Summer League, Free Agency, & Dwight Howard

Darius Soriano —  July 18, 2012

With Summer League in full swing and the Lakers still looking to fill out their roster, there’s lots to discuss in Laker-land. So, lets jump right in…

  • The Lakers’ summer league team is winless so far and has had some truly horrible performances in their first few contests. They got blasted by the Warriors in their opening game and were trounced by 50 a few nights later against the Heat. While this is somewhat discouraging, don’t invest too heavily in the results. The Lakers don’t have a lottery level talent on their team. Their roster is full of players who are trying to fight for spots ten through fifteen on a roster, not for a starting gig. What we learn about this “team” is not important; we’re really looking at the growth of the individual players and evaluating their individual skill level.
  • Even evaluating the players as individuals is somewhat tricky, however. The summer team doesn’t have a single player that will ever be a featured guy within an offense. This roster is filled with role players whose talents will be maximized playing off of their more talented teammates (should they make the regular season roster). When you put 5 role players on the floor together, the results (offensively) will be what the Lakers have seen so far – tight defense, little spacing, and no one able to create the types of plays that generate sustained worthwhile basketball.
  • In yesterday’s game against the Spurs, the Lakers made adjustments with their schemes and that led to better spacing and ball movement. These tweaks compensated for the limited individual talent on their roster. But those adjustments only got them so far. It allowed for more space on the wing to operate off the dribble and more space for the post players to work in isolation. It opened up better passing angles for cutters. And, their improved effort put them in better positions to take advantage. But, in the end, this group was out talented again and lost by double figures.
  • All that said, we are starting to get a better picture of what types of talents these guys are. Darius Morris is showing that he can be a threat in the open court and in attacking the rim off the dribble in the half court. His size allows him to bully smaller defenders to get to the spots on the floor where he can be successful. His finishing is still up and down, however, and his jumper needs a lot of work. But, he’s showing more confidence in each game and his attack mentality has served him well so far. He certainly likes to pound the ball when probing the D, but that’s the case for most attack guards that create off the dribble as often as he does.
  • Andrew Goudelock looks like the same guy he was last year. His lack of size is giving him some issues on both sides of the floor and his lack of burst is making it hard for him to shake free from bigger defenders. His jumper has been off but we know he’s a better shooter than he’s shown so I’m not as concerned there. However, he’s still not shown much of an ability to create for others. He’s worked a lot in the pick and roll but rarely hits the roll man (who’s been open several times) and typically only gives the ball up when he’s exhausted his opportunity to score for himself. I’ve long believed that for Goudelock to stick in this league he’ll have to show adequate ability to initiate an offense and be a lead guard. So far, we’re not seeing it. Some of that may be what the coaches are asking him to do, but his instinct is to score first (and second) and his playmaking is suffering because of it.
  • Darius Johnson-Odom has shown some good qualities – he’s an active defender, possesses good court vision, and knows how to create his own shot. He’s also shown that he can initiate an offense and has no issues taking an outlet pass and running a delayed fast break. He shows good footwork in setting up his own shot and has a very nice shot fake that’s earned him trips to the foul line. However, his jumper hasn’t been falling even when he’s been getting open looks. This could simply be a small sample and nothing to worry about. But, he’ll need to hit shots eventually if he wants to stick.
  • Christian Eyenga looks like the most pro-ready player the Lakers have but that shouldn’t surprise considering he’s their most seasoned player. His athleticism is as advertised – he’s had several above the rim finishes – and he’s mostly been under control when displaying it. He’s shown a nice little post game too, working over defenders from 10 feet and it with good strength and solid footwork. His jumper is not good, however and that limits what he can do on that end of the floor. Defensively, he’s been above average. His quickness, instincts, and desire to get into his man have all been plusses.
  • The surprise of this team, at least for me, has been Robert Sacre. He’s a bit stiff in his movement but he knows how to use his big body to his advantage. He aggressively fights for position on both ends of the floor, has shown nice touch on his mid-range jumper and his jump hook, and he plays hard. His biggest asset, though, looks to be his smarts. He knows where to be on both ends of the floor and seems to have a strong spatial awareness. He knows where to move to in the P&R game to get open and has made a few smart cuts to position himself under the rim where he’s been active on the offensive glass. In one of the games an announcer compared Sacre to Michael Doleac and that seems apt. Sacre has shown a bit more aggressiveness around the rim than Doleac used to, but all and all they have similar games. Doleac stuck in the league for a while as a back up big man and Sacre may be able to do the same.
  • Moving beyond the Summer League team, the Lakers are still in the middle of a lot of rumors. There’s been reports that Antawn Jamison will “choose” the Lakers soon. Yesterday the Lakers were present at a workout for Jermaine O’Neal who, after having the orthokine treatment that Kobe’s become the poster boy for, is looking to continue his playing career. Reports of how he looked in that workout have been mixed (I’ve read one tweet say he didn’t look mobile while others stated he looked as good as he has in the last 4-5 years), but he remains on the Lakers’ radar. Brandon Rush was also at that workout so the Lakers also got a look at the Warriors restricted free agent.
  • And then, of course, there’s still the pursuit of Dwight Howard. Reports had the Lakers meeting with reps from the Magic yesterday in what was described as a “hard push” to acquire the Magic big man. During the Lakers/Spurs game, Jim Buss commented (per team policy) that he had “no comment” about reports that there were negotiations going on. At ProBasketball Talk, Kurt Helin had a logical take, basically saying that there should be no expectation a deal gets done when neither Howard nor Bynum have (seemingly) changed their stances about re-signing with LA/Orlando should a trade happen. I tend to agree with this. It’s worth having the talks because you always try to make a move that improves your team, but expecting something to happen at this point is optimistic.
  • One thing I also wonder here is if there’s a point of no return with the Lakers and these Andrew Bynum trade talks. This is the longest he’s ever had his name floated in what seem to be legitimate trade rumors. For years his name was out there, but those reports were quickly shot down from the Lakers side (be it Jason Kidd, Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony, or anyone else you can think of). However, this time, these reports seem to have legs and Bynum certainly seems available in a deal for Howard. Whether this is really something to worry about isn’t something I have any inside information on. However, I wonder if there’s a stop point where the Lakers simply call off their discussions with the Magic and make nice with the all-star Center they have in house. You can only window shop so often before you either have to make a purchase or go home and keep with your same wardrobe. I wonder when the Lakers are going to make that call. Remember, Bynum is a FA after next season as well and if nothing happens with Howard, the Lakers will surely want Bynum back for the long haul. If these talks go on for too much longer, does a long term commitment from Bynum get put in jeopardy? These are questions that need to be asked.

