Los Angeles Lakers: defense

D'Antoni shrugs off Magic Johnson's latest criticism

January, 28, 2014
1/28/14
12:35
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McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Appearing on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Magic Johnson again criticized the Los Angeles Lakers for hiring coach Mike D'Antoni.

"We made some critical mistakes," Johnson said to Leno on Monday. "Coach D'Antoni, I like him ... when he was with Phoenix."

Johnson's line brought laughter and applause from Leno's L.A.-based studio audience.

"Because we're the Lakers, we got to have a championship coach," Johnson said. "We made a critical mistake in not bringing Phil Jackson back. That was a critical mistake."

Beyond D'Antoni never winning a ring, or making it to the Finals, in 12 seasons as head coach with Denver, Phoenix, New York and Los Angeles, Johnson said he had an issue with D'Antoni's approach to defense.

"I can't stand to watch the Lakers play because the same play happens every single time on the Lakers: pick-and-roll and the guard goes all the way in for a layup. We're 40-something games into the season. The teams run the same play, Jay, on us. We haven't stopped it yet. Uh . . . duh!"

D'Antoni was asked about Johnson's comments following shootaround Tuesday morning in preparation for his team's game Tuesday night against the Indiana Pacers.

"No," D'Antoni said when asked if he had any thoughts about Johnson's statement. "Next subject"

D'Antoni was asked about Johnson's comments again during Tuesday's pregame media session and remained tight-lipped.

"I don't have anything to say," D'Antoni said. "There's no use addressing it."

A reporter followed up by asking if the coach found Johnson's stance "hurtful" in any way.

"Oh yeah," D'Antoni said. "It doesn't help anything, but that's not up to me to say."

Johnson, who went 5-11 in 16 games as Lakers head coach during the 1993-94 season, made similar comments in a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times, telling the newspaper D'Antoni's hiring was, "a wrong decision."

D'Antoni, who said he has not spoken to Johnson in person since joining the Lakers, responded to the previous barb from Johnson when the team was in Boston during its recent seven-game "Grammy" road trip.

"Normally I don't hear it until [the media] brings it up," D'Antoni said. "There's voices everywhere, and it's a hard job to do no matter what team you're with. You do the best you can and you feel like every day is a new battle, and everybody has their opinion. There's a saying about that . . . So, that's the way it is. You go on and do your job."

L.A. has allowed its opponent to score 100 points or more in each of the last 12 games (going 2-10 in that stretch) and ranks 26th in the league in defensive efficiency overall, allowing 106.2 points per 100 possessions.

Part of the Lakers' struggles on that end has been because of injuries. Once L.A. starts getting players like Kobe Bryant, Steve Blake, Xavier Henry, Steve Nash and Jordan Farmar back in the lineup, will they be capable of improving on defense?

"Yeah, yeah," D'Antoni said, matter of fact. "Yup."

Slumping Lakers lacking defense

January, 23, 2014
1/23/14
10:10
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McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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MIAMI -- The old maxim might state that defense wins championships, but there’s also a saying in basketball that on any individual play, great offense always beats great defense.

A defender can position himself perfectly to guard a shot with his body squared and his arms outstretched, but some guys can just score anyway. Think Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s skyhook, Tony Parker’s floater or, as was the case in the Los Angeles Lakers’ 109-102 loss to the Miami Heat on Thursday, LeBron James’ fadeaway jumper.

After L.A. cut a 10-point Miami lead to start the fourth down to four with 2:24 remaining, James unleashed a pull-up, 25-foot fadeaway from the right wing with Jodie Meeks all over him.

"I played pretty good defense, and he hit a tough shot," Meeks said. "That is why he is LeBron. Really nothing you can do. Just play hard and hope he misses sometimes."

[+] EnlargeJames/Johnson
Mike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesAmong the Lakers' most prominent defensive shortcomings are allowing too many points in the paint and too much second-chance scoring due to poor rebounding.
Meeks' attitude should be commended, because that play from James sums up the overall challenge the Lakers defense faces on a nightly basis. The Lakers are undermanned and overmatched and now losers of 14 of their past 17 games, but their only chance of doing anything the rest of the way is to take on teams the way Meeks took on James that play: give every ounce of effort they have and hope for the best.

