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

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48 responses to Friday Forum

  1. I don’t get the infatuation with Reeves Nelson – he’s an undersized power forward who was kicked off UCLA for character issues. Kind of like a destitute man’s Luke Walton.

  2. That Dwyer article was right on point. His criticisms of the Bean are absolutely legit.

  3. #1. I actually see a fair amount of Matt Barnes’ game in Nelson. He has good size, attacks the glass, has a good nose for the ball, and understands how to operate in space when playing off the ball. I don’t think he’ll make the Lakers but I do think he could carve out a pro career should he have the right attitude.

  4. Darius,

    Do you see Reeves as having the foot speed of a Barnes? Do you think he can guard the SFs of the league?

  5. bring back Barnes!

  6. #4. Tough to make any definitive statements without seeing more of him. But, I liked what I saw in limited minutes when he played in Summer League. Again, I don’t know how good he’ll be as the sample was small and the quality of competition he faced was not high.

  7. “he’s not Michael”

    No he is not. Let’s get him a couple more rings and a few thousand points and that statement will be made while looking in a rear view mirror.

  8. @any_one_mouse – re: Reeves, I guess I just find these kinds of stories to be interesting. The fact that he showed so much talent and potential, and then fell so far. That he has tried to find his way back to doing something he loves doing, and that the coaches and front office have seen something in him. This isn’t just an impulse pick-up, they brought him in for workouts earlier in the year, brought him to Vegas and are now inviting him to training camp. It may never amount to anything, or it could result in a D-league assignment. Actually making the Lakers roster is extremely unlikely. But, I just like the longshot stories.

  9. on Reeves: Also, didn’t Jim Buss mention he liked Nelson (and Sacre)?

  10. @DaveM,

    Apologies if I came across as too brusque. My intention wasn’t to question why you linked to the story as much as why this was news in general. I’ll have to defer to Jim Buss (and Darius!) – they are far more qualified to evaluate a player’s potential than I am :)

  11. Good articles. I like Reeves Nelson he has a good foundation because he hustles. Good coaching can build off that and make him a valuable player. i.e. Leon Powe, Mark Madsen, Ronnie Brewer, Thabo Sefolosha to name a few. The vets just can’t send him out for food they may not like what they get back in their lemonade.

    http://espn.go.com/blog/los-angeles/lakers/post/_/id/32871/jordan-clifford-and-bickerstaff-join-lakers-coaching-staff

    Lakers staff has rounded into form. Can’t wait for camp. Feel bad for Kuester he’s been exiled twice in 3 years. j/k

  12. Thanks for the link to Royce White at the end. Had no idea ’bout his story. One of the reasons to love sports….

  13. One month from preseason game #1!!!

  14. @lil pau – does it seem like the summer’s gone fast? It does to me.

  15. @any_one_mouse – no apologies needed whatsoever, and it certainly didn’t come off as too brusque. I had actually been looking for a recent article on Derek but couldn’t find anything substantive. I totally get that he’s at the tail end of his career, but I’m a bit surprised he hasn’t found a home yet.

  16. Kobe sure picked one hell of a player to pattern his game after.

    Is it October yet?

  17. I can see Lakers keeping Nelson and releasing Goudelock. If Nelson proves to be valuable to Brown on defense that he can defend 2 and 3’s he should stay. Goudelock contract is non guranteed and we have Blake, Duhon, Morris, Meeks who are ahead of him on the depth chart.

  18. It’s ironic that Eddie Jordan is an offensive coach and Chuck Person is a defensive coach, when they were both specialists on their other respective ends during their playing days.

  19. Dwyer has the same problem all of those guys do: he thinks about Kobe too much and has too many emotions about him. That’s OK in and of itself, but guys like that should stay away from analysis, since it causes them to ignore the rest of the team.

