The 11th Man

Dave Murphy —  September 13, 2013

Mike D’Antoni went on the airwaves earlier this summer, theorizing about an 11-man Lakers rotation. On the one hand D’Antoni is as adverse to extended lineups as he is half-court basketball. Further, trying to speculate on what that rotation might look like, weeks before training camp even begins, is a sublimely ridiculous thing to do. Regardless, people need to read and people need to write and given that I haven’t posted here in ages, this exercise in futility seems strangely appropriate.

Few would have predicted the Lakers’ ground-zero meltdown last season. If it was bad it happened and that basically covers the bases. Health concerns will once again be front and center when it comes to planning and contingencies. Nobody can predict what Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash will bring to the table, coming off rehab. Nobody can predict what anyone will bring. All across the league, decision makers hope for the best, plan for the worst and roll the dice. Here at home, management has been signing wild cards left and right. It’s not the usual Lakers way and it won’t be the usual season. The rash of step deals at league minimum will allow for an extended evaluation period – guys will be playing like they mean it and they’ll also be playing for the opportunity to have a seat at the table for the great rebuild of 2014.

Here’s four key Lakers acquisition this summer and how they could play into Coach D’Antoni’s system.

Jordan Farmar presented something of a riddle for the Lakers during their first go-round. Drafted out of UCLA, the Los Angeles native was cocky, quick and a round peg in Phil Jackson’s triangle system. The fact that he played backup to Smush Parker that season provided some unintentional comedy relief. There were ample other opportunities to try Phil’s patience, including Kwame Brown, Vlad Rad and the rise of the Machine. It should be noted that Farmar replaced Smush in the starting lineup for the last two games of the regular season, as well as the playoffs. It was a summer of discontent for Kobe Bryant however and management responded in part by bringing Derek Fisher back. The move cemented Farmar’s position as a back-up. He won a couple rings but eventually left to free agency and the New Jersey Nets. Farmar most recently played for Turkey’s Anadolu Efes. He accepted the league minimum to return to Los Angeles, noting that the idea of playing for Coach D’Antoni played a major part in his decision. The guard-driven pick and roll system should be a good fit.

Nick Young has been the subject of a number of good articles. Dan Devine for Ball Don’t Lie summed up the free-wheeling guard succinctly:

“The cold reality of course, is that Nick Young will break your heart; Wizard fans know this all too well. He will shoot you out of games, he will disinterestedly defend you out of games, he will refuse to pass you out of games, he will lackadaisically not-box you out of games – he is an incredibly versatile player, lose-you-games-wise. But in those moments when the shot’s falling, when everybody’s clicking and his joy is irrepressible… he’s pure and unadulterated fun in a way that few NBA players are. There’s room for that. There has to be.”

Young’s natural position is at shooting guard but he’s reportedly penciled in at the starting small forward slot for the Lakers. Whether that comes to pass is anybody’s guess. The situation will be in a word, fluid. Coach D’Antoni will get a taste of what Flip Saunders and Doug Collins had to deal with in the past. Then again, Swaggy P can do this.

When it comes to cautionary tales and reclamation projects, Shawne Williams is a quintessential case. The former #17 Pacers draft pick hasn’t played since an abbreviated stint with the Nets during the 2010-11 season. He was subsequently traded to Portland and waived. Williams has been busted numerous times, lost an older brother to street violence and flamed out at nearly every NBA stop along the way. The 2010-11 season was an exception. As a combo forward for Mike D’Antoni and the New York Knicks, Williams provided tough defense and a consistent outside stroke. After helping limit LeBron James at a MSG Knicks win, Coach D’Antoni had this to say, “If you know Shawne’s background, I don’t think he’s going to be intimidated. That’s not going to be a problem. He’s coming at you, and I like that about him.” Coaches remember these moments and Williams will get a solid look this season, despite all the blown chances.

When I think of Chris Kaman, I always go back to his early years as a Clipper. The 2003 draft pick used to give Coach Mike Dunleavy (a man with a voluminous playbook), fits. The 7-foot center was prone to getting calls mixed up, or in his own words, “simply forgetting them in a matter of 10 seconds or less.” Part of the issue according to Kaman, was being misdiagnosed with ADHD as a young child. He took Ritalin for a number of years but in the summer of 2007, began working with a neuropsychologist, Dr. Tim Royer, channeling and slowing hyperactive brain patterns. Kaman became a consistent and indispensable asset to the team, getting an All-Star nod in 2010. Of course, athletes begin to break down with passing years. Kaman isn’t the player he once was but he’s still a big body, he’s experienced and hasn’t lost his mid-range jumper.

So what about Mike D’Antoni’s supposed 11-man rotation, the one that will spell much-needed relief for the creaky body parts of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash? As mentioned at the top, it’s a ridiculous hypothesis. Who could possibly know? But I promised one so health and circumstances permitting, here it is:

Starting lineup: Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Nick Young, Jordan Hill, Pau Gasol.

