Posts Tagged ‘The Los Angeles Times’

Hang Time Podcast (Episode 92) Championship Or Buss …

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Mike Brown out. Mike D’Antoni in. Phil Jackson still on the sidelines. And (Jim and) the Buss family in the crosshairs until further notice. Those are the main plotlines for this week’s episode of  “As The Los Angeles Lakers Turn.”

We’ve gathered our own panel of experts, insiders and observers of the situation to try to help you make sense of it all on Episode 92 of The Hang Time Podcast, featuring super agent Warren LeGarie (who represents both Brown and D’Antoni) and Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times (who had an afro when the first Shaquille O’Neal/Kobe Bryant/Phil Jackson era began, and currently sports a skin-tight dome these days after 17 years of drama).

We broke down the situation from every angle and ended up in the same place as everyone else — totally confused at how this all went down and convinced, as our resident Lakers expert put it, that this season is “Championship or Buss” for these Lakers.

Check out all that and more on Episode 92 of the Hang Time Podcast, with your hosts Sekou Smith, Lang Whitaker and Rick Fox.


As always, we welcome your feedback. You can follow the entire crew, including the Hang Time Podcast, co-hosts Lang Whitaker of SLAM Magazine, Sekou Smith of and Rick Fox of NBA TV, as well as our new super producer Gregg (just like Popovich) Waigand and the best engineer in the business, Jarell “I Heart Peyton Manning” Wall.

– To download the podcast, click here. To subscribe via iTunes, click here, or get the xml feed if you want to subscribe some other, less iTunes-y way.

Sorting Out The Lakers’ Mess

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — This story gets better by the hour.

Barely a day after the Los Angeles Lakers’ stunning move to hire Mike D’Antoni instead of Phil Jackson, both men have expressed their own complete and utter shock at the choice the Lakers made.

D’Antoni, as bright a coach as the league has seen in his generation, was genuinely stunned to beat out Jackson, telling the New York Daily News all about it. His first reaction … “Are you serious?”

Jackson was blindsided as well and his version of how things went down, courtesy of our main man Mike Bresnahan of The Los Angeles Times, might serve as the most compelling narrative to date, complete with this statement:

“Saturday morning, [Lakers executive] Jim Buss called to ask if he could come and visit. I didn’t solicit or ask for the opportunity but I welcomed both him and [team executive] Mitch Kupchak into my home to discuss the possibility of my return to the Lakers as head coach,” Jackson said.

“We talked for over an hour and a half. No contractual terms were discussed and we concluded with a handshake and an understanding that I would have until Monday [today] to come back to them with my decision. I did convey to them that I did have the confidence that I could do the job. I was awakened at midnight Sunday by a phone call from Mitch Kupchak. He told me that the Lakers had signed Mike D’Antoni to a three-year agreement and that they felt he was the best coach for the team. The decision is of course theirs to make. I am gratified by the groundswell of support from the Laker fans who encouraged my return and it is the principal reason why I considered the possibility.”

It’s a fitting next step in a saga that promises to provide headlines and plot twists between now and whenever the Lakers’ season ends. That might be in the first or second round of the playoffs for the third straight season or perhaps it ends later, provided the masses of fans and pundits are wrong and the D’Antoni-in-Los Angeles experiment actually works.

Buss and the Lakers better be right on this one. Because it’s clear they played Jackson for a fool, undercutting him before he could react to an offer that technically was never made. It’s a public and disgraceful play by the Lakers and absolutely no way to treat a coach of Jackson’s stature. It’s also a move that could backfire on the Lakers even worse than the Brown hire.

While we wait for this thing to play out, we’re left to continue our deconstruction of the carnage that was the Lakers’ firing and hiring process, both of which seemed to have been done in extreme haste.

We’ve heard Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol‘s feelings about D’Antoni and what they hope becomes of this team in the near future. And we’ve read Kobe Bryant’s 53 words of wisdom on Facebook (complete with the “Mamba Out” sign off). We love the part where he tells us all that despite of a mountain of evidence to the contrary, the Lakers will be fine defensively and he cannot wait to get started with D’Antoni.

You’ll have to forgive me (and I’m not speaking for everyone here at the hideout on this) for being fed up with the complete and utter arrogance of not only Bryant, but also the Lakers’ front office. Bryant issued similar love for Brown and his staff, eventually, after he got over the sting of not being consulted on Jackson’s replacement. And we all know how that played out.

The Lakers can tell whatever white lies they want to make themselves feel better about the way this went down. But don’t expect me to swallow any more of it. Ill will between Jackson and the Lakers’ front office should never affect what is best for the team, the franchise and its devoted fans. If the Lakers really believe D’Antoni is the best choice, he wouldn’t be nearly as surprised as he is.

