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Los Angeles Lakers, Page 2

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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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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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...

What we know about the Lakers going into the 2014 NBA Draft

In some years, the NBA Commissioner walks to the podium and there’s not a shadow of a doubt whose name he’s going to call. LeBron James. Derrick Rose. Blake Griffin. Kyrie Irving. John Wall. It’s academic–no holding your breath, no torrid anticipation. A few All-Star teams and MVP trophies later, I’m pretty sure it’s worked out for all those teams.
 
In other years, it’s more surprising. Michael Olowokandi. Andrea Bargnani. Anthony Bennett. The results have ranged from useful scorers to complete busts and everywhere in between. However, there are some June nights that leave people scratching their heads, wondering what exactly they just witnessed.
 
Regardless of whether or not we saw the number one pick coming from a million miles away or were hit out of left field by an Anthony Bennett-sized comet, no one sitting in that arena truly knows whether or not that pick will pan out. In fact, that’s the general sentiment behind all 60 selections in the draft. What we know versus what we don’t know going into draft night is usually staggeringly unbalanced.
 
Unfortunately, the Los Angeles Lakers are not exempt from the mysteries of the NBA Draft.
 
At the number 7 slot on the board, the Lake Show is in an unenviable position. They’re sitting right outside what could be considered a draft comfort zone, perhaps just one slot out of reach for a truly impactful youngster. Guys like Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Jabari Parker and Dante Exum could all be taken by the time numero siete is on the clock, with potential stars like Julius Randle and Marcus Smart gone as well. The Lakers are choosing between what I’d consider the “second tier” of rookie players, and at the end of that section, to boot.
 
(Read on at SS&R)

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Trade Analysis: Derek Fisher to the New York Knicks

New York Knicks get: head coach Derek Fisher
 
KOBEsh: It’s official. Derek Fisher is now not only an ex-NBA player, but the head coach of YOUR….New York Knicks.
 
Much like the Jason Kidd signing last offseason, Fisher’s hire moved from sheer speculation to recorded fact rather quickly and within weeks of his last game as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
 
Kidd’s first season surely wasn’t a disaster, as he coached the imperfect and injury-riddled Brooklyn Nets to 44 wins, but it certainly wasn’t perHITMEfect. It’s clear that Kidd isn’t completely ready for the responsibilities as a head coach and has a ton of room to grow, but at the same time was able to organize a solid defense from an old, unathletic team of vets. Offensively, it’s hard to say whether or not the team was hampered by Deron Williams’s ankles, KG’s declining skill set or the fact that their scoring schemes just weren’t that great to begin with.
 
Either way, with a team just across the East river, there’s an obvious precedent for how good Derek Fisher’s first season should be. Is this a better hire than Kidd? And what should be the baseline for a “successful” season?
 
BockerKnocker: Based on only what we know now, this is not a better hire than Kidd. The Brooklyn Nets hired their #1 choice in the former All-Star point guard, while Phil Jackson’s #1 choice gets the privilege to coach Stephen Curry. We have to assume that Phil wanted Kerr more than Fisher, for reasons that don’t truly matter, because Fisher was New York’s #2 option.… Read more...

Is LeBron James threatening Kobe Bryant’s legacy?

Last season, with the Lakers well out of the playoffs and primary nemeses in the Boston Celtics and Clippers out of contention, I shifted my ire towards the remaining final four teams. Like everything else in my life, my passion was directed against all that may do my beloved Lake Show harm. Contrary to the emotional slings and arrows of my purple and gold loving brethren, I almost didn’t mind seeing a Miami Heat victory in the Finals. But watching another chip going to Tim Duncan, Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs? Nothing would upset me more.
 
I conveyed my thoughts in a lengthy post, centered around the notion that we as fans should be most concerned about the clear and present danger to the legacy of Lakers and one Kobe Bean Bryant.That of course, was the Spurs.
 
With a fifth title for Timmy and Pop, San Antonio would tie LA for the most chips this millennium and Duncan–with two MVPs, five ‘ships and what would have almost certainly been three Finals MVPs–would supersede Kobe for the informal title as player of his generation. Double stampies, no takebacks.
 
However, thanks to a most unlikely (and mostly hated) source–a Ray Allen three-pointer–the Spurs and Timmy couldn’t add those accolades to the argument. The Miami Heat prevailed in an epic seven-game classic, giving LeBron James and Allen their second titles and Dwyane Wade his third.
 
This year, the conversation should be largely the same for me, no? Duncan has already built his resume to the point where I don’t even know if you could call Bryant the player of his generation anymore, especially after Kobe’s lost 2013-2014 season. Another championship would etch this in stone.
 