Pau Gasol had another solid game with 22 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals to continue his tremendous run in the month of January, but he let out a long sigh when asked if the Lakers can become the defensive team it needs to be.

"We don’t have great, let’s say, defensive individuals," said Gasol, knowing full well that L.A. lost two former defensive player of the year winners in Dwight Howard and Metta World Peace from its team last season. "So we got to cover for each other. We got to work together. We got to communicate. We really have to be better at communicating and getting each other going and letting each other know where we’re at and just energizing each other."

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Lakers placing emphasis on defense

October, 2, 2013
10/02/13
4:17
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McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Mike D'Antoni had been the Los Angeles Lakers' head coach for less than a month when he got into a heated exchange with a reporter after the Lakers lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Dec. 11 of last season, their fifth loss in six games at the time.

The exchange was prompted by questions about his approach to coaching defense.

D'Antoni seemed to have the spat fresh in his mind when a different reporter asked him after practice Wednesday what percentage of training camp he spends on defense versus offense.

"I would say 99.9 (percent) on defense and 0.1 on offense," D'Antoni said with a sarcastic smile. "Does that satisfy you guys?"

He was making a joke with the over exaggeration, but the truth is, the coach actually has been making an effort to get his team to understand that their success this season will start with stops on the defensive end.

"It seems like he's harping a little bit more on defense now," Shawne Williams, who played for D'Antoni in New York, told ESPNLosAngeles.com. "He's spending more time on defense. It used to just be a lot of offense and he used to try to tell us, 'Defense comes from within,' but now, everything starts with defense and then we let that dictate the offense."

Seven seconds or less? More like consecutive stops or else.

"Defense has been and it will be a priority if we want to be competitive and win the majority of the games," said Pau Gasol. "So, that has to be a focus for us. We can’t rely on our offense to bail us out and get us wins. Defense is what’s going to make us consistent and what’s going to make us beat good teams."

The Lakers' defensive numbers from a season ago sum up why the year felt so miserable. L.A. was tied with Brooklyn for 18th in the league in defensive efficiency, allowing opponents to score 103.6 points per 100 possessions. And that was with former defensive player of the year award winners Dwight Howard and Metta World Peace. Not that those two were a whole lot of help. Even with Howard down low, L.A. ranked 22nd in the league in opponents’ field goal percentage inside of five feet, according to NBA.com Stats Cube (59.8 percent), and even with World Peace on the perimeter, the Lakers were 26th in the NBA with just 7.0 steals per game.

With Howard and World Peace on-court defensive ability gone, the Lakers are relying on new assistant coach Kurt Rambis' off-court tutelage to help the team improve on that end.

"Kurt is doing a very good job," said Gasol. "Kurt I think is a really good defensive coach and coach overall, so he’s going to help a lot on continuing to emphasize how important the defensive end is in order for any team to be successful."

If it all sounds like rhetoric, well, some of it is. You can drill a team to death with defensive concepts, but they only make a difference if they can be applied during the course of a game. That's why D'Antoni prefers more open-court instruction during gameplay in training camp.

"Here’s the deal: One team’s got the ball (in an intrasquad scrimmage) so they’re on offense and working on offense," D'Antoni said. "The other team is defense. So, it’s really 100 percent on both."

Added D'Antoni: "We’ll try to add something each day and get our drills down, but you mostly learn to play and we play a lot. And when you play a lot, hopefully we’re working on our defense all the time."

Lakers will revisit defense with Rambis

July, 30, 2013
7/30/13
10:33
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McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Can an NBA team lose two players who had been honored as the league's top defenders and, in the process, become a better defensive unit?

That’s what the Los Angeles Lakers are trying to find out.

Gone is their best rim protector in Dwight Howard, off to Houston. Gone, too, is their best perimeter stopper in Metta World Peace, off to New York.

Now the Lakers will find out if less is more.

Not that L.A.’s defense was any good with the services of the three-time defensive player of the year in Howard and one-time DPOY winner in World Peace, anyway. The Lakers were tied with Brooklyn for 18th in the league in defensive efficiency, allowing opponents to score 103.6 points per 100 possessions. Even with Howard patrolling the paint, L.A. ranked 22nd in the league in opponents’ field goal percentage inside of five feet, according to NBA.com Stats Cube (59.8 percent), and even with World Peace’s notoriously quick left hand, the Lakers were 26th in steals per game, generating just 7.0 a night.