Nash subs out, replaced by Jordan Farmar. Bryant subs out, replaced by Nick Young who slides back to his natural two-guard position. Shawne Williams enters at the small forward. Jordan Hill comes out and Chris Kaman comes in. The positional pairing of Kaman and Gasol is probably not that exact – they could easily switch the four/five on offensive/defensive sequences. At this point, Pau’s the main voice of reason on the floor, as well as a guy whose legs are getting tired.

We’re at eight players. What comes next? It’s not a leap of faith to assume that at some point, Swaggy P goes off the reservation, even in a Mike D’Antoni world. Enter Steve Blake, a guy who brings a modicum of stability and toughness. At  #10, my sleeper long-shot – Elias Harris. Yup, I said it. Granted he’s an undrafted rookie who may not even survive training camp. Harris is a classic role-player however, a guy who doesn’t mind the dirty work and who has impressed staff with his tenacity. Although undersized at 6-8 for the PF position, he weighs around 240 and has enough in his back pocket to move players in the paint. During his combine workouts however, Harris was well aware that NBA scouts would be evaluating him at the wing. Finally, Wesley Johnson is a former #4 overall pick and an athletic swingman who by sheer coincidence, will wear the number 11. Say no more.

At some point the summer passes and turns to the endless NBA grind. Ice baths and swollen ankles, dislocated fingers and gimpy knees. A coach looks down the bench and frowns. The choices aren’t as good as they were last week. They aren’t even as good as they were last night. He points a finger in an impossibly noisy arena. A player gets up, trying to work the stiffness out of his joints. In about 20 seconds he’ll have make a difference.

Dave Murphy

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51 responses to The 11th Man

  1. I dont think Wes is gonna be #11 man. I think he could be #9 if/when MDA and his concepts decide that Shawne Will at 6’9 could very well serve as a stretch-4.

  2. The theme of the last couple of articles all hit on this point- it’s a good time to collect talent and see if it will blossom. I have no doubt that a player in this group of guys will earn himself a nice little contact that the Lakers don’t beat. I have no doubt a player will earn himself a role on the coming iteration of the Lakers. It’ll be nice if we find two or three guys we’d want to keep past this season. The fact is, players mature. Guys like Wesley Johnson and Nick Young are at that right age. We can hope they develop into steady rotation players for us. The added bonus of their development would be in showing free agents that the Lakers are not far off from winning big. I’m not sure we get Shaq in ’96 if he didn’t see Lake Ced, Eddie, Nick, and Elden on the team. If I remember right, the Lakers later picked up Kersey, traded Ced for Horry and nobody knew what the team had in Kobe. The fact remains, free agents need to see an upward trend. It’s something Howard did not see here but did see in Houston. It’s an important season coming up. The team isn’t playing for ping-pongs. They are playing for relevance.

  3. I don’t know what D’Antoni will do, but I think that Johnson should start. Assuming that MDA is trying to win games, he needs to focus on getting his best perimeter defensive options out there as much as possible. Johnson should start at the 3 and Farmar should split time at the 1 with Nash IMO.

  4. You need 11 healthy players and 11 players that can actually play before you go to a 11 man rotation….

  5. still a trianglefan September 13, 2013 at 2:17 pm

    p ami – great point

  6. Gotta say I’m cautiously optimistic about this team especially with D’Antoni going 11 deep. I always thought one of his flaws was strictly going 7-8 man deep in games and I was livid when he played either 7 or 8 (I can’t remember exactly) last season on the 2nd game of a back to back against Denver who probably played at the fastest pace in the NBA.

    KB is going to be the wildcard and while there are some type of free agent acquisitions/trades I would have like to have seen I definitely see this as a possible 2008 type team that was “deep” and was more offensive minded. Not saying this is a championship team by any stretch with the individual pieces but that is the type of team that I see. Should be interesting.

  7. Dave,

    Nice write up. However, I agree with some of the commenters that Wes Johnson is NOT a #11 player. In fact, he could start at SF. This would mean bringing Nick Young off the bench to provide some scoring when Kobe sits.

    If Johnson starts, as I think could happen, then the starting line up would look like this: Nash, Kobe, Wes Johnson, Jordan Hill, Gasol.

    That could be a very interesting combination–3 offensive-oriented players (Kobe, Nash, Pau) and 2 focusing on defense (Johnson and Hill). This would be similar to the strategy that OKC employs. They have a very strong balance on their starting 5 with 2 players providing scoring (Durant and Westbrook) and 3 focusing on D (Kendrick Perkins, Thabo Sefalosha, and Serge Ibaka). Everyone points to OKC’s speed as a reason for their success. I prefer to think that it’s their balance between offense and defense that makes them so formidable.

    If Wes Johnson and Jordan Hill start, the Lakers could mirror that somewhat in their own starting 5. But it’s still early. We’ll see what happens.

