Monthly Archive for September, 2013

How will Gasol, Hill and Kaman Fit Together?

Los Angeles Lakers Media DayA common question throughout training camp will be who starts alongside Pau Gasol. Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni has yet to delve into specifics, but noted how both Jordan Hill and Chris Kaman could complement the 7-foot Spaniard.

“Pau can play with anybody,” D’Antoni said. “He’s so skilled that he makes everybody look good with his passing. You can play Jordan who is more of a runner and slasher or you can play Kaman who is more of a catch-and-shoot kind of guy. They’ll all fit in real well together.”

Hill, who underwent surgery on his left hip and missed 53 games last year, noted he’s more confident in his jump shot from 15-17 feet now, but will largely focus on what he’s provided for the team in limited playing time.

“Pau and Chris are great, great big men,” Hill said. “They can score. I’m not looking to score as much as they are. I’m going to still do what I’ve been doing since I’ve been here – rebounding, defending, a lot of energy and running the floor.”

The focus hasn’t just been on the offensive side of the ball, but also on the other end. Looking ahead, the coaching staff believes it’ll be a collective effort this season, and Hill remains optimistic everybody is up for the challenge.

“We just have to help each other out,” Hill said. “That was our problem last season. Not everybody was on the same page last season. We just have to buckle down this year.”

As for Kaman, he’s a career 48.5 percent shooter, and someone who can space the floor. Last season in Dallas, Kaman converted on 51.4 percent of his shots from 15-19 feet. But with three practices under their belt, the Michigan native doesn’t foresee how the three bigs will mesh just yet and doesn’t want to get too ahead of himself.

“At this point, it’s still undetermined what the lineups are going to be,” Kaman said. “Who knows what the lineup will be, who knows if we’ll go big or small. For me, learning this offense is an adjustment. A lot of my stuff has been slow down and half court. This is more transition, open court, pick-and-roll, dives. There’s going to be an adjustment period for a lot of guys, but I feel pretty comfortable so far.”

D’Antoni Addresses Impact of Training Camp

blog_130929dantoniAt the conclusion of the Lakers morning practice session, coach Mike D’Antoni addressed several questions centered around the impact of what a full training camp will do for the team. D’Antoni has yet to determine who will start alongside Gasol and Nash (should Kobe Bryant not be ready for the season opener). But with a full training camp to implement the system he never was able to fully use last season, D’Antoni remains optimistic of what the team will be able to accomplish in the days leading to the season opener. Below are his comments:

Q: On the biggest thing he’s trying to accomplish during the preseason:
D’Antoni: The biggest thing is trying to put in everything we do. We try to teach them everything first and then we’ll break it down each day. Yesterday was just devoted to how we want to play offensively and defensively, and today we’ll start breaking down segments of it.

Q: On the two-a-day practices the Lakers will hold during training camp:
D’Antoni: The mornings are used to teach them and a lot of individual shooting. At night, we’ll do a lot of scrimmaging.

Q: On not having Gasol and Nash out on the floor considering what they’re trying to accomplish:
D’Antoni: Pau (Gasol) was out there yesterday. I just won’t let him and Steve Nash do two-a-days. They know what we’re trying to do. They were in the film room. I jus didn’t want them to push it early. They could have gone if they needed to.

Q: On how much of what he is implementing now repetition of last year and how much is new:
D’Antoni: Most of it we didn’t get to because we didn’t have any basics last year. We told them the whole course last year but we couldn’t break it down. These guys have been going 90 percent for the last month and a half of what the little things we’re doing now, so it’s pretty smooth and they’re pretty far along.

Q: On the similarities and differences of what he will be running with this team as opposed to what he did in Phoenix:
D’Antoni: Everything is going to be the same we did in Phoenix. We might do it a different speed. That speed is determined by the players, which is fine, but the basic principles are all the same. We’re moving the ball, getting wide-open shots, and hopefully we make it.

Q: On how difficult it is to implement everything with certain players out:
D’Antoni: We don’t. We don’t have them out. Pau and Steve are going to do everything. They’re only going to miss stuff they don’t need to do. Kobe is the only one out and we don’t know when he’ll be back.

Q: On monitoring Nash’s minutes:
D’Antoni: I don’t know if it’s him missing games every once in awhile instead of (limiting) minutes, so we’ll have to figure that out. But you can’t expect him to play 35 minutes for 82 games. We’ll start from there and we’ll see where we go. We’ll build him up and some games he’ll play more, and some games he’ll play less. Some games he’ll take a break so we’ll see.

Q: On playing Steve Blake alongside Nash at shooting guard:
D’Antoni: We’ll see. That’s what preseason is for, to determine who will start. There’s a lot of guys battling for time and positions. Steve is going to be a big part of it no matter what he does, and we’ll see if that means starting. But there’s no reason why he wouldn’t start, but there’s also some other guys who might have something to say about it.

Q: On who he sees playing alongside Pau Gasol this season:
D’Antoni: Pau can play anywhere. He can play with (Chris) Kaman, he can play with Jordan (Hill), he can play with Shawne Williams, he can play with a stretch four or big four. Whether it’s four or five, in our system, it doesn’t mean anything. Kaman can make 15-foot jump shots or Pau can post up. Pau can make 15-foot jump shots or Kaman can post up. They’re a pretty good complement.

