Los Angeles Lakers: triangle

Kobe Bryant says Phil Jackson underappreciated

November, 14, 2012
11/14/12
12:16
AM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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LOS ANGELES -- Kobe Bryant may be at peace with Mike D'Antoni becoming the next head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, but he's not OK with the league's reluctance to embrace Phil Jackson.

Bryant said he hasn't spoken to Jackson since the Lakers chose to hire D'Antoni instead of the 11-time championship-winning coach, but he was outspoken about how Jackson and his assistant coaches have been underappreciated for their success.

"It seems like all our assistant coaches when they left here, to even mention the word 'Triangle' was like taboo," Bryant said after the Lakers' 84-82 loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday. "I don't understand it. I really don't know the answer to that question. It's very strange, very bizarre. You would think that organizations and other coaches should try to learn from Phil. That's what you should try to do, right? If you have a coach that's won more than anybody in our profession, you would think you'd want to study them and analyze them, but they haven't done it."

Bryant played under Jackson for 11 of Bryant's 17 seasons in the league and the pair won five championship rings together. When asked what parts of Jackson's coaching Bryant has carried with him since Jackson retired in 2011, Bryant replied, "Everything. I'm basically the Baby Zen Master."

D'Antoni will be the eighth head coach other than Jackson whom Bryant has played for in his career, joining the likes of Del Harris, Bill Bertka, Kurt Rambis, Rudy Tomjanovich, Frank Hamblen, Mike Brown and Bernie Bickerstaff.

"I probably wouldn't have learned the game to the depths that I know now," Bryant said when asked if he has ever thought what his career would be like without having been coached by Jackson.

And would he have won all those titles?

(Read full post)

Why Mike D'Antoni was the right choice

November, 12, 2012
11/12/12
6:49
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Give the Lakers credit. They never run out of ways to keep the world guessing. One day after giving Mike Brown a public vote of confidence, they send the guy packing. And then upon prepping everyone for the “Godfather Part III” installment of Phil Jackson in L.A. (“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!”), an audible is called for Mike D’Antoni, the man painted as the distant second choice. There’s a reason this franchise has flourished in Hollywood.

Given how “We want Phil” chants have echoed through Staples Center the past two days, I know this decision will leave many fans disappointed. Each of Jackson’s stints in L.A. have featured multiple championships, and this is a team built to immediately carry that tradition. In theory, what’s not to like?

However, something about hiring Jackson always struck me as overly familiar. Predictable. A bit too convenient. You could hear the wheels turning inside the heads of fans, media and players alike. "Phil is available. ... He lives in the South Bay. ... Eleven titles. ... Zen Master. ... Of course he's the guy."

Except, of course, most complex situations typically don't resolve in ready-made, neat solutions. And I wasn’t entirely convinced another go-round with Phil was quite the slam dunk most people thought.

To begin with, the seamless-return narrative was exaggerated. Only five current Lakers players have played under Jackson, and three had relatively short stints. A few notable highs notwithstanding, Metta World Peace’s time in PJ's system was, to say the least, turbulent. Steve Blake played one year under Jackson and was visibly uncomfortable in the triangle. During Devin Ebanks' lone campaign with Phil, the then-rookie rarely removed his warm-ups. Only Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol have truly flourished in the triangle. As Bryant noted after Friday's win, the 1999-2000 squad won a title in its first triangular season, but it was also loaded with veterans who spent years playing against Jackson's Chicago Bulls, which created some degree of familiarity. This 2012-13 roster wouldn't figure to benefit from that luxury.

There was also the issue of Steve Nash, who remains the same odd fit in the triangle as he was in the Princeton. Either the Hall of Fame point guard would have endured another learning curve in a system that doesn't cater to his style, or Jackson would have been forced to tweak his offense to accommodate a type of player he's never coached. Both approaches could have meant more heads bumping, and at least one reason Brown was fired was to avoid such a scenario.

