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Jordan Clarkson the 6th man, good CBA news, and Sasha statues!

Posted by on Oct 11, 2016 in Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, Kamenetzky Brothers Land O'Lakers Podcast, Lakers Analysis, Lakers News, Lou Williams, Opinion, Podcast | 1 comment

With preseason games 2 and 3 in the books, we have a little better feel for this Lakers team, and for the first time in a while… the sun is poking through the clouds!

This team, in our humble opinion, still isn’t going to win a ton of games, but on both sides of the ball have given Lakers fans all the feels to this point in the fake game schedule. Some of the more interesting trends: Jordan Clarkson has come off the bench for all three games, with Lou Williams as a starter. The results have been positive all around, so will Luke Walton stick with that lineup? If so, is that a good thing? Julius Randle has improved his playmaking skills over the offseason. How far can he take it? What about Brandon Ingram? Any concern over his slow start?

This after kicking around some big news, including happy reports on negotiations for a new CBA, and a very unusual ambassadorship for Yao Ming.

Plus, we reveal our most intriguing non-Warriors/Cavs teams in both conferences. Then we cap it off not just with statues for Sasha Vujacic, but a rousing game of Sasha Vujacic trivia!

It’s likely more than you can handle in a single episode, but we’re willing to risk it.

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Phil Jackson, Jim Buss and a big Lakers power play

Posted by on Mar 8, 2014 in Jeanie Buss, Jerry Buss, Jim Buss, Lakers Analysis, Lakers News, Opinion, Phil Jackson | 13 comments

Friday morning, I packed the kids into the ol’ CR-V for the ride to school, and was greeted with news the New York Knicks had met with Phil Jackson and offered him their head coaching position.

Fair to say I didn’t need Stephen A. Smith’s analysis to tell me PJ wasn’t interested.

Friday afternoon, however, things got a lot more interesting, when Frank Isola of the New York Daily News reported the Knicks put something far more intriguing on the table: A front office gig, “more than a consulting job,” Isola’s source said. A President of Basketball Operations sort of thing, it can be reasonably assumed, the type giving Jackson control of New York’s roster construction and providing the Knicks with exactly the type of credible, stable, respected face they desperately need. Jackson reportedly asked for a week or so to sit on the offer.

And this morning, ESPNLA’s Ramona Shelburne added even more spice to the gumbo. Phil wouldn’t simply be interested in taking a Pat Riley role for a team, but according to her sources, “he is open to the possibility of coaching for a short period of time if it was necessary in a transition period for a franchise with championship aspirations.”

(Anyone know where we might find one of those, locally? Anyone? I can wait…)

All of this on the heels of Thursday’s catastrophic, franchise-worst loss to the Clippers at Staples, a game most fans left early to get home and make sure their pitchforks were sharpened and torches well-oiled.

Information leaks for a purpose, and while dot-connecting is always a risky venture seeing all these things as related requires no great leap. You could hardly blame Jim Buss for feeling a little besieged this weekend. For all the discontent aimed his way for hiring Mike D’Antoni instead of Jackson (something he’ll get blamed for, even if most people – Jackson included – say Dr. Buss ultimately made that call), the saving grace for Jim is that Phil hasn’t landed anywhere else. It could have happened had the Kings moved to Seattle, where Phil was set to be part of Chris Hansen’s braintrust for the new Sonics, but didn’t. Now it appears New York, even with the James Dolan Factor, is in play. He’s just got to think about it. For a week or so. While the Lakers burn. And oh, by the way, under the right circumstances, he’d even coach again for a year or so if necessary. If, you know, there was an opening and all.

There’s nothing subtle about this.

Tick tock, Jim.

For all the legitimate criticisms of Jim Buss, all the hyperbolic stuff – cries that he’s cheap, doesn’t want to win, is willing to run the thing into the ground, etc. – are ridiculous. He wants to successfully honor his father’s legacy, showing people he’s not just a rich man’s privileged son, but a quality basketball executive. So it’s ironic that his best chance to accomplish that in the eyes of the Lakers faithful would be by falling on his own sword, stepping aside, and giving Phil (or someone else with a high level of credibility) control over the hoops side of the operation. But what sounds easy from the outside isn’t, to use the vernacular, a slam dunk. Remember, it’s not just a job Phil is after, it’s Jim’s. It’s a move simultaneously making him a hero and diminishing him, while undoing the plan for succession Dr. Buss, barely a year in the grave, set in motion.

