Archives For May 2012

Fast Break Thoughts

Darius Soriano —  May 31, 2012

With the conference finals in full swing and 26 other teams already into their offseason, there’s plenty to talk about in the NBA. So, lets get right to it…

  • While I’m not counting out the Thunder or the Celtics, the Spurs and the Heat have the inside track to meet in the Finals as both have a 2-0 lead. Beating either of those teams 4 out of the next 5 games will be very difficult, even for teams as talented as OKC and Boston. So, if both series hold to form who would you have in the Finals? I’d lean towards Spurs right now as no one is playing better basketball than them. The ball is moving on offense, their defense is more locked in than during the regular season, and they have a fantastic core of leaders on the floor and the sideline to lean on. Miami may have the better top end talent in James and Wade, but as we saw last year the team that plays better together can beat the team with elite talent.
  • Speaking of the Spurs, they haven’t lost in almost two months. They’ve won their first 10 games of the playoffs and 20 consecutive games overall. On the season they’ve had winning streaks of 20 (and counting) and two of 11 games (which were only snapped with Popovich sat his key players to get them rest). When looking back at this season, the performances of the best players will likely be remembered most but the way that Greg Popovich has handled his roster has been masterful.
  • I understand it’s not what a lot of fans want to hear, but finances will play a major role in how the Lakers’ off-season unfolds. Ramon Sessions has a player option that he’ll need to make a decision on by June 20th. If he opts in, the Lakers know what their salary commitment will be and that’s that. But if he opts out, they’ll have to make a decision on how much they’ll offer him to stay on (something the front office has made clear they’d like to happen).

Jordan Hill is also a free agent but there’s a salary cap rule that can affect how much he can be paid due to the fact that the Rockets declined their team option on him before he was traded to the Lakers. I’ll let commenter Warren explain via the great Larry Coon:

If a player was a first round draft pick, just completed the third year of his rookie scale contract, and his team did not invoke its team option for the fourth season (see question number 48), then the team cannot use the Larry Bird exception to re-sign him to a salary greater than he would have received had the team exercised its option. In other words, teams can’t decline an option year in order to get around the rookie salary scale and give the player more money.

This means, if Hill is going to be a Laker, the most money he can make is $3.6 million (the same as his team option). I don’t know if the Lakers would be willing to invest that into Hill and he’s sure to explore his options but it’s good to know what the Lakers can pay vs. what the market may dictate.

  • While we’re on the topic of big men, there’s some talk about where Lamar Odom will end up next season. If you’re a Lakers’ fan and would like Odom back in the forum blue and gold, understand that in the most recent CBA loopholes that allowed players to return to their former team after being traded away have been closed. For the Lakers and LO it means that he would not be eligible to return to the Lakers until a year after he was traded away. That date is December 11, 2012 or roughly 6 weeks after the start of the season. This would have Odom missing all of training camp, countless practices, and games before he could even sign with the team. In my eyes this factor alone greatly reduces the likelihood we’ll see Odom playing for the Lakers next season. Though, nothing is impossible of course.
  • Want to know what happens in the secret room where the lottery happens? Here you go.
  • With the lottery and, thus, the draft on the mind let me say that I’m happy for the Hornets. They played hard for Monty Williams and now they have two lottery picks to add to their talent base. Anthony Davis is seen as a sure thing by most everyone (including me) and he’ll surely be their first selection. But they’ll also have a chance to get another good player at #10 and that can’t be ignored. Remember, Andrew Bynum was drafted 10th overall. So was Paul Pierce. In that same draft, Dirk went 9th overall. We all remember that Kobe was drafted 13th overall. My point here is that franchise cornerstones can come from anywhere in the lottery (or anywhere in the draft, really) and it will be interesting to see which players, if any, become the guys we all look back on and say “I can’t believe he went that low.”

Maybe we’ll be able to say that about whoever the Lakers select with the last pick in the draft this June. After all, fans in Sacramento are doing just that after Isaiah Thomas was taken in that slot then proceeded to make the all-rookie team.

  • I’m not the biggest hockey fan but here’s to the Kings brining the Cup to Los Angeles.
  • Finally, some housekeeping notes: we’ll be here all off-season talking about the playoffs, the draft, Summer League, free agency, the Olympics, and more. I’m also interested in starting back up the mailbag feature (let me know in the comments if that’s something you’re interested in). We’ve got several other ideas as well to keep getting you guys quality content. As always, I appreciate your continued support of the site and of the group of guys that contribute to it.

Wednesday Storylines

Dave Murphy —  May 30, 2012

We’re at that place again, the one that most of the league occupies this time of the year – watching the other guys play. I had a full week of funk but I’ve been able to get into the Spurs/OKC series. It’s good basketball is what it is, the Spurs are making a convincing run at it. Yesterday we looked at the triptych of Kobe, Andrew and Pau. The general perception is that Pau’s the odd man out, for all the obvious reasons. Management wasn’t looking to stay pat at the beginning of this season and that figures to pick right back up again.