  8. Kobe Alert: Aaron hasn’t written on this subject in a while, so I need to remind people about an obvious point. Kobe had a very serious injury and most do not come back from it at full strength. We have not had any significant updates on this injury recently and we are about 6 weeks away from the start of the season. This is not a good thing, and he is probably not going to make the opener, although I never count Kobe out of anything. There is a decent chance at this point that he misses significant time. I am of course hoping for the Mamba to defy the odds again, and come back quickly, but I am beginning to think that is a dream. I will not give up on the dream though. However, that said, if he misses significant time, we are going to be very bad. Forget “interesting”. Forget “development of players”. Forget having some sort of miracle mesh between MD and the roster. There simply will not be enough talent and we will lose most of our games. This may seem obvious to some, but others are making predictions about 50 wins or how we will be better than last year, without even hedging as to Kobe’s status. Kobe and Dwight played most of the games last year and they were by far our #1 and #2 players. If KB misses significant time, then that means we will be without last year’s #1 and #2 players on both offense and defense, without having replaced them. Nobody can survive that. Miami could not even survive that. We were picked 12th in the West, one month ago by ESPN. The major variable since that time is that we have gone forward a month on the calendar without a significant update on Kobe. Any way you slice it, I will root for the Lakers and find the season “interesting” enough to watch. Then again, if Kobe is not on the floor and we play to the level I think we will without him, I will have to redefine what “interesting” means.

  9. Mid-Wilshire,

    Johnson could definitely do better than the #11 slot. But who knows, right? You’ve got a bunch of swingmen coming in, most of whom haven’t lived up to high expectations, all of whom are playing for minimum salary, and all of whom are probably looking at their last best chance in the league.

  10. Dave,
    I don’t think Mid-Wilshire was saying Johnson would start. I took his point to mean – if all the swing players come up roughly equal, then Johnson starting would be good for the reasons/balance he listed. Additionally, having Young coming in off the bench would give us some possible high-end shooting octane at a point in the game where we might need a boost.

  11. was more offensive minded

    3 or 4 people have said this, but the 2008 team was 5th in the NBA in defensive rating. People remember it as a relatively weak defensive team since the 2008 Celtics were one of the greatest defensive teams of all time and because the Lakers got torched for 131 in the elim game.

    Also, in terms of “development”, it is worth noting that Marcus Landry and Shawne Williams are 27, Wesley Johnson is 26, Nick Young is 28, Jordan Farmar is 26, and even Elias Harris is 24–quite old for a first-year guy. So, while I agree with the points made about Farmar’s fitting MDA ball, and while I have noted that Johnson was a functional player in PHX over the last third of the season when he got some time, expecting any sort of major performance spikes from this group of players is probably unrealistic.

    And, of course, in addition to the issues with Kobe that Robert discussed, Pau is 33 and coming off procedures on both knees, and Nash is 39, coming off a disappointing year and dealing with his own physical issues. Jordan Hill played only 29 games last year with back and hip issues. Chris Kaman is 31, and Steve Blake is 33.

    So, while, again, no one knows what will happen, most of the actual basic indicators surrounding the team’s talent base are pretty negative.

  12. Robert very true. I have them with 47 wins with a full Kobe season. If he misses 20 games it goes to 40 . If he misses 40 games it goes to 32. If he missed the season this is a 25 win team, new coach by mid-season and Jimmy is training horses with Mitch his stable boy and Nash the jockey.

  13. Craig,

    Mid’s point was well taken, as is your’s. I also like Johnson. My point is simply (and perhaps I didn’t make it clearly in the article), that the swing position is up for grabs. There’s a number of candidates that bring different skill sets and personalities to the table and there’s a considerable amount of positional overlap. I want to see guys competing and I don’t think we’ll be disappointed in that regard. The nice thing is that there’s room on the roster for a few of these guys to stick. I like that and I think it’s likely to be a fluid situation throughout the season.

  14. The Kobe update should be within the next 10 days,going on what Mitch said in Jul-Aug. What we know is that he`s getting the most advanced and intense rehab available. I don` t expect to see much of Kobe,Nash, or Pau until mid Oct.

  15. I really like the idea of a 11 man rotation but still think the team needs another rebounder. No one on the team has a track record of being an above average rebounder other than Hill and he’s injury prone. Hopefully they get another big in camp.

  16. 3 or 4 people have said this, but the 2008 team was 5th in the NBA in defensive rating. People remember it as a relatively weak defensive team since the 2008 Celtics were one of the greatest defensive teams of all time and because the Lakers got torched for 131 in the elim game.

    Good points. I was more trying to illustrate how the Lakers could still be successful and the style they would try to emphasize. Not to go overboard but if the 11 deep philosophy sticks it could be a return of the bench mob.

    Basically the 2008 team while of course was a good team defensively, the strength was noticeably the offense. Its amazing how the Lakers let shooters go year by year and not replace them. The 2008 team averaged 108ppg, 3rd in fg%, and 6th in 3pt%. By the end of of the 2010 championship season the team was scoring 102 ppg, 18th in fg%, and 23rd in 3pt%.

    And I’m hoping that Young is the spark off the bench in a Crawford type role and not starting.

  17. @Robert

    I’m hoping Kobe takes his time getting back recovering from the injury. D’Antoni needs to ease him back in the lineup when he gets back. My opinion.

  18. LakerFanatic,

    I like your observation that Nick Young could potentially be the Lakers’ Jamal Crawford by coming off the bench.

