Sunday Morning Reading

Darius Soriano —  July 10, 2011

From C.A. Clark, Silver Screen & RollGasol’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.

Darius Soriano

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12 responses to Sunday Morning Reading

  1. Wow, Land O’ Lakes has an article on the Drew League. Not surprising since this summer the Drew League has garnered so much attention from mega NBA stars like Kevin Durant. This in addition to all the usual NBA stars that play at Drew. Funny, I’m not sure if the Drew League would have gained so much media attention, ESPN and Sports Illustrated have been there regularly this summer, if not for the NBA lockout. NBA players Shannon Brown, Steve Blake, Cuttino Mobley, Javel McGee, James Harden, Marcus Williams, DeMar DeRozen, Craig Smith, the No. 1 2011 draft pick, Michael Beasley, and at least 20 other players have all graced the league with their presence.

    The league is particularly fun for the young guys because an announcer MC’s the game all the while disparaging a player if they don’t play up to par. During timeouts and between games rap music blares from the speakers. The crowd is very, very knowledgeable about the game and will voice their opinion openly and often comically.

    One never knows who will attend the game. Late great Boston great Dennis Johnson, and Jelly Bean Bryant used to attend the games on a regular basis. Baron Davis played there every summer before his injuries. Gilbert Arenas has also, spent summers at the Drew.

    Land O’ Lakes mentioned Casper Ware Jr. Cal State Long Beach graduate, and a lighting quick 5’9 (that’s being generous) pg. that can shoot the 3, get to the rim for a score or to pass the ball to another player for a basket. He is tenacious on defense and has played at the Drew against current and past NBA players since he was 13 years old. His father is Casper Ware a local and Drew League legend. The Lakers could do worse than offering this kid an invite to camp. Maybe too late as Casper destroyed Steve Blake and other NBA players @ the Drew and will surely have several team camps to join.

    Great games @ the Drew League, it is no longer a summer secret haven for basketball players to play organized competitive games. Oh, and for anyone whom thinks that the games are merely pickup games, the Drew League has sent four current referees to the NBA with several more training.

  2. I like reading Lazenby because he usually has good tidbits and insights. But I’ve got to say that his constant hammering of Jim Buss is kind of tiring. I have a wait and see attitude when it comes to Jim Buss.

    But it’s pretty obvious from all of Lazenby’s posts on the subject that he is firmly in Jeannie’s camp the last several years. It’s pretty ridiculous and kind of unprofessional of someone of his standing and reporting history to constantly make character assassinations.

  3. #2. I linked to that Lazenby piece just to show that his train of thought is still out there and prevalent amongst some. You and I see eye to eye on some of this stuff, for sure.

  4. I understand where Lazenby is coming from on Andrew. I don’t think a player who has been injured as many times as he has (though not always the fault of his own) can have a long and healthy career. I don’t see Drew ever being like Dwight or Shaq for that matter. He may be sort of like a Brad Daugherty instead of Sam Bowie or Bill Walton, but I don’t see much else.

    The biggest problem with trading him for Howard is having to take on a contract like Agent Zero’s. That would force us to get rid of someone extremely valuable like Lamar which would cause other problems. In the perfect would we could trade them straight up, but this isn’t a perfect world.

    Jim Buss’ decisions so far have not been so great and you can see by the writing on the wall that it may cause problems down the line. He started some dissension with his comments a couple years ago. Dr. Buss had to come back into the fold and clear that up. The Lakers have been extremely lucky to go to three and win two championships. From an injury that caused a phone call that eventually netted us Pau, to the teams that matched well against us getting knocked out of the playoffs, to players missing point blank lay-ups at the end of games.

    We have been fortunate. Our luck ran out last year. Now we have to make wise decisions and get everyone on board in order to get everything we can out of this championship calibur team.

  5. That Lazenby piece was just garbage.

    “Tex Winter told me in 2008 that Bynum had a strange relationship apart from the rest of the team.”

    What’s the value in that statement? That was nearly four years ago, with two championships jointly earned in the interim. This implies that Drew’s grown no closer to his teammates in that span, which is absolutely illogical.

