Archives For Laker News

The last update we had on Robert Upshaw was that the Lakers had no immediate plans to sign the undrafted big man. That report, combined with the Lakers inking undrafted players Jonathan Holmes and Michael Frazier to contracts this summer cast real doubts about whether Upshaw really would find his way into Lakers’ camp.

However, in an interview with Scout.com following the Seattle Pro-Am game in Seattle on Friday, Upshaw gave an update on his status with the team:

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Jim Buss sat down with Eric Pincus of the LA Times for a wide ranging interview on Thursday and provided plenty of insight on all things Lakers. Pincus’ entire interview is well worth your time as the Lakers’ part-owner and top executive on the basketball side takes us behind the curtain on where his mindset is heading into a critical season in the team’s rebuild.

And while Buss’ thoughts on D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, and more deserve your attention, the most intriguing part of their discussion, at least for me, relates to none other than Kobe Bryant, his future with the team, and whether this upcoming season may be the superstar’s last:

“We’re going to approach it like it is, but that doesn’t mean it is,” Buss said of Bryant. “I’m not going to sit there and say, ‘This is it, Kobe, you’re done,’ because it’s not my decision, it’s his decision.”

While this seems like the politic answer, Buss does elaborate further:

So is this Bryant’s final year with the team? “My arms are like this,” Buss said, holding his arms wide open, about Bryant’s future.

“He just has to know, at that age, and that many miles on you, what is your role? We’ll explain the role, and if he still wants to do that and that’s how he wants to go out, that’s fine with me.”

This is the first time anyone within the Lakers’ organization has ever even hinted at there being any sort of conditions for Kobe returning or that he might need to accept a reduced role if he does want to return. And, frankly, it’s good to hear the organization is taking this approach.

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Though the Lakers are most known for their old-guard names — Kobe Bryant, Mitch Kupchak, and even Byron Scott — they are also going through a noted youth movement. The past two drafts have brought Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, D’Angelo Russell, Larry Nance Jr, and Anthony Brown. The team’s projected roster will have at least seven players under the age of 25 as the team heavily invests in the type of young talent which can carry them into a new era.

That investment, however, is not limited to what’s happening on the court. Per Eric Pincus of the LA Times, the Lakers have also elevated a young talent in the front office:

The Lakers have promoted Ryan West to director of player personnel. West, formerly the team’s assistant director of scouting, started as a scout for the team in 2009. He also worked as a scout for the Memphis Grizzlies for almost eight years.

Though possessing over 13 years experience working for NBA teams, West is only 36 years old. So, while he is young, he is also experienced. And, of course, he has some bloodlines and pedigree being the son of Lakers’ legend Jerry West.

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Kobe Bryant last played a competitive basketball game on January 21st against the Pelicans. In that game he had the ball deep in the right corner, drove baseline after facing some tight pressure defense, and threw down a two handed dunk:

On that play, Kobe exacerbated an already sore shoulder, tearing his rotator cuff. While he would play a few more possessions — attempting shots with his left hand — he would ultimately leave the court and not play another game for the rest of the season.

Since then Kobe has been recovering from surgery to repair his injured shoulder and has been pretty quiet as to what progress he was making. Well, that silence has been lifted with a post on instagram:

First day back on the court shooting! Bout damn time!! #shoulderrecovery #20thseason @drinkbodyarmor #lakers

A photo posted by Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) on

This is great news for Kobe and for Lakers’ fans. With a little bit more than two months until the Lakers’ regular season begins, this should allow Kobe to ramp up his training and be ready for what will be his 20th and, potentially, final campaign.

Once you get past the draft, free agency, and summer league, the NBA summer becomes, well…barren. We get caught up discussing what the addition of a player in the 15th or 16th roster spot might mean, wondering what might happen with an undrafted free agent big man, or discussing how interesting the season might end up being. There’s value in these conversations, for sure, but on the larger scale of what happens in-season, these musings are just not as important.

This leads me to ESPN’s Summer Forecast. This is the exercise where ESPN crowd sources many (and I do mean many) of their various basketball experts and analysts on what record each NBA team will finish the season with. (Full disclosure: I am one of the people who was asked to participate. I did not this year, but have in the past.)

The exercise, while seemingly random, works under the theory of “The Wisdom of Crowds” where, in this case, the opinions of the many — especially when informed — can be aggregated to produce very accurate predictions on any given topic. And I do mean accurate. In seasons past, ESPN’s panels have out performed Las Vegas’ sportsbooks on win totals for each team. In other words, they have consistently beaten the people who rake in cash from the betting public.

So, here we are. ESPN’s basketball experts have predicted a record for the Lakers for this upcoming season. The results? A 26 win season, good for 14th out of 15 in the conference. Further, when taking this against the entire league, the Lakers would have the 4th worst record. Not good. Not good at all.

Does this doom the Lakers? Of course not. It’s the middle of August and the regular season will not start for another nine weeks (welp). Claiming anything about the upcoming season as concrete — especially something as fluid as wins and losses — this early would not be wise. There are always, always variables which could change the fortune of any team and, by domino effect, change the direction of other teams as well.

But, the forecast results do speak to a general sense of how the team is viewed. With a slew of young players, an aged (and oft-injured) Kobe, and a coach who is not held in the highest of regards, it’s not a surprise the projection is as low as it is. Whether the team can defy the projections and “shock the world” remains to be seen, but it will surely be something fans and, more than likely, the players themselves will speak on.

It’s not like there’s a bunch else to talk about. It is August, after all.

The Lakers have been active on the undrafted free agent market in recent days, signing Jonathan Holmes to a 2-year contract on Thursday and agreeing to a 2-year contract with Michael Frazier on Sunday. With this activity, a persisting question is when the Lakers would follow through on signing Robert Upshaw to the contract they reportedly agreed to after the team’s first summer league game.

Well, it looks like we have an answer and it’s not exactly the one I’m guessing a lot of fans were hoping for:

As Pincus notes, Upshaw remains a possibility and I wouldn’t be surprised if he still gets an invite to camp on a “make good” contract. Whether that contract would have any guarantees — even small ones like those which appeared in Holmes’ and Frazier’s contracts — is unknown.

Especially since, I’d imagine, the team is greatly balancing his history of off-court issues with the promise he exhibits on the floor. Unlike other UDFA’s the team might deal with this summer, Upshaw has both a higher probability of becoming a sunk cost just as he has a higher ceiling and potential to become a long term piece.

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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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