It's also worth remembering that Jackson's last season with the Lakers didn't end particularly well, beyond just the second-round sweep at the hands of Dallas. As I wrote at the time, 2010-11 wasn't a strong season for Jackson. He had to be cajoled into returning, then throughout the season often seemed disconnected with players, unable to reach and motivate them. The team appeared less prepared than it should have been at key moments, and that lack of poise reared its ugly head during a playoff run that went from wobbly to disastrous. Too often Jackson relied too heavily on his established approach rather than venturing out of his comfort zone to address what clearly wasn’t working with the team. Truth be told, he appeared tired of the NBA grind, like a man who realized he might have made a mistake in returning.

(Read full post)

Gauging how the Lakers' offense might look under Mike Brown

November, 28, 2011
11/28/11
9:15
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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With the lockout now ended, we can actually examine questions beyond, "When will we see basketball again?" One topic, of course, is how the Lakers' offense will run under new coach Mike Brown. Since October 2005, we've seen this Lakers core run the triangle under Phil Jackson. Really, that system represents the Lakers' look since October 1999, save a brief period under Rudy Tomjanovich.

It's safe to say the aesthetics under Brown will be different.

How different, you ask?

Well, that's difficult to answer with real certainty. Since July 1, when the lockout began, access to Brown has been limited. When he has been available, league rules have prohibited him from speaking publicly about current players by name. Thus, specific details have been in short supply for quite some time. But we have been offered hints, along with some templates, to stoke our imaginations.

Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images
Did Timmy and The Admiral provide the foundation for similar success in L.A.?


During his introductory news conference, which took place before lips were zipped, Brown downplayed the shadow of the triangle. "A lot of people run bits and pieces of the triangle offense," he insisted. "It's just basketball. It's spacing. It's reads. Even Cleveland, we had some bits and pieces of it within our offense." For that matter, he predicted his offense "will have bits and pieces of it that will be incorporated and will be based on the skill set and the comfort level of our players that will determine how much of it will be part of our offense."

Having said that, Brown also added, "We're not gonna run the triangle offense."

So there you have it.

As for what Brown actually will run, a small nugget was introduced that same afternoon:

"A lot that I'm gonna take offensively will stem from the time I was with San Antonio. ... We had two big, skilled 7-footers in Tim Duncan and David Robinson. So we'll do something similar to what they did with a little sprinkle of the triangle offense and a little sprinkle of what I want to bring to the table, also. We'll kinda combine it. But offensively, I think you have to tailor your offense to your personnel. You can't take our offense from team to team to team."

On draft day, amid the Darius Morris/Andrew Goudelock hoopla, Brown expanded these details a bit, offering thoughts on the following:

The role of the point guard in what will presumably be a more traditional offense
“It will be an equal opportunity offense where the 1, the 2 or the 3 can bring the ball up. Because all the smalls are interchangeable. So it’s not going to be too much different, because in the past here they had multiple guys, even including Lamar [Odom], bring the ball up. But the one thing we like to emphasize, we like to emphasize attacking the clock. We want to get the ball from the backcourt to the frontcourt within the first four seconds or so, so that we can get to a second, a third and sometimes a fourth option without our backs being up against the shot clock. So we’d like to get the ball up the floor a little quicker than what we’ve done in the past.”

Whether Brown has an idea of how he wants to use Kobe Bryant
“Yes, I do. It fits into what I’m trying to do in our early offense. What I was saying is our early offense is going to be similar to what San Antonio did back when they had the two bigs in David and Tim. Again, there will be some bits and pieces of the triangle involved. But I think the triangle, it’s a motion offense for the most part, and a lot of people have bits and pieces of that within their offense. It won’t be any different for us, and we’ll make sure Kobe’s in his comfort zone, or his sweet spots out on the floor.”

(Read full post)

The Triangle: Changes under Mike Brown

September, 7, 2011
9/07/11
4:58
PM PT
By The Kamenetzky brothers
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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At some point, Mike Brown will take over after a long, extremely successful stint by Phil Jackson. How different will the Lakers be under Brown, whether on the court or in his relationships with players? The K Bros and 710 ESPN basketball analyst Dave Miller ponder a new world on the horizon.

