Monthly Archive for June, 2012

Newest Lakers Introduce Themselves

VIDEO: LAL GM Mitch Kupchak on draft picks

Moments after Darius Johnson-Odom and Robert Sacre learned that they were drafted by the Lakers at No.’s 55 and 60, each called into the team’s practice facility to answer questions from assembled media.

Below are some of the more interesting comments from each player, Johnson-Odom a 6-2 guard from Marquette and Sacre a 7-foot center from Gonzaga:

DARIUS JOHNSON-ODOM LISTEN
On how he felt when drafted by the Lakers: I was quite happy. To be able to play with a great team, a team that knows each others game … I’m just excited. For me, it’s going to be a learning process, but I have the opportunity to become a player with this organization … I’m glad to say I’m with the L.A. Lakers.

On being a winner: I think my style of play allows me to be on a winning team; that’s what I wanted to prove when I was at Marquette, was to be a winner. I think that’s why I’m able to fit in with the Lakers.

On what he can offer: I want to be that guy that has that spark off the bench, creates energy. The team is great skill wise. My job is not to come in and be a guy that scores a lot for them, but somebody that brings energy on the defensive end, contributes, makes plays and knocks down open shots. That’s something that I’m able to do at a high level and that’s something I want to bring to the table.

On a particular skill of his: I don’t think a lot of teams were able to see me in pick and roll situations. That’s something that I pride myself on; I think I’m very, very good at that.

On what NBA player people have told him he reminds them of: James Harden because of the way we attack the rim and the way we can shoot the ball. He’s a little taller than me, but we are the same.

On his middle name being “Earvin.” Yes, (Earvin Magic Johnson) is exactly what my mom named me after. She said that was her favorite player, and I wouldn’t tell my dad this, but I think she kinda liked him. I think every player (tried to emulate Magic), whoever was able to see him play. Who wouldn’t want to watch that? For myself, I know I can’t do the things he did, but the things you can take from him is leadership and just being a great competitor. That’s what he used to bring to the table when he wore the Purple and Gold and that’s what I’m trying to do.

ROBERT SACRE LISTEN
On being drafted by L.A.: First thing I thought of was best for last. I was selected to go to one of the greatest teams in NBA history.

On what he brings: Defense wins championships. I take a lot of pride in my defense, and I think I’d be a perfect fit for this team and what I can bring there, a lot of energy off the bench and a defensive vibe.

On L.A.’s current 7-footers, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum: They’re the greatest two big men, a combo punch. It’s something I’m looking forward to working out against and being a part of. It’ll be a privilege to play with them. (I hope to learn) their offensive efficiency. They’re very skilled, especially Gasol, the way he can handle the ball and shoot it and just his knowledge of the game. And then Bynum, he’s a stud. I’m very excited to see what I can learn and pick their brain.

On his role: I think it’s going to be very similar to Ronny Turiaf’s role. An energy guy, the guy who comes in and plays hard defense, makes sure opponents don’t get baskets while Gasol or Bynum gets a break. I’m going to come in, play my butt off, know my role, shut my mouth and try to get Kobe another ring.

Lakers Draft Johnson-Odom, Sacre

EL SEGUNDO – The Los Angeles Lakers have acquired the draft rights to Darius Johnson-Odom (55th overall pick) from Dallas in exchange for cash considerations and have selected Robert Sacre with the 60th overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft, it was announced today.

Johnson-Odom, a 6-2 guard out of Marquette, averaged 15.7 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 105 career games. As a senior, the Raleigh, North Carolina native led his team in scoring (18.3 points per game) and earned First Team All-Big East honors in addition to being named an Honorable Mention All-American by the Associated Press.

Sacre, a 7-0 center from Gonzaga finished his career with the Bulldogs ranked second all-time in school history in career blocks (186) while averaging 9.4 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 135 games. As a senior, Sacre was named the 2012 WCC Defensive Player of the Year as well as an All-WCC First-Team honoree while averaging 11.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.4 blocks.

