Friday Forum

Dave Murphy —  December 21, 2012

The holidays are upon us and the Lakers have gotten a nice little rest – their last game was on Tuesday and the next one isn’t until tomorrow. They’ve managed to win three in a row – games they certainly should have won but it’s still a relief after the recent skid. Nonetheless, the team still seems to be somewhere in the middle of a long, byzantine crossroads, searching for an identity. In truth, the Lakers have been in transition ever since Phil Jackson left – his exit led to a series of firings, hirings, trades and signings and as we’re all well aware, less than desirable results.

The arrival of Mike D’Antoni in early November as the Lakers new head coach was itself fraught with controversy – the return of 11 Rings had been all but signed, sealed and delivered, except for one little hangup – Jerry, Jim and Mitch were not interested.

Regardless of how we got to our latest reset, the new era seemed full of promise. A funny thing happened on the way to the Forum however – Steve Nash fractured his leg and Pau Gagol developed tendinitis. Plus, a myriad of other little things – like Dwight Howard working his way back into shape and D’Antoni trying various and sundry rotations. And, he certainly can’t be blamed – it’s not easy mending things on the run. Still facts is facts – we’ve got a championship caliber team whose collective shelf life is older than Methuselah, and the searching continues. Darius examined the musical chairs in fine detail yesterday.

Steve Nash has returned to hard practice after his lengthy layoff. Kevin Ding from the OC Register has the details.

Ramona Shelburne at ESPN’s Lakers Index wonders if there’s a matter of sandbagging.

Drew Garrison at Silver Screen and Roll breaks down the return of Pau Gasol.

Eric Pincus at the L.A. Times has Magic Johnson’s take on the hopeful return of Steve Nash.

Ben Bolch at the L.A. Times ponders the question of playing Dwight and Pau together or separately.

The issue of Gasol not being used in closing minutes has been an obvious topic of conversation. Kurt Helin at ProBasketballTalk reports on what seems to be a positive development on this front.

In keeping with the spirit of the holidays, Ian Levy at Hickory High offers his second annual Basketball Wishes.

***

Transition doesn’t only come on the court. A couple good dudes whose links are nearly always present here, are no longer with ESPN. Andy and Brian Kamenetzky have been supplying the basketball world with wit and good humor for a number of years now, including long stints at the L.A. Times and the inimitable Land O’Lakers blog. Their exit is a matter of budget crunching and we’ve all been there, somehow, some way. The Brothers Kamenetzky will no doubt resurface and it’ll be none too soon – their take on sports and other things literary has always been sublime to say the least. Just for fun, I thought I’d dig through the way-back machine. First, Brian holds forth on Barry Bonds. And second, Andy offers his Ode to Slava. How do you follow a tribute to the mighty Medvedenko? Hurry back, guys.

Dave Murphy

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25 responses to Friday Forum

  1. Best wishes to the Kamenetzkys. Let’s hope they find a soft landing spot and are back on the beat soon.

  2. Another link to add –
    http://www.latimes.com/sports/basketball/nba/lakers/la-sp-lakers-fyi-20121221,0,4833651.story?track=rss

    MDA invited Pau to meet and go over things and work towards commonality – and instead it comes off as Pau again asking for the offense to be tailored around him and basically demanding that he be on the court in crunch time. I don’t get it. As much as the offense may look awkward at times right now – w dwight, kobe, nash they don’t need pau on the flr unless he can prove he can guard 4’s consistently. You can’t take Howard away from the basket as he’s too valuable to the overall scheme so Pau is gonna have to take the non post player. There is just gonna be games where he’s too much of a defensive liabilty to keep on flr in crunch time.

    Pau basically signed his death warrant and a ticket out of town unless this team instantly clicks. Lakers don’t need him to be a great offensive team – and he isn’t a good enough defensive force where the coach should be defering some shots especially to him to keep him happy.
    Maybe he just feels he needs to be the man again and perhaps a change of venue is needed.

