Archives For Media Day

Media day came and went for the Lakers on Saturday, offering a slightly different scene than the one last year where championship expectations came not just from the players, but from many of the reporters in attendance. This year, though, much has changed. Not only did a certain free agent Center choose to bolt town, but the remaining core from that “big four” are all looking to bounce back from injuries and recapture their games (and to a certain extent, their reputations).

The players are seemingly embracing the shift in expectations and seem bent on proving that they not only have game left in their tanks, but enough of it to make some noise in a crowded western conference. But before they can get on the court to play, they all shuttled around the practice facility and talked the talk. Here are stories from the start of camp…

Mike Bresnahan of the LA Times has a full breakdown of media day, where he observes that there are more questions than answers.

At ESPN LA, Dave McMenamin notes that Kobe Bryant is feeling good, but still doesn’t have a timeline for his return.

Meanwhile, Eric Pincus of the Times, explains that one way to help limit Kobe’s minutes when he does return is via strong play from the team’s trio of point guards. This is something I’ve written about as well (at least in relation to Jordan Farmar).

Speaking of Kobe, he seems cognizant that coming off his injury he may have to play fewer minutes, but also draws inspiration from Peyton Manning and Mariano Rivera as guys who came back strong off their own injuries in recent campaigns. J.A. Adande has the story.

While Kobe heals, Pau and Nash say they’re both healthy. And Pau seems very excited that he’ll be back at Center and looks to get back to the form he showed in season’s past. That said, Pau will ease his way into camp and start out not practicing fully even though he’s been fully cleared for basketball activities.

Nash, meanwhile, will be practicing, but acknowledges that he is open to taking more time off during the season, even if that means missing games (ala how Gregg Popovich rests Tim Duncan and crew during the grind of the 82 game campaign).

The guy who will make those decisions on Nash is, of course, Mike D’Antoni. The head coach sat down with Mike Trudell of Lakers.com for a wide ranging interview that covered a ton of ground. It is well worth your time.

Of course, media day wouldn’t be complete unless questions were asked about Dwight Howard. Kobe, in classic form, had the answer of the day.

Lastly, as camp opens, Kevin Ding offers five things fans will know as camp opens. This is an interesting list with notes on Nash, Farmar, Wes Johnson, and Chris Kaman.

In our last wave of Laker Media Day interviews, I talk to the main holdover of last year’s bench, Steve Blake. He’s likely going to back Steve Nash up. Later on, I was able to get a couple of quotes from another new member of the bench, Antawn Jamison. He’ll be expected to provide some scoring punch off the pine that was sorely needed last year.

Here you go, kids.

STEVE BLAKE

FORUM BLUE & GOLD: Third year with the Lakers. Does it feel any different?

STEVE BLAKE: No, not really. We’ve got a lot of excitement around this year, especially, but the other years were kind of like that as well. We’ve got some new faces that we’re all excited to have on the team but we all got one common goal and purpose and that’s to be the #1 team at the end of the year.

FB&G: You just tweeted this morning (which happened on Monday, of course) that your feet seems to be okay; you can do some spot shooting now. So when can you return?

SB: Well, it’s 1-2 weeks. This week, they still want to be cautious on any hard cutting so I don’t open the wound back up. But it’s progressing really nicely and hope to be back in 1-2 weeks.

FB&G: Do you feel like you have to earn back your spot because of the injury?

SB: I just go out there and play. I love the game; I’ve been doing this for a long time. I’ll let the coaches decide what my role is going to be. I hope it’s the back-up role; I’d love to back up Steve Nash. I’m excited for the year.

FB&G: Last year, you started some games. Did that feel any different? Were you more comfortable as a starter?

SB: Obviously, everyone knows with Steve being here, I’m going to be a back-up. *laughs* It’s not like we’re competing or anything. That’s not a question. As a player, you always wanna do the best you can. Whatever that role is whether you’re starting or backing up, you just want to help your team. That’s always been my mindset: how can I help my team the best? And it’ll be to come off the bench and give us some energy.

FB&G: You shot well behind the arc in the playoffs after a so-so regular season. So what did you work on during the summer?

