Monthly Archive for July, 2012

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Summer League Tip Off

Click here for L.A.’s Summer League schedule

Vegas, anybody?

At 5 p.m. in Sin City on Friday night, the Lakers tip off the 2012 Summer League with a roster including at least three members of next season’s senior squad, set to team with several others looking to impress Mitch Kupchak and Mike Brown.

Christian Eyenga, Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock already have spots sewn up on the 2012-13 roster, but are each out to show that they deserve a place on the basketball court, and not just the bench, once Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash get to the gym.

Meanwhile, rookie second round picks Darius Johnson-Odom and Robert Sacre are eager to show why Kupchak and his staff drafted them on June 28, while Ater Majok wants to show why he was a Lakers selection late in the second round of the 2011 Draft.

The summer squad will be coached by assistant Chuck Person, who will run Brown’s offense and defense throughout a 5-game schedule, opening with lottery pick Harrison Barnes and the Golden State Warriors.

Lakers.com will be there to cover the contest live, detailing what’s always an extremely competitive series of games, every player trying to show why he should be playing when the real games start.

2012 Lakers Summer League Roster:
Chinemelu Elonu, F/C, 6-10/235, Texas A&M/Pau-Orthez/Nigeria
Christian Eyenga, G/F, 6-5/210, DKV Joventut/Lakers/DRC
Andrew Goudelock, G, 6-3/200, College of Charleston/Lakers/USA
Garrett Green, F, 6-11/240, San Diego St./USA
Eric Griffin, F, 6-8/190, Campbell/USA
Lawrence Hill, F , 6-8/235, Stanford/Maine RC/USA
Darius Johnson-Odom, G, 6-3, Marquette/USA
Julian Khazzouh, C, 6-10/231, Sydney Kings/Australia
Ater Majok, F, 6-10/225, UCONN/Nitra (Slovakia)/Australia
Darius Morris, G, 6-5/195, Michigan/Lakers/USA
Toure’ Murry, G, 6-5/199, Wichita St. /USA
Reeves Nelson, F, 6-8/235, UCLA/Zalgiris (Lithuania)/USA
Robert Sacre, F/C, 7-0/260, Gonzaga/Canada
Greg Somogyi, C, 7-3/242 UC Santa Barbara/Hungary

Follow Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) on Twitter.

Mitch Kupchak On Nash Acquisition

“The opportunity to play for one of the (league’s best franchises) was too good an opportunity for me to pass up. This is going to be a really exciting chapter of my career. I’ve always wanted to win, I’ve always competed the best I can to try and win; to be back in a position to win again is a phenomenal feeling.
- Steve Nash, 7/11/12

Throughout most of a 30-plus minute press conference in which Mitch Kupchak flanked his newest signing, twice-MVP point guard Steve Nash, the Lakers GM had a steady (if subtle) grin on his face.

Considering L.A.’s financial situation, Nash didn’t even seem like an option at first when free agency began on July 1, the Lakers having only the mini-mid level exception to offer, but executive vice president Jim Buss kept stressing to Kupchak that they had to “make the call.”

After the Nash press conference, we asked Kupchak how the process to acquire Nash began and was ultimately executed. Below are his answers, along with two addition responses to questions about where else L.A. must improve (bench depth) and the difficulty in acquiring star players:

On how the Lakers acquired Steve Nash:
Kupchak: That is very interesting, because beginning with free agency, we always do a list — (Jim Buss and I) work with my staff — of the players that we’re going to contact on July 1 at 12:01 a.m. We always like to call our players that are free agents first, Ramon Sessions and Jordan Hill and players that were on our roster. So we did that, and coincidentally, Steve Nash is also represented by Jordan Hill’s representative. Steve was at the top of our list in terms of point guards, but it never occurred to me that he’d actually be available. All we had was the mini-mid, which is a $3 million exception. Jim Buss kept saying, ‘Hey Mitch, don’t forget to call.’ Of course (Nash) was at the top of our list, and I said, ‘Jim I’m not sure this is something that can even begin to work out.’ But I said, ‘You never know unless you try.’ So when I spoke to Bill Duffy, we talked about Jordan Hill and Steve Nash, and (Duffy’s) first comment was ‘Well Mitch, would you like to speak with (Nash).’ I said ‘Of course.’ And then 10 seconds later, (Nash) was on the phone. (Duffy) was with Steve Nash when I called at 12:01 a.m.; I think they were together in New York. So that doesn’t happen very often. Looking back on it, maybe it was a sign, if you believe in those things. I didn’t hear much for a day or two, and then we got a call from Bill Duffy saying ‘Steve thought about the conversation we had and he’d like to make this work.’ So that started the whole thing with Phoenix in motion.

