Archives For Morning Links

The 11th Man

Dave Murphy —  September 13, 2013

Mike D’Antoni went on the airwaves earlier this summer, theorizing about an 11-man Lakers rotation. On the one hand D’Antoni is as adverse to extended lineups as he is half-court basketball. Further, trying to speculate on what that rotation might look like, weeks before training camp even begins, is a sublimely ridiculous thing to do. Regardless, people need to read and people need to write and given that I haven’t posted here in ages, this exercise in futility seems strangely appropriate.

Few would have predicted the Lakers’ ground-zero meltdown last season. If it was bad it happened and that basically covers the bases. Health concerns will once again be front and center when it comes to planning and contingencies. Nobody can predict what Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash will bring to the table, coming off rehab. Nobody can predict what anyone will bring. All across the league, decision makers hope for the best, plan for the worst and roll the dice. Here at home, management has been signing wild cards left and right. It’s not the usual Lakers way and it won’t be the usual season. The rash of step deals at league minimum will allow for an extended evaluation period – guys will be playing like they mean it and they’ll also be playing for the opportunity to have a seat at the table for the great rebuild of 2014.

Here’s four key Lakers acquisition this summer and how they could play into Coach D’Antoni’s system.

Jordan Farmar presented something of a riddle for the Lakers during their first go-round. Drafted out of UCLA, the Los Angeles native was cocky, quick and a round peg in Phil Jackson’s triangle system. The fact that he played backup to Smush Parker that season provided some unintentional comedy relief. There were ample other opportunities to try Phil’s patience, including Kwame Brown, Vlad Rad and the rise of the Machine. It should be noted that Farmar replaced Smush in the starting lineup for the last two games of the regular season, as well as the playoffs. It was a summer of discontent for Kobe Bryant however and management responded in part by bringing Derek Fisher back. The move cemented Farmar’s position as a back-up. He won a couple rings but eventually left to free agency and the New Jersey Nets. Farmar most recently played for Turkey’s Anadolu Efes. He accepted the league minimum to return to Los Angeles, noting that the idea of playing for Coach D’Antoni played a major part in his decision. The guard-driven pick and roll system should be a good fit.

Nick Young has been the subject of a number of good articles. Dan Devine for Ball Don’t Lie summed up the free-wheeling guard succinctly:

“The cold reality of course, is that Nick Young will break your heart; Wizard fans know this all too well. He will shoot you out of games, he will disinterestedly defend you out of games, he will refuse to pass you out of games, he will lackadaisically not-box you out of games – he is an incredibly versatile player, lose-you-games-wise. But in those moments when the shot’s falling, when everybody’s clicking and his joy is irrepressible… he’s pure and unadulterated fun in a way that few NBA players are. There’s room for that. There has to be.”

Young’s natural position is at shooting guard but he’s reportedly penciled in at the starting small forward slot for the Lakers. Whether that comes to pass is anybody’s guess. The situation will be in a word, fluid. Coach D’Antoni will get a taste of what Flip Saunders and Doug Collins had to deal with in the past. Then again, Swaggy P can do this.

When it comes to cautionary tales and reclamation projects, Shawne Williams is a quintessential case. The former #17 Pacers draft pick hasn’t played since an abbreviated stint with the Nets during the 2010-11 season. He was subsequently traded to Portland and waived. Williams has been busted numerous times, lost an older brother to street violence and flamed out at nearly every NBA stop along the way. The 2010-11 season was an exception. As a combo forward for Mike D’Antoni and the New York Knicks, Williams provided tough defense and a consistent outside stroke. After helping limit LeBron James at a MSG Knicks win, Coach D’Antoni had this to say, “If you know Shawne’s background, I don’t think he’s going to be intimidated. That’s not going to be a problem. He’s coming at you, and I like that about him.” Coaches remember these moments and Williams will get a solid look this season, despite all the blown chances.

When I think of Chris Kaman, I always go back to his early years as a Clipper. The 2003 draft pick used to give Coach Mike Dunleavy (a man with a voluminous playbook), fits. The 7-foot center was prone to getting calls mixed up, or in his own words, “simply forgetting them in a matter of 10 seconds or less.” Part of the issue according to Kaman, was being misdiagnosed with ADHD as a young child. He took Ritalin for a number of years but in the summer of 2007, began working with a neuropsychologist, Dr. Tim Royer, channeling and slowing hyperactive brain patterns. Kaman became a consistent and indispensable asset to the team, getting an All-Star nod in 2010. Of course, athletes begin to break down with passing years. Kaman isn’t the player he once was but he’s still a big body, he’s experienced and hasn’t lost his mid-range jumper.

So what about Mike D’Antoni’s supposed 11-man rotation, the one that will spell much-needed relief for the creaky body parts of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash? As mentioned at the top, it’s a ridiculous hypothesis. Who could possibly know? But I promised one so health and circumstances permitting, here it is:

Starting lineup: Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Nick Young, Jordan Hill, Pau Gasol.

Nash subs out, replaced by Jordan Farmar. Bryant subs out, replaced by Nick Young who slides back to his natural two-guard position. Shawne Williams enters at the small forward. Jordan Hill comes out and Chris Kaman comes in. The positional pairing of Kaman and Gasol is probably not that exact – they could easily switch the four/five on offensive/defensive sequences. At this point, Pau’s the main voice of reason on the floor, as well as a guy whose legs are getting tired.

We’re at eight players. What comes next? It’s not a leap of faith to assume that at some point, Swaggy P goes off the reservation, even in a Mike D’Antoni world. Enter Steve Blake, a guy who brings a modicum of stability and toughness. At  #10, my sleeper long-shot – Elias Harris. Yup, I said it. Granted he’s an undrafted rookie who may not even survive training camp. Harris is a classic role-player however, a guy who doesn’t mind the dirty work and who has impressed staff with his tenacity. Although undersized at 6-8 for the PF position, he weighs around 240 and has enough in his back pocket to move players in the paint. During his combine workouts however, Harris was well aware that NBA scouts would be evaluating him at the wing. Finally, Wesley Johnson is a former #4 overall pick and an athletic swingman who by sheer coincidence, will wear the number 11. Say no more.

At some point the summer passes and turns to the endless NBA grind. Ice baths and swollen ankles, dislocated fingers and gimpy knees. A coach looks down the bench and frowns. The choices aren’t as good as they were last week. They aren’t even as good as they were last night. He points a finger in an impossibly noisy arena. A player gets up, trying to work the stiffness out of his joints. In about 20 seconds he’ll have make a difference.

From Kurt Helin, Pro Basketball Talk: Jim Buss has become a caricature to many Lakers fans — the media shy, hard-partying son of a legendary owner who stays in the shadows, doesn’t get the tradition and doesn’t get how to run a franchise like his father. Nepotism at its worst. But like most caricatures that is a two-dimensional representation that distorts the truth. Ask people around the league and they speak of Buss as smart and measured. Listen to him speak — or read an in-depth interview with him such as the one Ramona Shelburne did at ESPNLosAngeles.com — and you get the sense of a guy who gets the incredible shadow he is living in, the near impossibility of living up to his father’s successes, and a how much he wants to do the job right. That includes owning up to the disappointment of last season.

From Ryan Ward, Lakers Nation: The 2013-14 NBA season is rapidly approaching with only 48 days left before the Los Angeles Lakers square off against their division rival, the Los Angeles Clippers, at Staples Center. With the first game of the season right around the corner, the speculation continues about when Kobe Bryant will be ready to return to the floor for the Lakers. Although there’s been multiple reports that Kobe will be ready to take on the Clippers on Oct. 29, no timetable has been set for his return. On Wednesday, a report surfaced that Kobe is still unsure if he’ll be ready for the season opener. Obviously, with Kobe’s track record for bouncing back quickly from injuries, many have shrugged this off believing that there’s no way the five-time NBA champion will miss the matchup against Chris Paul and company.

