Archives For June 2011

Update: With the 41st pick the Lakers selected Darius Morris, point guard from Michigan. From everything I know of him, his best attribute is his size (he’s 6’5″) and the fact that he offers true PG skills. His jumper is relatively weak, but he’s good in the P&R and off the bounce getting into the lane. We’ll have more on this pick later, but as of now I’m pretty happy with this pick. The Lakers could use some youth in their pipeline of back court players and Morris provides that (he came out after his sophomore season at Michigan).

Update #2: With the 46th pick the Lakers selected Andrew Goudelock, point guard from the College of Charleston. Chad Ford calls him the 2nd best shooter in the draft behind Jimmer Fredette and that he boasts tremendous range. Overall, I’m pleased that the Lakers nabbed a good shooter with this pick as that’s a portable skill that can immediately help this team.

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We’re inching closer to the start of the draft and that excitement is starting to build up in me. Even though the Lakers don’t pick until the 2nd round, I’ll be dialed in to all the action.

Since our post this morning, some revalations have come to light:

  • Reports are that the Odom/Iguodala deal is essentially dead. Which, honestly, is no surprise. The Lakers typically run a tight ship with word of potential deals rarely getting out. That’s not to say this is always the case, but it’s so rare that the details of any Laker deal gets out that it’s tough to put too much stock into reports that actually see the light of day that don’t include the words “confirmed” or “nearly done”. That said, if you’d like some spot on analysis of the Lakers, Odom, and trades, you should go read this.
  • Just because the Lakers aren’t trading, it doesn’t mean no deals are getting done. It’s been widely reported that the Bobcats, Kings, and Bucks have agreed to a three way trade. Details state that Beno Udrih, Stephen Jackson, Shawn Livingston, and the #19 pick go to Milwaukee, Corey Maggette and the #7 pick go to Charlotte, while John Salmons and the #10 pick go to Sacramento. My first impressions are that the ‘Cats win this trade by getting a 2nd lottery pick (they’re already picking 9th) with the Bucks also doing well. Meanwhile, Sacramento fans should be pulling their hair out. As the great Tom Ziller (SB Nation, Sactown Royalty) noted “Kings got older, worse, more expensive AND downgraded their draft pick in one trade. Impressive.”
  • Reports have also started to surface linking Brian Shaw to the Pacers. Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star tweeted that Shaw will join the Pacers as their Associate Head Coach (otherwise known as the top assistant). Good for Shaw as I wish him nothing but the best. He was a very good coach for the Lakers and I’ll never forget the big shots he hit for the team during the Shaq/Kobe era (hello Portland!). I’m very happy that he’s landed on his feet and hope that this opportunity will springboard him back into contention for a head coaching job in the coming years.

That’s all the news we have before the draft, but I’m sure there will be plenty more as the night unfolds. We’ll update this post if any Lakers news breaks and surely when they make their picks. Enjoy the night, ya’ll.

I won’t lie, today is one of my favorite days of the year. The draft is a day where players’ long time dreams of going to the NBA come true and it’s also the day that all teams have that hope of finding a gem that will help them compete in the years to come.

Today is also great because it’s a day of non-stop chatter and action around the league with trades, rumors, and speculation hitting an all time high. For armchair GM’s and trade machine junkies, today is like Christmas.

And as I type this, the Lakers are in the middle of a lot of this action. Here’s what we “know”:

  • Last night, rumors started circulating that the Lakers and 76ers have had discussions about a potential Lamar Odom/Andre Iguodala swap. With Iggy making more money however, a filler would be needed to make the contracts match. Sam Amick (who originally reported these conversations) cited sources saying that Ron Artest could be the additional piece the Lakers sent to Philly. Adrian Wojnarowski reports that the Lakers could send Luke Walton along with LO.
  • Obviously if the choice is between giving up Luke or Ron, I’d choose Luke every time. Nothing against Walton (a player I have more fondness for than others), but Ron is still a contributing player to this team and Luke has fallen out of the rotation due to injury and lack of production over the past few seasons.
  • Other rumors have Mike Brown wanting the Lakers to pursue Anderson Varejao, a player Brown is very familiar with from his Cavs days. Varejao is a very good defensive presence and one of the better hustle/energy players in the entire league.
  • All of these reports come on the heels of the LA Times reporting the Lakers offered Lamar Odom to the T’Wolves for the #2 overall pick in tonight’s draft. A deal the Wolves weren’t keen on.

