Los Angeles Lakers: Arron Afflalo

How they match up: Denver Nuggets

August, 19, 2012
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
This series examines how the presumably now-elite Lakers stack up against their fellow brethren, and the Nuggets would largely be considered one tier lower. Thus, their inclusion here could feel strange. It shouldn't. As last season's first round, seven-game series demonstrated, Denver features a roster stuffed with rising talent tailor-made for a quick pace that tests the Lakers. And in Andre Iguodala, they've acquired an All-Star and Olympian who's both a great fit and addresses the team's biggest weakness (defense). The Nuggets would never be favored in a series against the Lakers, but still could provide one of the trickiest rounds possible.

David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images
Iggy should help Denver on both sides of the ball.

For some local knowledge on the Nuggets, we spoke with Jeremy Wagner from the True Hoop network's Roundball Mining Company.

Andy Kamenetzky: What was the general reaction in the Roundball Mining community when word hit the street about Dwight Howard joining the Lakers?

Jeremy Wagner: The real story revolving around the Howard trade for Denver was obviously the acquisition of Iguodala. There was a angry subdivision of fans who were very upset that the Nuggets took part in ushering Howard to the Lakers. After the loss in the playoffs to LA and the addition of Steve Nash, most fans viewed the Lakers superior to Denver anyway. The addition of Howard only increased the gulf. Any hope of catching them this season is gone.

AK: Well, even if they can't catch the Lakers, how capable is Denver of pushing them with Iggy on board?

JW: The addition of Igoudala is a tremendous one for Denver. Arron Afflalo's defense had really fallen off from where it was a couple of seasons ago and Igoudala will certainly help in that area. Plus, Igoudala is a much better passer, fits better into Denver's drive-and-kick offense, and should flourish in the open floor. I believe a healthy Nuggets team will be the third best team in the West, barely ahead of the Clippers.

Is there any concern that with such a small window, based on the ages of Kobe and Nash, this team cannot afford taking a year to jell?

Brian Kamenetzky: No question. There are definitely moving parts to integrate. In theory, Howard doesn't demand a massive adjustment -- it's not like the Lakers aren't accustomed to a high end center -- but in a lot of ways he's a very different player than Andrew Bynum. More mobile, more effective in the pick-and-roll. Plus, he's been "the guy" since entering the league. With the Lakers, he will, at least to some degree, have to give a little. And Nash is a huge change, a point guard capable of putting a game on a string, the type of player Kobe Bryant has never teamed with. Defensively, I think they'll be okay, since Howard makes things easier for everyone else. But this is at best a two-year experiment thanks to age and finances, and if it doesn't yield at least one title, people will be upset.

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Dwupdate: The four-team rumor I don't get!

August, 9, 2012
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
Just when you thought it was safe to get back in the water, along comes the shark fin and ominous music, packaged in the form of a rumor involving Dwight Howard. Here's a excerpt from the ESPN news link:
"The Denver Nuggets and Philadelphia 76ers have been pulled into talks between the Orlando Magic and the Los Angeles Lakers that could ultimately put Dwight Howard in a Laker uniform, Yahoo! Sports is reporting.

Talks have taken place this week and have "grown serious," Yahoo! said, citing league sources, although a trade is not considered imminent. The moving parts of the four-team discussion, according to Yahoo!, would involve both Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol being dealt by the Lakers. According to the web site's sources, Howard and Nuggets forward Al Harrington would go to the Lakers, 76ers guard Andre Iguodala would be moved to Denver, Bynum would be dealt to Philadelphia, and Gasol and Nuggets guard Arron Afflalo would go to Orlando.

The proposed scenario also includes the Magic receiving draft picks and salary-cap relief, the sources told Yahoo."

Two noteworthy points right off the bat: The more teams involved, the generally less feasible a trade becomes. It's difficult to concoct a scenario making two franchises happy, so doubling the parties in need of satisfaction only further lowers the odds. It's also important to remember those unnamed folks proposed as cap relief can change the picture, positively and negatively. But looking at the principles mentioned by name, here's my immediate reaction:

This deal makes little sense for the Lakers, and ain't a slam dunk for hardly anybody involved.

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Lakers at Nuggets, Game 6: What to Watch

May, 10, 2012
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky

That the Lakers failed to close out Denver on Tuesday wasn't horrible in and of itself, but the reason for failure certainly was. It's one thing to get outplayed, especially by a quality team desperate to stay alive. Getting outworked, however, is another story. The Lakers' inability to match the Nuggets' energy, intensity and desire was inexcusable, and as Brian noted, costly on a practical level. Still, what's done is done, and now is the time to make lemonade from lemons. The Lakers get two more cracks to wrap this up, but success on the first try equals that much less energy expended before battling the Thunder. The task won't be easy, especially in Denver. But it's doable, assuming the Lakers are willing to focus, execute and work enough.

