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Friday Forum

Dave Murphy —  May 24, 2013

The web’s been blowing up with Dwight Howard rumors and reveals. Veracity notwithstanding, this is crucial stuff that can no longer be sugarcoated. Here’s what we know (situation fluid). Speaking off the record, a mid-level member of Howard’s support team who’s reportedly on the verge of a low-to-mid level inner sanctum promotion, confessed that the Superstar is approaching free agency with all due diligence and in fact, will thoroughly investigate his options. Slow your scroll if you find this to be insignificant. In fact, the wording is considerably different from what unnamed sources at team headquarters have characterized as an assumption that Howard will carefully evaluate his options. Carefully versus thoroughly. Investigate versus evaluate. Complicating matters are rumors that another Texas team, wholly separate from the two Texas teams previously mentioned, might theoretically be interested once future options can be organically contemplated. We care because you care. We are all in this thing together. Like a Team.

Ben Gollivar for Sports Illustrated Point Forward examines the difference between Dwight Howard rumors and Chris Paul rumors.

Joan Niesen for Fox Sports West examines a potentially complicated Golden State Warrior’s scenario.

Drew Garrison for Silver Screen and Roll ponders how a number 13 draft pick could pave the path for a Howard-centric panoply.

The Kamenetzky Brothers discuss what’s best for Dwight in a Land O’Lakers podcast (also some stuff about Phil Jackson).

Eric Pincus for the L.A. Times writes about Phil Jackson’s skepticism that Dwight will return to the Lakers.

Finally, insider information from America’s Finest News Source about Dwight’s true intentions with Houston.


Where does all of this leave us? First, it’s important to remember that the playoffs are still ongoing and that Summer is about a month away. We’re still in Spring, a season of renewal. Summer of course is a time of growing and extremely warm temperatures while the Fall is known for Harvest. And then of course there’s Winter which is barren and cold and miserable. As Phil would say, ‘unceasing change turns the wheel of life’. See what I’m getting at here?

None of us can possibly know what is in Dwight Howard’s heart and mind and soul. Luckily, there is an army of confidantes for every NBA player and every team executive and every high-powered writer as well as their researchers and their researchers’ significant others. Plus additional source levels including SL1, SL2 and SL-Vector 1A and 1B. And personal real estate agents, waiters and bartenders. We’re gonna get to the bottom of this, all of us together, working in perfect unison and harmony. It’s how we roll.

Friday Forum

Dave Murphy —  May 17, 2013

The playoffs continue to roll with the Memphis Grizzlies heading for a down and dirty showdown with the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals. For the Los Angeles Lakers, the story continues to be whether Dwight Howard will or won’t resign and how to fill in the gaps around a core group of expensive veterans. General wisdom holds that Lakers need to preserve the ability to rebuild during the 2014-15 season when Kobe and Pau’s contracts come off the books. The new CBA doesn’t give much wiggle room regardless – the upcoming season poses the challenge of fielding a supporting cast through the team’s own free agents, the mini mid-level exception, veteran minimum deals, the 49th pick in the 2013 draft and any potential Pau Gasol trade.

Continue Reading…

Prodigal Son

Dave Murphy —  May 15, 2013

One of the funner bits of recent Lakers-related news is the hiring of Mark Madsen as the new head coach of the Los Angeles D-Fenders. The mere mention of Madsen’s name is invariably accompanied by references to his victory parade dance but the essence of the player was always his hustle and determination. Dubbed Mad Dog at Stanford, the tag carried over to his NBA career. It was in college however, that the iconic crash-and-burn reputation was made. Madsen routinely left it all on the floor during his four years at The Farm, helping the Cardinals to four straight NCAA appearances and making it to the final four in 1998. He was the 29th pick by the Lakers in the 2000 draft.

Mark Madsen’s nine seasons in the NBA were somewhat more measured than his collegiate years, he accepted the roles given him, played effectively, listened and learned. The true Mad Dog moments didn’t come as often but they existed, often inspired when larger opposing players tried to muscle him off the block. Madsen would get that familiar bug-eyed look and a real low center of gravity – the man was capable of clearing some room. The two-time NBA champion signed as a free agent with the Timberwolves for the 2003-04 season, played six seasons, was traded to the Clippers and waived. Madsen was an assistant coach for the D-League’s Utah Flash in 2009-10 and returned to Stanford the following year to get his MBA. He segued into an assistant coaching position for Cardinals this past season and now returns to the place where his NBA career began, shepherding  players who toil on the fringes and ball for the love of the game, hoping to some day get their shot.

