Archives For December 2011

Analyzing the New Lakers

J.M. Poulard —  December 18, 2011

With the Los Angeles Lakers one week away from starting out the season, we asked some of the FB&G contributors to answer a few questions in our first installment of 3-on-3. 

1.How does Lamar Odom’s departure affect Kobe Bryant on the court?

Jeffrey King: I don’t think Lamar’s departure will have too drastic of an effect on Kobe, but I do see a possibility where Kobe could wear down as the season progresses.  While we’re no longer using the triangle, Odom was one of the primary ball handlers and distributors in the offense, and his absence will only place more burden on Kobe in these areas.  This will only be further exacerbated if Steve Blake continues to struggle or if the Lakers don’t acquire an impact point guard.

Emile Avanessian: Immensely. An unintended benefit of the lockout is that it provided Kobe Bryant with a greater opportunity to rest his achy knees (and whatever else is sore) than he’s had in some time. Odom’s departure totally negates that. Now Kobe must not only navigate his body through a brutal schedule, he will be called upon to do so as the Lakers’ only creator on offense.

J.M. Poulard: With Mike Brown on board, it’s more than likely that the Lakers will run a more classic offense (although parts of the Triangle will remain), which will require the guards to assume a lot of the ballhandling duties. Derek Fisher, Steve Blake and mostly Kobe Bryant will consequently be relied upon to get the team into the offense and to deliver the ball to scorers. Odom’s absence means that Kobe will have more heavy lifting to do as far as creating scoring opportunities for himself and others.

2. Andrew Bynum asked last season for a bigger role on offense with the team. With the reigning 6th man of the year now in Dallas, should the Lakers lean more on the center?

Jeffrey King:  With Odom gone, Bynum will almost certainly be asked to play more than the 27.8 MPG he averaged last season, while still missing 28 games.  While 24 of those were at the beginning of the season, Bynum still missed random games in the middle of the season due to wear and tear.  Without Odom, the Lakers absolutely cannot afford to have Bynum missing random games, and he must play more minutes than in the past.  So the question isn’t really whether the Lakers should lean more on Bynum on offense (and defense), the question is whether Bynum can handle the extra burden.  Adding Josh McRoberts helps in some regard, but if the Lakers don’t acquire a backup C, Gasol will have to make up the 18 MPG at C.

Emile Avanessian: For the good of both this season and the future of the franchise, yes. Jim Buss has long proclaimed that Bynum is the future of the franchise, and paid him accordingly. Flashes of incredible dominance, to say nothing of his role in two championships and three conference titles in four years justified the team’s decision to refrain from swapping Bynum for Jason Kidd. The Lakers are now at another crossroads with their gifted young center.

With a condensed schedule, an aging Kobe, no Lamar Odom to step in where needed and a $16+ million decision looming next summer, it’s time to determine once and for all if Drew is a franchise cornerstone in the NBA.

J.M. Poulard: With Odom now in Dallas, part of the offensive burden should immediately fall on the shoulders of Bynum; but given the condensed schedule it’s possible that reducing his minutes and thus his workload may be a necessity for the team to make it to the postseason with any type of health.

Thus, it may behoove the Lakers to rely on rotation players such as Metta World Peace, Devin Ebanks, Derek Fisher, Steve Blake, Matt Barnes and Josh McRoberts to name a few during the regular season to help carry the load. There will be nights when things look ugly but as long as they make it to late April with a healthy team, the strategy will have served its purpose.

3. Are the Lakers talented enough as presently constructed to win the West?

Jeffrey King:  While I believe the Lakers are talented enough to win the championship, I do not think talent is the way to predict whether they’ll win the West in the regular season.  With such a compressed schedule, depth will be the best predictor of regular season success, in my opinion.  As presently constructed, the Lakers have two below average PGs, a below average backup SG, and no backup C.  So no, I don’t believe the Lakers have the depth and youth to match teams like the Thunder and the Grizzlies.

Emile Avanessian: Technically yes, though I’d be reluctant to wager on them doing so. The Lakers’ top three still compares favorably with any trio in the NBA. However, as presently constituted, the remainder of roster lacks the quality to stack up against the best in the West.

