When trying to catch a fish, it is apparently common to use the “Bottom Fishing” method, in which you lay your bait on the bottom of the lake and hope something bites. I was unaware of this tactic until preparing for today’s post, for which I had to scrounge through the depths of college football drivel and NFL non-stories in order to emerge with something, anything, relevant to the Lakers in early September. So with that, here we are: Tuesday’s Links.
Byron Scott is a pretty divisive subject among Lakers’ fans. Some see him as a solid steward who can help bridge the gap between the pre and post Kobe Bryant eras. Others see him as too much of an old-school coach whose hire lacked inspiration. Matt Moore, of CBS Sports, would likely fall in the latter camp and explains his concerns in this write up on the embattled Lakers’ head coach:
Scott’s tenure in LA, short though it may be, has lacked in the luster department. Now, there are teams that are bad because they have very little to no talent, and there are teams that are bad because their talent isn’t put in the best position to succeed, but the Lakers were uniquely, awesomely bad last year in that they fit both categories. For most teams this is a death sentence. But what did the charmed Lakers get for their ineptitude? They got the No. 2 pick, which they turned into a guy many people project to be the best player in a great draft in DeAngelo Russell.
So now the roster is getting better, if only marginally, and so the question becomes whether Scott is the guy to get the most out of it both now and looking to the future. Now before we bash Scott, let’s not forget that he did have runs in both New Jersey and New Orleans that were downright great. He led the Nets to the Finals for crying out loud, and even his stint in Cleveland, while underwhelming in terms of wins and losses, had its successes. Scott took a young, raw Kyrie Irving and taught him about the pick and roll, and stressed the importance of patience, and we can see those lessons paying off today.
So we reach this point not without consideration for the good things Scott has accomplished in his career. There should be a real concern, however, that not only is Scott’s mindset toward the game becoming rapidly outdated (if it has not reached the expiration point already), but that this particular Lakers team is specifically constructed to run more effectively with a more modern approach.
One player who is expected to compete for a spot on the roster during training camp is Tarik Black. With camp set to begin in less than 30 days (almost here!), Black recently spoke with Joey Ramirez of Lakers.com to discuss his development during the off-season. Here’s a few quotes from that interview (h/t Lakers Nation’s Jabari Davis):
“Being more effective on offense,” Black told Ramirez. “Being more versatile at my size, at 6’9?, I’m right there and I play against guys that are 7’ or 6’11 with great wingspans, so being more versatile on offense, presenting more on the floor is definitely something I want to venture into and also just becoming the best basketball player I can be all around.”
“I want to be on both ends of the floor,” Black continued. “I hang my hat on rebounding and defense, so I just want to get better and better and become more of a ‘lockdown’ defender and also become more of a threat on the offensive end to make people honest.”
Despite being on a non-guaranteed deal, Black is expected to stick with the team come the start of the season. However, he is aware that a poor showing during camp and preseason could alter that notion and appears to be taking the proper steps to ensure he has staying power on this Lakers roster.
From current Lakers to future Lakers (wink, wink), Kevin Durant recently shared his all-time starting five with the NBA Maniacs and it is indeed a purple and gold-dominant group:
Well, good question. I would stay with Magic Johnson as a basis for their exceptional height, vision and be a triple-double machine. As guard Kobe Bryant is a legend and five-time champion. It’s been half-life in the NBA! Michael Jordan like three. Sorry for Larry Bird , but I have to let him out for Kobe. As a power forward is difficult, between Karl Malone, Tim Duncan … I stay with Tim Duncan. For longevity, the securities and the impact it has had and still has on the court. And Shaquille O’Neal as a dominant power forward.
Over the years, Durant has shown a propensity to complement and praise Kobe and while this by no means should lead to any inclination regarding his free agency plans this summer it, at the very least, displays the level of respect Kobe — and other Laker greats — have commanded from their peers.
As the start of the season nears, we are also inching ever so closer to the curtain closing on Kobe’s career. There will be plenty of time for reflection away from this post, but what can be noted is that, along with the presumed difficulty of walking away, Bryant will be faced with plenty of new, unfamiliar challenges this upcoming season. Bleacher Report’s Josh Martin touched on a few of those in his latest profile:
There’s no guarantee Bryant will spend all of his time at his typical 2-guard spot. If anything, it would be wise to bet on Bryant getting in some run at the 3, and even a little at the 4, to save him from having to chase around so many quicker opponents and to open up more space for the Lakers’ youth movement on the perimeter.
That adjustment has the makings of a tough one for Bryant. According to Basketball Reference, he’s played just 9 percent of his career minutes at small forward and almost none at power forward. Bryant, forever a student of the game, is certainly capable of learning new tricks, but at some point, there may be no ignoring the old dog he’s become.
All the while, Bryant will likely be asked to teach and mentor the very youngsters who will soon take his place in the Lakers’ pecking order. He’s already had to school Russell, his “lil bro” and presumptive successor in Lakerland, in some basketball history. Russell, the No. 2 pick in the 2015 NBA draft, wondered aloud (in a tweet that’s since been deleted) if Tracy McGrady, one of Bryant’s chief competitors in the early 2000s, was the greatest of all time. Bryant, like McKaylaMaroney before him, was not impressed.
More challenges and obstacles for Kobe may seem like non-news at this juncture, however, it is quite unique when a player of his caliber is asked to take on new roles both positionally and in the locker room all the while trying to recover from his third consecutive season-ending injury in the midst of finishing his career with a “bang”. We know he will revel in the challenge, the hope is that he can stay healthy throughout.
Speaking of Kobe, any analysis of where the Lakers are going this upcoming season will have #24 playing a central role. At NBA.com, in their 30 teams, 30 days series, Shaun Powell tackled the topic of the Lakers and how, as long as he’s around, he will influence the direction of the team:
With Kobe around, the Lakers can only do so much. His salary doesn’t help them clear space on the cap. His lack of a future prohibits the Lakers from signing an A-list free agent; who wants to come to L.A. just to play one season with Kobe? Basically, the Lakers are in a holding pattern at the moment. The rebranding of the Lakers will begin once Kobe leaves.
That doesn’t mean he can’t have a role in the remake. Given his history of brilliance, Kobe can mentor the youngsters and teach them what it’s like to be a Laker and what’s expected. He can teach, motivate and develop. He must find a sense of satisfaction in that role, because the Lakers will be fortunate to make the playoffs this season in the very deep and unapologetic West.
Now, lastly, it is time to reflect. Darius has been adamant in his suggestion of this next one and I second him on that. In the latest edition of the “Lowe Post” podcast, Grantland’s Zach Lowe sat down with Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck to discuss Beck’s time on the beat for the Lakers from ’97-’04. The untold stories and insight Beck shares of those dynamic, yet tumultuous Lakers teams are quite invaluable and, at the very least, in the dog days of the NBA offseason, hearing two talented and well-respected writers ramble about the Lakers of years past is pure gold. Here’s that link again, it is certainly worth your time.
I’m glad I took the time to listen to that podcast. Howard Beck really lends a lot of insight into the dynamics of the Shaq/Kobe threepeat.
From last Friday’s ESPN’s Chat:
Matthew (Los angeles, ca): What do you think about the russell, clarkson, kobe three guard lineup? kobe can’t guard the elite small forwards anymore, and clarkson is undersized.. how do you think it will work out?
Kevin Pelton: Probably about as well as the rest of the Lakers’ lineups this season, which is to say not very well.
Anon: Its likely that Russell grows a bit more which means he could guard the Two and Clarkson the One. I think it becomes less of an issue once Russell fills out. It will be like Magic guarding the Two and Scott the One back in the day.
If Russell can only guard the One then there will be times when bigger SGs will be able to overpower Clarkson. For example, Klay Thomson is 6′ 7″ 220. That’s a handful for anybody, including the 6′ 4″ 185 pound Clarkson.
Kobe guarding the Three is a short term scenario. The Lakers will need a true Three at some point. I’d actually like to see Randle at the Three and the Lakers pick up a solid stretch Four to spread the floor and let Randle operate inside with our future center.
Even talking about this small aspect of the team shines a light on how much work they have to do before becoming competitive again. It’s going to be a long process.
Durant: Ironically, even though his starting 5 is Laker filled, the largest omission is another Laker – Kareem.
Powell: “The rebranding of the Lakers will begin once Kobe leaves.” That is his opinion.
Moore: “not only is Scott’s mindset toward the game becoming rapidly outdated (if it has not reached the expiration point already), but that this particular Lakers team is specifically constructed to run more effectively with a more modern approach.” Wow – just wow.
I had always thought that Clarkson’s ceiling was the 1st guard off the bench on a playoff team. Which, I guess is a bad thing because it means the Lakers need 3 more starters to eventually go along with Russell and Randle. Also, bad because Clarkson is a restricted free agent this summer and will receive salary offers that outweigh his value (in my eyes).
Of course I’m open to being proved wrong. I would be OK with he and Russell starting in the back court, its just that Clarkson isn’t the shooter you expect at the Two. It also likely means that the team will need a Three with range. Something that I don’t see Randle providing. And Randle at the Four scares me because of he’s a bit small and hasn’t looked like a good rebounder in either Summer League campaign.
Of course, we still need a solution at center because Hibbert’s statistical peak was four seasons ago and he’s regressed each season since then. He’s now a 10 pts 7 rebounds a game contributor which is nice production off the but not from a starting center on a team that wants to be patient with the kids. Someone has to score and rebound.
Craig W. says
If we are truly heading in the direction of a more positionless NBA game, just how is evaluating Randle’ s size a problem? The Lakers drafted 6’5″, 6’7″, and 6’9″ this year and Randle last year. I would think bloggers would be celebrating that the drafts tended toward a more modern NBA team.
The other day my cousin told me he and his brother made a bet. This is how the conversation went:
Cousin: Hey, so Carlos and I made a bet.
Me: Oh yeah?
C: Yeah. We bet $20 for who wins MVP. Guess who I picked first.
M: KEVIN DURANT!
C: No. Lebron.
M: Mmph…I guess.
C: Guess who Carlos picked 2nd.
M: KEVIN DURANT!
C: No. Steph Curry.
C: Guess who he picked 3rd.
M: KEVIN DURANT!
C: No, Chris Paul.
C: Guess who I picked 4th.
M: KEVIN DURANT?!
M: Oh, you guys don’t know!
I expect Kevin Durant to have a monster season. And then I hope he signs with the Lakers.
If we are truly heading in the direction of a more positionless NBA game, just how is evaluating Randle’ s size a problem?
Because he may be too short to be an effective 4 while also lacking the fluidity/floor game/shooting range to play the 3.
The pro-Randle argument is that he will LrBron James-able to do both, rather than neither.
he will be Le Bron James-lite–able to do both.