Monthly Archive for July, 2013

More (Efficient) Threes to Come?

Los Angeles Lakers v Charlotte BobcatsDuring the 2011-12 season, the Lakers didn’t have a single wing player or guard shoot at least 40 percent from three-point range, with a team bombing rate of just 32.6 percent.

The numbers improved for the better under Mike D’Antoni last season, with a mark of 35.5 percent, buoyed by Steve Nash’s 43.8 and Steve Blake’s 42.1 percent success rate.

Jodie Meeks and his quick release converted at 35.7 percent, while Kobe Bryant was shooting far better than the 32.4 he finished with before an extended slump from deep late in the season.

To this mix, the Lakers add Jordan Farmar, Nick Young, Wesley Johnson and Ryan Kelly.

New Jersey Nets v New York KnicksFarmar hit 44 percent of his triples in 39 games with the Nets in 2011-12 before heading overseas; Young matched the 35.7 percent from Meeks at Philly (and is at 37.4 percent on his career) and the Lakers think Johnson’s smooth stroke could render better than the 32.3 percent he converted last season in Phoenix.

Second round pick Ryan Kelly shot 42.2 percent from three at Duke in his senior season, and should provide some floor spacing as a stretch four if he’s able to earn some minutes.

With a full training camp in D’Antoni’s system coming, the acquired shooters joining what L.A. had in place plus to-be-featured big man Pau Gasol’s interior passing, we could see some strong numbers in 2013-14.

Lakers Three-Point Shooters (2012-13 Percentage)
Jordan Farmar: 44.0 (in 2011-12)
Steve Nash: 43.8 (5th in the NBA)
Ryan Kelly: 42.2 (at Duke)
Steve Blake: 42.1 (13th in the NBA)
Nick Young: 35.7
Jodie Meeks: 35.7
Kobe Bryant: 32.4

Rambis Returns Home to Preach Defense

Minnesota Timberwolves v Golden State WarriorsMike D’Antoni called Kurt Rambis several weeks ago to offer him a job as an assistant coach, generating an almost automatic answer: yes, of course.

Rambis loves the Lakers, having spent so much time in Los Angeles as both a player and a coach, amassing considerable experience – and championship rings – along the way. But this time around, his job description will have one area of particular focus: defense.

“My background is more at the defensive end, and the Lakers obviously had problems at the defensive end last year,” said Rambis on LakersTV. “So hopefully I can bring some ideas and some drills that can help them get on the same page and play a much more consistent game on that end of the floor.”

Rambis and D’Antoni will have to do it without defensive anchor Dwight Howard, of course, but even when Howard was playing better in the later part of the season, the cohesion on team defense in 2012-13 left much to be desired. They ranked only 18th in defensive efficiency in the NBA, allowing 103.6 points per 100 possessions. Rambis hopes having a full training camp that allows the coaching staff to put in a defensive system – notably absent from last season due to the coaching change in November – can make a real difference.

The three-time former Lakers assistant (1994-99, 2001-04 and 2005-09) acknowledged several “ifs” on the roster that mostly describe the health of the older players like Kobe Bryant (recovering from surgery on his Achilles), Pau Gasol (recovering from a knee procedure) and Steve Nash (getting up to 100 percent from various issues). Yet he sees reasons for optimism especially on offense.

“If you look at the offensive capabilities of this team, when you look at Nick Young coming in, Wesley Johnson, (Jordan) Farmar and (Chris) Kaman and how they can assimilate themselves with Kobe, Nash and Pau, there’s a lot of potential out there to be a very good offensive team.

“A lot of floor spacing, guys who can create their own shots, inside play, outside play. If everything works out right, offensively, it should be a good year for the Lakers.”

How does that translate to defense?

“Now it’s just getting offensive oriented-players to focus at the defensive end,” Rambis summarized. “If they can find ways to get stops on a consistent basis, the team will give themselves a chance to win.”