It just so happens the Kamenetzy brothers and Ramona Shelburne also did a 3 on 3 about looking ahead yesterday. Well, Emile. J.M. and I were emailing about it hours before the mothership posted their fancy-like video technology. It just took us all afternoon to actually type the words.

Paul Shirley at the Flip Collective wrote a piece I liked, comparing the idea of Kobe, Pau and Andrew co-existing to a relationship with a girlfriend that didn’t work out.

C,A, Clark at Silver Screen and Roll says nobody cares where Pau wants to play. Well, I care where Pau wants to play. But Chris makes a good point, there’s no leverage when it comes to where Gasol himself would like to be – he’s a chip and if there’s a trade that matters to the Lakers, he’ll be tossed onto the table.

Mark Medina at the LA Times writes about a racehorse being scratched from a race. See, Kobe and Pau bought shares in this nag for some charitable auction back when they were buds. And, racehorses scratch quite frequently, it’s the terminology for some health concern or another cropping up before a race, causing the horse to be withdrawn. They’re surprisingly fragile creatures for being so strong and fast.

Mark’s article about Andrew is also worth reading. He looks at the pros and cons of a continued investment in the mercurial big man. If you’re starting to get a one-note feeling about this thread, get used to it. There’s going to be a steady diet of Kobe/Andrew/Pau discussion until this thing plays out. It could happen quick, and it could happen real slow.

Eric Freeman at Ball Don’t Lie, reports on Metta World Peace’s continued work for mental health awareness, complete with a video that feels straight out of Nick Kids, 101.

Gil Alcaraz at Lakers Nation reports on the Lakers drafting at #60 this year. So, there’s that.

I’m a big fan of the Spurs blog, Pounding the Rock. Here’s Aaron Preine, writing a morning rehash after last night’s game. OKC is in a two down hole, and we all know those are tough to dig out of.

This last bit is simple self-serving, because y’all know I’m not above it. A few years back, fellow commenter exhelodrvr and I had a running series of exchanges about fringe sports, over at the Land O’Lakers. I don’t know why they instituted the policy of erasing old thread comments, that stuff was gold. At any rate, I never forgot about bog snorkelling.

As the cute little guy with cloven hooves used to say, “that’s all folks!”

– Dave Murphy

With the Lakers season now over and the wounds from the elimination at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder slowly healing, we look back on the season that was and look forward to what will be for the present day Los Angeles Lakers by going 3-on-3 with the Forum Blue & Gold staff.

1. What was your favorite Andrew Bynum moment of the 2011-12 season and/or your thoughts about his season overall?

David Murphy: The 30 rebounds against the Spurs was an astonishing number, but the fact that Kobe wasn’t suited up, and that it was San Antonio, added to the stakes. I was watching Drew snag balls and kept thinking about the difference between him and somebody truly dedicated to boards. Rodman had that innate sense, he instantly saw and tracked trajectories, he was able to fly horizontally to the floor. Bynum’s not like that, he’s just more of a really big guy who has a decent sense of where the ball will be, and is able to get position. The larger point is the question of consistency. It’s like anything in the game, you have to want it. Does he have it in him to will that body and size and the bulkiest knee device in the league, to do these things game in, game out?

J.M. Poulard: With 23 seconds left in the game and the Los Angeles Lakers clinging to a one-point lead against the hated Boston Celtics at home, everyone assumed the ball would go to Kobe and that he would seal the game with a jumper at the right elbow. Well instead, Mike Brown put the ball in the hands of Andrew Bynum on the left block against Kevin Garnett and he delivered with a beautiful right-handed hook shot that essentially sealed the game. This is when many truly started to have visions of greatness for ‘Drew.

Emile Avanessian: In more ways than one, Andrew Bynum ranks among the most frightening players in basketball. At seven feet and 300 pounds with a skill set nurtured by the greatest center ever to play the game, he is a must on any list of the NBA’s toughest covers. A graceful giant, on any given night Bynum is capable of hanging a demoralizing 35 on an opponent or wiping the boards clean, as he did on April 11 in San Antonio, when he grabbed an incredible 30 rebounds. On most teams in the league he’d be a focal point, almost certainly boasting averages in the 25-14 neighbourhood.

Unfortunately, my greatest fear concerning Andrew Bynum is that he’ll be cast as the Lakers’ leading man for the coming decade. Only physically does Bynum cut the figure of a championship catalyst. Set aside the injury concerns (which, thus far in his career, have been significant) and you are left with a physically gifted big man whose penchant for losing interest in the task at hand knows neither rhyme nor reason. Say what you will about the consistency of Shaq’s effort while in L.A. – and I’ve said plenty – he’d sooner dedicate the entirety of a summer to two-a-day workouts than sleepwalk through playoff games and close out a season with a whimpering 10 and 4.

