Archives For

Wednesday Storylines

Dave Murphy —  May 29, 2013

In the brave new world of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, building through the draft becomes increasingly necessary. There’s a bit of a Catch-22 for teams that have successful seasons with any regularity. Winning compromises draft position while free agency spending becomes increasingly funneled into a punitive bottleneck. The Lakers have few options available for plugging holes in the dyke until the 2013-14 season when a lot of money theoretically comes off the books. For now, there’s the veteran minimum, the mini mid-level exception and one paltry pick – #48.

For teams like the Lakers, the conventional wisdom is usually to pick the best player available, regardless of position. It’s a simple matter of logic when you have one pick and a poor slot. It’s a little different if you’re the Cavs with four bites at the apple including number one, or Portland, also with four. So what are the Lakers needs? Everything. Given age, injuries and Dwight Howard’s free agency there is no position where we have any real depth – possible exception being point guard though you wouldn’t have known during the recent playoffs. Then again, there may not be a lot of positional choices by the time Adam Silver hits his mark and announces #48 – the bottom half of this year’s draft tends to favor big and slow.

Ben Rosales from Silver Screen and Roll has put together a thorough and thoughtfull Lakers draft primer – give it a read.

The Lake Show Life has put together a good round table of potential picks.

Here’s a great overview on Western Conference draft trends from Matt Norlander at CBS Sports.

Dave McMenamin from ESPN GO offers ten decisions that shaped the Lakers fate this past season.

Ronnie Lester was with the Lakers organization for 27 years as a player and executive before being let go in 2011. Eric Pincus from the L.A. Times has an update.

The San Antonio Spurs are legendary when it comes to managing the draft, especially with overseas players that are usually stashed and ripened. Tony Parker was drafted at #28 and Manu Ginobili at #57. J.R. Gomez from Pounding the Rock has the story on the team’s most recent long term development prospect – Tiago Splitter’s coming into his own in the NBA after being drafted #28 six years back.

Here’s a bunch of good Lakers links and rumors from Arielle Moyal at Lakers Nation.

Also from Lakers Nation via Elizabeth Benson, Phil Jackson’s view on fixing the Lakers problems.

Finally, while we rarely link financial media sites here (and it’s not really relevant to the draft), here’s an article from CBS MoneyWatch, How to Lead Like Phil Jackson.

***

Mitch Kupchak has done a lot of good things over the years. There’s few general managers better at high-level stealth trades and acquisitions, the melding of veteran talent and the mega market high-wire balancing act. If there’s room for improvement and there always is, the draft is a place to look. It’s been eight long years since the Lakers were in the top ten – that of course being the Andrew Bynum pick. Ronnie Lester and his staff were responsible for scouting the high school center and Jim Buss liked what he saw during a Lakers workout. It has to be noted of course that Buss was also the one who famously offered that “if you grabbed ten fans out of a bar and asked them to rate prospects, their opinions would pretty much be identical to pro scouts.”

The tag has stuck with Jim Buss ever since. To be fair, the remark was made long ago. Jim didn’t exactly douse the flames in 2011 however when he drastically reduced and consolidated the team’s scouting arm. Today, the nucleus of that division is Jim, his younger brothers Joey and Jesse, longtime consultant Bill Bertka and Mitch Kupchak himself. It would be inaccurate to say that the organization no longer employs additional scouts. It is not inaccurate however, to admit that the operation has been streamlined.

So what’s the big deal, it’s only a #48 pick, right? Sure, but there’s always choices. One team might find a Manu Ginobili hidden in plain sight at the end of the line. Or, you could pick a Chukwudiebere Maduabum. We’re about a month away from seeing how the Lakers roll the dice this time around.

 

 

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.