Monthly Archive for June, 2012

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2011-12 Injury Report

In the lockout-shortened 66-game season, the Lakers lost only 30 games to injury, and made it through the compressed schedule without a single injury from which to recover heading into the offseason.

2011-12 Games Lost to Injuries
- Steve Blake (13): costochaondral fracture (ribs)
- Kobe Bryant (7): tenosynovitis, left shin
- Josh McRoberts (6): sprained left big toe/left thumb
- Darius Morris (2): bruised left wrist
- Matt Barnes (1): sprained right ankle
- Andrew Bynum (1): sprained left ankle

Starters Pau Gasol, Metta World Peace and Derek Fisher/Ramon Sessions missed no action in the campaign, far fewer than L.A. lost in the previous season (142). Bynum’s missing one game – and not because of his knees – was the best (lack of) news on L.A.’s injury front.

“While the shortened season was a lot harder on the body and not having time to recover, it also kind of keeps you in rhythm,” Bynum summarized. He heads into the summer healthy, with plans to go to Germany to explore the same treatment Bryant underwent last offseason. Bynum had missed 25 games in the previous season.

2010-11 Games Lost to Injuries
- Theo Ratliff (64) – left knee surgery
- Barnes (28) – torn lateral meniscus, right knee
- Bynum (25) – right knee surgery (24), bone bruise in right knee (1)
- Devin Ebanks (20) – stress fracture, left tibia
- Luke Walton (5) – strained right hamstring

And while the 142 games missed is significant, neither Ratliff, Ebanks nor Walton were regular rotation players, so the Bynum and Barnes injuries were of greater consequence. Meanwhile, starters Fisher, Bryant, Ron Artest (pre name change) and Gasol each played all 82.

A terrific Lakers training staff played a critical role in keeping the players healthy, with a few changes being made to head athletic trainer Gary Vitti’s team between the past two seasons. Joining the team full time were physical therapist Dr. Judy Seto and strength/conditioning coach Tim DiFrancesco, both of whom Vitti described in detail in “The Trainer’s Take.”

Also proving fruitful for the Lakers was Vitti’s relationship with new coach Mike Brown. That trainer-coach partnership is one of the most significant within an NBA franchise, one that requires constant communication to ensure that players spend more time on the court than they do in the training room.

Vitti has been running the show in Los Angeles since “Amadeus” won Best Picture and the Soviet Union announced it would boycott the summer Olympics in L.A., and after years with both Pat Riley, myriad coaches in the 1990′s and 12 seasons with Phil Jackson, Brown entered the mix.

Here’s how Vitti described what it was like working with Brown:

Mike and I hit it off right off the bat. I can’t imagine anyone that wouldn’t get along with Mike, so I don’t think it was something special I did. He’s a special guy, an open guy, and if you sound like you know what you’re talking about, he will listen to you. You’d have to ask Mike, but I think from his standpoint, the success of the franchise as a whole gave those of us that have been here a level of credibility. I think that helped. But he’s a great guy, a visionary in many ways, and he and I talked a lot about numerous things. He has an open door policy, which is important because he works a lot. He is often bunkered in with his assistant coaches in what I refer to as summit meetings, like for world peace or something – not Metta – but when I’d come to see him he stopped everything, and was very attentive. He never gave me the feeling I was bugging him. That trust level really worked out, and while as a team we didn’t get where we wanted to go, it wasn’t because players were on the sideline injured.

Vitti and his staff will keep in constant touch with the players during the summer, discussing offseason training plans leading into everyone’s return in September, when they’ll collectively knock on wood for a coming season as relatively healthy as the one just completed.

A Chat with Christian Eyenga

Lakers wing Christian Eyenga, acquired alongside Ramon Sessions in the trade deadline deal with Cleveland, has been the most frequent presence at the team’s practice facility since the season concluded.

We spent a few minutes with Eyenga to discuss his exit meeting with GM Mitch Kupchak and coach Mike Brown, his defensive focus as helped by Metta World Peace and how he didn’t touch a basketball until he was 11 years old:

On his meeting with Kupchak and Brown:
Eyenga: They told me what I need to do to get better and stronger for next season. They want me to work on my jump shot and my body and to be aggressive, and that’s what I’m planning on doing all summer. They want me to come here and work hard every day, and I will.