PodKast: Roland Lazenby on Tex Winter, the Hall of Fame, Phil, Kobe and more

August, 12, 2011
8/12/11
10:22
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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On Friday, the Basketball Hall of Fame will induct its 2011 class. Among those honored will be Tex Winter, best known as the longtime assistant coach to Phil Jackson, and the architect of what became known as the triangle offense. In addition to shaping a system at the center of 11 championships for the Bulls and Lakers, Winter also enjoyed success as a head coach in the college ranks, most notably with Kansas State University. (Similar to coaches in the era of PJ's Bulls and Lakers, Winter had the unfortunate luck of running into Wilt Chamberlain at Kansas and the John Wooden dynasties.)

PODCAST
Andy talks with basketball historian Roland Lazenby about newly inducted Hall of Fame member Tex Winter, his relationship with Phil Jackson, Kobe Bryant and Dennis Rodman, and the current state of the Lakers.

Podcast Listen
In the eyes of seemingly everyone -- save the HOF voters, of course -- a spot in Springfield has been a given for the former USC player. Nonetheless, Winter has endured a painfully long wait. Thankfully, the honor has arrived in time for Tex, in poor health, to enjoy the ceremony in person.

For more perspective on Winter's career, I spoke with basketball historian and author Roland Lazenby. A longtime friend of Winter's, Lazenby shared thoughts on Tex's innovative nature, his relationships with Jackson, Kobe Bryant, and fellow 2011 class member Dennis Rodman, plus his take on the current state of the Lakers.

The entire interview can be heard by clicking the box to the right, but here are some choice quotes:

On the roots of Tex's and Phil's relationship and why it flourished:

"It was a series of things. First of all, Phil's great mind. The fact that Tex is everybody's uncle. That he has a tremendous enthusiasm for the game. It's boundless. That may be his greatest gift. And then the third thing, they were brought together to coach the Bulls summer league team. Tex had first become alerted to Phil even before they coached that team when Phil came in as this guy who'd been an NBA player. He'd been in the CBA. Phil had to do the advanced scouting. Tex was blown away and this takes a lot, because Tex is really hard to impress. Phil would come back with these incredibly detailed scouting reports. They were immaculate.

"And then as Tex got to know him, they coached together, he began to see that Phil possessed this total recall. I mean, the guy could remember all kinds of things. It was just unbelievable. Tex told me that Phil had total recall virtually on every moment of his career. Playing and coaching.

"They had this symbiotic relationship. Their personalities are very different. Tex is this very willful, excitable person who is just so obsessed with his offense. And Phil was just this very bright guy who could process everything. Tex, having had years in college coaching, had this ability to jump in and confront players and say, 'No, you're not doing this right!' L.A. fans are very aware of Tex's clashes with Shaq because Tex wanted everything so precise and that just wasn't Shaq's nature. So they formed this relationship where Tex was the teacher. For years together, Tex was teaching Phil. Breaking down game film for him. Organizing his practices for him. Doing all these things. And then confronting the players when they needed to be corrected. He did a lot of that. More of that in the early years than in the later years, of course."

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images
No, you da man, Tex.



On the sometimes complicated nature of the relationship:

"It grew more complicated once Phil got to Los Angeles. He really became a popular culture figure in Los Angeles and a lot of people worshiped him. And Phil changed a bit . . . I think Tex for a while was worried that Phil was trying to sort of mute the influence Tex had on him. I think Phil has been very generous in a lot of ways, but there's no question. It's not like it's all about Tex or it's all about Phil. It was just a perfect meeting of some very special minds and some very special people. This is just about all of them getting their due."

On Kobe Bryant's longstanding admiration for Winter:

"I was rebounding some free throws for Kobe. He was there with those Lakers teams with Del Harris. He was a lost and lonely puppy and he told me he'd always dreamed of having Tex Winter as his coach. Not Phil Jackson. Kobe told me Tex Winter. He knew that he was bound for greatness. As he told me, he didn't know how he was gonna get there, but he knew that having Tex as his Yoda, as Kobe likes to call him, was the key. He wanted Tex's phone number. Tex was an assistant coach for the Bulls.

Tex called Kobe and he said, 'You know, all of your concern about the lack of organization with the Lakers is dead on. Yes, everybody is giving you this grief and you're impulsive, you're a young guy. But you really do have to have a system of play to sort out this modern NBA environment where the defenses are so physical. The defenses clearly for a number of years got the upper hand in the NBA."

