Los Angeles Lakers: Michael Beasley

Will the Lakers be in the Michael Beasley sweepstakes?

September, 3, 2013
9/03/13
2:35
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Michael Beasley was waived by the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday, putting the talented, yet troubled, 6-10, 235-pound former No. 2 pick on the market.

With the Los Angeles Lakers lacking a proven small forward on their roster after using the amnesty clause on Metta World Peace, it's only natural to wonder if Beasley might be a good fit in purple and gold.

Here are four questions to consider before that can happen:

1. What is the waiver process for Beasley?

Beasley was owed $6 million by Phoenix in 2013-14 and $6.25 million in 2014-15, but only $3 million of his '14-15 deal was guaranteed. Beasley agreed to a $7 million buyout with the Suns, according to Sports 620 KTAR in Phoenix. If any team out there chooses to claim the remaining $7 million on his contract, they'll retain Beasley's rights. That's unlikely to happen.

The way this usually works is a player clears the 48-hour waiver process and then the bids come in, with teams free to use their mid-level, mini mid-level or biannual exception to try to entice Beasley to come on board. The Lakers do not have any of those exceptions available to them. They used their entire mini mid-level exception on Chris Kaman and do not qualify for the biannual exception because of their luxury tax situation, so all they could offer Beasley is a veteran's minimum deal worth approximately $1 million.

There is a chance that a team like Philadelphia, which has not yet met the minimum salary requirement for the 2013-14 season could take on his full salary to meet that basement level, but Philly could just wait to sign other free agents to account for the approximately $10 million in salary it has to acquire without bringing in someone like Beasley with his off-court background into its young, impressionable locker room.

2. Will the Lakers be interested in Beasley?

As one source familiar with the Lakers thinking said, "There's a reason why Phoenix cut him." Even though Beasley is just 24 years old and has career averages of 14.1 points and 5.2 rebounds in just 26.4 minutes per game, it was his arrest on suspicion of marijuana possession in August that seemed to be what ultimately pushed Phoenix to go in another direction.

However, Beasley had off-court issues before this summer and that didn't stop the Lakers from pushing hard to get him in the 2011-12 season. Twice that season, the Lakers thought it had deals in place to acquire the lefty forward from Minnesota, and twice those deals fell through, the second time just seven minutes removed from the trade deadline.

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak has shown in recent seasons that once a player catches his interest, that impression doesn't fade easily. Kupchak said that the Lakers had designs on acquiring Steve Blake for years stemming from an great pre-draft workout with the team in 2003. They finally got Blake in 2011. The same goes for Nick Young. Kupchak came close to getting Young for years before having it all come together this summer.

3. Should the Lakers want Beasley?

In a word, yes. Even though the team made some savvy pick-ups with potential in Young, Wes Johnson and Elias Harris to try to fill the void at small forward left by World Peace, none of them are proven players at that position. And yes, Kobe Bryant is just about as good at playing the three as he is at the two at this stage of his career with all the post moves he's developed, but Bryant's health for this season is still very much in question.

Getting Beasley at the minimum for 2013-14 would not only allow the team to keep the financial flexibility for next summer that it so covets, but it would give Mike D'Antoni another offensive weapon to work with. This is a guy who has a career high of 42 points, a guy who once put up 22 points and 15 rebounds in a playoff game, a guy who has a 34.5 percent career mark from 3, but has shot 36.6 percent or better from deep in three out of his five career seasons.

Don't discount the appeal of Beasley's ability to shoot it, either. The Lakers drafted Ryan Kelly in the second round primarily for his ability to stretch the floor with his long-range accuracy, but the team has been discouraged by the rookie's progress during the summer, according to multiple league sources. The Lakers doubt that Kelly, who missed summer league while recovering from multiple foot procedures, will be ready for the start of training camp.

Beasley could fill out a couple check marks of what the Lakers are looking for.

4. Should Beasley want the Lakers?

This answer isn't as straight forward. While Beasley has already made approximately $25.9 million in his time in the NBA, according to BasketballReference.com, he did have to agree to give up a guaranteed $2 million over two years in the Phoenix buyout. He could make that money back and then some by signing with a team that offers him the mini mid-level exception of $3.2 million. If he signs with the Lakers for the minimum, he loses $1 million. That might seem insignificant when you've already made $26 million, but $1 million is $1 million, especially for a player whose future in the league is far from certain.

