Los Angeles Lakers: Baron Davis

Matt Barnes on Dwight-to-L.A., his health and the upcoming season (Video)

December, 2, 2011
12/02/11
7:16
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Never accuse Matt Barnes of being afraid to churn the rumor mill. In addition to Derek Fisher and Darius Morris (who appeared later on the PodKast), Barnes dropped by the El Segundo facility on Friday to get some work in. With the media already on hand to hear comments from Mitch Kupchak and Mike Brown, Barnes also found himself surrounded by mics and cameras. He provided an update on his knee ("98 percent"), plus some thoughts on learning a new system this season. Barnes doesn't think it'll be particularly complicated because, at the end of the day, everyone knows whatever the offense looks like, it will be run through Kobe Bryant.

Eyebrows were raised, however, when Barnes was asked about the swirl of trade and free agency reports now in full swing. As a rule of thumb, he doesn't pay attention to the gossip unless it pertains to his team. Or, as it turns out, unless it involves ex-teammates/current friends linked to his team. Which brings us of course to Barnes' one-time Orlando center Dwight Howard.

Turns out, Barnes buys the chatter about Howard's desire to don purple and gold, because he's heard the same from a pretty reliable source: Dwight Howard.

"You know, I've been hearing [rumors about] Dwight," acknowledged Barnes. "I've been hearing [rumors about] Baron [Davis in the event of getting amnestied]. I've been hearing stuff a lot lately. I've talked to both of those guys and they wanna be here, so we'll see what happens.

To quote Ace Ventura, "Reh-heh-heh-heally?"

Ever the salesman, Barnes talked up to Howard and Davis what it's like being part of this franchise. "A dream," he gushed when I asked how he describes playing here. "On the court. To be a Laker, there's nothing like it, to play in L.A. And to be ready to get a ring if you come here."

Barnes admitted pitching the Lakers to outsiders can be tough, since he's also tight with the guys who'd theoretically move in the event of a trade. But at the same time, as a guy who's played on eight teams in eight seasons, he knows rosters are always on the verge of getting flipped. Barnes is nothing if not down for the dudes currently in his locker room, but perspective must also be maintained.

"It's tough, because I have my teammates that I have a bond with now, but I think I know better than anybody this is a business," explained Barnes. "Everybody knows that now, from what we just went through. Friendships are always good, but you have to understand, you can't put your heart into these trades and cuts and acquisitions, because we have no control over them."

In any event, if Howard actually wants to be a Laker that wish doesn't in turn become guaranteed, but the odds are certainly increased. Particularly if a G.M. shares my opinion about the protocol for trading a superstar. Generally speaking, if a team knows its franchise player isn't long for the franchise, you're better off trading him earlier rather than later. It's beginning to look like Otis Smith is seeing the writing on the wall. Even if Howard doesn't end up a Laker, it's becoming harder to picture him a Magician considerably longer.

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Matt Barnes, Baron Davis and others on the lockout ending

November, 27, 2011
11/27/11
11:32
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Matt Barnes was among several NBA athletes on hand Sunday at a L.A. charity basketball game organized by Baron Davis. Naturally, the postgame media sessions centered a lot on the presumably ended lockout and basketball happily back in business. Of course, there's been a lot of bumps and bruises endured by both sides before reaching this point, and the players have long maintained -- rightly, I'd say -- more concessions were made on their end.

With that in mind, I asked Barnes if the battle was worth it. His response reflects the complicated nature of this labor battle:

“It’s tough. It’s always a business, and we definitely need to stand up for ourselves. Everything wasn’t met, but I think it’s as good as it’s going to get for us. I’m definitely glad we took a stand. I wish we didn’t have to miss so much time, I wish everything could have started a little bit earlier in the summer so we could have fought and still had a full season, but 66 games is going to have to do.”

I imagine those sentiments summarize how most players feel in a nutshell. They're not thrilled with the new CBA, nor do they feel it's as fair as it could or should be. But they can live with it. And in the meantime, more is gained by playing professional basketball in an imperfect-but-still-pretty-darn-good setting than holding out for a Utopia not likely to arrive.



More thoughts on the lockout were shared in the videos below.

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"The L.A. in my Game," with Baron Davis, Part II

November, 9, 2011
11/09/11
9:29
AM PT
By The Kamenetzky Brothers
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
As part of a continuing series, NBA players share how growing up in L.A. shaped their games.

We bring you the second part of our interview with Baron Davis, the NBA player we feel most epitomizes "L.A." Between his upbringing with roots in South Central and Santa Monica, plus an eye fixed on Hollywood and the next generation of ballers, Los Angeles remains a huge part of Davis' identity. In part I, he talked about learning the game as a child, the influence of his family and neighborhood and how he arrived at the prestigious Crossroads School. In part II, the L.A. journey continues.

Land O' Lakers: During your senior year, Crossroads won the state title by absolutely destroying Sacramento Encina 93-57. How did such a lopsided win happen?