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Q & A about Ettore Messina with Os Davis, BallinEurope.com

June, 6, 2011
6/06/11
10:10
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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During his introductory presser, Mike Brown acknowledged European coach Ettore Messina -- who most recently coached for Real Madrid and won Euroleague titles with Virtus Bologna and CSKA Moscow -- would be among those considered for his coaching staff. Well, according to ESPN The Magazine's Ric Bucher, Messina has been tabbed to join next season's staff, though while he'll be listed as an assistant coach, Messina's job will be more of a consultant. Whether his duties are similar to Tex Winter's former role with the Lakers or the responsibilities are more expansive remains to be seen. Also, nothing is official yet, thus a Laker spokesperson when asked didn't confirm the report.

Either way, Lakers Nation has its collective eye on Messina, so I reached out to Os Davis from BallinEurope.com (TrueHoop network), who was kind enough to answer some questions. As luck would have it, Davis is equally familiar with the current incarnation of the Lakers as he is Messina's career overseas, making his perspective that much more valuable. Here's what Davis had to say about Messina.

Land O' Lakers: How would you describe Messina’s offense/system? More half court or wide open? What’s the tempo? Does it have any principles or characteristics of the triangle?


AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic
Can Messina's success overseas translate to a winning NBA coaching staff?


Os Davis: Messina’s teams tend to play quite a slow tempo relative to that of most European leagues, particularly in Spain’s ACB, where Messina was for the past two seasons with Real Madrid and where the floor is wide open. Of course, there are exceptions to this. His 2005-06 CSKA Moscow squad could go into fourth gear early and run the court for the entire match. (Of note, too, is that this team was the ultimate fruit of Mikhail Prokhorov’s business labor, that CSKA dominated defensively in both the Euroleague and Russian Super League, and that Messina was named Euroleague coach of the year.) But the general rule on a Messina team is a slow tempo, half-court game on both sides of the ball.

Probably one of the bigger disappointments in his career -- and surely a source of extreme pressure on Messina from club management -- was Real Madrid’s inability over the past two seasons to get past rivals FC Barcelona. Despite the fact the seriously flexible system of player movement among top European clubs made the 2009-10 Madrid roster a revolving door throughout the season, Messina & Co. just couldn’t find the right combination of quick big men to counter Barcelona’s relentless attack and ability to open the floor at will.

In addition to his preference in the half-court, Laker fans will certainly be cheered by Messina's specialty of working with the post. Nobody in Europe, where frontcourts tend to be notably smaller but the bigs typically have the complete skill set in shooting, really employs anything like a triangle offense. But if Mike Brown was serious when he implied that some stuff with the triangle would remain in the playbook, you can bet that some of those Gasol-Bynum double post plays will have been tweaked/modified/perfected with Messina’s input.

Messina is also known for his defensive schemes, but again, this might not necessarily be adaptable to NBA play, as European teams basically always run zones.

LO'L: Would the Lakers roster as constructed flourish in Messina’s system? Are there areas where they might be lacking?

OD: If only they could send Derek Fisher back in time a few years, he’d be the ideal Messina point guard -- thrives in the half-court, best at setting up plays there and starting them off, etc. It will be interesting to see what Shannon Brown might learn under Messina’s tutelage.

Of course, one relationship that all will be watching is how Messina gets on with Pau Gasol. Can an All-Star get better? With his Continental resume and his most recent experience in Spain, Messina just might be the man to fully exploit all of Gasol’s many (and from this perspective, distinctly European) skills. Andrew Bynum taking tips on defense and post play from Messina? That’ll work. And as a big Derrick Caracter fan, I think he could be one to watch developing under Messina.

As for Kobe, Messina has coached some top stars, including Theo Papaloukas and some guy named Manu Ginobili, while employed in Europe and surely he has enough wisdom to handle the biggest name he'll have worked with.

Areas in which the Lakers are lacking, as you probably reckon too, are age and speed. I think any head coach, assistant coach or consultant might like to get a bit of help for these problems.

