Archives For October 2012

Wednesday Storylines

Dave Murphy —  October 17, 2012

Last night’s Lakers loss to the Jazz offered few positive takeaways apart from Kobe Bryant’s highly entertaining third quarter. It was also good to see Jodie Meeks find his stroke late in the game – this is why he was signed, to bring instant offense in limited minutes. The oh and four preseason start isn’t of any meaningful consequence except for the fact that fans don’t especially like it, the players themselves don’t especially like it, and the media in general uses the opportunity to question what’s wrong and how it can and should be fixed. In truth, the hows and cans are part of the training camp process with games being used as lab experiments.

Yesterday, Darius took a look at the building of a strong roster, the potential of certain bubble players and the harsh cost via luxury taxes of cutting a guaranteed contract. I agree absolutely with the three non-guaranteed players that he he singled out as holding the most potential; Sacre, Johnson Odom and Douglas-Roberts. The dollar-for-dollar penalties are tough though and the front office is now tasked with the cold hard choices. The first round of cuts is complicated by injuries – Earl Clark, Jordan Hill and Dwight Howard are not playing yet and the non-guaranteed bigs are being pressed into service.

There’s been quite a bit of talk about Derek Fisher and a possible path back to the Lakers. In its simplest form, it turns out the Fisher could conceivably return tomorrow due to the fact that he never exercised his player option for a subsequent year, when he was still a Laker. Regardless of rules, it’s hard to imagine the team bringing him back without freeing themselves of either Chris Duhon’s or Steve Blake’s guaranteed contract. I can’t see any team out there taking Duhon off our hands and I’d be surprised to see Blake traded – Mike Brown seems to like what he brings to the table. Mitch Kupchak will surprise you though – we saw this when he sent Fish packing last season.

Of course, if Fisher were to return, it would add another aging veteran to a roster that is already long in the tooth and one of the pitfalls of older teams is the propensity for fatigue and injury. There’s been a fair amount of recent discussion about Coach Brown’s sometimes heavy-handed practice tenancies. With the team’s well-documented health concerns, Brown is trying to find the right balance not only in practice but in game situations as well.

Regardless of Fisher or any other single player that the Lakers might or might not sign this season, the future will come and new blood will be needed. Part of the NBA’s future supply pool can be regularly found toiling in the NBDL, ever hopeful of a call-up to the Game. The Lakers roster will be trimmed by at least five players before now and and the start of regular season play and some will undoubtedly wind up on the D-Fenders quad, guided by new head coach Reggie Theus. There will also be the opportunity for young players who do survive the cut, to spend time with the D-Fenders, seasoning their skills and getting much needed game-time action.

Finally, lest we forget that there’s more to the game of basketball besides just basketball, league officials have now determined that excessive handshaking is detrimental to the nature of the sport. Sometimes it just bears repeating, the NBA cares.

– Dave Murphy


The Lakers take the floor for their 4th preseason game and 2nd against the Jazz in the last few days.

With the opponent the same as the last outing, you can look to our last preview for specifics about the Jazz and other notes on the Lakers. The goals for the preseason remain the same for the Lakers — to get extended looks at their role players, start to find and refine the roles of players expected to be in the rotation, and to continue to install their schemes on both sides of the ball.

And, ultimately, that’s what we’ll be looking closely at tonight. After this game the Lakers will be halfway home in their preseason. So we should start to have a better idea — and soon — on what the rotations may shape up to be and who has a good chance of making the team.

Of course these things will be influenced very much by the Lakers that won’t play (that Dwight Howard guy is pretty important, just as Jordan Hill is). There’s a trickle down from having those guys available that the Lakers can’t yet benefit from. However, that too should be rectified soon.

So, tonight, sit back and enjoy the game (hopefully you get to watch it) for what it is and tell me what you think in the comments. The games that really matter will be back soon. I promise.



Even with a roster as top-heavy as the Lakers — and analysis leading us to look at those new additions — I find myself consistently drifting to the bottom of the roster and looking at those bubble players that are fighting to be one of the final fifteen. Maybe it’s that normal preseason obsession with filling out a team. As friend of the site JD Hastings told me, “figuring out who will be the 14th man seems important until the first game of the season”.

