Archives For Player Review

General Thoughts on the Season

Chris Kaman was the fifth highest paid player on the Los Angeles Lakers this season making $3.1 million. However, he had the second fewest minutes (19 minutes per game) on the team among all the regulars. Only Robert Sacre received less playing time.

Usually, a player receives little playing time when they struggle. That wasn’t the case for Kaman, though. Like Jordan Hill, Kaman was subjected to minimal playing time by Mike D’Antoni and had a series of DNP-CD’s despite contributing to the team in a positive way.

During his exit interview, Kaman expressed his frustrations and said that he doesn’t think two bigs fits D’Antoni’s style of offense.

While he did have several injuries throughout the season that also cut his playing time, Kaman could barely find his way on the floor even when he was healthy. There’s no doubt that this became frustrating as the season dragged along.

No, Kaman isn’t a Pau Gasol. No one expects him to be. However, he certainly wasn’t deserving of having the second fewest minutes on a terrible team. This is a guy who on one of the league’s worst defensive teams, had the second best defensive rating on his team at 103.6, yet once again, he received the second least playing time. Some of the times he would get DNPs or slashed playing time were highly questionable and inexplicable.

After a 17-rebound performance in a late December loss to the Golden State Warriors, Kaman had his minutes cut to half for the next game. Then, on Christmas he received a DNP against the Miami Heat. What’s confusing is that D’Antoni played him for 30 minutes in the following game against the Utah Jazz (oh, and he had a 19-point, 10-rebound showing in a win).

It almost seems like D’Antoni had no idea what to do with Kaman. Sure, he wasn’t the most consistent player, but it seems like his punishment for one bad game was too severe at times. He would go weeks without playing, and then put up a string of games with efficient shooting and strong rebounding only to be benched again.

Kaman played in nine games where he received more than 24 minutes of playing time. In those games, he had six double-doubles and he scored in double figures every time averaging 19.2 points and 11.1 rebounds in those games. Those are Gasol numbers! Scratch what I said before. Kaman was a Gasol when he got his fair share of floor time!


When Kaman was on the floor this year, the Lakers were significantly a better defensive team. When he was off the floor, the Lakers defensive rating was 108.9, compared to 103.6 when he was on the floor. The Lakers net rating with Kaman on the court was also almost twice as good as when he was on the bench (-3.7 against -6.5).

Offensively, however, it was a different story. Kaman had an offensive rating of 99, which could have turned the offensive minded D’Antoni off. That being said, he was an efficient shooter from inside and near the paint.

Shotchart 1401858533641

It would’ve been interesting to see how Kaman’s numbers would be different if had more playing time. This season marked the least playing time he’s ever received in his career — almost ten minutes per game fewer than his career average. However, his points per game average (10.4) was only a little over one point less than his career average of 11.7. His production was still there despite the lack of playing time. Finally, his player efficiency rating of 17 was the second highest of his career.

Highlight of the Season

The moment that will live on the longest from Kaman’s season is the picture (and the resulting memes) of him sprawled out on the Lakers’ bench in a game against the Cavs. In a game the Lakers finished with only 4 available players, Kaman enjoyed the extra space on the bench and decided to take the phrase “getting some rest on the bench” very literally.

The best moment of Kaman’s season probably came towards the end, however. The Lakers were playing spoiler against the Phoenix Suns and Kaman put on a spectacular performance where he scored 28 points on 13-of-19 shooting and grabbed 17 rebounds in a 16-point victory. The Suns were riding a six-game winning streak prior to that loss. After that, they lost five of their last nine and missed the playoffs.

Going Forward

Kaman is a free agent this summer and could probably stay since D’Antoni is gone. Also, since he had some injuries, is getting older, and had limited playing time this year, the 32-year old may have lost some leverage in negotiation. If the Lakers can take him for less than the amount they were paying him, then they should keep him by all means. He’s a veteran big who isn’t afraid to shoot and could bring some pop from the bench.

Final Grade:


It’s difficult to grade Kaman’s season. When he got playing time, he performed at a B caliber level (for Kaman expectations). Unfortunately, he only got playing time in a third of the games he played, which wasn’t that many because of injuries and DNPs.

