Archives For Morning Links

Over the weekend, the Lakers made what will probably be their last significant personnel move of the summer, reportedly signing former Texas combo forward Jonathan Holmes to a partially-guaranteed deal. While the current construct of the Lakers roster may make it difficult to envision another piece fitting in, the UDFA Summer League standout has a legitimate shot to stick with the team (both due to playing a position of need and overall skill set) if his talent prevails over the preseason.

The fact that Holmes went undrafted was truly mistifying to me. He was undoubtedly one of my favorite prospects in the draft and I felt he deserved late first-round consideration and at least mid-second. Nevertheless, he is another young piece, in the Lakers hands and with that, I decided to uncover some pre-draft articles on Holmes. This piece by Jason Mcintyre in particular, offers a glimpse of just what Holmes may be able to offer as a potential “steal” at the next level:

Continue Reading…

No Lakers-centric links post this week would be complete without a reference to the team’s most widely-covered news of the week surrounding it’s most celebrated player. So, let’s get that out of the way, first.

In an interview which has been well-documented, Kobe Bryant spoke with Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports and discussed a variety of topics including his eventual retirement (more on that in a minute) and his outlook on the upcoming season:

Q: What do you think about the state of the Lakers right now?

Kobe: “They have really set themselves up for a promising future going on years. I think they drafted very well. The free agents that we picked are extremely solid, [Roy] Hibbert, [Brandon] Bass, Lou [Williams]. We have a very good mix of young and veteran leadership. The challenge is going to be blending the two and cutting down the learning curve.

“How quickly can we get going? How quickly can we bring up [rookie D’Angelo] Russell, [Julius] Randle. [Jordan] Clarkson got valuable experience last year in playing that will benefit us tremendously. I’m looking forward to it. I’m looking forward to running with these young guns.”

Q: Can this Lakers team make the playoffs?

Kobe: “Of course it can. Absolutely. We have talented players in their respective positions. We have some really young players. How exactly will the pieces of the puzzle fit? We really don’t know. We are going to [training] camp trying to piece this together just like every other team does. We have to figure out what our strengths are, figure out what our weaknesses are. And every time we step on the court we are going to try to hide our weaknesses and step up to our strengths.”

It is also worth reading a related piece by our own Darius Soriano where he dissects some of Bean’s most noteworthy comments from the interview.

**

Perhaps my subconscious is intentionally burying the “lead” here, but Kobe’s most highly-noted comments from the above interview revolved around his inevitable departure from basketball. Until Kobe officially hangs ’em up, there will continue to be questions in regards to his official farewell and quotes like “I don’t know if I’m going to retire or not.” will lead to attention-grabbing headlines such as, “Kobe and Mitch aren’t on the same page!”. Regardless of when his swan song will officially be composed, I am of the mindset that enjoying Kobe’s every moment is crucial at a time where we are more aware than ever that any step onto the court could be his last.

No, his waning moments will not always be pretty, but according to Silver Screen and Roll’s Harrison Faigen, to make the closing of his career a lot more effective and a bit more eye-pleasing, Kobe should take note of an old adage; “Like Mike”:

Continue Reading…

For those of you who managed to escape from the forest fire that became of Tuesday’s post, today’s links (hopefully) serve as a shelter of reassurance as we focus on the Lakers’ future.

To put it bluntly, this summer’s free agency was something of a slap in the face for both Lakers fans and the front office. However, the team has since dusted off their wounds and, as Bleacher Report’s Josh Martin writes, the Lakers’ current construct could lead to a significant turnaround in the near future:

One of these days, a top-tier free agent is going to buy what the Lakers are selling and not just as a product of sheer persistence on the part of the NBA‘s marquee franchise. At this point, the Purple and Gold are counting on the precocious but unproven trio of D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson to improve and eventually make their pitch to players in search of a new home.

With any luck, those three will eventually have the chops to pull it off.

The key word is “eventually.” If there’s anything the Lakers learned from their sojourn to NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, it’s that their most promising prospects all appear to be a long way from actualizing their tantalizing potential, both individually and as a collective.

**

By now it has been well-documented that not only is coach Scott aiming to start Kobe at the small forward spot this season, but he also expects him to spend some time at the four. Beyond the question of how this transition could play out on the court, Scott’s apparent open-mindedness led Andy Kamenetzky of LakersNation to ponder whether he has finally “evolved” as a head coach:

Continue Reading…

The biggest news surrounding the Lakers this weekend was the imminent departure of long-time team trainer Gary Vitti. To be clear, the news that the 2015-16 season would be Vitti’s last run with the purple and gold was reported in mid-April, but Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times reinvigorated the discussion with a recent feature on the 30-year franchise mainstay. The piece chronicles Vitti’s run with the team and highlights some of the key moments during his tenure. Among the many revealing quotes, one of the more interesting bits involved how Julius Randle’s injury last season affected Vitti’s departure:

So much has happened the last few years, so little of it positive. Vitti even called it “a nightmare.” Few would disagree, the Lakers continually losing Bryant and Steve Nash to injury, along with a slew of games.

