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Friday Forum

Dave Murphy —  July 26, 2013

I always liked Adam Morrison’s game at Gonzaga, the way he’d play with pure passion, the way he led the nation in scoring the year they went to the Sweet 16. I felt bad that it didn’t work in Charlotte, felt bad that he blew out his knee. It’s how the game goes though. There was hope that he’d turn things around with the Lakers but he didn’t get off the bench much during two title runs. He had a deadpan, testy attitude with the media but teammates told about a funny guy to be around. I doubt it was a Dwight Howard please love me kind of funny. Morrison had a training camp stint with the Wizards after that, followed by euroleague action that went viral when he shoved a guy in Belgrade. I wanted him to catch on with a team during the lockout-shortened season but it didn’t happen. Last summer he destroyed the Lakers in summer league while wearing a Clippers uniform but the Clippers took a pass. He wound up going to Portland and was cut before the regular season began. Morrison was always gracious though, saying that he got paid good money to do something he loved. He has since returned to Gonzaga to get his degree and will also serve as a student assistant coach, back where he enjoyed his greatest on-court successes.

Speaking of Gonzaga, the Lakers brought ex-Bulldog Austin Daye in for a workout on Wednesday. Personally, I’d welcome the opportunity to see a 6-11 small forward in Mike D’Antoni’s system. Daye’s still thin as a rail and never really caught on with Detroit but he certainly had some heat coming out of college.

The job of video coordinator has become increasingly important for NBA teams in the modern era and the job often evolves into more than capturing action and rolling tape. Guys like Mike Brown and Erik Spoelstra worked in the booth before becoming head coaches. Mike Trudell for the Lakers website recently spoke with Tom Bialaszewski, the Lakers tape guru.

There’s been a lot of talk recently about the expectations of a 2014-15 dream season for the Los Angeles Lakers. That’s more than a year away however and there’s actually an upcoming season of basketball to be played. Steve Nash is looking forward to it and is willing to put his money on Kobe’s full strength return. Nash also voiced the opinion that Dwight Howard never seemed to want to be a Laker, and that it’s time to get on with the business of building a team.

Part of that building process is bolstering the guard corp. By the time the injury-decimated Lakers exited last year’s playoffs, the back court was repped by Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock. The return of Jordan Farmar is intriguing in many ways. Drafted by the Lakers as the 26th pick in 2006, Farmar played an important role during his four-year stint. It was no secret however, that the triangle wasn’t the best fit for his prototypical point guard style. This time around, things could be different. Mike D’Antoni’s offensive style is right up Farmar’s alley.

The 2014 season is a hypothetical, filled with notions of free agent jackpots and questions about team direction. Straight ahead however, may be a season of purely fun basketball. It wasn’t all that long ago that Mike D’Antoni was seen as the future of the league. He was Coach of the Year in 2005 and his ‘Seven Seconds or Less’ system was widely chronicled, including a book by Jack McCallum who wrangled a gig as a Phoenix Suns assistant coach for eight glorious days. Those halcyon days aren’t talked about as much anymore. Still, by all accounts D’Antoni has management’s backing for at least one more season. It may be his last best chance for basketball redemption.

 

Wednesday Storylines

Dave Murphy —  July 24, 2013

Summer league is over and now the long wait until training camp begins. The Los Angeles Lakers aren’t in much of a position to do anything splashy between now and then. This is the time of year that used to be an absolute news vacuum. The internet changed all that of course. An ever-hungry beast was created, from hard news to celebrity trainwrecks. Luckily, we have the power of the almighty search engine plus tried and true sites. From money matters that aren’t as simple as previously thought, to injury time tables, Mennonite memories and more, here’s some late afternoon reading on a hot and humid hump day:

Eric Pincus the the LATimes offers a way for the Lakers to avoid the luxury tax this season.

Bill Plaschke from the LATimes believes there’s a decent chance that the Lakers won’t stink.

C.A. Clark from Silver Screen and Roll worries about a premature miraculous Kobe recovery.

The Kamenetzky Brothers offer a new Land O’Lakers podcast, ranging from next years starting Lakers unit to the summer of 2014.

From Kurt Helin at ProBasketballTalk, Melo doubts he’ll be joining the Lakers the season after next.

Andrew Bynum says he hasn’t yet played for a city that supports their team. Serena Winters from Lakers Nation has the story.

There always has to be a Phil Jackson link and this interview by Stephen Rodrick for the Men’s Journal is quite good.

This is the place called the lead-out or the bumper. Themes can be wrapped up neatly, insightful commentary can be inserted or stories can simply be fabricated altogether. Sitting here, staring at the screen. And… staring. It’s really hot out. I took the dog for a walk and when we got back, he started doing something strange with his mouth, like clicking his teeth together. Maybe he got stung by a bee. He’s pretty ancient. Back to staring at the screen. If you stall long enough, sometimes you find a great link to end on. Thanks for the save, Basketball Jones.