Q: On if it’s harder to build a team concept with guys on one-year deals:
D’Antoni: Actually I think it’s easier because we have good guys that know they won’t have success without the help of the other guys. So they’re very attentive in what we’re doing and they’re trying to buy in. It’s really good. We have a bunch of good guys. Whether they’re on their last year or not, they’re coming to play because they love to play basketball, and you can see it in them. It’s a nice atmosphere.

Q: On the team chemistry/vibe of the guys around now:
D’Antoni: Oh yeah, you’d have to ask the guys. But Steve Nash told me it’s a little bit different. I said: “Yeah, it feels different.”

Q: On what has stood out to him the first two days of training camp:
D’Antoni: Our shooting is a lot better. Our shooting is much better. Steve Blake has been playing unbelievable, Wes Johnson’s length and athleticism and Nick Young’s ability to score. There’s been a lot of good stuff. We just have to put it all together.

Healthy Gasol, Nash to be Protected in Camp

nashPerhaps the biggest and most unfortunate storyline of the 2012-13 season in Los Angeles was the Murphy’s Law progression of injuries. Every key player, let alone the head coach, had a major injury that ultimately derailed L.A.’s late push when Kobe Bryant tore his Achilles on April 12.

Bryant remains on the shelf with no set timetable to return as he continues rehabilitation, but Pau Gasol and Steve Nash — L.A.’s other two key pieces — have started camp in better health than they were able to achieve last season.

Nash suffered a fracture in his leg in just the second game of the season, and wasn’t able to stay ahead of back/hamstring/nerve issues that emerged when he returned in late December and plagued him throughout the season.

Gasol had a plethora of problems, including a concussion, a tear of his plantar fascia and tendonosis in both knees that required an offseason procedure from which he’s been rehabilitating.

L.A.’s approach with both players will to be to limit their overall exertion in training camp while getting them enough reps to get in game shape and get integrated with their teammates. It’s way too early to tell how that will work for either player, but significantly, both are in solid shape thus far.

“Pau was out there (Saturday),” said Mike D’Antoni. “I just won’t let him and Steve Nash do two-a-days. They know what we’re trying to do. They were in the film room. I just didn’t want them to push it early. They could have gone if they needed to.”

That’s all well and good for Gasol and Nash.

“I feel good,” said Nash. “At this time of year, I need to play and get reps, but obviously find a balance between overdoing it as well … It obviously gets a little more difficult in that you have to be more thorough the older you get, and obviously, I don’t want to discount there’s a factor with age as much as I don’t want to indulge in that. I still feel really capable, positive and optimistic, especially at the start of the season.”

“I was cleared to (practice) and the doctors gave me the (OK) I was ready to do it,” added Gasol. “Now it’s just absorbing the load that I put myself through out there, and going day by day … I don’t think I’ll ever be 100 percent anymore, but I think I’ll be a lot better than I was last year and that will be a big improvement.”

Starting To Put In The System:
Installing a system of play on both ends of the court has been something Mike D’Antoni and his coaching staff have been very much looking forward to for months, particularly since last season didn’t afford the same opportunity.

Camp started on Saturday night and continued into Sunday morning’s session at the team’s practice facility, with an emphasis on general teaching as is consistent for most teams.

“The biggest thing is trying to put in everything we do,” said D’Antoni. “We try to teach them everything first and then we’ll break it down each day. Yesterday was just devoted to how we want to play offensively and defensively, and today we’ll start breaking down segments of it.”

In essence, the morning sessions are for film and the putting in of various sets and schemes. At night, the players scrimmage. The fact that nearly the entire roster has been at the facility playing games and working out for most of September has aided the process.

“These guys have been going 90 percent for the last month, so it’s pretty smooth and they’re pretty far along,” said the coach. “Everything is going to be the same we did in Phoenix. We might do it a different speed. That speed is determined by the players, which is fine, but the basic principles are all the same. We’re moving the ball, getting wide-open shots, and hopefully we make it.”

Media Day Vines

D’Antoni Transcript, Media Day 2013

blog_130928dantoniLakers coach Mike D’Antoni addressed assembled media members during the Lakers annual media day. He gave his thoughts on his expectations for the team on offense, monitoring Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash’s minutes during the year, what he expects from Jordan Farmar and what a full training camp and preseason will do for the coaching staff and the players. Below is a transcription of his comments:

Q: On how this team will look on offense:
D’Antoni: Every team has a level of running that we do. We will find that level and stick with it. We have guys we can go big and we can go small, we have a lot of guys that can go down the floor. We can play at a little more up-tempo game. I think the biggest thing is that Pau will be in the center a lot more, which is his more natural position. He can play anywhere, but he’s a devastating center in the league, and always has been. He can get back to his natural position more times. Our bench is strong and we have a lot more depth than last year. We got point guards – not only Steve Nash and Steve Blake, but we’ve added (Jordan) Farmar, so that’s better. There’s a lot of good things that can happen and we’re excited about the possibilities, and (we’ll) try to overachieve.

