Archives For October 2012

The Lakers’ preseason tour continues tonight, this time in Las Vegas against the Kings. The Lakers are still looking for their first win of the preseason while the Kings are….uh…(google search)….2-1 but coming off a loss to that preseason juggernaut Warriors team.

For the Lakers, they’ll still be without two-thirds of their big man rotation as Dwight Howard still isn’t ready to play (but will be Sunday, maybe) and Jordan Hill isn’t yet cleared for contact while recovering from his own back issues. The good news is that Pau Gasol will play this evening so at least four of the Lakers’ starters will be in the line up tonight.

On the reserves front, everyone is available but sorting out who will actually play is another story. Last game Douglas-Roberts and Johnson-Odom saw to no time in favor of playing Goudelock, Morris, and co. Meanwhile big men Ronnie Aguilar and Reeves Nelson also saw heavy minutes. Of course some of this is related to injuries (and the fact that Pau sat out to rest) and doesn’t really mean that much beyond not giving fans the consistency in lineups that they’d like to see.

Ultimately, though, this will change soon. Within the next week, we’re sure to start to see cuts and the rotations will normalize. But that’s for a later discussion.

Tonight, the Lakers face an intriguing young Kings team that is looking to finally put together years of lottery picks and become a player in a crowded Western Conference. This past June they selected Kansas forward Thomas Robinson, a do it all forward that can play down low while also showing talent to play high on the floor.

He’ll be paired in the front court with DeMarcus Cousins, who seems ready to take the leap into one of the best young bigs in the league with head coach Keith Smart guiding him. Cousins shows a complete game — including being one of the best offensive rebounders in the league — and must only start to better finish at the rim before he’s just a total beast.

In the backcourt, the Kings remain a work in progress but do have some bright spots. Second year man Isaiah Thomas had a nice rookie year running the point and hopes to build on that bright spot of a campaign. Marcus Thornton offers real scoring punch on the wing and can get buckets from nearly any spot on the floor once he gets going. And Jimmer Fredette is also starting to find his comfort zone more, not looking as overwhelmed this preseason as he did last season.

The real question mark in this group is Tyreke Evans. The former rookie of the year is entering a make or break season for the Kings. His game, for all intents and purposes, has progressed only marginally from his superb rookie campaign and the Kings need more from him if they’re to take the next step as an organization. A lot is riding on him improving, not only his future (he is seeking a contract extension) but his team’s too.

Tonight, though, it’s the preseason and these are storylines to monitor as the year progresses. So, sit back and enjoy the game. Hopefully, on Sunday when these two teams face off again, we’ll have something “super” to look forward to.

Friday Forum

Dave Murphy —  October 19, 2012

Mike Brown went into last year’s lockout-shortened season with little in the way of training camp and a team that was to put it mildly, evolving. Similarly, he’s entering his second season with another crop of new faces – some are stars, some are journeymen and some are just starting their NBA journeys. The longtime face of the franchise of course is Kobe Bryant and while he brings a sense of stability and purpose in the present, there is still the expectation of change. Bryant has hinted at his retirement when his present contract runs out and recent talk has been as much about free agent possibilities in 2014 as it is about a run for the ring this year. As for the right here, right now – all eyes are on Dwight Howard who may be eying Sunday for his long-awaited return to game action.

Ramona Shelburne for ESPN GO also looks at Dwight Howard’s state of readiness, and the butterflies that he anticipates for his Lakers debut.

Brian Kamenetzky for ESPN’s Lakers Report, writes about how improving fundamentals improves Howard’s health.

Also on the subject of improving health, Yahoo Sports via the AP, reports on Jordan Hill’s return to practice.

Eric Pincus kicks off his new gig at the LATimes, Lakers Now blog.

Kevin Ding of the OC Register talks with Lakers executive vice president Jim Buss about the 2014 season and cap room for a major free agent signing.

Actuarially Sound for Silver Screen and Roll, wonders if we’ll witness history being made this season

Suki Thind at Lakers Nation reports on Kobe Bryant’s mission to help those in need, including a fundraising walk.

Curtis Harris at Pro Hoops History remembers Minneapolis Laker great Slater Martin who passed away yesterday at the age of 86.

There were some recent reports about NBA referee Greg Willard and his battle with cancer. Nobody has written about it more poignantly in my opinion, then Elliott Teaford for Inside the Lakers.

While much is expected from this year’s Lakers, there is no certainty in sports or in life. Only that it is ever changing and that the end date often feels too soon. The beauty of the yearly draft is that we’re continually treated to new faces and sometimes, new legends in the making. Still, for the constant influx there are also the constant exits, though often delayed, drawn out and sometimes hard to watch. I have no real evidence to back this up but I don’t suspect that Kobe Bryant will play out the long slide. I think he’ll be here and relevant one season and gone the next. There will be time for goodbyes of course and the time isn’t yet. Tonight he suits up for preseason game number five, against the Sacramento Kings in Las Vegas.

