Archives For June 2011

Make no mistake, a lockout is coming. How long it lasts or if it will impact the start of next season is anyones guess, but unless there’s some sort of miracle breakthrough in negotiations before this Friday the current collective bargaining agreement will expire and the owners will do what is within their rights to do by locking out the players.

The issues at hand are plenty and I will not get into them all right now. But the major point that the owners feel needs to be addressed is the fact that many of them claim to be losing money on a yearly basis. And by losing money, they are not able to compete in the league or be a viable business. In order to rectify this issue, they’re looking to change the business model of the league through a new agreement with the players. Their notion is that the current system is broken and needs fixing. The players, obviously, don’t share this opinion and would like the current system to remain as close to intact as possible while still acknowledging that some change is needed.

Hence, the disagreement, and thus the lockout on the horizon. Until both sides can come to an agreement as to what a new system should look like, there will be no basketball, but rather negotiations to find a middle ground that both sides can walk away from feeling okay with.

But what should the new agreement look like? People with a better understanding of the issues than I have a lot of good ideas. One of them is Tim Donahue of the Indiana Pacers site 8 Points, 9 Seconds. He’s been covering the negotations between the owners and players as well as anyone out there and has made his own proposal, based off what he thinks will work for the NBA moving forward. It’s a must read and as a fan of this game, you should head over and learn something.

He touches on all the major issues, including a hard cap, how basketball related income (BRI) should be divided, contract length, and even delves into revenue sharing (which is currently not a part of the CBA negotiations). A key passage:

The hard cap level will be established by taking the Players’ projected share of BRI, reducing it by $100 million to account for benefits, and dividing it by 30.  For example, a BRI of $4.0 billion would generate a hard cap amount of $64.7 million.  At $5 billion, the cap would be $87 million.    (Note:  a hard cap established by the Players BRI split virtually guarantees that the negotiated salaries and benefits will not meet the Players’ guarantee.  This hole will be filled by the owners, but the mechanics need to be sorted out.  I have an idea, but I can’t decide whether it’s brilliant or insane, so we’ll leave that sit for today.)

After going into a lot more detail (again, go read the post), Donahue also states:

This arrangement will reduce the long-term commitments of the owners, but it will not leave the players entirely “disposable.”  Front offices will still need to plan years into the future, but they should be able to avoid being trapped for three, four, or five years at a time. The owners’ have been (not inaccurately) accused of trying to “guarantee” profits for at both the league and team level.  However, it should be noted that the Players’ insistence on holding onto their guaranteed contracts and over half of the BRI amounts more or less to the same thing. As I said earlier, the Players should maximize their BRI, while the owners should seek to maximize their control.

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As I briefly mentioned above, the other key to a viable business model for the league is revenue sharing amongst the owners. Over at Pro Basketball Talk, Kurt has an informative post up about this issue:

In the NFL — the gold standard for revenue sharing among professional sports — about 70 percent of what is considered football related income is shared (which is an issue because that used to be more than 80 percent just a few years back). In the NBA, that number is about 25 percent. That NFL number is driven largely by the massive national television contracts the league has.

Or look at it this way, The Lakers new local television contract that kicks in next seasons and will pay them upwards of $150 million a season, which is more than some teams will make in total revenue in a season. Yet, under the current system the Lakers have to share none of that money. It’s an issue the owners need to deal with. Big market owners have valid concerns that if they share more money that needs to be invested back into the business and not just pocketed by owners.

How this all turns out remains to be seen but understand that until this gets sorted out, there won’t be any basketball. No team will be able to sign free agents. Trades will not happen. The preparations by all teams for next season will be put on hold.  And as someone who suffered through the 1999 season that saw the cancellation of the all-star game in a 50 game campaign and a dip in the overall popularity of the league, I’m hoping against hope that a solution can be found. But the fact is that major issues remain and the two sides don’t seem to be very close on coming to an agreement.

