Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Blog Page 32

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

All week long, our staff writers chime in on a series of topics, rumors and storylines leading up to the start of the season. In today’s edition of State of the Nation, they wonder whether or not Steve Nash can stay healthy and get back to form this season.

Will Steve Nash have a bounce-back season now that he is healthy, and has a training camp with Mike D’Antoni to install the offense?

Alex Lambeth // @AlexLambeth:

Sort of. Steve Nash had arguably the toughest season of any Laker last season. Nash will turn 40 this February, but with his superb basketball IQ and craftiness, Nash and D’Antoni could have another magical season in store.

Jon Gaffer // @jewelslamo:

Nash is a year older, so knowing the system doesn’t help his back, knees, or any other aching part of his body. I don’t see much upside with him on the floor.

Mark Awad // @MarkeyTheBoss_:

I dont expect big numbers from Nash. Having Jordan Farmar and Steve Blake gives Coach D the option to keep the guards fresh throughout the whole game. I expect Nash to carry the rock a little more.

Robert Benitez // @beeb0:

Yes, what bothered Steve last year was his injuries. As long as he can stay healthy, he’ll be fine.

Ashkan Kargaran // @aakargaran

Father time is starting to beat down on Steve Nash, but he is still talented and savvy enough to provide 25-30 solid minutes a game. With Kobe out, Nash will have the ball in his hands the majority of the time. Add in a full training camp under Mike D’Antoni and we may see a double digit assist season for the Nashty one.

Bummi Anderson // @BummiNAnderson

Steve Nash will have a bounce back season. He will be able to communicate Mike D’s offense to willing teammates. Look for Steve to do a much better job at harmonizing the team in the early part of the year.

Melvin Taylor // @MelvinTaylorII:

No. I’m sorry, but last I checked, Steve Nash is the oldest player in the NBA. Only a DBZ hyperbolic time chamber could give him the rest he really needs. He’ll be in better shape, but expect Farmar and Blake to play key roles this year.

Oren Levy // @LakersOren:

Yes, but should he? The offense ideally should run through a team’s best player, and Nash having a great year running the point takes the ball out of Kobe’s hands. Kobe and Nash must find a balance in the backcourt for this team to be successful.

Garrett Garcia // @GarrettGarcia:

Potentially. Steve is still 39 years old and will be 40 before the playoffs start. The man has a ton of basketball mileage on him, and despite a full training camp with D’Antoni, he may still have his issues returning to his old form.

Anna Gonda // @AnnaLBG:

Steve Nash has been waiting to bounce back since he went down last season. As the player most knowledgeable of Mike D’antoni’s system, his know-how on and off the floor will be key in this team’s success.

Next Question Tomorrow: How many games will the Lakers win this season?

 

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Photo courtesy of Noah Graham, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Noah Graham, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Noah Graham, Getty Images

More experiments with tonight’s line-ups, as Kobe Bryant sat courtside in his warm-ups to support his teammates up close. He joked with former teammates Jordan Farmar and now assistant coach, Mark Madsen. He provided instruction for young Jordan Hill and newcomer Chris Kaman. He provided some advice for Xavier Henry after a timeout, before the young player walked back to the floor. Most of all, he watched the potential of the team before him.

Is the coaching staff done figuring out which permutations work? Probably not completely. But did they gain more insight into the framework of this season’s team? Absolutely.

HIGH POINTS:
Gasol-Kaman Duo – First item that deserves an asterisk (*) was the pairing of Pau Gasol and Chris Kaman to start the game. The duo have obviously developed a solid two-man game in their time at training camp, because they played like they’d been teammates before. Kaman has mentioned, in various interviews, how easy it is to play with Gasol. It’s an exhaustive observation, but Gasol’s court vision is truly that of a point guard. Can he score? Yes. But his instinct is simply to make the right play, whether it’s passing to a teammate or scoring himself. He went 6-11 from the field for his 14 points, but he also handed out a pair of assists, and both ended with Kaman scoring four of his 12 points. This chemistry that Gasol is building with Kaman is reminiscent of how quickly he developed chemistry with Lamar Odom. Their on-court relationship came about almost instantaneously when the two hit the floor together.
Steve Blake – Playing to the very end of a game that shouldn’t have gotten as close as it did, Blake is continuing to solidify his value to this team. Whether it’s scoring (16 points, including a pair of threes and 8-9 from the charity stripe), providing instruction on the floor or playing scrappy defense, Blake has proven himself time and again since the end of last season. He’s gotten some time playing the two alongside Steve Nash, and taking over the point when Nash checks out. In either position, he seems to flourish because he’s a no-nonsense, blue-collar, does-what-needs-to-be-done type of player so it’s no surprise why he’s been depended upon.
Defense (first half) – The Lakers held the Nuggets to just 31 points on 23% shooting, while scoring 48 points on 49% from the field themselves. A large part of that effort came from Jordan Hill. He’s known as the energy guy on the team, and he certainly lives up to the name. Whether it is fighting for rebounds (he led the game with 12 boards) or chasing after balls to save a possession, he does it. Nick Young, known mostly for his desire to score, was active on the other end of the floor as well, simply by sticking closely to his defensive assignments.
Assists (first half) – At halftime, the Lakers handed out 15 assists. They finished the game with just 19, but of the 12 players who saw the floor, nine had at least one dime.

LOW POINTS:
Turnovers – As efficient as their first half was, the Lakers’ second half was just as INefficient. The ball movement halted (just four assists for the last two quarters) and the turnovers took over. After turning the ball over 12 times in the first half, they committed 10 more in the second, and a once-21 point lead, turned into a deficit as the game clock ran down. The Nuggets’ running game suddenly awoke, which put the Lakers’ defense on their heels.
Defense (second half) – After allowing just 31 points in the first two quarters, the Lakers allowed the Nuggets to outscore them 57-42 in the second half.
Jodie Meeks – Coming into the pre-season, I expected Jodie Meeks to have some great games, especially since he has started in Bryant’s spot in two of the last three games. Unfortunately, Meeks has gone just 6-18 from the field, 4-10 from three. If his game doesn’t pick up, he’s liable to lose his place in the rotation to guys like Nick Young, or the two PG/SG Jordan Farmar and Steve Blake.

