Los Angeles Lakers: Metta World Peace

World Peace talks life with Lakers, Knicks

March, 24, 2014
3/24/14
9:39
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McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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There is perhaps no one in the world with a better perspective on Tuesday's upcoming game between the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks -- and all the background defining both franchises in the moment -- than Metta World Peace.

After all, he has played for -- and been cut by -- both teams in the past year, with the Lakers waiving him via the amnesty provision in July and the Knicks reaching a buyout agreement with the 34-year-old forward last month.

Known for his candor and unique brand of humor, it has been awhile since the L.A. media has had the pleasure of bantering with the 14-year veteran. The last time World Peace spoke to reporters in Los Angeles, last summer, he bluffed that he would rather play in China than return to the NBA, in hopes of scaring teams away from claiming him off waivers so he would be free to sign with his hometown Knicks.

When the Lakers made their lone annual trip to play the Knicks at Madison Square Garden in January, World Peace came down with a conveniently timed 24-hour sickness and avoided speaking to L.A. reporters while he was in the midst of 15 straight DNPs.

Well, World Peace certainly made up for lost time Monday. The former defensive player of the year was a guest on the "Max & Marcellus Show" on ESPNLA 710 Radio and spent close to two hours in studio (listen to the podcast of the show here).

The following are highlights from the conversation:

On Phil Jackson joining the Knicks as their new team president: "I’m sure he wanted to finish as a Laker. He’s been a champion with the Bulls and with the Lakers and then everybody forgot about his Bulls days, and I think he’s going to make everybody forget about his Lakers days."

On the Knicks' chances to rebound with Jackson at the helm: "Definitely, I could see him winning next year big and being a problem in the East. A major problem. Because he has the pieces already. … The Knicks are going to be a major problem. With Phil there, it’s done. Everybody watch out in the East."

On being coached by Jackson in L.A.: "He would pick on me at practice. Get that spark plug back. … I like how Phil uses the media to get at players, because sometimes if a player is doing something that’s destructive to the team that will never get out in the media, sometimes you have to push his buttons. Because there’s a lot of things that happen that media would never know about and it could affect the team indirectly."

On whether Jackson and the Knicks or the Buss family and the Lakers are better suited to win now: "Phil. He has 13 championship rings. The Lakers have 16 championship rings. Ten of those rings was under the Buss administration. So Phil has 13 rings. The balance is going toward him."

On whether he would have accepted a buyout in New York if he knew Jackson was going to be joining the front office: "Absolutely not."

On his time with Kobe Bryant and the Lakers: "I owe a lot of my career to Kobe. I got that ring."

On whether he would prefer to play in New York or L.A. next season: "I don’t think I can say anything right now because I don’t want to mess up my options. I might want to go to Milwaukee."

On the interest he received from teams such as the Dallas Mavericks, Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs last summer: "I want to coach one day. Why not go to San Antonio? I can learn under Pop [Gregg Popovich]."

On having run-ins with J.R. Smith in New York: "My whole thing was teaching J.R. to come back to bench with good body language, because it feeds off to the next person going into the game."

On Lakers rookie Ryan Kelly's potential: "He’s stronger than Kevin Durant was when he came in [the league] and can do basically the same things, but he has to start [training] now."

On his nickname for Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni: "Michelangelo."

On the Lakers' air-it-out meeting in Memphis last season: "Kobe was furious and he just wanted things to change, and him and Dwight [Howard] at the time wasn’t clicking. I think Dwight would take it too personal because Kobe is like very direct and Kobe gives you, like, a chance to show who you are. Not necessarily produce, but just to show who you are. Kobe wants to see you out there on the court, and he wants to see you like an attack dog. A smart attack dog. Show that you have heart. Show you care. He wants to see it right away."

On Howard's limitations as an offensive player: "That’s where I had an issue with Dwight sometimes because he’s strong and he can rebound, he can block shots, he can dunk. But his moves are not polished yet. So to want the ball every time … we’re going to give it to you, because the franchise called for that, but he isn’t going to score."

On Pau Gasol: "He just looks like he’s breaking down, but I don’t think he is. He runs like he’s broken down, but I think he’s healthy."

On Minnesota Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman, who coached World Peace in Houston: "Adelman is amazing. He deserves a championship, absolutely. Because I played for him and he was one of those coaches where everything he said was right. Whatever he said, we would just do it and it worked. It was weird."

On returning to the city of Los Angeles after leaving the Knicks: "This year, I wanted to congratulate the females in L.A. They look amazing. When I came back, I was like, ‘Wow, something’s happened.’ I was only gone since September and they improved 100 percent."

Metta World Peace: 'Kobe, take the money'

November, 27, 2013
11/27/13
9:29
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Markazi By Arash Markazi
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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LOS ANGELES -- Metta World Peace is happy Kobe Bryant signed a two-year $48.5 million extension with the Los Angeles Lakers but thinks he could have gotten him more if he were his agent and negotiating with Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak.

“He should have taken the money,” World Peace said Wednesday. “God damn, Kobe, take the money. Take it and run. He should have let me negotiate for him. I would have said, ‘Hey, Mitch, c’mon, make it happen. Make it happen.’ The standard cut is 4 percent, but I would have taken 10.”

World Peace returned to Los Angeles on Wednesday night with the New York Knicks to play the Clippers in his first game back at the Staples Center since the Lakers amnestied him in the offseason. He has played with six teams during his 15-year career, but said he was happy Bryant will only play with the Lakers during his 20-year career.

“It’s a lot of money,” World Peace said. “I think it’s smart. I think it’s good. He could have gotten whatever he wanted. Whatever he would have asked for, he would have probably gotten. It’s good because it leaves them money to bring in another player, so it was very smart of them.”

The question is what player will want to come to Los Angeles and play with Bryant at the end of Bryant’s career?

“He’s a five-time champion, is hungry, has a killer instinct,” World Peace said. “Everybody has flaws. We all know this. Even the greatest person, except Gandhi; I don’t think Gandhi had flaws. Did Gandhi have flaws? What about the Dali Lama? They had no flaws. So there are a few people with no flaws.”

World Peace thinks at least one other superstar will take “the risk” and play with Bryant in Los Angeles and make a push for a championship.

“Kobe has a few flaws, but he has some good things about him also,” World Peace said. “He has a killer instinct and sometimes he channels it in a way that’s not relatable. But at the same time he has this drive that he wants to win. So I can see somebody taking the risk and coming here. I don’t know who. I’m very intense, but Kobe ... he channels his better than me.”

Lakers will revisit defense with Rambis

July, 30, 2013
7/30/13
10:33
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McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Can an NBA team lose two players who had been honored as the league's top defenders and, in the process, become a better defensive unit?

That’s what the Los Angeles Lakers are trying to find out.

Gone is their best rim protector in Dwight Howard, off to Houston. Gone, too, is their best perimeter stopper in Metta World Peace, off to New York.

Now the Lakers will find out if less is more.

