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On the long list of reasons why trades for high profile players is so difficult: The crap Minneapolis just pulled. Seriously. Now the "fact" that the Lakers were peddling LO is out there. After LO had a great season, Sixth Man of the Year, one of the few Lakers to play up to his potential last year. And he gets to read in the Times that he was being peddled for a draft pick. I'm sorry, but that's bull####. A GM has to be able to call around and make inquiries without the other team running to the press. We don't really know what deal the Lakers offered. Minnesota is just trying to drive up the price of that draft pick by advertising the Lakers' offer of Odom. But we have no idea if it was seriously offered. We have no idea if it was a stright up deal, or was LO for the # 2 and parts. We just have loose-lipped GM negotiating in public and screwing Mitch on his relationship with LO. It's hard to make a move involving an LO, Pau or Drew, much less a Dwight Howard or CP3, when there are GM out there who are huge tolls, making the negotiations public. It makes it damn hard to explore options without risk of damaging relations with a top tier player.
I understand Kobe's frustration. He deserved a phone call before the announcement. But, hey, in professional sports these things happen all the time. Hell, players get traded and released and learn from the news. I'm not saying it's right. I've never understood the seemingly miserable management skills of many sports teams. But it happens. Get mad. Get over it, His silence, his public demonstration of his unhappiness, it's just childish and non-productive. This is a team that quite simply did not play as a team last year. Pure and simple that is why they flamed out. It's one thing to lose a series, another not be competetive. This team needs to pull together and get behind Mike Brown. They need to learn the lessons of this season. It wasn't just Kobe. There was a bad case of Pat Riley's "disease of me" on these Lakers, failing to sacrifice for the team on both ends of the floor. Kobe wasn't involved in the hiring. He didn't get advance notice. That's a shame Kobe. Now suck it up and provide leadership and show your team all you care about is next year's title.
MM, You got this one backwards: "The New York Daily News' Mitch Lawrence believes the Lakers will shift their sights to Dwight Howard rather than Chris Paul or Deron Williams." He said just the opposite. Thanks! Tom Daniels
MM's free agent review is very helpful in seeing who is out there that may actually be a Laker next year. And the trade scenarios are fascinating for learning where the minds of Lakers Nation are this offseason. Real blockbuster trades involving all-star caliber players are both rare and random. You can't just decide you want to make one and go out and do it. They almost never happen, and when they do they are usually just as unpredictable as the Gasol deal was. It seems that some Laker fans have given up on Gasol, but still believe another GM would give up an all-star, a top 5 pick and other pieces in exchange for a guy they think has no heart. Very funny. I doubt the Lakers have given up on Gasol. But other teams may think he is available. In which case they will float low ball offers. He's a great player, but not a franchise guy. So you can't trade YOUR franchise guy for Gasol. You try to steal him after a soft postseason. Realistically - the core will return and some of these free agents will be added as reinforcements. I mean, if somebody offers Deron Williams for Fisher, Walton and a bag of practice balls (it works on the trade machine, depending on how many balls you offer), Mitch will do the deal. But I wouldn't hold my breath.
I'm enjoying watching Dallas. They are not the most atheltic team in the playoffs. But they play hard for 24 seconds of every posession at both ends and they play as a team at both ends. They work hard for good shots and don't seem to care who scores. Everybody touches the ball. Sound familiar? It is the what the Lakers when were doing when they were winning. This year the Lakers played for 10-15 seconds of every possession. Failed to play help D or help the helper. Rotations were slow. There was a lot of concern over who had touches on offense. There was a "me" focus and a lack of the kind of commitment to full effort and team sacrifice that it takes to win. Miami has more talent but they have their hands full because Dallas is really a team. There was a great piece in the Wall Street Journal showing that successful teams tend to touch each other more - high fives, butt pats. Some guys have been counting them as stats and found a correlation to winning (Boston and LA led the league in touches last year). In these Finals Dallas is more touchy almost 2-1. Miami is a great collection of talent, but they have not yet bought in to each other as a team.
These are a great Finals. Honestly, personnel-wise, the Heat should be killing in this series. They both play tough D. But Dallas' players fit together betteroffensively. They move the ball well, Kidd makes sure Terry and Dirk get a whole lot of touches. The problem the Heat have is that James and Wade are both "give me the ball and let me do something" kind of guys. So last night, when Wade got it going, and he was playing great, that meant James had far too few touches. So you sort of lose the advantage of having both guys. That doesn't really happen with Dallas, the ball just moves well and Dirk is a willing passer. I think talent will prevail and the Heat will eventually wear down Dallas. But Dallas has been hard to squash. Ball movement may beat these talented Heat boys. In any case, I think the winner of game 4 wins. Great series so far.