For more thoughts on Game 6 (Thursday, 7:30 p.m. PT), I had an IM exchange with Kalen Deremo from the True Hoop network's Roundball Mining Company. Below is the transcript.

Kirby Lee/US Presswire
Please, Javale! Don't hurt 'em!

Andy Kamenetzky: Heading into Game 5, you weren't sure how this inconsistent Nuggets team would react to an elimination scenario. What did you make of the way they played?

Kalen Deremo: Shocked. Well, maybe not shocked, but thoroughly (and pleasantly!) surprised. For years, this team has exited the playoffs in embarrassing fashion. Tuesday, they played with heart, soul and passion. For once it looked like they actually cared about showing pride in the playoffs. What was your reaction?

AK: In the meantime, Denver continues to improve as the series progresses, certainly more than the Lakers.

KD: That performance was probably the Nuggets' best in the playoffs since 2009, when they reached the Western Conference finals. I think no matter what team they were playing, the Nuggets were gonna give it their all. What I want to know is what happened to Pau Gasol? Andrew Bynum and Kobe Bryant have showed up for the most part, but Pau just seems invisible.

AK: In fairness to Pau, he's been asked to facilitate more than score, and his passing has been very effective. Nuggets coach George Karl has even cited Gasol as a weapon hurting them in this respect. However, his rebounding numbers are down a bit from the regular season, problematic in a series where Denver's control of the glass makes or breaks L.A. His defense around the rim has also been erratic. And like Bynum, he was pretty MIA for most of Game 5.

In the meantime, JaVale McGee! Have you ever seen a player improve more over a series?

Kalen: McGee, man, I don't even know what to say. Seeing a 7-footer operate like a champ in the post, seeing his pure physical attributes dominate his counterpart, is a sight to behold. The Nuggets haven't had that type of center since Dikembe Mutombo, although Marcus Camby was nice defensively. Wow, I'm just getting way ahead of myself. Yeah, McGee was just unreal. It's so nice to see his maturation with the Nuggets. The guy has so much talent and potential. Seeing him discover it during a time like this is beautiful for Nuggets fans.

Do you think he could even end up outplaying Bynum two games in a row?

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Lakers vs. Nuggets, Game 5: What to watch

May, 8, 2012
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky

"Closeout games are actually kinda easy. Teams tend to fold if you come out and play hard in the beginning. So we wanna come out and establish an early lead and protect it."

This was Andrew Bynum's response when asked about the inherent difficulty of closeout games. And to some degree, Drew's correct. I've seen many a team on the ropes fall behind in an elimination game, then exhibit body language that reeks of fate acknowledged and summer plans being imagined. On the other hand, if an opponent starts out hot or at least able to trade blows, they may become less amenable to the notion of fading quietly into the night. The Lakers would be best served to treat Denver as a squad desperate to remain alive, then upon tangible signs of the towel being thrown in, continue pummeling them in case an elaborate game of possum is being played.

Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images
The Lakers hung tough, and guys like Blake helped seal the deal.

For thoughts on what could be the final game of this series, I had an IM conversation with Kalen Deremo of the True Hoop network's Roundball Mining Company. Below is the transcript.

Andy Kamenetzky: Well, that was a very strange Game 3. No flow. No consistency from the refs. The refs at times let fouls go that would be called inside Rikers Island, then whistled the tickiest of tack. Andrew Bynum called for traveling with JaVale McGee over his back was... interesting. Plus, stalkers on the court! An entertaining game, but odd nonetheless. And I actually thought Denver would win for much of it.

KD: They led for the first three quarters, but it was so obvious L.A. had them trapped from the get go. That pace proved deadly. Nuggets played with fire... and got burned... bad. They've known from the very start they had to speed up the game to win. In Game 3 they finally managed to get out on the break more, and as a result they won in convincing fashion. The Nuggets thrive off energy. On Sunday, the Lakers looked like they were sleepwalking for much of the game and instead of countering with energy, the nuggets emulated the Lakers, and paid the price.

As we saw on Sunday, even if the Lakers aren't playing up to their potential they'll still win as long as they can entice the Nuggets to play a slow, half-court game. Give the Lakers credit for good defense, too.

AK: Yeah, they clamped down when it mattered most, and managed to keep Denver off the offensive glass in the second half. That's been a huge weapon for the Nuggets all series.

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Lakers at Nuggets, Game 3: What to watch

May, 4, 2012
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky

With a 2-0 series lead, the Lakers couldn't ask for a better position as their opening round moves to Denver. On the other hand, while the Nuggets never controlled Game 2, they were able to make it far more competitive, and more importantly, they often dictated the style of basketball played. Can this development, along with a home crowd's energy, be converted into the first win of the series, or are the Nuggets simply overmatched against the Lakers' size and a certain 2-guard?

