Los Angeles Lakers: Shannon Brown

Lakers vs. Suns: What to watch

November, 16, 2012
11/16/12
12:24
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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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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Has Steve Blake rediscovered his game?

April, 12, 2012
4/12/12
5:54
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
Over the last week, Lakers headlines have been dominated by issues like Kobe Bryant's shin, otherworldly rebounding from Andrew Bynum, a string of quality performances from Metta World Peace, and the implications of a 20-point loss to Phoenix and a 14-point win over San Antonio, both with The Mamba wearing a well-tailored suit. Such talking points would always feel trenchant, and with the playoffs lurking, the urgency is magnified tenfold. In the meantime, another notable development has surfaced almost entirely absent of hype. Compared to the previously mentioned story lines, under-the-radar status for this trend is understandable, but it nonetheless shouldn't be mistaken as trivial.

Win McNamee/Getty Images
Not a Photoshopped picture: Steve Blake did actually execute this finger roll.



Quietly and by any measuring stick, Steve Blake, who's suffered through a largely disappointing season, has played two very good games in a row.

From a statistical standpoint, his numbers are much improved. Over the last two games, he's averaged nine points (53.8 percent from the field/60 percent from deep), 3.5 assists, 2.5 rebounds, and .5 turnovers in 28.5 minutes. The stats aren't necessarily eye-popping, but they're perfectly fine from a backup point guard. And against the backdrop of his overall April splits (5.4 ppg, 41.4 FG, 41.2 3pt, 3.0 apg, 1.3 rpg, 1.1 TO), they're practically a revelation. While fellow reserve Matt Barnes has insisted the Lakers bench shouldn't be judged by scoring totals, this entire season has served as proof of how hamstrung the starters become without consistent support. In particular, Blake's cupboard has been bare. Nobody would reasonably expect a dude with a 6.9 ppg career-average to reinvent himself as a purple and gold James Harden, but some firepower off the pine is mandatory. For at least two games, Blake's brought a gun to a gunfight.

Blake's also managed to impact games beyond his numbers. In New Orleans, a pair of charges were drawn and he not only tracked down an otherwise certain turnover, but managed to huck the ball while airborne to Ramon Sessions. The possession ended with Barnes scoring at the rim, but Blake enabled the basket, even as the only principal who didn't enter the box score on the sequence. Against the Spurs, he prevented a fast break by hustling back on transition, squaring up Stephen Jackson and getting his mitts on the ball. Slowed by Blake, Jackson had to take the ball out, and the ensuing possession came up dry.

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Lakers Late Night Replay vs. Phoenix

April, 7, 2012
4/07/12
10:13
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
According to Elton John, Saturday is a night where fighting is perfectly acceptable. However, the Lakers either didn't get the memo or don't much care for classic rock, because not much of a fight was put up against the Suns in Phoenix during a 125-105 smack to the face. Yeah, Kobe Bryant was in street clothes because of inflammation in his left shin, but the Suns were also missing Grant Hill, and aren't good as the Lakers to begin with. Plus, The Mamba's absence doesn't account for the Suns shooting a shade over 48 percent from behind the arc. Or a decided non-scoring threat like Robin freakin' Lopez coming within a 3-pointer of matching the visiting bench's collective tally by himself. And dude only scored seven points!

Kobe would have certainly helped the Lakers' cause, but pinning the loss on his injury lets the team off the hook far too easily. It's just one issue kicked around on Saturday's edition of Lakers Late Night. Obviously the total lack of defense was a focus. Why have the Lakers fallen apart? Can Humpty Dumpty be put back together again? Certainly all the king's horses and men have their work cut out. What role does fatigue play in all of this? Or Andrew Bynum's only periodic commitment to both sides of the floor?

And then there's the bench. We talk about potential strategies going forward. Steve Blake has been awful, but what are the alternatives?

