Archives For July 2012

Friday Forum

Dave Murphy —  July 13, 2012

The ink on Steve Nash’s contract has had time to dry, and talk has turned to systematic issues. Yesterday, Darius used a Henry Abbott article as an entry point in the conversation about Nash’s offensive modus operandi, and how to find the balance. The topic will be revisited many times, in many ways. We’re now officially into the Nash era, and if you missed his presser on Wednesday, take some time to watch. In a word, it was impressive.

Andy Kamenetzky at the Land O’Lakers, offers the purple and gold butterfly effect, a chronicling of the many twists and fortuitous turns that it took to put Nash in a Lakers uniform.

Yesterday, Kobe Bryant tossed out an off the cuff assertion that the 2012 USA Team, could pull out a win against the Dream Team. In its essence, it’s one of life’s most common observations, that one could beat another. Yet in this heightened snapshot age, the comment went instantly viral. Here’s a take from Dan Devine at Yahoo’s Fourth Place Medal, incorporating the one and only Barkley.

Alex Dewey at Gothic Ginobili, takes a hilarious look at a Mike Brown plan of action for newcomer Nash – the Circle Offense.

Kevin Ding at the OC Register, brings the Nash conversation back to earth, and the idea of reaching a point in life where priorities change and realities crystallize.

Mike Trudell at the Lakers blog, has an in-depth look at how Mitch Kupchak was able to bring Steve Nash into the fold.

The saga of Dwight continues, with Houston gaining momentum. Adrian Wojnarowski at Yahoo, has the story.

An AP report covers the U.S. Team’s win against the Dominican Republic, Durant’s 24 points, Blake Griffin’s injury, and a great, extended video of Kyrie Irving trash-talking Kobe.

On the subject of Kobe and the Olympics, this SB Nation article by Andrew Sharp, is well worth the read.

Apart from the home run sweepstakes, there’s still a lot of small pieces of the Lakers puzzle that need to be put together. Royce Young at Eye on Basketball writes about Grant Hill who turns 40 this year, and is looking at the Lakers, Thunder, and Heat.

Mark Medina at the L.A. Times Lakers Now, profiles Jordie Meeks, the 76ers free agent shooting guard.

Suki Thind at Lakers Nation asks if Antawn Jamison would be a good fit for the Lakers.

And finally, Tim Gossett from the terrific Eight Points, Nine Seconds blog, has an article about our old friend Brian Shaw, a leading candidate for head coaching positions in both Orlando and Portland.


Summers are often a slow time of the year. Not so this one – summer league is upon us and it’s time to get a look at rookies, hopefuls, and the eternal chasers of the dream. The Olympics are also around the corner, always a momentous occasion, filled with personal stories of triumph over adversity. From free agency to fall training camp, there’s a palpable energy in the air. And for Lakers fans, anticipation for a season and a team that promises to be very different, thanks to the arrival of a 38 year-old soccer enthuiast from British Columbia.

– Dave Murphy

The Lakers have acquired Steve Nash. It’s official now. Yesterday, in his introductory press conference, he fielded questions like a gold glove short stop and dished out answers like the top 5 all-time assist man that he is. In those 40 minutes in front of assembled media, Steve Nash looked comfortable and at home.

Of course, looking comfortable in front a bank of cameras is less important than looking comfortable on the hardwood when playing with his new teammates. And, to that end, there are legitimate questions as to how well the Nash acquisition will work on offense. Over at TrueHoop, Henry Abbott explores one of the more popular concerns when asking if Nash can do his thing with the Lakers.

In essence, Abbott argues that historically, what has led to Nash being at his best is the offense revolving around him with the ball in his hands and how that’s not always so easy for his teammates:

Nash has rightly earned a reputation as a selfless player, but the fact is that when he does his brilliant thing, which often ends in a pass, he has the ball for an eternity, in NBA terms. If the first screen doesn’t get the job done, he’ll use another, then another. He’ll dribble all the way to the hoop and back out again, and then back in. Meanwhile, not having the ball very much plays havoc on the psyches of some teammates who feel they can and should do more. Marion and Joe Johnson are just two of the players who won a lot of games, starred in a lot of highlights and were tremendously productive alongside Nash — but nevertheless sought work on teams where they show more of their skills and win more of the credit. Stoudemire ultimately left for a bundle of reasons, money chief among them, but before doing so he expressed a will to, for instance, have the ball in the post once in a while, which seldom happens when Nash is dribble-probing all possession long. Here’s where we have to start thinking about how Bryant, Bynum and Gasol might handle life as a Nash teammate.