Not that L.A.’s defense was any good with the services of the three-time defensive player of the year in Howard and one-time DPOY winner in World Peace, anyway. The Lakers were tied with Brooklyn for 18th in the league in defensive efficiency, allowing opponents to score 103.6 points per 100 possessions. Even with Howard patrolling the paint, L.A. ranked 22nd in the league in opponents’ field goal percentage inside of five feet, according to NBA.com Stats Cube (59.8 percent), and even with World Peace’s notoriously quick left hand, the Lakers were 26th in steals per game, generating just 7.0 a night.

“Their defense never really gave them a chance to win,” newly hired Lakers assistant coach Kurt Rambis told ESPNLosAngeles.com. “It was very erratic at best. In a lot of ways, when you bring in a lot of players from a lot of different systems, it takes awhile to get everybody connected and on the same page, how you have to defend a myriad of offensive NBA sets and you have to defend talented offensive people, it takes all five guys. They’ve got to be connected, and they’ve got to make the correct decisions at the correct time, and for the Lakers last year, it was clear that they just never really got connected on that end of the floor.

“You could see throughout most of their games, guys would turn their palms up to the sky, and it was like, ‘Is that my responsibility? Is that your responsibility? Who was supposed to do what?’ So, we’ve got to do a much better job of getting them so they can cover each others’ backs at that end of the floor.”

The reason that Rambis is back with the Lakers is not only because the team lost its two most talented defenders in Howard and World Peace, but because it lost its two most defensive-minded assistant coaches in Chuck Person, whose contract was not renewed, and Steve Clifford, who became the head coach in Charlotte.

Rambis, who assumed a defensive coordinator-type role in the final two seasons of his last run with the Lakers when Phil Jackson was head coach, said that Mike D’Antoni isn’t giving him the same label.

“(D’Antoni) said that all assistant coaches will be involved in all areas in our initial conversation,” Rambis explained. “Not that we have etched everything in stone, but to come back as a defensive coordinator, you can talk to Mike about whether there’s going to be any sort of designation on that. By my understanding, there isn’t going to be, but he just kind of wants all of the gaps to be covered so everybody is responsible for working with players and being involved in practices and being involved with games. But to have myself associated with the defense, that means that area is going to be covered.”

The Lakers have had a precipitous decline on the defensive end. After they held the Boston Celtics to just 79 points on 40.8 percent shooting in their Game 7 win in the 2010 Finals, their last three playoff appearances have ended in ugly fashion. First the Dallas Mavericks shot a blistering 46.2 percent on 3-pointers during a four-game sweep in 2011, amid Andrew Bynum decrying the team’s “trust issues” on the defensive end. Then the Oklahoma City Thunder scored 100 or more in three of their four wins against L.A. in their 2012 second-round series. Finally, in last season's first-round sweep by San Antonio, the Spurs shot a combined 53.0 percent from the floor in Games 2-4 after figuring out the Lakers' D that held them to just 37.6 percent shooting in Game 1 of the series.

“They never got connected defensively,” Rambis said of the 2012-13 season.

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Mike D'Antoni and the expectations game

July, 18, 2013
7/18/13
1:41
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McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Ironically, it was Phil Jackson who may have best summed up Mike D’Antoni’s first season as head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers.

“Mike hasn’t had a chance in L.A., he really hasn’t,” Jackson said back in May while appearing as a guest on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," after audience members booed the mention of D'Antoni's name.

[+] EnlargeD'Antoni
Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesMike D'Antoni will get a full training camp and season -- and even a roster more to his liking -- to show what he can do for the Lakers.
And that was before Dwight Howard left for Houston, making it clear on his way out the door that he would have preferred Jackson over D’Antoni as the Lakers' head coach.

D’Antoni has been maligned by some Lakers faithful for the team's disappointing 2012-13 season, and perceived by many to be at least partially responsible for Howard's departure. And although he replaced Mike Brown five games into last season, plenty of Lakers fans feel he actually replaced Jackson, since the 11-time champion had interviewed for the job before D’Antoni did back in November, and seemed to have landed it until a notorious late-night call from Lakers management informed him otherwise.

But grumbling aside, D'Antoni remains in the job, and has the backing of the front office heading into the 2013-14 season. Executive vice president Jim Buss and general manager Mitch Kupchak believe that the coach’s flexibility in the second half of last season was a key factor in the team finishing 28-12 and want to give him a full training camp and a healthy roster in 2013-14 in order to show what he can do.

Several times last season, D’Antoni paraphrased Winston Churchill in describing his approach to the Lakers' ups and downs, “When you're going through hell, you put your head down and keep going, and that's what we're going to do.”

The pressure of a $100 million payroll that was built to be a contender and was struggling just to play .500 ball was persistent and intense. The Lakers are hoping that Howard’s departure will perhaps act as a sort of pressure release valve heading into the upcoming season.

“Expectations should be lower and I think that will ease the pressure on him,” said a source familiar with the Lakers front office’s thinking.

“I think every year's fun,” D’Antoni recently told Fox Sports when asked how grateful he was to have a traditional offseason to prepare his team. “Coaching's fun, so I'm not complaining the other way, but this is a lot better. Some of the best times are training camp and getting your ideas in how you'd like them.”

None of Churchill's grim determination there.

Late last season D’Antoni told ESPNLosAngeles.com, “We're not running anything that I would normally run,” but the moves the Lakers have made since Howard left for Houston have been more in step with the system for which D’Antoni is known.

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World Peace looks back on life as a Laker

July, 12, 2013
7/12/13
11:33
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McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Metta World Peace is rarely at a loss for words. His rap sessions with the media are known for being frank, wide-ranging and, of course, entertaining. He shoots from the hip and channels his stream of consciousness as he speaks, allowing his thoughts to flow out of him and into the voice recorders and notebooks of the reporters who surround him.

So, when World Peace took his time to collect his thoughts Friday, a day after his four-year run with the Los Angeles Lakers came to an end when the team waived him via the NBA amnesty provision, it was striking.

"When you think back on being a Laker the last four years, what comes to your mind?" this reporter asked.

World Peace thought in silence for three seconds.

[+] EnlargeMetta World Peace
Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty ImagesFor Metta World Peace, an NBA Finals speech and his work in the Los Angeles community have been highlights of his Lakers career.
"Hmph."

Two more seconds of silence.

"Umm."

Four seconds, and then he repeated the question to himself.

"What comes to my mind?"

Fourteen seconds more. And then, jackpot.

"Probably Derek Fisher's Game 7 speech," World Peace said, referring to the do-or-die, winner-take-all game against the Boston Celtics to finish off the 2010 NBA Finals. "Game 7 speech in the fourth quarter, that was the most craziest thing I've ever heard in my life."

The Lakers trailed the longtime rival Celtics by as many as 13 in the second half until the tide started to turn on the Staples Center court, and Fisher's words helped bring the team home to victory.

"It was the craziest experience of my life," World Peace said. "It was like Martin Luther King, man. I'm telling you. That was like the craziest thing ever.

