Los Angeles Lakers: Troy Murphy

L.A.'s needs look very familiar

June, 7, 2012
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky

Gary A. Vasquez/US Presswire
When Chris Paul ended up in the wrong Staples Center locker room, the Lakers' plans for the 2011-12 season hit a major snag.

At this point one year ago, the Lakers were well into their offseason, having been swept out of the second round by the (eventual champion) Dallas Mavericks. At that point, we outlined five major areas of need heading into the 2011-12 season.

12 months later, after again bowing out (or being bowed, more accurately) in the second round, again in lopsided fashion this time by Oklahoma City, it's worth looking back at those five problem areas to see how well they were addressed. The answers aren't instructive simply in terms of giving the front office crew of Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss a grade (though that's been the theme over the last 10 days or so), but also showing the challenges they face going forward.

How many items were effectively crossed off last offseason's to-do list?

1. Outside shooting.

Among the many ugly, indelible memories of the 4-0 pasting against the Mavs in 2011 was watching the Lakers clang shot after shot from beyond the arc. 15-of-76 overall, for a go-ahead-and-try-this-at-home-because-you-wouldn't-be-any-worse 19.7 percent. The spectacularly poor marksmanship left fans pining for the salad days of the regular season, when the Lakers' 35.2 3-point percentage merely made them below average (tied for 17th).

This season, the Lakers again fell short from the perimeter in the playoffs, hitting only 28.2 percent of their 3-pointers against the Thunder.Disappointing, but unfortunately not far off their 32.6 regular season mark, meaning nothing about the way L.A. shot against OKC was fluky. Throughout the year the Lakers had little floor stretching capability, limiting space inside for their high end post game or lanes for dribble penetration. Help defenders could collapse on the ball whenever it entered the paint, comfortable nobody on the perimeter would make them pay.

Jennifer Stewart/US Presswire
Yeah, so this didn't work out.

The Lakers hoped to improve their shooting in a few ways, starting internally. Steve Blake's 37.8 mark in 2010-11 was below the bar he'd set in the three seasons previous, for example. From there, they signed Jason Kapono and Troy Murphy to veteran's minimum contracts. How'd it go? Blake's percentage actually dropped this year, to 33.5 percent. In extremely limited run, Kapono went for 29.6 percent, then was tossed into the deadline day deal with Cleveland bringing in Ramon Sessions. Murphy actually hit a respectable 41.8 percent, but didn't play enough to make an impact.

One bright light, at least until the playoffs, was Sessions, who hit 48.6 percent of his 3's in 23 games post trade. Overall, though, the guys taking the most triples game to game (Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, and Blake particularly) were wildly inefficient. The Lakers clearly didn't fix the problem, meaning perimeter shooting -- genuine leave open at your own risk perimeter shooting -- remains a screaming neon need this summer.

2. Point guard productivity.

In 2010-11, Lakers point guards (Blake and Derek Fisher) scored less than any other combo in the league, at 10.9 points a game, and only generated 4.9 assists.

That had to change, particularly after shifting away from the triangle towards a more traditional point guard driven, pick-and-roll offense under Mike Brown. This season there was some improvement, as the Lakers PG's boosted their output to 14.9 points and 6.5 assists. Still their efficiency differential was again just off the bottom of the barrel.

But while the final numbers weren't ideal, the front office hardly ignored the issue.

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2011-2012 report card: Josh McRoberts

May, 26, 2012
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
If you're a reserve looking to become a fan favorite, a recent blueprint has been firmly established. You can be a relentless hustler who pursues every loose ball and relishes the dirty work, ala Ronny Turiaf and Josh Powell. You can be a highlight dunk waiting to happen, ala Shannon Brown. Or you can be both, ala Josh McRoberts this season, at least for a while. With his high socks and higher elevation, the energizer bunny began the season as the reserve fans looked most forward to see check into a game. (Adding to the fun was the way he shattered some stereotypes. Nobody expects much athleticism from big white players, much less big white players from Duke. As it turns out, McRoberts ain't Cherokee Parks 2.0, and not simply because his body isn't a mural.)

Brett Deering/Getty Images
McRoberts was fun to watch above the rim.

