Friday, October 24, 2014
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Lakers

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Image Credit: Juan Ocampo

It may have been months in the making but the Lakers officially introduced Byron Scott as its new head coach at the team’s practice facility in El Segundo on Tuesday.

“The one thing I will say is that this has been a dream of mine for so long,” said Scott, who enjoyed 11 seasons with the purple and gold. “It’s a dream come true to be here sitting and talking to you guys today and be introduced as the head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers.”

Since Mike D’Antoni’s resignation in April, the discussion as to who would be the next coach always circled back to Scott, who served as an analyst on Time Warner Cable SportsNet this past year.

After uncertainty the past three years with D’Antoni and Mike Brown, the hiring of Scott looks to bring stability to a franchise that desperately needs it. While stability is needed, the expectations remain the same, something that Scott made sure to acknowledge in his opening statements.

“This organization is all about championships. Period. We don’t look at Western Conference finals, Western Conference championships,” said Scott. “We look at championships.”

The press conference got off to a memorable start as Scott’s former teammates, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Jamaal Wilkes came to support their friend.

“This is a great day for all former Lakers as well as Laker fans all over the world,” said Magic. “We’re just excited for what Byron will bring to the table and get back to playing Laker basketball… Again, congratulations to the Laker organization. You chose the right guy.”

One of the other selling points other than Scott’s history with the franchise is that of his relationship with Kobe Bryant, who had issues with his two previous head coaches.

“Great relationship. I mean we get a long extremely well. We talk a lot. We text each other a lot during the season and obviously during the off-season,” said Scott, who was Kobe’s mentor during his rookie season in 1996. “I’m looking forward to coaching Kobe. I know his drive, and I know his will and determination. I think we’re on the same page as far as how we think about this game and how it should be played.”

While this is Scott’s ‘dream job’, many do not consider the roster as currently constructed a playoff team, but the new head coach is happy with his upcoming collection of players.

“I just was looking at all the moves that Jim [Buss] and Mitch [Kupchak] were making. When we talked, they would ask me my opinion, and I would give it to them. And like I said, I think they did a great job of putting this roster together,” said Scott.

“I’m excited to work with these guys on the floor too, and I think you’re going to have a few of these guys on this roster that have a chip on their shoulder, which to me is a very good thing, and you have a lot of people real down on us right now, and I think that’s something that can drive us going through the season.”

As the Lakers now move forward, trying to establish an identity for the years to come, it will be a challenge for Scott but for someone that understands expectations of the franchise and its fans; he is definitely the right choice at the moment for this team.  But what can the fans expect out the Lakers led by Scott?

“Play hard every single night, and we’ll come ready to defend.”

And after last season’s 27-55 performance, even that small promise from Scott is the step in the right direction.

AP/Kevork Djansezian

After 16 NBA Championships and 31 Western Conference Titles, the Lakers have been one of the most storied and successful franchises in NBA history. From the eras of West, Chamberlain, Kareem, Magic, and Kobe, there have been countless record-breaking performances and memorable games that have added to Lakers glory. Let’s take a look back at some notable moments for the purple and gold in July, over their 66-year history, in this off-season version of “A Blast from the Past.”

July 8, 2009

The Lakers signed free agent Ron Artest following their 2009 championship-winning season. The 2004 NBA Defensive Player of the Year was an integral part of Los Angeles’ second consecutive NBA championship the following campaign.

July 9, 1968

The great Wilt Chamberlain was traded to the Lakers from the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for Darrell Imhoff, Archie Clark, and Jerry Chambers. Chamberlain spent the remaining five seasons of his NBA career with the purple and gold, helping them win the 1972 NBA championship.

Getty Images
Getty Images

July 14, 2004

The Shaq-Kobe era came to a close in Los Angeles, as Shaquille O’Neal was traded to the Miami Heat for Caron Butler, Lamar Odom, Brian Cook, and a first-round draft pick. In Shaq’s eight seasons with the Lakers, the team won three-straight NBA titles and O’Neal picked up the Finals MVP award in each of those championship series. With the Lakers, O’Neal averaged 27.0 points and 11.8 rebounds.

July 16, 2003

Los Angeles signed highly-touted free agents Karl Malone and Gary Payton. At the time, both veteran players were in search of an elusive NBA title. After failing to accomplish their shared goal in the 2003-04 season, the duo’s short-lived experiment with the Lakers was over. Malone retired in 2004 without ever winning a championship, while Payton signed on with the Heat for the final go-around of his career and helped them to the title in 2006.

July 18, 1996

In one of the greatest free-agency signings in NBA history, Jerry West and the Lakers signed Shaquille O’Neal away from the Orlando Magic. The summer of 1996 marked the formation of the greatest dynamic duo in Lakers’ history, as O’Neal and Kobe Bryant joined forces in Los Angeles.

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Image: Andrew D. Bernstein | Getty Images

While some believe Carlos Boozer is better suited to come off the bench for the Los Angeles Lakers, the 12-year veteran fully intends to start when next season begins.

“Absolutely,” said Boozer, in response to being asked if he thinks he will be a starter in Los Angeles at his introductory press conference Friday.

The Lakers acquired Boozer late last week, submitting the winning bid, $3.251 million, for the power forward after the Chicago Bulls used the amnesty clause.  Chicago will be responsible for paying Boozer the remaining $13.55 million on his contract that expires at the end of next season.

General Manager Mitch Kupchak said he was surprised the team was able to pick up Boozer in the bidding process.

“Unexpectedly for us, our bid was the highest bid and we were awarded Carlos,” said Kupchak. “Not for a second did we think he would be available to us.

With a front court consisting of Jordan Hill, Robert Sacre, Ryan Kelly, Ed Davis, and Julius Randle, Boozer joins a rotation as the player with the most NBA experience, which surely will be crucial when it comes to playing time.

