Los Angeles Lakers: Orlando Magic

Nash game-time decision; Henry out

March, 22, 2014
Mar 22
1:50
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – Steve Nash's return to the Los Angeles Lakers lineup after a nearly six-week-long layoff could end up being short-lived.

[+] EnlargeSteve Nash
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty ImagesSteve Nash had 11 assists in 19 minutes against the Wizards but had to leave late in the fourth quarter.
Nash will be a game-time decision when the Lakers host the Orlando Magic on Sunday after tweaking his right hamstring in the Lakers’ 117-107 loss to the Washington Wizards on Friday.

Nash did not practice Saturday, instead using the time to undergo treatment on the hamstring injury that is connected to the nerve root irritation that has hampered the 18-year veteran for much of the season.

“It’s the same problem that he’s had, just his nerves back there,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said Saturday. “We’re trying to be cautious, but we haven’t found a solution. For (Sunday’s) game we’re going to be cautious. We’ll see. If he feels good, he’ll play, but if there’s any doubt, he won’t.”

Nash had five points and 11 assists in 19 minutes against the Wizards. He subbed out of the game with 2:14 remaining in the fourth quarter because of the injury.

The 40-year-old point guard has played in just 11 of the Lakers’ 68 games this season, averaging 7.4 points and 5.3 assists while shooting 36.7 percent from the floor.

Xavier Henry also did not practice Saturday after suffering a strained left wrist against the Wizards. X-rays on Henry’s wrist taken after the game came back negative, but Henry followed up with an MRI exam on his wrist Saturday that showed a torn ligament. Henry will be examined by a hand specialist Monday and an estimate on his return will be announced then, according to a statement released by the team.

“He’s pretty sore right now, so we’ll see,” D’Antoni said before the MRI results were known.

D’Antoni also said he planned to shuffle the starting lineup against the Magic, going with Jordan Hill instead of Robert Sacre and Wes Johnson instead of Kent Bazemore. Johnson missed the Wizards game with an upper respiratory infection but was back at practice Saturday.

(Read full post)

Duhon dances, D'Antoni notices

March, 13, 2013
3/13/13
6:57
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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ATLANTA -- From the creator of the "Travel Dance" we give you Chris Duhon's latest bench celebration.

Despite not playing a single second in the Los Angeles Lakers' 106-97 win over the Orlando Magic on Tuesday, there might not have been a more animated player in purple and gold than Duhon.

The nine-year veteran broke out a cheer I hadn't seen from him before when Jodie Meeks hit a 3-pointer and again when Earl Clark connected from downtown. Once the 3s went down, it was Duhon's cue to crouch down off the bench, put one foot on the court while game action was continuing down the other end and kneel with his other leg as he straightened three fingers on each hand and pointed them toward the ground as he motioned his arms up and down over and over.

What was that exactly?

"It's just something we did in Orlando, Quentin Richardson and I," Duhon said. "We were a rock band. We both had the guitars and J.J. [Redick] was on the drums and we always did that for 3s."

Duhon didn't have a name for his dance on Tuesday (although I think "Ooh-three wally wally, ooh-three bang bang" would be ridiculous enough to work) but said it wasn't as wild as he can get.

"That was kind of our subtle one," Duhon said. "You'll see us do the air guitars. It was just something that would always keep us into the game."

(Read full post)

Rapid Reaction: Lakers 106, Magic 97

March, 12, 2013
3/12/13
7:06
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McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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ORLANDO, Fla. -- In many ways the entire Los Angeles Lakers' season has been more spectacle than substance.

Tuesday was no exception as the Lakers had to wade through a scorned Orlando crowd that didn't have much to look forward to the rest of the season for their 18-47 Magic team, but sure had a lot to be upset about looking back at how Dwight Howard left their franchise.

The fans let Howard and the Lakers hear it from the minute the All-Star center led the team out of the tunnel for pregame warmups, through the national anthem that was punctuated by several fans screaming insults at Howard and on through the game when he engaged in back-and-forth banter with some courtside-seat occupants during timeouts.

In a season in which Howard has struggled to find a rhythm, he looked mighty comfortable wearing an opposing uniform in his old home for the first time.

Howard dominated the game from start to finish, putting up a new high as a Laker with 39 points to go along with 16 rebounds and three blocked shots.

