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Tarik Black’s journey to becoming the Lakers’ full time starting center has been a bumpy one. First acquired by the team as a waiver pick up in his rookie season, Black saw good minutes on an injury decimated team in Byron Scott’s 1st season. Black posted a 16.3 PER with the team that season and looked like a player who could contribute the following season.

Only that didn’t happen. Not at all, actually. In their second year together, Byron Scott promptly jerked Black around by limiting his role and (as he did nearly every other young player) speaking poorly of him in the press. This, from a January 2016 column on Scott and Black:

“Go ask Tarik what I told him this summer,” Scott said before the Lakers hosted the Houston Rockets on Sunday at Staples Center. “Just ask him what I told him he needs to do to stay in this league for 10-15 years. When he gives you the answer, come back and tell me and I’ll tell you if that’s exactly what I told him.”

Naturally, a handful of reporters approached Black for his recollection.

“He told me to be a beast, get every rebound and play aggressively,” Black said, reflecting on his exit interview with Scott and Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak. “They told me to work on my skillset. I’m better in my mid range with my size and height in the NBA.”

Okay, that seems rather tame (and probably incorrect since Black is not “better in the mid-range”) but there’s more:

But Scott reported he told Black he wants him to model his game after an NBA All-Rookie first team member (Denver forward Kenneth Faried), a Hall of Famer (Dennis Rodman) and a four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year (Ben Wallace).

“He hasn’t done that yet,” Scott said. “They played balls out, full of energy and aggressive. They didn’t care about the offensive end. … That’s what he has to do to be an integral part of any team.”

“He has been OK. What he gives me off the bench, I don’t know,” Scott said. “He hasn’t done anything spectacular. But he hasn’t done anything devastating where you say, lets send him down to the D-League. But when you’re bringing guys off the bench. You want them to have an impact. He doesn’t have that.”

I don’t rehash all of this to trash the former coach. He had his opinions and they impacted how much Black played — which was not much at all. Black ended up playing in only 39 games for a total of 496 minutes last season. But in a season where Scott leaned heavily on Roy Hibbert (who was terrible) and behind him Brandon Bass (who was good) at C, it seemed odd that Black couldn’t get more minutes (especially at Hibbert’s expense). Even odder was the excuse that Black somehow wasn’t playing hard in his minutes.

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With the news breaking Thursday evening that Magic Johnson is maneuvering to be more than just an “advisor” to Jeanie Buss, instead wanting to “call the shots” for the Lakers, I almost forgot the Lakers had a game to play today. The team is in Milwaukee, playing the final game of their five game road trip in which they are currently 1-3. The loss to the Pistons on Wednesday was a stinker, but the team has otherwise competed well even if the wins have not followed.

Against the Bucks, then, it would be nice of the team could simply wash away that last game and rekindle the energy and effort they’d had in the previous few contests. Especially since, recently, the Bucks have been going through their own issues.

Losers of 11 of their previous 13 games and, sadly, just getting the news that 3rd year forward Jabari Parker tore his ACL for the 2nd time in three seasons, Milwaukee is reeling. And even though they have gotten guard Khris Middleton back from a torn hamstring which has kept him out the entire year, he is on a minutes restriction and cannot be expected to have his rhythm or game conditioning up to his normal standards yet.

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If you thought this Magic Johnson story was just going to settle in and not produce any more headlines, it seems that was a mistake. While at the UCLA vs. Oregon men’s basketball game game on Thursday night in Los Angeles, Magic offered more insight into what he ultimately wants out of his new position as “advisor” to Jeanie Buss.

Josh Peter at USA Today has the story:

Magic Johnson said he wants to “call the shots’’ for the Los Angeles Lakers, a week after it was announced he has rejoined the team as an adviser to owner Jeannie Buss.

“Working to call the shots, because it only works that way,’’ Johnson told USA TODAY Sports when asked what he hopes his role with the franchise will be. “Right now I’m advising. I get that. But at the end of the day, then we all got to come together and somebody’s got to say, ‘I’m making the final call,’ all right? And who’s that going to be?