Boozer mentioned that he has spoken multiple times to his new teammate Kobe Bryant, who played together on All-Star teams and in the 2008 Summer Olympics on the “Redeem Team”.

“Come ready. Come ready to lead. Come ready to surprise some people,” said Boozer of Kobe’s message to him.

There are concerns whether Boozer will be able to produce at a high-level. Defensively, there is not much to expect from him, but offensively he will surely help fill a void left by the departing Pau Gasol, who joined the Bulls this offseason.

The 32-year old said he continues to work hard everyday, noting he was in the gym when he found out the news of the Lakers acquiring him and while he was excited, he continued to work out for two more hours.

He will turn 33-years old in November but feels he still has a lot to offer to the Lakers and the NBA.

“My body feels great,” said Boozer. “I don’t know how long I’m going to play, maybe four or five, six more years, maybe seven.”

Boozer has been a solid contributor over his 12-year NBA career, averaging 16.6 points and 9.8 rebounds a game. His best years came in Utah where he averaged 19.3 points and 10.5 rebounds over six seasons.

In 2010, Boozer agreed to a five-year deal with the Chicago Bulls as a free agent but did not perform as well as in previous years, averaging 15.5 points and 7.1 rebounds in the last four seasons. His contract was always in question and the Bulls attempted to move him in recent seasons but with no success.

Boozer was drafted out of Duke in 2002 as a second round pick, 35th overall, by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

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VIDEO: Carlos Boozer scores 19 points and grabs 12 rebounds in 101-92 victory over the Phoenix Suns

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Image: Andrew D. Bernstein | Getty Images

Welcomed by a large media contingent, Jeremy Lin was officially introduced as a Los Angeles Laker on Thursday at the team’s practice facility in El Segundo.

“Really excited to be part of this organization,” said Lin. “Obviously for me it’s a new start, a fresh start.  I’m excited to be back in the state of California.  It’s definitely good to be back.”

With Lin comes expectations and hype thanks to his rise to stardom in New York in 2011 when ‘Linsanity’ was born.  While fans and media may expect a similar performance here in Los Angeles, the 25-year old point guard let it be known that he is not attempting to put on a Hollywood sequel.

“I’m not trying to relive that banner season and I think that’s been a big weight off my shoulder. I’m not trying to recreate a ‘Linsanity,’ ” said Lin, who grew up in nearby Torrance. “I’m not trying to be that phenomenon that happened in New York. I just want to be myself more than ever.”

While Lin does not expect ‘Linsanity’ to return, he ironically is going back to No. 17, the number he wore with the Knicks when his career took off.  He wore No. 7 with the Warriors and Rockets.

As with New York, playing for the Lakers comes pressures of performing at a high-level on a national stage, but Lin says he does not feel any added pressure upon his arrival in Los Angeles.

“I feel the least amount of pressure on my shoulders now than I ever had,” said Lin, who averaged 12.5 points and 4.1 assists last season in Houston. “I try to make sure the circumstances don’t dictate the pressure I feel.”

While Lin may not feel pressure now, it could very well be a different story come training camp and the regular season.  In recent seasons, the point guard position has been somewhat of a problem for the Lakers.  The team hoped that Steve Nash could add a different dynamic to the team but unfortunately injuries have derailed those hopes and now Lin has a chance to take ahold of the starting position moving forward.

Lin brings along career averages of 11.9 points and 4.8 assists, but has shown stretches of brilliance and playing at an elite level that could translate even more so in the bright lights of Los Angeles.  While his stint in Houston was not favorable due in large part to James Harden handling the ball and running the offense, it is important to look back at what Lin did in New York when given the opportunities.

In 2011, the Lakers entered Madison Square Garden for its first look at Lin and the point guard decided to have himself career game, scoring 38 points while dishing out seven assists in a 92-85 victory, out dueling Kobe Bryant (34 points and 10 rebounds), who said he had no idea who the point guard was before the matchup, but did later question how NBA personnel missed a talent like Lin.

“The biggest thing to me is how everybody missed it,” Bryant said before the 2011 All-Star Game. “They all would be fired if I was owning a team. I hear this stuff, ‘It came out of nowhere.’ I think it’s a load of [garbage]. You can’t play that well and just come out of nowhere. There has to be something there and everybody missed it. So heads would roll [if I was owner].”

For the Lakers and its fans, there will be zero complains if ‘Linsanity’ is recreated, but Lin made it clear he is looking to create a new chapter with the purple and gold instead of hanging onto past success.

“I’m not trying to be a player from the past,” Lin said. “I’m trying to make history again.”

And with a historic franchise like the Lakers, the stage is set for him to do just that.

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Image: Andrew D. Bernstein | Getty Images

Ed Davis was officially introduced as the newest member of the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday at the team’s practice facility in El Segundo.

“It’s a great organization, franchise, a lot of history here, young team, I think there’s an opportunity where I can play and help this team win.”

Davis, will begin his fifth season in the NBA this fall as he tackles a new opportunity with the Lakers after stops in Toronto and Memphis.  The 25-year old was originally selected no. 13 in the 2010 NBA draft by the Raptors and proceeded to have a quality rookie season, averaging 7.7 points and 7.1 rebounds in 65 games.

After a slight decline the next season, Davis bounced back in the 2012-2013 season averaging a career-high 9.7 points before being included in the trade that brought Rudy Gay to Toronto.  Considered one of the key pieces of the trade, Davis was never able to become comfortable in Memphis with the loaded front court of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph but despite the lack of playing time, Davis had nothing but good things to say about his former teammates and time with the Grizzlies.

“It was great playing behind both of them, just learning everyday in practice and games, just seeing how they score easy, and Marc just picking his brain on the defensive end,” said Davis. “He was Defensive Player of the Year two years ago. Z-Bo, just all the things that coaches can’t really teach you, the stuff that he does, all the intangibles that he has. Just learning from him every night, helped me out a lot.”