Dallas goes at least seven (and up to nine) deep with quality NBAers – and Dirk is still Dirk. Meanwhile, Oklahoma City boasts not only one of the league’s best 1-2 punches, but great size and defensive prowess in both the front- and backcourt. Finally, last year’s sleeper, the Memphis Grizzlies, features the conference’s best front line and an ever-improving Mike Conley at the point.

Are the Lakers capable of winning three playoff series, presumably two of them against members of this group? Sure, but it’s an incredibly tall order with virtually no room for error.

J.M. Poulard: Although the positions are different, the Lakers are a mirror image of the 2010-11 Miami Heat. Indeed, they will have three players that will carry the bulk of the load for the team but once we get past the big guns, we’re not entirely sure what the supporting cast will bring. Nonetheless, there is enough talent on the team to make the NBA Finals and possibly win it.

The one area of concern mind you, is that much like the Heat last season, the 2011-12 Lakers are not built to sustain injuries, which are more than likely to occur during a shortened season. Ultimately, expect health to determine not only the seeding but also the team’s ability to advance in the postseason.

After winning a record 11 NBA titles as a head coach and leading legends like Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Shaquille O’Neal, Karl Malone and Gary Payton, it’s awfully easy to take Phil Jackson’s success for granted and simply attribute it to the famous triangle offense and the stars that ran it. Mind you, part of what made Jackson a wonderful coach was his ability to understand his roster and his players better than most teams understood theirs.

For instance, Stanislav (Slava) Medvedenko and Mark Madsen enjoyed great success in a Lakers uniform and then were never heard from again once Phil Jackson stopped being their head coach. In that sense, the former Lakers coach had a knack for getting the most out of his players; especially his big men because he understood their strengths as well as their limitations.

On his early Chicago Bulls teams, Jackson asked Bill Cartwright to defend the post like a gladiator and used Horace Grant in pick and roll traps as well as in the full court press given his unusual quickness for his size.

In the mid-90s, the Bulls were an older team with less athleticism. Thus, the Hall of Fame coach relied more on his big men to play within the confines of their limits with respect to helping on defense and switching on screens. Thus, a player like Rodman could switch but it was preferable that he does not given that his teammate might be at a disadvantage guarding a bigger and stronger player (especially if that teammate was Toni Kukoc).

After leaving the Bulls, Phil joined a Lakers team in the late 90s that employed Shaquille O’Neal, Robert Horry and A.C. Green in the frontcourt. For the first time in Jackson’s professional coaching career, he had a center that could intimidate opponents with his size, athleticism, shot-blocking and rebounding. Consequently, the Lakers very rarely double-teamed opposing big men; instead opting to play single coverage and clean up on the glass and limit the outside shooting of their opponents.

Players like Kevin Garnett, Chris Webber and Tim Duncan would get their numbers; but the Lakers would protect the paint and even have O’Neal guard them late in ball games to limit their effectiveness.

Phil Jackson eventually left the Los Angeles Lakers in 2004 but then returned in 2005. When he returned, he had to make due with Chris Mihm, Kwame Brown, Lamar Odom and a very young Andrew Bynum. That combination never truly was a success in Los Angeles and it led to Brown being traded (depending on whom you ask he was either deported, released, extradited or simply given away as the result of a lost wager) for Pau Gasol.

One could easily make the argument that notwithstanding the Mailman and the Diesel, the combination of Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum is the most talented group of big men that Jackson has ever coached during his career; and their output certainly seemed to confirm that. These three Lakers were not only productive statistically, but they complemented each other beautifully. When one got beat, the next one would step in to help out and cover up mistakes.

Odom’s versatility allowed him to defend small forwards, power forwards and centers while Gasol easily alternated between guarding 4s and 5s. Bynum was the prototypical center, cleaning up the glass and protecting the paint and occasionally inflicting punishment on players who drove the lane (Michael Beasley’s tailbone agrees).