"Basketball is just a game. That's all it is, but at that time, you're playing something since you were 8 years old, and then you want this prize -- which is only a materialistic item, but it doesn't feel that way at all. It feels way more real. And for this guy to give a speech at a time where if you was to lose, you would probably be heartbroken and it will haunt you for the rest of your life. And for this guy to give a speech, it was crazy. It was the craziest thing I ever experienced in my life. It was the craziest thing ever. Derek is just amazing."

Fisher's diatribe might have been inspiring, but World Peace's performance was impactful. He finished with 20 points, five rebounds and five steals, and his 3-pointer with one minute remaining doubled L.A.'s lead from three to six and helped propel the Lakers to the 83-79 win.

"It's really hard to get a ring," World Peace said. "It's really hard to get a championship ring. So, the positive is we got one [in his time in L.A.]. Not enough. We should have had more, but, we got one, and I think that's something to be proud about."

Here are some more memories from World Peace:

On being teammates with Kobe Bryant: "He was very competitive. Taught me a lot, and just too, too competitive because he tried a lot to do it himself. And too tough, because he played through too many injuries. Played through way too many injuries. Sometimes he should have just took a break, I thought, and just [said], 'All right, get it back the next day.' But that's the nature. That's what we are. I came back off [knee] surgery [after 12 days]. We can't help it."

On what went wrong this past season: "Wow. I just think that Dr. [Jerry] Buss was a chemist. So, the molecules didn't quite fit up."

On whether he ever got a replacement championship ring for the one he auctioned off to raise money for mental health awareness: "Never."

On his charity efforts: "I did a lot of things in the community -- like major, major impact. I didn't do small things. I'm going to continue to work with the community out here in L.A. I'm going to continue. I'm not going to just go somewhere else and then forget the stuff I was doing in L.A. to springboard the things I wanted to do in other communities. But, the impact that we made in the community in four years, that was huge.

"We attempted to raise $250 million with [the help] of a congresswoman. [We worked] to get psychologists in schools. Big things that are necessary. That's way more important than anything that I've done here [in L.A. on the court]. That's why I'm most grateful to have been a Laker, because without the Lakers, I would have never had that platform to go into Congress and speak about all that stuff, about what's necessary and all the stuff that's happening in the world today."

On his experience in L.A.: "I still got a chance to be myself. I made a couple errors being suspended, but other than that, I was able to be myself. And it's hard to be myself, because I'm very edgy. It's hard. Even I'll be like, 'OK, [calm down].' But I was happy because I was able to be myself and not cross the line, and that's hard because I just have no filter. I have no filter."

On whether he feels like a changed man from his days as a Laker: "I don’t know if I’ve changed. I just make better decisions. I make way better decisions now in my life. Definitely."

Walking down Metta memory lane

July, 12, 2013
7/12/13
9:43
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McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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What's the first thing that springs to mind when I think back on two seasons of covering Ron Artest, plus two seasons of covering Metta World Peace in Los Angeles?

"I can't remember."

It was World Peace's go-to answer in the postgame locker room when we asked about anything that made him remotely uncomfortable -- a foul, a missed shot, a turnover, a referee's decision, a teammate's shoddy play.

Metta World Peace
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty ImagesIn a word, the time Metta World Peace spent in Los Angeles with the Lakers can be labeled as memorable for a variety or reasons.
But despite all the times he feigned memory loss, for me, covering the guy was unforgettable.

He is one of the game's true characters, a living contradiction as a fierce, muscle-bound competitor with the wacky, off-the-wall humor of a cartoon character.

Phil Jackson once described him as a "na´ve, innocent lamb."

James Harden once received a vicious, violent elbow from that lamb, right in the chops.

He was capable of inspiring you -- coming back to the court just 12 days after knee surgery last season; working day and night to lose more than 20 pounds in the middle of the lockout-shortened 2011-12 campaign; opening up about a painful childhood to try to erase the stigma and discrimination attached to those with mental health disabilities and really becoming a champion of the cause.

He was capable of infuriating you -- bullying younger players like Brandon Knight and Michael Beasley both physically and verbally without prompt; mocking former Lakers head coach Mike Brown for his background as a video coordinator.

And he was capable of making you shake your head and laugh -- making one of his haphazard failed coast-to-coast attempts that made you hear the "Benny Hill Show" theme song in your head; choosing to wear No. 37 to honor the number of Michael Jackson's No. 1 chart-topping singles; punctuating a successful play by kissing his biceps and blowing kisses to the crowd.

And through it all, he gave Lakers fans a boatload of memories.

From the serendipitous 2010 playoff run that resulted in three all-time great Laker moments:

1. His game-winning putback layup (cleaning up a Kobe Bryant miss) in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals, assuring L.A. would go into Phoenix up 3-2 for Game 6, rather than facing a potential elimination game on the road.

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Lakers weigh amnestying World Peace

July, 8, 2013
7/08/13
8:08
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Shelburne By Ramona Shelburne
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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The Los Angeles Lakers have until July 16 to decide whether to use their annual one-time amnesty provision, or to give peace a chance. Metta World Peace, that is.

[+] EnlargePeace-Bryant
AP Photo/Mark J. TerrillKobe Bryant weighed in on the Metta World Peace amnesty talk, tweeting, "Personally I'd keep Metta and make a run with the unit we have and just add a few pieces #keepthepeace #lakersstilldeciding."
The veteran small forward is one of four players -- Steve Blake, Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant are the others -- on whom the Lakers can still use the amnesty provision to help lessen their luxury-tax burden next season. The Orange County Register reported Monday afternoon that "barring some late change," World Peace and his $7.7 million salary would be released via amnesty to help the Lakers save approximately $30 million in luxury-tax fees. The time frame to amnesty players is July 10-16.

Lakers sources indicated to ESPN that the team is still weighing the situation carefully and "looking at everything."

After agreeing to terms with veteran center Chris Kaman earlier in the day on a one-year, $3.2 million contract, the Lakers have only veteran minimum contracts remaining to fill out their roster.

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant made his feelings about the situation clear. Bryant first tweeted that "No game 7 win without Metta! This is a tough day for laker nation #misspeace #newcbacasualty," then followed it up with a subsequent tweet saying "Personally I'd keep Metta and make a run with the unit we have and just add a few pieces #keepthepeace #lakersstilldeciding."

While he was at it, Bryant offered his first public comments about center Dwight Howard's decision to leave the Lakers and sign with the Houston Rockets. Bryant had un-followed Howard on Twitter and also posted a photo of Gasol and Bryant together on the court via his Instagram account after Howard announced he had decided to join the Rockets on Friday.

"I wish d12 the best honestly," Bryant tweeted. "I just find it hard to follow players that wanna kick my teams ass #thatsjustme."

Lakers could take a big step back

July, 8, 2013
7/08/13
1:27
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Buha By Jovan Buha
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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The Los Angeles Lakers barely made the playoffs with Dwight Howard in uniform last season, so losing the NBA’s best center for nothing in return -- combined with an aging core and Kobe Bryant’s ongoing recovery -- increases the odds that the Lakers will be counting lottery balls next summer.

