Los Angeles Lakers: Chris Paul
First a primer on the league’s rules regarding the trade of draft picks. As I cover in the CBA FAQ, teams may trade their draft picks up to seven years in the future (the Seven Year rule), and are allowed to protect picks based upon their position. For example, a first round pick that is protected 1-14 will be kept if the team ends up in the lottery and conveyed if the team makes the playoffs (receiving a pick from 15 to 30).
Pick protection may extend for multiple years, so a pick might be protected 1-14 this year, 1-10 in 2014, 1-3 in 2015, and be unprotected in 2016. Such a pick would be conveyed in the first year it falls outside the protected range. The pick must already be in the trading team’s possession at the time of the trade -- for example, a team can’t trade the lesser of any pick in the team’s possession on the date of the 2016 draft, and subsequently acquire a lower pick to send.
Pick protection must be structured in a way that ensures the Seven Year rule is not violated. For example, a team can lottery-protect its pick for up to six years, but in the seventh year must convey the pick unconditionally or send something else in lieu of the pick, such as second round picks or cash.
The Ted Stepien rule (named after the former owner of the Cavs who engineered a series of disastrous trades, including the one that resulted in James Worthy becoming a Laker) restricts teams from trading first round picks in future consecutive years. For example, if a team trades its 2013 pick it cannot trade its 2014 pick until after the 2013 draft (when the 2013 pick is no longer a future pick).
The combination of the Seven Year rule, pick protection and the Ted Stepien rule often results in draft pick trades that are extraordinarily complex, as I described in this article discussing the Clippers’ trade of the draft pick that became Kyrie Irving. As we’ll see below, many aspects of the Orlando trade for Dwight Howard depend on what happens to the picks the Lakers send to the Suns as part of the Steve Nash trade.
With that out of the way, let’s look at the Lakers’ second round picks in 2013. Here are the trades that affect the Lakers in the second round of this year’s draft:
February 18, 2009: The Lakers send Chris Mihm to the Memphis Grizzlies for a protected 2013 second-round pick.
Remember Chris Mihm? He played five seasons with the Lakers, but was injured for much of his tenure. At the time of the trade he was a shadow of his former self, averaging 2.0 points and 1.9 rebounds in 5.8 minutes per game. The trade was essentially a giveaway in order to get Mihm off the Lakers’ books, as reflected in the pick protection -- it is top-55 protected, so Memphis keeps it unless it is one of the last five picks in the draft. If the pick isn’t conveyed this year, then the Grizzlies don’t owe the Lakers anything.
December 11, 2011: The Lakers trade Lamar Odom and a 2012 second round pick to the Dallas Mavericks for future draft considerations.
In this trade the Lakers sent away Odom (who asked out after being included in the aborted Chris Paul trade) and what turned out to be the 55th pick in the 2011 draft. The pick was used to select Darius Johnson-Odom, whom the Lakers reacquired for cash in a subsequent trade. The Lakers received a first round draft pick (protected 1-20 through 2017 and unprotected in 2018) which they later sent to Houston along with Derek Fisher in exchange for Jordan Hill. Dallas also received the right to swap its 2013 second round pick with the Lakers’ second round pick.
In summary, while the Lakers won’t have a first round pick in this June’s draft, they will have the lesser of their own and Dallas’ second round pick, and also will have Memphis’ pick if it’s one of the bottom five.
Shifting our focus to future years, the following trades affect the Lakers’ draft picks:
July 11, 2012: The Lakers traded a 2013 first round pick, a 2015 first round pick, two second round picks and cash to Phoenix for Steve Nash.
In the trade, which brought Steve Nash to LA and ensured that the Lakers will not have a first round pick in this year’s draft, the team also sent a future first round pick and two second round picks to the Suns. The first round pick will be conveyed no sooner than 2015 due to the Ted Stepien rule. It is protected 1-5 in 2015, protected 1-3 in 2016 and 2017, and unprotected in 2018.
The Lakers will also give the Suns the second round pick it acquired from the Denver Nuggets in 2011 for Chukwudiebere Maduabum, which is top-40 protected in 2013 and unprotected in 2014. Finally, the Lakers own 2014 pick goes to Minnesota, after the Suns subsequently traded it to the Timberwolves.