There is a strong core here (Kobe/Pau/Lo/Bynum). But the Lakers are pretty locked in to the guys they probably would most like to move (Fish/Luke/Artest). I suspect that means the rebuild around these guys. Unless CP3 or similar comes up in a Pau/Garnett/Shaq type deal, I don't expect big fireworks. Especially with an uncertain labor deal. Mike Brown and staff need to be looking for the strengths of this group and figuring out how to use them.
One other comment on trading a big for a small, then I promise I'm done. One of the issues for the Lakers this year was lack of depth in the front line. Trading a big for a PG means that the Lakers REALLY have to somehow pull 2 legit bigs out of a hat. Part of me wanting to keep Pau around is I think Pau is a great player who struggled. Another part is, hey, I'm a Bynum fan, but how reliable is he? And $$$$ aside, how good a big can you sign if he is going to be a backup? Not a Marc Gasol level guy. He wants to start. If Bynum goes down is Carl Landry/Lamar Odom going to be your starting front line?
By the way, that post with the strange me.yahoo.com thing was me. Tom Daniels
There is way too much focus on getting an elite PG here. The Lakers do not need an elite PG. They just need an upgrade. I believe that spending big salary dollars on an elite PG, especially in an era of salary caps, is not smart. Jason Kidd (under the age of 38). Steve Nash. Derson Williams. Allen Iverson. Chris Paul. Gary Payton. John Stockton. The total number of championships won by this elite goup of PGs? One. Payton in Miami in 2006, when he started only 25 games and was near the end of his career. Am I saying an elite PG is a bad thing? Of course not. If you traded Fish for Paul straight up and the salaries were the same, the Lakers would be better. What I am saying is this: it seems to be a bad idea to spend a lot of money on the smallest guy on the floor. Becuase you can only spend so much money, and means one less great player at another position. Spend money on guys who are 6'9" and can make plays like Bird or Magic (a PG in a PFs body). Get athletic wingmen like Jordan and Pippen. Go big. Kareem. Akeem. Shaq. Robinson and Duncan. Get an inside/out tandem. Karee and Magic. Garnett and Pierce. Olajawon and Drexler. Bryant and Gasol (remember how great they were?). These championship teams tend to run their offense through a big man or a superstar wing player anyway. So an elite PG is sort of a waste of money. Isaiah Thomas is the exception here. And, no Magic doesn't count. he wasn't the smallest guy on the floor. I just see no evidence that investing heavily in a PG is the answer. San Antonio has Parker, but he came cheap early on and was not the focal point of San Antonio's offense until later, when they pretty much stopped winning titles. And the year Boston won Rondo was a cheap surprise, and he was still pretty raw. He was their 4th or 5th most important player. Chris Paul is a great player. But having the two guards as your best and most expensive players? When has that EVER led to a title? It would be a radical strategy. Meanwhile, Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol is a 1-2 punch that has actually been to 3 Finals and won twice. Look, I understand the urge, I do. Paul is great. He is fun to watch. Fisher looks pretty washed up. Pau just disappointed us. But you trade a Pau Gasol? You break up a proven core? I would rather get a solid young guard to play next to Kobe. I actually think that is easier than finding functional backups at PF and C after Pau is traded. Guys who can actually play heavy minutes and start when Drew and LO are injured. It is pretty simple math. There are a LOT more small guys who are talented basketball players than there are big guys. You can find good young guards on pretty much every NBA roster, except for the Lakers. Go get one. Keep the core.
Is no one else struck by the fact that, even this year, with the Lakers and the Triangle out of the picture, neither of the teams in this years finals have one of the great young PGs that sometimes seem to be taking over the league? Look, Kidd is one of the greats, and Bibby had his day. But at 33 and 38 they aren't what they used to be, and they do more spot up shooting than driving to the hoop. What the Lakers need to do is to get a very good guard to go with Kobe. Younger. Quicker. More athletic. They don't need CP3 or Derrick Rose or some other great young PG at the cost of thinning out the front line. Yeah, I might trade Pau for Paul. I might. But then who backs up at PF or C? What happens is Bynum goes down? Pau is a great player who is 7' tall. Pau, Kobe, Drew and Odom are a great core. Build around it. It is not time to panic. Many of the same people who thought this roster could win 70+ games last year now want to blow it up. Kobe and Drew should be better and stronger a year removed from knee surgery. Pau WILL rebound to prior form. LO just had a great year. Build around them. Shore up the second guard spot and the bench. Don't give up on this core.