In Los Angeles, Davis will need to deal with another crowded front court which includes Jordan Hill, Carlos Boozer, Robert Sacre, Ryan Kelly and recently drafted Julius Randle, who Davis says will be a “real good player in this league.”  Despite the roster situation, Davis feels he can contribute and is ready to put in the work for the purple and gold.

“Keep working everyday, what I bring – athleticism, defend, run the floor, block shots, rebound, all the little things.”

Where he fits in that group remains to be seen as the Lakers are still without a head coach, but at 6’10″ Davis could surely see time at the center position along with Hill and Sacre.

“I think I can play both positions, the four and the five. I think all the players here are different players and we all compliment each other in different ways.”

Throughout the press conference it became apparent that Davis comes in with a defensive mindset and understands the importance of that end of the floor, which is something that surely will be valuable to a team that was abused in the paint last season. 

“It starts with a defensive mindset at first, that we’re going to shut people down and not try to outscore them. I think that’s the number one thing, to have that mindset.”

The Lakers will need more of that attitude if it hopes to improve on last season, which surely cannot be too difficult to accomplish after allowing 109.2 points per game, which was only second to the Philadelphia 76ers which allowed just under 110 points.

If anything else, Davis feels defense is where he will give the most to his new team, game in and game out.

“I think that’s something that I can rely on every night is defense and protecting the rim, whether that might be hard fouls or just being there at the right time, taking the charge, getting blocks, altering shots and things like that.”

The terms of the contract were not released by the team, although it was reported that Davis signed a two-year, $2 million deal with the second year being a player option.  If Davis is able to find time on the team and continue his growth he showed in Toronto, the Lakers may have found one of the steals of the offseason.

 

 

 

 

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Photo courtesy of Emmanuel Dunand, Getty Images

Most Lakers fans have expressed disappointment and frustration towards Lakers management this offseason, primarily towards Lakers Vice President of Basketball Operations Jim Buss and Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak.

This will be the second summer in a row that the Lakers have not acquired a big-name free agent while losing a key asset simultaneously. Last year, the Lakers could not acquire high-quality players like PG Chris Paul, SF Andre Igudola, and PF Paul Millsap while C Dwight Howard left the Lakers to sign with Houston Rockets. This off season, the Lakers could not acquire neither SF LeBron James nor SF Carmelo Anthony, which correlated to C Pau Gasol leaving the Lakers to head to the Chicago Bulls to compete for another NBA championship.

In the past, Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant vocally expressed his displeasure with Lakers management–most notably during 2007 when he demanded a trade from the Lakers and in 2011 when the Lakers traded Lamar Odom away for a trade exception. However, Bryant tells ESPN.com’s Ramona Shelburne that he approves the effort Lakers management made this offseason, despite not coming away with big name free agents.

Bryant seems to understand that despite the long shot, the Lakers did everything they could possibly do to acquire James or Anthony, which included a 2.5 hour presentation towards Anthony to convince him to join Bryant and the rest of the Lakers for this upcoming season.

Furthermore, Bryant approves of the Lakers so-called “Plan B” in response to losing out on free agents and losing their own.

The Lakers have acquired PG Jeremy Lin and two draft picks from the Houston Rockets, PF Ed Davis in free agency, and PF Carlos Boozer after the Chicago Bulls decided to amnesty him. Furthermore, the Lakers re-signed SF Nick Young, C/PF Jordan Hill, and G Xavier Henry, while selecting PF Julius Randle and PG Jordan Clarkson at the 2014 NBA Draft.

If the Lakers can hire a high-quality coach to maximize the ability of the Lakers roster and acquire an impact player during the NBA Trade Deadline, Bryant and the rest of the Lakers can still surprise the rest of the NBA and make some noise to return to the NBA playoffs this upcoming season.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers were able to win the blind bidding process for former Chicago Bull Carlos Boozer on Thursday. The process consisted of teams with enough salary cap space to pay Boozer’s contract for the upcoming 2014-15 NBA season, the Lakers bid consisted of $3.25 million.

The Bulls must still pay Boozer the $13.6 million that they owe him from the final year of his contract. However, by using the amnesty clause, his contract is removed from their luxury-tax and salary-cap which frees the team to make more moves in free agency.

Signing Boozer certainly adds more depth and mileage to a depleted front court as the Lakers were looking very inexperienced and very thin. As it stands, the Lakers currently have Boozer, Jordan Hill (two years, $18 million), first round pick Julius Randle, former lottery selection Ed Davis (signed on Wednesday for two years, $2 million), and center Robert Sacre.

While Boozer is not the max caliber player that Lakers were hoping for, he certainly is a serviceable player who can put score on bigger and quicker opponents, be aggressive and assertive on defense, and mentor the younger players that the Lakers are signing to develop.

Averaging 13.7 points and 8.3 rebounds per game, Boozer is on the downside of production in terms of his career. Yet when the Bulls needed him most, he certainly stepped up to the challenge.

Boozer’s can do mentality and aggressive style of play will bode well for this Lakers team as the young front court players will be able to learn a lot and watch an effective big man perform every night.

“I know I can still play at a high level,” Boozer said in a phone interview with the Chicago Tribune writer K.C. Johnson. “My body feels great. I still have 30-35 minutes a night in me and can average a double-double or close to it. I’m excited about the next chapter.”

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Photo Credit | Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

With free agency well underway now, the two biggest names on the market have chosen their landing spots. Lebron James has decided to return to his hometown of Cleveland, and Carmelo Anthony decided to return to New York and work under Phil Jackson.  James was essentially the first domino to fall as once he made his decision most other free agents began to make theirs.  The Lakers did their best to try and land Anthony but it was futile in the end.  Anthony not signing with the Lakers, unfortunately, meant the departure of long-time PF Pau Gasol, as he declined two separate offers from LA and decided instead to sign with the Chicago Bulls.

