Los Angeles Lakers: CBA

Derek Fisher: Lakers fans will come back

December, 10, 2011
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
At the end of his media time this evening, following plenty of questions about the CP3 deal, CBA negotiations, and more, Derek Fisher said the following when asked what he'd say to Lakers fans following the lockout, and if he had any concerns fans wouldn't return:
"For me as a player, in terms of our fans, I don't worry about our fans. Our fans are consistent, and have been the best in the world for a very long time. Obviously the success that we've had on the court for so many years probably will make it easier for us to recover and regain a lot of our fans, in the way they love our team. The Lakers are in the D.N.A of this city and this community, so I don't really worry about our fans being mad at us. When you put on a Laker uniform, everything is all good. I expect Staples Center to be pretty excited on Christmas Day."

He's right, I believe. First, the Lakers really are part of this city's identity on the sort of elemental level Fisher references. Second, they ought to be a highly competitive team, whether there are more blockbuster deals or not. Winners breed interest. Third, anyone paying attention certainly knew the Lakers weren't among the franchises gumming up the works. They wanted to play.

So yeah, I think Lakers fans will be forgiving once the season rolls around.

On the other hand, based on the number of angry emails and Tweets we received during the lockout, including plenty in which the author said he was done with league and the team, it's worth asking:

Assuming you left, are you coming back?

Chat Transcript: Howard, CP3, Schedules, and more

December, 7, 2011
By the Kamenetzky Brothers
Plenty of ground covered in today's chat. Who would have thought there'd be so many questions about Derrick Caracter?

I kid. Lots of Dwight Howard/Chris Paul talk, plus questions about the schedule, Jason Kapono, filling out the roster, and much, much more.

If you missed all the fun, here's the link to the transcript .

The Lakers and free agency: A look at skill sets

December, 6, 2011
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
Sometimes only certain players can adequately answer a team's "Help Wanted" ad.

The Lakers, for example, don't have an amorphous need for someone with good handle and passing skills, but a genuine need to upgrade at point guard, which can only be satisfied with a point guard. Unfortunately for them (but fortunately for me, at least in regards to this post), the free agent rolls at the 1 are so thin and their means of improving the roster so limited, for the Lakers to solve that particular problem through a straight signing is basically impossible.

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images
On the list of players L.A. has even a reasonable chance to sign, Grant Hill fills a lot of needs. Plus, he plays the piano.

Other needs remain relatively position specific, but it's easy to get bogged down in the classification on a player's bubble gum card and lose something often far more important: Skill set. Much of what the Lakers can use might be provided just as easily from a power forward as a shooting guard.

What follows, then, is the Skill Set Guide to Free Agency. I limited this list to players the Lakers might realistically have a chance to sign with only a mini mid-level (worth just over $9 million for three years) and veterans minimum deals, all relatively disheartening stuff when pitted against the excitement of Chris Paul/Dwight Howard talk.

But let's assume for a mundane minute the Lakers have to improve without blockbuster trades. They have a lot of boxes to tick, and in the end the players ticking the most good ones might be best, even if positionally the fit isn't perfect.

SHOOTERS - Players who can help stretch the floor in one way or another...

Grant Hill, F, UFA (Phoenix)- Not traditionally thought of as a shooter, Hill has in his last two seasons shot 39.5 and 43.8 percent from 3, and is a high end mid-range shooter, both of which would come in handy.

Shane Battier, F, UFA (Memphis)- Big on the corner 3, generally in the mid-to-high 30 percent range from downtown. Not a deadeye, but limits poor shot choices.

Mike Dunleavy, G/F, UFA (Indiana)- In theory, at least. In the last two seasons in which he was (more or less) healthy, Dunleavy was strong from downtown and in long twos.

James Jones, SF, UFA (Miami)- Per John Hollinger, Jones took exactly one shot at the rim in over 1,500 minutes. Why? He's shooting lots and lots of 3's, with a career mark at 40 percent.

Peja Stojakovic, SF, UFA (Dallas)- Certainly showed Lakers fans he can still bomb away. When healthy doesn't dip far below 40 percent from 3, often rises well above.

