From Andy Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: First things first: Age, in and of itself, is not the problem. The Mavs, older than the Lakers, dominated the Western Conference en route to the Finals, where they continue to acquit themselves nicely. No question L.A.’s core carries real mileage, but upgrading the roster isn’t simply a question of cutting open prospective additions and counting their rings. Shannon Brown was the second youngest player in the rotation, and after the first six weeks of the season was almost uniformly unproductive. He’s also the team’s best pure athlete, which raises the next point: The Lakers can unquestionably use a few more dudes with more speed and athleticism, but the benefit is mitigated if they don’t come with other skills. The hoops landscape is littered with players possessing great quickness who can run and jump out of the gym, except they aren’t necessarily good defenders, nor are they automatically great on the break or working off the dribble. The Lakers still have to choose players with the skills best meshing with what they want to do on the floor, hopefully with the speed and athleticism to enhance the overall product. But if my choice is a relatively unskilled uberathlete or a deadeye shooter, give me the shooter.
From C.A. Clark, Silver Screen and Roll: If you look at the entirety of Joe Smith’s career story arc, it looks as if it belongs to a completely different player. Just think about how much teams have been willing to give up to get Joe Smith on their team. Golden State made Joe Smith the 1st pick of the 1995 draft, and then packaged him away (along with Brian Shaw(!!) to the Philadelphia 76ers for Jimmy Jackson just 2.5 years later. The Minnesota Timberwolves made an illegal deal to bring Smith on board in 1998, and ended up sacrificing three first round draft picks for his services. Despite the heavy price paid to sign Smith, he was only in Minnesota for two years before he moved on to Philadelphia for a season and then (wait for it) went back to Minny for two more seasons. You would think the T-wolves would know when to just cut their losses … but I sure do miss the Kevin McHale days, don’t you? (thanks to KAAAAAAAAAHN, even Wolves fans do)
From Dave McMenamin, ESPNLA: Two weeks ago, Los Angeles Lakers forward Matt Barnes announced he would exercise the option in his contract to return to the team next year. On Thursday the Lakers received news that suggested Barnes will be returning with a clean bill of health. The eight-year veteran underwent an MRI on his right knee on Thursday that came back negative, showing continued improvement of the bone bruise he was suffering from. “He’ll continue to do rehab for at least another few weeks, and we expect a full recovery,” said Lakers spokesman John Black in an email. Black added that Barnes has regained full range of motion in the knee, which he hurt six months ago. Barnes described it as the first major injury of his career.
From Ramona Shelbourne: Derek Fisher may not have made much headway in resolving the NBA’s impending labor crisis as head of the NBA Players Association during several days of intense collective bargaining talks in Dallas, but his week is ending on a high note. The Lakers co-captain returned to Los Angeles late Wednesday night, and the first item on his agenda Thursday was to confirm dinner plans with new coach Mike Brown, according to a Lakers source. Both Fisher and Brown felt it was important to meet in-person to discuss the issues that thwarted the team’s quest for a third straight championship last month and to confer on the best way for Brown to roll out his new offensive and defensive schemes. Fisher was one of only a few players to publicly express support for Brown after he was hired on May 25.
From Eric Pincus, Hoops World: The last two times Coach Phil Jackson “retired,” the Chicago Bulls simultaneously had to replace Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen and the Los Angeles Lakers traded Shaquille O’Neal. At the press conference for incoming Lakers Coach Mike Brown, the word “core” was emphasized and then re-emphasized. “I’m excited about this roster. I still believe that this core group of guys can go get it done,” said Brown last week. And using almost the same words, owner Dr. Jerry Buss said, “We certainly have the core of people that can win a championship.” So after the four-game sweep against the Dallas Mavericks that sent the back-to-back champion Lakers to an early summer, does L.A. follow history and make a major move in transition? Or do they hold true to their words that this core group of players can get it accomplished next season? Were the Lakers just worn out from three straight trips to the NBA Finals? Or was the Dallas upset a sign there is something fundamentally missing from this roster and needs immediate repair for the team to continue at an elite level?
From Mark Medina, LA Times: The numbers are pretty glaring. The Lakers shot 35.2% from the three-point range in the regular season, 28.9% in the postseason and 37.5% from shots from within 16-23 feet, according toHoopdata. This problem became cyclical. The Lakers refused to be more deliberate with their shot selection and opponents sagged off on them because they knew it was a worthy gamble. In turn, the poor outside shooting neutralized the Lakers’ post presence with Andrew Bynum andPau Gasol, with teams mostly fixated on covering the paint to deny them open looks. The Lakers hadn’t been an impressive outside-shooting team during their championship seasons because their offense consisted of better ball movement. Brown envisions that he’ll use Bynum and Gasol the same way the Spurs used David Robinsonand Tim Duncan when Brown was an assistant coach from 2000-2003 with feeding them paint touches in the post instead of the block so that it’s harder for defenses to push the front line out of the lane. But the success of that, as ESPN Los Angeles’Andy Kamenetzky recently noted, hinged on the fact that San Antonio had quality shooters, includingTerry Porter (43.5%) and Mario Ellie (39.8%) in 2000, five Spurs attempting at least two or more treys a game posting at least 39.9% from downtown in 2001, Steve Smith (47.2%) in 2002 and Bruce Bowen (44%) in 2003.