On the other hand, if Jackson heads to New York (or anywhere, really) Jim won’t be able swing by Ralph’s for a gallon of milk without getting egged. (That the eggs and milk are generally pretty close together doesn’t help.) It could take years for him to recover, publicly, if he can at all.

To whatever degree this really is the sort of basketball palace coup attempt it appears from the outside, it’s worth noting how much damage the gambit could cause should it not work. Even if Jeanie Buss isn’t at the heart of this week’s leaks, she’s clearly never had much interest in keeping a lid on Phil chatter, despite how much it undermines Jim and therefore hurts the organization. So at best she’s an inactive, indifferent bystander, at worst she’s actively working to push her brother aside. Not great for stability under any circumstances, but if Phil doesn’t return, at a time El Segundo needs to learn how to function in a Dr. Buss-less world she’ll have real responsibility for injecting that much more conflict and uncertainty.

All of this, of course, doesn’t even address other questions. Whether all of this is truly fair to Jim, whether that even matters, whether Phil would actually thrive in a team-building role, whether the potential instability of Jackson’s return outweighs the value he might bring, and so on. There’s a lot to unpack, here.

Fun, risky, fascinating times we find ourselves in, right?

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Podcast! Trade deadline reaction

Posted by on Feb 21, 2014 in Jim Buss, Kamenetzky Brothers Land O'Lakers Podcast, Kobe Bryant, Lakers Analysis, Lakers Audio, Lakers News, Mike D'Antoni, Mitch Kupchak, Opinion, Pau Gasol, Podcast | 4 comments

So Thursday noon has come and gone, and what did we learn? The trade deadline is but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more; it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Full disclosure: The first sentence is totally original, but most of that next part was borrowed from Macbeth. Still, it’s nonetheless fair to say Trade Deadline 2014! was a relative bust, without a whole lot of action locally or across the Association. The Lakers made their move Wednesday night, sending Steve Blake to Golden State for MarShon Brooks and Kent Bazemore. The day’s big blockbuster (relatively speaking) involved sending a B-ish player (Evan Turner) to Indiana for a once-pretty awesome wing (Danny Granger). The move could absolutely impact this year’s title chase, but overall the day was defined by Twitter waiting around for something cool to happen.

But good news! In this case, “nothing” means something. Thursday was still important for the Lakers, for different reasons. Click on the module to listen, navigating with the helpful list of talking points below…

  • Breaking down the Blake deal. Did the Lakers get anything they might be able to use going forward?
  • Thursday, Mitch Kupchak said they don’t consider the repeater tax to be a big issue. Is he being genuine? Should the Lakers be more concerned?
  • Do the Lakers overvalue their own guys? Do they know how to operate from anything but a position of great strength?
  • No first rounders and few second rounders changed hands Thursday. Stars, or the closest thing this market had to offer, generally stayed put. What does this say about today’s NBA, and how does that impact the way in which the Lakers will have to rebuild?
  • Evaluating the more significant deals. Blake to Golden State, Turner to Indy, and…, mostly that.

Finally, does the methodical, unhurried nature of Mitch Kupchak’s speaking style hurt the Lakers as the deadline gets down to the final moments? We investigate.

Ultimately, the Lakers are today more or less what they were on Tuesday, a disappointing development for those (understandably) hoping they’d be able to pick up some assets. Back to the drawing board.

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Kurt Rambis on the Lakers team defense

Posted by on Sep 29, 2013 in Lakers Analysis, Lakers News, Opinion, Pau Gasol | 1 comment

The Lakers were for large stretches of the 2012-13 season a train wreck defensively, leading the league in none of the happy categories but dusting the competition in post-basket finger pointing, angry glares, confused stares, and upward facing palms. And as bad as things were overall, they were.