It should be noted that in every single one of these reports, there’s nothing concrete and the Lakers are not anywhere close to actually making a deal. This can’t be said enough and should be repeated in your heads for long term absorption.

However, what these reports do tell us is that the Lakers are pretty clearly looking at options that could potentially improve their team. As I stated earlier this week, this is what good front offices do. The Lakers must look at their team with a critical eye and see if any deal makes sense for them. This isn’t that different than what the Spurs are reportedly doing in exploring options for trading Tony Parker or George Hill. Or reports that Danny Ainge would consider trading one of his key pieces. The best franchises look for ways to get better. That said, exploring deals and making deals aren’t the same thing. So, sit tight and wait for something to actually go down. The speculation is fun and we’ll monitor it closely here at FB&G, but don’t take reports for anything more than they are right now.

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As for the draft, the Lakers are still sitting back with a fist full of 2nd round picks to make. Assistant GM Ronnie Lester told Mike Trudell that the Lakers are looking for back court players with their early picks and players that could go to Europe (whether they’re foreign born or not) with their later picks. Lester also says that if the team can’t take two backcourt players they like with their early selections, they’ll look to go big.

This jives with what we already know about the Lakers approach and shouldn’t be a surprise. The Lakers have aging players in their back court and lack depth behind Gasol, Bynum, and Odom. If the team can grab a guard or two that make this roster (preferably ones that can either shoot, make plays off the dribble, or defend at a high level) or a big man that can compete with Caracter as a young big to make the team, this draft would have to be considered a success.

With that said, here are who the experts have the Lakers drafting:

  • Chad Ford (Insider required): #41 – Shelvin Mack, PG; #46 – Malcom Thomas, SF/PF; #56 – Brandon Wanamaker, PG; #58 – Julyan Stone, PG/SG
  • Draft Express: #41 – Shelvin Mack, PG; #46 – Jon Leuer, PF; #56 – Andrew Goudelock, PG; #58 –  Malcom Thomas, SF/PF

As you can see, there’s some overlap here with both mocks projecting that the Lakers select Mack and Thomas. A few other names to look out for are Malcom Lee, Justin Holiday, Ben Hansboro (one of my sleeper picks that I hope L.A. takes a flyer on), and Jordan Williams (one of the better rebounders coming out this year).

As we get closer to the draft, we’ll pass along any updates that we get and will have another post up as we get close to the start of the draft with any confirmed reports. Buckle up everyone, this should be a fun night.

From Sebastian Pruiti, NBA Playbook: Ettore Messina was one of the best head coaches in European Club Basketball history, winning the EuroLeague title four times with two different teams.  Messina has been rumored to take a number of different head coaching jobs over the years, and for whatever reason he just didn’t seem to be interested, until now.  Messina has finally joined the NBA, agreeing to join the Lakers’ staff and as Ric Bucher reported, even though he will be listed as an assistant coach, his role will be to act as more of a consultant than an assistant coach. With Mike Brown being a defensive head coach, it is my opinion that Messina will be a consultant on the offensive end more than the defensive end, so I thought it would be interesting to look at Messina’s offense with Real Madrid (the team that he coached for the past two seasons), and see if there is anything interesting that he could bring over to the Lakers.

From Kurt Helin, Pro Basketball Talk: All that “substantial progress” in the NBA’s labor negotiations? Don’t hang your hat on it. That’s essentially what National Basketball Players Assocition President Derek Fisher told Stephen A. Smith on ESPN 1050 radio in New York (via Sports Radio Interviews). And he was not backing down over a lockout. “If the owners decide they want to lock us out because we don’t agree to the most dramatic rollback in professional sports history, then that’s the choice that they have.” While the two sides continue to meet Fisher is clear that the two sides are far apart, in part because the two sides are coming from very different starting points, making it hard to agree on what a compromise in the middle looks like.

