If Lakers coach Mike Brown can get his players to mesh the way some insiders hope he can (and the way Nash and Howard have in the video, above) then the rest of the Western Conference and the entire league could be in serious trouble this season.
But it’s that chemistry that will most certainly make the difference between the Lakers winning big and just winning the way they have the past two seasons, reasonably successful regular season campaigns that ended rather abruptly in the playoffs at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks and Oklahoma City Thunder, respectively.
It should be noted that both the Mavericks (2011 champs) and Thunder (lost to the Heat in The Finals) went on to represent the Western Conference in the final round of the Larry O’Brien chase.
It should also be noted that the questions about the Lakers’ chemistry aren’t just coming from us.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – No matter how many times we see it in print or hear it from the pundits or even other players around the league, we’re having a hard time anointing the Los Angeles Lakers as the best the Western Conference has to offer before anyone reports for training camp.
Yes, those are blasphemous words in the Southland and sure to get us kicked out of line at Roscoe’s, but you know it’s the truth. As good as the Lakers look on paper with Steve Nash and Dwight Howard joining Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace, the problem is the paper.
We have no idea what this group will look like in the flesh, on the court trying to work out the kinks during training camp and trying to find a rhythm as a group with Nash, Bryant and Howard all used to being the centers of attention on their respective teams. And since none of us has seen Howard in uniform since April (due to back surgery and the rehab process that followed), it would be foolish to assume that there won’t be a transition period for him to adjust not only to his new teammates and surroundings but also to being back in the flow of live action.
There hasn’t been any time for this group to get together and bond during the offseason. Bryant and Gasol spent the bulk of the summer working with their respective national teams and competing in the Olympics. Nash, Howard and World Peace have all been busy tending to their affairs as well. So unless they’ve been getting together for pickup games or team-bonding trips to the beach, training camp will be the first time this crew assembles and embarks upon the process of becoming the contender we all assume they will be by the end of the regular season.
Steve Nash is expected to be in Los Angeles in mid-September, and plans on working out at the team’s facility.
Dwight Howard is currently doing his therapy/rehabilitation from back surgery at a facility in the Westwood/Century City area of L.A. At some point, he will transition over to working with Lakers head athletic trainer Gary Vitti, the team’s head physical therapist Dr. Judy Seto and the rest of Vitti’s staff (a time has not yet been set). Lakers spokesman John Black said Howard will not be doing any basketball/weight workouts until he’s cleared medically, and that there is no target date for any of that at this point.
Pau Gasol is expected to return to Los Angeles at the end of September, while Kobe Bryant is more than trusted by the team to make his own work out arrangements for the offseason prior to training camp.
We’re assuming quite a bit about a team that has been escorted from the playoffs rather abruptly in each of the past two seasons.
HANG TIME, Texas — Break out the oxygen tanks for the thin air in Denver. Start ironing the extra rubber onto the soles of those sneakers.
George Karl wants the Nuggets to run. And run and run and run.
Does anybody have leftover programs and posters from when the nutty professor Paul Westhead tried that route in Denver back in 1990? Do you remember his Nuggets averaging a league-high 119.9 points per game? Oh, and giving up 130.8? How about the night they surrendered 107 points in one half to Phoenix, which is still an NBA record?
Talking to Scott Hastings on KKFN in Denver, an unabashed Karl says his plan for getting his Nuggets out of a three-year funk of being bounced from the playoffs in the first round is to pick up baton from where Mike D’Antoni left off with his “Seven seconds or less” offense in Phoenix.
“I’ve never seen it be that successful in the NBA, but I think the big thing for us is, who is going to commit to playing fast? We talked about it and last year we did a good job at it, but there’s no way I want to slow down. I want to try to prove the world wrong — that you can run and win in the NBA, and you can win big if you keep running. The problem is, can you run for 82 games every minute, every possession of every game?”
Jason Terry made sure of that with his work against the Miami Heat in The Finals.
The Dallas Mavericks’ sixth-man extraordinaire went to work in the last three games of the series to help the Mavericks roll to their first title in franchise history while also making sure he wouldn’t have to make a trip to have that Larry O’Brien trophy tattoo removed from the inside of his right bicep.
Terry’s 19 points off the bench before halftime carried the Mavericks while Dirk Nowitzki struggled with his shot early. He finished with a game-high 27 and for the series wound up outplaying the man, LeBron James, the Heat assigned to shut him down.
Terry averaged 18 points on 49 percent shooting from the floor and 39.3 percent from beyond the 3-point line. James averaged 17.8 points on 48 percent shooting from the floor and 32 percent from deep.
The stage fright that seemed to paralyze James in this series, his second trip to the last stretch of the season, had the opposite effect on Terry, who thrived in the magnitude of his second Finals moment. He not only outplayed James, he called him out repeatedly and backed up his words with clutch work when the Mavericks had to have it.
Terry said he was channeling the idols of his youth, namely Gary Payton.
“Everybody knows who GP is, Gary Payton.One of my idols. A good friend,” said Terry, a Seattle native raised on the Payton-Shawn Kemp-led Sonics teams. “It wasn’t about me carrying the team. It was doing my job. My job is to come in and provide a spark, make plays, make shots. I did my job.”
