Los Angeles Lakers: Kobe Bryant

Why Lakers make sense for Carmelo

June, 30, 2014
Jun 30
10:24
AM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
 Carmelo AnthonyJeff Gross/Getty ImagesKobe Bryant could use his influence to bring Carmelo Anthony to the Lakers.
As tricky as it was for the Los Angeles Lakers to clear up all the cap space that they have for this summer, now the even bigger trick becomes convincing a top-tier free agent to come in and take that money.

L.A. can’t promise much basketball-wise at the moment. They are the only team in the league without a coach, for starters. They also only have six players who can be penciled into the lineup for next season. Two of them, Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash, are 19-year veterans coming off of injuries. Two of them, Robert Sacre and Kendall Marshall, are fringe rotation players. And two of them, Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson, are rookies.

At the present time, it would appear that the Lakers need Carmelo Anthony far more than Anthony needs the Lakers.

SportsNation

Which team will Carmelo Anthony choose to sign with?

  •  
    28%
  •  
    22%
  •  
    21%
  •  
    24%
  •  
    5%

Discuss (Total votes: 51,174)

Why would Anthony uproot himself from New York when the Knicks can offer him a five-year, $129 million extension compared to the four-year, $96 million max that the Lakers could give him? Why would Anthony leave town before he even gives Phil Jackson a real chance to implement his culture and allows Derek Fisher a shot at transferring his leadership skills as a five-time champion point guard into becoming a coach on the sidelines?

Well, the Lakers’ pitch would sound something like this: come to L.A. and be next in line to be the star of the league’s foremost glamour franchise. Things might look bleak right now, Melo, but not only do we have the ability to sign you (and your buddy LeBron James too, if The King is interested) right now, but we also have the flexibility moving forward to make a run at some of the premier guys around the league who will become free agents in the coming years.

Only that message won’t just be delivered by general manager Mitch Kupchak and vice president of player personnel Jim Buss, it will be Bryant doing the convincing as well.
And that dynamic is what could prove to be the Lakers’ trump card. Bryant and Anthony have a genuine friendship stemming from their time with USA basketball. If Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley had the most star-powered friendship on the Dream Team, Bryant and Anthony filled that role on the Redeem Team when they experienced basketball nirvana together twice, taking home the gold in both Beijing and London.

Come help me get ring No. 6 and I’ll help you get ring No. 1, Bryant will say. Let’s pick our coach together, he’ll add. Heck, if you come, Pau Gasol will probably sign back on too, he’ll mention.

Bryant and Anthony got the best out of each other on those Olympic runs and could have a chance to replicate that chemistry in the NBA at a murky point in each of their careers. Bryant is coming off two major injuries. Anthony is coming off missing the playoffs for the first time in his 11 seasons in the league.

They can try to conquer together if Anthony just says yes.

Anthony already owns an offseason home in L.A., so he’s quite familiar with the territory. And in a city that produces Hollywood stars and starlets, there is no bigger show in town than when the Lakers are rolling. Bryant wants to share that spotlight. And he wants to leave the franchise in the hands of someone he deems worthy when he does walk away, most likely in two years but perhaps in three or four if his body is feeling good and the team is looking like a contender.

Bryant and Anthony are both aware that basketball is a business, but it means something far greater for the two of them.

Let me push you to somewhere you’ve never been before, Bryant will say. I need you, he’ll add. If we come together, the rest of the pieces will fall in place, he’ll bargain.

Let’s experience basketball nirvana together again, Bryant will say.

Shaw: Jackson suited for front-office role

March, 7, 2014
Mar 7
7:38
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
DENVER -- There are few people on this earth who understand the inner workings of the Los Angeles Lakers -- both past and present -- as well as Denver Nuggets coach Brian Shaw.

After having been a teammate of Kobe Bryant's for four seasons and an assistant coach on Phil Jackson's staff for an additional six, Shaw's decade of experience with the franchise makes him uniquely qualified to talk about the pair of Lakers legends.

Brian Shaw, Phil Jackson
Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty ImagesBrian Shaw, left, spent many seasons beside Phil Jackson with the Lakers and knows the impact his former boss could have in a front-office role.
Shaw was not surprised to hear about Jackson potentially being linked to a front-office job with the New York Knicks, as Jackson would offer up his thoughts on piecing together and managing a team when Shaw was on his coaching staff.