On how the complicated sign and trade with Phoenix was figured out:
Kupchak: It was a long process. As everybody knows, we used Lamar’s exception*. It had to be a sign and trade. The market for Steve was pretty vibrant out there. He had other options. I believe some of those options would have resulted in more compensation. This was the largest deal that we could offer, provided Phoenix cooperated.
*The Lakers had a large trade exception from a preseason trade that sent Lamar Odom and a second round pick to Dallas for the exception and a first round pick they later moved to Houston.

On the need to improve the bench from where it was last season:
Kupchak: We didn’t have a great bench last year, and I think we have to look to improve our bench a little bit. We have challenges in front of us, and hopefully in the next couple of weeks we’ll be able to figure it out. A lot of it has to do with our coach and how many minutes the guys are going to be playing, of the five starters. One is under 30, and the other four are above 30. I don’t think any of them would ever ask to play less, so we’re going to have to manage minutes. Therefore, you’re going to have to have guys that come off the bench that could do no worse than keep things at the same level they were before the starter’s left the court. You hope to get a player that can add (to the score margin) coming off the bench, so that will be a challenge. The new (CBA restrictions) make it difficult, but we’ll find a way to improve the team.

On the difficulty of acquiring stars in an NBA offseason:
Kupchak: Going into the offseason, every general manager tries to get that one player that can dramatically improve their team. If you can get one every five or seven years you’ve done pretty good. We think we got one this year. You’re asking me if I think we can do that twice?* I’m not sure that’s possible.
*Kupchak was asked about trade rumors surrounding Orlando’s Dwight Howard, but declined to comment.

Kobe talks Team USA on NBATV

During NBATV’s hour-long special on Saturday to announce the 2012 U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball team set for London, Kobe Bryant joined the network’s Matt Winer and Steve Smith, fielding the following questions:

On returning to play for Team USA after winning gold in 2008:
Bryant: It was such a great experience the first time around, just being around the guys, the camaraderie, being a part of the Olympic experience and seeing so many great athletes in their environments. It was just fun to be a part of, so, it was kind of a no-brainer for me to join again.

On playing with a small line up due to the plethora of injuries to big men that won’t be going to London (Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh, LaMarcus Aldridge):
Bryant: You have to make adjustments. That’s all. You have to play to your strengths that you have on your roster, which is our versatility, our speed, causing matchup problems at the other end of the floor. But at the same time, we still have a roster that’s full of great rebounders. We can all rebound the ball; when people talk about size, that’s the first thing that comes to mind, the ability to rebound. We have great rebounders: Chris (Paul) is a phenomenal rebounder, I can rebound, LeBron (James) can rebound, Kevin Love is the best in the league. So we have guys that can crash the boards.

On going through the process a second time for many of the players, referring to the 2008 Olympics and 2010 World Championships:
Bryant: It was comfortable the first time around as well, I just think the second time, we know what to expect form a scheduling perspective, from corporate sponsorships, commitments, things of that nature. With Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski) it’s been a seamless transition from 2008 until now. He’s a great communicator, he’s easy to play for, so it really hasn’t been any type of adjustment required from 2008 until now, it’s just the experience that goes along with it.

On the Lakers and the Clippers building a rivalry, as asked to Bryant and Chris Paul (seated next to him):
Bryant: I’ve been following probably a little bit more aggressively than Chris has because of all the rumors the Lakers have been involved in in terms of trade talks. They’ve obviously made some incredible additions.
Paul: We have our conversations, we talk. We keep our eye on what each other have going on.

Lakers Summer Update – July 6

At least once per summer week, Lakers head athletic trainer Gary Vitti exchanges text messages with every player on L.A.’s roster, just to find out “where they are in the world and what they’re doing.”

