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D’Angelo Russell steps in it, Hassan Whiteside’s future

Posted by on Apr 1, 2016 in Kamenetzky Brothers Land O'Lakers Podcast, Lakers Analysis, Lakers Audio, Nick Young, Opinion | 1 comment

The Lakers have had an interesting week, to say the least. To the point that Kobe Bryant’s final game, now less than two weeks away, was pushed off the front burner.

In this installment of the show, we break down D’Angelo Russell’s big mistake. What happened, and more importantly, what happens next?

Plus, all the headlines around the NBA, including rumors linking Hassan Whiteside to the Lakers, and his reaction to them. Is he a good fit for the purple and gold this summer? In other news, Yao Ming is heading to the Hall of Fame, the Pelicans ask for — then receive — input from genuine practitioners of voodoo, and Vlade Divac has an extension with the Kings.

We dive back into the secret audio of that first LaMarcus Aldridge pitch meeting, give Karl Malone a statue, and answer your pressing questions in a fresh installment of AAK! All in all, it’s enough to vault you happily into the weekend.

 

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To Carmelo or not to Carmelo? That is the question…

Posted by on Jul 8, 2014 in Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant, Lakers Analysis, Opinion | 34 comments

It’s not a matter of the star you’d choose, but the stars you can choose from.

LeBron James and Kevin Durant require no thought. Plunk down the max and roll. Carmelo Anthony doesn’t generate that type of consensus. A dynamic offensive force, without question one of the league’s best pure scorers, but 30 years old with a reputation as a ball-sticker and less-than-stellar defender. Elite, but imperfect. Is he the hero L.A. deserves or the one they need right now?

Generally speaking, I subscribe to the theory of getting the elite guy and figuring it out later. Some very smart people are reporting the Lakers believe landing Anthony will facilitate the return of Pau Gasol on what I’m assuming will be a two-year contract. That would leave them with a starting five of Point Guard TBD, Kobe Bryant, Anthony, Julius Randle, and Gasol. If Randle isn’t ready to start, Anthony could play the four, and the Lakers could find another wing with Kobe playing either the two or the three. Regardless, if Melo chooses L.A. and Gasol re-ups, the Lakers almost surely would have no space to add other players of (financial) significance.

But what comes next? If the guard spot was filled by Steve Nash, the Lakers would have the honor of starting four potential Hall of Famers, which is cool, and they’d score a bunch of points, which is fun. They’d also give them up by the bushel, and would be placing a long odds wager on the whole crew staying healthy. Maybe the Lakers have other dominoes to topple should Anthony choo-choo-choose them, but on the surface at least this looks, more or less, like the plan. Meanwhile, they’d show the Lakers brand still has weight.

While they’d make a splash helping them win July – or at least be runners up, because the team signing LeBron wins – they won’t win the fall, winter and spring, when actual basketball is played.

I’ve said before, I’ll say again: A Bryant/Anthony/Gasol core won’t compete for a title in a stacked Western Conference. If they stay healthy – if, if, if, if – it’s still likely a bottom four team on the playoff ladder, thanks to almost inevitable roster holes and defensive questions. Then, how do they improve significantly in Year 2 of Kobe/Melo? Conceptually, the Lakers would be repeating the strategy of July 2012, swapping out Anthony for Howard. The results would likely be better in some ways – the stars wouldn’t hate each other, for example – but worse in others. Kobe wasn’t coming off two major injuries, Pau wasn’t two years older, Nash wasn’t bro– ok, Nash was broken then, too.

So in two years, the Lakers leave themselves with an excellent chance of landing right back at this point, with an aging star*, though one not as old as the incumbent for sure, and massive amounts of cap space but without the rest of the roster infrastructure required to attract the next wave of great FA’s. More and more, it seems, elite players want to see a constructed roster and the available assets to get and stay competitive.