    Bynum came to the team as a teenager and in ’08 he had yet to really prove his worth to anyone on the court, aside from a few weeks’ of amazing play before he stepped on a teammate’s foot and tweaked his knee. That’s just not the case any more.

    He also faults the franchise for trying to position itself away from relying on a pair of players who are north of 30 in order to transition to the one young building block on the roster. That’s a bad plan? Would Lazenby prefer the front office just waited until Kobe’s gone, then spend the next dozen years trying to rebuild as the Bulls once did? Come on.

    Even the Mavericks said Bynum may be the best center in the league at this point in time. (Debatable, but he’s in the Top Five, if not two.)

    The Lakers have to move forward with the players they control, at least until a deal is made to add new variables to the mix. Unless they’re planning to trade him, building around Bynum is absolutely the right thing to do for the next five to 10 years.

  6. I take Lazenby’s stories more seriously than most other writers who cover the Lakers. Unlike other writers who continually reference alleged “inside sources”, we’ve always known who Lazenby’s inside sources were – Phil, Tex and Jeannie. If Lazenby claims that there is a rift between Jim and Jeannie, or that Jim wants to turn this team into Bynum’s team, I have to take his claims seriously. The fact that he signed an injury prone Bynum who contributed very little to the first two runs to the finals to a max contract without testing the market, while someone like Lamar, who was a major contributor, had to fight for every penny is proof enough for me that Bynum gets special treatment from Jim. Lazenby’s article only confirms my beliefs. The fact that he did not consult Kobe before Mike Brown’s hiring was irresponsible. Can you imagine a scenario where a veteran Magic, Jordan, or Bird would not be consulted before a coaching change? I can’t. The nail in the coffin will be if Jim refuses to trade Bynum if Dwight shows interest in joining the Lakers. This would be an irresponsible decision of epic proportions, and would be a clear sign of where this team is headed under Jim’s reign.

  7. Darius, I have no issues with the site linking to Lazenby. I think he’s a quality writer and good for the quality of this site. I know I’ve complained in the past when some of the linked stories have been of very poor quality writing (IMO) and it doesn’t reflect well on this site (again IMO).

    But in this case, I bring it up more for discussion that Lazenby’s got some severe biases. It disappoints me more than anything else as I tend to respect his writing and his information.

    If the writer was consistently poor or had bad info, then I wouldn’t even care except to point out the quality doesn’t match this site’s standards.

    @ #6 LT. Yes Lazenby has a good track record and I do take a lot of what he says seriously. At the same time, look at his sources. Don’t think for a moment that they don’t have their own agenda. So I have to weigh that against what he’s reporting. I lost some respect for Lazenby when he took a bunch of shots at Jim Buss with comments such as Jim gets his scouting report from his bar tender and that’s why the scouting staff was fired. That’s just a cheap shot not worthy of someone with his track record.

    You’re also mistaken about Bynum being signed to a max contract. Bynum took less than what he could have made. Bynum also signed that extension before the last two injuries and the two rings, you have revisionist history there.

    It’s also standard FO practice to try to sign a young promising player to an extension before their QO comes up. You just don’t let that player out to the open market and risk losing him. Some would say Lakers did a good job signing Bynum to a less than max extension when most other players would have received one.

    As for LO, I love LO, definitely more than I like Bynum. But was it truly completely Jim’s call? I recall Jerry was the one making the call and having the sit down meeting with LO. Lakers paid well above market value for LO. He didn’t receive a single offer near what he got from Lakers. If you’re going to use the market argument for Bynum, don’t conveniently forget about it for LO.

    I don’t disagree about the lack of Kobe input with the Brown hiring. At the same time Jim was big enough to publicly admit he was wrong.

    I have my trepidations about Jim taking over the franchise. I would much rather have Jeannie, she’s got a better track record of success. That said, I do think a lot of fans are being extremely unfair about what they’re attributing to Jim.

  8. #7,

    Thank you for correcting me. Bynum signed his extension in 2008, not 2009. However, my points still apply. Hindsight is 20/20, but as of this point, Bynum (due to injuries) has failed to earn his salary, while Lamar has been the third most important Laker in the past three trips to the finals. One of the reasons Lamar did not get similar offers was because most teams assumed he would resign with the Lakers. He was a major contributor to the Lakers first championship since the Shaq era, but went through a contentious contract negotiation that summer. Compare that with Bynum’s negotiation for an extension, and it is fairly clear IMO that Bynum received favorable treatment. In hindsight, the front office would have saved money if they had waited until the summer to resign an injury prone Bynum, who was coming off another injury. This was the precise reason why many fans were concerned about Bynum’s extension during the year. They wanted to see Bynum play a full year before the franchise..um Jim?… invested so much in an a player whos had knee issues since high school.

    In regards to Jerry getting involved in LO’s contract, I recall an article from Lazenby claiming that Jim has had full control over the franchise for years, but was working quietly behind the scenes to smooth the transition from father to son, and as a result, Jim was still the main decision maker during LO’s contract negotiation.

    To address your other point, I don’t doubt that Lazenby’s sources have their own agendas, but if that agenda is coming from Jeannie, put me on board. She has earned the trust of most Laker fans by now, which is another reason I take his criticism towards Jim seriously.

  9. Chownoir

    As far as Jim and LO go…. The Lakers overpaid for LO. Are you serious???? LO is getting $8.2 million for being the glue that keeps the team together, a great locker room guy, and your primary back-up everything. He averages damn near a double double 14 and 8.8, plus gets assists, plays passable defense, and is a threat from the three point line.

    What else do yo want from the guy??!!! Consistency??? When you’re at work, do you produce the same everyday, night in and night out? No I didn’t think so. Does you boss change your job description depending on what he needs from you? Are you an accountant one day, a fry cook the next, and a delivery man the day after that? That, in a nutshell, is what LO does for the Lakers. Shane Battier did a third of what Lamar does and he made $7 million so please tell me how LO is overpaid!!! People stop hating on Lamar!!! WITHOUT HIM there would be no rings, PERIOD!!! The Lakers needed LO, KOBE, and PAU plus the heroics of Fisher and World Peace to win the two championships.

  10. @#9, Regarding the timing of the extension. Again I think that’s a bit of revisionist history and 20/20 hindsight. Bynum had only one injury at that point and it was a fluke injury. What happens if he had a great season that built on his performance pre injury? Then the team would have been almost forced to give him a max extension and max years.

    As it is, it was a gamble on both sides to sign the current contract. Team gave less than the max he was seeking but would have gotten a deal if he had continued his progress. At the same time both sides agreed to a shorter 3 year extension. Both sides got some protection and took a gamble. That’s how compromises worked. If Bynum played like a monster, then he would have been underpaid and Lakers got a deal. But if he didn’t and got hurt, which is what happened, then Bynum got paid and Lakers got the short end. The 3 years was also a good compromise for both. Long enough so both sides could see what the long term prospects were and no one was tied down.

    Yeah, I wasn’t happy about Bynum being injured but I thought the contract amount and length was a good deal for both sides considering the circumstances.

    As for LO, if no one was going to make him an offer because they thought he’d be resigned then that’s the market isn’t it? If someone really wanted him, you don’t think they would have made a run at him to drive up the price for Lakers? Heck Miami wanted him but no cap room. The teams with cap room didn’t offer it to him. Instead Det overpaid for Villianueva and Ben Gordon instead. I’m going to disagree with your assertion here.

    Lazenby claims Jim has full control over franchise. But other sources also say Jim has a major voice but Jerry was still making the final call. It was only until this past year that Jim started getting final call. Even then, most other sources agree that it’s still a committee decision between Mitch, Jerry and Jim and a consensus has to be reached.

    I like Jeannie a lot as I mentioned earlier. But that doesn’t mean because Lazenby is promoting her agenda that he doesn’t negatively skew everything against Jim to make him look a lot worse than he actually may be doing.

  11. Andrew’s knee problems are somewhat similar to Big Z’s foot problems. So maybe his career might resemble his. Not THE guy, but a guy that can help THE guy win.