Daequan Cook, SG, RFA (Oklahoma City)- Hit 42.2 of his 3's last year. Has advantage of youth, as well.

DeShawn Stevenson, SG, UFA (Dallas)- In his last two healthy seasons ('07-'08, '10-'11) was around 38% from beyond the arc.

Jason Kapono, F, UFA (Philadelphia)- Does almost nothing else well, but as a career 43.7 3-point shooter can space the floor. (NOTE: Kapono has already visited with the Lakers)

Reggie Williams, SF, RFA (Golden State)- Almost surely out of L.A.'s price range, in part because he's 25 and shoots so well from downtown (42.3% last season).

Marco Belinelli, SG, UFA (New Orleans)- Never worse than 38% from 3 during his four year career, and solid with long 2's, as well.

Anthony Parker, G, UFA (Cleveland)- From 3, he's trending down from 44.1 percent in '06-'07 to 37.9 percent last year, but remains a productive performer from distance.

Michael Redd, G, UFA (Milwaukee)- It' almost impossible to predict how the market will treat Redd, who was once a top shooter/scorer but has basically lost the last two seasons due to injury.

Other candidates: Vladimir Radmanovic (seriously), Mo Peterson (in theory, though recent shooting numbers are very questionable), Steve Novak, Roger Mason Jr. (see Peterson, Mo).

FRONTCOURT DEPTH - Guys who can the burden on Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum...

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PodKast: Lockout R.I.P. and where the Lakers stand

November, 30, 2011
By the Kamenetzky Brothers

Did you hear? The lockout, she's over!

And with her demise, none too soon for support staff, fans, media, and players alike, comes the opportunity for analysis about real stuff that will have real impact on the team going forward. Things like...
To this light reading we add our first post-labor strife Land O'Lakers PodKast!

We start (3:00) with a little lockout postmortem. Who were the big winners and losers? Was it worth it for the players to hold out the way they did? From there (9:30) we ask if the core of the team -- meaning Kobe, Gasol, Lamar Odom, and Andrew Bynum-- is still good enough to win. We agree the answer is yes, but the margins are pretty thin as things stand right now. The Lakers need help. What should their priorities be, given how few tools they have available to add players to the roster (15:00).

Finally, we debate what to do with Shannon Brown (18:30).

How the new CBA impacts the Lakers

November, 28, 2011
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
With labor peace having (tentatively) arrived we can now, mercifully, start looking at actual basketball issues like roster construction. Over the weekend, we noted those areas in which the Lakers need to improve, and as more details of the new (tentative) CBA emerge, so too does a clearer picture of how they might spend their money this year and beyond.

Practically speaking, in the short term things don't change drastically. Under the old CBA, the Lakers wouldn't have much flexibility to spend on free agents, and they certainly don't now. But clearly the landscape has (tentatively) been altered, and over time the Lakers will have some serious decisions to make bringing significant consequences.

Here are a few ways in which the new world order impacts the purple and gold:

AP Photo/LM Otero
We know how Jerry Buss spent under the old luxury tax rules. How will he and Jim Buss spend going forward under a new, more punitive tax?

Luxury Tax:
Rule: No adjustments would be made to the luxury tax payout system ($1-to-$1) in the first two years of the agreement. The cap/tax threshold won't be any lower than it was last season.

Impact: Enormously positive. Their 2010-11 payroll ($90.4 million) was about $20 mil over the tax line. This season, the Lakers already have another $90 million (give or take) committed to nine players. Short of pulling a modified Norman Dale, they'll need a few more, meaning the number could float up. In 2012-13, L.A. has already committed $72 million to five players, plus another $3.4 mil for Derek Fisher's sure-to-be-exercised player option. This is before any decisions about Andrew Bynum, or Lamar Odom. Even if both go, obviously they'll need to be replaced, and the roster filled out. Even after potentially taking advantage of the amnesty provision (see below), without serious adjustments to the roster the Lakers are all guaranteed to be tax payers in the next two seasons.

That the penalty doesn't grow more punitive immediately makes it more likely the Lakers can keep the band together/add new members through at least two of Kobe's remaining "window" years.