  3. Can’t believe they canned the K Bros and kept Ramona and Markazi!!

  4. On the topic of columnists, I don’t know much of anything at all about Ben Bolch. But I’ll say that, after years of Mark Heisler, I haven’t been thrilled with Bolch. Particularly, although I’d admit that it’s a superficial little gizmo anyway, the Sunday LA Times “rankings” item is now so overly glib and superficial as to be unnecessary reading; used to like ol’ Heisler’s version. Heisler was sometimes a bit full of his years of insidery knowingness, but he really seemed to eat and sleep NBA, whereas Bolch (admittedly just guessing, know nothing about him), seems like he doesn’t care all that much.

  5. jerke,
    That’s an interesting interpretation of that article. Not sure how you got “demanded” out of this line: “Gasol said he wanted the ball in the post instead of on the perimeter and also asked to play in crunch time.”

    We’ll see how Gasol plays down the line. But it is on the coaches to maximize the utility of the player or find a way for the player to help the team (and, if need be, sell him on that role). From where I sit, this won’t be worked out in the media, but will need to be sorted out on the floor. And regardless of anyone’s affinity for Pau as a player or D’Antoni as a coach, it’s on both of them to figure it out. Both have stated outright they they need to find a middle ground (Pau has used that exact phrase and D’Antoni has said that “if you can’t utilize Pau Gasol in your offense, you might need to reevaluate your offense), and until this team has some court time in actual games with a full roster, we won’t know much.

    I’d add, though, that Kobe has said on a few occasions that he wants Gasol on this team. He’s backed him publicly multiple times and went as far as to say “as long as I’m here, Pau will be here”. I don’t know how it will play out should Pau be traded, but I’m betting that’s a variable that will be part of any decision made. The FO has already traded Odom and Fisher, if you add in Pau, that’s every player from the team that made those 3 straight Finals trip.

  6. Really enjoyed the K Brothers work on the LA Times Lakers Blog. That was a site that formed a real community that went beyond basketball. It was a place that had a sense of humor and didn’t take itself too seriously. I wish AK and BK the best of fortune in their future endeavors.

  7. I almost have to wonder if maybe Pau is just fed up with the whole situation at this point – the criticism, being on the trading block for the better part of the past two years, etc., – and perhaps might welcome a trade elsewhere. So then, why not make demands and force the issue?

    Either way, I have nothing but the utmost respect for Gasol as a player and a person and wish him the best whatever occurs. No way the Lakers would have those last two rings without him.

  8. The bottom line is Pau needs to get some of his athletisism back. Somehow. Someway. That’s it. There was a time in Memphis where he was routinely criticized for not wanting to be in the post. Of course that was young Pau who was KG like with rediculous skills and athletisism for a seven footer. That Pau would have no problem on this team. The 4th best player on a team doesn’t hold many cards when it comes to where and how much scoring touches he gets.

  9. The KBros were the best thing about ESPNLA.

  10. @darius – perhaps I over stated it – but when a player plays poorly to start the season – sits out 8 games, then immediately after the game complains that he needs to be in in crunch time smacks of sour grapes. I’ve defended Pau’s skills/and possibilties under MDA repeatedly – despite multiple people on here calling for him to be traded prior to him sitting out games. Its not like MDA has had much real time w Pau to actually work w him in game and a full rotation. Yes, you’re right – its as much on MDA’s head to make this work as Pau – but as Shelburne or someone else stated in links (or maybe the la times article) – this won’t get solved in the media. It wasn’t just the line that you quoted, but he’s made repeated comments post game/throw aways here and there about being used.
    Everyone – from mitch, mda, nash, kobe – whose voices matters – has been supportive of Pau and saying this can work and they’ll make an effort. But the only person complaining is Pau – and publicly. Its bad form – and doesn’t reflect well when the coach, the star point guard, and best player are trying to keep you happy.

    As far as mentioning Fisher/odom – what does that have to do with anything? Sure – they helped you win a championship 3 years ago – every team has to change and evolve and perhaps its time for Pau to be moved. I’ve been – I feel – pretty fair and even in my posts regarding Pau’s role on the team and that he can be successful w this lineup – I’m just not a fan of the passive aggresive comments etc… This team needs everyone to get on board for the rest of the season – and it remains to be seen if Pau is going to do anything other than pay lip service to buying in 100per cent as MDA has made it clear he has to as well and I believe he’s trying to.

