NBA lockout: Sizing up the Lakers on volleyball court
It turns out LeBron James isn't the only one taking his talents to (South) Beach.
Minnesota forward and former UCLA standout Kevin Love is doing the same thing, but he's not announcing his decision in a one-hour TV special and he's not switching teams. With the NBA lockout still unresolved, however, Love decided he's not going to confine himself to working out on the hardwood and competing head to head with Blake Griffin in Jenga. He's going to hit the beach.
The NBA's leading rebounder plans to play in next month's Manhattan Beach Open on the pro volleyball tour, providing more reasons for fans make it out to South Bay to lay out and kick back, the way many will this weekend at Manhattan Beach's six-man volleyball tournament.
"I thought it was a great idea, a way for me to be out in the sun, be active and have fun during the lockout," Love told reporters in New York on Tuesday after practicing with pros for the first time. "It's sport, it's active, it's a way to stay in shape, so I just thought it was a home run."
It's too early to say whether it will be a home run for other NBA players, but as far as the Lakers go, teaming up in the sand would be a fun exercise in bonding without all the worry about injuries and fatigue. Below the jump is how some on the Lakers roster might fare.
Kobe Bryant: The Black Mamba never knows how to completely shut off his competitive juices, so there's no reason to think he'd temper his intensity if he would play in the sand. Given the fact that Love would be there, it would only spark Bryant's competitive juices even more. Knowing plenty of the young NBA superstars dominated the story lines during the 2011 All-Star game, Bryant sent out a loud statement, taking his fourth All-Star MVP trophy, partly by grabbing a team-leading 14 rebounds. Anytime he snared one, Bryant boasted to Love and Clippers forward Blake Griffin that he was the "double-double king," referring to Love and Griffin frequently leading in the league in that category. Something tells me a similar thing would happen on the beach.
Pau Gasol: It's safe to say he won't be playing any beach volleyball because he's staying in Spain the entire summer. He also just started training with the Spanish national team for the European Championships, taking place Aug. 31 to Sept. 18 in Lithuania. But Gasol is no stranger to the beach volleyball scene. In fact, most summers he spends time in Manhattan Beach playing volleyball to keep in shape. If he had hung around and taken part in some volleyball this year, his 7-foot-1 frame would have proved too hard to stop. Also, it would have been a good rebounding exercise, because too often he delegated that responsibility to Andrew Bynum.
Andrew Bynum: He's already spent part of his summer in boxing lessons to improve his footwork and agility. So it would only be natural for him to find another outlet to work on those skills. Plus, Bynum's main responsibility lately has been dominating the rebounds, so of course the Lakers would need him to provide all the blocks and spikes. Derek Fisher once said that Gasol and Bynum often spend time in practice lobbing the basketball at each other as if they're playing two-on-two volleyball against everyone else. Something tells me that duo would go undefeated.
Ron Artest: There's a good chance he wouldn't be focused on the game at all. But for entertainment value, he'd need to attend. When he played sand football with fans earlier this summer, Artest struggled to run in the sand. So it's likely he'd be just as bad on the volleyball court. His accuracy is usually questionable, so it's just a hunch that some of his serves and returns would hit the net or go out of bounds. And with the festive atmosphere surrounding the event, Artest would be more consumed with arriving in a funny costume and providing one-liners than actually taking the game seriously.
Lamar Odom: Just like his skill set in basketball, Odom could be plugged anywhere on a volleyball team. Ask him to serve and he'd likely provide a fast and arching shot over the net with his left hand. Ask him to give Bynum or Gasol a breather and he'd be right there blocking shots and spiking balls over the net. Ask him to provide some snacks between games and you know Odom will have all the Starbursts and Skittles anyone could want. Let's just hope Khloe Kardashian's reality television crew doesn't arrive to film the festivities.
Derek Fisher: He doesn't have the size or the speed to dominate, but Fisher would be the one diving to get serves and lobs and urging the referees to reconsider their calls. He'd also always be a supportive teammate, eager to pick up someone else.
Steve Blake: He may not have shown it on the basketball court all the time, but Blake showed some amazing speed and quickness when he joined Artest for sandball earlier this summer. I'd expect Blake to have that same kind of footwork with beach volleyball.
Matt Barnes: Consider it the final step of his rehab, when he will test the durability of his surgically repaired right knee. Barnes would have the grit to dive for loose balls. He'd endlessly trash talk. And if he would go shirtless, Barnes' infinite tattoos could intimidate his opponents when they go up to try to block one of his shots.
Luke Walton: He's frequently participated in Manhattan Beach's six-man volleyball tournament, but Walton would prove of little value other than having a fun time and supporting everyone. Don't worry Laker fans, this wouldn't require the team to lock him into another long-term contact.
-- Mark Medina
E-mail the Lakers blog at firstname.lastname@example.org
Upper photo: Former UCLA basketball standout Kevin Love is planning to try his hand at volleyball while the NBA figures out its labor issues. Credit: Jason DeCrow / Associated Press
Lower photo: Lakers forward Ron Artest would likely be entertaining on the volleyball court. Just don't count on him for actually playing well. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times