When the honeymoon ends, things get dicier.

In Year three (it's a 10 year deal, but mutual opt-outs after six make it likely the we won't see the final four years) and beyond, the tax would rise to:
  • $1.50-for-$1 for teams $0-$5 million into the tax
  • $1.75-for-$1 between $5-$10 million
  • $2.50-for-$1 at $10-$15 million
  • $3.25-for-$1 from $15-$20 million

From there, teams are assessed another $.50 on the dollar for each $5 million jump, meaning teams $20-$25 million over would pay $3.75-for-$1. It's a much more punitive tax, even for massively wealthy teams like the Lakers. Via Larry Coon: "The Lakers' tax bill in 2011 (when the tax was dollar-for-dollar) was about $19.9 million. Under the new system, being that far over the tax line would cost them $44.68 million. If they were a repeat offender (paying tax at least four of the previous five years) they would owe $64.58 million!"

A couple mil here and there, and those numbers skyrocket even more.

The wild card is the influx of Time Warner money from their new TV deal. Will the Lakers pour that increased revenue into tens of millions more in tax payments and revenue sharing, or will at some point in some seasons cutbacks have to be made?

We've seen how Dr. Buss handles the current tax. Going forward, how will Jim Buss respond to a more punitive version?

But wait, there's more!

Rule: "Tax rates for teams that are taxpayers in at least 4 out of any 5 seasons (starting in 2011-12) increase by $1 at each increment (e.g., for team salary $5M-$10M above the Tax level, the Tax rate for a repeat taxpayer is $2.75-for-$1 instead of $1.75-for-$1)."

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Big Wednesday: A few CBA thoughts

November, 9, 2011
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
For a while, we've known under a new CBA some of the historical advantages enjoyed by the Lakers -- namely the ability to generate revenues and spend at very high levels -- would be mitigated. They'll be sharing more other franchises, and will find spending at higher levels more onerous, whether because of an increased tax burden, restrictions placed on roster construction, or both.

Ideal? No. Inevitable? Yes, and still far better than the alternative, namely cancelling the season. Say whatever you'd like about tweaks to the mid-level exception or escrow accounts. The Lakers need to play, because the window on this team's title chances isn't getting any bigger.

With that in mind, here are a few thoughts about what could be a pivotal day in the lockout saga.

1. I don't believe it all blows up on Wednesday, even if there's no fruitful meeting and the NBA makes their next offer more punitive (and I'd be surprised if they didn't). It might get uglier and the rhetoric will rise with the stakes, but we're still weeks away from a point at which the 2011-12 campaign must go the way of the Betamax. Neither side will walk away from the season with that much time left on the table.

2. At their press conference Tuesday, the NBPA finally did a decent job turning attention away from the revenue split and towards the system, and their ability to exert a larger degree of control over where they play and the direction of their careers. Why it took so long to get here I'm not sure (maybe it's because they've effectively lost the B.R.I battle) but it's a far more sympathetic position. Nobody cares if these guys make, say, $3.2 million instead of $3.6. The hope of preserving mobility is more universal.

Plus, as fans we, or at least the "we's" who don't pull for teams like the Lakers, might always worry about losing our best players... but we simultaneously dream about poaching the ones from competing teams. Nobody (outside NBA front offices, at least) wants this to disappear under a new CBA.

3. If there was a good moment in the NBPA press conference Tuesday, it came when Billy Hunter said decertification was barely discussed. Not that it ends the discussion.

4. Regarding decertification, if players decide it could be effective as a negotiating tactic -- theoretically giving them a little more leverage in the intervening period between filing the petition to decertify and actually having the vote-- fine. It's risky, no doubt, but defensible. That said, I have no interest in hearing the game's biggest stars/earners grow militant, declaring on principle the need to give up the season. If members of the rank-and-file choose to adopt that stance, I would respect it. But in a league where the average player lasts maybe five years, who are the NBA's elite, guys who have already made their money, to say another member of the union should sacrifice such a substantial portion of his career?

