Archives For November 2011

One More Way To Add Talent

Darius Soriano —  November 30, 2011

The new CBA will restrict the ways the Lakers can add talent. As a luxury tax paying team, the Lakers would have a lower mid-level exception to use on free agents (this mini-MLE would allow contracts worth 3million/year for up to 4 years), would not have the use of the bi-annual exception (which, if you don’t recall, is what the Lakers used to sign Shannon Brown after he was acquired via trade), and would have limitations on the use of sign and trades starting in year 3 of the new deal. Plus, as we already discussed, don’t expect the Lakers to fill their holes via picking up amnestied players on the cheap. All in all, the new CBA is not high payroll team friendly and that will affect how the Lakers do business.

However, there’s one asset the Lakers still do have at their disposal and it’s a carry over from the last CBA. As Larry Coon tweeted:

Timely trade exception: the league resumes business on 12/9. The Lakers’ $5.5M trade exception for Sasha Vujacic expires 12/15.

 As it turns out, a cost-cutting move last season – trading Sasha to the Nets for Joe Smith –  may end up being a way for the Lakers to add a nice contract to their payroll this season. This is a nice card to have up their sleeve should a mid-level contract come on the market that a team is willing to dump for some additional cap room to chase a FA or to place a bid on an amnestied player on the secondary waiver market.

There are still some issues to work out, however. As Coon points out, the original deadline for the Lakers to use the exception is only 6 days after the NBA plans to open for business. And while the league is opening their practice facilities to players tomorrow and have allowed preliminary contact between players and agents to start today, that 12/15 deadline doesn’t leave much time for the Lakers to make inroads on acquiring a player. Especially when every front office will be scrambling mad trying to fill roster spots of their own by courting free agents and working the phones to acquire players (rather than sending one away for, essentially, nothing but more cap space).

That said, reports have been trickling in that the league may extend the deadlines for teams to use these exceptions since the league was not open for business for what will end up being a shade over 5 months. After all, what would the league tell a team like the Cavs who have a large exception that would have expired in July? Here’s hoping the league makes a ruling on this soon so teams know where they stand and can look into how they can use their assets.

And, make no mistake, this is an asset for the Lakers. As mentioned earlier, their only means of adding players this off-season will be the mini-mid level exception, the veteran minimum, or executing a trade that upsets the core of their roster. However, this exception changes that by giving them an additional 5.5 million to work with in a trade for one or more players. Sure, there are restrictions – the exception can’t be combined with other assets to form a bigger trade, but the exception can be split into pieces to trade for multiple players.

Whether the Lakers decide to use this exception remains to be seen. But in an off-season where their options would be limited, it’s good to know that they have one more card up their sleeve to try and add to their talent base and fill holes on their roster.

Around the World (Wide Web)

Phillip Barnett —  November 30, 2011

From Andy Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: With the lockout now ended, we can actually examine questions beyond, “When will we see basketball again?” One topic, of course, is how the Lakers’ offense will run under new coach Mike Brown. Since October 2005, we’ve seen this Lakers core run the triangle under Phil Jackson. Really, that system represents the Lakers’ look since October 1999, save a brief period under Rudy Tomjanovich. It’s safe to say the aesthetics under Brown will be different. How different, you ask? Well, that’s difficult to answer with real certainty. Since July 1, when the lockout began, access to Brown has been limited. When he has been available, league rules have prohibited him from speaking publicly about current players by name. Thus, specific details have been in short supply for quite some time. But we have been offered hints, along with some templates, to stoke our imaginations.

From Brian Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: Mitch Kupchak is facing some tricky questions. Without a lot of money to work with, the Lakers have critical holes to fill around a championship caliber core. Point guard gets most of the focus, though prospects for quick improvement are slim thanks to a lack of solid free agent options or suitable trade chips. They need a shooter, and must get a viable backup to Andrew Bynum at center. A little speed would be nice, as would a dose of athleticism.  If there’s one more open question perhaps not getting enough attention, it’s this: Who exactly is going to back up Kobe Bryant?