2.What was your favorite Pau Gasol moment of the 2011-12 season and/or your thoughts about his season overall?

David Murphy: To Pau or not to Pau? The question of his future has to be the most obvious one on the table. I’m a huge, huge fan. The games in which he wasn’t a factor were shocking because we expect consistency from him. He actually plays quite well with Bynum and I think left to their natural devices, just going out there and winging it together, they’d be unstoppable. Regardless of what Pau has meant to this team, or his best moments, he’s the most obvious trade chip on the table and I have to think he’s played his last in a Lakers uniform. The fact that he was in play all year means something. Jim Buss is a draft junkie and I’d bet that he’s looking at ways to jump up and get a meaningful pick.

J.M. Poulard: Picking one singular Pau moment from this past season proved difficult for me, but highlighting one of his skills came almost naturally given his talent. The best moment of this past season involving Pau Gasol was every pick-and-roll he ran with Kobe Bryant that resulted in him diving hard towards the basket, catching the ball and then lobbing it softly over the top of would be defenders to Andrew Bynum for a thunderous dunk that always brought the house down when the games were played at Staples. If Pau has indeed played his last game in purple and gold, this will be my lasting memory of him for the 2011-12 season.

Emile Avanessian: It’s not always easy to conjure sympathy for an intelligent 31 year-old making $19 million per year, that’s still got his health and designs on a life in medical once this chapter of his career draws to a close.

Perhaps Pau Gasol’s days as the Lakers’ clear-cut #2 option are behind him. Who knows, maybe his best days as an NBAer are behind him. Maybe neither. Perhaps a breakneck regular season – before which he was actually traded away – during which he was asked to adapt to a new role, despite a paucity of practice time is not exactly a scenario in which one thrives. Whatever the explanation, the Lakers have arrived at a crossroads with their gifted big man.

For reason extending beyond a lackluster (by his own standards) 2011-12 – advanced age relative to Bynum, a contract that pays him $38 million over the next two seasons, the Lakers’ lack of salary cap flexibility, possibly his own desire to move to a more nurturing environment – it would appear that Gasol’s Laker days are drawing to a close. I find this to be profoundly saddening, for unless the magic beans for whom Pau is traded play the point while rocking a weird, sprayed-on hairdo, the Lakers will replace neither Pau’s skills, nor his (all too rare on this team) selflessness, nor his unwavering professionalism.

3.What was your favorite Kobe Bryant moment of the 2011-12 season and/or thoughts about the season overall?

David Murphy: Kobe. This is the most complex topic, no? For me, it was those moments within games, rather than games in their entirety. The difference in his knee this season was remarkable. I haven’t seen him sky like that in a while. And, the time he stuck up for Pau, when he spoke to the press about the trade rumors, and what Pau meant to the team. It wasn’t in-game but it felt like a breakthrough leadership moment, the place where he filled Derek’s gap. It didn’t last though, because it’s just not in his nature to accept what’s less than what’s needed. By the end of it all, you only had to see the expression on his face, the withering stares. And know that change is going to come.

J.M. Poulard: With five seconds left on the game clock and the Detroit Pistons leading by two at the Palace of Auburn Hills, Kobe took the inbounds pass in the middle of the floor, sized up Tayshaun Prince, got himself to the right elbow and fired a beautiful jumper — this should make every Kobe Bryant highlight reel — over the outstretched arms of Prince that went in and sent the game to overtime as the red lights came on to signal that time had expired. The beauty of this shot was that Kobe not only knew it was good once it left his hands, but he seemed completely unimpressed with his achievement as he walked back to the bench as if he had done this for oh maybe 16 years and counting.

Many will debate in the next few weeks whether Bryant has lost the title of best closer in the league at the expense of Kevin Durant and Chris Paul, considering his age and the erosion of some of skills; but when push comes to shove and he is faced with single-coverage with the game on the line, you would be hard pressed to come up with a player better equipped to handle the moment than Kobe Bean Bryant. The game in Detroit served as a reminder of that.

Emile Avanessian: This year more than ever it became apparent that, while Kobe retains his ability to dial up the dominance, his ability to do so on demand is no longer what it once was. Given this, and taking into account the Lakers’ uncertainly up front, tenuous salary cap situation and limited talent pool, any blockbuster move made this summer, while strengthening one area of the roster or another, will carry a hefty price tag elsewhere. Except for one.

