Posts Tagged ‘Orange County Register’

Report: Lakers To Amnesty World Peace



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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The Metta World Peace era in Los Angeles has apparently come to an end. The colorful Lakers small forward could be the first casualty of the Dwight Howard decision to go to Houston with the Lakers prepared to waive him, according to Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register.

MWP, formerly Ron Artest, has been a staples in the Lakers’ lineup for the past four seasons. He played the hero in Game 7 of The Finals in 2010, knocking down the clutch 3-point shot (above) to help the Lakers survive the Boston Celtics at the Staples Center.

But he’ll exit in the fallout of a lost season and free agent summer that saw the Lakers strike out in their recruitment of Howard, who chose to chase his championship dreams with the Rockets instead of sticking around to see if he and Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Steve Nash, MWP and the rest of the Lakers could get it right during a second season together.

The Lakers are cutting ties with MWP on the same day they agreed to terms with center Chris Kaman on a one-year deal to help shore up the frontcourt rotation with Howard out of the picture.

There is still a hole at small forward, though. MWP was one of the only regulars to make it through the 2012-13 season healthy for the Lakers. He played in 75 regular season games, starting 66 of those. At 33, he surely has a few good years left in him. They just won’t be with the Lakers.

Del Negro Stays Clear Of Hot Seat

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – What the Los Angles Clippers are doing is just as impressive in person as it is from afar. Seriously, do you have any idea how difficult it is in the NBA to win every night with a schedule that is unrelenting and competition that, for the most part, is as tight as you could get on a given night?

The Clippers do and have managed their league-best 17-game win streak masterfully.

Does it mean they’ve arrived among the NBA’s truly elite? We won’t know that for sure until sometime in late April or early May, when this group fights off the pressure in the playoffs and advances without playing their very best. Does it mean they have officially replaced the Los Angeles Lakers as the top hoops draw in their own city? Of course, not. Lakers fans will simply remind you to look up in the rafters at Staples Center and start counting the banners.

But if this streak proves anything at all, it’s that Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro has figured out the best way to avoid the dreaded coaching hot seat he seemed to be on every other night when his team wasn’t winning all the time. In fact, he’s rarely been mentioned, good or bad, during the streak. And that’s probably the way he’d like to keep it.

The laws of NBA gravity suggest that this streak will have to end sometime soon. A grueling stretch of schedule that has the Clippers walking on hot coals — in Denver on Tuesday, the Nuggets are 9-1,  in Oakland to face Golden State the next night, and then back in Los Angeles for another round of the City Championship series against the Lakers on Friday, followed the next night by a visit from the Warriors — just to survive the next six days.

It’s certainly doable for a team that went 16-0 this month. But adding four more wins this week against that schedule would be grounds for an investigation into extra-terrestrial assistance for a franchise that has never experienced the kind of hoops high the Clippers are these days.

Which brings us right back to Del Negro, whose navigated this mercurial stretch seamlessly. He’s allowed the Clippers’ entire cast of characters to play their roles to perfection. All-Stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin lead the way, Caron Butler and DeAndre Jordan do some of the heavier lifting when they need to, as Butler did in Sunday’s win over the Utah Jazz with 29 points, while the league’s best bench (Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes, Eric Bledsoe and the boys) continue to crash open close games with their wave on non-stop energy.

You don’t win 17 straight games without someone knowing when to and when not to push, as Crawford told the Orange County Register after No. 17:

“Everybody here has a decent body of work in some way shape or form,” Crawford said. “They’ve proven something somewhere in the NBA. With that is a confidence that a player has, and there are egos involved.”For him to be able to manage that and put people in the right positions and use people to their strengths, he deserves a lot of credit.”

Del Negro has juggled a rotation full of veterans without much drama, but he’s established roles for everyone from Paul to Ryan Hollins.

“Guys get frustrated sometimes not playing as much, but it’s about the team winning games,” Del Negro said.

One thing Del Negro has done is allow players to operate in their areas of strength.

“He just tells me to be me. It’s been awhile since I was told to just be me,” Ronny Turiaf said. “I think it goes back to the Laker days when Phil (Jackson) told me, ‘Ronny, just go out there and play. I trust your basketball I.Q. I trust your basketball knowledge to be able to make plays for us.'”