From Wandahbap, Silver Screen and Roll: Months of scare tactics. Weeks of threats. Then, just days to resolve. I really feel like the NBA just wasted countless hours of my time during this whole lockout soap opera. All of the SportsCenter segments I watched about it, the stupid sports talk radio bits I listened to, propaganda articles I filtered through and read to find the real story. All a waste of my time. The facebook post, the tweets, the conversations. All a waste of my energy. We’re sitting back at ease. Our minds relaxed that there will be an NBA season. As if the possibility of a lost NBA season was ever real. Still, we played their game. We took our sides and fretted over the outcome. An outcome that sure seemed like it could have been made a long time ago. The NBA should have known it was coming to this and spared us the suspense. Instead, they put on the show. Waited until the players actually decertified, then negotiated in earnest. Making us wait as they wasted time swinging their stuff around. This was the deal it was always meant to be. They just had to grind it out until we got the point. The chickens don’t run the coop.

From Zach Lowe, The Point Forward: We’ve all been obsessing for months over the new amnesty rule, which will allow each team to cut one player currently under contract and have that player’s salary (which the team must still pay) vanish from its salary-cap number. Teams will be able to use amnesty once over the course of the new collective bargaining agreement. The rule comes loaded with moral issues: Why should teams that signed or acquired overpaid, non-productive players be rewarded with a get-out-of-jail free card, especially since the new, harsh luxury-tax penalties won’t come into effect until the 2013-14 season, giving teams two years to prepare? And wouldn’t the rule be unfair to teams that have kept their cap sheets clean for this crop of free agents? They might face more competition as rivals shed salary, and players who end up as amnesty cuts might view such teams as unappealing destinations, since such players could sign minimum-level deals with glamorous contenders.

From Kevin Ding, OC Register: Congratulations, NBA owners. $3 billion! You can rightly celebrate, because $3 billion is one heck of a haul to jerk from the players’ side to yours, as is projected over the course of the new 10-year collective bargaining agreement. Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum celebrate the Lakers’ last NBA championship in 2010. But, um, how much are the Lakers – all by themselves – getting from Time Warner Cable for its new regional sports networks? $5 billion. I’d add a “Cha-ching!” sound effect, but no one is fitting $5 billion in any cash register. That $5 billion is over 25 years – or it’ll be merely $4 billion over 20 years if the future option isn’t exercised. It has been widely and wrongly reported as less.

From Mark Medina, LA Times: Kobe Bryant serves as the perfect symbol for the argument by the players’ union that they drive the NBA’s popularity. Yet, the Lakers star reportedly urged his colleagues to accept a 50-50 split in basketball-related income. Bryant definitely loves making money, and is paid lots of it, ranging from his remaining three years, $83.5 million with the Lakers and his Nike endorsement deals. But he also recognizes he has limited years left in winning as many championships as possible. Whether Bryant wants to admit it, time also appears closing in on his chance to climb up the NBA’s all-time scoring list.  He is sixth on the list with 27,868 points, trailing Shaquille O’Neal (28,596), Wilt Chamberlain (31,419), Michael Jordan (32,292), Karl Malone (36,928) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387). So it’s only realistic he can pass O’Neal this season and possibly throw a parting shot at his former nemesis and teammate. Even with a compressed 66-game schedule, however, Bryant will likely surpass Chamberlain and Jordan before his contract ends.

From Mark Medina, LA Times: Finally, we can talk about money and contract lengths without feeling further agitated about the NBA’s labor dispute. With both sides agreeing to the overall framework of a new collective bargaining agreement, we can now apply those economic terms to free agency, slated to coincide with training camp beginning Dec. 9. The CBA affects how teams will approach free agency, but there’s something more tantalizing about discussing this issue than over the previous fight between millionaires and billionaires. I put together an extensive list this off-season of free agent profiles. But below are the four free agents who both fill the Lakers’ needs and appear to be feasible in acquisitions.

From Mark Heisler, LA Times: It’s Showtime! Or, at least, its latest incarnation hopes it still is, as a brilliant dawn rises once again over Lakerdom … It’s not hard to tell who won this war–the owners, especially the big ones. Nor is it hard to tell which of them won the most: That was Jerry Buss, the biggest of all. When the NBA couldn’t get a full ban on sign-and-trades, it left his Lakers in position to pull off a coup they’re dreaming of, which would make signing LeBron James pale by comparison. If Dwight Howard and Chris Paul wind up on the market — a safe assumption as far as I’m concerned — the Lakers could offer Andrew Bynum for Dwight and Pau Gasol for CP3, or vice versa. Nothing says that they will be enough to land either player, but it should put the Lakers in the running for both. (Oh, and Dwight likes the Lakers. Asked which All-Star he would most like to play with last season, he answered “Kobe Bryant.”) Nor will finances be a problem, ever again.