A collaborated effort on Ed The Sports Fan: How can a face foul an elbow?” That’s what I think of time and time again when I think about the dominance of Shaquille O’Neal. For those of you who are unfamiliar, those are the words of Vlade Divac discussing his battle with Shaquille O’Neal when the Lakers played the Kings in the playoffs. It’s also a sign someone held up in Philadelphia during the 2001 NBA Finals, when Dikembe Mutombo played Shaq about as well as anyone ever has one-on-one, yet still got torched. For all Shaquille O’Neal has done as an entertainer and athlete with cross-over appeal, there are drones of people who forget how incredibly awesome Shaquille O’Neal the basketball player was. There are those who say he didn’t reach his full potential, didn’t work hard enough to stay in shape, and took regular-season games off. All those people miss the point.

From Kevin Ding, OC Register: Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter, the Lakers’ two second-round picks a year ago, made the team. Ebanks and perhaps even Caracter will be with the team next season despite nonguaranteed contracts. That moderate success with their 2010 second-round chances – even though neither Ebanks nor Caracter had much on-court impact as rookies – means even less room on the next Lakers roster for 2011 second-round picks. Despite most of the focus going toward the start of the NBA draft and Arizona’s possible No. 2 overall pick Derrick Williams (right), whom the Lakers were rumored to want via trade, the Lakers are prepared to use their four second-round picks on players such as Washington’s Justin Holiday (22) and Matthew Bryan-Amaning (11). Page through the photos for prospects the Lakers are particularly scrutinizing. And the Lakers have a lot of them: Nos. 41, 46, 56 and 58. The Lakers will be looking foremost for some possible backcourt depth. Secondarily, though, they just don’t want to waste the picks completely – which could mean drafting prospects whose rights could be stashed away for the future while they mature in Europe.

From Broderick Turner, LATimes: Armed with only second-round draft picks in the NBA draft and an aging roster, the Lakers unsuccessfully tried to trade for the Minnesota Timberwolves’ No. 2 overall pick in the first round. The Lakers offered sixth man of the year Lamar Odom for Minnesota’s No. 2 pick, according to two NBA officials who were not authorized to speak publically on the matter, but L.A. was turned down. When the Odom deal was rebuffed by Minnesota, the Timberwolves then inquired about trying to acquire All-Star forward Pau Gasol or center Andrew Bynum from the Lakers, both officials said.

From Mark Medina, LA Times: Oklahoma City made one of the biggest trades last season before the deadline when it acquired Kendrick Perkins from the Boston Celtics, immediately adding a layer of championship experience and toughness that the youthful Thunder lacked, and immediately ending the Laker archrivals’ chances of getting another NBA championship. But that deal also included the Thunder acquiring veteran Charlotte center Nazr Mohammed while trading three-point-shooting power forward Jeff Green and backup center Nenad Kristic. Mohammed has fulfilled that NBA journeyman-type role, playing for six teams since the Utah Jazz selected him with the 29th pick in the 1998 draft. But he immediately found his niche on the Thunder roster.  Mohammed averaged seven points and five rebounds on 52.2% shooting, improved the Thunder’s interior defense and helped elevate the team’s frontline presence in Serge Ibaka and Nick Collison.

From Mark Medina, LA Times: This doesn’t exactly qualify as breaking news. Lakers forward Matt Barnes said unequivocally after Mike Brown’s introductory news conference May 31 that he would exercise his $1.91-million option to return to the Lakers next season. But for the sake of dotting the I’s and crossing the Ts, the Lakers made the official announcement Wednesday that has gone according to plan. Aside from wanting to have stability after playing with eight teams in his nine-year NBA career, Barnes cited his frustration over the Lakers’ four-game loss to the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference semifinals and his own limited effectiveness after right-knee surgery as reasons for returning.