Checking in with the Lakers Video Room


We caught up with Lakers video coordinator Tom Bialaszewski to discuss what it was like working under coach Mike D’Antoni, how the offseason transpires on the court and in the video room and more:

MT: As the team’s video coordinator you’re responsible for all of the edits and scouting that goes on throughout the season, but I know you do more player development work in the offseason. What have the last few weeks been like?
Bialaszewski: You do a little bit of everything. Before Summer League, guys like Robert Sacre were in here every day, and we worked with him on the floor. There’s no scouting to be done right now, so it’s mostly about player development. We had a week’s worth of practices before Summer League began, installing coach (Mike) D’Antoni’s system with those players and with Dan D’Antoni running the team. We were in Las Vegas for the entire Summer League not only to watch and practice with our team, but also to watch a lot of other games to get some familiarity with coaches around the league, what their calls are, what they’re going to run and so on. It’s a more intimate setting there that allows you to sit right behind the coaches since there are no assigned seats. It may not be reflective of the NBA game or what teams will do in the season, but you can get a head start – any information is good information.

MT: It’s a true business trip for you…
Bialaszewski: To me, there’s no reason to be there if you’re not getting something out of it. Whether it’s checking out the new players and their tendencies, players we may not be as familiar with like those that have been in Europe for a couple of years. You don’t know how they’ve honed their games in the meantime. But the good thing about Summer League is you can get as close as you want to get in order to try and get the access; it’s a lot quieter than regular season NBA games, obviously, so you can hear more. I listen for offensive and defensive calls from coaches, and just try to get a feel for what they like to do. There was so much turnover amongst the head coaches this year that it’s important to get a jump start.

MT: Speaking of turnover, you came to L.A. to work for Mike Brown, who was of course fired early in November. I know that’s difficult for the guys like you and the other assistants, but in your case, Mike D’Antoni decided to keep you on staff. How did that changeover go for you?
Bialaszewski: It was great. Honestly, it couldn’t have worked out better. No one really knew what was going to happen, and a lot of people – including myself – were nervous about how it would go. But Mike (D’Antoni) was really easy to get to know, and very early on, he began to ask me for my opinion on things that made me (feel valued). Our relationship took off quicker than my relationship with any other coach has, so it’s just been great for me to work with him.

MT: Was there a certain point during last season where you knew you’d have your job here for 2013-14?
Bialaszewski: There wasn’t necessarily a time where I was sat down and told what was going to happen. I looked at it like an audition for the period of time whenever coach D’Antoni made that decision. I felt like if I had a chance to show him what I could do and what I know, it would all work out. And it did end up working out really well after what was a tense time for a lot of us and our families. Not many of us are from Los Angeles, so that creates some uneasiness, but you just prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

Orlando Magic v Los Angeles Lakers

MT: You spent more time around Mike D’Antoni than most anybody this season. For whatever reason, he’s taken a lot of blame for how the season went. How would you describe him and the job he tried to do?
Bialaszewski: It’s funny, because I was in Vegas last week amongst a lot of NBA personnel from around the league, and talked to many people I’ve gotten to know over the years. The overall theme of the conversations I had with people – and I can’t speak for anyone else – was what a phenomenal job Coach (D’Antoni) did, in terms of with the injuries, with no training camp, with how the star players fit together. To me, he did as good a job as he could have. Obviously the results weren’t what people expect in L.A., but at the same time, when we got it together, we were pretty darn good (28-12 to close the season) until Kobe (Bryant) went down, and Steve (Nash) and the rest of the backcourt went down. Even that first game against San Antonio, I felt like we were right there. So Coach is great – he has a lot of basketball experience, a great basketball mind, and I don’t suspect that there will be any issues going forward.

MT: What’s the difference in how you do your job under D’Antoni from Brown?
Bialaszewski: One of the main differences is how we watched film as a staff. Coach Brown would come in and we wouldn’t necessarily throw the game on and start at the jump ball – he came in with his idea of what he wanted, and he’d generally have 20-40 clips picked out before he even walked in the building. With coach D’Antoni, we watch just as much film as a staff, but we watch more collectively as a discussion of what everyone sees and what we’re going to show the team that day. We watch a little bit more game flow, vs. the 15 offensive clips and 15 defensive clips coach Brown might show. It’s just a different way of doing it, but it’s all the same stuff.

MT: Finally, Tom, what happens from here until training camp?
Bialaszewski: This is the quiet period here and everywhere. Guys typically start filtering in right after Labor Day, when you go full on for five or six days a week with guys working out. Coach D’Antoni will get to implement things in his system that weren’t able to be worked in last season with a group of guys you know will be in your camp, and that builds through September into training camp so you have a running start.