CONFERENCE CALLS (mp3′s)
Darius Johnson-Odom: CLICK HERE
Robert Sacre: CLICK HERE

Picking 60th in the NBA Draft

Typically, the No. 60 pick in the NBA Draft hasn’t had exactly the same amount of success as the No. 1 pick.

OK, it’s never been close … At least until 2011, that is.

While No. 1 overall pick Kyrie Irving was terrific towards earning NBA Rookie of the Year honors, the last pick in the draft, University of Washington product Isaiah Thomas, came out of nowhere to garner back-to-back Western Conference Rookie of the Month honors in February and March.

After the All Star break, Thomas averaged 14.2 points, 5.0 assists, 3.0 boards and 1.1 steals in 31:11 minutes.

Thomas, who earned his first name when his father lost a bet to a Pistons fan from the 1989 Finals, almost immediately became the best No. 60 pick ever, but that’s unfair to Steve Kerr.

Yes, the current TNT analyst and former ring winner while hitting threes alongside Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen in Chicago was the final pick of the 1988 Draft out of Arizona. And while he never averaged double figures in scoring, he won five championships and leads the NBA in all-time 3-point shooting percentage at an impressive 45.4 percent.

Aside from Kerr, there doesn’t seem to be even a close third.

Here are the rest of the No. 60 picks, at least from 1988 on … see who else you recognize:

NO. 60 NBA DRAFT PICKS, 1989-2011
1988: Steve Kerr (Arizona)
1989: Toney Mack (Georgia)
1990: Sean Higgins (Michigan)
1991: Marcus Kennedy (Eastern Michigan)
1992: Brett Roberts (Morehead State)
1993: Brian Wilson (Utah)
1994: Zeljko Rebraca (Croatia)
1995: Don Reid (Georgetown)
1996: Darnell Robinson (Arkansas)
1997: Roberto Cueñas (Spain)
1998: Maceo Baston (Michigan)
1999: Eddie Lucas (Virginia Tech)
2000: Pete Mickeal (Cincinnati … Lakers fans might remember him from the 2010 preseason game against F.C. Barcelona when played very well and aggressively went at Kobe Bryant)
2001: Bryan Bracey (Oregon)
2002: Corsley Edwards (UCONN)
2003: Andreas Glyniadakis (Greece)
2004: Rashad Wright (Georgia)
2005: Alex Acker (Pepperdine)
2006: Will Blalock (Iowa)
2007: Milovan Rakovic (Serbia)
2008: Semih Erden (Turkey)
2009: Robert Dozier (Memphis)
2010:Dwayne Collins (Miami)
2011: Isaiah Thomas

NBA Draft … Coming Soon

When Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak checked in with us on June 8, he explained that the front office will approach Thurday’s 2012 NBA Draft the same way as they would if they had more than just the 60th pick.

In other words, Kupchak and his staff prepare to make every single pick of the 60, in case of a trade or the purchasing of a draft pick that could have the Lakers moving up in the second round or into the first round.

Why do they have only the Draft’s final pick, at least for the time being?

LAKERS 2012 DRAFT DETAILS/TRANSACTIONS
- L.A.’s 2012 first round pick was traded to Cleveland along with Luke Walton and Jason Kapono in exchange for Ramon Sessions and Christian Eyenga at the trade deadline in March. The Cavs will select at pick No. 24.
- L.A. had acquired an additional first round pick from Dallas in exchange for Lamar Odom, a trade exception and the Lakers 2012 second round pick, but at the deadline moved that first round pick to Houston along with Derek Fisher in exchange for Jordan Hill. The pick from Dallas is top 20 protected for six years. Since Cuban’s crew selects 17th this season, the pick will remain with the Mavericks, and eventually go to Houston once the pick is not in the top 20 (or six years pass). That L.A. second rounder Dallas acquired gives them the 55th overall pick in 2012.
- L.A.’s No. 60 pick comes from the Sasha Vujacic trade to the Brooklyn (then New Jersey) Nets on Dec. 15, 2010, a pick the Nets had acquired from Chicago.

