From C.A. Clark, Silver Screen & Roll: Gasol’s place in the team hierarchy, in all facets of the game, was unchanged from prior seasons. What changed was how important his role became. What changed is how reliant the team became on what Pau Gasol brings to the table. And in the end, what changed was the team’s inability to deal with the fact that Gasol couldn’t cook every night. Pau Gasol was central to the team’s performance, and the team failed miserably. It doesn’t take an advanced level of cognition to come to the conclusion then that Pau deserves a lion’s share of the blame for the season’s flameout. For that reason, many of you were particularly looking forward to the review of Pau’s season, I suspect out of some love of bloodsport, but you will most likely be disappointed if you were anticipating a bloodbath. After all, Pau Gasol had many labels over the course of this season; MVP Candidate, Possible Narcoleptic, Resurgent Force, Tired Ninny, Insecure 2nd Banana, and Tin Man (Wizard of Oz burrrrrn). But the final, and most apt, label given to the big Spaniard, the one that has stuck with him all offseason, is Scapegoat.
From Roland Lazenby, HoopsHype: The NBA lockout will end someday, and when it does Los Angeles Lakers fans may well find themselves wishing it hadn’t. Fans will discover they’re witnessing the new Lakers, the ones run by Jim Buss and built to cater in every facet to seven-footer Andrew Bynum, a nice enough 23-year-old kid with a dubious medical past and an even more suspect future. Yes, aging star Kobe Bryant will still be a part of the equation, but he was put on notice over the summer when Jim Buss hired new coach Mike Brown without so much as a brief discussion with Bryant. The message is clear: Brown is Bynum’s coach, and the team belongs to the young center as well. “It’s obvious that that is what’s going on,” said one longtime Lakers insider. “Jim Buss is setting up Drew.” That process began last season when assistant Chuck Person was given the freedom to restructure the Lakers’ defense around Bynum, never mind that the club was the reigning two-time NBA champion and seemed to have a defense that already worked quite well. After all, it was last seen stuffing the Boston Celtics in the second half of Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals. The idea of the new defense, though, was to keep Bynum closer to the basket and to require less mobility from him (perhaps to help him avoid injury).
From Dave McMenamin, ESPN Los Angeles: With New Jersey Nets star Deron Williams possibly sparking a wave of NBA players heading overseas during the lockout, the Los Angeles Lakers hired some basketball talent coming in the opposite direction from Europe. The Lakers hired famed Italian coach Ettore Messina, who will serve as a coaching consultant to new coach Mike Brown, the team announced Friday. “I am honored to have received this opportunity from one of the greatest basketball organizations in the world,” Messina said in a release. “I have great respect for coach Mike Brown and I’m excited to work with him and his staff.” Messina was hired for a full-time position and will be with the Lakers for all of their games and practices, both home and on the road. A source had told ESPN The Magazine’s Ric Bucher last month that Messina would join the Lakers. Messina is coming off a two-year contract with Real Madrid in the Spanish League after completing a successful run at the helm of CSKA Moscow, winning two Euroleague championships and four Russian SuperLeague titles in four seasons with the team.
From Pedro Moura, Land O’ Lakers: A lightning-quick 5-9 college guard named Casper outplayed Oklahoma City Thunder guard James Harden. Former NBA Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans’ team lost handily to a team with no current NBA players. But the highlight of Saturday’s Drew League play at Colonel Leon H. Washington Park in Florence was even more … righteous. The man the locals call Jesus provided the most entertaining action of a thoroughly entertaining eight-hour Saturday at the Drew League, coming in from the free-throw line to pick up a teammate’s errant shot attempt and tip-reverse-dunk it in for a miraculous, monstrous slam that had the crowd buzzing for a good 10 minutes. It was emblematic of what people have come to expect from the Drew League, generally considered one of the top summer-league outfits around. “You can’t find this level of basketball anywhere in the U.S. besides here,” says Jesus, also known as Davide Patten, an Orange County native who played collegiately for Pepperdine and Weber State and now plays professionally in Mexico. “This is fantastic basketball.”
From Tom Ziller, SB Nation: A week into the 2011 NBA lockout, franchise owners and their high priest, commissioner David Stern, are still having trouble convincing the world that the 30 NBA teams are collectively losing hundreds of millions of dollars every year. It just doesn’t make sense, and a small army of skeptics continues to look for the keystone that will unlock the league’s financials and show what a scam this all is. But really, it might not be a scam. These dudes might actually be losing their shirts. (That raises a whole series of questions about Stern’s job performance, of course.) But one thing owners still can’t explain away is the impact of rising team values, and as an avatar for this trend, huge recent purchase prices. The rising team values in the NBA are a two-pronged attack on the owners’ position. Most nakedly, it’s another cannon blasting at the claim that this is not a profitable league. Ratings soar, the gate soars, merchandise soars, team value soars … and y’all can’t turn a profit? PFFFFT. Maybe that’s overly simplistic, but it’s an easy line of thought to grok. The other more powerful prong is that it diminishes the pleas of the owners to something like sniveling.