Although the three big men rarely shared the court together (according to 82games, they have played a total of 77 minutes together in the last three seasons), their defense helped the Lakers make three straight Finals appearances and win back-to-back titles. Indeed, with these trees planted at the basket, the Lakers never doubled on the low block and thus were able to shut down perimeter shooters on opposing teams.

If there is one thing that Odom, Bynum and Gasol could have done better under Jackson though; it was rebound. For the most part they were very good on the boards; but one would have expected them to be outstanding in this facet of the game. Most will remember that the Lakers were victorious in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals because they dominated the boards, but the Lakers had actually done an average job on that front in the first five games of the Finals, holding a mere 192 to 186 rebounding edge. They eventually rallied in Games 6 and 7 and outrebounded Boston by a total of 26 rebounds to win the title.

Last season, the Lakers surrendered 11.7 offensive rebounds per game, which was 26th in the league. Part of that can be attributed to the fact that more often than not they were lazy as far as getting rebounding position because they typically towered over most teams. Thus, they relied on their size to gather rebounds as opposed to focusing on proper technique.

This is where Mike Brown comes in.

During his stint in Cleveland, the Cavaliers were routinely amongst the best rebounding teams in the league. Their defense as well as their rebounding allowed them to shorten games by taking away possessions away from the opposing team and then riding their star late to win low scoring games.

During his years with the Cavs, here is the list of big men that played 20 minutes per game or more for head coach Mike Brown:

  • Drew Gooden
  • J. J. Hickson
  • Zydrunas Ilgauskas
  • Antawn Jamison
  • Donyell Marshall
  • Shaquille O’Neal
  • Joe Smith
  • Anderson Varejao
  • Ben Wallace

Under Brown, the Cavaliers did not necessarily have quality big men with multiple skills; but they utilized their size to terrorize teams in the rebounding department. Have a look at how they faired in their rebound rate (the percentage of missed shots that a team rebounds):


Rebound rate

NBA Rank
















For the sake of comparison, let’s have a look at the Lakers rebound rate during the same time span:


Rebound rate

NBA Rank
















Using rebound rate is a good way of seeing just how good a team is at securing rebounds whereas rebounds per game can be somewhat skewed given the pace of the game and the amount of misses available to actually rebound.

As we can see, save for the 2006-07 season, the Lakers were in the top 10 in rebounding but one would expect that size and length to land the purple and gold in the top five at least every season. The Cavaliers on the other hand managed to clean up the boards under Brown’s watch, finishing no lower than fourth during his tenure.

So when the 2011-12 regular season finally gets underway, I expect the Lakers to switch up their defenses by trapping, hedging, switching and going underneath screens in pick and roll situations to confuse opponents; but more than anything I see this Lakers team crashing the boards like never before and then shortening the games with their half court offense.

With Lamar Odom gone, the Lakers will probably rarely get out in transition, much like last season when they averaged a rather anemic 11.3 fast break points per game (25th in the NBA). The games may get ugly and finish with scores in the 90s, but with the Gasol and Bynum on board to score and control the paint and Kobe to close out games; this may just be the recipe for success for this new Lakers team.

Will Mike Brown get his bigs to play bigger this year?

If he does, he may in fact be the perfect successor to Phil Jackson…

Swapping Starters

Darius Soriano —  December 16, 2011

With many still focusing on the deal that wasn’t, then the one that was, and now waiting for the one that might be, it’s easy to forget about the guys that are actually here. This isn’t to say new players won’t be brought in – the Lakers have until the end of the day to use the trade exception from the Sasha Vujacic trade and have a year to use the TPE obtained in the Odom trade – and it’d be foolish to think Mitch isn’t still working the phones trying to fill out the rest of the roster. But with the season rapidly approaching, the emphasis on what the team looks like now should move front and center while wistful thoughts of what it could be recede to the background.

Plus, trading or signing players aren’t the only ways to change a roster around. Deciding who plays, how much, and when is also pretty important. And while fans wait for roster upheaval, the coaches are looking at ways to maximize the players currently on the team.

With that in mind, reports have surfaced that  Metta World Peace will move to the bench in favor of Matt Barnes running with the starting group. This is no small news as MWP has been a fixture in the starting line up nearly his entire career, though his move to a reserve role could be beneficial to the Lakers.