What’s worse, since the Lakers are still well over the luxury tax, they can only offer the mini midlevel exception (worth approximately $3.2 million) or veteran’s minimum (worth approximately $1.2 million) to prospective free agents. With such limited means to upgrade their roster -- trading Pau Gasol and/or Steve Nash wouldn’t bring back valuable assets at this point -- the Lakers project to take a major step back next season.

Since 19 of the Lakers’ 25 most-used lineups featured Howard, and L.A. has yet to fill out the rest of its roster, it’s difficult to predict what a Howard-less rotation would look like. It’s clear, though, that the Lakers will miss Howard’s post presence, finishing abilities out of the pick-and-roll, rebounding prowess and, above all else, defensive impact.

When Howard was off the floor, the Lakers’ defense allowed 107.8 points per 100 possessions, which would have ranked 29th in the NBA last season (they ranked 10th with him on the floor). The Lakers also allowed 3.3 more second-chance points and 7.7 more points in the paint when Howard was on the bench; his interior intimidation prevented offensive rebounds and deterred shots at the rim.

Though the Lakers are looking to sign defensive-minded wings and big men, no available option will have even half the impact Howard did. As such, the Lakers once again promise to be a below-average defensive team that, despite its size, cannot contain penetration or protect the rim adequately.

Offensively, the Lakers actually scored more (106.6 points per 100 possessions) and shot better from beyond the arc with Howard on the bench (36.8 percent compared to 34.8 percent), but struggled to finish near the rim, shooting just 58.0 percent (25th best in the league).

Howard’s ability to draw fouls will be especially tough to replace. Even though he couldn’t make free throws, he often got opponents in the penalty early in quarters.

Once he returns from his Achilles injury -- which is the dark cloud hanging over the Lakers’ season -- Bryant will have to shoulder his most substantial offensive load since before Gasol arrived in the 2007-08 season, because Nash will be 39 (and never looked like himself last year), and Gasol and D’Antoni have yet to mesh philosophically.

With Howard on the bench, Bryant became much more aggressive and shot-happy from the perimeter, and his shooting dipped from 47.9 percent to 43.1 percent.

Even if he’s not a perfect fit for the roster, Gasol shifts back to his natural center position, making him the biggest beneficiary of Howard’s departure; he will be able to move down to block and function in a similar role as during the Lakers’ 2008-09 and 2009-10 championship runs.

When Gasol was on the floor without Howard last season, the Lakers outscored opponents by 9.2 points per 100 possessions, and Gasol’s shooting and rebounding numbers spiked while simultaneously decreasing his turnovers.

Jordan Hill will also prosper. Barring an unforeseen transaction or decision by D’Antoni, Hill will replace Howard and start alongside Gasol. Outside of Howard, Hill was the Lakers’ best rebounder and posted the best defensive rating (105).

In 164 minutes together the Gasol-Hill duo produced a plus-10.1 net rating (point differential per 100 possessions), averaging 106.9 points per 100 possessions and allowing just 96.8 points per 100 possessions. Surprisingly, they were much more effective than the Howard-Hill pairing (minus-7.4 net rating), as Gasol and Hill formed one of the Lakers’ best rebounding and defensive lineups.

Overall, the projected starting lineup of Gasol, Hill, Metta World Peace, Bryant and Nash had a plus-10.1 net rating in a total of 14 minutes last season, which is an extremely small sample size that provides little indication of how effective the lineup can truly be.

(Read full post)

Lakers' Plan B requires patience

July, 7, 2013
7/07/13
7:01
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McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Los Angeles Lakers fans, brace yourselves.

You’re about to experience the basketball equivalent of the well-known lyrics of frequent courtside seat holder, Tom Petty:

“The waiting is the hardest part.”

[+] EnlargeLos Angeles Lakers
Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports

They'll all be in this thing together ... at least for the 2013-14 season. Then Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Steve Nash and the Lakers will be in for big changes next summer.

For a team that has won 16 championships and made it to the NBA Finals 31 times (in a league that’s only been around 67 years, meaning that just about one out of every two seasons, L.A. is within four wins or less of the title), giving up on championship aspirations before training camp even opens up seems sacrilege.

But with Dwight Howard choosing to go to the Houston Rockets and L.A. now sporting an aging roster without the best big man in the game to make up for it, the 2013-14 season is destined to be nothing more than a holding pattern for the Lakers.

All is not lost, however.

The upside is that next summer promises to be a pivotal time in the franchise’s history. And if everything goes according to plan, the Lakers should be able to eventually vault themselves right back on a championship trajectory.

Before we get to the summer of 2014, let’s look at what the Lakers have in store for themselves in the immediate aftermath of Howard’s decision.

Outside of filling out their roster with the limited free-agent tools they have at their disposal (the mini mid-level exception of $3.2 million, as well as veteran minimum deals), the Lakers’ front office brass of general manager Mitch Kupchak and vice president of player personnel Jim Buss must figure out what to do with the players they currently have under contract.

A source familiar with the Lakers’ thinking told ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Ramona Shelburne they will not use their one-time amnesty provision on Pau Gasol during the July 10-16 window when the league allows teams to waive one player they signed prior to December 2011 without that money owed counting against their salary cap.

With Gasol back in the fold to slide over to center in Howard’s absence, that means the Lakers will most likely amnesty Metta World Peace.

While World Peace enjoyed a resurgent season last year, he is coming off minor knee surgery and waiving him would save the Lakers close to $25 million in salary and luxury tax fees.

With World Peace let go the question is, will a core team of Kobe Bryant (coming off Achilles surgery), Gasol, Steve Nash, Steve Blake, Jodie Meeks and Jordan Hill even be competitive?

Say Bryant is out until Christmas while his left leg recovers:

Will the Lakers be 10 games under .500 at that point without him? And if they are, would it be better to try to make a run for a low playoff seed at that point or simply join in the “Tank for Andrew Wiggins” movement that several teams -- the Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors among them -- already seem to be primed to do in order to increase their odds of drafting the University of Kansas phenom?

The Lakers would never admit it, but bottoming out next season could be the best thing for the franchise in the long run.

As L.A. sent away future first-round draft picks last summer in order to acquire Howard and Nash, they were sure to hang onto their first-rounder in 2014. Wiggins is considered a generational talent along the lines of Shaquille O’Neal and LeBron James. But even if L.A. doesn’t end up with the No. 1 pick to land Wiggins, Duke’s Jabari Parker and Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart are considered can’t-miss prospects, as well.

Maybe the Bryant-Nash-Gasol-led Lakers are still good enough to make the playoffs and maybe Bryant comes back sooner rather than later. That might take them out of the running for Wiggins & Co. But L.A. also has positioned itself to go after the league’s marquee free agents next summer, by carefully coordinating when it would have cap space open up.