August 10, 2012: In a four-team trade, the Lakers acquired Dwight Howard, Chris Duhon and Earl Clark from Orlando, sending out Andrew Bynum, Christian Eyenga, Josh McRoberts, a future first round pick and a future second round pick.
The first round pick can be conveyed no sooner than 2017, and no sooner than two years following the conveyance of the pick to Phoenix due to the Ted Stepien rule. It is also protected 1-4 in 2017 and 2018, and unprotected in 2019.
Since the Phoenix pick may not be conveyed until 2018, and the Lakers could not trade their 2020 pick due to the Seven Year rule, the first round pick to Orlando is replaced with second round picks in 2017 and 2018 if Phoenix doesn’t get its pick by 2017.
The second round pick is protected top-40 in 2015. If the Lakers keep this pick then they no longer owe the Magic a second round pick.
Putting it all together, the Lakers’ future draft obligations read as follows:
*2013: Whatever first round pick the Lakers end up with will go to Phoenix. It will have the lesser of its own and Dallas’ second round picks, and will have Memphis’ second round pick if it falls 56-60.
*2014: The Lakers will have their own first round pick, but will not have a second round pick.
*2015: The Lakers will have their own first round pick if it is in the top five, otherwise it will go to Phoenix. The Lakers will keep their second round pick if it’s 31-40, otherwise it goes to Orlando.
*2016: The Lakers will have their own first round pick if they sent their 2015 pick to Phoenix or the pick is 1-5, otherwise it goes to Phoenix. They have their own second round pick.
*2017: This pick goes to Phoenix if the Lakers haven’t already sent a pick to the Suns and it’s not in the top three. If they sent a pick to Phoenix in 2015 then this pick goes to Orlando if it’s not in the top five -- otherwise they keep it. If the Lakers don’t send a first round pick to Phoenix by 2017 then Orlando gets the Lakers’ 2017 second round pick; otherwise the Lakers keep it.
*2018: If the Lakers haven’t yet given Phoenix a first round pick then the Suns get it unconditionally. If the Lakers sent a first round pick to Phoenix by 2016, haven’t yet sent a pick to Orlando, and the pick is not in the top five, then Orlando gets it, otherwise the Lakers keep it. If the Lakers don’t send a first round pick to Phoenix by 2017 then Orlando gets the Lakers’ 2018 second round pick, otherwise the Lakers keep it.
*2019: If the Lakers sent a first round pick to Phoenix by 2017 and Orlando has not received a first round pick then Orlando gets their first round pick, otherwise the Lakers keep it. The Lakers have their own second round pick.
Either way, I know I'll be watching.
For more perspective on the Clips, I was joined by Kevin Arnovitz and Jordan Heimer, who co-host ESPNLA's Clippers podcast. The show can be heard by clicking on the module and a breakdown of talking points can be found below:
- (2:25): Arnovitz and Heimer share impressions of the Clippers after eight preseason games and Wednesday's regular season victory over the Memphis Grizzlies. (On a side note, those two teams should be required to play each other at least once a week.) In a nutshell, both like how the Clips are developing, and the potential impact of the new faces. The latter factor only reinforces the culture created by "General Manager" Chris Paul.
- (8:15): Former Laker Lamar Odom arrived for his second tour of duty with the Clippers in shape, but unfortunately, the shape would best be described as "round." Considering LO is coming off by far the worst season of his career, the lack of conditioning raised red flags. How has Odom fit in with the second unit?
- (11:10): In addition to LO, the Clippers offseason acquisitions included Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes, Grant Hill, Ronny Turiaf and Willie Green. How does their second unit stack up against the Lakers' reserves? Who's the better center between Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard to anchor that crew?
- (20:10): Obviously, the biggest issue plaguing the Lakers' during two season opening losses hasn't been the offensive approach, but rather defense and turnovers. By far. However, this goal of meshing Nash's (not to mention Howard's) pick-and-roll skills with the Princeton's motion-based principles is one I find fascinating on a philosophical level. The question to me isn't so much whether or not this plan can work, but rather if it's truly worth a likely 2-3 months spent trying. Arnovitz and Heimer weigh in.