Lakers at Phoenix: What to watch with Valley of the Suns

April, 7, 2012
4/07/12
11:02
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
As was made abundantly clear Friday against the Rockets, the Lakers have pitched a tent in Strugglesville on the defensive side of the floor. Only twice in their last 11 games have they limited opponents to a points-per-possession figure lower than their season average for defensive efficiency, and those two were against New Orleans and New Jersey, both bottom third NBA offenses. So it's in this context that the Lakers, losers last night, nicked up with injuries, again fielding questions about the emotional maturity of their All-Star center, and playing their fourth game in five nights take the floor tonight against the still explosive Phoenix Suns.

One of the better teams in the conference since a 12-19 start, the Suns are fighting tooth and nail for a playoff berth and botched a huge game against the Nuggets Friday. A win would be huge, so they won't be doing L.A. any favors. To get a little more insight into the game, we hit up the rock-solid Michael Schwartz of TrueHoop's Valley of the Suns with a few Q's . . .

Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Steve Nash is old, and still awesome.



1. The Suns were 12-19 and left for dead a few weeks ago, but now are contending for a playoff spot. What has prompted the improvement?

Schwartz: Many things, but to me the biggest is that Phoenix once again boasts one of the league's elite offenses. Since the All-Star break (a few games after they dropped to 12-19), the Suns rank sixth in the NBA with a 106.8 offensive rating whereas before the break the offense was perfectly mediocre with a 100.2 offensive rating that ranked 16th. The offense has improved in large part because Channing Frye and Jared Dudley have scored much more effectively in the second half of the season.

Then there's the bench. Alvin Gentry really struggled to find a bench rotation that worked in the first half of the year, but almost to a man all of his reserves have been much better during the team's current16-8 run. Sebastian Telfair has solidified the backup point guard position, Robin Lopez finally looks healthy, Michael Redd has provided some much-needed scoring punch off the pine and Shannon Brown just looks much more comfortable now.

2. At age 59 (OK, 38), Steve Nash is averaging almost 54 percent from the floor, and still piling up big assist numbers. Have you seen any change in his game, or is it still a "same as it ever was" type thing?

Schwartz: It's really a "same as it ever was" type of thing. Occasionally you will see him run off a screen for a spot-up jumper, but for the most part he's doing the same things he's done the past seven years just with a different supporting cast. According to mySynergySports, 61 percent of his plays come as the pick-and-roll ball handler, which goes to show how often he’s running the same tried and true play that’s made him a future Hall of Famer.

I actually think one of the reasons his game has aged so well is because he’s essentially doing the same things that worked for him a decade ago, only now he’s that much smarter.

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Inside information: Breaking down the Suns' scouting report on the Lakers

February, 18, 2012
2/18/12
11:59
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
The Los Angeles Lakers play the Phoenix Suns on Sunday for the second time in three days after scorching them 111-99 on Friday, scoring a season-high in points in the process. Blame the Suns' loss on L.A.'s home record, Kobe Bryant's penchant for scoring big points as payback for those consecutive playoff losses to Phoenix in 2006-07 or on Mike Brown's clockwork rotation that seems to have "stabilized," according to Bryant. Just don't blame it the loss on a lack of preparation by Phoenix's basketball operations department, however.

ESPNLA.com has acquired the Suns' scouting report drafted before Friday's game. The 52-page document provides a fascinating look at how an opponent perceives, and prepares to play, the Lakers.

The following is a breakdown of what the scouting report included, giving readers a look at what structure the information was organized in as well as providing quotes from the handout that describe how the Suns' staff views the Lakers.

*****

The cover page for the scouting report is basic, easy-to-consume information and statistics including the Lakers' rotation (beginning with the starters and continuing from Steve Blake through Luke Walton based on playing time) as well as what the Lakers' averages are in major offensive and defensive categories and where those averages rank in the league at large (e.g. In one table it says the Lakers' 92.5 points per game scoring average ranks 22nd in the league while in a table next to it you see that the Lakers' 90.4 points per game allowed ranks fourth in the league). There are three more specific statistical categories listed -- "3-point threats" (led by Andrew Goudelock's 43.2 percent), "who to foul" (topped by Troy Murphy's 50.0 percent) and "offensive rebounders" (with Andrew Bynum's 3.5 boards and Pau Gasol's 3.2 boards leading the list). The cover page also includes "suggested match-ups" (Steve Nash on Derek Fisher, Grant Hill on Bryant, etc.) and the results of their previous meetings this season (the Lakers beat the Suns 99-83 on Jan. 10).