The Lakers currently have Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Jeremy Lin, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, Nick “Swaggy P” Young, Kendall Marshall, Jordan Hill, and Robert Sacre filling out the roster for the upcoming season.  The roster is far from what the Lakers would like to have for next season, but it’s going to have to do.  There are a few more roster spots to fill out and it is yet to be seen who will fill those spots but it won’t be a big name as the Lakers don’t have much money to work with now.

The starting five currently lacks a decent small forward, and the Lakers will likely sign someone in free agency who can fill that need.  Here’s what it looks like right now.

PG Jeremy Lin

SG Kobe Bryant

SF ???

PF Julius Randle

C Jordan Hill

It’s not terrible, but it’s not that great either.  The Lakers are sure to go through another dull year without the talent to get them through a formidable Western Conference.

No one knows who Bryant will be when he returns this season, 36 years old when the season starts and he’s coming off two severe injuries stemming Lin-Lakers from two seasons ago.  Jeremy Lin, who was nothing short of a superstar when he truly debuted in New York, has since come back down to earth and is a rather average point guard in the league. We’re yet to see Randle in an NBA game so it’s realistic to expect Randle to put up decent numbers this season as he starts his career with the purple and gold.  Jordan Hill brings his game every night and is a wonderful offensive rebounder who always fights for boards on both sides of the floor.  It should be nice to see him in a starting roll where he can play the majority of the position’s minutes.

And of course there’s always Swaggy P, whose crazy antics and celebrations brought a strong energy to the court every night, that will surely be a welcome sign once again.

The sleeper pick for this season is Jordan Clarkson.  Yes, Jordan Clarkson, I told a friend of mine about him and he replied “Who is that?”.  Exactly.  He isn’t necessarily someone you would have heard of unless you’re an avid follower of Laker basketball, but believe me, this kid has talent and he was an absolute steal at #46 in the second round of this years draft.  Look for him to make his mark this season.

Photo Credit | John Locher / Associated Press
Photo Credit | John Locher / Associated Press

So where do the Lakers stand right now?  Well they definitely don’t look like what many fans felt they would look like a few months ago that’s for sure.  Missing out on the big free agent names is something that the Lakers aren’t used to, normally players are chomping at the bit to play for the Lakers.

This hasn’t been the case since the Lakers missed out on Chris Paul.  By this I mean that ever since that trade was nixed, the Lakers have really been in a downward spiral.  After that, Lamar Odom was traded away to Dallas for basically nothing, and Gasol was to be in trade talks for the next three years.  Phil Jackson had retired from coaching, and the Lakers went on to hire Mike Brown.  Following that, the Lakers looked to get back on track with the sign and trade of Steve Nash and the acquisition of Dwight Howard through a three-team trade.  This turned out to be a miserable failure which led to Brown being fired.  Then the Lakers had to chance to get Jackson back, but NOPE, they threw a total curveball and went with Mike D’Antoni instead.  Yeah, that worked out well.  Howard despised playing in LA under D’Antoni, who couldn’t effectively utilize a big man to save his life, and he didn’t get along so well with Bryant either.  Nash broke his leg in the first week of the season which led him to suddenly become “old” and he never performed like he did in his Phoenix days.  Bryant tore his Achilles tendon in the final game of the 2012-13 season against Golden State, and then the Lakers were swept in the first round by San Antonio. Howard then left for Houston, and the Lakers had a lot of questions facing them for the upcoming 2013-14 season.  Well, Bryant came back mid-season and subsequently broke a bone in his knee and was then out the rest of the season which led the Lakers to finishing with 27 wins and a lottery pick.  Even after getting in the lottery they still managed to only get the seventh pick out of it.

So, now they’re here, a shell of the championship teams that won in 2009, and 2010; Bryant being the only remaining player from those teams.  Gasol is gone and the Lakers seem to be facing more and more questions each season with hopes of future free agents wanting to come to LA in the coming years.  The Lakers have lost that luster they’ve had for so many years, they just don’t have it, and who knows when it will return.

The current roster doesn’t scream success, heck, it barely even whispers mediocrity.  I don’t see this team making the playoffs this season in such a tough Western Conference, unless someone plays out of their mind and carries the team. Unlikely though.  To top it all off the Lakers don’t even have a first-round pick unless it’s top five; that pick was sent over to Phoenix in the Nash deal.

Uncertainty faces this team to say the least, the Lakers are in an extreme rebuilding process and it could take a while before Staples Center raises another purple and gold banner.

 

Where will the Lakers finish this season?

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Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

Linsanity is coming to Los Angeles!

The Houston Rockets have agreed to a trade that sends Jeremy Lin, a 2015 first round pick, and other draft considerations to the Lakers in exchange for cash and the rights to an overseas player.  The Lakers will not send any salary back.

The Rockets are looking to unload salary in order to sign free agent Chris Bosh to a max contract and the Lakers were the perfect trade partner as they have cap space to absorb the contract of Lin.

Over his career, Lin averaged 11.9 points, 4.8 assists, and 2.6 assists in four seasons. After not doing much his rookie season in Golden State, Lin burst onto the season in New York in 2011-2012, averaging 14.6 points and 6.2 assists in 35 games for the Knicks. As a free agent, Lin made his way to the Rockets the year after.

 

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Photo Credit| FoxSports

The hero we needed and deserved. A memorable line from The Dark Knight, modified to suit Pau Gasol and his place in Los Angeles’ history. Gasol was acquired on February 1st, 2008 for Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, Aaron Mckie, the draft rights to his brother, Marc Gasol, and two first-round picks.  Rather controversial considering how much better Gasol made the Lakers but Marc Gasol ended up playing at an All-Star level so it evens out, right?  This was the beginning of Gasol’s tenure with Los Angeles, and what a ride it has been.