- (31:50): Which are the most intriguing matchups in this game? Arnovitz chooses Blake Griffin (on defense) vs. Gasol (on offense). Heimer is interested in to see how the Laker perimeter players can check their Clipper counterparts. I'm curious to see how much DeAndre Jordan can make Howard work on both ends of the floor.
Also, Arnovitz expresses dismay at the notion of Antawn Jamison playing small forward, considering he can't even guard power forwards. And no matter whether he plays the 3 or 4, dude needs to start shooting more.
- (38:45): Who has better offensive game between Howard vs. Andrew Bynum? Plus, a salute to Drew's Philadelphia hair, which is just fantastic!
- (40:20): Predictions!
In other words, the preseason hasn't really taught us much about the Lakers.
Today's game against the Clippers may not buck that trend. Kobe Bryant is likely to sit out the action with a foot injury, and Dwight Howard will be a game-time decision due to lingering soreness after his debut Sunday. Yet another game without the starting five intact, and the same may hold true for the Clips' first five as well. Whatever comes from this contest, it's unlikely to reveal much about the championship prospects for the new-look Lakers. That said, a handful of specifics could be revealed, even with incomplete rosters on both sides. Here are five things we might learn about the Lakers tonight.
1) Who's got the edge at backup shooting guard?
For those seeking silver-ish linings to Kobe being sidelined, at least Mike Brown will get the rare opportunity to see Devin Ebanks and Jodie Meeks in extended minutes at shooting guard, where he's earmarked both to play with a full roster. As the coach explained during Monday's practice, in a perfect world, he'll employ a big man rotation of Howard, Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill, with Antawn Jamison the primary backup at small forward behind Metta World Peace. This leaves Ebanks and Meeks penciled in for Kobe's leftovers. Unfortunately, Hill's absence has forced Brown to slide Jamison to the 4, Ebanks to the 3 and clarity to the side.
With Hill potentially on hand for a big man rotation with Gasol and Robert Sacre tonight, Brown can perhaps watch Ebanks and Meeks in his preferred spot. Brown has been complimentary of both, but their skill sets are fairly different and equally useful. Ebanks is more of a slasher, with a higher upside as a rebounder, defender and general athlete. Meeks is the more proven shooter, and this team desperately needs floor spreaders. Talking with the coach Monday, he didn't tip his hand much about the direction he's headed, but acknowledged the small sample size for making a decision. Perhaps this game can narrow down his decision.
Who'da thunk it?
"We always like to call our players that are free agents first," recalled Kupchak. "Ramon Sessions and Jordan Hill. Players that were on our roster. So we did that. Coincidentally, Steve Nash is also represented by Jordan Hill's representative [Bill Duffy]. Steve was on the top of our list, in terms of point guards, but it never occurred to me that he would be available. All we had was the (mini mid-level), which is a $3 million exception. Jim Buss kept on saying, "Mitch, don't forget to call. Don't forget to call." Of course, he's at the top of the list. I said, 'Jim, I'm not sure this is something that can even begin to work out, but you never know until you try.'
"So when I spoke to Bill Duffy, we talked about Jordan Hill and I talked about Steve Nash. And his first comment was, 'Mitch, would you like to speak to him?' I said, 'Of course.' And then 10 seconds later, he was on the phone. He was with Steve Nash when I called at 12:01. I think they were together in New York. So that doesn't happen very often. Maybe looking back on it, it was a sign, if you believe in those things. Didn't hear much for a day or two, and then we got a call from Bill Duffy saying Steve's thought about the conversation we had and he'd like to make this work. So that started the whole thing with Phoenix in motion."
But as I thought about the general manager's words, I realized "motion" actually began much earlier, even if we didn't know it at the time. Looking backward, here's everything required to happen before Nash eventually ended up a Laker.
-- The Chris Paul deal must get scuttled, which eventually led to Lamar Odom asking out, which created the trade exception allowing the Lakers to absorb Nash in a sign-and-trade deal. Not that anyone would necessarily be complaining with CP3 around, of course, but the core would now be thinner, and despite any money saved by moving Odom and Pau Gasol, financial flexibility to build a supporting cast wouldn't necessarily have been gained. One could argue, at least in the short run, the team is better off as currently constructed. Either way, Nash certainly wouldn't be a Laker with Paul on board.
