Monthly Archive for May, 2012

Podcast: 2011-12 Season Summary with Ding

So much happened in the condensed, lockout-shortened 2011-12 Lakers season that a mere written summary of the campaign didn’t quite suffice.

And so, to dig even deeper, we enlisted Orange County Register beat writer and columnist Kevin Ding to join us in what turned out to be a 49-minute podcast detailing much that transpired and discussing what it all means going forward.

We even had time for a random tangent about what several Lakers listened to before games, though the majority of the minutes were spent on stars Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum.

To listen, click play below:

Andrew Bynum Named to All-NBA 2nd Team

As a exclamation point to his the best all-around season of his 7-year career, Lakers center Andrew Bynum was named to the All-NBA Second Team.

The first time All-Star was thus considered by selected members of the media as the second best center in the NBA, trailing only Orlando’s Dwight Howard, receiving 400 votes to the 476 afforded to Howard.

Missing just one game due to injury and at times dominating games on both ends of the floor, the 24-year-old put up impressive numbers: 18.7 points per game on 55.8 percent shooting with 11.8 rebounds and 1.93 blocks, ranking among league leaders in each category.

In terms of his future in Los Angeles, there is an option year on Bynum’s current contract, and Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak said the team plans on exercising it for the 2012-13 season. It will be the first time in years that Bynum will have not only completed a season fully healthy, but have the entire offseason to continue to work on his strength and health heading into the subsequent one.

Bynum said during his exit interview that he plans on adding a 15-18 foot jump shot, and a turnaround jumper, to his game so that he can better deal with double teams. His coach, Mike Brown, said the “sky is the limit” for how good Bynum can become, while Bynum acknowledged that the next step he can take to reach superstar status — like his teammate Kobe Bryant, who was selected to his 10th All-NBA First Team — will be to bring his dominance every night. Not just for one or two games a week, but all four.

If he’s already at All-NBA Second Team level without such consistency, the Lakers can certainly harbor some excitement about where he’ll go next.

G: Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul
F: LeBron James, Kevin Durant
C: Dwight Howard

G: Tony Parker, Russell Westbrook
F: Kevin Love, Blake Griffin
C: Andrew Bynum

G: Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo
F: Dirk Nowitzki, Carmelo Anthony
C: Tyson Chandler

Kobe Bryant Named to All-NBA First Team

For the seventh consecutive season and 10th time in his storied NBA career, Kobe Bryant was named to the All-NBA First Team, and has now been on an All-NBA team in 14 of his 16 seasons.

Bryant, who finished percentage points below fellow First Teamer Kevin Durant for the NBA’s scoring lead with 27.9 points per game, in 2011-12 moved past Shaquille O’Neal for fifth on the league’s all-time scoring list and became the youngest player to 29,000 career points.

In 58 games of the lockout shortened season, Bryant added 5.4 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.19 steals to his 27.9 points per game in 38.5 minutes, shooting 43 percent from the field, 30.3 percent from three and 84.5 percent from the foul line.

Bryant trails only Karl Malone for all-time selections to the first team (11), and is now tied with legends Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Elgin Baylor, Bob Cousy, Michael Jordan, Bob Pettit, and Jerry West. Bryant’s 14th overall All-NBA mention has him tied with Malone and Shaq for second all time behind only Abdul-Jabbar and his 15 selections to a team.

Bryant’s first appearance on an All-NBA team was in his third season, 1999, when he earned a third team nod, as he did in 2005. He was on the second team in 2000 and 2001, plus the 10 first team honors from 2002-12, minus 2005.

How does a player get chosen? Selected media members vote for two guards, two forwards and one center for each team, with Bryant having been named one of the NBA’s top two guards in 62.5 percent of his seasons, and a top six guard in 87.5 percent of his campaigns.

The 2011-12 season is the first time in three years that teammate Pau Gasol does not flank Bryant on one of the teams, but emerging center Andrew Bynum earned his first nod, making the All-NBA Second Team.