(Read full post)

Steve Blake exit interview: Video

May, 10, 2011
5/10/11
10:16
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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In the time I've spent around Steve Blake this season, the word I'd best use to describe him would not be "chatty." He's a pretty quiet fellow, not one inclined to attract a reporter circle after every game or even just make small talk. Thus, I anticipated his meet and greet wouldn't be much of a gabfest.

Just a slight understatement.

Blake's time in front of the gathered media lasted less than three minutes. And that's including the time allotted for our questions, plus the awkward silence before the interview was deemed concluded. He clearly wasn't in the mood to talk, in particular about the details of his meeting with Phil Jackson and Mitch Kupchak. His obvious inability to discover a comfort throughout the season was acknowledged, but Blake felt his familiarity with teammates would help next year, regardless of whether or not the triangle remained the offense du jour.

ESPNLA.com's The Triangle

December, 31, 2010
12/31/10
9:34
AM PT


Andy Kamenetzky, Dave Miller, and Beto Duran debate the latest news surrounding the Lakers: Kobe Bryant's post-Christmas message to his teammates, an evaluation of what has gone wrong and how serious the problems are, and which Western Conference teams represent the biggest dangers going forward.

Plus, your weekly dose of Seen and Heard.


What's going wrong for the Lakers

December, 29, 2010
12/29/10
11:33
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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The Lakers aren't just mired in a three-game losing streak. As Brian noted earlier, this particular skid is chock full of disturbing numbers. But really, this nadir is the tip of the iceberg for a team trending downward over the last few weeks. In losses or even wins, the Lakers haven't looked sharp and appear increasingly out of sorts.

With that in mind, I thought it was worth taking a look at some lingering issues as to why the train appears to have gone off the rails. The problems are correctable -- although the team is officially on the clock -- but these are some of the trouble spots:

Pau Gasol's inconsistency

Michael Hickey/US Presswire
Gasol hasn't been dominating around the
rim with ease this season.



It's been a strange season for Gasol. Over the first 10 or so games, he was regarded as a potential MVP candidate. Then Theo Ratliff joined Andrew Bynum on the shelf, which left Pau on the verge of collapse from playing 40-plus minutes most nights. Bynum is back but Gasol remains out of sorts, with performances ranging from outstanding (in Chicago) to worse than the stat sheet would indicate (Christmas Day).

Phil Jackson's cryptic comments about Gasol's indecisiveness and "soft" releases make it difficult to know if his problem is mental, physical or both. (Jackson declined my request to elaborate.) Still, Jackson's statement that Pau's game "has to be effective for us to be consistently good" couldn't be more correct. More than anybody, including Kobe Bryant, Gasol is the difference between the Lakers being good or borderline unbeatable. Beyond the numbers, it's his skills as a triangular conduit, which are even tougher to combat than Bryant's. (Plus, running the offense through Pau makes life easier for Kobe, which in turn makes 24 deadlier.)

For the Lakers to reestablish their identity, Gasol needs to rediscover his.

(Read full post)

The Triangle: Inside the Lakers

November, 26, 2010
11/26/10
8:09
AM PT
video

Brian Kamenetzky, Andy Kamenetzky, and Dave McMenamin discuss the hottest topics surrounding the Lakers.

A learning moment for Derrick Caracter

October, 14, 2010
10/14/10
8:04
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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With 4:23 remaining in the fourth quarter of Wednesday's 98-95 win over the Sacramento Kings, Derrick Caracter found himself at the center of an intriguing sequence. Steve Blake just finished worming his way through traffic towards the left baseline, then zipped a pass under the basket to the rookie along the opposite baseline. Wide open from eleven feet out, Caracter raised up, then briefly but noticeably hesitated before letting fly.

Nothing but bottom.

Caracter's jumper created a 90-80 lead and prompted Kings coach Paul Westphal to call time out.

It was a big sequence for the UTEP product, who'd missed his previous three attempts from the floor. But more than a shot Caracter needed to make, clean look at the hoop and such, it was a shot he needed to take. And for a second, it looked like he'd either pass it up or wait long enough for a Sacto defender to effectively challenge. All's well that ends well, but a happy result appeared momentarily jeopardized.