To preview what Game 3 may have in store, I had an IM exchange with Jeremy Wagner of the True Hoop Network's Roundball Mining Company. Below is the transcript.

Noah Graham/Getty Images
The Nuggets got to the rim in Game 2, but their outside shooting was ice cold.

Andy Kamenetzky: Denver lost Game 2, but how much encouragement did you take from the way the Nuggets managed to push pace, attack the paint and generally play their game?

Jeremy Wagner: The Nuggets can bring some confidence into Game 3. They always knew they could run on the Lakers, but running alone does not equal winning. It just means they have a chance to keep the game close in the final few minutes. Their ability to continually fight back and control certain portions of the game is encouraging, but that feeling only goes so far.

But I do think Game 3 will be very competitive. Denver knows a loss will be the final nail in the coffin. If Denver wins Game 3, Game 4 should be a fantastic battle. If they lose, Game 4 might be much like Game 6 in 2009.

AK: Beyond continuing to run the break, what can Denver realistically do to finish Friday at 2-1?

JW: Denver must hit some 3s. The Nuggets are a very poor 3-point shooting team, but they do have capable 3-point shooters. If they had made a couple more in Game 2, things would have been interesting. The Nuggets are doing a great job on the offensive boards and running. If they can add one other positive characteristic, they will be in good shape.

The big discussion among Nuggets fans is whether to go with bigger lineups to try to beat L.A. at their own game, or go even smaller and risk completely sacrificing the paint? From a Lakers perspective, what lineup would be more concerning? Ty Lawson, Arron Afflalo, Corey Brewer, Danilo Gallinari and Al Harrington (small and fast), or Lawson, Gallo, Kenneth Faried, JaVale McGee and Timofey Mozgov (big and still fast)?

AK: It depends on how successfully the Nuggets pushed tempo, whether by getting the Lakers to take the bait or just fall apart defending in transition. Were that the case, I'd probably use the smaller lineup, since that feels like the group best at forcing the issue. But if the Lakers stay disciplined, you might need to hedge your bets with the bigger group to avoid being comically overwhelmed. However, I'd be concerned about how little McGee (lobs aside) and Moz would force the Lakers' bigs to defend. That's not exactly a frontcourt you run an offense through.

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To be certain, Wednesday's win over the Spurs carries the potential of galvanizing the Lakers 59 games into a maddeningly inconsistent and often lethargic season. Taking down the Spurs at full strength in their house without the services of Kobe Bryant is both meaningful and a reminder of what this team is capable of when putting their minds to a task. Of course, there's also a flip side to this coin. On several occasions, whether against the Clippers, Celtics, Mavericks or Heat, a win initially labeled "signature" quickly faded into the ether upon failure to build any momentum. More often than not, the Lakers land themselves back at square one.

Ron Chenoy/US Presswire
The future up front for Denver?

But with a fresh start, even one frustratingly self-induced, comes fresh opportunity to grow as a team. Perhaps this contest against Denver, a high end opponent, will emerge a chance capitalized upon. For more perspective on the Nuggets, we called upon Jeremy Wagner from the True Hoop network's Roundball Mining Company blog.

Land O' Lakers: How has JaVale McGee's arrival and the departure of Nene impacted the Nuggets?

Jeremy Wagner: The Nene for McGee trade was certainly made with an eye towards the future at the cost of the present. The Nuggets miss Nene’s interior passing and his post game although he has continued to miss games since arriving in Washington. McGee has certainly provided some highlight moments and shown some growth in his pick-and-roll defense although he lost his starting spot as quickly as he earned it.

The true benefit of the trade was that it unleashed "The Manimal." Rookie Kenneth Faried is now a starter and producing incredibly well for Denver. The Nuggets pride themselves on player development and with McGee and Faried they have a potentially dominant frontcourt for years to come.

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Three is (probably) a magic number

April, 5, 2012
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
Go ahead and sing.

Wednesday's win over the Clippers was significant not simply for being a quality effort against a strong opponent, though it was, but for what it did to the standings. The Lakers now own the season series and accompanying tiebreaker over the Clippers, giving them what amounts to a three game lead in the Pacific Division with only 11 games remaining.

Meanwhile, one rung up on the playoff ladder, the Lakers are 4.5 games behind San Antonio for the Western Conference's second seed. Put it all together, and barring the unusual and unexpected, the Lakers likely enter the postseason exactly where they are now, as the third seed.

Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Tony Allen and the Memphis Grizzlies are a scary proposition in the playoffs.

