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From Suki Thind, Lakers Nation: I recently wrote an article on how Lakers fans were stuck with Mike D’Antoni, and how we as fans might as well embrace him and see how far he can take the team in a restructuring period. Naturally, I took some heat for it (although surprisingly, many fans were actually receptive to it). However, now with the addition of Kurt Rambis to D’Antoni’s staff, perhaps that stance will lighten, or fans will at least experience some level of comfort knowing one key member of the Lakers’ 2009 championship coaching staff is back on the sidelines (Rambis left to coach the Minnesota Timberwolves the following season). Rambis, who had often been critical of Mike D’Antoni’s system–or lack thereof–will likely be there for one reason: Defense.

From Associated Press, ESPN LA: With Dwight Howard gone and Kobe Bryant injured, Pau Gasol is looking to reassert himself as a leader of the Los Angeles Lakers. Knees allowing, he wants to be the dominant player of old who helped Bryant & Co. win NBA titles in 2009 and 2010.”I think I have the most uncertain period behind me,” Gasol told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “The team has suffered a lot of changes, but as far as me, I am back in the position of a lot of responsibility, which I like, and I’m just going to focus on getting healthy.”

The Great Mambino, Silver Screen & Roll: The story has been the same for years: if Kobe Bryant nails a game winning shot or Derek Jeter gets a walk-off RBI, the sports world at large shudders in disappointment. Two of the greats in their respective games, reviled by a vocal majority but loved by a passionate fan base of millions, are also two of the easiest players to root against. At this point, there’s really no debate as to whether either man is a Hall of Famer–those honors were cemented years ago. What’s left are simply more records to topple and fellow legends to surpass. They play for the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Yankees, the two lumbering giants in their respective sports.

Mike Bresnahan, LA Times: A lot has happened to the Lakers since General ManagerMitch Kupchak last spoke to reporters. Dwight Howard left for Houston despite the Lakers’ very public campaign to keep him. Metta World Peace was waived via the amnesty provision and quickly joined New York. Chris Kaman, Nick Young, Jordan Farmar and Wesley Johnson were all signed as free agents. It leaves the Lakers … where, exactly? But first, the obvious question for Kupchak, who spoke Monday to The Times in his first interview in more than a month: How disappointed was he to lose Howard in free agency to the “little town” of Houston, as Shaquille O’Neal derisively called it?

From Broderick Turner, LA Times: World Peace, 33, told reporters Monday at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas that he was signing with the Knicks. He cleared waivers Sunday after being let go in a cost-cutting move by the Lakers under the league’s amnesty provision Thursday. Apparently the lure of playing near where he grew up in Queens, N.Y., was more than enough for World Peace to choose the Knicks over the Clippers, who were also interested in signing him. But the most the Clippers could offer World Peace was the veteran’s minimum of $1.4 million.

From Kurt Helin, Pro Basketball Talk: Dwight Howard wants touches in the post — and he’s pretty good in the post despite not having a lot of counter moves to fall back on. He shot 44 percent on post up situations last season despite the injury, 49 percent and 50 percent the two years before that. But in Mike D’Antoni’s style of basketball, just throwing the ball into the post and waiting for him to make a move or kick the ball back out stalls the ball and player movement out. Guys stand around, the offense withers.

From Ramona Shelburne, ESPN LA: So, about that torch pass? The one Dwight Howard was supposed to take from Kobe Bryant one day …Call it a failed exchange, dropped baton, whatever metaphor suits you, but lost in the immediate aftermath of Howard’s decision to bolt for the Houston Rockets is the fairly urgent need for a new casting call for the Lakers’ next leading man. Bryant, of course, said last week that he fully intends to retire as a Laker and doesn’t believe there will be a problem working out an extension to his current contract, which expires after the coming season. So for another two or three or four more years, he’ll hold it down.

From Josh Basali, Lakers Nation: Kobe Bryant is healing up faster than most people would have predicted. Recently, the Mamba told Chris Douglas-Roberts that he is three months ahead of schedule in the recovery process and rehab of his Achillesa surgery. CDR is currently playing for the Lakers’ Summer League team. Chris told reporters that Kobe and him text regularly and that the Vino told him he is ahead of the projected schedule. According to Drew Garrison of Silver Screen and Roll: ”He told me he’s three months ahead of schedule, which is very Kobe-like,” Douglas-Roberts said.

From Drew Garrison, Silver Screen & Roll: This isn’t Chris Douglas-Roberts’ first time trying to earn his way onto the Los Angeles Lakers’ roster. He made it as far as the Lakers’ preseason roster last summer but ultimately did not make the team. He would go on to sign with the Dallas Mavericks, where he played only six games for a total of 63 minutes. He still talks to Kobe Bryant though, who he spoke glowingly of after the Lakers 77-65 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers Monday. You could hear a flicker of excitement when he spoke of the Lakers’ superstar.

With all the courtship that has been going on for Dwight Howard’s services over the last week, one may be inclined to think that if he leaves Los Angeles, the Lakers will enter a downward spiral and burn into flames. However, this is definitely not the case.

Sure, the Lakers will be better off with Howard on their roster. He is and should be the biggest priority for the Lakers this offseason. He’s a dominant force on both ends of the court and if his shoulder shows signs of improvement, he could put up MVP type numbers like he did in Orlando in 2013-14. There is no doubt that the team has a better chance to win a title with him in the lineup.

With that said, having Howard in purple and gold is not a necessity for the team to be successful this year and beyond. This isn’t the same situation the Cleveland Cavaliers faced when LeBron James bolted to Miami, leaving Cleveland with limited and marginal players.

If Howard leaves, the Lakers will have seven players on the roster for 2013-14 in Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Metta World Peace, Jordan Hill, Steve Nash, Steve Blake, and Jodie Meeks. The team has also given center Robert Sacre a qualifying offer to bring him back. Finally, assuming they sign second round pick Ryan Kelly, the Lakers will have nine men on the team.

No matter what happens with Howard, the Lakers must bring in a few bench players this summer who can shoot, defend, and show signs of athleticism that will fit in Mike D’Antoni’s fast paced system. Even if Howard stays, the Lakers aren’t winning anything without some much needed depth.

But, if Howard leaves, even more importance will be placed on the quality of the players they decide to bring this summer.  There are plenty of shooting options available for the Lakers in free agency and they can definitely improve their depth if they make the right moves. They’ll need to rely on their mini mid-level exception plus a few good pickups with their veteran’s minimum, but it’s not out of the realm of possibilities that they succeed using their exceptions.

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From Daniel Buerge, Lakers Nation: After his surprise announcement this morning (that ended up just being him announcing a reality show with Terrell Owens), it was then announced that he will exercise his player option to remain with the Lakers for next season. According to Sam Amick of USA Today, World Peace will be back with the Lakers next season (assuming the team doesn’t use their Amnesty option).”According to a person with knowledge of the situation, the veteran small forward will play out the final year of his contract (worth $7.7 million) rather than exercise the early termination option on his deal.”There were rumors that World Peace might consider walking away from the final year of his deal, but few expected him to turn down nearly $8 million, a number he wouldn’t come close to receiving if he was to be a free agent and picked up by another team.

From Staff And Wire Reports, LA Times: A person with knowledge of the negotiations told the Associated Press that Indiana Pacers assistant coach Brian Shaw has agreed to succeed George Karl as coach of theDenver Nuggets. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity Monday night because the deal hadn’t been officially announced. The Nuggets called a news conference for Tuesday afternoon to introduce their new coach. The Denver Post first reported the agreement with Shaw, and the former Phil Jackson pupil told the newspaper he has been “prepared by the best of the best” for his first NBA head coaching job.

From Dave McMenamin, ESPN LA: While two former No. 1 picks in LeBron James and Tim Duncan dominated and defined the NBA Finals for their respective teams, the series wouldn’t have been what it was without a couple of second-round picks. Manu Ginobili, selected No. 57 by San Antonio in 1999, was brilliant in Game 5 of the Finals and gave the Spurs a 3-2 series lead by putting up 24 points and 10 assists. Mario Chalmers, who went No. 34 in 2008 to Minnesota before being traded to Miami, came up huge in all three of the Heat’s home wins and averaged 17.7 points in Games 2, 6 and 7 to help the Heat to the title. In Thursday’s NBA Draft, the Los Angeles Lakers will find themselves looking for a similar impact player in the second round. For the sixth straight year, the Lakers do not have a first round pick.

From Ben R, Silver Screen & Roll: To say that mock drafts are an inexact science goes without saying. Ultimately, they are collections of educated guesses and pretty much worthless in predictive value aside from obvious choices at the top of the order. And this year, even that last item is not the case, as the Cavaliers debate whether to pick Nerlens Noel, Alex Len, or a number of other options. All of this notwithstanding, merely by attempting to make sense of a crapshoot of a process, we stir the imagination and at least introduce the possibilities for what your team will be looking at in your range, which is all you can ask for on draft night.

Metta’s Announcement

From Dan Duangdao, Lakers Nation: In one of the most trying seasons of his career, Kobe Bryant has openly discussed retirement and has reiterated that it is realistic that he would hang it up after his current contract expires, which is at the end of next season. This was before the season-ending Achilles tendon rupture on April 12, 2013. While looking at the scar on his Achilles during an interview in Brazil, Bryant talked about his recovery so far and might have possibly reconsidered his retirement plans. Courtesy of KB824Legend (h/t Los Angeles Times), Kobe stated: “I can easily see myself playing another three or four years.”

From TheGreatMambino, Silver Screen & Roll: Coming off spectacular run to the Finals that was tantalizingly close to a fifth title, Tim Duncan has reignited the argument of who is the greatest player of his generation. The question is simple: whose career has been greater, the Big Fundamental or the Black Mamba? One roll of the basketball, and this would be a short article. In an epic Game 7 last Thursday, Tim Duncan had the ball in the post for hisSan Antonio Spurs, staring elimination in the face. Time was running out–48 seconds to be exact–and the team’s all-time franchise player made his move to the center of the key, and attempted a right hook shot over the 6’8″ Shane Battier that would tie the game. This shot was the very same one he’d make 99 out of 100 times, maybe even 999 out of 1,000 times. But that night, that one odd number seemed to rear its ugly head.

From Arash Markazi, ESPN LA: Phil Jackson isn’t quite sure when Kobe Bryant will return to the court next season, but he’s convinced Bryant won’t leave the hardwood for good until he at least ties Michael Jordan’s six titles and surpasses Jordan on the all-time scoring list. “His goal is another championship,” Jackson said Thursday. “He also has a chance to replaceMichael Jordan in the all-time scoring list. Those are two goals, with the first one being a championship, that Kobe would like to accomplish.” Bryant, who has five titles to Jordan’s six, is fourth on the NBA’s all-time scoring list with 31,617 points, behind Jordan’s 32,292. Bryant said Thursday his goal is to return to the court with the Lakers sometime in November or December after rupturing his Achilles tendon at the end of last season. “It’s to be seen how well he recovers from the operation,” Jackson said. “Odds are and the belief is it will be very soon in November, which is remarkable.

From Eric Pincus, LA Times: The rules changed when the league adopted the 2011 collective bargaining agreement, but Lakers executive and owner Jeanie Buss is confident the franchise will navigate its way back to the top. “We are in 100% in support of those agreements, but as much as they’d like to try to revenue share and make things equal — our basketball expertise, they can’t revenue share away from us,” Buss said.  “I believe that as they keep trying to make things more fair, they can never take away what the Lakers have — our history, our experience, our brain power in our front office.  We’ll always have an advantage.” On Wednesday, at a Time Warner Cable Media event to honor her late father, Dr. Jerry Buss, Jeanie said the franchise willingly accepted the more stringent rules — including steeper luxury taxes for teams over the salary cap — for the good of the NBA.

From Lucas Tucker, Yahoo Sports: Fresh off their first “title” of Pacific Division winner, the Los Angeles Clippers are bringing Doc Rivers to Hollywood to man their sidelines. There’s no denying that Doc is a top-tier coach, but there might be some culture shock next October when he watches the Clippers raise their first banner in Staples Center – celebrating last year’s division title. Doc comes from a place that doesn’t celebrate anything less than championships. Neither do the Clippers’ roommates. Hiring Doc is another move in the right direction, but should you ever question which franchise rules Los Angeles, just look at the rafters in Staples Center. Coming from Boston, Doc knows which L.A. is chant-worthy.


Few NBA players have ever suffered the type of hit to their reputation as a player that Dwight Howard has over the past two seasons. Just two years ago he was the consensus top big man in the game and the gulf between him and the number 2 player was larger than any other top player at his position and the man below him.

In the two seasons, since, however, Howard’s brand as a player has taken a major hit. From the poor way he handled his pending free agency in Orlando to his trade “demand” to his back tracking to his season ending injury and then to how he performed on the court this season during his recovery, the luster to Howard’s reputation as an elite player in the league was severely tarnished.

Now that he’s finally hit the point in which he’s an unrestricted free agent, there are real questions about whether or not he’s worthy of the chase teams are sure to put on in order to obtain his services. It’s probably better to take a step back and realize that, yes, Dwight Howard is worth it.

Does he have issues with his game? Of course. Most every player does. But what Howard has shown, even in a season when he clearly wasn’t at his best, is that teams respect his game immensely. Even with an “unpolished” offensive game, Dwight is swarmed in the post and on his dives to the rim out of the pick and roll. Even when he was clearly limited physically, teams were hesitant to all out attack him defensively by targeting him in isolation or in the pick and roll. Even while he played through what was obviously a still hurting back, Dwight put up strong numbers and had a high impact on the game — though, as the year went on this was more true than at the beginning.

This past week, there have been several rumors and rumblings about where Dwight may go. The latest talk was that the Clippers covet him and would, potentially, be open to trying to trade for him. And then there are the long reported landing spots of Houston, Dallas, and, even, Atlanta. However, in an interview just a few days ago, Kobe Bryant had a simple message for the Lakers and Dwight: Just lock him up.

Kobe’s not wrong. There’s no doubt in my mind that if it came to having to deal Howard, the Lakers could work out a way to get a strong package in exchange for trading him. Whether it’s a version of the rumored offer the Clippers would have on the table or some other group of players and picks from a different team, there will be deals presented to the Lakers should it come to that.

But, in reality, it’s probably better that it doesn’t come to that. Because regardless of what you think of Dwight as a person due to how he’s handled his business over the past two seasons, he’s still one of the top talents in the league. It’s easy to forget that when we all spent so much time picking apart his game over the past 18 months, but as the second half of the season showed, the player who was a consensus top 5 (and probably top 3) talent in the league is still worth holding onto.

From Kurt Helin, Pro Basketball Talk: My only question is: Did Metta World Peace make the recommendation? In his quest to get over his free throw shooting woes this season — 49.2 percent — Howard admitted to T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times that he saw the team’s psychologist about it. “I have only one problem and it’s between my ears,” he said, while admitting he visited a Lakers’ psychiatrist. “I just think too much.” Howard has said that before — it’s not form, it’s in his mind. And you see when teams have gone to the hack-a-Howard strategy and just fouled him over and over he gets his rhythm going and starts to sink a respectable percentage of his free throws.

From Suki Thind, Lakers Nation: Well, here’s another edition of our weekly historic box scores selection. This week, we feature none other than Lakers great Wilt Chamberlain and his 100-point game. Wilt was actually with the Philadelphia Warriors when it happened back on March 2, 1962. A few weeks ago, we featured Kobe Bryant’s 81-point performances–the second highest point total in NBA history–so it’s only fitting that we also featured the highest points total by any single player, ever. Chamberlain was in just his third season at the time and was averaging a whopping 50.4 points per game.

From TheGreatMambino, Silver Screen & Roll: Of the myriad of questions floating around the Los Angeles Lakers this summer, there’s no front office issue that could shift from extremely impactful to borderline insignificant like the amnesty provision debate. For the uninitiated, the amnesty provision is a one-time opportunity for a team to waive any player who signed his contract before December 2011 and have his salary wiped from the team’s salary cap figure. In many cases, teams will use this provision to clear a player’s cap number off the books in order to fit another man’s contract onto the books. In the Lakers’ case, the amnesty cut would most likely be used to simply reduce steep luxury taxes that could potentially go into the eight or even nine figures. The only restrictions that a team faces when cutting a player via the amnesty is that the player would have to be with the same team since December 2011 (thus, he could not have been traded in that time). The Lakers will have four such players under contract that are eligible for the amnesty provision: Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Steve Blake and Metta World Peace.

From T.J. Simers, LA Times: My daughter, Kelzer, is a mother now with three children, and it’s been more than a decade since she spent much time shooting a basketball. But I flew Kelzer in from Arizona to teach Dwight Howard how to shoot free throws because she still has to be better than he is. Who isn’t? We all met at UCLA, Howard was as friendly as always and relaxed after fishing trips to Lake Tahoe and Aspen. He posted Twitter pictures of the fish that had jumped in his boat or the ones he claimed he had caught. But they were the wrong kind of trophies for some Lakers fans. “You just can’t please people,” Howard said. “I catch fish and it’s a problem. People were upset I was out having fun; they thought I should be sitting in a room all upset because we lost. “I am upset, but I’m not going to stop living life. “I couldn’t watch the playoffs I was so ticked. Everywhere I went I saw a Tim Duncan jersey, and you know how much I hated that.”

From Dave McMenamin, ESPN LA: Kobe Bryant had a film session last week, only this time he found himself turning off Dr. James Naismith’s game to watch Dr. Seuss. “I tried watching a game,” Bryant told me Monday in a sit-down interview. “I tried watching Miami-Indiana, Game 3 maybe or Game 4, I can’t really remember, but I’m sitting in bed, I’m watching it. My kids jump in the bed, I’m sitting there watching the game and they’re like, ‘Hey, we want to watch ‘The Lorax.’ Can we watch ‘The Lorax’? I was like, ‘No, I’m watching the & Yeah, what the hell. Why not? Yeah, sure. What am I watching this for anyway? Yeah, let’s watch ‘The Lorax.'” Instead of tuning into LeBron James playing basketball with ease, Bryant chose to watch the little furry guy who speaks for the trees. Yup, this is as close to retirement that Bryant has ever been. And he seems to be just fine with that.

A Day In The Life

Dave Murphy —  June 1, 2013

I’m on the phone with an old buddy from Los Angeles and he says, “dude, you should move back here.” I answer in the most predictable of ways. “Yeah, I know. That would be awesome.” An earth-shattering statement? Hardly. Will it lead anywhere? No, it’s just a handful of words during the course of a conversation in the course of a day or a week. The words go hand-in-hand with other statements or conversations that take place in everyday life. Looks like there might be rain tomorrow. I’m going to the store for a few things. The traffic out there is brutal.

In the high-stakes game of professional sports contracts, casual conversations are given heightened importance. It’s the same in the high-stakes game of business or war and peace. Words are how we communicate and they are used, shaped and shifted to suit the occasion. The NBA free agency period doesn’t start until July 1st but the appetite for news and commentary needs to be fed. Or at least we think it does. Isn’t this why I’m typing these words? I’ll proof them and insert hyperlinks and load them into an online queue. The links of course are the blood-filled arteries that attract the hits. We want some, we want more.

The folks in Houston are wading into the discussion. It spiders out to other places which naturally includes the mega-media market where Dwight Howard currently resides. The prize free agent reportedly had a conversation with his buddy James Harden. These things do happen – people send a text, pick up a call, have a communication in some shape or form. It’s rarely on record of course so it’s posited and relayed in the most common of ways – sources close to the process told… and then we get to the heart of the matter which is usually speculation but that’s how the beast is fed, right? One guy says, “dude, you should come play here.” And the other guy says, Yeah, I know. That would be awesome.”

The Dwight saga hasn’t yet begun to approach critical mass in Los Angeles. It may yet or it may not. The Lakers center has only been here for one season and the whole crazy affair was snake-bitten from the start, ending with a first-round exit as the face of the franchise watched from the sideline on crutches. If you’re looking for a full-scale media meltdown, wait a year until Kobe’s contract expires. Bring your sharpened sticks and marshmallows – the flames will be seen around the world.

The NBA finals are still nearly a week away. The draft happens in a month. And then free agency. The need to feed the beast never expires though, it is relentless and will not be sated. Sometimes the news is of a sobering nature. Sometimes it’s a thoughtful debate about a cornerstone athlete. More often it’s simply a random catch-and-shoot. Somewhere an NBA player touches a tiny icon on his screen and smiles. “I read the news today, oh boy.”