To prepare for the draft and the subsequent flurry of front office activity once free agency hits on July 1, Kupchak has been getting to know contract issues for all players outside of the country, learning about all of the players in the draft and becoming increasingly familiar with the free agent class. In short, he and his staff will canvas the rest of the league to figure out which other teams might value certain players on L.A.’s roster, and vice versa, to see if a trade can be worked out.

That said, Kupchak told us that he’d be surprised if a “major” deal occurs, due in some part to the limitations of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, but it always depends upon what is available and for what price.

Elimination Games

With a Game 4 loss at Miami in the NBA Finals, the Oklahoma City Thunder head into Thursday’s elimination Game 5 needing a win, which from a Lakers perspective brings to mind a 2012 playoff campaign that produced two Game 5 losses.

The second was a season-ending 106-90 defeat at OKC in which L.A. trailed by only three at the half, and the first an unexpected 102-99 home loss to Denver that was the first such home defeat in a Game 5 since Pau Gasol was acquired from Memphis in 2007.

From the 2007-08 playoff campaign until this season, L.A. had gone 7-0 in Game 5′s at STAPLES Center. That’s part of the context around the following comment made by Andrew Bynum ahead of that Game 5 loss to the Nuggets, in which he said close out games — like Miami now has against the Thunder — can be rather breezy.

“Close out games can actually be kinda easy,” went the exact quote. “Teams tend to fold if you play hard in the beginning, so we want to come out and establish an early lead, and protect it.”

That statement was music to the ears of Nuggets coach George Karl, who naturally put the quote in front of his players, despite the fact that from Bynum’s point of view it was a simple fact.

In fact, in Bynum’s playoff tenure since the team acquired a 7-foot Spaniard to join him up front, the Lakers had gone 12-1 in close out games, losing only Game 6 in the 2009 Western Semi’s to Houston amidst a series of W’s at home (7-0) and on the road (5-1), until going 1-2 against the Nuggets on the brink in 2012:

Lakers in Close Out Games:
2008
Round 1 Game 4: LAL 107, DEN 101
Round 2 Game 6: LAL 108, UTA 105
Round 3 Game 5: LAL 100, SAS 92

2009
Round 1 Game 5: LAL 107, UTA 96
Round 2 Game 6: HOU 95, LAL 80
Round 2 Game 7: LAL 89, HOU 70
Round 3 Game 6: LAL 119, DEN 92
Finals Game 5: LAL 99, ORL 86

2010
Round 1 Game 6: LAL 95, OKC 94
Round 2 Game 4: LAL 111, UTA 96
Round 3 Game 6: LAL 111, PHO 103
Finals Game 7: LAL 83, BOS 79

2011
Round 1 Game 6: LAL 98, NOH 80

2012
Round 1 Game 5: DEN 102, LAL 99
Round 1 Game 6: DEN 113, LAL 96
Round 1 Game 7: LAL 96, DEN 87

Thus far in the 2011-12 postseason, the Heat are 3-1 in such close out games, dropping Game 4 at New York but winning Game 5 at home, then Game 6 at Indiana and Game 7 vs. Boston.

We’ll see how it turns out starting at 6 p.m. on ABC and ESPN radio.

Kobe, Lakers win NBATV Social Media Awards

Kobe Bryant and the Lakers garnered three total honors at the first ever NBA Social Media Awards on NBATV on Wednesday evening, hosted by Bryant’s former Lakers teammates Rick Fox and Shaquille O’Neal.

Bryant took home the #Trendsetter award for receiving the most mentions on Twitter this season, and the Thumbs Up Award for garnering the most likes on Facebook. It was quite a day for recognizing Kobe’s popularity, as the NBA also announced that he led China, Europe, Latin America and the international community in general in jersey sales.

With the largest combined social media footprint on Facebook and Twitter, the Lakers earned the “Social MVT (Most Valuable Team)” trophy.

The Lakers social media team, headed by Manager, New Media Ty Nowell, built a Facebook following of 13,884,693 likes in addition to 2,583,475 Twitter followers on the @Lakers account.

The total of 16,468,168 between Facebook and Twitter followers outpaced the second place Boston Celtics (7,235,790 total).

The awards were divided into myriad categories and accounted for social activity across Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and so on, with fans voting for winners on various channels.