    If you think of it, when Kobe and Nash (and potentially Pau) sit at the same time, there could be an offensive vacuum on the floor. But with Nick Young and Jordan Farmar coming off the bench, there will still be some offensive energy on the court.

    This is something that we really didn’t have last year. When Kobe would sit, the offense would go into a death-spiral and the temptation would be to rush Kobe back into the game. And so I see Nick Young and Jordan Farmar coming off the bench almost at the same time and forming something of a Bench Mob, version 2.

    In that sense, the Lakers should almost certainly be more balanced than last year. They surely will have more depth.

  19. So, Derek Fisher is working out with the Lakers and there’s spirited, competitive games going on at the practice facility. While I love Fish…isn’t it a bit like sleeping with the enemy by having him in the gym with our players? Learning their weaknesses and strengths. How each player meshes with the other, etc. It might not matter as much if Derek were playing for a team on the east coast. But he’s playing for a west coast team that we’ll see often.

    Good to hear that the competition for playing time has already started.

  20. Few points about the upcoming season:
    1. We will be lucky to make the playoffs. Our best 3 players are old and coming off injuries.
    2. Kobe’s health takes precedence to the season. Even with a healthy Kobe, we’re not winning anything, so Kobe just get as healthy as possible. Don’t rush
    3. This season will still be fun. Not from winning or competing for a title but from the standpoint that we will have better chemistry, win some games we shouldn’t and just not look so old as last year.
    4. A couple of the young guys will mature and show they can be regular contributors. I love Swaggy P for entertainment but he has to take the next step in becoming a team player and not just a splash only. The other guy Im hoping for is Wesley. He can surprise people like an Ariza. Lastly, Jordan Farmar should be better than we remember.
    5. Dantoni gets a last chance as a coach with the best franchise in basketball. Not a fan but let’s give him a chance. Hope next year we hire a better coach.
    6. Jim Buss is also on the hot seat up to next summer. The right moves need to be made to move the team into contention. Jim lets see if you learned anything.
    7. Nash and Blake should be traded if possible by next year. Really nice guys. Tough guys, shooters but terrible defensively. We need strong defense at the PG position.
    Will be interesting. Like to hear Ur comments guys.
    Btw, who you guys got for 2013-14 champ? I still pick Heat.

  21. BiggieMG,
    Liked your read – agreed with some and disagreed a little bit with others.

    1. Sure our three best players are old, but only Nash has a real history with injuries and he wasn’t bad, as long as the coach was careful with his minutes – Mike D. knows about this. Pau will be playing in a system where he will not be constantly fighting with a ball dominant big man and should not only play better, but will probably be less likely to be injured, due to the fact he got rest this summer. They all will need to have their minutes monitored because injury risk does grow with age – you are certainly correct about that. The issue I have is that because they were injured last year, does not mean they will be injured this year – all of us seem to take recent history as prolog and ignore other factors.

    5. “Hope next year we hire a better coach.” This presumes we hired a poor coach last year. I know this is an often repeated mantra in Lakerland, but Mike D. isn’t Kurt Rambis. He is a coach who helped change the game to the style we play all around the league today. No he didn’t do it alone – no one does – and teams, including his, do not run the system he ran in Phoenix, but he did change the way we conceive of positions and made his teams much more flexible. There is no reason he can’t succeed with that here. There are challenges and he is certainly on the hot seat, but IMO, we shouldn’t brand him a bad coach because he isn’t Phil Jackson.

    6. Jim Buss has made moves many fans disapprove of, but his slate has positive contributions he has made and the Ramona Shelburne article also indicated he has some respect with owners and GMs around the league. He may be under the microscope, but he deserves better than us calling for him to turn over the club to his sister.

    7. We do need better defense at the PG position, but most defense these days is team defense, not individual defense – remember you can’t hand-check on the perimeter – and this relies much more on the defensive system and the players buying in and trying. Incidentally, this is where Steve Nash has been average in the past, not putrid as some allege – of course he is 40. This is where I think Young is a danger sign for us, not on the offensive side, and it is one reason I feel he should be coming off the bench.

  22. LakerFanatic: Agreed with regard to not pushing Kobe. Are you factoring in Kobe possibly missing significant time in your “cautiously optimistic” statement? Look at Keno’s post and let me know how you differ. ” Its amazing how the Lakers let shooters go year by year and not replace them.” Again agreed. Shannon was the worst example (not necessarily a shooter per say – but a guy who could score). They got Shannon, we got MD and Nash. Put the salaries next to those names and see how that worked out.
    rr: Yea – 2008 would not be a year to compare this coming year to. It would be like comparing a mountain climb to a ski run : )
    C Hearn: Agreed on the enemy – but then again we can only hope : ) We have gotten rid of Darius Morris, so there is “room” for him on the bench. Also – who knows? – another PJ disciple perhaps to go alongside Rambis in the future?
    BiggieMG: I agree with most of your post for sure, with the exception of chemistry (a few others have said this) as per below.
    Chemistry: Many are looking for good chemistry and saying this is a definite improvement over 2012-2013. I think a more reasonable statement is: Last year our chemistry was horrible and it is hard to imagine it being worse this year, so therefore this could improve. That said, we have an embattled coach, a few key guys coming off injury, a bunch of new guys – some of whom are not exactly known as great team players, a difficult to please fan base (look at me), and an uncertain Kobe. With regard to the final item – if KB does not start the year, we are going to have major chemistry changes when he comes back. To add all this up to a conclusion that we are going to have “good” chemistry is a bit of a reach : )
    Keno: Now that is funny. You left out Chaz. He will be the runner to the betting window for Jim.