No boos could ever have sounded so good when Howard checked out with 49.9 seconds left and L.A. up by 13. He closed his night with congratulatory hugs from Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash.

How it happened: Even though the Lakers built a double-digit lead in the first half, the Magic kept L.A. from breaking it open too fast, first with an 11-4 run to finish the first quarter and then an 8-1 run to close out the second. Orlando briefly regained the lead at 57-56 in the third, but L.A. used a 17-4 burst to take control from there and didn't look back.

What it means: With the Utah Jazz off on Tuesday, the Lakers jumped back ahead of them for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West by bringing their record to 34-31, the most games over .500 they've been all season long. That's 17 wins in their past 23 games, for those of you scoring at home.

Hits: Antawn Jamison scored eight of his 10 points in the second half.

The Lakers held their opponents to sub-40 percent shooting for the second straight game as the Magic connected on just a 39.8 percent clip.

Misses: Bryant shot just 4-for-14 from the field, but dished out a game-high eight assists.

Earl Clark had just six points and four rebounds in his Orlando return.

Stat of the game: Orlando coach Jacque Vaughn proved he had no problem resorting to a gimmick like "Hack-a-Howard" to win. He did in the Magic's victory in L.A. on Dec. 2, when Howard went 9-for-21 from the line, and he did it again Tuesday. Howard tied his own NBA record for free-throw attempts in a game by going 25-for-39 against the Magic. He eclipsed Shaquille O'Neal's old Lakers' record of free-throw attempts in a game. Shaq was 19-for-31 on Nov. 19, 1999.

What's next: The Lakers continue their trip with the second night of a back-to-back Wednesday in Atlanta and will put their four-game winning streak up against the Hawks, who had lost five of six games coming into their matchup on Tuesday against the Miami Heat.

D'Antoni on Gasol's return: 'It's close'

March, 12, 2013
3/12/13
4:58
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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ORLANDO, Fla. -- Pau Gasol was able to go through an extensive basketball workout Tuesday for the first time since suffering a torn plantar fascia in his right foot five weeks ago.

"He’s starting to run now and he feels pretty good," said Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni on Tuesday before their game against the Orlando Magic. "So, I think every day without setbacks, without getting sore, he’ll just up it."

Gasol worked out for approximately 45 minutes with Lakers assistant coach Darvin Ham and strength and conditioning coach Tim DiFrancesco following shootaround, going through a variety of shooting and footwork drills.

The Lakers plan to increase Gasol's workout in Atlanta on Wednesday and have the 12-year veteran back to full-fledged running by Thursday when their three-game road trip continues on to Indiana.

"It’s close," D'Antoni said of Gasol's return to game action.

Gasol was originally slated to be sidelined a minimum of six to eight weeks with the injury. He will not need further evaluation by a doctor in order to return. It will be a joint decision by Gasol, the coaching staff and trainer Gary Vitti.

D'Antoni said he "hopes" to have Gasol back at practice next week when L.A. has three days off between its road game Monday in Phoenix and its home game Friday against Washington.

D'Antoni has not said whether he will bring Gasol off the bench when the forward returns, but said definitively it will be a challenge to keep the Lakers' pick-and-roll game flowing with another 7-footer on the floor.

"It’s going to be harder," D'Antoni said. "Spacing is a little better the way it is (with Gasol out); we’ll have to figure some things out, but he gives us so much else -- great passer, different things -- so we’ll just have to figure the spacing out."

Even though the Lakers had won eight of 10 games since the All-Star break without Gasol heading into Tuesday night's game at Orlando, D'Antoni said the team cannot reach its full potential without Gasol.

"We’re playing a lot better than we were," D'Antoni said. "We still got to get Pau back and get him integrated to get up to that top tier. We’re still not quite there."

Josh McRoberts fitting in with Orlando

December, 2, 2012
12/02/12
8:32
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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LOS ANGELES -- While the reunion on everyone's mind Sunday was Dwight Howard facing off against his former team, Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said that the real emotional meeting with the Magic for Howard won't come until March 12 when Los Angeles plays in Orlando.

By D'Antoni's reasoning then, Sunday's game was actually a big one for Orlando forward Josh McRoberts, who played for the Lakers last season before being traded away during the summer as part of the Howard deal.