5. For those rank-and-file guys, if ultimately they're willing to decertify before the NBA cancels the season, it would constitute either one of the larger acts of selflessness in modern sports labor history, or an incredible act of ignorance (whether because they don't completely understand the ramifications or from a misguided need to, as Stephen A. Smith has noted repeatedly on 710 ESPN, avoid getting "punked").

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The month itself will remain on the standardized calender -- even David Stern's power has limits-- but for the purposes of NBA games, November might as well be the 2011 "Charlies Angels" revamp. For that matter, the chances, however slight, for an 82 game season squeezed into the schedule like sardines in a can are now officially eliminated.

Second verse, same as the first. So goes the results of what's ultimately a fruitless week's worth of meetings in New York.

For the Lakers, the following games have been lost:
  • Nov. 15 vs. Washington
  • Nov. 17 vs. New York
  • Nov. 22 @Memphis
  • Nov. 23 @Oklahoma City
  • Nov. 25 vs. Sacramento
  • Nov. 29 vs. Minnesota

Obviously, the juiciest game on the docket is the one in OKC, although a date with the Grizzlies runs a very close second. Frankly, that's a fun, challenging, informative back-to-back down the porcelain. The first showdown against the Amare-'Melo Knicks is also intriguing... and also gone.

The remaining three opponents are fairly pedestrian. Nonetheless, after watching John Wall move at warp speed during the Drew-Goodman rematch, I'd love to see the Lakers' strategy for containing him. DeMarcus Cousins was absolutely destroyed during his rookie year battling Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and, in one contest, Derrick Caracter(!). Will a year of NBA experience under his belt even up the score? Plus, there's that Jimmer fella the kids are so wild about. And Lamar Odom vs. Kevin Love was a fun, seesaw battle last year.

In other words, there's always at least one element worth watching an NBA game, regardless of the matchup.

Instead, we're left to watch press conferences where Stern, Adam Silver, Derek Fisher and Billy Hunter share tedious details of a middle seemingly impossible to meet at.

Are we having fun yet?

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.

The land that forgot the lockout

October, 23, 2011
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
I'm on the Lakers beat in a city where Lakers basketball dominates the sports landscape at a website that covers the Lakers and on a radio station holding the broadcast rights to Lakers games.

Greg M. Cooper/US Presswire
They care about many things in St. Louis. The NBA is not one of them.

Fair to say, I spend a lot of time thinking and talking about the lockout.

I'm not the only one. Fans in L.A. care deeply about hoops. The Lakers specifically, but increasingly the Clippers as well -- thank you Blake Griffin-- and have invested time and energy of their own following the NBA's labor problems. But assuming our local experience is similar to every other city across the country would be a mistake. This week, I visited family back in St. Louis. There, people are consumed by the Cardinals' improbable run to the World Series. Or they're intrigued by a Blues team with playoff potential and curious if the University of Missouri (located about 120 miles to the west) will jump to the SEC, while the most masochistic still follow along with the 0-5 Rams.

To find a story about the NBA lockout at the Post-Dispatch's website, you'll first have to find the "More Sports" tab, then scroll through headlines about speed skating, Missouri State football (that's D-II to you and me (Correction, 10.23-- The Bears are an FCS school, not D-II), the Pan American Games, Sunday's Halloween 10K ("Unadulterated fun, St. Louis style"), and injury issues with Southeast Missouri State's pigskin squad.

St. Louis is officially the Land the Lockout Forgot. Or more accurately, the Land that Forgot the Lockout.

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Chat Transcript

October, 19, 2011
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
Wanna know the precise date the lockout will end? Well, so do I. Can't help ya.

However, today's discussion did offer thoughts on the likelihood of Dwight Howard landing in L.A., #NBArank, and the best Laker for doing battle against zombies. Plus, of course, the lockout.

Here is the transcript.

Thoughts on Derek Fisher, candidness and the lockout PR battle

October, 17, 2011
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
As I mentioned on last week's edition of The Forum, based on the general feedback in our chats, via Twitter and on this very blog, fans are equally sick of players and owners when it comes to the lockout. At an event Thursday in Santa Monica attended by Kevin Love, I asked the Timberwolves forward if, even while emphasizing the need to stand firm, he understood why the fans felt this way. His answer didn't beat around the bush.

