Summer is in full swing now and not only is the prospect team doing well in Las Vegas — they beat the Bucks yesterday to advance in the tournament — but the big club is also starting to take shape. Signings have occurred and as we sit back to type, the minds of the coaches and front office executives are churning out ideas about how to turn a group of individual players into a team. Lineup combinations are being considered, offensive and defensive schemes are being drawn up on whiteboards, and conversations between the principal decision makers are funneling us towards a place where the experiment will take place.
Of course, that’s a bit of a ways off from now. Camp won’t open until October and between now and then there will be more change. More players will be added, bodies will heal and get stronger, and ideas will shift, all in the name of reaching the team’s goal. And, in the meantime, we get to see hungry players battle it out in the cool confines of a air conditioned gym in the middle of the desert.
- One of the key questions heading into next year is when will Kobe Bryant return. If you ask Jim Buss, he says he’s willing to bet on Kobe being ready to play at some point in the pre-season. Of course, the chief of basketball ops also said that Kobe wouldn’t come back early to prove a point and would only play when he was ready, but that’s no fun. Pencil Kobe into the preseason!
- Even if Kobe is back that early, the expectations for a team that crashed and burned last season and heads into next year without their top in house free agent will be much lower than it has been in years. One writer thinks that’s a good thing and says that even if they don’t win in bunches, they’ll entertain along the way.
- One of the key reasons the team will entertain is because they’ve added nice depth on the perimeter. Personally, I’d like to see the Lakers hedge their bets by signing at least one more wing player, but the fact is if you look at last year’s perimeter reserves and look at the guys who’ve been signed, the team is in a better spot now.
- One of those reserves says that he always dreamed of being a Laker and calls next year the most important season of his career. Wesley Johnson is correct with that latter statement. As a former top 5 pick entering into his 4th season, it’s time to show you belong in this league or start scouting potential jobs overseas.
- Of course the talent on the floor isn’t the only thing that matters when trying to build a winner. It’s the talent pacing the sidelines that matters too. Like some of the reclamation projects the Lakers have signed this off-season, Mike D’Antoni also enters next year with something to prove. With a full camp and lower expectations, now is a good time to show what he can do.
- Now is also the time for Mike D’Antoni to fill out his staff, apparently. Reports say that Kurt Rambis and Jonny Davis will be added to the staff as soon as today.
- Of course, next season already trails in the battle of hype to the one that will follow after it. If the summer of 2014 were a blockbuster movie, Lakers’ fans would already be pitching their tents outside the theatre like a new Star Wars was being released. Excitement can be good, but it’s also good to remember that the best laid plans don’t always work out. Just ask Mark Cuban and the Mavericks.
I hate to end on a down note, so here’s a video clip of highlights from a 1986 charity game that Magic Johnson organized. Magic’s mid-summer classic was a place where star players would come out and play some all-star game type hoops for a good cause. This game was no different and, as a special twist, Magic made sure that Larry Bird was on his team. Great stuff:
(h/t to Andrew Ungvari for the clip)
Darius, do you have any idea why Jimmy B feels Kobe will be ready by the PRE-SEASON (besides attempting to bump season ticket sales)?
Michael H says
I think I am more excited to watch this team, then I was last year with all the splashy acquisitions. For me our rebuilding process begins this year, not next, and it is centered around four guys.
1. Nick Young. Nobody has ever questioned his talent. The guy can flat out ball. Nick’s problem has always boiled down to one thing. He’s a knuckle head. And it has finally caught up with him. It has too be a bit humbling to be playing at the vet minimum. So this is his shot at redemption. He is playing for his favorite team, along side his idol. And we all know Kobe doesn’t tolerate knuckle heads. At some point Nick will tire of getting slapped upside the head by Kobe and maybe begin to utilize his considerable talent in the right way. And this guy could also develop into a force defensively as well. He has always been a decent defender and has the all the tools to be a great one. Hopefully Kobe keeps slapping him upside the head.
2. Wes Johnson. This is actually the guy I am the most excited about because he has all of the tools in his tool belt needed to become a great player. I think somewhere in Minny he lost his confidence. But he really could develop into that defensive stopper to replace Ron. Nobody comes into the league as a defensive stopper. That is something that is learned on the job. For instance Lebron has only been considered a great defender the last couple of years. Johnson’s defensive numbers have been decent so far. Johnson is quick, athletic and loooooong. He has a ridiculous 7′ 1″ wingspan! If his D can develop and he could bump up the 35% he shot from 3 as a rookie a little , we could really have something.
3. Jordan Hill. When we got Hill for Fish and a 1st round pick, the chatter was that it was a salary dump. Many people were complaining about giving up a 1st round pick to dump Fish. I was jumping up and down in joy. I had seen him play on NBA t.v and against us and was always impressed. It was another shrewd move by Mitch. Jordan has played very well for us when he has been given the opportunity. He has had a few injuries but if he is healthy, I am excited by his possibilities.
4. Jordan Farmar. Pretty much see Nick Young. The guys has talent. And this maybe the first time in his career that he will be in a system that fits his skill set perfectly. His first time here he was an arrogant, stubborn know it all but his skill set just wasn’t a good fit in the triangle. He like Nick is playing for redemption and could have a very strong year.
If all these guys have strong years, not only will we be fun to watch this year but we will have a strong supporting cast in place for our next big time acquisition.
from the Wes Johnson article:
“Other teams [called] but it was a no-brainer for me to come,” he said, even though some teams had more money to offer. “Just being part of the organization, it meant more to me to be here to play for something like this than playing for the money.”
now that´s what I´m talkin´ about! I have high hopes for Wes
hopefully he´ll also be able to step up as a lockdown perimeter defender as well (he seems sure he can live up to the task)
Thanks for the video clip. While everyone is always looking for the next Jordan, nobody ever looks for the next Magic. And there is a good reason for it. A truly unique talent that I feel privileged to have watched through the years.
Chris J says
Been out of the loop on vacation… Any more word on Sasha and/or Odom coming back?
With the other players added, there may not be much left to spend. But a little more depth would never hurt.
I saw the Odom affair allegations; but one could say the jury’s still out on whether that will affect where he plays. Depends on whether execs think that would affect him on the court, right?
look what I just googled… Indeed he already sold it…
Worse case for the Lakers…middle of the road…trying to run with old / injured players.The Lakers lost their chance at getting better at the last trading deadline…When Howard didnt tell the Lakers he was interested in staying..they shouldve traded him right then….Its like trying to talk a girlfriend into a relationship…if you have to talk them into it..not worth the time……Interesting times ahead…
triangle fan says
that’s right aaron. riles sold his home…in february 2012! So I guess he’s been homeless this whole time – and will continue to be next year since lebron has at least one more year in miami.
How’s that finger puppet doing as a source for ya?
Rob L. says
First, let me say that none of what I’m about to write should be taken as saying the Lakers look like title contenders for next season. Sure, at this stage anything’s possible, but it’s a highly unlikely scenario. That being said…
Doesn’t next season feel set up for the Lakers to be a classic over-achieving team? Previous season mired in high expectations, low performance, chemistry problems, injury after injury, and the loss of a star player lead to the perception of a deeply flawed team that will most likely do worse this year.
However, just as being an older team increases the odds of injuries happening, the odds also dictate that last year’s rate of injuries was an outlier and is unlikely to repeat. (It’s not like Jordan HIll’s injury could be blamed on his advanced age, for instance.) Also, much like the Red Sox this year, sometimes subtracting real talent (Howard) can lead to better team chemistry that can show up in the games in meaningful way. Sure, locker room chemistry is at this point not quantifiable and is overstated most of the time. But it’s hard to argue that there isn’t something positive about having a team of players committed to playing your coach’s system. Even if someone doesn’t believe D’Antoni’s system wins championships, it’s also clear it can’t possibly work with players fighting against the system they’re supposed to be executing. Philosophically, the biggest functional difference (read: wins) between D’Antoni’s system or Pop’s system might be that the players believe in Pop and are willing to execute the system. (And those that don’t, Pop ships off.) So it’s possible one system may not be inherently better than the other, except for player belief and execution. (This isn’t to say there weren’t other BIG differences between Spurs and Lakers last season. I’m only talking about how the systems function on their own, not how the organizations were run.)
In any case, having Dwight walk hurts talent-wise for sure. But there may be benefits in chemistry and system buy-in that could offset some of that loss. Additionally, bringing back Rambis could help shore up some of the defensive issues that Dwight’s loss also causes.
