Shaw is considered the team’s top choice at this point, multiple sources said. His youth, championship experience with the Los Angeles Lakers and player development skills, which have been showcased by his work with Indiana’s Paul George and Lance Stephenson, have intrigued the Clippers management and players. He also received strong reviews from Clippers forward Lamar Odom, who played under Shaw with the Lakers.
But since no candidate has formally interviewed for the position, or met with Clippers owner Donald Sterling, the situation remains fluid. The Clippers front office has done extensive background work on a handful of candidates: Shaw, Hollins, former Cleveland coach Byron Scott, former Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry, ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy and Denver head coach George Karl.
Van Gundy was previously near the top of the Clippers search, but talks with him have cooled recently, sources said. Karl is also still under consideration, but the Clippers have yet to formally ask permission from Denver to speak with him. Karl, the NBA’s Coach of the Year after leading the starless Nuggets to a franchise-record 57 wins, will enter the final year of his contract with a new general manager at the helm, following Masai Ujiri‘s departure to Toronto. A source said Saturday that his situation in Denver remains “unsettled.”
Convincing Shaw to leave the Pacers for the Clippers would be a coup for the franchise that has bungled the process since coach Vinny Del Negro was let go. But they have to move quickly where Shaw is concerned since he’s at the top of Brooklyn’s search list as well. Both jobs offer some interesting specifics for a first-time coach.
The respective owners, the Clippers’ Donald Sterling and the Nets’ Mikhail Prokhorov, have very different styles. And you better believe that will be a factor in Shaw’s decision-making process, depending on how quickly things process on both fronts.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – While the Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers and San Antonio Spurs occupy the minds of most NBA fans right now as the conference finals end and we get ready for The Finals, Kobe Bryant is quietly plotting his comeback in Los Angeles.
“I hope so,” Bryant said . “That’s the challenge. With the tendon, there’s really only but so much you can do. There’s a certain amount of time that they deem necessary for the tendon to heal where you don’t overstretch it and now you never get that spring back.
“So, you just have to be patient, let the tendon heal and then when that moment comes when they say, ‘OK, we can take off the regulator so to speak and now it’s on you to train as hard as you can to get back to where you want to be,’ that’s going to be a good day.”
In addition to plotting his own return, Bryant plans on being an active recruiter for the Lakers’ biggest free-agent target, center Dwight Howard. Howard is sure to be entertaining suitors from coast to coast July 1 when free agency kicks off. Bryant and Howard got off to a rocky start as teammates this season but appear to have grown closer throughout the tumultuous ride.
Bryant said he’ll step in when needed and make sure to impress upon Howard the importance of the big man being a part of the master plan in Los Angeles:
“For me, you kind of let him do his due diligence and then move in and talk to him and figure out if this is a place he wants to be,” Bryant said. “We all want him here. But then that’s when the selling begins [after Howard is courted by other teams]. You don’t start the selling process right before he goes and does all this stuff. You want to get the last word. You want to have the final word and the closing argument.
“I’ll give him a little opening statement, but then I have to make sure I have the final word.”
That has to be music to the ears of Lakers fans. Having the man who has served as the face of the franchise for much of the past decade and a half work this hard to make sure Howard serves as his eventual franchise successor speaks volumes about where Bryant is in his career.
With the Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, Atlanta Hawks, Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers are all reportedly preparing recruiting pitches for Howard (who, along with Chris Paul and Josh Smith, are the headliners in the free-agent class), the Lakers have to be prepared with a pitch of their own. The more input and influence from Bryant it seems, the better.
Only time will tell if it works out for Bryant on both fronts. We’d be foolish to doubt his resolve as he attempts to come back earlier than expected from his injury. In fact, convincing Howard to stick with the Lakers might be the more difficult of the two tasks.
Howard has managed to avoid doing any interviews since the Lakers were swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Spurs, so anyone assuming what he might do is going off of sourced information and little else.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – For months it appeared the Los Angeles Lakers’ free-agent summer plans would hinge on the relationship between two men, Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant.