"It's hard to pick a side when it's billionaires fighting against millionaires. I mean, it's no secret that's what's going on here. I think in any lockout, people are gonna be disheartened in that way, because that is the case."

AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes
Fisher can't lead a PR win, but he can prevent as bad a loss as possible.

After Friday's meeting at the Beverly Hilton, I asked Players Union President Derek Fisher about concerns over alienating fans during the lockout. He said the topic is constantly raised, describing fans as "the engine that largely drives our business" and noting "the hard-earned money" plunked down to attend games. In other words, he said "all the right things." Not that I doubt Fish's sincerity, but these are sentiments carefully and safely crafted for public consumption. When I followed up by asking if he understood why fans wouldn't have much sympathy, he initially responded by remaining in politically correct mode.

"Of course. When you look at the unemployment numbers in our country and around the world, when you look at the fact that hard-working families are having a hard time making ends meet, and being able to pay bills and keep their homes, we get those things. We have family members of our own that go through the same things that call us when they're in tough spots, so we feel can relate as much as possible."

From there, however, Fisher dropped whatever pretenses and acknowledged the elephant in the room:

"But relatively speaking, we know where the NBA, where this business, the game of basketball, those opportunities that have been afforded to us that other people can't necessarily relate to, so we get that part of it. So that's not why we're not trying in any way, really, to look for sympathy or empathy from our fans in that regard. We don't need them or want them to feel sorry for us because we'll make less money because we've given up more percentage. That's not what this is about."

Well played, Fish.

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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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Some lockout numbers for the Lakers

October, 12, 2011
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
With the first two weeks of the 2012 season now officially in the wind, here are some numbers reflecting the damage and what the Lakers and Lakers fans will be missing:

Total lost salaries for each Laker still under contract, along with career earnings in parentheses

Kobe Bryant: $2,078,917.65 ($196,915,615)
Pau Gasol: $1,541,165.29 ($99,574,396)
Andrew Bynum: $1,248,278.46 ($35,087,258)
Lamar Odom: $732,941.176 ($98,867,658)
Metta World Peace: 559,229.176 ($58,363,460)
Luke Walton: $467,764.706 ($22,131,977)
Steve Blake: $329,411.765 (20,746,977)
Derek Fisher: $280,000 ($57,842,000)
Matt Barnes: $156,470.59 ($9,441,917)
Derrick Caracter (roster spot presumed): $64,965.93 ($473,604)
Devin Ebanks (roster spot presumed): $60,646.35 ($473,604)

(Note: I formulate the lost money using a formula suggested by salary cap guru Larry Coon. 2011-2012 salaries are courtesy of Hoopshype.com, and career earnings from basketball-reference.com, which acknowledges their figures may be somewhat incomplete. Game paychecks lost to suspension may not be accounted for, but a reasonably accurate picture is nonetheless provided.)

$677,272: The additional cash Bynum will lose this season after eventually serving his five-game suspension for decking J.J. Barea in the playoffs. For Drew, the total damage comes to $1,925,550.46 ... and perhaps counting.

$0: The money lost by Lakers rookies Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock, who have yet to earn a dime in the NBA. Of course, with that lack of financial penalty comes an obvious catch.

2,115: Using webflyer.com, the total road trip miles untraveled for the Lakers during the lockout. (L.A. to Oakland, Oakland to Phoenix, Phoenix to L.A., L.A. to Sacto, Sacto to L.A.)

166: The amount of shots Kobe would have taken based on the average FGA (20.75) since the 2008 season, then multiplied by the eight games missed.

210: The estimated number of points Kobe would have scored based on his cumulative point total since the 2008 season (8,572), divided by four, then divided by 82 games, then multiplied by the eight games he'll miss.

519: The number of points Kobe would need to pass Shaquille O'Neal for 5th on the all-time scoring list, should the above estimate hold.

8 (maximum), 1 minimum, depending on his fashion impulses: The different color of eyeglasses we might have seen on Mike Brown's face. The new Lakers coach always wears frames to match his suits, and he apparently has a lot of both to choose from.