It’s been pointed out that the Lakers have to play the hand they’ve been dealt next season, there’s simply not a lot of other options considering current salary obligations and the new CBA. Given the obvious constraints, it’s not a bad thing to have a D-League resource that you literally share the house with – the D-Fenders practice and play at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, home to the Lakers practice and training facilities as well as management offices. The team was created by Dr. Jerry Buss in 2006 and was always envisioned as a satellite operation that could potentially pay major dividends at some point down the line. Buss, who passed away this past February, handed the D-League reins to his son Joey five years ago. The CEO/President of the D-Fenders has instituted a number of significant changes, including melding Lakers and D-Fenders benefits for fans and season ticket holders.

For the most part, player movement between the big and little brother halves of the organization has been a matter of seasoning – Devin Ebanks, Darius Morris and Robert Sacre have each served recent stints with the minor league affiliate. Going back a few years, Jordan Farmar was the first player to suit up for a D-league and NBA game on the same day. So far, there hasn’t been much reciprocity – the Lakers most significant recent call up was Andrew Goudelock, by way of the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. This isn’t to say that the D-Fenders haven’t had any success placing players in the NBA. During the 2011-12 season, a record six players were recruited by 11 different teams. Included in the mix was former slam-dunk champ Gerald Green who got a New Jersey Nets call-up that year and is currently a key member of Indiana Pacers bench and one win away from the Eastern Finals.

The D-Fenders have had a bit of an uneven ride with coaches, general managers and even seasons in their entirety – they took all of 2010-11 off for some organizational housekeeping. Past head coaches have included Dan Panaggio, Chucky Brown, Eric Musselman (named 2012 D-League Coach of the Year) and Reggie Theus. This coming season will mark a new chapter – the naming of Coach Madsen was made official at a press conference yesterday.

Is Madsen the right man for the job? Predicting the future in sports is a risky proposition – the Lakers 2012-13 season stands as evidence of that fact. Still there’s a lot to be said for attitude and for varied life experiences. Remember, this is the guy who dedicated two years to missionary work before declaring for the draft. And then were the years spent absorbing wisdom from another spiritually-minded former power forward with deadly elbows – somebody nicknamed Action Jackson. Perhaps the real question isn’t whether Mad Dog can succeed within the D-League’s bubble but whether he can pay it upward to the Lakers – big brother might need a dime or two next season.

Wednesday Storylines

Dave Murphy —  May 8, 2013

The Lakers’ post-season storylines are a pretty slim volume right now. We’re in a bit of a holding pattern aside from shedding a couple pretty decent assistant coaches and to be honest, the Bernie Bickerstaff interim romp was one of the highlights of the season.. Darius wrote about assets yesterday and that’s about the only game in town, studying our cards and considering the possibilities. Wholesale changes may not be in the books this summer. Signing Dwight is a priority, he’s a franchise cornerstone. We all hope that Kobe will come back strong for the final year of his contract. I’m not particularly keen on trading Pau unless meaningful long term value is returned. As for Steve Nash, he’s pretty beat up. Maybe his imprint comes from mentoring but it’s doubtful we have any meaningful generational metamorphosis until the summer of 2014.

For the here and now, it’s about the playoffs. The second round is shaping up in epic nature. The Knicks and Pacers are one-all. Chicago stunned Miami on their home court and are playing with free money tonight. Memphis and OKC are tied up, a tactical battle orchestrated by a couple crafty old point guards in Lionel Hollins and Scott Brooks. And then there was the double-overtime Spurs-Warriors battle the other night – GSW came agonizingly close to a huge upset. Game two is tonight.

Dave McMenamin for ESPN LA hands out grades to the Lakers coaches and management.

The Great Mambino gathers the SS&R crew for a roundtable – the worst season in Laker history?

Lucas Sheiner & Ben Pickman for BustaSports with a Jordan Farmar interview as he looks toward an NBA return.

Eric Pincus for the LATimes wraps up Steve Blake’s year, his best as a Laker although injury-shortened.

Sam Smith for the Chicago Bulls blog writes about Jimmy Butler, getting it done.

