NBA lockout: Sizing up the Lakers on the football field
Whether it's an attention grab or just a sign of desperation, NBA players aren't just talking about playing basketball overseas. They're talking about playing other sports.
First, Minnesota forward Kevin Love declared that he would compete in this month's Manhattan Beach Open volleyball tournament Aug. 25-28. Now, Oklahoma City guard Nate Robinson has tweeted Seattle Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll about giving him a roster spot and even attended a Seahawks practice. Sure, he was only a spectator and not a participant, and it's unlikely anything substantive will actually happen.
But just as Love's announcement about playing beach volleyball sparked my curiosity on how Laker players would do on the sand, Robinson's flirtation with the NFL made me wonder how the Lakers would fare on the gridiron.
Kobe Bryant -- Even his most passionate supporters say it'd be a horrible idea for Bryant to play basketball competitively overseas. Playing football would be ridiculously awful, because you know Bryant's surgically repaired right knee, tender left ankle and arthritic right index finger would get nearly destroyed. But let's ignore the injury ramifications and just operate on pure fantasy. An avid Philadelphia Eagles fan, Bryant could join the so-called Dream Team, but given Bryant's competitive streak, being on a team where he'd be the main option would suit better for him. Even if he'd lack the explosiveness he once had during the prime of his NBA career, Bryant would be suited to play at wide receiver because of his efficient footwork. That position would also help him avoid the heavy hits he'd more likely absorb as a running back.
Pau Gasol -- Umm, bad idea. Unless Gasol, of course, wants to be called "soft" the rest of his life. Then again, that exaggerated reputation can't escape him.
Andrew Bynum -- For what it's worth, Laker forward Ron Artest offered me this scouting report on Bynum when I asked him earlier this summer who on the Lakers would make good football players: "He can run. He's tall. You can just throw it up. Simple: touchdown." There's only one problem. It's guaranteed Bynum would suffer multiple knee injuries before it ever got to that point.
Ron Artest -- He often said last season that he wanted to play in the NFL when he retires from basketball. At this point many Laker fans hope that happens as soon as next season, but it's unlikely Ron Ron would walk away from his remaining three-year, $21-million contract. Artest surely would have a bruising style, but judging by his sandball play with fans this summer, he would be a horrible football player. His accuracy is about as good as his three-point shooting so that cancels him out at the quarterback spot. I'd suspect he'd want to play cornerback so he could defend some of the NFL's top wide receivers, but Artest's declining speed and mobility would cause him to take too many risks, earn too many penalties and get burned on various routes.
Derek Fisher -- An avid Cowboys fan, Fisher follows the NFL closely. So closely that he pointed out tactfully in his biography that former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb should've known the rules about tie scores in overtime games. But with FIsher's size and declining speed, it'd be questionable where he'd actually fit in on the field. I could see him at quarterback, throwing passes with exceptional accuracy. But his success would largely hinge on the strength of the offensive line. There's no way he'd be able to scramble out of a blitz.
Lamar Odom -- Just like he does in basketball, Odom would play a utility role. Have him take reverses. Perhaps give him a series where he can throw a few passes or scramble out of the pocket. Allow him to line up in the slot. Odom would have to bulk up a bit, but he'd have the chops to at least appear respectable.
Steve Blake -- It's a giant leap to equate how he performed in a pickup sandball game to how he'd fare in actual helmet and pads in an NFL game. So even if Blake shows he has good instincts with his passing and scrambling abilities, it's presumptuous to think that would transfer into an actual game.
Matt Barnes -- He made it clear in a recent interview with ESPN Los Angeles' Andy and Brian Kamenetzky that he wouldn't even joke about playing in other leagues because it's disrespectful to the talent those athletes need to excel. But for argument's sake, Barnes would have the most success of any Laker on the gridiron. That's because he actually comes from a football background. He was a two-sport standout at Del Campo High School in Sacramento, where he collected football honors at wide receiver, including All-America, All-State, All-CIF, All-City and All-League. Barnes has told Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix that "seven or eight" NFL teams were interested in bringing him in for a tryout. I've never seen the high school tapes, but I imagine Barnes showed quickness and aggressiveness during his route running.
Derrick Caracter -- All that hand-wringing over whether Caracter has lost enough weight can go largely ignored on this. If anything, Caracter should feel even more inclined to eat up so he could become a Nate Newton-like offensive lineman. Fulfilling that job description still requires a good amount of conditioning so this shouldn't provide Caracter an excuse to neglect his off-season training.
-- Mark Medina
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Photo: Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden holds a blocking pad for running back Jay Finley at the Cincinnati Bengals' training camp. Could some of the Lakers have NFL futures? Credit: Al Behrman / Associated Press