Archives For Free Agents

With Kobe Bryant sidelined at least 6 weeks and all three point guards on the shelf injured, the Lakers needed to add a warm body who can initiate an offense and soak up some minutes at the lead guard spot. Late Thursday night, they have done just that, adding 2nd year point guard Kendall Marshall.

Marshall was the Suns’ 1st round pick last season (13th overall) but sat behind Goran Dragic and Sebastian Telfair nearly all season. Heading into this year, he was looking to establish himself as a rotation player but with the Suns trade for Eric Bledsoe, and the regime who drafted him shown the door, he was traded as part of the Marcin Gortat to the Wizards deal that got Phoenix a first round pick in the upcoming draft. The Wizards, however, promptly waived him as they too were comfortable with their point guard rotation of John Wall and Eric Maynor.

Marshall then took his talents to the D-League, catching on with the 76ers affiliate Delaware 87ers where he averaged 19.7 points and 9.6 assists in nearly 37 minutes a game over the 7 contests he played.

On the surface, this signing fits right in with what the Lakers have done in the past year. Marshall has a nice pedigree as a prospect but, for a variety of reasons, hasn’t really shown he’s capable of playing in the NBA to this point in his career. His shooting numbers in his lone season with the Suns were not good and the fact that the Wizards waived him outright is a bit of a red flag. All that said, much Al Davis and Bill Parcells used to say in the NFL, at some point someone thought this kid was a real talent and guys like that are worth taking a chance on. Especially when the price is a minimum contract for a team desperately in need of a player at his position.

As for what Marshall can do on the court, there’s really not much to go on. Theoretically, he’s a very good set up man who has excellent court vision. He offers good size and while he’s not a great athlete, he is smart and knows where to be and when to be there. Whether that can translate into actual production on both ends of the floor remains to be seen, but even if you have doubts about this (which I do), the fact is that Marshall is young enough and still a developing prospect. Taking a chance on him being able to turn into someone who can play 10-15 minutes a night while the other point guards heal is more than worth it.

If you’re looking for a sliver of hope with Marshall being able to see court time soon, two factors work in his favor. First is that his D-League numbers, while not amazing, show he has some talent. His overall field goal percentage (41.3%) is low, but he’s shown an ability to hit the three ball (19-41 from deep in those 7 games) and his passing — his best trait by far — has translated to very good assist numbers. The other good thing about Marshall is that when he was drafted by the Suns, Alvin Gentry was still their head coach. Gentry was one of Mike D’Antoni’s top assistants with the Suns and when he took over as the head man, he essentially kept the offense intact. This should mean that Marshall has had some exposure to at least some of the principles of what the Lakers’ do on that side of the floor and that should help him transition.

Again, though, these are all just hopes. Marshall was a lottery pick from a big college program and that works in his favor. He was also traded away by the team that drafted him a year ago and promptly waived by the team that acquired him. I’m sure the Lakers hope they’re getting the guy with the ACC pedigree and elite passing skills who has a developing offensive game. On the surface it’s doubtful that ends up being the case, but based off the chances they took on Xavier Henry and Wes Johnson that have worked in their favor, maybe they catch lightning in a bottle a third time. Considering their depth issues at that spot, there’s certainly no risk in trying.

Nick Minnerath, One More Detour

Dave Murphy —  September 20, 2013

NBA training camps will soon open their doors. Well into the luxury tax and confined by the new CBA, the Los Angeles Lakers have been scooping up minimum salary free agents. There’s currently 15 guaranteed or partially guaranteed contracts, including more than a few wild cards – it will be that kind of season.

Also in play are camp invites from the outer fringes, playing for exposure and the remote possibility of bumping someone else out of place. This is part of the league’s elusive allure, for veterans at the end of their careers, perennial D-leaguers and cautionary tales. Nick Minnerath is a skinny white 24 year-old with lots of ink, hailing from a fragile east coast spit of sand. He wasn’t drafted, was never an AAU prospect and in truth, was basically a washout, even apart from basketball.

This summer, Minnerath managed to get an invite to the Lakers training camp. A couple weeks later, he turned it down. He’s not however, giving up on his hoops dream.

Cape Cod, Massachusetts is a golden place during the summer – dunes and cord-grass, harbors and lighthouses, marshy inlets and terns and wheeling gulls. The population swells to about half a million and the road over the Sagamore Bridge becomes glutted with SUVs. Town boards have long fought against commercialization and to an extent, they’ve succeeded. The forces of nature have not been as kind, with land that constantly shifts and erodes. For three months out of each year, summer residents move back into their vacation homes and relive childhood memories and perhaps make some new ones, while just as many tourists snatch up overpriced rental cottages, months in advance.

When the crowds leave, the Cape changes. The long off-season can be cold and desolate, restaurants close and traffic thins. Nor’ easters blow sideways off the Atlantic, flooding homes and knocking down trees and power lines. The population is an odd combination of retirees, fishermen, construction workers and artists. There’s generational alcoholism and drug use. Cape Cod kids either look to get out or become resigned to a lifetime of limited economic opportunity. Nick Minnerath was a typical townie, baggy jeans and a Celtics hoodie. He would have blended right in except that 6-9 kids stick out on the Cape.

Minnerath grew up in Truro, the son of Michael Minnerath, a Cape Cod National Seashore Ranger. The town is second only to Provincetown at the end of the geographic line. It doesn’t have its own high school – Nick attended Nauset Regional in nearby Eastham. He skipped regularly, got into drugs and failed off the basketball team in his freshman and junior years. He admits he wasn’t particularly into it and had no hopes for college.

Nauset’s head coach Keith Arnold saw something different, size and raw athleticism, as well as a pure jump shot. Minnerath began working out seriously the summer before his senior year. The kid who had nearly bottomed out, approached the season with a new determination. Two games in, Nick Minnerath broke his ankle. A dream that had barely come alive, was already over.

Minnerath managed to graduate, attended a semester at Cape Cod Community College and then resolutely bottomed out. He was heavily into cocaine, took odd jobs – construction worker, cab driver in Provincetown, clerk at Cumberland Farms in Eastham. Cumby’s is one of the places that doesn’t close down during the off-season, it’s where you get your gas and scratchers and cigarettes. According to Nick Minnerath, “I was 19 and I felt like my life was already over.”

A trip to Lincoln, Nebraska with his father made a difference. They were there to visit his aunt and he spent some time at the local YMCA, playing pickup ball with a few guys from the University of Nebraska. He was out of shape but the potential was still there. They asked where he was playing. The answer of course, was nowhere.

Minnerath returned to the Outer Cape, to drugs and sitting on a couch. Something had changed however, a faint flame had been rekindled. “I’d probably be dead if I continued where I was going”, he says. His dad’s girlfriend Janet, suggested contacting junior colleges. She helped him with letters and emails, over 50 of them. Only one coach responded. Steve Finamore at Jackson Community College in Michigan extended an invite to an open gym in June, 2008. There were no promises made. Nick, Michael and Janet, packed their car and drove 900 miles. On a Midwestern basketball court, Finamore watched for ten minutes and then pulled Nick’s dad aside. He offered a scholarship on the spot.

Minnerath found a new focus at Jackson. He caught the attention of Coach Ray McCallum from the University of Detroit Mercy, was offered a scholarship and accepted. He broke into the starting five his first year with the Titans. By his senior year in 2011, Minnerath was attracting national attention. Five games into the season, he blew out his right knee with torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments. His father was called out of the stands. Michael said, “It was just the most heart-wrenching thing I’ve ever seen in my life.”

Somehow, Nick Minnerath came back again. He graduated, rehabbed all summer, returned to the Titans for a redshirt season as a graduate student. He put up an average of 14.6 points and 5.9 boards, dropped 36 on Valparaiso, 34 against Cleveland State. He got an invite to the Portsmouth Invitational in April, had pre-draft workouts for ten NBA teams including the Celtics, Pistons, 76ers, Warriors and Kings. Minnerath’s number wasn’t called in June but he played for Sacramento during Vegas summer league. He also caught the attention of the Los Angeles Lakers.

At 6-9 and 215, Minnerath can run the floor, play above the rim and knock down the three-ball. For the Lakers, he would have been one more potential swingman in a glut of swingmen. He earned an invite to camp with the additional carrot of the Los Angeles D-Fenders. Instead, he took one more detour on his unlikely basketball journey and signed with Obradorio CAB in the Spanish ACB League. Realistically, Minnerath made a decision that was good for him, both financially as well as on the floor. It would have been fun to see him give it a shot in Los Angeles. Yet for a Cape Cod kid once headed nowhere, Nick Minnerath is still living a basketball dream.

The Lakers have been working the edges of the roster in recent weeks, adding all types of wings and combo forwards to compete for a roster spot when training camp opens later this month. In continuing that pursuit, the team has added Marcus Landry, a combo forward who shined for the team’s summer league outfit in Las Vegas in July.

As Mark Medina notes, Landry’s contract is not guaranteed so he joins the ranks of recent signees Shawne Williams, Xavier Henry, and Elias Harris as guys who will have every chance to let their skill set shine through and potentially earn a role when the games count starting in late October.

As for earning that role, I believe Landry has a pretty good shot. He has a history with the D’Antoni brothers, getting a brief stint with the Knicks in the 2010 campaign, and, while not getting a lot of burn, impressed with his skill set and work ethic. Further, after his showing in Vegas, Landry showed he has an NBA style game and an offensive versatility that serves him well in a spread pick and roll attack. With Landry’s ability to space the floor and, just as important, his willingness to compete defensively and on the backboards, he is a solid (if unspectacular) player who doesn’t take a lot off the table.

Does this mean that Landry is a shoe-in to make the team? No. Nor does it mean that he should be viewed as some sort of a difference maker who should be looked at as a future contributor. That said, after signing guys who were high draft picks but haven’t been able to translate that pedigree into production, Landry is likely to be a player who doesn’t flash a high ceiling, but also has a higher floor than a boom or bust gamble.

Ultimately we won’t know if that’s enough to get him onto the final roster until we see him in the mix with the other players competing for a spot, but like the tortoise and hare, his more methodical style may just prove to be enough.

The Lakers, as they continue to fill out their roster in the lead up to training camp, announced that they signed swingman Xavier Henry to a one year contract for the minimum. Henry is a three year veteran and last season averaged 3.9 points and 1.8 rebounds a game for the New Orleans Hornets (now the Pelicans).

Henry fits the mold of the type of player the Lakers have chased this off-season. He is young (22 years old), a former high draft pick (12th overall in 2010), and is not only athletic but offers some positional versatility (he can play both shooting guard or small forward). Those are the positives. On the negative side, he’s not been able to produce much, on either side of the ball, in his first three years which should be something you remind yourself of if you start to convince yourself the team has signed some sort of contributor. Just look at his career numbers for verification of what he’s been through three seasons. That’s not the end of the story, but it’s a big part of it since it’s what’s actually occurred on the court so far.

That said, it seems that the Lakers, knowing that the market is thin and their ability to offer any substantial salary is even thinner, have targeted players who still have potential to tap and are looking to, in one way or another, redeem their careers. Henry fits that description to a tee as he was a highly touted prospect coming out of Kansas when he was drafted but hasn’t done much of anything to justify his draft slot. When camp opens we’ll see how much he has to offer the team with a skill set that still needs refining but was enough, combined with his age, to see him go in the lottery.

And, really, that’s the bigger point here. Henry has some talent and will have the chance to show it. Chance is the key word, though. I’m not sure if Henry will even make the team when the dust settles at the end of training camp. As of now, he’s a camp body who will compete with the likes of Elias Harris, Shawne Williams, Ryan Kelly, and (though not yet confirmed) Marcus Landry for a roster spot. If Henry, or any other of the aforementioned guys, can show that they have enough potential to possibly earn some minutes in the long grind of the campaign, they’ll likely stick. If they don’t, they’re likely to be jettisoned with little invested beyond some practice time and whatever partial guarantees may exist on their contract.

But make no mistake, players like Henry are worth the gamble. Unlike a certain former #2 overall pick who was just paid to go away by the Suns, Henry doesn’t bring a lot of baggage to the table. Not in the form of legal issues or brazen attitude problems that flatlined what should have been a promising career. No, Henry is just another player who flashed enough skill in college to be drafted in the late lottery — a part of the draft that produces as many busts as it does viable rotation players. The Lakers surely hope that he, like Wes Johnson (and to a certain extent Nick Young), have the ability to come close to living up to some of what was seen in them in the first place.

Whether that ends up happening or not remains to be seen, but it’s not like the Lakers have much choice here. They only have the minimum to offer and there’s only two ways to go with that type of contract. They can try to sign young players who still have the promise of potential to improve or they can chase grizzled veterans whose primes are far behind them (the Drew Goodens and Mickael Pietrus’ of the world) and try to get them to sign on and chase a playoff spot. It’s not my money, but going after players who are, hopefully, still ascending in their careers with the potential that, if they perform, they could be part of a future with the team seems like the better play. Even if both approaches are a gamble.

So, in a month we’ll see what Henry has to offer. If it’s his career norm, no harm no foul and he can move onto another opportunity (if one exists). If it’s more than that, the Lakers may just find a part time contributor with traits they need.

On Tuesday, GM Mitch Kupchak announced the signing of Shawne Williams, a 6’9” forward who can play either forward spot, to a 1-year contract for the minimum. The contract is only partially guaranteed.

The 27-year old Williams will be reunited with Coach Mike D’Antoni, under whom who had his best season in 2010-11 while playing for the Knicks. The former first-round pick out of Memphis (17th overall to Indiana) averaged 7.1 points a game that year while shooting an impressive 40% from behind the arc.

With the recent report from ESPNLA’s Dave McMenamin that second-round pick Ryan Kelly is behind schedule in his rehabilitation from multiple foot procedures, this signing makes a whole lot of sense. Williams, if focused (he’s been charged twice for marijuana offenses, most recently in February), could morph into the three-point shooting stretch forward that MDA envisioned in Kelly. That is, if he makes the team- Williams will likely compete with recently signed forward Elias Harris as well as Kelly and Marcus Landry, both of whom are expected to sign, for the final roster spots.

It’s hard to believe that the Lakers, despite being able to carry as many as 15 players during the season, would be willing to take on TWO underachieving first-rounders with a weed problem, so it’s safe to assume that the Lakers will not be a player in the Michael Beasley sweepstakes.