In terms of the NBA calendar, we’ve officially entered into the period best described as the dregs of summer. News is slow as teams are holding off on inking free agents, trades are non-existent, and most of the news involves teams filling whatever coaching or front office vacancies they may still have. Not exactly the blockbuster action a lot of fans are hoping for. That said, there’s still some happenings going on, both with the Lakers and around the rest of the league:
- It’s been discussed plenty, but the Lakers are still after some wing help. When looking at a list of the top 20 free agents still on the market, there are some desirable names still to be snatched up that could bolster the Lakers’ perimeter rotation.
- The name residing at the top of a lot of Lakers observers’ wish list is Jodie Meeks. He’s young, has a rep as a shooter, and should come cheap.
- It’s that last point, however, that is now in question. Meeks’ agent has drawn a line in the financial sand, stating his client won’t play for the minimum. I don’t blame Meeks’ agent for trying to leverage bigger dollars for his man. After all, that’s his job. Plus, once a player signs on for the minimum, it’s hard to escape that fate in future deals. Mickael Pietrus and Kenyon Martin are two players who took the minimum last year to play for playoff teams and now they’re struggling to find offers above that this summer and are languishing unsigned still hoping for a bigger offer. Meeks is still at a point in his career where he’s looking to get that first “big” contract and this may be his one shot to get it.
- Moving on from potential Lakers, to current ones, the question must be asked: are the Lakers alienating the franchise Center they currently have in pursuit of the one they’d rather have? This is a question we’ve asked before ourselves and it’s one that is difficult to answer. Bynum, for all his outspokenness, isn’t always the easiest player to read and when you add his agent to the mix (David Lee doesn’t have the best history in negotiations with the Lakers) it’s hard to know what Bynum will do when it’s time to decide where he’ll play out his next contract. Know this, however: Bynum has leverage and may just use it of pressed hard enough.
- Of course, another Laker big man is making news and doing so because of the work he’s doing on the court. At TrueHoop, Kevin Arnovitz named Pau Gasol as one of the 10 players performing very well these Olympics:
He has snatched those 25 or so minutes he spends on the floor for Spain and made them his personal exhibition. It’s difficult to tell if Gasol is being guided by the desire to answer those who question his fortitude November through June, or if he truly feels more comfortable in that Espana jersey. Whatever the case, Gasol has eagerly moved to the post, but has still experienced a ton of success as a face-up jump shooter.
- Pau is playing so well, in fact, that he’s on the verge of tying an Olympic record.
- One Laker not playing as great in London is Kobe Bryant. His offense has been up and down and his defense has not been up to the standard he showed in the 2008 Beijing games. In fact, Tom Haberstroh says that for Team USA to get back to its defensive roots, Andre Iguodala should grab more of Kobe’s minutes.
- It’s highly doubtful that Kobe’s minutes are reduced and it’s very likely that Team USA will win the gold medal anyway. Plus, as Marc Stein told Beckley Mason, Kobe’s not worried about how he’s playing and says he’ll be ready to close should the moment present itself.
Beyond that, though, it’s doubtful Kobe will need to “close” any games in the way he’s asked to do so often for the Lakers. LeBron James is coming off a championship where he dispelled a lot of the doubts that he could be the man down the stretch. Kevin Durant is also quite good at burying opponents down the stretch of a close game. Instead, Kobe can focus on making the little plays, like he did in grabbing a key offensive rebound down the stretch of the Lithuania game that gave the Americans an extra possession used to extend their lead and pretty much ice the game. It may not be the role he’s used to, but it’s one he can perform quite well for this team and help them achieve their goal of bringing home the gold.