Bryant has Most Popular Jersey Internationally

NEW YORK, June 20, 2012 – The National Basketball Association (NBA) today released its first-ever overall international top selling jerseys list and five-time NBA Champion Kobe Bryant has the most popular NBA jersey internationally. The top 15 list was based on sales at adidas locations outside the United States during the 2011-12 NBA season.

Chicago’s Derrick Rose, Miami’s LeBron James, Boston’s Kevin Garnett and Orlando’s Dwight Howard, round out the top five. The list features three players in the NBA Finals: James, Dwyane Wade and Kevin Durant. International stars such as Los Angeles Lakers’ Pau Gasol from Spain, Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki from Germany, San Antonio’s Tony Parker from France, and Minnesota’s Ricky Rubio from Spain made the top 15.

The NBA also announced the top five selling jerseys in key regions: China, Europe and Latin America. In China, Bryant has the top selling jersey for the sixth straight season while Rose moves up to No. 2. Bryant had the top selling jersey in Europe and Latin America this season.

2011-12 Top Selling Jerseys Internationally
1. Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
2. Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls
3. LeBron James, Miami Heat
4. Kevin Garnett, Boston Celtics
5. Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic
6. Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat
7. Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics
8. Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks
9. Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
10. Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder
11. Pau Gasol, Los Angeles Lakers
12. Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks
13. Amar’e Stoudemire, New York Knicks
14. Tony Parker, San Antonio Spurs
15. Ricky Rubio, Minnesota Timberwolves

2011-12 Top Selling Jerseys in China
1. Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
2. Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls
3. LeBron James, Miami Heat
4. Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic
5. Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics

2011-12 Top Selling Jerseys in Europe
1. Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
2. Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls
3. LeBron James, Miami Heat
4. Kevin Garnett, Boston Celtics
5. Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic

2011-12 Top Selling Jerseys in Latin America
1. Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers
2. LeBron James, Miami Heat
3. Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls
4. Kevin Garnett, Boston Celtics
5. Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat

Mitch Kupchak on Ramon Sessions

Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak answered questions from the five beat writers who cover the team, including us here at Lakers.com, to discuss the decision of Ramon Sessions to opt out of the final year on his current deal.

Had Sessions picked up his option, he’d have been guaranteed to play for the Lakers in the 2012-13 season, where as he will now become a free agent starting on July 1 with the ability to sign with any team.

On Sessions not picking up his option:
Kupchak: The fact that he would not extend (his option) clearly puts him in the position where he’s an unrestricted free agent on July 1. With all situations like that, both sides have to absorb some risk. I’m not quite sure if he’s completely aware of what the future holds for him beginning on July 1. Beginning today, we have to plan for the contingency that he won’t be available as a free agent at a later date in July. We have to make sure we have back up plans in place.

I suppose we could look to fill that position between now and July 1 via a trade, or we can wait until July 1 and pursue Ramon, or perhaps another free agent, although we’re limited with the exceptions available to us. He did indicate that he was happy here in Los Angeles and that he would look to return. But once again, once the market comes into play, there’s no telling what will happen. We don’t know if he’s going to be back or not at this point, so we have to cover our bases, which (Ramon and his agent) understand. Beginning on July 1, it takes one team to make him an offer that we couldn’t or would not match; there’s a market value, and then there’s always a team that will do something beyond the market value. So that’s the whole process of uncertainty with becoming a free agent, but he’s represented by a really experienced agent and Ramon is a bright kid. We’ve talked it through and I think both sides are aware of the uncertainty that each side has to deal with.

On if Kupchak wants him back, or wishes he would have picked up the option:
Kupchak: My preference was that he would have extended for one more year.

On having few games with Sessions:
Kupchak: We had a shortened season, no training camp. He was traded to us in mid-March, which is late, probably about 20-something games to go. He’d admit that he wasn’t really familiar with playoff intensity – it was the first time he’d ever played in a playoff game. So I think he would indicate if he were talking to you right now that he thinks he’ll play better with a year of training camp, 80-something games and playoff (experience) under his belt next year, and I think he will too.