SB: Well, I worked on a lot of ballhandling, to really have body control, and be able to get in the lane and create for people and finish around the basket. And continue to be a great three-point shooter.

FB&G: The media has been tough on you here in L.A. How does this compare to other cities like Portland and Washington, D.C.?

SB: It’s interesting because L.A. is a huge market and they definitely put a lot of pressure on you. And then you go to Portland, NBA is the only professional franchise… well, there’s soccer there now, too… but there’s a lot of focus on you as well in markets like that. It’s part of the job, been around it for a while, and some we’re used to.

ANTAWN JAMISON

This is what Antawn Jamison had to say about his new team and Kobe Bryant.

ANTAWN JAMISON: As an opponent, you envy the guy and you envy the organization. They were always the topnotch team in the NBA. To be his teammate, especially in this stage of my career… (Kobe) is the guy who has five rings but you couldn’t tell at all. He eats, sleeps, drinks rings. This is the situation I wanna be a part of. I think he’s just as hungry as he was just before he got his first one. That’s why I’m here. I’m here to contribute and help this organization win another championship. That’s why Kobe is here because he wants to win another one. I’ve never been a part of a team where everybody has the same goal. There’s always points here, money here, trying to accomplish this… but everybody understands why we’re assembled here. Everyone understands the goal from the coaching staff to the youngest player of this team. It’s a great feeling to be a part of this organization. It’s not about making it to the Finals. It’s not about winning 60 games. It’s about being the last team standing. For me, 15 years, this is the most excited I’ve been and probably the best chance I have to win a ring. Just great to be surrounded by so many talented players. It’s gonna be a fun year.

Then Antawn was asked about reuniting with coach Mike Brown.

AJ: I know Mike (Brown). I played with him in Cleveland for a short period of time. I totally understand what he expects out of his players. I understand what he brings to the table and we kind of have an understanding of what my role will be and what’s expected out of me as well. I was kind of disappointed that once I got to Cleveland, he left and we had to start back over. But I have so much respect for him as a coach. We always remained good friends after he left. He was ecstatic to have me on board. Once I realized they wanted me to a part of this organization, I thought it’d be a perfect fit. My old friend, Eddie Jordan, is here as well. This is gonna hopefully be a smooth transition. I know a lot of players in this team and we’re just excited to get the season going.

In the next wave of Laker interviews at Media Day, we talked to a couple more new Lakers. Darius Johnson-Odom was drafted in the second round by the Dallas Mavericks before he was moved to the Lakers almost immediately. He’s trying to make the main roster. And the other Laker is Jodie Meeks, who came over here from Philadelphia as a free agent. Meeks is very much expected to back up Kobe Bryant on the 2-guard spot.

Let’s get to know them a little bit more.

DARIUS JOHNSON-ODOM

FORUM BLUE & GOLD: How does it feel to be a Laker?

DARIUS JOHNSON-ODOM: It’s a surreal moment. I’ve always been a Laker fan. To be in this jersey right now and to be in this moment, it’s a surreal moment like I said. I’m just happy to be here.

FB&G: What do you feel your role is going to be?

DJO: I just wanna help the team as much as possible. Be that defensive stopper for the perimeter. Make open shots. If I’m able to do that, then I help the team tremendously.

FB&G: Who was your favorite Laker growing up?

DJO: I’ve always been a Kobe Bryant fan. So it was kinda weird to walk right past by him and talk to him.

FB&G: When you were drafted (there was no Howard/Nash), what did you think when you heard the news?

DJO: After I heard my last name, I just ran over and hugged my family. I didn’t even hear the team. I was just happy, being from North Carolina and being through all these tribulations as far as working hard, trying to get another school, trying to get to Marquette… it was just a surreal moment for me and I was just happy.

FB&G: We saw your between-the-legs dunk on Twitter recently. Do you consider yourself the best dunker on the Lakers?

DJO: Definitely. Hands down.

FB&G: Better than Dwight? Better than prime Kobe?

DJO: Prime Kobe? That’s a little different. Better than Dwight? I would say so.

JODIE MEEKS

FORUM BLUE & GOLD: You chose the Lakers. Was it a hard choice?