The Greatest Forgotten Player

J.M. Poulard —  November 29, 2011

Let’s liven up the place by playing a little bit of Jeopardy. For those that are unfamiliar with the game, it consists of names, cities or events showing up on the television screen and you have to figure out what question would prompt the answer that is displayed on the monitor. For instance, if I said Forum Blue and Gold, the proper question would be something along the lines of “what is the name of the Los Angeles Lakers ESPN TrueHoop Affiliate blog?”

Now that that’s been settled, on to the game shall we?

Answer #1: Shaquille O’Neal and Wilt Chamberlain

Most would agree that the question here would be something along the lines of “who are the two most dominant players the NBA has ever seen?”

Answer #2: Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan

If we polled NBA fans, the majority would probably conclude that the question is “Who are three of the greatest players of all time?”

Answer #3: Kobe Bryant

This one obviously has some historical context to take into account, but if that name had to be the answer to a question at any point in time during the year 2011, a fairly substantial amount of people would agree that the question would and should be “Who is the greatest Laker ever?”

All three answers seemed to sync up perfectly with the questions; and yet we could have substituted the name of one player to fit in all three of the answers for which the questions matched: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Wilt Chamberlain and Shaquille O’Neal were easily two of the most imposing as well as gifted big men the NBA has ever seen. Both players could put up ridiculous numbers in scoring, rebounding and shot blocking; but more importantly they instilled fear in the heart of their opponents with their size, athletic ability as well as basketball talent.

Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan changed our collective perception of superstars. By the time they had retired, it wasn’t enough to simply outplay your opponent night after night no matter how great he was; instead you had to also make your teammates look and play better along the way in order to earn the right to be mentioned amongst them.

Recently, Kobe Bryant became the Lakers all-time leading scorer and in addition he helped the purple and gold extract some revenge against their biggest rivals by leading the Los Angeles Lakers to a victory over the Boston Celtics in the 2010 NBA Finals. Couple that with his five championship rings, his MVP trophy, his four All-Star Game MVPs and his two Finals MVP trophies, and he built himself an impressive case to be considered the greatest Laker of all.

And for all of the greatness of the players previously listed, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s name has to absolutely fit in there amongst them.

For all the talk of the dominance of big men, few were more dominant than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was throughout his lengthy career. Indeed, fans remember his famous skyhook and how automatic of a shot it seemed to be, but it was viewed as a finesse shot and thus the labels of power player or unstoppable big man were never really bestowed on the former Bruin.

And yet, when Abdul-Jabbar joined the NBA in 1969, no one could stop him. Not even the great Wilt Chamberlain. Granted the Big Dipper was an aging player, but he still had enough left in the tank to play at a high level (as evidenced by his 1972 NBA Finals MVP award) and dominate the paint. But when the Stilt played against Kareem, there was nothing much he could do. He may have blocked a few of his opponent’s shots and successfully contested his attempts; but ultimately Wilt was powerless against his nemesis in the 1971 Western Conference Finals and same in 1972.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was a monster, routinely hitting the 30-point mark against Wilt. And to put this in perspective: if the Big Dipper himself could not limit the future Hall of Fame center’s production; no one would be able to. Have a look at Abdul-Jabbar’s six best statistical postseason runs (championship seasons in bold):

Season

Age

PPG

RPG

APG

BPG

FG%

1976-77

29

34.6

17.7

4.1

3.5

.607

1960-70

22

35.2

16.8

4.1

N/A*

.567

1973-74

26

32.2

15.8

4.9

2.4

.557

1979-80

32

31.9

12.1

3.1

3.9

.572

1978-79

31

28.5

12.6

4.8

4.1

.579

1970-71

23

26.6

17.0

2.5

N/A*

.567

*The NBA only started tracking blocks during the 1973-74 season.

The scoring and rebounding may stand out, but the most impressive aspect has to be his age. Kareem was impossible to defend from day one in the NBA, and that trend continued well into his late 30s (he averaged 25.9 points per game on 55.7 percent field goal shooting during the 1986 playoffs, at the tender age of 38). His effectiveness as well as his consistency allowed him to score an unprecedented 38,387 career points; the most in league history.