Historically D’Antoni seems to actually do well with non-star players who will sacrifice individual game and buy into his system. The irony being that when some of the players did “sacrifice” their individual games for his system they often put up the kind of gaudy numbers that got them paid to leave his system and flounder elsewhere.
No one knows what next season will bring. That’s why it’s fun to watch. But personally, I’d put the Lakers ceiling at a #4 seed with a second round playoff exit. Of course, that possible floor will always be there too.
Craig W. says
I keep thinking that last year at this time we were all sky high on our team’s possibilities. I think we can say, in hindsight, that we were far too optimistic. I think we can also say there was some basis in fact for being optimistic about last year.
It didn’t work out – injuries, coaching change, and then there is chemistry. While we are all quick to point out Mike D’Antoni’s shortcomings, we also have to admit that Dwight Howard’s approach – injured or not – was not really consistent with what the coaches or the other players do best. He certainly worked on the defensive end – frankly that would be enough for us to resign him – but his approach to offense, along with his understanding of his own strengths and weaknesses, created a mismatched set of pieces. We were pretty good offensively, but the process left us behind the eight-ball whenever we switched to defense.
I think this year we will be much more fluid offensively – if only because the players will be implementing what the coaches want to do – and this will also result in better defense. This doesn’t mean we will be better or finish with a higher standing, but it does mean we will have a team that plays more watchable basketball. I don’t know about the rest of you, but it was actually hard to watch some of the games last year – they were such ugly pieces of entertainment.
If we can only play like an actual team we should set ourselves up to make better decisions next off-season. Develop the players we have and then we better evaluate where we are. Even if we had signed Dwight this year we were going to really be a jumble next year.
Well…according to MY nba source(s):
The Lakers chose D’Antoni over PJ because they want PJ to be fully healthy for a 3-peat run starting in 2014 (they’re even paying for his next hip-replacement surgery which will give him robotic hips). They had jumped the gun and asked him before Mitch took out his magic 8 ball. That’s when they chose D’Antoni. My source acted the whole thing out over drinks:
Mitch: Jimbo…(with his hands on his head) I think we may have jumped the gun!
Jimbo: Why you say that Mitch?
Mitch: (Frantically) I just took out my magic 8 ball. You know, the one that told me to ask for a Pau-Kwame deal. Well the 8 ball says…it says Dwight is leaving and he ain’t no winner, Jimbo! He ain’t no winner!
Mitch put his hands on his face and started to sob. Then Jimbo got up and said, “I knew it! (holding up his index finger). Let’s go with Plan B then! We got a Plan B. Tank in 2013 and regroup for 2014. Let’s go!”
My source (let’s call him Bob) says that Jimbo likes his rivals to think he’s incompetent, that way he can sneak up on the competition. Then he told me about his source in Miami. According to his source (which would make him my source’s source) LBJ is extremely glad they stole that ring and doesn’t think they’ll 3-peat, so he’s planning ahead. Then, HIS source (my source’s source’s source), who is a real estate agent, actually said that Pat Riley sold his home because he has moved in with LBJ and is sleeping in an extra bedroom upstairs. He’s got a sweet deal: doesn’t pay any rent and only has to wash the dishes wearing an apron. And yes, the apron is part of the rent contract.
But then Bobby also has a mickey source. According to this source, “Lebron made a deal with the devil after The Decision. In exchange for being the first billionaire athlete he must help at least two superstars pile on more rings.” And those are exact quotes, since Bobby recorded the whole thing and let me listen to it. (Frankly, I thought the source sounded a lot like Josh Fenderman). The source also added that LBJ’s friendship with Chris Paul was Jordanesque, as in he befriended him because he wanted to tame him if they ever met in the playoffs.
I don’t know about you guys, but everything I heard is plausible, even the mickey source. I mean, he’s part of the underground and he may have access to all kinds of undergroundish things, like the Devil’s source’s sources.
I love you Aaron! I hope the things you say are true and not just part of your imagination.
Baylor Fan says
That is a great video! Even though it was an exhibition game, it is a lot of fun to watch the ball fly around and Magic and Bird seemingly try to out pass each other. It must have been awesome to be on their team knowing that any cut you made to get open would be rewarded with a pass. What makes it even more special is to hear Chick calling the game. What announcer today would be able to come close to capturing the pace and excitement of that game?
