Los Angeles Lakers: Andrew Goudelock
Two days before that, Andrew Goudelock was playing for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers and picking apart the Lakers’ D-League affiliate, the L.A. D-Fenders, with 33 points and 12 assists in a 15-point win.
Five weeks later, Morris and Goudelock made up the Lakers’ starting backcourt for Game 3 of their first-round playoff series against the San Antonio Spurs. They put up an admirable effort -- Goudelock finished with 20 points and three steals, Morris had 24 points and six assists -- but the Spurs still embarrassed the Lakers, winning by 31 points on the Lakers' home floor.
The Lakers started the season with a Hall of Fame-bound backcourt of Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash, backed up by a D’Antoni favorite in Steve Blake and a pure, space-the-floor shooter in Jodie Meeks.
They ended it with two former second-round picks playing close to 40 minutes apiece in a playoff game.
Even with the rash of injuries the Lakers experienced last season -- trainer Gary Vitti said it was the worst string of bad luck he’s seen in his 20-plus years with the team -- the Lakers clearly had to address the guard position in the offseason.
Part of that process was upgrading from Morris (who remains an unsigned free agent after L.A. cut ties with him) and Goudelock (who signed a one-year deal to play in Russia after shining with Chicago’s summer league team).
Here’s a look at how the Lakers’ depth chart at guard should shake out next season:
1. Kobe Bryant
Even as a 35-year-old coming off of Achilles surgery and entering his 18th season in the league, Bryant is still the sun the Lakers' planet revolves around. He’ll be looked to to jump-start the Lakers' offense, whether in scorer or facilitator mode (hopefully more of the latter), and instill the belief that L.A. can actually accomplish something in 2013-14 outside of jockeying for draft lottery status. While Bryant will still surely play more than any other guard in the Lakers' lineup next season (when he's ready to return from his injury), it will be up to D’Antoni to manage his minutes better than last season. Bryant played 38.6 minutes per game in 2012-13, including an average of 45.6 minutes in his final seven games leading up to the injury. Just like the sun sets, Bryant and D’Antoni will have to figure out a way to pace themselves, perhaps by borrowing a page out of Gregg Popovich’s book and sitting Bryant on the second night of back-to-backs like the Spurs often do with Tim Duncan.
2. Steve Nash
Not only is Nash older than just about every player in the league -- he’ll turn 40 during the season -- he’s older than some of the top executives, as the Denver Nuggets hired 36-year-old Tim Connelly to be their general manager in the offseason and the Suns, Nash’s former team, brought on 33-year-old Ryan McDonough as their GM. Nash has already proved to be an ageless wonder, however, and as long as he can put his hip and groin injuries behind him, he will be relied upon to run D’Antoni’s offense the way the two hoped could have happened last season. Just like Bryant, however, there should be a minute cap for Nash. He averaged 32.5 minutes per game last season with only Blake providing consistent relief. The addition of Jordan Farmar, who at 26 is nearly a decade and a half Nash’s junior, will make it easier to cut into those minutes.
3. Jordan Farmar
4. Steve Blake
Blake is the incumbent here, but it will be difficult for him to maintain his primary backup spot if Farmar comes in and performs to the best of his ability. The good news for Blake is there will always be time for him and his brand of hard-nosed, on-ball defense, and if D’Antoni gives Bryant and/or Nash the second night of back-to-backs off, there could be major minutes to be had. Plus, D’Antoni told ESPN 710 radio in Los Angeles that he plans to play an 11-man rotation. If the coach follows through with that plan, there will certainly be a role available for Blake.
5. Nick Young
6. Jodie Meeks
Meeks’ role will likely be hit-or-miss -- he’ll stay in when he’s hitting his shots and sit when he’s missing them. Like Blake having his value challenged by the addition of Farmar, Meeks will have to fight against becoming redundant with the addition of Young.
7. Xavier Henry
Henry, a former lottery pick by New Orleans in 2010, has the right frame at 6-foot-6 to play swingman, but hasn’t gotten the rest of his game together enough to stick in the league yet. Henry has a training camp invite with no guaranteed money, according to a league source, so his first priority is making the team, let alone cracking the rotation.
In the four starts Blake made after Kobe Bryant went out with season-ending Achilles surgery, Blake was the Lakers’ most consistent offensive threat on the floor. Blake averaged 18.8 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 1.5 steals in those four games -- two wins to end the regular season and get L.A. into the playoffs and two losses to start off the postseason against San Antonio before suffering a season-ending hamstring injury of his own.
The pulled hamstring was a particularly unfortunate way for Blake to go out. The Lakers' injury-plagued season was perhaps cruelest for Blake, as he also missed 27 games during the regular season with a groin and abdomen injury and had the bizarre incident when he stepped on a spike strip in a beach parking lot that caused him to miss a chunk of training camp.
