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The Lakers are a family business. Gary Vitti is Lakers’ family. The head trainer is entering his 32nd year with the team. It will be his last. Mike Bresnahan of the LA Times has the story:

Vitti will stay on for two additional seasons as a consultant, but will no longer travel with the team; will no longer be the guiding hand that oversees the Lakers’ health.

Some people are probably looking at Vitti stepping down, thinking to all the Lakers’ injuries over the last couple of years, and whispering to themselves that it is time for a change. I don’t agree with that notion at all (if you think Vitti could have prevented Nash’s leg being broken and nerve endings being frayed or Kobe’s achilles from exploding, more power to you).

Still the circumstances of his departure, likely are tied to the team’s horrendous run of injury luck. From Bresnahan:

So much has happened the last few years, so little of it positive. Vitti even called it “a nightmare.” Few would disagree, the Lakers continually losing Bryant and Steve Nash to injury, along with a slew of games.

“When somebody gets hurt, I blame myself. That’s the Laker way — you’ve got a problem, you go in the bathroom, you look in the mirror, you start with that person,” Vitti said. “The one that really affected me and maybe even affected this decision [to retire] was Julius Randle. All of his doctors and his surgeon are saying that nothing was missed, but the guy goes out there and breaks his leg the first game [last season]. That one really bothered me.”

For me, though, when I think of Vitti, I think of all the positives he brought to the team’s myriad of injury issues.

I think of how he’s worked with Kobe over the years, often around the clock, developing and implementing methods to keep the Lakers’ prized player on the court and competing at the highest level. I think of him using a streamlined splint and tape job on Kobe’s index finger on his shooting hand during the team’s run to the title in 2010. I think of the “butterfly” tape job he did on Kobe’s ring and pinky finger to stabilize the fracture in the smaller appendage in 2009. I recall the story of Vitti working with Andrew Bynum on his running gait and having the big man develop strength in specific core muscles, helping him remain healthy during what was his best season with the team.

The other thing I think of is Vitti was also so much more than a trainer. In a feature on Vitti, Ramona Shelburne once reported that Vitti really only got three hours for himself each day — the other 21 hours were dedicated to the Lakers. Brad Turner of the LA Times reported that Vitti’s day typically started at least an hour and a half before the players would arrive at the practice facility:

If the players are scheduled to arrive at the Lakers’ training facility in El Segundo at 10:30 a.m. for an 11 a.m. practice, Vitti and his staff arrive about 9 a.m. They make plans for the day and on which players need therapy.

When the Lakers arrive, the training staff stretches and warms up the players.

During practice, Vitti is back on his computer documenting therapy reports, talking to Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak about injured players and getting ready for post-practice therapy.

Turner further explained that Vitti also had a slew of other duties for the team, ranging from making arrangements for their chartered flights to making sure the team had practice sites secured during road trips. I’ve also heard that Vitti is the man who secures and hands out hotel keys to the players while on the road. (Update: Vitti does, in fact, hand out the hotel keys on the road.) Vitti is also the go-between for players, coaches, and management, using discretion when necessary and working in the best interests of all sides. This isn’t a role that could be performed without unwavering trust in the man by everyone within the organization.

From Jerry Buss to Jeanie and Jim, the Logo to Mitch Kupchak, from Riley to Phil, Magic and Kareem to Shaq and Kobe and Pau and everyone else in between, Vitti has earned an maintained that trust. He’s done an amazing job not just at his primary job, but at all the others as well.

Gary Vitti is Lakers’ family. I, for one, will be sad to see him go.

If you remember last summer, after the Lakers missed out on Carmelo Anthony (and the rest of the big name free agents) they quickly moved on to signing other free agents, inking deals with Nick Young and Jordan Hill (and eventually Ed Davis). Well, this summer seems to be playing out quite similarly.

After it was announced yesterday LaMarcus Aldridge would sign with the Spurs, the Lakers have moved with accelerated pace in the market, agreeing to acquire Roy Hibbert in a trade and sign Lou Williams away from the Raptors as a free agent. They are not done, however, as it is now being reported they will ink another veteran free agent forward:

The Lakers have also released a statement on the ongoing negotiations with Brandon Bass (and Williams):

Los Angeles Lakers have engaged in negotiations with free agent guard Lou Williams and free agent forward Brandon Bass and intend to enter into player contracts with them at the conclusion of the NBA Moratorium Period, it was announced today by General Manger Mitch Kupchak.

A key part of the statement, of course, is “in negotiations with” as the exact terms of these deals are not yet determined — at least with Bass. For more on how the money might work for Bass, let’s turn to Eric Pincus of the LA Times:

The “room exception” makes sense for Bass as that is the cleanest way to sign him without having to make any additional roster adjustments. However, if it were as simple as Bass signing for the $2.8 million that exception would offer, we would likely have that information right now. Instead, then, might we see more roster moves to help clear space to sign Bass (as well as create more space to take on Hibbert’s large deal)?

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After missing out on every free agent they targeted this summer, the Lakers are looking to add talent a different way. In sore need of a big man to man the pivot, Marc Stein is reporting the Lakers are in talks with the Pacers:

This was a topic we discussed yesterday, so I won’t rehash a lot of that now.

For more background on Hibbert’s availability, though, he had a player option on his contract that he exercised shortly after draft night. That option will pay him a shade over $15 million this season, the final of his contract. Hibbert is available mostly because the Pacers drafted his successor (Myles Turner) with their lottery pick and would like to play faster than they have with Hibbert manning the middle.

For the Lakers, the fit would likely be a mixed bag. They too would like to play faster with their young athletes, and Hibbert doesn’t really fit that mold. However, Hibbert fills a major positional need, is a fine compliment to Randle defensively, and could even serve as a bit of a defensive mentor for Robert Upshaw should he end up sticking with the team beyond summer league.

For all these reasons, I’d support the Lakers making this type of move. Especially if they could nab another asset from the Pacers in the process of absorbing such a large contract and allowing the Pacers to dump a lot of money with, essentially, nothing likely going back in return. For a team like Indy who does not want to pay the tax and would like a manageable payroll, that is a not a minor point.

We’ll see if it is enough to get a deal done, however.

In a pretty wild turn of events, it seems LaMarcus Aldridge may not have ruled the Lakers out after all:

This, really did come out of nowhere. It seemed the Lakers truly were out of the running, as the Spurs maintained their status as the frontrunner and the Suns making moves from the outside to swoop in and sign the seemingly soon to be former Blazer. But here the Lakers are, making another pitch:

What exactly does getting it right mean? After reports the Lakers’ initial pitch was focused too much on off-court opportunities and not enough on how things would work on the floor, this second meeting will be purely basketball:

We can make jokes about this, and I’m guessing the Lakers won’t make too much headway in this meeting. But, in saying that, while the Lakers do not have a lot of proven talent to pair with Aldridge today, they can talk Byron’s offense and how Aldridge fits into it as a centerpiece players. If Byron is able to articulate how Aldridge will get the ball in his sweet spots, have ample opportunities to work in the hub of the offense from the elbows, and be a pick and pop partner with Kobe, Clarkson, and D’Angelo Russell, that is more in line with the type of information he might want to hear.

I mean, look at his shot chart:

Aldridge

If looking at the types of shots Byron’s offense produces and the types of shots Aldridge seems to build his game on, there is actually a pretty big overlap. If the Lakers could combine this type of information (in more detail, of course) with a discussion on how they might also acquire a Center to pair with Aldridge in the starting lineup, that might further aid their cause:

I am by no means getting my hopes up here. If I were a betting man, I’d say Aldridge ends up with the Spurs or the Suns. But the Lakers are going to get their chance to make a second first impression and see where that gets them.

As discussed earlier, the Lakers have dwindling options in free agency as many of the most desirable players were snatched up in a frantic first 24 hours of activity. One of the more appealing options left on the market as of Thursday morning was the Lakers’ own free agent, Ed Davis.

The market moves quickly, however, and reports now have Davis no longer available:

First things first, this is a very reasonable deal for Davis. It is slightly above the Mid-level Exception, but in a climate where many players are getting more per/year money than that and inking longer contracts, the Blazers did well for themselves getting Davis for slightly more than a $6 million annual average.

For the Lakers, however, this is pretty rough news. Unless they have another option lined up, this is the type of deal they could have easily offered Davis to stick around. Considering Davis said he would like to stay with the team and, reportedly, that interest was mutual, it is difficult to see why there could not have been a mutual agreement with the end result him being in a Laker uniform next season.