G: Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul
F: LeBron James, Kevin Durant
C: Dwight Howard

G: Tony Parker, Russell Westbrook
F: Kevin Love, Blake Griffin
C: Andrew Bynum

G: Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo
F: Dirk Nowitzki, Carmelo Anthony
C: Tyson Chandler

Mitch Kupchak: 2012 Exit Interview

A summary of Mitch Kupchak’s 2012 Exit Interview:

- On the uncertainty on the team with the preseason trade not going through: “I’m not going to look at what could have been and why we got beat in Game 5 of the second round. Certainly, that period of time resulted in one of our players, the Sixth Man of the Year (Lamar Odom), being moved and (Pau Gasol)) had to deal with the uncertainty around being traded. That’s not how you want to open the season.”

- Kupchak on how well Gasol handed everything: “I thought he did the best anyone can do being professional, having a really good season. He’s the consummate teammate, consummate professional, but what took place is hard for a player to deal with. I’m sure there’s a little bit of trust that’s not quite the same. But he understands … our exit meeting was really good. I think he and I are on the same page.” Kupchak said that he didn’t think all the trade rumors affected Gasol’s play at the end of the day, just maybe his trust in the situation, which is to be expected.

- Kupchak said that the Lakers plan to pick up Andrew Bynum’s option for next season.

- On the season not going as he would have liked: “We’re disappointed. We don’t grade ourselves on getting into the second round. We thought going into the season that we were one of three or four or five teams that could contend for a championship. It’s hard to get in that position with 30 owners that are very competitive, having to operate under (now different) rules. We felt we had a shot at it, so to watch the conference semifinals was a disappointing feeling.”

- On how the team was run between him and ownership this season: “There has been no difference.” Kupchak was speaking about the past four or five seasons, really going back to 2007, when Jim Buss increased his role. Kupchak had previously spoken more directly to Dr. Jerry Buss on the ownership side.

- On if he’ll look to improve the team through trades or signings: “When you lose before you think you should have lost, you have to open up all opportunities.”

- Kupchak said he has always had a pretty good relationship with Kobe Bryant, who praised him greatly after the Game 5 loss at Oklahoma City, and while he said it’s comforting to hear Bryant’s confidence in him, the expectation to win is strong from him to ownership, who combine to make decisions.

- Kupchak said that the team addressed a need in a young, athletic point guard with the trade for Ramon Sessions, but “He has the ability to opt out so we don’t know where that’s going to lead us.” Kupchak had a long talk with Sessions, who’d never played in a playoff game before this postseason, and said Sessions would admit “it was a little overwhelming at first.” Kupchak sensed that he wasn’t as confident and aggressive as he was in the regular season. And then the pressure ramped up further in the second round against an OKC team with nine days to prepare for the Lakers, and it took Sessions a while to adjust.

- Kupchak played in the Olympics himself, and while he may recognize that more games on Kobe’s body could be problematic for the Lakers perspective, he’d never tell someone not to represent their country, as Kobe will in the 2012 summer games.

- On Andrew Bynum having a few issues throughout the season: “He’s a good kid, a bright kid, and I’m hopeful going forward the things that we’re disappointed with are not as disappointing in the future.”

- Kupchak said Mike Brown did a “fine job” considering all that occurred throughout the season.

- On the talent on the team being enough to win: “In short, if we were just able to bring the players back next year and have a full training camp, we’d be one of those five or six teams with a chance to (win a championship). I can’t tell you if that’s going to happen. It’s not like we don’t have a group that’s talented, and that’s all you can really hope for.”

Matt Barnes: 2012 Exit Interview

Matt Barnes started 16 games and appeared in 63 towards averages of 7.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists on 45.2 percent shooting (33.3 percent from three) in the regular season.

