Los Angeles Lakers: Lakers Analysis

Rebuilding plans diverge for Lakers, Sixers

March, 22, 2015
Mar 22
11:44
PM PT
Holmes By Baxter Holmes
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers met up Sunday to compare train wrecks. At stake: crucial pingpong balls -- and absolutely nothing else for two bottom-dwellers who’ve combined for more than 100 losses this season.

The scoreboard says the Lakers won 101-87, which, according to the standings and draft lottery rules, means they lost, as they blew a chance to slide into third-best lottery position, behind the New York Knicks and the Minnesota Timberwolves.

But despite their proud pasts, awful presents and uncertain futures, these two major-market teams have little in common. In fact, when it comes to their plan to rebound from rebuilding status, these two teams couldn’t be more different.

The Lakers not only swing for the fences, they often have a grand-slam-or-nothing mindset. Some teams go after All-Stars, but the Lakers chase future Hall of Famers and don’t settle for much less. (They will point to their 16 banners as evidence that this mindset tends to pay off.)

The 76ers, meanwhile, are embarking on the most extreme experiment in professional sports -- and perhaps in the history of the NBA. The league rewards the worst teams with the best odds at top draft picks, and no team in memory -- or ever -- has tried harder to take advantage of that incentive than the one in Philadelphia.

Among other moves since general manager Sam Hinkie took over 2013, bringing with him an aggressive analytics-minded culture, the 76ers have torn apart their roster and constructed one that has absolutely no chance at winning.

That approach is the true definition of “tanking,” by the way, even though it’s often confused with the notion that coaches and players are trying to throw games. Bona fide tanking goes beyond that. Organizations that believe in losing now to win later never give their coach or players a chance to succeed in the first place.

The 76ers have other ideas, such as aggressively trading to stockpile draft picks -- even if it means trading away valuable pieces, such as Michael Carter-Williams, the 2013-14 Rookie of the Year, whom they shipped to Milwaukee in February.

All told, since Hinkie’s first draft on June, 27, 2013, the 76ers have made 21 trades, yielding 32 different players and 15 additional picks. And this June, the team could have as many as nine draft picks -- four in the first round, five in the second.

“It is extremely aggressive, it’s extremely bold,” 76ers coach Brett Brown said before the game. “We think we have to do that to get to where we want to go.”

On the outside, what the 76ers are doing might look like madness.

“I would like an eight-year contract if you’re going to do it that way,” Lakers coach Byron Scott said before the game. “That’s how I think about it from a coaching standpoint.”

However, I think of a question an Eastern Conference executive once posed to me.

“The problem will be when, two to three years from now, when all these great players that Philadelphia drafts, if they turn into something, and all of the sudden they’re one of the best young teams because they’ve got all this young talent, is that the new blueprint?” the executive asked.

“Do you have to go through a couple years of really being bad to get the good players? That’s what I’ve wondered -- are we setting the tone that this is the only way to get to the promised land?’ I don’t know.”

Indeed, what if the experiment works?

For now, though, you at least have to give the 76ers credit.

They have a blueprint. They believe it will lead them to the Promised Land. So they are following it with unwavering discipline. And its details are pretty obvious to all, which is especially important for 76ers fans suffering through truly hideous basketball, because, at the end of the day, they can take some solace in the fact that it’s all part of the plan.

What about the Lakers? What does their blueprint for escaping the worst stretch in franchise history include beyond their usual approach of chasing future Hall of Famers and trying to lure them with history, market size and endless sunshine?

Is their backup plan to rebuild through the draft, since the Lakers now (regrettably) find themselves in position to acquire top-flight talent that way?

Whatever the Lakers' plan, it isn’t as obvious as Philadelphia’s, and some clarity would probably help Lakers fans wondering when their team will reign supreme again.

Historically, the Lakers’ all-or-nothing approach has worked, and they last pulled it off in 2012 when they acquired both Dwight Howard and Steve Nash -- moves that, at the time, appeared to make them instant title contenders. Obviously, that didn’t work out.