"He did talk about it," Shaw said. "One of the things he's big on, not necessarily the most talented guys -- obviously you want to have talent -- but he liked guys that were winners, and when he looked at guys that were going to be drafted out of college, he wanted guys that came from winning programs and that understood [how to win] as opposed to a guy who maybe was a star of his college team but his college team wasn't very successful and guys that understood and were willing and able to play whatever role it was.

"Because, when you think about it, his teams that he had, in Chicago, he had great players -- two or three on each of those teams. Same way in L.A. -- he had two great players -- but the rest of the guys that were built around those stars that he had, those superstars that he had, were guys that understood their roles and accepted their roles and had very high basketball IQs and bought into what he was trying to do. So, obviously, from the starting point, he had [Michael] Jordan, he had [Scottie] Pippen. In L.A., he had Kobe and Shaq [Shaquille O'Neal]. But the coaches that he took over for had those guys, too, but he was able to do something with them that they weren't able to do. So that kind of goes to his coaching ability and his ability to have everybody play in unison regardless of their personalities and what have you."

While Jackson's 11 championships as a head coach are unmatched in the sport, Shaw says he believes the 68-year old's coaching days are over.

(Read full post)

Kobe getting closer as Lakers win

December, 17, 2013
12/17/13
10:42
PM PT
Shelburne By Ramona Shelburne
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Kobe Bryant might not be all the way back yet, but he's still Kobe Bryant.

For a minute there, it looked as if he might play this comeback cautiously. Remember last week when he was asked if he was fine keeping his minutes in the mid-20s for a little while? He laughed and said, "Hell yeah." Remember when he said over the summer the other young guys would have to carry the Los Angeles Lakers offense for a while as he worked back into form?

[+] EnlargeKobe Bryant
Joe Murphy/NBAE/Getty ImagesKobe Bryant said of his 21-point, 33-minute effort in a victory against the Grizzlies: "You've got to crank it up at some point."
He does, too. And he meant it all at the time.

But come on, we all knew once he got back onto the court, started to feel his legs back under him a little and the competitive juices started flowing, you were going to have to put quote marks around the phrase, "holding him back."

Tuesday night in Memphis was about the furthest Bryant has pushed himself since returning to the court six games ago, and if it hadn't been for a weird knee tweak in the third quarter, he would've pushed it even more.

"You've got to crank it up at some point," Bryant said after scoring 21 points in a season-high 33 minutes in the Lakers' 96-92 win over the Memphis Grizzlies. "I have to push it a little bit. This was a big game in terms of being able to tell what my body can do. It's a tough schedule, in terms of the amount of games. Tonight, I really wanted to challenge myself to see what I could do physically."

What he didn't say was that he had to spend all day stretching, icing and doing therapy to shake off the soreness that had built up in his body after logging heavy minutes during this trip.

If it were training camp, this was the kind of game he would've simply skipped to rest and recover, but with the Lakers down to zero healthy point guards -- in danger of slipping further below .500 and behind the pack of teams clustered around it in the Western Conference -- this was the time to push, not pull back.

"It's tough, but I did everything possible to get ready for the game," Bryant said. "As a result, when the game started, I felt pretty good."

(Read full post)

Forum: Kobe Bryant's role

December, 3, 2013
12/03/13
11:37
PM PT
By ESPN Los Angeles
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
Mark Willard and Dave McMenamin discuss Kobe Bryant's role when he returns from injury.

Forum: Expectations for Kobe Bryant

November, 19, 2013
11/19/13
11:50
PM PT
By ESPN Los Angeles


Archive

Arash Markazi and Mark Willard break down the expectations for Kobe Bryant now that he is practicing and expected to playing in games soon.

Bryant, Nash back shooting on the court

November, 15, 2013
11/15/13
12:13
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- It's been seven months since Kobe Bryant underwent Achilles surgery and just three days since Steve Nash received an epidural injection to alleviate nerve root irritation in his back and hamstring, but both of the future Hall of Famers now find themselves at similar stages of their rehabilitation: shooting drills.

"He keeps progressing," Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said of Bryant after the team's shootaround Friday in preparation for the Memphis Grizzlies. "I think he's on the court a little bit more, taking shots and stuff. So, he keeps getting better."

Bryant was already able to undergo some set shooting during training camp, but D'Antoni said that the attempts have started to look more like game-ready jump shots recently.

"Maybe a little bit more than tippy-toe," D'Antoni said. "I look out [at Bryant working out] every once in awhile. I haven't heard back that he's ready to practice or anything like that. So, he's just progressing. I think it's better than yesterday, but I don't know yet [when Bryant will return to practice]."