With 1 or 2 slots still open, the Lakers need a PF/C who is defensive minded,and hits the boards hard. Haven`t seen anyone in Summer League that qualifies,or isn`t already signed.LO remains a big? for many reasons,but wouldn`t be surprised if he took one of the slots,if nothing better shows.Injuries could sink the team again,because it doesn`t have the strength or depth to overcome.
Rubenowski… that was priceless. Thank you!
Serious funny stuff.
lil pau says
I actually agree with the comments that the Lakers for next season could be shaping up into a decent team. The bench is already stronger (by far) than last year’s group. And with Pau playing the 5, I fully expect that there will be more ball movement. Also, with the return of Jordan Farmar and the willing participation of players like Wes Johnson, Chris Kaman, and Nick Young, the chemistry should be vastly improved. (How could it be worse?) Outside shooting should also be improved.
Will there be deficiencies? Of course. Without DH our ability to protect the rim will be severely compromised. But our perimeter defense could actually improve. This may not be a championship team. But it could be a playoff team.
It’s a new season. I think the new Lakers deserve the support of their fans until proven otherwise.
Did ya’ll youtube josh fenderman? That was the highlight of my post.
Glad it was enjoyed : )
I have already expressed a high degree of skepticism about Aaron’s narrative, but if some large part of it comes to pass, well, there are going to be several people here who owe him some major props/apologies.
As to the team, it is nice that they have guys who want to play here, but that won’t win any games. Young, Johnson, Farmar, and Kaman were available at these prices for specific reasons, and we will see how much Kobe, Nash and Pau actually are able to play–and how well.
Shawne Williams has been invited to camp. Hopefully that outside stroke will be dependable in the dantoni system he made a decent contract off of. Anybody see how capable he is defensively vs SFs and PF’s?
That video made my day! The greatest players in Magic, Bird, Barkley, Dominique, Sampson, Isaiah, Spud and many more putting on a spectacular show. Plus the greatest announcer of all; Chick! That was some good stuff! Thanks for posting.
Very interesting report from Stephen A Smith right after 8:00 in this clip:
Yes, Smith has been wrong on many occasions, but you can argue that his sources are better than many other big name journalists out there today. I’m only linking to it because that’s the first I’ve heard of that report – how very close the Busses were to actually firing d’Antoni this year. Hasn’t been confirmed by any of the Lakers reporters, as far as I know.
Does anybody else here speak regularly to a lakers beat writer who is close with Kobe Bryant? Anyone else here hangout next door to Pat Riley’s Malibu beach house where Riley stops over to chat with his friend and neighbor semi regualrly? Until someone has better inside information than me you guys should probably suck it up and just say “thank you Aaron, may I have some more?”
As I’ve said several times… Riley sold his home last season and has been renting in Miami until his Malibu compound is complete.
Ha… Not needed. Just like with everything else I’ve said on this site… Predicting the trade for Ramon Session, explaining Nash was going to be an average starting PG at best (he ranked 32nd in PER), or Dwight’s back would render him mortal (he ranked 15th in PER for Centers) I don’t expect to be applauded. What I want is for people to just eventually realize I probably know more than they do and they should use me as a resource and not fight it.
If you remember for all of those recent predictions I caught a lot of flack. Which is to be expected. When you don’t agree with the majority of ignorant fans or less ignorant but still less than spectacular NBA experts there will be blowback. When people hear the world isn’t flat it of course will ruffle some feathers. No doubt. Such is life.
Joe O says
Aaron, I got one word for you: Bynum
I’ve got two words for you… Reading Comprehension. When did I say Bynum didn’t have health problems? I actually said before Howard had back surgery I would trade Andrew for Dwight in a hot second because of Bynum’s knees. After the back surgery I said if the Lakers should trade Bynum it shouldn’t be for Dwight because I don t think he will ever be the same player.
I did say Bynum would be better than Pau and that he was. His last season in LA Drew was one of the top 7 players in the NBA. My prediction Bynum would be a unique player in today’s nba … A true seven footer who could demand double and triple teams was spot on. As Doc Rivers said to Doug Collins… “Bynum is the only big in the NBA I would double team in the post”.
I give people the courtesy of commenting on what they say and not made up things I pretemd they say. Please extend the same to me.
I like you. I always have. I believe I’ve even said so in the past. I think you contribute to the site and I like to read your posts. It’s just that you’re an arrogant dude, so I made fun of you. Just take it as a form of acknowledgement. I saw an opening and I took it just for laughs. If you weren’t so condescending I wouldn’t have done it. But then where’s the fun in that? And if you weren’t so condescending your posts wouldn’t be as funny. Funny not as in the “hahaha, man this guy is funny” way, but as in the “damn, haha…what a douchebag!” kind of way. But that’s what makes you you, and I appreciate you for who you are.
Don’t ever change, Aaron. Please. I want to be able to write more stories.
Tom Daniels says
Going into last season the Lakers were over hyped. Going into this season they are under estimated. Will they win the NBA title? No. But the of the guys they lost, Dwight wasn’t Dwight last year. Peace is old and inconsistent. And Jameson, who I loved for the way he payed his role, was old and slow.
I expect Pau and Nash to be healthier this year. I expect Kobe to find a way to be productive. I expect Hill to be playing. The surrounding cast is, in general, younger, quicker and better than it was last year.
In other words, given the biblical onslaught of injuries last year and the horrid way Dwight fit in as a teammate (I may be average in the low posy but I demand the offense be run through me in the low post) it is hard to see how these changes and a little health won’t result in similar results.
A healthy and motivated Dwight, which Houston may have this year, is a huge loss. But the Lakers never had that. So the drop off to more minutes for Kaman and Hill is less. The prescience of Pau in the post could be an upgrade offensively. Add in better health and more athletic, young bodies? They make the playoffs. Maybe win a round.
If injuries hit hard all bets are off. But relatively healthy this is a mid tier team that can pull off some big wins here and there, not a lottery candidate,
bryan S says
Why I love Aaron: No one, but no one, else that I can think of has had expressed the moral outrage Aaron did over D’Antoni’s absolute abuse of Kobe that led to his Achilles rupture. For that (like Aaron) I hate MDA now and forever.
I am glad you appreciate my comedic brilliance. There is no doubt I am an arrogant dude. Ill let you know why… I always speak the truth and unfortunatley for me I’m a basketball genius so I’m obligated to let everyone know 😉
And I’ll never drop it. I won’t drop it for you, I won’t drop it for me, and I won’t drop it for Kobe. MDA should have been fired before Kobe ended his career as we all know it. As soon as he started playing a 34 year old guard 45 minutes a games consistently he should have been fired. But as soon as Kobe ruptured his achillies he should have been fired, taken out back and put down.
Bryan – I would say I’m a plus one at that table
Lamar Odom’s still out there. Doesn’t look real likely he’ll get signed. Anyone think the Lakers might give him a camp invite?
Tom 100% agree! I have more fun yelling for Laker team that plays better then expected then last years which was over hyped and under performed. 45 wins plus this year would be a further slap in over hyped Dwight face.
Aaron I always read your posts and enjoy. Problem is sources often know less then the above average fan. One of my biz partners is head of retired players assoc and is wrong more times then right. Recently I was the fool here in Newport as BScott rep claimed deal was done to Clips. Point is sources often are guessing based on rumors the same as us. But it’s still fun though.
For those of you still clinging on to LO… just because Kobe can go on and on, and keep coming back from otherwise devastating setbacks… don’t think everyone can or will. I don’t think LO is cut the way Kobe is and even in his best “I will prove the world wrong” mode, his desire/determination is a bit lacking.
Kenny T says
Personally, I would give LO a shot. His best years of his career were as a Laker. He loved his time as a member of the Lake Show. His downward spiral began when he left the team. I think he is the type of person that has to be in a comfortable situation to succeed. His versatility would be a hedge against front court injuries. For the right price, I would give Lamar a chance.
Aaron, if memory serves you also stated acquiring Ram Sessions would make ALL the difference.
How’d that turn out?
Don’t even bother answering, because we all already know the answer – smart and dumb fans alike: Sessions left a mark on the Lakers similar to pulling a spoon out of a cup of coffee.
Aaron & Rubenowski,
good, funny stuff!