So, financially maybe the Lakers aren't the best fit for Beasley.

However, style of play wise, L.A. could be perfect for him. Not only are D'Antoni's open-court sets suited for his game, but Beasley had his best season as a professional while coached by Lakers assistant Kurt Rambis when he was the head coach in Minnesota in 2010-11.

Not only that, but the Lakers have had success in recent seasons in salvaging guys' careers who were rich in talent, but poor in opportunity (think Shannon Brown, Trevor Ariza, Jordan Hill, Earl Clark).

And the opportunity should be plentiful in L.A. at small forward.

Lakers vs. Suns: What to watch

November, 16, 2012
11/16/12
12:24
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
Well, the coach is in place, but Mike D'Antoni and his crutches won't make their debut until Sunday, meaning the Bernie Bickerstaff era will continue for one more day. And it's pretty important the interim coach go out on a high note. Given the early hole dug by the Lakers, every opportunity to make up lost ground must be seized. The Suns represent nothing if not a beatable opponent. Phoenix may boast a superior record (4-5) than the Lakers, but the Suns have beaten nobody above .500 and don't have a single player who would definitely crack the starting lineup for the purple and gold. Every winnable game L.A. cashes in is another step toward stabilizing the season.

For more insight on the Suns, we sent five questions to Michael Schwartz from the True Hoop network's Valley of the Suns blog. Below are his responses.

Land O' Lakers: Stylistically, what does the post-Steve Nash era look like? What are the primary differences and do any similarities remain?

Michael Schwartz: This season the Suns are running aspects of the “Corner” offense that Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman popularized, as Fox Sports Arizona’s Randy Hill described in further depth. That has been an easy adjustment for Suns like Goran Dragic, Luis Scola, Michael Beasley and Wesley Johnson, who played for Adelman in recent years. Dragic has been getting everybody involved with dribble penetration and probing for opportunities, and the Suns have run some offense through Scola and Beasley at times in the high post. The Suns still want to play fast, and rank fourth in pace, the highest since 2009-10.

A major difference is the lack of pick-and-roll opportunities. The Suns will still run it at times with Dragic and Gortat, but it’s not the staple it used to be. Jared Dudley used to get open looks when defenses collapsed on the Nash pick-and-roll, so this could be one reason his numbers are down to start the year.

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Lakers trade deadline: How it went down

March, 15, 2012
3/15/12
10:40
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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While Los Angeles Lakers fans’ sentimentality certainly took a hit on Thursday with the trade that sent beloved franchise figure Derek Fisher to the Houston Rockets, from a pure basketball analysis there is no questioning that the Lakers improved.

Upgrading from the 37-year-old Fisher to the 25-year-old Ramon Sessions to better equip the Lakers to contend with the league’s wave of dominant point guards (one of whom, Chris Paul, they intended to have on their team of course) made it a pretty successful day regardless, but the Lakers came ridiculously close to landing Michael Beasley as well.

How close?

According to a source familiar with the negotiations, the Minnesota Timberwolves backed out of a three-team deal also involving L.A. and the Portland Trail Blazers at 11:53 a.m. PT, just seven minutes before the noon PT deadline. The trade that was in place would have sent Fisher to Minnesota and the Lakers’ first-round pick acquired in the Lamar Odom trade with the Dallas Mavericks back in December to Portland. Portland, already engaged in a full-fledged fire sale, would have sent Jamal Crawford to Minnesota and the Timberwolves would have sent Anthony Tolliver to Portland. Minnesota would have also been receiving cash considerations from both L.A. and Portland as well.

But, Minnesota owner Glen Taylor and general manager David Kahn pulled out of the deal at the last minute (well, eighth-to-last minute), leaving L.A. officials “puzzled and disappointed” according to a source. Who knows what changed Minnesota’s mind. Maybe it didn’t feel comfortable being on the hook for $3.4 million for a 38-year-old Fisher in 2012-13. Maybe it was concerned that Crawford would opt out of his relatively bargain price of $5 million for next season. L.A. didn’t have time to wallow in the uncertainty trying to figure out the answer. Instead, it scrambled to put together a secondary deal with the Rockets before the trade deadline passed.

Ironically enough, the Rockets were one of the Lakers’ dance partners (along with the New Orleans Hornets) in the vetoed Paul trade back on the eve of training camp. The Rockets took Fisher and the Lakers’ first rounder and sent back 24-year-old big man Jordan Hill, a former lottery pick by the Knicks, in exchange.

Beasley, an athletic and offensively gifted 6-foot-10 forward, would have filled the void left by Odom as the Lakers’ primary bench scorer. Even though he would have required a financial commitment from the cap-conscious Lakers, it was a calculated risk. If he worked out as a rental player for the remainder of the season, this offseason Los Angeles could have extended him a qualifying offer of approximately $8.172 million, making Beasley a restricted free agent and opening the door for him to remain a Laker next season. They could have, however, simply allowed Beasley to enter unrestricted free agency by not extending an offer and let him walk.

But it wasn’t to be. Minnesota pulled out, for whatever reason, and L.A.’s great trade deadline day was downgraded to merely very good.

Here are some other tidbits to consider, gleaned from Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak's news conference on Thursday as well as from conversations with others familiar with the Lakers' plans leading up to the trade deadline:

• The Sessions deal was agreed upon in principle on Wednesday afternoon. Once that deal was in place, the Lakers pushed to get the Beasley deal in line as well. Beasley had been on the Lakers' radar since December as L.A. wanted to follow the Paul deal by adding Beasley much the same way this time around the Lakers wanted to follow Sessions with Beasley.

• Despite reports to the contrary (including my own), a source familiar with the Lakers' thinking insists that Steve Blake was never being considered in the three-team deal. It was always Fisher. There was genuine concern with how Fisher would handle losing his starting role to Sessions. He had a streak going of 416 consecutive starts. He was half responsible for there ever even being a season in the first place as president of the National Basketball Player's Association. He had teamed with Kobe Bryant in the backcourt to win five championships. It's just not easy to bench a guy like that.

• While the Lakers like the fact that Hill balances out their roster and gives them a fifth big man, there is not an expectation he will suddenly move up the depth chart past Josh McRoberts and Troy Murphy in backing up starters Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol. That's not to say that the Lakers wouldn't be pleasantly surprised if he came in and competed so well in practice that he'd earn playing time in games, but if he doesn't end up being an impact player that's OK with L.A. because his contract is up at the end of the season.

• The Lakers were comfortable with using both their first-round draft picks (one in the Sessions deal and one in the Fisher deal) because they figured their own pick would be somewhere in the early to mid-20s, as they currently have the sixth-best record in the league, and they wouldn't be able to get a player of Sessions' caliber that late even in what's considered to be a stocked draft. As for the Dallas pick, it was top-20 protected and there are currently 11 teams with better records than the Mavs, so L.A. might not have been able to even use it this year. Rather than wait to find out it possibly have to save the pick for the future, the Lakers decided they weren't going to wait any longer in getting younger and quicker at the point guard position.

Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.

Sources: Lakers closer to acquiring Michael Beasley

March, 15, 2012
3/15/12
12:14
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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ESPNLA's Dave McMenamin has the story:
"The Lakers revisited talks to acquire Minnesota Timberwolves forward Michael Beasley on Wednesday, multiple league sources told ESPNLosAngeles.com. Several variations of the trade have been discussed. One would land Beasley on the Lakers in a three-team deal that would send Portland Trail Blazers guard Jamal Crawford to the Wolves and Luke Ridnour from Minnesota to Portland. Los Angeles would give up one of its two 2012 first round draft picks in the deal and use its $8.9 million trade exception, acquired when it traded Lamar Odom to the Dallas Mavericks in December, to absorb Beasley's approximate $6.3 million salary. Portland would also receive the Lakers' first round pick.

As of late Wednesday night no deal was completed, but a source familiar with the negotiations said, "the sides have momentum."


The Oregonian earlier reported another version of the deal without Ridnour and including Lakers guard Steve Blake who played three seasons for the Blazers from 2007-2010 and who still keeps his offseason home in Oregon. Blake played 18 minutes in the Lakers' 107-101 overtime victory over the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday, however, and told reporters before the game, "I'm still here," but did not speak to the media after the game."

