Los Angeles Lakers: Mike Brown

Brown wishes better for D'Antoni

January, 14, 2014
Jan 14
10:10
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McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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LOS ANGELES -- After posting a winning record as head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers but not even getting the chance to coach a full 82 games out of the four-year contract he signed before getting the boot, Mike Brown wants current Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni to be afforded a longer leash than he was.

"Mike D'Antoni is a good coach and it's great that they're going to give him an opportunity here because I think in time he'll get this thing headed in the right direction," said Brown, fired just five games into last season despite going 42-29 (.592) in his time pacing the sidelines for L.A. "They're going through a lot of transition right now and so it's going to make it even tougher, especially with the injuries and all that. But the Lakers, they've always been on top and they just got to keep trying to fight and figure out how to get back there. It will just be a matter of time."

Brown could relate to the challenges that D'Antoni is currently facing when he reflected on his short stint coaching the purple and gold before the Cavs played the Lakers on Tuesday.

"Even with the team that I had, guys weren't always 100 percent healthy and there was a lot of newness, so I never really had a great feel for the group," Brown said. "I'm sure Mike is feeling that now with the change, especially with the injuries and stuff like that, it's been tough for him to get a great feel for the group. Until he can get a healthy roster and get some time with that healthy roster, it's going to continue to fluctuate even though he has some veterans on the team still.

"It's a tough task. I mean, you look at the history of change. You go back, even Miami's first year [with LeBron James], everybody thought the ceiling was going to fall in and you got guys in their prime that came together when you talk about D-Wade [Dwyane Wade], LeBron and Chris Bosh and then you look at their bench and they had U.S. Olympians on their bench, too. And through the first 20-30 games, everybody thought that that thing should have been broken up. It's a matter of time before you can get things going and I think with Mike it will be a matter of time before having a roster that's stable before he can get things going."

D'Antoni, for his part, mostly avoided commenting on Brown when he was asked about his predecessor. After Monday's practice, D'Antoni said that coaches are not usually social with one another because of the competitive nature of the field. Before Tuesday's game, D'Antoni was asked about the Princeton-style offense that Brown tried to implement last season in L.A. and similarly skirted the subject.

"I don't know," D'Antoni said. "I'm not even an expert on my offense."

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Rapid Reaction: Lakers 2013-14 schedule release

August, 6, 2013
8/06/13
4:48
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McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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The NBA's 2013-14 season schedule was released Tuesday afternoon and there are plenty of intriguing games for Los Angeles Lakers fans to circle on their calendars (or enter reminders in their smart phones).

Here's a quick breakdown:

THE START

The Lakers tip things off playing in one of the three nationally televised games on opening night, Oct. 29, at home against the Clippers. They go upstate to play the Warriors the very next day, the first of 19 back-to-backs on the season. L.A. comes back to Staples Center for their next two games, hosting the San Antonio Spurs on the Nov. 1 and then the Atlanta Hawks on Nov. 3.

DWIGHT TIME

The Lakers travel to Houston to face off against Dwight Howard and the Rockets on Nov. 7 in just their sixth game of the season. You think that will give Kobe Bryant any motivation to be ready to play by late October? Howard will return to L.A. to hear the boo-birds on Feb. 19 in the Lakers' first game after the All-Star break.

FAMILIAR FACES

Former Lakers head coach Mike Brown (along with Earl Clark and Andrew Bynum, if he's healthy) will come to town on Jan. 14 when the Lakers host the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Lakers also travel to Cleveland on Feb. 5 in the middle game of a three-game trip that ends Feb. 7 in Philadelphia when Bryant will have yet another Philly homecoming.

Metta World Peace will surely receive a warm welcome from Lakers fans on March 25 when he returns to L.A. with the Knicks on March 25.

The Lakers will get their first look at Brian Shaw coaching the Nuggets on Nov. 13 (the first of two times next season when the Lakers play the second night of a back-to-back in the Denver altitude) and Shaw and Co. come to L.A. on Jan. 5.

MARQUEE MATCHUPS

The Lakers host LeBron James and the two-time defending champion Miami Heat on Christmas Day and foam fingers probably won't be handed out at the door this time. The game is at 2 p.m. PT on ABC. The Lakers play in Miami on Jan. 23.