The Lakers have not updated Bryant's return timetable, which was originally set at 6-9 months when he tore his Achilles in April.

Nash got back on the court Thursday, which was an off day for the team following back-to-back games against New Orleans and in Denver. He continued with further shooting Friday, working on mid-range jump shots with Lakers development coach Larry Lewis. Nash will be out a minimum of two weeks, according to the Lakers, making his earliest return date Nov. 26 in Washington.

Kobe Bryant's return, tweet are a mystery

November, 5, 2013
11/05/13
7:46
PM PT
Shelburne By Ramona Shelburne
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
Remember the last scene of "The Sopranos," in which the cast is sitting in a diner and the camera just fades to black, leaving viewers of the longtime hit show to project what they want onto the series finale?

That's kind of what Kobe Bryant did with his Twitter avatar on Tuesday. After changing his avatar from a picture of a grizzly bear over the summer to a cryptic "1225" avatar that might or might not have referred to ESPN's team and player rankings -- or been his "pet's birthday" -- Bryant has faded to black. Literally.

His avatar is now just a black screen, and, on Tuesday, he offered just two hashtags as clues to his mindset: #blackout #bearhunt.

The mysterious tweet set off a new round of theories about just what he meant. Was he referring to the Lakers game against the Memphis Grizzlies on Nov. 15, when the team could debut its black "Hollywood Nights" jersey? Is that when he's coming back?

Was he referring to the inspirational quote on his Facebook page in an emotional post the night after he ruptured his Achilles?

"If you see me in a fight with a bear, pray for the bear," Bryant wrote last April. "I've always loved that quote. That's 'Mamba mentality' we don't quit, we don't cower, we don't run. We endure and conquer."

Was he referring to his infamous "blackout" workouts, the type he'll need to put himself through to get in shape to return to the Lakers?

One never knows.

And it's not as if Bryant will shed much light on it.

In an interview with NBA TV that aired Tuesday night, Bryant reiterated that he has not set a timetable for his return.

"Not yet. I'm pushing it, and this past week's felt pretty good," Bryant said. "We're all being pretty smart about the process and taking our time and making sure I come back ready to go.

"I think the most difficult part is the process I'm going through right now, that's the patience. To me, that's the hardest part. The game to me isn't necessarily difficult. I grew up, fortunately, understanding the fundamentals of the game and footwork and spacing, timing and things of that nature. I feel like I can adjust my game to whatever it is I can do physically -- whether I have lift or I don't have lift or if I have the same explosiveness or I don't have the same explosiveness, I feel like I'll be able to adjust just fine."

Forum: Kobe's knee worries

October, 9, 2013
10/09/13
6:30
PM PT
By ESPN Los Angeles


Archive

Mark Willard and Arash Markazi discuss Kobe Bryant's injury concerns after he traveled to Germany to receive treatment.

The Forum: How much for Kobe?

August, 5, 2013
8/05/13
9:46
AM PT
By Arash Markazi and Mark Willard
ESPNLosAngeles.com


Mark Willard and Arash Markazi debate whether Kobe Bryant should take a big paycut so that the Lakers can sign a top player to help Kobe win his sixth championship.

Watch Video

LeBron passes Kobe in popularity

July, 26, 2013
7/26/13
8:50
PM PT
By ESPN Los Angeles


Archive


Two world championships seem to have healed some wounds for fans of LeBron James.

For the first time in four years, the Miami Heat forward is the most popular player in the NBA, according to the latest ESPN Sports Poll.

Nearly 13 percent (12.9) of NBA fans said James was their favorite player this season, allowing him to best Kobe Bryant (12.5) for the first time since the 2008-09 season.

Click here for the full story.

At Drew, stars and aspiring stars square off

July, 16, 2013
7/16/13
11:32
AM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
There was a time when Mike Taylor was a bit of a phenomenon on the Los Angeles hoops scene.

Drafted by Portland in the second round in 2008 out of Iowa State, the 6-2, 165-pound guard was traded to the L.A. Clippers on draft night.

Taylor was overshadowed by fellow Clippers rookies Eric Gordon and DeAndre Jordan and was buried in the depth chart on a cluttered roster that was led by a rehabbing Baron Davis and a trio of big men -- Chris Kaman, Zach Randolph and Marcus Camby -- who could never seem to stay healthy at the same time.