From Brian Kemenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: For r the record, I don’t believe a deal sending Pau Gasol to Minnesota, whether for Kevin Love and the No. 2 pick in Thursday’s draft; the pick and whatever flotsam, jetsam and magic beans with which the Wolves would try to entice L.A.; or any combination therein is going to happen. Accepting any offer not including Love would be monumentally bad for the Lakers, and while far be it for me to tell David Kahn how to do his job, I’m not really sure how shipping out the draft choice, Love and whatever other pieces required to obtain Gasol and make salaries match makes much sense from his end, either. Strip away Love, and even if you believe Gasol the superior player (as I do), how much does he improve a 17-win team? Even if he and Ricky Rubio instantly developed a chemistry so profound the great Venkatraman Ramakrishnan wept in appreciation, unless Rubio really is the second coming of Magic Johnson, the Wolves are, what, a 30-win group for the next few years, by which time Gasol will be past his prime?

From Arash Markazi, ESPNLA: The Los Angeles Lakers announced their new broadcast teams for the upcoming season and both the radio and television crews will have new play-by-play voices. Spero Dedes, 31, who had been the Lakers radio play-by-play voice for the previous six seasons, will not be returning. “We allowed Spero to miss several Lakers games from time to time over the past few years in order to do national events for the NFL and college basketball,” said Lakers spokesman John Black in an email on Tuesday. “However, for our TV play-by-play position, we insist that that person not miss any games because we feel it is important to our fans to have consistency and continuity and to have the same announcer for all games.

From Chris Sheridan, ESPN: NBA players and owners each made new financial proposals Tuesday at a three-hour collective bargaining meeting, emerging from the discussion cautiously optimistic that progress was being made. The current CBA expires June 30, and the two sides are trying to prevent an impasse like the one that has stopped NFL business. The union made the first proposal, asking to retain the current “soft” salary-cap system but with a half-billion dollar reduction in salaries — $100 million in each of the next five years in a proposed five-year agreement, according to a source who was briefed on the negotiations. The owners, who are asking for a 10-year agreement, then came back with a counterproposal of their own. Owners offered what they called a “flex cap” system that would earmark at least $2 billion per season toward player salaries.

From Ben R, Silver Screen and Roll: Looking at the draft is almost a whimsical activity nowadays because the Lakers’ front office has hardly relied upon it in recent years as a method of gathering talent, much to the chagrin of Laker fans who happen to be fans of college basketball. Nearly all of the major additions to the team since 2008 have been through free agency and trades, which earned the team two championships in three trips to the Finals, but also has created some of the problems that manifested in the Lakers’ inglorious exit from the playoffs at the hands of the recently crowned champion Dallas Mavericks. In any case, with the draft approaching, it behooves us to look at the Lakers’ position in the draft and how they can possibly improve. After the jump, I’ll cover how the Lakers ended up in their current draft position, what needs the team needs to address, whether in the draft or elsewhere, and some of the prospects that the Lakers could be targeting in the draft.

From USAToday.com: Defending champion Spain included Oklahoma City Thunder forward Serge Ibaka in its preliminary team on Tuesday for the European championship. Ibaka, who was born in the Republic of the Congo, is still waiting to become nationalized by Spain before the championship begins on Aug. 31 in Lithuania. “We hope he can play, even though we are not sure that he will be able to,” Spain coach Sergio Scariolo said. “We are in the phase of waiting for the paperwork to go through.” Ibaka played for Spanish clubs for three years before moving to the NBA in 2009. According to Spanish media reports, he maintains a residence in Barcelona. Ibaka could form a formidable front court alongside Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol and his brother Pau Gasol of the Los Angeles Lakers, who returns after missing the 2010 world championship.

It seems that even the seriousness of the ongoing CBA negotiations can’t stop a good trade rumor from taking root in everyone’s mind. In case you haven’t heard, there have been reports that the Lakers and Timberwolves have talked about a trade. The terms of said discussion aren’t entirely clear, but the rumors say that they involve Pau Gasol, Kevin Love, the number 2 pick in this upcoming draft, the Mall of America, and some of those lakes left behind when the team moved to L.A. from Minneapolis.

In all seriousness, Eric Pincus reported that while a deal was unlikely, there were actual discussions about an exchange of Gasol for some of the Timerwolves’ assets. There was then speculation of what assets the deal would include and everything from the #2 pick to Kevin Love to several medium sized contracts for role players (and a combination of all) were floated as options. If you’d like a nice summary of the evolution of the reports, Dexter Fishmore covered it well here.