Next game takes place in Sin City against the Sacramento Kings, before the Lakers head out to their weeklong visit to China.

Box Score

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

All week long, our staff writers chime in on a series of topics, rumors and storylines leading up to the start of the season. In today’s edition of State of the Nation, they look at the prospects of a bounce-back season from Lakers forward Pau Gasol.

Now that he has the paint to himself, will Pau Gasol have a bounce-back season?

Alex Lambeth // @AlexLambeth:

Yes. Pau Gasol should have his best individual season now that he is back in his natural center position. Finally healthy, Gasol should replicate what he showed towards the end of last season: two triple-doubles in his final three regular season games.

Jon Gaffer // @jewelslamo:

Pau will always be Pau. He’s never going to dominate in the paint. He’s a ballerina, not a bruiser.

Mark Awad // @MarkeyTheBoss_:

He will have another 2009 year – 19 points and 10 boards a game. Having Dwight just threw his game off. Back in ’09 when the Lakers beat the Magic in the Finals, Gasol severely outplayed Dwight in the post.

Robert Benitez // @beeb0:

Yes. A summer of rest, and more importantly, having peace of mind regarding his position with the Lakers will land Pau a spot in the All-Star game this season.

Ashkan Kargaran // @aakargaran

Absolutely. The addition of Chris Kaman allows Gasol to be the lone post player with shooters, or play a high-low game with another underrated passing big man in Kaman. Pau is still the most effective and efficient big man in the league when he is near the basket.

Bummi Anderson // @BummiNAnderson

Yes. Pau Gasol will have a bounce back season for a lot of reasons, but mostly because he will be back playing in his natural position. 

Melvin Taylor // @MelvinTaylorII:

With Howard gone, Pau will have a much larger contribution this year. One aspect that will assist Pau is the play-making ability of Kaman. Chris’ passing ability will create more opportunities for Pau to score.

Oren Levy // @LakersOren:

Pau will have somewhat of a bounce-back season. D’Antoni’s system doesn’t lend itself to a ton of post play, but Pau will have plenty of opportunities to pick and roll, pick and pop, and to make plays from both the high and low block. Expect high assist numbers from the Spaniard, as well as return to the 16-18 point a game scoring average range.

Garrett Garcia // @GarrettGarcia:

During the off-season, Pau spent time conditioning and getting his body where back to where he wants it to be. Now that he has room to roam in the paint, he should flourish naturally. However, D’Antoni likes his 7-footer out on the wing, so we’ll see if he breaks that bad habit and puts Pau back where he belongs.

Anna Gonda // @AnnaLBG:

Pau Gasol needs a bounce-back season, especially since he has the paint to himself. He’s had to adjust his game to fit every teammate, had to face trade rumors that turned true…then not true, and finally, didn’t seem to have the confidence of his coach. In short, if Gasol can’t use this season to remind everyone that the Lakers’ last two championships were won in large part with his production and leadership, then he can at least use it to remind himself. At the expense of sounding corny and trite, greatness comes from within, and that’s what the Lakers need this season – Gasol’s greatness.

 

Next Question Tomorrow: Will Steve Nash have a bounce-back season now that he is healthy, and has a training camp with Mike D’Antoni to install the offense?

 

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All week long, our staff writers chime in on a series of topics, rumors and storylines leading up to the start of the season. In today’s edition of State of the Nation, they look at the Lakers off-season acquisitions and how they will impact this team.

Which Lakers newcomer will have the biggest impact this season?

Alex Lambeth // @AlexLambeth:

Wesley Johnson. Despite bouncing around the league in his first three seasons, Johnson adds a few elements that the Lakers have been lacking in past years. Johnson’s athleticism, wingspan and hungry attitude should translate into a Trevor Ariza-type role this season.

Jon Gaffer // @jewelslamo:

Jordan Farmar will have the biggest impact. He honed his skills while playing overseas, and is a major upgrade over what the Lakers had at the guard position last year.

Mark Awad // @MarkeyTheBoss_:

Newcomer will be Nick young, when you talk about scoring and getting your buckets from anywhere on the floor you think of him. Ultimately, if Jordan Hill gets the start, his defense, rebounding and improved 17-foot jump shot will make a difference. Keep an eye out for Elias Harris, he might shock some people.

Robert Benitez // @beeb0:

Nick Young. Young provides some much needed youth and athleticism we lacked in previous years. We know he can score and with Kobe out for the foreseeable future he’ll need to take on a bigger load.

Ashkan Kargaran // @aakargaran

Xavier Henry. With Kobe out, look for Henry to bring some much needed athleticism to the Lakers back court. This is a kid who once tried to challenge Kobe during a game his rookie year in Memphis. He obviously lost that battle, but his fearlessness is something this team needs and will thrive off of.

Bummi Anderson // @BummiNAnderson

Nick Young will have the biggest impact this season. Not only does he have something to prove, he has the ability to create his own shot, something the Lakers will certainly benefit from this year.

Melvin Taylor // @MelvinTaylorII:

Nick Young. Nick brings a dynamic scoring set that the Lakers have never really had outside of Kobe. He’ll put up many shots and will have a few bad stretches, but in the grand scheme of the year, he can become very good for this team.

Oren Levy // @LakersOren:

Jordan Farmar. Jordan’s ability to attack, shoot, and create for others will make him a dynamic leader of the bench unit. He’s a steady vet at this point, but still just entering his athletic prime at age 26.

Garrett Garcia // @GarrettGarcia:

Wesley Johnson. His youth and athleticism will bring something to the team that the Lakers haven’t had in a while. Johnson was the 4th pick in the 2010 draft for a reason, and now is his time to prove it.

