Pietrus Chatter Indicative Of A Real Issue

Darius Soriano —  July 7, 2011

If you haven’t heard by now, current Suns shooting guard Mickael Pietrus wants to play for a championship contender and says Kobe wants him on the Lakers.

Being that this is the off-season, I’m taking all reports like this with a grain of salt. The whole shaker, even. Pietrus is unhappy with his role in Phoenix and could easily be voicing his discontent in a French paper to try and stir up his cause to either get more run (whenever the season begins) or find a new home where he’d prefer to play. He could also just be dropping a juicy quote in a foreign periodical because that’s what foreign born players do in the off-season. Needless to say, I don’t expect Pietrus to be playing in Los Angeles next year.

However, Piertrus’ quote – whether true or not - raises a more serious question for the Lakers going into next season. Namely, who is going to back up Kobe Bryant?

Now that Shannon Brown has opted out of his contract, the likelihood of him returning to the Lakers is relatively low. Sure, it could happen. But the prospect of him finding a long term deal or a role on a team that doesn’t involve backing up one of the best players in the game is pretty strong. If I were an odds maker, I’d say it’s a 25% chance (or lower) that Shannon returns to the Lakers. Even if the Lakers think they can get Shannon back, they need a contingency plan in case he bolts anyway.

Mind you, there are internal options. Devin Ebanks showed promise in limited minutes and was told to improve on his guard skills with the implication being he could see more time as a shooting guard. The Lakers drafted a combo guard in Andrew Goudelock who was a prolific college scorer and would likely be more comfortable as a scorer off the bench than a PG anyway. Plus, Darius Morris is a bigger PG and that gives the Lakers flexibility to play Fisher or Blake as SG’s next to him with the possibility that the bigger rookie guard the opposing SG. These options, however, involve relying on young players to produce right away – a tough predicament considering we don’t even know how good they are at this point.

There are always the veteran options on the team as well. I pointed out that Fisher could play next to Morris, but he could just as easily play next to Blake in a small back court. Fisher already defends some SG’s around the league and his lack of quickness is less exposed on SG’s than the speedy PG’s that populate the NBA. The Lakers could also ask Artest to slide over to SG as he did in Houston and Sacramento during his time with those teams. However, these options also have their limitations and relying on either as the primary solution isn’t exactly comforting.

This then leaves the Lakers with acquiring a player from outside the organization to fill this hole. But the uncertainty surrounding the new CBA creates the problem of not knowing how the salary cap will work which dominoes into not knowing what the rules surrounding free agency or trades will be. That’s a lot of unknowns for what will be a vital hole to fill.

As we stand now, this isn’t so much a pressing issue as it is a festering problem that will need resolution eventually. The Lakers will need a replacement but will need to find one in an environment that is to be determined while staring at several less than inspiring in house options. In the current locked out world of player/owner negotiations, this may seem trivial. But if the last lockout taught us anything it’s that the league can go from a standstill to business as usual in a day. And at that point, the Lakers – like every other franchise – will need to fill its holes in preparation for a new campaign.

Darius Soriano

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25 responses to Pietrus Chatter Indicative Of A Real Issue

  1. There’s a lockout going on.

    We have the highest payroll of any team in the NBA. There is no way we will spend more money to acquire other free agents less than the minimum.

    That said, the options the Lakers have are currently on the roster.

    The backup SG role should belong to Barnes. With small doses going to Ebanks until he can win more minutes.

    Pietrus already accepted his player option for over $5M and there is no way he can come to the Lakers.

    The team will find success from within. It is going to be a process with a shortened season.

    It will be interesting to see the team develop when the season starts.

  2. Darius,

    Small sample size but Trey Johnson seemed to do decently last season. Also wasn’t he the last cut in camp before the season started?

    If Lakers were really hard pressed due to time and money when the season starts, how high are his chances of making the team as the SG back up? He can score and also slide over to PG as needed since he played that in D league. That flexibility would seem to bode well for his chances.

    What would be your assessment of his skills both within Brown’s needs and against the league? Does he have at least average athleticism and IQ?

  3. Sorry for the back to back posts but I got curious and searched for some Trey Johnson info. Here’s his draft express profile
    http://www.draftexpress.com/profile/Trey-Johnson-1129/

    Seems to be in the same mode as Morris. Not elite quick but decent enough combined with good footwork and smarts around the basket. I like that bit about his jumper and form. Seems like Lakers could do worse than him as the back up PG if they can’t find someone better due to compressed time frame and salary limitations.

  4. Trey Johnson apparently played a few games for the Cavs a couple of years ago. This means Brown has seen this guy in NBA game situations, along with the film of the last game this season. That should give him at least a starting point about this player.

    With the $ situation very tight and about to get much tighter, I think reevaluating a player already in our system is a wise move.