“As everybody knows, it was a tough year injury-wise, not only for myself but for the entire team,” Blake said after his exit interview. “Whenever we took a couple steps forward, there was an injury there to make us take steps back. But, I was pleased with the way I played throughout the year even though I was hurt.”
7.3 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 3.8 rpg, 26.1 mpg, .422 fg, .421 3fg -- all of these averages were Blake’s best in his three seasons with L.A.
Outlook for 2013-14
Blake is one of four players on the team -- along with Bryant, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace -- who is eligible to be waived via the Lakers’ one-time amnesty clause this summer. At one time, it seemed feasible for L.A. to use it on Blake. Not anymore. Blake’s $4 million deal for the last year of his contract looks like a bargain for next season, especially because the Lakers can’t rely on the 39-year-old Steve Nash to stay healthy all season.
B: Blake was a very important piece for L.A. this season and stepped up when he was needed. His grade would have been better if he hadn’t missed so many games because of injury.
The Lakers had very limited resources available to them last summer to attract free agents and used up half ($1.5 million) of their mini mid-level exception on Meeks. The 6-4 shooting guard had a rocky season in L.A., but eventually settled in along with Blake and Antawn Jamison as one third of the Lakers’ core group off the bench as they made their playoff push.
He certainly had his moments -- a baseline dunk in overtime to seal a win against Houston in the regular season finale, 14 points in a must-have road win in Sacramento late in the season, 12 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter during an incredible comeback in New Orleans, and 21 points on 7-for-8 shooting from deep against Denver -- but he was largely inconsistent. After staying healthy all season, he too fell victim to the injury bug, missing the Lakers’ final three playoff games with a sprained left ankle.
7.9 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 0.9 apg, .387 fg, .357 3fg -- Meeks’ numbers took a dip across the board from his previous season with the Philadelphia 76ers.
Outlook for 2013-14
The Lakers have a team option for Meeks at $1.55 million that Meeks’ camp expects to be exercised. If he can improve his accuracy and consistency, he could be a steal. Plus, with Bryant’s status up in the air for the start of the season as he recovers from his Achilles, Meeks could be leaned on more in the early going. “My shooting was up and down this season for whatever reason. I’ll be ready to come back next year and (get better); this system fits me perfectly and (Mike D’Antoni) has a lot of confidence in me,” Meeks said at after his exit interview.
C: Meeks was an X-factor at times, but hard to trust night-in and night-out.
It’s rare in the NBA for a team to have a player considered a home-grown talent, but Morris fits that description as he matriculated at Winward High School in L.A. and then was plucked in the second round out of Michigan to learn at the feet of Bryant the last two seasons. “He gave me a lot of insight about stuff on and off the court,” Morris said of Bryant. “He became a mentor to me, kept me encouraged, and I really appreciate that.”
If Morris’ rookie year was about improving his body, as he added 15 pounds of muscle, his sophomore season was about getting that body to perform in games. Morris made incremental improvements, most notably on defense, but he still has a lot to learn. He finished off the season strong, however, averaging 14 points and 4 assists in the Lakers’ final three playoff games after Bryant, Nash, Blake and Meeks went out.
4 ppg, 1.2 rpg, 1.6 apg, .388 fg, .364 3fg -- Morris’ points, rebounds and assists all went up from his rookie year, but his shooting percentages slid significantly.
Outlook for 2013-14
Morris could be brought back on a minimum deal. The Lakers like his attitude and work ethic and he likely hasn’t done enough in his two seasons in L.A. to generate much interest around the league. Bryant said the Lakers’ top needs heading into next season were “length, speed and athleticism” and Morris fits two out of three, which isn’t a bad place to start.
C -: After starting 17 games early on in the season, D’Antoni didn’t trust Morris’ decision-making skills enough to play him so much that when L.A. was plagued with injuries, the coach limited his rotation to seven players at times rather than give Morris another shot.
In one of the few feel-good parts of the Lakers’ nightmarish season, Goudelock -- a 2011 second round draft pick by the Lakers and a 2012 training camp cut -- was called up from the D-League shortly before the playoffs, after Bryant was injured. His time back with the team was short as the Lakers’ season was over two weeks after he was signed, but Goudelock reminded everybody why he deserves a chance back in the NBA, averaging 17 points in two starts in Games 3 and 4 against San Antonio.
“I definitely think I’ve come a long way,” Goudelock said at his exit interview. “From getting cut [by the Lakers in training camp], going to the D-League for the whole season, winning the MVP and then coming back and getting significant minutes [in the playoffs] . . . It was crazy.”
12 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 1.0 apg, 1.7 spg, .444 fg, .200 3fg -- Goudelock’s playoff stats in three games played in the first round.
Outlook for 2013-14
Goudelock proved that he can not only dominate the D-League, he can perform in the NBA when the playoffs pressure cooker is on. There are still deficiencies to his game, most notably his lack of size on defense, that won’t make it an automatic for him to latch back onto an NBA roster, but his shooting will give him a chance. Whether that chance will be with the Lakers will be worked out after L.A. goes through its other major offseason moves.