Anna Gonda // @AnnaLBG:

Chris Kaman. With Pau Gasol back in the post where he belongs, and Jordan Hill still relatively green and recovering from an injury of his own, Kaman will play a vital and steady role on the floor. Because he can knock down a short jumper, he can play alongside Gasol at the four, and can also sub in for the Spaniard at his usual spot in the middle.

 

Next Question Tomorrow: Now that he has the paint to himself, will Pau Gasol have a bounce-back season?

 

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Photo courtesy of Andrew D. Bernstein, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Andrew D. Bernstein, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Andrew D. Bernstein, Getty Images

In their second game of a back-to-back, the Lakers’ coaching staff tried their hand at a new starting line-up, including the pre-season debuts of Steve Nash and Pau Gasol. No team was more perfect to test the team’s stamina than the run-n-gun Denver Nuggets. Despite playing under first-year head coach, Brian Shaw (he of the Phil Jackson Triangle Offense), the Nuggets remained faithful to their strengths – speed and scrappiness, helping in their 97-88 win over the purple and gold.

HIGH POINTS:
Steve Nash and Pau Gasol – Both players spent the off-season repairing, resting and rehabbing their injured parts, and both have been eager to get on the floor. In their first in-game workout, both looked good. Steve Nash didn’t score, but handed out six assists, including a slick left-handed behind the back pass to Steve Blake who hit a corner three, and a couple of court-length passes to Nick Young and Pau Gasol, who scored on the fast break. Gasol managed 13 points on 4-13 from the field and 5-6 from the free throw line. He grabbed just four rebounds and a pair of assists, but for his first game back after surgery, he did okay. Nash and Gasol appeared to move and play freely. Neither showed much hesitance on the floor, so a few more games should get them ready for the regular season.
Xavier Henry – He didn’t duplicate his offensive stats from last night’s game, but Henry’s efforts were certainly the same. Coming off the bench for the second game in a row, Henry is exactly the type of punch a team needs to play off the pine. He scored just two points when he finished the first quarter with a pair of free throws, but for the night, he had 15 points on 7-9, the only player on the team who shot more than 50% from the field, except for Darius Johnson-Odom who went 2-3 in his 12 minutes of playing time.

LOW POINTS:
Ugly Offense – …and by ugly, I mean the Lakers missed just about everything – three pointers, lay-ups, one-footers, dunks. From Nick Young’s 4-16 and Jodie Meeks’ 3-10 from the field, to Marcus Landry’s three air balls, the bottom of the hoop just seemed a destination to which no Laker attempt would ever arrive. The Denver Nuggets had 10 blocks, but what about the other 53 shots that the Lakers missed? They shot just 32% from the field and no matter the line-up on the floor, just could not seem to get into any offensive rhythm. Denver didn’t exactly shoot the lights out either (42%).
Rebounds – For the second game in a row, the Lakers were outrebounded by their opponents. The leading rebounder in tonight’s game? Nuggets point guard, Ty Lawson with 10 boards. Against a team like Denver, who sprints sometimes even before the defensive board has been taken, the Lakers had no choice but to forego going after the offensive board in order to run back on defense and prevent fast break points. Unfortunately, the Nuggets still managed to score 30 points on the break.
Paint – Denver isn’t shy about getting to the rim. Tonight they scored 50 points in the paint, and the Lakers couldn’t figure out how to stop them. On the other hand, the Lakers themselves didn’t do much inside either, attempting 27 shots from behind the arc and making just 10.
Injuries – Wes Johnson left the floor in the first quarter, according to Coach Mike D’Antoni, because he felt a burning sensation in his left foot. Trainer Judy Seto was shown working on Johnson’s foot on the bench, after which he never returned to the game. Towards the end of the last quarter, Xavier Henry was said to have a moderate sprain on his right wrist (he’s a lefty). He said in a post-game interview that he didn’t want to rest because of it, but ESPN’s Dave McMenamin writes that he’d already had that injury before tonight’s game and just aggravated it.

MOOT POINTS:
Defense/Offense – As challenging as it was for the Lakers to score, they did manage to force Denver to make mistakes; responsible for forcing most of the Nuggets’ 28 turnovers. Unfortunately, they just couldn’t convert those turnovers into points on the other end.

The next game is on Tuesday against, for the second time in a row, the Denver Nuggets. More line-up experiments are a certainty. It’s the life of the pre-season.

Box Score

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Photo courtesy of Noah Graham, Getty Images.
Photo courtesy of Noah Graham, Getty Images.
Photo courtesy of Noah Graham, Getty Images.

It’s been a long off-season for the Lakers. It’s been a long off-season every year since, let’s face it, the last championship in 2010. As badly as the 2012-2013 season ended, however, there’s always the promise of new beginnings.

After last weekend’s media day and the week’s worth of training camp, the team had tonight’s game against the Golden State Warriors to play out their new beginning – new coaching staff, new players, re-newed system. With the Big Three of Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol sitting out, the new guys got a run and did not disappoint.

HIGH POINTS:
Xavier (pronounced ZAH-vee-yay) Henry – Talk about first impressions. Signed as a free agent after being selected by the Memphis Grizzlies back in 2010, and then most recently playing for the then New Orleans Hornets, Henry is a hopeful for an already crowded backcourt for the Lakers, and tonight he showcased his value. 29 points on 9-15 from the field, 9-11 from the free throw line, 2-4 from three, seven rebounds and a pair of steals – not bad for your first game in the purple and gold. And the half-court buzzer beater to end the first half? Not a bad way to get the fans on your side. If Henry continues this play, he may just make the final cut and help the bench’s ability to contribute more consistently. He lead the game with a +21.
Nick Young – Nothing seems to get in the way of Nick and his swag; not a recently sprained ankle from practice, nor foul trouble (he finished with five). Young poured in 17 points in his Laker debut. He went 4-9 from the field and went a perfect 8-8 from the charity stripe. His box score leave a lot to be desired, but despite not filling it up to reflect a more well-rounded game, Young was part of the Lakers’ active defense, even grabbing a steal in the process.
Chris Kaman – Kaman played just over 21 minutes, but did enough to show why he was on the team’s radar. Going into his 11th year, Kaman is just as comfortable in the post as he is shooting 18 feet away. He’s also a solid passer, like Gasol. He finished with 10 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and two blocks.
Honorable High PointsJordan Farmar looks great in his old jersey, and the fans in the arena gave him the loudest cheers of the evening when he checked into the game. He scored only nine points, but led all players with his seven assists and three steals. • Defense. Yes, a team under Mike D’Antoni can play defense, and according to all the players, it’s been a focus in training camp this year. The Lakers didn’t become the Detroit Pistons of the 80’s, but the defense was noticeably more active in this game than it was last season, even with a three-time defensive player of the year on it. Efforts to contest shots, run back on defense, etc. were shown by the Laker tonight, causing the three-point happy Warriors to shoot just 5-21 from their sweet spots behind the arc and just under 40% from the field.
Win – Despite it being a mere pre-season game, having gone 0-8 in the last pre-season, this victory just feels encouraging.