p ang, I know it's trendy to hate on Shaq nowadays. But come on. Kobe was not yet ready to lead. And Shaq was the best basketball player on the planet. I'm a Divac fan. But you don't trade Divac for Shaq in his prime and come out OK. And they would have had to trade more than one of those other guys you have as Kobe's teammates to GET Kobe in the first place (Divac was a one for one deal beacuse he was a proven starting center). Long term Kobe has had a better career. But in those days? Shaq Daddy was the man. There were exactly zero guys in the league who could guard him. And come playoff time, when he turned it up? Forget about it. I love Kobe's game. But those were Shaq's teams back then.
Time heals all wounds. Maybe someday Kobe and Shaq WILL sit down and watch Steel Magnolias and have a good cry.
For three years or so Shaq was the best playoff basketball I ever saw. Once the playoffs started, he was just a Beast. A real Beast, not a potential Beast. I will always owe a debt of gratitude to Shaq for those three titles and his fun, childlike way of dealing with the media. At his best, he was among the most dominating players ever in the NBA. Thanks Shaq. For the many mailed in regular season games? It was a waste. As Phil said (thanks MM) the award should have been named after him. He should have made MJ a footnote. For the failed relationship with Kobe? That was a two way street and I will always blame ShaKobe for that and for the missed opportunity to grab a six-pack or more. It should have been. Shaq vs. Kareem? No contest. Kareem is in the best ever discussion. Three college titles. Two time college player of the year. Three time NCAA tournament MVP. 61 points in one game. A scoring average of 29. Six NBA titles. Six time NBA MVP. 19 time all-star. Top scorer ever. Most unstoppable shot ever. 11 blocks in a game 3 times. 2.6 per game for his career. Averaged over 11 boards per game even with the lower rebound totals he grabbed in his late thirties and early forties. In his prime he averaged from 14-17 per game. Kareem is not warm and fuzzy. His most visible years as a Laker he was getting older and Magic stole the spotlight. But any serious conversation about best ever has include the Captain. Shaq could have been there if was willing to work that hard. But for what he DID bring to LA, I thank him.
OK. I am in on Mike Brown. He is a defense first coach. He is a Popovich disciple, and I think Pops is the only guy who is at Phil's level over the last 20 years. He was an assistant on a team that won titles with a twin towers lineup - Robinson and Duncan (so forget about trading Drew or Pau folks). He has experience with a Kobe level star in LeBron. He also represents real change. Look, I am a Phil Jackson fan. But Phil's methods eventually wore out here, as any coach's will over time, and it is time for a real change. This guy is fiery where Phil was laid back. He is an X and O guy where Phil was a big picture guy. He is hungry, where Phil had more rings than fingers. I look for the Lakers to keep the core (Kobe/Pau/Lamar/Drew). They need to add a quicker starting PG (and 38 year old Jason Kidd fits that description so it isn't hard). There will be some new young faces on the bench. And this championship caliber core will get a fresh approach to the game to challenge them, and a fresh, enthusiastic coach. Kobe will have to either buy in or waste a precious shot at a title. If there is a season, it will be a fun one to watch.
Watching the Heat play the Mavs I had the same feelings as watching them play the Bulls. There were times when the Mavs were ahead. They had some nice runs. But it always felt like the Heat was the better team, that they would eventually wear down the Mavs. Dallas has to execute and shoot very well, play an almost perfect game to win. Dallas can clearly shoot better. Dirk and Berea missed some shots they hit regularly against LA and OKC. They could get hot and pull this out. But it would be an upset. Miami has arrived. They will become an NBA Finals fixture. They are big, athletic and talented. They play hard. They play very much as a team. LeBron is a stud. They are the team to beat.
