Archives For October 2012

Friday Forum

Dave Murphy —  October 12, 2012

The Lakers’ training camp is nearly two weeks old and the roster currently stands at 20. The team generally carries 14 players leaving a slot open for flexibility. That’s certainly not set in stone, they could easily carry a 15th body through some option periods before having to make a final decision. Ronnie Aguilar, Robert Sacre, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Andrew Goudelock, Darius Johnson-Odom, Reeves Nelson and Greg Somogyi are all at the pleasure of the court with non-guaranteed deals, although there’s more vested in Johnson-Odom due to the draft pick buy-back from Dallas. Just by simple math, it’s doubtful that more than two of them will make the cut. If I were to bet on one, it would be Sacre, he’s a hard worker, likes to bang inside and can hit his free throws.

Brian Kamenetzky at ESPN’s Lakers Report (formerly Land O’Lakers), has a terrific interview with swingman Chris Douglas-Roberts, one of the guys who’s fighting for a slot and an NBA career.

Andy Kamenetzky brings us Mike Brown’s reasoning on heavy practice and preseason minutes for certain players, especially Pau Gasol. I kind of like Mike Brown but I’m not quite getting the logic. Maybe it’s just me. Also included is a closer look at backup center Robert Sacre.

Mark Stein for True Hoop reports that the Lakers are open to trading either Steve Blake or Chris Duhon. Stein also tries establishing a nexus between such trade scenarios and bringing D-Fish back into the fold, even though it couldn’t happen until March 15. The time continuum seems just a tad shaky.

Kevin Ding for the OC Register examines a schedule that he feels favors the Lakers and Dwight Howard as he returns to action.

Kobe Bryant was riffing on some former teammates the other night, especially Smush Parker and Kwame Brown. Mark Medina at the L.A. Times has the story. For those who haven’t heard, Mark will be moving on to the L.A. Daily News as their Lakers beat writer while Eric Pincus from Hoopsworld will take over Mark’s former position at the Times (Eric will continue to write for Hoopsworld as well).

Mark Travis for Silver Screen and Roll, breaks down the Lakers defensive mindset vis-a-vis Dwight Howard.

Larry Brown at his eponymous website has the Smush Parker retaliation.

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The weekend is upon us, with a game tomorrow night against the Jazz. While it would be nice to notch a win, there’s always helpful takeaways from these early tuneups, especially with new players and new plays. With regards to the inevitable weeding out process, it’ll start to happen very soon. What are our biggest needs when it comes to the end of the bench? Will it come down to a battle between Douglas-Roberts, Johnson-Odom and Goudelock? Feel free to fire away.

– Dave Murphy

The Lakers played and lost their second preseason game on Wednesday night. The Blazers, like the Warriors, pulled away in the second half and ended up winning the contest 93-75. While I’m still on the “losses in the preseason don’t matter” train, it doesn’t mean what’s occurring in the game lacks meaning. So, with that, here are five takeaways from the game…