LOW POINTS:
Sloppiness – The two teams combined for 43 turnovers in the game, which says volumes. That the Lakers could even keep up with the fast-paced play of the Warriors shows their young side this season, but 20 turnovers in the pre-season means far less than it will when the wins and losses begin to count.

Well, so far so good. D’Antoni didn’t empty the bench, but there are seven more pre-season games to do that. He said his goal is to finalize some sort of rotation before the regular season begins, so expect more permutations of players on the floor. Both Gasol and Nash are expected to play Sunday against the Denver Nuggets.

Box Score

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Just one day from the start of training camp and media day, Kobe Bryant’s status is becoming more clear.

After reports of  being ahead of schedule, videos of him jumping off a high dive and running on an anti-gravity treadmill, he gave the most significant answer yet regarding his return to the hardwood in an interview while in Dubai for his Health and Fitness Weekend:

“Now it’s about cutting the recovery time, I should be OK [for the start of the season],” Bryant said in an interview with The National, a website in Dubai.

The feeling amongst fans and media have been mixed.  Some feel that he would return in December/January and there were those that did not doubt he would be back for the start of the season.

For those that have followed his career since entering the league in 1996, it’s no surprise that there is a good chance he will return sooner than later.

While there are those that believe Kobe is rushing a return to the court, just put those thoughts to rest.   Kobe has always taken care of his body and is very thorough in his injury recovery.  He can play through broken fingers and sprained ankles, but this injury is significantly different and he knows it’s an injury that has ended many careers.

Mitch Kupchak has recently said there is no timetable for Kobe’s return and rightfully so.   With a few weeks away from the October 29th opener versus the Clippers, Kobe still has some work to do in his recovery, but do not be surprised to see him suit up opening night.

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Jesse Buss
Photo: Kevork Djansezian | Getty Images

By Alex Lambeth, with contributions from Jory Dreher

Jesse Buss
Photo: Kevork Djansezian | Getty Images

Jesse Buss, Lakers’ Scouting Coordinator and L.A. D-Fenders’ Director of Scouting, joined LakerNation.com for an exclusive interview this past week.

Buss, the youngest descendant of the late, great Dr. Jerry Buss, is a vital member of the Lakers’ scouting staff. He joined us to describe his role for the Lakers, detail the intricate scouting process he oversees, speak on his father’s legacy, as well as a plethora of other topics.

Take a listen above, as Buss joined our inaugural Laker Nation Podcast, or read below to learn more about the youngest Buss sibling, and his close relationship with his father:

Alex Lambeth: What exactly is your role with the Lakers?

Jesse Buss: My job as the Director of Scouting basically consists of scheduling our scouting staff to see college games for the upcoming season, helping organize meetings with all of our scouts, and scouting prospects on a regular basis. I’m in constant contact with our staff. We’re constantly bouncing ideas off of each other of what players we need to spend most of our time focusing on, important events we need to attend, and just talking about what we’ve seen throughout the entire scouting year. I share an office in El Segundo with Ryan West, and him and I talk almost everyday—about everything that goes into scouting. Basically the day after the draft and during the off-season it’s more about preparation for the upcoming season and the following draft.

AL: How does scouting for the D-Fenders differ from the Lakers?

Buss: It differs in the fact that in the NBA draft, you know the players that you’re scouting on a year-to-year basis are going to be in the draft eventually—whether it’s in the same year that you scout them or in the future. For the NBDL players that are drafted, they come from leagues all around the world. They could have been in the NBA at some point and played overseas for a couple years, then want to get back into the NBA system and on the radar. They could be rookies from college who didn’t get drafted into the NBA, or they could be veterans of the developmental league. The draft pool consists of players that the league signs to a contract and then they participate in the draft, if another D-League team does not already hold their rights.

AL: What specifically do you look for in prospects?

Buss: There are a number of factors that I use when evaluating prospects. I think it’s important to not focus too much on one thing specifically, but to focus more so on the overall picture. There are obvious things on the court that involve physical gifts and talent levels, but there are also off the court characteristics that we look at. We have staff rank each player individually that will make the most positive impact on our franchise.

AL: The Lakers as an organization seems to always carry a “win now” mentality, does that put additional pressure on your staff to find guys who can fit in quickly?

Buss: I would say it’s the same pressure when we’re suggesting drafting any player for the Lakers. It’s important to have a player who can come in and make a difference right away, but I would say the factor we really look at is who we believe is going to be the best player for the Lakers overall. The goal I personally have in my mind is that I want us to draft a player who will contribute to the Lakers winning for the longevity of his career.

AL: Give us your thoughts on rookie forward Ryan Kelly out of Duke University.

Buss: He’s a fundamental player with a good amount of skill and a high basketball IQ. I believe he fits well with this system that we have, because he can add another dimension to our team. We don’t have a guy like him right now. There aren’t many guys with his size, he’s a legit 6’11”, that have the ability to shoot the ball from the range that he does. He’s a hard worker and has a good character, and I’m excited to watch him play.

AL: What kind of impact do you think rookie Elias Harris will have with the Lakers this season?