Every player but Nash comes off the Lakers’ books after the 2013-14 season. Which means that should Bryant negotiate an extension at a discounted rate (think $10 million range), L.A. would be able to pursue not one, but two max-level free agents and immediately be in the hunt again.

It might seem like a pipe dream, but would you doubt the Lakers’ championship chances if they got Bryant and Gasol to come back on the cheap and were able to lure the likes of James, plus Carmelo Anthony or Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh or DeMarcus Cousins or Paul George?

However, just like the Lakers' first-rounder in 2014 won't guarantee them a top-three pick if they miss the playoffs, having all that cap space doesn't guarantee a shot at any of these players. Some of them, most notably James and Anthony, would have to exercise an early termination option on their current contracts to hit the market. Others like Cousins and George (you can throw Washington's John Wall into the mix, too) will be restricted free agents, so something would have to go south in their current situations for their respective teams not to match any max offer that came their way.

“Should Dwight leave, we’ll have a Plan B,” Kupchak said the night of the draft, about a week before L.A. learned Howard would indeed be bolting for the Rockets. “It’s not going to be as good as Plan A. But we do have a plan that goes beyond one year.”

“It is a system. It’s not like there are no rules in the NBA,” he said. “There is a system that is in place that provides the team that does the worst [to get] the best picks. If you have good teams with good players, then the players have to be paid well. That puts you into an environment where you don’t have free-agent money and you can’t use exceptions. It’s hard to replenish that team.

“At the same time, the players get older. It’s a natural cycle that you have to live with, but you plan the best for opportunities. That’s not to say there won’t be a two- or three-year [rebuilding] period like there was in the early '90s. But if there was, we feel like it would be short-lived.”

It could be as short-lived as one year’s championship chances all but forgotten even before the season had tipped off.

Then all of the waiting could pay off big in the summer of 2014.

Metta World Peace, broadcaster?

June, 12, 2013
6/12/13
1:44
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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LOS ANGELES -- Anyone who watched Metta World Peace's epic press conference following Game 7 of the 2010 Finals knows just how entertaining the man can be with a microphone a TV cameras in front of him.

Now a few years later, with his NBA future up in the air, the Los Angeles Lakers forward is testing out what it would be like to transition to a broadcasting career once his playing days are done.

World Peace has embarked on a media whirlwind this summer, using the exposure on the likes of ESPN's "SportsNation," ESPN LA 710 radio's "Max & Marcellus Show," ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live!," Time Warner Cable SportsNet's "Access SportsNet: Lakers" and the NBC Sports Network's "The Crossover" with Michelle Beadle to promote his new children's book and to explore what it's like to be one of those doing the talking rather than be the one being talked about.

"I think I’m a different type of analyst because I’ve been involved in so many different situations where I can be judged and I’ve always tried to not judge someone," World Peace told ESPNLosAngeles.com in a telephone interview.

"At one time we probably shook hands and now I’m on TV talking about this player, he might not be able to take it. So, it’s my job to try to smooth it over and I always make sure I do that. That’s why I’m always having fun, because I don’t want the players to think that I’m killing them in the media."

While World Peace is willing to do wacky things like when he gorged on cupcakes during his TWC SportsNet appearance to keep things light, he certainly doesn't always sugarcoat his opinions.

When asked for his analysis of the current NBA Finals matchup between the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs, World Peace did not hold back.

"Mentally, the Spurs are strongest right now," World Peace said. "I think LeBron and (Chris) Bosh they want it to be given to them. I don't think they're taking it upon themselves like a (Michael) Jordan would have done."

Those opinions will get people to tune in. And there could be a need for a strong voice like World Peace's in the near future, as the NBA's most outspoken broadcaster, Charles Barkley, told SI.com back in November that he is contemplating leaving TNT in search of a new challenge.

(Read full post)

How the Lakers got here: 10 decisions that shaped their fate

May, 28, 2013
5/28/13
4:43
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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LOS ANGELES -- For the first time in a long time, the Los Angeles Lakers are in a bit of a rut. For a franchise that has won 16 championships, a first-round playoff exit via sweep -- punctuating a three-year stretch in which the team failed to make it out of the second round -- is the equivalent of a band known for its epic encores ending a set after playing only a few songs.

How did the Lakers get here? Some occurrences were out of their control, of course. The litany of injuries that depleted the roster this past season couldn’t be anticipated. And the new collective bargaining agreement that went into effect before the 2011-12 lockout-shortened season has severely affected the way the Lakers go about their business.

That said, the Lakers’ management team hardly has been innocent bystanders over the past two years. As with any professional sports team, the Lakers have had to make major decision after major decision in order to maintain their current relevancy while simultaneously keeping an eye on the future. String together a handful of successful decisions in a row -- such as the way the Indiana Pacers picked up Tyler Hansbrough, Paul George and Lance Stephenson in consecutive drafts -- and it can take your franchise to new heights.

However, a couple of wrong moves can snowball, and instead of having that perennial success that once seemed preordained, you’re suddenly like the Bluth family on “Arrested Development.”

Here’s a look at the 10 major decisions the Lakers have made in the past two years that got them to where they are today.

1. Hiring Mike Brown

Following Phil Jackson’s retirement, the Lakers had a short list of candidates to replace him as head coach: Brown, Rick Adelman, Mike Dunleavy and Brian Shaw. The Lakers were blown away by Brown’s interview because of his preparedness and attention to detail, and chose the defense-minded coach who was almost the polar opposite of Jackson in terms of age and coaching style. Brown’s hasty dismissal the following season, just five games into the second year of a four-year contract, is grounds to play the “What if?” game.

What if Shaw had been handed the reins, continued to run the triangle offense and maintained strong relationships with Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol? Maybe Bynum doesn’t have the breakout season he had under Brown’s post-up oriented system, but maybe Gasol’s career doesn’t sputter either. What if Adelman had come in with all that playoff experience from Portland and Sacramento under his belt and kept the group from skipping a beat?

2. Letting go of longtime support staff in conjunction with the lockout

Again, the lockout might have been out of the Lakers’ control, but how they responded to it wasn’t. The team parted with nearly 20 longtime employees in summer 2011 -- assistant general manager Ronnie Lester as well as a collection of experienced scouts among them -- and it was a very public glimpse for the outside world into the inner workings of the Lakers.

“You think of the Lakers and you think they are a great organization,” Lester told the L.A. Times. “But if you work inside the organization, it’s only a perception of being a great organization. It’s probably not a great organization, because great organizations don’t treat their personnel like they’ve done.”

The Lakers have since promoted Glenn Carraro to assistant GM and have hired new scouts, but the layoffs certainly took some of the Lakers’ luster -- and they could have angered the basketball gods, if you believe in that sort of thing.

3. Trading Derek Fisher

In the 43 games Fisher played in his final season in L.A., the veteran guard averaged 5.9 points and 3.3 assists while shooting 38.3 percent from the floor and 32.4 percent from 3-point territory. In the 53 regular-season games he has played with the Oklahoma City Thunder and Dallas Mavericks since then, Fisher has averaged 5.2 points and 1.4 assists on 34.2 percent shooting overall and 35.7 percent from deep, so it’s not like the Lakers missed out on the final glory days of Fisher’s career. They even got Jordan Hill out of the deal with the Houston Rockets, but moves aren’t always about what’s on paper.