Q: On what he’s looking for in Jordan Farmar this year:
D’Antoni: We were lucky to get someone of that quality who has been here before, that knows how to play in the city and the bright lights, someone who is extremely talented and who has gotten better over the years, and has won two championships. There’s a lot of reasons why we wanted him, and we added more depth. There’s a lot of guys at that position, there’s a lot of guys that need to play and want to play, but it all seems to work out, and I think he’s excited to be in here, and I’m excited to have him.

Q: On managing Kobe’s minutes whether that be in practices and games:
D’Antoni: Well, practice is not hard. The games are a little bit tougher. Like we do all the time, we’ll sit down and talk and see how he feels. Gary (Vitti) will (take care) of the medical side of it and then make a decision together. He has a big voice in it. He’s earned that right, he knows his body better than anybody. We will try to get him to be prudent about it and make sure that we’re doing the right thing, but again, you’re not commanding anybody to do anything. You sit down and try to work with people, and try to find the best rhythm for him.

Q: On the lowered expectations this year:
D’Antoni: Yeah, the expectations are down. Obviously we have some question marks. That’s why people either put us down at 12th like ESPN. That happens. It doesn’t really affect what we do or our mindset. Our mindset is to overachieve and to build this team as strong as it can (be). In the NBA, everybody has talent. You don’t get to the NBA unless you’re a talented basketball player. We have a lot of talent on this team. Hopefully we have a little bit of a chip on our shoulder. I’m sure Steve Nash , Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant, the question mark is one’s coming back form injury, one’s older, one’s this, one’s that, but you don’t find any better players in there. Let’s just try to get them healthy, keep them healthy and then see what happens.

Q: On how much different it’ll be with Pau at center as opposed to Dwight:
D’Antoni: You know. You just look at it. It’ll be different. Pau is probably the best offensive center in the league and the most talented big guy in the league. All of a sudden, he’s in his natural position where he’ll feel good about it. We’ll have to collectively defend better as a team. There’s a lot of things we’ll change and hopefully for the better.

Q: On the seriousness of Kobe’s injury and how he sees him adjusting his game when he comes back:
D’Antoni: I don’t think anybody knows. He doesn’t even know. He won’t know until he gets back on the court and we see it. It’ll be something we watch day to day. Hopefully there’s no adjustment. Hopefully he’s the same before it happened but I guarantee he will find a way to be effective. What that is, we’ll see.

Q: On limiting Steve Nash’s minutes during the season:
D’Antoni: We’ll talk about it. We’ll see how he feels. Obviously we have to do something there, whether it’s back to backs or whether it’s a little bit more limited per game, something when we get through camp, and see where he is physically, then we’ll make those decisions going forward.

Q: On whether he expects Kobe to be ready for any preseason games:
D’Antoni: I am not expecting it. He’s going to try everything he can to get back as soon as he can. I don’t think there’s a timetable or day. I have no idea. Nobody knows. He’s just going to take it day by day and try to get it better. Doctors will let him know and he’ll let them know.

Q: On whether Kobe is starting to run now:
D’Antoni: He’s running on the AlterG (anti-gravity) treadmill. He might be running at 80 percent of his weight. I don’t know.

Q: On whether it’ll be difficult to have the rest of the team to buy into the system with Kobe’s return uncertain:
D’Antoni: I don’t think it’s a problem for them to buy in. They’re more excited because there’s more room for them to play. They’re excited for it and we know how important Kobe is. As a player, you have a unique opportunity to show or do. They’re excited about attacking the season, and we know Kobe will be back, and we can’t wait till it happens.

Q: On if he’ll be surprised at what level Kobe comes back:
D’Antoni: Maybe the level with anybody. But not when or how. The thing is it doesn’t matter if he does or not. We can’t control that. He’s going to do everything he can to come back as soon as he can, and at the best level he can, so we’ll have to see how that unfolds.

Q: On the health of Steve Nash, and whether he’s 100 percent:
D’Antoni: You have to ask him, but I think so. He said he was 100 percent, so he looked good scrimmaging the last few days, so I would think so.

Q: On if he felt like he was able to implement his system last season:
D’Antoni: You just try to find what the team functions better at and we got to a pretty good level at the end. The last month or two I thought our offense was doing OK. Whether it was the way I liked to play or not is irrelevant. We’re going to have to play to the strengths of the team and get them to be efficient as they can. Every team has a rhythm they run to. Whether I like to run a little faster or not, it doesn’t really matter. It’s what the players can do, and we will adjust to find their strengths, and go with that rhythm.

Q: On what it will be like having a full training camp and preseason for the team:
D’Antoni: The difference is we don’t have to hunt and peck and go through people’s personalities and figure out what gets them going and what doesn’t. It’s been a month since we’ve been with the players. You also find out what works and what doesn’t not when they’re putting up W’s and L’s; it’s during preseason and you try different things without getting clobbered because you lost the game. It’s a natural process that’s going to take 30-40 days to figure out how to play the team the best we can at the level we need to play.

Bryant Transcript, Media Day 2013

blog_130928kobeLakers guard Kobe Bryant addressed assembled media members during the Lakers annual media day. He answered questions about his health, his outlook on the season and what he expects out of some of the new additions on the team. Below is a transcription of his comments:

Q: On why he continues to play basketball, even after an injury like this:
Bryant: I enjoy playing. That’s the thing, I just love the game of basketball and I love everything that comes along with it. It’s very easy for me to get up in the morning and get to work.

Q: On his rehab during the summer:
Bryant: I’ve been here with Judy. Judy, she’s traveled with me absolutely everywhere and I’ve been with her here every single morning throughout the course of the summer, so it’s been good.

Q: On if this team will play with a chip on their shoulder considering where pundits believe they’ll finish:
Bryant: It comes with the territory. When you hear people always singing your praises, you got to find a chip from somewhere. So I think every team tries to do that. For us, I just think it’s very easy to find that chip.

Q: On the team’s expectations this year:
Bryant: Our expectations are always the same going into every single season: It’s to improve every day with the goal in mind of winning a championship. It doesn’t matter what anybody else is saying, that’s the goal that we have. But the only way that you can do that is by coming out every single day and putting the work in and understanding each other and how to support each other and things like that.

Q: On when he expects to return from his injury:
Bryant: My goal is to play tonight. So, it’s about being smart about it and pacing it the right way and just seeing how it does. It’s really a strength thing now and just seeing how the explosiveness holds up and how the recovery holds up after that.

Q: On his progression from when he first tore the Achilles till now:
Bryant: Everybody was really concerned about this injury, and so was I, but the procedure and the therapy right afterwards and things like that really got me ahead of the curve so, it feels like the hard part’s over.

Q: On jumping off the diving board in his Vine video:
Bryant: That was fun. I got out and I jumped again. I just didn’t Vine that one. I felt great. I just wanted to go out and have fun. I was going to do a flip, but I said, ‘Nah, I probably shouldn’t.’

Q: On how far along he is in his rehab:
Bryant: I’m not really sure how to answer that question. I feel good. I don’t think we really have a particular timetable as far as where I should be right now, but I’m feeling good.

Q: On how of this injury is more mental compared to the physical aspect of it:
Bryant: The mental aspect of it I don’t concern myself too much with. I can’t do anything about it. If I’m going to hurt something, I’m going to hurt something so I don’t waste my time really thinking about that. But, I do need to get in shape. I will get in shape. It doesn’t take me too long to do that. I really work hard at it and when I get back out there on the court, I’ll be good to go. I don’t think I’ve ever really played a season where I’m 100 percent, so, 78 (percent) is fine.

Q: On if he’ll wait till he sees his team needs him or will he completely wait till he’s ready to go:
Bryant: I’ll wait until I’m ready and then I’ll get out there and go. Like I said, expectations are to win a championship. That’s our expectations. So, if we’re struggling and I can’t go because I’m not physically ready, I’m not going to jump out there. If it’s ready, I’ll be out there. If it’s not, I won’t.

Q: On the next step for him in his rehab:
Bryant: Getting out and doing some defensive work and doing some running on the court. Kind of doing conditioning a little bit.
Just doing some of the ladder drills, I’ve been on the court a little bit. But nothing more besides that.

Q: On if he’s off the AlterG (anti-gravity) treadmill yet:
Bryant: Not running full sprints. Not yet.

Q: On if he’s drawn any inspiration from athletes who have dealt with a similar injury:
Bryant: There’s a lot of guys I’ve spoken to who have had this injury, David Beckham in particular, he came back just fine, won multiple championships after that. So, I can draw from that a little bit.

Q: On if he feels any pressure to return sooner for this team:
Bryant: I’m not really feeling pressure from it. I know what we can do. I feel very comfortable. I feel very poised about it. I think the team feels the same way. I’m not really concerned.

Q: On the numerous offseason additions:
Bryant: We filled the holes we were weak at last year in terms of length and athleticism and covering ground, especially defensively. When you have those guys that have that length and that speed and can close out to shooters and then shut down penetration on the rotation, it makes a big, big difference.

Q: On the importance of the numerous guys returning:
Bryant: It’s guys that kind of understand each other already and then you’re bringing in the new guys, but because of the relationship that we’ve had in the past, we already have an idea of what our culture is. So, now it’s just bringing the new guys into that.

Q: On some of the new offseason additions and what they can provide defensively:
Bryant: I think you got to look at Nick Young, you got to look at Wesley Johnson and teaching them the fundamental skills and kind of the intelligence of how to play angles defensively. So it’s on us to kind of train them up a little bit, it’s on me to kind of teach them various things and tricks or whatever to try to get them to that point.

Q: On him playing more of a vocal role on the bench, like a player coach:
Bryant: I’ve been doing it since Phil was here and as the years have kind of gone on and the more and more I learned from him, the more and more responsibilities he gave me. So now, I think it’s just becoming a little bit more evident because of the injuries I had last year, people see me on the sidelines doing a lot of that but it’s a position that if you’re a leader of a team, you got to do that type of stuff. You got to be able to put guys in the right positions and try to put them in positions where they can be successful.

Q: On what a full training camp and preseason will do for this team:
Bryant: It’s going to be good to have this training camp and knowing what system we’re going to be running, knowing what style of play we want to use. It’s really just about blending the talents that we have.