The Lakers’ two biggest stars had to find common ground if this multi-million dollar experiment is going to bear fruit in the future. They had to be on the same accord going into the summer for Howard to ignore the other options he has as an unrestricted free agent and stick with the Lakers after a tumultuous first season in Hollywood.
Not everyone is convinced that the Howard-Bryant dynamic is the linchpin to the Lakers’ plans, though. Another man, Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni, could very well be the central figure on the Lakers’ side. Perhaps it’s his relationship with Howard, and not Bryant, that holds the key to the future between the All-Star big man and the franchise known for Hall of Fame big men.
As folks in Orlando can attest, this could be the start of Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak‘s very own Dwightmare!
While Howard hasn’t so much as spoken a word publicly about his future, there are rumblings in Los Angeles that he plans on entertaining free-agent pitches from the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks, as well as the Atlanta Hawks and Cleveland Cavaliers, instead of simply agreeing to the $118 million offer the Lakers have planned for him on July 1 when free agency opens.
According to sources with knowledge of the situation, part of the discussion between Howard and Kupchak centered around Howard’s frustration with D’Antoni — particularly how the center felt marginalized as the coach looked to Bryant and Steve Nash for leadership and suggestions and discounted Howard’s voice.
Every player was afforded the opportunity to meet with Kupchak individually after D’Antoni left the room, but few spent as much time as Howard and Kupchak did together. Antawn Jamison also had a separate meeting with Kupchak without D’Antoni present, but that was because of a scheduling conflict.
Kupchak left the meeting with Howard undeterred, telling reporters he was “hopeful” and “optimistic” that Howard would be back with the Lakers next season and beyond, yet there have been several developments in the last couple weeks that could have an effect on Howard’s decision.
D’Antoni chose not to retain assistant coach Chuck Person, a Howard confidant, on his staff for next season. Also, Lakers assistant coach Steve Clifford, who was with Howard in Orlando for five seasons before both of them came to L.A. last year, has become a hot head coaching candidate, interviewing with Milwaukee and receiving interest from Charlotte.
One source described the potential departure of Clifford, coupled with the loss of Person as “removing the buffers,” between Howard and D’Antoni, “which is a bad thing.”
Howard’s relationship with Bryant seemed much healthier at the end of the Lakers’ season than it did at any other time throughout the season. He visited Bryant at the hospital after he’d had Achilles surgery and Bryant spoke glowingly of Howard during his exit interview.
Bryant is going to do his best to mend fences and rebuild bridges this summer for the Lakers in what is truly a colossal summer for the franchise. The NBA’s social media king took to Twitter to spread that message to the masses:
Interesting off season looming.. Will spend time with d12 #stay and talk with the Buss family in hopes that Pau stays as well #my2cents— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) May 21, 2013
But if there is a rift (spoken or not) between Howard and D’Antoni, even Kobe might have a hard time fixing it. Especially with all of the other options that will be presented to Howard in about six weeks.
The Lakers cannot afford to enter the 2013-14 season with Bryant still on the mend from that Achilles injury and only Nash and Pau Gasol as headliners in a Western Conference that could be as deep as it’s been in years. Having Howard on board would keep the Lakers among the playoff crowd. Without him, there is no telling where the Lakers land.
While the situation seems dire to some, Kupchak believes he has a better grip on things than the rest of us think. More from McMenamin:
Kupchak did not seem worried about any potential rift between player and coach.
“I think Dwight likes winning, he likes performing at a high level,” Kupchak said. “I think he’s fine with Mike D’Antoni, but I’m not really concerned if players like a coach, so I don’t ask that question. Our coaches are evaluated by wins and losses.”
Kupchak was further pressed about the possibility of a coaching change being dictated by a player.
“This organization has a precedent with that kind of a situation and I think we learned our lesson,” Kupchak said, referring to when Paul Westhead was fired in the early ’80s and the decision was tied to Magic Johnson‘s wishes. Whether that was the real story or not, both Johnson and the Lakers organization took a hit for how it was perceived.