Barnes had an excellent rhythm going after the All-Star break, but rolled his ankle in the second-to-last regular season games and was unable to garner consistent playing time upon returning in the playoffs, averaging only 16.8 per game towards 3.5 points and 3.3 boards.

Below is a summary of his exit interview:

- The main frustration for Barnes, not just this season but last, was having injuries derail strong rhythm he’d found heading into the postseason. Barnes not only had an ankle sprain that didn’t fully heal, but a messed up neck (his sons jumped on him before the first playoff game, he said) that required shots just for him to be able to move it. It’s something that can happen to any player in any sport, but is especially tough for a guy who came to the Lakers for almost the sole purpose of being a difference maker when it counted. When he was right physically, Barnes was a solid bench producer in his two seasons in Los Angeles, contributing on the glass, on D and in transition but also with his general activity and toughness.

- Barnes wouldn’t have traded his experience in Los Angeles despite taking less money to come in the first place and not reaching his championship goal. He really valued his time, but as a free agent, doesn’t know what will happen next season.

- Barnes did not play in the final game against Oklahoma City after struggling to find his game in limited minutes coming off the injuries, and while he said he’d have liked to have played more, understood that the coaching staff had to make the decisions it thought best to produce a win. He was always a good teammate, encouraging others, trying to offer advice and refusing to sulk. A loyal guy, Barnes was very well liked by his teammates.

- Barnes with a quick summary of it being tough learning a new system from a new coaching staff: “It was an old system meeting a completely new system.”

- On if the Lakers could have won, and why they didn’t: “Yes. I just didn’t feel we really hit our stride. I think at times we showed flashes of how dominant we could be, but we really didn’t reel off six, seven, eight or nine consistent, convincing wins that you kind of need to to really feel good about yourself. Any time you have a big three like we have, you’re always going to have a chance, but it takes more than three guys to win and there wasn’t really that consistency.

Mike Brown: 2012 Exit Interview

It’s the job of any NBA head coach to speak with the media before and after every game, and following every practice throughout the season; the last time Mike Brown sat down in front of the horde comes on exit interview day.

Below is a summary of Brown’s last interview of the 2011-12 campaign, going over his first season as the coach of the Lakers:

- To open: “Sitting here at this point in the year is definitely not satisfying. Under the circumstances, I feel like we got a lot accomplished and feel we learned a lot … but we can be better.”

- Brown acknowledged the difficulty of fighting uphill, trying to get a system installed and the players incorporated into it, with the limited training camp and practices, but didn’t want to use it as an excuse.

- On Pau Gasol trying to adjust to a new role: “With Andrew (Bynum) having a bigger role within what we do especially offensively, it made it a little tougher for Pau. With Andrew on one block and Kobe (Bryant) on the other, and Metta (World Peace), it was (tough to get opportunities at times). But i thought he adjusted really well.” Brown discussed Gasol’s ability to shoot the mid range shot, and pass from that position, which many 7-footers simply couldn’t do.

- Brown on Bynum: “I think he can be a cornerstone to an organization. But you have to remember that Andrew is still learning what he’s (eventually) going to be. He didn’t play near the minutes (as he did in 2011-12). He needs time and the commitment to want to get better every time he steps onto the floor … the sky is the limit on how good he wants to be.” Brown said that Bynum fluctuated on how he handled his much-increased role: “At times he handled it really well, at times he could have handled it better.”

- On the current roster: “I like the core of this team … we have some good guys on this team that can help us win.” He implied that with a full training camp and practices in a regular season, maybe things would be different, citing how San Antonio and Oklahoma City have the type of continuity that “makes a world of difference” with talent and a good staff. Brown’s basic point is that L.A. may already have enough to win the whole thing, but the compressed season did make that more difficult. The margin for error obviously wasn’t too big, with L.A. beating OKC once and holding a 7-point lead with two minutes to play in one road game and a 9-point lead with six minutes to left in the Game 4 home contest.