McRoberts, who came in as L.A.'s marquee free agent signee a year ago and only ended up averaging 2.8 points and 3.4 rebounds per game as he fell out of favor with former coach Mike Brown, is making the most of his time with the Magic.

"He's been great," said first-year Orlando coach Jacque Vaughn before Sunday's game. "He's given us a lot of versatility. I've asked him to guard 2-guards, (small forwards), 4-men. ... He's given us a lot of versatility and his ability to pass the basketball has been good also. He's done a good job for us."

McRoberts' numbers have improved across the board from a year ago, chipping in 4.2 points and 3.9 rebounds in 16.0 minutes per game as a reserve.

"I'm kind of the utility man," McRoberts said.

A utility man who is OK with being part of the trade that sent him from the home of Disneyland to the home of Disney World because he wasn't being traded for a household utility.

"It wasn't like they traded me for a washing machine or something," McRoberts said. "It was a big-time deal for them."

McRoberts is in a contract year. He's looking to fit into Orlando's young bunch and find some long-term stability after suiting up for the fourth team of his six-year career this season.

Even though he's just 25, one way he already has distinguished himself is assuming the role of savvy veteran for the Magic.

"I think the biggest thing for me is that they treat me like I'm an old guy on this team," McRoberts said. "We got a bunch of young guys, so, going from last year when I'm one of the youngest guys on this team to this year when I'm like a super vet is a little bit different."

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

The Forum: Pressure on Dwight Howard

October, 11, 2012
10/11/12
11:12
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Whether you agree with Shaq's recent comments about Brook Lopez being better than Dwight Howard -- and we don't -- they nonetheless reflect the scrutiny D12 will receive day in and day out as a Laker center. Will this fishbowl prove too difficult an existence for Howard? We discuss.video

PodKast: Chris Duhon on the Dwightmare, being a Laker, hooping with The Prez

September, 19, 2012
9/19/12
4:55
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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When Dwight Howard arrived in L.A., he didn't show up alone. Point guard Chris Duhon (along with forward Earl Clark) also were part of the Lakers' haul, and the Dukie's presence makes for a potentially intriguing battle at backup point guard. Steve Blake is the incumbent, and I'm guessing the current favorite. Mike Brown stuck with the Maryland product through more thin than thick, which makes me believe the job is Blake's to lose. Then again, Brown's alternatives last season were limited to rookies Andrew Goudelock and Darius Morris, which tied his hands to a certain degree. A veteran like Duhon might do a better job pushing Blake, and perhaps even steal the gig. At the very least, he should make matters interesting.

The new Laker joined us in studio Monday. The show can be heard by clicking on the module, and a breakdown of talking points can be seen below.



Play Download

- (:36): Duhon relives his front row seat for "The Dwightmare." The situation was every bit as bizarre from a locker room perspective, and while players claimed otherwise at the time, Duhon admits it was a distraction for the team.

- (4:15): In the most recent "Sunday Conversation," Howard shared how trying to please everyone ultimately created a mess. As an Orlando teammate, Duhon sensed that instinct from Dwight, along with the center's desire to make one more playoff run with the Magic. Thus, the ill-fated decision to waive his early termination option.

- (7:22): What is the free agency process like in general, whether for superstars or a role player like Duhon?

- (12:36): Trade rumors and scenarios were swirling 24/7 during "The Dwightmare," with players like Duhon often mentioned with descriptors like "throw in," "filler," and "a bad contract Orlando will demand to move." The point guard took that chatter in stride, rather than personally.

- (13:30): Duhon discusses his role on the Lakers, and whether last season's 3-point shooting (a career-high 42 percent) is sustainable.

- (16:20): We discuss the dynamic of so many talented players on the same roster. In "superhero" terms, Kobe Bryant will probably the role of "Batman," with Howard a supremely talented "Robin," and Jodie Meeks "Aquaman."

- (19:37): As Duhon learned firsthand, President Obama will talk some trash on the basketball court.

An open letter to Dwight Howard

August, 27, 2012
8/27/12
9:13
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Hey Dwight:

How's it going? We haven't formally met, yet, but I'm Andy Kamenetzky. You'll be seeing a lot of me, as I cover the Lakers for ESPN LA and 710 ESPN. And I'm looking forward to you being part of the Lakers. Not only will your presence improve the defense, offense and collective psyche of a fan base newly electrified at the legitimate prospect of a title next season, but you also can improve the long-term health of the franchise as the guy slated to receive the baton from Kobe Bryant as the franchise's next face.

Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images
Nip it in the bud, Dwight.



Of course, "slated" isn't the same thing as "set," and therein lies the sum of all fears for Lakers fans. Let's be blunt, Dwight. Your exit from Orlando was steeped in chaos and drama, in no small part because Superman handled the situation rather poorly. Let's be honest, you waffled like a politician trying to win re-election, and the general consensus is you warmed to the prospect of purple and gold only after other options (namely playing alongside Deron Williams in Brooklyn) dried up. That's not to say you didn't seem genuinely happy at your introductory press conference, nor do I have any doubts about you remaining a Laker. Frankly, I'd be pretty surprised if you left.

However, the possibility of an exit will linger until an extension is signed, and it seems unlikely that you'll sign early, for a variety of reasons. Thus, we're left with fans not just worried about the possibility of you bolting, but also with the possibility of a three-ring circus in the process. You deflected this topic during that presser, but it will undoubtedly resurface the next time you step in front of a microphone. And then the next time. And the time after that. No doubt, this could become a tedious, consuming, never-ending storyline, unless you take control of the situation. And this is where I'd like to help!

Below is a prepared statement I've created for the first moment when one of us in the media asks about your future. These thoughts will help calm fans' nerves and diffuse a potentially messy situation. (And a word of advice: This may be a prepared statement, but the trick is making the words feel like they're coming naturally from the gut and heart. Therefore, you'll need to not only practice reciting the statement, but I'd even recommend memorization. It'll require extra work but will be worth the time.)

At any rate, here's what you'd say:

I'm actually glad you asked that question about my contract, because it allows me to address a big concern of mine heading into this season. I'm well aware my situation could easily take on a life bigger than the Lakers' season itself, and that's something I'd like to prevent. Therefore, I'd like to make the following point crystal clear, without any hesitation or qualifiers.

From this point forward until the end of this season, I will not answer any questions about my future with the Lakers. I will not answer any questions about free agency. I will not answer any questions about a contract extension. When we're on the road, I will not answer any questions about whether I could picture myself playing for "Team X" hosting the Lakers that particular night.

In a nutshell, I will not answer any questions even tangentially related to my future as a Laker.

Why? Because I don't want to say anything that might contribute to a season-long distraction as we make a serious run at a title.

(Read full post)

Why it's worth waiting for the Dwight Howard saga to play out

July, 30, 2012
7/30/12
10:47
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Kim Klement/US Presswire

Earlier in the summer, momentum behind a Dwight Howard deal seemed strong, whether to the Los Angeles Lakers, Brooklyn Nets or Houston Rockets. Fans salivated at the potential impact on their teams. Writers began pre-writing reaction stories to expedite post-trade analysis. You know, just in case. (Not that I'm bitter.) Since, the action has slowed considerably as the Orlando Magic have at least publicly dug in its heels, saying it won't move its superstar without an appropriate return.

Last week, Mitch Kupchak indicated the Lakers haven't closed the door on a potential deal for Howard, despite the delays.

Looking at our Twitter feeds and the comments section of the blog, plenty of fans wish they would. Many believe it's time for the Lakers to move on, to concentrate on going forward with Andrew Bynum (not exactly a horrible consolation prize) as the center. Get him his extension, because it's not worth waiting around for Orlando to decide Howard's fate.

I get the frustration -- Dwightmare Fatigue was just added to the list of acceptable clinical diagnoses by the American Medical Association -- but it's a flawed argument.

First, because he can earn an extra year on his contract by becoming a free agent as opposed to extending his deal now, there's a very strong chance Bynum won't re-up now anyway. Short of a catastrophic injury this season, Bynum is going to get max offers as a free agent. He's too talented and too rare a commodity, health questions notwithstanding. So from that perspective, regarding the incumbent center, the Lakers aren't really "putting off" anything. Nor are other summer plans impacted substantively by keeping open Howard conversations. They've signed Antawn Jamison and brought back Jordan Hill. They're looking for one more backcourt player. Certainly nothing they might do on the margins of free agency outweighs the potential impact of acquiring Howard.

Second, and more important, Howard is simply the better player. By a fair margin, despite Bynum's great ability and improving production. More than anything, talent makes it worthwhile for the Lakers to play this one out, particularly now that Howard has indicated a willingness to re-sign with L.A. should he land here.