McRoberts' first season wasn't all fun and games, however. Like every member of the bench, he was yanked in and out of the rotation, often unsure of when he'd enter the game and for how long. As time went on, his limitations were also driven home. At his best, McRoberts resembles something of a poor man's Lamar Odom (or as the Dallas Mavericks called such a player this season, "Lamar Odom.") Another lefty with a surprisingly good handle for somebody 6'10", McRoberts isn't quite the playmaker on the break as LO, but he's capable of taking a defensive rebound past halfcourt, and from a halfcourt set actually passes the ball very well. Unfortunately, that's also where the comparison basically ends. As a scorer, McRoberts' range is more or less the rim. Unless putting back an offensive rebound or dunking, the guy provides no ability to spread the floor or even a presence worth guarding. And while his 24/7 effort is commendable, it didn't always translate into quality defense.

The day McRoberts was signed, I asked Jared Wade of the Eight Points, Nine Seconds blog for a scouting report on McRoberts. Among other things, he told me this:


What grade would you give Josh McRoberts?


Discuss (Total votes: 3,336)

Like the vast majority of players in the league, the best way to maximize his contribution is simply not to ask too much of him. He'll hustle, get some dunks, get some boards, and do little things. If you ask for him to be a prominent part of the offense, or a defensive stopper, he'll let you down.

Sounds about right.

50 games, 14.4 mpg, 2.8 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 1 apg, .4 bpg, .475 FG

McRoberts wasted no time making a strong impression while filling in for a suspended Andrew Bynum. Eight rebounds were pulled down in the season opener against Chicago. Three games later, he scored a season-high 10 against the Knicks, with two blocks and three steals thrown in for good measure. Kobe Bryant praised on a few occasions the team's early-season gritty vibe as a byproduct of adding McRoberts. Josh also developed a fast alley-oop chemistry with Steve Blake, which led to Lakers fans puffing out their chests about their own "Lob City." On a few occasions, the big lug opted to play the enforcer role in defense of a teammate, always a crowd-pleaser.

A strong start was thwarted by a January toe injury that sidelined McRoberts for six games. February and the first half of March was spent out of the rotation altogether, as Mike Brown opted to run with a floor-stretching Troy Murphy as the primary reserve big man. After winning back the gig in late-March, he eventually lost it again to Jordan Hill heading into the playoffs.

Prospects for 2012-13
Mitch Kupchak warned big changes could be afoot, and if Pau Gasol and even Andrew Bynum aren't immune to relocation, one can safely assume McRoberts isn't untouchable. The need for his services in L.A. will be dictated by a lot of variables. Will Gasol and/or Bynum be traded? If so, will an incoming big man be part of the haul? Will Hill be resigned? What are the projected minutes available for Josh? Should he be deemed expendable, a $3 million expiring contract makes him reasonably easy to trade or package into a larger deal.

McRoberts ultimately provided as advertised upon getting signed, and he can't be heavily docked for being the player he's supposed to be. But the inability to rise above expectations often left the Lakers wanting, and perhaps even searching this offseason. They could do worse than McRoberts, but perhaps better as well.


Previous 2011-12 report cards:

2011-12 Report Card: Troy Murphy

May, 26, 2012
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
It seemed like a good enough idea at the time. The Lakers had very little money to spend, and needed a guy capable of simultaneously stretching the floor and being tall.

Rocky Widner/Getty Images
Troy Murphy became less a factor as the season progressed.

Enter Troy Murphy. Through stints in Golden State and Indiana, five times he averaged a double-double, and as recently as the 2009-10 season put up 14.6 points and 10.2 rebounds, shooting 38.4 percent from 3, the fourth straight year he'd hovered around 40 percent from downtown. Yes, his 2010-11 campaign was a total disaster and even in his best seasons Murphy was, shall we say, suboptimal defensively, but like clothing from less reputable outlet malls, players found sifting through the veteran's minimum bin all come with blemishes.

If it worked, the Lakers would get plenty of bang for just over a million of their bucks. If not, they didn't spend much to fail. So how did it go?


59 games: 3.2 points per game, 3.3 rebounds, .9 assists, 41.8 3-point percentage over 16.2 minutes.


In one important respect, Murphy performed as advertised. That would be 3-point shooting. He hit half of his attempts in January, including a 4-of-4 night against the Bobcats on the 31st. He followed up with a perfectly respectable 38.7 mark in February. He had nine rebounds in 24 minutes in an overtime win over the Celtics in Boston.



What grade would you give Troy Murphy?