I asked Caracter afterward what led to the hesitation, and as I suspected, the culprit was uncertainty:

"Just thinking about the offense. Still being out there as a rookie. Trying to learn the offense. Sometimes I just catch myself thinking more than I actually have to."

(Read full post)

As part of our look ahead at the Lakers' projected roster next season, we continue to work our way from the bottom to the top of the rotation. Next up...


Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
It remains to be seen whether Walton will be
healthy enough next season to help facilitate
the offense.



Player
Luke Walton

Salary
$ 5.26 million

Role for 2010-2011

The quintessential "your guess is as good as mine" crap shoot. Never a strong bet to go a season without an injury, 2010 was a particularly bruised affair for Walton. A bad back limited him to a career-low 29 games, with stats mirroring that valley nearly across the board. During his exit interview, Luke expressed hope surgery could be avoided, but to the best of my knowledge, a date with the knife hasn't been ruled out. Mitch Kupchak drafted Devin Ebanks in part as insurance should the seven-year veteran miss a large chunk of time. Since then, Kupchak has expressed concern Walton could miss the entire 2011 season. Hence, the signing of Matt Barnes.

Backs can be difficult to treat and even harder to predict. They can be set off by anything from hard contact to a sneeze to just sleeping funny. One day you feel great. The next day, horrible. But whatever lack of progress for Walton since last preseason (when this ailment first surfaced) hasn't been for lack of trying. Or lack of desire to carry his weight. I can say with absolute certainty Luke's not the kind of player content to simply cash an unearned check. He was quite unhappy and frustrated by this turn of events.

Unfortunately, the same experience could be on tap next season.

(Read full post)

Ron Artest is not a two-sport athlete

July, 26, 2010
7/26/10
6:55
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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As evidenced by his appearance with Team Zankou Chicken from the Melrose "A" Mazing League. (A branch of the World Dodgeball Society, as if I needed to tell you that.) Under most circumstances, a professional athlete popping by to compete among the amateur rank and file would draw "Ringer!" protests. But beyond the fact Ron's a Laker and who would tell the Game 7 hero to scram, it's quickly obvious why the TZC opposition didn't argue his participation.

Dude is a pretty shoddy dodgeball player.

His aim is often way errant. He catches like the dodgeball version of Kwame Brown. And if you thought Ron looked uncomfortable and hesitant at times in the triangle, that's nothing compared to how out of place he looks in TZC's system. (Similar to many a Laker game, when Artest isn't sure what to do, he drifts to the outside and stands around.) Plus, 6'7" and 250 isn't exactly the ideal height and weight for evading tosses. But it looks like Artest and everyone else had fun, which is all that matters.

Actually, having fun and grabbing some chicken after the match is all that matters. The Zankou fare is delish.



Hat tip to You Been Blinded and Ball Don't Lie.
Heading into the Western Conference Finals against the Suns, I wrote about Jordan Farmar's progression (or lack thereof) since his surprise promotion to starter for the 2007 playoffs against Phoenix. Our conversation for the article reinforced a lot of what we've heard from Farmar over the last couple of seasons. He's not wild about the triangle or his place in a system preventing him from having the ball in his hands for large chunks of possessions. He hasn't been griping to the media, but he's definitely dissatisfied playing off the bench in a limited role. In the meantime, the coaching staff hasn't always been enamored with his play or his attitude.

I've often predicted Jordan's time with the Lakers will have the end date of June 30, 2010 due to mutual disinterest. After Farmar's exit interview, I'm more convinced than ever he'll be with another team next season. The restricted free agent obviously refrained from committing one way or another, but the criteria laid out for a decision presented the odds of returning as fairly small:

"I really want to see what kind of player I can be in this league," explained Farmar. "I know I can do a lot. I know I can lead a team. For me in my career, I've always played at a championship level, so I definitely want to win and that's important to me. But I don't know if I could look back at the end of my career, if I didn't get a chance to see that type of player I can really be. So this free agency is kind of what is it geared for towards for me. I want to check that out and see the situation, whether it be here or elsewhere, where I can really see what I can do."