A: Goudelock couldn’t have reasonably done any more with the opportunity he was given. He maximized it.
Duhon was not targeted by L.A., but rather came to the Lakers as part of the Dwight Howard deal to make the numbers work. Ten games into the season, Duhon found himself with an ally in new coach Mike D’Antoni, who coached him back when they were both with the New York Knicks. Injuries to Nash and Blake, coupled with D’Antoni’s trust, gave Duhon an opportunity to start nine games and he filled in capably -- 6.9 points, 5.4 assists and a 42.1 percent mark on his 3-pointers. The nine-year veteran was a back-up and solid bench presence the rest of the season, but seldom used once D’Antoni settled on a shortened rotation when the Lakers were making a late-season push for the playoffs.
2.9 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 2.9 apg, .382 fg, .363 3fg -- Not impressive stats, but his 3.3 assists to turnover ratio was respectable for a point guard.
Outlook for 2013-14
Duhon’s $3.8 million salary for next season can be bought out by the Lakers by June 30 for approximately $1.5 million. L.A will go that route and Duhon will not be back with the team next season. He mentioned in his exit interview that he is interested in getting into coaching.
C: Duhon remained a professional in a topsy-turvy season for the Lakers.
But as has been the case for most of the season, the Lakers' dream became a nightmare: Due to a rash of injuries to their rotational guards, Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock were forced to start a playoff game against the San Antonio Spurs on Friday night.
Except the duo's play wasn’t the issue in Game 3. The two combined for 44 points on 17-of-32 shooting, which is better than some of the nights Bryant and Nash have had as a duo.
The issue was the defensive end of the floor, as the Lakers allowed the Spurs to score 120 points on 61.2 percent shooting. The Spurs had more turnovers (14 to 13) and less made free throws (11 to 15), yet they still won by 31 points, making for the worst home loss in Lakers playoff history.
While the Lakers certainly had every excuse to lose considering the personnel they were playing, it was disconcerting to see how little effort they put into their defensive execution, especially in their transition defense.
In the beginning of the fourth quarter, Pau Gasol threw up a wild shot out of a double-team on the left block and, thinking he was fouled, yelled out in frustration and stopped to stare at the nearest referee.
Meanwhile, Manu Ginobili grabbed the rebound and ignited a fast break as Tim Duncan raced downcourt, easily outpacing both Gasol and Dwight Howard, who had also decided to jog back.
One of the keys of transition defense -- which no Laker did -- is stopping the ball, as all five guys turned their backs to Ginobili, who had time to wind up and throw a three-quarters court pass to a wide-open Duncan in the paint.
Chris Duhon, the only Laker who hustled back, had no choice but to foul Duncan, and only then did Gasol and Howard finally get into the fray. Duncan, who’s 37 years old and had played just as many minutes as either Laker big men at the time, made both free throws, extending the Spurs’ lead to 90-67 with 10:41 remaining.
Even when trailing by over 20 points and trying to make a late-game comeback, the Lakers haven’t had the determination to play consistent defense.
Despite misconception, the Spurs aren’t a potent transition team, ranking just 13th in fast-break points and 17th in transition points per possession, but the Lakers allowed them to score 19 fast-break points, which would rank second in the league throughout the season.
By virtually every conceivable category, the Lakers are a below-average defensive team. The Spurs have taken advantage of that all series, using well-timed offensive flurries to turn a one- or two-possession game into a double-digit deficit.
Against an offensive juggernaut like San Antonio that has more depth and talent than the Lakers, there’s almost no margin for error, as Game 3 showed. For the Lakers to have any chance at winning Game 4 on Sunday and extending the series for at least one more game, they’ll have to show a level of defensive coherence and effort that’s been missing all season.
Stats used in this post are from ESPN.com, NBA.com/Stats and MySynergySports.com.
He wasn’t smiling because he scored 20 points and was the leading scorer on the Lakers for much of the game.
He wasn’t smiling because the D-League MVP trophy he was given before the game was sitting right behind him, placed in a cardboard box that looked like it had just been shipped to him overnight.
And he wasn’t smiling because Metta World Peace was teasing him about being surrounded by dozens of reporters and cameras.
He was smiling because he was simply sitting in an NBA locker room again.
Not bad for a guy who went from making about $475,000 last season to borrowing money from his college girlfriend to pay his bills last month.
“I’m broke,” Goudelock said. “I’m cool. Nobody would know that I’m broke. I just come here with a smile on my face.”
It’s an unusual confession for an NBA player starting in the playoffs to make, but Goudelock wasn’t even in the league two weeks ago.