Wednesday Storylines

Dave Murphy —  July 17, 2013

Half the Lakers roster exited stage left in recent weeks – one way or another. Just as quickly and with little fanfare, the team has been filling holes on the cheap. Center Chris Kaman nabbed the mini mid-level exception and Jordan Farmar’s overseas buyout is still being negotiated. Gunner Nick Young was brought in as was former 4th overall draft pick Wesley Johnson. Last year’s #60 draft pick Robert Sacre will be back for another year and this year’s #48 pick Ryan Kelley, a classic stretch 4, has been watching summer league action from the sidelines while his foot heals from surgery.

Also on the sidelines in Las Vegas is new assistant coach Mark Madsen, along with Kurt Rambis who’s what you might call an interested party. One spent three years as a Laker reserve power forward, the other invested 20 years in the organization as a player, executive, assistant coach and interim head coach. Each has been away in recent years. Dan D’antoni is running the summer league coaching staff and brother Mike has been keeping a watchful eye on things.

When it comes to the summer league prospects on the floor, a few show real potential for fall training camp invites. In truth however, there may be fewer openings than first assumed – especially given that free agent Lamar Odom is still floating around out there. What will the eventual roster look like? Not dissimilar to other recent Laker lineups – a banged-up Kobe Bryant, a few complimentary aging stars and a supporting cast of role players. Is the pendulum slowly returning to center?

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Friday Forum

Dave Murphy —  July 12, 2013

Metta World Peace is no longer a Laker. Management finally played the amnesty card and that’s how it is. Personally, I think it’s a significant loss. The guy played hard, he played hurt and he’s coming off his best season as a Laker in points, rebounds, steals and blocks. The big question when he first joined the team was his reputation as a loose cannon. Would he bring baggage, distrupt delicate balances, cause divides? The fears were unfounded. The former Ron Artest might have given some of the most bewildering (and awesome) post-game interviews you’ll ever come across but he also had his teammates’ backs. And, he may have put up some shots that were a few cards short of a full deck but he also made some serious game-winners.

Ultimately, Peace was known for his defense. And he’s lost a step, no doubt. Even so, opposing coaches reached for the Maalox when MWP locked down on one of their elites. Of course, there’s the budget and spread sheets and luxury cap and all that. So, enjoy the tax savings next time push comes to shove and a 260 lb raging bull isn’t there to help.

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Wednesday Storylines

Dave Murphy —  July 10, 2013

There’s the rock star reunions that aren’t so cool, y’know the go-through-the-motions and strap on the Stratocaster and yawn your way through some outdated set list from a decade or so ago. And then there’s the reformations that you crave. If Kobe, Pau, Lamar and Farmar somehow end up on tour again, I’ll pay to see the show. If the Machine is on board as well, so much the better. And if Metta can miraculously wind up on the other side of the amnesty period, still in purple and gold? Mad Dog’s already coaching the D-Fenders and Kurt Rambis is in the mix for an assistant coaching slot.

What could make this even tastier? Some white-haired dude in a tall chair with a split-finger whistle? At some point it becomes ridiculous of course, it’s just piling groundless conjecture onto a few actual crumbs. Jordan Farmar did sign for veteran’s minimum however, so that part of it’s real. Plus the onetime caveman from across the hall has joined the band – he was never an actual member but he did jam in the same rehearsal space. Whatever Mitch Kupchak’s game plan is, I don’t think he brings a bunch of old faces back just to tank.

Dave McMenamin from ESPN writes about the signing of Jordan Farmar to a one-year deal. “I’ve been a Laker since I was born” says Farmar. You gotta love that.

In some interesting math mechanics, Eric Pincus from the LATimes asks if Kobe could take veteran minimum in 2014 to help the team. The Lakers would still hold his Bird rights and could then sign him to a max contract for the following year.

Mike Bresnahan for the LATimes writes about Phil Jackson’s humor, the Lamar Odom possibility and bringing the band back together.

Robert Sacre was a very solid #60 pick for the Lakers in last year’s draft. He has now signed for a second year – Drew Garrison from Silver Screen and Roll has the story.

Also per Drew Garrison, if Metta World Peace is amnestied, the Knicks will be his preferred destination.

Brett Pollakoff from ProBasketballTalk looks at last year’s highest NBA luxury tax bills, topped by the Lakers.

Daniel Buerge from Lakers Nation speaks with Roland Lazenby on the Lakers future and Jim Buss.

And finally this. Loren Kantor is a woodcutter/writer from Los Angeles who did a woodcutting of Chick Hearn and wrote about it.

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Today being July 10, free agents can officially sign contracts. Of course, much of the deciding has already been done. For the Los Angeles Lakers who carry a heavy payroll, the choices are limited. They spent their mini-mid level exception on Kaman and are now dependent on veteran minimum deals, the league’s version of bargain basement bag-stuffers. The Lakers have often used these deals on older brand name players who never had their chance at a ring. This year, they seem to be looking at another angle, the idea of reuniting players who’ve already had their best days in Los Angeles. A sizable piece of the puzzle would be the return of Lamar Odom. After the events that led to his departure in 2011, I paraphrased the old Thomas Wolfe phrase, that you can’t go home again. I’m hoping I was wrong.