Darius Soriano

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9 responses to Summer League, Free Agency, & Dwight Howard

  1. Two days ago, one guy from Orlando radio broadcasting said on ESPN radio AM710 that 85% Howard will go to LA, he said at the end of this week, we will know it.
    Yesterday, Marc Spear said on ESPN radio, Lakers and Orlando FO met in Las Vegas, there is a third team involved. I guess at the of this week, we’ll find out. Even Howard doesn’t want to sign extension with Lakers, Lakers still want him, i think because Bynum did not want to stay in LA, Lakers want to win championship next year, and Howard gives Lakers better chance to win.

  2. Darius, your last point pertaining to all of the Bynum trade rumors is a very real concern to me. And the Bynum for Howard one is, in my opinion, the final straw. Bynum has always known Jim Buss was in his corner (even when one of his teammates was always trying to get him traded). Now…not so much. Now I know you’re going to receive a few “so what, let him leave” responses from so called Laker fans, but trust me, if we don’t get Howard, and Bynum leaves as a free agent next season (and remember no 1st round draft pick) the following season, maybe Kobe’s last, may be a very long and mediocre one.

    I hope Bynum can look at this for what it is “just business, nothing personal”. Because as we have recently seen, other players don’t always view it that way. See Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol, and even the Jeremy Linn situation.

  3. I think there is already damage done between the front office and Pau Gasol. This situation with Bynum is just icing on the cake. After awhile players get tired of constantly being on the trade block. At some point it starts to poison the well.

  4. Ray Allen was another player who didn’t look at it being “just business”.

  5. I’m sympathetic to the idea that dangling Bynum may come back to bite the Lakers if they don’t consummate a trade for Howard. However, I’m not real sure what the front office is supposed to do.

    A “drop dead” date is a fine theory, but realistically, it means nothing. The front office has clearly made the decision that Howard would be an upgrade over Bynum. With that, they can’t reasonably be expected to forego a deal merely because it comes after some arbitrary date. If the deal makes the team better, they’ll take it–whether it is now, or in several months.

    Of course, they should not publicly announce or leak anything about these talks, but it seems to me that right now they are doing what they should be doing: looking to improve the team, and not making any public statements about the matter. That the media hypes this situation is not really within their control.

    I think they know full well that they are taking a risk that by allowing this go on as long as it is, they are exposed to the possibility that the relationship with Bynum follows the path of their relationship with Odom. It’s a big risk, for sure. However, even if the deal for Howard does not go through, they are still the only team that can give Bynum a 5th year for a new deal, making them his likely destination–or making him a participant in a sign & trade deal that might set the Lakers up pretty well for the future….

  6. @ BigCitySid & T. Rogers

    In total agreement with the 2 of you and I mentioned something to that effect in the last post. If this trade is not finalized and Bynum ends up remaining with us, the FO may have to do some serious ass kissing in order to smooth things over with him. Especially considering it’s his walk/last year under contract .

  7. Lakers are doing their due dilligence trying to make their team better. Bynum brought some of this on himself with his child like attitude last year. Skipping meetings with Mitch, not joining huddles and quitting on the team a few times. That can’t be overlooked in all of this. The guy who’s writing Bynum’s check got completely blown off by Drew. To bring basketball into the equation he has not played 82+ games 35 mins in a season ever. Will his knees hold up so he can play at an elite max money level for the next 5 years?

  8. It would be great to get Howard and at this point Andrew Bynum is the best piece the magic can get for him. The Magic seem to be taking their time with the Dwight Howard trade though, which works against the Lakers and most other teams. The magic are gonna lose this deal any way they do it and the longer they wait the worse the offers will get.
    http://4hoopsheads.com/2012/07/17/nba-offseason-in-dwight-howards-hands-still/

  9. This is a momentus decision for the franchise. The train is at the station and on the left is the Howard conductor and potential crewmates. On the right is the Bynum “hope to be” conductor and potential crewmates. The existing conductor and crew are facing two tracks just outside the station, and they don’t know which way to go. If it’s Howard, they veer left; if it’s Bynum, they veer right.

    This decision won’t be easy–and until it is made, the new crew members won’t be known.