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The Forum: How have early season struggles impacted long term goals?

December, 6, 2012
12/06/12
10:10
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
Everyone knows the Lakers are built to win a title now. Everyone also knows the season hasn't quite gone as scripted, with three different coaches, major injury issues, and 10 losses in 19 games.

So how have early season struggles impacted the team's long term goals? We discuss in the newest edition of The Forum.

The Forum: On the (eventual) return of Steve Nash

November, 30, 2012
11/30/12
10:47
AM PT
By the Kamenetzky Brothers
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
Mike D'Antoni has made no bones about his belief the return of Steve Nash will solve many of his team's current problems, particularly on offense. And no question upgrading from Darius Morris to Nash at the point would mean improvement in any system, let alone the one Nash ran so beautifully for D'Antoni in Phoenix.

Still, is there a chance D'Antoni is putting too many eggs in the Steve Nash basket? He's great, but is also 38 and nursing a broken leg. We discuss in the newest edition of The Forum.

Media Day mini-roundup: Howard's back, Kobe's expectations high

October, 2, 2012
10/02/12
8:18
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
There were no great revelations from Dwight Howard regarding his back Monday at Media Day, which basically means the news is good. He's not experienced any setbacks, and is on track to return fully healthy relatively soon, as ESPNLA's Dave McMenamin reports:
"I'm getting better every day," Howard said. "I'm getting stronger every day and I'm just looking forward to that day when I'm 100 percent. Until then, I'm going to keep training. I think from the last time you guys saw me to now, I think I look a lot different. I've been working extremely hard to get back on the court and I think we're going to have an awesome year." Howard has already been ruled out of the Lakers' preseason opener on Oct. 7, according to the team. But Yahoo! Sports reported Howard is hoping to play in the Lakers' regular season opener on Oct. 30 and that the center's back has regained "85 percent" of its strength. "I don't have a percentage meter for my back," Howard said. "They didn't make them yet. I think that's the new technology in the iPhone 6. ... We got to wait until that comes out."

Overall, though, signs are encouraging. Howard told reporters he's improved a great deal since his introductory press conference, and continues working out with assistant coaches Darvin Ham and Chuck Person.

In other injury news, Steve Blake said he's healing up after stepping on a spike strip in a Manhattan Beach parking lot, suffering a puncture wound to his left foot. He hopes to return to basketball activities next week, putting him slightly ahead of the original three week timetable the Lakers issued when the injury occurred.

If you were away from your radio, ESPNLA 710 sat down live in El Segundo with a host of Lakers standouts. Click below for the audio:
Kobe Bryant talked with former Laker Kurt Rambis, now an analyst with ESPN, about how the pieces ought to work offensively, and the time it'll take for the team to come together.

 

The Forum: What to watch in training camp

September, 29, 2012
9/29/12
9:54
PM PT
By the Kamenetzky Brothers
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
The fun begins Monday, as the Lakers kick off the 2012-13 season with media day in El Segundo.

Fair to say, there are a few items on the to-do list, and some interesting things for fans to look for as the preseason develops. We look at a few in the newest edition of The Forum.

The Forum: Most to gain, most to lose?

September, 23, 2012
9/23/12
9:17
AM PT
By the Kamenetzky Brothers
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
To say the least, the Lakers enter the 2011-12 season with enormous expectations and heaps of pressure. So which Lakers have the most to gain, and the most to lose?

That's the question asked in the newest edition of The Forum.

Sunday Conversation: Dwight Howard

September, 16, 2012
9/16/12
12:52
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
Lakers center Dwight Howard joined Ric Bucher for SportsCenter's Sunday Conversation this week.

In a wide-ranging interview, Howard talked about the pain in his back pushing him to surgery, his rehab and recovery, what it means to join the Lakers, and more.

He also addresses the Dwightmare, why things played out the way they did, and the major lesson he learned.
"It was a tug of war between my feelings and the fans and everybody else and their feelings and what happened to LeBron. And I saw him -- everybody hated him for leaving Cleveland and what he did," Howard said of LeBron James' free-agent move from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Miami Heat in 2010. "I never wanted anybody to hate me, you know. I wanted everybody to love me, you know, like me, for sticking around and doing what they wanted me to do. And making everybody else happy. And that was a valuable lesson for me, you know.

"I can't make everybody happy."

Particularly when the endgame -- moving from one franchise to another -- is impossible for a star player to do without upsetting at least one group of people. No matter what he did, how legitimate his reasons, or how totally within his rights Howard was to try and influence the course of his career, fans in Orlando were going to resent him. Ultimately, he was trying to make an omelette, and never got comfortable with the broken eggs.

The same basic process influenced Howard's thinking about joining the Lakers. He acknowledges reluctance initially about coming to L.A., rooted in concern over what people would think. Was he just trying to parrot Shaq? Why couldn't he strike his own trail? That sort of thing.

Again, he appears to have learned the lesson. "Who cares what people say?" he tells Bucher. "This is my destiny, this is where I want to be."