However, today Ken Berger of CBS Sports has stated that any Gasol/Love swap is not going to happen.  So, nothing to see here, right?

Yes and no.

The fact that rumors are swirling around the Lakers right now is nothing new. Los Angeles is a major market and the Lakers are a marquee franchise with attractive trade pieces that can be used to bring in other teams’ players. Be it a juicy rumor or a legitimate discussion about swapping players, the Lakers are one of the few teams that’s viewed as a viable partner across the league in a deal with any team.

Plus, the fact that the Lakers’ season flamed out so dramitcally only adds to the intrigue of them wanting (needing?) to make a deal. And with that intrigue comes more speculation that a major move is on the horizon even though the key players from the front office (namely GM Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss) consistently speak about the Lakers being happy with their core players.

With the team’s poor showing in the playoffs at the crux of the argument that the Lakers need to make a deal, it’s no wonder that Pau Gasol has surfaced as the main candidate to be traded. After all, Pau was the Laker that played so poorly this post-season and thus he should be the player to fetch new pieces to keep the Lakers in contention.

I have a problem with this perspective.

First, though, a disclaimer: I have no issues with the Lakers making a good trade; a trade that improves the roster for both short and long term contention. There are ways to make that happen and without getting into specifics now, I do believe there are viable options out there to be explored. Actively looking at options to improve the team is one of the first priorities for any front office and the Lakers brass would be doing the organization a disservice if they stubbornly stuck to their guns and didn’t explore what deals could be made.

That said, the overwhelming willingness to dump Gasol in a trade is perplexing to me. While he wore down this season, he’s still the one player the Lakers have that rotates comfortably between PF and C. He’s the one big man that shows skill both on the wing and in the post. Early in the year he was the Lakers best player and he again was an All-NBA performer (2nd team) and an all-star. He’s the best option of a PF in the entire league to play on this specific Laker team.

There is a counter to this argument, though, and Reed made it well in an email exchange:

I think that the decision to trade Pau would have nothing to do with on the court problems. There’s no question he fits in perfectly next to Kobe and the rest of our core given his versatility, length, skill, etc. But there’s also no question that something off the court went seriously wrong with him and the team in general last season. Was that 400 games in 4 seasons, or something deeper? We don’t know, but I imagine that Kupchak and Buss do. But we can’t blindly assume that the team was just tired and everything will be better after a long summer. There really might be deeper conflicts in play — I trust Kupchak to figure that out. If, of course, he is still running the show in light of Jim’s emergence.

Zephid adds another point about a potential deal of Gasol:

While I believe this team has found a great chemistry between Pau and Kobe, I do think that removing Pau from the equation will free up the paint for both Kobe and Bynum to operate more effectively.  We saw in the beginning of 09-’10 that Kobe and Bynum both played great in the post when Gasol sat out the first couple weeks.  They had room to maneuver as well as better post touches.  But when Gasol returned, Kobe was forced to return to the perimeter, even though at this point he is at most an average three point shooter, and Bynum touches decreased drastically. While losing Gasol, his ability to create baskets as well as opportunities for others will surely hurt, I think our offense could probably be better with improved spacing, more shots for Bynum, and more efficient shots from Kobe.

Everything said above is valid and worth thinking long and hard about. However, I’m still of the mind that the Lakers hold on to Gasol. Skilled seven foot big men with smarts that have come up big in the biggest moments don’t just grow on trees. If you trade a player like that, you do so for someone that’s clearly better, not for depth or somone who’s not as good but “younger” or “cheaper”. Those variables should be part of the equation, but not the determining factor.

The Lakers are in an interesting position in that they’re clearly still a contender but suffer from how their playoff losses stained their credibility to still win as is. The front office has to walk a fine line in attempting to strike a balance between change for change’s sake and change to actually improve the roster. How this is accomplished is out of our control, but I caution against any “grass is always greener” mindsets that start to creep in. Especially as the rumors ramp up coming into this Thursday’s draft.