On Sessions as a player:
Kupchak: He’s an incredible athlete, he thinks the game, he understands the game, he’s great in the locker room, he wants to improve. I thought when he first got here he was very effective and I thought as we approached the playoffs and particularly the second round of the playoffs, he wasn’t as comfortable as he was at the beginning. Having gone through that many, many years ago, the playoffs are a completely different experience. The intensity level, the scrutiny, the awareness by the public. Typically you don’t see (young players succeed as much) under those conditions. I think he’d admit it wasn’t his best basketball. I look at our team, and not many of our players (played their best).

On if he’s surprised Sessions didn’t exercise the option:
Kupchak: No. Nothing surprises me at this point. He is a young player that’s going to get better, and now you’re dealing with a traditional unrestricted free agent situation, and there’s a number of different ways that can go.

On what the Lakers could offer Sessions as a free agent:
Kupchak: He falls into the unrestricted free agent category, and we have Bird rights with him. So I don’t believe we’re limited other than the maximum exemption, which obviously he wouldn’t apply for.

On what the team wants to do with Sessions moving forward:
Kupchak: Even if we did, I’m not sure I’d share it right now. You could have 8-10 teams that value him at a certain number, but maybe there’s another team that values him at a much higher number. We’ve been involved in situations like that in the past. We knew what his number was if he did extend. But it can work the other way too: the market might not be as good as he thinks it might be. But he’s a young, developing player who I think is going to get better.

On if this changes how he looks at the trade for Sessions with Cleveland:
Kupchak: There were several reasons why we made the trade. Obviously we were aware that he could elect not to extend. Like I mentioned earlier, that’s not what I was hoping for, but it frees up dollars to go in another direction if that’s what we choose to do. When we evaluated the trade three or four months ago, those were the things we talked about. We felt either way, we were in a good position, maybe one way a little bit better if he chose to extend.

On the free agent class:
Kupchak: There is always value. In terms of high profile names, I wouldn’t categorize this free agent class as one of the best ever, but there is always value out there depending upon how you define it. Whether it’s at the minimum, the mid-level or the mini-mid (level), there’s somebody out there every year that can play and help your club.

On Andrew Goudelock and Darius Morris:
Kupchak: Andrew Goudelock is on a 2-year deal, so we have no decision to make there. Darius Morris – we have until June 30 to tender him a 1-year contract. If we do that, we retain his rights and we retain the right to negotiate with him beginning July 1.

Summer Pod: S.I.’s Ballard on Bryant

From where does greatness come?

That’s the question Sports Illustrated senior writer Chris Ballard asks as it would apply to Kobe Bryant in a recent magazine piece for which he traveled all the way to Thailand to interview Kobe’s father Joe “Jellybean” Bryant.

To hear Ballard’s answer, a discussion on how Kobe’s father and mother, Pam Bryant, influenced him, a look ahead to No. 24′s mindset at the Olympics and into the next few years and more, click below.

Lakers Summer League Schedule

For those of you that enjoy the lights of Las Vegas, the NBA’s best young players or both, the 2011-12 Summer League schedule will be of interest.

LAKERS SUMMER LEAGUE MATCHUPS:
Friday, July 13: LAL vs Golden State (5 p.m.)
Saturday, July 14: LAL vs Sacramento (5 p.m.)
Monday, July 16: LAL vs. Miami (5:30 p.m.)
Tuesday, July 17: LAL vs. San Antonio (3:30 p.m.)
Thursday, July 19: LAL vs. L.A. Clippers (5:30 p.m.)

The Lakers have not completed or announced their Summer League roster, but we might expect last year’s second round picks Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock to join Christian Eyenga and the player(s) that L.A. select(s) in the 2012 NBA Draft on a squad to be coached by one of Mike Brown’s assistant coaches.

Lakers.com will be there for the first three games, offering full coverage with in-game running diaries, tweets, video and so on, to make sure you don’t miss much if you can’t make the trek to Vegas.

Aside from whom we see on the LAL roster, lottery picks from the Kings (No. 5) and Warriors (No. 7) can be seen live; seeing the future of the league is always a pleasant prospect.