The tough thing about all these theoretical trades, if you are Mitch Kupchak, is that the other team actually has to agree. I like a lot of these deals. But we now learn from Buss that Carmelo - Bynum was never actually on the table. They wanted Drew for two lesser talents - to convince Carmelo to stay. I think Pau is a great player and a terrific second option. He isn't a franchise player, though. I don't see a team trading a franchise player for him (CP3) unless they are truly desperate. It just doesn't make sense. You might want to TEAM PAU UP with Paul, but not swap him even up, Artest is slowing down and doesn't fit into a system well. When he was a good offensive player, it was when he was younger, both quick and strong and was allowed to go one on one with guys and just beat them. He can't do that anymore. He doesn't play well in a system. Artest, in a trade, would bring lesser value at this point. Fisher or Walton have almost no trade value. That covers most of the guys most fans might like to see moved. Sometimes lightning strikes (Lakers trading Shaq, Garnett to Boston, Pau to LA). But that is something that sort of just happens. As a GM you cannot create those situations. Offer Pau for CP3 and you just open a negotiation wher the other guy assumes you don't want Pau anymore, and he tries to get him for less. Trades are easier to do here than in actual life. Much as I want to see one happen, to use one of our PFs to get a PG, I give it a less than 50% chance. And even if it is possible, it also requires that we can also get a couple of quality bigs who can play quality minutes as well, which cuts that probability in half again. The Lakers have a 3 man, quality rotation of bigs. Solving a PG problem with one of the bigs creates another problem.
TJ Simers piece on Jim Buss is interesting. It sounds very possible the core will be back (he said 8 guys). He also said athleticism would be added at the end of the bench. It maye be the most practical option, if not the most ideal. This is a championship caliber core, after all. And the slower guys on the perimiter that you really want to move (Fisher, Artest) probably have verrrry limited trade value. Kobe and Bynum should be much better in the second year after knee surgery, if history is any indication. Gasol has to play better than he did in this year's playoffs. It would be dangerous to write him off, as good a player as he has been here. Barnes was a good fit until he got hurt. Odom is sixth man of the year. There is a lot of upside for this core. Plus the lockout may the affect timing of deals and player movement in general. It may freeze things, or it may loosen players up. Who knows. But let's look at next year in the extreme case assuming no trades at all. C: Bynum PF: Gasol/Odom SF: Artest/maybe Barnes (Barnes' option) /Walton SG: Bryant/maybe Brown (his option) PG: Fisher/Blake So that is 8-10 guys under contract. Smith and Ratliff are gone for sure. I don't think Caracter earned another year, and guys like him are available late in the draft every year. Ebanks, before getting hurt, showed a lot of promise. And, irrationally, I like Trey Johnson. If he was in camp and learned the system, he could be a quick guard who could shoot. They are two guys who could make the team younger and quicker, though probably deep in the rotation. So assume they stick. That is 10-12 guys under contract. Now you are down to draft picks and whatever limited free agent space the Lakers have under whatever new cap rules apply. What this core needs is a backup center who can actually play some minutes and a guard. Actually, it probably needs a PG capable of starting. Which is practically impossible under this scenario. This is the weakness of the core coming back. What has to happen under this scenario is that the Lakers go out and sign a solid starting guard who just wants to win and takes the kind of money the Lakers can pay. He can be a combo guard. As long as Kobe is around a pure PG is not needed. He is bound to be an upgrade over Fish at this point. If Brown goes away maybe you can get two. Hell, I'd start Trey at this point over Fish. And I love Fish. So in this scenario you still have the "long" Lakers who won two titles. But you also have some quicker guys - Odom, Barnes, Ebanks, Bryant, Johnson, the new free agent guard, Blake. What the Lakers have to be able to do is surround the bigs with guys who can defend on the perimiter and shoot from the perimiter. They need enough of these kind of guys to go small when they need to. Walton is the 14th man and only suits up when guys are injured. It's not the dream team, with some magic deal bringing in CP3. What it has to be is an improved version of the team everybody said would win 70 this year. Healthy Kobe and Drew. Motivated Pau. A free agent guard, athletic and hungry for a title, Blake and Barnes with a year under their belts. Ebanks healthy and a year older. It is a team that COULD win, not one that WILL FOR SURE win. It could be what we get.
On Mike Brown letting assistants call plays in crunch time: So what? Riley used to let MAGIC call plays at both ends in crunch time. On Pau vs. Lamar. They're both great players with solid trade value. I'd hate to lose either. Pau had a bad playoffs. But he has a lot of good years left. I completely disagree with the argument that these playoffs make him somehow unsalvageable as a Laker. Pau right now is the most underrated Laker on the roster. Having said that, if the Lakers do choose to move one of them, it may be Pau. Pau is overall a better player. He can play both PF and C. Trading him would create a huge need for a backup C, especially with Bynum's knees. BUT. If the Lakers make a move it would presumably be to get younger, quicker and more athletic. LO would be a better fit for a team like that. As a starting PF, along with Kobe and mythcial young quick guard, they could be the core of a team that could run opportunistically and get some easy scores. To really get quick, Artest would have to go too. He was hired to match up the Celtics. The Lakers got big and strong and beat Orlando and Boston. And they had a guy who could get physical with Pierce, Anthony and James. Now they only have James to deal with, realistically, in the playoffs. And Ron may not be quick enough to stay with him any more. Artest no longer fits the Lakers needs.
