Sunday, December 18, 2011
Countdown to Christmas: Backcourt breakdown
By Dave McMenamin
Think of all the change that’s occurred within the Lakers' organization from the time last season ended until now, a week before the start of the 2011-12 season.
Goodbye, Phil Jackson, Brian Shaw, Frank Hamblen, Jim Cleamons, Craig Hodges and Rasheed Hazzard. Hello, Mike Brown, John Kuester, Quin Snyder, Ettore Messina, Darvin Ham, Phil Handy and Kyle Triggs.
We’ll miss you, Lamar Odom, Shannon Brown, Theo Ratliff and Joe Smith. Welcome to L.A., Josh McRoberts, Jason Kapono and Troy Murphy.
Thanks for the memories, Chip Schaefer. Good luck in the new gig, Tom DiFrancesco.
The list goes on and on.
Now think of what’s stayed the same in the past six months, and for the better part of the past 15 seasons: The Lakers' starting backcourt of Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher.
The Lakers' massive size down low might have been the team’s greatest physical advantage during the last two title runs, but it was the tandem of Bryant and Fisher providing the leadership, brains, heart and soul.
Even at 33 (Bryant) and 37 (Fisher), the pair are two of the most important players in the league. Bryant is the game’s most marketable player and might be the most recognizable athlete in sports. Fisher is the NBA Player's Association president, and if not for his tireless work the last five months, the league could very well still be in a lockout.
The list of intangibles for the five-time champions stretches out even longer than all the personnel changes above. But we’ll stick to the impact we can expect from Bryant and Fisher on the court and begin with the Lakers' co-captains as we take a look at the guards on the roster this season.
The biggest question for Bryant is how his right knee will hold up this season after heading to Germany during the offseason and undergoing an innovative procedure to try to repair the joint. His minutes are likely to stay the same, but his shooting percentage has a chance to increase as Brown has vowed to set Bryant up in the post more often on offense this season.
Brown named Fisher the starter halfway through training camp, but just because Fish will continue to be in the first five doesn’t mean he’ll continue to receive the lion’s share of the minutes at the point guard position. Brown’s hope is that his strong-corner offense will force opposing teams to double-team down low and leave guys such as Fisher wide open to set up on the perimeter and await catch-and-shoot opportunities.
Blake’s first season in L.A. was a letdown, but under Brown’s “attack the clock” system that looks to turn all long defensive rebounds and steals into fast-break offensive opportunities before the opposing team can set up its D, Blake could find new value. Also, at 31, he’s six years younger than Fisher and should be more of his equal in terms of minutes distribution.
The Lakers are very high on Morris, whom they plucked in the second round of the draft with the No. 41 pick. He has already shown excellent poise for being a rookie and could find himself getting minutes this year.
He’s not a traditional 2-guard, but Kapono brings with him a shooting stroke that the Lakers’ roster has lacked since Vladimir Radmanovic and Sasha Vujacic were sent packing. As long as he buys in on defense and works within the team concept, he could find a 15-20-minute-per-game role.
At the present time, the Lakers don’t really have a true backup shooting guard on their roster, but Ebanks could definitely see some time at the position this season. That is, of course, if he doesn’t end up as the starting small forward over Matt Barnes.
Andrew Goudelock -- 2010-11 Statistics (with College of Charleston): 35.2 mpg, 23.7 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 4.2 apg, 0.9 spg, 45.5 FG pct
Goudelock, the Lakers' other second-round pick this year, is buried on the depth chart at the moment but could stick around the organization as a member of the D-Fenders if he doesn’t make the roster.
The Lakers took a flyer on the high flyer after having Green on their summer league team in 2010. The former first-round pick by Boston would make up for some of the athleticism the team lost when Shannon Brown signed with Phoenix, but there has to be a reason Green wasn’t able to latch on with Boston, Minnesota, Houston or Dallas in his four previous seasons in the league.
The Question Remains …
Will the Lakers sign another guard to the veteran's minimum? Baron Davis and Gilbert Arenas cleared waivers after Cleveland and Orlando, respectively, exercised their amnesty rights on their contracts. They are both former All-Stars and both grew up in L.A. Is it worth it to take a gamble on one of their outsized personalities for the chance at acquiring some serious scoring punch off the bench? Or do the Lakers wait and see if somebody better becomes available closer to the trade deadline? This guard group does seem a little incomplete without one more dynamic piece.
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.