What the Lakers are getting:

1. Defense.

Defense, defense, defense.

Defense.

Howard has led the NBA in defensive rating (an estimate of points allowed per 100 possessions) in four of the past five seasons, and in the fifth -- 2011-12 -- he was third. In defensive win shares (an estimate of wins contributed by a player due to defense) Howard has topped the league in five of the past six seasons. The worst figure he has posted in defensive rebounding percentage (the percentage of available DRB's grabbed while on the floor) since 2007-08 is 29.5, and twice he has led the league. Last season, according to 82Games.com, the Magic were a hair under seven points worse on their own end without him on the floor. Despite 2011-12 ranking as perhaps his least impactful defensively over the past four or five, according to Synergy Howard still finished in the 88th percentile in points per possession against. In previous seasons, he'd been up around 95 percent.

It's not that Bynum was bad in these areas, because he wasn't. But he's not Howard. With him on board, concerns about the Lakers' defense would still exist, but not nearly to the same degree.

2. A better fit with Steve Nash.

Again looking at Synergy stats, last season Howard generated 1.384 points per play as the roll man on pick-and-roll, third in the NBA and first among players with 35 or more possessions. In 2010-11, he was even better at 1.441, again tops in the league among players with enough such plays to be statistically significant. File under "highly relevant" now that the Lakers have acquired among the greatest pick-and-roll point guards the league has ever seen. As a cutter, Howard managed 1.435 points per possession, better than 88 percent of the league. In '10-11, he was more efficient than 97 percent of his peers, excelling particularly in basket cuts. Point is he moves well without the ball and is a devastating finisher. In L.A., he'd be surrounded by better and more versatile offensive talent, making Howard a tougher cover. Given the way in which Nash probes with the dribble, Howard's superior mobility would be beneficial, allowing him to play effectively without clogging lanes for his point guard.

Again, Bynum isn't bad in these areas, he's just not as good as Howard.

(Read full post)

Dwupdate: Orlando to hold Howard for now?

July, 23, 2012
7/23/12
7:58
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Reports ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard:
"The Orlando Magic have told rival executives that they might not trade Dwight Howard after all, according to league sources.

An executive who has had discussions with the Magic regarding Howard said Orlando only will trade the star center in a deal that is great for the franchise. The executive said this has been Orlando's stance for the past "week or so." Another executive who has talked with Orlando said he thinks the Magic may start the season with Howard and wait until the February trade deadline to move him.

Each executive left the door open for posturing, noting that the Magic may be bluffing in hopes of coaxing better offers out of opposing teams. But the overriding sense is that Howard may not be moved for weeks, if not months."

Translation: Orlando hopes (as you'd expect) to extract as much from this deal as possible, and (at least outwardly and publicly) won't be pushed into what they feel is a less-than-appropriate return on Howard in the service of expediency.

(Read full post)

Sources: Dwight Howard willing to stay in L.A. if traded

July, 19, 2012
7/19/12
9:47
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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The news, first reported by Real GM's Jerrod Rudolph and confirmed by ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard, certainly represents a new turn in the Everlasting Gobstopper that is the Dwight Howard trade saga. If traded to the Lakers, sources say Howard is open to signing a long-term extension following the 2012-13 season. (Thanks to provisions in the new CBA, doing it at the time the trade is executed costs him tens of millions, so nothing would be inked until next summer.)


Gary A. Vasquez/US Presswire
Dwight Howard is apparently willing to stay in L.A. if traded to the Lakers, but that doesn't necessarily make a deal easier to facilitate.


It's a great headline, but what does it mean for the prospects of actually bringing Howard to town?

Not all that much, really. Signaling a willingness to stick around long term obviously removes one potential spot of worry from the Lakers' end and allows them to move forward with more confidence, except it wasn't that concern holding up a deal. The Lakers have been willing to pull the trigger even without such assurances from Howard, confident they could keep him through a combination of championship culture, fringe benefits to living in Los Angeles, and the extra money they'd be able to offer by holding his Bird rights. So while it's nice for Howard to point to L.A. as a preferred (or at least acceptable) destination, as the Nets can attest, Dwight doesn't always get what Dwight wants. If Orlando isn't interested in Andrew Bynum as a return for Howard, the Lakers and Magic still need to find another team, maybe more than one, to build a package of young talent, draft picks, and cap space attractive enough for the Magic to accept.