Utah coach Tyrone Corbin said managing a roster with so many guys who are capable could present challenges down the road.

“It’s difficult. It’s a good and a bad thing to be in,” Corbin said. “Guys want to play, especially good guys who have had great careers and still think they have something to offer. Things are going well so they all want to be a part of it. It’s easier to manage their minutes, when things are going well.”

Said Crawford of Del Negro: “For him to have the pulse of the team and feel the team and the stuff he draws up, he has us believing we can win every single day.”

Do it every single day this week and someone can toss Del Negro’s hot seat into the ocean sometime late Saturday night!

Baby Steps For Nash, Lakers In Debut





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – It’s still a bit strange seeing him in purple and gold.

We know, we know, get over it already.

But just like it’s taking Steve Nash time to transition into his role as the Los Angeles Lakers’ starting point guard, it’s taking a little time for us to figure out exactly how this grand experiment is going to work.

Without the benefit of seeing Dwight Howard out there with them, and with Kobe Bryant in limited doses during the preseason, imaginations to tend to run a bit wild with the possibilities.

A preseason loss to the Warriors where we don’t see enough of the Lakers’ core group together for long stretches makes it hard to make a true evaluation of what they are working with. Everyone knows what sort of potential is there. Waiting to see it, though, has to be a bit nerve-wracking for Lakers fans.

It’s tough for the rest of us, hoops voyeurs who are just curious to see this what the league’s big top circus will look like when it comes to our respective towns.

There were, however, positive signs. Folks who observe the Lakers’ every move saw traces of the powerhouse that could be, of the cohesiveness we all know is needed if the Lakers are to compete at the championship level expected:

Mark Medina of The Los Angeles Times Results don’t matter in preseason games. So don’t suddenly demand the Lakers should blow up their roster after losing to Golden State without center Andrew Bogut and shooting guard Stephen Curry. But when the Lakers played with their starters in the first half, they showed that their chemistry looks strong. Steve Nash (five points, three assists) looked unbelievable throwing a cross-court no-look pass to Kobe Bryant, who then connected with Pau Gasol on an alley oop play. Nash also broke some ankles by shaking Jarrett Jack with a crossover that nearly made him fall before nailing an open three-pointer.

The Lakers also ran the revamped offense that includes elements of the Princeton system with fluidity. Rarely did the Lakers ever go into isolation sets. Each player appeared intent on following Steve Nash’s lead (five points, three assists) and finding the open player for a shot. Kobe Bryant, who posted 10 points on two of seven shooting and three assists, appeared intent on facilitating. The Lakers set strong screens and actually played off of them.

They routinely covered for each other on defense. The floor spacing gave plenty of room for Metta World Peace to operate outside and score 10 points on three-of-six shooting. It’s fair to say that this reflects how much calmer and easier it’s been for the Lakers to absorb Brown’s teaching concepts with more time and a solidified roster. As a result, the Lakers look a lot more exciting and fluid on offense than last year’s disaster.

The two names you need to lock in on are Mike Brown and Metta World Peace. As important Kobe, Nash, Howard and Gasol are, the two guys who could very well hold the key to this season for the Lakers are the coach and the wild card personality on the roster.

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Report: Dwight Looks Good On First Day

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – When is Dwight Howard going to be ready to suit up and actually play for the Los Angeles Lakers?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Nobody rocks a designer sweater better (you remember Howard from his introductory presser, above). But Lakers fans and NBA fans everywhere are itching to see what Howard looks like in action. And until now, we weren’t sure exactly when that would be. Howard is recovering from spinal surgery and there has never been a concrete return date given.

But he’s begun working with the Lakers’ training staff — his first day was Monday — and according to our main man Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register it was a “promising” first step, we could be getting closer to learning exactly when he’ll be ready:

Details are scarce and Lakers spokesman John Black declined to comment, but Howard on Monday had his first hands-on session with Lakers athletic trainer Gary Vitti and head physical therapist Judy Seto at the team’s training facility in El Segundo.

