Archives For May 2011

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, 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, 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.

The Lakers need a new head coach. Phil Jackson, and all his championship rings are saying goodbye to the Lakers and with his departure a new man will roam the sidelines as head coach. And, unless you’ve been grieving the Lakers early exit from the playoffs (something I wouldn’t knock you for), you’ve read that Rick Adelman has appeared as a person of interest to fill the Lakers’ vacancy. As Marc Stein and Dave McMenamin report:

Yet sources say Lakers officials are intrigued by the Adelman option, not only because of his history of success in Portland, Sacramento and Houston but also his reputation for thriving with veteran teams and the similarities between Adelman’s “corner” offense and Jackson’s “triangle” offense.

The question isn’t if Adelman would be a good fit, as the answer to that question is a certain yes. Adelman is an accomplished head coach that’s coached in the Finals and has a strong history of leading excellent teams deep into the playoffs.

The question is, however, what to make of the Lakers opening up their search when Brian Shaw has long been rumored to be next in line in replacing Phil Jackson. Some thoughts on this:

  • Brian Shaw is still a viable candidate and the person who should still be favored to get the position. He has the support of the current players (including Kobe Bryant), brings a familiar system, and has been groomed for this position. He’ll be interviewed for the job and all signs say that he’ll do well for himself in sitdowns with the Buss family and Mitch Kupchak.
  • The Lakers, as usual, will be patient with any major decision. When the Lakers traded Shaq, they looked at a variety of options before finally pulling the trigger on the deal with Miami. The backstory surrounding the Pau Gasol trade is that Mitch Kupchak worked the phones for nearly two seasons trying to pry the big Spaniard loose from the Grizzlies. When Kobe was angling for a trade before the 2007-08 season, they held firm that they would look at every deal with an open mind but clearly stated that they would only make a deal that made sense and improved their team. No such deal developed and two championships later their patience was rewarded. In the aftermath of the team’s early playoff exit, Mitch Kupchak has again preached that he’ll excercise patience and won’t make any rash decisions. He said they’ll begin their search in the next couple of weeks and I believe that even with names starting to leak to the press, Mitch and Buss family have in no way made up their mind.
  • Based off Adelman’s history of success and the fact that he runs a similar read and react offensive system, it’s clear that the Lakers understand their personnel and know what type of offensive system will work best for this group. Be it the Triangle or Adelman’s “corner” offense (that incorporates many aspects of the Princeton offense where back cuts and multiple off ball reads are made each play), the Lakers are built to be a passing and movement team – even if they didn’t execute those things well in the playoffs.
  • The Lakers want someone with experience managing players. Adelman has coached Ron Artest in the past. He’s coached superstar level players in Clyde Drexler, Yao Ming, and Tracy McGrady. Brian Shaw has a history of being a locker room leader as both a player and a coach and has related well to guys like Shaq, Kobe, and Pau Gasol. Whoever the Lakers next coach is, expect that he has a history with players of high stature.

Don’t expect Adelman and Shaw to be the only viable names, either. Reports are also surfacing that Chuck Person will be interviewed and that ex-Laker and Clipper head man Mike Dunleavy is someone that will be considered. While I doubt that either of these two will actually get the head job, understand that their inclusion in any list only further speaks to the Lakers wanting to be patient and explore their options.

No one understands better than this front office that the Lakers are built to win now. With the core of this roster locked up under contract for the next several years, this decision of who will coach the team is the most important one the organization will make this off-season. After it’s made I’m sure there will be options explored to improve the roster but getting this right is a priority.

And with hat being said, don’t be suprised if Dr. Buss (an avid poker player) slow plays this hand. He’s got time on his side and options to explore.