Maybe that team is Cleveland or Houston, or perhaps the Lakers can draw another squad into the talks, but for the time being, at least, the Magic seem willing to be picky. Would the newest incarnation of a trade, sending Bynum to Cleveland and a package of picks and Anderson Varejao to Orlando be enough? Probably not considering what the Magic have already turned down. In the short term, constructing a deal might even get harder, because while the Lakers aren't desperate in their Howard chase -- they would be perfectly willing to enter the season with Bynum as their center -- teams might demand a little more to help facilitate a trade if they believe the pressure is on L.A. in the wake of Howard's new outlook.

The news seems to give Bynum a lot more leverage, as well. He could in theory kill a deal by sending signals he'd be unlikely to re-sign in his new city once the season is over. (Like Howard, Bynum costs himself too much money in an extend-and-trade to sign early with his new team.)

Point being, there's a lot of work left to do.

So while last night's development is certainly significant and definitely increases the likelihood of a successful post-trade relationship between Howard and the Lakers in which he becomes the franchise's post-Kobe Bryant cornerstone, from a practical standpoint it doesn't actually change much. The Lakers are still positioned very well to get Howard and can still afford to be relatively patient, but also still have to construct a trade with which the Magic are, if not comfortable, at least willing to take.

Report: Lakers and Magic meeting about Dwight Howard

July, 17, 2012
7/17/12
12:37
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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The Lakers, according to a report from Yahoo! Sports, are making a push to complete a deal for Dwight Howard. They would, as a stipulation of the deal, want Howard to commit to an extension.

ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard says talks have been ongoing, but nothing is imminent.

How much the landscape has changed since Brooklyn became a non-option as a Howard destination is hard to say. Would the Magic take Andrew Bynum, who is a free agent after next season? Could the Lakers put together a package of young players, picks and cap relief that seems to be Orlando's preference and would have to involve another team?

Don't know. But one thing does seem clear: The Lakers are in the most advantageous position among teams making a run at Howard, because while he'd definitely represent an upgrade over Bynum (if healthy, of course) and represents a better fit in more pure pick-and-roll offense guided by Steve Nash, they don't have to make a deal. Their consolation prize is the second best center in the league.

Lack of desperation is a nice thing to have in a trade negotiation.

Has the Dwight Howard calculus changed for the Lakers?

July, 2, 2012
7/02/12
4:48
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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As the Dwight Howard saga rages on, one thing has gone from pretty much obvious to abundantly so: Howard wants to go to Brooklyn, and only Brooklyn.

So with that in mind, are the Lakers in better shape now to bring him to Los Angeles?

Very possibly.

As ESPN.com's John Hollinger notes (Insider required), thanks to months' worth of wishy-washiness and poor execution culminating in his decision last spring not to enter free agency this summer, Howard's master plan appears to be crumbling around him. And that was before this afternoon's bombshell: The Nets have a deal in place to acquire Joe Johnson from Atlanta. Setting aside for a moment the wisdom of the trade from Brooklyn's perspective -- while Johnson is a very good player, he's south of elite, north of 30 years old, and due an astonishing $90 mil over the next four years -- his addition combined with the re-signing of Deron Williams (they hope) and a re-signed Gerald Wallace would reportedly shut the door on Howard in Brooklyn. As for a trade with the Nets, if the Magic wanted some sort of package built around Brook Lopez and MarShon Brooks, it would have happened by now.

As one source told ESPN.com, "Dwight blew it in March."

Howard made it clear the Nets were the only team with whom he'd sign an extension in a trade, a threat designed to keep other teams from making a deal with Orlando. Now his one-and-only destination appears to have denied him an entry visa. For the Lakers, that completely changes the calculus surrounding a potential Howard-for-Andrew Bynum swap. Before, the risk of sacrificing Bynum only to see Howard bolt after one season to the place he said all along he wanted to go was a lot to stomach. Without Brooklyn in play, it's a different ballgame. Suddenly, the idea of making a career with the Lakers becomes an easier sell, particularly since if they did swing a trade, L.A. would have the ability to give Howard far more money than anyone else.