There’s really nothing to disagree with in that excerpt. I said something very similar when putting the Nash acquisition under the microscope. Getting the best out of Nash has often meant freedom to set and reset the offense as he’s seen fit in order to produce the best looks for himself or a teammate. Whether that meant pushing the ball or playing a half court game, Nash was literally the Sun  that Phoenix’s offense revolved around; the decision maker in which the entire offense was built upon.

So, when taking this idea a step further, it’s easy to see where issues may arise. Nash isn’t walking into a team that’s built around him, but rather one that already has 3 high functioning offensive pieces that have all had a lot of offensive success in this league. And with this the case, there will need to be adjustments from all parties on how to work with and off each other in order to maximize results.

From these adjustments, a balance must be struck.

The coaching staff must build sets that give Nash the freedom to be himself. He’ll need to be able to run pick and rolls, will need to be able to push the ball when the opportunities present themselves, and will need be able to set and reset the half-court offense as he sees fit. These are ways the Lakers can shape their offense to give Nash an appropriate comfort level within the offense that can help him thrive. Which, in turn, should also benefit his teammates. Pick and rolls – whether of the Nash/Kobe, Nash/Pau, or Nash/Bynum varieties – will create open shots for roll men and spot up shooters. More running opportunities will do the same. And with Nash orchestrating the offense, we’ll see more of these chances throughout the course of the game.

However, the coaches must also work Nash into the schemes that are already in place. The expectation can’t be that the Lakers will suddenly morph into the Suns because that’s not how they’re built. They don’t have a big man that should be shooting half his shots from behind the three point line (ala Channing Frye) nor wings that like to camp behind the arc for full possessions just spotting up. The Lakers offer more diverse talent on O and that means more guys able to do more on their own without being spoon fed by their point guard.

Integrating Nash so he can mesh with this talent is also a priority. What needs to be said, however, is that Steve Nash can operate within and can help the sets the Lakers ran last season. Many of the Lakers’ offensive issues last season stemmed from the lack of space on the perimeter due to threat of the players who were positioned on the wing. Outside of Kobe Bryant – who was never left open for more than a split second – no perimeter player was respected enough to not be helped off of in the half court. This led to a crowded paint and disrupted passing angles to the Lakers post players and guys cutting through the lane. This then created stalled possessions that turned into iso heavy approaches where players – most notably Kobe – ended up forcing shots against the shot clock with little success.

With Nash in the mix, that changes. First off, Nash’s ability to make defenses pay for leaving him open creates floor spacing. Leave him to double team or to rotate to your next assignment and he will knock down shots. Second, his ability to create off the dribble to score means ball rotations to him put the defense in a dilemma. Once Nash makes a catch, he’s a threat to make a long jumper or beat his man off the dribble to create for others. Kobe used to be the only perimeter Laker that was respected in both of these areas and that gave the defense easy outs. They’d cover him, force him way out on the perimeter, and when the Lakers needed a player to create off the dribble from the wing it resulted in someone ill-suited to do so or Kobe making a catch 30 feet from the basket trying to create in isolation.

Not so sound redundant, but Nash changes this. The only Laker – at least in the starting lineup – that a team can consistently leave to help is Ron Artest. This makes defensive schemes much easier to decipher. If the double comes, it’s likely coming from the small forward. If it comes from someone else the odds of Kobe, Nash, Pau, or Bynum getting a one on one look go up exponentially. Even if it comes from Ron’s man, the read will likely be an easy one where the offense can simply move the ball to the open man. And with two players (Nash & Kobe) on the floor that must be respected beyond the three point line, the defense is compromised by having to make multiple rotations by design. With Nash and Kobe sharing the floor, the defense will be in scramble mode more often, opening up offensive rebound chances, passing angles, and driving lanes.

And, understand, it doesn’t take a Nash-centric approach to develop these sets. A simple post up where Nash brings the ball up with Kobe in the corner and Bynum in the pivot creates a problem for the D. Do you sag off Kobe in the corner to disrupt a post entry? Do you sag off Nash? Do you try to front Bynum and help off Gasol when Nash has the ball in his hands? Run a basic HORNS set with Nash cutting through the lane to screen for Kobe and the Lakers can create an action where Pau has the ball and Bynum, Kobe, and Nash are all running screen actions on the weak side of the floor to get a good shot up. These are only two options from the Lakers’ playbook this past season that change dramatically simply because the Lakers have replaced Fisher/Sessions/Blake with Nash.