Howard is rehabilitating after April 20 spinal surgery, and no one has been ready to commit to a day, week or even month when Howard will make his Lakers debut. But the level of mobility and strength Howard is already showing has to be encouraging for anyone hopeful he’ll be jumping for that opening tip-off Oct. 30 against Dallas.

Howard insisted at his introductory Lakers news conference that he will not play until he is truly 100 percent. He also said this:

“Anybody who knows me and knows what I’m about: I would never quit anything and I would never fake an injury. I’ve never been a quitter. I’ve always been somebody who pushed through the end. I’ve had injuries before but I’ve never said anything about them. I’ve played through a lot of things.”

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Lakers To Retire Shaq’s No. 34 Jersey

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar finally gets his statue and now Shaquille O’Neal and Jamaal Wilkes will get their jerseys, No. 34 and No. 52 respectively, retired to the rafters at Staples Center.

It’s been a pretty good week for former big men toiled for the Los Angeles Lakers at some point during their NBA careers. And it’s going to be a busy season for the Lakers, who are legitimately back in the title hunt (with the additions of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard to their Kobe Bryant-Pau Gasol nucleus) after a two-year hiatus.

Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register served up not only a little perspective, but also some concrete dates as to when all these honors will be unveiled:

There haven’t been many sweet moments between Shaquille O’Neal and the Lakers since his trade in 2004, but the big one will come April 2 at halftime of the game against Dallas.

O’Neal’s No. 34 jersey will be retired, as Lakers owner Jerry Buss promised it would be, and go up on the Staples Center wall along with the Lakers’ other greats. In eight Lakers seasons, O’Neal posted averages of 27.0 points, 11.8 rebounds and 2.49 blocked shots while winning three NBA championships (2000, 2001 and 2002).

On the wall already by then will be Jamaal Wilkes’ No. 52, scheduled to be retired by the Lakers in an earlier ceremony in the coming season. Wilkes’ honor will be at halftime on Dec. 28 against Portland.

The first reflective moment of the season will be the unveiling of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s statue at Star Plaza outside Staples Center on Nov. 16.

Plans for the statue of Abdul-Jabbar and the jersey retirements for O’Neal and Wilkes were already confirmed last season by the Lakers. Wilkes was selected last season for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, and the Lakers’ policy has been to retire the jerseys of all who are enshrined.

With O’Neal and Abdul-Jabbar taken care of, we started thinking about others in the Lakers’ family tree and how they might be honored. Does Derek Fisher get a small plaque somewhere, a luxury suite named in his honor, anything?

And what about Phil Jackson?

We should probably leave it alone right now and just applaud the Lakers for doing all that they have done for the likes of Magic Johnson and Jerry West and now Kareem, Shaq and Wilkes.

Making Sense Of The World Peace Mess





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The NBA’s deans of discipline handed down a most appropriate fine for Metta World Peace‘s elbow to James Harden‘s head that caused a concussion and 48 hours of on unnecessary pain and suffering for the game of basketball.

Lakers fans might not feel that way, but if they remove those purple-and-gold-colored glasses for just a minute, they’ll realize that justice was served in this instance.

Unlike some hardliners, we saw no reason for World Peace to suffer through a 10-game suspension or the lifetime ban some were calling for (yes, we’ve read all of your comments and emails on the subject). That would have been excessive, even for a player with as checkered a past as World Peace.

It’s clear the league took into account all of the good deeds he’s done and the way, up until Sunday at least, he’s conducted himself within the lines the past few seasons. NBA Commissioner David Stern could have dropped the hammer on World Peace this time and met with little resistance in the court of public opinion outside of Lakerland.

Unlike World Peace, someone took the time to consider all of the options instead of just reacting in the heat of the moment. Instead of listening to the tide of discontent surrounding this latest act and using his extensive history of running afoul of the league’s code of conduct for all players, someone at the league office decided not to make an example of World Peace when they so easily could have.

Seven games might seem harsh to some, but in this day and age of bounties in the NFL and the like, seven games seems more than appropriate. And the Lakers’ acceptance of the penalty (and their continued support of World Peace) would indicate that they recognize as much and ready to try to move on from this incident.