In addition, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s stellar play throughout his career helped him win six MVP awards; more than anyone in NBA history. And yet, when talks of the most dominant players ever arise, the player once nicknamed Cap is never mentioned.

He is arguably the greatest offensive player the world has ever seen and yet his game had so much more to offer.

Take one of his teammates for instance: Magic Johnson is without a doubt the standard by which all point guards will be measured because he understood when and how to get his teammates involved (running plays for them, feeding the hot hand and getting them easy scoring opportunities) and when to takeover. It is said, that no one made his teammates look better than Magic and it would be hard to disagree.

But in the same breath, rarely do we hear how Kareem helped Magic on the court. Indeed, Johnson often got clean looks right at the rim when he drove the ball simply because defenses were so keyed in on the Lakers’ star center. In addition, Abdul-Jabbar was a willing passer who would feed cutters and open shooters out of double teams. He rarely took ill-advised shots, instead preferring to either get a good look at the basket or pass it off to someone in better position. In addition, when Kareem screened for players or when they set screens for him underneath the basket, the outcome was often that the player involved in the screen action usually ended up open (even if it was for a fraction of a second) because his defender would help out on the Lakers’ center; and that’s when Magic would fire his bullet passes through traffic for lay ins.

Also, Kareem’s mere presence on both the Milwaukee Bucks and the Los Angeles Lakers helped his teammates become better defenders. Indeed, it is often easier for perimeter players to get up in the face of their opponents and challenge them to drive past them when there is a big man anchoring the paint and knocking shots back. Thus, Michael Cooper may have been an excellent defender in his own right, but having Abdul-Jabbar covering his back certainly helped him in his dealings with the likes of Larry Bird.

Put it all together, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is one of, if not the greatest individual player in NBA history. But if such is the case, an argument could be made that he is also the greatest Laker of them all. Have a look at his production in a Lakers jersey (ranks in franchise history in parentheses):

  • 24,176 points (3rd)
  • 1,093 games played (2nd)
  • 37,492 minutes played (2nd)
  • 9,935 made field goals (1st)
  • 17,520 field goal attempts (4th)
  • 56.7 percent field goal percentage (4th)
  • 4,305 made free throws (5th)
  • 5,842 free throws attempted (5th)
  • 2,494 offensive rebounds (1st)
  • 7,785 defensive rebounds (1st)
  • 10,279 total rebounds (2nd)
  • 3,652 assists (6th)
  • 983 steals (6th)
  • 2,694 blocks (1st)
  • 22.1 points per game (6th)
  • 2.5 blocks per game (3rd)

In addition, the former Bruin captured three MVP awards, one Finals MVP, was selected to participate in 13 All-Star Games and was voted to the All-NBA 1st team six times as a Laker (yes, those are only Lakers accolades). His production as well as his play with the purple and gold make him a prime candidate for consideration as the best Laker of all time.

Granted, by the time Kobe Bryant’s career ends; one would have to think that he will be beyond the shadow of a doubt the franchise’s greatest player. Mind you as of today, there is still a little bit of wiggle room for debate.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s career in the NBA was impressive in its own right and should by itself place him on pedestal. But if we factor in his collegiate career, it would be awfully tough to come up with a player who has enjoyed more individual and team success than the former UCLA center

During his time in UCLA, the Bruins won three straight national championships and Kareem was selected in each of those seasons as the Final Four Most Outstanding Player.

In essence, other than Bill Russell, there may not be another player with a more decorated or storied career than the individual formerly known as Lew Alcindor.

Six NBA championship rings coupled with six MVP awards is usually enough to have one’s name center around just about every debate that revolves around talks about the absolute best; but Abdul-Jabbar is far too often forgotten when these talks arise…

No wonder he complained about not having a statue.

Now that the handshake agreement is in place, the conversation shifts from fixing BRI and system issues to filling roster holes in the build up to the start of the season.

One of the ways the Lakers were expected to fill one of their needs was through the release of players through the “amnesty provision” that will be part of the new CBA. From the LA Times:

The Lakers are curious to see if veteran point guard Baron Davis gets cut by Cleveland. He has two years and $28.7 million left on his contract, though he can be signed for substantially less than that. The Lakers also want a shooter and are monitoring whether forward Rashard Lewis (two years, $43.8 million remaining) gets waived by Washington.