Gasol, upon being traded to Los Angeles, led them to a 22-5 record and a subsequent NBA finals appearance against the Boston Celtics. Unfortunately, they lost that series in six games in Boston.  The Lakers weren’t done though and they came back the next season with a vengeance, winning the NBA championship in five games over the Orlando Magic.  Gasol averaged 18 ppg and 9 rpg that season while shooting 57% from the field; outstanding numbers that most certainly were the reason the Lakers made it that far that season.

The following season the Lakers did it again, winning the NBA championship in seven games against the Boston Celtics; a rematch of 2008.  Again, without Gasol playing as well as he did (18 ppg, 11 rpg in 2010) the Lakers likely would not have made it as far as they did.  Check out the video below and watch the highlights of Gasol’s 2009-10 playoff play.  It’s sensational.

Gasol was one of the league’s premiere big men and a top power forward at the time, thus raising arguments about who the best power forward in the league truly was.  However, following the failed three-peat attempt in 2011, Gasol came back down to earth.  I don’t believe this is his fault though, as he lost Coach Phil Jackson, arguably the greatest coach in basketball, and then went through a decent year under Coach Mike Brown only to be truly let down by Lakers’ brass when they hired Mike D’Antoni.

Gasol’s numbers took an abhorrent decline in D’Antoni’s first year as coach, averaging a pedestrian 14 ppg, and 8.5 rpg, a career-low in ppg, while only playing 49 games due to injury and D’Antoni actually benching Gasol.  However, this season Gasol’s numbers have definitely bounced back, averaging 17 ppg, 10 rpg, and an underrated 3 apg this season as he attempts to salvage himself and prove to the NBA that he still has some gas left in the tank.  Gasol played only 60 games this season due to various injuries, the latest being a severe case of veritgo that ended his season prematurely.  He certainly showed the NBA he can still play at the same high level he’s shown in the past.

Gasol and Kobe Bryant have had tremendous chemistry throughout their tenure together in Los Angeles.  Winning two championships together back-to-back builds a trust that can’t be earned by just any NBA player, something Gasol and Bryant certainly had.  Bryant may not find another player he can play with and trust as much as Gasol before his career comes to a close.  Sure, they had their hardships, like in the 2011 playoffs against New Orleans when LA dropped game one at home, partially due to a poor performance from Gasol.  Bryant had this to say regarding Gasol post-game.

We could have gotten a little bit more out of everybody. But Pau is our guy. He’s our guy. He’s the next in line. Responsibility and the pressure comes along with that,” he said, “and he’ll be ready to go next game.

Gasol has the relationship with Bryant that not many others ever had; they have each others backs through thick and thin.  As difficult a teammate that Bryant can be Gasol has stuck through and consistently worked on making his team better.  In a blog post earlier this year, Gasol discussed whether his time in Los Angeles was up.

If there’s anything or anyone who could make me stay it’s Kobe Bryant. I’d stay for him, but there’d have to be significant changes. I’ve said it many times: I want to be in a team that has a solid chance to win another tournament and where I can be an important factor in the game….

With Mike D’Antoni out of the picture, it looks more likely that Pau would want to re-sign with the Lakers but that is still up in the air.  Gasol, a first-time unrestricted free agent, has multiple suitors this offseason and he’s sure to take a look at all his options carefully before he makes his choice.

Gasol has often been considered soft, someone who doesn’t try to assert himself down-low or play aggressively enough.  I agree that Gasol hasn’t been the toughest or most formidable foe in the paint, but that’s not the type of player he is, he plays with finesse.  His post moves, footwork, and beautiful touch on his shot will never be forgotten by the Laker faithful.  Laker fans everywhere should be thankful to have had Gasol for the two championships he helped bring to Los Angeles, and the wonderful play he brought to the court, night in and night out.

Gasol is a Laker legend, and rightfully so.  He has always been underappreciated and trashed if he didn’t perform perfectly every night, and it’s unfair to expect that from anyone.  Gasol was the reason the Lakers were able to win back-to-back championships and for the true fans of his game he’ll always be appreciated.

His time in Los Angeles may come to an end this summer, but his legacy will never be forgotten.

Thank you Pau, for everything.

 

 

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July 11, 2014

 

  • Jeremy Lin: The Lakers/Rockets agreed to a trade that sends Lin to the purple and gold along with a 2015 first round pick.  The Lakers send no salary back to the Rockets as Houston prepares to offer Chris Bosh a max contract.
  •  Pau Gasol: The Lakers are open to a S&T deal if Gasol decides to pursue another career opportunity elsewhere (via Mark Medina – LA Daily News)

 

July 10, 2014

 

  • Steve Blake: Reached agreement on a two-year, $4 million contract with the Portland Trail Blazers (via Adrian Wojnarowski – Yahoo! Sports)
  • Pau Gasol: Met with GM Mitch Kupchak at the Lakers practice facility on Wednesday night (via Marc Spears – Yahoo! Sports)
  • Kent Bazemore: Lakers called Kent Bazemore again on Wednesday to reiterate that the team would like to re-sign him (via Michael Scotto – Sheridan Hoops)

 

July 9, 2014

 

  • Kobe Bryant: While not a free agent, Kobe at his basketball camp in Santa Barbara spoke to the media before it got started.  Couple things to note, endorsed Byron Scott as the next head coach of the Lakers and mentioned that the Buss family has a solid plan they want “to put a contender on the floor next year… “they’re going for it.” Also said there is a plan B in place if Melo does not sign with the Lakers.
  • Carmelo Anthony: Barring a ‘last minute change of heart’, Anthony will reportedly re-sign with the Knicks and will announce his decision on Thursday, according to a source close to the forward.  Other sources, including his agent Leon Rose, all denied that a decision was made (via Frank Isola – NY Daily News)
  • Isaiah Thomas: “I’m just waiting to see how it goes and waiting for Carmelo to decide. His decision just opens it up for me.” (via Eli Friedman – ThunderousIntentions/OKC Blog)

July 7, 2014

 

