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Category: Lakers mailbag

Dream Team-Redeem Team comparisons spark debate

1992 Dream Team

Yes, there are things going on this NBA offseason besides prolonged negotiations and debate about whether Kobe Bryant will actually play overseas.

There's of course Ron Artest's random antics that pop into the headlines every other day. When Andrew Bynum's not taking up boxing lessons, he's getting well-earned scrutiny for getting caught parking in handicapped spaces. Pau Gasol, meanwhile, has kept busy training with the Spanish national team preparing for the European Championships this month.

Based on the number of emails and comments, however, most of the buzz lately has centered around Magic Johnson's recent hourlong conversation with Times columnist Bill Plaschke at Loyola Marymount University. Johnson relived his storied Lakers career that spanned five NBA championships, three league and Finals MVPs, 12 All-Star appearances and a million-dollar smile. He looked ahead to possible ownership opportunities with an NFL team in Los Angeles, or even the Dodgers. Looking back, he admitted that he wouldn't have retired so quickly after being diagnosed with HIV.

There's one comment Johnson made that elicited plenty of debate: His boasts about the 1992 Dream Team and their superiority to the 2008 Redeem Team. 

"When you think about the Olympics and the Dream Team, I have to throw it to you," Johnson said. "Kobe [Bryant] and them won by 22 points. Ehh, 22 points? We won by an average of 44 points. So when they want to step up to that, you tell them we'll be waiting on them."

In putting together this week's mailbag, it's obvious Johnson's argument struck a chord. (For future mailbags, email your questions to mgmedin@gmail.com)

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Kobe Bryant considering playing overseas sparks continued debate

Kobe Bryant

Every week, I sort out my inbox, refresh my Twitter feed and sift through the comments section to see what Laker fans are talking about these days.

There's no contest which topic is leading the discussion: Should Kobe Bryant play overseas? There's been ongoing developments with this issue, the latest being that he plans to meet with the Turkish basketball team, Besiktas, Saturday over the possibility that he would play for them during the NBA lockout. As soon as this idea popped up, I gave my immediate analysis on why this would be a bad idea, but the debate remains because the lack of a new collective-bargaining agreement. 

So it comes as no surprise that most of the questions in this week's mailbag center on that very issue. (To keep this mailbag active, please e-mail questions at mgmedin@gmail.com or message me on Twitter @latmedina). 

"The man should spend his summer resting and strengthening his knee.Why spend time playing over seas and add more wear and tear to his body. Stay home in the us,does he really need the money?" Kobe try organizing some game, or scrimmages,with your team mates and develop some chemistry.Which the team obviously didn't have during the playoffs." -- -- oclezy

I agree with you 100%, but Bryant remaining open to playing overseas doesn't have much to do with money. Sure, Bryant's looking to market his brand and provide additional income to offset the three-year, $83.5-million contract with the Lakers. But this surely has more to do with providing leverage to the players union while they negotiate a new collective-bargaining agreement. Remaining open to an idea of playing overseas is far different from actually doing so. Until I actually see Bryant put on a Besiktas uniform on, I highly doubt anything substantial will come out of the upcoming negotiations.

Your argument that Bryant should organize team practices is valid. But let's remember that we're still in July and in normal seasons most players are on vacation. Next month is a different story, as this is the time when players begin intense workouts. Should the NBA lockout bleed into the fall, it's absolutely critical that Bryant remain on the forefront in ensuring that the team practices together so that any learning curve under Mike Brown's coaching staff will be minimal. 

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Lakers Mailbag: Looking at the Lakers' personnel

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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 mgmedin@gmail.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. 

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Lakers Mailbag: Readers amused by Ron Artest changing his name to Metta World Peace

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Every week, I'm going to clean out my inbox and answer a few Lakers-related questions. Whether it's about free agency, the Lakers' chances to win the NBA title next season or something offbeat, send  your thoughts to mgmedin@gmail.com or fire away in the comment threads below.