By parting with Fisher, the Lakers got rid of a strong leadership presence in the locker room and also one of the few people on Earth with the power to sway Bryant. Teams across all sports have to cut ties with aging players on a regular basis, so the Fisher move wasn't unprecedented, but it was still jarring to say goodbye to a captain who was an integral part of five championships. In conjunction with losing Fisher, the Lakers acquired Ramon Sessions from Cleveland in a separate trade, thinking the 26-year-old could be their point guard of the future to contend with the NBA’s new wave of talent at that position.

4. Not retaining Ettore Messina and Quin Snyder

The Lakers’ five-game flameout in the second round of the 2012 playoffs against the Thunder was hard enough to swallow, but not long after the team learned it was also losing two of Brown’s top assistants in Messina and Snyder, who were going overseas to coach Messina’s former team, CSKA Moscow. The lucrative salary Messina was commanding to be a head coach once again in Europe made it more his decision than the Lakers’ to part ways. However, the departures of Messina and Snyder -- along with the reclassification of John Kuester to East Coast scout -- pretty much erased any rapport that Brown’s staff had developed with the team and ensured another season of new faces and ideologies for 2012-13.

5. Hiring Eddie Jordan to coach the Princeton offense

With Brown’s original staff gutted, he chose to go in a different direction by bringing in Jordan to run the Princeton offense. Brown was smart enough to get Bryant’s blessing on the move in Las Vegas during USA Basketball camp, before the Olympics and before Jordan officially came to the Lakers, but ultimately the offense proved to be too complicated for the team to run and too much of an ill fit for the pieces the Lakers would eventually acquire.

6. Not re-signing Ramon Sessions

After struggling in the playoffs against the Oklahoma City Thunder (averaging 6.8 points and 3.0 assists while shooting 35.3 percent, down from 12.7 and 6.2, respectively, on 47.9 percent shooting from the field in the regular season with L.A.), Sessions opted out of the final year of his contract in search of a multiyear commitment. The Lakers would have been amenable to bringing Sessions back had he opted in, but didn’t feel the young point guard had showed them enough to commit for the long term. Sessions received a two-year, $10 million deal from the Charlotte Bobcats and went on to average 14.4 points and 3.8 assists per game as an effective substitute off their bench.

7. Trading for Steve Nash

With Fisher gone and Sessions making it clear he was seeking a commitment the Lakers weren’t willing to give, the story goes that Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak called up agent Bill Duffy at the start of the official free-agency period and Duffy happened to be sitting next to Nash at the time. Kupchak was surprised to hear about Nash’s interest in becoming a Laker and so began the negotiation process, which ended with a three-year deal worth about $27 million for Nash and four draft picks -- two in the first round, two in the second -- going Phoenix’s way. The Lakers addressed two major needs -- experienced point guard play (especially after Sessions wilted in the postseason) and shooting -- but also went from a 37-year-old guard in Fisher to a 26-year-old in Sessions back to a 38-year-old in Nash (now 39). Nash went on to average 12.7 points and 6.7 assists while missing 32 games because of injuries in his first season in L.A. and was paid $8.9 million, nearly double what Sessions made (although Nash shot 49.7 percent for the Lakers compared to Sessions’ 40.8 percent for the Cats).

It was a swing-for-the-fences move by the Lakers, who ended up acquiring a Hall of Fame-bound point guard just seven months after being thwarted in their attempt to get Chris Paul. Kupchak and Lakers vice president of player personnel Jim Buss had no way of knowing that Nash would miss so many games because of a fracture in his left leg and nerve damage in his right hip and hamstring, but they knew quite clearly the risk involved in pursuing a guard who was approaching 40 years old.

8. Trading for Dwight Howard

No matter what Howard decides to do this offseason, L.A.’s management deserves credit for bringing him in for Andrew Bynum, who didn’t play a single game in 2012-13 because of his knees, rather than extending a long-term offer to Bynum after he was an All-Star for the first time in 2011-12. When healthy, Howard is right there with LeBron James as the most impactful two-way player in the game. Despite everything that went down in L.A. this season, he was the linchpin in helping the Lakers finish the season 28-12 over the final 40 games of the regular season.

The Lakers traded for Howard not knowing if he planned on signing a max extension to stay with them and figured a season wearing the purple and gold would persuade him to want to put down roots.

Even with the disappointment of Howard’s first season in L.A., it is hard to second-guess the trade made by the Lakers to acquire him. When you can add the best defensive player in the game, you have to do it. However, in adding yet another major contract to the books (to accompany Bryant, Gasol, Nash and Metta World Peace), the Lakers were fully committing to the plan to be a top-heavy team that relies on rookie deals and veteran minimum contracts to fill out the bulk of the roster outside of the mini midlevel exception. This strategy has its upside, clearly, but if any of the talent at the top gets injured or underperforms (which happened across the board this season) it puts severe stress on the rest of the Lakers to play above their heads to reach expectations, which isn’t a reasonable scenario and is a testament to why depth is so important in the NBA.

9. Firing Mike Brown

Hiring Brown was the tipping point to get the Lakers to the state they are in and you could argue that they fired him without giving him a chance to implement what he promised to do. After an 0-8 preseason and 1-4 start to the regular season, Brown was relieved of his duties as head coach. If Brown had been given the time to have Howard get healthy and have Nash return from his leg injury, maybe he would have gotten through to the group and had the success the Lakers were banking on when they hired him. There’s no way of knowing for sure, but by firing Brown the Lakers' management was admitting it made a major mistake on one of those major decisions.

10. Hiring Mike D’Antoni

The same decision that started the cycle two years ago –- hiring a coach –- was the last major move made by Lakers management to date. The front office claimed Mike D’Antoni was a better fit for the current personnel than Phil Jackson was, and didn’t await an answer from the 11-time championship-winning coach before moving forward and offering the job to the former Suns and New York Knicks front man. The Lakers were a far cry from “Showtime II” this past season. D’Antoni even admitted to ESPNLosAngeles.com late in the season that, “We're not running anything that I would normally run.”

Kupchak took that as D’Antoni being adaptable and endorsed the coach as having earned the right to keep his job for next season. While D’Antoni was able to maneuver through injuries and personality conflicts to help guide the Lakers into the playoffs, their season came to a screeching halt with an embarrassing 4-0 sweep to the Spurs once there.

So, that’s how the Lakers got here. The next major decision won’t be the franchise’s, but rather Howard’s to figure out if he wants to remain a Laker. Following that, there will be more franchise-altering choices to make -- whom to trade, whom to amnesty, whom to draft -- that could be either the start of building something in the right direction or the continuation of this difficult period in the team’s history.