Anyone listening to the podcast regularly or reading here likely knows the thing I find most fascinating about the Lakers right now isn’t simply the list of transactions potentially available to them, but how they attack the rebuilding process and what it reveals about the way the franchise views itself. All over TV and the web, we’ve seen handwringing over what might happen next year if the Lakers aren’t good, how nobody will tolerate an “encore” performance. I think it’s a gross over-reaction. Monday, I heard more on the same theme. Doom-and-gloom conclusions about what it would say about the Lakers if they weren’t able to land a big fish this summer. In the wake of Howard’s defection, it’s just more evidence of a once-great franchise in serious decline under new ownership.

In this scenario, the Lakers are the hot girl whose self-worth is tied to always having a boyfriend.

It’s one thing for the chattering mass of fans and media to think that way, assuming the franchise doesn’t. But if they do? If they buy into the premise the Lakers are diminished significantly by temporarily going without a star, or at the least a clear roadmap to one, consumed forever with the passing of torches? That the brand is lessened by a more patient rebuild? These are problems. The organization produces stars, it attracts stars, it cultivates stars, but the Lakers don’t have to be starfuckers.

We’ve learned more about the presentation made to Anthony, laying out a vision for Melo as the next franchise face and the business plan coming with it. Strong stuff, well presented, by all accounts. At a time where the natural advantages of Los Angeles, from endorsements to spending power are, whether by mass media or the current CBA, eroded relative to 15 or 20 years before, for the Lakers to convincingly sell the financial advantage of being a Laker is powerful. It’s also the only pitch they can make, because one centered on the roster and assets isn’t nearly as compelling.

Now imagine a world in which they can sell both. Here are our players, picks, and other assets that can make you a champion, not just a marketing monster, because you can’t be the latter without the former. We’ve got the young, quality talent capable of spectacular achievement with the injection of someone truly elite. Be a champion, be an icon. Going all out for Melo isn’t a disastrous idea. He’s an excellent player. There are many things worse than having him on your team. It’s also the safest play, showing less vision and self-confidence, and makes the Lakers’ chances of sustained, high level success going forward harder than a well-executed, ground-up rebuild, not easier.

Whether they feel it’s the right path or simply the mandatory one, in courting Melo the Lakers are cultivating only half of a winning pitch.

*Those believing you need a star to attract more stars must also believe a nearly 33 year old Anthony is an attractive draw. Not sure that’s the case. 

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Mitch Kupchak on Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Mike D'Antoni, and the 2013-14 season

Posted by on Sep 26, 2013 in Dwight Howard, Jeanie Buss, Jim Buss, Jordan Hill, Kobe Bryant, Lakers Analysis, Lakers Audio, Mike D'Antoni, Mitch Kupchak, Opinion, Pau Gasol, Phil Jackson, Steve Blake, Steve Nash |

Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak took questions Wednesday in El Segundo, ahead of Saturday's big Media Day extravaganza kickoff bash to the see-what-sticks 2013-14 season. He covered plenty of ground over the course of about 35 minutes, and we'll get some of his comments, along with some amount of pithy commentary, up as soon as possible.

In the meantime, for those who want to hear the whole thing, here's the full audio:

And now some individual clips for those who prefer their press conferences pre-sifted…

Kupchak is probably right that the book excerpt in isolation doesn't impact the way potential free agents would view the city and the franchise, but collectively with other examples of family discord or disorganization, it absolutely matters. The perception of ownership makes a difference. Say what you want about Dwight Howard, but he was reportedly unimpressed with Jim Buss during the team's presentation to him. No question, Jim has a reputation to overcome.

Without question, many of the historic advantages held by the franchise are mitigated in today's NBA, for all sorts of reasons. If as an organization the Lakers have to overcome the perception that management in the post-Dr. Buss era isn't on the same page, it'll make things that much more difficult. Going forward, whatever conflict exists as Jim and Jeanie navigate a world without their dad needs to be kept in-house.

I find this one particularly interesting. Once again, Kupchak is pushing the (totally realistic and wise) notion the rebuilding process will extend beyond this offseason. Unless the Lakers sign LeBron James — not going to happen — the idea the Lakers play out this year then emerge next summer a fully reconstructed contender is far-fetched. More likely, it takes a couple years. Kupchak's message is sound: It's more important to rebuild correctly than it is to rebuild quickly.