From C.A. Clark, Silver Screen & Roll: Because basketball is not the only sport in the world, and because the long and lonely months from June (or sometimes *gulp* April) to October can get awful boring otherwise, there are other sports teams that I root for. One of those teams, for no other reason than geographical proximity to my childhood, is the San Diego Chargers. I don’t want to waste your time with too much NFL talk, but the Chargers are … not very good. Even, as often happened in the last 5 or so years, when they were very good, they were still, somehow, not very good. And this Monday, in their first game of a new season, under a new head coach, and with lots of new players, they lost in the most Chargers way possible, building up a huge lead in the first half and then looking woefully incompetent in letting the Houston Texans score the final 24 points of the game, including a game winning field goal as time expired. What was my response to such a gut punch of a game? A smirk, a chuckle and a quiet whisper in my mind: Never change, Chargers. Never change.

From Ramona Shelburne, ESPN LA:It’s hard to say why we save the things we save when someone dies. Why a particular shirt feels meaningful or why it’s hard to delete certain voicemails. The list of things a loved one leaves in a will might be long. It’s often what they didn’t have to include in the will that sticks with you. Among other things, Jim Buss saved a voicemail from his father from Jan. 20, less than a month before the Lakers’ Hall of Fame owner, Jerry Buss, died after an 18-month battle with cancer. He has replayed it so many times he knows it by heart.” ‘Hey Jim, it’s your dad,’ ” Buss says, mimicking his father’s squeaky voice. ” ‘What an incredible waste of talent. Oh well. The experiment didn’t work.’ ”

 

From Phillip Barnett, Lakers Nation: Earlier on Monday, OC Register reporter Janis Carr was at the Lakers training facility in El Segundo and spotted a few Lakers in the building, including Kobe Bryant. Some of the players were working out with ex-Laker Mike Penberthy, and even Derek Fisher showed up to get in a light workout. There hasn’t been any information as to what the workouts consisted of, or whether or not Bryant engaged in any physical activity, but it’s good to see that the team is starting to get back together. The team begins training camp on September 28.

From Dave McMenamin, ESPN LA: On March 18 of last season, Darius Morris didn’t get into the game until the last three minutes of the Los Angeles Lakers’ blowout loss to the Phoenix Suns. Coach Mike D’Antoni stuck to a seven-man rotation on the second night of a back-to-back, and Morris didn’t figure into his plans. Two days before that, Andrew Goudelock was playing for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers and picking apart the Lakers’ D-League affiliate, the L.A. D-Fenders, with 33 points and 12 assists in a 15-point win. Five weeks later, Morris and Goudelock made up the Lakers’ starting backcourt for Game 3 of their first-round playoff series against the San Antonio Spurs. They put up an admirable effort — Goudelock finished with 20 points and three steals, Morris had 24 points and six assists — but the Spurs still embarrassed the Lakers, winning by 31 points on the Lakers’ home floor.

From Eric Pincus, LA Times: Former Lakers guard Shannon Brown and his wife, singer Monica, have welcomed their first child together. Daughter Laiyah Brown was born on Sept 3. Brown, currently with the Phoenix Suns, spent nearly three years with the Lakers after a midseason trade from the Charlotte Bobcats in 2009.  The athletic guard won two titles with the team in 2009 and 2010. His wife won the 1999 Grammy for best performance by a duo or group with vocals for the song “The Boy is Mine,” a collaboration with Brandy Norwood. The couple wed in November 2010. Monica also has two children with rapper Rodney “Rocko” Hill, Jr. — Rodney III (born 2005) and Romelo (born 2008). Vanessa Bryant, wife of Lakers’ all-star guard Kobe Bryant, sent out a message on Instagram a few days after the birth.

From Jacob Rude, Lake Show Life: The signing of Nick Young by the Lakers this summer was quizzical to say the least. With needs far more obvious and glaring elsewhere, most notably at small forward, Young filled none of those needs. Last season, Young spent just 3% of the total 76ers minutes at small forward. Despite spending more time at the small forward position in past seasons, it’s not his natural position. With Kobe Bryant, Jodie Meeks, Steve Blake, and Steve Nash already at the guards positions, bringing in Young seemed to make little sense.