  1. Robert Sacre continues to show he belongs on the team. It’s not his stat line — an okay 8 point, 3 board, 1 block/steal/assist night — that has me convinced. It’s more the fact that he continues to show he understands how to play the game at this level. He’s in the right position more often than not. He knows how to use his size to his advantage. He doesn’t make too many mistakes and continues to play to his strengths. When all of those qualities come in a 7’0″, 260 pound frame I’m more than willing to give him a roster spot as the Lakers’ 5th big. Forget Jordan Hill’s injury or the fact that Dwight Howard isn’t yet cleared to play in games. Strictly from a roster construction standpoint, the Lakers need another big man on the roster and preferably someone that can play center. Sacre is that player, I’m convinced.
  2. Ron-Ron is in fantastic shape and that level of fitness is translating to an effectiveness on the floor that is as plain to see as the sun in the sky. He’s moving around the floor as well as at any point during his Lakers’ tenure and is making things happen when he gets to his spots. His defense looks sharp, he’s flashing fantastic variety on offense — running the lane, posting up, hitting jumpers, creating off the dribble — that the Lakers sorely need, and his work on the backboards has been strong. To say I’m happy with where he’s at right now would be a gross understatement. Fact is, if Ron can keep up this level of play during the season (and I don’t just mean stats-wise, I mean from a sheer eye-ball test way) the Lakers become that much more difficult to deal with.
  3. I’m starting to hedge on what Antawn Jamison’s best position with the team will be. After his acquisition I was fully of the mind that Jamison should be a PF that spaced the floor on offense and piggy-backed on the effectiveness of his big man partner on defense. However, that role came with concerns about how he’d manage being on the back line of the defense and against the Blazers I saw validation in those concerns. Jamison was good on the glass (6 defensive rebounds in 28 minutes) but his rotations on the back end were hesitant and he offered no paint protection when he was covering for the center who rotated out of the lane. On offense, he mostly shot long jumpers that missed but looked much better when on the move going towards the basket. We’ll see how things sort out when Howard is in the lineup and how the Lakers’ offense evolves as they get more comfortable within the Princeton O and add to what they already have installed. But as of now, the PF is mostly acting as a floor spacer/ball reverser at the top of the key and Jamison is still best served moving around more on offense by cutting and slashing. I’m by no means grading him at this early stage, but this is something I’ll be watching closely as the preseason advances. Continue Reading…

From Ramona Shelburne, ESPN Los AngelesTuesday we learned that Kobe Bryant thought Dwight Howard was mean enough, just not mean enough, enough of the time. “Dwight, to be a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, you’ve got to have a little of that dog in you,” Bryant said on Tuesday. “It’s just a matter of him digging deep and just pulling it out. But it’s already there. It’s just a matter of him having it become habit.” But in yet another sign that Howard and Bryant are off to a pretty decent start in this budding relationship that pretty much has to work for the Los Angeles Lakers to make good on their potential, Howard seems as if he took Bryant’s comments pretty well.

From Mark Medina, LA TimesThe quiet motor in Devin Ebanks hardly yields much insight in interviews. A man of few words yet at the same time gracious, Ebanks has let his actions on the court give testament to his ongoing development entering his third season with the Lakers. Whether it was under Phil Jackson or now with Mike Brown, the coaches have loved how Ebanks stays within his lane, devotes time to his craft and minimizes mistakes when given an opportunity. It’s also part of the reason why the Lakers re-signed him to a one-year deal this off-season for a little over $1 million. And the early signs of training camp suggest Ebanks may be on the verge of having a bigger role. 

From Janis Carr, OC RegisterThe cheers were slight and there might have been a few quizzical looks in the stands, but at least Jodie Meeks wasn’t booed when he was announced as the Lakers’ starting guard. The boos came when public announcer Lawrence Tanter said that neither Kobe Bryant nor Dwight Howard were playing Wednesday against the Portland Trail Blazers. Bryant sat out the Lakers’ 93-75 loss to Portland after suffering a strained right shoulder in a dunk on teammate Antawn Jamison in Tuesday’s practice. Bryant called the injury “a little pinch” and said he would be healthy enough to play in Saturday’s exhibition against Utah at Staples Center. He is listed as day to day. He said his shoulder stiffened up late Tuesday and informed Coach Mike Brown his shoulder was bothering him shortly after arriving at Citizens Business Bank Arena.

From Daniel Burge, Lakers NationYou know what makes America great? Well, besides all the hot dogs, interstate highways and freedom. That very important line in the Constitution that declares you’re considered innocent until proven guilty. That’s a pretty important sentence if you think about it. It’s what separates us from the animals. And Canada. Anyways, the point here is that the group of individuals that drafted the greatest document of law in the history of our species felt it was important never to rush to judgment without first letting the legal process play out. Unfortunately, this mentality hasn’t translated to the world of professional athletics quite yet. In today’s reactionary world fans demand change before even seeing the entire story play out. They feel they know more than the men and women who are actually paid to make some of these decisions, which in most cases is simply untrue. So why the rant on the Constitution and such? It’s simple, really. Mike Brown.