Of course, there’s truth in that. The Lakers not only traded for Howard and Nash but signed Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks while brining back Jordan Hill and Devin Ebanks. With these new signings and last season’s holdovers they have built a ten man rotation that should be able to compete for a championship right now. The guys beyond those ten spots are, essentially, filler.

That said, the chief goal of roster construction is to put together the strongest team imaginable. Accomplishing that still means looking at the players performing well in training camp and figuring out who should stay and who should go. And, to be honest, the Lakers are still a team that can use some help on their second unit and filling out the roster with the best players currently on their roster (and learning the teams’ schemes) would aid in that goal. The question then becomes: who should those players be?

At this point, I’m gravitating towards three names: Robert Sacre, Chris Douglas-Roberts, and Darius Johnson Odom.

I won’t spend too much time on Sacre since he’s been a staple of our preseason reports up to this point. However, I will say this again: Sacre has shown through the combination of his size, smarts, and ability to play to his strengths that he belongs on the team. He’s shown that he can easily be the Lakers’ 5th big, dress for games, and play spot minutes if absolutely needed. And that’s before Jordan Hill’s injury put big man depth at the top of the needs list.

Douglas-Roberts has shown that he too is a viable candidate to make the team. His scoring is as good as it was before he left for Italy during the lockout. Plus, the other aspects of his game (namely his defense and rebounding) look to be improved from when he last suited up in the association. I won’t bore you with specifics (at least not at this point), but will simply say that CDR understands offensive basketball at an instinctive level. He takes naturally to concepts like spacing, timing, and the ability to move around the floor that other players never do show. Some things just can’t be taught and some of those things are a staple of his game.

As for Johnson-Odom, he’s a guy that, plain and simple, is a hard-nosed basketball player at its most fundamental level. He plays defense, will attack his man on both ends without hesitation, and seems to know how to make the play in front of him even if not always successfully. His fundamentals are good enough to play in the league and his desire is more than enough. How that translates to a career when his plus athleticism doesn’t quite make up for his lack of ideal size at shooting guard remains to be seen. But if you asked me if I see him in the league in five years my answer would be yes.

The issue with pointing to three players I’d like to see make the roster is that the Lakers don’t have three roster spots to hand out. In fact, at the most they have two and depending on how they feel about Andrew Goudelock they may only have one. This puts the team in a (relatively small) dilemma if they want to have the best roster available to them. At least based off what we’ve seen so far this preseason.

Logistically, here are few things worth mentioning:

  • Andrew Goudelock is the only returning player with an non-guaranteed contract.
  • Every other contract on the team counts against the cap and the luxury tax whether the Lakers waive them or not.
  • Of the players outside of the presumed ten man rotation, only Darius Morris ($937K this year) and Earl Clark ($1.24 million this year) have zero guaranteed dollars next season.
  • Chris Duhon’s deal is partially guaranteed next season ($3.68 million this year).

The Lakers already have a $100 million payroll before paying a penny of luxury tax. Cutting a player on a guaranteed deal costs them double (due to the tax) as will any player signed in that released player’s place (again due to the tax). Is any combination of players to cut — Clark and/or Morris, for example — when swapped for a player to potentially keep — CDR and/or DJO — worth that hit?

I’m never one to spend Dr. Buss’ money. He’s shelled out top dollar for a team that has three of the league’s five highest paid players, including the highest paid one (and by a healthy margin). The expectation is that they’ll try to pay Howard the max after this season for several years more while still having Kobe and Gasol on their books and paying Nash nearly ten figures until he’s 41 years old. Asking ownership to shell out more money now — especially on bottom of the roster players — seems like a special type of greed that I don’t want to be associated with in the least.

However, the Lakers are in also in a position where certain players at the bottom of their roster actually look like they should be on the team over guys that have guaranteed contracts. And this isn’t exactly new territory. Last season, the team lacked depth/relied on unreliable players on the wing while Gerald Green put up strong numbers on the D-Fenders. Ultimately, he received a call up to the Nets that he parlayed into a contract with the Pacers this off-season. Hindsight says he should have been a Laker taking some of Kobe’s 38 minutes a night or serving as another wing to challenge for minutes when Barnes got hurt/lost effectiveness.