Kelly Dwyer for Ball Don’t Lie on George Karl earning Coach Of the Year.

Ethan Sherwood Strauss for Warriors World on reasons for optimism.

Racm for Pounding the Rock with a preview for tonight’s Game 2 of the Spurs/Warriors series.

And finally, from the ESPN archives, a print interview with Lionel Collins conducted ten years ago, reflecting on the ’77 Championship Portland Trailblazers.


What’s next for the Lakers? Nothing that won’t wait for another day. The draft is still six weeks away and debating the number 48 pick really isn’t exactly barn burner material. This is the place where I’d normally go on about the winding road or some such nonsense but I got nothing. Signing off now.


Wednesday Storylines

Dave Murphy —  May 1, 2013

The 2013 playoffs are still in their infancy so to speak – the eventual champions won’t be crowned until the middle of June. For the Los Angeles Lakers however, a strange and painful season is in the books The end might have come early but not surprisingly so – five key members of the roster were physically unable to play and still more played hurt. The team exit interviews are over and 15 players begin their summer vacations, almost all with no certainty of where (or if) they will ply their trade in the fall.

Ramona Shelburne from ESPN reflects on a season that fell far below expectations.

Here’s a gem from Brian Kamenetzky via Sulia, re: Darius Morris, the big picture and lessons learned from Kobe.

Speaking of Kobe, he got his stitches out on Tuesday. As he tweeted #progress.

From Mark Heisler and Sheridan Hoops, the Lakers’ summertime’s ain’t so easy.

According to Marc J. Spears at Yahoo, Kobe wants Dwight back. Dwight meanwhile, needs some time and space to consider the future.

Listening to Steve Nash tell it, when Dwight does make his choice it should be to stay in Los Angeles. Via Mike Bresnahan of the LA Times.

At Real GM, Jarrod Rudolph argues Howard’s choice isn’t just about where he plays next year, but about how good he wants to be.

If you can handle 50 signs of the Lakers’ apocalyptic doom, Michael C. Jones for the Yahoo network has them to offer.

More fun with numbers: 23 questions facing the Lakers this off-season from BK at Land O’ Lakers.

Sticking with this theme, Kurt Helin at Pro Basketball Talk gives us 5 things the Lakers should do on their summer vacation. Kurt also brings us the news that Kobe’s mom is auctioning off a bunch of memorabilia from his days at Lower Merion.


The end of each NBA season is not necessarily finite – it varies according to organizations, standings and the finish line. It can be the afterglow of a championship or the stoic suffering of fans whose teams never quite get there. The Los Angeles Lakers haven’t have a real sense of continuity in recent years, at least not in the most typical of ways. The disappointment of the 2011 loss to the Mavericks in the second round quickly gave way to a league-wide obsession with the summer lockout. The loss to OKC in the 2012 second round was accompanied by a general sense of frustration, followed by understandable relief with the signing of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard.

Yes, it has been chronicled endlessly – every calamitous and sorrowful bend of the road. There is a numbness that follows. There is also a roster of players, some with contracts and some without. And despite every injury, every event, every wrong move, there are ingredients that remain. Some will be kept, some will be tossed aside, some will be added. The cooks in the kitchen have the summer to plan and make their stew. We will have the summer to look over their shoulders.

Friday Forum

Dave Murphy —  April 26, 2013

Maybe you thought the injury bug had passed, that Kobe’s Achilles tear would be enough to appease the dark basketball gods who inexplicably dogged the Lakers all season long. Wrong and wrong again. The maladies cycle and regenerate in direct correlation to whatever the team’s greatest needs and weaknesses are at any given moment. It is beyond reason now, it has gone viral. It has become a macabre plot device – the last man standing, a post-apocalyptic scenario in which the remaining players exit the bunker and look around – are we the only ones left? Until some sadistic winged creature swoops down and grabs another one in its wretched scabby grip. There is no safe place to be. Give us more.

The Kamenetzky Bros offer up another fine podcast on their Land O’Lakers blog – on injuries, the future of Mike D’Antoni,, PJ scenarios and trips to Mars.

C.A. Clark for Silver Screen and Roll examines the Lakers gift that keeps on giving – turnovers.

Dave McMenamin for ESPN Los Angeles writes about the likely loss of Steve Blake, Steve Nash and Jodie Meeks for tonight’s game.