From Mark Medina, LA TimesFor all of his countless support during the past four years as a Laker, Pau Gasol will be honored with the “Courage to Care” award Oct. 20 at the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles’ gala titled “Noche de Ninos” at The Event Deck in L.A. Live. Gasol has appeared at Children’s Hospital more than 10 times since joining the Lakers in 2008, and the visits went beyond photo opportunities. As a former medical student at the University of Barcelona, Gasol viewed three spinal surgeries, including one I caught on video this past summer. He has also struck a close friendship with Dr. David Skaggs, the chief orthopedic surgeon.

From Mark Travis, Silver Screen & Roll: It may appear as if constructing a defensive gameplan around someone like Dwight Howard is an impossible thing to screw up, and I agree, but Brown’s inability to get the Lakers to maintain a solid defensive effort last season, as well as the possibility of Howard being a bit tentative to start the season because of his back injury, gives me pause about expecting the Lakers to be a defensive juggernaut this season. Once they’ve had some timed to gel together, a Nash-Kobe-World Peace-Gasol-Howard line-up should rank amongst the league’s better defensive line-ups, if used correctly.

From Anthony Sulla-Heffinger, New York PostAt least one Yankees fan didn’t think Joe Girardi pinch-hitting for Alex Rodriguez was a slam-dunk move. Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant, a Yankees fan, was allegedly upset that Girardi pulled Rodriguez in favor of Raul Ibanez, according to ESPN reporter Arash Markazi. “I don’t like that. That’s not good for the chemistry of the team. I’m going to have to call A-Rod,” Bryant said.

-Ryan Cole

Wednesday Storylines

Dave Murphy —  October 10, 2012

The preseason continues with game 2 of the Lakers’ schedule, this time mixing it up against the Portland Trailblazers. Darius has the FB&G preview, pointing out that the coaches are still in search mode with the bottom half of the roster. Dave from Blazer’s Edge has the Portland-centric preview and no, not me Dave – another Dave. Speaking of me which I’m often prone to do, I ponied up the extra seven bucks per month for TWC and the Lakers channel, only to have the TV decide that it’s time to change its hues to sickly purple and green tones with the other major color being gray. This will probably necessitate an outing to a nearby mall at some point soon. Tonight however, I’ll kick back and enjoy in glorious purple and gray. On to the links:

There’s been much speculation about Kobe Bryant’s end date. Brian Kamenetzky at the Land O’Lakers balances the physical preparation and the mental drive that goes into Bryant’s decision making.

Brother Andy at the LOL offers detailed practice notes and video, including Jordan Hill’s back, Kobe’s life plan, Coach Brown’s reaction to the Warriors game and the 2-guard backup scenarios.

Kevin Ding for the OC Register, surmising that Kobe’s flame can’t burn forever.

Zach Lowe for Grantland looks at the top tier teams, including the Lakers who he puts at #3, as a true contender.

Darius drops by to chat with Matt Moore on his CBS Sports podkast, about the Lakers and the circus life. Other guests include Ken Berger and Mark Medina.

Here’s another really interesting piece about Kobe’s retirement saga, written by Basketball Reasons for Silver Screen and Roll, and entitled The Pyramid Song: The Finale Begins.

Mike Bresnahan at the L.A. Times writes about a happier Pau Gasol, ready to celebrate the season with his team.

While Dwight Howard has been cleared for full-contact practice, he won’t be playing tonight against the Trailblazers. Mark Medina at the L.A. Times reports the story.

Arielle Moyal at Lakers Nation interviews Robert Sacre, the last pick in the draft and a guy who has a decent shot of making the roster.