Then last summer, the Lakers struck out on LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony and failed to land anyone else of note. In consecutive seasons, they lost Howard and Pau Gasol, who both took less money to leave while the Lakers got zilch in return.

Now, they’re six losses away from their worst record in franchise history, and there’s no great argument for why their present situation is attractive enough to reel in any big fish this summer, such as LaMarcus Aldridge or Marc Gasol.

Like many, they still have their sights set on the summer of 2016, when the free-agency class could include Kevin Durant and LeBron James, and maybe their fortunes change and they land a player of that ilk or Russell Westbrook in 2017.

And though the NBA landscape has changed, the Lakers are banking on the fact that the mighty advantages they once held are still relevant, specifically in an era when technology/social media/NBA League Pass/etc. allows players to build their brand anywhere (and not just in a major market); and specifically in an era when top-flight stars are more concerned with a solid infrastructure and a franchise’s sense of direction because they know, in the end, it’s hard to build a brand if you’re losing.

All in all, the Lakers now find themselves in uncharted territory. Their traditional approach has worked wonders, yet times have changed, and perhaps they must, as well. That isn’t to say a 76ers-ish approach is necessary, but given the Lakers’ miserable track record the past few seasons and especially in this one, clearly change wouldn’t hurt.

In the end, the Lakers and 76ers have wildly different beliefs about how to reach the mountaintop, but at the moment, as wild as it might seem, only one of those rebuilding teams seems to have a clear sense of how to actually get there, and it's not the Lakers.

What are the Lakers' options?

June, 19, 2013
6/19/13
10:49
AM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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The prevailing thought surrounding the Los Angeles Lakers this offseason is that they are at the mercy of Dwight Howard’s decision to stay or go. That may be true, but there are many more decisions for general manager Mitch Kupchak and vice president of player personnel Jim Buss to make that will shape the direction of the franchise.

Even if Howard chooses to re-sign in L.A., which the Lakers have said is their hope and desire, there are still many more dominoes to fall.

In fact, the roster could very likely end up looking more like last season’s team if Howard leaves rather than if the All-Star center stays.

Here are four ways it could all play out, focusing on what L.A. does with its twin towers:

1. Lakers sign Howard and keep Pau Gasol

Also unofficially known as “The Kobe Bryant Plan” because it was the scenario Bryant called for to the media after his exit interview, this would involve the Lakers essentially going all-in for a second straight season with the belief that a hefty luxury tax fee would be worth it in order to win another championship before Bryant retires. While Bryant has dubbed his comeback from a torn Achilles in his left leg “The Last Chapter,” a source told ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Ramona Shelburne that Bryant wants "two more cracks at it to win seven NBA titles at least." Meaning that next season, which will be a physically and mentally taxing one for Bryant as he plays through injury, is unlikely to be his last. It also means that there could be less of an incentive for the Lakers' front office to pay so much to put that product on the floor, knowing that 2014-15 could really be the right time to make a push.

If the Lakers kept everything intact as it was last season, their payroll would be in the range of $100 million, which would bring an additional $80 million owed in a big, fat luxury tax check to the league at the end of the season. The only way it would be worth it is if the Lakers ended up lifting the Larry O’Brien trophy at the end of the season and tying the rival Boston Celtics with 17 rings.

The thing is, the Lakers -- as they were constructed last season -- hardly showed they were championship caliber. They may have finished the season 28-12 to make the playoffs, but they struggled against elite teams all season and furthermore, coach Mike D’Antoni never found an optimum way to showcase Howard and Gasol on the floor at the same time. In terms of priorities, the Lakers place far more value on the 27-year-old Howard than the soon to be 33-year-old Gasol. But it is still unclear how much priority Howard puts on remaining a Laker; it’s been reported he also has interest in Houston, Dallas, Golden State, Atlanta, Cleveland and the L.A. Clippers.