Well, between the presences of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Ron Artest, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom, Farmar's role in the foreseeable future will only grow so much. Factor in a seemingly good chance Derek Fisher will be re-signed (I've personally never believed otherwise) and he still may not even be able to crack the starting lineup, and next season appears even more a Xerox in the making. Then again, he's a role player with two rings and a shot at more, so there's the trade-off. How do you balance that?

"It's tough," admitted Farmar. "I think for my career, I need to establish myself as somebody who can lead a team and play big minutes and being a lead guard. I think that desire to want to do more comes all the time, especially having won two championships early in my career. I think it's really important. Looking back, I'll really be happy with these championships, but I really want to push myself to the limit. I've always done that, to try to push myself to be better and better."

Farmar's an L.A. native who's played his entire career from the high school-level onward in the City of Angels. Career aspirations understood and appreciated, I wondered if he was nonetheless ambivalent about leaving the only roundball town he knows.

Not so much.

"Outside of the Lakers, I like that idea. I love L.A. I think it's good for somebody to get away sometimes. My friends and family have been great, and they've had a chance to be close and be around this whole experience and learn and grow. I have a family of my own starting, and that's where my heart and my head is. We're gonna be together no matter where we're at. I think that's comfortable for me and us. I have a little one on the way. A lot of good things are going for me. I'm just looking forward to the rest of your life."

Like I said, ain't the signals of a dude with plans to stick around.

(Read full post)

The obvious Western Conference Finals storyline is the Lakers attempting to exact revenge on the Suns for first round exits in 2006 and 2007. The former series saw the Lakers become just the eighth team in NBA history to blow a 3-1 lead. The latter featured one Laker victory. Now the Lakers are the consensus favorites and the Suns are the respected underdog, so the story has been turned on its ear.

But like most great tales, there's a B-plot. The story within the story. And that's where Jordan Farmar fits in.

The Lakers backed into the 2007 playoffs 4-6 run after final 10 regular season games. Cohesion was minimal, and with Kwame Brown, Mo Evans, Lamar Odom and Luke Walton nursing injuries, so was health. Plus, they just weren't that great a team. An active imagination was needed envision victory. Because of these realities, the series itself contained little genuine intrigue (although Kobe's radio tour aftermath certainly made up for it). Still, this anticlimactic affair featured one interesting wrinkle. Smush Parker had become a lethargic basket case, so Phil Jackson made a drastic decision 80 games into the season and promoted rookie Jordan Farmar.

Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images
Farmar spent a lot of the 2007 playoffs
chasing Nash, but it was a growing
experience.


Matching playoff wits against Steve Nash is a challenge for seasoned veterans, much less a newbie averaging 15 minutes per game. The kid was clearly overmatched and after a solid Game 1, steadily faded. Still, there's no shame in getting outplayed by a two-time MVP, and it was a positive experience for the point guard.

"It was cool," said Farmar while recounting the experience at a recent practice. "I want to be a starter all the time. My whole career. So it was great for me. I got a chance to get out there at the beginning and play the game a little differently. More comfortable in the situation."

As Farmar noted, starting's always the goal, and to many, this series represented a signpost moment for his eventual career as the Lakers' starting point guard. Even with the offseason acquisition of Derek Fisher, it was only a matter of time before the reins were passed from a (then) 34 year-old to his protege.

Three seasons later, Jordan remains Fisher's backup. More notably, he hasn't made headway in taking the gig, despite L.A.'s obvious need for an heir apparent. I asked Farmar if this was a disappointment development in his career.

"Yeah. I mean, that's what I want for my career. I'm all about winning, so given my role on this team, I accept it wholeheartedly and try to do my best to help us win a championship. That's my obligation to the team and to the organization. At the same time, in my personal career, as my career goes on, I want to make strides to progress in my career. From that point, it's kind of gone up and down a little bit. I want to continue to keep getting better, to keep getting more opportunities. I really want to run a team."

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SPONSORED HEADLINES

TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Kobe Bryant
PTS AST STL MIN
24.6 4.9 1.4 35.4
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Hill 8.2
AssistsK. Bryant 4.9
StealsR. Price 1.5
BlocksE. Davis 1.2