Lakers Mailbag: Looking at the Lakers' personnel
At this point, you know the drill. Every Friday I'll answer a few readers questions. If you want your question answered, shoot me an email at email@example.com or talk to me on Twitter.
"The team as-is, who starts at PG for Brown?" -- pa61958
My hunch is it's still Derek Fisher, but there are plenty of reasons why next season will reveal some uncertainty. Many are clamoring for the Lakers to upgrade their point-guard position, including close friends Robert Horry and Lisa Leslie. Long an advocate for Fisher's leadership, work ethic and clutch play, former Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said in his exit interview that the team needs to acquire speed, which is usually a code word for lamenting Fisher's lack of it. And one of the things that made Fisher valuable within the Lakers pointed to the team's triangle offense since it lacked a traditional point-guard role, something that won't be run under Mike Brown.
But it's a tad presumptuous to say Fisher will lose his starting spot right away. First, there's the team chemistry with Fisher and Kobe Bryant running the show. Fisher reluctantly accepted a bench role in the 2003-04 season in favor of Gary Payton, but he made it clear during his 2010 exit interview that he strongly believed in remaining a starter. Brown hasn't tipped his hand one way or the other.
Although Fisher has been heavily criticized for his problems defending younger, quicker guards, you could never fault him for taking shortcuts and he was actually reliable in pointing out rotations to teammates, making deflections and taking charges. Fisher isn't above blame when a point guard goes off on a scoring spree, but that also falls more on the team's front line for not anticipating the help Fisher needs. With Brown emphasizing defense and the Lakers likely to have motivation after a shortened postseason, the help defense in the lane will surely improve and better offset some of Fisher's weaknesses.
And then there's the fact that the alternatives leave a lot to be desired. The Lakers signed Steve Blake last season to a four-year, $16-million deal in hopes that he could provide backup help for Fisher in terms of production and minutes. It never got to that point because of Blake's inconsistency, but it would've been interesting if Fisher's starting spot would've been in question had Blake played better. That's why the team and many fans have acknowledged the need to address their backcourt, but it remains to be seen whether that's just a wish list or if the Lakers can actually make that a reality.
"Do you think C Dwight Howard will be traded in the NBA off-season?" -- Marty2634 via Twitter
I doubt it. Howard made it clear to NBA.com's Scott Howard-Cooper (in a post I can't link because the league took it down) that he won't sign an extension with Orlando and will become a free agent next off-season no matter what. Howard added that he "wants to be in Orlando" but he questioned the team's overall commitment to winning and insisted he'll consider other options if the Magic doesn't win the 2012 NBA championship.
That's unlikely to happen, but it's way too early to think the Magic will operate like the Denver Nuggets did with Carmelo Anthony, knowing his refusal to sign a three-year, $65-million extension in the 2010 off-season meant he had no intention of coming back when he'd be a free agent this season. That doesn't mean teams, including the Lakers, would avoid inquiring Orlando on a possible deal, but the Lakers should be prepared for the scenario that Howard wouldn't be available until he becomes a free agent in 2012.
"How many of the Lakers on last year's roster do you honestly think will be returning next season? And how many would Mitch LIKE to return next season if he had unlimited nigh-Molecule Man-like powers?" --Jon K.
Funny stuff. I can't answer your second question, but I can answer your first. I don't suspect Shannon Brown is going to be around next season. He opted out of his $2.37 million contract and I wouldn't be surprised if the Lakers' enthusiasm in keeping him wouldn't be as strong as when they signed him after he opted out last season for a few reasons. Brown's play actually regressed in the 2010-2011 season because of his season-wide inconsistency in shooting. The Lakers drafted Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock assuming Brown wouldn't be back. And the Lakers' other options in making "tweaks" to their lineup are fairly limited.
Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak wouldn't say what his intentions are with the team options on Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter, but I believe the Lakers will keep Ebanks and let go of Caracter. Even with Ebanks' limited playing time, the team universally liked his work ethic and potential and indicated to him during exit interviews to work on his shooting guard skills because of the Lakers' need at that position. Meanwhile, Caracter self-admittadly could've prepared better and his arrest outside an International Pancake House in New Orleans certainly didn't help his chances. I wouldn't be surprised if the Lakers let him go, as ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin recently reported they might do.
The only other change I could see next season involves Lamar Odom. The Times' Broderick Turner reported the Lakers unsuccessfully tried trading him to Minnesota, an understandable scenario considering his two-year $17 million contract and versatility makes him an attractive option to many teams.
-- Mark Medina
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Photo: Lakers point guard Derek Fisher marks New Orleans Hornets point guard Chris Paul during Game 1 at Staples Center. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times / April 17, 2011