From Brett Pollakoff, Pro Basketball Talk: Jordan Farmar was a member of two championship teams in four seasons during his first tour of duty with the Lakers, albeit in a reserve role. He clashed with Phil Jackson at times, and felt constrained by what he was expected to do within the Triangle offense. Farmar always felt like he was capable of contributing so much more, and he should get that opportunity under Mike D’Antoni this time around. In fact, the chance to play for the Lakers’ current head coach was one of the reasons Farmar chose to make his NBA return at this time.

From Eric Pincus, LA Times: On Saturday, the International Olympic Committee made its choice for the 2020 Olympic Games. The final three cities were Istanbul; Madrid, Spain; and Tokyo. Lakers center-forward Pau Gasol had been helping Spain’s bid committee and made the trip to Buenos Aires for the International Olympic Committee’s vote. The winner was made known via Twitter.

From Phillip Barnett, Laker Nation: The NFL kicked off its season on Thursday night, and it saw Peyton Manning explode for seven touchdown passes — tying an NFL record. Kobe Bryant was watching the game, and tweeted about his Vino Club after watching Manning completely pick apart the Ravens defense. The Vino Club is a bit interesting as it’s tough to pin point what, exactly, is the criteria for being invited. Manning is a 37-year-old quarterback, Floyd Mayweather is a 36-year old boxer and Justin Timberlake is a performer. Of course, the triumvirate, along with Kobe, are some of the best in their respective professions, but still, the selection is still a little confusing.

From Royce Young, CBS Sports:Tracy McGrady has retired, which means he now heads into the phase where he gets to say things. There’s no arguing that in his prime — and when healthy — McGrady was as good a pure scorer as the game has ever seen. His combination of size, speed, athleticism and perimeter touch made him maybe the toughest cover in the league. And during an interview with Fox Sports Radio, via Larry Brown Sports, McGrady seemed to suggest he was every bit an equal with Kobe Bryant, going as far to say he and Shaquille O’Neal would’ve gotten along better.

 

From Corey Hansford, Lakers Nation: Buzzer beaters are some of the most amazing, heart-wrenching shots in the NBA. When those clutch shots take place in the NBA Finals, when all the pressure is on and the bright lights are everywhere, it shows who the brightest stars in the world truly are. When that shot comes from 60-feet away to send the game into overtime, the shot goes down in history as one of the most amazing moments in the history of the NBA. In Game 3 of the 1970 NBA Finals, the Lakers were tied with the New York Knicks. With three seconds left, Dave DuBusschere hit a clutch jumper to give the Knicks a two point lead, setting the stage for ‘Mr. Clutch.’

From Dave McMenamin, ESPN LA: Michael Beasley was waived by the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday, putting the talented, yet troubled, 6-10, 235-pound former No. 2 pick on the market. With the Los Angeles Lakers lacking a proven small forward on their roster after using the amnesty clause on Metta World Peace, it’s only natural to wonder if Beasley might be a good fit in purple and gold. Here are four questions to consider before that can happen: Beasley was owed $6 million by Phoenix in 2013-14 and $6.25 million in 2014-15, but only $3 million of his ’14-15 deal was guaranteed. Beasley agreed to a $7 million buyout with the Suns, according to Sports 620 KTAR in Phoenix. If any team out there chooses to claim the remaining $7 million on his contract, they’ll retain Beasley’s rights. That’s unlikely to happen.

From Kurt Helin, Pro Basketball Talk: Driving in Los Angeles today I heard the broadcasters on the Lakers flagship station talking themselves into Michael Beasley. They gave it a lot of caveats — if he would take the league minimum (he’s going to have to) and if he plays within the system (he hasn’t anywhere else, don’t think this will be different Lakers’ fans) — however they said if all that came together he could be a good pickup. Personally, I would say it wouldn’t come together and the Lakers could do better. However, the Lakers do have reported interest in a young forward who played his college ball in the state of Kansas… just not Beasley.