On Friday, Vitti gave us an update on some of the players with whom he’s connected in the past day or two:

Kobe Bryant: Ran his camp in Santa Barbara before heading to Las Vegas to join the U.S. Men’s National Team in preparation for the 2012 London Olympics. Vitti texts regularly with Bryant about No. 24′s body, and provided great detail into Bryant’s plans to get the same Orthokine/Regonokine treatment on his knee that was successful last summer either before, during or subsequent to the Olympics.

Pau Gasol: The Spaniard, who turned 32 on Friday just a few days removed from watching his Spanish National Team soccer brothers win the Euro 2012 championship, is already with the hoops national squad prepping for the Olympics. Can we request a Kobe-Pau gold medal game, please?

Andrew Bynum: Training in his Atlanta home working to continually strengthen his knees in particular after a season he came into healthy, remained healthy — missing only one game due to an ankle sprain — and left healthy. Like Bryant, Bynum will go to Germany to look into the same procedure as his All-Star teammate.

Metta World Peace: Vitti sent this message along: “Metta is in Vancouver working hard, and will be heading home to New York City soon.” Before World Peace went north to train, he was seen working out at the team’s practice facility. Last summer, the lockout particularly hurt World Peace, who was unable to rehabilitate an imbalance in his kinetic chain (details to come in a piece with Lakers head physical therapist Dr. Judy Seto) and therefore came into camp hurt and out of shape. By season’s end, thanks in part to Vitti, Seto and strength/conditioning coach Tim DiFrancesco, World Peace was running, cutting and jumping all over the place. Vitti said he looks fantastic.

Christian Eyenga, Andrew Goudelock, Darius Morris: The three youngsters have been into the team’s facility often, working in the weight room with DiFrancesco and on the basketball court (individually only) with player development coach Phil Handy. All three will play in the Las Vegas Summer League alongside rookies Darius Johnson-Odom and Robert Sacre.

Steve Blake and Josh McRoberts, the only other non-free agents* on the current roster, are training regularly as well.
*Free agents: Matt Barnes, Devin Ebanks, Jordan Hill, Troy Murphy, Ramon Sessions

We’ll check back in with Vitti and the players momentarily … the 2012-13 season is only a few months away, folks.

Podcast: Draft Pick Robert Sacre

Former Gonzaga center Robert Sacre, drafted at No. 60 overall last week by the Lakers, has personality all the way up his 7-foot frame.

He showed that off in a phone conversation in which we discussed his hoops journey growing up in Vancouver, what he thinks of fellow 7-footers Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, his tattoos, myriad musical tastes and more.

You can listen by clicking below:

Morris Accepts LAL Offer for 2012-13

Darius Morris accepted the Lakers qualifying offer for 2012-13, which will keep the former second round pick in Los Angeles at least through next basketball season.

Morris, who appeared in 19 games while averaging 2.4 points and 1.1 assists in 8.9 minutes per game as a 21-year-old, improved throughout the season while putting in extra time at the gym – both on the court and in the weight room.

He’s eager to show his improvement at the Las Vegas Summer League, in which L.A. plays its first game on July 13.

“I think summer league will be big for me,” he said at his exit interview. “I think certain teams liked me in the draft, but I’ve gotten way better since then. It’ll be a good experience for me, a good opportunity.”

Morris hopes to earn a larger role in Coach Mike Brown’s rotation next season, but recognizes that he needs to prove why minutes should be his starting in Vegas and moving through the summer and eventually October’s training camp. He feels he’s a step ahead having learned a lot through his rookie season.

“(L.A.) was a great place for me to get introduced to the league, because of the winning basketball,” he explained. “(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.”

Fellow second rounder Andrew Goudelock was already signed through the 2012-13 season as well. Goudelock and Morris will join 2012 second round picks Darius Johnson-Odom and Robert Sacre on the summer league squad, in addition to Christian Eyenga.

Lakers.com will be there to cover the proceedings starting on July 13.

Podcast: Draft Pick Darius Johnson-Odom

After being selected by the Dallas Mavericks with the 55th pick in the NBA Draft and acquired by the Lakers shortly thereafter, Darius Johnson-Odom has had a few days to get everything together in his native North Carolina before hopping a flight to LAX.

DJO joined us from his home to discuss his basketball past, his hopes for the future with the Lakers and more in a summer podcast.

To listen, click below: