2014-2015′s Best Reality Show: Your L.A. Lakers

Less than two months from the start of training camp, the Los Angeles Lakers are in a unique position that the franchise has seldom faced going into any NBA season: with long odds against them to make the postseason.
 
There’s really little to argue against that premise, with the exception of citing intangible motivating factors like “Kobe Bryant’s undying will to win” or looking to an even higher power (some would argue) and saying that God loves the Lakers too much for them to be bad for this long. But examining all the empirical evidence, the damning facts are there.
 
After the Lakers struck out almost completely in free agency this past summer, the team will once again revolve around the excellence of Kobe Bryant. While this has obviously behooved the organization for the past decade–and even further past that–the Black Mamba is 36 years old, past his prime and coming off of two devastating leg injuries. Bryant is still the straw that stirs the purple & gold drink, but even as much as he’d like to channel his inner 30-something Reggie Jackson, time–and NBA history–are against him.
 
That right there should be enough to make any rational Lakers fan a bit dour on the team’s prospects. But the rest of the supporting cast isn’t helping matters. The roster is filled with reclamation projects (Xavier Henry, Wesley Johnson, Ed Davis), unproven youngsters (Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, Ryan Kelly, Robert Sacre), faded stars (Steve Nash, Carlos Boozer) and young veterans still trying to find their games (Jeremy Lin, Jordan Hill). Altogether, the fit just doesn’t look quite there. Offensively, this team doesn’t even remotely resemble any of the teams that Byron Scott’s had success with, and that’s even with Kobe Bryant performing at the peak of his powers. Defensively, the word “disaster” comes to mind, but that term may not even be adequate for what could lie ahead for this Lakers team.
 
All in all, placing your emotional stock in this team right now looks about as heady of an investment as throwing down for a piece of Myspace in 2014. Beyond the factors that the Lakers can control, they’re looking at a Western Conference that will be (cliché alert) as competitive as it’s ever been. There could be as many as 9 teams that win close to 50 games and that’s discounting any possible strides that New Orleans might make. To me, the Lakers have virtually no chance at making the playoffs. Combine that with an uncertain forecast for the 2015 offseason and free agency (Kevin Love may not be an option any longer) and the Phoenix Suns owning the team’s upcoming draft pick (thus all but eliminating the motivation to tank), LA’s road map back to title contention is as muddled as we’ve ever seen. We saw this almost unprecedented situation for the franchise at the end of last season: a Los Angeles Lakers team flirting on the fringes of NBA irrelevance. Come February, March and April, why should anyone pay attention to a team that’s well out of the race for even the bottom rungs of the playoff bracket? With the future on hold for yet another season, there’s a chance that we’re not even witnessing more than one Julius Randle-sized building block for the next great Lakers team. Besides a guttural, instinctive urge to follow this team, what’s there to watch? What’s there to care about?
 
Controversy. Isn’t that always the case with the Lo… Read more…

The highs and lows of the 2014-2015 LA Lakers schedule

It’s Christmas in August!
 
Or at the very least, we all know what we’ll be doing on Christmas…while we’re still in August.
 
The 2014-2015 NBA schedule was released for all 30 teams Wednesday afternoon, including the 82-game slate for every franchise. Topping the list are the all-important opening night, home opener and of course prestigious Christmas Day roster of games that has been known to cause quite a few angry barbs thrown my way at the MAMBINO house.
 
Looking at LA’s season, a few distinct points fly out at me:

  • For all of our negativity and pessimistic outlooks on the team’s chances next season, the Lakers still have 28 nationally televised games on ABC, ESPN, NBA TV and TNT. That’s just 1 less than last year’s 29, which, as we all know was slightly less as the Lake Show was taken off ESPN and NBA TV several times on their way to the lottery.

(Read the rest at SS&R)

 … Read more…

The perils of Linsanity: How effective will Jeremy Lin really be?

There’s a chance Jeremy Lin will never be fairly judged as an NBA player. He’s undoubtedly an asset offensively, but defensively he may never be anything less than a liability. Is he the guy who dropped 38 points on the Los Angeles Lakers in Madison Square Garden two-and-a-half years ago, or is he the dude pointing fingers after Steve Blake rifled off a game-winning jumper in his face last season?
 
Easy answer: He’s both. He’s the hero and the goat, but in the eyes of some, the G.O.A.T. and a hero.
 
And that’s exactly where Jeremy Lin’s perceived value is murky even in the clear light of day. He’s proven to be a productive player, but yet, is worth more to any team he plays on because of his heritage or facial features. Lin is a marketer’s dream, especially in such an Asian-American heavy region like Southern California. He’s a draw all on his own, a ready-to-go community builder just by virtue of his race and ethnicity. The Lakers have never had a player quite like him: Equal parts novelty act and living folk hero. This, more than his on-court dichotomy of skills, will always skew what Lin’s true value is as basketball player.
 
It’s important to move past what Lin is as a cult figure and examine exactly what he is as a basketball player.
 
But this is who and what he is, and there’s likely nothing he can ever do about it. Off the court, he’ll mean more to the Asian-American community in the Southland than any other place in North America, save for the Bay Area. Many Lakers fans will never know just how much he means in those circles and what a monumental acquisition this is to a segment of the largest fan base in the entire world.
 
(read on at SS&R)

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WWE Battleground 2014 Preview

There was only one PPV big enough to get me to come back and write another column. And that PPV is WWE Battleground.
 
I’m just kidding, I’m on summer vacation and really, really bored. Free advice to all my Cena fans out there (people 12 and under), go into the public education field. You get summers off, just do something productive with your time unlike me who has pretty much just been taste testing different brands of salsa. Back to wrestling, I’ve fallen victim to the post Wrestlemania lull. Yes, I’m still watching RAW, but the whole Daniel Bryan situation has gotten me pretty down as a fan. Hopefully Battleground will be a good show and the WWE will have some strong momentum going into Summerslam. On to the preview.… Read more…

The longest goodbye for Pau Gasol

Six and a half years ago, my friend was batting around balls on a picturesque Northern California tennis court, the sun beaming down on another perfect day in the best state in this country. Right then and there, nothing could interrupt his leisurely pace as he fired yet another scorching serve. Nothing except for a friend running towards him with a cell phone.
 
“Dave! Dave! You’ll never believe what just happened! The Lakers traded for Pau Gasol!”
 
“Oh my God! Seriously? Who did we give up? Bynum?”
 
“No! The trade is Gasol for…let me look…Kwame Brown! Gasol for Kwame!”
 
“….dude, shut the eff up.”
 
Dave fired up one more scorching serve. And another. And another. Until he was done. He couldn’t believe that someone tried to pull a fast one on him with such a ridiculous, clearly fabricated story.
 
And then he went back to his apartment, looked at his computer and said “Oh my God! The Lakers traded for Pau Gasol with….Kwame Brown!??!?”
 
Was that your reaction that day? Wasn’t that everyone’s? Was there a Lakers fan alive that said anything else?
 
On February 1st, 2008, the Los Angeles Lakers traded Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, Pau’s fat kid brother and a handful of draft picks for All-Star center Gasol. For a Lakers team that had languished in foreign territory at the bottom of the playoff bracket, it felt like a seismic trade … that couldn’t have come at a better time. LA had the best record in the Western Conference, a stunning development following a middling 42-40 record in the 2006-2007 regular season and a solid but not overwhelming signing of Derek Fisher in the offseason. A primary reason was the development of Andrew Bynum, who had emerged into an All-Star-caliber player, but had fallen victim to the first of several severe knee injuries.
 
The addition of Gasol buoyed the Lakers when they needed a life preserver the most, replacing the production of a young, inconsistent center with that of a tenured professional. At the time, Pau was just 27 years old and entering his prime. As much as we all felt that this deal put the Lakers on the precipice of a championship, very few could have anticipated the monumental heights the Spaniard would take us to. That doubt wasn’t without good reason.
 
Gasol was coming off a string of disappointing seasons, including three consecutive first-round playoff sweeps, falling victim to the Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix Suns and San Antonio Spurs. Critics had panned Pau as just another gutless Euro baller, whose game looked closer to a soft cloud on a clear day than a thundering tempest in the middle of the ocean. While there was no denying his talent, Gasol was portrayed as nothing more than a nice player that couldn’t ever lead a team to a title. Ever.
 
But even if that was the word swirling around the Spaniard, Lakers fans hardly noticed in his first half season with the team. With Gasol in the fold, the team went 27-6 the rest of the regular season, with their new center immediately fitting into Phil Jackson’s triangle offense and igniting a chemistry with Kobe Bryant that hadn’t been seen since his best days with Shaquille O’Neal. Praise was heaped on Pau as not just the season savior, but as perhaps the primary catalyst in hurtling the Lakers towards their 15th NBA Championship.
 
Two months after that concluding regular season contest, Pau went from a scraggly … Read more…

The Lakers are executing ‘Plan B’ in free agency

Going into this summer, Los Angeles Lakers fans were skeptical, to say the least. There were just four players under contract, including a $33 million dollar backcourt that played less than 20 combined games last season. The team had over $20 million dollars worth of cap room, more than enough for LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony or Chris Bosh, but very few building blocks in which to attract those players to L.A.. Even after an excellent draft night including acquiring Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson, the prospects of the Lakers transforming back into a contender were slim.
 
But then…
 
Carmelo seemed to be changing his mind after a “very convincing” presentation from Lakers brass. There were rumors that LeBron James felt the same way. Kyle Lowry seemed interested in signing. Pau Gasol, for all the trade rumors swirling around him the previous three seasons, was locked in to re-sign in the event that the Lakers made positive strides with any other free agents. Despite what some felt would be a bleak summer, as always, the sunlight was peering through the clouds in Southern California.
 
This is what I called “Plan A” in a piece I penned right here on Silver Screen & Roll weeks ago. The Lakers, despite Kobe’s massive contract and all the mistakes made with Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, would rise from the ashes and begin the latest championship era of Los Angeles basketball. With either James, Anthony or both in the fold and Bryant’s deal coming off the books in two seasons, the Show would be locked and loaded for years to come.
 
Plan A, it seems, has been a massive failure. What now?
 
Plan B is well underway.
 
(Read more of this desolation at SS&R)

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Boehner ‘Kicking Dirt at Umpire’: Reid

(From our main man Que-Ese, who in his civilian life posts for Bloomberg. What a freak!)
 
House Speaker John Boehner is kicking dirt at the umpire, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says.
 
The Democratic leader, never one to shy away from the occasional sports metaphor, took to the floor this morning to criticize the House’s Republican leader for his promised lawsuit against President Barack Obama.
 
Reid took the time to reminisce about the former Los Angeles Dodgers manager and Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda:
 
“He was a showman. I assume he picked some of the times to pick a fight with the umpire because he was upset with the call. But I think part of it was his idea that the team needed a little something extra… On occasion he’d get thrown out of the game.”
 
(Read the rest over at Bloomberg.com!)… Read more…

What’s the plan for the Lakers in free agency?

The Lakers have already fired their opening shot in getting together their next great championship squad: drafting Jordan Clarkson.

But they also picked up a fellow named Julius Randle–the number 7 overall pick–who hopefully will be a building block in LA for the next decade or so.
 
Beyond that? This year’s free agency could tell us a lot about where the Lakers are headed…or if we’re just going to be asking the same questions for another twelve months. What are the Lakers aiming to do in the coming months?
 
Plan A: LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony or Chris Bosh. Or many of them.
 
As with most offseasons, even with no cap room or assets, the Lakers are going to be involved in the free agent rumor mill. But in an offseason where the team has room for a maximum salary contract? They’ll be involved in every whisper, no matter how farfetched.
 
Which is exactly what this situation is.
 
The Lakers have virtually no shot at the former four-time MVP, nor the former scoring champion nor the former Miami Heat Harlem Shake video MVP. The Lakers are essentially bereft of proven talent, the largest factor that any of these free agents will take into consideration before committing to another team. In short, the Show kind of stinks right now and I’m not sure any of these All-Stars want to descend into this pit.
 
(Read on at Silver Screen & Roll!)… Read more…

Trade Analysis: New deals for Gortat, Sefolosha, Bradley, Livingston and Lowry

Thabo Sefolosha to the Atlanta Hawks: Three years, $12 million
 
Avery Bradley to the Boston Celtics: Four years, $32 million
 
Shaun Livington to the Golden State Warriors: Three years, $16 million
 
You want a guard with defined—but perhaps declining—defensive skill, but a somehow magically disappearing shot? Sure, why not grab him for $4 million a year. You want an even better defensive stopper who’s just 23 with an emerging scoring repertoire…but has had three major surgeries in the past year? Sure, throw him $8 mil per and see what happens. Or maybe you want a point guard who’s just a year and a half removed from being waived in the middle of the season by a future lottery team, but has somehow recovered into being a valuable fringe starter? Sure, give him something close to the full mid-level exception contract and call it a day.
 
Three guards have signed new contracts in the past day, and despite some real red flags on their resumes have cashed in big time. Some have said this is just a function of the looming NBA television deal, which will push up the salary cap significantly and render these seemingly bloated deals into reasonable ones in just two years. In other words, $4-8 million dollars is going to look closer to $2-6 million soon, so why not start now?… Read more…

MAMBINO 2014 NBA Mock Draft

The time is upon us once again MAMBINites: the NBA Draft, a haven for hoophead nerds everywhere, is finally here.
 
This particular year’s edition has been through all sorts of permutations–once called the greatest draft since 2003, expectations have since been tapered. Bloggers and writers projected no less than five franchise-caliber superstars coming into the NBA this June, but as the NCAA season wore on, it was apparent that this wasn’t going to be the epic class we thought.
 
Nevertheless, the MAMBINO crew is just as jakked up for this year’s annual rite of passage as we ever are. This draft may not have a James-Wade-Anthony-Bosh-type cache, but it is certainly filled with difference makers and All-Stars. We’ve racked up our selections for lottery picks 1-14, giving you a solid profile of what WE think Thursday’s event at Barclays Center in Brooklyn will look like.
 
Full disclosure: we wrote this one up a week ago, but Joel Embiid’s foot injury threw our entire post into disarray. In many ways, this is the MAMBINO 2014 NBA Mock Draft 2.0, but we’re proceeding in this new and daring world where a 7-footer has foot and back problems. New AND daring!
 
With the 1st pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, the Cleveland Cavaliers select Jabari Parker from Duke University
 
El Miz: The Joel Embiid njury should change nothing. If I was the GM of the Cavs and my boss was not Dan G, then Embiid would be the pick. I’ll roll the dice on the injury Wheel of Fortune for the player with the most upside by far in the draft. But Dan G does not want an injured center who may not play until the calendar turns to 2015. Dan G wants to win and win soon, and “he is sick of winning the lottery”! He makes this clear, banging out late night e-mails in Sans Serif asking “who will win rookie of the year, please advise” and “do any of these guys have asthma, please advise.”… Read more…