He’ll have more responsibility as a “leader” on the 2nd unit and will not have to share the ball as much with high usage, high need players like Kobe, Gasol, and Bynum. Relegating Artest to the corner to shoot spot up jumpers or giving him the occasional post touch doesn’t maximize the skill set of a player who over the span of his career has been a pretty dangerous offensive player. As he’s aged his effectiveness has waned, but the complexities of the Triangle and his struggles with fully grasping all the read and react actions certainly aided his decline offensively.

This isn’t to say the rosiest outcome is the only possibility. Giving MWP more free rein in the second unit could very well bring out some of the offensive traits that had Lakers’ fans concerned when he was originally acquired. The ball stopping, suspect shot taking wing player that Sacramento and Houston weren’t sad to see leave. I’m optimistic this won’t be the case as MWP has grown as a player in the past two seasons in LA – saying and doing the right thing more often than not.

Peace’s move, though, is only one half of this equation. Barnes will now find himself running with the first group and this should benefit his game and the Lakers. Barnes is more a natural low usage player who excels off the ball as a cutter and in going to the glass on offense. His instincts are to move into open space, and that quality will serve the first unit well when Kobe, Gasol, and Bynum draw the lion’s share of the defensive attention in half court sets.

Where Barnes will make an even bigger impact is in his ability to run the floor. Per Synergy Sports, 18% of Barnes’ shots came in transition (compared to only 11% for MWP), where he made 66% of his baskets. We all remember how often Barnes would receive a pass streaking ahead of the defense and with Brown emphasizing early offense and “attacking the shot clock”, Barnes can thrive as a lane filler looking for easy baskets. It remains to be seen if the rest of the starting group – who seem more comfortable playing a slow down game – will fully take advantage of dimension Barnes will add, but with the coaches preaching a sped up pace I’m cautiously optimistic they will.

The area where this swap may not go as well is on defense. MWP remains a top level defender. Per Synergy, he was the one of the elite wing stoppers in the NBA, allowing .62 points per play in isolation (26th in the league) and .80 points per play in spot up situations (2oth). Despite his slowing feet, MWP still has tremendous defensive instincts, poking the ball with regularity and showing great ability to close on shooters in a timely manner. And while Barnes is no slouch on D, his numbers aren’t close to MWP’s in these categories.

Whether this defensive drop off proves to be too large to compensate for other benefits on offense and on the backboards remains to be seen. But I do envision a net positive here. MWP should find a greater comfort zone playing on the 2nd unit (as well as operating in a scheme that’s more natural to him), and Barnes should fit in well with a group that doesn’t need another play maker, but rather someone that can better play off those that do have those skills.

Friday Forum

Dave Murphy —  December 16, 2011

Having completed one week of abbreviated camp, the Los Angeles Lakers are heading down the preseason home stretch – the regular season is little more than a week away.  Mega-deals mostly seem a pipe dream now – Dwight Howard’s off the market and CP3’s now one of the kids down the hall, joining another Clippers’ squad full of sound and fury. What that signifies, remains to be seen. For the Lakers, it’s become the annual rite of filling gaps and plugging holes, including the rather large sucking wound left by a departing Lamar Odom. With recent events still ringing fresh, some writers weigh in below:

Brian Kamenetzky, ESPN’s Land O’Lakers: The problem for the Lakers is one of timing, because fundamentally, that obsession with Howard/Paul is based on two basic fears surrounding the team. First, that it’s not good enough to win a title this season, squandering one of Kobe’s last years as a truly elite player. Second, that the Lakers don’t have another superstar in the fold to take over for Kobe when that day comes, ensuring a seamless, star-to-star transfer of power. Kobe runs his flag down the pole, the other guy runs his up. Easy peasy. Except it’s very difficult to do both of those things at the same time. Rebuilding, which is really what we’re talking about here, is never a fully painless process in the NBA. Think of a Venn diagram in which one circle is “Improving Now” and the other is “Securing the Future.” The overlap between the two, that sweet spot where the colors change and all good things happen, isn’t very big.