On finding a defensive focus, thanks in part to tips from Metta World Peace:
Eyenga: I’m trying to learn a lot from Metta mostly on defensive things, but also on basketball in general. He actually has been helping me out since I got traded here. He taught me that you have to take playing defense personally. You have to look at it like, ‘Nobody can score on me,’ as a mindset. For young guys like me and Darius Morris or Devin Ebanks, a lot of it is that we have to be able to play really good defense. That’s one way to stay in the league when you’re a younger guy that’s drafted later.

On trying to prove what he can do:
Eyenga: I haven’t really played much in my three seasons, and next season could be my last opportunity to really show everybody what I can do in this league. That could help me to stay in this league. I played in the last 40 games of my first season in Cleveland, but this season I didn’t really play especially after the trade (from Cleveland to L.A.). I have’t showed everyone what I can do yet. So I’m excited to try and do that next year.

On when he started playing basketball growing up in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Kinchasa):
Eyenga: I started playing basketball when I was 11 years old. I know that is late, but I picked it up really quickly because I had so much fun playing. I grew up playing soccer first like most kids there, but I loved basketball once I started playing, and I got spotted at a Basketball Without Borders event in my country. That’s where an agent signed me and sent me to Spain when I was 16 to play professionally.

On his relationship with fellow Congolese NBA player Serge Ibaka from Oklahoma City:
Eyenga: Serge and I are best friends. We grew up together and we did everything together. We came through the Congo together, and he also went to Spain to play professionally and then came to the NBA one season before me. When we were growing up, Dikembe Mutombo was the player who really opened the door for players like Serge, myself and DJ Mbenga.

Mitch Kupchak Checks In

While in Chicago for the NBA’s pre-draft camp, Mitch Kupchak took a few moments to answer some questions about what he’s seeing, where he’s headed next and how the Lakers are approaching the June 28 Draft:

MT: Let’s start with a general summary of what you and your staff are going through at these pre-draft camps?
Kupchak: Last week we were in Minnesota for a pre-draft camp, are now in Chicago and tomorrow head to Treviso, Italy, for the camp on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. All of these are repeat venues. In other words, they occur every year about the same time in preparation for the draft. We believe that you have to prepare for the draft the same way every single year no matter where your picks are, because you never know what might happen.

MT: Right now, the Lakers have only the final pick of the second round (No. 60). You’ve maintained that you will still be prepared at every one of the 60 slots should a trade or acquisition of a pick happen, but does that change your opportunity to see some players?
Kupchak: This time of year, the agents arrange workouts for their clients that are expected to be first round picks and specifically lottery picks, but they won’t send those players to visit the Lakers at No. 60 only. So to some degree you’re at a disadvantage, and you can’t possibly be as prepared as a team that’s picking in the top five and hosting the top players. Those teams sit down, bring the players in, interview them, give them tests, spend the day with them. Based on your order in the draft, that’s how the agents look at the world. If you’re drafting 15th and they think their player has a chance to be taken there, they will send him to you. And that helps more than just watching a kid play in college. Having said all that, after years of scouting, you end up knowing many of the players pretty well regardless.

MT: Will you be looking to move up in the draft?
Kupchak: We always look at ways of moving up in the draft if we like a player. And that doesn’t have to involve a trade of a player on our roster, necessarily. You can always trade a future pick, as well, or you can also look to buy a pick. There are plenty of ways aside from trades, but I can’t give you a percentage as to the likelihood we will do so.

MT: With the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, are younger players on rookie deals more valuable commodities than in years past?
Kupchak: You have to look at each team, the circumstance that surround that particular team, to answer that. The problem really becomes when you have veterans that have been All Stars for several years on their third and fourth contact; it gets tougher and tougher to surround them with good players. If you look around, the good teams all have the same problems. Us, Boston, Miami, Dallas, San Antonio. It is a good problem to have, however, because if that’s the case, it means you have excellent players on your roster and that you’ve probably been winning. Oklahoma City is in a good spot right now, but they’ll have tough decisions to make down the road.

MT: Is it fair to say you have a system down pretty well for what works in approaching this whole process?
Kupchak: Our system has been good to us, and we’re always looking for ways to improve and having new things to do. There will always be tweaks, but the process remains similar.

MT: At these pre-draft camps, how much discussion occurs between all the general managers and team personnel about trades and such?
Kupchak: It’s natural for all the executives to have conversations about personnel. Sometimes it’s awkward to pull somebody aside with 300 people in a room, but other times it’s natural to have conversations evolve. Most of that stuff does take place via telephone, but there is a natural process that takes place with 30 GM’s and 150 scouts in a gymnasium.