This season shouldn’t offer those same issues in terms of overall team quality. This roster seems stronger. And filling out the bottom of it at this point in the preseason could just be that thing that we spend time on that won’t matter in three weeks. Still, I find myself looking at these guys and hoping they find a way onto the team. And that gets complicated rather quickly.

*Derek Fisher is player who also fits into this discussion so let’s touch on his status now. With news that he’s eligible to join the Lakers immediately rather than March of 2013, some wonder if he’d be a good option to join the team. I’m not one of those people (though arguments that he could help in some ways aren’t lost on me). Fisher’s past contributions to the Lakers are well documented and greatly appreciated by everyone (especially me). However if you’re of the mind that Fisher could help the team in some capacity as an on floor contributor, the numbers game discussed above is still in play. Do you cut a player with a guaranteed contract to sign Fisher? Do you work on a trade to free a roster spot to sign him? Do you value him more than Sacre or DJO or CDR? The answer to those questions may vary based on how much you value his tangible and intangible contributions but he’s still on the outside looking in as of today and the same complexities apply. At this point, I don’t see adding Fisher as a priority and think there are bigger issues to work out before it should even be considered.

From Ramona Shelburne, ESPN Los AngelesDwight Howard had no idea how good he had it as he left Staples Center late Saturday night. “Day off tomorrow!” he said happily as he left the arena. After a long week of practice, three exhibition games, plus travel to Fresno and Ontario, it wasn’t surprising the Lakers would take Sunday off before starting a week in which they’ll practice every day, play three more exhibition games and travel to Anaheim and Las Vegas. It wasn’t surprising unless of course you spent any time around the team during Mike Brown’s first season as head coach. During the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season, the Lakers worked 19 straight days from the time training camp started on December 9, finally taking a day off on December 28 after opening the regular season with back-to-back-to-back games. Things didn’t get much easier from there, as Brown earned the nickname “All day, every day” from his players, many of whom chafed at the coach’s hard-driving style.

From Mark Medina, LA TimesOne key Lakers veteran has high expectations for something that hardly warranted praise in recent seasons. “I feel we can be one of the most dangerous benches in the league,” said Antawn Jamison. Despite the “Bench Mob” and “Killer Bees” nicknames in recent seasons, few would describe that unit in Jamison’s terms. Last season, the Lakers finished last in points (20.5), 28th in efficiency (27.2), 20th in shooting percentage (41.7%) and 28th in point differential (9.4). Coach Mike Brown played musical chairs in the bench rotation in hopes he’d find a sudden surprise. Even with Lamar Odom falling off the deep end in Dallas, his absence created an irreplaceable void as the team’s bench leader. The Lakers have made changes this off-season to address those problems. They added dependable secondary scoring (Jamison) and outside shooting (Jodie Meeks). They kept young talent (Devin Ebanks) and sudden surprises (Jordan Hill).

From Trevor Wong, Lakers.comA year ago, Metta World Peace conceded he was out of shape. His shot was off, he seemed to be a step slow defensively and his entire game was affected. “The lockout hurt me a lot, because last season going into the playoffs I had a nerve issue in my back,” he explained during his exit interview in May. “Once the lockout happened I wasn’t able to address it so all I could do was rest. It took me 2-3 months to get in shape.” During the first half of last season, World Peace shot only 33.5 percent from the field and 23.9 percent from the 3-point line, while averaging just 4.9 points.

From Brian Kamenetzky, ESPN Los AngelesKobe knows exactly how he prioritizes that sort of thing relative to winning. Over the course of now 17 seasons in L.A., the demands on Kobe as a leader have changed. Earlier in his career, Bryant’s role wasn’t as expansive. He didn’t so much lead (not in the way we traditionally think of the word, at least) as get out front in a very competitive environment and drag guys with him through will, stubbornness, and on-floor talent. In time, though, as more has been required Bryant has adjusted. He’s softened the edges, grown less insular, and learned you can’t be that guy all the time and expect people to follow. There is greater depth to his leadership, and never does he demand levels of hard work he’s himself unwilling to meet.