Speaking of Meeks, Mark Medina of the LA Daily News is reporting Meeks’ MRI shows a “partial ligament tear. That doesn’t sound good.

Ben Bolch for the LATimes also chronicles the guard corps woes.

Dan Devine for Ball Don’t Lie on a hopeless scenario and Magic Johnson’s affirmation of same.

Sam Amick from USA Today has a different take, this from Dwight Howard who says he’s not going down without a fight.

Mark Medina for Inside the Lakers brings Dwight’s take on the Spurs’ art of flopping.

Finally, Ross Gasmer for Lakers Nation has put together a chart of the Lakers injuries this season.

And more finally, a late-breaking misery loves company report, Russell Westbrook is out for the season. You never want to see a player go down, no matter whose team it is.


Things are seeming grim, just two games into the first round playoffs. But what about the newly-named NBA Development League’s Most Valuable Player? The inside-out game won’t work without perimeter threats. Enter Andrew Goudelock, the 2011 College Three-Point Champ, also drafted by the Harlem Globetrotters for his 4-point ability. The problem of course is the small matter of defense – it’s really not Glock’s forte. Which is why we have Darius Morris, no? At 6-4 he’s got some size and played a bit more this season than last. End of year report cards have indicated potential and he’s managed a place on the roster for insurance reasons. And then there’s Chris Duhon, the nine-year journeyman and third cousin to Robert Sacre.

Sometimes things go so calamitously wrong that you wind up using those guys on the padded leather chairs at the end of the line. They fill a variety of roles – some are practice bodies, some possess a particular skill set and some still have vestiges of the star power that once made them the face of a franchise. Tracy McGrady was recently signed by the Spurs after stints in China and his living room couch. What would you rather have, a guy who was once the truth or a young gunner straight off a minor-league MVP award? Players like Duhon, Morris and Goudelock are often dismissed by virtue of definition – they’re at the end of the bench for a reason. Sometimes the reason becomes the reality you never expected – they’re needed. Here’s hoping the 41st and 46th picks of the 2011 draft do us proud. Just keep an eye on the Staples Center rafters for those screaming death-spiral birds of prey. They might still be hungry.


Wednesday Storylines

Dave Murphy —  April 24, 2013

Game day once again, the second of the first round series against the Spurs, once again in San Antonio. The first game showed a few things – that the Lakers possessed some defensive will, that Kobe’s instant offense was sorely missed and that Steve Nash in his first game back was not in particularly good shape. In some obvious ways, the game presented the ghosts of the Lakers’ past, present and future. The team is old and injured and many of the players who wear the uniform now won’t be wearing it in years to come. It doesn’t mean there isn’t a pathway to a steal on the road, however narrow. Can the Lakers find an effective way to redistribute Kobe’s minutes and responsibilities? Can Steve Blake thrive alongside Nash? Just how far can Gasol and Howard take the team?

Dave McMenamin from ESPN Los Angeles details Lakers adjustments going into game two – more ball movement to compliment the inside-out game.

Mike Trudell for the Lakers Blog, reporting on Tuesday’s practice.

Mike Bresnahan for the LATimes writes that the Lakers need more offense, instantly.

Drew Garrison for Silver Screen and Roll on the Spurs’ gamble and payoff in game one.

Ben Rosales for Silver Screen and Roll takes on the matter of offense in a Beast or Burden post.

The Kamenetzky brothers’ latest podcast covers a lot of ground, including Devin Ebanks’ burial.

In case you missed this one, Phillip Barnett stopped by to talk with Matthew Tynan at 48 Minuted of Hell on the eve of the Lakers/Spurs series.

Fran Blinebury for Hang Time Blog writes about a hobbled Steve Nash.

Arielle Moyal for Lakers Nation on Steve Nash and other Lakers news and rumors.

Adrian Wojnarowski for Yahoo Sports reports on Mike Brown’s return to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Substitute for generic Kobe Bryant social media article: Kobe tweeted. Then he didn’t.


It’s not unheard of for an 8th seed to beat the top team in either the eastern or western divisions. The Nuggets did it against the SuperSonics in ’94, the Knicks defeated the Heat in ’99, the Warriors beat the Mavericks in ’07. Grizzlies took down the Spurs in 2011 and the 76ers upset the Bulls just last season. As for the real pot of gold, New York might have had a real shot when they made it to the finals in ’99 against San Antonio, were it not for Patrick Ewing’s torn Achilles.