Beasley would definitely add a huge dose of scoring punch to the bench, at both forward positions. Obviously, though, there's a huge difference between a deal sending Blake out and one in which the Lakers absorb Beasley in their cap exception. If Blake goes, the Lakers almost certainly have to acquire another point guard or be left with a rotation of Derek Fisher, Andrew Goudelock, and Darius Morris. That won't get it done.

Either way, with 12 hours left before the deadline, things appear to be percolating.

Chat transcript!

March, 14, 2012
3/14/12
10:54
AM PT
By the Kamenetzky Brothers
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
With the trade deadline approaching so many questions about Dwight Howard... Pau Gasol... Andrew Bynum... Deron Williams... Michael Beasley... Ramon Sessions... Ray Felton... and why the heck the Lakers haven't amnestied Luke Walton yet. (Although really, fans would be asking about the latter issue even without March 15 looming.)

Here's the link to the room.

The Forum: L.A. turns down Beasley, looking ahead at the deadline

March, 2, 2012
3/02/12
9:47
AM PT
By the Kamenetzky Brothers
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Dave McMenamin joins us as we answer a pair of questions:

Report: Lakers reject offer for Michael Beasley

February, 29, 2012
2/29/12
4:21
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
After he dropped 27 points on the Clippers last night, we were hit with a ton of tweets and questions in today's chat about when the Lakers would bring in Timberwolves forward Michael Beasley. According to ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard, apparently they already could have, but passed, rejecting an offer from Minnesota of Beasley for a first-round draft pick. The second pick of the 2008 draft makes just over $6.2 million this season, but could have been absorbed into the trade exception created by the Lakers in the Lamar Odom deal.

There are any number of totally valid reasons the Lakers wouldn't bite, despite an acute need for help at small forward and additional scoring punch. They could be frightened by Beasley's questionable maturity, or negative aspects of his game, and believe he's a bad fit. Maybe they prefer other targets, and need that pick to make a different deal. Perhaps, as some suspect, they're holding on to every asset they have until Dwight Howard and/or Deron Williams have signed new contracts, even if it means standing pat into the summer.

What will frighten fans, though, is the one cited by Broussard -- money:
"...With one of the league's highest payrolls at roughly $88 million -- well above the luxury tax threshold of $70 million -- the Lakers are due to pay $18 million in taxes this season. Since there is a dollar-for-dollar penalty for tax-paying teams, taking on Beasley's $6.2 million contract would add another $6.2 million to their tax bill and cost the Lakers an extra $12.4 million.

The Lakers' decision falls in line with their decision to trade Lamar Odom to the Dallas Mavericks for an $8.9 million trade exception in December. While Odom asked to be traded after finding out the Lakers put him in a foiled trade attempt to get Chris Paul, the Lakers' chief motivation for trading Odom was to chop their payroll and to save money.

Under the new revenue sharing plan in the recently adopted collective bargaining agreement, the Lakers will pay a bundle and because of that, owner Jerry Buss is no longer willing to spend so freely in going above the luxury tax, according to sources."

(UPDATE- 7:00 pm PT: 710 ESPN's John Ireland, who also serves as the team's radio voice, reports that a source inside the organization says the proposed deal was for both of L.A.'s first round picks, not just the one. Obviously that would change the equation substantially, making the trade far less appealing. However, he also indicates the financial concerns regarding this and other trades are real, and that the Lakers are hesitant to bring in salary without sending some out the door, which fits well with the concerns illustrated below.)

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Lakers vs. Timberwolves: What to watch

February, 29, 2012
2/29/12
11:18
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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It's been nearly a week since any Laker save Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum dribbled a basketball in a competitive setting, and Drew did so for less than six minutes. The Lakers were also playing a pretty uneven brand of basketball heading into All-Star weekend, which makes a smooth return after a layoff harder to picture. But as fans surely recall, the 2011 squad limped into the break after a Cleveland loss, possibly the worst of Phil Jackson's coaching tenure in L.A. And so, nobody anticipated the next 18 games would result in 17 wins, with Bynum playing the role of a modern day Bill Russell, and the rediscovery of optimism (albeit premature) that came with them. Similarly, this team's unpredictability -- among other pressing issues, like item #1 below -- makes a one-sided win or loss feel equally realistic tonight against Minnesota. That's why we play the games.