By stealing a page from the book of another Laker legend and taking to the post, Kobe Bryant could breathe new life in the dynasty he’s killing himself to keep alive. We saw it intermittently during the regular season as well as during the playoffs. Kobe Bryant – like Magic two decades ago – has both the intellect, size and skill set to transform a game once predicated on speed on the perimeter into one powered by elite footwork, resourceful shot-making and catching-and-kicking. It’s unlikely that Kobe will ever willingly cede top dog status to an up-and-coming superstar. It’s equally unlikely that we, in our heart of hearts, would ever truly want him to. In one fell swoop, however, Kobe could ensure his ongoing status as the focal point of the Laker offense while reducing the wear on the oldest soon-to-be 34 year-old body in NBA history.

Bonus:  If you could choose one Laker FA to keep next year (Sessions, Hill, Ebanks, Barnes) who would you choose & why?

David Murphy: When it comes to our free agents, the one that jumps out is Jordan Hill. By a mile. I was one of the naysayers when he arrived. It was really more about the way that Derek was traded – I was so disappointed in how that went down that Hill was a convenient target. And then came the OKC game at the tail end of the regular season, the fourth quarter and overtime and it was a revelation – this guy means something to the team in very tangible ways. He’s young, has a great attitude, has natural talents and instincts and I suspect, is very coachable. We have to bring him back. 

J.M. Poulard: Given that it seems all but certain that one of the starting big men will be gone by the time the training camp rolls around, it will be important for the Lakers to have a productive big man they can count on; and that has to be Jordan Hill. Between his rebounding, effort, energy and willingness to play his part, it seems like a no-brainer that the Lakers will do everything possible to retain his services and it’s the right move.

Emile Avanessian: At his best, Ramon Sessions is the point guard the Lakers desperately need. Unfortunately, his best vacated the premises some time ago, replaced by something between “middling” and “subpar.” Were Ramon to have years left on his current contract, the prospect of bringing him back would be welcome, but what he’s delivered at the price he’ll likely command on the open market (I’m guessing $6M per?) do not represent outstanding value.

Jordan Hill, on the other hand, is still growing into NBA adulthood, and he too delivers so much of what this team lacks. Hardworking, unselfish, aware of his limitations. These traits are often in short supply in Lakerland. To secure these – and some much needed depth and, if necessary, roster flexibility – in the form of a young, strong frontcourt banger that’s unlikely to command more than $3-$4M on the open market? From where I sit, that’s too good to pass up.

Every Memorial Day my thoughts drift back to the 1985 Finals. The Lakers were playing the hated Celtics, trying to defeat them for the first time of what would become the Showtime Era. The previous year the Lakers had been defeated in 7 games by those same Celtics, a series that spawned the nickname Tragic Johnson due to late game gaffes that directly led to losses.

The series didn’t start out well with the Lakers losing game one badly by the score 148-114. The game was dubbed the Memorial Day Massacre and there were serious questions if the Lakers had the mettle to beat the Celtics in the Finals. After the game, Pat Riley said “We’ll be back. If a seven game series could be decided in one game, it’d be over with but there’s going to be six more basketball games.”

There actually wouldn’t be six more games, however. The Lakers would come back to win the series in 6 games behind stellar performances from Kareem and Magic. I’ll never forget Kareem defiantly raising his arms in celebration after he hit a sky hook in the game 6 clincher in the Boston Garden. Not only did the Lakers win, but they did so on the Celtics home floor. That game represented a come back that helped catapult the Lakers to two more championships that decade, including another win over the hated Celtics. That game was a turning point of sorts for the Lakers as a team and solidified their approach as a franchise.

Today, the Lakers look to make a different type of comeback. There’s not a championship to win this season as the Lakers have already been defeated in the conference semi-finals. It’s the 2nd straight year they’ve failed to advance to the conference championship round and, with those early exits, the Lakers face the prospect of having to find a way to get back to championship level form. In a way, the situation they face to day is analogous to what they faced after that game 1 humiliation. After that game, there were serious doubts about the Lakers. Could they win with that group? Could they get past their rivals?

This, of course, will not be easy. There are tough choices to make and we don’t yet know how the organization will move forward. Unlike that 1985 season there isn’t a stock pile of talent to lean on and ultimately trust. The Lakers have some top talent but lack the depth of that team. But like that 1985 season, the Lakers must show commitment and resolve and find a way to come back.

No one knows this better than Mitch Kupchak who was on that 1985 team. He’d made his own comeback of sorts, finding a way to contribute after a knee injury changed the landscape of his playing career forever. Now he must call on some of that experience to find a way to make it work as an executive. Again, no easy task but if there’s a person that knows what it takes it’s him.

Mitch Kupchak has a difficult road ahead of him.

For the second straight season, his team fell short of their ultimate goal. He understands that the Lakers are judged on their ability to hang banners in the rafters and by “only” reaching the 2nd round in back to back seasons he, his coaches, and his players have failed at that.

With that failure, a plan of attack to do better must be put into action. But, when looking at this team it’s not so simple to say what direction the team should move in. Consider the following variables:

  • The Lakers are a luxury tax paying team. Under the new collective bargaining agreement, they will only have a mini-mid level exception and the veteran’s minimum exception to sign free agents.
  • The Lakers have three cornerstone type players but trading any one of them comes with their own issues. Kobe is a franchise icon with a no trade clause. Dealing him is a non-starter on nearly every level and that’s before you get to his $27 million dollar salary next season. Pau Gasol is still very effective as a player, is extremely skilled, but also makes a lot of money. Andrew Bynum is young, very productive, and on the rise as a player. He also has an injury history and has shown maturity issues. All three of these players are extremely valuable to the Lakers while also having deficiencies that must be taken into account when thinking about their future, be it with the Lakers or not.
  • The Lakers have two key free agents in Ramon Sessions and Jordan Hill, both of whom showed they could be impact players but now have the ability to play for other teams next year.
  • The Lakers have aging veteran role players that are difficult to trade and young players who all have questions about their utility as players.

In summary, the Lakers have a fine roster but one that was proven not to be good enough to win the championship. In the following seasons their main competitors will only improve and if the Lakers hope is to surpass them, they will need to improve at a level that exceeds them. Again, this is no easy task.

From where I sit, the Lakers have three choices for how they move forward. None of them are obviously better than the others and all of them come with uncertainty:

Working Around The Edges
There may not have been a team – and surely not a contending one – that was more hurt by the lockout than the Lakers. Of the 16 teams that made the playoffs, they were the only one that started the season with a new coach than the year before. They also started the season with a vetoed trade for a superstar guard with the resulting fallout being a trade of their best bench player (and 6th man of the year) from the season prior. Add to that 5 new players on the team to start the year, a non-existent training camp, and a condensed schedule that limited practice time and the Lakers had a difficult season of acclimation on their hands.

Even with all these variables and even more change throughout the season, the Lakers still finished with the 3rd seed in an ultra-competitive conference. They had an up and down playoffs but all and all did well for themselves by advancing past a Nuggets team that had all the ingredients to attack their weaknesses and then pushing the Thunder much harder than a 4-1 series defeat would imply.

And when looking at the roster as a whole and the results from this season, I think it’s more than fair to say that the problem with this team wasn’t its top end talent. There are certainly things to pick at when it comes to Kobe, Andrew, and Pau but in reality Kobe was 1st team All-NBA, Bynum was 2nd team, and Pau’s averages looked almost identical to those he’s put up his entire Laker career.

So, that leaves us with the role players. The non-big 3 Lakers all had up and down years. Ron didn’t come into camp in shape and dealt with some injury issues that didn’t allow him to be at his physical best until late in the year. Matt Barnes had another solid year but was again injured before the playoffs started and never regained the late season form that had him playing his best ball. Blake is a solid but unspectacular back up PG that still shoots a low percentage from the floor. McRoberts had an up and down year, starting out solid but then injuring his big toe and falling out of the rotation. Troy Murphy is no longer a viable contributor at this stage of his career.

These players – and Derek Fisher and then Ramon Sessions and Jordan Hill – made up the entirety of the Lakers rotation throughout the regular season. Their inability to play at sustained productive level meant the big 3 played heavy minutes nightly. It also meant that leads were never that safe and deficits often grew when they were on the floor.

Suffice to say, if these players are improved, it makes sense that the Lakers could be a much better team next year. Getting this done is another issue entirely but if the Lakers feel good about their core big three and can choose 2-3 role players they’re happy with moving forward, the rest of the roster can be churned (or at least attempted to be) and the Lakers try again with this group and those new additions.

Of course, there’s big risk in this approach. This core of players just fell short for the 2nd straight year. Taking this approach would be the third year of tweaking around this core with the expectation that it would somehow be different this time. With Kobe and Pau a year older and Bynum’s history of unavailability, is that really the wisest choice? And, can this team really find the role players it needs with the limited cap exceptions and non-big three trade chips they have at their disposal? Answering no on all those counts is totally reasonable.

Trade Pau Gasol
The Lakers already did this once. In a move that would have netted them Chris Paul, Gasol was sent to Houston only to be told his bags needn’t be packed after all. So, this wouldn’t be an unfamiliar direction for the Lakers to move in. Gasol is a highly skilled player, but he’s also redundant with Andrew Bynum in terms of position both technically (they’re both Centers) and where he likes to operate on the floor (the left block).

Gasol still value around the league. He’s a low post scorer with a very good mid-range game. He’s the best passing big man in the league and can be a focal point offensive player due to his ability to be scorer and set up man. He’s not the ideal number one on a championship team but he’s more than capable as a number 2. Don’t let his shifting and murkily defined role this year cloud how good he still is. In the playoffs, when the Lakers needed a strong performance from one of their big men, it was Gasol who raised his game both by rebounding and being more assertive on offense.