From Marc Stein, ESPN.comImportant update to our weekend report regarding the prospect of a return to the Los Angeles Lakers for veteran guard Derek Fisher. Sources briefed on the discussions told on Monday that Fisher has, indeed, been verified by the league office as eligible to re-sign with the Lakers since July 1, which runs counter to the widely held assumption that Fisher had to wait at least one year from the date that the Lakers dealt him to Houston in March before a reunion with Kobe Bryant would be permissible.

From Mike Trudell, Lakers.comLakers reserve forward Earl Clark strained his left groin and is out indefinitely. Clark, acquired in the Dwight Howard trade with Orlando, has played solid defense in training camp but is not expected to be in the regular bench rotation. In the regular season, the Lakers will most likely have Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol play center for the second unit, with Jordan Hill and Antawn Jamison getting the power forward minutes.

-Ryan Cole

The Breakdown: Steve Nash

Phillip Barnett —  October 15, 2012

Over the summer the Lakers signed point guard Steve Nash, and after a couple months of me yelling at myself “oh my God we have Steve Nash!” I could not wait to see how he’d play in the games. Through the Lakers first three preseason games I’ve realized that watching this rendition of the Los Angeles Lakers is unique to any team over the last 15 years. It is no secret that Steve Nash has been putting a lot of pressure on defenses, but watching the ways in which he goes about doing this has been different, but fun, to watch. The Lakers coaching staff has wanted this Lakers team to be a bit more up-tempo, and they have succeeded at playing faster, but have also been good at allowing Nash to put pressure on defenses in half-court sets.

What I’ve noticed in a lot of sets so far is that Steve Nash is either screening away or cutting through the middle after making his initial pass. He’s taking a defender with him away from where the action is, and going back to receive the ball if the action doesn’t quickly lead to a shot attempt. He’ll swing the ball to Kobe to see if he can get anything working on the wing or dump the ball into the pinch post to Sacre or Pau with a wing in the corner for a two man game — but if nothing seems to be developing, Nash goes back to get the ball and effectively gets into what he does best: probing around with the ball until a shot for someone opens up. For the most part, this has involved Nash slyly getting into the paint and either hoisting up a floater or finding one of the bigs for an easy basket.

Nash’s ability to penetrate at any given time has made his teammates more dangerous as well. In the first video, you saw three sets of eyes on Nash as he attacked the rim, leaving Sacre open underneath for a shot at an easy two. Throughout the course of the preseason, we’ve seen Nash hit Kobe on a skip pass for a wide open three, hit Pau at the elbow for a few 15-foot jump shots, gotten Ron the ball as he ran along the baseline and has gotten his own shot off like we saw in the second clip.

We’ve also seen a lot of Nash in P&R sets as expected. If you remember from last year, the Lakers would have a big, either Pau or Bynum, trailing on plays. What the Lakers would do then was have the guard swing the ball to the trailing big, and have that big either the dump it in to the other big or reverse the ball to the opposite side and get into the horns sets. This year the Lakers have had a trailing big, but instead of stopping above the three point line, that big is actually standing just inside the three-point line and setting a high the screen for Nash. For the most part the big has been Sacre with Pau heading to the low block on the opposite side.

And through these P&R sets, we’ve seen myriad outcomes. Again, Nash has found Kobe on the weak side for open jumpers, he has hit the cutter with accurate, pin point passes and has knocked down the open jumper off the screen. What I’ve liked the most, and what I hope we see more of as the season progresses is the 1-4 P&R with Gasol. Nash has this insane ability to place those tricky pocket passes right where they need to be, and Pau is one of the best in the business in the pick-and-pop game. In the following example, Pau misses the shot, but you can see how well these two already work together. Pau sets a screen on Nash’s right and slips out to his left side with Aldridge hedging and Nash slips a slick pass right between the two defenders giving Pau a wide open look.

