to the All-NBA first team are the most, with Abdul-Jabbar, Bob Pettit, Bob Cousy, Elgin Baylor, Jerry West and Michael Jordan next with 10 apiece.

From J.A. Adande, ESPN.com: To a man, the players insisted they could get back to the Finals next year with the roster intact, while Jackson said they need an infusion of speed and Kupchak kept his options open. Players also spoke in favor of assistant Brian Shaw’s succeeding Jackson as coach, although that’s something that could be beyond the powers of anyone who came inside the stuffy, crowded room in the Lakers’ practice facility and spoke into the microphones and recorders. Executive vice president Jim Buss, the son of team owner Jerry Buss, will be the point man on the coaching search, and with Jackson revealing he hasn’t spoken to Buss all season, the coach apparently won’t have any influence on the matter. Kupchak will, but it’s worth noting that the last time the Lakers hired a coach other than Jackson, Rudy Tomjanovich in 2004, it was Jim Buss’ call. Jerry Buss always prefers up-tempo teams, and Jackson said that next season’s team needs to be faster to get easy baskets, but the roster as constituted isn’t set for that. None of the top three players — Bryant, Gasol and Andrew Bynum — would benefit from running. The Lakers are in no rush to hire a coach, not when it could be many months before there are actually games to play because of the pending lockout. After Jerry Buss shelled out more than $90 million for a team that played only five of those lucrative home playoff games, don’t expect extra expenditures. As reserve player Luke Walton said as he struggled to carry some belongings to his car without so much as a bag or box, “Cutbacks, man.” While the players cleared out their lockers, I cleared out my digital recorder, searching for audio clues from throughout the season in the search for what went wrong with the Lakers. The answers could be found in a select few days during the season, starting with Day 1.