Here are three items to be mindful of once the ball is jumped.


Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Kobe's availability is the $1,000,000 question.



1) Kobe Bryant's potential absence
As reported Tuesday, Dwyane Wade's hard foul during the All-Star Game left Bryant with a concussion
in addition to a nasal fracture. While he's officially listed as day-to-day, the NBA's new concussion policy makes participation feel like a stretch to me. The final decision isn't Kobe's, so a willingness to play through pain isn't the issue. Doctors are typically cautious, particularly with brain injuries, and the procedure is rigorous. Plus, in a modern sports world hyper-conscious of the long-term effects from concussions, I'd be very surprised if the league risked clearing a player just 24 hours after being diagnosed.

Perhaps Bryant's concussion will be mild enough to prove me wrong, but if he's unable to go, the impact is obviously huge. To begin, who starts at shooting guard? Andrew Goudelock is behind Kobe on the depth chart, and actually matches up a lot better against 6'2" starter Luke Ridnour than 6'7" reserve Martell Webster. However, if Brown wanted to keep the rotation as relatively normal as possible, he could insert a player outside the rotation for Kobe rather than shuffle both units. That being the approach, Jason Kapono or Devin Ebanks (recently recalled from the D-League) would get the nod.

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The second half: Seven things to watch

February, 27, 2012
2/27/12
10:38
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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AP Photos
Could any of these folks be wearing purple and gold soon?

Ever since the Lakers were swept out of the 2011 playoffs and Phil Jackson waved goodbye, questions have swirled like a tornado on a Red Bull high. Does a Bryant-Gasol-Bynum-Odom core still qualify as a championship foundation? What about Bryant-Gasol-Bynum? Can Mike Brown pick up where the most successful coach in NBA history left off? Similarly, can an increasingly prominent Jim Buss maintain the standard of excellence established by his old man?

What direction is the Lakers franchise heading?

After 34 games, every riddle hasn't been solved, and it's probably fair to say the hints dropped haven't eased Laker Nation's nerves. The remaining 32 will be analyzed equally as basketball and tea leaves to get a bead on this campaign -- and beyond. Here are eight things potentially shaping whatever answers are discovered.

1. Who's on the roster come March 16?
Without question, the biggest question as the second half commences. Ever since the preseason, a dark, persistent cloud has loomed in the form of roster holes. It's essentially Swiss cheese beyond the Big Three, making tweaks seem mandatory if the Lakers truly are in it to win it this season. (They are in it to win it this season, right?) Unless you happen to be an All-Star guard who commutes by helicopter, consider yourself expendable in the face of change.

Of course, what could define "change" remains a Hitchcockian mystery.

Are we talking Gilbert Arenas plucked off the street? A B-level point guard and/or small forward acquired through the Lamar Odom trade exception? (The ears of Michael Beasley and Ramon Sessions are burning.) And it's important to note that on March 1, new faces Jason Kapono, Josh McRoberts and Troy Murphy are eligible for relocation. Like all their fellow role players, none are likely to blow up Mitch Kupchak's phone, but the literal ability to move them expands options. Especially if the front office pursues a blockbuster involving Pau Gasol and/or Andrew Bynum, which may require smaller pieces to balance numbers.

From there, implementing new faces becomes the goal. There's no telling how everyone will click, much less whether they can jell fast enough to make a Finals run.

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New podKast: The Lakers at the halfway point

February, 25, 2012
2/25/12
3:44
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
We've reached the halfway point of the season, people! What do you think of the Lakers with 34 games in the books? What do you think the remaining 32 games have to offer? Brian's doled out mid-term grades, so we hit the studio for further reflection and projection. Among the talking points:



Play <>Download



- Who were the Lakers' most and least valuable players at the mid-point? Who has been the most pleasant surprise? Among the supporting players, who is it most crucial to see step up for this team to become legitimate title contenders?

- How would you evaluate Mike Brown's performance in his first campaign? The conditions under which he has been forced to operate haven't been ideal, but if he's looking to make lemonade from lemons, you could argue he has mishandled opportunities.