When looking at specific sets that capitalize on the Lakers big men, the coaches need not look much further than some of the combo pick and roll sets they ran last season. At the start of the year, the Lakers were extremely effective running a Kobe/Pau P&R where Pau popped to the shallow wing while Bynum used his size to carve out position under the rim. Often times, Pau caught a pass from Kobe and either took a short jumper or tossed a lob to Bynum under the rim. The play was so effective it looked like a cheat code. As the year progressed, however, this play became less effective because Kobe started to have issues turning the corner with his handle (and Sessions wasn’t the same threat that Kobe was). The play was further disrupted when the defense helped off the SF and PG off the ball to gum up passing angles.

Now, replace Kobe with Nash and put Kobe off the ball. Help is less available to block off passing angles and Nash’s ability to either hit Pau on the pop, shoot the shot himself coming off the pick, or probe the lane for a shorter shot/dish to Bynum presents a slew of problems for the defense. Again, this just a single action but it’s derived right from the Lakers playbook this past season and proved it could be a devastating weapon without Nash on board. Add him to the mix and the possibilities expand.

Balance will be the key here. The Lakers should try to capitalize on Nash’s skills within offensive sets where he’s had a lot of success. Not giving him those same freedoms would be an issue. I see no viable argument where turning Nash into a glorified Derek Fisher is the right plan. But, by simply running sets the Lakers ran last season but replacing their previous PG’s with Nash changes the Lakers offense a great deal. Help schemes change, rotations change, and fantastic one on one players get to play more one on one basketball.

It will take time to strike this balance. And it will take adjustments from everyone involved (coaches and players). But, it can certainly happen and, with time, I fully expect it to.

Wednesday Storylines

Dave Murphy —  July 11, 2012

Jack McCallum’s Dream Team book was released yesterday, prompting a number of worthy discussions and reviews, such as FB&G’s roundtable. The midnight hour brought an additional momentous occasion, the end of the league’s moritorium, meaning that free agency signings could become official. This leads us to the here and now, with the Lakers set to kick off their introduction of Steve Nash, at noon Pacific Time. The presser will be carried live by the Lakers website. Other teams will be holding their various functions throughout the day but this by no means puts the brakes on the continuing feeding frenzy, replete with the kinds of deals that had owners screaming foul during last summer’s lockout. Apparently, a level playing field is best accomplished by either overpaying stiffs, or stripping out assets before the season even begins. Here in no particular order, are some links:

Kevin Ding at the OC Register brings us the news of Steve Nash’s official signing, at midnight Eastern Time, last night.

Ian Thomsen for Sports Illustrated, writes about Kobe Bryant, Team USA, and the continuing quest to achieve more.

Ben Rosales at Silver Screen and Roll has an article about the Lakers bigs, and offseason planning.

Dave McMenamin at ESPN Los Angeles reports on Devin Ebank’s new one-year deal with the Lakers.

Eric Pincus at Hoopsworld has a report about a possible three-way between Orando, L.A., and Houston in the Dwight sweepstakes.

Andy Kamenetzky at the Land O’Lakers writes about joyful playing returning to the Lakers.

Ben Bolch at the L.A. Times, writes that Steve Nash is an efficiency expert.

Ryan Ward at Lakers Nation reports that Jordan Farmar is being bought out of his Atlanta Hawks contract and will head to Istanbul.

And finally, Fran Blinebury for writes about Adam Morrison’s road back to the NBA., and summer league. I truly hope Ammo catches back on – one of my favorites, always.


Trying to embed links during the height of free agency, sometimes feels futile – I have no idea how the national writers are keeping up with this shapeshifting serpent. Today could very well be pivotal in the ongoing Dwight Howard saga – the Nets are working to resolve their own part in it, one way or another. They’re having to deal with the Brooks Lopez situation, which basically amounts to multiple teams throwing max offers at a center that was out of action for most of last season. When Brooks did play however, he managed a mind-boggling 3.6 rebounds per game. That’s not a typo. Swing for the fences, big guy.

– Dave Murphy

Yesterday, Jack McCallum’s highly anticipated book “Dream Team: How Michael, Magic, Larry, Charles And The Greatest Team Of All Time Conquered The World And Changed The Game Of Basketball Forever” was released for purchase (you can get a copy here). A few of us here at FB&G were able to get an advanced copy of the book to review and, well, we loved it. What follows is our email conversation about the book…

Darius Soriano: First things first, what did you guys think of the book?