2012-13 Lakers Report Card: Starting five

May, 6, 2013
5/06/13
2:01
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
For a franchise that has won 16 titles, any Los Angeles Lakers season that doesn't end with a championship is considered a failure. But rather than just dole out a blanket "F" for the Lakers' disappointing 2012-13 season, we're going to break down each player's production in groups: Today it's the starters. Last week, we covered the bench backcourt and bench frontcourt. Check back for grades on the coaching staff and front office.

KOBE BRYANT

How should Kobe Bryant's epic yet ultimately disappointing season be remembered? For all of the turn-back-the-clock dunks? For passing Wilt Chamberlain to claim the No. 4 spot on the all-time scoring list? For eight 40-point games as a 34-year-old? For back-to-back games in March with 40-plus points and 12 assists, leading to consecutive must-have wins? For the two free throws he hit after tearing his Achilles? For 11 games with 10-plus assists as he converted to "Magic Mamba" and played point guard? For converting to defensive stopper for a stretch and being relied upon to stop the opposing team's primary ball handler?

In a season that was a struggle from start to finish for the Lakers as a team, Bryant managed to flourish as an individual, finishing fifth in the MVP voting despite the Lakers' pedestrian 47-35 record. Throughout the campaign, Bryant reinvented himself time and time again to fit the Lakers' needs at that point in the season.

It is time to appreciate all that Bryant did for the Lakers this past season, because both his future and the team's future are cloudy at the moment.

Stats

27.3 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 6.0 APG, 1.4 SPG, .463 FG, .324 3FG: It was a renaissance season for Bryant as he averaged the second-most assists per game of his career and shot his best percentage from the field since 2008-09.

Outlook for 2013-14

Bryant is aiming to be back in the lineup for opening night in late October, which would mean a remarkably quick six-month recovery from Achilles surgery. That quiets the amnesty talk, however, as the team won't be waiving Bryant and the $30.4 million it owes him in the final year of his contract if both parties share the mindset that Bryant will be back next season.

Furthermore, Bryant wants the Lakers to stay together for one more run in what could be his final season.

"It's a tough call to make," Bryant said at his exit interview. "But then again, it is one more year. One more year. That's how I look at it. One more year of this thing.

"Our contracts are ending. ... Pau [Gasol] is up after next year. Hopefully, we get Dwight [Howard] locked up so he's here for a while and the future is kind of set already. So let's take a crack at this thing."

It's the longest of long shots. Bryant would have to come back from an injury that ended the careers of the likes of Charles Barkley, Shaquille O'Neal and Isiah Thomas, and the Lakers would have to incur severe financial penalties to bring back both Gasol and Howard. However, Bryant and his franchise have surprised us before.

Grade

A: Sure, Bryant's defense slipped a bit and he was a difficult teammate at times, but all in all it was a brilliant season for the 17-year veteran.

DWIGHT HOWARD

You can say this: Howard's first season in Los Angeles wasn't as bad as his "Dwightmare" of a final season in Orlando. But that's not saying much. Howard arrived in L.A. with championship expectations but proved he still has more growing to do before he can be the linchpin on a title team.

Still, Howard deserves credit for playing from the opening-night tipoff, when his back was less than 100 percent, even though he wasn't expected to be in the lineup until January or February. He also should be recognized for missing only six games with a torn labrum in his right shoulder when he could have shut it down, with it being a contract year for him and all.

Even though Howard and the Lakers flamed out of the playoffs, with his unfortunate ejection punctuating the series sweep in Game 4 against San Antonio, it was Howard who got them to the postseason in the first place with his shutdown defense and improved overall play in the second half of the season.

Stats

17.1 PPG, 12.4 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.1 SPG, 2.4 BPG, .578 FG, .492 FT: Howard led the league in rebounding and was second in field goal percentage, so even though his scoring was the lowest it's been since his second season in the league and his free throw percentage was sub-50 percent for the second straight season, he still was mighty impactful.

Outlook for 2013-14

Howard has plenty of incentive to re-sign in L.A., as the Lakers can offer a five-year, $118 million deal versus just the four years and $88 million any competitor can put on the table, but the 27-year-old has vowed to take his time with the decision.

"For me, I'm going to do what's best for myself, what's going to make me happy," Howard said at his exit interview. "At the end of the day, I can't control who likes me and who dislikes me, but I have the right to be happy. That's what I'm going to do. That's the biggest thing right there."

(Read full post)

Lakers exit interviews: Day 1 highlights

April, 29, 2013
4/29/13
7:28
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The light bulbs on the scoreboard showing the Los Angeles Lakers' 103-82 season-ending loss to the San Antonio Spurs had barely cooled down before they got together one last time to sort through the rubble of their disappointing 2012-13 campaign before saying goodbye for the summer.

The Lakers conducted exit interviews for nine of their 15 players on Monday, with the rest to come on Tuesday.

Here's a recap of what each player had to say to the media, in chronological order, after meeting with Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak on Monday.

CHRIS DUHON
Synopsis: Duhon finished with 11 points and seven assists, playing a whopping (and game-high) 43 minutes in Game 4 against San Antonio because of how depleted the Lakers' roster was after not receiving consistent playing time since January.

Lakers future: Duhon is set to make $3.9 million next season if L.A. keeps him around. The more likely scenario is the Lakers buy him out for the $1.5 million that's partially guaranteed in his contract and go their separate ways. "We’re going to talk," Duhon said. "I’ll be here all summer. I’ll be engaged. I have until June 30 for them to pick up my option. We talked about it, and that’s what it is. It’s talk. I’ll be here, we’ll be in contact and whatever decision they make, we’re going to make that decision and go from there."

On Dwight Howard: "I think he’s learned from Orlando, like I’ve always told him, ‘Do what’s best for you.’ Do what’s best for you and your family, whatever makes you happy and keep that to yourself. He’s always been a people-pleaser, always trying to go out into the media and get the media on his side, [but] for him, it’s about him and his family. What makes Dwight happy, that’s what he needs to do. Whatever makes Dwight happy. … He can be happy here in L.A. Why not? This is a great city, a great town. Obviously, it’s an organization with a great tradition and pride, and he should be one of those guys that eventually will get a statue here."

Best quote: On why the Lakers had trouble establishing an identity -- "Injuries, two coaches in one year, not a training camp, injuries, injuries again, another injury. … I mean, I think probably every member on this team has been injured and missed a game this year. I've never experienced that in my nine years in this league. I think we had five guys have major surgeries. This has been a wacky year."

METTA WORLD PEACE
Synopsis: World Peace limped into the practice facility after missing the second half of Game 3 and all of Game 4 after getting a cyst in his left leg drained. He was generally in good spirits, even wearing a Cookie Monster T-Shirt in an ode to a bizarre off-court incident that happened back in February.

Lakers future: World Peace has a player option for $7.7 million. If he exercises it, he could become an easy target for the Lakers' amnesty clause. "You never know, anything could happen," World Peace said. He added he "definitely" wants to be a Laker in 2013-14. "I'm very competitive, so when you lose with a team, you want to win with that team," he said. "The only thing on my mind is winning, and winning here."

