Archives For Laker News

Friday was a wild day for the Lakers. What started with a glimmer of hope that Carmelo Anthony might still decide to bring his talents to tinseltown, ended with the Lakers seemingly spending all their cap space on acquiring Jeremy Lin from the Rockets, re-signing Nick Young to a 4-year contract, and re-upping Jordan Hill for an additional two years (with a team option on that second season).

Not necessarily how many fans envisioned the team’s day evolving, that’s for sure.

The question isn’t what these moves bring to the Lakers, that’s really the easy part of all this. All three players are pretty proven commodities who fans should be quite familiar with. We’ll evaluate them more in time, but not now. That’s because there is a bigger question at hand: do the Lakers have one more move in them?

As mentioned above, the Lakers have seemingly used all their cap space on the aforementioned three players. In Lin ($8.37 million), Hill ($9 million), and Young (not yet known, but a 1st year salary of roughly $4.5 million is possible) the team’s nearly $22 million in cap space would be spent if all these deals were signed in the next 24 hours.

But, will they be?

If you want the Lakers to continue to be players on the free agent market, you should hope they won’t be. Because despite having commitments to those players, the Lakers can still try to do a bit more simply by using timing and various mechanics of the CBA to their advantage. The LA Times’ Eric Pincus explained this via twitter:

Okay, the difference between Hill’s cap hold and expected salary (roughly $2.3 million) and the room exception (an exception for teams who fall beneath the salary cap to sign another player above the minimum) don’t sound exciting, but they are options to sign a couple of more players who could help the team.

These aren’t the only cap gymnastics the Lakers could try, however. More from Pincus:

Pau Gasol is not going to be a Laker next year (more on this at another time), but the Lakers can still try to facilitate a sign and trade as Pincus notes. It would have to be perfectly timed and the Lakers would be limited in how much money they could bring back — they would need at least $13.5 million left of their cap space to sign Young and Hill. This isn’t much, but if a team wants to give up an asset for Pau while not sending much salary back it could be explored.

The only way for the Lakers to really up their cap space is to use the stretch provision on Steve Nash. This would turn their $2.3 million of cap space into close to $9 million in cap space. That would be enough to chase one high potential, second-tier free agent (Lance Stephenson?) or multiple mid-level free agents who could be part of the rotation. This may be far-fetched, but it is an option that still exists. And if you want the Lakers to be as good as they can be next season, you should hope that they explore all these options.

Of course, these are all just hypotheticals. And considering how quickly the Lakers moved in making the moves they did on Friday, I’d bet they are done looking. Add in that “stretching” Nash keeps money on the books beyond next summer and into years where the team is hoping to have clean books, it only adds further doubt they would take these measures. Instead, I would imagine they are destined to now fill out the roster much like they did this past year — chasing low cost players who need to rehabilitate their games and wouldn’t mind doing it on the stage the Lakers offer.

One can hope they still have one more trick up their sleeve, though. Because while I can live with what they have done to this point, I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t like at least one more.

Apparently, the Lakers aren’t done doing business today after trading for Jeremy Lin. According to multiple reports, the team has agreed to bring back Nick Young:

Nick Young is entertaining. And last year he proved to be a good teammate, bringing good spirit and a sense of joy to a lockerroom that desperately needed both. He also had one of, if not his best statistical seasons of his career. There is no doubt that he can play and when you combine that with his love of the game and how he can bring a fun loving nature to a team, I can understand wanting him back.

That said, I am not in love with this deal. Young is already 29 and, if the above report is true, the 4th season is a player option. Maybe a 32 year old Swaggy P decides he wants to test the market one last time before his contract expires, but that seems doubtful to me. In essence, then, the Lakers are paying Young roughly $5 million a year for the next four years. As much as an argument could be made for paying a bench scorer of his caliber this much money, his age makes it more of a gamble than, say, if he were even two years younger.

The flip side to all this, however, is that the Lakers now have another good player on a roster that desperately needs them. Young has his warts and will always have his detractors because of his shot selection and only average defensive ability, but he can impact a game offensively. If his skills on that end of the floor can be harnessed to their maximum potential while finding ways to cover up some of his limitations, he can be a very good contributor on a *contract that is not, from a pure numbers standpoint, totally okay.

If all that sounds like I am trying to sell myself on this deal. It’s because I kind of am. Young surprised me this past season however. Maybe he will do so again.