They go to OKC to play Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook (and Derek Fisher) on Dec. 13 and play the Thunder in a rare home-road two game series on March 9 in L.A. and March 13 in Oklahoma City.

ROAD ARENAS

Their annual trip to the Mecca of Basketball at Madison Square Garden is Jan. 26 when they face World Peace and the Knicks and L.A. goes to the place that has been a thorn in its side for the last decade -- the Rose Garden in Portland -- on March 3.

RIVALS

L.A. plays the Clippers on three other occasions after opening night -- Jan. 14 ("road" game), March 6 and April 6 (another "road" game). They travel to play the stripped-down Boston Celtics on Jan. 17 and the guys in green come to L.A. on Feb. 21.

ROAD TRIPPING

The Lakers' longest road trip is seven games -- at Phoenix, Boston, Toronto, Chicago, Miami, Orlando and New York -- spanning from Jan. 15-26. Their second-longest is a four-game trip through Oklahoma City, Charlotte, Atlanta and Memphis from Dec. 13-17.

THE FINISH

The Lakers have a brutal six-game stretch to close out the regular season, which could prove challenging if they find themselves on the playoff bubble. It starts with a road game against the Clippers, followed by three games at home against Houston, Golden State and Memphis and ends up on the road in Utah and in San Antonio.

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

May, 28, 2013
5/28/13
4:43
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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: Coaching staff and front office

May, 7, 2013
5/07/13
12:48
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports

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 part of the team's production in groups: Our series ends today with the coaching staff and front office. We have already covered the starters this week and the bench backcourt and bench frontcourt last week.

COACHING STAFF

The Lakers had three men roaming the sidelines in 2012-13. Mike Brown coached the team to an 0-8 preseason and 1-4 start to the season and was fired. Bernie Bickerstaff bridged the gap on an interim basis, led the Lakers to a 4-1 record and stayed on the rest of the year as an assistant before being let go. Mike D'Antoni took over and the Lakers went 7-15 in his first 22 games and 28-12 in his final 40 before being swept out of the playoffs.

What will D'Antoni's fate be? On the final day of the regular season, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said D'Antoni had done a "great job" and added, "We don't anticipate any kind of a change."

You could read into the Kupchak's word choice and wonder why he didn't come out and explicitly say, "Mike's job is safe and he is going to coach the Lakers next year," but that's just semantics. Kupchak endorsed D'Antoni again following exit interviews, saying, "To Mike’s credit, he made adjustments. Once we started getting players back and once he started to see what our real strengths were, he was flexible and made adjustments, and that’s when we started to win games and gather momentum.”

Rather than being dropped in and having to swim against the current, as D'Antoni had to do this season, the coach will be able to wade his way into things next season.

Obviously, with a $4 million salary and being handed a roster with as much talent on it as the Lakers have, D'Antoni should have to face some of the music for the Lakers' being ousted from the playoffs so early. However, the deck was stacked against him this season from the ridiculous amount of injuries his team experienced, to not having a training camp, to not being able to pick his own coaching staff. Even Phil Jackson would be challenged to have success under those conditions.

Outlook for 2013-14

D'Antoni should get a fair shake next season to prove that he was the right man for the job. His first order of business should be strengthening his relationship with Dwight Howard, should the big man re-sign with L.A. Right along with that, he'll be charged with shoring up the Lakers' defense that was far too inconsistent, even when L.A. was winning late in the season. And it will be time to figure out what kind of offense he'll be running, combining what he is comfortable coaching with what his players are comfortable executing. The thought is D'Antoni won't be coming off knee replacement surgery and will have more familiar faces on his coaching staff and should be able to display more confidence than he did in Year 1.

Grade

C: D'Antoni gets a passing grade for getting L.A. into the playoffs, despite all the injuries it was faced with, but even he would admit that the team should have come together quicker.

FRONT OFFICE

For the last several seasons the Lakers operated under a triple axis of power with Kupchak, Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss and Jerry's son, vice president of player personnel Jim Buss, working together to call the shots.

The elder Buss died in February, making a difficult season on the court an even more troublesome one off of it for the Lakers franchise.