- On if players watch Kobe too much: “That’s something at times over the year we addressed. We play with a lot of motion on offense with reads, but (many guys) would get locked in on Kobe” and not see guys open on the weak side of the floor.” It’s a bit of a chicken/egg argument, but may always been an issue with someone who plays as aggressively as Bryant.

- On his own coaching performance: “I feel like I could have done a lot better. I’m not using it as an excuse, but I tell you, it was tough that you didn’t get to practice the way that you (wanted to). I know there were a lot of things I felt rushed on that I did on the fly based on the lack of time. So to really give myself a true evaluation would be hard. I thought based on the circumstances, with a staff, we did fairly well, but we could have done a lot better.”

Andrew Goudelock: 2012 Exit Interview

Rookie second round pick Andrew Goudelock appeared in 40 regular season games for L.A., showing an ability to score from long range (37 percent three-pointers) and with his patented floater towards 4.4 points per game in 10.5 minutes. He played a total of 10 postseason minutes.

Below is a summary of his exit interview:

- On his meeting with Mitch Kupchak and Mike Brown: “Some of the things they told me they wanted me to work on were things I wanted to work on myself: ball handling, being more comfortable running the point guard position, working on my body a little bit conditioning, defense … things I thought my weaknesses were.”

- Goudelock acknowledged that his physical size is more like a point guard, but he’s always been a shooting guard. In the future, I wants to be a point guard that can score, hoping to build those PG skills so that he can increase his chances of getting on the floor. He was initially proud and excited to just make the team, never a guarantee for a second round pick especially from a small college, but now really believes he can be more in the NBA.

- On his offensive game: “Offensively, I can shoot the three, I can make a mid range shot, I can shoot the floater. My scoring is not the problem.” That’s why he wants to improve his point guard skills, but his ability to shoot the ball is not something to scoff at; teams always can use a shooter.

- On watching L.A.’s veterans: “I learned so much this season, how much I see guys work, and that all motivates me to get better.” He felt like he learned years worth of basketball knowledge in one season, from Kobe Bryant on down the line. That of course included lots of on-the-court stuff, but also had to do with off-the-court situations, like the ridiculous shape Metta World Peace keeps his body in. That includes “eating all kinds of weird stuff.”

Steve Blake: 2012 Exit Interview

Steve Blake played in 53 regular season games, missing 13 due to a January rib injury, towards averages of 5.2 points on 37.7 percent field goals and 33.5 percent three-pointers with 3.3 assists in 23.3 minutes per contest.

He stepped up his play in the postseason, regularly closing games for the Lakers while playing 25.5 minutes per game for 6.3 points, 2.3 assists and 2.2 boards on 41.9 percent shooting and 41.9 percent from three.

Below is a summary of his exit interview:

- On not having a full camp or practice time hurt the team: “More time definitely would have helped us out, maybe (allowed us to) figure out certain areas of the game to make us better. But you can’t blame (our not winning) on that. I do think having a longer camp next year, us being with this coaching staff and getting more comfortable with them, always will help you.”

- On growing with his teammates to the point where he was finishing games in the postseason: “Over time you get more comfortable with your teammates, you figure each other out, and for me I as definitely much more comfortable throughout the season and the playoffs. I really loved playing with everybody and enjoyed it, and look forward to coming back and doing it again.”

- Blake was asked about his general outlook after playing better individually, but turned it into a team answer: “It’s tough to be too positive, because we lost.”

- On if he wants to start: “I’m at the point of my career where I really just want to do what’s best for the team” … whether that’s starting or coming off the bench.” He said the focus is on “us,” not him.

- Blake said he didn’t let praise or criticism affect him during the season, especially in the playoffs, in which he hit one game-winning shot and missed a potential game winner in another game, getting praise and vitriol in equal parts.

- Blake said he’ll likely be in L.A. until late June, then go back home to Portland, take a few weeks off and get back to work “getting better in every area of the game.”