*****

The cover page is followed by six pages of narrative breaking down the strengths and weaknesses of the Lakers' offense and defense in one- or two-sentence long observations that can be scanned through quickly (there are four pages on the Lakers' offense, one on the Lakers' defense and one recapping their first meeting in January). Some are statements. Some cite statistics. Some offer questions. Some remind the Suns players what happened against the Lakers in the past. They are all typed in capital letters, while some are underlined or put in bold for extra emphasis.

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Rapid Reaction: Lakers 111, Suns 99

February, 17, 2012
2/17/12
10:29
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
The Lakers may have won by a dozen, and may have broken 100 (on 53 percent shooting!) for the first time since the Stone Age. But the victory doesn't necessarily leave a great taste in anybody's mouth. A double-digit lead was squandered down to the bone before eventually being built back up, and far more work than necessary was required against a tired, decidedly inferior opponent. At the end of the day, the Lakers notched the W, and maintained what has been a very strong home record. But this group just has a habit of provoking skepticism, even in the face of victory.

Here are five takeaways from the game.

1) Kobe Bryant owned the third quarter.
The night actually began in fairly unassuming fashion for The Mamba. Six shots were required for seven first-quarter points, and he turned the ball over twice. By halftime, he'd notched 14 points and appeared to have righted the ship, but an explosion didn't necessarily feel in the works. But if I've learned anything over the years, it's that an attempt to predict anything with Kobe is often an exercise in failure. To paraphrase Rowdy Roddy Piper, just when they think they know the answers, Bryant changes the questions.

Not that 24 going crazy over a 12 minute stretch is necessarily an unheard-of development, but this eruption nonetheless went from 0-60 in the blink of an eye.

Bryant's 18-point quarter was a "best of" showcase for his scoring prowess, which is always a treat for fans. Baby and long jumpers alike found bottom. A flyby was avoided at the rim, allowing him to convert a zippy feed inside from Pau Gasol at the rim. He backed down Jared Dudley in the lane, then spun, converting a reverse layup while absorbing contact. And then there was my favorite basket, a lefty hook shot launched between the circles after drifting left upon losing Grant Hill on a crossover. Absolutely gorgeous.

Even Kobe’s mishaps were spun into gold. An air-balled J landed in Gasol's hands, who proceeded to throw a no-look pass to set up Matt Barnes with an easy score at the rim. No harm, no foul. And as if to reassure us this roll was going to continue without a hitch, Bryant followed up that gaffe by drilling a transition three-ball after securing the rebound from a Marcin Gortat miss.

Bryant's third-quarter numbers -- 18 points on 8-for-12 shooting, three assists, four rebounds, a steal and zero turnovers -- helped push the lead to 20 late in the frame, and should have laid the foundation for a blowout victory. Unfortunately, as has been the case for this team throughout the season, easy living either ain't to their liking or consistently within their capabilities. That Kobe had to go to serious work to offset a fourth-quarter collapse against a (now) 12-19 visiting team is, on its best day, a disappointing development.

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Lakers vs. Suns: What to watch with Valley of the Suns

February, 17, 2012
2/17/12
7:08
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
Kobe Bryant does not like the Suns. So strong is his distaste and so deep his competitive nature, it wouldn't surprise me to learn Bryant resents the sun itself. The actual, rises in the east, sets in the west sun, like some sort of hoops vampire.

In Phoenix's first visit this season to Staples Center, Kobe dropped 48 points, shooting 18-of-31 from the floor. Another crack at the team he loves to hate could be the perfect elixir for his mini-shooting slump. In seven February games, Bryant is shooting only 37 percent and has seen statistical decline in just about every category.

Noah Graham/Getty Images
If the Suns are going to win Friday night, they'll need a big game from the underrated Marcin Gortat.