Lakers Introduce Wesley Johnson

johnsonmedia_ts2One way to amass some young talent despite the roster/salary cap limitations of the Lakers: recruit players with something to prove (a love for the franchise doesn’t hurt, either).

By signing 2010 No. 4 overall pick Wesley Johnson, who underachieved given that draft slot in two years with Minnesota and one in Phoenix, they definitely got the “something to prove” part.

“I think this is probably one of the most important seasons of my life,” he relayed. Johnson also happens to be a purple and gold fan.

“This is a dream come true,” said Johnson, who grew up loving the Lakers thanks to a certain player that shared his family name. “Since I was younger at eight or nine years old, I always wanted to be a Laker.”

Johnson has struggled through portions of his early career on two young teams with few veterans from whom to learn. He said he’s eager to learn from Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol, and feels he’s developed his game considerably of late.

“I think my game catapulted this whole summer,” he said. “I’ve been in the gym non stop working on everything, as far as conditioning, ball-handling, shooting, agility and everything. I’ve matured a whole lot.”

Last season in Phoenix, Johnson saw some good minutes in March and April, producing the following numbers:

March: 30 minutes; 13.2 points; 3.5 rebounds; 1.2 steals; 41.5% FG’s; 34.7% 3′s
April: 27 minutes; 12.9 points; 3.1 rebounds; 0.1 steals; 46.2$ FG’s; 29.3% 3′s

Johnson’s hopeful that playing in coach Mike D’Antoni’s system will play to his strengths as a long, 6-7 athlete who likes getting up and down in transition. L.A. would surely like to see a rise in those shooting numbers, which given his stroke, should rise with teammates that draw double teams consistently – something he couldn’t take for granted in Minnesota or Phoenix.

“Wesley is a young, athletic player who runs the floor well and is an excellent defender,” said Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak. “He’s a developing player who we think could become a good NBA player for years to come. He’s also a great kid and we’re happy to add him to our team.”

Lakers Beat Bucks in Vegas Playoffs

Los Angeles Lakers v Los Angeles ClippersL.A.’s summer league squad earned the eighth seed out of 22 teams after going 2-1 in pool play, pitting them against the ninth-seeded Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday at 1:30 p.m. from Vegas.

We took some notes as the Lakers aimed to advance into the next round of the new playoff format:

- Marcus Landry, who had played very well in leading the Lakers in scoring through the first three games, drained a three-pointer to make it a 14-12 lead. As head advanced pro scout Clay Moser said, shooting the triple is actually one of his best skills, impressive for a guy who plays aggressively like a undersized power forward.
- But it was the Bucks who got hot from three (Northwestern alum John Shurna hit consecutive triples) and elsewhere to finish the quarter with a 24-18 lead, thanks in part to lottery pick Drew Henson’s eight points and five boards.

Los Angeles Lakers v Los Angeles ClippersSECOND QUARTER NOTES:
- L.A. struggled on offense for much of the quarter, but was terrific on defense, and thus staying in the game despite as many as a nine-point deficit. Chris Douglas-Roberts was all over the place on the perimeter and Robert Sacre clogging the paint and contesting shots at the rim.
- The D continued to excel in the second, Milwaukee managing only seven points in the period, and shots started to drop for the purple and gold, enough to produce a 14-2 run and a 36-31 halftime advantage.

- How do you build a seven-point lead while shooting 34 percent from the field? Defense. The Lakers continued to contest everything, with Landry and Elias Harris joining Lester Hudson, CDR and Sacre’s consistent activity.
- Lazar Hayward didn’t play in the first half, but put up five quick points in the third period to help keep the Lakers in front. Milwaukee, however, did find its range on offense once L.A.’s starters sat down, rallying to tie the game at 52 before a buzzer-beating put-back from Landry put L.A. up two heading into the fourth.

- The third triple from Landry got the lead back for L.A., at 57-56, after Henson continued to play well for Milwaukee. Yet the Lakers starters would be returning shortly, and they’d had little trouble controlling the game. Would it continue towards a win?
- Indeed it would. A key defensive play from CDR and resulting and-1 from Sacre secured the lead in the final moments, with a 72-68 final score line vaulting the 3-1 Lakers into the semi finals.