Discuss (Total votes: 3,364)

Like most of the players on Mike Brown's fairly ragtag bench, Murphy's place in the rotation was written in pencil, not ink. After averaging almost 23 minutes a game in February, Murphy's playing time diminished considerably. In March, it was down to 12 minutes, and while April was back to 13.8, in 11 of the 14 games he played less than 12 minutes, or not at all. In the postseason, Murphy barely left the bench. Not that his productivity merited a lot more burn. Murphy's rebound rate (11.2) was a career low, as was his scoring on a per minute basis (though in fairness, as his career low usage rate attests, Murphy wasn't exactly a featured cog in L.A.'s attack). Mostly, though, Murphy's defensive shortcomings limited his minutes.


Murphy is a free agent, and won't be back.


For a decent stretch of the season, he knocked down enough 3's to justify some of his floor time, but overall he couldn't reclaim the higher end form of years past. Maybe the fit wasn't right, or maybe injuries had sucked away too much of his already scarce athleticism. Whatever the cause, Murphy never fully regained old form.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Last season, even with eventual 6MOY Lamar Odom leading the way, the most reliable element offered by the Lakers' bench was unreliability. With LO in Dallas, the bench predictably floundered most of this season, but slowly experienced an uptick in effectiveness (if not raw numbers) as the trade deadline approached. Enter Ramon Sessions and his instant chemistry with Matt Barnes and Josh McRoberts, and the reserves suddenly resembled a credible unit. When Sessions inevitably was tabbed to start, I was optimistic Steve Blake, who looked stiff as a cadaver among the starters as a transparent place-holder, would regain his comfort level quarterbacking the reserves. Assuming that theory was correct, the second unit might suffer a dip losing the more talented player in Sessions, but would play well enough to avoid being a liability.

As it turns out, we're back to square one. The reserves have regressed to their collectively non-scoring ways. Any lead is jeopardized every time the Lakers roll largely with substitutes. And Blake is way out of sorts, which to me is the single-biggest reason this group is floundering. I asked Mike Brown what he has seen in the point guard that could explain his struggles.

"I haven't specifically asked him about it," Brown said. "I just want him to keep trying to be aggressive and keep trying to run the team in the same breath. The one thing I told him is I'm OK with you being aggressive more than anything else. I thought he played well at the beginning of the season and then he got hurt. And then he came back in basically the same role and there was a stretch where he didn't play as well and he really hasn't consistently gotten back to where he was in the beginning of the year.

"More than anything else, I think it's just him being confident and aggressive is going to play a huge role in that. The last couple of games, I thought he tried to be aggressive. Now, he hadn't made shots yet, but some of the things that he's doing out on the floor have helped a lot in my opinion."

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Ask a hundred Lakers fans to list the ways the Lakers can improve themselves before the postseason, and most will start with a trade. Getting a gettable, non-elite-but-damn-helpful piece, like Ramon Sessions and/or Michael Beasley to shore up the point and frontcourt, respectively, or flipping a prime chip like Pau Gasol or Andrew Bynum for elite-level talent. Something where the Lakers use assets to get assets.

World Peace
World Peace
Others, though far fewer than a month ago, would look to a street free agent like Gilbert Arenas.

There is one more way: For guys already on the roster to pick up their production. As much as it might give folks the heebie-jeebies to put their eggs in his basket, the best candidate (thanks both to his skill set and abysmal early-season performance) is Metta World Peace. It's not really a question of his defensive prowess, though obviously he can make a major impact on that end. The Lakers are already an elite-level team in the half court, rated third in points per possession by Synergy (.817). Where they break down is in transition (1.14 ppp, 21st in the NBA), in part because of their two 7-footers but more thanks to an offense that, for much of the year, has turned the ball over, launched awkward shots and fueled the other team's break.

A major offender was World Peace, who showed up to camp out of shape, made only two of his first 27 3-pointers and shot a shocking 27.5 percent from the floor during a December in which he averaged only 3.6 points a game. February didn't start with a bang, either, with just four points a night on 23 percent shooting through the six-game Grammy trip.

That's a special kind of bad.

Slowly, though, as Metta has rounded into form less round, his play has improved. Sunday's 17-point outburst against the Heat was his best game of the year, but not totally out of the blue. Over his past five games, he's averaged 10.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.6 steals, shooting 50 percent overall (18-for-36) and 47 percent from downtown (8-for-17). A small sample size, no doubt, but real production nonetheless. Combined with an uptick in his defensive consistency, the return of some of that old Ron Artest style swagger, and claims to be healthier than he's been in a while, the past week or two has been good enough reason to at least entertain the idea MWP can be a positive contributor the rest of the way.