The afternoon has somehow slipped away, game time is a few hours away. The next exhibition offering after tonight will be on Saturday versus Utah. And at the end of the month on a Wednesday night, the official season opener against the Mavs. By that time the rotation may be a bit more sorted out, although there doesn’t seem to be any real urgency. The sense I get from the various reports and articles is that this is a team that’s comfortable with the process, and methodically getting its house in order. I’m not in a hurry either. Just perfectly content to relax and enjoy a full slate of preseason basketball, just me and my deteriorating Sony picture tube. – Dave Murphy

The Lakers’ preseason rolls on tonight with a visit from the Portland Trailblazers.

If this were the regular season I’d spout off about how the Lakers are looking to bounce back from their loss to the Warriors. That, after giving up a huge run in the second half, they’d be looking to make a point about the quality of their team and how they won’t just roll over. But this is the preseason and while I’m sure the coaches and the players themselves want to play better, those other things simply aren’t true.

What is true is that the coaches are trying to get a feel for how their roster works together and are trying to sort out roles for players that are sure to make the team. The coaches also want to get good looks at the bottom of the roster guys that are long-shots, but have a chance to earn a roster spot heading into the regular season.

In those pursuits, expect low minutes from the starters but for them to play together a fair amount when they are on the floor. Also expect to see some shuffling of the reserve groups and for Mike Brown to use the majority, if not all, of the available players in order to get looks at these guys in different situations.

With Jordan Hill out, this may mean we get to see Antawn Jamison play more PF than he did Sunday (which was zero). It may also mean Earl Clark or even Reeves Nelson sees some minutes at that spot for extended minutes. On the wing, we should see more Jodie Meeks (and we may even see him earlier in the game than Sunday), Chris Douglas-Roberts should get some good minutes, and we could also possibly see Ebanks play both SG and SF in different lineup combinations.

Overall though, from a Laker perspective, the point remains that the coaches are still in search mode with the bottom half of the roster and the preseason is when sorting those things out happens. Fans may not like the losing and huge runs from the opposition are never fun but it bears repeating: these results mean nothing. Especially not for a team that has the talent that the Lakers do.

From the Blazers’ side, this is a team in full rebuild mode. They jettisoned several veteran players that were on last season’s roster and are now building around a veteran core of LaMarcus Aldridge, Nic Batum, and Wes Matthews with youngsters Dame Lillard, Myers Leonard, Nolan Smith, and Victor Claver providing promise.

Lillard, especially, is a player who should be watched closely tonight and this season. He’s a quick point guard whose attack game is tailor made for the NBA. This past summer he darted up draft boards after dazzling in workouts and, in that way (and not necessarily in style of play), reminds some folks of Russ Westbrook. We’ll see if Lillard can develop the way that Russ has but the promise he’s shown in leading up to the draft and then in the Vegas Summer League has people excited.

Another player to watch tonight is our old friend Ammo. Adam Morrison has a make good contract with the Blazers and a shot to make their team if he shows enough in training camp. After having a solid season in Europe and flashing some of the scoring skills that made him a lottery pick in Summer League, Morrison is giving the NBA another shot and hopefully this time he can stick. Since his time as a Laker, I’ve rooted for his success and seeing him back in the league would be a good thing.

Back to tonight, try to remember that training camp and the preseason games are just building blocks that get the team to its next phase of doing more building. These games are meant to help whittle down a roster to a team the team that will start the campaign but one that we all hope is no where close to where it wants to be at the end of the season. An NBA season is a long journey and right now, the team is barely gathering their supplies and preparing to pack their bags. We’ve a long way to go yet.

 

In what can only be music to Lakers’ fans’ ears, Dwight Howard has been cleared for full contact in 5 on 5 scrimmages. Mike Trudell of Lakers.com has the update:

Marking the next step of his rehabilitation process from back surgery in April, Dwight Howard was cleared on Tuesday for full contact, 5-on-5 scrimmages with his teammates. With that clearance came a minutes limit for the three-time Defensive Player of the Year, as he’ll work back in steadily instead of all at once. Howard had previously participated in 5-on-5-on-5 drills, but had been kept out of full 5-on-5 scrimmages.