Goudelock, who was a second-round draft pick of the Lakers in 2011, was cut Oct. 27 prior to the season opener. He ended up being drafted by the Sioux Falls Skyforce of the D-League and later traded to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, where he averaged 21.4 points and won the D-League MVP, an award he didn’t even know existed before he won it.
Less than two weeks ago, the Lakers signed him for the final two games of the regular season and playoffs after Kobe Bryant ruptured his Achilles tendon.
“This business just keeps getting crazier,” Goudelock said. “I wouldn’t think I’d be here two weeks ago. Nothing happens the way it’s supposed to happen. This is a great opportunity, going from the D-League a week and a half ago to starting in the playoffs. It shows you the nature of the business.”
Business wasn’t so good for Goudelock after being cut by the Lakers. Despite playing well in front of dozens of fans in cities like Bakersfield, Calif.; Canton, Ohio; and Erie, Pa., Goudelock was living paycheck to paycheck after finishing up his rookie salary.
“I was so broke I had to borrow money,” he said. “I’ve had the same girlfriend since college, and I had to call her to give me money and she’s still in college, but I didn’t have any other choice. I didn’t want to call my parents. I’m too old for that. Some days I couldn’t even eat, and she sent me money. It’s definitely an experience I’m going to tell my kids about.”
Goudelock made about $1,200 every two weeks while he was in the D-League, and his per diem was $40. Before the Lakers left for San Antonio for a four-day trip, his per diem was slightly different.
“When I got my per diem, I was the happiest guy in the world. It was $500!” Goudelock said. “I took that! That’s like half my check in the D-League. … You go to the D-League, and you basically lose money. I used to tell people I might as well work at Burger King or do something else, but it all pays off.”
Goudelock didn’t want to bother his parents with monetary requests while he was struggling this season, but after he called to let them know he would be starting Friday, they surprised him at the game by getting on the first flight they could from Atlanta to Los Angeles.
“It took them a lot of money to come here, but I’m glad they’re here,” Goudelock said. “I’m glad they got to see me play.”
As Goudelock talked about his experiences on the road, on buses and sleeping on floors, he smiled again as he looked across the locker room at Darius Morris. He and Morris were both selected in the second round of the 2011 NBA draft by the Lakers, five picks apart, but didn’t want to have anything to do with each other when they both got to Los Angeles.
“We really didn’t like each other,” Goudelock said. “We would compete all the time, and we ended up being real good friends. We never thought this would happen.”
No one thought this would happen. Bryant’s injury might have brought Goudelock back to Los Angeles, but injuries to Steve Nash, Steve Blake and Jodie Meeks catapulted him and Morris into the starting lineup Friday. Goudelock had 20 points and three steals while Morris added 24 points and six assists.
“Every time we look at each other we say this is crazy,” Goudelock said. “When we first got here, I don’t even think we spoke to each other. It was a completion thing. In training camp, I said that’s the enemy, but as time went on, we were doing this together and we got really, really close.
"When I was in the D-League, he would text me and call me and ask me about certain situations. He had my back just like I had his. I’m just glad that we get this opportunity to go out and play together.”
This was certainly not the way Goudelock and Morris wanted to get their moment in the playoff spotlight. They began the season as third stringers in a backcourt behind Bryant, Nash, Meeks and Blake, but if this season has taught them anything, it’s that nothing ever goes exactly the way you plan it. Goudelock wouldn’t have it any other way.
"For a guy like me, I've been through so many different types of situations, and it seems like I'm always the one that gets the short end of the stick,” he said. “But, you know, I always just try to keep a smile on my face, keep my head up, and you know you're always going to be where you're supposed to be. If you're working hard, if you're really working hard and you want something, you're going to get there. Nobody is going to be able to stop you from getting there whether you get the short end of the stick or not."
LOS ANGELES -- At the very least, tip your hat to Andrew Goudelock and Darius Morris.
The Los Angeles Lakers had no business beating the San Antonio Spurs on Friday with no Kobe Bryant, no Steve Nash and no Steve Blake in the lineup.
Despite Goudelock's MVP campaign in the D-League, they had no business having as much faith in a guy who spent all season with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers to start a playoff game against the team that won the second-most games in the West this season.
And even though Morris started 17 games this season and continued to stay in the gym late even when his minutes dwindled the last two months, there was no real evidence that putting the ball in his hands for a crucial playoff game could work.
But you couldn't peg this one on the backcourt. In fact, Goudelock tied Tony Parker with 20 points and Darius Morris scored 24 to go along with six assists.
OK, enough about the silver lining.
Friday wasn't the official death knell for this (literally) painful Lakers season as L.A. doesn't go fishing until the Spurs have won four games, but no team in NBA history has ever come back from a 3-0 series deficit and this depleted Lakers squad certainly isn't going to be the first.
The 31-point blowout in Game 3 was the worst home playoff loss in franchise history, beating out Game 2 of the 2000 Western Conference Finals when Portland won by 29.
In a way, it seemed fitting.