Buss: He brings certain things like his energy, toughness and athleticism that we can definitely use. It’s important to have guys who will work hard day in and day out, and always bring a level of competitiveness to raise the levels of others. It’s important to get younger players on the roster that our staff can continue to develop and eventually make an impact on the court.

Jory Dreher: What was it like growing up in a “basketball family”? Especially when your father, the late, great Dr. Jerry Buss, was one of the most iconic sports owners in history?

Buss: It definitely added to all of our competitive natures. As a family, we love to win and we’re very dedicated in doing so. My dad was able to instill that in all of us at a young age. For me personally, it was great to be able to share a deep passion amongst loved ones and often find common ground through it.

JD: If you could sum up the ‘Buss legacy’ in one sentence, how would you describe it?

Buss: That’s tough. I would say he was very successful in whatever he put his hands on, but the most important thing is that he had a strong presence and it proved to be the right way to run the franchise.

JD: Out of the sixteen championships that the Lakers have won, do any of them stand out to you personally? Do you have a favorite?

Buss: I remember five of them, which were the first three with Kobe and Shaq and then our most recent two in 2009 and 2010. I’d probably say the 2000 championship, because the first one you get to experience is always the sweetest, and that was really the first one for me. I was born late ’87 so the last one we won before that I wouldn’t remember. But yeah, that was definitely the most memorable one for me.

JD: How sweet was it to finally get past Boston in the 2010 Finals?

Buss: The last time we beat Boston I wasn’t even alive yet, but I do know how much it meant to my dad. He said on many occasions that he hated Boston—there’s nothing better than beating Boston when we were able to. After the ’08 Finals, it was especially sweet to beat them in 2010 and do it on our home floor. That was a wonderful experience.

JD: How do you expect Dr. Buss’s legacy to live on?

Buss: He’ll always be known as a person who cared deeply about the Lakers and the fans, even if he didn’t personally know all of them. He did everything he could to constantly bring a winner to Los Angeles and helped build the NBA to where it is today. He was a mentor and an inspiration to many people, including myself. He was very well known for his generosity. He was just a really cool guy and I couldn’t have asked for a better father.

JD: What is the biggest lesson about the business that you’ve learned from your father?

Buss: To always have the right people around you and let them do their jobs.

JD: I know that your father was your best friend, could you just speak on the bond that you two shared?

Buss: He was just somebody I could talk to about pretty much anything. He just understood all aspects of life—whether it was talking about a movie we had just seen, the latest hip-hop song that came out, basketball, or anything personal. He just really knew how to relate to anyone he talked to. He let me grow and develop as a person without trying to force me to do something. He was the type of person that would help you with something if you needed it and asked for it, but would prefer to let you figure it out yourself. Personally, I believe that was very empowering for me as an individual. I can’t thank him enough for everything that he has done for me. It is definitely a huge void in my life not having him here; I really miss talking to him.

JD: I recall a past interview that you had given to Lakers’ beat reporter Mike Trudell, in which you said your brother, Jim Buss, took you under his wing. What are some of the things that you picked up from him?

Buss: The first couple of scouting trips I did years ago were with him. He kind of just showed me the ropes in the sense of what the job entails. I would probably say the most important impact that he’s had on me is just the trust he’s put in me, and also at the same time just telling me to trust and believe in myself, as well.

AL: How often do you collaborate with your brother and General Manager Mitch Kupchak?

Buss: We often talk about everything that’s going on with anything that’s basketball related: anything that’s current, any game we saw, what’s going on with our team. But mainly we collaborate with college scouting and anything involved with that. I like to think that I’m constantly an information source for anything that’s going on scouting-wise for them. During the entire draft process, which is basically the whole year once the college season starts and even a little bit before that with the tournament, camps, and workouts, we collaborate almost everyday in preparation for the draft.

AL: Is that probably the most grueling part of the season for you, right up until the draft?

Buss: I would say probably during the last month, because you have all the information that you need. You’ve seen all the players you need to see and now it’s just about putting that to use. We watch a ton of tape, especially the last month when we’re all rooted and we’re able to be in the office everyday, as opposed to having to be on the road constantly. So, we’re really able to grind out everything that we need to. It’s more excitement than I would say grueling. We all love to do it and we all work very well together and we have a blast when we’re doing it.

AL: You started out as an assistant to Glenn Carraro, may you elaborate on the transitional period from then to now?

Buss: I started working as a basketball operations assistant under Glenn about eight years ago. I would do different things like statistical projects, filing scouting reports, organizing tape for our staff to watch, amongst other things. During that time I was scouting local college games for the first couple of years. Probably three or four years after that process, I started traveling around a lot more often and going to different places around the country and watching more college games. That essentially became the priority of my job. I did that for a couple of years and then I became more involved with the managerial type role in the scouting department.

AL: What is the most challenging part about scouting?

Buss: Well, in terms of scouting prospects there are certain factors that go beyond what a player can bring a team that you can’t really predict: injuries, misfortunes, etc. In terms of the actual job, the travel is difficult at times, but I enjoy it. I would say I’m probably out of town close to 100 days out of the year; I probably take 60 or so flights a year. So the travel can wear on you physically.

JD: With scouting being a year-round job, how many Lakers games are you able to catch per year?

Buss: I watch every Laker game one way or another, whether it’s live or recorded on TV, computer, cell phone, or when I’m actually in the stands. I would say I’m physically there for about half of the regular season games, whether we’re at home or on the road. I’m not present for as many home games because I’m constantly on the road. But at times I can catch the team when they’re playing in the city close to where I’m scouting.

JD: With all the traveling, what do you think is the most exciting part of your job?

Buss: I would say the most exciting part is being able to watch hundreds of new prospects every year. It’s definitely fun to watch players when they’re younger to see their progression and development throughout the years.

AL: Do you have any good scouting stories you can share with us?

Buss: Throughout the years I’ve had the pleasure to attend many exciting basketball games. I think the most interesting experience I’ve had is seeing two games in two different states in one day, and then the next day we’re in a different state seeing a different game. So all that type of travel and how it’s very condensed is interesting and at times, you’re driving through three states in two days.