The team should keep its collective eye on the games in front of them, since the schedule still contains three games against San Antonio, and dates with Denver, Dallas, and Oklahoma City. The goal is to enter the postseason playing at as high a level as possible, and in that regard the Lakers still have plenty of i's to dot and t's to cross. They need to go one day at a time. (Go ahead and sing.) The rest of us can look ahead at potential playoff opponents. The bottom half of the W.C. is tightly packed, meaning any of five teams have a reasonable shot of finishing sixth.

Who should the Lakers want? Is there a nightmare opponent out there? Here are the squads they're most likely to face, starting from the bottom, up... though the order is likely to change almost daily until the end of the regular season.


Current Position: 29-25 (8th, 1.5 games behind sixth seed)

Matchup: The problem with Denver hasn't been talent, but health. Basically everyone on their roster has missed games, and in the case of key talent like Danilo Gallinari, a significant amount of them. But the tide might turn by playoff time. Wilson Chandler, who returned from China only to hurt his groin, will soon be back in the lineup. Gallinari (thumb) is practicing again, too. Rudy Fernandez, despite back surgery, could return for the playoffs. Keep in mind, the Nuggets started 14-5, including a win over L.A., and when whole are a dangerous bunch. They have good point guards in Ty Lawson and Andre Miller, a wing who can defend Kobe Bryant (Arron Afflalo), and a ton of depth. Most playoff rotations get shorter, but the Nuggets can still come in waves.

Fear Factor (scale of 1-10, keeping in mind the Lakers have shown an ability to lose to anyone, so all opponents deserve respect): 5 if injuries persist, 6.5 if healthy. Even if Denver gets their pieces back, how well will they fit with so little time together?


Current Position: 29-25 (7th, 1.5 behind sixth seed)

Matchup: Kyle Lowry is back on the practice floor, and could return by the postseason. Obviously that changes the dynamic considerably for the Rockets, given how well Lowry has performed this season. Kevin Martin has also been banged up, but should be on the floor by the postseason. Houston beat the Lakers on March 20th without either one of those guys, so they'd have to be taken seriously. The Rockets don't excel in any one area, but are average to above average in a wide range of key statistical categories, and don't have a lot of clear soft points ripe for exploitation. Luis Scola is still a solid player, Chandler Parsons has earned his way into the starting lineup, and with Marcus Camby and Sam Dalembert, there's at least a little size.

Fear Factor: 5. Houston will force 48 minutes of solid play every game, but ultimately don't have enough top end players to beat the Lakers in a series.

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Lakers at Nuggets: What to watch, with Roundball Mining Company

February, 3, 2012
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky

The "Grammy Road Trip" is always a test for the Lakers, and with the team struggling outside of Staples, this year is no exception. Whether for the purpose of molding themselves into a more legitimate force heading into the playoffs or simply forging a record good enough to qualify, this six-game roadie carries stakes. An opener against the Nuggets, possibly the best team on the docket, will set the tone.

For insight into Denver's squad, we called upon Jeremy Wagner of the True Hoop Network's Roundball Mining Company. Below are his responses to four questions about the Nuggets, and here is a link to the Laker-centric tidbits I provided him.

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Gallo and the gang have high hopes for the season.

1) Land O' Lakers: People have been in wait-and-see mode after the strong play upon Carmelo Anthony's exit. 20+ games into this season, how good do you think this team truly is?

Jeremy Wagner: I believe it is important to make a differentiation between last season’s team and this season’s team. Last season’s team played with an aggression and purpose fueled by the fresh wound of the Carmelo Anthony trade. Nearly every player had a reason to prove himself. This team does not possess that chip on their shoulder.

What this team does have is a year of growth and playoff experience for young studs like Danilo Gallinari and Ty Lawson as well as some assurances in the form of long term contracts. The players on this roster know they are the foundation of the franchise and that is a different form of motivation.

The 2011-12 Denver Nuggets are a very good team. Good enough to beat anyone. The bajillion dollar question is, are they good enough to beat anyone in a best of seven series?

The good news for Nuggets fans is the team is not built just for this season. They will improve internally and could have some cap space to play with next season depending on what happens with Wilson Chandler when he returns from China.

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Lakers at Nuggets: What to watch

January, 1, 2012
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
The Lakers ended 2011 on a winning note. The chance to kick off 2012 in that same positive fashion (against the same team, no, less) is immediately staring them in the face. On Saturday afternoon, the Lakers played host to the Nuggets. Tonight, Denver returns the favor. Here are four items to be mindful of once the ball is jumped:

1. Back-to-back, high-altitude style

Garrett W. Ellwood/Getty Images
Rocky's lungs may even be burning this early in the season.