Lakers Say No Rush On Nash, Team’s Depth Will Be Tested In His Absence

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — A small fracture to his left leg will force us to admire more of Steve Nash‘s colorful wardrobe than is necessary. But with the Los Angeles Lakers announcing that there will be no rush on Nash’s return (which makes their timetable of him missing for a week seem a bit sketchy), we’ll spend the next few games familiarizing ourselves with Steve Blake and Darius Morris.

With those two backups playing the bulk of the minutes at point guard, the Lakers’ already questionable depth will be tested ever more. For a team that doesn’t need any more hurdles to clear to start the season, this might be the one that gives us the best gauge of their championship timber.

Surviving the preseason with both Dwight Howard (recovering from back surgery) and Kobe Bryant (nursing a sore foot) at less than full strength is one thing. But an extended period without Nash in the lineup at all … that’s the one injury hiccup the Lakers weren’t exactly prepared for.

Mike Bresnahan of The Los Angeles Times told us yesterday on The Beat on NBA TV that Nash could very well be out for a month. A MONTH!

“You obviously hope he’s back as soon as possible,” Lakers coach Mike Brown told reporters Sunday before the Lakers trounced the Detroit Pistons Sunday. “But the one thing you don’t want to do, you don’t want to compromise his long-term health for him coming back quicker than he should. So, (trainer) Gary Vitti and the staff are on top of it. We’ll just wait and play it out from there.”

We knew it would take them a while to get it together. But spending the next four weeks without Nash in the mix as they try and perfect their Princeton offense (and doing so seemingly against the wishes of anyone that knows anything about the Lakers’ personnel) is a challenge they didn’t need.


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.


Kobe’s Minutes To Be Monitored …

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — We’re still trying to figure out exactly how he does it, but while other members of his generation are fighting Father Time all the way to the finish line, Kobe Bryant continues to act like he’s in his mid-20s as opposed to closer to his mid-30s.

The reports from the Lakers’ initial training camp workouts have been glowing where Bryant is concerned. He’s been dominating the action, asserting himself the way you’d expect a young Kobe Bryant would, not the elder statesman entering his 17th season in the league.

With Steve Nash and Dwight Howard in the fold now alongside Bryant and Pau Gasol, there is a bit more firepower around to help ease some of Bryant’s offensive burden. The Lakers don’t want him to have to push quite as hard. But Bryant doesn’t seem to be interested in easing up at all.

He played 38.5 minutes per game last season and spent his summer as a starter on the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team that won gold at the Olympics in London.

Lakers coach Mike Brown from trying to limit his minutes, though, according to Ben Bolch of The Los Angeles Times:

“If I can, I’d definitely love to keep his minutes down and not have them up to 38,” Brown said. “But I’m sure he’ll tell you he can play 48, which is probably true if he needed to. But we feel like we have a deep team this year and hopefully at the end of the day it leads to reduced minutes for him.”


All Eyes On Los Angeles … The Lakers … As Training Camps Open Around The NBA


HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — We can stop speculating about it now.

We can stop wondering what they’ll look like, together, all four of the Los Angeles Lakers’ major pieces (with apologies to Metta World Peace, whose importance we don’t want to minimize … after all, someone has to crank up the already ridiculous expectations for this team). Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol together is a fantasy basketball lover’s paradise. Four guys who all have Hall of Fame credentials wearing the same uniform, and all four playing vastly different positions, teaming up to try to unseat the Miami Heat as kings of the league.

You can’t pay enough for these sorts of storylines at the start of the NBA season, though Dr. Jerry Buss might say otherwise when that luxury tax bill arrives.

That multi-million dollar chemistry experiment we’ve all been waiting to witness gets under way today as the Lakers and the rest of the league’s teams that didn’t start last Friday open training camp. And with the official start of the 2012-13 season comes the renewed scrutiny of the one franchise that always makes a habit of creating a stir this time of year.

Lakers fans are no doubt confident that their team is poised for something seismic with the star-studded additions of both Howard (who is coming back from back surgery and not expected to go 100 percent at the start of camp) and Nash. There remains some reasonable skepticism in Los Angeles about Howard, at least from the likes of former Lakers great James Worthy. But there is no denying that the Lakers have, at least on paper, every bit of firepower needed to challenge for the throne this season.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t legitimate concerns about this team. The Heat made it to The Finals in their first year together but were ultimately overwhelmed by a Dallas Mavericks team that proved to have much better chemistry and in the end was simply a better team than the LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh-led Heat.


For Chemistry’s Sake, Lakers Need Nash And Howard To … Speak As One (Video)?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — We already know that Dwight Howard won’t be ready for the start of his first training camp with the Los Angeles Lakers, his rehabilitation and recovery from spinal surgery shoving back his official start date to the season. And there is no doubt there will be a transition period for the Lakers’ newest acquisitions, namely Howard and two-time MVP Steve Nash, who have to adjust to playing with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol.