Dr. Buss was part of putting the team together, and was reportedly the most vocal supporter of D'Antoni when Jackson was being considered to be brought back. He would be just as disappointed with the way the season ended up as anyone -- he set the championship standard in L.A. -- so it's fair to dole out some criticism to the front office group in this case.

But you have to take into consideration their intentions.

First off, give the Lakers credit for committing to a $100 million payroll plus $30 million in luxury taxes because they felt like they had a chance to win a title this season. None of the 29 other NBA teams do business like that. Lakers fans should feel fortunate that their team's brain trust consistently goes all-in.

Second, even with the disappointing nature of the season, look at how some of their moves panned out. Howard instead of Andrew Bynum, who didn't play a game for Philadelphia all season? Amazing move. Could you imagine how the season would have played out in L.A. had they kept Bynum or even worse, offered him a max extension, and he had to sit out an entire 82-game slate?

Then there is the point guard they traded for, Steve Nash. Yes, paying close to $30 million over three years for someone who will be 41 years old at the end of the contract is extreme. And yes, L.A. leveraged its future to do so by sending off draft picks to Phoenix to acquire Nash. But look at it this way: even with the age and injuries, Nash was still better than the point guard he replaced in Ramon Sessions (Sessions shot just 40.8 percent overall and 30.8 percent from 3 for Charlotte this season compared to 49.7 and 43.8 for Nash) and even though L.A. maybe could have pushed to make the first round pick it sent to the Suns lottery protected, it didn't end up mattering. L.A. made the playoffs, the pick is not in the lottery. Giving up a mid-first round pick in a mediocre draft to add a Hall of Famer to your lineup is a move you make every day of the week and twice on Sunday.

Where the front office gambled and lost was putting together such an aging, top-heavy roster means that there's hardly any money remaining to fill out a viable bench and, consequently, if some of your main players get injured (or all of their main players, in the Lakers' case) you're going to be severely hampered.

L.A.'s lack of roster depth became even more apparent in the playoffs when San Antonio was subbing in their bench unit and not skipping a beat.

Outlook for 2013-14

This summer should reveal a lot about the front office's vision for the future. Should Howard choose to re-sign, L.A. will begin to build the franchise around him for years to come. If Howard chooses to leave, that's when it really gets interesting. Will the Lakers try to revamp one final time while Kobe Bryant is still under contract to try to get Bryant that coveted sixth ring? Or will the team be disciplined and try to clear cap space for the summer of 2014 and start fresh? Who will be amnestied? Who will be traded? What will happen on draft night? As those questions are answered, Kupchak and Jim Buss will form their reputations.

Grade

C: When the Lakers' front office was going for broke last summer, nobody thought that meant going for broken bones. They deserve credit for ambition and creativity, but ultimately the end results did not cut it.

How Mike Brown's hiring affects the Lakers

April, 24, 2013
4/24/13
3:05
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McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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SAN ANTONIO -- The Los Angeles Lakers said all the right things Wednesday after it became official that Mike Brown, who was let go by the Lakers in November after the team's 0-8 preseason and 1-4 regular season start, was rehired by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

"Mike’s a great coach," said Mike D'Antoni, Brown's replacement in L.A. "He’ll do a great job."

"I’m happy for him," said Pau Gasol, one of the eight players on the Lakers roster who played for Brown in 2011-12, his only full season in L.A. "I think Mike is a really good coach, so he’s going to I’m sure help Cleveland be a better team. They have a young team. Mike is a hardworking coach. Very dedicated. Pays attention to detail. So, he’s going to help them out."

Said Steve Nash: "He’s an extremely hard worker, a very passionate basketball person. He has an emphasis on defense and he does a great job. I think he’s a very good coach."

Added Dwight Howard: "I’m happy for him. He’s a great guy and he’s back in Cleveland, so I’m pretty sure he’s happy about that."

It remains to be seen just how happy Lakers management will end up about the development.

The Lakers owe Brown approximately $7 million for the remaining two years on his contract with the team, but the Cleveland hiring will offset some of that. According to a team source, the Lakers expect "at most" half of what they owe Brown to be offset and that the $3-4 million that it would amount to would be a "grain of sand on the beach" when it comes to impacting the Lakers' finances. The Lakers will not know the final amount they will save on the Brown hiring until his new contract with the Cavs is finalized and approved by the league, which could take "up to a month," according to the source.

