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Playoffs, Baby! Gearing Up For a Crazy Summer

Posted by on May 19, 2018 in Opinion, Podcast |

The Conference Finals are here, and in some ways are more interesting thanks to what happens after them, rather than during. What if Houston, now tied 1-1, goes down quickly from here on? What if the Celtics beat the Cavs (as we both think will happen)? Does that mean LeBron is gone? To Houston? To L.A. ? Could Boston, stacked with too many good players, trade Kyrie?

And what about that Houston/GSW series? Did “adjustments” happen? Or did Houston just do Houston stuff better? Are there any adjustments good enough to get Cleveland through to the Finals?

We kick around all this, plus talk a little Boogie Cousins. Is he doing this free agency thing right?


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PODCAST!!! Lakers coaching search, the NBA Finals, Donald’s quiz, action heroes

Posted by on Jun 14, 2014 in Byron Scott, Jim Buss, Kamenetzky Brothers Land O'Lakers Podcast, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Mike D'Antoni, Mitch Kupchak, Opinion, Podcast | 3 comments

It’s been over a month since our last show. Then again, it’s been even longer since Mike D’Antoni resigned, and the Lakers still haven’t settled their coaching search, so really, who’s the turtle here?

The show can be heard by clicking on the module, and a list of talking points can be found below. Among the high points…

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PODCAST! Who replaces Mike D’Antoni? K.D., Kobe Bryant, and hoops psychology, plus Sterlings!

Posted by on May 10, 2014 in Kamenetzky Brothers Land O'Lakers Podcast, Kobe Bryant, Lakers Analysis, Lakers Audio, Mike D'Antoni, Opinion, Podcast | 2 comments

The NBA has been a busy place since we last recorded, and not just because of the playoffs. Donald Sterling has been banished by the NBA, and Mike D’Antoni banished himself, perhaps before the Lakers could do it for him. Meanwhile, Kevin Durant not only set the Mother’s Day bar at an impossibly high level for the rest of us with his Instant Classic MVP speech, he seemed to reveal a changing dynamic in the nature of NBA “alpha dogs.”

So plenty to talk about, for sure. Click on the module to listen, and use these handy talking points as a guide:

  • We kick off our headlines with all things Sterling. First, in another recording, this time picked up by Radar Online, Donald Sterling says he’s not a racist. He also says he said that stuff in the TMZ tape because he wanted to “play” with V. Stiviano.  And we don’t mean checkers. (Ewww….) Not to be outdone, Shelly Sterling made it clear she’s not letting go of the team without a fight. Is this a money grab or a problem that will fester for the NBA going forward?
  • Andrew Bynum is officially done for the year. Is he also done for good?
  • D’Antoni is gone. Why picking a replacement isn’t simply a matter of finding a coach with an attractive style of play. Can the Lakers really identify the best candidate when the roster is nearly guaranteed to turn over substantially in each of the next three seasons?
  • Has the nature of the NBA alpha dog changed? Is The Kobe Way the only way? What does the Kobification of L.A. over the last (almost) two decades mean for the superstar who follows Bryant with the Lakers?
  • AAK! We share our ultimate podcast guests, living and dead.

Click above to play, or just download the show hereHope you enjoy it. To subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, click here. You can also find us on by heading here.

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So the Lakers may not fire Mike D’Antoni? Really?

Posted by on Apr 3, 2014 in Jim Buss, Kobe Bryant, Mike D'Antoni, Mitch Kupchak | 17 comments

Maybe not, notes Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report.

If you haven’t already smashed your screen with the nearest rock, kudos. I suspect there are Lakers faithful out there in the market for new devices. And no question, the embattled Mike D’Antoni is at the center of city’s hurricane of discontent. The Lakers Wednesday clinched their first 50-loss season in nearly 40 years. They likely will become the franchise’s worst incarnation since moving from Minneapolis. There is talk Kobe Bryant, advocate of the accelerated rebuild, wants a new coach next season. Fans egg cars at random around Los Angeles, hoping they’ll one day hit his. Congress cringes at D’Antoni’s unpopularity.

