From Andy Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: Tuesday morning on ESPN’s First Take, one topic debated by Skip Bayless and Jemele Hill was the barnstorming tour potentially spearheaded by Kobe Bryant and his agent Rob Pelinka. The plan, as first reported by the L.A. Times, would involve The Mamba and several other Pelinka clients playing a few exhibition games in China, presumably inside the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai. (A double marketing opportunity for L.A.’s favorite art thief crime-buster!) Hill and Bayless both took issue with this plan for reasons ranging from the consideration owed to each player’s NBA team to the “money grab” element to, very specifically to Kobe, the physical risks. On all counts, I think the panelists are overreacting.
From Tim Harvey, Lakers Nation: “Basketball, unlike football with its prescribed routes, is an improvisational game, similar to jazz. If someone drops a note, someone else must step into the vacuum and drive the beat that sustains the team.” — PHIL JACKSON, ‘The Last Season’. This is it; no album, no movie. The greatest figure in the game during the 90’s not named M.J. has hung up his smart shoes and dry erase board. No more smells of incense in the locker room, no more meditation at half-time. Next season in locker rooms throughout the NBA, from the STAPLES center to the staples of other teams, a calm will have left the building. We aren’t talking about the lockout, but the retirement of the greatest coach in NBA history after the cigar smoke had cleared out gardens and arenas in the United States. Phil Jackson in a chilled out press conference said farewell to ‘The Last Season’. Autobiography or no autobiography, it was written.
From Actuarially Sound, Silver Screen and Roll: The next player up in our player report card series is Derek Fisher. Fisher’s season was everything we have come to know from the tough veteran. He provided solid three-point shooting, low turnovers, and tough physical defense on bigger guards. Unfortunately he also provided extremely poor shooting on anything that wasn’t an open three and matador defense against smaller and quicker guards, all things we have come to expect. It was really a year very much like the last, and therein lays the problem. The Lakers have been looking for the heir-apparent to Derek for more than a few seasons now and yet are no closer now than three years ago. Derek Fisher led the team in three point shooting (minimum 10 attempts) by hitting just under 39.6% from behind the arc. He bounced back from the 35% he hit last year and produced a percentage right in line with what he did the first two seasons back with the Lakers. Unfortunately that was the only place on the floor he could make a shot.
From Ben R, SIlver Screen and Roll: After the passing of another season, Andrew Bynum remains the most polarizing figure in all of Lakerdom, not only for his actions on and off the court, but for the unique place he holds in the team’s future. Only 23 years old after six seasons in the league, Bynum is the exception among a group of veterans gradually moving towards the wrong side of 30, and one of the few pieces that could conceivably be considered a future building block as the team transitions from the Kobe era. The fruit of the Lakers‘ only trip to the lottery since the 1994 draft, when the Lakers took Eddie Jones, Bynum has changed dramatically from the skinny 17 year old who still remains the youngest player ever to play in an NBA game.
From Sam Amick, Sports Illustrated: When the last NBA lockout was finally lifted in 1999, Larry Brown was among the lucky ones. The then-Philadelphia coach had veterans like Matt Geiger and Eric Snow to help in the most unusual of offseasons, imploring young players to stay in shape while they were unable to communicate with the coaches and trainers who would typically keep them on task. Not every coach was so lucky. Then-Cleveland coach Mike Fratello said goodbye to one version of Shawn Kemp in the summertime and said hello to a much-bigger version six months later, when the then-29-year-old who had signed a seven-year, $98 million deal in 1997 reportedly arrived at training camp weighing more than 300 pounds and was never the same in the years to come. With the lockout officially in effect, Kemp is the cautionary tale that is now a concern for executives and coaches around the league in this restrictive and unforgiving labor landscape.
From Lisa Dilman, LA Times: So, what exactly is a locked-out draft pick, one without the protective cushion of past six-figure paychecks, supposed to do in this summer climate of NBA uncertainty? Craigslist, you say? Have hoop, will travel. Well, one problem. Local listings in June featured one job teaching basketball to children at apartment communities for $15 an hour and another casting for a short comedy commercial “spoofing LeBron James.” (Oddly, basketball skills were not required for that half-day shoot, paying $75.) At least those gigs, unlike many listings, actually paid. Kidding aside, the serious issue in the early days of the NBA lockout is that the recently selected draft picks are the most immediate and visible victims.