We’ll know better in six weeks just how big a rift there is, if at all, between Howard and D’Antoni.
In the meantime, enjoy the rest of your latest Dwightmare!
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Love ‘em or hate ‘em, Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers are a must-watch down the stretch of this season, for reasons that were ridiculously obvious during a historic (for Bryant) Wednesday night in Portland.
Bryant played the entire game, scored a season-high 47 points and finished with an unprecedented stat line as the Lakers rallied from an early 10-point deficit to beat the Trail Blazers 113-106 and move a full game ahead of the idle Utah Jazz for the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference playoff chase with just three games to play.
The Lakers have won four out of five to continue their season-defining playoff stand, a charge led by the wicked Bryant, who torched the Blazers with 47 points, eight rebounds, five assists, four blocks and three steals — filling the box score in a way that no player before him has. (He also outdueled Portland Rookie of the Year favorite Damian Lillard, who was spectacular himself with 38 points and nine assists.)
Whether the Lakers make the playoffs or not, Kobe is going to make sure their final three games are played with an intensity and at a pace that is playoff-worthy. That’s just who he is and has been his entire NBA career. There have been times when his individual drive and focus have been detrimental to his team (early in his career for sure and again later, when he and Shaquille O’Neal battled for control of the team). There’s no Phil Jackson around this time to balance the scales.
All that said, there is no player I’d rather watch under these extreme circumstances. The Lakers’ season goes into the category as one of the greatest crimes against the game if a crew with Kobe, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash doesn’t find its way into the postseason.
Would it have been nice to see the same sense of urgency in December that we all saw last night? Of course. In or out the postseason, a CSI crew will be needed to comb through the scattered wreckage of the Lakers’ regular season. There’s no way it was supposed to go down the way it has.
Kobe’s fingerprints will be all over the wreckage, along with those of Howard, Gasol, Nash, Jim Buss, Mitch Kupchak and just about anyone else inside the organization you want to throw in the mix.
“It’s bittersweet,” Pau Gasol said when asked about Bryant’s dominating performance against the Blazers, in which he played all 48 minutes in a non-overtime road game for the first time in his career. “Because, I think it’s spectacular and it’s very impressive and it’s remarkable to be able to play 48 minutes and score 47 points. That’s incredible. On the other hand, I’m a player that likes to see a little bit more ball movement and better balance. I’ve always been [like that]. That’s just how I perceive this game.
“But again, he was incredible tonight. He scored a tremendous amount of points that I never scored in my life. So, like I said, it was very impressive and it’s not something that you do every night, of course.”
It wouldn’t be necessary every night if the Lakers had worked these issues out earlier in the season. They’ve been riding this roller coaster since training camp, with established veterans trying to sort out their roles — first under Mike Brown and since those first five games under Mike D’Antoni. (more…)
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – History will decide whose era (and empire) reigned supreme over the NBA and ultimately which franchise — between the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs — gets to stamp this generation in the league as “theirs.”
The case for each franchise is strong. There are Hall of Fame players, all-time great coaches, championship banners and lasting memories on both sides of the divide. It’s up to each observer to make their own determination as to whose body of work is stronger.
At a legends brunch during All-Star Weekend years from now, you’d love to be at the table with Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan as the conversation cranks up (with Duncan no doubt choosing to opt out of the conversation and Bryant no doubt proclaiming the dominance of his Lakers).
But there is no doubt that one outfit is handling the final years, months and, perhaps days, of their dominant era much better than the other. The Spurs remain mighty, among the Western Conference and NBA’s best while the Lakers are in the midst of one of the biggest meltdowns we’ve seen of a proposed championship team.
The two teams we’ll see on the floor tonight in San Antonio (8 p.m. ET, ESPN) couldn’t be more diametrically opposed. The Spurs are going about their business as always, oblivious to the outside world that loves to ignore them this time of year, all while plotting another deep playoff run in the twilight of the Duncan-Manu Ginobili-Tony Parker-Gregg Popovich era.