Q: On how this team, with the personnel they have, will play this season:
Bryant: We’re going to play exactly how we finished off last year: Playing with a tempo that’s right for us. We’re not an up-and-down, run-and-gun type of team by any stretch of the imagination. But, we’ll use the strengths that we have. Pau’s a good post player. I’m a good post player. Steve in pick-and-rolls can be effective. But you’ll see us really dominating the game from the inside.

Q: On if he plans to coach in the future:
Bryant: Nope. I enjoy it, but I enjoy coaching kids more.

Q: On any concerns going into the season:
Bryant: Health is always a concern. That can really cripple a team, as it did for us last year. Hopefully we won’t have to deal with those issues and won’t have guys who are out for long periods of time.

Gasol Primed For Big Year?

Los Angeles Lakers v San Antonio Spurs - Game Two

It’s no secret that Pau Gasol dealt with a myriad of injuries – plantar fasciitis, a concussion, a tear of his plantar fascia and tendonosis in both knees – last season, while also trying to adjust his game in playing further from the basket.

But over the last 40 games, as most of the team rounded into better health, Gasol, too, showed improvement down the final stretch of 2012-13.

Of importance, the Lakers were nearly five points better with Gasol on the floor in that span.

“If he’s healthy (this year), he’s going to be an All Star player,” Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said.

His April stats showed a vast improvement – 17.5 points, 12.4 rebounds, 6.6 assists, 1.3 blocks on 51.3 percent field goals – in large part because of where he was situated on the floor on offense.

As he recovers from a FAST Technique procedure done in the offseason, Gasol is slowly working his way back for the upcoming year.

“I’m not sure how much he’s been on the basketball court the last two or three weeks,” Kupchak said, “but he certainly feels ready to go. And like with all veterans, we’ll bring him along slowly.”

With Dwight Howard gone, and not occupying the post, and Kobe Bryant still recovering from a torn Achilles tendon, Gasol will almost certainly be one of the main options in Mike D’Antoni’s offense, whether that be on the low block or at the high post.

“He’ll be the focal point of our play in the paint,” Kupchak said. “He’ll be able to post up and he’ll be on the move whether it’s a pick and roll or pick and (pop). He’ll be able to hit (the outside shot). He won’t really have to share that much space. Much of what we did last year was an adjustment and deferring and trying to figure out how Dwight Howard would fit in, and try to get the best out of him. Pau Gasol made a lot of sacrifices last year. I think he’s looking forward to playing this year.”

Can Gasol replicate his production level (‘08-‘09: 18.9 points, 9.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists; ’09-’10: 18.3 points, 11.3 rebounds, 3.4 assists) when he was a featured player during their back-to-back title runs from 2009-10?

The pieces are in place – barring any injuries – for the 7-foot Spaniard to do so.

Mitch Kupchak Presser Transcript

ts_130925mitchkupchakpresserLakers GM Mitch Kupchak addressed assembled media members at the team’s practice facility in advance of the 2013-14 season. He addressed a wide range of questions, including the status of Kobe Bryant as he recovers from a torn Achilles tendon, the health of Pau Gasol and Steve Nash, the club’s offseason signings and more. Below is a transcription of the press conference:

Opening statement:
Kupchak: With the exception of Kobe (Bryant), we expect everyone to be able to participate to some degree in practice. Now clearly, we’re going to be a little more patient with Pau (Gasol), Steve Nash and Ryan Kelly. But we expect a full training camp for us to maybe use 19 people. There are some spots that are up for grabs, but it’ll be competitive and it’ll be spirited. We’re excited.

Q: Do you think this has any negative impact in signing free agents in the future:
Kupchak: No, I don’t think that has anything to do with it. The Lakers and Los Angeles remains a destination for athletes in any sport. As you know this is a wonderfully supportive fan base in Los Angeles, a vibrant city and our franchise is one of the best, if not the best, since we came here in 1960. We’ve always figured a way to bring players and put competitive and championship teams on the court. Those things don’t change.

Q: On what he expects from Kobe this season:
Kupchak: No real expectations. I do believe he’ll get back and play this season. You won’t be able to look at him and say he was hurt. In other words, some guys, like myself when I hurt my knee, I always had a limp. You won’t be able to tell. He’ll get back on the court, he’ll be healthy, but he is 35. His game has been evolving anyway the last two or three years, although statistically you would not notice that. Even if there is a difference statistically this year, it may be a function not of the injury, but of the team we have he may decide to get players involved more or do things differently. He comes into the season with a mindset of how he’s going to play. I do expect when he does come back, and if he’s thinking a certain way, and we’re down by two or three, the Kobe we all know and love is going to take the last shot. I do know that.

Q: On if he’s explored talking with Kobe about his approach on the court this season:
Kupchak: No, that’s really more an area that falls under the coaching than what we do. I’ve seen Kobe this offseason more than I’ve seen him any offseason. He’s been in the facility every single day at 7 o’clock in the morning. We’ve visited once or twice a week, but it’s more like: ‘how you doing’ and talking about the team as it evolved in early July and August, and monitoring his progress and stuff like that.

Q: On any contract extension talks with Kobe:
Kupchak: There have been no contract extension talks (with Kobe). I would suspect that at some point this season, we’ll sit down, whether it be Kobe and I, or Kobe and his representative, Rob Pelinka, and talk about the roadmap for the future. But Kobe has made it clear that he intends to retire in a Laker uniform, and I know as an organization, we feel the same way.

