Archives For Links

It is pretty easy to be down on the Lakers right now. They possess a 1-5 record. They are in the bottom 10 in the league in both offensive and defensive efficiency. They have lost two very winnable games (opening night vs. the T’Wolves, Sunday against the Knicks) while facing a relatively soft schedule (for example, one of their losses was to the Kings who have only that single win in eight games).

I think some of the major frustrations aren’t necessarily with the losses (though winning more would be nice), but the process in which the losses are occurring. If the Lakers are going to lose anyway, many would like to see D’Angelo Russell in those late game situations where learning can occur. There are questions about the rotations being put together, the schemes the team is using on both sides of the ball, and whether it all combines to put players in the best positions to be successful.

And while it is important to always know that there are things we do not have information on (how practices are going, what’s being discussed in film sessions, specific directions doled out to players), what we see in the games does cause frustrations to mount.

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The Lakers have been one of the most injury ravaged teams of the last three seasons. Depending on who you ask, this is either the result of snakebitten bad luck or gross incompetence by the organization and their training staff. This is the internet, after all, and the hot takes run wild. The truth however, as it most always does, probably lies in between.

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(photo credit: NBC Los Angeles)

As we wrote yesterday, media day is mostly a circus. And when you’re Kobe Bryant, heading into your 20th season, coming off three straight years of season ending injuries, and playing on a newly constructed team where as many as five players (by my count, at least) will be rookies, the circus wants your take on it all.

This is, pretty much, the summary of media day. Kobe, engulfed by a media scrum, speaking on everything from how he feels physically to the prospect of this being his last season to his Lakers’ allegiance to getting this new team on the same page to, well, whatever other topic you can think of about this upcoming season. Kobe, as he has in recent years, provided honest insight, honest push-back, and an honest reflection of where he’s been, is, and wants to go.

With that, let’s get to the links of the day, starting with, you guessed it, words on Kobe Bryant…

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Believe it or not, today marks just the 13th day in the way of Lakers’ training camp officially kicking off. While it still puts us at a relatively far distance from opening night (42 days, to be exact) it does mean we are making progress towards meaningful basketball being played. And just as we prepare our television sets and lounge chairs for this wonderful occurrence, the Lakers’ players continue to prepare their minds and bodies for the rigor that the regular season entails. Lakers Head Athletic Trainer Tim DiFrancesco recently caught up with Mike Trudell to discuss, in detail, a few of the players’ workouts over the summer. Here’s what he had to say about Hibbert and the Lakers’ youngsters:

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When trying to catch a fish, it is apparently common to use the “Bottom Fishing” method, in which you lay your bait on the bottom of the lake and hope something bites. I was unaware of this tactic until preparing for today’s post, for which I had to scrounge through the depths of college football drivel and NFL non-stories in order to emerge with something, anything, relevant to the Lakers in early September. So with that, here we are: Tuesday’s Links.

Byron Scott is a pretty divisive subject among Lakers’ fans. Some see him as a solid steward who can help bridge the gap between the pre and post Kobe Bryant eras. Others see him as too much of an old-school coach whose hire lacked inspiration. Matt Moore, of CBS Sports, would likely fall in the latter camp and explains his concerns in this write up on the embattled Lakers’ head coach:

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Despite being injured, Kobe Bryant is still the Laker who most moves the needle when it comes to fans. Despite the Lakers’ awful record, his season ending injury, and his, compared to previous standards, sub-par play, he was still voted into the All-Star game as a starter and the release of the 10th iteration of his signature shoe was still quite the event. So, when Kobe goes on a bit of a media blitz, it’s sure to catch everyone’s attention.

On Monday evening, “Kobe the Interview” aired on NBA TV. The interview is well worth your time, if only for the career retrospective and insight Kobe provides on recovering from injuries, the longevity of his career, and capturing of the special moments that have made Kobe the player he is. has a brief summary up here, but it’d be worth it for you to search your cable guide and see if/when it will be re-aired.

If “the interview” wasn’t enough to satiate your thirst for Kobe, you’re in luck. On Tuesday morning a sit-down between Kobe and Chuck Klosterman was released by GQ Magazine. Even more than the NBA TV piece, the interview with Klosterman gave us an unfiltered look at Kobe and offered some fantastic quotes that capture the Kobe we all want to see more of. He was introspective, smart, funny, and unabashedly honest. The entire piece is worth your time, but here are a few of my favorite parts:

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When Nick Young was originally signed by the Lakers, I had my questions about pursuing him in the first place but mostly hoped that his ability to create shots combined with the relative value of his contract would make him a nice enough signing. Young wen out and surprised under then coach Mike D’Antoni, providing what was pretty much the best season of his career. This led to him being re-signed this past summer to a deal that I was more skeptical about then his original contract with the team:

That said, I am not in love with this deal. Young is already 29 and, if the above report is true, the 4th season is a player option. Maybe a 32 year old Swaggy P decides he wants to test the market one last time before his contract expires, but that seems doubtful to me. In essence, then, the Lakers are paying Young roughly $5 million a year for the next four years. As much as an argument could be made for paying a bench scorer of his caliber this much money, his age makes it more of a gamble than, say, if he were even two years younger.

At this stage of his career, Young is what he is as a player and, to this point this year, he’s shown a regression off last season’s numbers. He’s turned back into more of the inefficient gunner he was with the Wizards and has offered fewer of the big games that he offered a year ago. In a way, then, my concerns about his contract and whether he could maintain his production have turned out to have some merit.

In saying all that, however, Young has been more fun to root for than I ever could have imagined. He loves being a Laker, always has a smile on his face, does not back down from anyone, and does it all with a confidence that, even when unfounded, helps create a fun environment. Beyond that, his teammates love him and he brings a levity to a season that doesn’t offer very much of it.

Now that he’s a Laker, Young has become somewhat of a household name. Due to the status of the team’s brand, he’s playing on national TV a lot, he dates one of the worlds most recognized music stars, and his aforementioned personality makes people gravitate to him. With that, it’s no surprise that Sports Illustrated decided they would dedicate a feature to Young. And, boy, is it good. The great Lee Jenkins got great access to Young and gives us insight into the player, the man, and what has made him what he is today.

A sampling:

In preschool Nick was already picking out his own clothes — scarred by the memory of an alligator-print shirt his mom once made him wear — and accompanying his oldest brother, Charles Jr., on dates. Junior, 17 years older than Nick, was like his second father. He worked at the Hamilton High cafeteria and rushed home every day with extra cookies. By the time Nick turned five, Junior was engaged and his fiancée pregnant. He was taking a class at Jim Gilliam Recreation Center, and after he finished one day his fiancée was waiting to pick him up in the parking lot. She heard the shots. A 14-year-old Blood, who went by the name Trouble, mistook Junior for a rival gang member and killed him.

The family splintered. One brother, John, suffered a breakdown and was committed to a mental institution. Another brother, Andre, moved to Milwaukee to live with his paternal grandmother. Charles and Mae tried to preserve Nick’s childhood. Charles, by then a truck driver, took him on two-week cross-country trips and paid him $200 per haul. Mae played hide-and-seek with his Fruit Roll?Ups and challenged him to rap battles in the living room. Nick saw how they disguised their grief. He liked to draw, particularly caricatures, usually of himself. He sketched self-portraits with a massive head on a tiny body. They made everybody laugh. Nick brought the caricature to life, becoming the clown prince of Robertson Park, dribbling balls off opponents’ heads, sliding across the court, sinking improbable shots and then sprinting out of the gym. This was the And1 era, and Nick acted like he was auditioning for the street-ball tour. “He talked so much jazz,” recalls Nick’s brother Terrell. “He’d start all these fights, and I’d have to finish them.” Cedric Ceballos, an L.A. native who spent 11 years in the NBA, was a summer regular at Robertson. “If that boy ever gets serious,” Ceballos told Terrell, “he’ll be something.”

There’s so much more to Jenkins’ profile and it is well worth your time. Young may not be what all of us want him to be on the court and there’s a group of folks whose ire will always be drawn by his antics. But, in a season that offers Lakers’ losses at a historic rate, Young can be a nice reprieve from the down moments.

Friday Forum

Darius Soriano —  April 25, 2014

The Lakers may not be playing, but I hope you are still tuning into the playoffs to check out the action. The games are fantastic and the road teams are showing that the value of home court only means something if, you know, you can win at home. The only favored team to win both games at home has been the Heat with every other team managing only a split — at best.

Those last two words needed adding because of the Rockets’ inability to win either of their home games against a very game Blazers’ team. Portland has cracked down defensively on James Harden while mixing up their coverages on Dwight just enough to keep him off-balance. On the other side of the ball LaMarcus Aldridge is dominating offensively, using his size advantage over Terrence Jones to score inside and work the glass while using his quickness and feathery jumper to torch Omer Asik and Dwight Howard when the Rockets try a bigger defender. Aldridge’s 89 points over the first two games have been the difference in the series to the this point and he has looked like the best player on the floor over the series’ first 96 minutes.