JODIE MEEKS: It wasn’t hard at all. I was just waiting for the right opportunity for myself. Once they called, I was ready to go.

FB&G: It wasn’t about the money…

JM: No, not at all. I could’ve signed for more money but money’s not everything to me. I would rather win and compete for a championship. I wanna learn from the best in the game: Kobe, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard, Antawn Jamison, Metta World Peace or Ron Artest, whatever you wanna call him… I’m looking forward to it.

FB&G: Who else was going after you during the summer?

JM: It was a lot of teams. The Wizards, Golden State, Chicago, Houston… but for me, this is the best fit for myself.

FB&G: Any extra pressure performing here under the L.A. bright lights?

JM: Not extra pressure. It’s motivation. We’re going to be everybody’s big game. There’s really not a game where we can just say, “Maybe we can just relax tonight.” No, everybody’s going to try to beat us. We can’t go 82-0. But we wanna give a good effort every time.

FB&G: You’re known as a 3-pt shooter. Anything else you worked on during the summer?

JM: Pretty much everything. Ballhandling. Come off pick-and-rolls. Come off screens. I think of myself as more than a spot-up shooter but I do that because that’s my role.

FB&G: Lastly, has Kobe given you a hard time so far?

JM: Not yet! Today was the first day I met him. But as the season goes along and I get to know him better, I’ll pick his brain and try to learn as much as I can from him.

FB&G: Good luck in the season!

JM: Thanks!

In our second wave of our Media Day interviews, we talked to the guys that went with Dwight Howard on that blockbuster four-way trade, Chris Duhon and Earl Clark (who I found to be… VERY relaxed). Check ‘em out, guys.

CHRIS DUHON

FORUM BLUE & GOLD: What was your reaction when you got traded to the Lakers?

CHRIS DUHON: It was just part of the business. Obviously, Orlando’s been great to me. You hate to leave a city like that but given the circumstances, it happened. Being able to come to a franchise like this is a once-in-a-lifetime type of thing. Very happy and fortunate to be a part of it.

FB&G: You were there with Dwight at Orlando. Describe the situation that happened there.

CD: Dwight’s a great guy. You guys are going to figure that out real quickly by talking to him. He just wants to win. It was a tough situation for everyone. Nobody knew the right way to handle it. It was just one of those things where you had to pick a bad guy and everyone chose to pick him. Now he’s just looking for a fresh start and he’s excited about being here.

FB&G: What do you feel your role is?

CD: I have to go and earn (my role). I’m going to come out and focus on bringing in a lot of energy defensively. I feel that’s one of my strengths. On the offensive end, with all the weapons that we have, most of my job is going to be to knock down shots. That’s something I’ve been working on this summer. I’m really focused and prepared and excited about going out and doing it.

FB&G: Last year in the playoffs, you were kind of an internet sensation with the traveling thing. Are we going to see a lot of that in the Lakers this year?

CD: *laughs* I hope not! Hopefully, I’m out there on the court. If we’re in an intense game, I don’t know what’s going to happen. It was a heat-in-the-moment type of thing. I’m a very intense and emotional guy. I just love being around the game of basketball.

FB&G: But it was fun for a minute, right?

CD: It was definitely fun for a minute!

And please check out this clip of Phillip talking to Chris about the Princeton offense and playing with his teammates for a little bit.

EARL CLARK

FORUM BLUE & GOLD: This is quite different from where you’ve been (Phoenix and Orlando). What do you think?

EARL CLARK: Definitely different. But it’s great. I’m happy to be here and I’m excited for training camp.

FB&G: Obviously, the team goal is to win the championship. What do you hope to accomplish individually?

EC: My ultimate goal is to be happy. Waking up, healthy everyday. Getting to come and being able to work. As long as I can do that, I’ll be happy.

FB&G: What was your reaction when you learned you got traded to L.A.?

EC: First of all, it was a shock getting traded. Once I soaked it in and had to sit back and think about the opportunity I got here in this great organization, I just felt blessed. Once I got that in my mindset, I just took it from there.

FB&G: What’s your offseason regimen been like?

