Wednesday Storylines

Darius Soriano —  October 2, 2013

Basketball, even if in the remedial form of training camp, is back. Players are on the court participating in drills, scrimmaging, and soaking up what the coaches tell them in the hope of applying it in game situations — or, for the fringe roster players, in the hope that they can show enough to even make the team. At its essence, this is the time of the year where teams start to forge their identities and build the foundation for what they’ll be over the course of the season.

Also at its essence, the opening of camp is a time of optimism. Whether you have championship aspirations or have a bottom dwelling team who will contend for the prize of a top draft pick, every roster is full of hope. It can come in the form of a superstar player raising his game to even higher levels, a reclamation project showing some of the talent that always seems to land him another chance, or a rookie flashing that lottery talent that can be nurtured into the base of a special player down the line.

In this regard, the Lakers are no different than any other team. Internally they’re seizing on the doubt that outsiders cast on them and using it as fuel for what they hope can be an expectations defying run. They too have a mix of stars looking to rebound and regain past glories and enough reclamation projects and redemption stories to fill a 100 media notebooks. Right now the stories are ones of confidence; of the early signs of something special. Whether these storylines endure the toll of a grinding season remains to be seen. Only time will tell. But today, hope lives. On to today’s reads…

Outside of the uncertainty surrounding the Lakers’ big 3, there may not be a more intriguing story than Jordan Farmar’s return. The veteran guard left Los Angeles looking for an expanded role with the hope of picking up some life experience along the way. He returns with a more well rounded game and the maturity those new experiences bestowed on him. In a sit down with Mike Trudell, Farmar talks about all that and more. (One interesting nugget of info from that interview is that Farmar seems genuinely impressed with Wes Johnson. Again, this is the start of camp and hope can often be confused with what will really be. That said, if Johnson really is defending and shooting well, he’ll earn a role this season as a “three and D” player that I, ultimately, see as his future in this league.)

One of the reasons Farmar is even in Los Angeles is because he wanted the opportunity to play for Mike D’Antoni in this offense. In this excellent piece from Dave McMenamin, we learn that one of the reasons Shawne Williams is even in Lakers’ camp is because D’Antoni vouched for him and his work ethic to get him a workout and invite. Loads of good information in that link, so give it a click. (If you scroll to the bottom, you’ll note that Williams talks about D’Antoni really stressing defense early in camp while acknowledging it wasn’t necessarily that way when they were partnered in New York.)

And after clicking McMenamin’s piece, give our own David Murphy’s post on Williams a read. I’ve linked to it before, but it’s so wonderfully written it deserves your time (again).

One of the themes people point to when talking about the potential success of this year’s team is that they will have a full training camp together. Mark Medina of the Daily News explores that idea well here.

Another key to their success will be, of course, good health. At the LA Times Eric Pincus reports that besides Kobe Bryant, all is good on that front right now.

In this Marc Spears piece for Yahoo!, he talks to Steve Nash who discusses all that went wrong last year and why there’s hope this year will be better.

Finally, in case you live under a rock, you probably read that Michael Jordan said that Kobe could possibly beat him one on one while also making the claim that LeBron wouldn’t beat his Airness. I joined a panel at ESPN answering questions about who would win in these hypothetical match ups and, lo and behold, said that an in-his-prime Kobe would beat them both. In the end game, stuff like this really doesn’t matter and it’s all just for fun. So, don’t take it so seriously. But, in my defense, I saw the entire careers of all three players (well, Kobe and LeBron are still playing, but you get my point) and I can say without a doubt that I’ve never seen a more single minded scorer than Kobe. In interviews he’s said that there are times that he “only sees the basket” when on the court and in a 1-on-1 game that’s really the name of the game. Is there room for argument here? Sure. But don’t get so caught up in it that you forget this is all for fun.

Where the season goes no one yet knows. We all have our opinions and while I’m more cautiously optimistic this team can be better than many think they will be, that will all be answered on the court in due time. There are still lots of questions about this team right now — health, chemistry, and player development chief among them. But right now optimism is in the air, though, that isn’t unique to the Lakers.