General Thoughts on the Season

If I would have told you before the season started that a Lakers’ point guard would be 2nd in the league in assists, you’d have thought “wow, Steve Nash really came back well from his injury, huh?” or even “man, Steve Blake really is thriving under Mike D’Antoni!” right? And if I’d have told you, nope, Kendall Marshall was the guy who racked up all those dimes your response would have been “who?”.

And really, that’s the story of Kendall Marshall’s season with the Lakers.

The 2nd year point guard really did come out of nowhere to be a key rotation player for this team. Called up from the D-League after the Lakers had another horrific injury run to their point guards, Marshall instantly showed that his pass first (and second and third) approach was a perfect match for Mike D’Antoni’s spread pick and roll attack. This offense needed a playmaker at the point and Marshall provided just that, hitting teammates with passes right into their shooting pockets and scoring just enough to keep defenses honest.

Like any young player, Marshall had his ups and downs. After making his debut he proved to be a viable lead guard and put up some eye popping stats while playing heavy minutes only to struggle severely as a scorer and become turnover prone late in the year. Overall, however, it’s hard to see his campaign as anything but a success. After all, how many guys go from D-League obscurity to racking up double digit assist games as starting point guard for the Lakers?


Kendall Marshall

As the shot chart above shows, Marshall’s biggest strength isn’t shooting the ball. Yes, his three point percentage was nearly 40% and he showed the ability to stretch the floor as a spot up shooter when defenses sagged down to help in the post or closed out with hesitation so he would not get into the lane where he could better create shots for others. But from mid-range and in the paint, Marshall simply was not a great finisher — especially in traffic. If there’s one area where he really needs to grow his game it’s as a scorer, specifically when he gets a step on his defender but meets help in the lane. Developing a runner or a floater would do wonders for his scoring efficiency and open up his passing even more.

That last point is actually a bit scary to think about considering how well Marshall created shots for others and set them up for easy scores. Despite facing defenses that often did not respect his ability to score while playing him for the pass, Marshall averaged 8.8 assists per game which was good for 2nd in the league behind Chris Paul. Marshall’s ability to not only see the floor and pick out the open man, but to throw passes that were on time and on target was fantastic all season and really helped create a better offensive flow when he was in the game.

While his offensive contributions were key to the success the Lakers did have this season, his defense was also a reason for the team’s struggles. Though he possesses good size, Marshall isn’t exactly a stellar athlete. And on defense his lack of foot speed and lateral agility made it tough for him to guard many of his point guard counterparts. This often left the Lakers putting Marshall on opponents’ weakest offensive players and exposing their other perimeter players to match ups that they weren’t quite comfortable with. Further, all too often Marshall simply seemed disinterested with battling defensively and doing the dirty work that is required of players of his ilk; players who cannot rely on physical gifts to defend well. Marshall often didn’t bump cutters, would lose connectivity with his man when defending off the ball, and didn’t help the helper with physicality when having to battle big men on the glass. Overall, he simply didn’t show the same awareness or willingness defensively as he did on the other side of the ball.

Most Memorable Moment

Rather than pick out a single moment, here is a compilation of Marshall’s highlights from the year. While there were certain games that stood out that deserve mention, for me this season was more about Marshall’s total body of work and showing that, offensively, he really can run and offense and be a high level playmaker.

Overall Grade and Summary

While I would love to go higher, I can’t really give Marshall any better than a B on the season. His passing and instincts for playmaking were top flight, but his inconsistency as a shooter and scorer combined with his struggles defensively left me wanting more. That said, the fact that he came from the D-League to play heavy minutes and put up some amazing stat lines over the course of the year deserve heavy praise. Marshall was essentially staring at his NBA mortality in the face and fought to show that he really does belong in this league. And while I’m not completely sold that his ceiling is any higher than a back up on a good team, there is always a place for a guy who has instincts and floor general skills like he has.

General Thoughts on the Season

Like so many Lakers, Jordan Farmar’s homecoming season (he’s a graduate of Taft High School in Woodland Hills) was plagued by a multitude of nagging injuries. His calf, hamstring and groin wouldn’t cooperate all season, and he was only able to suit up for 41 games. Farmar had four separate stretches in which he missed at least 4 games. All of this makes it tough to accurately assess Farmar’s year, as it’s important to remember than any time a player is coming back from missing multiple games they’re not quite right the first game back. So often this season it felt that just as Jordan got back into rhythm, his bummy hamstring would return him to the pine for the foreseeable future.

