The Lakers could end up with point guard Chris Paul if a report on SI.com is accurate. The Lakers reportedly are engaged in talks with the New Orleans Hornets and Houston Rockets. The Lakers could end up with Paul, the Rockets would get Pau Gasol and the Hornets would get Kevin Martin, Luis Scola and draft picks.
Jerry Buss, the Lakers’ longtime owner, has been hospitalized because of blood clots in his legs likely caused by extensive traveling, a team spokesman said this evening. “He is doing well and is expected to be released in the next day or two,” said John Black, the Lakers’ vice president of public relations. Black declined to say where the 77-year-old Buss was hospitalized or his course of treatment, but Black did not believe Buss had suffered from blood clots in the past. Buss has owned the Lakers since 1979, winning 10 NBA titles.
Since they can’t even agree on a handshake deal until Friday, it would be premature to say the Lakers will sign free agent 3-point specialist Jason Kapono. Friday also is the first day free agents can sign contracts, but it’s a pretty safe bet that Kapono will be signed and on the court by the time the first of two practices begins that day. Kapono’s addition would give the Lakers a bona fide 3-point threat, something they lacked after they dealt Sasha Vujacic to the New Jersey Nets for Joe Smith last December. It also will be interesting to learn how new coach Mike Brown plans to use Kapono in his offense.
Also, the Lakers’ appeal of Andrew Bynum’s five-game suspension for thumping J.J. Barea of the Dallas Mavericks in Game 4 of the playoffs was turned down by the NBA. Bynum also can appeal directly to the league himself, but it’s unlikely it will grant his appeal after denying the Lakers’. So, expect him to sit out the Lakers’ first five games of the 2011-12 season, starting with the Christmas tilt against the Bulls.
Pau Gasol stopped by the Lakers’ practice facility today and talked with reporters about the flurry of trade rumors, including some involving him and fellow 7-footer Andrew Bynum. He also spoke about the difficulty of rebounding from a poor performance in the Lakers’ second-round playoff loss to the Dallas Mavericks last May. And he said he hasn’t said he hasn’t seen any details on the new collective bargaining agreement, but expects the players to vote in favor of it and for camps to open Friday as scheduled.
Of the rumors of a breakup of the Lakers’ roster and the possibility he could be traded, he said: “There’s a lot of speculation, a lot of rumors going around. It creates attraction. It’s good for the fans to have this kind of attention, good for the NBA, too. So, as long as nothing happens and we have the guys we have and we’re completely fine with that, we’ll go to work with the team we have. Well, you can’t control that. You can’t really avoid it, so you’re going to hear your name every now and then here and there. Again, I guess after the way the season ended last year, it’s kind of expected. It happened also at the end of the season. I’m looking forward to getting back on the floor and playing hard and playing my best. After that, I’m sure my name won’t be brought up again.”
Of learning from the Lakers’ early playoff exit, he said: “It was a rough time because things weren’t clicking in different ways, so you take it and analyze all that and you analyze what happened during, before and after and you take your conclusions and you try to learn from all that. So, you’re ready for all that. You, hopefully, can improve your individual level.”
Of the new CBA, he said: “The uncertainty of the lockout, that was kind of uncomfortable and discouraging at times. It seems like it’s finally going to get to an agreement and everyone’s going to get back to work and do their usual thing. That’s positive. I still haven’t seen the proposal. I don’t know what’s on it. We’re supposed to get that today and tomorrow is supposed to be the voting. Everybody takes it for granted that everything is cool and we move forward, which is what everybody wants. It’s funny how there’s nothing specific about it. (Any chance it doesn’t pass?) I don’t think so. I think everybody is ready to move on and accept, not just anything, but what’s on the table.”
Leon Powe, Rashad McCants and Marcus Banks worked out at the Lakers’ practice facility today, according to my spies. Not sure if any of them will end up signing with the team Friday, but Powe is an interesting character who could add some brawn up front. McCants might be an option, too. Derek Fisher, Devin Ebanks and unsigned rookie Darius Morris also worked out today, according to a Lakers spokeswoman. None of them talked to reporters. Chances are better for interviews Wednesday or Thursday. Or so I’ve been told.
ESPN.com, using unnamed sources, reported late Monday that the Lakers are willing to trade anyone on their roster except Kobe Bryant in order to get Dwight Howard away from the Orlando Magic and/or Chris Paul away from the New Orleans Hornets. Question isn’t whether it can be done. Anything is possible. Question is would it be wise to break up a team that failed in its bid last spring to win a third consecutive NBA championship? Does it make sense for GM Mitch Kupchak to tear up the roster and start over? Does anybody remember what kind of magic Bryant, Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom produced during back-to-back championship runs? Is Howard really superior to Bynum?
Personally, I’d like to see Paul in a Lakers uniform because I think their biggest weakness is at point guard. Derek Fisher and Steve Blake didn’t impress last season, showing their age. Paul’s addition would address a need. Trading for Howard would address a want.
Here’s what new Lakers coach Mike Brown said the other day when asked about his plans this season for Kobe Bryant:
“We have play-calls for him that will put him right off the post. I have different areas of the floor that are named, and the area we feel he likes not necessarily on the post but in what we like to call the Karl Malone area. It’s a few feet off the post. We have sets. We have automatic stuff that will get him to that area. We know he likes the ball (just off) the elbow. We have sets and automatic stuff that will get him to the elbow. Some of the stuff we have will get him in that area will give him a choice. …
“We’ll also use him in some pick-and-roll. Whenever we’ve coached against him, you pretty much have to double-team him because he’s a very effective pull-up jump shooter. When I see that, anytime anybody gets double-teamed, if the floor is spaced correctly, if you move the ball, you can make teams pay when they commit two guys to the ball. We’ll put him in some pick-and-roll situations some to facilitate for other guys.”
Brown won’t be running the triangle offense, but it’s also likely the Lakers won’t play the same sort of scheme he used when he coached LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers since he has far more options with his new team than with his old one.
The Lakers’ general manager and their new coach conducted their first mass visit with reporters since the lockout began July 1. Kupchak was a little vague about what his plans are to bolster the roster, but that was to be expected since that’s his normal method of operation. He acknowledged the backcourt’s lack of depth and youth was a concern as was the need for backup big men if Joe Smith and Theo Ratliff move on as expected. Kupchak said because the Lakers’ payroll is already so high, it was unlikely he could do much beyond signing a free agent to the new mini mid-level exception of about $9 million over three seasons. He wouldn’t touch a question whether the Lakers would entertain a trade for Orlando’s Dwight Howard. “That would be tampering,” he said.
Brown said because training camp is going to be shorter, he might have to present his offensive and defensive schemes in measured doses and there might not be enough time to fit it all in before the regular-season opener Christmas Day against the Chicago Bulls. The team will play exhibitions on Dec. 19 and 21 against the Clippers at Staples Center. The rest of the regular-season schedule will be announced Tuesday. Brown was a little vague on how he might best use Kobe Bryant his season, and he declined to commit to naming Derek Fisher as his starting point guard.
How’s that for burying the lead?
The Lakers’ general manager and their new coach will talk with reporters this morning at 11:30. The first question I have for either or both is: Are they satisfied with the roster as it stands today? The second is: Where does it need improvement? The third is: Can they sign a quality free agent given that their options are limited by the new collective bargaining agreement to the new mini mid-level exception of about $9 million over three years?
Check back here later and/or at twitter: @ElliottTeaford. I’ll have the answers.