Phillip Barnett: Off top, it was just an absolutely fantastic read. I’m a bit younger than both of you, so I really only got to watch the tail end of the career of most of these guys (I was only five in the Summer of ’92). For me, I can only rely on ESPN Classic games and accounts like Jack McCallum’s “Dream Team” book to get a feel for how much this team meant to the game of basketball. That said, I think the best thing about this book is the format in which it was written. Instead of a long, drawn out chronological tale about how the Dream Team came about and how dominant they were, the book is broken down into 40-someting smaller chapters that allowed McCallum to tell a lot of the back stories that went into building this team and gave him the freedom to do a lot of character building — which isn’t always the case in non-fiction narratives. “Dream Team” reads more like a novel than it does a historical account of a hoops team, and it allows for younger guys like myself to learn a bit more about the individuals on the team, the relationships built and even some of the animosity between guys who were and were not on the Dream Team. Furthermore, the book takes a few “Where are they now” glances at some of the players with six interludes throughout the book which provide for some interesting — and some would even say juicy — nuggets in which the players didn’t hold back on their feelings on others on the team. In one of the interludes, Clyde Drexler suggested that Magic was getting the “benefit of the doubt” because people “kept expecting him to die” following his AIDS announcement and went on to suggest that there was nothing that Jordan could do that he could not. It was really those kind of anecdotes, and the more fun ones like Larry Bird and Patrick Ewing’s unexpected friendship, that kept me turning pages. Were there any back stories in particular that you two found more interesting than others?

J.M. Poulard: After reading multiple books on superstars who also happened to play on the Dream Team (Bird, Magic and Jordan), it always felt as though the 1992 Olympics served more as a footnote in their illustrious careers as opposed to one of its bigger events.

After reading “Dream Team”, that sentiment has been rendered null and void. McCallum covers all bases in order to give readers a detailed depiction of the team. Whether it’s the decision to finally allow NBA players to compete in the Olympics or the reasons that prevented the team from staying in the Olympic village; the author goes to great lengths for all to understand what actually transpired.

If there is one back story that struck me more than any, it’s the dynamic between Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson.

Both were icons at the time and continue to be even today and the book captures that perfectly.

Magic had always exhibited a seemingly unparalleled ability to communicate with people — whether it’s teammates, opponents, coaches, media or fans — thanks in large part to his smile, charm and willingness to voice his opinions.

Michael on the other hand was known as a leader that practiced hard, led by example and chastised teammates whenever they failed him.

And yet in Barcelona, their personalities blended together as Magic serving as the team’s voice while Jordan was its motor and its heart. McCallum relates this perfectly and gives us the lenses to view the two leading alpha males on a team composed of such individuals.

It’s worth noting that “Dream Team” perfectly captures the pulse of the team through interviews and tales that were shared with Jack McCallum almost 20 years after the team won the gold medal in the 1992 Olympics.

Darius: I couldn’t agree more about MaCallum’s approach to the book. By giving readers the backstories to the players and then providing fascinating tidbits of information about the dynamics between them in the lead up to and throughout the Olympics, he gives readers an insider’s perspective that takes you along for the ride.

And, I also completely agree about how the Magic/MJ dynamic proved captivating. Having just met in the Finals a year prior to the formation of the team, it was clear that there was both a healthy respect and rivalry still at play between the teams’ two top names. In fact, I think Magic’s portrayal in the book is one of the more interesting aspects touched on.

McCallum did an excellent job of giving the reader so many sides of a very complex man within the context of this extraordinary team. Not only was there the Drexler interlude that touched on Magic’s HIV, but there was also how his disease served as a backdrop for Magic’s hands on approach to leadership and how it (seemingly) drove him to prove that he was still at the top of his game (and thus still one of the team’s best players) after not competing in the league since that Finals loss to Jordan (outside the 1992 All-star game).

On the other side, though, was the respect that Magic had amongst his peers, how his mates saw him as a genuine leader – and mouthpiece – for the team, and how his past accomplishments (remember, at that point Magic had 5 championships to his name whereas Jordan only had 2 while Bird had 3) gave him some bragging rights within the group. All of this combined to create a complex character that could rub his teammates the wrong way and inspire respect.

Besides the stuff on Magic, though, there were so many other parts of the book that stood out to me. The Bird/Ewing friendship, the Isaiah Thomas exclusion, the narrative surrounding how the NBA got involved in the Olympic process, and the behind the scenes descriptions of the now infamous practices and scrimmages were all so great.

What about for you guys? Was there one story in particular that stuck with you?

Phillip: Not to completely overdo the Magic aspect, but he really was one of the keys, not only in this book, but really in getting this whole team together. McCallum — and the Dream Team documentary a few months ago to some extent — spoke about how no one really thought the NBA’s brightest stars would buy into playing for the Olympic team. It was Magic who enthusiastically signed on first and helped push some of the other key guys (Bird and Jordan, namely) to join on as well. McCallum described Magic’s and Jordan’s leadership roles metaphorically when he said, “Magic was the Sun and Jordan was the North Star,” and there was a lot of truth to that. Like Darius noted, Magic was the vocal leader of the team and took on a lot of duties to make sure the  — how do you say this — general ideology of who this team was revolved around him. There were anecdotes about Magic taking number 15 so his name would be called last and him holding the flag when the team was introduced for the first time. But as much as the team revolved around him in almost every aspect off the court, Jordan was the unquestioned leader on the court as the team seeked his direction once the ball was in the air. I found that dynamic fascinating.

I also ate up everything on Barkley. Even though I really only remember his career as a Houston Rocket, he’s always been my favorite NBA player after Eddie Jones. I continue to save a special place in my heart for undersized forwards who can rebound the ball, but Chuck was one of those special, once in a lifetime kind of athletes. He often seemed overweight, but got off the ground so easily, was deceptively quick in the open court and was nearly unstoppable when he got a head of steam going toward the basket. Then you get to couple that generational talent with one of the most unique personalities the league has ever seen and you’ve got yourself one of the most memorable ball players ever. McCallum has a few Barkley anecdotes that really stuck out — one of them being that Larry Bird said he was a student of Barkley’s game and even added a few of his tricks to his own repertoire. The fact that such a talent almost missed out on the Dream Team is hard to wrap your head around. But the fact that his talent generally overrode his off the court antics speaks volumes just to how great he was.

Darius: Ah, good old Chuck. He definitely was one of the choice “characters” in this book.

The anecdote about Barkley that stood out the most to me had nothing to do with his escapades on the town in Barcelona, how his selection came about, or even is rivalry with Malone. It was how often it was hinted at that he was one of the most dominating forces on the team. I can’t recall how many times it occurred but multiple times coaches and teammates said that if the Dream Team ever needed a basket they could just “throw the ball to Charles”. Considering that team had Jordan on it, I thought that was the highest compliment that could be paid to him and his skill level at the time of the competition. He was an explosive force of nature that could play an all court game. I’m convinced we’ll see countless players of Jordan’s “type” (athletic wing players) before we ever see another player that’s like Barkley.

J.M.: Not too get too much away from the book, but I recall watching the Dream Team when I was younger and Barkley was by far one of the most athletically gifted players on the court at all times.

There were times it seemed as though he could breeze by guards on a fast break and his size was problematic for everyone.

For those only accustomed to Barkley through his TNT gig, McCallum does a great job of bringing us back to his playing days. Indeed, the Chuckster was a lethal weapon — fun fact, he led the team in scoring — that no one had an answer for.

It’s clear from the details of the book that Barkley always knew he was a great player, but showcasing his talent with the Dream Team gave him some validation that perhaps few remember today.

With that said, one of the most fascinating aspects of the book is the non-story of David Robinson. I have long theorized that the Admiral should have been one of the greatest players ever but he seemed to lack something.

McCallum provides some terrific insight into the player, but more importantly the man; and although it gives the readers a greater of appreciation of Robinson as an individual; one cannot help but feel cheated about the Spurs center.

For all of the criticism thrown at Shaquille O’Neal for not putting more into basketball, Robinson not only deserves the same amount throw his way, but perhaps more.

As great as he was as a center, he never had the edge needed to carry his team to the promised land and put the fear into the hearts of his opponents. And to his credit, Robinson is perfectly at ease with who he is and shows no sign of remorse whatsoever about how his career unfolded. Nonetheless, the question “what if” still looms…

Darius: I think we could go on and on with anecdotes and insights gleaned from this book. McCallum simply did a fantastic job of giving the reader so much information in an easy to consume format. At this point though, I’d rather not give away too much more and just suggest that everyone go out and buy the book. You won’t be disappointed.

With the acquisition of Steve Nash, the Lakers’ landscape has shifted. They now have a point guard whose complete package of skills have been lacking in all of his predecessors and a floor general that’s respected as much as any other in the league. He alone makes the Lakers a better team. Kobe is happy, Gasol is happy, everyone is happy.

That said, with Nash now handling duties at the point, there’s a general feeling that the Lakers should get on to making their next move. And unless you’ve been hibernating, you know which move I speak of: trading for Dwight Howard. The bait would be Andrew Bynum (and potentially more) but that’s what a lot of people are clamoring for. After all, Dwight is the better overall player and whoever has him in-house when the season starts will have the inside track to keep him next year. So, no brainer, right?

Well, yes and no.

I’m all for the Lakers making a move for Howard from a talent standpoint. As I’ve written before, in the most simple terms he offers an upgrade. Improving on a strength is still improving and if you simply look at Howard as the best pick and roll big man in the league – on both sides of the ball, I might add – and add him to a team with Steve Nash on it, you’re coming out ahead.

However, that talent upgrade isn’t the only variable. The point is that the Lakers must still make a smart move for their franchise that effectively balances their desires to win now (and in the future) while being conscientious about their long term payroll concerns. Steve Nash effectively added $9 million of salary to the Lakers’ books for the next 3 years, dramatically raising their payroll due to increased luxury payments next season with even larger payments to be made the year after next due to hikes in the tax rates.

The Lakers must be cost conscious with how they fill out the rest of their roster. This team can’t be quick to simply add a bunch of payroll in a trade for Howard regardless of how much they may covet the big man. There’s no indication of who the Magic want to include in any trade of Howard but my assumption would be that they’ll be looking to off-load at least one (and likely more) of the Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu, and Glenn Davis trio. All three of these players are over paid and both Davis and Richardson’s contracts run the same length as Nash’s contract, giving the Lakers less financial flexibility in the summer they’ll need to get under the luxury tax line to avoid the harshly punitive repeater tax.

Beyond the financial concerns though, the Lakers surely also look at Nash as the man that can help get the most out of the players they currently have on the roster – including Bynum – without having to make another deal. After all, Nash is the poster boy for “makes his teammates better”. If he can help improve the games of Kobe, Gasol, and Bynum the Lakers have already upped their “talent” level without making another big move.

Of course there will still be other, smaller, moves to make. They’ll need a legitimate back up for Kobe (and maybe even an additional wing beyond that player), can still improve in the front court behind Bynum and Pau, and can still seek out specific skill sets (namely shooters and/or high caliber defenders) to round out the team. Working to improve the bench is as a big a priority now as it ever was since the Lakers are simply too thin to win as currently constructed.

But, in terms of big moves, the Lakers should be patient. Surely they’d like to have the best players at all positions. If they can exchange the number two player at one spot for the number one guy, they should explore that opportunity and see what it takes to make it happen. However, they can’t blindly rush into the fray without examining the long term consequences nor can they discount how Nash can have an impact on the players they already have.

And, in the end, what’s not being said enough is that the Lakers have a fantastic consolation prize in house. If Howard doesn’t come, they still have Bynum – with full bird rights intact. They may be trying to hit a homerun, but if they fail they’re not striking out, they’re hitting a triple.

There doesn’t seem to have been any breaking news from the Los Angeles Lakers front this weekend. They’re presumably biding their time in the Dwight Howard grind. Either that or Mitch Kupchak will pull one of his patented stealth ninja moves when we’re least expecting it. There’s been other things to occupy sports fans’ attention – Team USA set their roster, and Roger Federer claimed yet another Wimbleton title. Here’s a few bits of Sunday reading, in excerpt form:

Marc J. Spears at Yahoo writes about Kobe’s reaction to the Steve Nash trade, and how rivalries give way to time:

Kobe Bryant has a warning for the rest of the NBA now that Steve Nash is joining him in the Los Angeles Lakers’ backcourt. “We’re going to have to be dealt with,” Bryant said. Bryant spoke after Team USA held its first practice of its Olympic training camp. He and the rest of the players didn’t spend much time answering questions about who will make the final 12-man roster for London. Instead, the talk was dominated by Nash’s move to Los Angeles and the rest of the NBA’s free-agency frenzy.

