To call the time between August-September a hotbed of NBA news would be a gross understatement (things like this are making headlines). Nevertheless, the Lakers continue to make minor roster additions as training camp nears and their most recent acquisition is 32-year old Brazlian point guard Marcelo Huertas. Darius covered the Huertas signing here, but as we did with the signings of Holmes and Fraizer, we offer a bit of background on the newest Laker. The following excerpt is from a July piece by Kirk Henderson of Mavs Moneyball:
Other than Jeremy Lin, there may not be a better pick and roll point guard left on the free agent market. At 6’3″ and 185 pounds, Huertas is tall enough and strong enough to handle NBA quality defenders. He has excellent ball handling skills and the kind of floor vision that most American point guards lack. As a younger player he was occasionally seen as reckless, mostly because he’d attempt passes that other players couldn’t begin to see. Pair these skills with Rick Carlisle’s “flow” offense and there is the potential for an extremely efficient, hard-to-stop offense. Imagining Huertas running a pick and roll with DeAndre Jordan while having Dirk Nowitzki at the top of the key and Chandler Parsons and Wesley Matthews on the wings would dare defenses to pick their poison.
Shooting is a bit of a different story. Much like Lin, Huertas is a streaky shooter, particularly from three point range. His career stats paint a picture of a player who can hit the long ball, but goes through prolonged periods where his shot simply goes away. He’s a strong driver though, and has a floater that’s necessary for any point guard bold enough to get into the lane on the NBA level. With Dallas, Huertas would not be expected to score much; and with lanes open because of the aforementioned shooters and rim runner in Jordan, one could reasonably expect Huertas to be more than up to the task of stewarding the Dallas offense.
Defensively, he’s not going to be excellent. In a league with lightning fast, powerful guards, having a top notch defensive answer usually means sacrificing something on the offensive end. But I believe Huertas will surprise teams with his agility and anticipation. He’s fairly big and has good hands. Compared to Jameer Nelson he’ll be more than a statue. With a player like DeAndre at his back I suspect he might even become a bit of a gambler.
Now, granted, Henderson’s piece is specifically centered on Huertas as a potential fit with (what we assumed would be) this year’s Mavericks, but the skill set depicted above is nevertheless intriguing to a Lakers squad that has lacked a stabilizing presence in the backcourt for a few years.
The primary player the Huertas signing could detract from, is Robert Upshaw. The Lakers have been continually linked to the big man but the two sides have yet to come to a deal and recent signings suggest he’d be hard-pressed to make the 15-man roster. Nevertheless, Upshaw recently expressed confidence in his ability to stick with the team if and once he does sign:
It was thought that Upshaw’s addition to the Lakers roster was a sure thing when multiple outlets reported the Lakers had signed him to a two-year deal, but that never officially came to pass, and now a more recent report from Eric Pincus of the L.A. Times suggests that the Lakers have “no immediate plan to sign” Upshaw to a roster that has grown more crowded recently with the signings of two less-heralded undrafted rookies, Jonathan Holmes and Michael Frazier II.
While Upshaw now faces an uphill battle to make the Lakers’ 15-man roster, the big man sounded both undeterred and confident in a recent interview with Scout.com.When asked if he had an agreement with the Lakers, Upshaw said “There hasn’t been an agreement yet. That’s what can be if I go in and do the right things and what I need to do.” Then, after pausing to consider his words carefully, Upshaw starts to say something about being “very hopeful” before catching himself and saying:
“I know that I’ll be a Laker. I just know. I’ve worked hard, I have done nothing but put nothing but 110 percent into what I’ve been doing. From before Summer League, but you know I had some problems with my heart condition, but before Summer League, and after, I’ve just been having an amazing year.”
Earlier in the interview, Upshaw detailed his summer:
“I’ve just been working hard, my transition from college into the NBA has been a tough one, but I’m relishing all my hard work. I continue to stay focused and continue to work hard, and I have training camp with the Lakers coming up. I’m just excited, I’m excited to get out there and play basketball, and show them that I’m one of the best basketball players in the country.”
In the interest of Lakers centers, one Shaquille O’Neal has continued to make headlines throughout the week. As has been widely-covered, he and Kobe recently reconciled their past differences via podcast. And now, in a Wednesday interview with Suzy Shuster, Shaq took it a step further:
Kobe Bryant went on the Shaquille O’Neal podcast this week and both men admitted regret letting their egos get in the way and acting immaturelyat the time, breaking up a dynasty with the Lakers that had already won three titles.
But how many could they have won if they had checked their egos at the door?
Shaq thinks six, he told Suzy Shuster, who was the guest host on The Rich Eisen Show.
“I think we could have probably tied Mike, or surpassed Mike. I guess six. Everybody talks about Bill Russell’s 11; no player will ever come along that will win 11 championships unless they reduce the league to 10 teams. So you shouldn’t even bring Bill up. So now Mike, when you talk about the pinnacles of championships you always gotta go with Mike. So Mike has six. I think we could have either tied that or got that.
“But if “if” was a fifth we’d all be drunk, Susan.”
In all honesty — as I gulp this fifth — six sounds reasonable.
The team has certainly undergone its fair share of changes since those early 2000’s, but one thing that has remained constant is the Lakers’ brand appeal. In a recent piece for Forbes Magazine, Jesse Lawrence focused on how Lakers ticket prices continue to exceed that of most NBA teams:
While the city’s momentum is slowly beginning to shift in the Clippers’ favor, there appears to still be a considerable demand to watch the Lakers battle for bragging rights. According to TiqIQ the average secondary market price for Lakers tickets across all 41 home games at the Staples Center is currently $246.95. That marks a 6.2% increase from 2014’s average of $232.55. And while the Lakers are likely to feel the heat in a competitive Pacific division, the 37-year-old Bryant and the uncertainty surrounding his future is certainly playing a role in the price boost.
The Lakers will play their most expensive home game of the 2015-16 NBA season against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers on March 10. With the defending Eastern Conference champions making the trip to Los Angeles to play the Lakers just once this season, Lakers vs Cavaliers tickets currently own a secondary market average of $397.23, 60.8% above the season average. The cheapest available ticket for that game is $86.A Yuletide game with the intra-city rival Clippers will serve as the second top-priced game on the Lakers schedule this season. With the Lakers set to host, the average secondary market price for Christmas Day Lakers vs Clippers tickets is $383.68 and the get-in price starts at $383.68. The Clippers will serve as guests in the Lakers’ third most expensive game on April 6, too, as Lakers vs Clippers tickets for that matchup currently average $336.05 and get-in price is $60.
If looking to attend the team’s most affordable game at the Staples Center during the upcoming season, look no further than a November 3 meeting with the Denver Nuggets. Lakers vs Nuggets tickets now own a secondary market average of $173.05, 29.9% below season average, and the cheapest ticket is listed for just $23. Several other games will also average below $200, including November 29 against the Indiana Pacers ($192 avg./$23 get-in), November 22 against the Portland Trail Blazers ($194.21 avg./$22 get-in) and January 31 against the Charlotte Hornets ($198.82 avg./$33 get-in).
The team is comprised on paper of players capable of multiple positions that offensively will pose a problem to any team on a given night. Where the composition of the team is less defined is on defense. Every team in the league is replete with players capable of having career nights. And, good teams will attack the most defensively vulnerable position on the opposition’s team. If the Lakers starting lineup is:
-Los Angelo (coined by LakersFan4Life) PG;
-KB 24 SF;
Sixty-percent of the Lakers lineup will supply the opponent a target by which they can: (a) get scores at their choosing; (b) get the Lakers starters in foul trouble early in the game and thereby rendering the player or players non-relevant the remainder of the night.
Bass will probably start instead of Randle to facilitate Russel’s learning curve. Generally, veterans are in the right position on the floor so that Russel will organically learn how to control a team’s offense.
Most distressing is the players Los Angelo will cover on a game-by-game basis:
-Clippers, C. Paul
-Portland, D. Lillard
-Warriors, S. Curry
-Thunders, R. Westbrook
-Bulls, D. Rose
-Rockets, T. Lawson
-Wizards, J. Wall
-Raptors, K. Lowry
-Grizzles, M. Conley
-Cavaliers, K. Irving
-Hawks, J. Teague
-Spurs, T. Parker
-Suns, B. Knight
-Jazz, T. Burke
-Nets, J. Jack
-Celtics, M. Smart; 2nd year player with playoff experience
-Hornets, K. Walker
-Nuggets, E. Mudiay; Rookie
-Pistons, R. Jackson – B. Jennings
-Mavericks, D. Williams
-Pacers, G. Hill
-Heat. G. Dragic
-Timberwolves, Ricky Rubio
-Bucks, Michael-Carter Williams
-Pelicans, J. Holiday
-Knicks, J. Calderon – S. Vujacic (couldn’t resist noting old Sasha)
-Magic, E. Payton; 2nd-year player
-76ers, T. Wroten
-Kings, R. Rondo
Russel will have to learn with the quickness, or the Lakers will endure epic blowouts. Further, Los Angelo could lose his confidence, and swag. I hope this draft choice is ready because his skills, will, and fortitude will be tested every game. Remember, rookies-equal-whistles! He’ll find it problematic remaining on the floor against veteran pg’s.