If you missed the memo, Howard has since moved on to Houston. Metta World Peace, the team”s best perimeter defender, is gone to New York.

While they”ve made themselves younger and more athletic by adding Nick Young, Jordan Farmar, Wes Johnson, and more, the Lakers will still have real liabilities on the perimeter (Steve Nash, and certainly until he”s healthy, Kobe Bryant) and lack intimidating paint protectors inside. Moreover, getting younger and more athletic doesn”t automatically mean improving defensively. Young, for example, has never wowed folks with his commitment to defensive excellence, and doesn”t exactly speak .

“I gave [the Lakers] my word I”m going to try (defensively).” he told ESPNLA 710 this summer, “But, they”re not bringing me here for what I don”t do — they brought me here for what I do.”

Bird”s gotta fly, right?

Johnson is built like someone who ought to play good defense, but his numbers with and say otherwise. These were the guys Kobe suggested Saturday at Media Day could take up the baton for MWP on the perimeter, something I can only attribute to lingering effects from Bryant”s post-op narcotics.

Point being, believing the Lakers can improve on last year”s defensive showing requires a fairly vivid imagination. Far more likely, it”s a matter of limiting the downside by maximizing what they have. The guy asked to make proverbial chicken salad from proverbial chicken poop is Kurt Rambis, returning to the Lakers staff after a disastrous head coaching stint in Minnesota followed by some solid work as a TV analyst. I spoke to him Saturday, and even given the natural optimism always present at the start of the year, Rambis seems very aware of what he”s got. Or more specifically, what he hasn”t got, and how they”ll have to compensate.

A portion of the conversation:

Q: Media types like me believe there is only so good this team can be defensively, given the personnel. How fair is that? Is there a ceiling here? 

Rambis: ”It all comes down to communication, and it all comes down to guys being in sync in what they want to do, and adhere philosophically to what we want our guys to do. If we can get guys doing that, we could be pretty good. Everybody looks at defense, and you look at basket protectors, you look at individual defensive players. But even if you have individual defensive players and this guy might be denying this guy all over the court — well, that guy that”s denying somebody, he should have been part of the rotation. So yeah, this guy didn”t score but (the opposition) still got a layup out of it. So you still need all five guys functioning together out there on the court, so they understand who is responsible for what, who is covering who”s back, and who is supposed to be in help position all over the court. I think when you have players who are competitive and willing to work hard and you have intelligent ballplayers — because you have to read, you have to react, you have to anticipate — if we can get them in a system that they feel comfortable with and understand and the communication is there, and the work ethic is there, we can be ok.

The combination has to be what we can do offensively, and then what we can do defensively, too. Do we have to be a drop dead, stop-everybody-on-every-sequence down the floor? It may be hard to do that. But if we can force teams to take the shots we want them to take and function really well at the other end, we”re going to give ourselves a great chance to win games.”

Q: So you”re thinking of this in a holistic way, not necessarily looking to individual talent. It”s going to have to be the group. 

Rambis: ”Absolutely. It even works well if you have great individual defenders when everyone is functioning well together.”

Q: But you don”t have that here. At least by reputation.

Rambis: “No, I think we have some really good, sometime-great-defenders. But if you”re talking about doing it individually all the time, we don”t have that kind of thing here. But I do think we have guys that understand basketball and have guys that will be willing to do the things we ask them to do. That”s going to be important. We”ve already worked a little bit with guys before training camp opened, and guys understand what we want them to do. It”s about getting them to be consistent with it, so they”re doing it all the time.”

The hope is that with a cohesive system to which everyone commits — something clearly lacking last season, even as things improved defensively over the second half — the team can be better than the sum of its parts. But Rambis essentially admits the Lakers don”t have the requisite physical talent (while promoting their basketball intangibles) and hope to be good enough to allow offense to carry the day. Maybe Rambis is just under-promising with the hope to over-deliver.

More likely, he”s just being realistic.