On Dwight Howard: "It took me a bit to get used to his personality, but once I was around him a lot -- we sat together on the plane -– once I got the chance to know him a little bit, it was an easy adjustment. He played hard. His personality was just different than everybody was used to.

"He’s just different. He’s always happy for the most part. In games, he’s really serious; not all the time, sometimes. But when it’s like crunch time, he’s very serious. Pregame, the locker room is very at ease. So you got to get used to a franchise player like that."

Injury outlook: World Peace returned to the lineup just 12 days after left knee surgery, but still needs the summer to get back to 100 percent. "As of right now, I'll just take six weeks and heal up," World Peace said, citing the original time frame of play he was expected to miss.

Best quote: On Washington Wizards center Jason Collins' decision to announce that he is gay -- "You should be free to act and do what you want to do as long as it's not violent, no matter what it is. I came here in a Cookie Monster shirt because I wanted to. And I was going to wear the pants, but I thought you guys were going to judge me. And I was going to wear the hat too, but I figured you guys were going to judge me and I didn't want Mitch to judge me. So that's why I didn't wear the hat and the pants, but I should have wore it. You should be free to do and act how you want to act.

"When you can feel comfortable with yourself, not only does it make you a better person, it's unnecessary stress. As we all know, if you're holding things in it can create unnecessary stress to your heart, to your mind and when you can release it and talk about it, you feel better. That's how it should be with anything. Not just coming out if you're gay or if you have a mental issue, or whatever other issue or stigma you have out there, you feel better."

STEVE NASH
Synopsis: The season was a nightmare for Nash, bookended by a broken leg and a bothersome hip and hamstring, but he still appreciated the Lakers life after being on the other side for so long as a rival. "It was an amazing experience to play for this franchise and for this fan base," Nash said. "I think that's the one thing that burns me right now, that it didn't go the way I envisioned. I really wanted to have a huge impact on the team and really make this an incredible year and experience for the fans, players and everybody involved. So, great experience for me, I'm really thrilled to be a part of the franchise and just hope that next year we can repay everybody for their loyalty and their enthusiasm."

Lakers future: Nash has two years and $19 million remaining on his contract with the Lakers. He's set to play seasons Nos. 18 and 19 of his career in L.A.

Injury outlook: Nash missed the final two games of the playoffs with a right hip injury and nerve damage in his right hamstring, which required four epidural injections and a cortisone shot in the last two weeks. But the 39-year-old is already on the mend. "I'm not going to take any time off," Nash said. "I'm going to start rehabbing right away and try to get right." Nash estimated it would take a month to get back to 100 percent and added, "I don't have any concern and I haven't gotten wind from anyone on the medical staff that there's concern for long-term issues or for next season to be in jeopardy. But I still have a little bit of work to do to get right."

Best quote: On the team camaraderie, or lack thereof -- "In the big picture, I think relationships were formed, relationships were kept and developed that were really positive. I think that's the only reason we didn't sputter out of control and find ourselves out of the playoffs."

More to come. For more on the day, read this story featuring World Peace and Nash's thoughts on Howard.

Rapid Reaction: Spurs 120, Lakers 89

April, 26, 2013
4/26/13
10:26
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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LOS ANGELES -- At the very least, tip your hat to Andrew Goudelock and Darius Morris.

The Los Angeles Lakers had no business beating the San Antonio Spurs on Friday with no Kobe Bryant, no Steve Nash and no Steve Blake in the lineup.

Despite Goudelock's MVP campaign in the D-League, they had no business having as much faith in a guy who spent all season with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers to start a playoff game against the team that won the second-most games in the West this season.

And even though Morris started 17 games this season and continued to stay in the gym late even when his minutes dwindled the last two months, there was no real evidence that putting the ball in his hands for a crucial playoff game could work.

But you couldn't peg this one on the backcourt. In fact, Goudelock tied Tony Parker with 20 points and Darius Morris scored 24 to go along with six assists.

OK, enough about the silver lining.

Friday wasn't the official death knell for this (literally) painful Lakers season as L.A. doesn't go fishing until the Spurs have won four games, but no team in NBA history has ever come back from a 3-0 series deficit and this depleted Lakers squad certainly isn't going to be the first.

The 31-point blowout in Game 3 was the worst home playoff loss in franchise history, beating out Game 2 of the 2000 Western Conference Finals when Portland won by 29.

In a way, it seemed fitting.

In a season where everything that could go wrong seemingly did -- from a coaching change, to rampant injuries, slow-forming chemistry and even the death of legendary owner Dr. Jerry Buss -- why wouldn't a record like that be attached to this team?

How it happened: A whole lot of Tim Duncan (26 points on 12-for-16 shooting), some stingy Spurs defense (L.A. shot just 43.2 percent and 4-for-20 from 3) and too much depth from the guys in black and silver against the guys who are black and blue with injuries.

What it means: The offseason questions will begin sooner than a lot of us expected. Is Mike D'Antoni truly safe, or will those "We want Phil!" chants we heard on Friday actually come to fruition? Who gets waived via the amnesty clause -- Kobe? Pau Gasol? Blake? Metta World Peace? Anybody? Will Dwight Howard re-sign? Will Nash and Bryant be able to come back healthy for their 18th seasons?

Hits: Gasol had his third triple-double in his last six games with 11 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists.

Morris and Goudelock (see above).

Dwight Howard had 25 points and 11 rebounds but shot just 7-for-15 from the free throw line.

Misses: After 31 points combined in his last two regular-season games, Antawn Jamison has just 19 points combined in the playoffs.

Stat of the game: The Spurs bench scored 46 points. The Lakers' bench scored nine.

Up next: Game 4 is Sunday at 4 p.m. PT. There's a chance Nash will be back, but you get the feeling that chance would be better if L.A. had won Friday.

Dwight Howard prepares to take leadership

April, 13, 2013
4/13/13
4:05
PM PT
Markazi By Arash Markazi
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Dwight Howard was the last player on the court after practice Saturday.

He is almost always the last player on the court.

It might not show, but he spends hours working on his free throws with Lakers assistant coach Chuck Person before firing a few shots from beyond the arc as he yells “Sam Perkins!” -- an ode to the former Los Angeles Lakers big man who had a penchant for hitting the deep ball.

Howard, however, did something different Saturday after the Lakers finished their first practice following Kobe Bryant's ruptured Achilles tendon just 12 hours earlier, which will sideline him for the next six to nine months.

With his teammates gathered, Howard stood in front of them and spoke for the first time as the team leader.

“I just told them that [Lakers management] put this team together for a reason, and we all know how to play basketball,” Howard said. “We’ve all done special things in our career before, and it’s time to do it again. We’ve all been blessed to play with Kobe, but we all have talent too, and we have to show it.”

For the first time since being traded to the Lakers in August, Howard was given the opportunity to lead the team. It’s a position he held with the Orlando Magic for the previous eight seasons and one that he anticipated accepting with the Lakers at some point after Bryant retires.

“That’s why they brought me here,” Howard said.

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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