Bryant and his crew, two-time MVP Steve Nash and injured bigs Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol, are limping through the meat of their season and staring at the very real possibility that this superstar experiment could end up with a burned down laboratory and a trip to the lottery. That’s a fate no one expected when the Lakers’ front office put this group together.
The 38-year-old Nash also admitted he has seriously considered the possibility that the Lakers, despite all their preseason hype and championship aspirations, might not even make the playoffs this season.
“That motivates me every day,” Nash said. “There’s no guarantee [that the Lakers make the playoffs]. I think three or four weeks ago, people would have said, ‘Ah, it will get better.’ Now I definitely don’t think there’s a guarantee it will, so the only remedy is continue to work hard and give yourself a chance for it to get better.
“I obviously think with time, and that might mean through the summer, we can get better. But for this season, it’s definitely going to be a challenge to turn this around. … We got a number of things we got to try to improve on to get better, but one thing that we can’t accept is to take our foot off the gas and accept things. We got to continue to fight.”
Kobe Bryant, who entered the NBA in the same 1996 draft class as Nash, can commiserate.
“We were walking around at shootaround, and we just kind of looked at each other, and I said to him, ‘We thought it was going to be easier this year for once,’” Bryant said with a laugh.
Bryant refused to succumb to the circumstances, however.
“[Nash] is a little more reasonable than I am,” Bryant said. “That’s how we kind of bounce off of each other. I’m as stubborn as a mule. I’m going to keep driving this thing forward and so is he, but he tends to have more perspective than I do.”
It’s fair to say that Kobe’s stubborn streak might have cost the Lakers several more titles than the five they’ve accumulated during his time with the franchise. Had the Lakers kept their hoops trinity of Shaquille O’Neal, Bryant and Phil Jackson together as long as the Spurs have maintained their championship nucleus, there wouldn’t be an argument as to whose era it was.
The Spurs stuck to their beliefs — that you keep the core intact, exchange the periphery pieces when needed and always keep an eye out for young and emerging talent. The Lakers, meanwhile, have never been afraid to gamble big on the quick fix, cashing in at times (with the acquisition of Gasol, which led to back-to-back titles) and eating it at others (like now).
History will document both sides, their moves and each and every respective success and failure.
But right here, right now the verdict seems simple.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS –Pau Gasol keeps finding himself on the end of the Los Angeles Lakers’ bench at crunch time, a strange place for one of the world’s best post players. But that’s exactly where Gasol was with the game on the line Sunday at Staples Center, for the second time in just five games.
And if you thought things couldn’t get any worse, now Kobe Bryant is dishing out his own brand of public advice/motivational talking points to … help inspire Gasol to keep himself on the floor?
The Lakers’ dysfunction has run deep this season, but perhaps never more than it did Sunday night after a despicable 113-103 home loss to the Orlando Magic, Dwight Howard‘s former team, when Bryant told reporters:
“Put your big-boy pants on,” Bryant said. “Just adjust. Just adjust. You can’t whine about it. You can’t complain about it.”
You don’t have to read between any lines to figure out that Kobe is calling Gasol out in the best/worst way (depending on your perspective). Demanding that Gasol man up and take responsibility for his own game and his own transition from Phil Jackson‘s system to Mike Brown‘s system and now, Mike D’Antoni‘s system, is exactly what you’d expect from a team leader.
This isn’t the first time someone has felt the need to light a fire under Gasol. Jackson had to do the same on several occasions when he coached the Spaniard, famously poking him in the chest during Game 3 of that playoff series they lost to the Dallas Mavericks in 2011 in an effort to challenge Gasol’s toughness in a critical situation.
Gasol was subbed out with 6:07 remaining in the fourth quarter and the Lakers up 84-83. Orlando outscored L.A. 30-19 the rest of the way. Gasol ended his night with 11 points of 4-for-11 shooting, seven rebounds, two assists and a block in 29 minutes.