When he was indeed on the floor, Farmar was a useful and important player for the Lakers. He possesses something that the other point guards on the roster don’t: the quick first step needed to at least try and defend the Russell Westbrooks and Damian Lillards of the world. He shot a very solid 43.8% from behind the arc and proved the ability to get white-hot.

He’s now an unrestricted free agent who should see decent interest from teams looking for a strong shooter in a backup point guard. He’s been vocal about wanting to remain a Laker no matter who the next coach is. But Farmar signed for the minimum last summer, and with the Lakers’ eyes on big-name free agents, he’ll likely have to accept a similar contract this year if he does want to remain in Lakerland.


Shotchart 1400011620508

As stated previously, Farmar is a more than capable three-point shooter, especially from the corners. What sticks out on this shot chart is the midrange-success. In the new basketball world driven by analytics, these long two-point jumpers have become quazi-blasphemous, as the numbers favor layups and three-pointers. So, analyze his midrange success however you like, but realize that Famar is a surprisingly adequate mid-range shooter, as well.

Farmar never has been, and likely never will be effective when he goes to the hoop. While he’s a pretty good athlete and leaper, Farmar lacks the aggression to bang with the bigs down low and the dexterity required to finish efficiently.

Farmar showed an ability to get hot and stay hot this season that I can’t remember him displaying in previous years. On Feb. 28, Farmar erupted for a career high 30 points on 8-10 shooting from three. He was 5-7 from behind the arc at Brooklyn on Nov. 27, 5-8 at Cleveland on Feb. 5, 4-5 against Denver on March 7….you get the picture. The moral of the story is: when Farmar’s feeling it, get that boy that rock.

While a 106.9 defensive rating is far form impressive, when you factor in that the Lakers as a team had a defensive rating 110.6, it becomes a bit more acceptable. Farmar has good size and burst for a point guard, which are two of the most important factors when it comes to defense. For comparison, Kendall Marshall had a defensive rating of 109.0, Nash a 112.0, and Blake also a 112.0. Numbers don’t lie; Farmar was LAL’s best defensive point guard option this season, though that’s really not saying much.

Most Memorable Moment

Farmar catches fire to the tune of a career-high 30 piece on 8-10 shooting from downtown.

Overall Grade and Summary

Farmar showed some bright spots this year, averaged a career high in points, and proved to be the Laker’s best point guard defender. But I’m just hesitant to give any player on this team a favorable grade. Basketball is about winning games. The Lakers didn’t do that this season. By definition, it was a failure. I look at this season like a group project: If the entire team’s season was the project, they certainly would receive no better than a C- that’s what happens you fail to do what you set out to do (win games). When the group project receives such a poor grade, each individual team member is essentially disqualified from receiving an A- the project was just too damn bad! That’s why Farmar, despite having a relatively solid season (and a cost-effective one) receives a B-.

But if he’s willing to come back for the right price, as he says he is, he’s a solid backup point guard who has the ability to get hot off the bench once in a while. If the Lakers can secure him for the veteran’s minimum, they should do so- it’s always good for the locker-room dynamic to have a player who genuinely wants to be there. And Jordan Farmar, through and through, wants to be a Laker.

General Thoughts on Player:

The buzzer sounded at the Bradley Center on a chilly spring Milwaukee night and the Los Angeles Lakers found themselves on the losing end once again in a season that just didn’t end quickly enough. The 16-time NBA champions had just been swept in a season series against the Milwaukee Bucks. This pretty much summed up the Lakers woeful season, who have lost to the bad and been crushed by the best throughout the season. It was difficult to find many positives after a season like this that was riddled with countless injuries, but walking out of the locker room in Milwaukee was Jordan Hill, one of the few silver linings in the Lakers dismal 2013-14 season.

Hill scored 28 points and grabbed 16 rebounds that night in just 31 minutes. He made 13 of his 17 field goal attempts. Nine of his 16 rebounds were of the offensive variety. These type of numbers weren’t an anomaly either. Hill continuously showed this season how efficient he can be…when he got playing time.

The big man with dreadlocks missed almost a month due to injury, but that’s not the only reason why he wasn’t on the floor throughout most of the season. Hill played in 72 games but only averaged close to 20 minutes per game despite playing very well in limited playing time. His per 36 numbers were highly efficient — 16.7 points and 12.8 rebounds. For whatever reason, Mike D’Antoni would not play him the minutes that Hill deserved despite all the injuries the team had until April – when Hill finally got playing time and delivered.