BD: In high school, we were good. [And] they were a real challenging team. So when we run out for the warm-ups, they were looking at us, like, laughing! Like we were a joke. I think they were a tougher team. I don't know what neighborhood they were from, but they d--- sure acted like it. They were just shaking their heads, like, "C'mon, dude! This is Crossroads? Which one is Baron Davis? Are you serious?"

Kris Connor/Getty Images
Before working on movies together, Cash Warren and Baron Davis led Crossroads to a state title.



I was like, "Dude, we're about to beat the s--- out of you. You have no idea what's about to happen." (laughs)

That was the best game we played as a team and that was probably the best all-around game I ever played at the school. I think I was the second- or third-leading scorer of the game. The guys that were seniors, myself, Cash Warren, LeQuan Tolbert, it was our last time knowing we'll ever play with each other. So it was like, once again, somebody is underestimating us, let's go smack them in the mouth one more time.

And we had lost in the semifinals [the year before]. We were so hungry it was crazy. That's why we beat them by [46]. We were throwing the ball off the backboard by the end of the game. We were so afraid to lose. There was 10 seconds left in the game, we were still pressing and laying the ball up. It was crazy.

Land O' Lakers: You guys had already beaten Christ the King and some other great schools across the country.

BD: We beat Christ the King. We beat Simon Gratz. We beat Inglewood. We lost, I think, to Mount Zion, we lost to Dominguez at Dominguez, Crenshaw at Crenshaw. When we lost to Dominguez, they were No. 1 in the country. When we lost to Mount Zion, they were No. 1 in the country. And going to Crenshaw thinking you were gonna get a victory, you have a whole other thing coming.

We were up 20 going into the fourth at Crenshaw. Then all these [Crips] came in the gym and I just felt real uncomfortable. (laughs) The thing about Crenshaw, they never stopped playing. They were like Golden State -- no lead was too big for them to overcome. And we were playing in their house. And once the Crips walked in, it was like a whole different thing with me. It was like … OK … uh … where are my homeboys at? I was a little distracted at the time.

If you put that in the article, the dudes who were standing on that wall, they know what I'm talking about. They'll read that and laugh, I guarantee.

Land O' Lakers: Is that why the Crips were there? Or were they just there to watch the game?

BD: I don't know. I just know they came in right in the fourth quarter and that was very uncomfortable. We were up 20 before they walked into that gym … My antennas went up. They had to go up, you know what I mean?

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"The L.A. in my Game," with Baron Davis: Part I

November, 5, 2011
11/05/11
7:18
AM PT
By The Kamenetzky brothers
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
As part of a continuing series, NBA players share how growing up in L.A. shaped their games.

During his interview for this series, Brandon Jennings referred to Baron Davis as "the Godfather of Los Angeles basketball." While Baron is too modest to declare himself Don Corleone, more than any other player in the NBA, Baron Davis embodies Los Angeles. Not simply because he grew up here or because he spent two seasons at UCLA, although both factors certainly play a role, the connection comes in the way Davis' L.A. story reflects the multicultural, eclectic nature of the city and his everlasting connection to it.

A product of South Central L.A. (Manchester Blvd. and San Pedro), he moved in with his grandparents after living with his parents grew, as he put it, "very rocky and unstable." In seventh grade, he was offered the chance to attend Crossroads, a prestigious and affluent private school in Santa Monica, where his classmates included Kate Hudson and Cash Warren. Davis is now part of the Hollywood jet set, but ties with his original community remained strong, as well as his availability to the L.A. ballers who came behind him. As Jennings noted, "you can text BD right now, he'll pick up the phone."


Arnold Turner/WireImage
Baron Davis has remained a fixture in many walks of the Los Angeles community.



"This next generation of L.A. basketball is so exciting to see," Davis gushed. "It's so exciting to see what's on the horizon for them. Now we're finally starting to get our respect in the NBA."

Land O' Lakers: The first place you ever played was, around age 4, a makeshift court your grandfather set up.

BD: Yeah, my grandfather put up a court in the backyard of his house. It was a Christmas gift. It was one of those courts you buy from the store. A wood court with a Styrofoam wood backboard and an all-wood beam. Matter of fact, it was just a hoop and my grandfather found a wooden pole, dug a hole in the ground and basically put the wood pole in the dirt with some rocks and stuff around it to hold the court up.

I was very surprised to get it. I'd never really asked for anything on Christmas, but he knew how much I loved basketball. We could come in from Sundays and he would watch the Dodger game. As soon as he'd fall asleep, I'd turn to some NBA.

Land O' Lakers: Were there a lot of games in your backyard?

BD: Kind of. There was a school across the street from my house. South Park elementary. So that's where we played most of our basketball. But in the backyard, my cousins, who are all 6 or 7 years older, they would pull the pole up to 8 or 9 feet, so they could dunk. The court was probably 5 or 6 feet tall. Every time they would pull the pole out of the ground, my granny would go and water the pole down so it would shrink back to its normal size.

Land O' Lakers: Did you ever play at the taller height?

BD: Yeah, I would have to. [My cousins] would just come over and do it and there would be nothing I could say. And it gave me a chance to play with them.