- Save an unexpected -- and unrealistic -- collective leap in performance from players 4-12, it's obvious the Lakers need to tweak the roster to make a championship run. Would the Lakers be better off adding pieces to complement the existing Big Three, which almost certainly means sacrificing the draft picks and other assets likely needed to land a superstar? Or do you hoard every asset possible until the 11th hour in an effort to land Dwight Howard and/or Deron Williams, which risks being left high and dry once the deadline passes?

Chat transcript!

February, 22, 2012
2/22/12
8:21
AM PT
By the Kamenetzky Brothers
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
Never a dull moment in Laker Land. By definition, that makes for a lively Laker chat.

Among the talking points were Pau Gasol's future in L.A., how Michael Beasley (reportedly on the front office radar) would fit in L.A., and the likelihood of new faces after the trade deadline. Plus, a shout out to "Chaz!"

Click here for the transcript.

Drew League 151, Goodman League 144: 10 postgame thoughts (VIDEO)

October, 9, 2011
10/09/11
10:35
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive


LONG BEACH, Calif. -- SoCal takes Round 2.

After falling to the Goodman League when All-Star teams representing the two vaunted summer programs met in August, the Drew League got its revenge Sunday night at the Pyramid in Long Beach. Final score: 151-144, in a very entertaining night of ball.

It wasn't exactly rich in fundamentals, but there was plenty of speed and flair on display, and the crowd seemed to get its money's worth. Here are 10 takeaways from the night ...

1. Watching John Wall in a game like this is essentially a science experiment. How much damage can one guy with that much quickness and speed do if the efforts to stop him are, at best, cursory? Wall doesn’t just have a fifth or sixth gear but pulls a Spinal Tap and goes to 11. Even on a floor full of NBA talent -- in some cases very high-level NBA talent -- the gap between Wall’s speed and everyone else’s is clear. The acceleration is absurd. Wall led all scorers with 55 points (31 after the break), and while Goodman didn’t actually win the game, he owned the second half.

He also turned in the definitive YouTube moment of the night, driving the lane in the third quarter and pulled off a complete 360, the fastest spin I’ve seen outside of a women’s figure skating competition, then finishing with the right hand.

Sick, sick, sick.

2. Much to the delight of Lakers fans, Matt Barnes looked like Matt Barnes. He doesn’t have enough flash to stick out in a game featuring little else (though he did make a nice move on the wing, faking a pass then driving to the rack), but even in this format his approach doesn’t change. A couple of 3s here and there, lots of crashing the glass, as close to genuine defensive effort as the game had to offer (often against Kevin Durant, often very effective), and plenty of muck work. He scored 20 points on the night and was a critical player for the Drew League down the stretch.

I’m not exactly sure how he got on the roster -- Barnes is a Northern California guy, and therefore might qualify as a ringer -- but however it happened, the home team benefited. More importantly, Barnes seems to be rounding into the form that made him such an effective player for the Lakers last season before a knee injury basically ruined his year. Barnes called himself "90 percent" following the game, and it showed.

3. Michael Beasley was awful. Hideous, really. He had more fouls (six) and missed layups (at least three) than points (two), and when he finally did manage to get Spalding through cord was met with mocking laughter from the crowd.
Overall, it was a poor night for the Timberwolves. Derrick Williams, the second pick in this year’s draft, had (if memory serves) only one bucket and seemed a step behind everyone else on the floor.

4. I only caught one person legitimately try to take a charge, and it was Nick Young. He wouldn’t have been my pregame pick.

5. Rudy Gay showed why he is such a dominant scorer, despite some legitimate rust as he recovers from the shoulder surgery that cost him most of last season’s second half, along with the playoffs. Not necessarily in his point total -- he missed a couple of chippies and lagged well behind Wall and Durant in that category -- but Gay busted out a couple of the more vicious crossover dribbles I’ve seen in a while. The first, from the right wing, nearly broke Trevor Ariza’s ankles, while the second came from the left side and again earned him an easy path to the basket.

Gay didn’t play in Drew/Goodman I and is not all the way back yet, but by the time the NBA gets to playing very well could be, and certainly should be in form come spring. Stick him on the wing with Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol inside, an improved Mike Conley at the point, and guys like Tony Allen causing havoc? That’s a scary team.

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NBA suspends Andrew Bynum two games

March, 20, 2011
3/20/11
2:04
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
I'm surprised, but not exactly shocked.