From Eric Pincus, LA Times: Hall of Famer Julius “Dr. J.” Erving listed his picks as the top five NBA players of all time on Fox Sports Live on Tuesday, and he included three former Lakers. “I decided on my five when I was about 15 years old — that was Wilt [Chamberlain], Bill [Russell], [Elgin] Baylor, [Jerry] West and Oscar Robertson,” Erving said. “That’s my five.” Oddly, Erving didn’t include Lakers’ center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, but in the same breath called him the “best who ever played in the NBA.” Erving was joined in the interview by Gary Payton, who will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame over the weekend, and Charissa Thompson.

From Phillip Barnett, Lakers Nation: In a time when the culture of NBA philosophies began moving away from highly specialized role players to ball players with more unique skill sets who can fill multiple roles, Mike D’Antoni was on the forefront of an offensive revolution that saw teams — and more specifically — his Phoenix Suns try to win games by speeding up the pace of the game to manufacture high percentage shots in as many possessions as possible. What wasn’t specific to D’Antoni’s offense, however, was the utilization of basketball players who can fill multiple roles on the offensive end and defend multiple positions on the defensive end. Despite their contrasting styles of play, this changing of the guard is a reason that the Lakers and Suns met in the 2010 Western Conference Finals. They weren’t just the two best teams in the Western Conference that season, but they were the two teams in the Western Conference with the most interchangeable parts.

From Kurt Helin, Pro Basketball Talk: Kobe Bryant has an obstacle in front of him, and that is when he is at his best. That is when he is most driven. Kobe at age 35 is working on a comeback from a ruptured Achilles that might have ended the career of lesser players. But Kobe was not going to let the image of him limping off the court be the last one of his career. He is fighting to get back in the game. He is fighting for that sixth right. And former teammate Antawn Jamison said count him out at your own risk during a radio interview with ESPN Los Angeles (as transcribed by Ramona Shelburne at ESPNLosAngeles.com).

From TheGreatMambino, Silver Screen & Roll: With the Lakers at their usual self-imposed 14-man roster limit, it’s time for us here at Silver Screen & Roundtable to take a look at the docket and discuss….wait, did I write “docket”? I meant “damage report”. It’s been a summer like few others in franchise history, as the Lakers primary offseason goal was torpedoed in gloriously public fashion. A seven-time All-Star left Southern California for Texas, and with him a clear view of where the franchise was headed in the immediate future. However, as big as his departure was, change wasn’t just confined to the center position.

From Jimmy Goldstein, NBA.com: I moved to Los Angeles in the 1960s as a graduate student at UCLA and immediately began to attend all the Lakers games and sit courtside (back then, courtside seats cost $15 per game). I had come from Milwaukee, where I had worked as a statistician for what was then the Milwaukee Hawks (now known as the Atlanta Hawks). I was a teenager, and I became hooked on the NBA at an early age to begin a lifetime involvement. When I arrived in Los Angeles and began to attend Lakers games, I was still a big fan of the Hawks, even though the Hawks had left Milwaukee. The Hawks and Lakers were rivals, and I wasn’t about to abandon my loyalty to the Hawks just because I was a student in Los Angeles. Thus was the origin of my becoming an “anti-Lakers” fan. I hoped that the Lakers would lose because it would help the Hawks. And so I quietly pulled for the opposition, clapping when they scored a basket. Not all the fans around me appreciated my behavior. One fan, a well-known attorney, met with the Lakers’ general manager and demanded that my floor seat be taken away from me. He was told that I had the right to root for whomever I wanted.

 

From D.J. Foster, ESPN LA: The Los Angeles Lakers are a team on the rebound. The recovery process after Dwight Howard’s departure may not be brief, and it probably won’t be painless. Time will likely heal all wounds, but it’s hard to imagine the Lakers will be better off in the short-term. But what holds true for the team doesn’t necessarily apply to the individual. Even though they occasionally flirted with great chemistry as a pair, Pau Gasol might actually be better off without Dwight Howard this season. Part of that has to do with Gasol likely being better off, period. Last year, Gasol languished through 49 injury-riddled games, averaging career lows in points per game (13.7), field goal percentage (46.6), and PER (16.7). If he’s healthy, you’d assume there would be some return to the mean.