A trip to Denver's thin air can trip up a team collectively in game shape and sporting fresh legs, and there's no denying conditioning remains an issue for the Lakers. In particular, for the bigs. Andrew Bynum made no bones about being exhausted after his debut on Saturday, and he'll be playing his first back-to-back of the season. Pau Gasol looked dead-legged defensively on several second-half possessions against the Nuggets, especially when closing out on Al Harrington at the 3-point line. The Lakers will have about 24 hours to acclimate themselves to the lack of local oxygen against a squad that lives to run guests out of its building. There won't be much time to make the physical and mental adjustments.

Having said this, I do wonder if this particular advantage will be quite as strong for the Nuggets as in years past. After all, they were saddled with the same compressed training camp as everyone else, are on a back-to-back, and have played only one home game so far. It actually wouldn't shock me if several Nuggets also appeared to be sucking wind.

But that's George Karl's problem, not the Lakers', and it doesn't alleviate entirely whatever problems they still may experience.

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Lakers vs. Nuggets: What to watch with Roundball Mining Company

December, 31, 2011
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
The transformation of the Denver Nuggets started last season when Carmelo Anthony was shipped off to New York for a massive haul of players. This year, the roster continues to evolve, but the Nuggets are still considered a playoff caliber team, and some like ESPN.com's John Hollinger, consider them one of the Western Conference's best teams.

With consecutive wins under their belt, the Lakers now face a tough pair of back-to-back, home-and-home games against the Nuggets. They'll welcome back Andrew Bynum, giving the coaching staff and fans alike the first chance to see the Lakers with all the component parts in uniform.

Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
Ty Lawson is one of the many B+ players making the Nuggets a real threat out West.

So what awaits the Lakers this weekend? To find out, we hit up Charlie Yao and Kalen Deremo of TrueHoop's Roundball Mining Company with some questions.

1. The Nuggets are a team without a true go-to star. It worked for them last season following the Carmelo Anthony trade. What are the prospects for 2011-12?

DEREMO: In the NBA, much like in any professional sports league, there seems to be a blueprint regarding the essential tools required to win a championship. While in the NFL you may need a Hall of Fame caliber quarterback or in the MLB a potent starting rotation, you can still manage to win without one of these elements. However, the modern-day consensus among basketball aficionados is that in the NBA, the recipe for a championship consists of on ingredient and one ingredient only: a superstar.

Though the Denver Nuggets sorely lack in this particular department, it hasn't dissuaded the Mile High City's fan base from open optimism about the upcoming season because let's face it, the Nuggets are not the Lakers; failing to win a championship each year is essentially protocol, not an anomaly. Nevertheless, there is a decent-sized faction seemingly unwilling to ignore what history tells us about past NBA champions and are terrified of yet another first-round playoff exit.

Here's the thing: The 2011-12 Denver Nuggets might have the one ingredient necessary to defy the notion a superstar is required to win a championship, and that's a copious amount of depth. As of right now the Nuggets can trot out two separate starting lineups that could probably contend with half of the teams in the league. For example, a starting five of Andre Miller, Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Kenneth Faried and Timofey Mozgov would likely be just as effective as one with Ty Lawson, Rudy Fernandez, Danilo Gallinari, Nene and Chris Andersen.

Plus, this doesn't include Wilson Chandler whom the Nuggets will likely get back in late February or early March.

If Denver can fully capitalize on its youth, depth, and the altitude in Denver, there's no doubt that by the end of the season George Karl's run-and-gun squad could be looking at a top four seed out West. Moreover, considering how good Denver has been at home over the last handful of years, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Nuggets run teams out of the building on the way to a first-round playoff victory and possibly a trip to the Western Conference Finals if everything fell in Denver's favor.

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Afflalo illustrates L.A.'s free agency bind

December, 5, 2011
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
Heading into the weekend, ESPN.com's Marc Stein, reported the Lakers are among the myriad teams interested in Nuggets swingman Arron Afflalo. They, along with other cap-strapped teams like Chicago, "will continue to press the Nuggets to see if they’re amenable to sign-and-trade discussions."

AP Photo/Chris Schneider
In a perfect world, Arron Afflalo (right) would be in purple and gold next season. This isn't that world.

Understanding why the Lakers like Afflalo so much isn't complicated. At 26, the L.A. native and UCLA product has taken what was once a game built solely on defensive intensity and scrappiness, progressively added more offense, and now is widely seen as a player on the rise. For three seasons, he has shot over 40 percent from 3-point range (including last season's 42.3), and has improved his overall percentage from the floor in each of his four NBA seasons.

Afflalo would fill multiple needs for the Lakers, including shooting, youth, defense, and supplementary scoring. Culturally, he'd be a great fit. Really, the whole thing is a spectacular idea.

I have absolutely no idea how the Lakers can actually get him.

