Archives For Laker News

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.

Lakers’ beat writer for ESPN LA, Dave McMenamin told a great story once about the lottery. Back when the annual drawing of lottery balls was held in Secaucus, New Jersey and Dave worked for, he was covering the event. When he went into the bathroom he encountered none other than Jerry West, The Logo, who was washing his hands. Making some small talk, the beat writer asked the executive how he was doing. West’s answer?

“Terrible. This is a celebration of losers.”

Classic Jerry West.

Tonight, the yearly celebration of losers retakes center stage. The teams who did not qualify for the playoffs will be sweating it out as the draft order of the first 14 picks is determined. The Lakers will be one of those teams hoping to have luck shine upon them.

They are certainly not used to this.

Since the inception of the “lottery” in 1985, the Lakers have only appeared at this event two other times. Both years they picked 10th, selecting Eddie Jones (1994) and Andrew Bynum (2005). This is the first time the team will select in the top 10 since the team selected James Worthy #1 overall in 1982. As a tie-in to that pick, the Lakers are sending Big Game James to represent them when the results are unveiled.

As you all know, the Lakers are currently slotted to pick 6th overall. Whether they stay there or not will depend on those lottery balls:

As the odds above state, the Lakers have roughly a 21% chance of jumping into the top 3 picks. They have much better chances — about 74% — of drafting either 6th or 7th. The odds, then, favor the team standing pat or moving down a slot much more than they do them jumping into the top 3*. It’s those slim chances, however, that will have all of us tuned in to see the results.

How lucky will the Lakers be?

Tonight we will find out. My guess? I think the Lakers either stay at six or move up to number two. My reasoning for this is scientific and involves a complicated algorithm. When playing for the Lakers, James Worthy wore #42: 4 + 2 = 6 while 4 – 2 = 2. There you have it.

Enjoy the “celebration” tonight, you guys. Hopefully, like the other times the Lakers have been at this event, they won’t make another appearance for at least another decade or so.

*Some are likely wondering why the Lakers have a zero percent chance of drafting 4th or 5th. The reason is that the lottery only determines the top 3 choices with the rest of the draft order being slotted accordingly. The Lakers, then, can only select at picks 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, or 9. And just as the Lakers can move up because of the lottery, if teams slotted to draft behind them jump up the Lakers will then fall. This is why the odds are so low that the team will actually pick 9th. Three teams slotted to draft behind them would all have to move up into the top 3, pushing everyone else down three slots. 

We may never know what went on behind the scenes that led to Mike D’Antoni stepping down as Lakers’ head coach on Wednesday night. Was it really about the team standing firm on not picking up his 4th year team option? Was the team going to let him go and rather than suffer the indignity of being fired he stepped down? Either scenario, to be honest, is believable. Especially after a report that the team agreed to pay him “more than half of the $4 million he was owed next season” upon him stepping down. Again, though, we will likely never know how it all went down.

What we do know is that the Lakers are now without a head coach and will be on the market for a new one.

That sound you hear is a cavalcade of Lakers’ fans celebrating like they just won their 17th championship. D’Antoni being gone is a dream come true. Just ask Magic Johnson. But, just because people wanted it so, doesn’t mean the only fallout is positive. Key questions also emerge. The most obvious is, of course, who will step in and be the next head man?

There will not be a lack of interested parties, that’s for sure. One report already has former Grizzlies’ coach Lionel Hollins interested in the position. Another says Byron Scott would like to be considered. In the coming days and weeks, I expect other names to surface who will be more than happy to take heaps of that Time Warner cash off the Lakers’ hands in bi-weekly installments. Coaching the Lakers may have lost some of its luster with the way the past couple of seasons have played out, but they are still the Lakers. That cachet still exists. Add in that they are more than happy to compensate the people who help them win and it will be a position people still want.

Just because there will be candidates, however, does not guarantee success; does not guarantee things will suddenly improve. D’Antoni had his faults and despite all that was done unto him through injuries and a major free agency defection he could have been better in several measurable ways. These things aren’t arguable. But the next guy in line will still have to deal with an uncertain roster, a potentially high draft pick to integrate into a team with Kobe Bryant wanting to win now, and the high expectations of a fan base who saw the person he’s replacing as a key culprit in the team’s downfall. When you sign on to coach the Lakers, you are signing on to win regardless of circumstances (at least in the eyes of many). In other words, no pressure big guy.

And therein lies the rub. It is overly simplistic to say just because D’Antoni is gone the team will be better off. Many thought that same thing with Mike Brown being handed his papers and look where the team is now. Coming off their worst season since moving to Los Angeles isn’t a particularly high bar to clear, but that’s not really the bar anyway. Fans, and to a certain extent the organization itself, will want the type of success the franchise has built its reputation on. And they will want it quickly. The coach will be a major part of achieving that success (along with the roster he is handed). Whoever takes over will have that honeymoon period of being “not Mike D’Antoni” and with no Phil Jackson to muddy the perception of the hire that period should have some staying power in the short term. There will even be some fans more planted in reality who understand the rigors of a multi-year retool and keep expectations in check.

But that won’t be everyone. We know that for sure.

In a way, then, what the Lakers have done (or what D’Antoni has done for them) is the easy part. The unpopular guy is gone, banished to never be spoken of again. The hard part, though, remains. The right hire must combine with the right draft pick and the right free agency signings and the right amount of injury luck to make everything right again. If that sounds like a lot of “rights”, you’re, well, right. A lot of things will need to go the Lakers’ way for them to get back to the position they are accustomed to being in. And while D’Antoni leaving may distract from this fact, that would have been true with him in tow, arms crossed and feet stomping on the Lakers’ sideline for another season.

Him being gone is just another unknown to navigate in a field that already had plenty of them.

That said, uncertainty and hope can be first cousins in the family of forward motion. The Lakers are starting anew and with that comes excitement. And after the last several seasons, we could certainly use some more of that around here. So, in many ways, celebrations are in order. At least until the next head coach loses three in a row.

It looks like the Los Angeles Lakers will be looking for a new head coach for the next season. Per Ramona Shelburne of ESPN…

For days, D’Antoni wanted his option year exercised by the team. The Lakers continuously did not budge and, as a result, he has resigned from his position.

D’Antoni came in as the Laker head coach (instead of Phil Jackson as we all know by now) after Mike Brown was fired five games into the 2012-13 season. He has clashed with many players on the team, including Dwight Howard (who has since departed to become a Houston Rocket) and Pau Gasol. I did feel he was dealt a bad hand as the Lakers in the last couple of years have been riddled with injuries. But I also feel he didn’t make the best of what he had as guys like Jordan Hill and Chris Kaman got inconsistent playing time (basically 40 minutes in one game and DNP the next).

Now the Lakers are really going to get a fresh start. The only signed Lakers this coming season are Kobe Bryant, Robert Sacre, and Steve Nash.

D’Antoni finished with a 67-87 (.435) record with the Lakers. He also had stints with the Nuggets, Suns, and the Knicks.