From Dexter Fishmore, Silver Screen and Roll: I’ve received some more details about the draft-night trade of Chukwudiebere Maduabum to the Denver Nuggets. We knew the Lakers received a second-round pick in return, but it wasn’t clear which year’s draft the pick would be drawn from or whether any limitations were attached. This afternoon, Lakers spokesman John Black filled in the picture for me: the pick is for 2013 and is top-40 protected. If Denver’s second-round pick in 2013 falls in the top 40, the Lakers will instead receive the Nuggs’ second-round pick in the 2014 draft. This news makes me feel better about the trade. Chu Chu’s about as obscure as prospects come, and given that he was taken with the 56th pick, it figured that what the Lakers got back would be token consideration, at best. Instead, there’s a non-trivial chance the acquired pick actually turns out to be a useful asset – or at the very least, marginally more useful than Chu Chu or anyone else the Lakers could’ve grabbed at his spot in the draft.

From Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: The latest round of NBA bargaining talks began Friday morning with a flood of about 40 players into the meeting in midtown Manhattan wearing identical gray T-shirts over their street clothes. The message, in bold yellow type beneath a silhouette of multiple players standing shoulder-to-shoulder on the front: “STAND / 2011 NBPA Summer Meeting NYC.” With the threat of a lockout looming once the current collective bargaining agreement expires Thursday, it was important to the players both to express their togetherness and to actually attend a session in the process of proposals and counter-proposals that will decide their professional fates. “The message is just solidarity,” said Billy Hunter, executive director of the National Basketball Players Association. That’s what STAND meant when the day began. Nearly five hours later, as owners, players, lawyers and staffers scattered for the weekend, it might have been shorthand for: Still Talking, Although No Deal.

From Tim David Harvey, Lakers Nation: “He was one of the most spectacular shooters the game has ever known”-Jerry West, HOOP Magazine, 1992. This years All-Star weekend was big for all of the NBA, right down to the logo. Los Angeles hosted the game at the STAPLES Center and the home-team Lakers used the weekend to unveil their latest statue. Joining Magic Johnson, Chick Hearn, Wayne Gretzky and Oscar De La Hoya was Mr. Clutch himself, Jerry West. Now with all due respect, where respect is due, the Lakers had someone East of West too. Standing right next to the fire of Jerry was the ice of Elgin Baylor, one of the coldest players to ever grace a basketball court. Baylor’s influence has been huge. R&B superstar Ginuwine was even named after the megastar. The singer even dropped his latest album entitled ‘Elgin’ this year. How fitting. Before revolutionary forwards like Pau Gasol, before Shaq and Kobe, before ‘Cap and Magic, before Wilt. Even before fans chanted West’s first name like Springer audiences, before even purple and gold. Straight out of Minneapolis, right to Los Angeles, Elg was there in blue and white, with stars around his Lakers shield. Los Angeles’ first officer was a force, making Laker fans feel better about Mikan’s retirement. Taking them higher, right before the days of the ‘Stilt’.

From David Brickley, Laker Nation: As Laker fans know Paul Sunderland followed Chick Hearn on T.V in the 2002-03 season, and Joel Meyers was the Lakers radio play-by-play man. In 2005, Sunderland was fired. The Lakers promoted Meyers up to T.V. and hired 26 year-old Spero Dedes to take over radio. Dedes was a man that understood the legacy of Chick Hearn, calling Chick the gold standard for not only Lakers broadcasts, but in all of sports broadcasting. He realized the legacy of the job, and never forgot the man that once called 3,338 consecutive Laker games. In 2009, we talked about following the legend of Chick Hearn, “Sitting in that chair, believe me there is not a night when I walk into Staples Center, and I don’t try to kind of pause, and realize where I am, and where I’m at, to be able to sit in that chair.” Dedes said. Anybody that heard Dedes on the radio as they were driving home from work or going out to grab a bite during a Laker game understands his talent.

From Mike Bresnahan, LA Times: So much for Pau Gasol getting traded to Minnesota. Anybody who believed that rumor should trade themselves to the Mojave Desert without water for a few days. Draft day came and went without any Lakers deals, but there’s still time for change before the league disappears like a mirage next Thursday when its labor contract expires. Who will be on the Lakers’ roster when next season begins? Here are one man’s estimates. Players from 2010-11 roster (chances of returning next season): Kobe Bryant (100%) The franchise player isn’t going anywhere for too many reasons to list, starting with his attraction among Lakers fans (merchandise + tickets = $$$) and ending with a hefty contract that pays him $83.5 million over the next three seasons, way more than any other player in the league.

