Monthly Archive for December, 2011

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Lakers Intrasquad Scrimmage

We followed along throughout L.A.’s Purple vs. White open scrimmage at USC’s Galen Center, with some comments for each quarter.

Purple Starters: Blake, Bryant, Barnes, Gasol and Bynum
White: Morris, Kapono, Walton, Artest and McRoberts

FIRST QUARTER
10:00 Just because the white team had no way of dealing with twin 7-footers Bynum and Gasol didn’t mean the starters were going to lay off, with Gasol getting a 17-foot jumper, then 1-of-2 free throws and finally a tip in to open the scoring at 5-0.

8:30 Much to the dismay of the Galen Center audience, Jason Kapono stripped Kobe on the way up for what looked to have been a powerful two-handed dunk. Kobe laughed as Kapono gave him a quick arm hug heading back up the floor. Meanwhile, Barnes answered the first white bucket, a three from Kapono, with a corner three of his own to make it 9-3.

1:06: Bynum, the early star of training camp if you ask assistant coach Chuck Person, dominated in the first quarter, leading purple with eight points and three boards, helping the starters towards a 27-13 lead after one.

SECOND QUARTER
10:00 Quick line up notes: Bynum switched over to the white team so he and Gasol could guard each other and make things at least somewhat fair, while Devin Ebanks and Darius Morris came over to the starters. Ebanks continued an impressive scrimmage by hitting his third jumper, this time off a curl, with Bryant providing the assist.

8:00 A three-pointer from Steve Blake – who started the game with (healthy) Derek Fisher resting due to a full practice that day – went straight through, to be countered by a pretty baseline jumper from Kobe. Blake looked good running the first unit, feeling much more comfortable heading into the season as he’s simply more familiar with the personnel.

5:50 Gasol continued to look terrific, this time bringing Bynum out on the perimeter before floating a jumper. He’d converted an and-1 on the previous possession to reach a game-high 12 points. We shouldn’t forget that he’s the NBA’s most skilled big man.

0:00 One takeaway from the first half: L.A.’s three stars all looked very strong. Bryant moved very well (we’d all heard about how “great” his knee felt thanks to some offseason treatment in Germany), and both Gasol and Bynum did whatever they wanted inside. Other standouts were Barnes, looking fully healthy for the first time since injuring his knee in January, and newcomer Josh McRoberts, who showed how valuable his activity off the ball and on the glass can be.

THIRD QUARTER
11:00 As promised by Mike Brown, Metta World Peace got several post up opportunities as the leader of the second unit. So strong on the block for really any other NBA small forward, MWP this time scored over Bryant.

7:33 Those that took the time to watch the L.A. D-Fenders open 6-2 in the D-League got to see Zach Andrews get all nasty on a bunch of dunks. He here added a few more, highlighted by a sick baseline reverse that came just after former NBA dunk champ Gerald Green missed his own attempted hammer dunk on the other end.

4:21 Enjoyed this: after Bynum and Gasol both dove on the floor for a loose ball, Barnes came over to help them up. But the collective weight of the two 7-footers actually pulled Barnes to the floor. Nice. Meanwhile, the man with the NBA’s sixth highest career three-point field goal percentage (.437), Kapono, nailed another bomb. Moments later, Kapono actually passed up an open shot. Mike Brown: “I didn’t bring you here to pass it.” Same possession: Kapono swishes a three.

0:00 Bynum, Gasol and Kobe all finished with 14 points in the three quarters, Kapono and Ebanks had 12 apiece and Barnes added 10. There would be no fourth quarter, as you can see when there’s no coverage of a fourth quarter below. Mike Brown was impressed with his small forwards and bigs, and said “Kobe was Kobe.” Mistakes were plentiful at both ends, as the bigs were able to catch too easily and transition D was lacking, but all in all, a solid debut scrimmage for a hungry-looking group of Lakers.

Josh McRoberts Beaming in L.A.

CLICK HERE to watch video of McRoberts being interviewed.

With a big grin on his face, new Lakers forward Josh McRoberts — who arrived at midnight and had his physical in the morning before practice — expressed his excitement to be in L.A., detailed what he hopes to bring to the fold and more:

Q: On learning Coach Mike Brown’s new system quickly:
McRoberts: I think I’ll pick it up. A lot of it is just basketball. A lot of the NBA stuff is the same, it’s just like learning a new language. Everything is called something different and has wrinkles to it. I’m going to get with the coaches today and before practice tomorrow to try and pick it up as fast as possible.

Q: On if he spoke or met with other teams, and deciding on the Lakers:
McRoberts: My agent talked to a lot of teams before the decision was made; the great players that have been here, the great players that are here now, it’s a privilege to put on this jersey. We talked about it a lot. I had options to go right away when camp opened, but we wanted to wait to see what the best opportunity was going to be. The Lakers are a great organization, a great opportunity. The Lakers had expressed interest, and I talked to Coach Brown before and after.