  11. I agree with D’Antoni on this much at least- if he can’t find a way to play somebody as good as Pau in his offense, that’s on him. There doesn’t seem to be any way the Lakers can get somebody as good as Pau back in a trade, and if they trade for pieces, they have to integrate them on the fly- and this is a team that can’t figure out how to use supporting players like Jamison and Hill either. No, the adjustment has to be D’Antoni’s. And calling out Pau for ‘demanding too much;’ that’s just ridiculous. For two years Pau has been playing out of position to make room for Bynum and Howard, and that’s after winning two titles playing mostly center, and he has barely said boo about it.

    As for the K Bros, I like Arash and Ramona all right, but the K Bros are probably the best writers covering the Lakers right now. The LA Times Lakers blog was a thing of beauty when they were there. But maybe they were too good for ESPN. I hope they land on their feet, and when they do, I’ll be there reading.

  12. I’m really bummed about the Brothers K. Every time I listen to Stu and Billy Mac, I feel my braincells desiccating– certainly there must be something to say over the course of a three hour game other than ‘let’s see how they finish out this quarter’ or Stu explaining the graduate-level math of almost unthinkably complicated situations like: ‘the lakers are down 5, so even if they get a stop here, it’s still a two possession game.’ or worse, schoolboy-level kobe sycophancy: ‘can you believe this guy?!’ by contrast, I felt the K Bros were bright guys who always looked beyond the cliches to try to figure out what was really going on– what is the problem and what are the various ways it might it be fixed? — very much in the spirit of FB&G, actually. I hope they find a new (and better?) home soon.

    re: pau, the crazy thing is we may never know what the lakers true position is in regard to keeping him versus trading him. to my way of thinking, any trade for pau will have to accomplish the following:

    1. find a team willing to take on his salary for the remainder of this year and another 19M for next year. pau’s salary is something like the 4th (?) highest player in the league– that’s pretty nuts– he’s great, but he’s not that great, and the CBA penalizes teams for overpaying players in so many different ways…. has any team really expressed a strong interest other than minn?

    2. the trade would also have to send us back (could be via 3rd team) (1) a stretch 4 and a backup PG; or (2) a stretch 4 and a backup SG

    3. the players we receive back would probably have to have deals that expire by the end of next season to fit with our longterm goal. they would also have to be ‘good contracts’, or at least a superstar and a bad contract

    maybe a couple of those scenarios actually exist and maybe mitch is fighting to make them happen, but if the 2 or 3 versions that might actually work don’t come to fruition, we will all wrongly conclude that the lakers always intended to keep pau when in fact he just as easily could have been on the trading block for months. that’s why players shouldn’t read the paper– it tells them nothing— you’re on the team… until you’re not, not much more to it than that.

    I remember hearing Mitch talk (live) and he was saying he hates the way papers report rumors and the bind it puts him in. specifically, he said: suppose I call another team about a player. I say who would you want for him? they say shaq (in a voice that clearly was meant to convey this was a joke). I’d laugh and hang up. then a reporter calls me and asks if it’s true that I was discussing trading shaq for player X.’ you get the point of the story: just because one team leaks that a conversation exists about a certain player, that doesn’t mean he’s actually on the market.

    my guess is that pau stays– the lakers best lineups statistically are kobe/pau lineups (no DH), then kobe/dwight lineups (no Pau), then kobe/pau/dwight/XX/YY as a distant third. this makes pau too valuable as a backup 5, as well as the hopes that d’A can find ways to use Pau and Dwight together as PNR threats with Nash… leaving Kobe and one of: Meeks/MWP/AJ wide open on the weakside. plus: what happens in the playoffs if DH commits 2 quick fouls: are we putting Sacre on Marc Gasol/Tim Duncan?! Far more likely is that any moves we make we make at the edges of our lineup– AJ and Hill. Sad for both– AJ took a paycut to play here and I think it’s a shame that any player who does that could be moved, and Hill is the hardest worker on the team. Still, that’s my guess.

    Misquoting Kobe: Nostradamus out.