Ben Rosales, Silver Screen and Roll: Altogether, the message, as it was yesterday, is patience. We all want some recompense for Odom immediately and to go into the season with more confidence, but there is little for the Lakers to gain by rash action right now and a potentially big reward by seeing how the season plays out until the deadline. At worst, the Lakers find themselves in the same spot they are in right now and are forced into offering Gasol and Bynum for Howard. However, with both the Howard trade saga and the Odom TPE things that could produce very different results in the long-term, it behooves the Lakers to wait and see what can be garnered at the trade deadline. And before then, the Lakers will still have one of the league’s best frontcourts between Gasol and Bynum, a certain Kobe Bryant on the roster, and a system that should work well for the strengths of the aforementioned players. The last few days have not been kind to the Lakers franchise or their fans, but this is not the end. Far from it.

Kevin Ding, the OC Register: One look into Pau Gasol’s eyes Tuesday showed his emotions. Yes, the so-damning word applies, and I’ll go ahead and use it freely: Gasol’s eyes were soft – representative of the pain he feels from lifting the Lakers to three NBA Finals in four tries and becoming more disposable than the razors he rarely uses. Even so, what we’re getting from Gasol is as great a display of mental toughness as we’ll see all season. You can have soft eyes, because you’re only real if you do feel things. But if you still get your you-know-what done, stay true to your goals and can even be inspirational rather than a weak, shameful drain on those around you (cough, Lamar Odom, cough) … that’s being a man.

Dave McMenamin, ESPN LA: Kobe Bryant swears he’s moved on from the three-team trade that was nixed by NBA commissioner David Stern last week, ultimately preventing the Los Angeles Lakers from acquiring Chris Paul. But that doesn’t mean Bryant is buying Stern’s explanation that he acted independently of the protests of owners and vetoed the trade purely because of “basketball reasons.” Bryant, “I think other owners did not want the Lakers to make significant improvements again,” Bryant said after practice Thursday, hours before Paul’s introductory news conference with the Los Angeles Clippers, less than five miles across town. “We always contended as players that the lockout was really more so about the owners fighting amongst themselves, which is what you just saw [with the vetoed trade],” Bryant said. “You got Chris Paul coming here and the other owners weren’t with that, because you don’t want another great player coming to L.A., and all of the sudden Los Angeles has another player that can carry them on well after I retire. So, it’s more about the owners bickering amongst themselves.”

Mark Medina, L.A. Times, Lakers blog: The Lakers continue to make moves. But in this case it has nothing to do with the “big deals” General Manager Mitch Kupchak wanted to make. For the pessimistic, it has everything to do with shuffling the deck of a sinking ship. For the optimistic, it has everything to do with making adjustments and upgrading from within. Or perhaps, a bit of both. After the Lakers missed out on acquiring Chris Paul, Lakers Coach Mike Brown said he’s planning on starting Derek Fisher at point guard because of his experience and locker-room standing, though he stressed it’s not a binding decision. What appears more binding involves playing Metta World Peace off the bench. And the player formerly known as Ron Artest loves the idea. “It’s going to be good,” said World Peace, who last season averaged a career-low 8.5 points per game in 29.4 minutes per contest. “I get a chance to come in with extra responsibility, which I’ve had my whole career. It’s going to put the other team off balance. When Kobe [Bryant], Pau [Gasol] and [Andrew] Bynum are out, you still have to double-team me. You can’t leave me open. At all times on the floor, there will be a threat.”

Emile Avanessian, Hardwood Hype: As has been the case with countless inefficient markets comprised of valuable assets, the NBA is now a playground for financial engineers. What’s resulted is fascinating, if simultaneously infuriating. Always seen as the most stage-managed of the sports’ insular old boys clubs, the NBA is now a near-perfect microcosm of the world’s corrupt oligopolies. There is the appearance of a general rule of law, and economic and human rights rules are followed sufficiently to justify continued relations, but, from the manner in which the Seattle Supersonics became the Oklahoma City Thunder, to disputed claims of financial distress that led to, and prolonged the lockout, to the inexplicable veto of an agreed-upon trade of Chris Paul to the Lakers, it’s clear that business-as-usual is pretty shady.