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More on Jim Buss, Jeanie Buss, and the present/future of the Lakers

Posted by on Aug 15, 2013 in Jerry Buss, Jim Buss, Lakers Analysis, Lakers News, Mitch Kupchak, Opinion | 2 comments

Last week, Jeanie Buss appeared on ESPNLA 710, sitting in studio for an hour and covering a ton of ground, including Dwight Howard, her relationship with Jim Buss, and how Phil Jackson impacts the franchise.

My big takeaway: The Lakers have a serious adjustment period coming, not just in the roster but in the way the front office operates as they attempt to fill the massive hole created by the death of Dr. Buss. It’s analogous to what Apple faced when Steve Jobs died. Dr. Buss was that level figure, and while alive, even if in a diminished capacity, the franchise had its anchor. Now they don’t, and the resulting power structure is far less stable. That the NBA world in which Jim and Jeanie operate is far more hostile to the Lakers than the one Dr. Buss bought into only makes things tougher.

That’s the dominant theme of this week’s piece on the state of the Lakers from Ric Bucher in the Hollywood Reporter.

Those following the day-to-day ebb and flow of the Lakers front office over the last few seasons will find Bucher’s story familiar, but there are still some interesting nuggets: 

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Jim and Jeanie Buss, the Lakers, and Apple

Posted by on Aug 10, 2013 in Interview, Jerry Buss, Jim Buss, Lakers Analysis, Lakers News, Opinion | 2 comments

If you didn”t have a chance to on ESPNLA 710, it”s worth the time. (For those of you who prefer to read, Ramona Shelburne has a fine summary of things here.)

Over the course of an hour, Buss comments on a variety of things, from her relationship to brother Jim, the ways in which Phil Jackson serves as an advisor for her (no surprise, given the whole “they”re engaged” thing), and her hope that Kobe Bryant doesn”t rush back from his Achilles injury. But the comments garnering the largest share of headlines dealt with Dwight Howard”s departure.

“When it came time to try to convince Dwight to stay, we lost the best closer in the business in Dr. Buss.” she said.

“Putting up the billboard maybe wasn”t the right thing. But we maybe have to learn to do things differently because Dr. Buss isn”t here anymore. People said [of the billboards], “Oh, that”s not the Laker way.” Well, the Laker way isn”t the same, because Dr. Buss isn”t here.”

I don”t know if Dr. Buss really could have convinced Howard to remain a Laker. While Howard reportedly wasn”t overwhelmed by Jim Buss during the team”s pitch meeting, there were plenty of negatives lined up against the Lakers that even Dr. Buss couldn”t fix, and obviously no way to answer the question definitively*. But Jeanie touches on a larger issue. The “Laker Way,” as it were, was already under pressure thanks to a shifting media and marketing landscape and a CBA designed to neuter the team”s financial strengths. But the culture shift is massive, and equally if not more important. Dr. Buss was an icon and visionary, someone who”s mere presence — even if limited in later years by health questions — leant credibility and confidence. He was the Laker Way.

It”s analogous to what”s happened at Apple since the death of Steve Jobs. Two monumentally successful and influential companies, led by dynamic, ground-breaking men whose names, personalities, and personal gifts became synonymous with the brand. Both dealt with illness, making the end an inevitability rather than a surprise and allowing for preparations to be made. Both companies remain staffed by very bright, capable people dedicated to continued success.** But once Steve Jobs was gone, Apple became a different company. So, too, the Lakers after Dr. Buss. Both are now left to navigate a world in which the challenges for and challengers to their supremacy are shifting, and the bar for success is incredibly high.

One big difference: While Jobs could be seen figuratively as a father figure for Apple as a company, in the case of Dr. Buss, it”s literal. Jim and Jeanie (with the rest of the Buss children) are running a family business handed to them by their dad, trying to live up to the standard he set. It doesn”t get more deeply personal than that.

This isn”t to say the Lakers should now be held to a lower standard, but is a reminder that learning to navigate without Dr. Buss won”t be easy or instant.

*The wireless tv speakers
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shadow of Dr. Buss will loom large over Jim, particularly in moments where things go wrong. If Jim does X, Dr. Buss would have done Y. Y, of course, being the right thing. 

**Though it seems the distrust many Lakers fans have for Jim Buss is shared by Applephiles regarding Tim Cook.

 

 

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