“Their defense never really gave them a chance to win,” newly hired Lakers assistant coach Kurt Rambis told ESPNLosAngeles.com. “It was very erratic at best. In a lot of ways, when you bring in a lot of players from a lot of different systems, it takes awhile to get everybody connected and on the same page, how you have to defend a myriad of offensive NBA sets and you have to defend talented offensive people, it takes all five guys. They’ve got to be connected, and they’ve got to make the correct decisions at the correct time, and for the Lakers last year, it was clear that they just never really got connected on that end of the floor.

“You could see throughout most of their games, guys would turn their palms up to the sky, and it was like, ‘Is that my responsibility? Is that your responsibility? Who was supposed to do what?’ So, we’ve got to do a much better job of getting them so they can cover each others’ backs at that end of the floor.”

The reason that Rambis is back with the Lakers is not only because the team lost its two most talented defenders in Howard and World Peace, but because it lost its two most defensive-minded assistant coaches in Chuck Person, whose contract was not renewed, and Steve Clifford, who became the head coach in Charlotte.

Rambis, who assumed a defensive coordinator-type role in the final two seasons of his last run with the Lakers when Phil Jackson was head coach, said that Mike D’Antoni isn’t giving him the same label.

“(D’Antoni) said that all assistant coaches will be involved in all areas in our initial conversation,” Rambis explained. “Not that we have etched everything in stone, but to come back as a defensive coordinator, you can talk to Mike about whether there’s going to be any sort of designation on that. By my understanding, there isn’t going to be, but he just kind of wants all of the gaps to be covered so everybody is responsible for working with players and being involved in practices and being involved with games. But to have myself associated with the defense, that means that area is going to be covered.”

The Lakers have had a precipitous decline on the defensive end. After they held the Boston Celtics to just 79 points on 40.8 percent shooting in their Game 7 win in the 2010 Finals, their last three playoff appearances have ended in ugly fashion. First the Dallas Mavericks shot a blistering 46.2 percent on 3-pointers during a four-game sweep in 2011, amid Andrew Bynum decrying the team’s “trust issues” on the defensive end. Then the Oklahoma City Thunder scored 100 or more in three of their four wins against L.A. in their 2012 second-round series. Finally, in last season's first-round sweep by San Antonio, the Spurs shot a combined 53.0 percent from the floor in Games 2-4 after figuring out the Lakers' D that held them to just 37.6 percent shooting in Game 1 of the series.

“They never got connected defensively,” Rambis said of the 2012-13 season.

(Read full post)

Lakers defense remains unreliable

December, 26, 2012
12/26/12
11:19
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McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Dwight HowardDoug Pensinger/Getty ImagesDwight Howard (12) was ejected on Wednesday night in Denver for this foul on the Nuggets' Kenneth Faried.

DENVER -- When the Los Angeles Lakers beat the New York Knicks on Christmas Day, it wasn't just an accomplishment because they got the W to run their streak to five and their record back to .500, but because of they way they did it.

When the Lakers needed to lock in late in the game, they were at their best on the defensive end, holding the high-scoring Knicks to just 16 fourth-quarter points. It was the same formula the Lakers used in a come-from-behind win against Charlotte (16 fourth-quarter points for the Bobcats) a few games back. When things got dire, the Lakers lifted themselves with their D.

That all went out the window Wednesday in the Lakers' 126-114 loss to the Denver Nuggets as L.A. allowed the most points it has all season and got back to giving up a poison-pill quarter (Denver scored 39 in the third), which was the same problem that plagued the Lakers in losses to Houston, Oklahoma City and New York prior to their win streak.

"Our pick-and-roll defense wasn't great tonight," said Dwight Howard who had to watch most of the second half from the locker room after being ejected for a flagrant-2 foul on Kenneth Faried in the third quarter. "The help wasn't there. The 'help the helper' wasn’t there. It just has to be better overall."

Not having the three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year on the court didn't help the Lakers' chances on paper, but it's not as though Howard was being his dominant self before he was tossed anyway.

Howard had just seven rebounds in 27 minutes as the Nuggets owned the boards with a 48-38 rebounding edge that led to 25 second-chance points.