As it stands today, the Lakers are at that awkward in-between state – not long removed from greatness, but aging rapidly and lacking some key elements. Add a new coaching staff and a greatly enhanced role for Jim Buss, and you’ve got a team heading into uncharted waters. The good news is that most of the league is in the same boat. Dallas and Miami seem poised to take up where they left off, but a truncated season could well end up being a messy roman chariot race to the finish. If there’s a theme to Lakers’ discussion over the past few days, it’s about what we don’t have as opposed to what we do. The lingering anger is understandable – David Stern is playing handicapper when it’s not his business to. Nonetheless, we begged for the season for five long months and now it’s here. So what comes next?

– Dave Murphy

At what point does a person’s income preclude him from complaining about some of life’s breaks? Is there a line of demarcation? $10 million per year? A million? $500,000? $100,000? At what point does compensation beget dehumanization?

Though I share neither their income bracket nor VIP status, I have a tendency to empathize with athletes and celebrities. Despite the immense financial rewards and public adulation bestowed upon them, in many ways they are, in fact, “just like us.”

I’m talking not about occasional trip to Starbucks or fashion and dining choices that fit within even the strictest of budgets, but preferences, comfort zones, insecurities and emotional vulnerability. A person that has successfully refined and focused a specific skill set in such a manner that it is valued, in a free market, at several million dollars annually, does not cease to be a person.

Somewhere along the line, we as a society came to equate fame and considerable financial means with the complete absence of hardship and dissatisfaction with one’s existence. You don’t need to be just scraping by to love the city in which you live, genuinely enjoy your family, hate your boss or experience heart-shattering pain. Make no mistake, a life free of financial shackles is very often preferable to one that is not, but – and I strongly doubt that you need me to explain this to you – money doesn’t equate to happiness, it simply provides the security required to pursue it on one’s own terms. I lay this before you not because I think the rich and famous are in need of a crusader (though I imagine that would pay pretty well), but because over the past few days we have seen a number of NBAers, men of considerable means all, have their professional (and by extension, personal) lives dramatically altered by forces beyond their control. And regardless of income, they have every right to be unhappy about it – none more than Lamar Odom.

We’ll begin Thursday evening when, as you might have heard, executives from the Lakers, Hornets and Rockets agreed on the terms of trade that would land Chris Paul in L.A., deposit Lakers All-Star Pau Gasol in Houston and send draft picks, the Rockets’ 1-2 punch of Kevin Martin and Luis Scola to NOLA, along with Odom, the NBA’s reigning Sixth Man of the Year. As you also might have heard, for (basketball) reasons that continue to defy explanation, the increasingly dictatorial David Stern shot down the agreed-upon swap, along with a second iteration submitted by the teams, before the Lakers officially withdrew from talks on Saturday.

In light of the nixed deal(s), there was little doubt that awkwardness would abound at Lakers camp. While an admittedly unhappy Gasol arrived on Saturday at the team’s facility in El Segundo on time and said all the right things, Odom, as deeply emotional (do not confuse this with “demonstrative”) a player as there is in the NBA, was nowhere to be found. He arrived early that afternoon but stayed only long enough to complete a physical and chat briefly (read “request a trade”) with GM Mitch Kupchak, who quickly obliged, sending Odom to the defending champion Dallas Mavericks, in exchange for a $8.9 trade exception (presumably to be used in attempt to acquire Dwight Howard) and a first-round draft pick that may or may not be utilized before the next lockout.

Surely aware that the Lakers’ attempt to trade him stemmed not from displeasure with him personality or on-court performance, Lamar’s reaction is exactly the type that sparks populist drum circles, with accompanying demands throughout the media that he “suck it up” and appreciate that playing a “kid’s game” will earn him roughly $9 million this year.

Blah. Blah. Blah.