“thank you Aaron, may I have some more?” – fantastic
I feel like a few small things make the Lakers a better offensive team than last year. Lakers brought in 2 guys who can create their own shot from the perimeter and handle the ball. Last year only Kobe could do both with success. Farmar and Young can also drive to the hole if they get an angle and drive on kick outs. Last year defenses knew no one could take them off the dribble, so they’d cheat inside just enough to be able to contest the shot. Now Lakers have a few players on the perimeter who aren’t one dimensional. I would add Wes Johnson to this list but I’ve never seen him play.
I’m not getting my hope up about the performance of the Lakers next year. Of their three best defenders last year, two are gone and the other ripped his Achilles clean in two.
As noted above, the off season pickups are (relatively) inexpensive for a reason.
Remember we’ve got a coach (Rambis) who will actually be coaching defense this year. At least some of the stuff he teaches in training camp should stick. So I’m not (quite) convinced that our D will be the worst in the league.
Steve Clifford (last year) was considered by reputation to be an elite defensive coach too.
Someone refresh my memory (I’ve honestly forgotten) … I remember the first season we installed the SSZ (Rambis), it had great initial results, but at some point later in the year teams began to adjust and we didn’t have the necessary length/speed to cover the weakside corner 3. Didn’t we end up scrapping many of the principles of Rambis’s defense at some point, just to make it easier to execute? Or did we stick through it for the full 2 championship years, even after Rambis was gone? I remember there were some issues at some point in the year, but I can’t remember how we resolved them.
Craig W. says
Last year was a disappointment for a number of reasons, therefore Dwight’s lack of fitting into the rest of the team was only one thing. He did bring defense, just not enough to make up for the remaining starter’s shortcomings – MWP was a powerhouse, but slow-of-foot and relied on his quick hands, almost exclusively. Individually we may not be better next year, but we may be more consistent on defense from 1 through 12, and this is a team game, after all.
Also, an offense where everyone wants to be here should not only flow better – and be more watchable – but also should lend itself to better transition defense. Mike D’Antoni changed the way the NBA plays offense for a reason. While others may have adopted his principles, he is still someone who has more experience with this offense than any other coach. Perhaps we should just let him coach, instead of declaring him D.O.A. before the season starts.
To my mind, the biggest problems with Dwight were 1) I truely don’t think he really wanted to be here from the beginning and 2) he has a very biased idea of how he fits into an offense and doesn’t want anyone to mess with his approach. Potentially the biggest issue with Houston next year will be how they satisfy Dwight while still running an offense that fits their all-star, clutch guard. Either Dwight realizes this is his last chance to be a champion and accepts the roll of 2nd-banana on offense, or he fails to grow up and the Houston offense starts to look like the Lakers last year – hopefully without the injuries. That might be good enough to finish in the top 4 in the West, but I doubt it will get to the finals, much less win them. In a series against other good front lines, teams can plan against Dwight Howard.
Hope you’re right about the team’s defensive performance as a whole, Craig. Actually I think the defensive rotations could well be better than they were last year, and as you said, the getting back on D should improve. Those factors alone would make a big difference. Another thing I hope will happen is addressing the speed factor. Most of the starters are too old to slow opposing teams down, so juggling rotations to get bench guys on the floor at the right times will be key. Rambis and MDA need to be on the same page regarding this.
Joe O says
Aaron, Bynum haa never been better than Pau and never will.
The Lakers will be better this season if they’re healthy.
Except my source covers the Lakers and often speaks off the record to Kobe and Mitch.
Aaron June 30, 2013 at 12:10 am
If you want to win a championship you best have LeBron James on the roster. If the Lakers don’t have Dwight they can basically kiss LeBron goodbye.
Aaron, this doesn’t have sources next to it so it was probably your opinion. Just want to know what changed so quickly?
This was before I spoke to my source. That was just my opinion. I never take credit for someone else’s information or ideas. As soon as the Lakers were able to sign Farmar/Young for the min and that Dwights forst choice was to stay with the Lakers things didnt make sense to me. So I emailed my contact with the Lakers right away. That is when I was told everything I have told you guys on this site.
If it all turns out the way you say, I personally think that Keno should give you a free bottle of some high-end whiskey from his company stock.
Scotch… Any Glenn will do…