Sacre finished with 16 points and eight boards, Landry 18 points and six boards, and Douglas-Roberts seven points with his game-best +14.

Summer League: Player Breakdown

Los Angeles Lakers v Los Angeles ClippersThe NBA’s Summer League in Las Vegas provides a terrific opportunity for young – or unheralded – players to show their skills to a captive audience of league executives, who are certainly paying close attention.

To get a better idea of what the players composing L.A.’s roster have showed thus far, we spent some time with Clay Moser, the team’s head advanced pro scout and an assistant coach on the summer league staff.

During the NBA season, it’s Moser’s job to travel ahead of the team and evaluate both individual players and opponent schemes, so this task was right up his alley. Below is a transcript of our conversation about the 14 players wearing purple and gold in Vegas:

Portland Trail Blazers v Los Angeles LakersCHRIS DOUGLAS-ROBERTS: Chris is a guy that’s certainly had some outstanding performances at the NBA level, and a nice year in the D-League last year. He’s been really good for us here despite hurting his ankle in our first game, and I know that bothered him in the second game. He bounced back and played really well in our third game. We’ve talked to him about trying to be a leader, body language and interaction with referees and that sort of thing because his playing ability speaks for itself, and he’s made a real, concerted effort. He’s been really good. He does a lot of things really well but nothing particularly great. He’s a decent three-point shooter and a good mid-range player but not a great shooter or mid-range player. He’s a willing defender, but not a great defender. Everybody liked him last year in (Lakers) training camp.

ELIAS HARRIS:: He’s a really nice young player with great size, good athleticism that we think can play at least three positions in the NBA. He shoots the ball better than what he’s shown here in Las Vegas, and he can also get to the basket. We’d like to see him rebound with a little more tenacity. But he’s a nice kid, takes coaching and certainly is deserving of a camp invite in the fall whether it’s from us – and I can’t speak to that* – or someone else.
*Moser noted that Mitch Kupchak and his front office staff will make all of those decisions, and that he’s simply saying Harris and other players on the roster have the talent to get camp invites from an NBA team.

LAZAR HAYWARD: I put him in the category of a game changer from this perspective: he’s a non-traditional type of player, and when he comes in he’s a whirlwind of activity. Sometimes that goes in your facor, and sometimes his over-aggressiveness, over-pursuit of the ball, over-helping can hurt you and sometimes it can help you. In this particular setting, it’s helped us tremendously. He’s been great, he’s fun to be around and very coachable. He turned our second game against Portland in the second quarter almost single-handedly with steals and deflections, and then he made some shots on top of it. He has been on NBA rosters and is another guy who will likely be in training camp with somebody.

LESTER HUDSON: He’s played really well, and has shot the ball well in the second two games as our starting point guard despite a slow shooting start in our opener. He makes the defense pay if they make a mistake, and is a willing defender. Lester’s an extraordinarily strong human being, just built like a brick house. He doesn’t have the greatest quickness in the world for his position, but he’s been on an NBA roster and has had solid D-League time; expect to see him in a camp somewhere.

TRAVIS HYMAN: Travis didn’t get in the third game, but had an outstanding camp before we came to Vegas. We feel bad for Travis because he has not played as well as his camp indicated he would. He’s an excellent passer with a terrific low-post game who can shoot the ball with either hand, block a few shots and rebound. We’re disappointed he has not played like he did in camp, because he was terrific.

MARCUS LANDRY: He’s leading us in scoring, and that without shooting a terrific percentage from three even though that’s what he does best. We actually don’t know what position he plays. Nobody does. For us, he’s really played anywhere from a 3 to a 5. Mike and Dan had him in New York with the Knicks and I had the very distinct pleasure of coaching him in the D-League for 50 games with Reno three seasons ago, and we played him at all five positions. His best position is probably the four, even though size wise that’s a tough place for him. But he can defend most 4′s because he’s very strong, and he’ll make extraordinary basketball plays. He’s just a winner, in my opinion. He’s a great kid. We think he’ll be in a camp somewhere, as well. He’s been way too good here for that not to happen. He needs an exact fit, I think, but is a good enough basketball player to be (at the NBA level).

Los Angeles Lakers v Cleveland CavaliersROBERT SACRE: Robert is a work in progress. He is a worker who accepts coaching and tries very, very hard. We’d like to see him increase the tempo at which he plays the game so that it catches up with the NBA style of play. But he certainly keeps himself in good shape, his body fat is extremely low, and he plugs away at it every day. I’m not sure you’ll see improvement by leaps and bounds, but rather in baby steps day to day. But at his size, you can afford to make a long-term commitment to him. It’s the old adage in basketball that bigger guys take longer to develop than small guys and I think Robert fits into that mold. He’s a great kid, very coachable.

D.J. SEELEY: He’s another guy we’re a little surprised he hasn’t played better since he’s gotten here, because he had a great camp … but he has had a hard time getting the ball to go in the basket in Vegas. He’s really a combo guard who, size wise, would be best served to make the transition to the one, so that’s an adjustment for (a ton of players). It’s not the ideal spot because we have other guys on this roster that are in between the one and two. He’s a better player than what he’s shown, but he is a guy who’s going to make a living playing basketball somewhere for as long as he feels like doing it.

JOSH SELBY: Obviously a big-time recruit that went to Kansas and has not yet found his rhythm at the NBA level. He’s extremely talented, unbelievable with the ball in terms of probing the defense; he has a real nice rhythm and knack to the way he does things. But he has also not gotten untracked here. He’s not shot it well, but particularly in the first two games, we did feel he actually played well but it didn’t look like it on the box score. In terms of how he ran the team and defended, the things that don’t show up, we felt like he did well. Talent wise, he belongs in somebody’s camp in September.

Rio Grande Valley Vipers v Idaho StampedeMICHAEL SNAER: He plays with a real intensity, and he plays at NBA speed right now. He has that kind of athleticism, he runs the floor, he’ll attack the basket and is a decent shooter that will get better and better as time goes on. He’s very coachable and has gotten better since he got here, and is a guy that will get in and rebound for his position. He’s another guy I can’t see not being in camp in September.

DREW VINEY: I think his place in domestic pro basketball would be as a sniper, a poor man’s Steve Novak, if there can be a poor man’s Steve Novak. We feel he’d need to be a guy that plays with no conscience, and if he misses his previous five shots he thinks the next 15 will go in. He needs to get rid of the ball quickly, just let it fly. He’s improved as a defender since we’ve had him in training camp and in the little bit of time he’s gotten at summer league has adapted to the physicality of the game better than he did in on day one. Nice kid.

MITCHELL WATT: Mitchell is a really good athlete who runs the floor, has nice size and is probably a true power forward. Another guy that played much better in camp than he has here for whatever reason. He started our first game but hasn’t been quite able to get it rolling. However, he’s another guy who can play ball for money somewhere in the world. He’s another great kid who’s easy to be around.

JORDAN WILLIAMS: He hasn’t gotten a lot of time since we’ve been here, but we also know that he had a fairly significant double-double playing for the Nets at one point. He’s capable and gets to the glass well, but in my opinion, he needs to develop something signature about his game that sticks. At this moment, I’m not sure he possesses that. He’s a good all-around player and great kid.

RENALDO WOOLRIDGE: Great, great athlete. Probably the best pure athlete we have on the team, but he’s going to need some time to grow in the professional game. He has a typical small forward body in the NBA, but needs some time to learn the X’s and O’s, defensive rotations and positioning, and things along those lines to get to the next level.

Summer League: LAL Beat LAC

blog_130715huddleHello and welcome to Summer League in Las Vegas, where the Lakers drew the Clippers in their third game after splitting their opening two contests.

We took some notes from a courtside perch at the Cox Pavilion for the edification of those interested in potential 2013-14 end-of-roster hopefuls*:
*Robert Sacre, a rookie last season, is the only member of the Summer League roster currently under contract.

- The early standout was Chris Douglas-Roberts, who scored seven points in the first three minutes, already surpassing his individual totals from the first two contests (In related news: CDR was plagued by an ankle injury he suffered in Game 1). After a nifty finish at the room and two free throws, Douglas-Roberts drained a triple to make it a 10-2 Lakers lead.
- After that hot start, the Lakers cooled considerably, and the Clips took advantage to take a 21-18 lead out of the first. Among those watching from the bench: second round pick Ryan Kelly, the No. 48 overall pick in June’s Draft, sitting as he recovers from foot surgery (the Duke product says he’s close to full health).