In the wake of the flagrant foul 2, and the accompanying ejection, of Andrew Bynum in the fourth quarter of Friday's game against Minnesota, speculation immediately began on a possible suspension. In my unscientific polling of other media types, the overwhelming consensus had Bynum sidelined for a game. Arguing against it was almost impossible, given the violence of the play on Michael Beasley as he attacked the basket from the right side of the floor. Bynum launched himself at the T-Wolves forward, leading with his elbow and forearm, delivering a dangerous shot against an airborne opponent.

The play was worthy of discipline from the league. Sunday, the NBA handed down its decision, and the verdict is harsh. Bynum will miss L.A.'s next two games.

The big debate isn't over the suspension itself, but whether the second game is warranted.

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Lakers 106, Wolves 98: At the buzzer

March, 18, 2011
3/18/11
10:38
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
The Lakers won the game, which is the most important thing (especially since Boston, Chicago, and Dallas all lost today). The second most important thing would be that we never speak of said game again. It's similar to the rules regarding Fight Club.

Highlights

Steve Blake
His numbers aren't gaudy, but quietly, the backup point guard provided solid support. Nine points (3-for-4 shooting), including a big triple that bailed out an over-dribbled possession by Kobe Bryant. There was also a long two drilled near the top of the arc, which was especially pleasing because it appeared as if Blake was debating a pass despite the clock running down. For a player in dire need of more willingness to shoot, this was a welcome sight.

Shannon Brown
Defensively, some assignments were missed, but on a night when the offense was often reduced to jumpers, a player whose shot has been notably absent of late rediscovered some rhythm at the right time. Five of seven shots (14 points) dropped from spots all over the court, and Shannon's overall decision-making was better throughout the varied assault. Whether letting fly off the catch from beyond the arc or driving to release a gorgeous floater along the baseline, the action wasn't forced. Good things happen when you don't try to do too much.

Matt Barnes
This was the most Barnes has resembled himself since returning from knee surgery, whether you're talking about the nine points, the two steals or the feisty jawing at Michael Beasley when the K-State product reacted in livid (and justifiable) fashion to a flagrant foul from Andrew Bynum. Hopefully, he'll continue rounding into form.

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Lakers at Minnesota: What to watch

November, 19, 2010
11/19/10
2:38
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
The Lakers have 10 wins. By far the least satisfying was their 99-94 victory over Minnesota at Staples Center almost 10 days ago. The Lakers came in undefeated, tossing opponents aside like orcas do penguins. The Wolves, meanwhile, had spent most of the season playing the penguin for the rest of the NBA. The line, if memory serves, was L.A. plus-17, a fairly absurd number for a professional basketball game.

Everything pointed to a blowout. Even Minnesota coach Kurt Rambis went on 710 ESPN Radio and basically presented his team as a bunch of young lambs being led to slaughter.

Of course, it didn't turn out that way. The Wolves led after the first quarter and never went away, forcing the Lakers to play to the very end and prompting Derek Fisher to call his team's effort "disrespectful." Given the overwhelming calm and happy vibes surrounding the team this year, the game represented the closest thing to controversy the Lakers have seen. (Keep in mind, it's all relative.)

So what will the rematch bring? Here's what to watch...

1. Monsters (and their creation)!

Not getting waxed by the Lakers apparently awakened something in Rambis' young squad. In their five games since visiting Staples, the Wolves have won three, and could have made it four with a little better push down the stretch in Charlotte. Modest steps, for sure, but keep in mind last season three wins was basically their quota for a month. The experience of playing well once against the Lakers will only embolden Minnesota for tonight's game, too. It shouldn't matter, since even a T-Wolves squad steeped in emboldened shouldn't be able to beat the two-time defending champs, but at the very least makes Friday's task tougher for the purple and gold.

In Wednesday's game against the Pistons, the Lakers sucked the life out of Detroit almost instantly. In Milwaukee, they stayed steady even while the Bucks were hitting jumpers they don't even make in video games, and eventually exerted control as Milwaukee found their proper offensive level. A similarly good performance against the Wolves will be welcome.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Nick Young
PTS AST STL MIN
17.9 1.5 0.7 28.3
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsP. Gasol 9.7
AssistsK. Marshall 8.8
StealsJ. Meeks 1.4
BlocksP. Gasol 1.5