Throughout March and April, Hill averaged over 27 minutes per game – well above his season average. April was his most productive month as he averaged 29 minutes and scored 16.6 points and grabbed 10.1 rebounds per game. When Hill got his minutes, he averaged a double double, but for whatever reason, Mike D’Antoni did not start playing him much until later in the season.

That night in Milwaukee was the beginning of Hill’s rise in the end of the season. His Per 36 numbers were always solid, but we hadn’t seen if it would actually translate to real stats if he did get playing time. Hill was successful in doing so on a horrendous team and for this reason, there is no doubt his price will go up in the offseason.

Strengths and Weaknesses:

Hill has limitations. He’s not the next Dwight Howard or Roy Hibbert. Defensively he’s not the greatest player in the world and this is evidenced by his defensive rating of 108.2. That said, this could have been a product of the system he played in, which didn’t stress defense at all as demonstrated by the 16 consecutive games they allowed 100 or more points from early January until February. Hill did average close to two blocks per game in April, when he got his most playing time.

Defensive deficiencies or not, Hill is a guy that the Lakers need to try to retain in the offseason. He only made $3.5 million this year and he’s a high energy player the Lakers could sign for a couple of years for a good price. His rebounding abilities and constant energy are reason enough for the team to bring him back.

Just think about it for a second. Hill was subjected to awful minutes by D’Antoni this year. Shawne Williams and Ryan Kelly averaged more minutes than Hill. If a player is producing and not getting minutes there’s no doubt that this could lead to frustration. The fact that Hill still played hard and produced despite not getting the minutes he deserved is a testament to his character and focus.

Hill’s biggest strength of course comes on the glass. He grabs a lot of rebounds but what makes him valuable is that he grabs a high percentage of available rebounds. He grabbed 13.9 percent of all available offensive rebounds which was sixth best in the league and as every NBA stat geek knows, offensive rebounds are extremely important because they give a team more possessions to score.

It’ll be interesting to see if this would keep up if Hill had a central role on a winning team. Guesses are that he can easily be a high energy guy off the bench and average 25-30 minutes per game. With D’Antoni out of the picture, perhaps Hill will be more inclined to stay in LA, but there’s no doubt that there will be teams courting him.

Most Memorable Moment:

From the aforementioned Bucks game, Jordan Hill grabs a rebound and takes three players up with him for the dunk. It’s a perfect example of his hard work, determination, physicality, and athleticism.

Overall Grade:

Hard work and determination, especially when you play for one of the worst teams in the NBA, should always be noted. When that hard work also translates to production, it turns into value.

Hill has value and he deserves to play somewhere next year where he won’t be getting the second fewest minutes on his team from guys who played at least half the season. Sure, he didn’t fit D’Antoni’s system, but he kept his mouth shut and was a good soldier. When he did play, he provided energy and a great spark.

His defense could use plenty of improvement, but perhaps a new coaching system will change that.

Grade: A-

General Thoughts on the Season

Like nearly every other player on the roster, Pau came into this season with something to prove and looking for redemption. After being pushed out of his comfort zone last year while masquerading as a “stretch” four in Mike D’Antoni’s spread pick and roll attack while flanking Dwight Howard, Pau would enter this season as the main big man and the key interior player.

Theoretically, then, Pau was set up for success as a fulcrum of the team’s offensive attack.In practice, though, what followed was season filled with ups and downs, bouts of poor health, and, sprinkled in, some of that redemptive play sought from the beginning.

If anything, what Pau showed is that he can still be a very good player in this league. After dealing with the repercussions of not training all summer (basically, Pau had to work himself into shape) the season did not start as many of us would have hoped. Already in athletic decline, Pau struggled even more to play with a strong base and get the lift he needed to excel as a post player. Further, his diminished foot speed affected his ability to get by his man offensively and contain his man defensively. The results were some ugly numbers that translated more to a player who was close to being done as a solid contributor.

As the season wore on, however, Pau got more healthy and the quality play returned (at least offensively, but more on that later). As a pick and pop player, Pau showed the needed lift on his shot to start making his mid-range jumper. As a post player, he was able to better work his full arsenal and finish on his variety of hooks and turnaround J’s set up through primary and counter moves.

In January he averaged 20 and 12 on 51% shooting. In February, those numbers dipped some to 18 and 8, but his FG% jumped to 54%. In March he put up 19 and 9 on 50%. Basically, he was back to approximating the player he was before last season. No, he wasn’t championship level Pau, but he was a featured player on offense who could score one and one, drew some double teams, and still passed the ball wonderfully.

In April, however, the unevenness to Pau’s year returned. Bouts of vertigo caused nausea and headaches that had him in and out of the lineup. When he tried to play and/or travel with the team, the symptoms only worsened and he ultimately finished the season on the disabled list.

Not necessarily the banner year that Pau (and fans) hoped for, but there were definitely signs that he’s still a very capable player. Though, clearly, not one that enjoyed playing in the all-up tempo-all-the-time style that Mike D’Antoni preferred.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Pau Shot Chart

As mentioned above, Pau showed that he can still be a very effective player on offense. As his shot chart shows, he was an excellent mid-range shooter from straight away and very good from the right elbow. A pet play the Lakers ran a lot after Kendall Marshall came on board was the pick and pop on the right wing where Marshall could drive hard to his left hand and Pau could float into the FT line area where he proved comfortable knocking down that open shot.

And while his numbers on the season don’t reflect it, Pau was a much better finisher inside — especially in the restricted area — as he got his legs under him. From January 1st through the end of the season, Pau shot 65.6% in the restricted area and 49.4% on shots in the paint (non-restricted area). Compare this to his numbers from the first two months of the season (62% in the restricted area, 35.4% in the paint (non-restricted area)) and you can see how he got stronger and was able to maintain better play over the season’s last 4 months.

Of course, basketball is played on both sides of the floor and while Pau flashed a worthwhile offensive game the same cannot be said about his defense. While he was better in the 2nd half of the season as a rebounder and paint protector, the fact is that Pau offered his worst defensive season as a Laker and probably the worst of his career outside of his rookie season. Pau was often late to help on penetration and too often didn’t help at all. His screen and roll D offered much to be desired as he neither had the foot speed to hedge and recover on ball handlers nor the needed burst to sag below the screen and still jump out hard to contest the mid-range jumper. This often left him in no-mans land, not really helping on the ball handler but not sticking to his own man either.

Pau could still be a good man to man defender in the post, but as the game has moved away from classic post up threats to more spread pick and roll attacks those skills of being able to bottle up your own man down low constitute a fraction of the defensive play types of what they used to. This didn’t necessarily render Pau useless on D — his length was still useful when he did rotate and led to him blocking nearly 2 shots a game post All-Star break, but all in all he left a lot to be desired defensively. Especially when he was asked to leave the paint and help anywhere near the perimeter. There used to be a time when Pau, though not an elite defender, could play from the rim to the three point line and back to the paint on a single possession and be somewhat disruptive. Those days seem very far behind him now and don’t look to be coming back.

Most Memorable Moment

I mean, how could it be any other moment?

Overall Grade and Summary

When you add everything up, and when grading on a curve towards individual performance rather than by team results, it’s hard to give Pau anything higher than a B or B-minus on the season.

His offense was good to the point that if you just looked at his numbers — especially after the turn of the calendar year — you’d see a player who was performing near the levels he did when the Lakers were making deep playoff runs. He may not have had any of those huge “wow” games that he was able to produce in past years, but he had a solid consistency to him where you could pencil in his 17 and 9 and call it a night. That’s not the Pau of old, but it’s close enough where you could justify having him be option 2B for a playoff level team.

His defense, however, knocked him down at least a notch (and probably 2). Too often he just wasn’t (or couldn’t) be where he was supposed to and that compromised the integrity of the defense. The team’s failings on that side of the ball aren’t just on him, of course, but a more active, engaged, and capable defender could have done more to help hid the team’s deficiencies on that end.

General Thoughts On The Season

Nick Young was brought in this summer during the whirlwind of reclamation signings made by the Lakers this past summer as they tried to put a competitive roster together. The signing was on the heels of Kobe’s Achilles exploding, the team being swept out of the first round and Dwight Howard jumping ship for Texas. After a summer in which the Lakers felt they put a roster together that would compete for a championship, they were scrambling to put one together that might compete for a playoff spot, and Swagnificant P was one of the main signings that highlighted the summer.