The Lakers survived a horrendous season through increased determination, just barely outlasting their own diminishing stockpile of live bodies, inching agonizingly closer to a playoff berth but not guaranteed one until the very last day of the regular season. Our eyes and sense of logic informs us that a miracle upset like the ones listed above, simply isn’t in the cards. Still, tonight represents one of those rare, true tipping points, where one game can turn a series. Win this one and head back to Staples Center and a three-game home stand.


After The Gold Rush

Dave Murphy —  April 18, 2013

There’s an oft-used saying, ‘it’s a tough act to follow.’ You don’t want to be the band that takes the stage after the last band just totally shredded. Or the comedian that follows the guy who had them rolling in the aisles. Phil Jackson was a tough act to follow. Just ask Rudy T, ask Tim Floyd, ask Mike Brown.

Mike D’Antoni could have been the guy that simply followed Brown, they might have given him the keys to the city. But Jackson was back in the picture and for the most obvious of reasons – he was probably the best man for the job, having delivered great riches in the past. D’Antoni’s preferred system of basketball wasn’t suited for for the All-Star roster he inherited and it certainly wasn’t suited for a revolving door of injuries. A pretty rough season followed.

The Lakers lost another giant recently, someone whose greatness defined the team’s identity and direction. Kobe Bryant rounded the corner on Harrison Barnes and headed for Achilles surgery and a new found hobby of tweeting. Who knew?

Things can turn on a trifle as someone used to say. The loss of Bryant was both stunning and surreal and a couple hundred epic articles dropped over the next 24 hours and observers burped and patted each others backs and headed to the sink with the dishes, ready to rinse and wash and move on to the playoffs. In this particular narrative, non-Laker fans could afford to be magnanimous with their sympathy – you guys always have next year. Or not.

A funny thing happened at the tail end of the regular season. In the absence of certain giants and expectations, a team began to form their own ad hoc destiny. You can’t really label them bad news bears, not when fronted by Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol. You also can’t pin the month of April on the loss of Kobe and some new found freedom. The Lakers went seven and one and five of those games saw Kobe playing insane minutes and carrying much of the load.

Sometimes, you just have to watch. One of Mike D’Antoni’s pet phrases is ‘letting the ball find the open man’. He has no ownership of the concept, it’s as old as the game itself, a guiding principal in the sport, sometimes honored and often ignored. Over the last two games, the ball has found new movement out of necessity. Guys are getting touches they didn’t get before. And who would have guessed that Andrew Goudelock would get a call-up and join Darius Morris on the floor during pivotal minutes in a seed-defining win?

It’s not simply the loss of Kobe that has caused a change in the team’s philosophy. Steve Nash has been out of action and may suit up on Sunday against the Spurs, depending on the results from two recent epidurals. Will his return put a damper on Steve Blake’s resurgent play? There are no simple answers.

To say it has been a season of adjustment is saying just a little. There have been recent moments that show an interesting unity however. A time out and coaches interact with their players. Dwight’s chatting with Bernie Bickerstaff, Chuck Person makes a point with Metta World Peace. D’Antoni calls the guys to gather and they’re paying attention. A group that has seen little time together on the floor goes back out there and gets some stops. Games are won ugly but they’re won. And the Lakers are in the playoffs with the seventh seed and if nothing else they’ve earned the right to keep playing.

Spring is regarded as a time of renewal and hope. It’s not always pretty, it follows in the barren footsteps of winter after all. The NBA season is too long for the health of its players. It affects all teams and the San Antonio Spurs will be heading into the first round with issues of their own. For the Los Angeles Lakers, it’s a transitional era in ways that are sometimes willfully ignored. Their earth has been mined and harvested, it is in need of replenishment and the new CBA has thrown a few obstacles into the mix. It’s not to say you can’t use your remaining assets though or that you can’t use them well.

The past, present and future of the Lakers has coalesced for the moment – it may not be the most stable of circumstances but there is at least some acceptance – from a head coach willing to let his team play to its strengths to a team willing to share, no longer bound to a singular voice. The expectations game will be back in the summer, one way or another. For at least this moment however, it’s simply the game of basketball.