But I’ve said it a few times, and I’ll say it again: There are a lot of legitimate reasons to delay a coaching change one more year. For example…

  • There’s a good chance the Lakers don’t make big waves in free agency this summer. Should that be the case, likely they’ll return a roster similar to this year’s mosh pit of young players and short contracts. Equally strong is the likelihood that group won’t be relevant in the 2015 playoff race, and that the roster will be reconstructed again next summer. All told, it makes the job less appealing. Future Coach won’t know what things will look like in 2015-16. I’ve watched enough HGTV to know even the nicest houses sell better when fixed up and staged properly. The Lakers would be putting themselves on the market while needing a new roof, foundation repairs, and new hardwood floors.
  • Moreover, it would be harder to match Future Coach to Future Franchise Player. The most important superstar the Lakers have to appease with their next coach isn’t Bryant, it’s some guy currently playing on another roster. Let’s say the Lakers name Stan Van Gundy or Lionel Hollins as D’Antoni’s replacement in the offseason. What if Kevin’s Love or Durant don’t like those guys? Talent drives everything in the NBA. Doing anything that might make acquiring it more difficult is a mistake. Match the coach to the next star/supporting cast, not the other way around.
  • If the Lakers are relatively short on high end talent next year, D’Antoni is actually a pretty good match, given his track record of squeezing decent performances out of more marginal players.

It’s not about believing D’Antoni is a brilliant coach. He unquestionably has some significant flaws. His communication skills are poor, and he’s not political enough to thrive in this market. There are times when D’Antoni seems constitutionally incapable of lying when asked a question, even if it’s the right thing to do. Other times, he tries and can’t pull it off. That his flexibility is sometimes ignored doesn’t mean he’s not prone to dogmatic decision making. Et cetera, et cetera. Nor is it about giving D’Antoni a fair shake. I don’t care if he’s treated fairly*. Mike Brown wasn’t treated “fairly” either, but the Lakers should have fired him faster than they did. The team’s obligation is to make sound strategic decisions. If that means canning a guy who may not have had a real chance to succeed, so be it. Except as things lay out today, they’d likely be canning D’Antoni for the wrong reasons.

I’ve heard it said by a few people the Lakers can’t go through another season like this one. Fans are too accustomed to success, won’t tolerate it, and will stop showing up. Kobe won’t put up with it. The heat will be too hot.


Fans will be pissed off if D’Antoni returns, and Staples might have some empty seats next year (though fewer assuming Kobe plays, which is why they gave him $48.5 million). Bryant will indeed be chippy, and likely they’ll have to install a panic room in Jim Buss’ office. But these are p.r., not basketball, considerations. (Except the panic room, which might require permitting from the city.) It’s about looking like they’re doing something! That dammit, someone must be held accountable!

But accountable for what? Going into the season, the generally accepted best case scenario said that if everything went well the Lakers might – might – contend for a playoff spot. And fair to say everything has not gone well. No reasonably sane observer of basketball could possibly claim this team should be significantly better than their 25-50 record. They could lose differently, but under any coach, these guys would lose. (It’s actually easier to argue that the Lakers have slightly overachieved.) Walking D’Antoni to the top of the volcano and pushing him in feels good as ritual sacrifice, but unless it advances the rebuilding plan would constitute a cosmetic fix, not anything substantial.

What the fans really ought to demand from ownership is the willingness not to act for the sake of public opinion. To have the strength do to nothing if nothing best serves larger goals, just as nothing did when Bryant clamored for the Lakers to trade Andrew Bynum for any name brand not nailed to another team’s floor. If Kobe is ticked this time around, so be it. I sympathize with his desire to contend for another title, or at the very least not play on a really shitty team next year. This is how the guy is wired, but the Lakers don’t owe him anything else. They can’t. Each side has paid his debt to the other. And if fans are mad, so what? They’ll come back if the franchise does. What will make them angrier is a team perpetually stuck in that space between real contention and genuine rebuilding, Sixtoeightseedville.

Maybe the summer plays out more positively than I’m anticipating. Surprises happen, and certainly Mitch Kupchak has shown an ability to produce rabbits from hats. If the Lakers can make sound moves to transform a three year rebuild into essentially one, great. I’m all for it. Nobody in LA (save Clipper Darrell) likes watching the Lakers suck. But they can’t screw this up. Despite the cap space upcoming, the Lakers are still in very fragile space. They have few assets to parlay into pieces of a championship team. Small mistakes will have disproportionately large impacts. Large mistakes will almost impossible to unwind.