Land O' Lakers: And the uneven terrain helped you develop a handle.

BD: Well, it was like a strip of cement and then it was dirt in front of the court and grass on the other side of the yard. So you had to be able to dribble just to get to the rim, because the cement strip was man-made. The yard was man-landscaped. So there was a lot of bumps and bruises. (Laughs)

Land O' Lakers: You mentioned the elementary school across the street. Which parks did you also play at growing up?

BD: None. I played at no parks.

Land O' Lakers: Why is that?

BD: Where I'm from, you don't really travel outside your neighborhood unless you're traveling with a bunch of people. To go play at a Westchester Park or Raleigh Park, you would have to know somebody over there. And plus, you just don't leave your neighborhood, you know what I mean? If you leave your neighborhood, you better know somebody or you better be going somewhere looking for some trouble. When I was young, it was like that. "This is our neighborhood. This is our park. This is our court. And we're gonna stick to this."

But there were a lot of older guys, teenagers and college guys around. So for me, when I was 5 or 6 years old, those are the dudes I would play against.

Land O' Lakers: What was the vibe of these games?

BD: A lot of physical [play]. Because when I played, I played with mostly gangsters. I played with mostly the gang members. Sometimes, some of the high school guys would come by. Chris Ford and Michael Tate, who went to Fremont High School. Dudes like that would come to the elementary to play every now and again. But mainly, just the gang members. I played with all the dudes in the neighborhood. A lot of those were good players, they just dropped out of school and was just gang banging.

Land O' Lakers: How does that shape your game?

BD: Well, one, there was no crying. (Laughs) There was no being soft. I think those guys were extremely tough on me, because I was the littlest of little brothers, you know what I mean? They took care of me. They would send me on store runs. By the time I was 7 or 8 years old, I was one of them.

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"The L.A. in my Game," with Jordan Hamilton

September, 3, 2011
9/03/11
9:13
AM PT
By The Kamenetzky Brothers
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
As part of a continuing series, NBA players share how growing up in L.A. shaped their games.

For Jordan Hamilton, an NBA lockout stalling his rookie season with the Denver Nuggets is a microcosm of his entire basketball career: A series of starts and stops. Academically ineligible as a Dorsey High school freshman, the Crenshaw district product repeated that grade academically the following year, but was considered a sophomore player on the court. Thus, a season lost in the ether. After transferring to Dominguez his junior year, he led the squad to the state finals, where they were upset by McClymonds. Unfortunately, redemption wasn't in the cards. Despite three appeals, Hamilton's eligibility was ruled expired as a senior. Disappointed but undeterred, Hamilton made the best of the situation by maintaining his high work ethic. That determination led to two seasons at Texas, followed by 26th overall selection by the Denver Nuggets in this year's draft.

Garrett W. Ellwood/Getty Images
Hamilton's road to the NBA wasn't as smooth as his game.


Kamenetzky brothers: When you first began playing, which were your regular playgrounds and parks?

Jordan Hamilton: We played some basketball at Ladera Park. Baldwin Hills park. I'd go there every once in a while and play. Rancho Cienega [mainly]. A lot of guys came out of there and played as kids. Marcus Williams played there as kids. I think Arron [Afflalo] played there. A lot of pros. I liked the atmosphere. It was like a mini-Rucker indoors, so a lot of people would come out and watch us play.

I never really played my own age. I'd always play up. They didn't know I was only nine or 10 years old. I was around 5'10", pretty tall and pretty big, so they didn't really see me as a nine year-old.

I think that's when [respect] first got started for me, just going around there and building a reputation around L.A. Then I took it to the national scene. Growing up as a kid playing AAU from about 10, 11, 12, that's when I started getting nationally known. But it started [at Rancho]. Just built that confidence to go out and play against guys across the country and get better.

K Bros: What goes into building that reputation?

JH: People talking. It starts off as a buzz, then people come out and see you play. If you perform well and keep it going, I think that's how you build your reputation. And just being known for something. Some guys block shots. Some guys rebound well. But for me, it was scoring. A lot of people see me as a scorer, so if they come out, they expect to see me score the basketball.

K Bros: Were there any local legends you patterned your game after?

JH: Marcus Williams. I really look up to him in a lot of ways. Growing up, he was one of the best players in our area. Just seeing him how much people respected him. He's a really good passer. He can shoot. Most [guards] are known for passing, but he can shoot it. He can get to the basket. He know how to create fouls. He's not one of the quickest or fastest guys but he definitely can get the job done.

K Bros: Your parents were very involved in the community, trying to make it as strong an environment as possible. What effect did that have on you with avoiding negative influences?

JH: I have four brothers and a sister and we're all on the right track, as far as our lives go. Growing up in the Crenshaw area, it was kind of rough. We just hung out with each other. Those are really my close friends. I'd include Marcus and a couple of others. Those are the main focuses. Having us stay tight, having us in a support system, and basketball is what we all chose.

K Bros: Did you have to make a conscious decision of acknowledging those surroundings and trying to distance yourself?