Maybe I'm reading too far in between the lines here… but it sounds like they'd like to get the ball back in Nash's hands a little more, and avoid the “Magic Bryant” style of play they used last year, both to protect Kobe post-injury and best utilize the rest of the roster. (Meanwhile, I'm very optimistic about what Jordan Farmar might do for this year's team, and Kupchak's comments do little to temper those feelings.)

D'Antoni has plenty of support within the organization. He's not going anywhere. (Still, he might want to win a preseason game or two, just to be safe…)

One more interesting note: I asked Kupchak how many players the Lakers plan to carry this year, and he indicated management could be more inclined to carry a 14th or even 15th player into the season. Obviously, the team's injury situation plays a role in that decision. If the vets are still a little tender, more bodies are needed to limit their minutes and facilitate effective practices. But the Lakers also have a bunch of players in on cheap deals, representing some of their best access to young, potentially useful talent. It's worth the modest investment to see if one or two might pan out over the course of the year. All in all, very good news for the make-good guys in camp, and something to watch as the preseason plays out.

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Podcast: Royce White on mental health advocacy, anxiety disorder, the NBA, music and Twitter

Posted by on Aug 6, 2013 in Kamenetzky Brothers Land O'Lakers Podcast, Kobe Bryant, Podcast, Royce White | 2 comments

It would be a challenge to name an NBA rookie who created more controversy and headlines without logging a single minute of run than Philadelphia 76ers forward Royce White. Drafted last year by the Houston Rockets, White was widely regarded as a risk because of . For the time being, the skeptics haven”t been silenced. White and the Rockets were never able to establish common ground on, and as a result, he spent the year mostly estranged from the team. It was no surprise to see White moved to Philly this summer, as Houston made space for Dwight Howard. His NBA debut remains a chapter waiting to be written.

, while admittedly fascinating, often made it unclear whether he wanted to be a professional basketball player, a mental health advocate, or whether he even knows what he wants, period. Talking directly with White, however, reveals a considerably more grounded mission statement and mindset. White clearly understands the delicate complexity for all sides. Working without a blueprint means trial and error, and also sometimes a mess. However, he”s confident about suiting up for the Sixers come fall, and seemingly more secure that any problems can be addressed on a case-by-base basis.

We spoke at length with White Monday afternoon about topics including his mental health advocacy, his NBA goals, the positive and negative aspects of Twitter, and the importance of music in his life. (I have a feeling we could have done the entire show just on John Lennon, Prince and Frank Sinatra.) You can hear the show by clicking on the module above or the link at the bottom of the post. Below is an excerpt of the conversation beginning after Brian noted how Kobe Bryant”s famous competitiveness and ferocious work ethic has been self-described, perhaps only partially tongue-in-cheek, as pathological. “Whether it”s Kobe and that kind of hyper-competitiveness or other people generally — artists, and people who have some personality attribute that”s outside the norm,” he asked. “How do you explain the difference between something like that, that”s maybe something that”s maybe an extreme version of “normal,” and something that is a disorder?”

“I think the tough thing that we have to deal with is that there may not be a difference,” responded White. “And I think in the mental health community — obviously, confidentiality is a huge piece and why there is such a disconnection between what we know about people who deal with mental heath disorders or who we know deals with them. Because of the stigma, people don”t want you to know, therefore [we] don”t know, because they have that right to privacy. But I think if you just opened up the book and could see everybody who deals with a mental health disorder, you would see a lot of people that are highly successful, like a Kobe Bryant. I went to Nike camps as a high school prospect, and I heard stories of Kobe Bryant working out until he blacks out. Right? And that”s definitely — and again, I don”t want to try and diagnose Kobe Bryant, but that definitely sounds like symptoms or traces of an OCD. Just straight obsession with the game or with success or being better or whatever the idea in his head that he wants, he”s obsessed with getting it. And that doesn”t have to be a bad thing. It can be a dangerous thing, obviously, if you”re blacking out, but if he can do it, he can do it. Right?