AL: How about your favorite venue to watch college games?

Buss: I do have a couple. If I had to narrow it down to one actually, I really enjoy going to San Diego State and watching games there. Over the last couple years where they’ve been nationally ranked and they’ve had a couple kids come out there, the crowds have been very energetic and it’s just a great atmosphere. I definitely enjoy watching games there. Besides that, I’ve been to Kansas and that’s always electric. North Carolina, Kentucky, Louisville, those are all really great schools to watch a game, and Michigan as well. Those are probably my top schools where I like to watch a game.

AL: Finally, your top Lakers players of all-time, in no particular order?

Buss: Well at my office I’m just looking outside and I see all the retired jerseys, so of course I have to mention quite a few of them. In no particular order though, I would say Kobe Bryant, Magic [Johnson], Jerry West, Shaquille O’Neal, Pau Gasol, and Kareem Abdul-Jabar.

Continuing on Pau Gasol:

Buss: It was during a very crucial time when he came to our team and he proved to be the missing piece. He contributed to two more titles for us. He’s been a great Laker.

AL: Thank you for taking the time to speak with us Mr. Buss. It was an honor and we really enjoyed it. We hope you did too!

Buss: Yes I did, my pleasure. Thank you very much.

There you have it Laker Nation! Our exclusive interview with Jesse Buss, Lakers’ Scouting Coordinator and L.A. D-Fenders’ Director of Scouting. We hope to catch up with him again later in the year.

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Wesley Johnson
Photo: Getty Images

By Alex Lambeth, with contributions from Jory Dreher

Image: Getty Images
Image: Getty Images

Wesley Johnson has yet to find a home in the NBA.

Drafted fourth overall out of Syracuse University in the 2010 NBA draft, the Lakers will be Johnson’s third team in just four years.

Johnson, a 6’7″ 215 pound shooting guard, has his sights set on a breakout year with Los Angeles.

Johnson, who prefers “Wesley” to “Wes”, enters his fourth NBA season with career averages of 7.7 points, 1.2 assists and 2.8 rebounds per game.

In an exclusive interview with LakerNation.com, Johnson expressed his excitement to finally wear the purple and gold.

“It’s really a dream come true for me. I’ve wanted to play here since I was younger. My family really respects the Lakers for all they stand for,” Johnson told Laker Nation. “They always hold the Lakers to the highest standard, on a pedestal, just because they love watching them play.”

“My mom loved Magic [Johnson]. Being able to play for the Lakers and with my mom being able to see me play for them, it’s going to be fun,” Johnson said. “I can’t really give you a whole explanation about how excited I am just to be a part of Laker Nation. It’s definitely a dream come true.”

As one of the many new faces in the Lakers’ locker room this season, Johnson described himself as being “fun and laid back,” but also “a very high energy type of player.”

“It’s going to be fun watching me play this year. I’m excited about playing in Staples Center, in front of Laker Nation fans, and everybody,” Johnson said. “I’m really looking forward to it.”

Despite an uncertain future, Johnson hopes to make Los Angeles his home for years to come.

“I would love to make this my home. I’m here every summer,” Johnson explained. “When I first held my jersey, I was like, ‘I’m with the Lakers. I’m wearing number 11. I’m in L.A.’

“You just can’t beat this, man. It’s all a great situation and I’m going to play like it.”

That number 11 holds very special meaning to Johnson, who has worn the numbers 4 and 2 in previous years.

“Number 11 is what I wore my whole life when I was in high school, in Little League, everything,” Johnson said. “It basically marks the beginning for me.”

Johnson certainly seeks to jumpstart his career in Los Angeles. Johnson, a former lottery-pick, feels he has a lot to prove this season.

“I think I have a lot to prove every season, but even more so this season,” said Johnson. “Having that Lakers uniform on my back and how my career has transpired up to this point, I definitely have a lot to prove.”

When Johnson first entered the league, he was projected as ‘the guy’. Coming into this year, however, Johnson looks forward to simply finding his niche with the Lakers.

“There’s a lot of guys on this team that already have that role, so there’s not a lot of focus on me. Guys like Nick [Young] and Jordan [Farmar] and myself can all come in and play.”

“We can go out there and take the load off some of those guys,” Johnson continued. “It will definitely be a relief off their shoulders knowing we’re going to compete just as hard as they are.”

As Johnson mentioned, the Lakers also signed former USC-product Nick Young this off-season. Johnson elaborated on his relationship with Young.

“Nick and I talk a lot, actually. We’ve been in the gym and excited to play with one another,” Johnson said. “He’s a high-energy guy like me and he’s definitely fun to play with, with all the stuff that he can do on the court. Playing alongside of him is definitely going to be exciting for us both.”

“We’re really starting to figure out how each of us plays and where we both like the ball,” Johnson explained. “We’re getting that chemistry down between us too, so it will definitely be fun to see.”

Along with Young, Johnson has been developing a great rapport with Jordan Farmar, who returns to the Lakers’ backcourt after a stint overseas.

“Jordan has already told me he wants to pick up 94 feet [defensively],” Johnson said. “I told him, ‘I got the back. If you’re picking up 94 feet, then I’m picking up right there with you.'”

“So there’s definitely going to be that youth and excitement back on the court again,” Johnson predicted. “Everyone is so eager to play. Nash has that fire within him too so it’s really going to rub off on everyone.”

With all the youth and athleticism the Lakers added this off-season, Laker Nation could be in for a nice surprise this season.

Johnson went on to discuss the impact he looks to have on the defensive end as well.

“I think I can have a really good impact just for my length and my speed, and also just getting in passing lanes and disrupting shots. I’m going to bring a spark that will fuel the entire team,” Johnson said excitedly.

“What’s important for us is just getting everyone to come out as a collective group and giving a good defensive effort,” Johnson said. “I’m definitely going to use my wingspan to make plays happen. As long as everyone is on the same page defensively, I think we’ll be just fine.”

Johnson was also well aware of ESPN.com ranking the Lakers to finish 12th in the Western Conference this season.