Optimism under heavy guard, so to speak.

(Read full post)

Lakers grades at the All-Star break

February, 25, 2012
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Nothing has come easily for Mike Brown, Kobe Bryant, and the Lakers.

Thursday's loss in Oklahoma City means the Lakers enter the All-Star break at 20-14 (congratulations to anyone winning the office pool), 1.5 games back of the Clippers in the Pacific, and good enough for the fifth seed in the Western Conference. And a hectic 34 games it has been. There has been growth in some areas -- defensively, the Lakers have regained much of the form making them so effective during their title seasons -- and regression in others (see 'offense'), and by now the shortcomings in the team's roster are apparent.

That's big picture group stuff. Individually, how has everyone performed? For that, send everyone back to school. It's report card time.


Mike Brown

There are totally legitimate questions about how well he's matched his offensive system to his personnel, how he's managed his rotations, and whether he's struck the right balance with a group led by veterans with championship experience used to a culture affording greater freedom and flexibility, just to name a few.

I'm not sold, and neither are most fans.

But criticisms of Brown are mitigated by the almost absurd difficulty of the task he inherited. Replacing the most successful coach in the history of modern American team sports in hiring process alienating his star player and coming amid sweeping change poorly handled by management, suffering through a lockout allowing no contact with his new players, starting camp with a trade for a superstar point guard only to have it quickly revoked, watching last season's Sixth Man of the Year traded away without anything coming in return, working through a comically short training camp and preseason during which his roster was totally in flux, then absorbing what was the NBA's most difficult early season schedule, affording him almost no time on the practice court to implement his system and improve the team's rhythm.

That, and a roster poorly constructed for his style sporting holes large enough to fit an SUV. It's not fair to expect Brown to overcome all that in 34 games.

Watching how Brown evolves -- or doesn't -- over the final 32 will be interesting, noting adjustments he makes with better understanding of his personnel, and if he can get the Lakers playing at their best heading into the playoffs. It still likely won't mean a championship, but would go a long way towards establishing him as the right guy for the gig long term.

Maybe I'm grading the circumstances more than the man, but for a guy so firmly put behind the 8-ball, he's doing pretty well.



Kobe Bryant

February hasn't treated him well, and Bryant goes into the break on a low note following tough outings in Dallas and Oklahoma City. The eternal arguments about shot selection and ball dominance remain (otherwise they wouldn't be eternal). But big picture, who can complain about the quality of Bryant's play this season? 28.5 points, along with a hair under five boards and six assists per night, a PER over 23.5 and a shooting percentage (43.9) not substantively below his career average (45.4), despite this month's slump.

He's playing very, very well.

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The McTen: No road redemption in Phoenix

February, 19, 2012
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
Here are your 10 additional things to take away from the Lakers' 102-90 road loss against the Phoenix Suns on Sunday ...


The Lakers followed a familiar script in Phoenix on Sunday.

Fall down double digits early while playing on the road. Expend a lot of effort attempting to mount a comeback. End up falling short because the hole was too deep.

It could have been Orlando or Miami or Sacramento or Denver. Same script, different day.

Knowing that his team had strung together three wins in a row and dismissed the Suns pretty easily just two days before, Lakers coach Mike Brown tried to cut complacency off at the pass by doing something he doesn't usually do: deliver a speech before tip-off.

"One thing I talked to our ballclub about before the game was, and I don’t say much, but I told our ballclub that this is going to be an interesting game because this is a mental game right here," Brown said. "It would be interesting to see how mentally we come out and we try to play the game tonight because for us, it could be a task mentally. So, 'Let’s go.'"

Instead of "let's go" it was "no go" as the Lakers trailed by 16 after the first quarter, gave up 63 points in the first half and never got the lead under 10 from then on.

The Lakers are now 5-11 away from Staples Center on the season and have a difficult road back-to-back looming this week against Dallas and Oklahoma City.

"It’s easy to play at home because you have your crowd there, so you’re ready to go and the energy is there," Jason Kapono said, and it was such a difficult night for L.A. that Kapono was worthy of commenting after going from two straight DNPs to playing 19 minutes. "For some reason, we lack that on the road. So, we need to find a way to come out here at the start of games and find a way to not start out down 8-10 [points] and always try to claw back and fight back."