From David Borges, Journal Register News Service: Kemba Walker wasn’t the only former UConn player to be selected in the 2011 NBA Draft Thursday night.??At around midnight, with the draft winding down and just three selections remaining, NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver called out a name no one expected to hear.??“With the 58th pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, the Los Angeles Lakers select … Ater Majok,” Silver announced.??Even in a draft full of international players few people have heard of, this was a shock. Majok, of course, was the much-ballyhooed UConn recruit from the Sudan via Australia who never really panned out for the Huskies. He played one ill-fated season with the Huskies (2009-10), but prior to the start of the 2010 season, he abruptly left the program.

Even though it’s standard operating procedure for nearly every national site, I’ve never been a fan of grading drafts right after they occur. While it’s nice to think we know how a player’s college game will translate to the pros, there are too many factors and variable to be able to truly determine what type of pro these kids will be.  Will injuries strike? Will the player improve on weaknesses? Will a teams’ system match what a player does well? Answers to these questions (and many more) can shape a career just as much as how often their jumper falls or how well they play defense.

However, if you go around the web, there’s also a different take on grading the draft; a take where the writer is asking “who won and who lost in this draft”? And while the answers to most of these questions are big name players or franchises that made especially questionable (or great) decisions on their draft picks, there’s also another type of “loser” that is consistently showing up on these lists.

Namely, the college player that left early that should have stayed in school.

And if you dig around the web a little, you’ll find that the Lakers’ selection at pick #41, Darius Morris, is one of the players appearing as a loser in this draft.

From Andy Katz at TrueHoop:

Darius Morris could have led Michigan toward a possible Big Ten title. Now he’ll have a hard time sticking with the Lakers.

Meanwhile, over at Yahoo!, Marc Spears includes Morris on his list of players that left school too early hoping for a first round selection, only to slip to the 2nd round where contracts aren’t guaranteed.

What no one is saying, however, is that Morris isn’t talented.

Furthermore, from my line of thinking, these critiques only further my belief that the Lakers potentially stole a real talent in this draft with the 41st pick. I mean, if many thought another year in college would have boosted Morris’ draft stock to the point that he would have landed in the 1st round next year (in what’s considered a much stronger draft by every expert), then I’m more than happy that the Lakers acquired such a talent when and where they did this year.

Obviously, there are no guarantees that Morris will develop. And Katz’ may prove to be right in his assessment that Morris doesn’t stick with the Lakers. However, the talent base is there and by all accounts so is the work ethic. If he progresses as naturally with the Lakers as he would have with the Wolverines, the Lakers may have found a keeper. And if that turns out to be the case, no one will be talking about how Morris was a loser in this draft but rather how the Lakers were winners.

And now, for your viewing pleasure, some of the skills that surely prompted the Lakers to draft Morris in the first place. Enjoy.

Draft Day Thoughts

Darius Soriano —  June 24, 2011

Coming into the draft, armed with four 2nd round picks, the Lakers had a clear strategy. They wanted to draft guards that could help their back court depth and they wanted to draft one or two players that could be stashed in Europe for future consideration of a roster spot. Plus, besides those two rather generic goals, the Lakers also sought to improve on and add skills lacking on the current roster. The hope was to nab playmaking and shooting and hope those skills were advanced enough that the player (or players) possessing them could earn a roster spot.

And while it’s much too early to say whether that last point will actually prove positive, the other goals all have a check mark next to them the day after the draft. And for those reasons, beyond anything else, the Lakers had a successful Thursday evening phoning in their picks from Los Angeles to Newark.