With this hurdle now cleared and assuming no set backs, it’s only a matter of time before Howard is cleared to participate in game action. This makes it extremely likely that Howard will be ready for the start of the regular season on October 30th and maybe even sooner (allowing him to play in one, or more, of the Lakers’ preseason games). Again, this is fantastic news especially with Jordan Hill now on the shelf with his own back issues.

Of course, the Lakers will still plan to take it slow with Howard and not rush him back — a philosophy I’m on board with one hundred percent. While it’s important for Howard to find a chemistry with his new mates, we mustn’t forget that he has been participating in offensive and defensive drills since the beginning of camp to the point that Mike Brown remarked, “As much as he’s practicing, to me, he’s back.”

So, even though Howard back-tracked somewhat in stating that he’s not necessarily looking towards playing in the preseason as a goal, it’s very nice to hear that he continues to progress and get closer to being ready to play in real game action — whatever that timeline turns out to be.

Jordan Hill has been diagnosed with a herniated disk in his back and will sit out at least a week when he will be reevaluated. If you read Hill’s twitter account, you’d know that he’s not that concerned though this is something to monitor as the preseason advances.

In Sunday’s preseason opener, Hill showed why the Lakers coaches are so high on him heading into the season. While his rebounding numbers weren’t up to his normal standard, he played solid defense and flashed an expanding offensive game that included a nice mid-range jumper. It’s too early to tell if the jumper will be a steady part of his game moving forward, but it was certainly nice to see him shoot it with confidence and without hesitation.

Beyond any growth in his game, though, having Hill ready to play consistent minutes once the season begins is sort of a big deal.

First of all, while it’s still early in camp, Mike Brown has started out playing Antawn Jamison exclusively at small forward. This leaves Hill as the only viable PF on the roster beyond Pau Gasol (no offense, Earl Clark). Hill will be expected to back up both big man spots this season but with Pau able to slide up and play some center, having Hill as a full time reserve at PF is seemingly more important than whatever minutes he can play in the pivot (especially if Robert Sacre can make the team and provide some spot minutes there).

Second of all, Hill remains the only Laker big (besides Howard and Pau) that can play the type of defense that Mike Brown requires while also doing enough work on the glass that the team’s board work doesn’t suffer. Hill has relatively quick feet for a man his size and his athleticism allows him to move around the court well enough that he can hedge, recover, challenge shots, and hit the glass all on a single possession. When you combine that work with his efforts on the offensive glass, the Lakers have an ideal third big man. Sure, the team could piecemeal players together to try and duplicate what Hill provides but having him available is a much easier solution.

At this point, it’s too early to say what will happen with Hill long term and, thus, still too early to make any long term roster decisions based off this injury. Adding a veteran PF like Kenyon Martin sounds like a good idea in the short term but would seem wasteful on a variety of levels. This is especially true in terms of using up any more of the Lakers’ mini mid-level exception or in guaranteeing a contract when the team already has some difficult decisions to make at the bottom of their roster regarding young players who have shown some promise. Even for a team in “win now” mode, roster decisions must have more long term thought behind them than what’s needed over the next week (or even the next month).

For now, then, we wait and we hope. We should know more in a week and can reevaluate where the team stands at that point. We must also sit tight and hope that this issue ins’t recurring as the season advances. Backs can be tricky that way and ensuring his long term availability is surely at the top of the Lakers’ wants right now.

Hill may not be the most important Laker but as stated above he has value and when the dominoes do start to fall that can change the equation quickly.

From Mike Trudell, Lakers.comWelcome back, folks! Glad to have you back in the mix for another Lakers season, one that promises to be intriguing with one of the best offseasons in NBA history, in which a two-time MVP and 3-time Defensive POY join Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and the rest of the gang. We’ll have a running diary in case you miss anything from the games, or to supplement the broadcast, every time L.A. takes the court.