What he could fetch around the league is another question. Being that his prime years aren’t still in front of him and the salary he’s owed, a package for multiple contributing players seems like the best approach. Gasol makes nearly $20 million a year for the next two seasons. That’s more than most young superstar caliber players (Rose, LeBron, Wade, Durant, etc). So, just getting back a single player would prove difficult unless that player were a seasoned veteran AND was being paid handsomely. That’s a tough match. Plus, as mentioned above, the Lakers lacked consistent role players and if a package for two to three players who could either start or be impact reserves were on the table the Lakers would likely consider it. The Lakers are always looking for their next impact player but with Kobe and Bynum in the fold, maybe supporting them better through a group of players is wiser than trying to get another top level talent to share possessions with them.

Of course, losing Gasol would be difficult for the Lakers to deal with. Of their three key players, his combination of skill set and size is totally unique. He offers an offensive arsenal that both Kobe and Bynum possess and brings them to the table unselfishly and only in pursuit of the team’s goals. There’s a reason he was the guy at the elbow in the Lakers “horns” sets making all the key reads: he’s the only player that could do it successfully while embracing the role with nary a complaint spoken. He’s the epitome of a glue player as his versatility and selflessness allow him to contribute without getting in any of his teammates’ ways. There’s extreme value there that would surely be missed regardless of how good the players are that would “replace” him. Surely it’s difficult that he’s had to be reminded to raise his game as often as he has, but the fact is when he’s asked to do so he actually does it. Giving that up for another player (or group of them) may seem wise but they may offer their own set of concerns. The grass isn’t always greener, after all.

Trade Andrew Bynum
If there’s one way  to try and improve your team quickly, it’s to use your best trade chip to acquire a player (or group of them) that fit better with the team in place. As mentioned, there’s skill and positional overlap between Bynum and Gasol. Relying on one of them to man the pivot while sending the other out may just be the solution.

Bynum just made 2nd team All-NBA. He’s a monster of a man with an ever growing skill set that continues to be refined. He has soft hands, can finish over both shoulders with hooks or turnaround jumpers, and can still run the floor well enough. Defensively he has the ability to impact the game like few others can. This season he’s posted a 30 rebound game and a triple double that included 10 blocked shots. His enormous wing span means that even when he’s out of position or not able to fully gather himself to jump, he can still alter and block shots just by extending his arms. Bynum is only 24 would be on his third NBA contract and could be paid a reasonable amount considering his talent level and his impact on the game.

Being such a valuable commodity what Bynum could fetch in a trade seems limitless. Could he bring in a 3rd star to flank Kobe and Pau; a star that could be the cornerstone of the Lakers after those two are no longer elite talents? Could he bring in an even better group of players to support Kobe and Pau? These are only open questions because one has to look at this from the other side. If Bynum is so good, why would he be the one to go? In other words, what do the Lakers know that other teams should be worried about? Is his attitude really bad? Does his motor really not rev to its fullest consistently? Despite his growth into an elite level talent this season he also had his share of turmoil and that may affect his value.

If he were to go, though, the Lakers would also miss him. Young, skilled behemoths don’t grow on trees. In the Nuggets series Bynum faced double team after double team and created open shots for his teammates simply by being on the floor. Against the Thunder his ability to score efficiently gave the Lakers points they needed and shifted the defense his way in a manner that freed others to make plays. During the regular season his endurance may not have been  top shelf but there were many times his sheer size was the difference, grabbing an extra rebound or getting a post touch that led to an easy basket. We all remember the game vs the Celtics where Bynum buried KG under the rim and scored what was the game sealing basket. Does another Laker make that play so easily? Do you really want to give up the player can is capable of making such a play?


All of these options have their merits and all of them scare me to a certain degree. It’s obvious the Lakers need to change things up but how far do they go? Last off-season they showed they’d go all in for Paul but those opportunities are quite rare. To think that another chance to grab a franchise altering talent will just materialize is a bit naive. But if it does present itself will they pull the trigger? If lesser quality deals come up that can change the complexion of the roster but still cost a cornerstone player will that be made? Add the back drop of finances, salary cap rules, and that tiny detail that it actually takes two teams to make a trade and there’s no easy answer here.

Friday Forum

Darius Soriano —  May 25, 2012

The Lakers are now a team in transition. Transitioning from playoffs to off-season; transitioning from their current roster to one that will look different the next time they take the floor. That will require some difficult decisions to be made, where variables beyond player performance will matter. The Lakers will have luxury tax payments, revenue sharing payments, and new collective bargaining rules to navigate when reshaping this team. Mitch Kupchak has a real challenge ahead of him. History says he’s one of the few GM’s around the league that’s up to it. Whether or not that proves true remains to be seen but I’d rather be in a position where confidence is there than the alternative.

Speaking of Kupchak, Brian Kamanetzky has the details of his media session after the player exit interviews concluded. Some very good information from the GM who understands there’s change on the horizon.

