Archives For Laker News

After signing Chris Kaman, Nick Young, and working on a buyout to get Jordan Farmar on board, the Lakers have made another move in free agency. From Mike Bresnahan of the LA Times:

From the opening of free agency, Johnson has been a player of interest and someone I thought could make sense for the Lakers  as a value signing:

If you’re looking for a wing player who fits into the mold of the type of guy the Lakers should take a risk on, Johnson is your guy. He checks off the desirable boxes of youth, athleticism (though he’s not an elite athlete), and good size for his position. Johnson was also a former lottery pick who flashed talent, but never found a way to put it all together in Minnesota or in Phoenix. As far as his game, Johnson has always been seen as a player who would impact the game offensively, but I see most of his upside coming on the other side of the floor. He has good length and can slide his feet well enough and that translates to being able to guard either wing position fairly well. Last season in Phoenix he held opposing SF’s to a PER of 12.4 and SG’s to a PER of 14.5, numbers that show a certain amount of defensive ability. His problem has been that he hasn’t been able to do enough offensively to stay on the floor and considering that’s his pedigree, he’s largely been a disappointment. However, if he can remake himself into a solid “3 and D” player (he only shot 32.3% on threes last season, but did shoot 35.6% his rookie year), he can have value in this league.

Johnson is by no means a difference maker and should not be viewed as some savior heading into next season. The Lakers will be his 3rd team since being drafted #4 overall in the 2010 draft and the fact that he’s been given up on twice this early in his career doesn’t inspire confidence. When you add the fact that Johnson is already 26 years old (for comparison’s sake, Kevin Durant is 24), we may be looking at a player who doesn’t have much “upside” left. Or at least the type you’d hope for when talking about a player drafted as high as he was so recently.

That said, 26 is by no means ancient and the NBA has a habit of giving up on young players too early in their careers. Sometimes it takes some failure and a guy refitting his game to a new role under different expectations to really find his niche. The hope is that Johnson can follow that path rather than simply being another on a long list of lottery flameouts.

Even if Johnson doesn’t pan out, however, he’s well worth the risk at this price and playing in the role he’ll likely be asked to fill. As a bench player who will likely be sharing the floor with at least one (and likely two) of Kobe, Steve Nash, and Pau at all times, he can work as a slasher and spot up shooter on offense. As a wing working on the weak side, he should see plenty of late rotations to him when he’s spotting up and if he can work well off the ball, he should be able to sneak in for easy shots around the basket as the defense rotates away from him.

And, as noted in the excerpt above, I think he has very good potential as a defensive wing where he offers above average physical attributes. He can guard either shooting guards or small forwards and can also help down in the paint when needed. He’s also a capable defensive rebounder who can slide down and get on the glass when big men rotate.

Ultimately, this is a very good signing for the Lakers as they continue to add depth at reasonable prices. Johnson has some ability and with a reduced role where he can play off superior teammates, he may just find a place in this league. And, if he doesn’t, it’s a small financial commitment. Sounds like a win-win situation for both sides.

UPDATE: Did we jump the gun a bit with our post below? Possibly. Maybe. We’ll see.

The Lakers can’t officially use their amnesty provision until July 10th (with the window to use it closing on July 16th). Kevin Ding acknowledged in his tweet that the Lakers could still change their mind and other reporters (most notably Ramona Shelburne) have noted that they have not yet confirmed the team will amnesty Ron.

Meanwhile, Kobe has weighed in on twitter with an opinion on possibly cutting ties with Ron:

Whether this is Kobe applying some public pressure or just speaking his opinion is open to interpretation. In the tweet before the one above, Kobe wished Ron well and acknowledged that he was a “casualty of the new CBA”. So, maybe Kobe was just speaking off the cuff when stating what he would do. We’ll see what the Lakers will decide in the next week.

Looks like the only Lakers’ news of the day isn’t the signing of free agent Chris Kaman. With the announcement that the team will be saying hello to a new player, they are likely on the verge of saying goodbye to another.