  • LeBron James: It is said that LeBron’s decision will come down to the Miami Heat or Cleveland Cavaliers (via Adrian Wojnarowski – Yahoo! Sports)
  • Jordan Crawford: The guard is receiving interest from the Lakers,  Bulls, Mavs, Knicks, and Nets (via Marc Spears – Yahoo! Sports)
  • Pau Gasol: The Thunder, once considered a front-runner, feel like Gasol is now a long shot. The center met with OKC coach Scott Brooks on Monday.  The Lakers, Spurs, and Bulls are all interested.  It is reported that Gasol has concerns about leaving a ‘culturally diverse’ city like Los Angeles and asked Brooks about the quality of life in Oklahoma City (via Dave McMenamin – ESPN)

July 6, 2014

 

  • Image: Andrew D. Bernstein | Getty Images
    Image: Andrew D. Bernstein | Getty Images

    Carmelo Anthony: There is a “rising sense around the league” that Melo will choose between the Lakers and the Knicks (via Marc Stein – ESPN) UPDATE: “After contemplating his options this weekend, free agent Carmelo Anthony’s decision isn’t expected to linger late into the week, a source said” (via Marc Spears – Yahoo! Sports)

  • Jordan Farmar: The point guard agreed to a 2yr/$4.2M deal with the Clippers (via Brad Turner – LA Times)
  • Isaiah Thomas: The Lakers are a “real possibility for Thomas.  While the Heat are also pursuing the point guard, the Lakers have the money to get a deal done.  As with everything else, nothing will happen until decisions from Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James are made (via Jared Zwerling – Bleacher Report/NBA TV)

 

July 5, 2014

Carmelo Anthony
Image: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke
  • LeBron James: The Lakers met with LeBron James’ agent Rich Paul on Friday, and the four-time MVP is giving similar consideration to what the Lakers have to offer, according to sources. (via Ramona Shelburne / Chris Broussard)
  • Carmelo Anthony: The one stumbling block is that Anthony is holding out hope that good friend LeBron James can find the two a place where the money is good and they can run together. (via NY Daily News)
    The Lakers’ pitch — of teaming Anthony with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and prized rookie Julius Randle on a team with no long-term salary obligations — made what one source described as a “strong impression” on Anthony. (via Ramona Shelburne / Chris Broussard)
    The Lakers made a MAJOR impact on Melo this week. It is now a legit three-way battle between Los Angeles, Chicago and New York to land him. As one source in process says of Lakers bid, “They can promise max money (4 years, $97M) without any roster moves needing to be made.” (via Bill Simmons / Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Pau Gasol: Gasol has emerged as a key selling point for the Lakers. While the Spaniard has been listening to pitches from championship contenders who lack much financial flexibility, such as Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Miami and Chicago, sources believe he would quickly re-sign with the Lakers if they are able to land Anthony or James. (via Ramona Shelburne / Chris Broussard)

July 4, 2014

  • LeBron James: Lakers met with LeBron James’s agent, Rich Paul, Friday in Cleveland. (via David Aldridge)

July 3, 2014

  • LeBron James: GM Mitch Kupchak is on a plane to Cleveland to meet with Rich Paul, agent for James.  They will reportedly meet Friday. (via Ramona Shelburne – ESPN) MORE: Lakers said they didn’t have meeting set up with LeBron James’ agent but Kupchak + Lakers biz VP Tim Harris are in CLE. Kupchak and Harris flew to CLE on a private jet immediately after meeting with Carmelo in Los Angeles this afternoon. (via Mike Bresnahan – LA Times)
  • Carmelo Anthony: The Lakers are scheduled to meet with Melo this afternoon and it is reported that Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher have flown into Los Angeles to meet with the forward later this evening.  Dave McMenamin of ESPN reports that Laker legend James Worthy will be involved in the meeting. UPDATE: Lakers have offered a 4-yr/$97M deal to Melo (the maximum salary)
  • Pau Gasol: Carmelo Anthony reportedly wants to sell Gasol on playing in New York together.  The center continues to get interest from teams and could be a priority for teams that miss out on Melo and LeBron.
  • Chris Kaman: The center signed a 2yr/$10M deal with the Portland Trailblazers
  • Jordan Farmar: Clippers are interested in the point guard and it could be a fit after Darren Collison left to sign a deal with the Sacramento Kings.
  • Isaiah Thomas: The Sacramento Kings signed Darren Collison to a 3-yr/$16M deal which could mean the end for Thomas in Sacramento. The Lakers have expressed interest in the point guard. UPDATE: Thomas’ preferred destinations in order are: Lakers, Heat, and Pistons.

 

July 2, 2014

 

  • Photo Credit: Getty Images
    Photo Credit: Getty Images

    Pau Gasol: The San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder have emerged as serious suitors for the center.  OKC’s Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook spoke directly to Gasol in LA today and the Thunder are considered a “frontrunner” (via Ramona Shelburne – ESPN)

  • Greg Monroe: If the Lakers are unable to re-sign Pau Gasol, it has Monroe on its list of potential replacements. Signing the center could be tough since he is a restricted free agent (via Brian Windhorst on SportsCenter)
  • Jordan Farmar, Xavier Henry, Wesley Johnson, and Chris Kaman: All players’ agents were contacted by general manager Mitch Kupchak about a potential return to the Lakers (via Dave McMenamin – ESPN)
  • Kyle Lowry:  The Lakers are among the bidders for the point guard who is mulling over an offer to stay with the Toronto Raptors (via Brian Windhorst – ESPN) UPDATE: Lowry has agreed to a 4yr/$48 million deal to stay with the Toronto Raptors (via Adrian Wojnarowski – Yahoo! Sports)
  •  Carmelo Anthony: UPDATE (2:30 pm) - The Lakers are ‘laser-focused’ on its Thursday meeting with Melo.  They’re making other calls, but all other business is conditional on that
    (via Ramona Shelburne – ESPN)
  • Lance Stephenson: The Lakers reached out to Stephenson’s agent to express interest in the guard. The Pacers offered Stephenson 5-yrs/$44M but the offer was not accepted (via Chris Broussard – ESPN)