2. Lakers sign Howard and trade Gasol

This seemed like a pretty likely scenario as recently as a couple months ago. Howard was finally healthy and meshing with the Lakers and L.A. was winning games because of it, and there had been no hint from management that they would be willing to pay out the nose for a second straight season under the more punitive rules of the new collective bargaining agreement.

Gasol has been on the trade block, in essence, since December 2011 when the Lakers tried to ship him out in a three-team deal to acquire Chris Paul. While Gasol had a down year overall (career-lows of 13.7 points on 46.6 percent shooting while dipping to 8.6 rebounds per game), he should still demand some trade attention as a skilled 7-footer with championship experience who actually showed he still had some elite basketball left in him (three triple doubles in the last seven games of the season). Add in that Gasol’s $19.3 million contract is expiring, and L.A. is sure to find potential suitors.

One thing to be aware of, because the Lakers would be considered above the “tax apron” of the new CBA by re-signing Howard, they would not be able to receive a player via sign and trade. To put it more clearly, the Lakers could shop Gasol for a player already under contract (i.e. Kevin Love in Minnesota), but would not send him out for a player who is a free agent who would then sign with his former team and come to L.A. with a trade immediately afterward (i.e. Monta Ellis in Milwaukee).

This limits the pool of players the Lakers could pursue if they choose to trade Gasol (other than Ellis, there are big names like Andre Iguodala, Josh Smith and Paul out there) and could motivate the Lakers to hold on to him, or on the other end of the spectrum, maybe even use their one-time amnesty provision on him to get out from his contract if they don’t find any attractive deals out there.

3. Lakers trade Howard and keep Gasol

The Lakers have made it clear that it is not their intention to help push Howard out the door, but if Howard comes to them after July 1 and says he doesn’t want to stay, L.A. will have no choice but to consider it. While the Lakers can’t receive a player via a sign and trade because of their cap position, they can send out a player this way so they would be able to sign Howard to a four-year, $87.6 million deal and trade him (Howard can only receive the full five-year, $118 million if he stays a Laker). Then it becomes a question of what L.A. could get for him. Would the crosstown Clippers really give up both Blake Griffin and Eric Bledsoe? What if it was DeAndre Jordan and Bledsoe? If the Warriors make an offer centered around either Klay Thompson or Harrison Barnes, does the Lakers’ interest perk up? What about Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin from Houston?

(Read full post)

Lakers not looking to acquire a big man

February, 11, 2013
2/11/13
6:46
PM PT
Shelburne By Ramona Shelburne
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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The Los Angeles Lakers have no immediate plans to add a free agent big man to help fill in their suddenly depleted front court, a source told ESPNLosAngeles.com on Monday. The Lakers have been discussing their options since Pau Gasol suffered a tear in the plantar fascia of his right foot. The situation is still being evaluated, and much depends on how much Dwight Howard is able to contribute with his injured shoulder, but for now, the Lakers are sitting tight.

The Lakers have one roster spot open to sign a free agent to either a 10-day contract or for the rest of the season. Kenyon Martin, Greg Oden and Louis Amundson are some of the best frontcourt players currently available via free agency.

The Forum: Lakers not playing with urgency

January, 3, 2013
1/03/13
5:19
PM PT
By ESPNLosAngeles.com
ESPNLosAngeles.com


The Los Angeles Lakers are struggling. So why are they not playing with urgency? Mark Willard and Arash Markazi talk it out.

PodKast: On Howard and Kobe's moment, Pau's future, and 30,000 points for Bryant

December, 7, 2012
12/07/12
1:31
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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The Lakers may be short on wins relative to expectations, but they've certainly not disappointed in the "things to talk about" category. This week has been no exception. Pau Gasol's future in Los Angeles is again being called into question, a future made a little tougher to predict thanks to the knee tendinitis putting him on the shelf for a still unknown stretch of time. Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant got into it during the first half of Wednesday's win over the Hornets in New Orleans. Is it a sign of an impending starpocalypse?