The Lakers would have a much easier time calling Howard's bluff at the end of next year. A max deal combined with some winning, excellent weather, and no better option makes for a decent Plan B.

From Orlando's perspective, Bynum still constitutes the single best player they'd get in return for Howard, and while (just as the Lakers would with Howard) the Magic would have to sign him to an extension, I don't see it as a problem. Remember, it was in reference to Orlando-centric trade rumors Bynum made his famous "bank in every city" quote. While I've never sensed he's hell-bent on leaving the Lakers, Bynum has also always given the impression he'd get over a trade in about 17 seconds.

There would still be plenty of potential peril. The Lakers won't be the only organization recognizing a new opportunity. Other teams, Dallas for example if they lose out on D-Will or (Howard's hometown) Atlanta now that Johnson and Marvin Williams have been cleared away, could jimmy around their rosters to make enough space to sign Howard outright after next season. Some wonder if so much sacrifice for a guy who appeared not to want to come to Los Angeles, and reportedly wasn't high on playing second fiddle to Kobe Bryant, is worth it. There's a good chance he could leave.

Character wise, Howard has turned many off by the way he's morphed his exit from Orlando into a soap opera. Remember, too, he's coming off major back surgery.

On the other hand, assuming he's healthy, Howard is a dominant force in ways Bynum isn't yet. As a rule, in the NBA when you have a chance to pick up a top-five player, you do it and ask questions later. The other stuff can and likely will be forgiven, at least locally, if Howard helps push the Lakers back to the Finals. Talent is the ultimate olive branch.

Now that it appears he might have to settle for his less-favored options, it makes much more sense for the Lakers to push harder for a deal with Orlando, even if Howard won't sign an extension right away. The Lakers can more successfully call his bluff.

"Where are you going to go, Dwight?"

Would he have a good answer?

Talking With: Joey Buss, Los Angeles D-Fenders President/CEO

March, 26, 2012
3/26/12
10:58
PM PT
By The Kamenetzky brothers
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While Jim Buss draws most of the attention -- and the ire -- when fans consider the next generation of Buss children taking over the family business from their father, there are two other sons learning the business. Most prominent is Joey, once that random Buss you'd never heard of who accepted the '09 championship trophy from David Stern after Game 5 in Orlando, now the President/CEO of the organization's D-League team, the D-Fenders.

The 27-year old USC grad is in his fourth year running the minor league squad. Where Jim worked his way up through the Lakers organizational structure as part of the player personnel division, Joey is getting a more holistic education with the D-Fenders. A few weeks back, we sat down with him for an extended interview.


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Dr. Buss let his son sink or swim in Orlando.


Q: How did you get into your role with the D-Fenders?

Joey Buss: When I graduated college, the first year I spent with the Lakers and Phil Jackson, shadowing him for the year. Traveled to all the away games, went to all the coach’s meetings. That was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had, just getting in there. We also invested in the D-League as the first NBA team to buy its own affiliate at around the same time. I was trying to learn different roles, and different parts of the organization to see where a good fit would be.

As I talked with my sister Jeanie and my dad it seemed that the minor league sport was an open opportunity to take on, and invest my time into fully to try and build it as an asset for the Lakers. From the business part, from the basketball part, just managing the whole deal. Go out there and do it. This is your team, go do it.

Q: What did you learn in that year shadowing Phil?

Joey Buss: Candidly, I learned it’s very hard work. I learned all about the triangle offense, and the inner workings of how Phil likes to manage games. Coming from college you’re kind of outside looking in. This was an inside, behind the scenes look. Growing up with the team, it was more just about the players, meeting guys. That’s all I really cared about. What this really taught me was the strategy of the game. Getting that coaching insight was very valuable basketball knowledge.

You really quickly start realizing that it’s not as easy to say it as it is to do it. Their point guard scored a lot, why couldn’t we do something about? But then the coaches, you [see they] tried everything you possibly could. You did this substitution, you did the zone, you tried this different on the pick and roll, you tried different avenues. You really get to see that they try everything. They don’t not think of anything. And really having a realization of how difficult it is for these guys to maintain an energy level through a whole season.

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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.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Kobe Bryant
PTS AST STL MIN
24.6 5.0 1.4 35.4
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Hill 8.3
AssistsK. Bryant 5.0
StealsK. Bryant 1.4
BlocksE. Davis 1.2