MT: The organization recently promoted Glenn Carraro to assistant general manager. I know you’ve been working closely with Glenn for some time now…
Kupchak: Glenn is not a new variable to our organization. He’s been here for 10 to 12 years, and every year he’s acquired more and more responsibility. This year, for several reasons, it resulted in a title change. It’s not the first one he’s had since he’s been in Los Angeles, but this is significant. Our working relationship hasn’t changed that much … but maybe he feels more responsibility, which is good, because he does have more.

Lakers 2011-12 Season: By the Numbers

We broke down some of the more intriguing numbers from the 2011-12 Lakers season:

1
Appearance on an All-NBA team for Andrew Bynum, who made the second team as the center. It was also Bynum’s first season on the All-Star team, promising signs both for the 24-year-old 7-footer. His 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. After the season, Bynum acknowledged that the next step for him is to bring it every night, like teammate Kobe Bryant has for years, if he wants to reach superstar status.

2
Bryant’s all-time rank in NBA playoff minutes played, second only to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s 8,851. Kobe’s 8,641 are a staggering total in 220 total games, averaging out to 39.3 per contest. That’s nearly three additional full regular seasons in playoff minutes – of course more taxing than regular season minutes – for a player in his 16th season. Bryant would need to play roughly six more playoff games to surpass Kareem’s total.

3
Times in franchise history that the Lakers have lost a playoff game while leading by at least nine points heading into the fourth quarter, after blowing an 80-71 lead in Game 4 of the Western Semi’s against Oklahoma City, ultimately losing 103-100.

5
LAL vs. OKC was just the fifth playoff series ever pitting the players who finished first and second in the
league’s scoring race that season against one another, with Kevin Durant barely edging out Kobe Bryant’s 27.9 ppg, his highest output since 2007-08. The other four: 1951 West Semis – George Mikan (Lakers), Alex Groza (Olympians); 1993 East First Round – Michael Jordan (Bulls), Dominique Wilkins (Hawks); 1995 NBA Finals – Shaquille O’Neal (Magic), Hakeem Olajuwon (Rockets); 1997 NBA Finals – Jordan (Bulls), Karl Malone (Jazz).

7
Games with at least 30 points for Bynum this season, when he had only one such scoring night in his previous six seasons. Other than Bryant, the last Laker to total seven 30+ point games in a single season was Shaq in 2003-04 (7).

9
Overtime wins with just a single loss for the Lakers in the last two seasons, after L.A. went 5-1 this season and 4-0 in 2010-11. The lone loss came at Detroit on March 6, with the final victory coming against Oklahoma City on April 22. In the past 24 OT games dating back to the 2007-08 campaign (or, since the team acquired Pau Gasol), the Lakers are 21-3.

10
Foreign born players to accumulate 14,000 points, with Barcelona native Gasol becoming the 10th at Orlando on Jan. 20. The other nine (totals as of Jan. 20, 2012): Hakeem Olajuwon (26,946/Nigeria), Dominique Wilkins (26,668/France), Patrick Ewing (24,815/Jamaica), Dirk Nowitzki (23,072/Germany), Tim Duncan (21,854/U.S. Virgin Islands), Rolando Blackman (17,623/Panama), Steve Nash (16,073/South Africa), Kiki Vandeweghe (15,980/Germany) and Detlef Schrempf (15,761/West Germany).

11
Rebounds and assists for Gasol in his April 18 triple-double in a victory at Golden State, in addition to his 22 points. The Spaniard did not commit a single turnover in the contest, the third time he’s recorded a triple-double without turning the ball over, joining only Jason Kidd (5) and Grant Hill (3) as active players to do so at least three times. Gasol has five career triple-doubles.

14
Appearance on an All-NBA team for Bryant. Pause. Repeat: in 16 seasons, Bryant has been on an All-NBA in all but two of them. That’s a lot. To put it in perspective, Kobe trails only Karl Malone for all-time selections to the first team (11), and is now tied with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Elgin Baylor, Bob Cousy, Michael Jordan, Bob Pettit, and Jerry West. Bryant’s 14th overall All-NBA mention is matched only by Malone and Shaq, trailing only Abdul-Jabbar and his 15.

19
Consecutive wins for the Lakers over the Minnesota Timberwolves after four more wins in 2011-12, which is the longest active win streak in the league by one team over another. L.A. also defeated Dallas 19 straight times from 1995-99, while 24 straight wins over the Kings from 1983-88 is the all-time franchise mark.