- Sacre was pretty quiet inside, missing his only shot attempt, but he did hit all four of his free throws. He’s moving his feet a bit better than last season, but still struggles to keep up at times. In fact, one reason he took those four free throws is he didn’t get the ball up quickly enough, instead loading up to brace for contact.
- Marcus Landry (five points, three boards) and Lester Hudson (eight points, four boards, two assist) were effectively active, while sub Michael Snaer used his nine minutes to notch seven points with five boards, including a hammer dunk early in the second, and two of three free throws to close the half when he drew a foul with 0.02 on the clock. As such, the Lakers took a 42-40 lead into the tunnel.

- With Dan D’Antoni implementing as much of his brother’s system as possible in the limited time frame with new players, one obvious focus is the 1-in, 4-out method that encourages ball movement and flow on offense. The key is having a mobile 4 man that can still guard power forwards on the other end, and Elias Harris was playing pretty well in that slot. His eight points and two assists helped L.A. build a 48-43 lead halfway through the third.
- CDR continued to show some nice skills on offense, reaching 11 points on a pair of free throws, the Lakers improving to 14 o 16 at the stripe compared to the modest 6 of 11 from the Clips, those eight points on the line the difference in the game with 2:47 left (52-44 LAL).
- Marcus Landry stepped up late in the quarter to score four straight points, and Lazar Hayward added two free throws in the final minute to cap a 6-0 run allowing the Lakers to match their biggest lead of the night at nine, 58-49, heading into the fourth period.

- L.A. was getting to the hoop with ease throughout the evening, a trend that continued in the fourth when two Douglas-Roberts assists got Landry (13 points) and Harris buckets at the rim, allowing a 65-53 lead halfway through the fourth.
- All but Sacre hit double figures among the starters, who pretty easily controlled things down the stretch as they had throughout, the lead swelling to as many as 21 points when Sacre scored off the fourth CDR assist. The drive-and-kick game was working all night, as either CDR, Landry or Hudson broke down the defense before scoring at the rim or finding a teammate, while consistently active D kept the Clippers at bay.

The final: 77-65, Purple and Gold. Landry had 16 points on 12 shots, Hudson 13 with nine boards and four dimes and CDR 12 with four assists of his own. Harris added 12 points and four boards.

Ultimately, the Lakers had little trouble aside from a slow close to the first quarter, allowing a 2-1 record that likely will secure a top 10 seed in the brand-new bracket style playoffs instituted by the NBA for this summer.

Ryan Kelly Injury Update

Ryan Kelly Media AvailabilityLakers Injury Report sponsored by UCLA Health SystemLakers forward Ryan Kelly had his right foot examined on Monday. The examination was performed by Dr. Kenneth Jung, a foot specialist of the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic.

The diagnosis from the CT scan was that Kelly is a minimum of 6 weeks from being cleared for running and jumping.

Kelly underwent surgery on his right foot on April 9th, 2013. He was drafted with the 48th pick in the 2013 NBA Draft by the Lakers after spending 4 years at Duke.

Related Links
Ryan Kelly Injury Update
VIDEO: Kupchak on Kelly

Video Links: 1-on-1 with Kobe Bryant

kobe_blogLast week, we spent some extended time with Kobe Bryant in a 1-on-1 setting at the Lakers practice facility, shooting the interview in the D-Fenders locker room.

We broke the interview down into three parts (click on the links to watch):

Part I: His Achilles
- Bryant called his Achilles “really strong,” detailed his day-to-day rehabilitation process with Lakers head physical therapist Dr. Judy Seto, discussed why he’s confident he’ll come back as the same effective player and guessed at his return date.

Part II: Dwight Howard
- Bryant revealed the reasons why he hopes Howard chooses to return to the Lakers, the importance of letting Howard come to the decision on his own as opposed to “convincing” him and described what it’s meant to him playing for the Lakers for 17 seasons.

Part III: His Legacy
- In the final chapter, Bryant discusses how long he thinks he can continue to play at an elite level (three years at least, which is somewhat of a revelation as he’d as recently as last season discussed retirement after his contract is up in 2014), reveals his all-time starting five, explains to what degree rings tell the story for a player’s legacy, talks about how the game has developed in his 17 years in the league and more.