    Dwyer once claimed that Kobe cost the Lakers titles in 2003 and 2004, ignoring any number of other salient facts about those teams (the team’s DRTG cratered in 2003 when Shaq gained weight, as Tex Winter pointed out; those teams had weak benches, the 2004 Pistons were better than most people realized, etc). And, I see that he did it again in this article, in reference to the last couple of years.

  20. Nice article here on how Kobe is using Facebook to promote his brand:

    http://tinyurl.com/8s2zsgl

  21. It’s nowhere to my knowledge to vent on the Dodgers so I’ll say a few things here.

    Coletti has made clown moves before i.e. Andruw Jones, Juan Uribe, Ethier extension, etc. and it looks like he’s done it again. Always going for the big bat when PITCHING wins every time. Every Time.

    Someone has magically robbed Kemp of his power. Hanley has been the best Dodger since the trade. Victorino is useless. And Donny B is looking like Mike Brown Clueless. Bullpen is wore out, same lineups. Why is Victorino batting second? And Ethier batting 6th?

    Superstars don’t win pennants in baseball teams do. Can’t wait for Page 2 Sunday. Hopefully I make it.

  22. I am a baseball fan (not a Dodgers fan) but interesting points, Kevin.

  23. @#16….

    Jayz, great point. Kobe always aimed high and he fashioned his game after a great, great player. And, in turn, the Bean parlayed his God-given talent and a great work ethic into a legendary career of his own.

  24. rr @19: Yes – so let’s see. According to that writer, we should have won in 2003 + 2004. We also could have won the past couple years as well. All of this caused by Kobe’s – me first policy. So per that writer – if KB was a better team player, he would have 9, maybe 10 rings !! So I guess guys like that really are closet Kobe fans. They feel KB should already be the best of all time, rather than 3rd best of all time (behind only MJ and KAJ on my list).

  25. Robert,

    Exactly. Guys like Dwyer invest Kobe with magical powers, over other teams, other players, etc. The reason for that is they are so fixated on everything he does that they place excessive analytical value on it. The Lakers went 57-25 in 2011, and lost to the eventual champs, a very good team on a playoff roll. Last year, with less talent, they went 41-25, and lost to an excellent young team that was clearly better than they were.

    Kobe shoots too many 3s sometimes
    –Dwyer is right about that. But what Dwyer’s long-time fixation on Kobe is really about, other than page hits, is the fact that Dwyer is a Bulls fan. And since Kobe will never say, “Heck, jeepers, I am honored to just be in the mentioned in the same sentence with Michael” Dwyer will always be twitchy about it.

  26. I like Utah’s roster this season they’re a nice sleeper team. Made the playoffs and overall had a good year. Good enough home court advantage and got valuable experience. I just hope a team like SAS doesn’t steal Jefferson mid season.

    Mo WIlliams, Randy Foye, Marvin Williams, Paul Milsap, Al Jefferson, Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward, Ernes Kanter, Alex Burks. A solid rotation.

  27. Looking around the league at frontcourts. Hill will have to be as good and maybe better while Dwight is out.

    Blake, Jordan, Lamar – Cousins, Hayes, Robinson – Brand, Dirk, Haywood – Marc, Randolph, Arthur, Speights – McGee, Faried, Mosgov – Perkins, Ibaka, Collison, Thabeet – Love, Pekovic, Kirelenko. There’s some beasty front court rotations that without Dwight playing will be tough to go against.

    Lakers will need somebody other than Pau to play big consistently while Dwight is out. Hill is that guy.

    I remember we survived early 2010 season while Drew was out with Caracter playing some maybe Sacre gives Lakers a boost too.

  28. If I were the Lakers training staff I would have Dwight take the first two months of the season to train and get into shape so to lesson the chances he re injures his back. I’m not saying he has a good chance to get back to 100 percent… But if he does it would be foolish to ruin the next 7-8 years of Lakers basketball for the first couple months of the season. The guy has by been active for seven months. We should let him et back into shape and more importantly strengthen his core before pounding his lower back over and over on the hardwood.