JH: My dad, he works with County Probation with juveniles. He'd take us to the place to see the kids and that was kind of scary for us. That being said, we never wanted to go down that route. We just kept straight heads and did what we had to do to be a positive influence in the community.

K Bros: Your older brother played for the University of Miami and professionally overseas. What did you learn from him?

JH: He was more of a post player, but he's been through it with other guys and saw other wings train. He put me through some drills and then later that day, we would play some pickup basketball every summer. I would play against pros all the time. I think that's also a confidence booster. It was like, "Okay, if I can get my shot off against Ron Artest or Trevor Ariza, I can definitely get my shot off on a wing in college."

K Bros: When did you really focus on taking basketball to the next level?

JH: Probably when I was 12. When I was 11, we went to Nationals in Florida with an AAU team and I had a really good showing. And then when I was 12, that's when I started playing against guys that were older than me. Right after that, I [thought] maybe I can possibly be in the NBA one day.

K Bros: You started out at Dorsey, but you were academically ineligible as a freshman. Was it frustrating or scary to have your high school quickly stall?

JH: Yeah, it was tough. I started high school at 13 years old, failed some classes, so I was academically ineligible and then I tried to fight to get that year back. Technically, I was [still] in ninth grade, but it was my sophomore year on the court and ninth grade in the class room. I played two years at Dorsey, then transferred to Dominguez, which was my junior year, but technically, on the court I was a senior. My fifth year, I couldn't play at all. Not playing kind of hurt me, but I knew I was gonna be okay. My grades were okay, since the NCAA granted me a fifth year. I was gonna be able to go to college and play.

K Bros: Your family takes grades seriously. Was it harder being unable to play or telling them about those grades?

JH: Harder to go home. (Laughs)

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Or more accurately, "the Compton in my game," as it pertains to Brandon Jennings. Milwaukee Bucks point guard's So Cal ties are specific to Compton. It's a reminder of his unique path to the NBA, just like hitting the court against real competition at the tender age of five. Or transferring to Oak Hill Academy in Virginia, despite already playing at Dominguez High School, a basketball force in its own right. Or bypassing college for a professional stint in Italy, the first American kid to make such a leap. Jennings has always been his own person and the foundation of that confidence was built in Compton.

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


Luca Sgamellotti/Getty Images
Going straight from high school to Italy was another example of Jennings doing things his way.


Brandon Jennings: Rowley Park in Gardena. That's where I really started playing. That's where I came back this year during All-Star weekend. I went up there and [renovated] the basketball court. There were a lot of great players growing up coming out of there. The atmosphere was crazy. Back then, AAU wasn't really that big yet. Especially for me, because I was younger. So everyone played in the park in the recreation league.

I started when I was about five at the park. I was playing in a seven-and-under [league] and I was five, so I was the youngest on the team. They told me as long as I can get the ball up to the rim, then I could play.

AK: How intimidating was that at age five?

BJ: It wasn't intimidating at all. I felt like I could play with the best kids. As long as you put me out on the court, I was gonna play hard.

AK: How did you manage to hold your own at such a young age?

BJ: I was faster than all the other kids, and back then, I had a pretty good handle with the left hand.

AK: Is this one of those things like Tiger Woods and his clubs as a little kid? You picked up a basketball and it automatically felt right?

BJ: Well, I started playing basketball when I was about three years old. After that, everything else just came naturally. I had older cousins that used to let me hang with them, so I got my toughness from them. They said I could play as long as I don't cry. That was their main thing. No whining and no crying. Just go out there. If they knock you down, get back up and keep playing.

AK: How did starting out so young against bigger guys shape your skill set and development?

BJ: I was able to pick up a lot of things faster than most kids, because just being around older kids and seeing some of the things they did. Also, just watching some of my favorite players back then. I was a big Allen Iverson fan and a big Kobe Bryant fan. Kobe Bryant used to have the afro back in the day, so I used to have all his sneakers and AI's shoes.

AK: The situation with your father's suicide happened when you were about seven or eight. How did that affect you as a basketball player? Did it change the way you approached the game, in terms of what you wanted from it?

BJ: I just knew that I would have to be the man of the house. When I was about 12 years old, I knew I had to take the game more seriously if I wanted to be able to provide for my family. I knew this was my way out. It made me realize that if this was something I wanted to do, then I would have to be serious about it and I would have to work hard every day to be able to be one of the best players.

AK: That's when you really began to take basketball seriously?

BJ: Yeah. When I was 13, I won the AAU Nationals in Midgets and ever since then, I just took off from there. I never looked back.

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Wednesday chat transcript

July, 27, 2011
7/27/11
2:34
PM PT
By the Kamenetzky Brothers
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
We may be deep in the untamed (and somewhat boring) wilds of Lockout Forest, but that doesn't mean there's no room for lively Lakers talk. Among the subjects covered in Wednesday's edition of our weekly chat: The need for a real backup center and some names of potential candidates, whether Kobe Bryant should use the lockout to fix those fingers, what happens with a "hard cap," and revisiting the Ron Artest-for-Trevor Ariza "swap."

