Friday Forum

Dave Murphy —  September 7, 2012

News has mostly ground to a halt as players and front offices alike are mixing rest with preparation for what promises to be another fantastic NBA campaign. But even as stories trickle in, more slowly than they will a month from now, there are matters of supreme importance to discuss…

Knowing how crowded the existing roster is heading into training camp, I found this article by Baxter Holmes in the L.A. Times to be quite interesting. Reeves Nelson, the disgraced UCLA forward who was kicked off the squad last December, is being offered a non-guaranteed $700K contract and a camp invite. The invite itself isn’t so unusual – there will be other training camp bodies and contracts. Nelson however, has been hanging around the Lakers periphery for a while – invited to work out before the draft, and invited to summer league as well. As Reeves tells it, he didn’t get off the bench until the last couple of games in Las Vegas because the coaches were testing his character. The bar keeps getting higher for a kid who’s an enormous longshot in the NBA and it’s an intriguing contrast to the high-profile stories of Howard and Nash.

Speaking of longshots, the Lakers also signed Greg Somogyi, the 22 year-old four-year center from UCSB. Somogyi’s one selling point is that he’s 7’3”. There’s not a lot to say about the guy, although Tim White at Opposing Views has written a very decent, if not wholly complimentary article. Does anybody remember Sean Bradley, the 7’6” center who would fall down in a stiff wind? Somogyi has less balance, and isn’t as tall. I’m sorry this paragraph is so much shorter than the others. Can you say filler?

One of the most publicized recent storylines has been the saga of Dwight Howard, the poster boy for ill-conceived spontaneity. As relayed by Arash Markazi at ESPN, the latest chapter had Dwight tweeting that he intended on working with Laker legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, before actually speaking with the man. The two quickly set things right with a meeting, photo-op and much mutual admiration. What is somewhat lost in the shuffle, is the desire shown by the league’s top center, to grow his game. In the most elemental of ways, imagine Dwight Howard with improved pivot mechanics and a more fully realized offensive game – it’s a scary good thought and highly possible under Kareem’s watch.

The man who brought Dwight to the Lakers — as well as every other player on this roster not named Kobe — gave a nice interview to Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated. In it, Mitch Kupchack spoke of expectations for the future, insights from the past, rumors of his retirement, and much much more. It’s a great read as a Lakers fan, but, in general, it’s also insightful to see the mindset of a man tasked with building a winner and understanding the stakes of rudder-ing the Lakers organization from a personnel standpoint.

When it comes to comparing basketball players, there is no story that has had longer legs than Kobe and Michael. Kelly Dwyer wrote a piece in Ball Don’t Lie last week, exploring the comparisons and including the recent ‘identical plays footage’ that has gotten so much attention. I’ve never been particularly interested in the who’s better narrative, but have simply enjoyed watching each player throughout their respective careers. It’s not to say that comparisons are unwarranted – Jordan’s influence on Bryant is undeniable and has been fully admitted. Yet, for those who aren’t Bryant fans (and they are legion), the similarities have provided a platform from which to negate his value, his accomplishments, his dedication, his rings, his gold medals, and the tens of thousands of points, because of one singular argument – he’s not Michael.

Today, the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame will enshrine its new members, offering their achievements up for consumption another time for us fans to revel in as we did so many times in the past. Across the world wide web, many are paying tribute to these men’s accomplishments and contributions to the game (while also giving us some of the not so positive things as well). Be it our very own Silk who shot “20 foot layups”the villain only his hometown loved, the small-ball innovator, the windy city scribe, or two names — one a fleet forward nicknamed Jet, the other a bruising big man who “got all the rebounds” — from hoops history that have long earned this honor, these men helped advance this game; they made it more enjoyable to be a fan.

On the other end of the spectrum from the legends whose names ring out, are the league’s rookies. These are the guys that will be hazed when camps start next month and learn the ropes of the pro game through brand new experiences between now and next summer. Some will learn by watching, others will be thrown into the deep end to swim with the sharks of the league; the Kobe’s, LeBron’s, Durant’s, and CP3’s of the association. The learning curve will be steep for many of them but they’ll survive, I’m sure. One player I’ll certainly be rooting for isn’t a Laker, but the path he’s on — as shown in this video — certainly inspires and resonates.

This was initially supposed to be  Wednesday Storylines which then turned into Thursday and naturally became Friday, because that’s how I roll. Many thanks to Darius for coming in and putting a half-finished post together.  This could be one of those assembly line comedies and you know which guy I’d be. Hope y’all have a good weekend.

– Dave Murphy

Dave Murphy