The other way Brown's hiring could be felt in L.A. is with D'Antoni's coaching staff. All but two of D'Antoni's assistants -- his brother, Dan D'Antoni and Chuck Person, who was hired when Phil Jackson was the head coach -- were brought on by Brown.

That means that D'Antoni could have significant spots on his staff to fill next season if Brown attempts to lure assistant coaches Steve Clifford, Bernie Bickerstaff, Darvin Ham, player development coach Phil Handy or the team video and support staff of Kyle Triggs, J.J. Outlaw and Tom Bialaszewski.

"You know what? I’m thinking about San Antonio, that’s all I got time for," D'Antoni said Wednesday when asked if he's considered what his coaching staff could look like next season. "Then we’ll figure out everything else later. No, I’m not even thinking about it."

Lakers search for the silver lining

January, 8, 2013
1/08/13
12:14
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
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HOUSTON -- With the Los Angeles Lakers' starting power forward, starting center and primary back-up big man all sidelined indefinitely, Metta World Peace could be relied upon to play some center in their stead.

Despite standing just 6-7 and not having played any center since he was with the Sacramento Kings five seasons ago, World Peace isn't complaining about the potential assignment.

He's considering how it can actually benefit the Lakers.

"We’ll probably be better on our shows on the pick-and-roll," World Peace said after shootaround on Tuesday.

The Lakers come into their game with the Houston Rockets having dropped four out of five games to bring their record to a lowly 15-18. If that wasn't bad enough, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill are all out indefinitely.

That's left the team little choice but to find a glass-is-half-full approach.

"Obviously we’re not where we need to be at all and it’s something that we got to get better at, but as a coach, you just put your head down and you keep slugging away," said Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni. "You do the best you can. It’s still fun. The guys are still listening. It’s still basketball, it’s competition, it gets you riled up, it gets you disappointed at certain things but the staff’s good, we’re good together, we’re trying to solve every problem that we have. So far we got some solved and others pop up but we’re not where we need to be."

The problems have been a'plenty.

Just think of the turmoil the team has muddled through so far this season:

- An 0-8 preseason.
- Steve Nash fracturing the fibula in his left leg.
- A 1-4 start to the regular season.
- Mike Brown being fired.
- Phil Jackson being courted and then overlooked.
- Mike D'Antoni being hired.
- Pau Gasol being benched several times.
- Antawn Jamison sniping at D'Antoni after going through the same thing.
- Howard and Kobe Bryant arguing on the court, as well as Howard and Nash.

And now the losing streak and a new litany of injuries. When does it stop?

"We’ve just had one thing after the other and we haven’t been able to get on top of things," Nash said. "So, I mean in some ways, the mindset is just the same. It’s adversity, adversity, adversity. If you stay positive, you keep working, there can be an opportunity to turn that adversity into strength. So, that’s what we got to do."

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

The Lakers bench shows signs of life

November, 27, 2012
11/27/12
2:54
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Last week's road trip wasn't exactly a rousing success (a horrendous effort in Sacramento followed by a frustrating one in Memphis before Saturday's thumping of Dallas), but it provided the first glimpses of real hope for this season's bench crew.

After scoring a total of 45 points in the first 12 games of the season, Antawn Jamison went for 16 against Memphis on Friday night, then added 19 in Dallas on Saturday. In each, he hoisted 11 shots, a veritable explosion relative to the four a night he'd put up to that point. He was productive on the boards as well, grabbing 22 in total. Basically, Jamison looked like the guy Lakers fans (and Lakers management) expected when he was signed over the summer, but hadn't yet seen.

He wasn't the only member of the bench coming alive. Jodie Meeks was a man in exile under Mike Brown, playing only 22 minutes through the first five games. While his playing time increased under Bernie Bickerstaff, Meeks' production didn't. He hit only three of his 15 3-point attempts in the season's second five games and struggled with turnovers. In Sacramento, though, he broke through with a 12-point fourth quarter, and 15 overall. In Memphis, he hit a pair of second half triples, and in Dallas made 3-of-5 from downtown.