  13. jerke,
    I just don’t get a sense that Pau is saying anything other than he wants to play and that he’s most effective in the post. None of those things are out of line nor are they, when taken in context, anything other than an answer to the questions he’s getting post game.

    As an aside, no one has, over the past few seasons, adapted his game to what the team needs more than Gasol. He doesn’t pay lip service to buying in, he buys in based off how he plays. Against the Bobcats he played pretty well in what he was asked to do (the breakdowns at SS&R show that) and he helped the team when he was on the floor.

    I only made my comment because I thought your interpretation of his comments were a bit strange. I didn’t see a demand. I saw a guy asking to to play important minutes and to be put in better position to succeed as an individual, which will also help the team.

    As I’ve said several times, however, there’s not a simple answer here. Both sides need to make it work and as the head coach, D’Antoni has to get guys to buy in if he’s not going to tweak his schemes. As much as this game is about X’s and O’s, managing the players is also a big part of a coach’s success in this league. On the other side, if it’s being communicated to Pau that he needs to do certain things to help the team win, I’d expect that he’d do them (and, to this point, I’ve not seen anything that would make me think otherwise).

  14. @jerke – my feeling is that a dinner meeting initiated by D’Antoni, is in of itself, a positive thing. We can’t really know all that was said between them, but it seems like a smart step given the bumpiness of the season. Whatever the result of this meeting of the minds is, it should be apparent soon – we’ll either see a happy and productive Pau or we won’t.

  15. Not many players can give teams 10 pts 9 reb 5 ast 4 blk in 29 minutes and that was all basically in the 1st quarter. I agree with Pau. Him, Kobe and Dwight are 3 of the best post players in the league outnumber Nash the only elite PnR player on the team. But D’Antoni doesn’t seem able to adjust to the talent on the roster. It may be Pau who’s spared to help out the coach hopefully it’s not for the rumored deals out there with Minny and Toronto.

  16. Pau’s true position and value is as a 5 – MDA isn’t stupid and recognizes that – hence the 3 way rotation w Ron that at least gives Pau/Howard both time to operate in the post solo (just as PJ rotated bynum/odom etc..). The prob is for the 15-20 mins a game when they’re on the court together. Howard doesn’t have malleable skills or the range to be moved away from the hoop, otherwise pau and howard could flip positions every play on offence – and Pau is nowhere as good on defense and can’t depend quicker 4’s outside so the only option if they’re both going to be on the flr is MDA and Pau both adapting. And even if they come up w an offense tat makes Pau happy – it still doesn’t solve how he can effectively defend 4’s. That’s why I don’t buy the absolute need for Pau to “request/demand/ask/whatever” that he be on the flr in crunch time – Nash, kobe, howard can generate enough offense w/o needing Pau – but unless the 4 is slow enough for pau to guard – I’d much rather have ron out there instead.

  17. jerke: just because pau and dwight are on the floor together doesn’t mean d’antoni can’t play through tthe post some like brown was doing with the princeton. D’Anotni shouldn’t sacrifice his whole offense to suit one players wants but it’s understandable for Pau to want post touches. When he gets them he plays well there. Ron can’t defend 4’s either. No one on this team can defend except for Dwight.

  18. @darius – I’m not saying its a simple solution – a better coach in PJ used the rotation as solution and that was w bynum playing substantially less mins due to injury during the ‘chip runs and having a 610 LO who could play inside and out. Not to mention that Pau was 3 years younger, didn’t have tendinitis, and was quicker/more spry w less mins on his body.

    This isn’t about defending MDA and I do see it is as a positive that he reached out to Pau -( I bagged on mda lots in phoenix for d issues and will so here if that doesn’t change) – but its getting tiring when people keep saying its as simple as Pau getting the ball in the post ala magic, commentators, people posting here – when they ignore the defensive issues and the fact Howard is there, and that no other team in the league plays w two low posts because the floor is stretched and 4’s are faster now. I’ve yet to see anyone – on this board, media, etc… Suggest something better than using the 3 man rotation – except to say that MDA needs to change his system to suit one player who has skills other than scoring that could be instrumental in this team being dominating.
    People are right in pointing out that Pau has adjusted his game in the past for the team – and maybe he is tired of that vs being the man for the spanish team as Pau himself brought up. In which case it may be best for FO to make a move sooner than later. That being said I hope Pau does work here – I liked the idea of all 4 of them being here and they do have complementary skills/roles. If MDA had the training camp and preseason I have a feeling we’re not having this conversation now.