“That’s disrespectful,” Johnson said in an annoyed tone. “That’s really for us to go out there and prove everyone wrong. That’s why everyone is so eager and we’ve been in the [practice facility] everyday up to this point.”

“Everyone is in there to build chemistry to show everybody that we’re not 12th. We know that we’re not 12th, but it’s definitely going to be more fuel to the fire.”

So, what exactly will Johnson bring to the Lakers, specifically in coach Mike D’Antoni’s offense?

“I think my game fits well. I was actually talking to [D’Antoni] about it today. It reminds me of when I was back at [Syracuse] with coach Boeheim and how it’s a free flowing offense,” Johnson explained.

“You can make reads off one another and there’s no particular spot on the floor that everyone has to get to. I feel like I’ll flourish in this offense,” said Johnson. “It’s really just high tempo, get up and down, and being able to shoot the ball and finish. So it plays to all my strengths.”

Once Johnson signed with the Lakers this summer, he knew he would need to improve his shot making ability to be as effective as possible in D’Antoni’s offense.

“I’ve pretty much worked on every part of my game,” Johnson said as he discussed his off-season workout regimen. “Of course I’ve been working on my three point shot because that’s what the [Lakers] have been emphasizing to me. Being able to shoot the ball is key for me and I’ve really been working on break down moves to get my shot off.”

“I feel very comfortable shooting the ball from anywhere on the floor right now, but my corner three is coming along great,” Johnson continued. “Other than that, I’ve just been working on my overall game and trying to become a more balanced player.”

In addition to working on his own game this off-season, Johnson has started taking advantage of his veteran teammates.

“I told Kobe [Bryant] that I’m definitely going to be asking him a lot of questions. I told him I’m going to be picking his brain a lot,” Johnson shared. “I’m looking forward to learning anything that he’s learned over the past 17 years he’s been playing. Anything he’s willing to give me that I can work on as a player, I’ll listen.”

“Steve [Nash] has also been in and out so I’ve been bouncing things off him too,” Johnson said. “Just to get his feel on how players he’s played with before have been effective in this offense.”

Johnson continued, “It’s only right that I do pick their brains because they’ve been around for a while and they understand the concept of winning and what it takes. I’m definitely going do my best to learn from them.”

As Johnson continues tapping into the valuable assets around him, he also explains that he has learned a lot from the rather unpredictable start to his career.

“I’ve really just tried to learn as much as I can from every situation I’ve been in,” Johnson said. “You never really know what is going to happen in this league. I just try to look at everything as a learning experience and not as a fault.”

“Sure I’ve moved around a lot,” Johnson said. “But I still look at it as a learning experience and just go from there.”

Johnson also opened up on a more personal level, discussing his close relationship with his mother and father.

“I was blessed to have both of my parents in my life, so they definitely taught me good values,” Johnson shared. “They taught me to be humble by just watching them and how hard they worked all my life. It’s definitely rubbed off on me, so I give them all the credit.”

As Johnson prepares to call yet another NBA city ‘home’ this year, he brings along with him his twin boys.

“These days my free time goes to them and I’m doing the father thing,” Johnson said proudly. “I’m focused on making sure they grow right and play with them, doing everything a father does. When I’m with them we’re at the beach or going to the park.”

“I also play with my nephews on NBA 2k,” Johnson explained about his recreational activities. “I also shop. I try to catch up on my sleep. But other than that, I’m usually with my boys.”

Now that he resides in one of the most eccentric cities in the country, Johnson shared that he is always looking for that good ‘home-cooked meal’.

“I’m always trying to find those hole-in-the-wall places with some good home-cooked meals. That’s what I need,” Johnson said. “The restaurants here are cool, but I’m looking for those homemade tacos, some soul food, all the home-cooked meals.”

Johnson also gave some insight into his pre-game music playlist, which primarily consists of rappers Jay Z and T.I.

As Johnson prepares for arguably the biggest season of his career, there is just one simple thing he looks forward to.

“Just being a Laker,” Johnson explained with a laugh. “You can’t beat playing in Staples Center, in front of the fans. Just coming to Staples Center always gives you that extra energy to put on a show. I’m definitely looking forward to it.”

With the start of training camp already on the horizon, Johnson ended our conversation with a heart-felt message for all of Laker Nation:

“You’re going see a lot of hungry players this year, especially from the youth. I would definitely recommend Laker Nation to come out to some games this season. It’s going to be an exciting year, a fun year, filled with a lot of action. Dunks. High-flying plays. Everything you can think of and want will be there.”

“A lot of guys are already working hard everyday just to prove to the Nation, the world, that we’re back and we’re going to start the season on the right foot. So there will definitely be a lot of hard playing out there.”

“We know Laker Nation will be behind us but we just want to let you know to keep at it and we’re going to play our hearts out for you. We’re here for you and we’re going to play for you. Like I’ve been saying, it’s going to be a good year, it’s going to be a fun year. This is one of the seasons I definitely look forward to.”

As Wesley Johnson prepares for his fourth NBA season, look for him to have a break out year this season. Johnson was quick to point out that he has learned a lot in his short NBA career thus far, and will use that experience to find his niche with the Lakers.

The athletic wing will have a great opportunity to back up Kobe Bryant, and may even compete for the starting small forward position this season.

For the first time in his NBA career, Johnson seems comfortable, thanks to his new role with the team he grew up loving. However, there is still something we have yet to see from the former lottery-pick: Johnson realizing his full potential and becoming the best player that he can be.

Under the tutelage of Bryant and Nash, he has the perfect opportunity to do so as a Laker.

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Image: @KobeBryant Instagram

With the start of the 2013-14 NBA season on the horizon, Kobe Bryant continues his rehabilitation from the torn Achilles tendon he suffered on April 12th.

In the above YouTube video, by Heeluxe, Dr. Geoffrey Alan Gray breaks down Bryant’s use of the Alter-G Treadmill, and how it helps Bryant regain strength in his lower extremities.