In a season where everything that could go wrong seemingly did -- from a coaching change, to rampant injuries, slow-forming chemistry and even the death of legendary owner Dr. Jerry Buss -- why wouldn't a record like that be attached to this team?
How it happened: A whole lot of Tim Duncan (26 points on 12-for-16 shooting), some stingy Spurs defense (L.A. shot just 43.2 percent and 4-for-20 from 3) and too much depth from the guys in black and silver against the guys who are black and blue with injuries.
What it means: The offseason questions will begin sooner than a lot of us expected. Is Mike D'Antoni truly safe, or will those "We want Phil!" chants we heard on Friday actually come to fruition? Who gets waived via the amnesty clause -- Kobe? Pau Gasol? Blake? Metta World Peace? Anybody? Will Dwight Howard re-sign? Will Nash and Bryant be able to come back healthy for their 18th seasons?
Hits: Gasol had his third triple-double in his last six games with 11 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists.
Morris and Goudelock (see above).
Dwight Howard had 25 points and 11 rebounds but shot just 7-for-15 from the free throw line.
Misses: After 31 points combined in his last two regular-season games, Antawn Jamison has just 19 points combined in the playoffs.
Stat of the game: The Spurs bench scored 46 points. The Lakers' bench scored nine.
Up next: Game 4 is Sunday at 4 p.m. PT. There's a chance Nash will be back, but you get the feeling that chance would be better if L.A. had won Friday.
Meeks missed his second consecutive practice after spraining his left ankle in the first half of the Los Angeles Lakers' 91-79 Game 1 loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday.
Despite sitting out, the Lakers backup guard said he plans to "give it a go" in Wednesday's Game 2.
"It's the playoffs, man," Meeks said. "If it was the regular season, I'd sit out."
Meeks, who averaged 7.9 points during the regular season, scored just four points in Game 1 on 1-for-4 shooting, and also had two turnovers in 20 minutes.
Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said there was "no doubt" the team would turn to Darius Morris to fill in with some minutes if Meeks is too hampered to play. Morris went 0-for-1 from the field and picked up one foul in eight minutes Sunday.
D'Antoni said recent signee Andrew Goudelock could play as well.
"We need somebody to put the ball in the basket," D'Antoni said.
The Lakers shot just 3-for-15 from 3 (20 percent) in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series with the Spurs.
D'Antoni says he hopes Steve Nash is one of the players improving that shooting line. Nash scored 16 points on 6-for-15 shooting Sunday and missed the only 3-pointer he took, playing for the first time in nine games because of nerve damage in his right hamstring stemming from a right hip injury.
Nash was able to practice Monday and Tuesday, however, and D'Antoni said he was going to rely on the 17-year veteran guard in Game 2.
"I think about 5-6 minutes is all he needs to go [at a time]," D'Antoni said about Nash, who contributed to the Lakers being a plus-2 in the 30 minutes he played Sunday. "Then he starts going over the hill a little bit. So, we'll watch out. But, we're going to need him out on the floor. So, he'll get through some stuff. He's a competitor, once he gets out there, he wants to go. So we'll try to watch it and then try to watch how he looks physically."
Usually when the team signs a free agent late in the season, Maples has to scramble to get a uniform made up in time for the player's arrival. Since the Lakers already had plenty of Andrew Goudelock's old No. 0 jerseys in stock, all Maples had to do Sunday was sew on a Dr. Jerry Buss commemorative "JB" patch onto one of them.
Goudelock was called up from the Rio Grande Valley Vipers of the NBA D-League on Saturday and completed the paperwork to sign with the Lakers for the remainder of the season just about an hour before tipoff of their game against the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday.
The 6-foot-2 combo guard, who was selected by the Lakers with the No. 46 pick in the 2011 draft and waived during training camp this season, just feels good to be back.
"This is like home for me," Goudelock said. "This is the first place I played in the NBA, and for me to be able to come back, it was surreal for me. When I got the call, I didn’t even know [what to think]. I was just looking at my coach for like five minutes, like, ‘Are you serious? Are you playing with me?’ So, this is a surreal feeling. I just want to take advantage of it."
Goudelock was informed by Vipers coach Nick Nurse before their playoff game against the Maine Red Claws on Saturday.
"I’m just doing my regular thing and my coach comes out," Goudelock recalled. "‘You’re not playing today.’ I’m like, ‘Am I in trouble?’ He’s like, ‘No, the Lakers called you back. So you got to leave in the morning.’"
Goudelock arrived in Los Angeles from Houston around noon on Sunday and got to the arena at 3 p.m. for a crash course with assistant coach Dan D'Antoni.
"We went over just some basic things, but he said most of it is just playing," Goudelock said. "They said if you don’t shoot, [D’Antoni] gets mad. That’s right up my alley."