– Dave Murphy

How’s this for some breaking news?

Apparently, the day Lakers fans have been waiting for is getting closer. According to Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports, Dwight Howard could be taking the floor for the Lakers in an actual game really soon:

Barring any complications with Howard’s back over the next couple days, the Lakers are optimistic the All-Star center will make their first appearance for them on Sunday. “He is making progress,” one Lakers source told Yahoo! Sports. “There is a good chance he can play Sunday.”

Howard has been getting closer and closer in recent weeks. He started camp doing only non-contact drills, escalated to contact work in non-scrimmage settings, and then was finally cleared for all activity — except playing in actual games — shortly after. In recent days, he’s spoken of needing to get his conditioning up so that he could be prepared for real game situations.

Well, it seems that day is almost here. Soon enough we’ll see those Nash/Howard pick and rolls, high-low actions between Howard and Gasol, and Howard working with Kobe in two man games on and off the ball to help each other get easy looks. We’ll see him be a presence on defense, work the glass. and help set that physical tone that’s been missing so far this preseason.

Of course there will be some rust in his game and he may not be the exact player we expect (that 20/20 game may have to wait), but at least he’ll be back on the floor soon. Hopefully, as the report states, that will be this Sunday.

From Ramona Shelburne, ESPN Los AngelesAndrew Bynum is the Philadelphia 76ers’ to worry about now. The Los Angeles Lakers have quite enough to keep them up at night as Dwight Howard continues to work his way back from offseason back surgery. But with Monday’s news out of Philadelphia that Bynum received another injection of Synvisc — a gel-like substance that sometimes provides relief for inflamed tissue — in his knee, it raises a larger question: Whose problems would you rather be saddled with: Bynum’s chronically painful, injured knees or Howard’s still-unproven back? It was a question Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak had to answer over the summer before he made the trade that sent Bynum to Philadelphia in a four-team deal that brought Howard to Los Angeles from Orlando.

From Mark Medina, LA TimesAnytime the Lakers reserves stepped on the floor, an offensive drought ensued. They would cough up leads. They’d go on long stretches without a field goal. The Lakers were left wondering who would lead them out of the darkness. The team believed they had solved that problem by adding 15-year veteran Antawn Jamison, who’s averaged a career 19.5 points both as a starter and a reserve. The Lakers acquired this piece at the veteran’s minimum, no less. Yet through four preseason games, Jamison has hardly provided such scoring punch, averaging only 5.8 points on 27.6% shooting. But the Lakers hardly seem worried.

From Brian Kamenetzky, ESPN Los AngelesMark Stein delivered the news Tuesday afternoon. The original assumption, that CBA rules prevented Derek Fisher’s return to the Lakers until March 15, turns out not to be true. Because Fisher was bought out by the Houston Rockets following last year’s deadline deal before he was eligible to pick up his extension for this year, he’s able to sign wherever he’d like, including with the Lakers. Stein reports at least theoretical interest from both sides, though I’d be almost shocked if it actually happened. Still, for a lot of fans, the lure of Fish is still strong. I get it. This is a Lakers blog. If you need the significance of Derek Fisher explained, I suspect you’re new around here. But strip away the sentimentality, and it becomes clear bringing him back isn’t a good idea.

From Jeff Miller, OC RegisterHe arrived with three names. Kobe Bryant didn’t know any of them. So, for the first couple of days of Lakers training camp, Bryant called him “Rook,” as in rookie, as in maybe you made a name for yourself in college but here you show up as a nobody. You start at name zero. “And then one day it was ‘Odom,’ ” Darius Johnson-Odom says. “The next day it was ‘Johnson-Odom.’ The next day it was ‘D.J.’ So you can kind of feel it. You can kind of feel when you gain their respect.” From the outside looking in, the Lakers have a dynamic collection of big personalities and large talent, a starting five at least 80 percent of which should end up in the Hall of Fame. But what about from the inside looking out? Apparently, the view isn’t much different, especially when you’re still something of an outsider yourself.

From “Basketball Reasons”, Silver Screen & RollWith the talent at hand, hitting the ground running may be as simple as plug and play for Nash and company. However, the level of execution needed to reach the top for the Lakers is going to take time. With the newly implemented Princeton principles still in the infancy stages, the offense is still a work in progress. The cast is still learning the script and defining their roles. The Lakers are reinventing the wheel for one last shot with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, while mustering all the incentive they can dig up for Dwight Howard to stay with the Lakers long term. At the heart of all of this, Nash will have to find a way to balance the flow of the game on his shoulders while it slowly comes together. The ball, and even more importantly, the offense is in his hands.

-Ryan Cole

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