Terry’s confidence was on full display in the elimination situation but in the aftermath he reflected on his roots.
“For me, I just think about my journey,” Terry said. “Where I come from, the inner city of Seattle, growing up many nights on the playground emulating the greats, Isiah Thomas, even my hometown heroes like Slick Watts, “Downtown” Freddy Brown, Magic [Johnson]. Now I’m in the same breath as those guys. They’re champions. Dr. J texted me before Game 6. He said, ‘Hey son, it’s your time.’ I responded to him, ‘I want to be a champion, just like you.’ Now I am.”
And Terry is likely the only one with that tattoo on his arm.
Sometimes, for whatever reasons, the moment comes and goes and hardly anyone stops to appreciate the gravity of what took place and where it ranks in the annals of the game.
And sometimes that moment is cloaked in such a bittersweet coating that it’s almost best not to mention it, especially to the man whose milestone was achieved. Such was the case for Trail Blazers point guard Andre Miller, whose passing of Celtics legend Bob Cousy for 14th place on the career assists list was shrouded in late-game struggles in a loss to the Lakers Sunday at Staples Center.
Miller’s five assists give him 6,957 for his career, moving him ahead of Cousy (6,955). But it came on a night that saw him commit his only two turnovers in the fourth quarter, in a game where he shot just 3-for-14 from the floor.
This is third installment of the Top 10 from the Black Mamba we will examine here at the Hideout. Between now and the All-Star Game (Feb. 20), we’ll be posting a new season top 10 list from Kobe‘s storied career for your viewing pleasure.
“I really want to be back in Seattle, and be on a bench in Seattle,” Payton said on Dave Mahler‘s Show on KJR in Seattle.
Payton said he’s not sure he would ever want to be a head coach, but he is interested in coaching fellow point guards in the league.
“Basketball has changed a lot since my era,” Payton said. “They don’t play basketball the way I played.” He said Deron Williams of the Utah Jazz is the closest thing in the league today to The Glove.
No matter how long it takes the NBA to return to Seattle, we’ll always have the memories GP and Kemp gave us during their glory days (tell me Kemp’s top 10 dunks don’t rank among the very best you’ve seen)!
Tayshaun Prince has run the gamut with Larry Brown. In two short, memorable and highly-lucrative years in Detroit, Prince experienced the best and worst of what the nomadic teacher had to offer.
Brown not only made good team better, he turned the Pistons into champions in 2004. He also turned his back on a potential mini-dynasty a year later and made what turned out to be a disastrous move to New York.
Wednesday’s abrupt decision by Brown and Michael Jordan to part ways in Charlotte sent shock waves throughout the league. (Here’s a sampling of that Brown reaction gathered by NBA.com’s talented staple of correspondents. Included is advice Tyson Chandler once sought about Brown from Prince.)
One of those correspondents, Holly MacKenziein Toronto, caught up with Prince after Detroit beat the Raptors. McKenzie asked Prince if he was surprised by Brown’s unexpected end in Charlotte.
“Yes and no,” Prince said. “I say yes because when things are going tough, Larry usually works through them and tries to make the best out of them. Secondly, I had heard some of his comments the last week or so about the guys not understanding him or listening and might need a new voice in the locker room, those types of things.
“It’s definitely unfortunate because he’s one of those coaches where if you really understand, get to understand him and what he’s trying to get accomplished things will work out for the best. It’s been unfortunate for them. [Brown] and the rest of that staff is a great staff. He’s been unbelievable in his coaching experience and what he’s taught players around the league and what he’s done for the organizations around the NBA, so it’s definitely surprising.”
The Pistons surprised the basketball world in the 2004 Finals, beating the beefed-up Lakers of Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Karl Malone and Gary Payton in five stunning games. Detroit reached the Finals the next season, falling in a gut-wrenching seven-game series to San Antonio and former Brown assistant Gregg Popovich.
Prince said Brown squeezed everything he could out of those Piston teams.
“Every time we had tough times with him, he always used to say that the result at the end was going to be great if we just keep working, keep doing what we need to do,” Prince said. “There were plenty of times where we had practices and we were frustrated with him, we were trying to understand him and he just kept telling us, kept telling us, kept telling us, ‘You know what, do as I say and I’ll lead you in the right direction, you’ve just got to stay with me. The minute you get off of that course, things are not going to go right.’ We stayed on the course and eventually we had two great years with him.”
The Bobcats made the franchise’s first-ever playoff trip with Brown at the helm last season. The wandering coach took eight of the nine pro teams he coached to the postseason, a record that likely won’t be broken because, let’s face it, is anyone going to get that many jobs again?
“We had a good team before he came and he made us great,” Prince said. “Then all of the bad teams he had he made them better. This situation, obviously [the Bobcats] got off to a rough start, but I just really feel like if they stuck with it and really understand what he was trying to accomplish that they would have ended on a good note. Everything happens for a reason.”
Prince knows as well as anyone that Brown’s demanding and unflinching ways can wear on people, even in a relatively short amount of time. Prince, though, said Brown has too much to offer basketball to just walk away.
“Whether he wants to get a president, GM job, something like that or keep coaching,” Prince said, “he has to do something because he means so much to the game.”