  29. No way 2003 can be blamed on Kobe. Anyone remember how “round” Shaq was that year? That was the season Shaq waited until training camp to get his toe surgery. He missed the first quarter of the season. He never got into shape. And Tim Duncan owned in that playoff series against the Spurs. Heck, if it wasn’t for Kobe and his string of 40 point games the team wouldn’t have even won 50 games that year.

    Malone’s injury was a big factor in 2004. But honestly, it just wan’t in the cards that year. To be fair, Kobe’s Colorado situation was a huge distraction. But there were many other issues. People forget how Gary Payton never took to the Triangle. The vitriol between Kobe and Shaq reached the point of no return as well. It just wan’t happening that year. Period. That can’t all be laid at Kobe’s feet.

  30. The dropoff in production once Malone hurt his back in the playoffs in 2004 was extremely significant.

    The Lakers backups on that team who could play PF were Samaki Walker and Slava Medvedenko (and by play for them, I take that term very broadly).

  31. If I’m not mistaken, we lost THREE forwards that season– Malone, Fox, and George. I contend we would have won if not for injuries.

  32. I’m with you Cdog (#30). Malone was just brutal that year (i.e., in a good way!), he had the MWP Vicegrip Hands of Menace on ‘D’, and could shoot that little jumper as ever, was just a fierce backbone for the team. (And, yeah, Payton…not so much, sadly.) When Malnoe got hurt, it just sucked the air out of that team’s power, the engine fell from 5th gear to 3rd. To my surprise, I just _loved_ having him on that team.

  33. Aaron,

    You are no medical expert, so your speaking on Dwight’s likelihood of recovery is akin to a shellfish discussing the molecular composition of Earth’s outer atmosphere.

    None of us have access to Dwight’s medical records or know details about the progress of his recovery. Given our complete ignorance (including you, Aaron), isn’t it best we leave the decisions to experts who actually have, ya know, evidence in front of them? I hope they’re using evidence to dictate the terms of his return instead of random numbers pulled from a random bloggers head (Oh please Yahweh).

  34. Kareem,
    I know that the only NBA basketball to make a complete recovery from a herniated disc was Scottie Pippen. Medically speaking it was because he had the surgery in his early 20’s allowing for the disc to regenerate instead of forming scar tissue. I also know it isn’t in a players best interest to get thrown into NBA basketball after sitting on his butt for seven months back surgery or not. I’m assuming the Lakers medical staff will make the right calls… But it doesn’t always happen. The Knicks aquired Larry Johnson fresh off a herniated disc and the Hornets did the same with Peja. Both players were never close to the same. Now there was probably nothing the training staffs could have done… Herniated discs kill careers… But you never know.

  35. Looking back on that 2004 season, if memory serves, the Lakers were off to an incredible start in the regular season. Then Karl Malone was injured when Scott Williams of the Suns fell on the Mailman’s knee as they both were chasing a ball going out of bounds. Karl was never the same after that and that severely impacted the Lakers’ chances that year. The Pistons were the beneficiaries of an injury situation twice in the Finals against The Show….once in ’89, when Magic and Scott went down. And again in 2004, when Karl Malone was incapacitated by injury. Of course, Pistons fans would argue that the Lakers benefited from the fact that Isiah Thomas was hobbled and essentially playing on one leg during the ’88 Finals. As a Laker fan, I say The Show would have beaten Detroit anyway in ’88. LOL!

  36. As a quick aside, I noted one of the video links on the right of the FB&G’s home page alluded to Shaq considering playing in Mexico. Perfect….he’d probably want to be now known as The Big Sombrero!

  37. My opinion on 2003 wasn’t Kobe’s fault it was just the Spurs year. Until we see 4 straight Finals appeareances with regularity you just have to say Lakers won 3 out of 4 and end the debate there.