“So, we’ll see what happens.’’

Johnson, the former Lakers great, said the decision about his role rests with Jeannie Buss, whose brother Jim has been in charge of the franchise since their father, Jerry, died in 2013. During the 2013-14 season, Jim Buss said he would step down after three to four years if the franchise was not yet competing for NBA titles again.

Let’s unpack that quote because there’s a lot there.

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All Mailbag Podcast!

Darius Soriano —  February 9, 2017 — 11 Comments

In the latest Laker Film Room Podcast, Pete and I answer questions sent in from listeners. Included are our thoughts on whether this new starting lineup would have produced more wins to this point if they’d been the starters all season, what we’d like to see the young players improve on after the all-star break, and whether Jordan Clarkson might still be better as a point guard.

Click through to give it a listen.

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So, I know there’s a group of you that have already started to breakdown the odds of the Lakers keeping their top 3 protected pick and treating wins with a conflicted shrug of the shoulders. For me, though, Monday’s win over the Knicks felt good. Luke Walton changed the starting lineup, that group responded well, the team played better defense overall, and they were able to not only build a lead but also hold off any surges from the Knicks to keep them at more than arm’s length.

Yes, there were some things to nitpick about (Russell only playing 19 minutes, Lou leading the team in scoring), but those things mattered less to me than the things mentioned above. So, I am happy. Now, the next question: will that happiness last?

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We have already discussed Magic Johnson’s hiring as an advisor to Jeanie Buss at length, offering some thoughts on how it might impact Jim Buss’ job as well as why I am taking a more wait and see approach to how his role actually plays out before I make any lasting judgments.

One of the under-discussed aspects of Magic’s hire, however, is what might happen to Mitch Kupchak. I will get this out of the way up front — I like Mitch. I think, in the aggregate, he’s been good at his job as General Manager. I think he has a good eye for talent and roster construction while also being quite good at saying a lot without saying anything at all (which is important for a guy in his position when speaking publicly or making on the record comments).

That said, how I feel about Kupchak doesn’t matter. What does matter is how Jeanie Buss and, now that he’s on board in his new role, Magic feels about him. And, according to a report from ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, their opinions may not be as clear cut as mine:

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So, there’s a lot that happened in this game and whenever (or at least pretty often when) that’s the case I’m going to go to a bullet point recap. Sorry, I’m a blogger so I love bullet points. If you want the pure numbers, though, the Lakers beat the Knicks 121-117 and snapped a 12 game road losing streak in the process. They also got their 1st win of this five game roadie and with two games left they could actually have a winning record on the trip. I know, I’m getting ahead of myself.

On to the bullets…

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The Lakers return to action after two days off, facing off against the Knicks in the 3rd of their five game Grammy road trip. The team is 0-2 so far, losing a competitive game against the Wizards on Thursday then a hard fought game against the Celtics a night later. The game against the C’s saw the Lakers win every quarter but the 2nd, but the 12 point defeat in that period was too much to overcome.

After the game, Luke Walton harped on the team’s poor play in those 2nd 12 minutes, bringing up one of his favorite critiques of his team: “In the second quarter as a team, I thought we got selfish. We stopped moving the ball, we stopped trusting each other. Because of it, we’re not making shots and then our defense gets lazy.” Again, this isn’t new and, I think, reflects what Walton really values philosophically. He wants his team to play together, to move the ball, to play unselfishly. He believes that when you play this way, everyone will feel involved offensively and this will translate to defensive engagement too.

One could argue whether or not this is actually true, but I don’t think the Lakers, as a whole, really give these ideals an opportunity for extended stretches. I have commented on this before, but they have only so many natural ball movers on this team. Beyond that, they have guys whose natural games are to want the ball either to shoot it right away or to find a way to do something with it so they eventually can shoot it. When you look at who typically plays in the 2nd quarter, you’ll no doubt make the connection as to why some might rank higher on my list of veterans the team should explore trading.

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