"You can't play a team on the road and time after time you stop them and they get the rebound and put it back in," said Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni, who pointed out that L.A. held Denver to just 43 percent shooting in the first half, a stat nullified by the Nuggets' 17 second-chance points in the first two quarters. "You can't do it."

Howard was so ineffective that when D'Antoni was asked what the center's ejection meant to the Lakers' chances of winning, he replied bluntly: "Not a whole lot."

The team's frustration in its defense was manifested in the first quarter when Howard and Steve Nash openly stared at each other with their palms up and argued over who missed an assignment that led to an uncontested dunk for JaVale McGee. It was reminiscent of Howard and Kobe Bryant going at it a few weeks back in New Orleans.

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D'Antoni dishes on Nash's minutes, defense

December, 26, 2012
12/26/12
6:48
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McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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DENVER -- There is no doubting the impact Steve Nash had on the Los Angeles Lakers' offense in his first two games back from the fractured fibula in his left leg, but there are still two areas of concerns for many Lakers fans: Nash's minutes and his defense.

Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni shrugged off both of those issues before L.A. played the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday night.

When asked about Nash averaging 39.5 minutes in his first two games back, which allowed him to get to his 14.0 points and 10.0 assist averages along with the Lakers scoring 109 points per game, D'Antoni said he's keeping an eye on Nash's playing time more out of concern for public perception than his point guard's health.

"Yeah, because I will get killed if I say no," D'Antoni said with a chuckle. "He's only 38, come on. Here's how I look at it: I agree, we should get it down to about 34 [minutes per game]. Is three minutes playing better than having a day off the next day? I'm pretty liberal about giving him a day off and don't practice him and making sure he is ready to go. Is it better to go ahead and practice for an hour and a half or give him three minutes on the floor? I go the other way. I think it's more important that he plays, obviously. But, we will watch it, and as [Steve] Blake comes back and we get a little bit more comfortable about where we are, then I can cut it down a little bit more."

D'Antoni said that Blake was about "2-3 weeks" away from returning after undergoing abdominal surgery in early December. Having Blake available will certainly cut into Nash's minutes.

As for Nash's defense, which has been the biggest criticism of his two-time MVP, Hall of Fame-bound career, D'Antoni claims Nash is actually a better defender now than when they teamed together five seasons ago with the Phoenix Suns.

"He hasn't really slowed down; I haven't seen a whole lot," D'Antoni said. "He has gotten better defensively, I think. I think he is a better player now than he was in Phoenix, to a certain degree."

Just how has Nash improved defensively?

"Just him hounding people, getting through picks and different things," D'Antoni said. "He was a little bit better than what they always said, he's a better defender. Especially as a team defender he's really good and his understanding of the game is really good.

"So, it was never true that he couldn't defend and we couldn't defend [in Phoenix]. That's not true. We were always 10th or 11th or 12th or 13th. We were right there playing small and when you play small, you give up some second-chance points. But he said he's worked on his leg strength the last couple years to try to get better at it, and he has."

The Lakers rank 15th in the league this season in defensive efficiency, giving up 102.0 points per 100 possessions.

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

PodKast: The Mikes, PJ and Bernie

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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)

Celtics to sign Leandro Barbosa ... and that's fine.

October, 17, 2012
10/17/12
6:11
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Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Why a headline in this neck of the woods regarding news about the enemy?

Because Los Angeles Lakers fans have inquired throughout the offseason about the Brazilian Blur landing in L.A. A lot.

After all, Leandro Barbosa is a "name," and fans are often gaga for any free agent of name value. He has experience playing alongside Steve Nash (albeit several seasons ago in a very different system.) The Lakers bench was often painfully devoid of scoring last season, and Barbosa is -- perhaps literally -- nothing if not a scorer. And Lakers fans are nothing if not greedy, and in turn demand a roster of notables from Kobe Bryant downward. (This summer has only further warped any sense of grounded reality.) Thus, I imagine there will be members of the Laker Nation disappointed to see Barbosa heading to the opposite coast.

Personally, I don't think the team will miss Barbosa's services.

(Read full post)

The Forum: Will the defense improve?