  23. For the first 2 months without Kobe, and taking into account that Pau and Nash are coming off injuries:

    Nash-Young-Johnson-Hill-Pau

    At the 7-8 minute mark of the 1Q:
    Farmar for Nash
    Kaman for Pau

    Start of 2Q:
    Nash-Meeks-Williams -Harris or Landry-Pau

    If Farmar does not do well or if Meeks falters, Blake.

    No depth at SF and PF with Johnson-Williams and Hill-Landry/Harris.

    And until Kobe returns, SG will be Young-Meeks-Blake.

    Whew. That was painful to type.

  24. @Robert

    I would agree for the most part with Keno’s assessment. I haven’t seen the early schedule for the lakers and typically they usually have a pretty easy first 20 games before it gets harder but if Kobe misses 20 games I would say they are more of a 35-38 win team.

    Cautiously optimistic is hoping that Kobe doesn’t rush back trying to be the hero and D’Antoni having the backbone to tell Kobe he is going to have to be limited early. Kobe’s finger really never healed from the injury 2 or 3 years ago and I wonder if some of Kobe’s turnovers are due to him having to try to compensate on a given play from a ballhandling perspective.

    And just to clear this up, I don’t want to be seen as the guy that thinks that this team is the 2008 team all over again. I’m only saying that the team was a lot more offensively oriented and didn’t really make any significant roster changes other than Pau Gasol. Yes, the lakers went 22-5 or something like that with him but the Lakers were already 10-15 games over .500 if I remember correctly prior to Bynum’s injury. So the similarities of them being a 1st round knockout and virtually the same major pieces the prior year to being a contender. Clearly, a lot of things were different, Phil Jackson being the coach (I promise not to rant on D’Antoni)…and Kobe being the MVP to start. But the 2nd string team of the 2008 team was a complete contrast of the structured starting five that started because they ran, shared the ball and shot it well. Okay thats the end of my mini rant. Sorry lol.

  25. @BiggieMG

    I am a Laker fan through and through, but I gotta be honest I don’t see anyone stopping the Heat. Basically the same team from last year with the exception of Mike Miller, but they will always have shooters on that team especially when you have a Ray Allen there and Oden and Beasley are low risk, high rewards. Its like the rich just get richer. I personally think they are going to limit Oden a lot early on and you probably won’t see much of him unless they are playing a Memphis or Indiana type teams.

    On being lucky to make the playoffs: Kobe is the wildcard for me, if he is 85% or better at the start of the season I’m not worried about not making the playoffs.

    Gasol’s injury was mostly plantar fascitis (sp) which I believe can be taken care of with time. I’m not sure but I’m hoping he isn’t playing in the Eurobasket tournament now, because he definately needs his rest. We saw Gasol dominate over the summer last year so to me that tells me he is still capable he just has to make sure his foot is okay and if it has problems maybe do like Popovich and sit him on back to back games or limit his minutes until April/May.

    On Nash next year: One “positive” (this is my glass half full thinking) of Dwight leaving is that as Nash said the offense will be a lot more free flowing and hopefully that will allow the offense to get into a rhythm. I think the Lakers, particularly Nash were so busy trying to force the ball to Dwight and get him comfortable that they weren’t playing to their full potential. Nash has to be more aggressive next year looking for his shot and to attack. If he is going to average 12ppg and 6 asst again that really doesn’t give the Lakers an advantage. The Lakers were getting that production with Ramon Sessions. I’m not looking for Nash to lock the top point guards down especially at age 40, but he has to at least put some pressure on them and make them defend and get into foul trouble. If he isn’t scoring 16-18ppg next year then this team has no chance IMHO.

  26. With the international ball and the playoff runs, Pau has an enormous amount of mileage on his legs. He got the knee procedures and did not play internationally this summer, so maybe he has a bounceback season in him. But even if he does, he is still a slow 33-year-old. Kobe, of course, has even more mileage and is coming off one of the most serious injuries that a basketball player can have.

    Nash’s leg injury was bad luck, but again: he is away from the PHX training staff, just as Grant Hill was last year, and he couldn’t stay on the floor, either. Correlation is not causation, but there may be something there. And Nash turns 40 in February.

    And, when you strip away all the narratives about chemistry and redemption, those three guys are still the Lakers’ three best players. Their 4/5/6 players are probably Hill, Farmar, and Kaman, all of whom are OK, and one of whom, Farmar, is in potentially a very good situation, but it is very hard to look at those six guys, plus the other guys, and see a playoff team in the West. Last year’s team was so thin and so bad 6-12 that the new guys look good in comparison, but I don’t think that they will look that great compared to other teams.