I thought we might see some 1-2 P&R action between Kobe and Nash, however I can’t remember a time where this has happened in the first three games. An action that I did notice that they’ve run in conjunction is a double-down screen for Nash where Nash makes the initial guard-to-guard pass to Kobe and goes over to set an on ball screen for him. Instead of making contact, Nash slips the screen and took his man down to the strong side block with Sacre moving up the line to the elbow. Pau moved up to the right wing and received a pass from Kobe. Gasol made a hard dribble toward the top of the key while Sacre and Kobe both set down screens for Nash who came up the line to receive a pass from Pau. They actually ran this exact set two times before Nash actually caught the pass on the third attempt. (Kobe actually makes the pass on the 3rd attempt with Pau and Sacre setting the down screens as evidenced in the following clip). They’ve also ran a similar play where Nash curled off a Ron down screen that led to him assisting on Sacre bucket early in the third quarter against Utah. Kobe was wide open in the opposite corner.

A lot of talk there was a lot of talk about Nash playing off the ball this off season, but this really hasn’t been the case thus far. Naturally, playing on a team with four other guys who have made all-star appearances, it was hard to imagine any scenario where Nash would be handling the ball as much as he did as a member of the Suns, but any time Nash has been off the ball has been constructive. There hasn’t been a point where Nash has just stood in the corner and hoped for a pass to head his way like we saw with Sessions, Blake and Fisher in previous seasons. They’ve either run sets for Nash as described above (shown below) or he’s been off the ball for a Kobe isolation or a two man game with Kobe and Pau, who have more than enough developed chemistry to justify moving Nash to the weak side without the ball for a couple possessions per game.

Lastly, we’ve seen the Lakers push the ball more often and get into their sets much earlier than last season. I’ll let Zephid take it from here:

The big impression I got with Nash running the show is that the Lakers get into their sets a LOT earlier in the shot clock.  It seemed like the past couple of years, the Lakers wouldn’t get into their offense until 16-14 seconds were left on the shot clock, while in the two preseason games, they’ve been getting into their sets at about the 20 second mark.

I think the benefits of this are twofold.

1.) The Lakers are attacking more often in semi-transition, where the defense is back but maybe not completely set, and at times cross-matched.  All 5 of our starters are especially good at punishing mismatches, so the Lakers could see a lot of easy points just for Nash pushing the ball a little.

2.) When the Lakers don’t get anything easy, they have more time to make their reads and get a good shot.  Too many times last year the Lakers would get into their sets late, pound the ball, and then have Kobe or someone chuck up a terrible shot with the clock running down.  With more time on the clock, the Lakers should have more time to get off a higher percentage shot, or at least generate an imbalance in the defense to get offensive boards.

In recent years, I’ve found that the Lakers were the most frustrating team to watch in transition. A lot of this is probably rooted in me wanting them to succeed, but these concerns were also legitimized in the numbers. Last season, the Lakers were 29th in the league in fast-break points with only 9.3 per game, and were dead last on the road with an abysmal 6.9 fast-break points per game. So far this preseason, Nash has made scoring in transition seem effortless while he was on the floor. In the following clip, we’ll see Nash fly up the court with a 3 on 2 advantage and throw a no-look pass to Artest for an easy basket. What isn’t shown is that Nash hit Artest in transition on the previous possession who got fouled and knocked down both free throws.

We’re only three games into the preseason and the Princeton offense is still in its infancy with this team, but you can already see how Nash’s ability to constantly put pressure on the defense is going to make this a much more efficient offense this season — and we haven’t even seen Dwight Howard on the floor yet. As the season progresses, I think we’ll start seeing some 1-2 P&Rs considering they weren’t too shabby between Kobe and Sessions and some more Nash off ball action that will allow Pau and Howard to work together. One thing I didn’t point out in this post is how Nash is getting Ron involved. We’ve seen Ron score in just about every way that he can in these few games because of the pressure Nash has been able to take off of him just by getting him the ball in the right situations. This is going to help the Lakers leaps and bounds if Ron can continue to take the right shots and exploit mismatches when they’re available. In the next few games, I’m going to be paying special attention to how Pau is utilized and how they’re adjusting to the Princeton Offense.