In the first week of free agency, Deron Williams committed to stay with the Brooklyn Nets instead of choosing his hometown Dallas Mavericks, Jason Kidd (New York Knicks) and Jason Terry (Boston Celtics) opted to leave Dallas and Ray Allen decided to leave the Celtics to join LeBron James and the champion Heat. The biggest surprise has been Nash’s decision to join the Lakers. “It’s not really weird,” Bryant said. “We’ve obviously had our moments, had our battles. But at the core of it are two guys that came into the league at the same year (1996). Myself, him, Ray Allen, (Kevin) Garnett, we’re pretty much the last ones left. There is a kind of bond that comes along with that that’s kind of bigger than some of the rivalries we’ve had.

Earl Bloom at the OC Register examines the potential pitfall to signing Dwight Howard:

Dwight Howard is well into his second year of holding at least two NBA franchises, and sometimes more, hostage to his whims. The Orlando Magic’s All-Star center, one of the NBA’s best rebounders and shot-blockers, has one intended destination: the Brooklyn, formerly New Jersey, Nets. That’s the only team he says he will sign a long-term deal with after his contract expires next season. It’s much more likely when the Magic finally moves Howard, after bending over backwards for him for a year-plus, it will send him to the Lakers or the Houston Rockets.

Be careful what you wish for, Lakers fans. James left Cleveland after seven years because he wanted to win a title. Howard wants to leave a winner to go to a loser, I guess mainly because Jay-Z is a part-owner of the Nets, and can help make Howard a bigger star. Maybe Howard really is Superman, the character he styled himself as in an All-Star dunk contest (which irritated Shaquille O’Neal to no end). Bullets seem to bounce off Howard. If Howard as a one-year rental for the Lakers or the Rockets, he’s going to be an expensive one.

Ben Bolch for the L.A. Times, on the heartache and frustration that Steve Nash leaves behind:

Steve Nash can be tough on coaches. Scheming to stop his relentless pick-and-roll game often leaves even the best tacticians futilely scribbling on whiteboards. “The agony he caused before games, during games, and after games, trying to figure out how were going to do it better…” former New York Knicks and Houston Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy said, his voice trailing off. “He’s taken years off coaches’ lives.” The newest Laker has also left heartache in his wake. One of the most difficult losses that Don Nelson endured in a 34-year, Hall of Fame coaching career involved Nash leaving the Dallas Mavericks in the summer of 2004 to sign as a free agent with the Phoenix Suns. “It deflated my desires there because he was my favorite player,” Nelson recalled in a phone interview from his home in Maui. “To lose him killed me. I tried my best to deal with it. It;s not that I stopped trying or anything. But there was something cut out of my heart losing Nash.”

As a new week rolls into view, there will continue to be speculation about the next big thing, if in fact there is, or needs to be, a next big thing. Bringing back Hill and Ebanks, and tweaking the roster with affordable pieces like Grant Hill and Jordie Meeks, would help bolster a roster whose dynamic has shifted dramatically. If you’re still looking for something to do on a lazy afternoon, there’s always hiking in the canyon with Nash and Sager.

– Dave Murphy


With Steve Nash set to become a member of the Los Angeles Lakers officially on July 11th, let’s ask Prince to bless us with some of his lyrics:

“[…] but tonight we’re going to party like it’s 2003!!”

Avid Prince fans would point out that the year mentioned in the actual song is 1999 and not 2003; but in this case the year 2003 has some historical significance for the Los Angeles Lakers. Indeed, in the summer of ’03, the purple and gold pulled off the seemingly unthinkable when they brought in Karl Malone and Gary Payton via free agency to play with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal.

Needless to say, that was a blockbuster summer for the Lakers given that they had added two players destined for the Hall of Fame to a team that already featured arguably two of the five best players in the NBA.

The Hall of Fame foursome may have actually prepared us for the 2010-11 and 2011-12 Miami Heat given the incredible amount of attention that it garnered, especially after losses. In addition, the team was under the microscope for most of the season and also faced a lot of media backlash given that Kobe Bryant had been accused of sexual assault and had to occasionally miss team functions or even show up late for games due to mandatory court appearances.

But when that team got on the court, they were a joy to watch.

It took some time for them to get accustomed to playing with each other within the triple-post offense; but once they started to figure things out, they often looked unbeatable.

Their ball movement as well as their interior passing made them tough to defend and put defenses in huge bind given the plethora of options available to the Lakers.

Fast-forward to the present, and it’s almost as if history is repeating itself, with Kobe Bryant finding himself at the center of it all.

The 2012-13 Lakers will probably face the pressure to win it all, much like the previous installment from the 2003-04 season, but bringing Nash on board may actually change the sentiment towards the Lakers in some respects. The franchise has often been viewed as having an unfair advantage because of their ability to pick up star players and thus fans have often wanted to see them fail; but things may be subject to change now that the player that every one apparently wants to see get a ring has joined the purple and gold.