EC: Just worked on what I do every summer. Basically getting better as a basketball player. Be a better shooter, be a better defender, be better conditioned. I just work on my overall game. It’s nothing specific I worked on.

FB&G: Do you feel extra pressure being on the Lakers?

EC: I don’t feel any pressure. I have a great team and some good teammates. Just play hard, work within the team concept, and being a team player.

The rookies from last year are, well, no longer rookies anymore! We catch up with second-year players Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock at Media Day yesterday about this upcoming year.

DARIUS MORRIS

FORUM BLUE & GOLD: Different year! How does it feel right now?

DARIUS MORRIS: It feels good to just be back. Really blessed. Really excited about the new season. Not a rookie no more so that’ll be good!

FB&G: What do you feel your role is going to be? Steve Nash is here, Steve Blake, Chris Duhon… that’s a lot of competition.

DM: Darius Morris is here! *laughs* It’s gonna be good! It’s gonna be very competitive and whoever steps up will play and will do whatever’s best for the team. It’s a long season so a lot of us will get opportunities and we just have to capitalize when we do.

FB&G: I talked to (Asst. Coach) Chuck Person for a little bit. He said you needed to slow down a little bit. Do you agree with him?

DM: Yeah. Maturing my game on an NBA level. Especially here playing for the Lakers. There are a lot of veterans here so you have to learn very quickly. Slowing down just comes with being more comfortable, getting more minutes, and letting the game come to you. I think I started to do that already, especially in Summer League. And a full training camp will help as well.

FB&G: How was your offseason work?

DM: Just getting bigger and working on perimeter shooting. (I worked on) a little bit of everything, though. Watching a lot of film, learning how to make reads, and things that point guards gotta be able to do.

FB&G: How is Kobe as a teammate?

DM: Great! A lot of people have a lot of assumptions about him. He’s really a great individual. He’s someone that really cares about his teammates. Kobe’s just a competitor. He wears his heart on his sleeve, he works so hard. But he inspires his teammates. Definitely there off the court as well and we can talk about anything.

ANDREW GOUDELOCK

FORUM BLUE & GOLD: What was your “Welcome To The NBA” moment?

ANDREW GOUDELOCK: Probably my first game. I had a decent game against the Clippers. I know after that game, Mitch (Kupchak) said, “You paid your rent today. That’s the saying we have in the NBA.” At the time I didn’t know but when he told me that, I guess you can say that was kind of my moment.

FB&G: Did you expect to play point guard for the Lakers? You played the 2 in college.

AG: I’ve been playing the 2 my whole life. At the beginning, that’s what (the Lakers) wanted me to do but I wasn’t sure because they would let me play the 2. So I didn’t really know. But I think I’m more prepared for it now. I worked the whole summer on being a point guard and pick-and-roll situations. Having Steve Nash around is definitely gonna help. I’m looking forward to it. If they have me run point again, I’ll be ready.

FB&G: What did you feel were your weaknesses?

AG: Playing point. That was the biggest knock on me. I’m an undersized 2. I wasn’t really comfortable playing the point guard. And also defense was another big thing. Having to guard 2’s have been a match-up problem. I think me being a point guard being able to guard point guards will suit my physique. I’m not 6’5″ or 6’6″ like these guys are. If I play point guards, that will be a better chance for me on defense.

FB&G: Any individual goals?

AG: First and foremost, I wanna make the team. I want to earn some time on the court and I wanna be the best player I can be. I wanna be able to crack the rotation. Hopefully, for the whole year. It’s definitely tough with the guys we have now. Everything for me is a process. And the next step for me is training camp.

Another media member asked about the veterans and this is what Andrew had to say…

AG: We’ve been playing together for two weeks now. Antawn’s a heck of a player. Dwight is a goofball and he’s a heck of a player, too. We haven’t gotten to see him much because of his injury. The veterans? They’ve all been great. They’ve been more than helpful with the process on what to look for in an NBA career. I’m really growing to like everybody. This team is so much different from last year’s team; it’s like night and day. Everybody’s been good. Even with the rookies that we have and it feels good to say that. It’s not going to take long for the chemistry to kick in.