“When somebody gets hurt, I blame myself. That’s the Laker way — you’ve got a problem, you go in the bathroom, you look in the mirror, you start with that person,” Vitti said. “The one that really affected me and maybe even affected this decision [to retire] was Julius Randle. All of his doctors and his surgeon are saying that nothing was missed, but the guy goes out there and breaks his leg the first game [last season]. That one really bothered me.”

Vitti connects with his players like few other trainers in the league and since joining the Lakers in 1984, there is perhaps no player he has bonded with more over the years than Kobe Bryant. Now, as both their careers may be coming to a close, Vitti revealed that the two recently shared some thoughts on the upcoming season:

“He was asking about our young kids, and I said, ‘You cannot believe how quick and athletic Jordan Clarkson is. He looks fantastic,'” Vitti said. “I said I personally thought D’Angelo Russell is going to be a star. He makes hard things look easy when he has the ball in his hands.

“Then Kobe said to me, ‘Well, then who’s going to play [small forward]?’ I looked at him and I said, ‘You.’ And with absolute, 100% confidence, he said, ‘I can do that.'”

Can Bryant, soon to turn 37, really do it? His last three seasons were cut short by injury and he became a part-time player last season, sitting out eight of his last 16 games for “rest” before sustaining a torn rotator cuff in January. He is under contract for one more season at $25 million.

“When Nash retired, that didn’t mean he couldn’t play in an NBA game. The problem was how much time did he need to get ready for the next game.” Vitti said. “He had lots of issues that prevented him from playing an NBA schedule.

“That’s going to be the big question with Kobe, and we’re just going to have to feel it out. It’s been a while since he’s played. We just need to see.”

There’s a lot of good stuff there, but what is of most immediate interest to Lakers fans is Kobe’s apparent willingness to step into the small forward role for his (maybe) final season. For more insight on how that transition could look for Bean, our own Darius Soriano covered it yesterday. Give it a look as well.

Continue Reading…

The Lakers introduced their three summer acquisitions — Roy Hibbert, Brandon Bass and Lou Williams — on Wednesday and the press conference was captivating…okay, not so much. But, seriously, when looking past the now infamous “silent treatment” and the disappointing fact that Bynum’s jersey number has yet to be retired (Damn you, Hibbert.), there are some real takeaways that can emerge from these traditionally cliché pressers.

For the Lakers, the biggest observation (pun intended) was some of the revealing quotes from Roy Hibbert both during the presser and afterwards with individual reporters. To provide some insight into Hibbert’s presser we’ve collected bits from a few articles on it over the web and ordered them in a cohesive manner. Read away:

From Blake Schuster of the Indy Star:

Former Indiana Pacer Roy Hibbert was introduced as the newest member of the Los Angles Lakers on Wednesday and seemed eager for a fresh start.

The center said it was a “no-brainer” to waive his no-trade clause  with the Pacers — reportedly sacrificing $2.2 million — to play in Los Angeles and acknowledged Indiana’s plan to go younger and play faster played a role in his decision.

“You have to embrace change,” Hibbert said. “They wanted to go in a different direction. It’s a business and you have to understand that.”

Per Bill Oram of the Orange County Register:

To Larry Bird and others in charge in Indiana, Roy Hibbert was a lost cause. A lumbering center with little offensive game and a disinterested temperament, they were happy pawning him off for nothing more than a future second-round draft pick.

The Lakers, however, view Hibbert as a player who can not only regain his standing as an All-Star big man, but anchor their anemic defense, which last year ranked second-worst in the NBA.

“I expect to play at an All-Star defensive level, and everything else will come,” Hibbert said Wednesday.

From Anthan Pandian of CBS Sports:

To ensure that he will “play at an All-Star defensive level,” Hibbert has lost 16 pounds (all that jiu jitsu worked out). Hibbert is hoping that he will now be able to play faster.

Smart thinking by Hibbert, who was an All-Star in the 2013-2014 season, but he may have a tough time becoming an All-Star in the West as players like Marc Gasol, DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis seem entrenched at the big man spots. However, Hibbert should excel with the Lakers, improving their low-ranking defense.

From Mark Medina of the LA Daily News:

“Kareem reaches out to me, comes to watch my workouts and we stay in touch for the most part,” Hibbert said. “He gives me little tidbits, I worked with him a lot last year during the summer and he keeps up with me. So, he always gives me some advice, gives me some things to work on and I always ask him questions.”

It seems a stretch to say that Hibbert will suddenly unleash Abdul-Jabbar’s skyhook. Hibbert has averaged 11.1 points through seven NBA seasons in Indiana.

[…]

Yet, Hibbert credited Abdul-Jabbar for teaching him various techniques regarding his spacing, defensive presence, mental preparation and off-court issues.