-- Hill must become the incoming player from Houston in the Derek Fisher deal. Otherwise, Kupchak might not call Duffy at 12:01 (regarding Hill), preventing him from talking directly with Nash so early in the process. Not that Kupchak couldn't have successfully gotten the ball rolling later, but given Nash's reluctance to become a Laker, the longer he stewed in that mindset, the dicier the prospect of changing his outlook could grow. Plus, as ESPN.com's Marc Stein noted in this must-read feature, the Raptors and Knicks pulled out ALL the stops pitching Nash, so having the Lakers on his brain from minute one was a bonus.
-- Sessions must opt out of the final year of his deal, creating a void at the starting point guard. Had Sessions opted in, the front office might have been content to see how the young player developed in a full year as the team's starter. And with Sessions off the books, absorbing Nash's salary perhaps becomes more palatable for the cost-conscious bean counters.
-- Kupchak must decide to let Kobe talk with Nash first early in the process rather than later, "a risk" given The Mamba's unpredictable nature. (Kupchak's words, not mine, so don't kill the messenger.) As it turned out, Bryant's salesmanship played a big role in persuading the point guard to join forces.
-- And finally, Suns owner Robert Sarver, despite whatever bitter taste it could leave in the mouths of Phoenix's fan base (not to mention his own), must agree to help a fierce divisional rival become a more legitimate contender by trading them arguably the franchise's most iconic player.
Safe to say, a lot of unrelated situations were required to pile up to reach an endgame involving the Lakers' best point guard since Magic Johnson. Was some luck involved? No question. But at the same time, every successful franchise benefits from lady luck occasionally smiling on them. Plus, some of these events (CP3, LO's departure, Sessions becoming a free agent) weren't necessarily regarded as positives from the outset. In fact, they actually left many (myself included) to periodically wonder if the Lakers were stuck between a rock and a hard place. But in the end, these obstacles, through happy coincidences, patience, and savvy were eventually converted into a productive conclusion.
As the saying goes, you make your own luck.
With Lakers-Clippers on the docket this evening, various ESPN scribes (including the K Bros) gathered thoughts from Bryant's and Paul's Olympic teammates and coaches about the experience of working with them. Click here to make a patriotic trip down Memory Lane, and below are excerpts with Kobe's and Paul's recollections about one another:
Kobe on Paul: He's tough. He's tough as nails, man; he doesn't back down from anything or anybody. I'd never been as close to him, but when I was [on the Olympic team] I'd try to challenge him, see what he's made of and he's a tough little sucker.
Paul on Kobe: Me and Kob really figured out how much we had in common on that trip. That Olympic experience is when we got a lot closer. Me and my wife send him Christmas cards and his family sends us Christmas cards, and now we talk on a regular basis. We both want to win so badly. It's one of those things where as great a relationship as we have, as long as we're playing on the same court against each other, we're always going to get into it, you know what I mean? That's the respect factor, because you know that he wants it just as bad as I do.
There's a lot on the line Wednesday when the Lakers "visit" the Clippers (7:30, ESPN), starting with positioning in the Pacific Division. The Lakers will wake up Thursday in first place no matter the result-- they're 1.5 games up heading in -- but a victory for the LAC would pull them even with the Lakers in the loss column, and more importantly the winner takes the season series 2-1, earning what could be a very useful tiebreaker.
Griffin vs. Gasol is a big matchup to watch, particularly if Andrew Bynum plays.
Unburdened from responsibility on his side of the floor, Griffin is far freer to load up on highlight dunks and soaring rebounds.
The Lakers are riding what might be the most unsatisfying three game win streak in sports history. With only 12 games left before the playoffs, they don't have a lot of time to coalesce, and their apparent allergy to comfortable leads obviously won't play well in the postseason. The LAC, meanwhile, have quietly posted a six game win streak, their longest as a franchise since March of '92 (an NBA record for largest gap between five win streaks), including a thumping of Dallas Monday night. Before, though, they'd lost 12 of 19, and still have some work to do convincing observers they're truly on track.
Add in a quickly developing, very chippy rivalry and, to paraphrase Rasheed Wallace, both teams have good reason to play hard.