And, of course, Bryant became only the fifth player in league history to crack 30,000 points over his career. A remarkable achievement.

These are the three big issues on the docket in the newest edition of the Kamenetzky Brothers Lakers PodKast. Click on the module below to hear the show.



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The Forum: How have early season struggles impacted long term goals?

December, 6, 2012
12/06/12
10:10
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Everyone knows the Lakers are built to win a title now. Everyone also knows the season hasn't quite gone as scripted, with three different coaches, major injury issues, and 10 losses in 19 games.

So how have early season struggles impacted the team's long term goals? We discuss in the newest edition of The Forum.

The Lakers bench shows signs of life

November, 27, 2012
11/27/12
2:54
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Last week's road trip wasn't exactly a rousing success (a horrendous effort in Sacramento followed by a frustrating one in Memphis before Saturday's thumping of Dallas), but it provided the first glimpses of real hope for this season's bench crew.

After scoring a total of 45 points in the first 12 games of the season, Antawn Jamison went for 16 against Memphis on Friday night, then added 19 in Dallas on Saturday. In each, he hoisted 11 shots, a veritable explosion relative to the four a night he'd put up to that point. He was productive on the boards as well, grabbing 22 in total. Basically, Jamison looked like the guy Lakers fans (and Lakers management) expected when he was signed over the summer, but hadn't yet seen.

He wasn't the only member of the bench coming alive. Jodie Meeks was a man in exile under Mike Brown, playing only 22 minutes through the first five games. While his playing time increased under Bernie Bickerstaff, Meeks' production didn't. He hit only three of his 15 3-point attempts in the season's second five games and struggled with turnovers. In Sacramento, though, he broke through with a 12-point fourth quarter, and 15 overall. In Memphis, he hit a pair of second half triples, and in Dallas made 3-of-5 from downtown.

For both guys, a big key was a change in how they were deployed. Brown had played Jamison almost exclusively at small forward, in part to utilize his shooting skills but mostly to make room for Jordan Hill, who was among the team's best players in camp. The impulse to play Hill made plenty of sense, but in the process Jamison was pulled out of his comfort zone.

"It was difficult to get into a rhythm when my first three or four shots are three pointers. You’re going to hit one here or there, but it was just tough for me to get into a rhythm. And I’ve always been a guy who can get it from anywhere," he said Monday following practice. "Whether it’s driving to the basket, a put-back, or something off the dribble. Pick and pop. Those are the things that kind of get me into a rhythm, and honestly it was tough getting into one coming in, trying to come in and knock down three’s after sitting down for eight or nine minutes."

In Memphis, Jamison entered the game as a power forward with only one other big on the court, and was almost instantly more productive, able to use the entire floor. In Dallas, he started at the 3, quickly scoring twice with excellent off-ball movement, but again spent plenty of time at the 4 and again produced a good looking shot chart.

Some positive messaging helped as well, helping Jamison push past hesitation that had been dogging him.

(Read full post)

Rapid Reaction: Kings 113, Lakers 97

November, 21, 2012
11/21/12
10:02
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Said Mike D'Antoni after his first loss as head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, Wednesday night in Sacramento:

"I thought we were very lethargic. From the opening tap, the first half might have been the worst basketball I've seen in 10 years. We just didn't play well. But mostly because of the energy level, we're not running the floor, or anything. There was a little bit of defense early, but then that caved in toward the end."

Pretty much sums things up. One night after their best win of the season, the Lakers put out one of their worst efforts, certainly the weakest since Mike Brown was fired after five games.

Here are five takeaways.

Kobe doin' (way too much) work.