With pick number 41, the Lakers nabbed Darius Morris from Michigan. His strengths include size, natural point guard ability, and the ability to get into the paint to create for others and himself. His profile at Draft Express includes several positive morsels about his college career, including the fact that he boasted a greater than 2-1 assist to turnover ratio while also shooting 53% on two point baskets last season. We also learn that he improved by leaps and bounds over his two seasons at Michigan by flashing a well rounded game, including the ability to rebound well and defend at an above average level. Draft Express ranked him as the 22nd best prospect in this draft and Chad Ford states that he may be the best pure point guard in his draft. 

However, his game is not without flaws. He’s shown literally no ability to make the college three point shot, knocking down only 25% of his long balls last year. He can be an over dribbler that probes too much rather than making the simple play.  His size is very good for the position but his athleticism is only average. He’ll be tested at the NBA level both physically and in terms of the deficiencies in his game, needing to make both improvements and adjustments to his style of play that will be harder than the ones he had to make during his time at Michigan.

With the 46th pick, the Lakers selected Andrew Goudelock from the College of Charleston. He’s also listed as a point guard, but where Morris is of the playmaking variety, Goudelock is a scoring machine. He ranked 5th in the nation this past year, dropping nearly 24 points a game (right below Kemba Walker). He’s used to operating with the ball in his hands and creating shots from everywhere on the floor. He shows incredible range on his jumper and is literally a threat to hit shots once he’s over the half court line. Really, he is. He also shows great moxie on the court and is a confident player, letting media know after the draft that he’ll compete with anyone of any size and that his shooting ability will be with him until the day he dies.

Goudelock too, though, has his flaws. While confident in his playmaking ability, he committed nearly as many turnovers as assists this past season. Finishing inside is not a strong suit. And while he made 40% of his three pointers (a great number) he also shot nearly 9 shots from distance a game last year, which instantly has me questioning his shot selection. There’s a real question about whether he can be a true point guard or if he’s destined to be an undersized shooting guard in this league.

With the remaining two picks, the Lakers selected Chukwudiebere Maduabum (#56) and Ater Majok (#58). Chu-Chu (as he’s known) was ultimately traded to the Nuggets for a future 2nd round pick and Majok is a player that has little information on him anywhere. After the pick, Chad Ford tweeted that “He wasn’t awful at EuroCamp.” And that he “Shoots it OK for a big man”, but I wouldn’t call that a ringing endorsement on my friendliest and most optimistic of days. Odds are this pick never sees the floor for the Lakers.

In the end though, with both Morris and Goudelock at least, these are the types of players you draft in the 40′s. They’re flawed players but ones that have good skill level and a foundational attribute (or more) that can keep them in this league. For Morris, that’s a combo of playmaking, size, and floor generalship. For Goudelock it’s shooting and confidence. Considering the Lakers have a real need for both of those skill sets on this current roster, I think the team did quite well for themselves in acquiring these two players. We won’t know until training camp what type of progress or improvements they’ve made in their games (Summer league has been officially cancelled and with a lock out on the horizon, who knows when camp will even start) but I do believe that both of these players can stick and make the team.

And if that turns out to be the case, that’s a great result from this draft and all any reasonable observer could ask for. There’s little chance a pick in the 40′s will come in and impact a team. Those chances go down exponentially when you’re talking about a team that many believe to be one of the handful of title contenders in the league. If the Lakers are lucky, both Morris and Goudelock will come in, compete hard, improve as the year progresses, and get some spot minutes where they can test their development in real game action. If they contribute positively in those minutes and earn more time, that’s a homerun. If they don’t, I’m not judging. I look at Ebanks and Caracter and see two guys that rarely played and I still think they can be players on this team.

Hopefully, with both Morris and Goudelock, I’ll be thinking the same thing a year from now.

From Andy Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: As Brian mentioned earlier, Mitch Kupchak is looking for guards. Five picks after selecting Darius Morris, the Lakers plucked Andrew Goudelock, a 6-3, 200 lb point guard from the College of Charleston. The four-year student-athlete and 2011 Southern Conference Player of the Year left his Alma Mater as its all-time leading scorer (2,571 points), plus fourth in assists (424). On his career, Goudelock ranks 39th all-time in scoring in NCAA D-1 history. As a point guard, Goudelock is able to create for others, but he was especially successful with his own shot, particularly from distance. A career 41.2 percent three-point shooter in college, he never averaged below 39 percent in any season. Goudelock did a speaker phone interview with the media shortly after getting selected, and I’ll say this for the kid: He ain’t lacking for confidence, nor is he afraid to speak boldly. (For my own purposes of needing daily quotes, it’s imperative Goudelock makes the team.) He’s not necessarily cocky in a bad way, mind you. Jay Bilas described Goudelock during ESPN’s draft special as a kid who’ll keep his mouth shut and work hard. Goudelock admitted his defense, while improved throughout his college career, needs work. Hell, he even copped to crying after hearing which team took his rights:

From Brian Kamenetky, Land O’ Lakers: Meeting the media early in the first round, long before the Lakers were on the clock, G.M. Mitch Kupchak indicated the Lakers would look for help in the backcourt. He wasn’t lying. With the first of their four second round picks, L.A. selected Michigan point guard (and L.A. native) Darius Morris. He’s a big kid, listed at 6’3″ in the NBA’s official Draft media guide, 6’4″ on the bio handed to us by Lakers PR, and 6’5″ on TV. (A few more sources, and he might get up to seven feet.) He left Michigan after his sophomore season, and a lot of people who track this sort of thing believe he would have elevated himself well into the first round, perhaps into the lottery, had he stayed in school a little longer. From a scouting report on Morris by ESPN.com’s Chad Ford, written last month:

From Land O’ Lakers: In the end, Draft night for the Lakers went pretty much as expected. There were no blockbuster deals, and G.M. Mitch Kupchak suggested the trade buzz, whether around Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, or Lamar Odom, was generated not by the team itself but by other squads around the league and player agents fueling the rumor mill. (That, and a comment during the playoffs from a “prominent member of the media,” Kupchak’s not-so-thinly veiled dig at Magic Johnson, who said during ABC’s broadcast of the Dallas/Lakers series L.A. needed to “blow up” its roster.)  Obviously Kupchak isn’t going to sit before us and declare he shopped his players like a Black Friday sale, but his storyline is also the most realistic for a team with a very solid core still well positioned to contend if necessary improvements can be made around them. Still, exciting as draft night can be, the question of what the Lakers can do this offseason to improve is barely related to the question of whether or not they had a good draft. If at all. Forget finding contributors, given where they picked (the first selection coming at No. 41) if the Lakers finished with a player or two capable of making next year’s roster, the evening has to be called a major success.

From Dave McMenamin, ESPNLA: Freshly hired Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike Brown showed up to the Lakers’ practice facility Thursday for the NBA draft admittedly more as a spectator than a participant. He watched the draft in his office, ate pizza with his son and checked in from time to time while members of the Lakers’ front office monitored draft activity in an adjacent conference room. Dressed casually in a polo shirt, yellow athletic shorts and sneakers, Brown projected just as relaxed a stance when asked about the fact that Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant has yet to comment publicly on Brown’s getting the job. “I’m more than OK with it,” Brown said of Bryant’s near month-long silence since Brown was hired in late May.

From Dave McMenamin, ESPNLA: The Los Angeles Lakers were mentioned in various trade scenarios in the days leading up to the NBA draft, but general manager Mitch Kupchak dismissed the speculation as nothing but rumors on Thursday. Not only did Kupchak debunk the validity of the rumored trades that had the Lakers shopping Lamar Odom to Minnesota and Philadelphia, but he pointed the finger at why they could have surfaced. “I think other teams have been exploring major moves with us,” Kupchak said when asked if the Lakers were actively pursuing deals to shake up their roster. “I’m not exactly sure where it all came from, but prior to our exit in the playoffs a prominent member of the media suggested that we ‘blow up’ our team.