    And 2004 obviously was a culmination of things. Kobe and Shaq years of feuding divided the team when the police did a disservice to Kobe releasing behind the door conversations. PJ resentment towards Kobe drove him to prove him otherwise and his shot selection showed that series. Nobody could guard Billups, Prince and Hamilton loaded up on Kobe every game because he was the only perimeter threat. And despite his great numbers Shaq was not in the best of shape and Ben Wallace really owned the paint that series. That’s one of the most underrated championship teams ever. Can’t win them all.

  38. I remember vividly when PJ used to be so upset at Kobe even when he made a shot. His whistles would be swift and always barking at Kobe even when he did good. It’s great that both were so much about winning so they decided to work things out. But man the Kobe PJ relationship as chronicled in Jackson’s book was not good at all. You’d think when someone wanted to be like Jordan and had the drive and skillset to do so the coach who coached Jordan would see that and help him out. It wasn’t until 05 that PJ relaxed and let Kobe be Kobe so to speak. But I always felt PJ deserved much more blame for the breakup of the Lakers and he seemed to slew his way out of there the way Carroll did to SC.

  39. Injuries: The media is against us and that is a fact : ) We hear about the Celtic injuries of 87 and the Piston injuries of 88. We never hear of the Laker injuries of 81, 83, 89, and 2004. IMO we would have won in 87 + 88 with or without the opponent injuries. However injuries definitely cost us the titles in 89 and 2004. Then again – I am a Laker fan – but at least I admit it. I could be a writer with a complete bias against the Lakers and write my stuff as if it is on the level : )

  40. Robert: don’t forget Perkins in 2010. And the true haters will say “Van Gundy started an injured Nelson over Alston in 09″ or “had Garnett not got hurt Celtics repeat in 09″. They’ll always come up with new ones.

  41. Kevin: Very true. My bad for not including the recent history. The Bynum injuries meant nothing in 2008 + 2009 and the Perkins injury meant everything in 2010.

  42. @ 39 Robert – I’ve seen many teams fall short because of injuries, but nothing s obvious like the Lakers 2004. When Malone was playing at 70%, we were winning. And when he was out, we stroggled. Not saying he was the best player/the soul of the team, but when he had that last injury, we were done.

    If he could have kept himself “playable”, we’d have won that one easy.

  43. @#38 Kevin….

    I agree with you that PJ escaped unscathed in the Shaq/Kobe fiasco. And I always thought Phil was a bit of a hypocrite. Kobe was “uncoachable” in Jackson’s mind until there were $12M reasons for a change of heart. It has always amazed me that Kobe was able to reconcile their relationship after Phil so publicly scapegoated him in “The Last Season”. I guess the rich are truly different.

  44. Aaron,

    I believe I posted some numbers a few weeks back. David Robinson’s PER (a stat you love) did not dip too much after his operation, yet his decline also happened to coincide with his mid 30’s. Age or injury? Peja’s disc surgery took place at 29, yet in his late 20’s, he only had one year with a PER above 20. The 2004-2005 season before his surgery, he posted a PER of 17.3. After his surgery, at the ripening age of 30 and 31, he posted two consecutive years of 15.8. A decline, for sure, but not the precipitous one that you’re portraying.

    These numbers, in my opinion, do nothing to clarify your assertion, especially as they only represent FIVE case studies. Any medical researcher would throw out this evidence for generalizeable analysis because the sample size is so small and there aren’t very reliable statistical tests to analyze it. Moreover, any qualified doctor would tell you that people injure, respond, and recover differently. And you don’t have Howard’s medical charts, you couldn’t read them if you did; ergo, you’re proceeding to make a farce out of nearly 400 years of scientific method and the basic tenets of empiricism (evidence). Descartes would not be pleased.

  45. 44) Kareem,
    “Descartes would not be pleased.”

    Oh, I disagree; I think he would see this as validation.

  46. Like I said… I hope Dwight joins Scottie Pippen as the only basketball player to make a full recovery.

  47. Ok Aaron, u don’t need to state the obvious over and over and over again. It almost sounds like you wish the man ill. He isn’t stupid and neither is the Lakers front office.