Certainly the Suns are a ripe target, having lost three straight going into Staples for the first half of a weekend home-and-home. And with dates against Portland, Dallas and Oklahoma City on the docket this week, the Lakers would be wise not to let the Suns off the mat. To gain a little more insight into Friday's visitors, we hit up Ryan Weisert of TrueHoop's Valley of the Suns.

1. The last time these teams met, the Lakers won in a walk. What has changed for the Suns since that day?

Weisert: This is really a question of good news and bad news. The good news: Since that game against the Lakers, Steve Nash has taken on a larger scoring load and earned an All-Star spot. Marcin Gortat has recovered from his early-season thumb injury to become a legitimate low-post scorer and double-double machine. The bad news: The bench has not developed at all. None of the free-agent acquisitions have played well consistently, and coach Alvin Gentry has yet to find a reliable second unit. The Suns have lost 13 of their last 21 games primarily because they just aren’t deep enough talent-wise to compete.

2. Gortat doesn't get a ton of publicity but has put up very solid numbers this season. Where does he rank among the league's crop of centers? How will he match up with Bynum in the middle?


Weisert: Gortat is definitely a top-10 center in the league and has the ability to be top 5. He is clearly behind Dwight Howard, but I think he is in the same class as Andrew Bynum, Al Jefferson, Greg Monroe and Marc Gasol. As the Suns leave their run-and-gun style behind and commit more to their half-court offense, Gortat’s scoring numbers and usage rate will increase and get him more recognition around the league. The matchup with Bynum should be a battle. Andrew’s size and shot-blocking definitely give him an edge, but Marcin’s ability to score with either hand and mobility on pick-and-rolls will make Bynum work hard on the defensive end.

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Lamar Odom's return emphasizes the holes left behind

January, 16, 2012
1/16/12
8:30
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive


It will be strange to see Lamar Odom take the floor Monday night in a Dallas Mavericks uniform, something not at all lost on his former teammates Sunday afternoon at practice. Not that the transition to Texas has been smooth. Odom's first 13 games wearing blue and green have been a disaster-- 6.8 points on 31 percent shooting, 5.0 rebounds, 1.4 assists and a career-low 20 minutes a night -- as Odom struggles not just with fitness or the hurt of being shipped out by the Lakers, but also a summer filled with tragedy.

This for a guy who at 32 already has absorbed more than a lifetime's worth of death and sadness.

Still, his slow start combined with L.A.'s relative success has, at least for some portion of the fan base, created a line of argument that the Lakers are better off without him. They're not. While Odom was definitely set for a step back from last year's Sixth Man of the Year performance regardless of the lockout or anything he endured in the offseason -- history suggests last season's high-end outside shooting was the exception, not the rule -- I suspect he'd be playing better with the Lakers than he is in Dallas. It might take a while, but eventually he'd round into useful form.

Regardless, Odom's return highlights the ways in which his absence has punched holes in the L.A. roster. Mitch Kupchak did a decent job this offseason with limited resources, signing Josh McRoberts and Troy Murphy to bolster the frontcourt, and adding Jason Kapono as a sniper. Still, Odom's production from last year (and, to a lesser degree, Shannon Brown's) hasn't been replicated, whether by any combination of the new players or by sliding Metta World Peace to the second unit.

Bench scoring for the Lakers is down from 27.7 points a game last year to 21.3 this season, while the group's efficiency differential has plummeted, as well. In a nutshell, the Lakers are getting very, very little production off the pine. Perhaps more importantly, Odom's departure also robbed the Lakers of their second-best shot creator and secondary ball handler, helping explain the corresponding rise in Kobe Bryant's workload not just as a scorer, but a facilitator as well.

The change in skill sets is one of a litany of other factors providing real obstacles to the group's improvement. Mike Brown hit on many in the clip above, following Sunday's practice. Two big ones:

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Shannon Brown relishes being Kobe's "little brother" and his time as a Laker

January, 10, 2012
1/10/12
3:40
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
Monday, I shared how, despite being competitively wired in a way that flirts with insanity, Kobe Bryant isn't looking forward to a potential mano y' mano with former teammate and current Phoenix Sun Shannon Brown. Kobe took Shannon under his wing from the moment he was traded to the Lakers, and the two developed a tight bond, as mentor and protege, plus good old fashioned friends. Thus, derailing Brown's success, even for just one game, isn't an enticing prospect.

Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images
Obi Wan Kenobi on the left, Luke Skywalker on the right.



"I don't like playing against my little brothers," said Bryant after Sunday's win against Memphis. "I don't like it. I watched him develop. I watched him grow. Taught him a lot of things. Those are always tough games for me."

I wondered, however, if Brown might view the situation differently. He is, after all, the student in this relationship, as well as the player with considerably more to prove. What better way to demonstrate just how far you've grown than holding your own -- or even besting -- your future Hall of Fame "big bro?" But as Shannon admitted during Tuesday's shootaround, those same conflicted emotions exist for him as well.

"It's almost kind of the same way," acknowledged Brown. "I don't want to have to steal the ball from him. I know he doesn't wanna have to steal it from me. The competitive part is still there, but you never want to see a person that you built a close, close relationship to fail in any type of way. Even though, if we win, we win, but [as far as] our personal relationship, it's kind of tough."

This situation lends Brown insight towards what goes through Pau Gasol's mind while matched up against Marc. "They've probably got scars and war wounds from they was young going at each other. But I can definitely understand the vibe and the feelings that nobody really wins, even though somebody wins."

This being "probably the first" relationship Shannon's ever had with a veteran superstar, those feelings get mixed even further.

"It's special for me, because him being the type of person he is, he didn't have to embrace me the way he did. He could have just helped me a little bit and then kept it an on-court relationship. But it went off the court and we built it into a friendship. I'm grateful for that, also."

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Brotherly love and the Lakers

January, 9, 2012
1/09/12
9:14
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
"I'm really proud of him. I'm sorry he didn't have a great shooting night, but the rest of the game, I think was incredible. He got 11 boards, seven assists, four steals, three blocks, no turnovers. I mean, that's as good as you can ask for any player in this league."

These comments came from Pau Gasol while discussing brother Marc's performance during Sunday's win over the Grizzlies, and what immediately caught my attention was how Pau rattled off those stats without looking at a sheet. The data was committed to memory, and presented with complete accuracy. Had Gasol immediate access to an advanced box score, which presents such fancy metrics like assist rate, true shooting percentage and points contributed, I wouldn't put it past him to know those numbers for Marc by heart as well.

Pau's never made any bones about the pride in his hermano's accomplishments, along with the mixed, difficult emotions accompanying competition against his younger brother.

But these feelings aren't necessarily limited to relationships in blood, nor people like Pau, as sensitive and introspective as any athlete I've ever covered. Take, for example, Kobe Bryant. It's not exactly a government secret the dude's competitiveness borders on blood thirst, and isn't quenched merely by collecting W's and jewelry. Kobe typically lives for the battle within the battle; the individual matchup. Bryant is often described as a fella who lives to pummel opposing wings, and it's an accurate description. Factor in how The Mamba routinely presents himself as unsentimental , and it stands to reason those lined up against him would be seen as raw meat to a lion, no questions asked.

Or perhaps not, based on his response when asked how much fun it'll be to have former teammate (and protege) Shannon Brown in the house on Tuesday against Phoenix.

"Not fun at all," said Bryant, shaking his head. "I don't like playing against my little brothers. I don't like it. I watched him develop. I watched him grow. Taught him a lot of things. Those are always tough games for me."

Does he expect to guard Brown?

"I really don't want to," reiterated Kobe. "It's like guarding my little brother. Him, Trevor [Ariza], all those guys. Those are tough games for me."

Family often finds a way to be wonderful and complicated at the same time.

Lakers sign Gerald Green ... and will likely keep looking around

December, 13, 2011
12/13/11
12:37
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
The Lakers announced the signing of former first-round pick/quick NBA washout Gerald Green. The terms are yet unknown, but I'll go out on a limb and predict it's of the "make good" variety.