Q: On a wait and see approach with Kobe regarding extension talks:
Kupchak: I think it’s natural. He wants to do the same thing. If you think for a second that Kobe can’t play at a high level or up to his expectations that he wants to continue to play, I don’t think that’s in his DNA. I think it makes sense for him and for us to get him back on the court, and to get a feel or a gauge of how much longer he wants to play and at what level.

Q: On what he’s most excited about with the roster he’s put together:
Kupchak: We have open spots, so I think there will be a lot of competition. Considering our roadmap and our game plan for the next year or two, which certainly involves a lot of financial flexibility, I thought we were able to get a nice combination of veteran players that are proven and can play in this league, and younger players who were drafted high in the draft, but for some reason, did not get to where they wanted to get to as quick as they wanted to get there. We’ve added some new coaches to our coaching staff. Excitement is high and it’s a fun time of the year for our team, and for all NBA teams.

Q: On the statuses of Pau Gasol, Steve Nash and Ryan Kelly regarding their health:
Kupchak: Nash has been practicing and scrimmaging at 100 percent for maybe a month to a month-and-a-half now. I’d say he’s been scrimmaging for two to three weeks. But he and I communicated during the summer and probably a month to a month-and-a-half ago, he indicated he was 100 percent, and we want to keep it at that pace and level. I don’t know how we’ll use him in camp. He’ll start practicing right away, but he may not practice 100 percent like the younger players do. Pau, it’s the same thing. I’ve spoken to him and we’ve communicated over the summer. He feels better and better. I’m not sure how much he’s been on the basketball court the last two or three weeks, but he certainly feels feels ready to go, and like with all veterans, we’ll bring him along slowly. Part of the reason we’re looking to bring in 19 to 20 guys into camp is we make sure we have enough so we don’t have to push our veterans unnecessarily in training camp. Ryan Kelly, it’s been a rough time for him. It’s a frustrating period not being able to play basketball for six months. I don’t anticipate him participating much in training camp. Expectations for a second-round pick are not high anyway, but we like his size and his ability to shoot the ball. We like what he can bring to the court if healthy.

Q: On Pau Gasol the last several years sacrificing his overall game for Andrew Bynum and Dwight Howard, and what he expects from him this year, if he’s healthy:
Kupchak: If he’s healthy, he’s going to be an All Star player. He’ll be the focal point of our play in the paint. He’ll be able to post up and he’ll be on the move whether it’s a pick and roll or pick and (pop). He’ll be able to hit (the outside shot). He won’t really have to share that much space. Much of what we did last year was an adjustment and deferring and trying to figure out how Dwight Howard would fit in and try to get the best out of him. Pau Gasol made a lot of sacrifices last year. I think he’s looking forward to playing this year.

Q: Does the organization have to monitor Kobe and make sure he doesn’t do too much, too soon?
Kupchak: We can only control what he does in this building. Yeah, I’m concerned. He hasn’t really been on the basketball court. He’s been in the training room and he’s been on the alter-G treadmill. I’ve looked out my window for three months, and he hasn’t been on the basketball court one day. But quite frankly, I’m wondering if he goes to a gym at night somewhere.

Q: On how going into this season feels different compared to previous season:
Kupchak: There’s a little bit of an underdog tag, low expectations contrasted to a year ago. It’s night and day.

Q: On his expectations going into this season:
Kupchak: It’s hard to have expectations right now until when and how Kobe is going to return. You cannot sit down and pencil in what you think your record may be until you know how one of the best, if not the best player in the NBA, is going to play and when he is going to play.

Q: On how the team will pick up defensively losing Metta World Peace and Dwight Howard, two former Defensive Player of the Year award winners:
Kupchak: The coaches have been meeting every day and they’re going to have to change how they coach. You could argue with Dwight, you could funnel into the paint and you know you have that big guy back there. There’s nobody like him in the NBA. Pau is big and long, and Chris (Kaman) is big and long, Jordan Hill, who did not play much last year, is very active defensively rebounding and blocking shots. So obviously, we can’t depend on one player to make up for the mistakes; it’s going to have to be more of a team effort.

Q: On if he thinks it’s important that Kobe shows a little bit more facilitating in order to lure a high-profile free agent for next season or the future:
Kupchak: Kobe is not going to play to lure somebody to Los Angeles. He’s going to play to win games. If the way he plays helps lure players to Los Angeles, then so be it. In January, February and March, that’s not what he’s thinking when there’s a game being played.

Q: On if less pressure and lower expectations is better for the team heading into this season:
Kupchak: Well, I guess it depends how we end up. I think right now going into the season, it’s probably a good thing. I enjoyed going into last season like everybody else did. I thought the second half of the year we measured up to expectations. If we played the first half of the year like we played the second half of the year, we would have won 60+ games. Then the injury bug got us at the end of the year. Not to say if we didn’t get injured, we would have won a championship. I don’t know if we would have. But people in Los Angeles expect the Lakers to be in a position every season to win a championship, and I don’t think that’s the expectation right now. That’s not how we feel. We feel we’re as good as anybody. But once again, we have to get our team on the court, they have to play at a high level, everybody has to be healthy, our young guys and veterans we signed have to produce and that’s how we’ll be judged.