It’s hard enough to build an elite roster without taking aesthetics into consideration. If the Lakers complicate matters by allowing public opinion (or the opinion of the incumbent star) to factor in, they’re likely screwed. So if firing D’Antoni this summer makes good basketball sense, allowing them to better construct a winning product down the road, go for it. He’ll be gone in a year, anyway. But if they do it because they feel they have to, because the masses won’t be satisfied without their share of red meat, Lakers fans should watch out because it’s a bad sign of things to come.

*I’ve long maintained D’Antoni was screwed from the start, after the front office dangled Phil not only to the fans, but the players. Meaning psychologically MDA didn’t replace the very unpopular Mike Brown, but Phil Jackson. Once that happened and the 2012-13 season became a struggle, that D’Antoni’s tenure in L.A. would end sooner rather than later became a foregone conclusion. The only question would be the timing. So overall, I don’t think “fair,” particularly when this year’s limited roster and catastrophic injury issues are factored in, is the best word to describe the context in which D’Antoni has worked. But fairness shouldn’t be a primary concern for a front office. If axing a guy is unfair but improves the team’s fortunes, so be it. That’s life. 

**NOTE: A few people in the comments and over Twitter have pointed out something that would change my perspective, here: If the Lakers were to hire a younger, less experienced coach with potential who could use a relatively consequence-free year to learn, I’d can D’Antoni without second thoughts. I love the idea of expanding the coaching search beyond the big FA names we all know – Van Gundy, Karl, Hollins, etc. – but as I’ve noted on the podcast, I don’t think the front office has the stones to go the direction of a bold-but-risky hire and groom talent. Not after Brown and D’Antoni. I wish they would, but don’t think it’ll happen. 

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The Impending Civil War Between Laker Fans and Kobe Fans

Posted by on Apr 1, 2014 in Jim Buss, Kobe Bryant, Lakers Analysis, Mitch Kupchak, Opinion |

Just wanted to pass along a piece I wrote for ESPN’s TrueHoop section about the potential schism over the next several years between two very distinct sets of Laker fans: The ones who care first and foremost about the franchise and the ones who care first and foremost about Kobe Bryant. These divided priorities among many fans have never been a secret, but also never terribly problematic so long as the Lakers remained a powerhouse. But in its current state, with the franchise desperately in need of a smart, methodical rebuild and Kobe openly impatient towards anything short of “win now,” the stakes may be on the verge of rising for those taking a side.

You can read the article by clicking here, and below is an excerpt:

Kobe Bryant is anything but an ordinary superstar, and Kobe zealots are a breed different than I’ve seen in my entire life watching and covering sports.

The Mamba is regarded by this contingency as half basketball god, half political prisoner. An indestructible force of nature, yet encased in bubble wrap to protect him from the slings and arrows of jealous haters consumed with denying the Mamba’s greatness. True Kobe-ites will gladly step into traffic to protect him from an oncoming car, but feel disappointment it wasn’t actually a bus.

In fairness to Kobe’s vigilantes, getting his back has often felt like getting hit by a Greyhound. Bryant’s career has been shaped by persistent PR turbulence. Feuds with Shaquille O’Neal and Phil Jackson. (Too much) blame for the threepeat core’s dissolution. Colorado. The 2007 offseason, in which he demanded a trade to Pluto. His relentlessly demanding relationship with teammates. An-court persona that would raise Hannibal Lector’s eyebrows. Throw in the reductive — and idiotic — idea that Kobe’s first three titles on “Shaq’s teams” somehow counted less, and the guy has spent considerable time between the crosshairs. Bryant may be more popular than polarizing these days, but likability will never be his calling card.

Of course, Kobe Bryant is also an indisputable icon, an athlete destined to go down as one of basketball’s all-time greats, and a lifer for one of sports’ most storied franchises. The fervent didn’t choose him by accident. Even Lakers fans who don’t worship at the altar take considerable pride knowing Kobe is one of their own.

However, that sect pledges its loyalty to the franchise first, and these fans are hyper-aware of where life currently stands for the Lakers. The future has been mortgaged bone-dry after surrendering multiple picks to acquire Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, and to jettison the contracts of Derek Fisher and Luke Walton. The new CBA was designed to prevent teams like the Lakers from reloading through economic superiority.

Painful as these losses have been, another underwhelming season might be necessary to create a sustainable bright future. For the first time in eons, the Lakers are in position to build from the ground up, and whatever critical designs in place can’t be altered to placate a 36-year-old player with over 54,000 career minutes (playoffs included) coming off consecutive significant injuries. Even if that player happens to be Kobe Bryant.

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