It's not just the 40 minutes of burn on the second night of a back-to-back after playing 39 on the front end and nursing a bad ankle -- though ain't none of that good -- but the amount of effort Bryant expended in an effort to keep the Lakers in it. As it has been throughout the season, he was outstanding. His 38 points included a dazzling display of outside shooting in the third quarter. Bryant started with a circus 3-pointer in the left corner, bailing the Lakers out of a bad possession. Then he stroked another off a pin down, and a third while spinning at the top of the key before firing. Bryant continually attacked off the screen, and as the game wore on got himself to the line.

Overall, those 38 points required only 20 shots from the floor. The Prius in your driveway isn't that efficient.

But all that performance required way too much work. The Lakers can't ask Bryant to play like this for long without a real threat of diminishing returns. Trip after trip, Bryant was made into both the main scoring threat and the primary ball distributor. He performed a similar function Tuesday against Brooklyn, but the level of engagement from his teammates was light years better, making his burden that much smaller. Given how long it might be before Steve Nash returns, they can't ask him to do it until he comes back, either.

Bringing me to ...

The bigs don't have their D'Antoni legs yet.

Dwight Howard had only two points in the first half. He finished the night with four shots and was a non-factor on that side of the ball. Howard was slow up and down the floor, and in the half court his mobility was way down. As a result he wasn't much of a threat as a roll man in high-screen sets. Because Sacramento didn't have to pay him much attention, they could focus it everywhere else, whether on Bryant or Gasol as a ball mover. To some degree, Wednesday night's performance was predictable. This is only Howard's second back-to-back since coming back from surgery. He played big minutes Tuesday and, like his teammates, is adjusting to the special sort of fitness required to play in D'Antoni's system. He'll get there eventually, but Howard was basically stuck in the mud on Wednesday.

At least he had company. Pau Gasol was a little more active but no more effective. He had only three (one a dunk in garbage time) makes in 10 tries. And while there were a few good passes and some nice defensive plays early, Gasol's impact wore away as the game wore on. This is something the Lakers can't afford, particularly while Nash is out and Howard isn't quite there. While the style of the new system might suit his skill set, Gasol has some physical adjustments to make.

"Dwight’s used to running. He’s not in tip-top shape like he will be. Pau is used to kind of laboring up the floor," Bryant said after the game. "Kind of coasting a little. In this offense, you’ve really got to put the motor on the first few steps and get up the court."

Pau needs to get his D'Antoni sea legs under him pretty quickly, or 24 will find himself burning too much energy in December to dominate in May and (hopefully) beyond.

Gasol was too passive offensively, continuing to drift high on the floor even when Howard was on the bench. and even in those moments when he got aggressive, couldn't win. He missed a few chippies, and on one second-half dribble-drive, Gasol lost the ball off his leg. He finished with eight points, meaning he and Howard combined for 15. Not good enough.

This, by the way, is where better depth comes in handy.

(Read full post)

PodKast: D's Antoni, fence and Morris

November, 21, 2012
11/21/12
4:02
PM PT
By the Kamenetzky Brothers
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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As we roll in to Thursday's Thanksgiving holiday, many Lakers fans are thankful for a team finally appearing to be on the right track. Four wins in five tries, including Tuesday's 95-90 victory over Brooklyn. The coach is in place, the system is getting installed, and a sense of normalcy is returning to El Segundo.

So what happens now? That's one of the topics kicked around in the newest Kamenetzky Brothers podcast.



Play Download

Click on the module to listen, and let the handy bullet points below guide your listening experience.
  • How legitimate are concerns the Lakers can't be a good defensive team long term under Mike D'Antoni? What do the Lakers have in common with your average college freshman? (4:00)
  • Why did D'Antoni's teams struggle on that end of the floor in New York, and what's different about L.A.? (7:15)
  • Darius Morris may have had a tough night Tuesday, but overall has shown some promise. (16:00)
  • Antawn Jamison has been a major disappointment thus far. We explain why Pau Gasol might want him to pick it up. (19:45)

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

The Forum: Biggest surprise and biggest disappointment

November, 21, 2012
11/21/12
11:56
AM PT
By the Kamenetzky Brothers
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
Which Lakers have been the season's most pleasant surprise, and who has disappointed?