Over at ESPN Los Angeles, Dave McMenamin has some comments from Kupchak’s mentor –  Jerry West – who also acknowledges the Lakers simply aren’t a true contender right now.

Kevin Ding also looks at the Lakers contender status and notes that the days of simply spending more to get there are probably over while not counting the Lakers out from making a big move.

Of course, payroll is a product of player salaries. Over at Silver Screen & Roll, Acturial Sound takes a look at which players lived up to their earnings with their play this year.

In some straight news items of the day, Mike Trudell of has all the information you need on Kobe Bryant’s selection to the All-NBA 1st team and Andrew Bynum’s selection to the 2nd team.

Over at GQ Myles Brown has been chatting with super fan (and Lakers season ticket holder who never roots for the Lakers) Jimmy Goldstein (even if you don’t think you know who Jimmy is, you know who Jimmy is). In their latest convo, Goldstein talks about his travel these playoffs, Kobe, Mike Brown asking him questions at post game pressers, and more. Good stuff.

Finally, this is a must watch video. Gotye parody meets Kobe Bryant. I’d say more, but I’d ruin it.

Where the Lakers actually go from here is anyone’s guess. They have several routes they can travel but a lot of what they do will depend on the market for players, payroll and tax concerns, and their internal analysis of their own players. This will all play out over time. Unfortunately, the Lakers have a bit

Of the exit interviews I watched yesterday, I felt Ron’s was the most intriguing. It definitely wasn’t necessarily the most profound or the most eloquent of the interviews, but it may have been the most eye-opening and showed his ever-growing maturity as a man, basketball player and teammate. When I watched Ron’s interview, I saw a guy who has the ultimate confidence in his teammates, a guy who understands what a weird season this was, and a guy who was willing to take accountability for the Lakers inability to get over the hump in this year’s post season. Ron has come a long way from his younger years in the league, and his 20+ minute interview really highlighted who he is and the genuine care he has for his coaching staff, teammates and organization.

During the interview, there were a few segments that really stood out to me. One was on the fact that Mike Brown put the Lakers in a position to win this series against Oklahoma City, and the Lakers weren’t able to make the plays down the stretch during a couple of key games to pull it off.

“Mike wasn’t out there guarding Kevin, it was me, Kevin scored on me. Mike didn’t throw turnovers at the end of the game. Mike didn’t miss three-point shots, I missed three point shots. Mike didn’t come in out of shape — well he did come in out of shape (laughs). But it’s all mental for coach, it was the players.”

A lot has been said about Mike Brown this season. He was given a raw deal by Lakers fans before the Lakers even began training camp. After two pre-season games, folks were asking for him to be fired and after this post season, there were questions about whether or not Brown should be on the hot seat. These ideologies are generally ridiculous, especially considering the way this season began, the shortened training camp, the loss of Lamar Odom and eventually the loss of Derek Fisher. The Lakers were inconsistent on the floor this year, no doubt, but the circumstances in which Brown was dealt were equally as inconsistent. However, despite the slow start, the change in both offensive and defensive philosophies, the changes in personnel, this Mike Brown led basketball team was in position to win two playoff basketball games in which they’d ultimately go on to lose do to turnovers down the stretch. I often grew frustrated with Brown’s ability to make adjustments on the fly, he never really figured out his rotations this season and his offense unsuccessfully tried to gain steam more than once this season — but Brown had to learn the intricacies of this team on the fly just as this team had to adjust from Phil’s style of coaching to his with a shortened, condensed season with a nine-day training camp. This season, the odds were against Brown’s success before we even knew if there would be a season at all. Ron understood that and realized that this team had to take accountability for their play down the stretch of those two depressing losses that could have had the Lakers up 3-2 with a close out game in Staples. They had a 7-point fourth quarter lead in one game and a 13-point fourth quarter lead in another, and Brown deserves some credit for that considering most pundits felt the Lakers didn’t have a chance to beat this Thunder team.

More Ron:

“I think at the end of the game, guys gotta trust themselves more,” said MWP. “I think sometimes, not myself, but sometimes guys, they look to Kobe too much. I think they gotta understand Mitch (Kupchak) brought you here. Mitch also assembled teams that won championships, so he knows what he’s doing. And he brought you here for a reason. Because you’re good. So believe in yourself[…]

“You’re playing with a great player. Five championships. I don’t know how many people can say they got five championships in any sport. So no matter who the player is, you come to this team, you will look at Kobe as one of the greatest players ever. You know? But playing with Kobe for a long time, I understand I gotta chip in. I must chip in. So I think the young guys, not the older guys, a lot of young guys went through it this year. And I think coming back next year, they just have to understand, we gotta chip in.”