Q: On half of his field goal attempts coming at the rim last year, and if he get there easier with defense focused on Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol:
McRoberts: I think so. Obviously guys have to focus on them, those are big, long, athletic guys. It takes a lot of attention to keep them off the boards, so I think that’ll create lanes and opportunities for me to get to the rim for put backs and offensive rebounds.*
*Google McRoberts dunks from last season, you’ll see a bunch with him flying in for put-backs.

Q: On what he thinks Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak saw in him:
McRoberts: I think he knows I’m going to play hard and bring my best effort every night. I like to play winning basketball. I’m not a stat guy. You’re not going to be too blown away if you look at my numbers from high school, college, the NBA … it doesn’t matter, I’ve never been a numbers guy. I just want to win basketball games and do what it takes to get wins, whether that’s passing or rebounding … whatever it takes.

Q: On the key to his improvement last season:
McRoberts: Playing time. Just getting an opportunity to play. I got a chance in Indiana to start at the beginning of the season and continue to find a role towards the end of the season coming off the bench that I could excel in.

MIKE BROWN TALKS MCROBERTS:
Mike Brown revealed that he’s actually known McRoberts since his sophomore year in high school at Carmel in Indianapolis, as Brown’s sons looked up to the forward and would have gone to Carmel themselves had the family not moved. Brown was the associate head coach under Rick Carlisle with the Pacers, and used to take his kids to Carmel games. He’s quite familiar with the game of McRoberts, who spent the past three seasons in Indiana.

“I like his size, his length, and that he’s a tough son of a gun,” said Brown. “He brings an added energy to this team when it comes to getting offensive rebounds, defensive rebounds, running the floor, getting put backs, diving on the floor for 50-50 balls. He brings those intangibles that can be infectious on the group.”

With Andrew Bynum being suspended for the first five games, Brown said that, who knows, McRoberts might even have to start at the four as Pau Gasol moves over to the five. Either way, Brown expects him to get some “serious minutes,” adding that he can even play a little bit of five if need be.

“He’s a young guy that has established himself as an NBA player, maybe a starter but definitely a rotation guy that can get better,” Brown concluded.

RELATED: Press release and some additional info on McRoberts: Lakers Sign Josh McRoberts.

The Many Sweater Vests of Mike Brown

In response to a question about how he is different from his predecessor Phil Jackson last week, head coach Mike Brown joked that he knew one thing for sure–his eyeglass collection was superior to Jackson’s.

After Tuesday’s practice in El Segundo, Brown was queried about another part of his personal fashion, the omnipresent sweater vests. As you can see above, Brown has has been sporting a variety of different colored sweater vests around the team’s practice facility. And these are just the ones we caught on camera this week.

“I love sweater vests,” said Brown. “Been wearing them forever.”

But where does he get them? Watch the video below to find out.

Or if you don’t have a free 39 seconds to watch and just want to know, his supplier is new equipment manager Carlos Maples.

Gasol to Shoot Some Threes?

Yes, he’s a seven footer with perhaps the best skill set around the rim of any big man in the NBA, but Pau Gasol can consistently hit three-pointers.

While being interviewed after Tuesday’s practice session, head coach Mike Brown couldn’t help but notice Gasol draining three after three from the left wing (Brown thought seven in a row, to which Gasol said, “at least”). The Spaniard said that he can actually hit somewhere between 15 and 20 threes in a row, and when you watch him shoot from range so naturally, it’s not hard to believe.

In fact, Gasol’s three-point shooting was a major benefit to Spain’s run at EuroBasket in September, where he drained 7-of-11 triples (63.6%) en route to the championship when his country defeated France in the final.

“I feel good about taking a couple of outside shots,” said Gasol. “It’s another weapon that I think I can add to my repertoire that the team could use if (Coach Brown) decides to. I’m really comfortable with it. I shoot, usually, a very good percentage.”

Steve Blake Eager for Season

Lakers point guard Steve Blake spent a few minutes with reporters after a workout on Thursday afternoon, the day before the start of training camps across the NBA. Here’s what he had to say:

Q: On what he’s looking to do this season:
Blake: Just be better in every aspect. It will be a different system, so maybe I’ll be able to be a little more successful. Just be productive, whether it’s getting assists, shooting, defensively, just be better.

Q: On why he might be more successful in Brown’s system:
Blake: It’s a more traditional point guard role. You get the ball in your hands, get to push it a little bit more and be a little more creative.

Q: On figuring out the balance of attacking himself with all the other offensive options on the roster:
Blake: Of course we have great scorers that need the ball in their hands, and that’s my job as a point guard to create for them, get them the ball in situations where they can be successful.

Q: On putting some muscle on:
Blake: I gained a little muscle and strength. I had a lot of time to do that. It’s not like you’re going to see major changes from me, because I have a body type that makes it hard to gain a lot of weight, but physically I feel good. I definitely put the work in this summer.