Darius Soriano

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  1. So many pundits seem to forget the fact that the skills required to win in 1-on-1 are different from the skills required to win 5-on-5. And in that regard, LeBron lacks a fair amount behind Jordan and Kobe.

    But I will say that I agree with some of the others: If you could pick any player in a 1-on-1 / make-it-take-it, Shaq or Kareem is the way to go. That’s not even fair.


  2. Hey Darius!

    I’ve seen on Instagram Gilbert Arenas scrimmaging with the Lakers. From what I could see he looked really good. Do you think Mitch gives him a chance or is there just too much baggage?


  3. If I were to pick a Big that would have a chance to beat Kobe or MJ one on one it would be Hakeem Olajuwon. Shaq would have no chance. One on one doesn’t start under the basket and Shaq isn’t going to run to the key without the ball, he has to somehow dribble the ball there. People that keep saying Bigs would win a one on one haven’t played one on one before. As for Shaq, he would hope that coin flip instead of free-throw. Every time the ball is checked is he going to immediately turn his back??? smh…


  4. As far as Post up goes, as of march last season, Kobe was by far the most efficient Post up player in the NBA. SO this myth that somehow Lebron is a great post up player is confusing.


  5. Jay A. – I don’t doubt that Kobe was the most efficient in the post. Just wondering where you got that info. thanks!


  6. “Also at its essence, the opening of camp is a time of optimism.” Darius S. I completely agree…on the court. But this season that’s not the Lakers biggest question mark. That distinction belongs to ownership. Keeping my ears open, listening for signs of improved communication among the Buss sibs. THAT would be the sweetest music coming out of the franchise for me this year.

    As far as the 1 on 1 match-ups, MJ stayed away from the all-world centers…smart man. I remember watching Kareem absolutely destroy Dr J in a 1 on 1 game. Pretty sure video is still available.


  7. I’d bet the farm on Gheorghe Mure?an. Can’t teach height.


  8. Forget the fact that skills matter much less in one on one basketball… But I don’t understand why LBJ is so much less skilled than Jordan and Kobe. I get it… Jordan and Kobe are skinny and quick so people think they are more skilled. But Lebron is a far better shooter and passer than either of them. That isn’t of course why I would pick LeBron in those awesome fake Mano y Mano Matchups… It’s because Lebron is two and a half inches taller and fifty pounds heavier. So each Lebron offensive possession would result in a dunk. Just as I would pick Roy Hibburt and Andrew Bynum to beat LeBron in one on one Matchups.


  9. The big man key is that they have to be able to handle the ball as well as shoot. That is where Kareem – with his Wooden training, slender build, and eating habits – would probably have a huge advantage. If you can’t handle the rock, you can’t win at one-on-one, no matter your defensive ability or advantage.


  10. Three way – round robin – 1 on 1 tournament between George Muresan, Manute Bol (RIP), and Muggsy Bogues The winner of the three way tourney gets to play Michael Jordan for title of greatest Wizard ever !!!!

    “But today, hope lives” Indeed – we are after all – tied for first place right now. We do play the Clippers on the 29th so enjoy while we can.


  11. Wait, no. Arvydas Sabonis. His passing would come in handy in a one-on-one game.


  12. lol JB.

    yep, Lebron’s a better dribbler than MJ and KB. yes, that’s sarcasm.
    yep, Lebron has more ways to score than KB and MJ. more sarcasm…

    Manute Bol would beat them all!

    the main reason Lebron has no chance in the much discussed nonsense match, is that he’s not nearly competitive enough. Jordan would kick Lebron in his jewels if he had to. Jordan would put a horse head on Lebron’s bedpost if he had to, and Kobe’s not much different. actually, Kobe has a little bit of a kind side regarding homeless people and children. he likes to teach kids. that’s why he only takes 1 out of 3 from Jordan, who would kidnap Gianna to be sure of a win.