I'll also go out on a limb and predict when Mitch Kupchak told us Monday he's looking to make deals big and small, this one falls into the latter category.

On paper, this signing makes perfect sense. Three things the Lakers could use are shooting guard depth behind Kobe Bryant, youth and athleticism. Green, 26, springy as all get out -- and technically speaking, a shooting guard -- provides all three. In particular, athleticism. Remember, not only did he win the dunk contest, he did so while blowing out a candle on a cupcake. Kinda like walking and chewing gum at the same time, except at a higher altitude and much, much harder.

Unfortunately, unless Mike Brown's offensive schemes involve a lot of baked goods, Green will be required to do more than just dazzle with hops and speed. And I'm not entirely convinced he can do it. I happened to be in Vegas last year when he was a part of the Lakers' Summer Pro League team, and his results were mixed, at best. Green can still dunk like something out of a video game, but in terms of basketball utility, he didn't bring much to the table.

Looking at his numbers, Green's shot 36 percent from behind the arc on his young career, so evidence of an ability to consistently spread the floor is low. He has a career assist-to-turnover ratio of .8/1.1, so either his handle, court vision, or both leave something to be desired. And I don't recall him a particularly effective defender. As we've learned with Shannon Brown, youth and athleticism are nice assets, but they don't always translate into great play on a basketball court.

In the meantime, Green's never played nearly as consistently well as Shannon.

Obviously, players can -- and sometimes even do -- improve as they get older, which perhaps will be the case with Green. And to his credit, I talked with him for a bit in Vegas, and he did sound like his overseas stints were an eye-opening, maturity-inducing experience. Maybe he's put in the work physically and mentally to turn the corner. It would be a great story, if nothing else. And again, the competition at two-guard, unless you're counting Devin Ebanks or Matt Barnes playing out of his natural position, is basically Andrew Goudelock, hardly a lock to make the team himself.

Still, I'm having a hard time picturing Green in a Laker uni beyond training camp. Or Kupchak not continuing to work the phone for guards.

PodKast: On Dwight Howard, Shannon Brown's future, and a Darius Morris interview

December, 3, 2011
12/03/11
5:24
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
Friday afternoon's press conference with Mitch Kupchak and Mike Brown produced many bits of buttery basketball nuggetry. Kupchak emphasized L.A.'s limitations in the upcoming free agent market, and made it pretty clear he expects Shannon Brown to sign elsewhere (if the goal is a substantial payday, at least). Mike Brown, among other things, dropped clues about how he'll use Kobe Bryant, discussed Derek Fisher's status as a starting point guard, and said the compressed training camp and regular season schedule means he won't be able to implement his system as thoroughly as he'd like.


Daniel Gluskoter/Icon SMI
Fans and media can't stop asking if Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant will be teammates in L.A.. We don't buck the trend.


Oh, and Matt Barnes said he's spoken to Dwight Howard, and he wants to come to Los Angeles. Can't imagine that'll fuel speculation.

In an effort to sort it all out, after it was over Andy and I hit the studio and recorded a fresh podcast, WHICH YOU CAN LISTEN TO BY CLICKING HERE.

We start by welcoming rookie point guard Darius Morris, selected with the 41st pick in last summer's draft, to the show. After establishing his proper height (listed three ways on draft day), he tells us how he spent his lockout lengthened offseason. Like all rookies, Morris was caught in limbo. No official support from his team, no income to rely on, no professional experience to reference. (6:52) Morris then answers questions about potential playing time, and what he missed this summer because of the labor problems. Losing access to coaches was disappointing, but Morris believes he gained a great deal by working out with other pros.

Finally, while Morris knows he has a great deal of work left in the interim (making the team, for example), he admits allowing his mind to wander towards Christmas.

After saying goodbye, we break down Kupchak's comments about free agency, and how he addressed questions about Howard (17:00). No surprise, Kupchak said nothing was on the front burner-- he wouldn't have told us, even if there was -- but how likely is it Howard moves somewhere before the start of the season, whether to the Lakers or another team? Andy thinks the odds are higher than I do, and explains why.