Per Kevin Ding, the Lakers plan to use the amnesty provision on Metta World Peace:

The move is purely a cost cutting one, saving the Lakers nearly $30 million $21.5 million (per Eric Pincus) in luxury tax payments for the upcoming season. With the escalated tax system kicking in for next year, the Lakers will be hit hard for their high payroll and, as we’ve mentioned before, Ron was the most likely candidate to get cut using this one time tool to remove salary off the team’s cap.

While this move makes sense financially, and, to a certain extent on the floor considering slippage in Ron’s game on both sides of the floor, it’s also a tough pill to swallow when zooming in on the state of the roster right now. While I anticipated Ron playing more small ball PF next year, he was the only viable SF on the roster and with the Lakers already likely to use their mini-mid level on Kaman, the team only has minimum salaried contracts to offer any replacements on the wing. Even with Ron in decline, it’s tough to envision a player coming in and providing what he did on both ends of the floor for such a paltry price tag.

I, for one, will miss him. Ron always played with an intensity and competitive fire that was distinct. And while playing on the edge in the way that he did would sometimes lead to him crossing the line between fair and foul, his determination and desire to give his all on the floor was something that many don’t always provide. When you combine his temperament with some of his big game performances, Ron will live on in Lakers’ lore for a lifetime.

I mean, I will never forget his put-back against the Suns in the 2010 Western Conference Finals nor the even bigger performance — and clutch 3 pointer — he provided in game 7 of the NBA Finals. His post game press conference is also the stuff of legend, but that just obscures the fact that without Ron in uniform, it’s unlikely the Lakers defeat their long time foes to claim the title, or even get that far for that matter.

As Ding reports, there’s still a chance, though seemingly slim, that the team changes their mind and keeps Ron on board for next season. But if Ron actually has played his last game in the forum blue and gold uniform of the Lakers, I wish him nothing but the best in wherever he lands. He still has something to give on the floor and whatever team he’s on will surely appreciate the toughness, effort, and heart he plays with. There will be some down moments too, of course, but in the end that’s what you get with Ron. And, crazy as it sounds, I probably wouldn’t have it any other way.

Well, here’s some news on the Lakers front. Here’s Mike Trudell of Lakers.com and Time Warner Sportsnet.

Jodie Meeks came to the Lakers last season to help out with the three-point shooting. He shot a decent .357 from behind the arc (122 out of 342). Meeks also averaged 7.9 points mostly off the bench last season in 78 games. But then he injured his ankle in Game 1 of their first round series against the San Antonio Spurs.

At times, Meeks had phenomenal shooting games; he scored 24 points (9 of 14 shooting) in a December win against Washington and had 21 points (7 of 8 from behind the arc) in a November win over Denver. So he can definitely be a dangerous shooter for the Lakers. We just wish he’d control himself a little when he drives to the hoop. Meeks is also, while not the best, a willing defender.

At $1,550,000, Meeks is actually a bargain for the Lakers. With his quick shooting release, the defense still has to watch out for him. Meeks can definitely make a defense pay but while shooting over 35 percent is decent, he is capable of shooting better than that (career-high .397 percent in 2010-11 for Philly). This is a good move by the Lakers and for a team that wants to keep Dwight Howard, the Lakers are going to need as many shooters as they can get.

In the meantime, depending on the circumstances, Jodie Meeks will probably start for Kobe Bryant if #24 isn’t back by the start of the regular season.

If you were looking for good news, you came to the wrong place. Mike Trudell of Lakers.com has an injury update and it’s not a good one.

After having his knee drained before game three and still trying to give it a go, though not playing at all in the 2nd half, Ron has been ruled out of game 4. He joins Nash, Blake, and Meeks who have also been ruled out.

If you’re counting at home, those four players plus Kobe Bryant make up five of the Lakers top nine players and nearly their entire wing rotation. Say that out loud a couple of times to let it sink in. If you’re looking for an equivalent on the Spurs, from a strict position standpoint, imagine of Parker, Ginobili, Neal, Leonard, and Green were all ruled out. That’s a sobering thought (that will likely lead you to knock back a couple of drinks to make you less sober).

The Lakers will only have 10 players available for the game and will be starting two 2nd year players who were both taken in the 2nd round. Yep, this is where the team is at.