A straight signing isn't an option. As a restricted free agent, Denver can match any offer extended to Afflalo and have indicated they'll do so. (Not only because he's good, but because the Nuggets have, like, three players under contract.) Certainly they'd pony up to meet the only offer the Lakers can make -- the mini mid-level worth just over $9 million over three years. This is assuming Afflalo would even sign such a wildly under market offer, which he wouldn't.

So what about a sign-and-trade? Between luxury tax levels remaining dollar-for-dollar over the next two seasons, the flexibility afforded by the amnesty provision, and the upcoming influx of dollars from their TV deal, the Lakers could handle the first part of the hyphenate. It's the "trade" part at the end causing problems. Remember in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" when the pair arrive in sparce Bolivia, and Butch tries to reassure Sundance that you get a lot more for your money down there?

"What could they have here," Sundance replies, "you could possibly want to buy?"

In many significant ways, he might say the same today about L.A.'s roster.

The Lakers lack top-end young prospects and high draft picks. Whether you're talking Metta World Peace, Steve Blake, Matt Barnes, or Luke Walton, none of the guys constituting the roster's middle class have any trade appeal. At the high end, plenty of teams would go for Andrew Bynum and/or Lamar Odom, and if put on the open market Pau Gasol would be sought after, too.

Except Gasol and Bynum are both far too good to give up for Afflalo. Moreover, if fans have any designs on trades for superstars like Chris Paul, Deron Williams, and Dwight Howard, some combination of Bynum, Odom, and Gasol will be needed. It makes it tough to use those bullets on Afflalo, or anyone else.

So the bottom line appears to be this: Save some absolutely astonishing Jedi mind tricks played by Mitch Kupchak on opposing GM's, Arron Afflalo isn't coming to the Lakers. Not unless it's part of a mega-beyond-words trade netting the Lakers Afflalo and Howard (or Paul, or Williams), because when it comes to sign-and-trades, the Lakers may only get one shot, and basically need to blow up the Death Star with it.

Fire up your trade machines, and send suggestions to El Segundo (and our Twitter feed).

To subscribe to the K-Bros podcast via iTunes, click here. Subscribe to our YouTube channel for full video coverage of the Lakers.

"The L.A. in my Game," with Arron Afflalo

October, 30, 2011
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
As part of a continuing series, NBA players share how growing up in L.A. shaped their games.

For Arron Afflalo, competition is second nature. It's been on display ever since he was 8 years old, fighting on the court with everyone from opponents to teammates. This spirit was born in Compton. Afflalo moved there from Inglewood to live with his dad at age 11 and the experience shaped him as a player and a person. That he's been more successful at the NBA level than many expected is the result of a hard-nosed attitude developed right here in Los Angeles.

Andy Kamenetzky: Which parks were you a regular at when you first began playing?

Arron Afflalo: I played at Jesse Owens Park when I was about 6 years old. That's when I had my first Little League game. I would [also] play in the Compton area. I would play at Campanella Park. I would have games at Compton High and Centennial High and Dominguez.

Larry W. Smith/Icon SMI
A fantastic career at Centennial High led to a McDonalds All-American berth for Afflalo.

And Victoria Park in Carson off Avalon. That's where I started playing with Slam N Jam, a familiar AAU program that was really big growing up. That's [also] where my father used to play at night in a men's league. I would go up there and play on the side courts as he played with the older guys. I would have my own little games there on the weekend.

AK: What was the atmosphere like?

Afflalo: I was young, so I was just competitive and energetic for the game of basketball. I didn't know how how much influence the environment itself was having on me or my game. But once I did get to the national AAU atmosphere, I realized playing in my neighborhood gave me a certain edge or way of playing and looking at the game. I started playing in Vegas and other areas in which the kids were just different.

AK: What kind of edge?

Afflalo: Just that competitive edge. I guess kids from that area were shaped different because of their upbringing, rather [than] kids from the Carson area, or the Compton area, or the L.A. area, or Inglewood area. I think the combination of my love for basketball combined with having to put forth that competitive spirit at such a young age shaped who I am and how I continue to progress to this day. I would say 8 years old is when I remember becoming that ultra-competitive and really striving to win.

AK: In Compton, you first lived at Rosecrans Blvd. and Central, and then Richland Farms, which is more, relatively speaking, rural. What were those experiences like?

Affalo: My initial move there was different, because even though I was [from] Inglewood, I was still very young, so I hadn't really been exposed to having to be on the streets or anything some kids deal with. When I moved to Compton, it was a humbling experience, but it kind of heightened my awareness of who I was as a person and how to function. I thought that was good for me going to Centennial, because some kids there don't have a choice but to grow up in the projects or be out on the streets and develop a certain toughness about them to survive.