Q: On his role:
Blake: I’m just going to try to be the best player I can be. I’m not going out there to try to win a starting job or anything like that. Everyone on this team is my teammate, so I’m not here to try to show them up or beat them. I just want our team to be better. Whether it’s coming off the bench again, fine. Starting, great. It’s all about us winning a championship this year.

Q: On not shooting as well last season:
Blake: Just get more shots up and come into the season with confidence.

Q: On the benefit of having a year in L.A. already with his teammates:
Blake: It helps out a lot. My most successful years have been coming back after playing with guys for a year, knowing where they like the ball, where they pass the ball out of and where I can be open for them. That familiarity is big.

Q: On the shortened/compressed schedule:
Blake: It’s going to be a grind. Non stop. It’s important for everyone to really be mentally focused and willing to rest their bodies when they have the opportunities, from eating right to getting to bed on time. All the things you tell your kids.

Q: On if the long layoff affected his preparation physically:
Blake: I was going hard the whole summer after resting (just after) the season. I probably kept myself conditioning wise at about 85 percent, and as soon as we found out it was time to go, you push yourself to try and get to 110 percent.

Q: On being mad about how 2010-11 ended:
Blake: It’s still with me … I don’t think that goes away until you finish the season, this year, right. It’s always in the back of your mind that you have something to prove.

Gasol & Walton = Great Ping Pongers!

In the middle of a brief catch-up interview with Pau Gasol during his first appearance at the practice facility since early in the summer*, Luke Walton walked over to say hello to the Spaniard, eliciting this excited response:
*See below.

“Hey Luke! Oh wow, he’s back from Memphis!”

Buddies Walton and Gasol spent about a minute speaking about the first American city Pau called home, where Walton worked as an assistant coach for the Memphis Tigers until just returning to Los Angeles. Before Walton went on the court to get some shots up, he and Gasol also talked about … ping pong. Yup, ping pong.

“Yeah, I used to play when I was younger, and we have a table here at the practice facility,” said Gasol, nodding his head. “Luke also has a table at his house.”

Walton added that he and Gasol are both excellent players, possessing the full variety of slams and slices, and easily dominate the rest of their Lakers teammates. Apparently it’s impossible to get a shot past the exceptionally long arms of the 7-footer, though Walton does hold his own.

Of course, we immediately tried to get a promise that the two would play for a Lakers.com segment (they said “sure,” but no contracts were signed) before returning to our discussion with Gasol:

Q: On how refreshing it was to play in EuroBasket 2011, where Gasol’s native Spain won the title:
Gasol: It was great. It’s always a lot of fun for me. We did what we’ve been doing: compete, have fun, work for towards goal, and we ended up with the championship. Our team was really together; of course having quality players helps, but we had great chemistry, and that team unity was key.

Q: On how his body feels:
Gasol: Pretty good. Pretty fresh. I’m trying to get ready physically and mentally for what seems like will be a very demanding season, with more games in a shorter time. There’s also the challenge of having a new coaching staff in a season full of expectations and challenges. But I’m excited. There’s so much on the table, and I appreciate that.

Q: On feeling comfortable that he’ll quickly rebound from the disappointing end to the previous season:
Gasol: All my career, I’ve played and proved my value, and that’s why I’ve accomplished everything I’ve accomplished. You’d always like to play at your best, but sometimes it doesn’t happen that way. A characteristic of mine has been my consistency, my stats, numbers, performance and efficiency, I think that has carried through from year to year.

Q: On the motivation he’s drawn from the sweep of Dallas:
Gasol: We hadn’t felt that way since losing to Boston in 2008. I think losing and failure are useful. You’re going to face it at different times in your career at this level or any level in life, but it’s an opportunity to learn and grow. That’s how I approach things, to make me a tougher person, a tougher player and also appreciate the moments of success and how hard you have to work to get there again.

Fisher Says Hello

Yes, it’s been a while since Derek Fisher set foot in the team’s practice facility, but the reporters that inhabited the space on Friday afternoon had seen quite a lot of him.

As President of the NBPA, Fisher played the most critical of roles as the players union and NBA worked to negotiate a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, which was tentatively agreed upon early last Saturday morning.

As such, it’s finally time for Fisher to turn his attention to basketball, certainly a relief for the Lakers’ co-captain.

“I learned a great deal, but hopefully next week will be back to basketball and back to business as usual,” he said. “That’s the part I’m really thinking about. It was an exhausting ordeal, but I’m still in a great space in terms of getting to know Coach Brown, getting to that point where we want to be as a team. That’s where the energy will come from.”

When Brown was asked about Fisher’s state of mind heading into training camp during his and Mitch Kupchak’s Friday morning’s press conference, Brown said that he doesn’t worry too much about Fisher, whom he trusts as a veteran who has always taken care of his business.

Brown did use the word “possibly” instead of “probably” when asked if Fisher would be his starter, but may have simply been implying that things work work themselves out during training camp.

Eager to get back onto the court, Fisher didn’t talk for long, but joked that he was smart enough to at least throw the media a bone with a few comments: “I’ve learned not to have this much media waste a trip.”