I was talkin' with another basketball fan (a neighbor), and we were discussing Ron Ron, a.k.a. Metta World Peace, and my neighbor pointed out that it seems to be that all defensive specialists are crazy. Rodman, Laimbeer, Metta. -- 63 Footer

That’s a very good observation, and I’d argue that’s what made all of those players so great. Rodman surely had anger and distraction issues, but under the right guidance -- Phil Jackson, Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen -- Rodman channeled his energy and emotion enough to be an endlessly dominating presence on the boards. Laimbeer’s defensive tactics were heavy-handed, but few could dispute that they were effective and set the Pistons’ identity as a hard-nosed and intimidating team. And Artest has become one of the top defensive players because of his rugged and physical play as well as his penchant for saying weird things to throw off his opponents. Their offbeat personalities often got them in trouble, but it served as a vital part in making them the effective players that they were.

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Lakers Mailbag: Laker fans love trade talk

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Every week, I'm going to clean out my inbox and answer a few Lakers-related questions. Whether it's about free agency, the Lakers' chances to win the NBA title next season or something offbeat, fire away your thoughts to mgmedin@gmail.com or in the comment threads below.

1. Would Jim Buss, who had a major hand in hiring Mike Brown, honestly not consider trading Bynum for Howard? Howard is a DEFENSIVE beast! -- notjakelane (via Twitter)

Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski indicated that Buss made it clear that Bynum was "untouchable in trade talks." That makes sense for about 99% of deals because it's very hard to replace Bynum's 7-foot presence, and one of the Lakers' main threats involves their size advantage, even if Bynum has an extensive history of injuries. But if the Lakers have a chance to trade Bynum for Dwight Howard, the Lakers' brass would need to stop Jim Buss from being so stubborn. Overall, though, I agree with my colleague Mike Bresnahan, who argues that there is an 85% chance Bynum will be with the Lakers next season. 

The only scenario Bynum should worry about involves the Lakers getting Howard, but it's way too early to tell whether that's feasible. The Magic, like all the other teams, are aware of Bynum's injury history. Even though Howard made it pretty clear he wanted to leave Orlando if they didn't acquire the necessary pieces to win a championship, the Magic aren't yet at the same point as the Denver Nuggets were in trading Carmelo Anthony. Howard, like Anthony, refused to sign an extension, but Orlando hasn't yet believed that an exit is inevitable.

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Lakers Mailbag: Analyzing the state of the Lakers

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We've made it to the third edition of Lakers Mailbag, but we're going to need everyone to step up their game. My hope is that the process will involve some of same heavy sampling used in determining the daily Rick Friedman Reader of the Day comment award. So get those questions in on a daily basis by sending me an email at mgmedin@gmail.com, or just leave one on the comment threads. Hopefully, the questions below will elicit some responses.

1. "Jim Buss, what makes you think Mitch Kupchack can completely retool for new offensive system in one year considering the number of returning contracts, how we're over the cap, AND no player is going to take a pay cut to be coached by Mike Brown?" - Jon K.

I don't think Jim Buss is starting a mailbag, so I guess I'll have to answer this one myself. Jon K, I completely agree with you, and it's the primary reason I'm opposed to the Brown hire. I've already stated in previous posts that my concern isn't necessarily his coaching, but his ability to handle all the egos and distractions that surround the team.

Another reason has to do with the huge reality you outlined: Regardless of whether you do or don't like the Brown hire, his philosophy is completely different than that of Phil Jackson and a transition period is inevitable. Realistically, the Lakers' current roster is primed for one or two more championship runs, then the overhaul starts with finding a new franchise player and building the supporting cast around him. That's why I thought Brian Shaw's presence would be valuable in providing a bridge between the past and the future.

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Lakers mailbag: More questions on the Lakers' offseason needs

34841195Below is the second edition of Lakers mailbag, a weekly fixture I will present every Friday. The success of this hinges on everyone participating. So if you have a question you've wanted  to be answered, email me at the address below or leave a comment in the threads.