All that and more! Here's the link to the transcript.

Also, we're still taking suggestions to rename "The Triangle." The only catch? "Lakers" can't appear anywhere in the title. That aside, we're pretty wide open, so leave some ideas in the comments section, or Tweet us.

NBA's brightest stars come home for the Drew League

July, 10, 2011
7/10/11
11:46
PM PT
Moura By Pedro Moura
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive

LOS ANGELES -- City legend Nick Young’s team was down 30 points with two minutes left in a Drew League Sunday matinee in South Los Angeles, but no fans were leaving their seats -- or their spots, rather.

The ultra-small gymnasium at Colonel Leon H. Washington Park in Florence, near the intersection of Compton and Firestone Boulevards, was still over-filled to the fourth or fifth degree, more people standing than seated and fans literally watching from outside the doors and climbing on top of each other in the corners to get a glimpse of the action.

What happened next was the stuff of inner-city urban myths.

Young's cousin, Adrian Pascascio, measuring in at no more than 5-6 and no less than 250 pounds, was brought into the game, much to the boisterous crowd’s consent.

He proceeded to knock down back-to-back long-range shots, nearly falling into his own bench on one of them. The second shot he made, a 3-pointer with just seconds to go, sparked the crowd into a louder frenzy than other player or celebrity's on-court actions would on this day, even though NBA'ers Derrick Williams, DeMar DeRozan, Baron Davis and Matt Barnes all showed up, as well as local rapper The Game.

“That’s what this is all about,” said the opposing coach, Rodrick Shannon. “That’s the Drew League right there.”

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Drew League has long history of showing its charm

July, 9, 2011
7/09/11
9:47
PM PT
Moura By Pedro Moura
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive

LOS ANGELES – A lightning-quick 5-9 college guard named Casper outplayed Oklahoma City Thunder guard James Harden.

Former NBA Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans' team lost handily to a team with no current NBA players.

But the highlight of Saturday’s Drew League play at Colonel Leon H. Washington Park in Florence was even more … righteous.

The man the locals call Jesus provided the most entertaining action of a thoroughly entertaining eight-hour Saturday at the Drew League, coming in from the free-throw line to pick up a teammate's errant shot attempt and tip-reverse-dunk it in for a miraculous, monstrous slam that had the crowd buzzing for a good 10 minutes.

It was emblematic of what people have come to expect from the Drew League, generally considered one of the top summer-league outfits around.

“You can't find this level of basketball anywhere in the U.S. besides here,” says Jesus, also known as David Patten, an Orange County native who played collegiately for Pepperdine and Weber State and now plays professionally in Mexico. “This is fantastic basketball.”

Your first question: How did he pick up the nickname?

Patten, a dunk contest competitor in college who has long surprised people with his dunking abilities, has played in the Drew League for three of the last four summers. His first year, a homeless woman walked into the gymnasium at Washington Park and was impressed by the high-flying acrobatics she saw from him.

“She didn’t know who I was, but I’m white and I had a beard and long hair,” Patten, 27, says now. “So she called me Jesus.”

Since its inception in 1973, stories like that one have always been part of the charm of the Drew League. And, while that's largely staying the same this summer, the talent level has taken a big jump as NBA players flock to a mostly-nondescript park in South L.A. to log some time on the basketball court.

“I mean, it's definitely like this because of the lockout,” says Bobby Brown, a former Cal State Fullerton guard who spent parts of two seasons in the NBA and now plays in Greece. “Everybody wants to come out here and play. We had a few NBA guys last year, but this year it's getting a lot better.”

Saturday was Evans' first go at it in the Drew, but he was joining his Kings teammate Pooh Jeter, who has played in it for most of the summer. The Lakers' Steve Blake, Shannon Brown and Ron Artest have all played this summer, as has the Clippers' Craig Smith, and Ike Diogu plans to soon join him. Baron Davis has promised he'll make an appearance at some point. Kevin Durant caused a stir when he came last month and shut the gym down with a pass-to-himself dunk, but there a number of other NBA'ers of varying profile levels, usually with some sort of Los Angeles ties.

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Lakers vs. Clippers: What to watch with ClipperBlog

March, 25, 2011
3/25/11
12:38
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
Andrew Bynum is back! Blake Griffin is in the house! What more could you want, Lakers fan?

Oh, right. A win.

Given the 2-1 series held by the two-time defending champs, plus the way both teams have been playing of late, a victory certainly feels like a reasonable wish. The Clips' 7-4 record in March is certainly solid, but as discussed in this week's edition of The Triangle, the Lakers have been nothing short of a freakin' juggernaut since the All-Star Break. "Juggernaut" should best "solid," all things being equal.

For local knowledge about tonight's neighborly opponent, we turned to Breene Murphy of ClipperBlog (True Hoop network). Here are a few items to keep an eye on once the ball is jumped.

K Bros: How have the additions of Mo Williams and Jamario Moon worked out. Conversely, has Baron been addition by subtraction (as I certainly felt would be the case) or has been missed in certain ways? Both, even?


Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US Presswire
Mo Williams may not be quite passer Baron is, but he's a better fit for the team as a whole.


I’ll ignore Jamario, since he’ll come up later, and just keep this a simple Mo versus Baron argument. As much as Baron has been a lightning rod for criticism during his tenure with the Clippers, the sentiment on Baron’s departure hasn’t been as one-sided as you would suspect. There are still many that feel that Baron was/is better for the Clippers than Mo Williams.

Baron did a lot for this team. Even with his early season knee and weight issues, Baron came back to play his best basketball as a Clipper, finding his stardom as Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan’s alley-oop muse. As it pertains to passing, I can’t imagine that Mo will ever surpass Baron.

But even if Baron continued along that path, a larger problem persisted. As much as I like Baron’s beard, he was no longer was no longer the face of the franchise. This team belongs to Blake and Eric Gordon. And yet, in pre-game introductions the Clippers continued to announce Baron last, as if he were a star.

Now? No question, the team belongs to Blake and Eric.

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Lakers vs. Clippers -- What to watch with ClipperBlog

February, 25, 2011
2/25/11
11:03
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
Historically, seeing the Clippers on the schedule has been a happy thing for the Lakers. This year, though, the red,white, and blue have flipped the script, losing by a point in the first meeting (on a buzzer beating lefty flip at the rim from Derek Fisher), then beating the champs by seven on January 16.

No question the Clips will be fired up for tonight's rubber match, but the circumstances for both teams are different. The Lakers, gearing up for the stretch run and playoff drive, are coming off two big wins out of the All-Star break. The LAC, on the other hand, have struggled. Without Eric Gordon (wrist), the Clippers have lost eight of ten on their extended road trip, ending tonight as visitors in their building (or more accurately, visitors in the building in which they play).


David Liam Kyle/NBAE/Getty Images
Baron out, Mo in. Cue applause.


Moreover, the Clips are a team in transition, having shipped Baron Davis- beard, contract, and questionable fitness habits included- to Cleveland for Mo Williams and Jamario Moon. Even factoring in the lottery pick heading to the Cavs as part of the exchange, it's still a brilliant deal for the Clips, frankly one I figured they'd be unable to make given the Full Albatross status of Davis' contract and his less-than-pristine reputation around the NBA.

In the long run, the Clippers will benefit. In the now, it makes tonight's game a little tougher to handicap. For some help, I hit up Breene Murphy, outstanding steward of ClipperBlog, for some insight:

1) What impact does moving Baron have for the Clippers, on the floor and off? How does Mo Williams fit in?

You said in your email I could keep this short, and then asked a question that I could write 30,000 words on. Is this some sort of torture?

Moving Baron really was all about the future of the franchise. After all, the Clippers aren’t making the playoffs this year, but Baron’s contract was preventing them from pursuing free agents this summer, and the following year as well. By bringing in Mo Williams they save at least $8.5 million and more likely $11 million, even more if you count the salary of the draft pick that they gave up to get rid of Baron.

There is one sneaky tenet that this trade assumes though- that players will want to come to the Clippers to play. I know they have Blake Griffin and Eric Gordon, even the other rooks [Al-Farouq] Aminu, [Eric] Bledsoe (and maybe Willie Warren) have potential. But there still is the fact that Donald Sterling owns the franchise. Not only someone with a poor historical record from an effectiveness standpoint, but also someone not exactly famous for being a good guy, you know?

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How The Trade Deadline Affected The Lakers

February, 24, 2011
2/24/11
7:27
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
Man alive! Has this been a crazy 24-48 hours or what? Kobe Bryant said during Thursday's practice it's the most active trade deadline day he can recall, and it's hard to argue. Some pretty big names have swapped unis, and the NBA looks awfully different now.

Well, except for the Lakers, who stood pat.

Whether because of confidence, a lack of options or both, save perhaps a free-agent big man to play the "Theo Ratliff" role, the team that beat Portland Wednesday is the team that will defend its title. How does today's zaniness affect that quest, or simply reshape the Western Conference? Let's take a look at some of the major deals.

Thunder get Kendrick Perkins, Nate Robinson (plus Nazr Mohammed in a separate deal with Charlotte). Celtics get Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic.

Without question, this is the transaction creating the most shock waves. It's a doozy, steeped with potential to alter the playoff landscape. And in particular, how it affects the Lakers.

For the Thunder, the move reflects commitment to a serious run. Not to mention fighting fire with fire. For all the hand-wringing over OKC's athleticism and speed, the Thunder have lost seven of the last 10 games against the Lakers, playoffs included. The Lakers' size has been too much to handle, so Perkins (and Mohammed, to a lesser degree) addresses that issue. Perk is among the best in the biz at bodying the likes of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, and his ability to operate without help allows Serge Ibaka (the new starting 4) freedom to block from the weak side. He'll also set some big screens to free up Durant and Westbrook. In the meantime, Robinson takes some second-unit scoring pressure off James Harden, and Lakers fans are plenty familiar with the harm he can inflict.