 

July 1, 2014

 

  • Kyle Lowry:  The Lakers are among the bidders for the point guard who is mulling over an offer to stay with the Toronto Raptors (via Brian Windhorst – ESPN)
  • Josh McRoberts: The Lakers have shown interest in McRoberts who played for the team during the 2011-2012 season (via Jeff Goodman – ESPN)
  •  Pau Gasol: The Lakers placed a call to Gasol to express interest in bringing him back (via Ramona Shelburne – ESPN) — UPDATE (5:25 pm): Gasol met with Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak on Tuesday and the meeting lasted a “few hours” (via Dave McMenamin)
  • Jodie MeeksThe Lakers reached out to Meeks to show its interest in bringing the guard back (via Mark Medina – LA Daily News) UPDATE: Meeks and the Detroit Pistons have agreed to a 3yr/$19 million deal (via Adrian Wojnarowski – Yahoo! Sports)
  • Image: Robert Mayer | US Presswire
    Image: Robert Mayer | US Presswire

    LeBron James: The Lakers placed a call to Rich Paul, the agent for LeBron (via Ramona Shelburne – ESPN)

  • Carmelo Anthony: The Lakers secured a meeting with Anthony that will take place on Thursday (via Ramona Shelburne – ESPN)
  • Chris Bosh: The Lakers have expressed interest in the power forward (via Chris Broussard – ESPN)
  • Chandler Parsons: The Lakers expressed interest in the small forward (via Jeff Goodman – ESPN)
  • Trevor Ariza: The Lakers are on the list of Ariza’s potential destinations (via Dave McMenamin – ESPN)
  • Luol Deng: The Lakers have shown interest in Deng (via Alex Kennedy – Basketball Insiders)
  • Nick Young: The Lakers contacted Young’s representatives to express its interest in bringing him back (via Mike Bresnahan – LA Times)
  • Jordan Hill: The Lakers expressed interest in bringing Hill back (via Adrian Wojnarowski -Yahoo! Sports)
  • Isaiah Thomas: The Lakers were one of the teams to contact Thomas’ agent to express interest in the point guard (via Alex Kennedy – Basketball Insiders)
  • Caron Butler: The Lakers have expressed interest in the veteran forward (via David Aldridge – NBA.com)
  • Kent Bazemore: The Lakers reached out to the guard to express interest in bringing him back (via Michael Scotto – Sheridan Hoops)

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Image

After 16 NBA Championships and 31 Western Conference Titles, the Lakers have been one of the most storied and successful franchises in NBA history. From the eras of West, Chamberlain, Kareem, Magic, and Kobe, there have been countless record-breaking performances and memorable games that have added to Lakers glory. Let’s take a look back at some notable moments for the purple and gold in this off-season version of “A Blast from the Past,” with some of the best Laker-memories from June, over their 66-year history.

June 2, 1985

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar became the NBA’s all-time leading playoff scorer when he exceeded Jerry West’s previous record of 4,457 playoff points in Game 3 of the NBA Finals against the Celtics. Abdul-Jabbar finished his career with 5,762 playoff points, but was eventually surpassed by Michael Jordan’s 5,987.

June 9, 1985

At 38 years old, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar became the oldest player ever voted NBA Finals MVP, after the Lakers defeated the Celtics in six games to secure the title.

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images

June 14, 2009

Phil Jackson won his 10th NBA championship as a head coach when the Lakers beat the Orlando Magic in five games in the NBA Finals. Jackson passed Red Auerbach for most-ever coaching titles in NBA history. He would go on to win one more NBA title as a head coach in 2010, before retiring from coaching in 2011.

June 15, 2001

With their Game 5 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers in the NBA Finals, the Lakers solidified themselves as the most dominating playoff team in NBA history. Los Angeles set NBA records, which still stand today, for best playoff record (15-1) and highest playoff winning percentage (.937).

June 19, 2000

Shaquille O’Neal became the third player in NBA history to sweep MVP honors during a season when he was named the unanimous MVP of the 2000 NBA Finals. O’Neal also captured the All-Star Game MVP award before being named the NBA MVP at the end of the regular season. O’Neal joined Willis Reed and Michael Jordan as the only three players in history to capture the NBA’s version of the triple crown.

June 25, 1979

The Lakers selected Magic Johnson from Michigan State University with the first overall pick in the NBA draft. The sophomore Johnson became the first underclassman selected with the top pick in NBA history. Johnson won both the NBA title and Finals MVP award in his rookie season with the Lakers, making him the first-ever rookie to do so.

June 29, 1982

The Lakers traded Don Ford and Chad Kinch to the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for the number one overall pick in the NBA Draft. With the pick, Los Angeles selected James Worthy of the University of North Carolina Tar Heels at the Felt Forum at Madison Square Garden. Worthy spent his entire career with the Lakers and won three NBA championships during his 12 seasons in Los Angeles.

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Photo courtesy of Lakers.com

There is something to be said about being a Los Angeles Laker and if Monday’s introductory press conference was any indication, the attitude and confidence of Julius Randle will bode well in Los Angeles.

Sporting a purple-tie and bright smile, Randle was formerly introduced as the newest Laker at its practice facility in El Segundo as he was presented his new #30 jersey and spoke to the Los Angeles media.

“I’m truly blessed to be in a great organization, the greatest organization in the NBA,” said Randle. “Such an amazing opportunity for my family and I.  I couldn’t be more happy to be in the city of Los Angeles.”

Every season, prospects are considered NBA ready in large part to their basketball skills, but having an NBA ready personality is just as important to succeed on and off the court.