Bryant’s initial timetable for recovery was listed at six-to-nine months, but he seems to be ahead of schedule.

In a recent interview with Gulf News, Bryant provided an update on his recovery.

“I’m feeling pretty good. I’m a lot stronger now, than probably what I was a week ago. I’m getting stronger and stronger by the day and that’s a great feeling,” Bryant said.

“I’m ahead of my schedule, and when the season comes around we will know where we are. I don’t know whether that means I will start the season. I hope so.”

With just over a month remaining before the start of the NBA’s regular season, Bryant will continue his rigorous rehabilitation process.

If his Alter-G treadmill training, just four months after surgery, is any indication, Bryant has his sights set on opening night.

* Video created by Heeluxe, follow them on the Web, Facebook and YouTube.

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Another day, another signing for the Lakers.  This time in the form of shooting guard Xavier Henry:

Henry, the 12th overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft by the Memphis Grizzlies, played the last two seasons with the New Orleans Pelicans.  He has played limited minutes, averaging 14 minutes a game during three seasons.

The 6’6 shooting guard adds more depth to what is an already crowded backcourt.   Henry has averaged 3.9 PPG in his brief NBA career which hasn’t exactly lived up to expectations coming out of the University of Kansas.  He was ranked a top ten high school prospect by multiple recruiting services but was one and done in college before jumping to the NBA.

The terms of the deal were not announced.

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Lost in yesterday’s Michael Beasley hoopla, ESPN LA’s Dave McMenamin mentioned a small piece of bad news for the Lakers pertaining to their 2013 second round pick, Ryan Kelly:

“The Lakers drafted Ryan Kelly in the second round primarily for his ability to stretch the floor with his long-range accuracy, but the team has been discouraged by the rookie’s progress during the summer, according to multiple league sources. The Lakers doubt that Kelly, who missed summer league while recovering from multiple foot procedures, will be ready for the start of training camp.”

With this news coming out about Kelly, it makes sense as to why the Lakers went out and signed forward Shawne Williams, another player that can spread the floor in Mike D’Antoni’s offense.

It’s certainly disappointing news about the 6’11 power forward out of Duke.  There was a sense of hope that Kelly could play a crucial role off the bench as a stretch four but with concerns about his foot, it’s tough to see him missing his first camp and still being on the roster come opening night.  A D-League stint is a realistic possibility to start the season, which could certainly extend to the entire year.

Excluding Kelly from the mix, the Lakers will have two spots open heading into camp if they decide to go with a 15 man roster.  Some sources close to the Lakers have indicated they could go with a 14 man roster instead.

 

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Photo Credit: Sports Web
Photo Credit: NJ Media

Mitch Kupchak announce dnews Tuesday, September 3rd by announcing that the Lakers signed veteran free agent forward Shawne Williams. Eric Pincus of the L.A. Times broke the news.

The Lakers signed free-agent forward Shawne Williams on Tuesday, according to General Manager Mitch Kupchak.

After being a first-round selection for the Indiana Pacers in 2006 out of Memphis, Williams has played for the Dallas Mavericks, Knicks, and the New Jersey Nets.

The news may come as a surprise to some due to the Phoenix Suns waiving forward Michael Beasley whom the Lakers previously targeted in years prior. However, Williams previously played for coach Mike D’Antoni during the 2010-2011 season with the New York Knicks and had one of his most successful season. Williams is a three-point shooting specialist who, during the 2010-2011 season, connected on 40.1% of his long range attempts.

If Williams does make the Lakers team he will reportedly earn 1.1 million dollars for the 2013-2014 season.

Below is a highlight mix of Shawne’s time as a Knick.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w1zgCkaoOm0

 

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As expected, the Phoenix Suns announced they have released forward Michael Beasley:

This move has been rumored to be in the works for a few weeks as a result of the reoccurring off the court problems for the 24 year old forward, who was with his third team since being drafted by the Miami Heat in 2008.  He was selected with the second overall pick out of Kansas State, behind Derrick Rose and ahead of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love.

Beasley, was arrested and cited for marijuana possession and possession of drug paraphernalia after being stopped by Scottsdale police on August 6th.  The five year veteran notably said upon arrival to the Suns that his marijuana use was behind him.   Back in 2011, Beasley was cited for speeding and marijuana possession.  He had previously admitted that he violated the league’s drug policy twice and agreed to enter a treatment facility just two years prior in 2009.

The question now is where will Beasley end up?  The Lakers have had interest in the past, most recently two seasons ago when they had a deal in place to acquire Beasley in a three team deal with Minnesota and Portland.  Although, just minutes before the NBA deadline, Minnesota pulled out unexpectedly because they were hesitant to take on Derek Fisher’s contract, killing the deal which then resulted in the Lakers sending Fisher to the Rockets in a deal that landed Jordan Hill in the purple and gold.

With the Lakers having one more roster spot open, they could very well take a chance on Beasley and I think it would be a good gamble.   He comes with baggage, but in a season where expectations aren’t exactly high like in years past, and young players already added in Nick Young, Wesley Johnson, and Jordan Farmar, Beasley could fit the bill for a one year tryout with the team.

Unlike in Phoenix, Beasley would not be expected to carry the load on this team, but simply be an effective piece the puzzle.   With questions about his maturity, he may not be ready to shoulder the responsibility of being a “core player”.

While he has had his share of off the court issues, he is still a young player that may just need the right situation to keep him focused.   He has shown promise in his young career, averaging 14.1 PPG over five seasons, including a 19.2 PPG average in 2010 with Minnesota.

With his ability to stretch the floor, Beasley at 6’10 could fit the role that Mike D’Antoni expects out of the power forwards in his offense.  The other positive for Beasley would be being surrounded by veterans like Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Steve Nash.

We are sure to hear more about this situation as it unfolds.  We’ll keep you updated here at LakerNation.com!

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With the Lakers off to a poor start, trade rumors have begun to swirl around Kobe Bryant, leading many to speculate if he'll leave for greener pastures. Kobe puts those rumors to rest in his interview with Yahoo Sports.