It'll be interesting to see how Howard's experience in Orlando influences the one waiting for him in Los Angeles, in terms of his contract status and how he handles the inevitable scrutiny coming with it. Ultimately, I believe he'll re-sign with the Lakers at the end of the 2012-13 season, but until he does there will be speculation. There will be reports, true or not, of indecision, of wavering commitment, or interest in other teams - particularly if he or the Lakers struggle.

But if he's genuinely less concerned about what others think about him and his career, this season will definitely be a happier one for him than last.

Take a look below at the short cut of the Sunday Conversation, and we'll get the extended cuts up ASAP.

The Forum: Impact of Howard's (early) absence

September, 15, 2012
9/15/12
4:20
PM PT
By the Kamenetzky Brothers
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
What was presumed is now official: Dwight Howard won't be ready when camp opens on October 2, nor will he be in uniform for the preseason opener against the Warriors.

How exactly does this impact the Lakers? That's the question put forth in the newest edition of The Forum.


The Forum: Who takes the last shot?

September, 11, 2012
9/11/12
12:21
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
(I interrupt the typically brief introduction to the newest edition of The Forum for a soapbox moment...)

The NBA, like most sports, has certain constructs held in such reverence it's as if Moses himself came down from Mt. Sinai with a second set of tablets.

Among three of the biggest:

-Thou shalt make it abundantly clear which player has "ownership" of the team.

-Thou shalt not take the court without designating clear-cut first, second, and third options offensively.

-Thou shalt designate a single star player responsible for taking all last-second shots, because that's what stars do.

While there were some technical explanations for the periodic struggles during their first season together (redundancy in playing styles and skill sets being a biggie), and sheer talent nearly won them a title anyway, a preoccupation with satisfying the commandments above were a major drag on the developing partnership between LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in Miami. It didn't need to be that way.

This season, the Lakers will feature four highly skilled offensive players in their starting lineup, and questions of chemistry are foremost in the minds of many. How is all of this going to work?

Not nearly as well as it could, if they get too wrapped up in the stuff above. Only the first -- team "ownership" -- comes with an obvious answer. After 16 seasons, five championships, and a legacy as one of the NBA's dominant players and personalities, it's Kobe Bryant's team. He's too deeply woven into the fabric and identity of the franchise for it to be anything else.

With the other two -- establishing an offensive pecking order and deciding one person (let's be honest, we're talking about Kobe) takes the last shot because that's the way it's supposed to be -- the Lakers have an opportunity to do something most NBA teams can't or won't: To truly maximize the potential of their personnel. On any given night, the Lakers could be led in points by Kobe or Howard, or Steve Nash or Pau Gasol, depending on how a defense behaves. On any given last possession, the Lakers could make themselves incredibly difficult to defend if they don't shrink the playbook down to cocktail napkin size. Any other approach does the opposition a favor.

None of it amounts to a value judgment of the players involved, but a reflection of how much top end skill and smarts are on the roster, and how effective they could be if nobody really cares who gets the credit. Most of the concern around shots and touches is centered on Kobe and Howard, but I don't share it. Call me naive, but particularly with Nash on board spreading the wealth, should things go south ego won't be the reason. The skill sets of L.A.'s Big Four complement each other beautifully, and each is positioned well whether because of disposition (Nash, Gasol) or career arc (Kobe, Howard) to contribute to a winning hoops culture.

(Climbing down from soapbox...)

So all that said, what happens when there are 17 seconds left on the clock, and the Lakers are down by one? That's the question I kick around with Ramona Shelburne on this edition of The Forum.

 

The Forum: Questions beyond the Big Four

September, 7, 2012
9/07/12
10:25
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
We all know the big questions concerning L.A.'s Big Four heading into the 2012-13 season.

In the newest edition of The Forum, ESPNLA's Ramona Shelburne joins me as we break down the smaller-but-still vital issues that, given how evenly matched the Lakers are with Miami and Oklahoma City, could make the difference between disappointment and a parade.

 

How the Lakers match up: Los Angeles Clippers

August, 24, 2012
8/24/12
9:27
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
The Lakers aren't the only team in L.A. that has been busy this summer. The Clippers, despite working without a G.M. in the wake of Neil Olshey's leap to Portland, have also made a ton of moves, adding Lamar Odom, Grant Hill, Jamal Crawford and more. (Granted, only the purple and gold launched themselves into legitmate title contention.)

We've examined how the new-look Lakers match up with Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Miami, and Denver. In the latest installment, we bring in TrueHoop and Clipper Podcast co-host Kevin Arnovitz to break down this year's version of the Hallway Series. Video style, because words are old technology and we live on the cutting edge.

No surprise, there is unanimity in our little group that the Lakers are definitely the superior team, but (playoffs being all about matchups, after all) could the LAC give the LAL fits in a seven-game run?

The Forum: What to expect this year from Kobe Bryant

August, 24, 2012
8/24/12
2:04
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
Kobe Bryant turned 34 Thursday. (We're assuming he enjoyed a free pancake breakfast at IHOP.)