Before the Lakers think about the road again, they must first worry about a home game against Portland on Monday. The Lakers might be 13-2 at home this season, but they will have some weary stars with Kobe Bryant playing 40 minutes and Pau Gasol playing 37 minutes against Phoenix.

Bryant finished with a game-high 32 points on 11-for-24 shooting, with 20 of those points coming in the second half when L.A. tried to get back in it.

"He was scoring and making plays for us so we kept the ball in his hands," Brown said of playing Bryant so long despite the fact that A) he had 10 turnovers and B) the Lakers have a game against Portland on Monday. "Is that something he can do? Yeah. But that’s a lot of pressure on one guy to make plays for everybody and then also to score the basketball."

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Lakers at Suns: What to watch

February, 19, 2012
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
A full 48 hours won't have passed since these teams battled in L.A., which means by definition very little has changed. In theory, the Lakers remain the superior team, even on the road that's doubled as a purple-and-gold Achilles' heel. However, familiarity doesn't prevent items to watch for. Here are three.

1. Marcin Gortat, roll-man extraordinaire

Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images
These two guys could play a big role in deciding Sunday's game.

Marcin Gortat may not boast Amare Stoudemire's name recognition, but has nonetheless played at an All-Star level since arriving in Phoenix last season. Specifically, he's excelled in pick-and-roll sets, providing Steve Nash his best partner in crime since STAT bolted to the Big Apple. The Lakers experienced firsthand Friday how dangerous he can be working in tandem with the future Hall of Fame point guard. A nice chunk of his 21 points came while on the receiving end of a bounce feed from Nash, and I don't see why either would stray from what's buttered his bread. Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Troy Murphy must take greater responsibility to monitor Gortat's whereabouts at all times. The Polish Hammer roaming free like an organic farm-raised chicken is a dangerous thing.

2. Pau Gasol's shooting prowess and focus

Gasol's accumulated excellent February numbers, but his shot has been noticeably off. The Grammy trip featured three games at 45 percent or below, and home cooking against Atlanta yielded a 9-for-22 effort. But such trends would theoretically be impervious to a date with the Suns. A bad defensive team by any standard, Phoenix is particularly vulnerable preventing shots at the rim or 10-15 feet out, areas where Pau is often deadliest. Thus, it raises eyebrows to see him go 4-for-13 from the field, especially when the looks were often clean by his own admission. That his focus in general appeared scattered didn't help perceptions, either.

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Rapid Reaction: Lakers 86, Hawks 78

February, 14, 2012
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky

The middle two quarters may have been the ugliest I've ever seen, as the Hawks and Lakers combined -- combined! -- for 59 points. Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol couldn't buy a bucket, and collectively the teams seemed determined to punish fans for shelling out their hard earned money for something as frivilous as basketball tickets.

But in the end, the Lakers got it together, going on a run to finish the third and pulling away down the stretch. Here are five takeaways...

1. Matt Barnes had some hop.

The Lakers are not a swift, dynamic bunch. Barnes is one of the few guys on the roster who makes things happen with movement, and Tuesday he absolutely energized the team (to whatever degree this game had energy) doing the stuff he does best. Slicing through the lane, he converted a nice pass from Bryant into points, then later got up the floor and, like the standout wide receiver he once was, hauled in a long bomb from Steve Blake for an easy deuce. Even on the ball, not generally his strength, Barnes found ways to produce. In the first half, with the shot clock running down, he put the ball on the floor from the top of the key, then wrapped a nice pass to Troy Murphy for a corner 3.

Throughout the game, Barnes was constantly moving towards the rim, running the wing, and aggressively closing on perimeter shooters. He finished with seven points and five rebounds, plus one assist, steal, and block each.

2. So did Metta World Peace.

Maybe he should pop off at the coach more often?

Whatever the cause, MWP was very active tonight, not just defensively, where he spent a lot of time against Joe Johnson with very positive effects, but also on the other end. He closed the first half with a 3-pointer from the right corner that the Hawks, to put it mildly, let him take. (Had they simply left the floor before the horn, World Peace wouldn't have been more open.) The second half brought another triple, and even a thunderous drive through the paint, capped by a dunk. Then he dunked again! One-dunk MWP games are a rarity these days. Double dunk games generally arrive at the arena saddled up on a unicorn.

He finished with 10 points and four rebounds.

World Peace's days as a premier player are gone, but it makes a significant difference for the Lakers when he's not a liability. When he's actually a positive influence, it's even better.