For both guys, a big key was a change in how they were deployed. Brown had played Jamison almost exclusively at small forward, in part to utilize his shooting skills but mostly to make room for Jordan Hill, who was among the team's best players in camp. The impulse to play Hill made plenty of sense, but in the process Jamison was pulled out of his comfort zone.

"It was difficult to get into a rhythm when my first three or four shots are three pointers. You’re going to hit one here or there, but it was just tough for me to get into a rhythm. And I’ve always been a guy who can get it from anywhere," he said Monday following practice. "Whether it’s driving to the basket, a put-back, or something off the dribble. Pick and pop. Those are the things that kind of get me into a rhythm, and honestly it was tough getting into one coming in, trying to come in and knock down three’s after sitting down for eight or nine minutes."

In Memphis, Jamison entered the game as a power forward with only one other big on the court, and was almost instantly more productive, able to use the entire floor. In Dallas, he started at the 3, quickly scoring twice with excellent off-ball movement, but again spent plenty of time at the 4 and again produced a good looking shot chart.

Some positive messaging helped as well, helping Jamison push past hesitation that had been dogging him.

(Read full post)

What's up with Devin Ebanks?

November, 21, 2012
11/21/12
5:40
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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It has been six games since Devin Ebanks last appeared in a game for the Los Angeles Lakers. The time frame coincides with the amount of games the team has played since Mike Brown was fired, but the dearth in playing time also started immediately following Ebanks being arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Ebanks appeared in four of the Lakers' first five games under Brown to start the season and averaged 2.5 points and 2 rebounds on 23.1 percent shooting in 10.3 minutes per game.

According to Lakers spokesman John Black, Ebanks being benched is a basketball decision, not a disciplinary act. Not only has Ebanks not played in the past six games, he wasn't even dressing for the first three, as Darius Johnson-Odom took his spot on the active roster. Steve Blake's abdominal strain has had Ebanks back in uniform the past three games, at least.

"To my knowledge, it's a basketball decision," Ebanks told ESPNLosAngeles.com before the Lakers hosted the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday. "I just still got to remain professional and keep working and be ready for my number to be called."

Ebanks is still being paid while he is out of the rotation, so the benching is not considered a suspension. He is due back in court Dec. 7 to address the DUI charge. A suspension could be levied if Ebanks is found guilty at that time, as is NBA procedure whenever a player faces legal troubles.

"I can't speak on that right now," Ebanks said when asked about the arrest.

Ebanks being out of the lineup has opened up playing time for Jodie Meeks to get a chance as Kobe Bryant's backup at shooting guard. Meeks has not exactly seized the opportunity, averaging just 3.2 points on 28.5 percent shooting in the past six games.

New Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said his decision regarding Ebanks has been a matter of familiarity.

"I don’t know him," D'Antoni said. "In that sense, I haven’t watched him that much. We haven’t really practiced that much, so [you've] got to give me some time to evaluate and see what the team needs. But, obviously, he’s a talent and he’s there and we’ll see going forward. I just couldn’t tell you today what I envision today, because I don’t have that yet."

Ebanks agreed.

"I haven't really talked to him personally, really, like one-on-one,” he said of D’Antoni. “I'm sure as the season goes we'll start to talk a little more."

Even though Ebanks is out of the rotation, it's a long season. At some point over the course of the next 71 games he will likely get a second look. Especially if Meeks keeps struggling.

At 6-foot-9 and 215 pounds, Ebanks has the frame to run the floor in D'Antoni's system. He also has an improved form on his jump shot from working on holding his follow-through, rather than pulling his arms back after his release. But it has yet to show up statistically; Ebanks is shooting just 1-of-5 on 3-pointers this season after going 0-of-9 last season.

"His system is, pretty much, keep the floor spread," Ebanks said. "That's definitely something I like. I need some space to cut, pick-and-rolls. I like his offense so far, just on things he's been running and putting in. I definitely like where he's going."

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

Howard puts Brooklyn in the rearview

November, 19, 2012
11/19/12
3:19
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- With all the drama surrounding the Los Angeles Lakers since the start of training camp -- from a winless preseason, to Steve Nash getting hurt, Mike Brown being fired, Phil Jackson being spurned and Mike D'Antoni being hired -- Dwight Howard has flown relatively under the radar.