So, just when you thought this season couldn’t have any more twists and turns, I see this on twitter:

Okay, then.

Ron potentially coming back this early is pretty much shocking to me. While he originally tweeted that he’d be back in a little over two weeks, he deleted that tweet only for the team to announce that his recovery timeline was around six weeks. Today marks the 18th 10th day since his surgery and, as reported above, if he doesn’t experience any swelling he could be back in the lineup tomorrow when the Lakers host the Hornets. From now on, I’m calling him Ronstradamus.

Getting Ron back will surely help with the Lakers’ rotations and should allow the team to put better defensive lineups on the floor for longer stretches. Ron, even at less than 100%, is a crafty wing defender and at least has the size to switch on screens and not get buried in the post or be completely overmatched in a matchup. Plus, when Ron and Clark share the wing, the Lakers have a lot of defensive versatility on the floor, allowing  them to mix their matchups in a way that maximizes their effectiveness. I wouldn’t be surprised to see lineups with Kobe, Clark, Ron, Pau, and Howard with the team doing a lot of switching funneling everything to the paint where multiple guys can protect the rim.

The news wasn’t all good from practice, however. Steve Nash continues to struggle with his hamstring and hip issues and missed practice again. As for his status tomorrow, it doesn’t look good:

Nash being out is probably a bigger deal than potentially getting Ron back. Having Ron around to bolster the wing rotation is fantastic and his defensive effort and smarts can only help a team that’s struggled on that end since he went out with his injury. But missing Nash means that Kobe is still likely to play heavy minutes as long as the games are reasonably close (or in some cases unreasonably, since every win matters so much). With Nash out, the only two ball handlers Mike D’Antoni seems to trust are Steve Blake and Kobe. Blake is already starting but it’s unlikely he’s going to be the player who goes really heavy minutes in order to keep Kobe fresh. If anything, it will be the opposite in that Kobe will need to be on the floor for almost the entire game as he’s so important to the overall flow of the offense.

This isn’t just me speculating, either. Mike D’Antoni said so himself today:

“We’re playing a little bit with fire,” D’Antoni said of Bryant, who has played 46 minutes a game the past four games. “We wouldn’t like to but we put ourselves in the position we have to. We’re short-handed right now and we’re playing it very tight. Normally this wouldn’t happen but we put ourselves in a hole and Kobe is our best bet going forward to win games. He said he’s going to retire after a year so we’re going to get our money’s worth for two years. I don’t know what to tell you.”

Would the Lakers’ be better off getting Kobe more rest? Yes and no. No because they’ve not clinched anything and don’t have the luxury of losing games. Do you rest Kobe more now and hope it pays off for a playoffs you’ve not qualified for? A tired Kobe in the post season is a “cross  that bridge when we come to it” situation, only you need to replace “when” with “if”.

That said, there’s a strong case to be made that a tired Kobe isn’t much good to the Lakers in games either. If he’s too tired to make the right defensive rotation or to close out games with the correct play on offense, the team isn’t really getting Kobe Bryant. They’re getting a tired player who’s wearing his jersey. Granted, Kobe can still make plays (like he’s done countless times), but where is the line of diminishing returns? Is it at 40 minutes? 42? 46? It surely shifts depending on opponent and the circumstances of the game up to that point, but no player is able to fully fight through fatigue. Not even the best players in the world.

This is where developing the end of the bench to be more than mere spectators would have been helpful, but that’s a discussion for another day. D’Antoni had to fight for every win he could get all season and that meant approaching games in a way that doesn’t always take the big picture into account. The alignment of short and long term goals was approached through the prism of getting victories, not player development and roster sustainability. Maybe the latter should have been taken into account more and it’s also probably fair to point out that D’Antoni has typically played a shorter rotation so this isn’t anything that’s really new for him. However, this is a complicated situation with too many variables to simply say “he should have done X” and there’s no gray area.

The Lakers are where they are now because they’ve dealt with too much uncertainty — some from their own doing, some from bad luck — and have struggled to get wins in the process of working through it. The odds say they need to win out to get into the playoffs and the players seem to understand that. For what it’s worth, Kobe thinks they can and his approach is pretty simple: