Archives For lakers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Blake Schuster of the Indy Star:

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

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

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

Per Bill Oram of the Orange County Register:

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

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

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

From Anthan Pandian of CBS Sports:

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

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

From Mark Medina of the LA Daily News:

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

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

[…]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Preview & Chat: The Miami Heat

Kurt —  December 4, 2009

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Records: Lakers 14-3 (1st in West) Heat 10-8 (5th in East)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 107.5 (14th in league) Heat 105.8 (20th in league)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 99.2 (2nd in league) Heat 106.2 (15th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Heat: Mario Chalmers, Dwyane Wade, Quentin Richardson, Michael Beasley, Jermaine O’Neal

The Lakers Coming in: I think we need to make a distinction when we talk about the Lakers (this came up in the comments): We need to distinguish between the “bench play” — when Odom, Farmar and Brown play parts of the second quarter — and what commenter chibi has trademarked as the “Taco Unit,” the group that includes everyone and blows leads in the fourth quarter.

Against the Hornets Tuesday, the Lakers started to pull away with the bench guys in during the second, a group that is mixed with some starters. The Taco Unit blew a lot of that lead — and almost the tacos — in the fourth quarter. We just need to look at these situations separately.

Aside that, this stat from the Elias Sports Bureau sums it up: Only one other team in NBA history has scored at least 100 points and held their opponents under 100 points for seven straight games. Now, to burst your bubble a little, that team was the 200-01 Milwaukee Bucks.

The Heat Coming in: This is cool: Check out the Blue Note themed Heat roster video.

This has been an inconsistent Heat team — they beat Orlando and Denver earlier in the season (not last night, they got thumped), but then almost gave New Jersey a win. Maybe that’s to be expected with young players like Chalmers and Beasley in key roles, but still they have Wade and Jermaine O’Neal (who, stunningly, has both looked good at times and already missed time due to injury).

That means as much as ever, the Heat are asking Wade to step up and take on more. Especially in the fourth quarter — like Kobe last year the Heat look to get everyone involved early but late it is all Wade all the time. But Wake is not as efficient a shooter this season as he has been in years past — he is shooting 45% (eFG%) and while he is still getting to the line (10 FTA a game) his True Shooting Percentage is 52%, two points below the league average.

Part of the reason for the Heat’s inconsistency is they shoot a lot of long-two jumpers. They take six fewer shots per game at the rim than the average NBA team but make up for that by shooting more jumpers, three more per game from 16 feet to the three point line, than the average team. Of course, the long two is the least efficient shot in basketball.

One of the Heat’s biggest weaknesses is their bench — they get fewer points per game from the bench than any team in the NBA (according to ESPN Statistics). That was evident again last night, when after a tight first quarter the deep Nuggets just pulled away in the second quarter and never looked back.

What the Heat try to do on defense should remind people of the Showtime Lakers teams — defend the paint and get back in transition. Basically, take away the easy baskets and tempt the other team to be jump shooters. However, they don’t defend in the paint all that well, especially if you have bigs who can pass and motion in the offense. (Which the Lakers have.)

Blogs and links: The True Hoop Network has Hot Hot Hoops covering the Heat.

Fitting with out theme earlier today, here’s another little trip down memory lane.

Keys to game: What the Heat do on offense is not a surprise, but that doesn’t make it that easy to stop: It’s a lot of pick-and-rolls and isolations for Wade. On the picks the Lakers bigs need to show out consistently and not let Wade turn the corner with a head of steam. Rotations from the bigs to keep the paint full of long arms also will be key. When Wade sits (and also when he is in, just not as often) it’s a lot of isolations for Beasley, particularly out on the wing. Good game for the strong side zone when that happens.

While those two drive, the rest of the Heat spread the floor as spot up shooters. The Lakers need to be careful about who they leave open.

Richardson, a solid defender, will get the Kobe assignment. Richardson did well on the slumping Brandon Roy the other night. The Heat love to trap the other team’s primary ball handler (especially off picks) so Kobe needs to be aware and make the smart pass.

Finally, as always, the Heat may be athletic but they do not match up with the Lakers inside. Pound the ball in on offense and the Lakers should get some easy buckets.

Where you can watch: 7:30 start at Staples Center, you can choose between Fox Sports or ESPN, and on 710 ESPN radio.