Q: On if it’s dangerous if fans are looking ahead to next July:
Kupchak: It’s natural with the way things have been set up. Yeah, I do think it’s a little bit dangerous only because the rules have been created where it’s going to be tough to get players to move. It really is. I don’t know what next offseason holds. Certainly we’ll be active. If we want to get done what we want to get done, then great. If not, we’ll move to the next offseason, and then we’ll move to the next offseason. I know at some point in time we’ll be able to put together a very competitive and attractive team. I don’t think this is a franchise that can take 15 years to build through the draft. The worst thing you can do is be burdened with contracts that are $6, 7, 8 million dollars a year that go out three or four years and have average players, and you’re kind of stuck in the middle. You’re not going to get a good draft choice and you don’t have financial flexibility. So in my opinion, we’re probably best as set up as we can for the future.

Q: On if he has any time frame of when Kobe will start to get onto the court:
Kupchak: I don’t have a timeline. I really don’t. The only thing I know is he’s still on the alter-G (treadmill). When you get to 100 percent, that’s a gravity-oriented treadmill where you can adjust your weight percentages. When you get to 100 percent you’re there for a couple days, then you transition to the court. Like I said he has not been on the court yet, but I’m not aware of any setback. When he get back to the court, it’s no like he’s not going to start practicing. It’s going to take some time.

Q: On any idea of how many players they’ll take on the roster:
Kupchak: You have to keep 13. In year’s past, it would probably be harder to justify keeping 14 or 15. But I could see where it comes down to a decision where you can keep a 14th or 15th player, and I think ownership would be open to it than they would in year’s past.

Q: On how Mike D’Antoni will handle this roster with a full traning camp:
Kupchak: It’s hard to have expectations. It really is. I mentioned Kobe and we just don’t know when and how he’ll look when he gets back. Although I expect him to be productive, I don’t know when that is. If he gets back early in the season and we’re going to have a high performing player for 60 to 70 games, that’s one thing. If we have a delay and there’s setbacks, that’s going to affect the performance of the team. Anybody else in this league who plays at that level, if you don’t have that player, it’s hard to predict what’s going to happen. I do feel the players that we have are excited to be playing the kind of basketball that Mike D’Antoni coaches.

Q: On managing Kobe’s personality in terms of input to the coaching staff:
Kupchak: No, there’s never a comfort level. With Kobe, you just try to manage who he is the best you can. Trust me, at 17 years going on 18 year in the league, you’re not going to change who Kobe is. He’s mellowed a bit, and from time to time, he likes to talk to the media, but during a game, he’s tough to manage. He’s got blinders on, his mind is racing, the juices are flowing, he’s competitive, he’s thinking about the score, down by one or up by one. He’s cut a little bit differently, so that’s not going to change. The best Mike can hope for is to get to know Kobe better and maybe figure out a way to manage it as best he can. I think that’s Mike’s best chance. No coach has been able to control Kobe. No coach we’ve had since 1996, and that’s not going to change.

Q: On what he envisions D’Antoni’s offense (a lot of pick-and-roll or getting up and down the floor) to be this season:
Kupchak: It’s going to be really the way all NBA teams play today. It’s not something that one person came up with. It’s really based on the rules and the way the NBA is, I guess, how they feel the game should be played. For example, years ago, they wanted to cut down on hand checking. They put the semi-circle under the basket to allow players to get to the rim more. The NBA just felt an open game, more up and down, more scoring and less physicality is a better game to watch, and because of the rules, our coaches are so good, they figured out a way to play that way. If the rules ever change, the coaches will change how they coach, but that’s the way the NBA game is played today.

Q: On signing guys like Elias Harris, Marcus Landry, Shawne Williams, Xavier Henry, Wesley Johnson, Nick Young, etc.:
Kupchak: Like I said, some of them are former high draft choices. In fact, some of them are lottery picks. When you come out of college and you’re 19 years old and get drafted in the first round, general managers are forced to decide your future or at least part of your future after the first year. A lot of times, a general manager won’t pick up the third-year or fourth-year option only because they haven’t had enough to look at the player. Sometimes those guys are better off with the second team they’re with. Shannon Brown is a great example. Shannon came out of college early and couldn’t find his niche. We brought him here and he found his niche. We’re hoping that one or two or three of those guys will be the same with us. They’re very talented and drafted high for a reason. Maybe because of age or the makeup of the team or the coach, they didn’t grow as quickly as they could have grown. So we have the roster spots and it makes for a healthy opportunity for players. They play the way the Mike wants to coach, so I think it’s good.

Q: On the positives or negatives of signing these players to one-year deals:
Kupchak: I think players look at it as an opportunity. Clearly, they get guidance from their agent, but I’m sure their agents are saying: ‘Listen, they have all this cap room and financial flexibility a year from now. This is a great opportunity for you.’ In year’s past when we were so far over the cap, I’m sure a lot of agents were saying: ‘Even if you play well, they’re only going to sign minimum guys.’ I’ve talked to a lot of agents and they feel this is a great spot for players.