October, 7, 2012
10/07/12
11:45
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Logic dictates the additions of Steve Nash, Dwight Howard, Antawn Jamison, Jodie Meeks and Eddie Jordan should improve last season's offensive woes. But 2012 featured a fair amount of defensive slippage as well. Will the solution be as simple as "just add D12?"

The Forum: The impact of Dwight Howard

August, 17, 2012
8/17/12
2:20
PM PT
By The Kamenetzky Brothers
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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What are the ramifications, on and off the court, of acquiring Dwight Howard? We discuss the many layers to this question.video

Some thoughts on the law firm of Meeks & Miles

August, 1, 2012
8/01/12
3:38
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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As the Lakers continue to fill out the roster, 76ers guard Jodie Meeks and Jazz swingman C.J. Miles have recently popped up as free agents on the radar. The Salt Lake Tribune's Brian T. Smith has reported Miles is strongly considering the Lakers, and the Meeks news comes straight from the player himself. While it certainly would be fantastic if both could enter the fold as reserves, that feels like a long shot, given the franchise's shallow pool of financial resources. Thus, if both are in the mix, a choice eventually feels necessary. So who would make the most sense?

For more perspective on Meeks, I called upon Carey Smith of the True Hoop network's Philadunkia blog. Here is Smith's scouting report on Meeks:
"When he's "on," Meeks owns a lethal jumper that can be a game changer. He plays solid and ever-improving defense, can find the open man with the extra pass and he's a great locker room guy. So he has a number of valuable basketball skills, and as long as Meeks is used correctly, he can be a positive contributor for an NBA roster. He's at his best as a role player coming off the bench for eight to 10 minutes a game and hitting one or two open jumpers.

Unfortunately, he was not used this way until literally his final days in Philly during the 2012 playoffs. Instead, Doug Collins stubbornly penciled his name in with the first five 114 times over the last two seasons. Thus the two-guard position was the Sixers' most glaring weakness from 2010-2012. His jumper is wildly inconsistent and he cannot create a shot for himself off the dribble. In my opinion, those are not items a team or a fan wants to hear about your starting shooting guard. I don't care what the advance stats prove about Meeks (apparently they say he is an efficient NBA player, given his salary) or how Collins tries to spin his decision. Meeks is not a starting two guard in this League. PERIOD. Watch him play for a mere five games and any knowledgeable hoop head will come to that same conclusion."

Well, first things first. While perhaps frustrating for Sixers fans over the last pair of seasons, that Meeks isn't a credible starting two guard is irrelevant for these purposes. He ain't beating out Kobe Bryant for the gig, and were the Mamba to miss a significant chunk of time, the season would shift so radically his replacement is arguably trivial. What matters is Meeks' qualifications as a reserve, and there's no reason to think he can't handle those responsibilities.

(Read full post)

The Forum: Ramon Sessions and the Lakers

June, 11, 2012
6/11/12
8:41
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Ramon Sessions has until June 20 to decide whether to exercise his player option for the final year of his contract or test free agency. Is it in the Lakers' best interests for the point guard to stick around for another campaign? Kevin Arnovitz, Dave McMenamin and I debate the question.video

2011-12 report card: Andrew Bynum

June, 1, 2012
6/01/12
10:22
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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As a college sophomore, to fulfill my foreign language requirement and nab an easy A, I took beginner-level German, a language I'd already studied for four years in high school. Predictably, I was ahead of the curriculum, which allowed me to skip classes without falling behind. A lot of classes. Basically, unless there was a test, I was absent. I even arrived to my final 30 minutes late because I skipped class the day we were informed that the test was in a different building, and missed the oral section. I still got a B, probably my lowest grade of the semester, and figured I'd get a B-plus for the course.

Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images
Game 1 against Denver demonstrated how dominant Bynum can be.



I ended up with a C.

When I confronted my teacher, she reminded me that attendance counted toward our grade, and that crushed me. I insisted that shouldn't have mattered, since I still aced the work. As I further explained, I actually did her a favor by ditching classes, since she could focus her attention on kids who needed more help. She then told me to leave her office and never bother her again.

The lesson? In life, you're often held accountable not just for the final result, but for responsibilities accepted or shirked along the way.