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.


Report: Billups Ahead Of Schedule

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — With the Los Angeles Lakers dominating the headlines in the Southland this summer after their high-profile additions of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, it’s easy to forget that it’s been an interesting offseason for the city’s other NBA franchise.

The Clippers didn’t make the same splash in free agency or with a trade, but they will welcome back a key figure in their operation when veteran point guard Chauncey Billups finally returns from the left Achilles injury that cost him everything after Feb. 6.

The Clippers survived without Billups, but there was a lingering feeling that a healthy Billups could have helped lengthen the Clippers’ postseason run. And now comes word that he’s healing faster than perhaps anyone thought possible, a development that is sure to bring a smile to the face of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin (who is on the mend from knee surgery himself).

More from Helene Elliott of The Los Angeles Times:

“When my body feels right, that’s when I’ll be back,” he said. “That being said, I’m far ahead of schedule.

“It’s not even like I had a summer. I’ve been on the whole time, doing rehabbing and other work every day. I’m looking forward to getting back to playing and being with the guys and resuming my normal life as a player.”

Billups became the Clippers’ glue in his 20 starts before his injury, adding poise and experience to the 14.9 points, 2.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists he averaged over 30.4 minutes. He was a leader on the court and in the locker room, providing guidance to Chris Paul and a voice of knowledge for Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Eric Bledsoe.

Even after his Feb. 15 surgery left him to clomp around in a protective boot, he dispensed advice and analysis from a seat near the bench.

“He has very good insight, great experience and he’s been successful at every level,” Coach Vinny Del Negro said. “Some of our younger players, by the way he approaches them and gets things across, it’s very easy for them to accept and listen to.”


Kareem’s Staples Statue Long Overdue!

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — We don’t need a specific date or even a time and place we need to be when it happens, just the news that the Los Angeles Lakers plan to unveil a statue for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at some point during the 2012-13 season (per The Los Angeles Times)  is enough for us here at the hideout.

This notion that Abdul-Jabbar is being thrown a bone by the Lakers to pacify him or to quiet him, after years of public rancor between the two sides and other outside observers, is for someone else to argue.

We’re focused solely on the fact that he remains the NBA’s all-time leading scorer and should be prominently featured in any historical basketball text as the greatest big man and arguably the greatest player of all time.

We have no problem with the Lakers honoring others ahead of Abdul-Jabbar. Magic Johnson, Chick Hearn and Jerry West deserve whatever praise and hardware comes their way in Los Angeles. Whatever they do for Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal will be well-deserved as well. But if they want to make sure Star Plaza at Staples Center is legitimate, Abdul-Jabbar must be a part of the montage.

We are talking about a man who played 14 of his 20 NBA seasons with the Lakers before retiring in 1989. He also spent four years in Los Angeles before entering the NBA, leading UCLA to three straight NCAA titles (the school could have beaten the Lakers to the punch and come up with some way of honoring their greatest hoops legend by now, but that’s a conversation for another time).

As The Times story points out, things haven’t always been smooth between Abdul-Jabbar and the Lakers in recent years:

Abdul-Jabbar publicly criticized the Lakers last year, saying the failure to erect a statue of him sooner was a show of disrespect. His contract as a special assistant coach ran out in 2011 and he voiced various complaints: He had been asked to take a pay cut, the Lakers had not awarded him playoff shares as a coach, and he cited his reduced role as a coach for Andrew Bynum from 2005 to 2009.


LA Story: Brown Benches Bryant

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — It’s still not clear what is more surprising: Lakers coach Mike Brown benching Kobe Bryant late in Sunday night’s home loss to the Grizzlies or Bryant’s (non)reaction to being benched.

We have to admit, Brown did something we can’t remember any coach doing to Bryant since his earliest days in the league … and come to think of it, we’re not really sure he was ever “benched” back then. And in Brown’s mind, he had a perfectly reasonable explanation for benching Bryant in favor of Metta World Peace, telling The Los Angeles Times:

“There was not one particular thing. I just made the sub, went with Metta, sat [Bryant] for a couple of minutes and tried to go back to him. But it didn’t work.”

Bryant was clearly upset about being benched, and we’re certain it wouldn’t have mattered who he was benched for. He chose to try to take the high road, refusing to criticize Brown’s decision while clearly frustrated with the move:

“It’s his decision to make. He’s the coach. If you guys are looking for a story, I’m not going to contribute to it,” Bryant said. “I can’t sit here and criticize his decisions. Leading this ball club, that’s not something I can afford to do. I had his back the whole season. I can’t start doing something crazy now. It would make no sense.”

Of course, punching a chair on the bench in frustration during a timeout and then walking out of the huddle while the coaches were still drawing up a play could be seen as “insubordination” on many levels.