Q: On constructing a roster and using the financial flexibility as management tries to reconstruct the club the next couple years:
Kupchak: We’ve given away draft choices in the Steve Nash and Dwight Howard trades. We have our pick this year and a pick every year for the next two or three years. We looked at a lot of these young players as draft picks. We may not have our draft pick this season, but as I mentioned, we got three guys that were former lottery picks. This draft is shaping up to be one of the best, but it’s way too early to tell. We don’t know where we’ll be in the process, but it’s a good year to have a pick.

Q: On if he feels Steve Nash can still be an elite point guard in the NBA:
Kupchak: I do. We’re not expecting 35 minutes per game from Steve Nash. He is completely healthy right now. The one player we haven’t talked about is Jordan Farmar. We know him very well and he gave up a very lucrative deal in Turkey to come to Los Angeles. He’s been here every day and he’s playing very well. With Steve Blake and Jordan and Steve Nash, we’re hoping that combination will give Nash some rest where we won’t have to rely on him 100 percent. He’s 39 years old, and you can’t play him 35 to 40 minutes per game. I don’t know what the number is. But we have some players we can go to and give him a rest.

Q: Regarding last season and the different roles certain players had to play:
Kupchak: The whole season was a laborious process to win one game, then the next game, then the next game. There wasn’t enough practice to buy into a system. There was so much pressure to win and get into the playoffs and the players did whatever they could do to win games. Steve Nash, Pau Gasol and Metta (World Peace) were very, very unselfish in the way they chose to play the game. They gave up a lot of what they did to win games. I don’t know how this year is going to go. I think we’re a great team with the ball in Steve Nash’s hands, but once again, I’m not sure how it’s going to play out. With the training camp and increased depth at that position, I think there’s more confidence back there than there was last year.

Q: On if this team, in a loaded Western Conference, and with the expectations already on the team, can they be more cohesive and can that play be reflected in the standings:
Kupchak: We ended up with the 7th seed (last season), and we were a little disjointed. Whether it was on the court, or the injury factor and then no training camp. All those things were a factor. I can’t dismiss the fact that we ended the season 28-12. You can’t dismiss that. That’s on pace to win almost 60 games. But it wasn’t everybody moving in one direction. Hopefully this year will be a better case to make, but once again, we don’t know when our best player will be back. So hopefully he gets back in a timely fashion, and moves in. He will be able to watch the team play and he’ll see where he fits in, and if that takes place, I think you’ll see a team that’s fun to watch and we’ll win a bunch of games.

Spain Misses Gasol in EuroBasket 2013

Olympics Day 16 - BasketballIn 2006, the Spanish National basketball team claimed its first ever gold medal in major international competition at the FIBA World Cup, besting a field of 24 teams that included Team USA, Argentina and runner-up Greece.

Three years later, Spain became European champions for the first time by winning EuroBasket 2009, then defended the title in 2011 with another gold medal performance. Meanwhile, Spain made it to the gold medal game in consecutive Olympic games in 2008 and 2012, only to twice fall to Kobe Bryant and the United States.

It’s the greatest stretch of hoops the country has ever seen, and it happened to coincide with Pau Gasol’s prime.

No coincidence there.

Olympics Day 16 - BasketballGasol, the best player in his country’s history, was 26 during that initial FIBA World Cup run, and continued to captain and anchor Espana through the London Olympics. With him in the lineup, Spain was Europe’s best team.

But in the just-completed 2013 EuroBasket tournament, Gasol was not able to play, as he focuses on rehabilitation from a knee procedure he had following the 2012-13 NBA season in preparation for the upcoming Lakers season.

Without Gasol, Spain failed to defend its back-to-back titles, falling to eventual champion France in the semifinals before beating Croatia to nab the bronze. Gasol’s younger brother, Marc, performed well in making the all-tournament team, though surely it wasn’t easy missing his big brother, one of the greatest international players in history — one first-inspired by the Dream Team in 1992 in his native Barcelona — that went on to deliver a glory age to Spanish basketball.

Trojan Marching Band Honors Dr. Buss

Buss FieldAs part of a special presentation during halftime of the USC-Boston College football game, the USC Trojan Marching Band honored the late Dr. Jerry Buss, Hall of Fame owner of the Los Angeles Lakers. Buss graduated from USC in 1957, earning a PhD in Physical Chemistry, and was a generous supporter of the athletic department’s scholarship fund. He was also a regular at many USC athletic sporting events.

When Buss first purchased the Lakers in 1979, he asked some of the Trojan Marching Band’s best musicians to perform at home games, while having the USC Song Girls dance at halftime as the “Golden Girls.” To this day, the Laker band has performed at every home game.

The halftime show featured some of Dr. Buss’s favorite songs, including “Gonna Fly Now,” the theme song from the movie Rocky and Louis Prima’s “Just a Gigolo.” The Laker Girls also made a special appearance, dancing to the Trojan Marching Band’s trademark anthem “Tusk,” while the band spelled out “BUSS” on the field.


Director of the Trojan Marching Band, Dr. Arthur C. Bartner, had this to say about Dr. Buss in a statement: “Dr. Buss was a longtime friend of the band. It is a great honor to pay tribute to him at halftime and a privilege to play his favorite Laker Band songs. We’re thrilled to have the world-famous Laker Girls perform with us and to welcome his family to the field.”