    As to MDA, there are some people in the fanbase who are so frustrated by D’Antoni’s presence that they bag on him for everything. That said, while a lot of it is not his fault, probably, he has not been successful in either of his post-PHX gigs. People who talk about how he never won anything in Phoenix are missing the boat, what he did with those teams was a very clever adaptation to the talent he had on hand, and the teams he lost to were outstanding.

    But has not shown the ability to be successful outside of the framework, either in terms of Ws and Ls, or in terms of player relations.

    This team, however, should be coachable, and as noted by many here, very motivated, by simple economics (next contract) if nothing else. D’Antoni will have a full camp. So, if he is really a good, adaptable coach. he should be able to get whatever this group has. I just don’t think it is all that much.

  27. First 10 games:

    10/29 LAC
    10/30 @ GS
    11/1 SA
    11/3 ATL
    11/5 @ DAL
    11/7 @ HOU
    11/8 @ NO
    11/10 MIN
    11/12 NO
    11/13 @ DEN

  28. Lets not forget that Kobe’s been injured before, that he had a broken wrist at the beginning of the 99/00 season, that he missed a slew of games the following season and in 2003/04 which was a difficult time for him both personally and professionally. Pau and Nash have also missed games over their careers. Injuries are a given, even when players aren’t toward the end of their careers. It’s why we look toward players who aren’t considered elite, why we consider guys at end of the bench. So yeah, it will be challenging. But like P. Ami said at the top of the comments, “it’s a good time to collect talent and see if it will blossom.”

  29. @rr: good points. I’m hoping the return to the low post for Gasol will get him going. I have to admit I’ve never really seen Wesley Johnson play so I’m hoping he realizes some of the potential he was projected to have. Won’t be the first time the Lakers have tried to see if they can squeeze some talent out of a top 5 pick (see Kwame Brown). Guess I’ll just check out some youtube clips until the preseason starts.

    As for those first 10 games, I’m hoping for a 7-3 or 6-4 start with Clippers, Spurs, Houston, and playing at Denver on the 2nd night of a back to back.

  30. Robert,
    I hate to correct you… But I wish “most people don’t come back at full strength after Kobe’s injury.” That would be awesome. But the facts are nobody has come back close to full strength after Kobe’s injury :( I wish though Kobe will be the first one. Just like I wished Dwight would be the first one to come back 100 percent after back surgery. Ribbing aside I agree with you. It’s just so silly people want to pretend we will ever see the Kobe we once knew ever again. And that’s why I’m still president of the “Throw MDA in Jail” fan club. I don’t think anybody realizes how I will never get over that. NEVER. The greatest player to ever play for the Lakers had his career end because of a moronic coach. And as you know before playing Kobe 46 minutes a game for three weeks straight I was one of the few backing MDA… Only of course because I believe there are plenty of quality coaches out there that will win chanpionships with chanpionship talent and it doesn’t matter which one you hire (unless its Phil Jackson).

  31. I don’t get how anyone can just pencil the Heat in for a threepeat. They were pushed very hard by a young Pacers team and were one lucky rebound and kick out for a Ray Allen 3 from losing in the finals. I’m glad that the Spurs lost to the Heat, but they should have won…

    I am cautiously optimistic that the Lakers can make the playoffs IF Kobe comes back 85% or better and plays no less than 70-75 games. I just have a feeling that between Kobe, Pau, and Steve that this team has a chance. You throw in a bench that *should* be competitive with Farmar, Young, and Kaman –> This could be a team that, at the very least, no one wants to play in the playoffs. Will there be any hungrier players than Kobe and Nash? There just seems to be a narrative developing here. Redemption.

    I’m excited for this year! Yeah, it smacks of the same sort of excitement that I had for the LakeShow teams, but also contains a little more hope because until Shaq joined the team I never really dared to hope that those LakeShow guys could actually win. I think that if everything breaks the right way for this team that you just never know. Meh. That’s my optimistic crazed homer post for the month!

  32. I’m in agreement with those on the board who feel that WJ should be the starter at the 3. Especially if Kobe can make it back for the start of the season. Unfortunately, I believe that Kobe will not be back at the beginning of the season, therefore, Young, who btw, has one of the corniest nickname’s (Swaggy P) I’ve ever heard of, should be the starting Small Forward.

    If Shawn Williams happens to make the team, it’ll be interesting to see how his arrival affects J. Hill. As I’ve stated on numerous occasions within this FB&G Community, D’Antoni’s best opportunity at success this season, imo, is predicated upon him going against *his* grain by sacrificing offense for defense. In this scenario, I would expect to see plenty of Hill, WJ and Farmar at the expense of Kaman, Young and Nash. Let’s see how it plays out.

    Don’t know how many individuals within the community are boxing fans, but now, for me, it’s on to fight night. Floyd Mayweather – ‘Canelo’ Alvarez is the Main Event and will definitely be an exciting scrap, but I expect Danny Garcia – Lucas Matthysse to steal the show. In any event, should be a great night of boxing.