"Since almost all of the intelligent bloggers here, as well as the "so called" experts on T.V. seem to see that our PG play and lack of outside shooting are our two biggest problems as a team, why don't you feel that there is the Lakers feel a need to upgrade these gaping holes? Is it more accurate to say that they don't want to show your hand regarding any trade scenarios?" -- mcclyne1

The Lakers rarely discuss the inner workings of their front office. While the Lakers, including owner Jerry Buss and General Manager Mitch Kupchak, mentioned that they want to keep the team's "core" and only make "tweaks" to the roster, they are really only speaking in generalities. If something lands on their desk that significantly improves their team, they'll try to make it work. The problem is, as much as the Lakers want to make changes, their hands are tied. They're coming off a season that consisted of a $91-million contract and the only free agents this season involve reserves. Lakers guard Shannon Brown hasn't indicated whether he'll exercise his $2.91-million player option. The Lakers have team options for Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter worth a combined $1.6 million. And the Lakers have four second-round draft picks at 41, 46, 56 and 58, with Kupchack telling Lakers.com's Mike Trudell they may want to pursue guards because of the uncertainty surrounding Brown's contract, Derek Fisher's age (36) and the heavy mileage on Kobe Bryant

As much as the Lakers would like to upgrade at point guard position, they might be better off saving up to acquire Deron Williams or Chris Paul next offseason. So the Lakers' rhetoric indicate they're completely satisfied with their current roster. But with a high player payroll and a strong possibility of a lockout, the Lakers are simply trying to anticipate having to make best with what they have. 

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Lakers mailbag: Looking at what Mike Brown might bring as head coach

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This is the first edition of Lakers mailbag where I'll answer questions Laker fans email me every week. Here's how the drill is going to work: Email me your question to the address marked at the bottom of the post with at least your full name and city of residency. If you're concerned with having your name being put out on the Web, that's fine. We'll go with the first name. But either way, send me your questions and I'll consider it for a mailbag every Friday. Hopefully this becomes a regular staple at the Lakers blog, but the success mostly hinges on your questions.

I'll also carry my pledge and engage more in the thread discussions, particularly since there won't be any practices or games to cover. So hopefully this is the first of many good mailbag posts. Without further ado, here are questions from this week's mailbag, all of them naturally pertaining to newly hired Lakers Coach Mike Brown.

1. Now that he’s in LA, with a whole squad of talent, what offense will [Brown] take? Will he keep the triangle or go for something else? What can we look forward to? -- Peter Chisom, Goleta, Calif.

It didn't take too long for that question to pop up in Brown's introductory press conference and he made it very clear the offense will look different. Though Brown said he'll still run "bits and pieces" of the triangle, it's going to look nothing like the sets Phil Jackson ran with the Lakers. Brown specifically mentioned three areas he wanted the Lakers to perfect, including "attacking the clock," "paint touches," and "spacing." Out of those three concepts, Brown wants the Lakers' offense to get the ball set in their offense in the first three or four seconds on the shot clock so there's more time to actually run the offense. He wants the Lakers to run constant ball reversals to throw the defense off balance and so that they fully utilize their inside-out game. And he wants the Lakers to have proper spacing so that there's floor balance.

Specifically regarding the inside game, Brown plans to draw from his experience as an assistant coach with the San Antonio Spurs' 2003 championship team that featured getting the ball to David Robinson and Tim Duncan more in the post instead of the blocks and on more pick-and-roll action. Brown believes if the Lakers apply those concepts to Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol, it'll be harder for opponents to throw double teams at the frontline and push them out of the lane. Still, Brown made it clear regarding Kobe Bryant that "this is his team" and that his teammates need to find ways to make sure he has open looks in what he calls his "sweet spots." Brown's ideas all sound good in theory, but with Bynum's insistence on having a bigger role, Bryant immediately saying Bynum needs to "fall in line," and Gasol presumably having a better performance next season, the success of Brown's plan will hinge on how he gets everyone to buy into it. 

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