To get a better feel for Wednesday's battle royale, we sat down with Kevin Arnovitz and Jordan Heimer, hosts of ESPNLA's The Clipper Podcast (among other things) for an audio preview. Click here to listen. To serve the more literary crowd, Arnovitz was nice enough to answer a few questions...
1. Maybe 10 days ago, we were all speculating about Vinny Del Negro's job security. Now the Clips have won six straight. What has changed?
"The Clippers had a relatively easy homestand against of slew of really, really bad road teams. But in the process, they've started to figure out some stuff defensively. On top of that, they've gotten some otherworldly shooting performances from all over the roster. The average NBA team puts up an effective field goal percentage of 48.6 percent. The Clippers over their six-game winning streak? 54, 55, 54, 57, 61, 54."
Plus, a reader suspects the Kamenetzky wives don't realize how fortunate they are being married to Lakers bloggers. Clearly, luckier stars have never been discovered.
Everything can be found by clicking the link here.
Wednesday night, the Lakers knocked off the Clippers in what was their 19th game of a lockout-shortened 66-game campaign. For those not doing the math at home, one month in the Lakers have already completed 29 percent of their schedule.
A lot of time? No, but by this season's standard not a bad sample size, either.
Kobe Bryant and Mike Brown have been like peas and carrots.
Why 34? Because 20 isn't enough when the league lets you sit around all summer thinking about stuff. Below is that list, each with some answers.
Strap in, people. We've got a lot of ground to cover.
1. Who wins the battle between the well-rested knee of Kobe Bryant (and his ankle, back, finger and general skeletal structure) and a compressed schedule?
Knee? What knee? I thought we were worried about his wrist. (Which, by the way, we’re increasingly less worried about.) Meaning 19 games in, the answer is Bryant in a walk. He leads the league in scoring (30.2), a nearly five-point improvement over last season, while maintaining a solid shooting percentage (45 percent). Asked to carry an almost comical burden in the Lakers offense, at least as measured by his league-leading usage rate (35.9), Bryant has been outstanding. And spry. Very, very spry.
Basically, the man is a running, leaping billboard for German medical engineering.
2. Who wins the battle between the well-rested will of Bryant and the authority of Mike Brown?
The relationship between Kobe and Brown has been a success. Bryant has expressed nothing but admiration for his new coach, praising on multiple occasions Brown’s work ethic and emphasis on defense, noting the team wants to win for him because they see how much Brown wants to win, too. They know he puts in the work.
Doesn't mean the questions about Bryant's shot selection, balance, or how he's used offensively have stopped, but those would be asked whether the coach was Brown, Phil Jackson, Brian Shaw or Rick Adelman. They are, in sports terms at least, eternal.
To this point, though, one major concern -- Brown's ability to "manage" Kobe, has been a non-issue.
3. What will Brown's system look like, and how quickly will the Lakers be able to pick it up?
Not totally sure, and not very.
But this much can't be disputed. There are stakes riding on this game.
The winner of the Pacific Division is probably guaranteed at least one round of home-court advantage in the playoffs. The runner-up could end up fighting just to make the postseason in a loaded Western Conference. If the Lakers can't snap a three-game losing streak with a win against their Staples Center roommates, they've lost any shot at forcing a tiebreaker. Winning the division would require leapfrogging the Clips, which means making up the ground of four losses in the standings. With only 47 games remaining afterward, the mission's not impossible, but it won't be easy.
Metta needs to repeat his performance against the Pacers. Others need to pitch in as well.
Here are four items to watch once the ball is jumped:
1. Bench production
The upside of Metta World Peace's 11 points against Indiana on Sunday? It provided hope of a corner potentially turned, or at the very least, evidence of a concerted effort to park him in the lane that essentially makes or breaks his effectiveness. The downside? It was a stark reminder of how rare such an outburst is for a Lakers reserve. Before this night, the last Lakers reserve to hit double figures was Steve Blake on Jan. 8 against the Grizzlies.