  33. Meg: “Nash-Young-Johnson-Hill-Pau” Wow – painful to read as well : )
    Craig W: “we shouldn’t brand him a bad coach because he isn’t Phil Jackson.” Agreed. However we did not and do not want a coach who is OK or “not that bad”. We need a great coach.
    Aaron: I enjoyed your post. Of course you are the most hawkish person on the board when it comes to getting rid of MD. You want him jailed. I simply want him fired. I am officially a moderate on the subject.
    LakerFanatic: We are more or less in agreement.
    rr: ” I just don’t think it is all that much.” So – same discussion next year. This year MD gets another free ride, because the talent will not be there. Last year it was no camp and injuries. So next year the mantra will be: Let’s give him a chance with some real talent : )
    KenOak: It is fine to be a homer and of course I will be rooting with you. However parts of your post sound like a guy going for an inside straight. Then again – keep it up – I could use some optimism. I read your post and my initial reaction was that we are nowhere near as good as the LakeShow. I then realized that you were comparing them to the team at the center of the worst drought in Laker history and I was saying we weren’t close. Wow – I need a beverage.

  34. LakerFanatic: I am of course interpreting your last statement literally. Meaning I am “hoping” for 7-3 too. I am actually “hoping” for 10-0. Now what I am “thinking” is another matter. However your earlier posts I more/less agree with.

  35. Last season, the Lakers were the most top-heavy team. We had Steve Nash (9M), Kobe Bryant (27M), Metta World Peace (7M), Pau Gasol (19M) and Dwight Howard (19M) committed to our starting five.

    Our 6th to 8th men were: Steve Blake (4M), Jordan Hill (3.5M) and Jodie Meeks (1.5M) and the rest of the team was, safe to say, could combine all their salaries and wouldn’t even make that of Blake’s.

    When injuries struck, everything went haywire. We had no one and no way to replace all the top dawgs of the team because we simply had no depth.

    Enter this season, lets examine the depth chart:

    1: Nash (9.7M) / Blake (4M) / Farmar (1M)
    2: Bryant (30M) / Meeks (1.5M) / Henry (1M)
    3: Young (1.2M) / Johnson (1M) / Landry (1M)
    4: Hill (3.5M) / Williams (1M) / Harris (1M)
    5: Gasol (19M) / Kaman (3.2M) / Sacre (1M)

    Aside from the ‘redemption’ narrative we also have flexibility. Again, lets not mistake this for sheer talent. We lost alot by losing Dwight. But we also gained something this season which would have made us alot better than last: a legitimate bench. Jordan Farmar, Nick Young, Chris Kaman and Shawne Williams comprise of something that we’ve never had last season. Darius Morris, Andrew Goudelock, Chris Duhon… I don’t think our bench this year is just as good as THAT.

  36. Robert-
    Sometimes that inside straight hits man…and believe me when a gut-shot gets there it can be a wonderful or horrible thing- depending on what end of it you happen to be.

  37. @KenOak: without trying to sound like a Heat fan (farrrr from that), I have to be realistic. The Pacers, Knicks, Bulls, and possibly the Nets now present threats to the Heat. It remains to be seen what defense principles the Nets will adopt with the additions of 3 prominent Celtics. But at the end of the day your talking about having to beat a Lebron James team 4 times out of 7 games. The Heat play great defense and even their supposed weakness (interior defense) is misleading as the wings are athletic and active. I just see a team that is talented and has pieces that were #1 and #2 that have a chance to contribute. Beasley has averaged 19ppg before and will likely not even be part of the regular rotation. The biggest reason is they have more championship experience and it makes them tougher. Pacers are good but no players that you can go to in the clutch although George is coming along. But hey that’s my prediction.

    However, with that said, I’m hoping I get to see a Lakers vs Heat finals matchup but sometimes it seems as likely as a Mayweather vs Paquio fight and of course see Kobe get #6.

    S/N: not to continue to bag on Nash, but I really want to see more from him this year. Just play ball and stop trying to make everyone happy. If the defense wants you to be a scorer, drop 20-25pts. I think Nash is gonna come out the gates ready to go though. Brown was 1-4 and winless in the preseason but really one of the major reasons he was fired because the Lakers felt Nash was under utilized.

    I’m ready for the season!

  38. @Warren:

    Speaking of depth chart…interesting that Sacre isn’t even mentioned as a possible ELEVENTH man…i know you don’t play that many bigs especially in an D’Antoni system but it interesting that the Lakers will keep a cheap $1mil big who is neither a good rebounder, shot blocker, or offensive threat. I would rather they get a Kenyon Martin type of player at the minimum instead of getting players who have no future with the team.

  39. Laker Fan

    Last year feel Nash was under orders to make Dwight happy to help with a resign. I think he jeopardized his game to try andake that baby happy.

    Robert how about us putting together a Forum Blue poker tournament. I will bring the wine and tequila and you bring the unmarked cards’

  40. LakerFanatic,
    The last 2-3 men on the team are there for catastrophic injury situations – like we had last year. A) Kenyon Martin would actually expect to play and he could be a distraction if he didn’t. B) Kenyon is declining and Sacre is at least learning and playing within his limits. IMO, we are looking to have younger players who could develop this year and not older players looking to put a final year on their career. If Sacre had absolutely no chance and no possibilities – even for trade value (not his salary, but his usage in another type system) – I very much doubt he would have been signed.