One of the greatest to lace 'em up, Kobe comes into his 17th season having just finished a tenth of a point off the NBA's scoring title, tossing in 5.0 rebounds and 4.3 assists a night, just to round things out. On the other hand, Bryant's shooting percentage was his lowest since '97-'98, and the advanced metrics weren't kind, either.

He's logged over 50,000 regular season and postseason minutes. He's also driven like nobody else in the league, takes incredible care of himself, and has serious help coming in the form of Dwight Howard, Steve Nash, and Antawn Jamison.

So what to expect from Kobe Bryant this season? We discuss on the latest edition of The Forum.



Kobe Bryant scores 68 points in 15 minutes (video)

August, 20, 2012
8/20/12
9:45
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
Granted:
  • It was in a charity game.
  • It was in a charity game against players -- actors and musicians, mostly -- who appear to be, ummmm, limited defensively. (What's Mandarin for "traffic cone?")
  • It was in a charity game against players -- actors and musicians, mostly -- who appear to be, ummmm, limited defensively while Kobe poured it on for the benefit of a cheering crowd who had "paid their hard earned money for a show."

But nonetheless, 68 points in 15 minutes (about 4.53 per minute) is still pretty impressive, if only as an exercise in exercise. That sort of thing takes some legitimate lung capacity.

Here's Kobe's description of it, via his Facebook page. Check out the (grainy and entertaining) video below.

 

Kupchak indicates door to Dwight Howard is still open

July, 25, 2012
7/25/12
8:17
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
After providing fans and media with the momentary distraction of Antawn Jamison's introduction to the city, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak once again fielded questions about the possibilities of a Dwight Howard deal, the status of extension talks with Andrew Bynum, and where else the team might try to improve before the start of the season.

The big takeaways:
  • While Kupchak didn't specifically address Howard (he can't talk about players on other teams, and wouldn't even if he could), asked if the door was closed now on an impact trade, he replied, "Typically [action] slows down in August, but the brakes are never on."

  • He has spoken to Bynum's agent David Lee, conversations he categorized as "positive and productive" but said no extension for Bynum was imminent. Lee told ESPNLA's Ramona Shelburne he and the team haven't discussed "anything of substance" regarding his client. Ultimately, it's more likely Bynum enters free agency next summer because he can get a longer, more lucrative deal by doing so. Yes, there's a risk of injury, but I think even if he gets hurt and misses games this year, he's still a max player on the market.
  • The Lakers are still poking around for more help, probably on the wing or another backcourt player, but aren't likely to use their mini-mid level exception unless they see a true value on the market. Based on the names still out there, I suspect there's a good chance nobody meets that standard. At least not at a full MML. Then again, publicly Kupchak always says "probably not" when it comes to signings and trades, and then stuff happens, so you never know.
  • He called Jamison's decision to join the Lakers "unusual," in that he passed up multiple offers for more money to do it. "We didn't recruit him all that much because I didn't think it was a possibility he'd come for the minimum, but after several conversations with his representative I started to say to myself, "I think this guy will do it" and from there it happened quickly," Kupchak said.

Antawn Jamison: Grateful to be with the Lakers (video)

July, 25, 2012
7/25/12
7:29
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
Wednesday afternoon in El Segundo, Antawn Jamison put pen to legally dense paper and officially became a Laker. Fair to say he was very pleased to have done so.

Reinforcing nearly ubiquitous reports about the quality of his character and solid influence in the locker room, Jamison spoke in glowing terms about the opportunity in front of him, and the desire to contribute to a winning team. He talked about coach Mike Brown, of his own defensive reputation, and more, but if one quote summarizes why he jumped at the chance to play in L.A. over other more lucrative financial opportunities, it's this:
"The type of career I've had, as an individual, it hasn't been bad, but as a team standpoint, it hasn't been good. And to come into this situation and know that every game, every practice, every film session, this is what it's all about. To be in this situation for me, I've been through the bad, now it's time to be a part of things that really matter."


On to the video...

Jamison, on the process of choosing the Lakers and the opportunity in front of him:

On his defense, which he freely acknowledges hasn't been a strong suit throughout his career. Jamison vowed, however, not to be a "weak link" for the Lakers, and said playing games of consequence with highly motivated teammates will definitely have a positive impact. Dennis Rodman, he is not, but hopefully Jamison can avoid being a liability. Still, it's enough of a question mark that even general manager Mitch Kupchak joked about his less-than-stellar reputation on that end of the floor during his opening remarks. But that Jamison didn't shy away from questions nor sugarcoat answers about that part of his game is definitely a positive thing.

(Read full post)

Kobe Bryant appeared on SportsCenter this afternoon, answering questions about Steve Nash, Dwight Howard, the Olympics and more:

SPONSORED HEADLINES

TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Kobe Bryant
PTS AST STL MIN
22.3 5.6 1.3 34.5
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Hill 8.0
AssistsK. Bryant 5.6
StealsR. Price 1.6
BlocksE. Davis 1.3