The second unit's struggles to chip in points is an issue during any game, but could be spotlighted in particularly painful fashion against the Clippers. In an extreme example, you have Mo Williams, whose 14.5 points off the bench bests the combined averages of MWP (5.5), Josh McRoberts (3.7) and Darius Morris (3.6), the top three scorers among healthy reserves. There's even a reminder in the form of second-leading bench scorer Randy Foye, whose 7.9 points is hardly eye-opening ... except on the Lakers, where he'd be the clubhouse leader among subs. And despite Williams' presence, the Clippers remain just the 28th-ranked team for bench scoring and 29th for efficiency ... and still beat the Lakers on both counts.
"While the Lakers had extended conversations with Orlando about Dwight Howard last month, it is lost on no one that when they actually pulled the trigger on a blockbuster deal, it was for a point guard -- Chris Paul -- not Howard.
With that deal long since scuttled by the NBA, would the Lakers ever make a play for Williams?
Judging by the reaction that Williams admits to getting as he's walked around Los Angeles the last couple of days, Lakers fans certainly hope so.
"I've had that since I was in Utah, Laker fans wanting me to come here," Williams said Monday. "It's definitely flattering. I'll address all that when the time is right."
When my colleague J.A. Adande asked if playing at Staples Center and walking around town the last couple of days made him think about spending more time here one day, Williams smiled and said, "I like the warm weather out here. I live right up the street in San Diego."
It was a vague answer to be sure. But it wasn't a shutdown answer, either.
Keep in mind, nothing is happening on the D-Will front until Howard's future is set. Not traded somewhere, set, but signed on the dotted line, set. If Howard doesn't move in March, the Nets will hold on to Williams and make a play this summer to get/keep both. Bottom line, it's a slow process.
Constructing a trade for Williams-- the only way he's coming here, given L.A.'s cap issues-- isn't a snap, either. Then again, putting one together for Chris Paul wasn't easy, and the Lakers managed to figure it out.
Colin Cowherd: How rough has it been personally, the last 2-3 weeks with the Chris Paul stuff?
David Stern: I call it interesting. But, there has been something of a storm. I’m happy to talk about it or answer any questions you have.
CC: How much did that Chris Paul-Lakers situation hurt the brand?
DS: I think that come Christmas Day when the five games tip off, the brand such as it is will be very much alive and well. Not a problem. But I’m sorry, I didn’t listen to your show so I don’t know what the basis of your view is, but I think that what happened there is that people thought that I was somehow stepping in as commissioner and undoing something under the broad powers of the game and that couldn’t have been further from the truth.
What I was doing … Picture this team being owned by the NBA. You could have had a vote by the board of governors, whether the trade should be approved or not. Maybe it would be 15-14 and have each governor vote on perhaps whether they wanted Chris to go into their division or their conference or do something that was extraneous to the one issue which was: What’s best for New Orleans? Actually, that’s an area about the voting, is exactly the reason why it was decided by the various committees on the board that ultimately the league office would make the final decision on what’s good for the New Orleans Hornets, and that’s what we did.
CC: But, but as Phil Jackson predicted, it was a messy situation. Ideally, you don’t want to own a team. Assuming a Dwight Howard trade meets all salary cap parameters, how possible is it that you would step in on a Dwight Howard trade?
DS: You’re not listening to me. We don’t own Orlando. That was the problem with the media coverage. I was not acting in my role as commissioner to approve or disapprove every trade. I was acting on behalf of New Orleans and the people who are day-to-day in New Orleans know that the league office signs off on all trades and we received the parameters of that trade on Thursday afternoon at 5:30.
I know it because I had just finished a board meeting and was heading down to the media and we said, "No, we’re not ready to make that trade." Not to approve it. We weren’t ready to make it. I want you to focus on it, Colin, because the example you just used, of course there’s no conflict. I wouldn’t step in and deal with a Dwight Howard trade between two teams. I didn’t have to step in here. In New Orleans the normal process is for the league office to approve it and when it was presented for approval the league office said, "No."
Here are your 10 additional things to take away from the Lakers' 114-95 preseason loss against the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday ...
But, after opening his postgame remarks by admitting it was an "ugly game from us," Brown couldn't help but break out a grin and chuckle a little bit when talking about how rookie point guard Darius Morris played.
"The rook came in and he was either feast or famine, which was OK," said Brown. "It was his first taste of NBA experience."