  41. @Craig: you make a good point about the players towards the end of the bench really not there to play in case of emergency but I just don’t see any upside to Sacre from a physical standpoint. I personally would rather they had try to sign a Fab Melo who is raw but has a defensive potential now. And to be honest 3 of our bigs have had significant injury issues in the past (knock on wood).

    Only thing I would disagree with is that the player would be upset and become a distraction. I only see that with a Stephen Jackson (who is honestly the type of player I think the Lakers need) type of player.


    S/N: Does anyone know if Kaman for sure is coming off the bench or if the Lakers are going to try to continue the twin towers philosophy? I heard Rambis a few weeks or months ago say something to the effect where he wants to emphasize the bigs or that type of play of having 7 footers play.

  42. Fanatic,

    I think that Sacre has no upside, but he is

    a) big
    b) has a good attitude

    So I don’t have a real problem with it–other than that he was extended through 2016. Even at the minimum, I didn’t see the point in signing him–or anyone else on the 15-man–past this year.

    Starting Kaman alongside Pau would be a real mistake.

  43. Fanatic,

    Regarding Rambis’s comments, it was difficult to tell exactly what he was referring to. My interpretation is that the Lakers do have several bigs and he felt that they should make a conscious effort to get them the ball. It’s that simple. I don’t think he was necessarily referring to a Twin Towers format (which I think would be a big mistake defensively).

    I see Kaman playing perhaps 20 minutes or so per game–14 minutes when Pau sits and another 6 (3 minutes per half) with Pau in the game. That should be about right.

    If that’s how it works out, then the acquisition of Kaman will have made sense.

  44. I agree w/ the Kaman usage. With Pau’s age getting up there, its sensible to sign a skilled big man like him to a very cheap mini MLE contract. I didn’t think he’d be available for JUST 3.2 million, I think he cherishes the ability to play significant minutes (25 in my estimation) on a team that is looking for redemption and had just lost significantly on that position. 16 minutes on Pau rests and some 9 minutes or so with Pau.

  45. Wesley Johnson isn’t gonna be the 11th man off the bench.

    His post all-star break performance on the Suns after the coach FINALLY gave him playing time showed a lot of improvement in his game.

    I see the Lakers rotation with Young as their backup 2.

    Here’s how I see it

    Starters

    Nash
    Kobe
    Wesley
    Hill
    Pau

    Bench

    Farmar/Blake
    Young/Meeks
    Henry/Harris
    Williams/Kelly
    Kaman/Sacre

    There’s 15 players right there.

    Three obviously won’t play. Kelly, Sacre, and possibly Harris depending.

    But there’s basically a 12 man rotation if Kelly and Sacre DON’T play. It’s easy to see why D’antoni feels 11 is possible.

  46. As for that free-flowing offense now that Dwight’s gone…
    Last season Dwight averaged 10.7 FGAs,MWP ave’d 11.0 and Gasol ave’d 13.5.
    Using the standard .4 x FTA = 1 FGA,Dwight ave’d 14.7 shots,MWP 11.9 and Gasol 15.9.
    Dwight played in 76 games and had less than 10 FGAs in 33 of them.
    MWP had less than 10 FGAs in 26 of his 75 games.
    Gasol had less than 10 FGAs in 13 of his 49 games.
    Adjusting for FTs,Dwight took 12 or fewer shots in 27 of his 76 games.
    The Lakers went 11-22 in the games Dwight took less than 10 FGAs.

  47. I must commend you all on your discussion of the roster. Very civil discussion with lots of points and counter points. I like it!

  48. I think the argument about Howard and the offense has more to do with the fact that Gasol will be playing his natural position than it does with the number of shots taken by various players. My guess is that Pau will play well offensively this year when he can stay on the floor, as he did last year when he played center, but the defensive downturn will be so severe that it won’t matter. Also, we have seen in the past that the efficiency of Lakers big men, including Pau and Howard, tends to drop off without Kobe to occupy the defense.

    And it is always nice to hear from Rockets’ fans these days.

  49. Stephen,
    I don’t think anyone is saying we are a better team without Dwight Howard. He is a ball dominant center. He is limited in his offensive moves – because he is good enough that he can be. His big problem with the Lakers is that he was playing with a ball dominant wing player. There are very few Cris Paul’s in this league.

    However, it is also true that all is not lost because he chose to leave the Lakers. There are deficiencies in his game that will allow our other players – read Pau Gasol and probably Jordan Hill – to better utilize their own skills. Our coach can more comfortably manage a team without a big man that sucks up all the air around the basket on offense.

    It is also true that we will have to dramatically alter the way we play defense, because perhaps the best defensive player in the NBA is no longer on our team.

  50. Craig – “It is also true that we will have to dramatically alter the way we play defense, because perhaps the best defensive player in the NBA is no longer on our team.”

    Yes, and arguably the 2nd and 3rd best defenders from last year’s team are missing as well.