POSTGAME UPDATE: Apparently, World Peace switched from high tops to low tops at halftime. Perhaps that explains his burst in the third and fourth quarters. Less weight keeping him down.

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The Forum: The bench and other holes

February, 10, 2012
By the Kamenetzky Brothers
In the newest edition of The Forum, we take a look at the Lakers' bench with 710 ESPN hoops analyst Dave Miller. What impact does the consistently thin production from the reserves have on a game in, game out basis?

Factoring in the similarly dismal output from the small forward and point guard spots, the picture becomes clear. L.A.'s problems aren't about their Big Three, but the 11 guys working behind them, something made pretty clear in Boston last night, despite the big win.

McRoberts odd man out of bigs rotation

February, 4, 2012
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
With his high-flying dunks and gritty style of play, Josh McRoberts quickly became a fan favorite after signing with the Lakers as a free agent during training camp.

It seems that just as quickly as the "McRambis" and "McLoberts" nicknames became part of Lakers fans' vernacular, McRoberts ceased to be a part of the Lakers' rotation.

McRoberts received a DNP-CD against Denver and played just 10 minutes combined in the Lakers' previous two games against the Bobcats and Timberwolves. Meanwhile, Troy Murphy's playing time has shot up as the 11-year veteran averaged 21.7 minutes and 7.3 points on 58.3 percent shooting in the last three games and the Lakers have gone 3-0.

"Troy has just played pretty good basketball," Lakers coach Mike Brown said before the Lakers played Utah on Saturday. "We’ve played pretty good basketball with him in the lineup. So, that’s the only reason why. We tried to start the season rotating four bigs. Then we went to three bigs. Then I think we went to four bigs again. We’re back at three bigs and I feel comfortable with where we’re at right now. It can average out to about 27-28 minutes for Troy and right about 34-35 for Pau [Gasol] and Andrew [Bynum]. If I can keep it there, then that’s pretty good."

When the season tipped off, McRoberts was in the starting lineup as Bynum served a four-game suspension. He had his moments -- six points, eight rebounds and two blocks on Christmas Day against Chicago and 10 points, six rebounds, three steals and two blocks against New York -- before a sprained big toe on his left foot caused him to miss seven games. As the Lakers struggled to shoot from the outside, falling to last in the league in team 3-point shooting percentage at one point, Murphy established value with his shot-making ability.

"He’s helped space the floor with the second unit. He’s helped with the young kid, relieving some pressure off of him when he’s in trouble – playing pick-and-roll off of him or pick-and-pop with him," Brown said, referring to Murphy's chemistry on the court with rookie Andrew Goudelock. "He’s been solid defensively. He’s been OK rebounding the ball. Mainly, he hasn’t hurt us defensively and he hasn’t really hurt us rebounding the ball and so I think he’s helped us more than anything else on the offensive end where we need a little bit of help with production, especially spacing the floor to give Andrew some room."

So, Brown was asked, is McRoberts simply the odd man out?

"At least for the time being he is, but that can change at any time," Brown said. "You know how this league is injury wise, knock on wood, or anything else. They just have to kind of keep themselves ready."

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

Kobe Bryant is looking forward to the road

February, 1, 2012
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
The Lakers may be 2-7 away from Staples, facing a six-game, 10-day road trip kicking off Friday in Denver, followed by tough dates in Utah, and Philadelphia. Combined home records: 28-8. Technically speaking, this is a classic "Nothing's gotta give" scenario.

Hakuna matata, says Kobe Bryant, who suggested Wednesday following practice in El Segundo the team might be better than the road record suggests.

"I'm not really worried about it. I'm excited to get on the road and play. I'm extremely confident that we'll play much better."

For that to happen, the Lakers need to improve in a few key areas, Bryant pointing specifically to the defensive glass. Despite romping over a wretched Charlotte squad Tuesday night at Staples, the Lakers gifted the Bobcats 10 second-chance points in the first half (of the 36 Paul Silas' crew scratched out), one game after allowing the Timberwolves to grab 24 offensive rebounds, leading to 32 second-chance points. Facing the Clippers last week, the Lakers allowed 17 ORB's.

Obviously it's something requiring more attention, Bryant said.

"[We just need to] play with a sense of urgency. Be fundamentally sound on the glass. Put bodies on bodies. We're not gonna jump over people, so you can't just turn around and watch the ball. You gotta box people out, so you can be fundamentally sound."