From Eric Pincus, LA Times: New Lakers guard Nick Young is happy to be back home in Los Angeles — and a regular this off-season at the team’s practice facility. On Wednesday, Young will be at Robertson Park at 4 p.m. to help support education with a school supply giveaway. Young held a similar event last September, before joining the Philadelphia 76ers for a season after spending a few months with the Clippers (following a March 2012 trade). The Lakers signed Young as a free agent in July on a two-year deal at the veteran’s minimum. Young will make $1.1 million this coming season. He has a player option on his second year for $1.2 million. Young went to Cleveland High School in Reseda. He spent three years at USC before getting selected with the 16th overall pick by the Washington Wizards in the 2007 NBA draft.

From Ryan Cole, Lakers Nation: On April 29, 1970, ‘Mr. Clutch’ delivered another classic moment in the NBA Finals. With one second left to tie the score against the New York Knicks in Game 3 of the NBA Finals, West made a 63-foot heave from beyond half-court to send the game into overtime. Despite the fact that the Knicks would end up winning in overtime and eventually be crowned NBA champions later in the series, this moment stands out as one of the greatest memories in the NBA Finals history for the Lakers franchise.

From Brett Pollakoff, Pro Basketball Talk: Pau Gasol is one of the few NBA players who might be just as closely associated with his national team as he is with playing for one of the league’s most iconic franchises. Gasol has been playing for the Spanish team in international play essentially since the moment he was eligible, and along with tennis star Rafael Nadal, he may be his country’s most recognizable athlete. All of that is a good place to start if you’re wondering why Madrid has appointed Gasol as one if its spokesmen in order to try to win a bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games.

From Eric Pincus, LA Times: Kobe Bryant was voted “favorite player in the league” by 36 rookies in a survey for NBA.com, according to John Schuhmann. Bryant topped the list with 21.2% of the votes. LeBron James came in second (15.2%), followed by a third-place tie between Kevin Durant and Dirk Nowitzki (12.1% apiece). Steve Nash also received at least one vote. Rookies weren’t permitted to vote for “themselves, college teammates or NBA teammates,” Schuhmann wrote.

From Dan Feldman, Pro Basketball Talk: It’s early in the 2027-28 season, and the Lakers have struggled to a 1-4 start. The year before, an aging Kyrie Irving helped lead the Lakers to the North American Conference Finals, but they ran out of gas and were swept by Seattle. Still, the Lakers brought back their core, including Coach Monty Williams, who led the Lakers to championships in 2023 and 2024. Suddenly, the Lakers look old, and fans are calling for Williams to be fired. Who’s their preferred replacement? 82-year-old Phil Jackson. At least that’s whom Mike D’Antoni believes Lakers fans would want in that scenario. Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times.

From Dan Duangdao, Lakers Nation: During this off-season, much of the discussion has centered around Kobe Bryant’s return from Achilles surgery and if he’ll be able to play at a high-level once again. Despite the fact that Bryant is ahead of schedule in his recovery and some are optimistic that he’ll be returning for opening night against the Los Angeles Clippers, others think the injury is too difficult to come back from at this stage of his career. In an interview with ESPNLosAngeles.com, an anonymous Western Conference scout was optimistic and believes that Bryant will be back at an All-Star level: “I would not be surprised for him to be back at an All-Star level. I don’t know if it’s going to be next season, it could be, but I could definitely see him being back as an All-Star because that’s just in his DNA.” While Bryant will likely lose some athleticism from this injury, his smarts and experience will enable him to conquer this challenge, similarly to Michael Jordan.

From Drew Garrison, Silver Screen & Roll: The Los Angeles Lakers are not interested in signing free agent Lamar Odom, according to Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News. The Lakers had reached out to Odom shortly after the 2013 free agency period began, but there were no reports of talks advancing beyond an exploratory phase.The Lakers had “some interest” in acquiring Odom and had talks with him in early July, but the team no longer has any interest in acquiring him, according to a league source familiar with the discussions. A source close to Odom informed Jared Zwerling of ESPN that he was interested in returning to the Lakers.