Plagued by inconsistency and immaturity early in his career, in seven years as a Laker, Odom evolved as a player, grew as a man and found love (say what you will about the show, but over two years and nary a problematic blip). Never a selfish player, Odom emerged as a calming veteran influence on three Finalists and a pair of championship teams, doing whatever was asked of him in the name of victory. His Swiss Army knife skill set created matchup nightmares all over the floor. When called upon, he ran the point. In a pinch, he logged minutes in the middle. Despite having more raw talent than all but a few players in NBA history, in 2008, for the good of the team, Odom agreed, without complaint, to come off of the bench.

On-court sacrifice not really moving you? No worries…

If there is any player of whom “not about the money” rings most true, Odom, a favorite of both teammates and fans and by all accounts the epitome of a gentle soul, is that player. The lone non-Kobe constant of the post-Shaq Lakers, not only did Odom sacrifice on the floor, he left eight figures on the table (anyone doubt that his last contract, 4 years, $36 million, could have topped $50 million?) as a free agent because he loves living in Southern California. If all of that – legitimately checking his ego at the door and foregoing millions to play where he wanted – is somehow still not enough, credit him for the perspective he’s gained, more appropriately, had forced upon him, by having to overcome more heartbreak and sorrow in 32 years than most of us will endure in a lifetime.

He lost his mother to colon cancer at age 12. At age 24, the beloved grandmother that raised him also succumbed to cancer. Three years later, to the day, Lamar lost a child, six-month old Jayden, to SIDS. His father, a heroin addict and absentee for much of his life, has reemerged, hand out. Last summer, while in New York to attend his cousin’s funeral, Lamar was a passenger in a car that struck a motorcycle, leading to the death of a nearby pedestrian.

You really wanna call this guy a me-first prima donna?

Best of luck, Lamar. You are already missed. You’ll always have a place in Lakerland.

Lakers Sign Josh McRoberts

Phillip Barnett —  December 14, 2011

Yesterday, Darius wrote about the Gerald Green signing. Later that day, the Lakers signed another big, Josh McRoberts, who isn’t necessarily the big signing some have been pining for from the front office. With Dwight Howard and Chris Paul both still being talked about as possible future Lakers, it may hard to come to grips with the Lakers using their mini mid-level exception as a positive, but signing McRoberts was a good, not great, move for the Forum Blue and Gold.

Last season, the Lakers struggled with front-court depth. The Bynum/Gasol/Odom triumvirate was amongst the league’s best, but finding any kind of production outside of those three was hard to come by. Now with LO off to Dallas, depth up front moved to the top of the Lakers needs moving forward as the beginning of the season approaches. While McRoberts will be able to come off the bench as a capable body for 15-20 minutes per game, any hopes McRoberts replacing Odom’s production from last season would be futile. Jared Wade from 8 Points 9 Seconds explains why:

Josh McRoberts is a decent if unreliable contributor. He is athletic and versatile but doesn’t do anything at a high-level. He is very good, for someone 6’10, at finding the open man and he can handle the ball — occasionally even taking off with it after a rebound — but he isn’t exactly a threat to blow by defenders to get to the rim in the half court. He enjoys shooting long twos but shouldn’t, as his jumper is erratic and he is better serving by hanging around the basket looking for put-back dunks. 

That is where you want him taking most of his attempts: at the hoop. His one-thunder-dunk-per-20-minutes average should replace the void left by Shannon Brown, and he is adept at losing his defender and making a baseline cut to catch a lob in the half court. Guys like Kobe and Pau (and Chris Paul … whoops) should be able to exploit this more than the lackluster playmakers on the Pacers. On the break, he is even better, filling the lanes well and being a guy you can throw an alley-oop to or someone you can give the ball a little earlier and count on to either finish on his own or make the right pass to a trailer.

Defensively, he is neutral. He won’t detract considerably (although I’m sure Mr. Bryant will have words for him after he blows some assignments) and he won’t make up for anyone else’s mistakes. He is imperfectly adequate. His biggest deficiency at this point is not effort and certainly not athleticism (although he’s better vertically than laterally). It’s the fact that he’s a guy who will be 25 soon and still doesn’t have much consistent NBA experience under his belt. 