Mike Brown echoed concerns about the boards, adding their general level of execution has to get better. The Lakers have been plagued by inconsistency, particularly on the road, where papering over mistakes is a tall order and periodic breakdowns can quickly cascade into total operational failure.

"The biggest thing is our execution, especially down the stretch and throughout the course of the game, because that’s where teams get separation. You’re in somebody else’s building, and if you’re not familiar with one another, if I’m constantly changing rotations and lineups and stuff like that, that affects that area," he noted. "Now you’re in a loud building and your execution isn’t good, and you waste three or four possessions offensively and the other team scores. The momentum goes to the other team, and the next thing (you know) you’re in a hole, and you’re fighting your way out of the hole, and it’s tough."

Brown said he'd try to build more consistency in the rotation, particularly in the second unit, using the two previous games as a blueprint. Andrew Bynum as an anchor, together with floor-stretching big Troy Murphy in the frontcourt and Andrew Goudelock running the point. "Hopefully," he said, "I can stick to it."

The bench scored 48 points against Charlotte, so at the very least, they're a group playing with a little confidence as the road trip starts. Ultimately it may not help, but it certainly can't hurt.

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Wednesday Chat Transcript

February, 1, 2012
By the Kamenetzky Brothers
Plenty to talk about today as the Lakers prep for their six game roadie starting Friday in Denver. We project their record on the swing, and of course address all the talk of new blood for the roster, whether Dwight Howard, Ramon Sessions, Gilbert Arenas, or miscellaneous.

Did you miss the fun? Re-live it with this handy transcript.
The Lakers took care of business Tuesday at Staples, blowing out an absolutely hideous Bobcats squad by 33. Kobe Bryant had L.A. going early, outscoring Charlotte 18-15 in the first ten-plus minutes. Andrew Bynum was strong throughout, and the Lakers may have dipped into their February allotment for bench points, exploding for 48.

Meanwhile, Bryant played just under 28 minutes, Pau Gasol under 30, and Bynum a hair under 32, an important consideration for three guys who have piled up minutes lately. Bryant and Gasol, particularly.

We tackle these issues and more on tonight's Lakers Late Night. Here's the full agenda:
  • The Lakers finished 12-of-26 (46.2 percent) from 3-point range Tuesday, continuing to show signs of improved perimeter shooting.
  • The benefits of increased practice time. The Lakers are 3-1 since getting the chance to actually get on the floor and go full speed in anything other than a real game.
  • The bench rotation. Interesting stuff from Mike Brown about why Troy Murphy has replaced Josh McRoberts in the last two games, and the how/why on mixing and matching.

In-show videos from Brown and Matt Barnes.

Watch live streaming video from espnlosangeles at livestream.com

Click below for more postgame video, from Brown, Barnes, and Bynum.

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Rapid Reaction: Lakers 106, Bobcats 73

January, 31, 2012
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
Man alive, the Bobcats are bad. I mean, really bad. If there is a prime takeaway from this evening, it's that Michael Jordan's new team is eons away from becoming Michael Jordan's old team … the Wizards.

Here are four more takeaways.

1. Kobe Bryant 18, Bobcats 15.

This was the score when Kobe finally took his first breather with 1:34 remaining in the first quarter. From minute one of this contest, Bryant was on a clear mission to take advantage of Charlotte's dearth of defenders capable of slowing him. He scored the Lakers' first eight points en route to an 18-point first quarter. Back-to-back triples were drilled. An easy score was manufactured after Derek Fisher spotted him so far under the basket he was practically sitting courtside. The lane was attacked with aggression.

I actually felt sorry for Gerald Henderson (charged for much of the game with checking 24) on a sequence in which, with the clock running down, he wound up faced up against Bryant just inside the arc. Kobe busted a series of his patented head fakes, but Henderson refused to take the bait. No matter. Bryant simply drained the jumper with the buzzer sounding. It reminded me of the scene in "Raiders of the Lost Ark" when Indiana Jones just shoots the guy twirling the sword, except Kobe was both Indy and the other guy.

Unfortunately, like the rest of his teammates, Kobe grew too loose during the third quarter, and as a result, his overall efficiency went out the window. I could have also done without 11 3-pointers. But during that first half, The Mamba put on one heckuva show.

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Nick Young
17.9 1.5 0.7 28.3
ReboundsP. Gasol 9.7
AssistsK. Marshall 8.8
StealsJ. Meeks 1.4
BlocksP. Gasol 1.5