Sounds good, right? The Lakers (or other teams willing to spend) would be able to pick up jettisoned players for a pittance of their former salaries and give them a chance to win a championship.

Not so fast, though. When reading the fine print of the leaked proposal, we learn more about the amnesty clause and how the fate of players released will be decided:

A modified waiver process will be utilized for players waived pursuant to the Amnesty rule, under which teams with Room under the Cap can submit competing offers to assume some but not all of the player’s remaining contract. If a player’s contract is claimed in this manner, the remaining portion of the players’ salary will continue to be paid by the team that waived him.

Said another way, teams under the cap will have first dibs on players released via the amnesty clause. Furthermore, teams that claim these players will do so by placing a bid – sort of like a blind auction – on a portion of that player’s contract with the team placing the highest bid being awarded the player.

Since the Lakers are over the cap, they would not be able to place a bid on any amnestied player and would need for every team under the cap to avoid placing a bid on a player of interest before that player hit the open market for any team to sign.

The likelihood of a player like Rashard Lewis or Baron Davis or Brandon Roy (all three players play a position or provide a skill set the Lakers could use to improve their roster) not having their contract(s) bid on are extremely low. Understand that teams under the cap can place any bid they want on these players. If the Hornets, for example, would like a stretch PF to play with Chris Paul, they could place a $5 million/year bid on Lewis and if no team bid higher than that, he’d be awarded to New Orleans. If the Kings want a PG to play next to Tyreke Evans and think Baron Davis fits the bill, they could place a $3 million/year bid on him and if no team bid higher, BD would be shipped to Cali’s state capital.

This process alone makes it so the Lakers are not likely to get their hands on a player of impact that could fortify their depth or offer relief to a particularly weak position on the roster. But, when added to the report that many teams won’t even use the amnesty provision this season, the odds go down even further. From Howard Beck of the New York Times:

There is, however, one minor caveat for the amnesty watchers and World Peace enthusiasts: most teams will not use the provision. “I don’t think there will be very many at all,” said one team executive, who asked to remain anonymous while the lockout remains in effect. At most, three to six teams will take advantage of the amnesty clause this year, the executive said — a view that was echoed by others around the league. The reasons are varied and complicated. Some teams are so far above the cap that removing one player will not provide room to sign free agents. A few teams have such low payrolls that they would dip below the minimum-payroll requirements. At least 10 teams have no obvious candidates for amnesty. And many teams might simply hold onto their amnesty card for a future year. According to a draft of the rule, a team can use the provision in any off-season, subject to two restrictions: the player must have been signed before July 1, 2011, and must be on the team’s current roster. In other words, a team cannot sign or trade for a player now and apply for amnesty later. The provision is meant for past mistakes, not future cap calamities.

So, even if the rules did favor the Lakers, they may find a market bare of viable prospects anyway.

Ultimately, there are still more details to come out that could affect how the amnesty provision is used. And, even more questions about if players who are released have any rights of refusal about going to the teams that pick them up. However, at this point, the safe bet is that players whose contracts are picked up will report to their new teams without a peep. After all, their contracts bind them to a team and unless they’re willing to sit out a season (or more) while also forfeiting massive amounts of money (most amnestied players are likely signed to deals above the current mid-level amount) I don’t see how they block any transactions. Remember, one of the main fallouts of this new CBA is that players have lost power and leverage in relation to their old agreement, not gained.

In any event, as much as we’d all like for the Lakers to find their shiny new toy via the amnesty provision, don’t expect. The way the rule is written just doesn’t favor them to do so.

Looking Like A Season…

Darius Soriano —  November 26, 2011

How u?

Very good, thank you very much.

The wait is over as the owners and players have tentatively agreed to terms on a new CBA that will end the NBA lockout. The deal will need to be ratified by vote by both the players and owners, but that’s seemingly a formality at this point. The plan is to start a 66 game season on Christmas Day with a triple-header that will likely include the Lakers taking on the Bulls as the original 82 game schedule had planned.

We’ll have more details on the actual terms of the deal when we know them but for now, CELEBRATE. The lockout has been lifted and, before you know it, we should have actual basketball to watch.