Goudelock did plenty of shooting in the D-League. In 51 games (all starts) with Sioux Falls and Rio Grande Valley this season, Goudelock averaged 21.1 points, 3.9 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 1.16 steals in 36.9 minutes. Goudelock, who said he lost 15 pounds since training camp in part because of dedicated training and in part because his meager D-League salary didn't allow him to eat like he did when he was with the Lakers, thought the experience made him a better player.
"The D-League is definitely tough," Goudelock said. "From the pay, to the travel, to dealing with different guys, different personalities, different coaches -- it’s definitely a learning curve.
"It definitely sucks to have to leave the NBA, leave all this and then go there. Then you think you deserve to be called up, you think that you deserve to be in the NBA, but it doesn’t happen. You just have to wait. You just have to wait and wait and wait, and it’s devastating, but when it does happen, words can’t really explain how you feel. And I feel like I got so much better, it’s almost like I’m getting a second chance here. Whereas when I first came in, I didn’t know that much. This time I’m coming around and I know a lot."
D'Antoni knows that Goudelock is a capable NBA player who had a four-game stretch in his rookie season during which he averaged 11.5 points on 50 percent shooting from the field and 57.1 percent shooting on 3-pointers (8-for-14) in 20.8 minutes, and the Lakers went 3-1.
"He can play and he can make shots. That’s the biggest thing," D'Antoni said. "That was the thinking [that he can create his own shot] and also he can go into the playoffs with us [because he is eligible]. He’s comfortable here and he can make shots."
Goudelock had other opportunities overseas in China, Russia and Puerto Rico, and there was even some flirtation by the Memphis Grizzlies, but somehow his journey took him back to L.A. when Kobe Bryant, the guy who dubbed him the "Mini Mamba" last season, went out with a season-ending Achilles tear.
"It’s just surreal," Goudelock said. "You never think you’ll be back here, and then you’re back here."
Even though Goudelock was cut back in October, he has paid attention to the Lakers' season and has kept in touch with former teammates Devin Ebanks, Darius Morris and Pau Gasol.
"You got to pay a lot of attention to the Lakers because it’s always on TV," Goudelock said. "As soon as you turn on ESPN, it’s the first thing that comes on TV. It just seems like something is happening every day, something different."
He did not anticipate the Lakers struggling the way they have.
"This is the most talent that I’ve ever seen," Goudelock said. "I thought that it would be a lock that these guys would be at least in the top three or four [teams in the league]. So I was surprised. I didn’t know what to [think]. People would be like, ‘Maybe they need you back.’ And I’m like, ‘No, not me.’ But you never really know how things are going to turn out; I guess that’s why they play the game. You just can’t put a team together and say, ‘Hey, they’re going to be No. 1.’ They played the game and unfortunately things didn’t turn out as well as everybody wanted them to, but they still have a chance to make the playoffs, and the playoffs is a new season."
And for Goudelock, it's a new chance at an NBA career.
"You never really know what’s going to happen in this business," Goudelock said. "People keep telling you that, people keep telling you that, and you never really believe it until stuff like that happens to you."
Did he figure he had a chance to get much burn for the Los Angeles Lakers this season with Hall of Fame-bound Steve Nash starting at point guard and Chris Duhon, an established veteran, as well as Darius Johnson-Odom, a rookie the Lakers paid $500,000 to Dallas just to acquire his rights, being added to the mix?
"Somebody asked me like, 'Ah, the depth chart is looking really thick,'" Morris recalled the other day. "I just put my faith in God and I just work hard. That's one thing I never stop doing and things happen for a reason, so you just have to always remain positive. But for me to say, 'Oh, I could call this?' No, not at all."
In 19 games last season, Morris totaled 46 points. Through eight games this season, including three starts, Morris already has 51 points.
With Nash (fractured left fibula) and Blake (strained abdomen) sidelined indefinitely, Morris has become the surprise starting point guard to kick off the Mike D'Antoni coaching era in L.A.
After never scoring more than nine points in a game as a rookie and handing out more than four assists only once, Morris has reached double-digit scoring in two of the past five games (including a career-high 12 points against the Houston Rockets on Sunday) and has dished out five or more assists three times in that same span.
"With the fact that Nash has been out, the kid's had an opportunity to play and you do not get experience through osmosis," Lakers interim head coach Bernie Bickerstaff said. "So, he's had an opportunity to play and I think it's terrific for him and his confidence."
Also contributing to that confidence is the trust of everyone surrounding him in the purple and gold.
"I just thank my teammates for giving me that confidence," Morris said. "Thank God, most importantly, but also my coaching staff as well, just telling me to go out there and play. Really just trying to simplify it for me. Steve Nash has been giving me some great advice as well, so people around me are really helping me."
Undersized, not overly athletic and a small-school product (College of Charleston), Goudelock's profile makes him easy to root for, especially when you add in a knack for scoring, primarily as a 3-point bomber but also with a deceptively effective ability to put the ball on the floor and finish with a variety of floaters.
