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Monday, February 13, 2012
Practice report: Kobe endorses Gilbert Arenas, roster uncertainty

By Andy Kamenetzky

As I reported earlier today, should Gilbert Arenas transition from working out for the Lakers to working for them, that's just fine with Kobe Bryant. The Mamba didn't say much on the matter, but made it clear he'd be fine sharing a locker room with Agent Zero. "It certainly wouldn't hurt, that's for sure," responded Kobe when asked if the former-three time All-Star was needed. I liked Kobe's answer when asked what the pride of Van Nuys could bring to the table.

"Hibachi."


Of course, we're a few years --  and a few guns -- removed from Gilbert Arenas' days as a premiere scorer. The injury-prone, famously flaky guard hasn't resembled the dude making him one of the NBA's best for quite some time. A good workout is promising, but it's quite another thing for that showing to translate into NBA usefulness on a game-in, game-out basis. Until demonstrated otherwise, Arenas is a big name in name-only.

Brian has expressed apprehension about Arenas, and among the reasons he cited was the time spent trying to integrate the guard. The most recent evidence suggests Arenas isn't very good anymore, and there's no guarantee he'll be a good fit. Thus, he could end up an exercise in square pegs and round holes. That time spent getting Gilbert up to speed might not just be a waste, but could also potentially disrupt whatever progress the Lakers might make moving forward. A few weeks ago, I actually agreed with my brother, largely because I was willing to believe more practice and rest could yield signs of improvement.

But with the Grammy Trip in the books and signs of genuine forward progress few and far between, I'm reminded of a classic 'Seinfeld' scene. The gang's at a cock fight to watch Kramer's rooster "Little Jerry Seinfeld" do battle. In the meantime, Elaine informs Jerry she's mulling over a marriage proposal from her latest boyfriend, and the following exchange takes place:

Jerry: Marriage is a big step, Elaine. Your life will totally change.

Elaine: Jerry, it's three-thirty in the morning. I'm at a cock fight. What am I clinging to?

That's kind of how I feel about Arenas at this point. As presently constructed, the Lakers roster doesn't have the weapons to run an efficient offense, or Mike Brown simply can't figure out how to use what's in front of them. Either way, I anticipate a lot of limbo. Some games the Lakers will catch fire. Others, they'll crash and burn. But you get a sense things are largely what they are. Arenas theoretically provides a few skills this team could use. If he's 60-70 percent of what he once was, that's probably enough to offer at least some utility. If not, the Lakers really are no worse off, because staying the course leaves no margin for error to begin with. Another two months spent walking a razor's edge and this team will undoubtedly slip.

Again, what are they clinging to?



If Arenas looked credible in the workout, I'd roll the dice and take a chance. Brian had also mentioned how, if the Lakers are actively working for a deal, Arenas makes no sense with change potentially lurking. I disagree. If the front office thinks Gilbert is capable of helping at all, bring him in, and if Arenas and/or the team must adjust again after "Perimeter Player X" arrives, so be it. None of this is ideal, but at the same time, neither is pinning your fortunes to a sluggish, undermanned offense. I'd rather be proactive, especially when Arenas is so easily removed should problems arise.


That change, whether in the form of Arenas, a move around the margins or a good old fashioned blockbuster deal, could be coming is hardly a secret. Various players have openly acknowledged how a roster makeover could be afoot unless the team steps up its collective game. A 3-3 road trip, by everyone's account, doesn't cut the mustard, which means a group still vulnerable to change. At the risk of playing armchair psychologist, I think this team's vibe is often one of a group that expects to be disassembled. Even for players who don't specifically worry about getting dealt, this could be an issue. If you think the guy at the next locker may very well be packing his bags, buying into growth as a group could seem pointless.

"It's hard to say," responded Pau Gasol when I asked how much this weighs on the team. "It's hard to measure it. Sometimes it crosses your mind, especially when there's active rumors going around and things like that. But you try to put it aside, because you really don't know if it's going to happen. If it'll involve you or not. So you just try to play through it and do your best without allowing that to affect your game."

For his part, Andrew Bynum offered a rather matter-of-fact take:

"I mean, it shouldn't weigh (on players' minds). What you should think about is not where you're gonna, but just kinda where you are. And if you do well, you'll stay. So really, that's it. There's really nothing to think about. If you start to think about that, you'll just be thinking about a bunch of stuff that hasn't happened, its not there. There's nothing you can change. If you play well, you still might go."


And speaking of playing well, Drew admitted his roadie didn't conclude in strong fashion. At times, the issue is a see-saw battle with comfort in the offense. Others, he's just been running on empty.