4: The number of games missed against 2011 playoff teams. (Oklahoma City, New Orleans, San Antonio, Denver)

94,700: The number of empty seats inside Staples Center during the five home games missed. The number up for grabs is 18,997, and the Lakers averaged 99.7 percent capacity last year.

Numb to the lockout

October, 11, 2011
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
Monday's labor negotiations between the players and owners ran so deep into the New York night, they actually bled into my west coast evening as well. After much time spent waiting with one eye on Twitter updates and the other on the Cardinals-Brewers game, I still hadn't eaten dinner. Hungry, I headed to the kitchen and began cooking. Never one to go anywhere without my iPhone, I continued to monitor cyberspace while stove-side. Suddenly, it exploded, as David Stern announced the first two weeks of the season officially canceled.

My reaction? Shrug to myself, then keep making dinner.

I soon sat down to a bowl of Trader Joe's lobster ravioli with sauteed turkey bacon, mushrooms and spinach, seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic and basil, tossed in olive oil and a touch of butter. Excellent, if I can allow myself a back pat. And this was important because in that exact moment, what I really cared about most was the quality of my supper. The NBA and its contested CBA? Not so much.

Truth be told, I've grown numb to the lockout.

That's not to say I don't care at all about these issues getting solved. That would be disingenuous and insane. This situation affects my livelihood with ESPN, the city I've called home for 21 years, and the state of a team and game I happen to love. Believe me, I badly want this mess to end.

But I've exhausted every emotion I can have over this situation.

A summer where obscene amounts of money can't be divided to everyone's liking reinforces the idea that the league is first and foremost a business. This hardly qualifies as an eyeopener for me after six seasons covering the Lakers and the NBA. Frankly, it doesn't even offend me. There's nothing inherently wrong with making a buck. But there's also nothing inherently fascinating to me about watching the economic sausage get made. I've found everything leading up to this point exceptionally tedious and I'm not even slightly intrigued by the details and strategies of what lies ahead.

Either cut to the chase or leave me out of it.

I never want to hear another player describe basketball as "a game we'd play for free," since these proceedings have clearly disproved that catchphrase. (Not that I expect elite athletes to double as interns, but enough already.) And I won't be able to help but roll my eyes the next time I hear an owner talking about a burning desire to win above all else.

There is a tiny part of me that would still love to go nuts on these and several other talking points. But that wouldn't provide much in the way of actual pleasure, just venting, and I've already done plenty leading up to now. What I want to do most is take a long nap, then wake up to discover a signed agreement.

With each passing day between owners and locked out players, the deeper my desire to just block out basketball. There is simply nothing fun about the game right now, and that is an exceptionally depressing world to live in.

Owners and players will meet Sunday

October, 9, 2011
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
You don't need to be Vegas' sharpest sharp to understand the odds of saving an on-time start to the 2011-12 campaign are lean. Players and owners have an enormous amount of ground to cover even beyond debates over revenue splits to hammer out a new CBA. Plenty of stuff hasn't even been touched. From there, the deal would have to be read and ratified by the players before an abbreviated free agency period and training camp would be held. Meanwhile, Monday (otherwise known as tomorrow) looms as the NBA-imposed deadline to get a deal and avoid canceling the first two weeks of the regular season.

Still, one thing is certain: While the odds may be long, they're a lot longer if the two sides don't actually meet. Heading into the weekend, that looked to be the case. Perhaps realizing they were staring into one of the most absurd public-relations debacles in sports history, both sides are back in a room today. Sources have told ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard that owners relaxed a demand players agree to a 50/50 split in Basketball Related Income (BRI) as a condition of further talks.

Again, I'd be pretty shocked if something came together fast enough to allow the Lakers and Thunder to take the floor on Nov. 1 as scheduled, but before the bad news at the end of the week, it seemed like there was daylight available to preserve most of the season, or at the very least avoid something catastrophic.

Had Monday come and gone without a meeting, though, envisioning an ugly turn would have been very easy.



Kobe Bryant
22.3 5.6 1.3 34.5
ReboundsJ. Hill 8.1
AssistsK. Bryant 5.6
StealsR. Price 1.5
BlocksE. Davis 1.1