From Ramona Shelburne, ESPN Los AngelesRobert Sacre was already on to the part where he needed to get his mind right to deal with all the sympathy texts. Missouri point guard Marcus Denmon had been chosen by the San Antonio Spurs, 59th overall in the 2012 NBA draft and the Los Angeles Lakers, a team he’d never even worked out for, had the last pick. Sacre’s one-year-old son Quinton was tired and ready for bed. His family had gathered at his grandparents’ house in Villeplatte, Louisiana started getting concerned. That’s probably it, Sacre thought. “But I figured I’d been watching for the last four and a half hours, might as well finish it out,” Sacre said. “Mentally, I was already preparing for all the sympathy texts like, ‘Don’t worry, everything is going to be alright’ and trying to get my head right.” And then he saw it. Or heard it. Who remembers the details now? The Lakers took him with the 60th and last pick in the NBA draft.

From Kevin Ding, OC RegisterFor a Lakers team expecting to win an NBA championship, here’s a rather unnerving statement from the coach: “None of the backup spots are set,” Mike Brown said Saturday night before the Lakers’ third exhibition game. A week and a half into camp, the Lakers don’t know that much about the bench that they hoped to upgrade substantially from last season. And it’s NBA reality that a bench really understanding its roles is just as important as a bench with really good talent. Antawn Jamison did show something Saturday night at Staples Center in the Lakers’ 99-86 loss to the Utah Jazz with nine points and some uncharacteristically active defense. He’s not the type of player who is going to wow anyone considering his vertical leap is even less than hefty Metta World Peace’s circa 2011, but Jamison is the closest thing the Lakers have to a sure thing off the bench.

From Elliot Teaford, LA Daily News: Antawn Jamison needed a job last summer. The Lakers needed to fill a vacancy for a veteran backup forward. So, it seemed natural the Lakers would sign Jamison to a one-season, $1.3 million contract. But there was another reason Jamison decided to give the Lakers a try, and it wasn’t only because he’s in search of his first championship ring after 14 seasons. “He was one of the reasons I wanted to come here,” Jamison said. “He” was not superstar guard Kobe Bryant, although it could have been just as easily the reason Jamison signed. Nor was it future Hall of Fame point guard Steve Nash. Nor was it center Dwight Howard. Nor was it Pau Gasol. Nor was it Metta World Peace. No, Jamison referred to Lakers coach Mike Brown.

From Mark Medina, LA Times: It wasn’t exactly love at first sight, but Metta World Peace hardly hesitated sharing the message his name entails. The Lakers forward had just stripped the ball away from Utah’s Gordan Hayward before it dribbled out of bounds. World Peace then ran out of bounds and retrieved the ball from a young woman sitting behind the basket. Before he hopped back onto the court, World Peace leaned down and kissed the woman’s hand. “I just saw in her eyes that she liked the hustle,” World Peace said after the Lakers’ 99-86 preseason loss Saturday to the Utah Jazz at Staples Center. “I saw it in her eyes. We made eye contact.”

From Ben Rosales, Silver Screen & Roll: Aside from the big names, we have been treated to a veritable panoply of subsidiary actors who have made an impression on us for good or ill, and transformed the discussion for who should stay on the final roster from a straightforward issue into one much more difficult and complex. Injuries create opportunities, as the absence of Dwight Howard and Jordan Hill has opened the gates for the likes of Robert Sacre. Other players on the roster have also made their efforts to move up in the rotation. The most surprising candidate, however, so far in the preseason has to go to a more familiar face who has backed up the oldest of training camp cliches of being in the “best shape of his life.”

From Mark J. Spears, Yahoo SportsThese days, Ramon Sessions finds himself a long way from the bright lights and star-filled locker room of the Los Angeles Lakers. He’s traded a starting job on the NBA’s glamour roster for one on the NBA’s worst team – and somehow that’s just fine with him. Sessions could have returned to the Lakers this season, but instead opted out of the $4.5 million final year of his contract to test the free-agent market. A concern of the Lakers trading him, a desire for more contract security and a chance to play near home have made Sessions comfortable with his decision to sign a two-year, $10 million deal with the Bobcats. “It wasn’t hard,” Sessions told Yahoo! Sports. “Myself being around the league for six years or so, five different teams, it is what it is. I’m not worried about [what people think]. As long as the name is still on the back of the jersey, that’s what I’m worrying about.”