*The number on Young’s deal — roughly $5 million per year — may be seen as an overpay, but in reality is the equivalent of a mid-level exception contract. Those contracts are typically very tradable assets on the market and can make for good filler in larger deals. I am not trying to trade Young right as he inks his new deal, but it is worth noting that should it ever come to that, his contract could be useful in a variety of ways down the line. Just something to keep in mind.

There are few things certain with the Lakers right now. Whether it’s their coaching search, their pursuit of free agents, or the production their holdover players can provide to next season’s roster this is a team with more questions than answers.

One open question, though, has been answered. After being drafted with the 7th overall draft, the questions shifted from Julius Randle’s talent to whether a pre-draft report about him potentially needing foot surgery would turn out to be true. On Wednesday the Lakers sent Randle to a foot specialist and, for what seems like the first time in a couple of seasons, the Lakers actually got some positive injury news:

This, of course, is a huge sigh of relief. Concerns that a screw would need to be removed and, with that, deal with a recovery period of up to 6 months were quite real. Instead, Randle will likely be in Las Vegas with his summer league mates, showing off his skills and generating excitement for the fans.

In the midst of all the wondering, at least the Lakers have something they can hang their hats on. And hopefully for a long time to come, too.

When we last left you, news had leaked that the Lakers had interviewed Mike Dunleavy for their open head coaching job. This news excited no one, save Mike Dunleavy, and had our very own Daniel Rapaport looking for younger options to fill the team’s vacant sideline chair.

Well, the team isn’t exactly skewing younger with it’s more recent candidates, but at least they moved on quickly to more viable candidates.

After Dunleavy, the team promptly moved on to Byron Scott. Scott is seen by some as a quality option, being a former Laker — Showtime! — and someone who has had success in his career leading quality teams. Lest you forget, Scott coached the then New Jersey Nets to back to back Finals appearances and then had a nice run with the New Orleans Hornets. Those who value these stops and Scott’s history with the team are excited about the possibility of him pacing the Staples Center sideline.

I, however, would not be amongst this group. Scott, to me, is a guy who has not shown to be enough of a tactician over the course of his coaching career, often lacking in ability to make adjustments or build schemes that optimize the play of his role players. Sure, Scott seemed to do well enough when Jason Kidd and Chris Paul orchestrated his offenses, but beyond putting the ball in those players’ hands and letting them do what they do best, Scott underwhelmed.

Further, his last stop in Cleveland has done his reputation no favors as he steered the Cavs to three consecutive losing seasons while also boasting an NBA worst 26 game losing streak in his last campaign. Scott hasn’t sniffed a head coaching job since then. And while his comments about “knowing this team” after doing studio work for Lakers’ broadcast partner Time Warner Cable Sportsnet is a nice soundbite, it carries less weight when you consider that the Lakers may only bring 3 to 5 players back from this roster next season. And while Scott boasts a good relationship with Kobe Bryant — something that is important and will be valued by Mitch Kupchak, that is only one variable and not one that should outshine some of his other issues his coaching career has exhibited.

Beyond Scott, the most recent names to surface are former Grizzlies’ coach Lionel Hollins and former Suns coach (and current Clippers’ assistant) Alvin Gentry.

Starting with the latter, Gentry had his most success steering a Suns team back on track after Terry Porter was disposed. Porter, who replaced Mike D’Antoni, preferred a slow-it-down approach to offense and tried to build his offense around Shaq after he was acquired for Shawn Marion. That experiment failed and in came Gentry, moving the Suns back to a more D’Antoni-esque system that featured Steve Nash doing what he does (did?) and flanking him with shooters and slashers who played team first, unselfish ball. Those Suns peaked with a run to the 2010 Western Conference Finals that saw them fall short to a certain team from Los Angeles who wears forum blue and gold.

Gentry, like Scott and Dunleavy, is an NBA lifer who has had several different stopping points in his career. The good news is that he has seemingly gotten better as he’s aged and is seen as a good offensive mind who players seem to play hard for. That lone sentence probably already makes him a better candidate than Scott, since Gentry seems to have both the X’s and O’s chops (at least offensively) while also possessing enough personable qualities to inspire guys to compete for him. Whether that is enough to land him the job remains to be seen, though I would wonder whether he has enough creativity on the defensive side of the ball to produce similar results that his offenses would.

That brings us to Hollins. The former Grizz head man is brings the most recent success to the interview room, boasting a 56 win season in his last year with Memphis. That team went all the way to the conference finals, getting knocked out by a Spurs team who was a Ray Allen three pointer away from winning the championship that season. After supposed disputes in philosophy and how much money he should earn, Hollins was not retained after leading the Grizz to their best season in franchise history. No, his top assistant got the job instead and Hollins got to take a year off while working as an analyst for ESPN.