Oy vey ist mir.

Many wondered how Young would fit in with this Lakers team, and considering the contract that Young was offered this year, Young contributed much more than what his contract was worth. Young averaged 22.8 per 36 this year, completely bought into his sixth man role and ostensibly gave Lakers fans a guy they could collectively root for. If nothing else, the Nick Young experience was awfully fun this season. Plenty of off the cuff post game quotes, the bad shots were often hilarious (see above) and the made shots flit down the hard wood, hunched over, with three fingers almost scraping the floor. In a year when the Lakers set a franchise low in wins, you have to take your wins when you can, and Young was definitely a win this year.

Strengths And Weaknesses

nick young

With no real timetable for the return of Kobe Bryant, Young was largely brought in as a guy who could create his own shot — for better or for worse — when the offense got into a bit of trouble while Bean rehabbed. Young’s role was slated to change once Bryant got back, however this original plan really never got going as planned. Young began the season struggling in a starting role and was moved to the bench just a few games into the season, and there was an immediate jump in the quality of play. Young was afforded a little more freedom and was opposed by lesser defenders on the opposing teams’ reserves. While the starting lineup was in constant flux, Young continued to come off the bench and close out games on the nights he had it going.

Along with many of the point guards, Mike D’Antoni turned what may have been considered a weakness into a discernible strength. Young had, and still has, a stigma that is of a guy who is going to take a lot of bad shots outside of the rhythm of the offense. While there was still a lot of wild, ridiculous shots taken by Young, his shot selection was much improved from previous years. Young recorded career highs in TS%, eFG%, USG%, offensive efficiency and PER. Young cut down on the percentage of mid-range jumpers he jacked up this year (.354 of total attempts from 10-23 feet this season compared to .455 for his career). On the flip side, Young shot .555 of his shots either right at the rim or behind the 3-point line.

While it doesn’t really mean much on a team as terrible on the defensive end as it was this year, that side of the ball wasn’t exactly his strong suit. There were stretches when Young came up with some key defensive stops, but Young struggled defending in isolation and didn’t always have the greatest rotations (who did). Early in the year, with the team (relatively) healthy, the Lakers were able to extend their defense to 3-quarters court, and Young was able to excel in those situations. Young helped force turnovers and get the team in transition. However, Young really struggled defensively in transition and in the half court.

Most Memorable Moment

Tough to find a starting point here. Tough to find an ending point, too. Young was only here for a year and the amount of comedy, joy, fun and excitement he brought can’t be bottled up into a single moment. Young’s 360 missed layup is as memorable as the celebration of the missed 3-pointer. Both of his 40-point games were as memorable as the previous moments (one in a loss, the other in a win that they needed to lose). I think my favorite moment may have been his celebration with Pau Gasol after Pau drilled a corner three late in the 4th quarter in a win over the Timberwolves. In the last two seasons, we haven’t seen too much joy come from The Spaniard, but Young brought out nothing but pure happiness from a guy who hasn’t seen a lot of it.


Overall Grade And Summary

B+ (Graded on a curve for terrible season)

Nick Young ended up doing a whole lot more than what he was initially asked to do this season. He was brought in to become a secondary scorer off the bench once the team got healthy. The team never gained full health and Young was the team’s primary perimeter option on most nights, the team’s sixth man, the spark, and overall feel good story (he was not the only feel good story). What was surprising was that he was much more willing to make the extra pass than what was believed going into the season. Not sure if that’s coaching or Young’s reputation being worse than he actually was, but it was a positive that wasn’t expected this year.

An interesting tidbit about Young’s season with the Lakers: he passed up Kobe on the all-time list of 4-point plays. Young now has 10 for his career to Kobe’s nine. Under normal circumstances, Young’s grade probably would have been a little lower, but he exceeded many expectations in many ways and it was a positive individual year for Young. Because of his player option, it’s likely that he won’t return next year, and he’s definitely earned whatever contract is thrown his way this summer.

Los Angeles Lakers' Derek Fisher shoots over Boston Celtics' Rajon Rondo during the fourth quarter in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals basketball series in Los Angeles, California June 17, 2010 .  REUTERS/Mike Blake  (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

In 1996, there is no way the Lakers could have known that they were drafting a future five time NBA Champion, the future president of the player’s union and one of the most stand-up guys in all of sports. Considering Derek Fisher’s roller coaster season, the Lakers still don’t know exactly what to expect from their point guard in 2010.