Public sentiment may be fun to sway, but the real kicker will actually come on the hardwood.

In Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, the Lakers will have four potential All-Stars — all four have played in at least one All-Star game — sharing the court together. Not one, not two, not three; four!

More importantly, the collective basketball IQ of three of those four athletes — sorry Drew — is high enough that the expectation will be that not only will they figure things out quickly, but they will play basketball with great synergy.

The identity of the team in years past has been to allow Kobe Bryant to figure out when and where to switch from facilitator to scorer, and although his role should be about the same, he will probably be asked to be more of a scorer with Nash on the roster.

Nash will obviously have to adapt to dumping the ball inside the post and then drifting to open areas of the court, but the Lakers will also adjust and probably play a little more pick-and-roll basketball with Nash and Gasol; with Kobe Bryant waiting on the weak side of the court for either an open jump shot, or a pump fake and drive.

Consider that little tidbit, how often do defenses actually rotate off the Black Mamba? And yet, this may in fact become a reality for this new Lakers team.

Notwithstanding injuries, the purple and gold will probably always have two All-Stars that complement each other on the court at the same time, which is probably terrifying news for the rest of the league.

With that said, there are still some minor concerns about this team.

Although yours truly has already previously made the bold statement that Steve Nash is probably the best shooter in the league’s history, the Lakers struggled to connect from 3-point range at key times last season and thus could use a wing player capable of converting shots from deep. It’s still worth noting that Metta World Peace was a decent option towards the end of the season from long-range, but it’s tough to predict whether that will translate into 82 games in 2012-13 as well as possibly another 20 or so playoff games.

In addition, many will state that the Lakers need an influx of athleticism, which wouldn’t hurt but isn’t an absolute necessity. Instead, Mike Brown’s unit might want to take a look at a destructive perimeter defender — Tony Allen anyone — to help the defend the likes of Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Tony Parker as well as wing players.

While many still believe that Oklahoma City is still the team to beat in the West, the Los Angeles Lakers just narrowed the margin. Obviously, there are other moves to be made by the rest of the Western Conference but if the players come together and play well in concert, they may end up celebrating like it’s ­not 2004.

Remember, that team lost in the Finals…

A funny thing happened on the way to the Forum – the Lakers signed Steve Nash. Like many, I was idly sifting through twitter when the first rumblings began. Disbelief turned to giddiness and my 4th of July evening was lost to the internet. It’s been a while since I’ve seen such a dramatic spike in articles posted. Darius turned up the magnification on a deal that is most certainly value added. There’s a lot of other great reads on the subject, the list below is only a small sampling:

Brian Kamenetzky at the Land O’Lakers gives us a rundown on other guards that Kobe has been paired with, over the years.

Brian also participated in a 5-on-5 with Ramona Shelburne, J.A. Adande, Zach Harper, and Brian Windhorst.

C.A. Clark at Silver Screen and Roll says the Lakers have gone supernova.

Sekou Smith at reports that Pau Gasol wants in on the Nash party.

Kevin Ding at the OC Register writes about the commonality between Nash and Kobe.

Mark Heisler contributes a piece for Hoopshype, about the grandson of Showtime.

Kurt Helin at ProBasketballTalk writes about Pau Gasol staying put.

Bill Plaschke at the L.A. Times says getting Nash is a steal.

Mark Medina at the Times offers five things to look at with the Nash trade.

Mike Bresnahan at the Times breaks down the deal, and the reasons for Nash’s decision.

Rey-Rey at The No-Look Pass considers how Nash will fit with his new team.

Gabriel Lee at Lakers Nation offers an iPhone upgrade analogy.

Kelly Dwyer at Ball Don’t Lie looks at the cracks in the Nash schematic.

Adrian Wojnarowski at Yahoo looks at the next possible step with the Dwight Howard question still looming.

Steve McPherson at Hardwood Paroxysm writes about Kobe and the burden of surrendering control.


There comes a point at which the list of links has to end. I’ve been reading and thinking about Steve Nash for the better part of a night and a day. And when I’m not reading words on a page, I’m imagining beautiful basketball patterns on the court. I always wondered how a supremely creative and intuitive player like Nash would have functioned in the triangle as opposed to his natural pick and roll instincts. We’ll never have the answer to that, but we will get to see two of the all-time greats in an extended swan song jam.

– Dave Murphy