Archive for the 'Off-Season' Category

LaVine Hits Rare Air

Zach LaVine Draft Workout Photo Gallery

The athletic highlight of L.A.’s first round of prospective draft pick workouts at their El Segundo facility on Wednesday was a 46-inch vertical jump from UCLA freshman Zach LaVine.

That’s not a short distance to cover.

“We had a little bit more of a run (up),” LaVine explained after the session. “I think at the draft (combine) you had two steps, here we had three or four. I knew I’d gone higher than that before … I think I had 44.5, but this was one of my higher ones. I think I was pumped a little bit, you know, the Lakers.”

The Lakers allow prospects one straight up vertical jump, and one with a lead in, the latter being how LaVine topped the previous high of 44 inches by Peyton Siva last summer.

LaVine’s standing vertical jump measured at 37 inches, while Aaron Gordon hopped 34 inches straight up and 43 inches with a lead in.

Of course, athletic tests are only a small part of the overall puzzle of comparing players to one another. The Lakers, whose No. 7 draft position is their highest since 1982, have been watching these prospects extensively throughout the season, but always appreciate the chance to get the players in their own gym.

“Just up front and close and seeing how much they’ve worked on their game,” Kupchak said about the workouts. “We get to interview them, we get to administer our testing and we get to know them by talking to them and hanging around them in the locker room. They get to know our trainers and coaches.”

This first crop of players – including Gordon (Arizona), Doug McDermott (Creighton), James Young (Kentucky), Elfrid Payton (Louisiana Lafayette), Davion Berry (Weber State), Jerry Evans (Nevada), Tyler Ennis (Syracuse), Gary Harris (Michigan State), LaVine (UCLA), Brendan Lane (Pepperdine), Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State) and Noah Vonleh (Indiana) – had no shortage of athleticism.

“We had a couple really, really good showings athletically,” Kupchak summarized. “There are a lot of components to evaluate in the draft. We do interviews and (tests) for athletic ability, shooting drills, playing. There’s a lot of components to evaluate in a player and then you have to project out how good a player is going to be. Some players have gone to school three or four years and some guys have gone one year. Actually some of the guys have yet to turn 19 years old.”

Among the good athletic showings was Gordon, who performed well in nearly every test, even if the vertical jump of LaVine stood out a bit more. LaVine just turned 19 in March, while Gordon doesn’t reach 19 until September.

L.A. plans to hold more workouts in the coming days leading up to the June 26 Draft.

Zach LaVine Draft Workout Photo Gallery

Lakers Readying for the Lottery

2013 NBA Draft LotteryAs Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak detailed on, there’s a big circle over “May 20″ on the team’s calendar.

That’s when the Lakers find out what slot they’ll draft in come June 26.

L.A.’s percentages as the team with the sixth-best odds are:

- 21.5 percent to move into the top three
- 43.9 to stay in the six slot
- 30.5 to pick seventh
- 4.0 to drop to eighth, and 0.1 to fall to ninth

As such, it’s most likely they’ll stay at six or seven, and extremely unlikely they’d drop to eight or nine, thus assuring the franchise’s highest pick since James Worthy in 1982.

Speaking of Big Game James … he’ll be the one representing the team at the draft lottery.

Now, the lottery didn’t actually begin until 1985, and since then, the always-in-the-playoffs Lakers have seen lottery balls only twice:

Lakers All-Time Lottery Picks (since 1985)
Year – Pick – Player, Prior to NBA
2005 – 10 – Andrew Bynum, St. Joseph High School (NJ)
1994 – 10 – Eddie Jones, Temple University

In fact, the Lakers have had only 13 top 10 picks in franchise history since the move to L.A. in 1960, as well as two territorial picks:

Lakers All-Time Top-10 Picks (Los Angeles Era; since 1960)
Year – Pick – Player, Prior to NBA
2005 – 10 – Andrew Bynum, St. Joseph High School (NJ)
1994 – 10 – Eddie Jones, Temple University
1982 – 1 – James Worthy, University of North Carolina
1979 – 1 – Magic Johnson, Michigan State University
1977 – 6 – Kenny Carr, North Carolina State University
1975 – 2 – Dave Meyers, UCLA
1975 – 8 – Junior Bridgeman, University of Louisville
1973 – 5 – Kermit Washington, American University
1966 – 7 – Jerry Chambers, University of Utah
1963 – 7 – Roger Strickland, Jacksonville University
1962 – 6 – Leroy Ellis, St. John’s University
1961 – 5 – Wayne Yates, University of Memphis
1960 – 2 – Jerry West, West Virginia University

Lakers All-Time Territorial Picks (Los Angeles Era; since 1960)
Year Pick Player Prior to NBA
1965 T Gail Goodrich UCLA
1964 T Walt Hazzard UCLA

We’ll find out who’s next soon enough.

Lakers’ Lottery Odds

Boston Celtics v Los Angeles LakersWith just one game remaining in the 2013-14 season, we have a pretty good idea about the Lakers’ odds in the lottery for the 2014 NBA Draft.

