Archives For Laker News

What was reported last week has now become official: the Lakers have signed undrafted free agent Jonathan Holmes to a multi year deal. From the Lakers press release:

The Los Angeles Lakers have signed forward Jonathan Holmes to a multi-year contract, it was announced today by General Manager Mitch Kupchak. Per team policy, terms of the deal were not released.

In five games for the Celtics’ entry in the 2015 NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, Holmes averaged 12.2 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.2 assists, and 1.0 steals in 21.8 minutes per game, while shooting 55.6% from the field. The 6’9’’ Holmes also appeared in three games for Boston in the 2015 Utah Jazz Summer League, and in his eight games (seven starts) between the two competitions, shot a perfect 15-15 from the free throw line, and 13-28 (46.4%) from beyond-the-arc.

As we covered in our initial write up, Holmes is more of a tweener forward who would likely do his best work as a “stretch four” in the NBA. He has good size (6’9″) and decent length (6’11” wingspan) with a solid build. While at the University of Texas, he spent most of his junior year banging down low as a more traditional big man and then, as a senior, moved the perimeter by playing a lot of small forward.

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The NBA schedule was released on Wednesday and now every team knows the route they will travel on their marathon campaign. 82 games of ups and downs, wins and losses, and countless storylines will captivate us fans and players alike. We’ve already started this discussion with some of the games we are most/least looking forward to as well as some other general observations.

But, frankly, there is even more on our minds. With that, here are 10 more thoughts on the Lakers’ 2015-16 schedule…

1. I love that the Lakers open with the Timberwolves. It is by no means a glamorous match up pitting traditional rivals against each other, but there are a lot of match ups and intriguing stories worth discussing. On one end of the spectrum you have the #1 and #2 overall picks in Karl Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell facing off in their first regular season games. And, on the other end, you have Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant facing off on the opening night of their 21st and 20th seasons respectively. The rooks are the most recent high profile one-and-done prospects to grace the league while the veterans are the two players who ushered in the prep-to-pros era which graced us with some of the best players of a generation. Add in last year’s rookie of the year in Andrew Wiggins and the return of Julius Randle and there is no shortage of reasons why I’ll be excited about this game.

2. I love that the Lakers’ annual Grammy Road Trip is only going to be four games, but with it being so short they have to make up some of those road games somewhere. Enter a brutal December where only four of the team’s 17 games will be at Staples Center. Welp.

3. A few dates to circle on the calendar: February 19th, February 21st, March 10th, and April 3rd. In order, those may be the last times Kobe suits up in a game against Tim Duncan, Pau Gasol, LeBron James, and the Boston Celtics. There are other match ups worth mentioning, but I’d say those four opponents will carry extra weight.

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After reportedly inking Jonathan Holmes to a partially guaranteed contract and, if you listen to sources close to the player, showing some interest in veteran big man JaVale McGee, the Lakers are still looking to add to their roster.

Per Sportando, Monday’s scheduled workout will include 11 additional players bringing the total to 14.

With training camp set to start next month, reports like these should not surprise. While, if you include Holmes and Robert Upshaw — whose reported deal is apparently still not signed — the Lakers have 16 players on their roster, they typically bring about 20 players to training camp with the last six or seven of those players competing for the final one or two spots on the roster.

Without knowing for sure how much of Holmes’ contract is guaranteed or if the Upshaw verbal agreement ever turns into one on paper, it’s difficult to know how much of a chance these players have to unseat Tarik Black or Jabari Brown who have non-guaranteed contracts or even Robert Sacre, whose deal is guaranteed, but is for the minimum. The Lakers could easily waive any of these three players to minimal or no financial impact.

As for the talent coming in for the workout hoping to sign a deal and compete in camp, Brown is easily the most accomplished. As Marc Stein noted, Brown had a very good showing at the Pan-Am games for Team USA last month and has also performed quite well in China in recent seasons. He is a scoring point guard who can really fill it up and is at the point of his career where, I’d imagine, he’s looking to get back into the NBA and see if he can make a difference stateside. Murry is more of a combo guard who has seen some action in the NBA the last two years, but had his most significant burn with the Knicks in the 2013-14 season where he played 373 minutes. Not the biggest sample size, for sure.

While the session is worth discussing, don’t expect much, if anything, to come from this workout. The Lakers roster is already (essentially) full with players they like and have invested resources into. The likelihood any of the 14 players coming to compete for a camp invite usurp even one of the current end of the bench guys is low. I mean, they’d have to shine enough in today’s workout to be one of a handful of guys just to get asked to come to camp and then beat out a guy who already knows the Lakers’ system. That’s a tough road to hoe.

But the Lakers are wise to do their due diligence and see if any of the above are worth a more extended look in training camp where they can compete daily with guys currently on the roster. From there, maybe they open enough eyes to make the Lakers think hard about keeping them around.

We recently discussed what the Lakers might do with their 15th roster spot and it seems we may have found an answer — or at least a potential one. From Real GM’s Shams Charania:

Holmes is a combo forward who went undrafted after spending four years at the University of Texas. In his Junior season he boasted averages of 12.8 points and 7.2 rebounds a game on 50.5% shooting, but saw those numbers dip dramatically to 10.3 points and 6.1 rebounds on 38.9% in his Senior campaign. It was likely this dip in production which saw his stock fall.

In speaking with Jonathan Tjarks, also of Real GM, about Holmes he said the following about his pro prospects:

“(Holmes) is almost certainly a small-ball PF in the NBA. He has average physical tools for the position and his success will almost certainly be dependent on how well he shoots the 3 ball at the next level”

For what it’s worth, Holmes shots 33.1% and 33.3% from behind the arc in his final two years at Texas, the final year launching 4.1 shots from distance a game.

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Kobe Bryant is currently in China on what has become his yearly summer trek, engaging with fans, telling his story, and further embedding himself as the most popular basketballer in Asia. Seriously, when you watch clips of him there or see photos, he’s like a one-man Coachella. The fans there love him and he loves them back.

But while Kobe is planting seeds for future endeavors in China, his present in the US and with the Lakers remains front and center. There are many questions about the team he will return to, his ability to perform on it, and how much time remains in his career to still do it. Marc Spears of Yahoo! caught up with Kobe and got a lot of insight on these topics and more. The entire interview is well worth your time so give the full piece a read, but for our purposes, let’s unpack some of the more pressing questions:

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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.