  5. Best seat I’ve ever had to an NBA game was the Suns-Lakers 3OT thriller back in March. So I had an excellent vantage point for Pietrus’s general disinterest in the game, but sincere attentiveness to the groupies and eye candy in the crowd.

    So yes, I would imagine he’d like to play in L.A.

  6. Funky Chicken July 7, 2011 at 5:22 pm

    I’m with Travis on this one. For purely financial reasons, I think the Lakers answer at the backup SG position is going to be found on the current roster.

    There are a number of options, which suggests to me that the role will be much more of a situational one. Where he can, Fisher will probably get the nod against the less speedy SG’s (he already guards them when Kobe grows tired of his inability to defend elite PG’s and defends them himself). Ebanks’ instructions for summer work suggest that he’ll get some action there, as will a healthy Matt Barnes. Throw in Goudelock as a nice option for an offensively-minded backup.

    I’m not saying I like it, but I think financial reality will prevent the Lakers from adding a veteran who would be better than all the internal options, particularly when veteran money will be better spent on a backup for Drew.

  7. I’m of the mind that a cheap alternative could be found outside of the roster. Michael Redd is coming off an obscene payday and has been hurt the past couple of years, but if he’s willing to chase a ring, he’d be fine. He’s on the older side, but a younger player in somewhat of the same predicament is Kelenna Azabuike. Other’s who may be available include former Lakers in Sasha (I’d say no) or Mo Evans (who I liked in his short time here). Willie Green from NOH is also available. The trade of Rudy Fernandez also puts a guy like DeShawn Stevenson in doubt. The now crowded backcourt in Milwuakee may also leave Chris-Douglas Roberts’ status in doubt. I’m just not sold on Ebanks ability to be a natural shooting guard even if it is for only 10 minutes a game. I think he’s a more natural 3, but just my opinion.

  8. Slow offseason even slower with the lockout.

    I’m all for finding answers within our roster, but that’s being a bit too naive. We could certainly hope, and sometimes there are real gems just waiting for their moment, but most of the time, they’re buried because they’re not worthy.

    Certainly rookies could grow once adjusted to the game, but even if they do it seems to be a very gradual process, so I’m not really banking on any of our rookies to be servicable. Caracter and Ebanks may find a few minutes here and there, but to be honest I’m not sure if they’ll be markedly better than Luke, who, despite his recent troubles was once worth nearly as much as he was being paid and shows glimpses of it every now and then.

  9. more minutes for Matt Barnes and more minutes for L.O. as the backup 3

  10. Rusty Shackleford July 7, 2011 at 6:35 pm

    Just don’t start signing guys like Chris Mihm and Smush Parker.

    It’s a bummer to realize the prediciment the Lakers are in at this point in Kobe’s career. Just a year ago we were reading about the Lakers going for a 3-Peat. I’m hoping increased productivity from Pau and Bynum will cover up back court scoring needs next year.

    What will Laker fans do if Pau comes out and plays like he did the final 2/3′s of this past season?

  11. I like the thinking, use and grow our existing players, plus take a second look at Trey. It’s a different situation with our bigs, we need more depth at the 4&5. Hopefully there will be some serviceable options for whatever the new CBA allows in the minimum to mid-level range.

  12. I think Trey can easily be our PG, even LO can do it.

    The (big) problem is: How to get rid of Fish? Kobe likes Fish and that’s a huge problem.

    For SG, we have several options, still the PG position is the one that, I think, needs a solution.

    Cheers.

  13. Since we have a new coaching philosophy, perhaps he could put up a competition on who will be the starting PG, I will go for Trey tho’ I’ve not seen Darius yet and also a rookie. However, to be championship contender D’Will or CP3 should come to LA. As an incentive, they know the needs of the Lakers and they’re aware of the Superstar vacancy in three years in the 2nd biggest market in the country.

    Backup for Kobe, I would favor the youth over the veterans so Ebanks and Goudelock, tho’ I could see Blake practicing his threes this summer. Fisher will slide to 2 as well. For 3 go for Peace & Barnes and again Goudelock. Finally, I smell a big trade before All Star, let’s wait and see. What will happen to Luke? Can we send him to the space lab for experiment.

  14. I mis-typed on my second post. Trey would seem to be better as SG back up not PG. But he seems like a combo guard that can slide over to play PG as needed.

  15. So playing group this coming season would be the following?

    Kobe, Fish, Lamar, Pau, Andrew, Blake, Artest, Barnes, & T. Johnson? D. Ebanks? and perhaps a rookie?

    I worry about Barnes. Watching him this past year was at times tough to stomach. And it’s tough to feel optimistic about guys with little experience.

    Maybe Brown shoud play zone to save Kobe’s energy?!