- Blake’s frustrated having not won the title when expecting to by coming to Los Angeles, having won in both high school and college, but doesn’t think that chance is over.

- On his exit meeting: Mike Brown and Mitch Kupchak were mostly positive in their meeting, Blake said. He said they wanted him to perhaps be more aggressive and more selfish at times, but that doesn’t flow with the natural way he wants to play so much. “I think I’ll always try to make the team better with passing and knowing the game.”

Pau Gasol: 2012 Exit Interview

Regarded by any NBA coach or GM you ask as one of the league’s very few best all-around big men, Pau Gasol accepted more of a facilitating role in 2011-12 as the Lakers tried to utilize Andrew Bynum’s low post dominance, and Kobe Bryant’s need for the ball in post up and isolation sets. Gasol posted averages of 17.4 points, 10.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists with 1.35 blocks in playing all but the final regular season game (rest).

In the postseason, Gasol was even less involved offensively with Bryant taking 301 shots to his 143, as the Spaniard averaged 12.5 points, 9.5 boards, 3.7 assists and 2.1 blocks, trying to contribute in multiple ways.

Below is a summary of Gasol’s exit interview:

- On his meeting with Kupchak and Brown being more about the past season than the future: “I wish I could have clarification (about his future with the team) but they can’t give it to me right now. I think management still has to talk to ownership to see what direction this team will be going next year. We really didn’t talk much about the future. We talked about this year, how things have gone. Everything was really positive and encouraging for potential next season.”

- On the season: “We all worked hard and we all gave it our best shot from the coaching staff, management and players. We all tried hard to make it a successful year, make the best out of it. I’m proud of my part, as much as has gone on, I tried my best to give my best and adjust to a different role and position within the team. I still tried to deliver as much as I could.”

- On if there’s a contradiction between him being asked both to step back as the facilitator and third option on offense, but also asked at times to be more aggressive: “It’s a little difficult. I’ve always been a good passer and I facilitated from the most part from the post, which I’m very good at. It has been an adjustment for me, it has been difficult to be pretty much a third option, because I’ve never experienced that in my career since I was very young. I still gave it my best, but that was challenging at times.” When he’s featured more, it makes it easier to be more aggressive, which is natural for any player. He wasn’t getting the same looks he’d been getting, wasn’t used to attacking from the places on the court he was getting the ball more often, but stopped himself from continuing to explain because he didn’t want to make excuses.

- Gasol thanked Mike Brown for his dedication and hard work, and appreciated that he was a “caring coach.” Gasol reiterated that he was pleased that everyone tried his best despite the season being a tricky one in which to figure everything out. He also told Brown that it was hard for him at times. “I never had to search for offense or looks on the teams I’ve been on. I always had them because of what I bring to the table. To have to go and search for it, I struggled at times.” With that said, Gasol said he understood how much Andrew Bynum and Kobe Bryant needed the ball, and spent a lot of time trying to figure that out. That wasn’t so much the case last season, when Lamar Odom played 30 minutes a game and often facilitated for Gasol.

- Gasol acknowledged the difficulty of being involved in constant trade rumors, but said that’s not something that should affect someone’s play ultimately. He gets how the business works, and why his value makes other teams interested.

- On if the Lakers asserted their low post dominance enough: “We did it at times, but not consistently (enough). But two players at the caliber of Andrew and myself in there, you have to assert yourself and as a team. Teams did a good job of (focusing on that) in the playoffs, and we didn’t do a good enough job of (moving the ball) and (approaching it) from the weak side.

- On where LAL need to go: “This year was useful as a growing process for us, learning together with a new coaching staff. We had to find and search for consistency; we had too many games where we weren’t consistent, where we let a lot of leads get away from us, where we lost some games we shouldn’t have lost. That also happened in the postseason.”