INVERSE STANDINGS (Remaining Opponent):
1) Milwaukee: 15-66 (ATL)
2) Philadelphia: 18-63 (@MIA)
3) Orlando: 23-58 (IND)
4) Utah: 24-57 (@MIN)
5) Boston: 25-56 (WAS)
6) Lakers: 26-55 (@SAS)
7) Sacramento: 28-53 (PHX)
8) Detroit: 29-52 (@OKC)

With L.A.’s win at Utah on Monday evening, they assured that they’ll finish no lower than tied for fifth place with Boston, and no higher than sixth, the slot they currently occupy.

If Boston beats Washington at home, and the Lakers lose at San Antonio, both teams would finish 26-56 on the season. There are no tiebreaker rules used as with playoff teams for seeding, however. Both teams would receive the average of the total number of combinations for the slots that they occupy, and if the average number isn’t an integer, a coin flip is used to determine which team receives extra combinations. If neither team jumps into the top three of the lottery, that coin flip dictates which team would select fifth, and which team sixth.

So in short: to move into the fifth slot, L.A. would need a loss, plus a Boston win, and then a win in a coin flip versus the Celtics. The Lakers will have the sixth-best odds if they win at San Antonio, if Boston loses to Washington or if they lose the coin flip and neither team moves into the top three.

1) 250 combinations, 25.0% chance of receiving the #1 pick
2) 199 combinations, 19.9% chance
3) 156 combinations, 15.6% chance
4) 119 combinations, 11.9% chance
5) 88 combinations, 8.8% chance
6) 63 combinations, 6.3% chance

In the lottery, a team can move no farther than three picks below its slot, and that’s in the extremely unlikely event that three lower team all move into the top three positions. Below are the odds of which selection the team with the fifth- and sixth-best odds will make:

Fifth Seed:
1st: 8.8*%; 2nd: 9.7%; 3rd: 10.7%; 4th: N/A; 5th: 26.1%; 6th: 36.0%; 7th: 8.4%; 8th: 0.4%
*In the case that the Lakers get the fifth seed, they’d have an 8.8 percent chance of receiving the No. 1 overall selection, a 9.7 percent chance at the second pick and so on.

Sixth Seed:
1st: 6.3%; 2nd: 7.1%; 3rd: 8.1%; 4th: N/A; 5th: N/A; 6th: 43.9%; 7th: 30.5%; 8th: 4.0%; 9th: 0.1%

The 2014 NBA Draft lottery takes places on Tuesday, May 20, and the Draft itself occurs on Thursday, June 26.

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.

LAL Q&A: Xavier Henry

blog_130911xavierhenryXavier Henry, a former lottery pick out of Kansas in the 2010 NBA draft, signed with the Lakers on Sept. 5. He took part in workouts and light scrimmages at the Lakers facility with some of the coaching staff and his teammates during his first day in L.A.. We spoke with the 6-foot-6 swingman and asked him a little about his experience playing at Kansas, his journey thus far in the league and more. Below is a transcription of our conversation:

Trevor Wong: Was there there was anything specifically that attracted you to come to Los Angeles?
Xavier Henry: During the free agent process, I was working hard and when I started to get feedback from teams, we thought (the Lakers) was a good fit for me. When the deal got done, I was excited. There’s not one thing you can say wrong about the Lakers – their history, the players, the coach, they have one of the greats in Kobe (Bryant) that you can learn from every single day. There’s so much with the Lakers to help further yourself and help the team. I’m coming in trying to make a name for myself, and to help the team.

TW: What was your experience like playing at Kansas?
Henry: It was unbelievable playing with the guys we had and under coach Bill Self. It was probably one of the most fun years of my life. For the whole year, I got better and I tried to prove a point that this is my game. It’s funny to look back that I’m not old, but only four years out of college.
*Note: Henry was part of a Jayhawks squad that reeled off a 32-2 record in the regular season before the NCAA tournament (33-3 overall record). He played alongside Thomas Robinson, Cole Aldrich, Tyshawn Taylor, Sherron Collins and the Morris twins (Marcus and Markieff), but they were upended in the second round of the tournament by No. 9 Northern Iowa.

TW: Was there a big adjustment period from college to the professional ranks after just one year at Kansas? You went from being a highly-recruited prospect, to a one-and-done at Kansas and then your playing time fluctuates your rookie year.
Henry: What really hurt me was I hurt my knee and basically missed the rest of the season. (Coach Hollins) played me but I wasn’t even healthy and it was hard for me to deal with that going through the rest of the year. It was like I had to start all over. (My rookie year) was going good at first right after I got drafted. I had O.J. Mayo and Tony Allen (ahead of me). They started with Mayo and we weren’t winning much; they started Allen and we still weren’t winning much, so they put me in. I was playing fine as a rookie to get my feet wet. A couple games in, my knee (acted up) and that was it. I didn’t really have anything to say about my rookie season because it went by so fast and I went down. It wasn’t a happy time for me because I was hurt and I had an opportunity in front of me. I tried to play a couple games after I got hurt and I could barely even move, and I knew I had to shut it down. Everybody was good to me. I was always battling back (from injury). I was just trying to get back healthy. If I’m healthy, I know I can play. There’s no denying that.