25
Bynum’s rank in the NBA in minutes played per game at 35.2. Bynum, who has obviously struggled to stay on the floor in his career due to various injuries centering upon his knees, missed only one game due to injury in 2011-12. He played just 27.8 mpg in 2010-11, a difference of 7.4 per game. “My body feels great,” said Bynum at his exit interview. “While the shortened season was a lot harder on the body and not having time to recover, it also kind of keeps you in rhythm.” Bynum will now have a full offseason to continue to build strength around his knees in particular.

27 and 133
Years and days by average on the Lakers roster, which changed when the team acquired Ramon Sessions (25), Christian Eyenga and Jordan Hill (24) in two separate trades that saw Derek Fisher (37), Luke Walton (32) and Jason Kapono (31) head to Houston (Fisher) and Cleveland. The average age thus went from 29 years and 149 days to 27 years and 133 days.

30
Rebounds collected by Bynum at San Antonio on April 11 in an impressive 98-84 win, making him the fifth Laker in franchise history to reach that milestone. The Hall of Famers also on that list: Wilt Chamberlain (16 times); Elgin Baylor (3); Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (2); and George Mikan (2). Furthermore, Bynum is just the second player in the last 15 NBA seasons to clean the window at least 30 times (Kevin Love, 11/12/10, 31).

31
Playoff berths in 33 seasons since Dr. Jerry Buss bought the Lakers. That’s 94 percent of the time.

40
Points scored by Bryant – at least – in four consecutive games, against Phoenix (48), at Utah (40), Cleveland (42) and at L.A. Clippers (42) from Jan. 10 to Jan. 14. In NBA history, only two players have more career 40-point games: Wilt Chamberlain (271) and Michael Jordan (173). The Lakers have gone 77-35 when Bryant scores 40+ points, and he holds the franchise record for 40-point games in a season, recording 27 during the 2005-06 campaign. Bryant also holds the franchise record for most consecutive 40-point games (9), established during the 2002-03 season. Only Wilt Chamberlain (14 twice, 10 once) has had longer consecutive 40-point game streaks in NBA history than Bryant.

48.6
Three-point percentage for Ramon Sessions in his 23 regular season games with the Lakers following the trade deadline. Though a capable shooter, L.A. didn’t expect such accuracy from the perimeter, which made opponents second guess going under screens. However, Sessions struggled with that shot in the playoffs, hitting only 4 of 25 (16 percent), a reason he vowed to focus on his perimeter shooting in the offseason. His backup, Steve Blake, ended up finished many of L.A.’s postseason contests; Blake played quite well when given the chance, with a highlight coming in Game 4 at Denver in Round 1 when he made a game-clinching three-pointer.

50
L.A.’s winning percentage in back-to-back contests for the season after the team went 9-9 on both the first and second nights of back-to-backs.

97.6
Lakers free throw percentage in Game 3 against OKC, in which 41 of 42 free throws went in, led by Kobe Bryant’s 18 for 18 performance, a franchise playoff record that surpassed Gail Goodrich’s perfect 17 without a miss in 1971 against Chicago in the conference semi’s. Only the Dallas Mavericks, who made 49 of 50 in 2003 at San Antonio, own a better team performance in playoff history while attempting at least 30 shots.

271
Points in the All-Star game for Kobe, the most in the history of the game, which he reached this season with a fast-break dunk at the 4:57 mark of the third quarter to move ahead of Michael Jordan (262). Despite breaking his nose and suffering a concussion, Bryant finished with 27 points in the contest on 9 of 17 FG’s, helping the West to a 152-149 victory. It was the 14th time as an All-Star for Bryant in his 16 seasons; he’s won MVP honors four times.

1,543
Steals in the career of Metta World Peace, who became the sixth active player (Jason Kidd, Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Shawn Marion, Baron Davis) to reach that number with a swipe at Oklahoma City on Feb. 23. The 2004 NBA Defensive POW with fiercely strong hands has finished in the top five in steals five times.

1,935
Points away from Wilt Chamberlain (31,419) on the all-time scoring list for Kobe with his 29,484. As such, if Bryant played in all 82 games next season and averaged 23.6 points, he’d catch Wilt. Or if Bryant averaged 27.9 points — as he did in the 2011-12 campaign — it would take him roughly 71 games to surpass Chamberlain. Bryant currently ranks fifth in league history on the all-time scoring chart, having passed Shaq (28,596) on Feb. 2 at Philadelphia. Ahead of Wilt are Jordan (32,292), Malone (36,928) and Kareem (38,387).