Archives For Laker News

The Lakers announced several front office promotions on Friday, officially naming Ryan West Director of Player Personnel, Jesse Buss Assistant General Manager/Director of Scouting, and Clay Moser Assistant Coach/Director of Basketball Strategy.

We originally touched on the West promotion in this space, so this is not necessarily new news. Investing in West, in my opinion, is a smart move as he brings both youth and experience to the table and is, seemingly, well regarded around the league.

The Moser move was also expected, as reported by Bill Oram back in July. From Oram’s report:

Assistant coach and advance scout Clay Moser is expected to transition from the bench to the front office in a sort of liaison position, which previously did not exist within the organization. A team spokesman confirmed Monday that the move is in the works.

The responsibilities of the role have been among those heaped upon assistant coach Mark Madsen. The plan with Moser, however, is to facilitate a pipeline of ideas with a basketball person in the front office.

Having Moser in place to help bridge the gap between the analytics staff and the coaches is an investment worth making — should it translate to actual implementation and/or affect strategy by the coaches. I have my doubts Byron Scott will suddenly turn around 180 degrees on his views towards the usefulness of analytics (read the full Oram piece above for more background), but it’s worth a shot.

The Jesse Buss promotion is the only other front office change that wasn’t on the radar before. He’s had “Assistant GM” added to his title (he was already the Scouting Director), but it’s unclear if his duties are actually changing. The Lakers already have an Assistant GM in place — Glenn Carraro was appointed to that role in 2012. This isn’t to minimize the impact of Buss’ promotion, rather it’s meant to provide more context and background.

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When it was reported the Lakers signed Marcelo Huertas, part of my analysis focused on my thoughts that his contract was likely to be fully guaranteed and, thus, his roster spot was basically set in stone. Well, it turns out that is not the case. Not at all, in fact:

Huertas taking a fully non-guaranteed deal is a bit of a shocker to me. Considering he could have more than likely continued his career in Europe with guaranteed money, coming to the NBA on the equivalent of a make-good training camp invite is not something I saw coming.

This leads me to two conclusions. First, Huertas really wanted to come to the NBA this season. When he told Yahoo! Sports in April that “now is the right time”, that was clearly not him just blowing smoke. He put his money where his mouth was, putting his desires to come stateside over what were surely more fruitful guarantees overseas.

Second, Huertas likely sees himself as having a good chance to make the Lakers’ final roster. Training camp invites, much like Summer League choices, are all about finding a team where 1). adequate opportunity to play exists and 2). a path to a potential roster spot is clear enough to inspire a fair shot at making the team. The Lakers, for what it’s worth, look to offer both to Huertas.

While D’Angelo Russell is clearly the PG of the future and Jordan Clarkson played well at that spot last season, the team does not currently have a veteran signal caller who could play behind either player. Add to this Byron Scott’s affinity for veteran players and Mitch Kupchak’s on the record comments about wanting to add a veteran signal caller and Huertas’ chances only increase.

With all these variables working (at least somewhat) in his favor, Huertas is taking his chance. Now all he has to do is play well enough in camp to make the front office want to keep him around.

When we last discussed Jordan Clarkson’s desire to play for the Philippine National Team in the Asia Championships the focus on him being named to 24-player pool and his status was tied more to is ability to play as a “natural born” player. The Philippine basketball federation was said to be getting FIBA the paperwork they were requesting to clear Clarkson and, thus, opening the avenue for him to play in the end of September tournament whose winner would earn a berth to the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

Well, while we are still waiting for a final word from FIBA, there seems to be a more pressing question about Clarkson’s availability and it is tied to the Lakers, the start of training camp, and the timing of the tournament in China. Kurt Helin at Pro Basketball Talk has the story:

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With about a month left until the start of training camp, the Lakers continue to add talent to their roster. The most recent addition, according to Adrian Wojnarowski, is Brazilian Point Guard Marcelo Huertas:

Free-agent guard Marcelo Huertas – one of the Euroleague’s most accomplished playmakers – has agreed to a one-year deal with the Los Angeles Lakers, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Huertas also provides some background as how he believes he can be successful in the NBA:

“There’s so much more space in the NBA,” Huertas told Yahoo Sports in April. “It’s not like Europe now, where you have one guy full-time in the paint. Space is harder to come by. One of my strengths is playing in the pick-and-roll, finding open guys and making shots in the mid-range game off the dribble.

“I think that part is harder to find now, because you mostly have guys who get all the way to the hole, or they’re three-point shooters. And if I’m open, and I can get my feet set, I’m going to make a lot of those kind of shots.”

Huertas believes he can make a difference in the locker room, too, by mentoring young players and meshing with veterans. For the Lakers, Huertas could give them an ideal partner as Russell is groomed to become the franchise’s cornerstone.

“If you look at NBA rosters, there are unbelievable starting point guards, but maybe not as many guys who can come off the bench able to run the team, score the ball, as well as being able to be a leader for young players,” Huertas said. “Those are things I know I’ll be able to bring with me.”

Mitch Kupchak and Byron Scott have both mentioned their want for another point guard — preferably a veteran — on the team and it seems they have found him.

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We are deep into the doldrums of the NBA Summer. We’re a month past summer league and have a month to go until training camps open. This part of the year is the off-season version of a mid-Wednesday night game in the beginning of March. What better time, then, for a nice big list of rankings for NBA players?

Sports Illustrated has obliged us fans and kicked off their annual Top 100 for the upcoming season. You can find their list of players 100-51 here.

Anytime this list (or one like it) is released, Lakers’ fans look for one name: Kobe Bryant. Many do this just to see how upset they can get — I mean, Kobe might do this too — as they find the right amount of outrage in response to where the pundits have placed him in contrast to his peers.

Well, this year, Kobe has come in slotted in spot #54. Here, Ben Golliver, explains the ranking:

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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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