But in late March of that forgotten Clippers season, Taylor caught lightning in a bottle. The Clips were on the tail end of a brutal late season six-game road trip. They had lost the first three games of the trip, and 11 of 13 overall, when they arrived at Madison Square Garden to play the New York Knicks. Taylor, who averaged 5.7 points his rookie season, exploded for 35 points on 14-for-20 shooting, eight rebounds, three assists and two steals. The Clippers won. The rook was rewarded with major minutes in the Clippers next game in San Antonio. He came through again with 23 points on 10-for-13 shooting.

Taylor averaged 29 points on 72.7 shooting in those two games, yet hasn’t played a game in the NBA since the end of that season.

Fast forward four years later. Taylor is on the court playing against a team that includes James Harden, DeMar DeRozan and Terrance Jones. It’s not the NBA, it’s a Sunday at the Drew League -- L.A.’s own summer pro-am league -- and Taylor is up to his old tricks, scoring the game’s first bucket and crowding Harden immediately after the ball fell through the hoop, unapologetically playing full court defense against a guy who outweighs him by about 60 pounds and who was both an All-Star and an Olympic gold medalist in the last calendar year.

“It’s professional basketball,” Taylor said after the game was over. His team, Kings of L.A., trailed team Money Gang by 16 at the half but battled all the way back, losing 103-100 when Taylor missed a desperation 3 at the buzzer.

Taylor finished with 30 points on 10-for-18 shooting, six rebounds, four assists and three steals. Two other players scored 30 -- Harden, who signed a five-year, $80 million deal with Houston last fall, had 35. Dorrell Wright, Taylor’s teammate, who signed a two-year, $6 million deal with Portland this summer, had 33. Taylor, who played in the Czech Republic last season and later with the L.A. D-Fenders, the Lakers’ D-League affiliate, is simply looking for a training camp invite where he can show what he can do against that competition the same way he does it in the Drew.

“We got high-level professionals out there,” Taylor said. “Even though it is kind of recreational, summer league basketball, when you have that caliber of players out there, it gets kind of serious.”

The Drew League in South Central L.A. is celebrating its 40th anniversary this season.

It’s serious and big time and mom-and-pop all at the same time. Some of the headliners who show up are the same names you’re likely to see participating in NBA All-Star weekend (and Nike has stepped up as a corporate sponsor), yet at the concession stand you can purchase a cup of homemade “Drew Aid” for just $1.50.

The games don’t matter nearly as much to the big-name players who run in them as an NBA regular-season game would, yet in a way, they matter more. Admission is free and many of the NBA stars that are regulars grew up in the area, so the stands are filled with family, friends and neighbors who usually only get to see them play games on TV.

For a guy like Taylor, it’s about proving something.

“It’s just being a competitor,” Taylor said. “I like to compete and from the very first jump, it doesn’t matter who’s out there. I’m going to give my 200 percent.”

For a guy like Harden, it’s about getting a good run in, not getting embarrassed and putting on a bit of a show in the process. While it seemed like Harden was coasting for much of Sunday’s game, he still ended up as the game’s high scorer and did most of his damage in the fourth quarter to make sure his team -- a star-studded collection of talent culled by the rapper The Game -- held on for the win.

For guys like Bobby Brown, Marcus Williams and Hassan Adams, who all had brief stints in the NBA at one point and played in the game that tipped off just before Harden and Taylor’s, it’s about pride. Their Drew League team, L.A. Unified, is consistently a top squad every summer.

For guys like Gilbert Arenas and Nick Young, who played on the same team even earlier in the day (Arenas scored 33, Young scored 31), it’s about continuing a brotherhood that started back when Arenas’ father coached Young’s AAU team and continued when they became teammates on the Washington Wizards.

(Read full post)

World Peace looks back on life as a Laker

July, 12, 2013
7/12/13
11:33
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
Metta World Peace is rarely at a loss for words. His rap sessions with the media are known for being frank, wide-ranging and, of course, entertaining. He shoots from the hip and channels his stream of consciousness as he speaks, allowing his thoughts to flow out of him and into the voice recorders and notebooks of the reporters who surround him.

So, when World Peace took his time to collect his thoughts Friday, a day after his four-year run with the Los Angeles Lakers came to an end when the team waived him via the NBA amnesty provision, it was striking.

"When you think back on being a Laker the last four years, what comes to your mind?" this reporter asked.

World Peace thought in silence for three seconds.