“I don’t get irritated,” Gasol said of the benching. “I like to be out there. It’s upsetting for me as a player but I won’t allow it to irritate me.”
It was the second time the benching occurred with Gasol’s family in the building. The first time came against Marc Gasol and the Memphis Grizzlies and Gasol’s father and younger brother, Adria, were at Staples Center for the game Sunday.
Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni downplayed the difficulty of getting Gasol back on track.
“Just talk to him,” D’Antoni said. “There’s no magic words out there. He’s going to have to play. He still had 11 and seven and he’s playing, but we just have to be a more dynamic team. We’re slow right now. It’s just athletically, we’re struggling.”
D’Antoni added that he didn’t want to “lose Pau,” but Bryant assured that would not be a problem.
“We’re not going to lose him,” Bryant said. “That’s just not going to happen. I’ve been around him long enough. I know how to deal with him.”
The Lakers need to worry about losing games right now, too. They’re 8-9 after dropping this game to the Magic, a 6-10 team that had won just three times in its last 13 outings prior to Sunday.
Every time it seems the Lakers are getting on track, like they appeared to do in Friday’s win over Denver, they follow it up with a nasty fall like we saw against the Magic. This uneven approach under D’Antoni is not what anyone expected and certainly not what Bryant said we should expect after the coaching change.
And yet here they are, still struggling with their own identity while serving as the punchline for jokes league-wide because they can’t find a way to manufacture wins with one of the best rosters on paper.
If they keep this up through Christmas, calling for “big-boy pants” for Gasol will only be a small part of the barking Bryant is doing as the Lakers head into 2013.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – With fifteen combined losses, a coaching change and plenty of issues still needing to be resolved, it’s safe to say that both the Los Angeles Lakers and Indiana Pacers have begun this season in ways no one expected from either of these supposed contenders.
Their struggles, both on and off the court, could be construed by some as character-building hurdles for teams on their way to bigger and better things. On the flip side, the flaws we’ve seen through this first month of the regular season could also be a preview of what’s in store for two teams that need to reveal their true identities before the calendar flips to 2013.
Tonight’s matchup between the Lakers and Pacers in Los Angeles (10:30 ET, League Pass) could be billed as the disappointment bowl, what with the Pacers (6-8 and losers of seven of their last 11 games) dragging themselves across the country to face a Lakers team (7-7) fighting to stay around the .500 mark as they transition from Mike Brown‘s Princeton offense-based system to Mike D’Antoni‘s up-tempo attack.
How these two teams reached this point of the season with such underwhelming results is a bit of a mystery given all of the expectations heaped upon both of them. The high expectations for Indiana were forged after its near breakthrough effort against the Miami Heat in the East semifinals last season. For L.A., the expectations grew after its summer acquisitions of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard.
Neither team has been able to harness the momentum needed to push their way into the elite category this season. The Lakers blew things up after five games and still can’t decide if they’re going to get serious about becoming a championship team or continue clowing around as if all they need is a little more time — and a healthy Nash back in the lineup — to correct whatever is wrong.
Still, the Lakers appear to have an easier road back to respectability. When Nash returns, D’Antoni will have his favorite trigger man at the controls of his offense, theoretically making life better for Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and everyone else. They’ll have a chance to find a comfort zone throughout the holiday season while getting all their big stars aligned and in a collective groove.
“We’re doing it without (Nash), who is kind of the engine that is going to drive us forward,” D’Antoni said. “So we’re going to have some bumps along the road.”
Steve Blake (strained abdomen) did not practice. He continues to be listed as day-to-day.
Nash and Blake have been ruled out for Tuesday’s game against the Indiana Pacers.
“I told (Nash) and I told Steve Blake … we’ve got 68 games left,” D’Antoni said. “I’d rather them play (the) 61 final games instead of them playing six and then missing 20 and then playing the rest of them.