Plus, Green's career splits reveal wretched shooting against the Lakers. Considering how bad a defender he is (Krstic, too, for that matter), if Green's not making shots, his value is marginalized. I've written before about OKC's need to upgrade from the Georgetown product if it really wants to get serious against the Lakers. Perkins fits that bill.

Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images
Kendrick Perkins' move from OKC is important to the Celtics, Thunder and Lakers.



Is it foolproof for OKC? No. Perkins and Ibaka form a wicked defensive tandem, but offensively, they're somewhat redundant. Ibaka is solid from 10 to 15 feet, but pretty mediocre farther out. Perkins' range is roughly 17 inches, and neither has ever really been counted on to score. Ditto Nick Collison. When Mohammed is the closest thing to a scoring machine among big men, that's not a good thing. Durant will be asked to provide even more frontcourt points, and his load is already pretty big. The Thunder have also slipped defensively this season, and it remains to be seen whether Perkins will be as effective in a system with more leaks than Boston's.

All in all, I think it's a very good move for the Thunder, but any urge to crown them should be slowed.

From the Celtics' perspective, I'm mystified. Maybe it's a proactive move after Perkins declined an extension offer. Maybe they don't trust his balky knees (although I'd bet on Perk before the O'Neals). Maybe they're not as concerned about Orlando (i.e., Dwight Howard) and don't feel obligated to retain Perkins for one player. Maybe they think Perkins will help the Thunder eliminate the Lakers, providing even less need for beef. And from a practical standpoint, Green and Krstic will stretch the floor and with Delonte West and Von Wafer, provide a nice punch for the second unit.

But considering the obvious impact of Perkins' absence during the Finals, and the way Doc Rivers reminds people every five seconds the Celtics have never lost a series with their ideal starting five (Rondo-Pierce-Allen-KG-Perk), the move feels curious. Boston's defense will undoubtedly suffer from Perkins' absence. Between this move and the side deal moving Semih Erdin, the Celtics have transformed themselves from one of the league's biggest teams to one lacking reliable size. I also wonder how the tight-knit -- and often moody -- Celtics veterans will respond to one their core players being moved. My guess? Not too favorably, even if it doesn't torpedo their enthusiasm toward the season.

Of course, as a Lakers fan, what do I care? You're a genius, Danny Ainge! A genius!

(Read full post)

Lamar Odom on his scrap with Blake Griffin

January, 16, 2011
1/16/11
7:55
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
Toss out a Shannon Brown layup at the buzzer important to nobody outside Vegas, and the Lakers were outscored by 16 points over the last 7:20 of Sunday's loss to the Clippers.

It was hardly ignored, but to some degree the collapse will get a little less press thanks to the dust-up between Lamar Odom and Blake Griffin with five seconds left in the game, a barking match escalating into a scrum-n'-bark when Baron Davis sprinted down from the top of the key to stick up for his guy. In the end, those three- plus Ron Artest in a clear miscarriage of justice- were all sent to the showers with a slight head start over their teammates. No word if they bogarted the hot water.

After the game, Odom explained why he took exception to Griffin's play, while acknowledging he very well may have overreacted.

Kobe Bryant didn't have a problem with Griffin's work in the final seconds. "It's just the right thing to do, you have to play all the way through. You play til the final buzzer sounds. That's the way I grew up playing," he said. To some degree, at least in his mind, that's what Odom was doing, sticking up for himself through a full 48, even if in the end admitting it wasn't necessary.

And to his credit, Artest refused to engage in any debate despite essentially being T'd and tossed for being Ron Artest. "The refs have got a hard job. I'm not a ref so [I can't say.] My job is hard. I guess your job is pretty hard. It's not as easy as some people might think it is. They think they can do it, but at the end of the day they can't do it. So the refs have a hard job. So I'm [not going to criticize]."

Lakers-Clippers: What to watch, with Neil Olshey

January, 16, 2011
1/16/11
8:42
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
With wins in eight of their last 12 contests, most recently against the Miami Heat, the Clippers are suddenly a team to be taken seriously. Blake Griffin isn't just playing like the runaway Rookie of the Year, but a legitimate All-Star forward. Eric Gordon is among the best guards in the league. DeAndre Jordan is improving. Farouq Aminu and Eric Bledsoe are making contributions as rookies. Even Baron Davis is playing like a dude who cares (which to me absolutely cements Griffin's All-Star credentials, since nobody else has inspired this reaction in 3-4 years.)

PODCAST
Andy and Brian Kamenetzky speak with Los Angeles Clippers vice president of basketball operations Neil Olshey about Blake Griffin, Baron Davis and the season.

Podcast

A December meeting between the Staples Center roommates was an ugly slugfest capped by Derek Fisher's improbable game-winning layup. Both teams are on a better track, giving the matinee rematch a "must-see" feel. To get a better idea of why the Clips are trending upward, we turned to vice president of basketball operations Neil Olshey. He paid a visit to ESPNLA On Air and offered insight on the team's new dynamic.