And to his credit, World Peace did the classy thing and apologized to the Thunder and their fans for what happened on his website. Despite suggestions to the contrary, he is fully aware of what went down and seems genuinely contrite for allowing his emotions to get the best of him yet again. We’re not here to condemn the man for that. In fact, we applaud him for recognizing that and handling himself the right way now.

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Bynum And Bryant, Kindred Spirits?





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Kobe Bryant is just full of surprises these days.

He gets “benched” by Lakers coach Mike Brown late in a game against the Grizzlies and responds by basically not responding and putting the team first, above any individual needs.

Then Andrew Bynum tests Brown again last night by launching a 3-pointer and the All-Star big man gets benched, only to have Bryant ride to his defense and point out that he and the big fella are kindred spirits, of a sort. This is the same Bynum that Bryant ranted about (infamously) in a parking lot once, seemingly a lifetime ago, when Bynum wasn’t the low-post load that he is now.

With Bryant you never know what you might get in the form of his actions or reactions. But we must admit this has been one of his most entertaining stretches, if only for the slight shock value. His reaction to Bynum’s benching, via Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register, was priceless:

“It’s somewhat amusing to me, because in some ways the edginess and the chippiness of him make it easy for me to relate to him – because I had some of that when I was young,” Bryant, 33, said about Bynum, 24. “So, it’s easy for me to see where he’s coming from.

“I understand where he’s coming from. And the first thing you want to do if you want to get the best out of somebody or the best out of your players is you have to understand what they’re feeling; you have to understand where they’re coming from and what they want to accomplish. That’s why it’s not that big a deal to me. You don’t see me sitting here trippin’ or sweatin’ or anything like that. I’ve been there.”

Bryant’s support for Bynum in this situation is proof of the evolution of a relationship that at one time seemed destined for a nasty breakup (long before last month’s trade deadline, there were rumors of Bynum being replaced by the likes of Dwight Howard.)

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The Wrong Time To Intervene

– For the latest updates check out: NBA.com’s Free Agent Tracker

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Basketball reasons, huh?

Good luck getting that one past the discerning eyes of millions of basketball fans that know better.

The explanation for the league putting a stop to the three-team, Chris Paul-Lakers deal was disseminated via statement late last night, putting the final nail into what was clearly one of the most bizarre nights the league has seen in years.

From the decision itself to the theories behind why it happened, not to mention the most twisted piece of all, Dan Gilbert‘s terse email detailing his displeasure (and that of many other owners) with the proposed trade was, it all just felt wrong.

It felt wrong as it was going down, wrong during three or four hours of sleep were lucky to get here at the hideout and dead wrong this morning as we try to make sense of the senseless.

The league picked the wrong time to intervene for “basketball reasons.” That should have been done long before Hornets general manager Dell Demps engaged in trade discussions with the dozen or so teams that made serious inquiries about Paul. And even then it would have been the wrong thing to do.

Whoever owns the Hornets will have to deal with the reality that Paul has no intention of playing for the franchise longterm. So rather than making a fool of the franchise, a mockery of the process and a bigger mess than the 149-day lockout did with the fans, someone needed to do the right thing and find a deal that allowed for Paul’s departure without totally destroying the fabric of the franchise.

Jazz general manager Kevin O’Connor did it last season when he moved Deron Williams, his franchise’s most valuable asset at that time, before being backed into a similar corner. What Demps was attempting to do was in the very best interest of the franchise and would have been by most any reasonable standard a solid deal for the Hornets (you get three starters, two draft picks and save yourself from the ongoing saga that would have been CP3-watch for the next however many months … you have to take that deal).

Worse yet, the folks suffering the worst today are the players in all three cities that have to show up for training camp, if they show up for training camp, and answer questions about decisions that had nothing to do with them and they had no hand in making.

In Houston, Luis Scola, Goran Dragic and Kevin Martin have to deal with the fallout. In Los Angeles a wounded Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol will be expected to hit the floor and act as if the night before had never happened. And in New Orleans, Paul has to decide if legal action is his best recourse for being allowed to do what we all know he will do at some point, and that’s leave the Hornets.

Not even “basketball reasons” will keep that from happening at some point.

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