[+] EnlargeMetta World Peace
Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty ImagesFor Metta World Peace, an NBA Finals speech and his work in the Los Angeles community have been highlights of his Lakers career.
"Hmph."

Two more seconds of silence.

"Umm."

Four seconds, and then he repeated the question to himself.

"What comes to my mind?"

Fourteen seconds more. And then, jackpot.

"Probably Derek Fisher's Game 7 speech," World Peace said, referring to the do-or-die, winner-take-all game against the Boston Celtics to finish off the 2010 NBA Finals. "Game 7 speech in the fourth quarter, that was the most craziest thing I've ever heard in my life."

The Lakers trailed the longtime rival Celtics by as many as 13 in the second half until the tide started to turn on the Staples Center court, and Fisher's words helped bring the team home to victory.

"It was the craziest experience of my life," World Peace said. "It was like Martin Luther King, man. I'm telling you. That was like the craziest thing ever.

"Basketball is just a game. That's all it is, but at that time, you're playing something since you were 8 years old, and then you want this prize -- which is only a materialistic item, but it doesn't feel that way at all. It feels way more real. And for this guy to give a speech at a time where if you was to lose, you would probably be heartbroken and it will haunt you for the rest of your life. And for this guy to give a speech, it was crazy. It was the craziest thing I ever experienced in my life. It was the craziest thing ever. Derek is just amazing."

Fisher's diatribe might have been inspiring, but World Peace's performance was impactful. He finished with 20 points, five rebounds and five steals, and his 3-pointer with one minute remaining doubled L.A.'s lead from three to six and helped propel the Lakers to the 83-79 win.

"It's really hard to get a ring," World Peace said. "It's really hard to get a championship ring. So, the positive is we got one [in his time in L.A.]. Not enough. We should have had more, but, we got one, and I think that's something to be proud about."

Here are some more memories from World Peace:

On being teammates with Kobe Bryant: "He was very competitive. Taught me a lot, and just too, too competitive because he tried a lot to do it himself. And too tough, because he played through too many injuries. Played through way too many injuries. Sometimes he should have just took a break, I thought, and just [said], 'All right, get it back the next day.' But that's the nature. That's what we are. I came back off [knee] surgery [after 12 days]. We can't help it."

On what went wrong this past season: "Wow. I just think that Dr. [Jerry] Buss was a chemist. So, the molecules didn't quite fit up."

On whether he ever got a replacement championship ring for the one he auctioned off to raise money for mental health awareness: "Never."

On his charity efforts: "I did a lot of things in the community -- like major, major impact. I didn't do small things. I'm going to continue to work with the community out here in L.A. I'm going to continue. I'm not going to just go somewhere else and then forget the stuff I was doing in L.A. to springboard the things I wanted to do in other communities. But, the impact that we made in the community in four years, that was huge.

"We attempted to raise $250 million with [the help] of a congresswoman. [We worked] to get psychologists in schools. Big things that are necessary. That's way more important than anything that I've done here [in L.A. on the court]. That's why I'm most grateful to have been a Laker, because without the Lakers, I would have never had that platform to go into Congress and speak about all that stuff, about what's necessary and all the stuff that's happening in the world today."

On his experience in L.A.: "I still got a chance to be myself. I made a couple errors being suspended, but other than that, I was able to be myself. And it's hard to be myself, because I'm very edgy. It's hard. Even I'll be like, 'OK, [calm down].' But I was happy because I was able to be myself and not cross the line, and that's hard because I just have no filter. I have no filter."

On whether he feels like a changed man from his days as a Laker: "I don’t know if I’ve changed. I just make better decisions. I make way better decisions now in my life. Definitely."

Shaq: Kobe can play at a high level until he's 40

July, 10, 2013
7/10/13
9:58
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
Kobe Bryant might still be months away from being able to run and jump following Achilles surgery in April, but there is an ardent supporter in Bryant's corner who swears that he'll come all the way back and then some.

Dwight Howard chose to go far, far away from Bryant, but Shaquille O'Neal has come back around to offer his full support to his former teammate.

"Kobe's a tough competitor," O'Neal said on a conference call Wednesday to promote his involvement in Adam Sandler's new movie, "Grown Ups 2," which opens in theaters Friday. "He loves when everyone doubts him. Of course at (almost) 35, they're saying he's done, but Kobe will show the world that he can play at a high level until he's 40. I know with the rehab, he's probably only supposed to do it once a day. I know for a fact he's doing it twice, if not three times a day. He tells everybody he's coming back in December, but if he could, he would like to be ready at the start of the season. That's how much he's going to push this thing to try to get to 100 percent."