That wasn't the case for me. Both my parents were around. I just so happened to grow up in that city. In respect to them, I had to adjust my ways of living life. Not being so competitive and fighting everybody I see. Becoming more of a humble person.

AK: I had no idea Richland Farms even existed until reading about your background.

Afflalo: Richland Farms is nothing out of the ordinary. It's just an area where there's more land to the houses. You have your inner-city area in Compton, where the houses are stacked. It's more of a city-type feel. You have your project areas. And you also have certain areas where the homes, maybe back in the 50's and the 60's, had ample land in the back. My dad bought a home over there. You'll see horses and chickens and things that you wouldn't expect. That you hear in rap videos. (laughs)

You literally go one block and you're back in the city. Literally. It's not like it's an isolated area. It's just a function of the land that comes with some of the houses over there. It's a lot of older people that have gardens and horses and things like that in the back yard. But you literally cross the street, you're in an area that's nothing like it. I used to run up and down my street dribbling the ball and a horse would come trotting by. Obviously, people were allowed to have chickens over there, so you'll see chickens just crossing the street. And it's only in that area.

AK: You and your dad were extremely close growing up. How did that relationship shape you as a player?

Afflalo: My dad has always been around. As has my mom, but especially my dad in terms of me enjoying the game of basketball and growing as a man. I don't believe raising me was a job at all. He loved basketball as much as I did, and because of that, it was easy to take me to practice. Watch games with me. He can kind of enjoy basketball and live it through me just as I would learn about life from him. It was just a good partnership.

AK: How good a player was he?

Afflalo: He was good. I mean, he didn't go to any D-I school or anything like that. He had a different type of upbringing. But he was good. He could shoot. He could jump. He was competitive and a lot of things [about my game], I get from him. Definitely my shot. He taught me how to shoot. I used to shoot with my elbow out, cocked it from the side when I was little. I was 11 or 12 when I got old enough to starting shooting above my head. He changed my form, so I feel like I have a pretty nice shooting stroke and touch. That definitely came from him.

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Arron Afflalo philosophical on the lockout

October, 24, 2011
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
A few days ago, I interviewed Nuggets guard Arron Afflalo as part of the "L.A. in my Game" series. (The discussion will be posted later this week.) While I had the Bruin standout on the phone, I asked for his take on recent comments from former NHL/Dallas Stars forward Bill Guerin, who recently advised NBA players to suck it up, take a deal and get back on the court ASAP. His perspective is certainly meaningful, having experienced the 2005 NHL lockout firsthand. At the time, Guerin was a hardliner for the players, even if it meant losing the entire season. Looking back on it now, Guerin regrets that stance, and feels NBA players will eventually feel the same.

When I told Afflalo of these comments, his reaction was strident, but also quite philosophical. On one hand, he didn't sound like a guy, to use the parlance made popular by JaVale McGee, "ready to fold." As he noted, "If there's something to be fought for that's worth a year lockout, then fight for it. Every side has their bottom line and there are some things that are worth it." Afflalo, who attended the recent Players Meeting at the Beverly Hilton, definitely struck me as a guy willing to soldier up for the right cause.

On the other hand, the larger risks mentioned by Guerin were hardly lost on him. Beyond literally the money lost and likely never recovered, Afflalo was clearly thinking about the long-term fall out. The damage inflicted on the players. On the owners. On the NBA itself.

This was especially evident when I followed up about how to draw the line between holding your ground for the best offer and putting the season in jeopardy?

"In all honesty, and it's hard to do, but it takes responsibility on both parties. Obviously, I'm a player and I can only take responsibility from the players' standpoint, but it just takes responsibility from both parties and understanding of that. Until you have a complete understanding that it's not worth it, that sometimes winning a fight will result in a loss. You have to know that. And if you get caught up in the moment and you don't recognize that, regardless of whether you win your battle or not, player or owner, you're gonna do damage.

"You have to ask yourself, is that damage worth it. Is that damage worth that win?"

Afflalo's thoughts reminded me of a great scene in "White Men Can't Jump" where Gloria Clemente (Rosie Perez) explains to Billy Hoyle (Woody Harrelson) her set of rules about what defines a win or a loss:

"Sometimes when you win, you really lose, and sometimes when you lose, you really win, and sometimes when you win or lose, you actually tie, and sometimes when you tie, you actually win or lose . . . Winning or losing is all one organic globule, from which one extracts what one needs."

Afflalo and Gloria Clemente are both driving at the age-old question of winning the battle but losing the war, a scenario threatening the players and the owners during the lockout. Each side has a list of demands and goals, and both are expected and entitled to zealously pursue them.

But with each item on the checklist, it must always be considered whether the prize is absolutely worth the price.