From Kobe Bryant, Facebook PageLeadership is responsibility. There comes a point when one must make a decision. Are YOU willing to do what it takes to push the right buttons to elevate those around you? If the answer is YES, are you willing to push the right buttons even if it means being perceived as the villain? Here’s where the true responsibility of being a leader lies. Sometimes you must prioritize the success of the team ahead of how your own image is perceived. The ability to elevate those around you is more than simply sharing the ball or making teammates feel a certain level of comfort. It’s pushing them to find their inner beast, even if they end up resenting you for it at the time.

-Ryan Cole

The Lakers preseason tour returns home tonight as the Jazz visit the Staples Center. Maybe the team will find things more comfortable after sleeping in their own beds and find a way to end their first W of the preseason. Or, maybe not.

The Lakers will again be without Dwight Howard. Kobe Bryant should play — his sore shoulder was nothing serious — and will likely see a ramping up of his minutes from last Sunday’s opener. The same is true for Gasol, Nash, and Metta as all will play and all will likely be in the 25-30 minute range.

As for the role players, expect some changes from the last game in that Brown will likely start to shift around the minutes to get looks at different guys. Against the Blazers, several players saw little or no playing time, and they’ll likely be guys that get looks tonight where others might see less.

That starts with Darius Morris who will likely see an uptick in minutes behind Steve Nash and ahead of Steve Blake and Chris Duhon. The latter two veterans have been okay this preseason but the team also knows what they have in  those two. Morris, however, is looking to continue to show he can do more and the preseason is a chance for him to show coaches that he’s worth investing minutes in. He’ll need to show he can defend and hit some of the open shots afforded him on offense. He’ll also need to not over-dribble and organize the Lakers sets (Brown said before L.A.’s first preseason game against the Warriors that all the PG’s would be given the same “quarterbacking” responsibility that Nash has).

After Morris, the next guy I’m looking at is Chris Douglas-Roberts. He’s showing more and more that the skills that made him an NBA draft pick and rotation player three years ago are still present. Every game he’s showing that he belongs in this league and if it’s not with the Lakers it will be with some other team. Where he fits in on a crowded wing of players at the bottom of the roster remains to be seen, but, again, his offensive skills impress and his willingness to defend has been better than what I remember of him before his one season stint in Europe last year.

As for the Lakers’ opponent, the Jazz are still a very nice team that looks to make more noise this year. Last season they rode a nice mix of veterans and youngsters to the 8th seed in the playoffs and, after some solid off-season moves, they think they can build on that. The Jazz traded for Mo Williams (from the Clippers as part of the Odom trade) and also sent Devin Harris to the Hawks for Marvin Williams. By also adding Randy Foye, the Jazz added three contributors to their wing that can compliment their stable of big men.

It’s those bigs that remain the strength of this Utah team. In Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors, and Enes Kanter the Jazz possess four very good bigs that can all help the team in a variety of ways. They offer versatility in skill and position and will be a load for even the best front courts to handle (and that includes the Lakers — especially tonight with Howard and Hill both not playing).

On the wing the Jazz offer not on the three aforementioned additions, but have two relatively young players worth paying attention to. First is Gordon Heyward, a nice SF/SG that has an all-court game, shows desire on D, and can create for himself or his teammates. Second is Alec Burks, a player entering his 2nd season and has already flashed nice ability as a shooter and slasher that also plays good defense. If either or both of these players take another step forward this season, the Jazz will be an improved team and that’s before you account for Mo Williams’ shooting upgrading their spacing or the further development of Favors and Kanter.

In terms of tonight, look for more tweaking from the Lakers’ end especially in the form of rotations and which young players get extended looks. Also look to see if the offense looks any cleaner and if the D can remain disciplined (Mike Brown’s mentioned his D gambling too much after both preseason games). The word out of Lakers’ camp is that the losses don’t concern them and I both believe that to be true and think the same way. However, it would be nice to start to play better and even get a win and that starts with better play in the 2nd half. Let’s see if we get it tonight.

The Other Guys: At #7…

J.M. Poulard —  October 12, 2012

Typically, when sports shows present montages of teams that were fortunate enough to win a championship, the underlying message that usually gets thrown out to the fans is that this group of people reached the mountaintop through blood, sweat and tears.

Obviously, the message is often lost on those that rather concentrate on the contributions of superstars; but there is nothing quite like seeing a unit go through some hardships to be the last team standing.

