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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...

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...

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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What the hell is wrong with the Los Angeles Dodgers?

In my damn near interminable preview post series, 20 Days of Thinking Blue, I was equal parts optimistic that this Dodgers team would bring home the city’s first pennant in 25 years and concerned that they were headed horrific disaster. It’s still early in the year and neither has come to pass at this point. The Dodgers are merely…fine, bubbling around the .500 mark and playing uninspired baseball.

Why is this happening? At this point, what’s wrong with the Los Angeles Dodgers? And can it be fixed?

Inconsistent hitting

The Dodgers were constructed like the New York Yankees of old—imported veterans with power hitting alongside homegrown players that had grown into All-Stars.  The center of the line-up was supposed to feature the spectacular Yasiel Puig and a resurgent Matt Kemp, with Adrian Gonazalez, Hanley Ramirez and Carl Crawford forming a devastating front five. Waiting in the wings would be Cuban rookie Alexander Guerrero and top prospects Joc Pederson. The line-up was supposed to be a tough 8 outs…make it 9 when Silver Slugging pitcher Zack Greinke was throwing.

Instead, many of the questions that I asked before the season have already come to fruition.… Read more...

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)

 … Read more...