Is what's being fought for worth risking the long-term health of the Association, the best interests of which both sides claim to have in mind? Ultimately, as the future fortunes of the NBA go, so go the spoils for players and owners.

In my humble opinion, both sides are flirting badly with a battle where, in the best-case scenario, they tie. In the worst-case scenario, which also doubles as "most likely," they both actually lose. There is a battle and a war at stake for either side. Win the war, even if it means sacrificing the battle.

Derek Fisher, Billy Hunter, Mo Evans and others at the players meeting (video)

October, 14, 2011
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
Here are the talkies from Friday's players meeting at the Beverly Hilton. I'm going to post some additional thoughts later, but for the time being, here is a quick rundown.

Washington Wizards big man JaVale McGee left the meeting early for unspecified reasons, but spoke with the media while waiting for his car to be delivered. Asked if the players were standing strong, McGee admitted not everyone is automatically inclined to fight to the bitterest of ends:

"There's definitely some guys in there saying that they're ready to fold. But the majority are ready to stand strong."

Predictably, McGee's words created a stir, and he later took to Twitter denying he made the statement. (As you'll plainly see, he did.) Although truth be told, what McGee said is neither surprising nor even particularly revealing. It's actually to be expected, since not every player has equal skin in this game. Some can afford -- whether monetarily, through stature, or because of superior talent -- to miss more games than others. This reality is something Derek Fisher didn't even attempt to deny. Considering there are only 30 owners, and they can't even agree on what they want, it would be exceptionally naive to presume all 400+ NBA players in mental lockstep.

What seemed to bother Fisher, Mo Evans and others wasn't so much McGee's opinion, but rather that he said it publicly and out of school. As Fisher dryly noted, "The person that spent the least amount of time in the room has no ability to make that statement." At the end of the day, "Fold-Gate" wasn't so much an indictment of the union's solidarity, but rather a reminder of how much both sides value staying on message during this public negotiation. Say what you will about David Stern, but the man is a master at such a task. Even if you think he's lying through his teeth, the man stays in his thematic lane like a man with his hands firmly at 10 and 2.

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Free Agent Profiles: Shooting guards

July, 20, 2011
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
For those depressed after seeing Brian emphasize the "thin" options for free-agent point guards, buck up, campers! The shooting guard crop is better. Granted, it's hardly overflowing with eye-popping candidates, but upgrades, however small, are still better, right? There are definitely some 2's feasibly acquired, if not necessarily the proverbial "missing piece."

Fernando Medina/NBAE/Getty Images
If Jason Richardson were a pie, he'd be too high in the sky for the Lakers.

The "Unless they're so geeked to become Lakers a bench role and mid-level exception are amenable -- and mid-level exceptions still exist in the new CBA -- don't hold your breath" guys.
  • Jason Richardson (UFA, Orlando)
  • Jamal Crawford (UFA, Atlanta)

Even acknowledging both aren't likely to maintain their previous salaries, this wouldn't just be a paycheck below market value. We're talking the monetary haircut equivalent of Demi Moore in "G.I. Jane." Their roles could also be reduced along with their cheddar. On the flip side, those sacrifices would allow both to harbor less guilt over deficiencies (defense for Richardson, darn anything outside scoring for Crawford).

Between the two, Richardson is the better player and outside shooter (his three-point percentage hasn't dipped below 38 percent since 2007), but either can fill buckets at will. Hopefully, not at the Lakers' expense, since they're likely to remain opponents.

The "Not quite as expensive, but I still wouldn't hold my breath" guys
  • J.R. Smith (UFA, Denver)
  • Nick Young (RFA, Washington)
  • Arron Afflalo (RFA, Denver)

Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images
J.R. Smith is talented, but like a renegade cop, is also something of a loose cannon.

For Smith and Young, mid-level-ish money is perhaps more realistic. The bigger headache, however, likely comes after inking them. True, there's a desperate need for another wing not named "Kobe" or "Bryant" who can create for himself, and these guys score in their sleep. However, wild shot selection, erratic decision-making, and porous D are part of Smith's package. And the equally undisciplined Young offers literally no other skill set beyond scoring. Similar to how Lamar Odom's is often described as a Swiss Army knife because of his versatility, Young's tunnel vision gunning makes him a spork.

For his part, Afflalo actually qualifies as a legitimate two-way player, not to mention a high character, steadily improving Karl favorite to boot. Thus, I'd be stunned if Denver allowed him to walk under any circumstances other than an astonishingly big offer the Lakers can't pony up in the first place.

Anyhoo ...

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Kobe Bryant
22.3 5.6 1.3 34.5
ReboundsJ. Hill 8.0
AssistsK. Bryant 5.6
StealsR. Price 1.6
BlocksE. Davis 1.3