**

If those didn’t leave you feeling encouraged enough about LA’s newest big man, we are doubling down on Hibbert news because, upon doing some research, I discovered a blog post from 2008 that examined the Georgetown offense, anchored by none other than Roy Hibbert.

Continue Reading…

The Lakers Summer League team wrapped up their stint in Las Vegas over the weekend, and despite their 1-4 record, the team displayed notable flashes of a potentially prosperous future for the purple and gold. Now, fans understandably remain restless about the team’s disappointing performance and with that, Silver Screen & Roll’s Harrison Faigen provided perspective on their struggles (Hint: It’s OK):

They may have a fire to win and improve that goes beyond their years, but Russell is just a 19-year-old rookie that still wants to use a Gatorade bottle as a microphone to ask questions to Clarkson in a post-win media scrum. Randle is basically a rookie after barely playing more than 10 regular season minutes last year. Clarkson is 23, but is only a year removed from being the 46th overall pick in the NBA draft. While this core may have plenty of promise, the reality is they require some patience while they grow.

Madsen was quick to blame the team’s sluggish start against New York on it being a “mistake” to give the team a day off on Sunday. He may be right, but just as responsible was the Princeton offense the team was attempting to quickly implement and run to effectiveness despite very little practice time. The fact that grind-out halfcourt possessions is pretty much the opposite of what this team’s strengths should be only made it harder to witness.

**

In the interest of Summer League, the team’s most consistent performer was, without question, Jordan Clarkson. Last week, we recommended a piece that focused on his transition into a combo-guard role for the upcoming season (which you can read here). Now to continue with the theme of his development, Sports Illustrated’s Rob Mahoney detailed how Clarkson’s proficiency as a midrange shooter is bucking a trend of the new, long distance-oriented NBA:

Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson has a counterpoint game. While the broader trends of the league encourage guards to drive headlong to the rim or launch up three-pointers at will, Clarkson has carved out an immediate, intentional niche from midrange. In doing so, the 23-year-old works as something of an exploit. Modern NBA defenses are built to take away specific kinds of shots. Clarkson operates in a way that mines that give and take, stepping into the wide open midrange shots that many defenses naturally concede.

“It’s all two points,” Clarkson said. “Getting there and getting to those spots is definitely an emphasis because I think they’re easy shots for me.”

The majority of NBA teams now guard pick-and-rolls with some variation of a “drop” scheme—in which the big man defending the screener hangs back around the foul line—specifically because the midrange pull-up is a hard shot to hit consistently. It can be rushed. It can be crowded. By default it returns fewer points per possession than a three-point jumper or an attempt from the restricted area, which is why those spaces on the floor are now defensive priorities.

For more on Clarkson and how he is aiming to build upon his success last season, Mark Medina of the Daily News took an in-depth look at Clarkson’s growth from last year’s draft up to this year’s showing in Vegas. The piece details a few specific measures Clarkson is taking to improve upon each aspect of his game, and yes, that includes expanding his range:

DiFrancesco said Clarkson has added 10 to 15 pounds in muscle, increasing his weight from 180 to between 190-195 pounds. Clarkson has completed various strength exercises two days a week, including chin-ups, bench presses, squats, dead lifts and band resistance drills, and focuses two other days on leg exercises.

The Lakers believe this will make Clarkson more equipped to defend stronger guards, finish with more efficiency and minimize injury to any tendons.

Meanwhile, Clarkson narrowed his focus with Hanlen on three things nearly every day.

To improve his outside shooting, Clarkson altered his balance by jumping straight up and tweaked his release point by raising his right elbow.

To improve his pick-and-roll execution, Clarkson has dropped his hips and relaxed his chest so that he can move at a more methodical and efficient pace.

To improve his finishing at the rim, Clarkson has varied his attempts with both hands.

If interested in more on Clarkson’s background, work ethic, the pre-draft process and his honest perspective on last season, the above pieces certainly deserve a read.

Continue Reading…

The Summer Lakers were eliminated from the Las Vegas Summer League Playoffs on Wednesday after falling to the Dallas Mavericks 88-86. One would not be wrong to consider the team’s showing in Las Vegas quite disappointing. Be it the Russell turnovers, Randle’s rust, or an overall lack of chemistry, the talented group just wasn’t the cohesive unit we had hoped it would be.

So, given the current uneasiness of Lakers fans, our friend Kurt Helin of Pro Basketball Talk clarified that the team is currently undergoing a rebuild and in such a process, composure is key:

Continue Reading…

The Lakers finished up their first three games of the Las Vegas Summer League on Monday with a 1-2 record and amidst the many storylines, the main conversation has surrounded the play of second overall pick D’Angelo Russell. Russell’s numbers have not been anything to rave about nor have we seen much of what was highlighted prior to the draft. His apparent slow start has gotten Lakers fans antsy, but a piece by Nate Parham for Warriors blog Golden State of Mind can calm the minds of Laker faithful as he chronicles how Russell’s natural gifts and unbelievable poise flashed glimpses of potential greatness. Here’s a brief look:

Continue Reading…