We discuss in the newest edition of The Forum.

Lakers trends: 10 games of "Yeah, but ..." and "Maybe, except ..."

November, 19, 2012
11/19/12
1:34
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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The early stages of the NBA season are full of surprises and interesting numbers. Whatever happens now might be an indicator of what's coming, but it might not. Some early trends are more sustainable than others, and differentiating between the two becomes a sport onto itself.

I call it "Yeah, but" season. As in "Yeah, Player/Team X might be doing ____, but ..."

For the Lakers, you could start with "Yeah, the Lakers are 5-5, but Dwight Howard is still healing and Steve Nash has barely played. And so on. Not every construction affords that kind of naked optimism, but all are worth investigating.

Here are three more potential "Yeah, but" scenarios facing the team, and thoughts on how things will play out going forward.

1. The way Kobe Bryant is playing, the Lakers can't help but be contenders at the end.

Bryant, whose triple-double paced Sunday's 119-108 win over Houston, is playing next-level ball even relative to his own lofty standards: 26.4 points per game, 5.7 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 52.8 percent from the floor, 40.8 percent from downtown. His metrics are stunning. Bryant is currently obliterating career highs in true and effective field goal percentages, has never posted a higher with assist rate, leads the league in win shares, and his PER (27.4) would be the second best of his 17-year run.

Basically, he's spent the last 10 games giving the death stare to Father Time.

Yeah, but...

The percentages will fall, because even Kobe eventually goes back to career norms. He's never been better than 47 percent from the floor, so expecting him to remain above 50 while playing 2-guard at 34 years old? Not realistic. Neither is 40 percent from the arc for a guy who hasn't been over 33 percent since '08-'09. Moreover, we've seen this, or something like it, before. Last season, Kobe was incredible over the first few weeks of the season, and hit a wall as it wore on, shooting 40 percent in February and 39 percent in March.

Maybe, except...

Sure, the numbers will level out, but overall his performance doesn't necessarily have to. As many (myself included) suggested might happen with Nash, Dwight Howard, and Pau Gasol around, Kobe is adopting a less-to-do-more philosophy this year. His shots per game are down from 23 last season to 17.8, and his usage has dropped from a league leading 35.7 percent to 29.1, his lowest figure since '03-'04 (not coincidentally, with the last Lakers SuperTeam). All of this has happened without Nash, the guy who will unquestionably make life easier for Kobe, removing giant chunks of ball handling duties while setting him up for clean looks around the floor, or the debut of D'Antoni, an offensive genius who will undoubtedly find creative ways to free Bryant up.

Bottom Line: Sure, Bryant won't finish the year with a true shooting percentage of 63.8, but as long as he stays healthy -- always the wild card -- and doesn't change his approach, the basic thesis remains in play: Kobe has an excellent chance of logging his most productive and efficient season in recent memory.

2. The Lakers are now piling up points. Showtime is back!

Yeah, but...

They're giving them up by the bushel, as well. In their two most recent wins, Phoenix and Houston, two middle-third offensive teams, torched L.A. through three quarters, both shooting well over 50 percent from the floor while reaching 84 and 87 points respectively. They scored at will, the Lakers just scored at will-er. Real teams won't give up points like the Suns and Rockets and will feature plenty of offensive firepower, as well. The Lakers have to tighten up defensively or ultimately they'll be short some steak for all the sizzle.

(Read full post)

5 questions facing the Lakers under Mike D'Antoni

November, 13, 2012
11/13/12
9:43
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
Nobody in the stands at Staples Center this weekend was chanting "We want Mike" -- and not just because doing so would potentially have sent mixed messages to management.

No, the locals wanted Phil Jackson, and thought they were getting him. (In fairness to them, Phil thought the same thing.)