Although, we as the media like to look at the journey from the eyes of the superstars, sometimes the outlook of a player with far less talent can perfectly capture the scene, provided that he is one that plays with heart and hustle.

Today, the seventh best Lakers role player of all-time exemplifies this journey…

Kurt Rambis

To many, Kurt Rambis is the guy that used to play for the Lakers with the cool/goofy glasses. But to diehard basketball and Lakers fans alike, he was so much more.

The big man joined the Los Angeles Lakers in 1981 and was immediately part of the rotation because he gave the team some interior defense as well as some much needed rebounding. With Rambis backing up at power forward, the Los Angeles Lakers won the world title in his rookie season.

By his second year with the Lakers, he was getting 23.2 minutes per game, and played the part of a reliable big man for the team.

Mind you, his minutes took a dip the following year (1983-84 regular season), as Norm Nixon was traded and Byron Scot joined the team. That combined with the emergence of James Worthy meant that the Lakers would occasionally use Big Game James at the power forward spot with Scott and Michael Cooper taking over duties at shooting guard and small forward on occasion.

The Lakers fell at the hands of the Boston Celtics in the 1984 NBA Finals, and the Lakers redefined themselves ever so slightly. With Jamaal Wilkes’ rebounding numbers on the decline, Pat Riley once again started giving more minutes to the Santa Clara product in order to help shore up the defense and protect the backboards.

The Lakers faced the stigma of being a soft team with their loss at the hands of the Celtics in the ’84 Finals.

They were Showtime.

They outran teams, executed better and played sharper than most of their opponents, but were they tougher? Many felt they were not after being humbled by Boston.

The truth was that although they were a finesse team, they certainly knew how to impose their will on the game and even occasionally get scrappy.

Kurt Rambis was one of the players that exhibited the Lakers’ grit perfectly. During the purple and gold’s run through the 1980s, the man with the glasses appeared in 493 games, averaged 18.7 minutes per game, 5.3 points per game and 5.9 rebounds per game on 55.3 percent field goal shooting.

The numbers are rather miniscule in truth, but they do not tell the whole story.

The Santa Clara product was called upon to defend power forwards, set screens, rebound, get out of the way on offense — literally — and finish plays whenever defenders completely forgot about him. The tasks might not sound like much, but every now and then, Rambis had to play the role of enforcer, where he took a few hard fouls and refused to allow opponents to punk either him or his team.

On a team renowned for flash, glamour and glitz, Rambis was one of the few guys in the rotation that had to play ugly for the team to be successful.

Consequently, his contributions often get overlooked or even marginalized, but he was a big part of the championship puzzle in the early 80s; as he was called upon to defend the ever clever Kevin McHale, who is considered to have the most devastating array of post moves in NBA history.

With Rambis patrolling the paint next to Abdul-Jabbar, the Los Angeles Lakers rebounded in the 1985 playoffs and defeated the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals.

In ensuing seasons, his playing time decreased as A.C. Green would become a more prominent player for the Lakers given his ability to help execute the zone trap, and Mychal Thompson was acquired to help defend the post, which in turn made Rambis the odd man out. He still got some regular minutes, but nothing quite like what he enjoyed in his first two seasons with the club.

Nonetheless, the 6’8’’ forward was a contributor to the greatest Los Angeles Lakers teams as voted by our own FB&G panel, and he also managed to be part of one the few NBA dynasties.

He eventually left the team and joined a few other ball clubs before returning to the Lakers for his final two seasons before retiring.

Some might argue that both Bob McAdoo and Rick Fox should have been ahead of Rambis, and that is certainly debatable, but Rambis edged both out by spending the first seven seasons of his career playing for the Lakers during their most successful run since moving to Los Angeles. With Kurt Rambis alternating between starter and reserve big man, the Lakers made seven appearances in the Western Conference Finals, six trips to the NBA Finals and won four titles.

Rambis may not have been the most important player for the Lakers, but he most certainly illustrated in many ways what the Lakers were not. They were not soft, they weren’t just style over substance and they were not a gang of chumps.

Kurt Rambis not only gave the Lakers blood, sweat and tears, but he also represented it better than most.