On Mike Brown letting assistants call plays in crunch time: So what? Riley used to let MAGIC call plays at both ends in crunch time. On Pau vs. Lamar. They're both great players with solid trade value. I'd hate to lose either. Pau had a bad playoffs. But he has a lot of good years left. I completely disagree with the argument that these playoffs make him somehow unsalvageable as a Laker. Pau right now is the most underrated Laker on the roster. Having said that, if the Lakers do choose to move one of them, it may be Pau. Pau is overall a better player. He can play both PF and C. Trading him would create a huge need for a backup C, especially with Bynum's knees. BUT. If the Lakers make a move it would presumably be to get younger, quicker and more athletic. LO would be a better fit for a team like that. As a starting PF, along with Kobe and mythcial young quick guard, they could be the core of a team that could run opportunistically and get some easy scores. To really get quick, Artest would have to go too. He was hired to match up the Celtics. The Lakers got big and strong and beat Orlando and Boston. And they had a guy who could get physical with Pierce, Anthony and James. Now they only have James to deal with, realistically, in the playoffs. And Ron may not be quick enough to stay with him any more. Artest no longer fits the Lakers needs.
Mike Brown is certainly not the safe choice. Only time will tell how he does with this team. But Phil Jackson is really the only proven NBA winner the Lakers have ever hired. Sharman had won in the ABL and ABA, I guess, if you count that. But Jack Kent Cooke liked college coaches (Schaus, Mullaney). West, Riley, Magic, Rambis were all ex-Lakers who had never run a team. Dunleavy and Harris were experienced coaches but neither had left a trail of championships. Randy Pfund and Westhead were real raw. This is more like a Dunleavy/Harris type hire. The piece with Vitti is interesting. His take was that this team just ran out of gas. I'm inclined to agree, metally, emotionally and physically they just looked like they had nothing left. You can blame this guy or that guy, but the whole team looked pretty flat. Kobe being unable to be part of preseason or practice was an issue too. Not for Kobe. But 24 has a huge impact on how the Lakers play at both ends. Super Huge even. To practice WITHOUT Kobe is almost meaningless. The whole dynamic changes when he is out there. I understand the wish for a clean start. I guess the Busses also didn't want to pay top dollar. And they probably didn't want another coach who was so big he sucked all the air out of the organization. Mike Brown looks to be a solid, defense minded coach. He has NBA experience. Finals experience. Big star management experience. The big question is, will the players respond to him. That's the real risk here.
I don't undertand this hire, but I really don't know Brown well. It may be a great hire. They seemed to avoid two risks. A high profile coach who would suck up a lot of money and a lot of media attention and be able to force his own style and agenda, like Phil did. Or an inexperienced coach who turns out not be up to the job. They are taking a real risk with a coach that may not command the respect of the players, a la Adelman or Van Gundy, or already have it, al a Shaw. We shall see. As for Kobe, he should have been consulting. But his biological clock is ticking and he will have to go for a couple of titles now. He has no time to fight a coach.
Phil has always allowed his veteran teams a lot of leeway. He has always given his best player a lot of freedom, whether it was MJ, Shaq or Kobe. He's always put up with a lot in the regular season to avoid burnout, and focused hard on the playoffs. Phil did a lot of things the same way as always this year. It just didn't work. I think this group tuned him out they way that teams do over time. Some of these guys just didn't have much left in the tank (Fisher, Walton, Ratliff, Smith). But some guys under-performed. Two key players (Kobe, Drew) were coming off knee surgeries and he had to work around their health issues. They were a little old and slow, and the Bs never consistently provided a spark off the bench. Because of some combination of the above, and complacency and selfishness and egos, this team just never seemed to gel properly, In the end the coach owns that. But still, Phil made teams gel better than anybody for a couple of decades. It's hard to believe he just stopped knowing how.
Toggle Commented May 26, 2011 on Lakers Report Card: Phil Jackson at Lakers Now
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May 26, 2011