Unfortunately, what Goudelock really needs to stick at this level -- or needed to stick with the Lakers, at least -- are more developed point-guard skills. Last season and throughout this year's training camp, Goudelock wasn't able to effectively direct and offense. Defensively, Goudelock was tough to protect, another mark against him.
On a team sporting too many guards with guaranteed contracts, there was almost no way for Goudelock to make the final cut. Projecting his NBA future is tricky, but it wouldn't surprise me to see him pop up at some point on another roster. There's no question Goudelock can shoot, arguably the most marketable single skill in basketball.
I certainly hope he finds a home in the league. If nothing else, Goudelock could have a long career playing overseas.
The Lakers now have 15 players on the roster, including both of this year's second-round picks in Robert Sacre and Darius Johnson-Odom, and have to decide by Monday what to do with them. They'd prefer to carry 14, giving them the ability to add a player during the season without having to make a cut and eat someone's contract. Sacre seems like a lock to stick. Johnson-Odom's situation is more tenuous. He barely played in the eight preseason games, but the Lakers definitely like him (and shelled out half a mil to the Mavs for the pick used to select him) … which may be why he's seen so little playing time.
By keeping him on the bench, the Lakers haven't exposed DJO to other teams, perhaps with the hope they can cut him late and not lose him to another team. At that point, the Lakers wouldn't control his rights -- Johnson-Odom could sign with any team on the planet -- but the Lakers could try to keep him close by re-signing him to play with the D-Fenders.
In the end, unless they can open up a roster spot via trade sometime this weekend (highly unlikely), Johnson-Odom seems likely to be cut as well.
Winner, winner, chicken dinner.
On Aug. 1, I provided a breakdown of Meeks as a player, so feel free to talk a walk down Memory Lane. In a nutshell, he provides a legitimate backup for Kobe Bryant (you might have noticed it hurt not having one last season), outside shooting, and youth. Three areas in short supply for the Lakers, and now fortified. Throw in some improving defense and his natural scoring instincts and it's hard to knock the latest drink order during what's evolved into a basketball version of an open bar.
What remains to be seen, however, is how the addition of Meeks affects the rest of the rotation and even the roster. For example, I thought there was a chance the reserve backcourt could be newly acquired Chris Duhon paired with Steve Blake playing off-ball. Clearly, that's no longer the case, meaning one will spell Steve Nash while the other mentors Darius Morris from a seat on the bench. For players with the mileage of Kobe and Nash, lowered minutes are always a goal, but often easier said than done. Meeks on hand makes the goal more realistic. He also complicates matters for a pair of kids lower on the food chain. The likelihood of both Andrew Goudelock and second-round draft pick Darius Johnson-Odom both making the team now feels non-existent. Depending on how many players the front office decides to keep, neither may end up a Laker when it's all said and done.
But the uncertain fate of those youngsters is about the only reason to feel bummed by this turn of events. Quite the summer for Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak, who've certainly earned their paychecks.
Devin Ebanks may or may not get more burn in 2012-13, but he'll play a lot in Summer League.
Other members of the team -- i.e. people who, aren't going to be Lakers in the fall, and in reality are playing as much for a shot at an NBA training camp or gigs overseas or in the D-League -- include guards Gary Flowers, Toure Murry, and Kevin Palmer, along with forward Lawrence Hill, and center Julian Khazzouh. The group will be coached by Chuck Person, assisted by Darvin Ham and Phil Handy.
Ebanks, who could be in line for bigger minutes this year, should put up some numbers. I'd bet on Goudelock having at least a couple of big scoring games. Morris will have an opportunity to run point and show his skills without being completely overmatched, as he (understandably) was in limited run last year. Because the Lakers paid half a million dollars to acquire Johnson-Odom with the 55th pick, he's a strong candidate to make the team next year. Sacre is, until free agency changes things at least, in line for a reserve role in the frontcourt. He can certainly help his chances of making the big team with a strong showing, particularly defensively. (Sacre was the West Coast Conference's DPOY last year.) Very limited playing time in three NBA seasons combined with phenomenal athleticism and very raw skills makes Eyenga a curiosity, but given how thin the Lakers are at small forward, any signs of potential are welcome.
It's always great to see players who could/will be on the roster blow up in Vegas, but Summer League play can be incredibly sloppy and the quality of players on the floor varies widely from game to game, and even quarter to quarter. One reason a great truism says not to give the games much stock, at least on the upside. Great performances aren't generally a harbinger of things to come, only something to whet the appetite a little. (Bad play, however, tends to be more revealing.)
One key is for these guys to use the time wisely, working to add elements in full speed game play they may have been developing in workouts. Watch to see, for example, if Goudelock can finish with a couple lefty floaters, something he was working on last season and hoped to develop going forward. Coaches aren't necessarily looking for raw numbers.