For Fish, it was one of the more forgettable regular seasons of his career. He recorded his lowest scoring average since the 99/00 season, assisted at his lowest rate since his rookie season and had the worst shooting percentage of his career — yet he continued to start over the likes of Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown. He played in 82 games for the fifth season in a row and finished the season as an NBA champion for the fifth time in his career. The story line that loomed over his head like a personal rain cloud this season weren’t any of these things, but how we reacted to them as the season treaded along. It was more than obvious that Fisher’s physical capabilities were on the decline, and we (yes, myself included) made sure that the blogospehere knew it.

National columnists, beat writers, online journalists, bloggers and those who simply comment on blogs relentlessly stoned Fish with our words that berated the decline of his shooting, passing, jumping, running and intelligence for the better part of the 82 game season. These are the rated G versions of the comments made about Derek Fisher’s game.

* “Fisher is beyond awful, and cannot even outplay opposing reserve guards.”

* “Maybe because we know it’s beating a dead horse at this point (no offense Fish) but it’s kind of amazing how we always step around the pink elephant that is our PG situation. It boggles the mind how we could have just opted not to address this massive Achilles heel at any point in the off season before the trade deadline. We couldn’t at least go the Smush Parker route and sign a d-leaguer for the minimum? Mustafa Shakur. Morris Almond (who’s actually a SG/SF but could at least knock down a 3). Just sayin’”

* “The tempo is set by each team taking it to the hole in the dike, Fisher. When teams get out to big leads it is almost always penetration up the middle and wide open shots. This latest yelling match with Sasha and Shaw may even shorten are already talent short bench. I don’t even want to see what Brooks does to Fisher tonight and Paul after that. It is very tough to win 4 on 5. They other 4 guys have to play great games to carry around the caboose. This game they were too tired and could not recover from the defensive liabilities of Fisher. To beat the Lakers you do it with speed, youth, doubling Kobe and attacking our hole in the dike. Every scout in the league has figered it out. Except Phil that is. The legend of D Fish is now haunting me. I think it might be the ghost of Smush Parker!!!!!!!!!!!”

* “Another Laker game, another poor shooting night from Fisher. The man knows how to talk good game but doesn’t play that way.”

* “The rate at which Derek Fisher fails makes me want to punch through walls.”

* “And for those who complain stop with the Fish bashing. Not as long as he continues to hurt this team and make a mockery of the point guard position.”

* “Someone mentioned it in the game thread, but it bears repeating because I’m just flabbergasted. Fish’s 13 shots were more than Lamar, Drew, Pau, or Artest took. All of those players shot more than 50% from the field tonight. That is simply unacceptable. Fish should be one of our LAST options on offense.”

Not one of these comments came from a non-Lakers fan – giving credence to the saying, with fans like these, who needs the Celtics? I was even included in that bunch, and I’ve been one of Fisher’s biggest supporters throughout the years. It was hard not to blame all that was going bad on the aging point guard, and we used him as a way to justify the Lakers sub-par play down the stretch. But we all know, that it wasn’t JUST Fish as evidenced by the Lakers post season run. Yes, Fish picked up his game in the post season, but so did the whole team. Andrew Bynum was better, Farmar and Brown were better, Gasol was better and Kobe was MUCH better. This was a Lakers team that was awful for many of their games past the all-star break, not a point guard.

The thing is, Fisher is one of the most dedicated basketball players in the league. He understands the game, he understands his teammates and he understands his coach. The Lakers run a system that allows him to be effective without all of the physical abilities that some of the better point guards in the league have, and it takes an extremely intelligent and dedicated basketball player to take full advantage of that. In his exit interview, Fish addressed how much hard work he puts into making sure he can go out and give the Lakers everything he has night in and night out:

“It’s a lot of sacrifice. On one of those hot days in the summer when you could be at the park with the kids or, you know, going to lunch with your wife, a lot of times I’m working out. A lot of times I could be sleeping in or staying out late, I’m doing the opposite and it’s worked out well. I feel like I’ve made an investment more than giving something away. … Every year I just keep pushing the envelope to find ways to keep myself in the best possible shape and condition in the event that I do need to go all the way. With our team, it’s not always required of me, but I’d rather be prepared to play 38 minutes and carry a heavy load even though that’s not what I really have to do.”