It wasn't too long ago that Howard's name couldn't stay out of the headlines as his exit from Orlando played out in the press. The All-Star center's situation became commonly referred to as the "Dwightmare."

Howard's inspired play just six months removed from back surgery has helped people move on from the soap opera that surrounded him during the summer. He is averaging 20 points (60.8 percent shooting), 11.4 rebounds and 2.7 blocks through the Lakers' first 10 games. However, with the Brooklyn Nets coming to town to play the Lakers this week, Howard was reminded Monday about his supposed preferred destination.

"I’m here now," Howard said after practice Monday, a day before the Lakers host the visiting Nets at Staples Center. "I’m in L.A. There’s no need to talk about what could have happened. I’m happy with being here in L.A. Like I’ve said, the fans have always been great here, and now that I’m on the team, the fans from Day 1, they’ve just been unbelievable to me and to this team. So I’m just happy about that."

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Lakers trends: 10 games of "Yeah, but ..." and "Maybe, except ..."

November, 19, 2012
11/19/12
1:34
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
The early stages of the NBA season are full of surprises and interesting numbers. Whatever happens now might be an indicator of what's coming, but it might not. Some early trends are more sustainable than others, and differentiating between the two becomes a sport onto itself.

I call it "Yeah, but" season. As in "Yeah, Player/Team X might be doing ____, but ..."

For the Lakers, you could start with "Yeah, the Lakers are 5-5, but Dwight Howard is still healing and Steve Nash has barely played. And so on. Not every construction affords that kind of naked optimism, but all are worth investigating.

Here are three more potential "Yeah, but" scenarios facing the team, and thoughts on how things will play out going forward.

1. The way Kobe Bryant is playing, the Lakers can't help but be contenders at the end.

Bryant, whose triple-double paced Sunday's 119-108 win over Houston, is playing next-level ball even relative to his own lofty standards: 26.4 points per game, 5.7 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 52.8 percent from the floor, 40.8 percent from downtown. His metrics are stunning. Bryant is currently obliterating career highs in true and effective field goal percentages, has never posted a higher with assist rate, leads the league in win shares, and his PER (27.4) would be the second best of his 17-year run.

Basically, he's spent the last 10 games giving the death stare to Father Time.

Yeah, but...

The percentages will fall, because even Kobe eventually goes back to career norms. He's never been better than 47 percent from the floor, so expecting him to remain above 50 while playing 2-guard at 34 years old? Not realistic. Neither is 40 percent from the arc for a guy who hasn't been over 33 percent since '08-'09. Moreover, we've seen this, or something like it, before. Last season, Kobe was incredible over the first few weeks of the season, and hit a wall as it wore on, shooting 40 percent in February and 39 percent in March.

Maybe, except...

Sure, the numbers will level out, but overall his performance doesn't necessarily have to. As many (myself included) suggested might happen with Nash, Dwight Howard, and Pau Gasol around, Kobe is adopting a less-to-do-more philosophy this year. His shots per game are down from 23 last season to 17.8, and his usage has dropped from a league leading 35.7 percent to 29.1, his lowest figure since '03-'04 (not coincidentally, with the last Lakers SuperTeam). All of this has happened without Nash, the guy who will unquestionably make life easier for Kobe, removing giant chunks of ball handling duties while setting him up for clean looks around the floor, or the debut of D'Antoni, an offensive genius who will undoubtedly find creative ways to free Bryant up.

Bottom Line: Sure, Bryant won't finish the year with a true shooting percentage of 63.8, but as long as he stays healthy -- always the wild card -- and doesn't change his approach, the basic thesis remains in play: Kobe has an excellent chance of logging his most productive and efficient season in recent memory.

2. The Lakers are now piling up points. Showtime is back!

Yeah, but...

They're giving them up by the bushel, as well. In their two most recent wins, Phoenix and Houston, two middle-third offensive teams, torched L.A. through three quarters, both shooting well over 50 percent from the floor while reaching 84 and 87 points respectively. They scored at will, the Lakers just scored at will-er. Real teams won't give up points like the Suns and Rockets and will feature plenty of offensive firepower, as well. The Lakers have to tighten up defensively or ultimately they'll be short some steak for all the sizzle.