TW: What did you take away from coach Lionel Hollins and any players who mentored you during your rookie season?
Henry: (In Memphis), coach Hollins was a tough guy, but he also made you realize why he was tough on you. He was there for me when I was hurting. He made sure I was OK and made sure I kept my head focused.”
Note: Henry alluded to Rudy Gay looking out for him while he was injured and constantly checking on him, and Mike Conley as someone who he looked up to. In New Orleans, he mentioned Roger Mason Jr. as being a really good professional, and coach Monty Williams and the rest of the coaching staff working him out and pushing him to be better.

TW: For those people that don’t know you as well, what is your game all about and what can you bring to the table?
Henry: I shoot the ball pretty well, but one thing I’ve always been able to do is get to the line and get fouled. One thing I pride myself on is making sure nobody can stay in front of me when I get to the basket. I’m just trying to show everybody my overall game, play defense and let them know what they can expect what I can bring to the team.

Corner Three Time?

Los Angeles Lakers v Los Angeles ClippersWe’ve exhausted the storyline of how little Mike D’Antoni actually had the chance to run his system due to a plethora of factors in 2012-13.

But with an entire offseason of planning, a full training camp and some added shooters, 2013-14 should be a different story.

Among the most important shots in D’Antoni’s system is the corner three pointer, as the corners provide the necessary width to open up space in the middle of the floor for screen/roll and other sets. As such, a guard and a forward are instructed to get to those spots at almost all times once the half court line is breached.

The five Lakers most likely to be standing in the corners next season are: Jodie Meeks, Nick Young, Jordan Farmar, Wesley Johnson and Steve Blake. Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash will be there from time to time, but they often have the ball in their hands, more likely to be setting up corner attempts.

Last season, Meeks didn’t shoot the ball as well from the corners as one might expect due to his pretty stroke and quick release. He shot 34.48 percent from the left corner and 41.86 percent from the right corner.

JODIE MEEKS: 2012-13

Young, meanwhile, was no better, hitting 18.42 percent from the left side and 32.26 from the right.

NICK YOUNG: 2012-13 (in Philadelphia)
meeksshotchartNew player development coach Larry Lewis told me that he’s already been watching tape of how players like Joe Johnson and Raja Bell used to get their shots in D’Antoni’s system, so that he can share it with Young, Meeks and Co. Bell drained 47.15 percent on the left and 44.9 percent on the right in 2005-06, while Johnson connected on 49.47 and 53.85 percent, respectively, in 2004-05:

JOE JOHNSON: 2005-06 (Phoenix)

Wesley Johnson wasn’t great from the corners last season (32.14 percent left, 34.78 percent right), and while Blake was off from the left (32.43 percent), he was red hot from the right, draining 15 of 24 attempts (62.5 percent).

Farmar had a very small sample size in his last NBA season (2011-12), but was terrific from the corners, hitting 53.85 percent from the left and 45.45 percent from the right, rivaling Joe Johnson’s success rate (though JJ did take 175 more shots than Farmar’s 24).

For more D’Antoni comps, you can look at Steve Novak in 2011-12 (46.15 left, 50.0 right), but the perception has long been that shooters have some had their best numbers operating his system. That’s certainly the case for Johnson, who’s never replicated his corner numbers since that 2004-05 campaign, albeit in part because he’s done more ball-handling and less spotting up.

L.A.’s prospective corner shooters will have to show that they can splash the nets while Nash, Bryant and Pau Gasol create shots, but the opportunities will certainly be there.

Lakers’ Oldest Fan Passes Away

New Orleans Hornets v Los Angeles LakersIn the spring of 2012, Kobe Bryant relished the privilege of meeting the spunkiest of longtime Lakers fans, Allene Wynn, who passed away this week at the age of 106.

“I mean that’s unbelievable, 105 years old!” said Bryant at the time. “She was awesome, just like the female Tex Winter.”

Wynn used the occasion to inform Bryant that she’d appreciate a bit better of an effort from her favorite team, pulling no punches with the five-time champ. Bryant loved it.

She was celebrating her 105th birthday last March with the Lakers, who had struggled enough to fall 10 points behind New Orleans in the fourth quarter before Bryant nailed a go-ahead three-pointer with 20 seconds remaining. He’d been just 2 of 20 from the field up to that point, causing Wynn some stress that she shared with No. 24.

“I don’t think this game did anything to relax her,” he joked.

According to the Daily News, a viewing for Wynn will be held on Aug. 29 at Rucker’s Mortuary in Pacoima from 4-7:30 p.m., while the service will come at noon on Aug. 30.

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