From there, it's on to Brown (23:47). After playing sound from Kupchak on the subject, we get into what it means. If he goes, who replaces him? What does losing Brown mean for the rest of L.A.'s roster bolstering mission? Who could they land? (27:00, give or take)

We wrap with Brown's comments on Kobe in the offense and ideas for the Mike Brown Suggestion Box. All of this, plus Karl Malone impressions and Duran Duran jokes!

To subscribe to the K-Bros podcast via iTunes, click here. Subscribe to our YouTube channel for full video coverage of the Lakers.

PodKast: Lockout R.I.P. and where the Lakers stand

November, 30, 2011
11/30/11
6:18
PM PT
By the Kamenetzky Brothers
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
***CLICK HERE TO LISTEN***

Did you hear? The lockout, she's over!

And with her demise, none too soon for support staff, fans, media, and players alike, comes the opportunity for analysis about real stuff that will have real impact on the team going forward. Things like...
To this light reading we add our first post-labor strife Land O'Lakers PodKast!

We start (3:00) with a little lockout postmortem. Who were the big winners and losers? Was it worth it for the players to hold out the way they did? From there (9:30) we ask if the core of the team -- meaning Kobe, Gasol, Lamar Odom, and Andrew Bynum-- is still good enough to win. We agree the answer is yes, but the margins are pretty thin as things stand right now. The Lakers need help. What should their priorities be, given how few tools they have available to add players to the roster (15:00).

Finally, we debate what to do with Shannon Brown (18:30).

Chat transcript

November, 30, 2011
11/30/11
8:04
AM PT
By the Kamenetzky Brothers
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
Thankfully, this week marked the return of actual basketball talk. Meaning heaps of questions about Dwight Howard and Chris Paul, but also Kobe Bryant, the offense, free agency, amnesty, Mike Brown, and more.

Here's the link to the transcript.

Shannon Brown, shooting guards, and backing up Kobe Bryant

November, 29, 2011
11/29/11
10:50
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
Mitch Kupchak is facing some tricky questions.

Without a lot of money to work with, the Lakers have critical holes to fill around a championship caliber core. Point guard gets most of the focus, though prospects for quick improvement are slim thanks to a lack of solid free agent options or suitable trade chips. They need a shooter, and must get a viable backup to Andrew Bynum at center. A little speed would be nice, as would a dose of athleticism.

Kelvin Kuo/US Presswire
Last year, Shannon Brown was Kobe's wingman at shooting guard. Will he return this year, or will the Lakers find another backup for 24?



If there's one more open question perhaps not getting enough attention, it's this: Who exactly is going to back up Kobe Bryant?

The significance is obvious. Extended lockout related rest and space age knee treatments notwithstanding, nobody in his right mind would want Bryant to build on the 33.9 minutes a game he played last season, his lowest mpg average since his second year in the league. Particularly given the potential stresses of a compressed schedule, and the desire to have Kobe on the floor during practice more than he's been in the last few seasons. On a per-minute basis, Bryant was more productive last year than the season before, and the way L.A. tempered his workload seems a likely contributing factor.

Last season, Shannon Brown was Bryant's primary relief. After opting out of his two-year contract, Brown is now a free agent, one the Lakers can re-sign despite being over the cap via Bird rights. There are many things to like about him. His athletic ability is almost freakish, no small consideration on a team lacking big time athletes. He's a tough kid who has played all 82 games in each of the last two seasons, is a willing defender, plays hard, works hard, and wants to get better. He's a guy most fans would like to see succeed.

On the other hand, Brown lacks a consistent handle, struggles getting to the rim to create his own shot, and too often makes curious decisions, whether via the pass or the dribble. Offensively, while he can finish spectacularly on the break, in the half court Brown is essentially a mid-to-long range jump shooter who doesn't make nearly enough of them. On the other end of the floor, for all his physical gifts, Brown is inconsistent, particularly as a team defender.

He's flirted with it, but over his last two seasons in Los Angeles, Brown has never quite been able to take that next step.

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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