(Read full post)

Remembering the Bernie Bickerstaff era

November, 17, 2012
11/17/12
5:32
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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LOS ANGELES -- The exchange had the feeling of one of those commercials you see after a team wins a championship.

"Hey, so and so, you just won the Super Bowl, what are you going to do next?"

So and so: "I'm going to Disney World!"

Only this time, the accomplishment was much more meager and the response, well, classic sarcasm.

Bernie Bickerstaff, you just became the all-time winningest coach in Los Angeles Lakers franchise history, what do you think?

"That'll get me a popsicle," Bickestaff replied, chuckling at the question.

Technically, yes, Bickerstaff finished out his run as Lakers interim coach -- spanning the gap between the fired Mike Brown and the hired Mike D'Antoni -- with a 3-1 record after the Lakers won 114-102 on Friday against the Phoenix Suns, making Bickerstaff's .750 winning percentage tops in Lakers' history.

That's right, better than Pat Riley's .733, Jack McKinney's .714, Paul Westhead's .689 and Phil Jackson's .676.

It's not something the 68-year old will brag about. He knows his three wins are 607 behind Jackson for first on the all-time franchise list. He also knows that his last week at the helm of the most glamorous team in the NBA just proves that when you think you've done it all, you haven't.

This basketball lifer had already been a head coach, assistant coach, scout, president and general manager in the NBA. He'd even been the head coach of the Harlem Globetrotters.

His time running the Lakers with four potential Hall of Famers in Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol was nothing he hadn't prepared the last 30-plus years to handle.

"Maybe some coaches would say, ‘This is my opportunity,’ but Bernie, he’s been around so long, it wasn’t like he was trying to protect turf," said Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak. "He knew what to do. He knew what the guys needed. Give them space, keep things simple. Then, some of his press conferences really defused a little bit of the tension. He had a nice way about him."

(Read full post)

The Forum: The State of the Lakers

November, 16, 2012
11/16/12
4:11
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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To say the least, the last seven days have been a whirlwind, even by the Lakers' high standards. With the dust now settled, does the franchise still appear on the right track?

 


PodKast: The Mikes, PJ and Bernie

November, 14, 2012
11/14/12
8:51
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
There are occasionally periods when the news cycle doesn't provide us much in the way of juicy topics for the podKast. Safe to say, this isn't one of those periods. Plenty to chop up, with Mike Brown out, Mike D'Antoni in, and Phil Jackson -- along with his legion of fans -- left mystified. It's officially a new era in the Los Angeles Lakers' illustrious franchise history, and we're diving right in.

The show can be heard by clicking on the module, and a breakdown of talking points is below.



Play Download

- (2:30): After sharing some secrets for aspiring journos everywhere, we discuss the firing of Brown. Was it fair? Was it the right decision? Why did things ultimately go wrong for Brown?

- (7:19): The Lakers shocked the world by hiring D'Antoni, despite all the reporting (and fan noise) that strongly pointed in a third tour of duty for The Zen Master. First things first. What does this development do to the Buss Family Thanksgiving dinner just around the corner?

- (10:26): We examine why Jackson may have deemed a lesser fit than D'Antoni. There are legitimate reasons to question this roster's compatibility with the triangle, and more important, how fully invested Phil would remain, given the physical and mental toll the NBA grind seemed to take on him through the 2011 season.

- (14:23): What adjustments could be necessary by D'Antoni to get the most out of Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard, and the supporting cast? How will this team eventually look with everyone healthy and on the same page? (By the way, it occurred to me after recording how the better "Where does Pau fit in?" comparison player was probably Boris Diaw, rather than Shawn Marion.)

- (19:10): Our biggest concern about D'Antoni might be his habit of running very short rotations, which simply cannot happen with a roster so collectively long in the tooth. However, we're not nearly as concerned about the "no defense" reputation that has plagued the coach since his days in Phoenix. While those Suns were hardly the second coming of the Bad Boy Pistons, they were actually better than credited.

- (20:55): The Kamenetzky brothers are gonna miss interim head coach Bernie Bickerstaff sooooooooooo much.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Nick Young
PTS AST STL MIN
17.9 1.5 0.7 28.3
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Hill 7.4
AssistsK. Bryant 6.3
StealsK. Bryant 1.2
BlocksW. Johnson 1.0