  13. We do play the Clippers on the 29th so enjoy while we can.

    Indeed. The Clippers had a 56-26 team last year and handled the Lakers easily. Since then, the Clippers have replaced Del Negro with Rivers, and have added Dudley, Redick, and Collison.


  14. MJ stayed away from the all-world centers…smart man.

    Exactly .. That’s because Jordan is wise enough to know that a 1 on 1 between a 7 footer and someone of his (MJ’s) size – with both having comparable skill sets and athleticism – would be a non-competetive ‘mismatch’ and not a ‘matchup’ .. With a good example being the one in which you used (Cap vs Doc. Tho personally, I would view Julius as someone with good, not great skills, but exceptional athleticism).

    Where I’m from, 1 on 1 games only carry weight if the 2 participants are of comparable size, skills and/or athleticism. The intrigue is that the individuals actually ‘matchup’ and that’s why Jordan only mentioned players who were similar to him in size, athleticism and/or skills (probably with the exception of West, who’s a few inches shorter).

    Matchups of Relevance (all within their primes) –
    Kobe vs Jordan
    Shaq vs Wilt
    AI vs Isiah
    Duncan vs KG
    Durant vs LeBron

    A 1 on 1 between these individuals peeks the interest because not only are they similar in size – weight advantages are understood; particularly for Lebron and Shaq – but skills wise, they matchup pretty well. It makes for better competition. Therefore, you have Matchups .. Not Mismatches (ex – 7’2 vs 6’6)

    And for those who believe that skills and/or athleticism don’t matter as much in 1 on 1’s, only size, I pose this question – In their primes, who would you put your bread on between the ‘bigger’ Steve Nash or the ‘smaller’ Allen Iverson?


  15. i’m neither scared of the Clippers, nor any tragedy that might result from a loss that first game.

    even better, right now i can enjoy the fact that the Lakers might even beat the Clippers.

    i said might.

    i remember, before Doc Rivers was gifted KG and Allen, that he was thought worse of than MDA by far. he was proclained “worst coach ever” by the ripening internet world. a few years later, he’s the best thing since Phil Jackson retired.

    when MDA was coaching Phoenix, i remember Laker fans who couldn’t stand PJ’s substitution patterns, game management, lack of adjustments and how many minutes various players were playing. many thought the Lakers would be better off with MDA, since Phil couldn’t beat him in the playoffs.

    goodness gracious.


  16. JB;

    Sabonis pre-injury could take on any center in the NBA. Too bad we never got to see it happen…

    Jay A,

    It seems you’re the one who never played one-on-one against real basketball players. Stealing the ball from a 6’8” player or above who actually plays the game for a living is not an easy task, even for professional players no matter how quick they are. Or are you assuming that everyone tries to play outside their skillset?

    On topic,

    A Farmar Johnson connection would be a very good thing for us. I’m hoping to see them both improve this season and (if all goes all) re-signing with us for a reasonable amount.


  17. Indeed, if Wes (Montgomery) Johnson posits himself as a 3 and D man for the Lakers, his future
    in the NBA could be solidified. Hopefully Kobe takes Wes under his wing again, and gets him to
    play a role similar to Trevor Ariza.


  18. Darius, this was my favorite line on your take on MJ vs. LBJ:
    “The game would be close, but if Jordan had to cheat to win, he’d do it.´´
    & my other favorite was J. Buha on Mamba vs. MJ:
    “ I’d more interested to see how the loser reacts.´´ lol! that´s good…


  19. i’m neither scared of the Clippers, nor any tragedy that might result from a loss that first game.

    No one is saying you should be. Like Robert said, let’s see how the first ten games go. The optimist crowd here has been very vocal and occasionally quite assertive about the differences in opinions over the quality of the team. Over the first ten, the Lakers play LAC, SA, HOU, and GS–four of the top six teams in the conference. The 11th game is against Memphis, so the only contender they will miss is OKC–probably the worst of the six with Westbrook out. The Lakers also play a lot of the second-tier squads that the people who are optimistic think they are probably going to beat out: MIN, DEN, DAL and two against NO. The only interconference game is against Atlanta, which will be a pretty decent team, as usual.