  19. Har de har har guys. Trust me I wasn’t a fan of MDA’s by the end of 09 – but the steve kerr brought in Terry Porter and you realize what a diff a coach can do – same as what the Lakers struggled with here w the change to woodson after pj. I woulda been fine w PJ – I wouldve liked to see how he dealt w this issue – but also he handled having Nash – because using nash ala Derrick Fisher/steve Kerr is a waste of a top tier pt. Personally I have no prob using some princeton sets if necessary to get Pau shots down low – but that doesn’t deal w Pau’s defensive issues against faster 4’s. Miami, san antonio, clipps, boston, new york, okc, memphis all have options to repeatedly pull pau out and abuse his lack of foot speed. And unless the Lakers are that dominate on offense – I don’t see how you justify him saying that he should be on the court in crunch time.

  20. Make that Brown not woodson (potatoe head w a beard).

    All that being said – whether in agreeance or not – has been nice to see a return over the past couple days to better debate/discussion instead of the gameday “player x/coach sucks/trade immediately/whole team sucks/bring back etc….” Line of commenting

  21. I am a huge Pau fan, and at the same time, I think MDA has taken too much crap in some quarters.

    But…as suggested above, and as I have said, I think the only way to get full use out of Pau is to play him a lot with Kobe, not that much with Howard, and to integrate some Princeton sets. Having a team more or less run two distinct offenses…well…might be impractical but I am having a hard time seeing another way. D’Antoni likes undersized 4s who can run the floor and shoot the 3. The 4 on his best teams in Phoenix was Shawn Marion; he has now made MWP a 4 on this team and MWP is…the closest thing that MDA has to Shawn Marion. Pau is a fine player and a great guy IMO. But he is a “4.75” with slow feet, old legs, and almost no range beyond 15 feet.

  22. Rr – that’s just it though – even in MDA’s system, as a single post Pau would be great and would be effective on pnr w Nash, just in a diff way w post ups/short range pick n pops than going to the hole everytime. And as you said – he should spend time on flr w Kobe – and even Kobe has stated that he thinks it would be great to have 2 waves of great centers in Howard/Pau.
    Its not the time apart – becaue the rotation w ron already deals w that.

    Crux of the prob is Pau wants the ball, in his hands, down low in crunch time – while Howard is also on the flr. And there is no way that works if howard is also down on the blocks as well – just too crowded. I mean you could have howard go to the free throw line – but he’s no threat there – can’t shoot or drive from that distance – therefore his man sags and clogs the post regardless. This isn’t a system problem as it is so much a personel issue – if Pau plays up high, everything fits and he uses his skills well and fills the stat sheet like he did last game. But if Pau feels he needs to get touches down low to be effective – if they aren’t early quick hitters – then that means you have to design extra off the ball motion to get howard (and his man) away from the post to clear space – perhaps screening on Kobe/ron/nash’s man so that they can come to free throw line or higher, keeping the lane free and providing high post passing threat/shooter. Pau isn’t quick enough to deal w two defenders – and tendinitis or not -he’s a 7 fter that got blocked 4-5 times in one game against memphis or orlando earlier this season, so there has to be some sort of action to keep a helpside defender from coming over. It just seems to me to be a lot of effort and work and time is being expended on this situation (which only encompasses 15-20 mins of game time – and can be worked around – when there are other more pressing concerns defensively etc…
    Not saying such plays and action wouldn’t be nice to have – but its not a priority scheme right now imho.

  23. ESPN made a pretty grave mistake in this regard. The K Brothers are among the highest quality analysts and writers on the Internet. They’ll bounce back, easy. I just hope it isn’t long before I can read their posts again. I like McMenamin too, but the ESPN LA page just took an enormous hit.