O'Neal's praise of Bryant carries even more weight when you consider that it was a torn Achilles that ended O'Neal's career in 2011, when he was a 39-year-old playing in his 19th season as a member of the Boston Celtics.

"It was a career-ending injury," O'Neal said. "There should have been one more year left on the deal, but I was like, 'Nah, I'm older.' I was always used to dominating and playing at a high level. When I was with the Celtics, it was more of like a reserve role and I really wasn't comfortable with that. I didn't want to be in anybody's way and I just wanted to give somebody else a chance -- like a young guy, if they wanted to sign anybody else."

Why didn't O'Neal persevere through the injury and try to give it one last try to extend his career, the way that Bryant is dubbing his comeback "The Last Chapter"?

"Basically, I was just tired," O'Neal said. "I didn’t want to do rehab. I didn't want to fight to come back and all that."

(Read full post)

Lakers weigh amnestying World Peace

July, 8, 2013
7/08/13
8:08
PM PT
Shelburne By Ramona Shelburne
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
The Los Angeles Lakers have until July 16 to decide whether to use their annual one-time amnesty provision, or to give peace a chance. Metta World Peace, that is.

[+] EnlargePeace-Bryant
AP Photo/Mark J. TerrillKobe Bryant weighed in on the Metta World Peace amnesty talk, tweeting, "Personally I'd keep Metta and make a run with the unit we have and just add a few pieces #keepthepeace #lakersstilldeciding."
The veteran small forward is one of four players -- Steve Blake, Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant are the others -- on whom the Lakers can still use the amnesty provision to help lessen their luxury-tax burden next season. The Orange County Register reported Monday afternoon that "barring some late change," World Peace and his $7.7 million salary would be released via amnesty to help the Lakers save approximately $30 million in luxury-tax fees. The time frame to amnesty players is July 10-16.

Lakers sources indicated to ESPN that the team is still weighing the situation carefully and "looking at everything."

After agreeing to terms with veteran center Chris Kaman earlier in the day on a one-year, $3.2 million contract, the Lakers have only veteran minimum contracts remaining to fill out their roster.

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant made his feelings about the situation clear. Bryant first tweeted that "No game 7 win without Metta! This is a tough day for laker nation #misspeace #newcbacasualty," then followed it up with a subsequent tweet saying "Personally I'd keep Metta and make a run with the unit we have and just add a few pieces #keepthepeace #lakersstilldeciding."

While he was at it, Bryant offered his first public comments about center Dwight Howard's decision to leave the Lakers and sign with the Houston Rockets. Bryant had un-followed Howard on Twitter and also posted a photo of Gasol and Bryant together on the court via his Instagram account after Howard announced he had decided to join the Rockets on Friday.

"I wish d12 the best honestly," Bryant tweeted. "I just find it hard to follow players that wanna kick my teams ass #thatsjustme."

Howard and D’Antoni would need to find compromise on offense

July, 5, 2013
7/05/13
8:39
AM PT
Buha By Jovan Buha
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
At the forefront of Dwight Howard’s issues with returning to the Los Angeles Lakers is his displeasure with head coach Mike D’Antoni’s offensive system.

Howard’s frustration stems from not being as involved in the offense as he’s accustomed to, as evident from him posting the second-lowest usage percentage of his nine-year career (22.2 percent). With D’Antoni adjusting on the fly to an old and injured roster, and Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash needing touches, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Howard wasn’t utilized as often as he had been in the past.

Still, Howard’s free agency decision may very well come down to whether or not he believes he can flourish under D’Antoni’s guidance. The seven-time All-Star wants the ball run through the block, and not the perimeter, which was the case when Howard was the centerpiece of the Orlando Magic.

Though the Lakers can offer Howard a more talented roster than any of his other options, how the pieces mesh alongside him -- at least from his perspective -- is far from ideal. Howard wants to post up and spread the floor with an army of shooters, but that’s a difficult proposition given the Lakers’ key personnel.

Howard and Gasol have never been an optimal fit -- both players prefer to operate on the low block -- but Gasol’s passing ability and versatile skill set allow the two centers to coexist (much like he did with Andrew Bynum). Nash has spent most of his career as an elite practitioner of the pick-and-roll, so having him dump the ball in the post and spot up seems like a waste of his playmaking abilities. And, as Bryant kindly reminded everyone at the beginning of last season, he’s option No. 1 and will get his shots early and often.