Considering his career, saying, “it’s worked out well” is an understatement. Not only is he a five time NBA Champion, but he has some of the most memorable moments in recent Lakers history, including scoring 11 for the Lakers in the last nine minutes of Game 3 of the NBA Finals to give the Lakers a much needed 2-1 lead over the Celtics. It seemingly happens every year with this guy. No matter how many times Derek Fisher has been counted out, he’s left a positive stamp on the season – and it’s hard to be mad at that.

“For me it feels good to come through no matter what had been or was said throughout the regular season. To be honest I don’t know if I’d like it any other way. Part of the reason why I’m here is because of what I was told I couldn’t do … in high school, in college, that’s what I’ve heard my whole basketball career basically. I guess I’ve developed an ability to just kind of let that be what it is and let people say what they have a right to say.”

-Derek Fisher

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Andrew Bynum’s progress during his first five seasons in the league has been a tale of two cities for the Lakers. The 2009-10 season was no different as the center once again showed promising flashes of his enormous potential, while also disappearing for long stretches. At this point in his career, that is essentially become Andrew’s M.O.—tease fans with moments of brilliance when he’s been able to stay on the floor, then miraculously find a way to become invisible or at best, irrelevant, at other times.

On the season, Bynum’s averages were virtually equal to 2008-09 as he boosted his scoring average a point to 15, while pulling down 8.3 boards a night. The big difference for Andrew was in games played, where he managed to play in and start 65 games, despite giving Lakers fans a gigantic scare when he missed a series of games in March due to a strained achilles tendon. The 65 games was a dramatic improvement over the 35 he played in 2007-08 and 50 in the following season. In fact, for Andrew, his most significant area of growth last season was arguably his relative ability to stay on the floor. Regular playing time breeds consistency and that has been one of Andrew’s largest problem areas the past few seasons.

Health issues aside, Bynum surprised many fans and critics by unveiling a newfound attitude and sense of maturity last season. Even after suffering debilitating season-changing injuries each of the past two seasons, Andrew maintained a positive outlook when he hurt his achilles tendon—a devastating injury for many athletes—just as the team was gearing up for another playoff run. Not only that, once he did return just in time for Game 1 against the Thunder, he showed little drop-off, putting in a reassuring 13 points and 12 rebounds in that first game back from injury. The excitement was short-lived though as Andrew suffered a slight tear of his meniscus in Game 6 of the same series, dramatically decreasing is mobility for the rest of the title run. However, like a true champion, Bynum persevered, throwing together a timely 17 point, 14 rebound performance in Game 2 against Utah and an even bigger 21 point, seven block outing in Game 2 against the Celtics. Through it all, the center showed a level of passion and grit that was previously absent from his game and earned a lot of respect from teammates, critics and fans.


Andrew certainly posted higher totals during the regular season (especially during the first month of last season when he looked like a sure-fire All-Star), but his gutsy (and underrated) 39 minute, 21 point, seven block, six rebound effort in Game 2 of the Finals was by far his impressive, revealing performance to date.


Measuring Andrew’s success five years into the league is still a somewhat difficult, not to mention, divisive task. On one hand, the still incredibly young 22-year-old continues to provide sneak peaks of the type of dominance that has entered his name into the discussion of the league’s top centers. On the other, he’s neither completed an entire NBA season, nor shown the ability to maintain his performances night in and night out. Luckily for the Lakers and Andrew, they still have time to figure those kinks out. Without much roster turnaround expected until at least the season after next, the Lakers still won’t need to rely as heavily on Andrew as an option A or B on offense, though he has certainly shown that he has the potential to be that type of force.

Looking ahead to next season, one of the largest contributions Bynum can make is simply staying on the floor. Andrew was a difference-maker on defense in the playoffs, even when limited by injury. His size and length are invaluable to the Lakers as a last line of defense and when he’s at the top of his game, the forum blue and gold are virtually unbeatable. With Kobe, Gasol, Artest and Odom in tow, the Lakers have shown that they can surive—and still flourish—without a monster scoring night from Bynum. However, they need every bit of the seven footer’s still evolving defensive game against presumed NBA powers like Oklahoma City, Boston, Orlando and Miami.