    Considering how much crap Aaron’s taken on these forums, I feel I should give him his due. He predicted better than any of us the effect Howard’s back would have on his play, and his return to 100% is still an “if” and not a “when” at this point. And I agree with the post on Gasol. A young Gasol was limitless. It’s evident to everyone that this Pau has slowed (naturally) and he doesn’t have the defensive feet of a 4. I don’t know if there’s any way he can regain his athleticism, short of poaching Aaron Nelson and the rest of his staff.

  24. Snoopy-

    Good call on Aaron; I mentioned that a couple of times as well.

    Jerke-

    Good post. I would add a caveat or three:

    1. The Lakers can’t really afford to be working around the issue 15-20 MPG. They need to maximize offensive performance and be 1-3 in ORTG starting more or less next game. The personnel/coaching will prevent them from being better than 10-12 or so in D, so the O needs to be elite. As the KBros said in the last Forum on ESPN, the Lakers need to start winning games.
    2. They need to make Howard happy. Plenty of chance to run PnR with Nash is the best way to do that.
    3. The bench is bad; they need two stars out there almost all the time.

    I am not saying you’re wrong, but I do see it as a serious issue. Ebanks and Duhon et al just aren’t very good; the Lakers need to max out their stars to be play with the best teams.

  25. @rr – no arguements there – Funny that you put things that way as i was arguing with others at the start of the year that the if Lakers have the best offense they can be totally dominate with a decent defense – yet here i’ve switched and worrying more about Pau’s defensive contributions vs the Lakers team being an unstoppable offensive machine. Fair enough – maybe the other option is to have so many offensive options on the flr that they can overwhelm the other defence regardless. If thats the case and they can figure out a way to clear Howard and his man out of the post w/o sandbagging everything they’re trying to install so Pau can operate then I’m fine with that too.

    Lakers do have too many weapons inside and out w Nash and Pau healthy for them to go cold. As MDA said they should be a high scoring team with the ability not to have scoring droughts – time to impose their will if they can get it together.

    As for the bench – i think come Jan 15th mitch may have to eat a guarranteed contract or two to free up roster space to sign some help. If the starters are fine then they need a swing who can guard 2s/3s w speed and hit an outside shot – I really like Raja and he was great in Phoe – I’m just not sure he might not be too old at this point – that being said, he follwed after nash and takes care of his body as well – hill did the same thing and was a legit 1st team defender at the swing position last year at 39 so maybe Raja woulda drank from that fountain of youth as well.

    If Blake were back already – i think there would be some options for this team – Duhon has looked decent as a backup pg – not awesome but he’s done his best – and at 3.5 mill this season – there would be some bodies or two that he could be moved for that might be beneficial. Everyone else either has to give permission to be traded because they’re on one year deals or they can’t be moved until jan 15th – which I guess doesn’t matter because if the 4 allstars and ron don’t gel by then – Pau will be moved anyways and ebanks/clark/etc… will wrapped up in that.

    I know that no current coaches would ever do it – and the unemployed ones don’t say because they don’t want to undercut other guys – but I would love to hear – if given the time to sit down and actually view practices etc.. – what other coaches would do if they had the Lakers – keeping in mind that every team in the league aside from PJ’s triangle system (because he players that fit or close to it) and Mike Brown (simply because he’s stubborn and we kno what he’d run anyways) already runs MDA’s offense/schemes or some variation of the same mindset. And again – MDA designed the offensive scheme for Team USA and incorporated all of those talents and egos and players – so he can come up with something new – jst every guy was committed to buying in/sacrificing so thats why that worked. Not interested in the ego handling part (though PJ/Pop excel there – MDA isn’t the best at it- doesn’t have a tonne of patience if you’re not on the same wave length) – strictly want to to see the x’s/o’s of how PJ/Pop, SVG, Doc etc… would draw up sets specifically for when Pau/Howard are both on the flr and in the half court. Transition isn’t an issue and neither when Nash is on the court as he can just go two man game and pnr to death – but to see stuff that works when its just the two posts, kobe, ron and blake etc… Whatever games I’ve watched and Lakers have been brought up to JeffVG or Hubie – they never talk in specifics and sorta jump around in generalities – so i’d love as a coach myself – just to see how everyone else would draw things up.