The entire interview can be heard by clicking the box to the right, but here are some excerpts:

Olshey, on what's changed over the last 12 games:
"Really, more than anything, it took a while to learn how to win. We were in a lot of games during those first 14 games. I think we lost five or six games by one point. And a little bit of it, we were playing not to lose as opposed to playing to win. You gotta remember, the veteran core we had [experienced] four losing seasons in a row prior to Vinny [Del Negro] coming in. So losing is a habit and it's one we needed to break.

"I think the team meeting Eric Gordon and Blake Griffin called after that Philadelphia loss after we had a double-digit lead kind of raised the bar in terms of how guys are going to deal with each other on the court. We've got a very tight-knit group socially, but they kind of needed to be workers on the floor. And that's what's happened. I think Vinny's done a great job of staying optimistic, being positive, continuing to work.

Cary Edmondson/US Presswire
The Clippers are hoping to rise like Blake Griffin.



"The amazing thing is the atmosphere never changed. We were 1-13 and you would have walked in and thought we were 13-1. That was what was important, the team was still competing. They were working. Guys were improving and we needed something to turn it around."

On team's leadership dynamic
"Eric and Blake are the cornerstones of the franchise. From a leadership standpoint, now that Baron is back and healthy and actually Baron again, Baron's the leader because we [were] this great body, with no head. Baron came back and he's kind of the brain of our team. He's the guy that makes sure the guys get the ball in the right spots. I've said this before, all those highlight reel dunks by Blake and DeAndre, there's somebody throwing him the ball to them. He and Eric [Gordon] have found a way to play together. They had issues with that last year because they both like to have the ball, but they've done a really good job of playing in pairs a little bit and complementing one another.

"The leadership, from a building block for the future, it's Blake and Eric, and I think, night in and night out, being ready to go, Baron has a major role in that."

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Lakers vs. Clippers: What to watch

December, 8, 2010
12/08/10
2:20
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
There's a certain redundancy in calling the Clippers a bad team. Almost without exception, the red, white, and blue have been so down for so long, the "bad" part is assumed. Like a Xerox is a photocopy, or Kleenex is tissue. "Clippers," at least in non-barber circles, could be its own term for failure.

Gary A. Vasquez/US Presswire
Blake Griffin has shown himself to be something of a force of nature, one of the most unique players the league has seen in a long time.



To some degree, there was optimism heading into this season, as Blake Griffin was added to a lineup featuring Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, and Baron Davis, along with some decent role players like Ryan Gomes and Craig Smith. Certainly they'd improve over their 29 win season last year, and if everything broke right, might even contend for a playoff spot (or at least a .500 record). Not saying I bought it, but the sentiment was out there, at least among some.

Instead, things turned sour fast. Davis was hurt early- shocker, I know- as was Kaman, and the Clipper ship took on water, despite incredibly exciting play from Griffin, and the continued ascendancy of Gordon. It was so bad, late in November on our Saturday radio show, when the Clips were about to fall to 1-13 that night against the Knicks, I openly wondered if the franchise had reached a sort of rock bottom. Which is saying something, since rock bottom seems to happen all the time.

But while the season is most certainly lost in terms of postseason hopes, to their credit the Clippers have found some stability of late, winning four of eight including home victories over New Orleans and San Antonio, and a narrow loss on the road in Denver. They'd like nothing more than to slay one more giant tonight when the Lakers switch benches and don their purple road unis at Staples.

To get a better perspective on the game, I hit up ClipperBlog's Breene Murphy for some insight...

1. The Clippers are starting a rookie point guard, instead of B.D. What's the difference on the floor between a Baron-led Clippers offense, and the Eric Bledsoe version?

The Clips are still operating within a pretty simple Vinny Del Negro pick and roll offense but there are acute differences between the offense when Baron or Bledsoe are on the floor.

Truthfully, it’s more of a difference between a Bledsoe-Gordon led offense and a Baron led offense. When Bledsoe is in the game, VDN lets Gordon handle the ball a lot, which is one of the reasons for Gordon’s spike in assists this year. I think this has had an adverse effect on Gordon’s three point shot but has also been an impetus for him to go to the rim more (9.3 FTA).

That said, Bledsoe does a nice job running the offense, especially for a 19 year old rookie that didn’t play point guard in his lone season in college (due to the presence of John Wall). He is at his best on the fast break, he’ll give any player a run for their money on speed with the ball and he’s an above average finisher. Even in the half-court, he uses his speed to blow by opponents and get open looks for his teammates, although he has to learn to use his speed so he doesn’t just probe and dribble out. He’s cutting down on unforced turnovers from over-penetration (still has significant problems) but the probing often forces the Clippers into re-initiating the offense with 12-14 seconds. This is not enough time to run the offense and the Clips will look for a bail out play from Blake, Gordon or Bledsoe instead of really passing the ball.

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SPONSORED HEADLINES

TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Kobe Bryant
PTS AST STL MIN
22.3 5.6 1.3 34.5
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Hill 7.9
AssistsK. Bryant 5.6
StealsR. Price 1.6
BlocksE. Davis 1.3