Andrew Bynum's season reminded me of my beginner-level German experience. If you gauge Drew's year purely on the results, it was obviously a fine campaign. Between his stats, his ability to drastically impact games like few players can, and his inherent talent, 2012 was a coming-out party for the emerging star. He firmly established himself as the second-best center in the league behind Dwight Howard, and on some days, it felt reasonable to argue that he'd reached Superman's level. There are still problem areas, such as negotiating double-teams and improved pick-and-roll defense, but on the whole, Bynum's talent is the least of his problems. Along with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, a huge burden of production was placed on Drew's shoulders, and he held up his end of the bargain.

SportsNation

What grade would you give Andrew Bynum?

  •  
    27%
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    7%
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    5%
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    13%
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    48%

Discuss (Total votes: 4,869)



What does raise red flags, however, are the issues born between his ears. A sometimes sour, moody attitude that reeked of entitlement. The inability/unwillingness to consistently engage himself when he didn't get enough touches (or sometimes even when the touches came, but shots refused to fall). The lack of accountability toward the tremendous sway he held over games, and the consequences for not maximizing that effect. Drew often seemed to operate with an egocentric rather than team-centric agenda, and those instances sometimes hurt the Lakers.

Still, in more games than not, Bynum played well. Like the season itself, he's an enigma, which makes everything tricky to evaluate.

(Read full post)

2011-2012 report card: Metta World Peace

May, 30, 2012
5/30/12
11:51
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
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It was an interesting season for Metta World Peace. (Is there any other kind?) The campaign began with a visibly/admittedly overweight MWP tapped to pick up where his close friend Lamar Odom left off: The bench Kahuna. Having watched Metta spend two triangular seasons doing little more than spot up and wait, I enthusiastically endorsed Mike Brown's plan for more responsibilities. With the ball in his hands more often, I was reasonably confident Metta would emerge more consistently engaged and perhaps even an effective scoring and play-making source. For a brief period, that vision seemed doable.

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Driving the lane, MWP experienced early success. Further out, not so much.



In his first seven games, MWP notched 10+ points three times, 3+ assists four times and drew fouls as a point-forward/post-presence. Defensively, he was typically a step (or three) slow and his 3-point shot was staggeringly absent -- through January, 14 percent success, rounding up -- but Metta still brought something to the table as an imperfect option. However, as time marched on, so did MWP's distance from the basket. For reasons I never could get explained by Brown or Metta, those post opportunities steadily declined, making MWP once again a lonely man there on the corner. Banished from the lane and lagging defensively, MWP's ineffectiveness reached the point where unless a return to the block was orchestrated, I questioned the logic of even playing him.

Shortly after an unusually strong effort against the Clips, MWP joined the first five, but consistent production still eluded him. For every game his defense or a timely 3-pointer made a difference, in several others Metta played like a shell of himself. Nobody would reasonably expect a Xerox of "Indiana" Ron-Ron, but something better than this version certainly was fair to request.

Desperately needed signs of life first came in March. Five double-digit showings. His 3-point shot began to fall semi-regularly. LeBron James and Paul Pierce were forced to work hard for points during Lakers victories. MWP looked more comfortable, and spoke freely about improved health and confidence. Still, his impact wasn't pronounced enough for MWP nor fans to hang their proverbial hat on.

SportsNation

What grade would you give Metta World Peace?

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    9%
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    42%
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    36%
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    10%
  •  
    3%

Discuss (Total votes: 4,854)



April, however, proved a veritable hat rack.

On both sides of the ball, Metta performed not just like the dude from his debut season in L.A., but better. When a shin injury shelved Kobe Bryant for seven games, MWP picked up a big piece of the slack, averaging 16.3 points and reaching double-figures six times. A season-high nine assists against Golden State, was indicative of MWP's hand in shaping wins. Obviously, these numbers were to some degree a byproduct of The Mamba's absence, but 23 points (on a tidy 13 shots) against Houston came with Kobe in uniform. A sustainable high gear had been discovered, and for an underdog team looking to make a deep run, MWP became the roundball equivalent of found money.

Then came bankruptcy in the form of an elbow to the head of James Harden.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Kobe Bryant
PTS AST STL MIN
22.3 5.6 1.3 34.5
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Hill 8.1
AssistsK. Bryant 5.6
StealsR. Price 1.5
BlocksE. Davis 1.1