  16. Wow…some of you are down right scary!

    Matt Barnes at SG really? A career 32 percent 3-point shooter is not someone you put at SG. The reason he is in the league is because of the energy he brings off the bench and hustle plays. Put him at SG at watch teams sag off all year. I doubt the Lakers are even considering this.

    Trey Johnson…well there is a reason he is in the D-League people. He might have a chance to make the roster but don’t count on it.

    Also, the rookies prolly will not make it either….mayb one at the most but it is a long shot on a team that has championship goals.

    Bottom-line folks look for some Free Agent/Trade action.

  17. I’d shoot for young players like Wayne Ellington, Daquean Cook, Azuibuike, who can shoot the three ball. It would be quite a logjam though to have 3 PGs (Fisher, Blake, Morris), 4 SGs (Kobe, Ebanks, FA/trade, Glock). Therefore, the Lakers will probably stay in-house on this and try to convert Ebanks as a shooting guard. Hope Ebanks picked up the “shooting Bible” Kobe gave to Ariza for that one amazing run in 2009.

  18. OrientalLaker July 9, 2011 at 1:10 am

    hi guys!! been a looong time reader but never posted since i love d intelligent interactions n was afraid am not…uh smart enuf, i guess. anyway coming frm a loong time laker fan in japan who has a hard time finding ways to watch d games, how do u guys think of d lockout being a boon for a relatively old team?

    i know fans lose out reg. season games, but wldnt a late start ensure a bigger chance for a fresher kobe n pau, not to mention a healthier bynum. lamar n artest can concentrate on their other careers before the games. in the end, we want anothet ‘ship right?

  19. The Lakers are aiming for a Championship. The only player that already plays in the League that can light it up like Kobe that we can afford is JR Smith. HE will be our panacea. He is what Shannon wanted to be….explosive, a lights out streak shooter with a chip on his shoulder, and a decent defender. Shannon let us down, now let’s do something about it. I would also welcome Auzibuike as another outside shooter then work on the bigs. Morris will be the point guard using the trial by fire method.

  20. Ebanks and Goudelock will get the first crack at backup SG,where their D will be just as important as their 3pt shooting. I expect both guys to work their ass off this summer with the expectation they can earn some minutes in the rotation if they show Brown enough so that he can trust them. PG is unsettled until we see what Blake and Morris do in the new systems.

  21. OrientalLaker

    I think a shortened season will benefit the Lakers in that they can’t afford to get bored. It will keep their focus in line too and give our veterans enough time to recuperate from the three championship runs.

  22. Busboys – I wouldn’t mind a wild card shooter like J.R. at all… but am not sure how affordable he’d be for the Lakers. We won’t have any money to spend apart from whatever exceptions are available in a new CBA and that’s got to be parceled out sparingly. I’m sure J.R. will get something in the vicinity of what would currently be the full mid-level, no?

  23. OrientalLaker July 9, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    Busboys: yup, d lockout can b seen as an advantage for us, n d mavs n d celts, I guess. might lead to another great playoff year. too bad for our rooks n sophs though.

    Regarding JR Smith, he might end up being clobbered by Artest or Kobe in the end. As much Kobe breaks plays, I dont think we want another “wildcard” that way.

  24. Mid-level ranges from $5.4 to $5.8 million. JR made $6 million last year. I think it is entirely feasible. Plus, Luke will come off the books. One issue the owners are fighting for is an amnesty clause that would enable them to rid themselves of one bad contract. Think LUKE WALTON.

    OrientalLaker
    The problem with Shannon last year was the Lakers depended on him to be just that, the second unit’s Kobe. He could not do it by any stretch of the imagination. He (Shannon) could only immitate Kobe’s bad traits like not closing out on three point shooters, ill-advised PUJITs, and holding onto the ball too ling and then forcing up a shot. Plus let’s not talk about his inability to play at multiple speeds, dribbling into the teeth of the defense and turning the ball over all by himself (lack of dribbling skills). JR can do what Kobe can do to a great extent. He’s just a nut. You can’t have everything going for you.

  25. The ideal 2012 Lakers

    Starters:
    Kobe, Blake, Artest, Pau, Andrew

    Second Unit:
    JR Smith, Fisher, Barnes, Lamar, Kwame

    The Bench:
    Auzubuike, Morris, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Earl Clark, Kyrylo Fesenko, Ebanks (first choice), and Glock (D-League to turn him into a point guard).

    Kwame probably won’t come back because of how he was treated so Ebanks makes the team, but you have to get two bigs and Kyrylo would be great at the veteran’s minimum. So would Earl Clark and Auzubuike. JR would get the Mid-Level and Luc Richard the Bi-Annual.

    That my friends is depth, defense, athleticism, shooting and scoring. All without trades or major overhaul.