That was evident in his response when asked if he could start right away on a ‘wide open roster’ as the season rolls around in October.

Randle is currently one of five players who are expected to make the team. That includes Kobe Bryant, Robert Sacre, Steve Nash, and second round draft pick Jordan Clarkson.  With starting positions up for grabs, Randle does not expect to be handed anything just because he is a rare Lakers lottery pick.

“As far as the starting thing, that is something you have to earn,” said Randle, who averaged 15.0 points and 10.4 rebounds in his freshman year at the University of Kentucky. “I think I can come in and contribute right away, it’s just all going to depend on my work ethic, willing to put in the time into the gym and I think the results will show if I do that.”

After being selected at No. 7 by the Lakers in the 2014, Randle noted that teams would ‘regret’ passing on him.  When asked what motivates him, it is not the naysayers but instead an attitude that fans will surely respect.

“First off to win, I hate to lose. I think that’s one of my biggest motivations,” said Randle. “Me wanting to be the best, reach my full potential, I definitely push myself in that way.”

Growing up a Laker fan, Randle is familiar with the expectations and demands of the fans and franchise.  Coming from a historic basketball program with high expectations like at Kentucky, Randle will be no stranger to a transition where wins and losses are magnified by the fans.

“They love the Lakers and they expect nothing less but championships.”

There are some players that join the Lakers for a season or two and then there are those are simply Lakers at heart.  For Randle, his attitude embodies what the franchise is about, a rare quality in players today.

If anything else, Randle earned many new fans with all the right answers on Monday.  For the new kid on the block, his introduction in Los Angeles was a success and if that is any indication, the Lakers and its fans should be very happy and optimistic about what lies ahead.

 

 

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Photo: Jason DeCrow AP

 

Julius Randle, Kentucky, Power Forward, 6-9, 250 (Stats: 15.0 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 1.4 apg)

The Lakers came into the draft in a very interesting situation.  With only three rostered players, the team did not have the luxury of picking based on need, but instead was able to use its pick on the best available talent.

That is exactly what they got with Randle.  One of the best basketball players in the country this past season at Kentucky, Randle impressed the Lakers at his individual workout, not just with his basketball skill, but his attitude and the way he conducts himself as an individual which goes a long way when being an athlete in media heavy Los Angeles.

Concerns about Randle’s height came into question throughout the draft process, but his tenacity and style of play will surely translate to the NBA.  A throw-back forward who would rather do damage in the paint and on the boards instead of away from the basket, Randle’s frame along with his drive will be problematic for opponents as Randle will rarely get outworked.

Randle led the country with 24 double doubles last season, good for second most in Kentucky’s history which has produced players such as DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis in recent years.

As with any young player, there is room for improvement. Randle is a lefty and as with many players has issues with his off-hand which teams took advantage of at times by forcing him to go right.  His passing needs work but it is important to remember that Randle faced constant double teams, which resulted in turnovers and forced shots at times.  Defensively, he is a rock down low and hard to back down, but might have problems with the taller forwards in the league.  He is far more athletic than what he is given credit for and that will help in his development on both ends of the court.

Then comes the issue with his foot.  The situation is that after breaking his foot in high school, a screw was inserted into Randle’s foot but incorrectly. The bone did not heal the way some doctors would like but it has yet to hinder his play. The Lakers will decide whether surgery is necessary for the forward but Randle says he would be ready in time for training camp in three months.

The best part about is he is just 19 years old (turns 20 in November). After being drafted, he certainly said all the right things and seems to have an attitude that Kobe Bryant will like, which goes a long way when playing for the Lakers.  When it comes down to it, the Lakers got the pick right which should make fans happy.

Randle Quote: “I think I should’ve went higher for sure, but you know, the teams that passed on me will regret it.”

LakerNation Grade: A

 

Jordan Clarkson, Missouri, Guard, 6-5, 186 (Stats: 17.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 3.4 apg)

The Lakers were able to purchase the no. 46 overall pick from the Washington Wizards and the draft rights to Clarkson, a guard who had himself a nice season for Missouri last season after playing his first two years at Tulsa.

Many expected Clarkson to be an early second round pick in the draft. Considered to have first round talent, Clarkson slid on draft night and the Lakers were able to snag him for good value in the second round.

Clarkson ran point guard for a majority of the year at Missouri and did a decent job because of his strong ball handling and vision, but there was a transition period for the player who was comfortable at shooting guard. For a combo guard, Clarkson has good size at 6-5 and has a nice first step when attacking the basket.

He will need to work on his perimeter shooting as he shot 28 pct. from beyond the arc but the positive is his game is about getting to the basket and getting to the line where he shot 83 pct.  If anything else, he provides the Lakers with versatility off the bench as he continues to improve his game.

In recent seasons, the Lakers have had success with second round picks, notably Robert Sacre and Ryan Kelly, so there is hope Clarkson is another player that can be serviceable early.

LakerNation Grade: B

 

It is safe to say the Lakers were successful on draft night.  I would have personally liked to see them acquire a late first round pick or early second rounder as there was great value there, but it is hard to complain about the draft.  With two pieces in place, the Lakers can now turn its attention to hiring a head coach and NBA free agency.

It remains to be seen if the Lakers flip Randle in a deal after July 1st, but it would be nice to keep a young player like him on the roster moving forward as he can develop into something special.  Depending how the summer goes, Randle could find himself as a starter at power forward come opening night and will be in the conversation as a Rookie of the Year candidate.

For a team that had three rostered players, adding pieces to the puzzle is necessary and the Lakers did just that.  They did not try to shock anyone with its pick or get desperate in the draft, they simply made the most logical and best choice at the time.  After some head scratching decisions the past few years, it is certainly a step in the right direction.

LakerNation Final Grade: A

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After another setback during the pre-season, the Lakers announced today that Steve Nash will miss the 2014-2015 season due to ongoing back issues. Via Lakers: EL SEGUNDO...