“But I use myself more when I talk about being hyper-competitive. When I first started with music, I remember there was this place called Uptown in Minneapolis and my friend had a studio there. This is right when I left the University of Minnesota and took that time off. I stayed there for six weeks straight in a room that had no windows. Basically you can”t tell what time of day it is in there. I was there six weeks straight and I probably lost 25 pounds. I wasn”t eating normally. But I was happy. I was happy, because I was fine tuning my ability to produce something that I love, which is music. And the crazy thing is — (laughs) crazy, construction company
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I should probably change that word  – the ironic thing is I saw my family practitioner who first diagnosed me with anxiety, and she said that during that six week period, that was the best that I ever looked, in terms of color and in my face and my attention and how I was acting with my anxiety, because obviously she can pick up on things just on how you”re acting physically. She said it was the best I”d ever looked, which is really weird, because you would think that six weeks in a studio with no food and irregular sleep, you would look terrible. But that”s just not the way the brain looks. The brain is a very complex thing. It”s the most complex organ in the body.”

Thus, I noted, one man”s “obsessive” can be another man”s “healthy,” which only further complicates the issue.

“Right,” agreed White. “And one thing that makes somebody healthy could kill somebody else. Some people obsess about things and it kills them. With drugs (for example). It can be fatal. That”s why you have to pay attention to it. The first thing is, you have to pay attention. And the second thing, you have to genuinely care enough to say that you”re going to give the kind of right support. And then next you have to know that it”s very individually based. You”re not going to be able to write up a blueprint and say this is how we”re going to do it for everybody, because that”s going to be irresponsible, and you”re just gonna end up doing somebody a disservice.”

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

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Why so many NBA players may be supporting Jason Collins

Posted by on Apr 30, 2013 in Opinion | 3 comments

Earlier this season, I wrote a feature for Red Bull Media House about Nick Collison, the OKC Thunder power forward universally renowned as one of the NBA’s ultimate role players and teammates. He makes a practice of sacrificing stats and flesh for the sake of winning basketball games. After years of putting common goals ahead of personal ones, teammates don’t simply appreciate Collison. They love him. Kevin Durant literally shooed away a Media Relations person who told me the All-Star was no longer taking questions once I revealed who my piece was about. The notion of helping his longtime teammate enjoy a moment in the sun appealed to Durant, because in his mind, Collison deserved it.

Along similar lines, I have a theory that benefited from having spent the majority of his career doing the dirty work. Playing interior defense against the likes of Shaquille O’Neal, Dwight Howard, and Yao Ming. Setting screens. Taking charges. Using up all six of his fouls if necessary. A dozen seasons spent banging and collecting bruises in servitude of higher profile, flashier, more talented players. A job that often amounted to little more than making everyone else shine.

I’ve covered the NBA long enough to know how much players who embrace Collins” mindset are appreciated and respected by their peers. It’s no accident that two of Kobe Bryant’s favorite teammates were Ronny Turiaf and Josh Powell, just as it’s no accident everybody in the NBA seems to love Collins. You can’t help but relish someone willing to give so much of himself for so little relative glory in return. Selflessness is rare in most walks of life, and sports is often no exception.

Obviously, Monday’s vast outpouring of support for Collins among NBA players could first and foremost reflect a changing political and social climate, a world with a growing currency placed on inclusion.

It could be indicative of a league whose membership is largely black, meaning they can relate to what it feels like to be discriminated against.

Or the way most people, and NBA players are no exception, have a gay friend or family member who’ve lent a name and face to what it means (and doesn’t mean) to be homosexual.

Maybe it’s a collective awareness that this barrier will be broken at some point, so it might as well be now.

Maybe they’re just happy a fellow athlete is now able to be openly happy in his own skin.

Maybe they just recognize it’s the right thing to do.

But after a dozen seasons putting on his proverbial hard hat, I couldn’t help but wonder if the explanation for so many players getting his back is even simpler: If you’re unwilling to stand by a guy like Jason Collins, at the end of the day, what does it say about you?

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