    So, while eleven games certainly do not make a season, I think we will have a better idea about this group after those games have been played. Further, I think it is likely that Kobe will not play in these games, so we will get to see a lot of Nick Young, Wesley Johnson, and Jordan Farmar, and certainly some of the optimism is based around people’s perceptions of the contributions that they believe those players will make.

    As I have said several times, I hope I am wrong, and if so, I will cheerfully admit it. But right now, I think the Lakers are going to have a lot of trouble posting Ws.


  20. how much ball handling skills do you need if you start with your back turned against the basket and start to march in with your butt?

    bigs would demolish smaller players every single time unless the shorter player had incredible arm length or strength to be able to disrupt backing down. Of course the other possibility is that the big is Howard, who isn’t that tall to begin with and somewhat lacks back-to-basket skills compared to some of the others.

    But Kareem (sky hook?), Wilt, Shaq… those guys would beat any of the guards one-on-one.

    LeBron would probably beat MJ and KB too. That would likely be true even if they played full court one-on-one where you could possibly have smalls beating bigs.


  21. Mud,

    I have a long reply stuck in mod, but, basically, Rivers

    a) Is seen as having a grown as a coach
    b) Is seen as a good leader of men
    c) Is seen as being better than Del Negro

    That doesn’t mean that he’s a genius or anything, but I think it is pretty safe to say that the Clippers have probably improved what was already a very good team, both on the floor and on the bench.


  22. Anybody else pick up NBA 2K14 and think it sucks … was disappointed compared to 2K12 which was the last one I bought


  23. Speaking of Cap, he really expressed his ‘feelings’ about Dwight on ESPN 1st Take this morning .. While also ‘plugging’ Marc Gasol as a Center that, if he were a GM, he would rather have and “what the Lakers need.”

    Sour grapes over the fact that Dwight left the Lakers and during his short time with the organization, didn’t seek out his (Cap’s) knowledge? Possibly. But interesting none the less.

    Overall good segment – Cap also voiced his concerns over the severity of Kobe’s injury and his eventual return to the court – that’s worth checking out.


  24. yes, Rivers is seen as a guy who grew, yet he’s still the same basic Doc Rivers, the guy who couldn’t lead a paper bag until he got the right players together. even then, he won once.

    don’t get me wrong, i like Doc as a coach, more or less. i also like MDA, more or less. i liked Phil a lot, but he stunk it up from time to time when he didn’t have the right players, too. the losses to Pheonix, especially the playoff loss when up 3 to1 were pretty bad. the loss to Dallas was pretty bad. then again, both were very hot teams and the Lakers were extremely undermanned against Phoenix and just burnt out against Dallas.

    if the Lakers lose the first 10 games, it would be a disaster for the team, and yet, even that is not necessarily fatal. the only thing a fan can really demand is that the team does not give up and that they play hard all the time. if the Lakers do those two things, their championship may or may not come, but it’s not impossible by any means. enjoy the games. there is no glory in being correct with one’s predictions. there is only glory in winning. other than cheering, a fan has zero influence on winning. that’s up to the players, and at the end of the day, the players alone. the coach (here’s one of the talking head’s favorite words) is just a facillitator.


  25. Aaron: Agree with you on LeBron beating both Kobe & MJ. I’ve played enough basketball to understand the physical differences between players and the simple physics of mass. Simply put, LeBron is too big, too strong and supernaturally quick for either of those guys. No contest.

    Darius: Nice write-up. The two pieces on Shawne Williams are excellent. Dave McMenamin’s piece shed new light on the possibility of a new and improved D”Antoni who emphasizes defense. Who’d a thunk. Also, Shawne Williams will be the number 1 stretch four. His combination of size, rebounding, defense and shooting fit the needs of the team better than anyone else. A legitimate NBA starter if he plays up to his abilities. Very interesting that a guy viewed as a druggie loser by the league is labeled a “pro’s pro” by the Lakers strength and conditioning coach. . . . Lots of hopeful redemptive story lines!