- On late game scenarios with Kobe: “We went to a lot of isolation stuff with Kobe (late in games). We hadn’t really worked on the pick and roll as much until the very end. We probably didn’t develop that kind of game enough throughout the year for it to be smoother in the postseason. A lot of the times, (I would be) waiting and spectating on the weak side.”

- Gasol confirmed that he will indeed captain his Spanish National team in the 2012 London Olympics, and would obviously love another shot at the gold medal, perhaps against Kobe and Team USA.

Darius Morris: 2012 Exit Interview

Darius Morris completed his rookie campaign having appeared in 19 games, averaging 2.4 points and 1.1 assists in 8.9 minutes per game as a 21-year-old.

Below is a summary of his exit interview:

- On his meeting with Mitch Kupchak and Mike Brown: “We talked about how much they thought I improved over the season in terms of my game, physically and mentally. It was very encouraging. My mindset, maturity definitely changed over the course of the year. In terms of on the court, just an adjustment to the NBA game.”

- Morris described how crazy and at times difficult it was to go through the lockout as a rookie, being unable to communicate with the team after getting drafted, then having such a short training camp, trade rumors at his position and so on. Then he went from being inactive to suddenly active once Steve Blake got injured in January, and back to the bench with Blake’s return after 13 games. Morris felt like he grew a lot mentally from going through the wild season.

- On Summer League in Vegas: “I think Summer League will be big for me. I think certain teams like me in the draft, but I’ve gotten way better since then. It’ll be a good experience for me, a good opportunity.” He’s right. He’ll get a chance to show how much he improved over the season and what he added to his game. Morris came out early from the University of Michigan, leaving after his sophomore season, and thus is one of the NBA’s youngest players at 21. As such, “potential” is still a word associated with him, but he will be able to showcase his skills against the other young players around the league for two weeks in Vegas.

- While discussing his future, Morris mentioned the importance of being with a team where you think you can play. Of course he loves it in L.A., where he grew up, but seems open to pursuing the best situation for him.

- Morris said that Mike Brown informed him that it’s “not impossible” for him to get playing time next season. “It’s basically up to me to come in ready,” he said. One thing he’s focused on is being able to play both guard positions, as Steve Blake often did in the playoffs. The first step, however, is Summer League.

- On what he wants to work on: “Being on the bench and watching a lot of top point guards, you learn a lot of little tricks. I want to work on those things … watch a lot of film and study a lot of people’s games. A lot of people are gifted and talent so watching film of everybody will help me, especially the point guards.”

- Morris on Kobe Bryant: “I picked up a lot, more because of the friendship we developed. I didn’t expect us to be as close as we got, but it happened, and just seeing him at practice I really observed him a lot. You can’t take it for granted you’re going to always play with one of the best people to ever play the game. His preparation, his focus, the way he goes about his business. Off the court we became good friends and he continues to teach me a lot of stuff.” Kobe was the biggest role model for Morris throughout the season, though he also mentioned Metta World Peace, and how great a teammate he is, how willing he is to help everybody regardless of status on the team. World Peace constantly encouraged his teammates, and tried to keep the team together whenever arguments would rise, something Lamar Odom used to do.

-On the Lakers culture: “It was a great place for me to get introduced to the league, because of the winning basketball. (You learn) just (how to) value a possession. Elsewhere, they probably are not worried about playing playoff basketball, which is different. A shot you might take in the regular season, you might not take in the playoffs. I heard a lot of (our) veterans talking about that. With tempo, defense, you have to start stepping (it all) up. There were definitely a lot of things I learned just being on a championship caliber team.”

On having his fellow second round pick rookie Andrew Goudelock with him: “It made it a lot easier, you didn’t feel like you were alone. It was good to have someone there to be encouraging, and likewise for him. Just for us to go through that whole phase together was awesome.” The two rookies played a ton of 1-on-1 and shooting games, with Goudelock taking the shooting contests (though Morris said it got closer later in the season) and Morris winning more 1-on-1 action.