We’ll likely get a good look at McRoberts through the first five games of the season as Andrew Bynum will be out serving his suspension, forcing Gasol into the center spot — barring any future trades, that is. McRoberts should be a nice high-energy guy coming off the bench who can grab a few rebounds and clean up a few misses of the rim. He also has some big play ability due to his athleticism and passes well (same number of assists per 36 as Lamar Odom last season). I think McRoberts has the potential to become a fan favorite if expectations are held low. Suffice to say, the McBob signing doesn’t nearly solve all of the Lakers problems, this team still has a bit of work to do.

Deadline, Wednesday

Dave Murphy —  December 14, 2011

In the post-Chris Paul era, the Lakers made a couple modest moves on Tuesday, signing former dunk-champ Gerald Green, and Pacers utility PF Josh “McBobs” McRoberts. The additions aren’t likely to cement our next title run, but there’s still a need for readers to read and writers to write. Without further ado, here’s a few tidbits that are floating around the cyber universe.

Andy Kamenetzky from ESPN’s Land O’Lakers, charts the differences between Josh McRoberts and Lamar Odom, with an assist from 8 Points, 9 Seconds’ Tim Donahue.

Brian Kamenetzky from the LOL offers a countdown to Christmas – coming up fast with older players, a new coach, and a roster that’s rampant with confusion.

Arash Markazi from ESPN writes about the different ways in which Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom handled their business.

Chris Sheridan at Sheridan Hoops, takes a look at how the dominoes may fall in a big Lakers trade.

Mark Medina at the LA Times blog looks into contradictory versions of the events leading to Lamar Odom’s trade.

Mike Bresnahan from the LA. Times reports on the signing of free-agent Josh McRoberts, the injury to Derrick Caracter, and continuing talks between the Lakers and the Orlando Magic.

Henry Abbott at TrueHoop recounts a tough-as-nails situation that he once encountered with Gerald Green and Kobe Bryant.

Eric Freeman at Ball Don’t Lie, channels a Steve Kerr dissection of David Stern, Dan Gilbert and the stomped-on CP3/Lakers trade.

Ian Levy at Hickory High, brings us his next installment of analysis on lineup optimization that includes a tidbit on Phil Jackson’s use of Andrew Bynum in the Dallas series.

Tuesday was as they say, a bit of a slow news cycle for the Lakers. Naturally, this means absolutely nothing when you’ve got a stealth GM like Mitch Kupchak burning through cell batteries. There are now 11 days before Christmas tip-off. Theories anyone?

– Dave Murphy

Lakers Sign Gerald Green

Darius Soriano —  December 13, 2011

The news has slown down a bit after the Lamar Odom trade but that doesn’t mean the Lakers are not working to fill the holes on their roster. After all, the first real-live-counts-in-the-standings game is in less than two weeks. So as the Lakers prepare to play the Bulls by installing their offensive and defensive schemes, the front office must also work to give Mike Brown the players that can execute them on the court.

One player that has inked a deal to try and earn a roster spot is Gerald Green. The former slam dunk champ has been in Lakers’ camp the past couple of years and hasn’t yet stuck, but he gets another opportunity under Mike Brown. The details on the contract aren’t yet known but my hunch is that this will not be a guaranteed deal, but rather a “make good” contract that the team can pick up should Green show enough over the next week and half to earn a roster spot.

Green’s game has always been based off athleticism and his ability to run the floor and finish in transition would help the Lakers. That said, running, jumping, and dunking isn’t all there is to do on a basketball court. Green’s handle, playmaking, rebounding, and defense have always been average at best (and that may be generous). He’s flashed range on his jumper but making shots and taking the right ones haven’t always gone hand in hand. Said another way, Green’s instincts to make the correct basketball play nevery really caught up to his body’s ability to complete them. Thus he’s been in and out of the NBA since he was a high draft pick many moons ago.

If that’s changed, the Lakers may have found themselves a bargain contributor that can play spot minutes. If it hasn’t, the Lakers have another camp body to take some of the wear and tear off the legs of veteran guards and wings who are working overtime to get ready for the season. I wish Green all the luck in making the roster but I have my doubts we’ll be seeing him wearing Laker colors on December 25th.