Instead, the Lakers made the bold, less popular choice of bypassing Jackson for Mike D'Antoni, who would otherwise have been welcomed with open arms by most fans as a real upgrade over Mike Brown. At some point down the road, we'll all be treated to the definitive story of exactly what happened last weekend. Who said what, who asked for what, what promises were made, and so on. When it comes, I'll definitely read it.

But in the meantime, the Lakers have a new -- and very, very good -- head coach on the way, prompting a host of big-picture questions, the answers to which will have a major impact on the season going forward.

Here's a peek at five:

1. How do things work with Dwight Howard?

D'Antoni utilizes multiple pick-and-roll sets in his offense, and can trigger them with either (a) Steve Nash, perhaps the best p-and-r ballhandling point guard in recent memory, or (b) Kobe Bryant, who ain't bad either. Put Howard, statistically speaking the best roll man in the league on the other end, and big things can happen. Remember what Amar'e Stoudemire did with the Suns? Howard can do that sort of damage. Down low, D'Antoni hasn't really had much access to top-shelf low-post talent of Howard's quality, and the closest thing -- an ill-fitting, aging Shaquille O'Neal in '07-08 -- wasn't exactly a rousing success. Anchored down on the block, Shaq shot the ball efficiently but also got in Nash's way, trapping him -- in the words of TrueHoop's Kevin Arnovitz -- like "a hummingbird in a paper bag."

But while Shaq was by that point a massive, sedentary body, Howard is extremely mobile. He can enter and exit the lane in rhythm with Nash, and D'Antoni will come up with plenty of ways to get him traditional post touches, as well. This has the potential to be a wildly productive relationship, offensively.

But it's at the other end where Howard will be most empowered. As you may have heard, D'Antoni's teams have never been known for their defense. For the Lakers to be successful, he'll have to fix that. If it happens, the guy receiving the lion's share of the credit will be Howard.

2. How will D'Antoni use his bench?

Put kindly, D'Antoni has a (generally well-earned) reputation for employing a rotation so short that it seems inspired by that "Hoosiers" scene when the coach portrayed by Gene Hackman plays only four guys. In D'Antoni's final season with the Suns, for example, there was about a 1,000-minute gap between Steve Nash at No. 1 and Shawn Marion (who played only 47 games) at No. 8, then about 1,000 minutes between Marion (8) and Brian Skinner (9). Not a perfect measurement by any stretch, but you get the point. It's not all that hard to look at the Lakers' starters and their bench and decide not to go all that deep into the latter, but D'Antoni has little choice but to devise some sort of plan to squeeze as much from that group as possible.

(Read full post)

Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard postgame videos and more

November, 10, 2012
11/10/12
12:38
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Watching the following videos of Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard after Friday's 101-77 win over the Golden State Warriors, a few things are abundantly clear.

1) Mike Brown's dismissal created a very emotionally draining set of circumstances for his former players to play through. Even if, as I've long suspected, they never fully bought into Brown as a coach, they certainly liked him as a person and recognized the human element at play. This may have been the Lakers' best performance of the season, but it wasn't an easy night.

2) Kobe really wants a third go-around with Phil Jackson. I mean, he really wants it. That's not to doubt the sincerity of his endorsements of Mike D'Antoni and Brian Shaw. He has long-standing, strong relationships with both and I genuinely believe he'd be happy were either hired. There are probably other names that would also earn his thumbs up, too. But there's no question Phil is his first choice. Just talk of a reunion has Bryant licking his chops.

3) Howard took lessons from The Dwightmare to heart. Unless alone with Mitch Kupchak in an office previously swept for bugs, dude wisely ain't touching "Who replaces Brown?" with a 10-foot pole.

4) Kobe is familiar with the game "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon."

Kobe Bryant, on Mike Brown's dismissal:

Kobe, on his relationship with Phil Jackson:

(Read full post)

5-on-5: Brown out, what's next?