From Walter Beeken, Draft Express: When talking about the most improved players in the country this season, Michigan’s Darius Morris has to be in the conversation. The sophomore point guard has increased his numbers across the board and made the leap from an unproductive freshman to one of the top guards in the Big Ten. From a physical standpoint, Morris has great size and length for the point guard position at 6’4” with a very impressive frame. Always looking to make things happen with the ball in his hands, Morris is capable of overpowering defenders with his solid first step and extremely aggressive mentality, similar to the way Tyreke Evans did at Memphis a few years back. While he may not possess jet-quickness by NBA standards, his size and strength are major assets on both ends of the floor and give him a huge physical advantage at the point guard position. Running the point for a young Michigan team, Morris has really stood out with his ability to utilize his size, ball-handling ability, and craftiness to get into the paint and make plays. His ability to finish in the lane and in the midrange area is highlighted by the fact that he’s shooting an excellent 56% on 2-pointers so far this season, where he’s shown that he’s capable of finishing in a variety ways. He’s also doing a much better job drawing contact at the rim this season, as he’s getting to the line at a much rate than he did as a freshman.

From Matt Kamalsky, Draft Express: Amongst the most intriguing prospects slated to compete in the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, Andrew Goudelock made a strong impression on one end of the floor, but struggled for stretches on the other. He’s still one of the most interesting small-school prospects in the draft, and did little to turn scouts off to his ability to space the floor. Finishing second in scoring over the course of the tournament, Goudelock made 13 of the 22 three point shots he attempted. Capable of getting hot from beyond the arc and hitting shots both off the catch and off the dribble from well beyond the arc, the Charleston product carried his team with his shooting for stretches at the PIT, much like he did during the 2011 season. He shot 43% in catch and shoot situations and off the dribble this season according to Synergy Sports Technology, and only reinforced what we already knew about his perimeter scoring ability.

From Kevin Ding, OC Register: The Lakers waited for more than three hours Thursday to select a player in the NBA draft, but felt the wait was worth it when they found Darius Morris of Michigan still available at No. 41 in the second round. Morris, a 6-foot-5 guard, had been projected to go in the first round after two solid seasons at Michigan, so Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak was surprised to see his name still on the board.  “Darius is a very gifted with the ball in his hands,” Kupchak said. “He looks to pass first.” Morris, who played high school basketball at Windward of Los Angeles, is considered to have solid passing skills and possesses a powerful first step despite not having great foot speed. He can create mismatches against smaller point guards … that is, if he gets a chance to play in new coach Mike Brown’s offense. “I need to work on my 3-point shot. I plan to attack and work hard on that in the offseason, get it together,” Morris said in a conference call.

From Mark Medina, LA Times: Andrew Goudelock hasn’t yet put on a Lakers uniform after his No. 46 pick in the 2011 NBA draft, but it already seems the jersey fits. He hasn’t yet stepped foot in Los Angeles, but it already seems this city will embrace him. It remains unclear how much he’ll affect the Lakers, let alone whether he’ll make the roster cut, but it already seems there will be space for him. His booming and articulate voice coming out of a speakerphone conveyed the maturity he developed in four years as a shooting guard at the College of Charleston. His strong sense of security oozed out when he confirmed a pre-draft quote: “I’m going to be able to shoot until the day I die.” Not only did he embrace it, Goudelock took it a step further: “Unless something happens, unless I gain some type of disease where I forget how to shoot, I’m going to shoot until the die I day.” And his direct honesty on recognizing the need to play to his shooting strengths, his need to sharpen up on defense and the need to immediately begin work the day after the NBA draft shows he has the proper perspective. “Tonight I’m going to enjoy it,” he said. “Then it’s back to work for me.”

From Elliot Teaford, LA Daily News: Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak had this to say a few minutes ago when asked to separate truth from rumor when it came to published reports that the team was willing to deal sixth man Lamar Odom to the Minnesota Timberwolves for the second overall pick or to the Philadelphia 76ers for Andre Iguodala: “I think other teams have been exploring major moves with us. I’m not exactly sure where it all came from, but prior to our exit from the playoffs a prominent member of the media (Magic Johnson) suggested we blow up the team and so I think that created an avalanche of expectations with other teams that we were looking to do things and I think we’ve been pretty consistent over the last month or so that it’s not our goal right now to look to break up this team. Certainly, we’ll explore opportunities, but we’re not out there dialing 27 or 28 other teams, (asking), ‘What would you do for these players?’