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Report Card Time - AK's Final Grades

May 22, 2006 |  9:54 am

As we prepare to shift into it's the off-season, there isn't nearly as much to talk about, plus the Times isn't paying us our full rate while the team's on hiatus, so we're gonna start posting a little less mode, I wanted to add at least one more entry that provides closure of sorts. And few things in life provide closure like a final report card. They pretty much left no ambiguity when it came to summing up how mediocre I did in high school. Anyhoo, grades were once again assessed, along with the usual peanut gallery remarks. And I'm sure BK will chime in with his two cents soon enough.

If you want to reference the first half report card, here it is.

Kwame Brown: Things started clicking more after the switch to center. Kwame's already strong post D was accentuated by increased offensive confidence, culminating in a 12.8 ppg April. I personally enjoyed watching this coincide with his increased confidence dealing with the media. (Before improving, I used to joke with a Lakers P.R. rep that Kwame must tunnel out of Staples, since nobody ever saw him after games.) That said, dude still reeks of "project." Among many things, he rebounds inconsistently, catches like he's wearing oven mitts, and I've never seen a 6'11" player less likely to hit a layup. I also question his basketball I.Q. The off-season work will be crucial. He said it during his exit interview: No mas excuses. I asked Kwame once if he felt any pressure to prove himself worthy of No. 1 overall status. He shook his head, more or less saying, "It is what it is." He just wants to play well. Smart attitude. We'll see what happens.

First Half Grade: C-
Second Half Grade: B
Final Grade: C+

Kobe Bryant: It's borderline impossible to single out one highlight from such an array of sick accomplishments. But for my money, Kobe truly took things to another level during the playoffs. He remained deadly as ever (two clutch shots in Game 4 alone), but instilled confidence in his teammates by lending them unconditional trust and unlimited chances. Knowing that a player of godlike status (on and off the court) believed in them brought out the best in Kobe's supporting cast. The end results weren't quite perfect, but the bigger picture is fantastic. If this was a preview of Kobe's leadership to come, nutty as this may sound, the guy's best years have yet to arrive.

First Half Grade: A
Second Half Grade: A
Final Grade: A

Andrew Bynum: After the All-Star break, Big Baby more or less sported diapers. He played in only 15 games, mostly garbage time (although I'm pretty sure he once secured tacos with a rebound). The pine banishment was understandable, since growing pains become a pain in the ass while chasing a playoff spot. But I like his potential. A lot. The look on Kareem's face while interviewing him about Socks made me think Cap wasn't just blowing smoke about Bynum's work ethic, desire to learn, and instincts. Kid needs to hit the weights, work on finishing, and up his game knowledge in general. Like Kwame, he's a project. But one I feel more confident about.

First Half Grade: B
Second Half Grade: D+/Incomplete
Final Grade: C/Incomplete

Brian Cook: I'll begin with a positive. Save Kobe (or Von Wafer), no Laker waffles less when handed the rock. Cook chucks like he's paid by the catch 'n' shoot. Unfortunately, that basically describes Cook's contract, since it's more or less all he does. That he lost a starting job to an out-of-position Luke Walton doesn't speak well of Cook's D (Luke may be better, but he's no Ben Wallace) or post up game (Luke may be better, but he's no Rasheed Wallace). I held out hope for a stronger second half, but like my hopes for "Manu Girl" to knock on my door, it didn't happen.

First Half Grade: C+
Second Half Grade: D
Final Grade: C-

Devean George: Devean's a nice guy whom I've actively rooted to finally reach his potential since he was a rookie (if for no other reason than to shut up my wise ass friends). I've heard and read enough to support my theory that Devean's past inconsistency was due to a paper-thin confidence. Well, he's now playing with confidence and remains inconsistent as ever. Take the playoffs. He supplied either huge clutch shots or nada. I guess it's just who he is. He certainly doesn't hurt you when he's on the floor, but I doubt he'll ever help as much as he seemed capable.

First Half Grade: C+
Second Half Grade: C-
Final Grade: C

Devin Green: Geez, how to evaluate Green's 15 total minutes of post All-Star Break PT? I could harp on his 0-2 performance in 120 seconds against the Clips on Feb. 24. But you'll naturally counter that I'm ignoring how he recovered on Feb. 28 against Orlando, going 1-2 in 180 seconds. And really, who's to say which performance should count more? All kidding aside, I've heard that the brass likes "the other Dev," and Phil certainly could use a tall guard with decent speed. If I had to bet on which player with "D.G." initials will be back next season, it's this one.