November, 9, 2012
11/09/12
2:01
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
Mike Brown is out. What's next for the Lakers?

Andy and I participated in a 5-on-5 roundtable discussion on the subject, along with TrueHoop's Henry Abbott, Darius Soriano of Forum Blue and Gold, and ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst.

The five questions on the docket:

1. Firing Mike Brown after five games: Good move or bad move.
2. Kobe Bryant publicly expressed support for Brown. Do you think he and his teammates played a role in Brown's firing?
3. Who should be the next permanent coach of the Lakers?
4. What other changes should the Lakers make to return to glory?
5. Will the Lakers turn it around this year and become a contender?

 

The dreaded vote of confidence for Mike Brown?

November, 8, 2012
11/08/12
6:32
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
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Approach me on the street and accuse me of being an alcoholic, and I'll deny it.

"Of course," you might say. "Denial is the first sign of being an alcoholic."

True enough (according to the literature, at least), but it's also the first sign of not being an alcoholic.

In many ways, that's the dynamic at play whenever management is asked for a vote of confidence on the head coach. The answer is almost never "I hope he's renting" and encouraging words no matter how flowery are often followed by the axe. The powers that be express support because doing anything else is counterproductive. Denial plays like denial, even if it's genuine.

In Los Angeles, the hot seat questions have already arrived in earnest. Judging by our Twitter feed and comments left on the blog after Wednesday's 96-85 loss in Utah dropped the Lakers to 1-4, a healthy dose of purple-and-gold faithful are ready to cut ties with coach Mike Brown.

They hope, then, the (vote of) confidence and patience shown him by Lakers executive vice president Jim Buss, via ESPNLA's Ramona Shelburne, is merely a misdirection designed to distract while he dusts off his coaching Rolodex. It doesn't sound that way:
"I have no problems with Mike Brown at all," Buss said. "He just works too hard and he's too knowledgeable for this to be happening.

"So either the system is flawed or something's going on. Or, like the Triangle, it's very hard to pick up and understand. I'm not a basketball mind like he is or the players are, and the players are fine with it, so I just have to be patient."

Buss says he has been gauging player reaction to the Lakers' new Princeton offense, Brown and how they're dealing with the slow start by reading their public comments and talking to them directly. On Tuesday afternoon, he went down from his office to the court during practice to take their temperature, and he said he found things to be rather calm.

"Kobe [Bryant] and I have a relationship where he can just look at me and say, 'Everything's cool,' " Buss said. "So yesterday during practice, I gave Kobe a quick glance, and everything was cool." ...

... In Buss' own words, "this team was built to win now." So just how patient can he be?

"You have to give it time to understand [what's going on]," Buss said. "I don't know if there's an actual game total that would make me impatient. I know if we're 1-15, I don't think that would be very good. I'm sure that would be a panic button. But at this time, I'm fine with what's going on. It's a learning process for the players. As long as everybody is on the same page, I think we're fine."

For the record, Brown won't survive a 1-15 start, but the reality is a) should it happen I won't be around to report the news for I will already have taken the family into the K-Bros Blog Bunker (or "Blonker"), and b) the Lakers won't be 1-15 after 16 games. They won't be 12-4, either, but somewhere in the middle. By every indication, Jim Buss likes Brown and believes he's a good coach. Moreover, philosophically, the Lakers aren't a knee-jerk group. They don't make reactionary choices. Should something catastrophic occur -- the horrible record extends near Thanksgiving or clear indications Brown has totally lost the team -- any decision on Brown becomes easy.

More likely, though, it won't be that cut and dried. In a season with so much on the line, Buss and Mitch Kupchak could face some extremely tough decisions.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Kobe Bryant
PTS AST STL MIN
22.3 5.6 1.3 34.5
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Hill 8.0
AssistsK. Bryant 5.6
StealsR. Price 1.6
BlocksE. Davis 1.3