As a Kobe Bryant fan, I can’t root for the Spurs in this Finals matchup. On the surface, they are still the clear and present danger to the Lakers (and Kobe’s) legacy. Those things, more than any lingering hatred I have for The Decision, Jesus Shuttlesworth or Wade’s errant elbows, are what dominate the frontlines of my protective basketball fandom.
 
(Silver Screen and Roll has got the rest…)

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Should the Lakers take the conflicting skills of Aaron Gordon?

It seems with the seventh selection in the 2014 NBA Draft, the Lakers are only picking from a pool of divisive players. With every swoon of a blogger regarding Marcus Smart’s driving ability, another swath of people will dive right in with concerns about his shooting and attitude. Noah Vonleh certainly has his fans, but also has his detractors who wonder why he wasn’t more of an offensive threat on such a middling Indiana team this past year. Doug McDermott, Gary Harris, Tyler Ennis and Zach LaVine might all be fine, fine pros eventually, but I could pick them apart after watching just a few minutes of video. Former University of Arizona forward Aaron Gordon is no different.
 
Most scouts that I’ve read and video that I’ve watched on Gordon all read almost exactly the same–a flawed player who still has an otherworldly athleticism, drive and most importantly, youth on his side. Let’s break down the big man point by point:
 
Athleticism
 
In most cases, for a blogger to put down “athleticism” as a bulleted argument is usually an exercise in laziness–after all, if we’re talking about an NBA lottery pick, we’re usually talking about guy with world-class athleticism.
 
But for Aaron Gordon? A seemingly mundane point has got to be highlighted.
 
(Check the rest out at SS&R)

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Kendall Marshall is not the point guard of the future, so what is he?

There’s not much about Kendall Marshall that suggests he’s a mere 22 years old. He’s recently completed his second season in the NBA on his third team. He’s already been traded and waived, a dubious distinction usually reserved for aging veterans and undrafted players, not a young man who was a bonafide lottery pick less than two years ago. The squad that cut him, the Washington Wizards, was willing to let Marshall go without even giving him a chance to make the opening night roster. From there, he spent months without an NBA contract, a stunning development for a player so highly touted coming out of the University of North Carolina.
 
The Los Angeles Lakers finally picked him up in early January, after injuries had taken down a myriad of guards including Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Jordan Farmar and Steve Blake. Once on the team, Marshall sported an “old man game”, relying much more on guile and precision than dynamic athleticism. For a guy who should have been a senior in college last year, Kendall’s all-around game resembled the 37 year-old Andre Miller, with his arsenal of long distance set shots and chest passes from the corner.
 
Marshall’s story and skill set doesn’t read like a player who has barely over 100 games of NBA experience. Oh, and the Baron Davis beard certainly doesn’t help matters either. But regardless of how old his face or game looks on a night to night basis, there’s no doubt that Marshall proved much more than the young NBA washout draft bust he was shortly before the calendar turned to 2014.
 
(Read the rest at SS&R)

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Can Steve Nash build on the glimpses he gave the Lakers?

By every quantifiable metric, from the stat sheet to the training room to the league standings, this was far and away the worst season in Steve Nash’s Hall of Fame career.
 
He played in just 15 games during the regular season, 25 less than his previous career low…which took place during the strike-shortened 55-game 1999 season. His notoriously stratospheric shooting percentages plummeted to career lows across the board with the exception of his stroke from the free throw line. Offensively, his numbers cratered to near career-lows across the board, performing at a similar rate to his rookie season. Obviously all these numbers come with a huge caveat as they’re all a part of a very small, sporadic sample size, but perhaps that’s just the point.
 
Nash strung together consecutive games a scant few times during the season, including a five game stretch early in the year and a three-gamer in February. It was the most injured that he’d been in 17 years as a professional, with back, hip and hamstring problems stemming from a broken leg he suffered at the beginning of the 2012-2013 season. His absence was a primary culprit behind the Lakers’ 27-55 record, as the team was without a capable lead ballhandler in a Mike D’Antoni system for large stretches. At times, it looked like a sad end to the career of one of the greatest point guards of all time. He was literally and figuratively a shell of himself, looking like a spry youngster trapped in the body of a 40 year-old man. With Nash on the books for roughly $10MM next season, there’re serious questions as to whether or not he’ll ever take the floor again.
 
But here’s the dirty little secret: he can still go. And it might be the worst possible thing for the Lakers.
 
(Check out the rest at the Mothership, SS&R)

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