For those who didn’t get the opportunity to watch Ron’s exit interview, I think it’s important to note that he really emphasized how much he believes in the younger guys and how much he thinks the organization believes in the younger guys as well. He spoke a lot about self confidence and the the ability to chip in more often with said confidence. He talked a lot about Ramon Sessions who he said was a very good point guard and Devin Ebanks who he felt played great in limited, inconsistent minutes. I think the same applies to Jordan Hill should he come back. The operative word here is genuine, as there was no point where it felt like Ron’s answers were scripted (have they ever?) or that what he was saying wasn’t heart felt. He honestly believes that when the younger guys get over the fact that they’re playing with one of the greatest players ever (Kobe), that they’ll be able to “chip in” during the times when the Lakers need it most. I do find some truth to these sentiments, as Sessions, Ebanks, and Hill have all had some very good moments against some very good basketball teams when they’re playing with their head in the game instead of playing with their minds on Kobe. This must be reciprocal, of course, because nothing is harder than trying to play with out watching Kobe when Kobe is dominating the ball — but even in those games Sessions has looked off Kobe to penetrate or to dump it into Bynum/Pau for easy buckets; Ebanks has slashed off the ball and made tremendous defensive and hustle plays; and Jordan Hill was a monster on the boards for about 70 percent of the games he actually got real playing time with the Lakers. Ron has seen the positive in the younger role players (and even Steve Blake, who is a bit older, but is in a similar caste in the Lakers system), and chose to focus on those positives in hopes that they shine a bit more next season. This is admirable after a tough season.

The last Ron quote follows:

“The Lakers, they did a lot for me so I like it here,” smiled Metta “I like it here. But whatever is best for the Lakers. If it’s me not being here, if it’s good for the Lakers, it’s good for me because the Lakers, they did nothing but great things for me. I got a championship here, something I always wanted. And then being here is great also. I’ve liked it. I’d definitely would like to be here. I don’t really talk about myself. I always talk about what could make the team better. Whatever is in the best interest of the Lakers, that’s what’s important to me.”

You don’t hear these kind of sentiments from a guy who loves the position he’s in, but Ron is a different kind of fellow (understatement), and again, I felt that he was truly genuine when he said that he wanted whatever was best for the organization. It’s not a secret that the Lakers are going to try and cut down on salary for the upcoming season, and Ron could easily be one of the guys that ends up at Staples as a visitor at some point next season — and I’m sure he’s fully aware of that fact. There’s a certain level of respect I have for people who put others above their own well-being, and this is just another example of Ron doing just that. He hasn’t been perfect this year (the elbow to James Harden, intentional or not, brought back glimpses of “Indiana Ron), but if nothing else, he cares about his coach, his teammates and this Lakers organization even if one, or all three, don’t have his general well-being in mind. I personally would love to see Ron stay in the Forum Blue and Gold and get acknowledged for his contributions on the defensive end of the floor next season, fully aware of how much his contract is worth. I believe his maturity will being an element to this Lakers organization that’s just as valuable off the court than it can potentially be on the court if we can see him healthy for a full season again. With every risk, the reward isn’t always promised, but with Ron, I think we won’t only be rewarded by his presence as fans, but the coaching staff, his teammates and the whole Lakers organization will be rewarded with is knowledge of the game, the fire he’ll light under the younger guys and his dedication to being the best Lakers he can be on and off the court.

Wednesday Storylines

Dave Murphy —  May 23, 2012

I freely admit that I haven’t been reading a ton of basketball over the past few days. I’m just not ready yet. It was a season born under a bad sign, with bumps and roadblocks and departures, but the team made some runs at it and there was reason to believe that it could win more games than not, in a series. Thanks to Darius for sending me some choice links to include, and to him and everyone else at FB&G for a lot more than that. Here’s the bullets:

Ramona Shelburne at ESPN, on what drives Kobe, and his dwindling inner circle. This one’s gold.

Ethan Sherwood Strauss at The Classical, writes about Andrew Bynum and the evolution of his running style.

There’s a number of exit interviews at the Kamenetzky brothers’ Land O’Lakers site, but I found the Jordan Hill piece especially interesting. His season was a unique one, inserted into the lineup at the very tail end of the season but he immediately became a factor.

C.A. Clark’s Lakers/OKC series review at Silver Screen and Roll.

Mike Bresnahan at the L.A. Times writes that the Lakers’ roster options are limited.

Steve Fryer at the OC Register takes a closer look at positional needs.

Marc J. Spears at Yahoo Sports says that Kobe’s ready to bet the house on the Lakers’ future.

There’s still basketball to be played, of course. Tim C. at Pounding the Rock, writes about match-ups with OKC.

The seasons come and go, and to each a unique rhythm. This one was closer to a series of aftershocks on a Richter scale. From a mass exodus to a new coach and staff, from lockout to the blockbuster trade that wasn’t, and from departures to arrivals – 2011/2012 had a certain oddball sense of character and I won’t soon forget it.

– Dave Murphy