“It’s important that they keep progressing. Whether they play Tuesday or Friday or next Saturday, it doesn’t really matter where (they come back). It’s that when they play, the rest of the time they’re ready to roll.”
Things aren’t quite as simple for the Pacers, who not only have to play without Danny Granger (knee) for three months, but also have to contend with one of the league’s toughest early season schedules. Twelve of their first 18 games will be played on the road, a factor coach Frank Vogel is working hard to manage for a team that seems a bit shell-shocked that at their struggles thus far.
“I encouraged our guys to keep any frustrations in perspective and understand we play 41 at home and 41 on the road,” Vogel told the Indianapolis Star. “We’re weathering the storm of an early tough part of our schedule … Just manage it, stay in the hunt and we’ll have our run. It could happen now; it could happen later.”
The Pacers were supposed to have a clear path to the Central Division title after the Bulls lost All-Star point guard Derrick Rose for the majority of the season due to his ACL injury suffered in the 2012 playoffs.
The Bulls have done their part, but it’s the Milwaukee Bucks, not the Pacers, who have stepped into the void early on.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We’ve been watching that countdown to tipoff clock on the front of NBA.com for days, weeks even, just staring at the numbers ticking away.
With the ground beneath our feet seemingly changing by the second in the final days leading up to Tuesday night’s start of the regular season, the one constant we thought we could be sure of is the teams that make up the league’s 1 percent.
But we’re not completely sure how to rank the elite now that James Harden and Jeremy Lin will share a backcourt in Houston after Oklahoma City Thunder traded the reigning KIA Sixth Man of the Year to the Rockets Saturday night. It was the most shocking and final blow in a week that left us punch drunk from stunning (some more than others) news.
The balance of power hasn’t been shifted or anything. We all know that the Miami Heat, Thunder, Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio Spurs and Boston Celtics make up the theoretical 1 percent. They’ll all kick this season off in the same positions in which they finished the last one.
Sure, it was a drama-filled last week before the start of the regular season. From the news that NBA Commissioner David Stern would be stepping down on Feb. 1, 2014 after 30 years on the job, and will be succeeded by Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver, to the weekend stunner from Oklahoma City, the hits just kept coming.
On the eve of one of the most anticipated seasons we can remember, so much seems to be in flux.
“I don’t know if he’ll be ready,” Brown said after the Lakers 97-91 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday. “So yeah, I guess there is question. I’m just going to wait for [Lakers trainer] Gary Vitti to tell me he can play because there’s nothing I can do about it until they release him anyway.”
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Los Angeles Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro has a decidedly different approach to preseason basketball than his Los Angeles Lakers’ counterpart.
While Mike Brown isn’t worried about his team’s 0-6 preseason record, Del Negro demands that his crew treat every dress rehearsal like the real thing.
“You get paid to play and you get paid to win, I don’t care if it’s exhibition or not, you have to compete,” Del Negro told reporters after Monday night’s win over the Golden State Warriors. “If you’re not willing to compete and put it out there, you’re not a competitive person and those are not the type of people I want around here. … I understand it’s an exhibition game but when you play your minutes, play the right way so we can get better. If you don’t want to, you can come sit with me.”
Both sides will have main players sitting with the coaches when the Clippers and Lakers square off tonight (10:30 p.m. ET, NBA TV). Lakers star Kobe Bryant is set to rest his sore foot and Del Negro has talked about resting his starters for the preseason version of the Staples Center Classic.
That means tonight’s game could turn into a battle of the benches, and that’s one fight where the deeper Clippers’ appear to have an advantage over their city rivals. A roll call of the Clippers’ reserves — Jamal Crawford, Lamar Odom, Grant Hill, Matt Barnes, Eric Bledsoe, Ronny Turiaf, Willie Green, Ryan Hollins and Chauncey Billups (who will return from a torn Achilles tendon sometime next month or in December) — highlights an explosive supporting cast of talented players all capable of playing multiple positions.