From Dave McMenamin, ESPN Los AngelesDwight Howard was the only Los Angeles Lakers player out of uniform Sunday as he sported a bow tie and turtle-framed glasses on the sideline of the Lakers’ preseason opener against the Golden State Warriors. After telling reporters earlier in the week that he would “hopefully” play at some point in the preseason, the All-Star center backed off his stance somewhat. “I’m on track (to return), but my goal wasn’t to play (in) a preseason game,” said Howard, who continues to recover from offseason back surgery. “My goal is to win a championship. That’s what we’re shooting for.”

From Kevin Ding, OC RegisterThe last time the Lakers played a game, Andrew Bynum skulked off the floor without shaking hands with the victorious Oklahoma City Thunder, ending his breakthrough season with another act of self-absorption that left even more skeptical about him being the future of the Lakers. But give this much to Bynum: He really wanted more for himself and was working to get it. Not everyone was. After that game ended, Metta World Peace preached to the players in the locker room not to get in that position again. “Everybody get in shape now,” World Peace urged. “This can’t happen.” He heeded his own words and looked sensational in the Lakers’ exhibition opener Sunday night. So did Pau Gasol, who after such a mental struggle amid trade rumors last season was described by Kobe Bryant entering this season this way: “He’s locked in. He’s ready to go.”

From Mike Bresnahan, LA TimesWho sacrifices the most? Whose stats decrease, if not take a flat-out beating, on a Lakers team with so many pieces on offense? It’s all in the better interest of winning, sure, and a championship ring, not a scoring title, is the goal. But it’s worth asking. Maybe the fantasy basketball wonks will appreciate it.” In Phoenix, the reality of it is Steve [Nash] had the ball in his hands [and] eventually, whether there was one second on the shot clock or 10, he was going to find somebody,” Lakers Coach Mike Brown said. “He doesn’t need to do that here all the time.” Nash averaged 12.5 points and 10.7 assists last season with Phoenix. He had five points and three assists in the Lakers’ deceptively lopsided 110-83 loss to Golden State in an exhibition opener Sunday. The Lakers led at halftime, 56-49, and none of their starters played in the second half despite persistent “Ko-be, Ko-be” chants as the Warriors went on a 35-0 run. There were even some boos.

From Ramona Shelbourne, ESPN Los AngelesPhil Jackson may have stepped away from the NBA, but he’s never been one to duck a controversy. The former Los Angeles Lakers coach didn’t exactly pick sides in the recent dust-up between centers Shaquille O’Neal and Dwight Howard, but said “there is a lot to what (O’Neal) says” when he characterized Howard as a “pick-and-roll” player with a more limited offensive game than more traditional back-to-the-basket centers Andrew Bynum and Brook Lopez. Jackson described Howard as a better all-around player and complemented him on the improvements he’s made to his offensive game in recent years, but noted Howard is still “learning the post game.”

From Ken Berger, CBSSports.comWhen will he be gone? When will the most masterful, historically important basketball career this side of Michael Jordan’s be chiseled in stone, the way some might joke that his first NBA contract was? Speaking with CBSSports.com in a quiet moment after practice, Bryant conceded that, in all likelihood, the finish line and the conclusion of his current contract will be one in the same. Bryant has two years left, and though he was careful to point out, “One can never be too sure,” he made it clear in the next breath it’s almost unfathomable he would play beyond 2013-14, which would be his 18th season. “It’s just that three more years seems like a really long time to continue to stay at a high, high level of training and preparation and health,” Bryant said. “That’s a lot of years.

From Brian Kamenetzky , ESPN Los AngelesThe No. 1 goal of the Los Angeles Lakers’ preseason — above developing chemistry, conditioning and the increased understanding of a new system — is to emerge unbitten by the injury bug. Period. End of story. Especially for a team collectively long in the tooth. Whatever goals not reached during training camp can always be met as the season progresses. Eighty-two games and nearly six months is a loooooong time to work out the kinks before the playoffs. But injuries are the one element that can’t be completely controlled, through even the most diligent human effort. When the body decides not to cooperate, that’s a problem, and one that can potentially persist throughout an entire campaign.

-Ryan Cole