The Rockets aren’t alone as the only upper seed proving vulnerable, however. The top seeded Pacers trail the Hawks 2-1 and look to be in real danger through three games. Unable to establish their bully-ball offense in the paint with a struggling Roy Hibbert, their lack of wing creators outside of Paul George and (sometimes) Lance Stephenson are proving to be a big flaw. On the other side of the ball their defense continues to struggle, having difficulty containing Jeff Teague who is terrorizing the paint while his big men create alleys for him by spacing the floor to the 3-point line. The soundbites out of Indy are that adjustments are in order, but when a team has built its entire identity playing one way I wonder how easy it is to change gears and find success doing things so differently.

In the West, the Thunder also find themselves down 2-1 to the Grizzlies. Memphis has done an excellent job of getting OKC to play at a slower tempo, protecting the ball and running down the shot clock to limit the Thunder’s open court chances. Defensively they are showing a variety of different looks, but mostly are just playing hard nosed position D and capitalizing on the lack of creativity Scott Brooks is showing schematically and with his rotations. So many of the Thunder’s sets devolve into isolations or simple P&R’s with little movement on the weak side that the Grizz are able to anticipate where the ball is going and make crisp rotations to thwart those sets. Further, until guys like Fisher, Caron Butler, Thabo, and Perkins can prove capable offensively, Memphis will simply continue to crowd Durant and Westbrook to force them into tough situations. Much like in Indy, the Thunder (and head coach Scott Brooks) need to find some adjustments in either scheme, player rotations, or both to get this figured out or we may see an upset out West that few people (if any) saw coming.

This is just a sampling of the action, though. And while watching these games is a bit of a downer knowing that the Lakers are nowhere to be found, these games are still well worth your time. Not just because of the quality of play, but also because the fallout from these series may very well affect what the Lakers can do this summer in terms of coaching and free agency. Now, on to the links…

The other day I wrote about coaching changes and how Mike D’Antoni’s fate has yet to be decided (while adding it may be some time before it is). That is still the case, even though his brother Dan will leave his staff to coach at Marshall University. Dan, like Mike, went to school at Marshall.

I know many Lakers’ fans were hoping that it would be Mike who took that job, relieving himself of his duties and thus ensuring the Lakers would have a new coach next year. That didn’t happen, but it doesn’t mean a change still won’t come. If it does, here is a look at potential candidates from a list of next head coaching prospects.

Of the coaches on that list, one has a history with the Lakers and was, reportedly, thought of highly when with the team. Add those variables together and Quin Snyeder could make for an interesting candidate should the Lakers make a change.

One of the reasons the Lakers may make that change is because the players they have or want to keep essentially dictate it happen. And while folks usually point to Kobe Bryant as the key player in that discussion, #24 hasn’t officially gone on the record with anything stronger than a hint or innuendo speaking out against D’Antoni. The same cannot be said of Pau Gasol, however. The Big Spaniard said that in order to stay with the Lakers there would need to be “significant changes” while later openly discussing how he’s not the biggest fan of the style of play D’Antoni enjoys. I’m no expert in math, but I do know 2 + 2 = 4.

Pau also said that Kobe would be a main reason why, if he so chooses, would stay on with the Lakers by re-signing this summer. That’s not really surprising considering all that they have been through together as teammates for the past 6 seasons. That said, in practical terms, Pau saying that he’d stay on to play with Kobe also shows a lot of faith in the injured guard. Whether or not that is justified remains to be seen, but Kobe is reportedly back to work in his typical maniacal fashion to get back strong next season.

When Kobe does return how can he best be used on offense? Here is one take. (Thanks to friend of the site Dave Murphy for reaching out for some quotes on the subject.)

Last note on Kobe, here is a great commercial for the World Cup that he stars in.

And speaking of shooting guards, Nick Young’s future is at that position and not pitcher for the Dodgers.

The Lakers’ future is cloudy and there is still a lot to be determined. From what to do with their head coach to the draft to free agency, the potential for change is huge and there will be a lot of adjusting to do in the coming years. At the top I spoke about the playoffs and the hope is that the Lakers won’t just be back in that mix soon, but looked at as a favorite who can make some noise in their pursuit of another banner. Let’s just hope when that does happen, they look a little bit better than the Pacers do right now.