When you consider the Lakers’ depth chart at Center and the fact Davis’ deal still leaves room for, roughly, a 25% max salary slot that would have still allowed the team to chase other players, it’s harder to see why something couldn’t get done.

In other words, if you weren’t fully frustrated before, this type of deal for Davis with another team likely inches you closer to that point.

The Lakers haven’t been idle in free agency, but the results have still made them out to be spectators. When free agency opened on Tuesday night, they met with LaMarcus Aldridge in Los Angeles, on Wednesday morning they flew to the east coast to meet with Greg Monroe, then returned back to Los Angeles to meet with DeAndre Jordan. If you’re scoring at home, though, Aldridge will reportedly not sign with the Lakers, Monroe has chosen the Bucks, and DeAndre Jordan will choose between the Mavericks and the Clippers.

Looks like the team did all that zigzagging across the country for nothing. I guess John Wooden was right, do not mistake activity for achievement.

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The Lakers made LaMarcus Aldridge their top free agent target. They set up a meeting with him right at the opening of free agency, used social media as a tool to express their desire to have him sign (#LAtoLA), and brought in their full crew of basketball and off-court team to the pitch meeting to go over every possible angle of what being a Laker for the next four years would mean.

Despite this full court press, it is being reported Aldridge will not sign with the Lakers:

The fact it was, supposedly, a “50-50 choice” is somewhat encouraging on the surface and should not be totally disregarded. The Lakers were a bad team last season. Beyond Kobe Bryant, they currently only have Julius Randle, Ryan Kelly, and Nick Young under contract. Yes, they have all-rookie 1st teamer Jordan Clarkson and just drafted D’Angelo Russell (and Larry Nance Jr.), but overall he would be joining a team with a legend who doesn’t have a lot of time left in the league and several young, unproven players who are not on the same timeline as him to win now.

Choosing not to sign with the Lakers should not be a surprise, then. In saying, that, though, none of the reasons stated above are actually being reported as the reasons he is choosing a different team:

Oh. Okay.

Let’s try to unpack this a bit more since you can only glean so much from 140 characters.

I’ve no clue if what’s being reported here is a shot at the Lakers’ talent level, an implied lack of analytics driven data to maximize him as a player, a perceived lack of strong coaching, something entirely different or a combination of all the above. What I do know, however, is that it’s not a great look for the Lakers. At some point, perceptions do become reality and if the team is consistently trying to sell something besides basketball and it comes at the expense of basketball, that is not likely to make a great impression.

Further, the idea — subtle or not — that Kobe could be seen as some sort of obstacle towards bringing in a talented player is…worrisome. Again, we do not know all (any?) of the facts here. None of us were in the room and the tweet above mentions outright the vagueness of what led to that lack of connection between Kobe and Aldridge. But, on the heels of Dwight leaving (no matter your feelings about Howard as a player, teammate, or anything else, the Lakers wanted him back) and Kobe’s reported role in greasing the wheels of that exit, the above is something worth taking note of. Not worth putting all the emphasis on, just as an additional talking point.

Ultimately, maybe all of this is a bit unfair. The Lakers have been a bad team for two consecutive years. Last year they won 21 games. They have a roster of mostly unknown, unproven players and Aldridge — who is 30 — is trying to win now. The Spurs (the presumed front-runner) won the title the season before last, just signed the MVP of that Finals series for five more years, brought back Danny Green, and also still have Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, and Manu Ginobili. If we’re looking at rosters and the money is even close to the same, this ins’t really a choice. The fact the Lakers were in this at all, again, is somewhat encouraging.

But that nagging feeling the Lakers don’t have it together persists. Even if that’s not true (or fair), perception is starting to shift that way. So, while I can say with a straight face that I am not really heartbroken over Aldridge not signing — especially when his fit on the roster is not ideal — the reasons why he made this choice do cause a bit of concern. Not because we should take the reports above as 100% accurate, but because they contribute to a perception which is shifting more and more towards unflattering about the Lakers.

UPDATE: Well, the decision has become official:

With Hill’s contract now off the books, the Lakers will have an estimated $22-24 million to play with in free agency. Which path they choose when trying to spend that money remains to be seen, but this move hints at their want to try and make a big splash when July 1st rolls around.

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