That first taste was more than just a nibble because starting point guard Derek Fisher sat out Monday as a preventative measure as he continues to work himself back into playing shape. And so Morris played just 34 seconds less than Steve Blake on Monday and was the lone true bright spot for the Lakers, finishing with 11 points, three assists and three rebounds in 24 minutes.
"Coming out that tunnel, it was just an honor," the L.A. native and Winward School graduate said of wearing his No. 1 Lakers jersey for the first time.
Morris made an immediate impact when he checked into the game as Brown's first substitute midway through the first quarter.
After Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum combined for three straight turnovers, Morris found the ball in his hands as the shot clock was winding down on the possession. Rather than playing hot potato with the ball and dumping it off to a teammate, Morris rose up and connected on a 22-footer before the 24 seconds had eclipsed.
"I think that was like the ice breaker for me," Morris said. "For that one to go in was a huge boost for my confidence."
In virtually any other year, a lopsided score in a preseason game would likely be ignored. This is not any year. The mood among fans surrounding this season's Lakers team heading into Monday night's preseason game was already dark. Fair to say the evening's events won't add any light.
Below are five takeaways from the game:
1. Kobe Bryant looked good physically
The score is the score and the aesthetics were bad, but is anything really more important than this? There will be plenty of time to worry about the bench, point guard play and more, but if Bryant isn't whole, none of it really matters. Monday, Kobe appeared relatively spry en route to his 22 points, whether working on the ball in the pick-and-roll or running from the weak side to catch-and-shoot from midrange. Even in his heart-stopping moment -- falling awkwardly on his right wrist after DeAndre Jordan swatted away a dunk attempt -- had a silver lining. Kobe showed some nice hops on the play, and if Jordan would have simply moved out of the way, Lakers fans would have had a nice highlight to offset the final score.
Perhaps the best sign of Bryant's health were his 15 trips to the free-throw line.
Yes, there were too many turnovers (seven), some coming off mishandled plays on the dribble, a problem he had during Friday's scrimmage as well, but a lot of that is related to the general difficulties the Lakers had executing their offense. Those are things that can improve with time. Had Kobe started this season behind the eight ball physically, that wouldn't change.
2. The Lakers look like a team learning a new system
The starters, particularly in the first half, were fine. But generally speaking, even with the high-end talent on the floor the Lakers appeared indecisive in their offense. (Things were even worse with the reserves.) They often got up the floor quickly, but when limited to the half court they took a while to make choices on and off the ball. Very little looked automatic. Of course, all of this should be understood. The Lakers are a team learning a new system while integrating new pieces almost daily, something that has gone a little under-discussed given all the action surrounding the roster. It is going to take time, and some regular-season games, for this to work itself out.
Not saying there aren't going to be problems or shortcomings down the road, but it would have been more surprising if the Lakers looked efficient offensively.
3. It's hard to gauge the defense, for many of the same reasons
Lakers coach Mike Brown won't be happy, but the same lack of cohesion they saw offensively shows up at the other end, and particularly in the third quarter when the Lakers turned the ball over nine times and were outscored 36-17, the horrible offense made it tough to maintain a solid defensive posture.
Before the wheels came off, the Lakers showed some decent activity on that side of the floor. Pau Gasol kept a lid on Blake Griffin, Andrew Bynum (despite rhythm-less moments offensively) got after the boards, and overall the effort seemed reasonable. Now the results have to improve, and fast.
4. The lack of a secondary shot creator is going to hurt
There were some good performances off the bench. Jason Kapono hit both his 3-pointers, Troy Murphy hit the only triple he took (from his favored spot at the top of the arc), and Josh McRoberts was a flurry of activity, running the floor and displaying some nifty passing skills. Devin Ebanks, starting the second half at small forward, had some of the only bright spots in the final 24 minutes. But the Lakers were short on ball handlers and shot creators before they shipped Lamar Odom to Dallas, and the hole felt acute Monday night.
Particularly until the Lakers reach some level of proficiency in their execution and can generate good chances without relying too much on one-on-one play, they're going to have some problems. Or they'll have to rely far more on Kobe to create for his teammates, which isn't a great option, either, given how much is already on his plate.
5. Metta World Peace as bench spark ... not a good debut
The forward formerly known as Ron Artest went 0-8 from the floor, 0-5 from 3, plus had a turnover and some curious moments.