The Lakers open their Summer League season Friday at 5 pm against the (sort of) Golden State Warriors, and play four more times over the following week.
"Look at those teams trying to make themselves better with those little basketball ragamuffins. How adorable!"
The evening made for good copy and sports-radio conversation, but wasn't fundamental to the success of a team like the Lakers. Sure, draftees have value, no doubt, but L.A.'s picks were always lousy anyway, and resources (measured financially and in available roster spots) were better aimed at players more likely to help them win now, not years down the road.
If these guys want the Lakers back in the first round Thursday, will they find a way?
Thursday's edition of the draft sets up as yet another slow night for the purple and gold. Their lone pick is the 60th, the NBA's version of Mr. Irrelevant. But more than any season in recent memory, this year the young talent flying off the board, from the higher-tier guys on down, will seem more a necessity than a luxury.
A first-rounder or two would look awfully nice right about now.
The Lakers are trying hard to keep their Kobe Title Window open as long as possible, but they have major problems with the salary cap and luxury tax, few options available to add quality players in the free-agent market, and limited trade options.
In that context, the draft becomes yet another reminder of the ways in which other teams are improving while the Lakers aren't.
So with that in mind, it's time to play a little draft night "What if."
As in, "What if...
1) "...the Lakers want to trade into the first round?"
Lakers executive VP Jim Buss said recently the Lakers would like to, and if motivated enough they can get it done. Here are three potential options:
- Trade. Pau Gasol or Andrew Bynum could be part of a package returning a first-rounder. But for a team still in win-now mode, the question isn't how the Lakers get into the opening round, but how to do it and still get better next season. Doing both is tough if Gasol or Bynum heads out the door -- landing a pick likely means the package of seasoned players coming back isn't as strong -- and outside those two, there isn't another player on the Lakers' roster any sane executive would sacrifice a first-round pick to acquire. A trade pushing the Lakers back into Round 1 could certainly benefit the future, but that's a completely different conversation.
- Traded Player Exception. A wild card could be the trade exception gained last season in the Lamar Odom deal. They still have it, dusty as it might be getting. As a mechanism used to acquire a first-rounder, it would likely require the Lakers to take back a contract they wouldn't otherwise want. Think Cleveland absorbing Luke Walton as the price of a pick in the Ramon Sessions deal. Would the Lakers do it? Probably not. They're trying to shed payroll, particularly superfluous money paid to players they wouldn't otherwise want. L.A. might take a player on a short contract capable of filling a need next season (especially if it meant getting back into the first round), but that hypothetical player sounds useful. Why would another squad surrender that sort of asset and a pick for a TPE?
- Buying a pick. This is the most straightforward option. As ESPN LA's Dave McMenamin reminded me this week, teams can spend up to $3 million to buy a pick. The Lakers used a little of their allotment in the Sessions deal last year, but still have a substantial amount of that money left, and it might be enough to get something done. As a point of reference, the Lakers sold the 29th pick in the '09 draft to New York for $3 million on the nose, meaning a move like this probably nets nothing higher than the 25-30 range, which would mean contractual obligations at least in the neighborhood of $1.8 mil over two years. (Interestingly, many teams value high second-rounders more, because the same caliber player might be available, but wouldn't be locked into a guaranteed deal.)
Bottom line: Dealing their way back into the first 30 picks isn't impossible. It's also not probable, and if it happens, it can't be counted on to yield a player who would step into next season's rotation.
2) "...the Lakers had drafted better in recent years?"
Aside from last year's second-rounders (Andrew Goudelock, Darius Morris), the Lakers had drafted a grand total of two players on the roster -- Devin Ebanks ('10) and Andrew Bynum ('05) -- and acquired a third (Kobe Bryant) in a draft day trade way back in '96. Had they done better work, would the pickle in which the Lakers currently find themselves be as briny?
Probably, because their draft record isn't bad.
It turns out the Kings’ most important decision of the night just might have occurred several hours later when they used the last pick in the draft on Isaiah Thomas at No. 60.
Fredette went on to average 7.6 points on 38.6 percent shooting, struggling to recapture the magic in his stroke that made him a national sensation at Brigham Young. The 5-9 Thomas, meanwhile, finished the season averaging 11.5 points and 4.1 assists while outshooting Fredette both from the field (44.8 percent) and from 3-point range (37.9 percent). Thomas ended up being named a two-time NBA Rookie of the Month for the Western Conference and finished seventh in Rookie of the Year balloting.
The Los Angeles Lakers find themselves in the Kings’ boat this year, as their lone selection headed into Thursday’s draft is No. 60. It figures to be a deep draft because of a stockpile of talent that stayed in college an extra season this past year in part because of fear of a lockout wiping out the entire 2011-12 NBA season, but finding a success story like Thomas with the last pick in the second round is a long shot. A league executive told me that he expects every first round pick in the 2012 draft to become rotation players, but admitted the second round is still a crapshoot.