First Half Grade: D/Incomplete
Second Half Grade: F/Incomplete
Final Grade: D-/Incomplete

Jim Jackson: Let's see. The Lakers needed a late addition free agent who can hit an outside shot, provide veteran presence to a young second unit and allow Kobe a little extra rest. I can totally see why JJ never stepped on the court. His acquisition and subsequent DNP-CD parade gets my nod for the season's "biggest head-scratcher" award.

Second Half/Final Grade: D-/Incomplete

Aaron McKie: I'll be blunt. McKie did dookie this season. I understand he was way behind the eight-ball after being injured for so long. But he didn't even represent at the Casino Night poker tourney, where he's more than capable of contributing. Disappointing, indeed.

First Half Grade: F/Incomplete
Second Half Grade: F/Incomplete
Final Grade: F/Incomplete

Stanislav Medvedenko: I already poured out some malt liquor for my boy. I only wish we got to see Slava guard Nash just once during any of those zillion playoff switches gone bad. Potential comedy for the ages.

First Half Grade: F/Incomplete
Second Half Grade: N/A
Final Grade: F/Inc./N/A

Chris Mihm: While his injury did provide untapped insight into Kwame's potential at the 5, it's a shame Mihm spent most of March and April crutching around. Even if you prefer Kwame's post D over Mihm's more polished offense, the Lakers needed some of the latter when it came to pounding the ball inside against Phoenix. Mihm spent the first half of the season as the most consistent source of interior scoring. Think that could have come in handy during Game 7?

First Half Grade: B
Second Half Grade: Incomplete
Final Grade B/Incomplete

Lamar Odom: What a difference a second half makes. LO went from more erratic than Courtney Love on a coke binge to a freakin' Swiss watch, both in production and triangle quarterbacking. During March and April, he put up approximately 17, 9 and 6 (plus back-to-back trip-dubs). Those are borderline All-Star numbers. And he was a beast for most of the playoffs. Yeah, he picked a bad time to crap out in Game 7. But if March-May was more than just an oasis, Kobe and Lamar could very well be built around, should Mitch and Phil commit to that route.

First Half Grade: B
Second Half Grade: A
Final Grade: A-

Smush Parker: He may end up in a rubber room from Games 5 through 7 induced trauma, but Smush actually finished the regular season strong. Yeah, he was physically/mentally worthless down the postseason stretch. But under ideal circumstances, Smush is a second-string PG. 82 games guarding better players (followed by a back-to-back MVP in the playoffs) caught up to him. I'm not sugarcoating things. Smush has a lot to work on, especially defensively. But to judge him as you'd judge Steve Nash because they're both starters is unrealistic. Put it this way: If told in mid-October that Smush would average 11 ppg and almost two steals, would you have been mad? Doubt it.

First Half Grade: B
Second Half Grade: C
Final Grade: C+

Ronny Turiaf: The most entertaining Laker to ever man a sideline, Turiaf wasn't too bad in limited minutes either. He's a turnover waiting to happen, but he also picked up the triangle very quickly. Gee, a four-year-college guy with a high aptitude? Go figure. He also provided great energy and hustle. Were Turiaf a little more polished offensively, he may have had a shot at replacing Cook at the 4. Or stealing the lion's share of Cook's remaining minutes, if nothing else.

First Half Grade: Incomplete
Second Half Grade: B-
Final Grade: Inc./B-

Sasha Vujacic: In the first-half report card, I said that I wasn't sure what to make of Sasha. I've since made up my mind. I don't think he's very good. He has a fantastic looking stroke but mostly misses, a big problem since a) he's supposedly a shooter and b) he's not good taking it to the rack. He's too slow to guard 1's, but not big enough to guard 2's. His oft-championed ability to "annoy" ball handlers is overstated and overrated. For every one possession the skill comes in handy, he gets used the next nine. I will say this: He has a lot of confidence, which I hope he never loses. It's easily his biggest asset.

First Half Grade: C
Second Half Grade: D+
Final Grade: C-

Von Wafer: A legend. So out of control, he makes practice entertaining. I once caught the tail end of an El Segundo session where every vet, B. Shaw and PJ would alternately remind Von to pass the ball on about five straight possessions. That's gold. Yes, him playing meaningful minutes would result in nothing short of Armageddon. But when he's your sixth string shooting guard? Outstanding!

First Half Grade:  D/Incomplete
Second Half Grade: F/Incomplete
Final Grade: D-/Incomplete

Luke Walton: I gotta give Billy's Boy some serious props. I had pretty much written the guy off when he suddenly remembered how to play. Being handed the starting four spot came more from Cook not cutting it than PJ having some kind of hunch, but Luuuuuke did a very goooood job, including a few terrific playoff games. Walton also displayed spurts of athleticism that I never dreamed he possessed, especially with the flagrant on Tim Thomas. I had no idea he could get up that high.

First Half Grade: D+
Second Half Grade: B+
Final Grade: C+