What Hollins would bring to the Lakers is a defense-first (second and third) philosophy to coaching and a no-nonsense demeanor that helped establish the “grit and grind” identity the Grizzlies have adopted over the past several seasons. Hollins is not the most gifted offensive coach, though he did help develop Mike Conley while also building a post heavy attack around Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. Hollins could be a bit too reliant on Rudy Gay and looked to him as an isolation weapon too often, which was part of the reason why Rudy was traded and part why Hollins’ creativity on that side is questioned. But after Rudy left, Hollins did well to turn the ball over to Conley, demand more from him while encouraging the entire team to play even more through the big men. That approach worked, of course, to the tune of the aforementioned best season in Grizzlies’ history.

If there is one aspect that should intrigue fans about Hollins it is that he seems to be able to generate buy-in and get very good results from players who aren’t necessarily seen as choir boys or who haven’t had good experiences playing under different coaches. Whether it’s Zach Randolph, Tony Allen, Mo’ Speights, or Jerryd Bayless — Hollins has find a way to connect with guys and get them on the path to being team first contributors. Maybe it’s his straight forward communication style or his back ground as a successful player in the league. Maybe it’s something else. But he seems to get guys to play hard and has a way of building good defenses (though it definitely helps to have Gasol, Allen, and Conley).

Hollins, like the other candidates, isn’t a young guy and has had his fair share of trips around the block. But, unlike the others, his best season was his last season and if the Lakers are really looking for a coach with experience it might be a good idea to tab the guy who has some and it be good recently.

That said, the Lakers surely aren’t done and there are persistent whispers that Derek Fisher will likely still get an interview whenever his season with the Thunder ends. It is even thought that he could be a frontrunner, even though his head coaching experience is nonexistent. So, maybe all these interviews are just the Lakers’ brass getting a feel for guys as they spin their wheels waiting for Fish. Or maybe the hire will come from this group or one of the other candidates the team is likely to talk to over the next days (and weeks).

Earlier we wondered how lucky the Lakers would be in the draft lottery.

Seems the answer is, based on your perspective, that their luck on Tuesday night was either slightly bad or neutral as the slid down a spot from their slotted 6th position to settle into the 7th selection in next month’s NBA draft. (As an aside, I don’t think you can argue they were unlucky considering the second most likely spot they would pick at was 7th and that’s exactly where they will pick. But I digress.)

Regardless of what is said in the aftermath, this is not the “worst case scenario” for the Lakers (that would have been falling to 9th). In fact, it’s not even that bad a spot to be in.

Most pundits would tell you that this draft, like every other, has talent that falls into tiers. The very top tier consists of 3 players — Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins, and Jabari Parker. The next player on most draft boards is Dante Exum, a player who is the most intriguing prospect and has a high ceiling, but also someone we don’t know much about due to him being from Australia and not playing in a major European league. So, lets slot him in his own tier right below the aforementioned big three.

The next tier, however, is about four players deep and consists of Marcus Smart, Noah Vonleh, Aaron Gordon, and Julius Randle. If the top four picks go as expected, at least one of these players will be available when the Lakers pick. Any of these players would instantly help a talent barren Lakers’ roster that only has 3 players under contract heading into free agency.

Of course we are early in the process. Player ranks are subject to change and are sure to fluctuate as guys go into their individual and group workouts. By the time we actually get to the draft, who knows how those workouts, agent maneuvering, team needs, and several other variables will shape draft boards of all the teams — including the Lakers’.

What we do know, though, is that the Lakers are very likely to have more than one very good player available when they pick. Will it be one of those top two to four players we all lusted after just 12 hours ago? Probably not. But it will be someone who has a chance to come in, compete for a rotation spot and, through hard work and proper development be a high level contributor for years to come for this franchise.

That, more than anything else, is my takeaway from tonight.

With Kobe and Nash the Lakers have name recognition and with Robert Sacre (and, if his contract option is picked up, Kendall Marshall) they have a young player who will work hard and fight for a rotation spot. But beyond those players, they are a blank slate. They need talent and especially young, athletic talent. The players likely to be available when the Lakers pick should be both young and talented. If they are also smart, hard working, and willing to take in some of what Kobe and Nash (and other veterans the team is likely to sign) have to offer in terms of experience and how to be a professional in this league, they can grow into the type of player we will all be proud to root for.

Time will tell what happens with this pick, but I’d be lying if I said I weren’t excited. The Lakers need good players and whoever they draft has an opportunity to be one.