If you compare the way the Lakers used Howard on offense in comparison with his Orlando days, one glaring difference sticks out: his decreased percentage of post-up plays.

In Howard’s final three seasons in Orlando, post-up plays comprised 57.5 percent of his possessions (2011-12), 59 percent of his possessions (2010-11) and 61 percent of his possessions (2009-10).

His percentage of post-up plays with the Lakers last season?

45.2 percent.

So, where did the other 12 to 16 percent of his offense go?

Pick-and-rolls (from 8.9 percent last season to 11.4 percent this season) and basket cuts (from 8.2 percent last season to 14.1 percent this season).

And what was the result?

A far less efficient version of Howard.

His true shooting percentage (57.3 percent) was well below his career average (59.8 percent), he produced the lowest offensive win shares of his career (2.8) and his turnover percentage crept up to the highest it’s been in three years (16.6 percent).

A significant portion of Howard’s struggles can be attributed to his shoulder and back injuries, which clearly hampered some of his athleticism and explosion. But even when Howard regained his mojo after the All-Star break, and his stats improved, he was hardly the dominant player that he or the Lakers had envisioned back in August.

This is where D’Antoni enters the equation.

Because of the sheer amount of offensive firepower at his disposal, D’Antoni tried adhering to the strengths of his players simultaneously, which often led to inconsistent results. This made Howard function less in the post and more on the move, as his increased involvement in pick-and-rolls and cuts showed.

That makes sense on paper because Howard has been among the league’s best pick-and-roll finishers for quite some time (he was ninth-best this season). But as Howard demonstrated throughout the season, he was reluctant to run the action consistently, especially if it meant compromising touches down low. Coupled with his decreased mobility, Howard’s turnovers (10.4 percent) and score percentage (68.9 percent) out of pick-and-rolls suffered considerably.

The challenge for D’Antoni then is figuring out how to fulfill Howard's wishes of posting up without ignoring the vast talent around him (and the post-up skills of Gasol and Bryant). His decision to have Howard play off of Gasol and Nash’s passing, and Bryant’s penetration, wasn’t as productive as he anticipated. For better or worse, Howard doesn’t enjoy running a ton of pick-and-rolls and cutting behind defenses; he seems to want to make post moves like the great big men before him.

Orlando had a specific system with versatile spot-up shooters at almost every position that allowed them to play through Howard and create open three-pointers out of all the attention he commanded.

The Lakers, meanwhile, don’t have the necessary shooting threats at each position to replicate what Howard wants. What they do have, however, is an elite shot-creator (Bryant), interior scorer (Gasol) and playmaker (Nash), the likes of which Howard has never played with. It’s a major adjustment for him, but one from which he could benefit.

As ESPN.com’s Bradford Doolittle pointed out, Howard appears to be searching for a center-centric offense that doesn't currently exist in the NBA. Most high-efficiency offenses now revolve around pick-and-rolls and the spacing and three-point shooting opportunities the play provides.

The closest the Lakers came to playing like Orlando was when Bryant went down with his Achilles injury and the Lakers began to post up more. For the season, post-ups accounted for 14.4 percent of the Lakers’ offense, but after Bryant went down, that figure jumped to at least 16.2 percent in the six remaining games (and topped 18 percent in five of the six contests).

It’s a small sample size, but an indication that D’Antoni is capable of adjusting to Howard’s inclinations. With Bryant possibly out until December or January, the Lakers would have a couple months to restructure the offense to appease Howard (if he re-signs), and then figure out how to readjust once Bryant returns.

For the partnership to be fruitful, Howard and D’Antoni each need to make sacrifices and find a reasonable compromise. Howard will have to accept that the Lakers are too talented to follow a simple offensive model that ignores the strengths of his teammates, and D’Antoni will have to settle for fewer pick-and-roll actions and more post-ups for No. 12.

That’s the only way this would work.

<i>Stats used in this post are from NBA.com/Stats, MySynergySports.com and Basketball-Reference.com.</i>

SPONSORED HEADLINES

TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Nick Young
PTS AST STL MIN
17.9 1.5 0.7 28.3
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsP. Gasol 9.7
AssistsK. Marshall 8.8
StealsJ. Meeks 1.4
BlocksP. Gasol 1.5