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Alvin Gentry considers the Lakers a Western Conference threat

The Lakers all season have faced some unsettling realities that remain unresolved. 

They are still experiencing Lamar Odom's departure and have yet to use their $8.9-million trade exception. Ever since Shannon Brown left for Phoenix via free agency, the Lakers haven't found a definitive backup for Kobe Bryant.

And, oh yeah. There's the whole transition period involving the Lakers shifting from Phil Jackson's triangle offense to Mike Brown's strong corner offense. In the past five games, the Lakers have actually worsened in several categories compared to their season average, including points per game (88.6, 92.48), field-goal percentage (41.2%, 44.7%) and turnovers (15.4, 14.83).

Add all those ingredients together and the Lakers (17-12) enter Friday's game against the Phoenix Suns with a fifth-place standing in the Western Conference. Still, Suns Coach Alvin Gentry considers the Lakers a legitimate threat. 

"As long as they have No. 24, they will be thought of that way," Gentry said. "Their record doesn't really matter. They still have him, [Andrew] Bynum and [Pau] Gasol ...  At the end of the day, are you telling me anybody would want to play them in the playoffs in the first round? No, I don't think so. I don't think anyone is begging to play them in the playoffs in the first round."

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Lakers to play Suns with depleted frontline

The Lakers enter tonight's game against the Phoenix Suns with questions that go beyond Kobe Bryant's physical status or the team's familiarity with Coach Mike Brown's offense.

The Lakers will play without reserve forwards Josh McRoberts, Jason Kapono and Troy Murphy. McRoberts will miss his fifth consecutive game because of a sprained left big toe. Murphy has gastroenteritis, which prevented him from attending the morning shoot-around. And Brown gave Kapono approval to miss the game after his wife, Ashley, gave birth to twin girls, Isla and Campbell -- Tuesday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

Brown said he "might" give Luke Walton, Metta World Peace and Devin Ebanks time at power forward, but remained coy about his plans.

"I'll probably give Luke the first crack," Brown said. "But I'm not sure yet."

His refusal to share specifics prompted Times columnist T.J. Simers to question his reason for remaining vague, which led to an interesting revelation.

"Most of my basketball thoughts are in the shower," Brown said, "and when I was in the shower, I thought about those three guys. That doesn't sound right."

He then stared into the camera above and said, "Cut, take 2."

Nonetheless, it appears Brown won't have to remain coy regarding his frontline reserve rotation for too much longer. McRoberts plans to travel with the team tonight for its game Wednesday at Utah, though it's undetermined whether he will play. Kapono plans to play against the Jazz. And though Murphy won't travel with the team, he may take a commercial flight Wednesday morning if he feels better. 

--Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

Lakers roster remains in flux

Kobe Bryant/Pau Gasol

-- The Times' Mike Bresnahan reports recently waived guard Baron Davis would love to join the Lakers. It remains unclear if the Lakers feel the same way, particularly because of his bad back.

-- The Times' Ben Bolch explains how teams can acquire players through trade exceptions and amnesty clauses.

-- The Orange County Register's Janis Carr explains why Lakers Coach Mike Brown needs to improve on defense.

-- ESPN Los Angeles' Brian Kamenetzky sizes up all the Lakers' newcomers. 

-- Sports Illustrated's Lee Jenkins believes the Clippers will emerge from the Lakers' shadow. 

-- ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin details how Devin Ebanks has an increased opportunity because of Lamar Odom's departure. 

-- The Daily News' Elliott Teaford explains why Friday's scrimmage was a mixed bag.

-- Lakers.com's Mike Trudell provides a running diary of Friday's scrimmage. 

-- Forum Blue and Gold's J.M. Poulard compares and contrasts the post game under Brown and Phil Jackson. 

-- Silver Screen and Roll's C.A. Clark wonders if the Lakers can play better despite having a worse roster than last season's. 

-- BlogNBAsketball's Martin Knezevic wonders how the Lakers will respond to the pressure. 

Tweet of the Day: "Troy Murphy has reached agreement on a one-year deal with the Lakers, league source tells Y! Sports." -- WojYahooNBA (Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski)

Rick Friedman Reader Comment of the Day: "Everyone is saying the Lakers are weaker this year. I will always consider P. Jackson and Lamar part of a Golden Era of Lakersdom. But people got lost in the triangle; it became an excuse for lazily not coordinating. We need to develop new talent. IMHO Coach Brown is the big move we've been waiting for." -- John Kenneth Press

-- Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com.

Photo: Lakers forward Pau Gasol, left, and point guard Kobe Bryant performed well in a team scrimmage on Friday. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

Lakers sign Jason Kapono to one-year deal

Jason-kapono_600

While the Lakers continue pursuing New Orleans guard Chris Paul, they added some pieces to their roster.

They signed free-agent forward Jason Kapono to a one-year deal for the veteran's minimum. Considering he's shot 43.7% from three-point range, the addition should immediately help the Lakers' outside shooting.

They signed rookie guards Darius Morris to an undisclosed deal. Morris, whom the Lakers drafted 41st overall out of the University of Michigan, led the Big Ten last season in assists, but his 25% mark from three-point range prompted him to spend most of his summer fixing his footwork, form and follow through. Morris had also become a fixture at the Lakers' practice facility this past week during voluntary workouts.

PHOTOS: Lakers' season-opening practice

The Lakers also signed Andrew Goudelock to a two-year deal, according to his agent, Austin Walton. He said Goudelock will make the rookie minimum his first season, followed with a team option his second season. Goudelock, whom the Lakers drafted with their 46th pick, hadn't arrived to training camp until Thursday because he was at College of Charleston to finish his degree. His strong marksmanship from three-point range has led the Lakers to believe he can bolster the team's outside shooting.

"It was a good first day," Walton said. "He's starting get down the playbook. With or without the Chris Paul trade, I think he was going to sign. He's probably going to get more playing time at the 2-guard than the 1 anyway."

Meanwhile, the Lakers also signed some D-League players, That included Chris Daniels after the Erie Bayhawks picked him ninth overall in the 2011 NBA Development League Draft and two D-Fender players, forward Zach Andrews and guard Elijah Millsap.

MORE:

Lakers' deal for Chris Paul is killed by the NBA

Lamar Odom avoids Lakers training camp but Pau Gasol is there

Lamar Odom in 'disbelief' after nearly being traded to New Orleans

--Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

Photo: Veteran forward Jason Kapono makes an entry pass to the post during his time with the Toronto Raptors. Credit: Lynne Sladky / Associated Press

Lamar Odom in 'disbelief' after nearly being traded to Hornets

Newestlo

Lamar Odom is still a Laker, but he doesn't sound completely thrilled about it.

Odom admitted that he was “shocked” and “surprised” when told Thursday afternoon that the Lakers agreed to trade him to the New Orleans Hornets as part of a deal for point guard Chris Paul. But this evening when he heard that the NBA had killed the trade, Odom said he was in “total disbelief” over these new developments.

Odom and Pau Gasol had been part of a three-team deal: Paul was coming to the Lakers, Odom was going to the Hornets and Gasol was going to the Houston Rockets, who were going to send Luis Scola, Kevin Martin, Goran Dragic and draft picks to the Hornets.

PHOTOS: Lamar Odom through the years

But NBA commissioner David Stern, reportedly under pressure from the same owners that just ratified the new collective bargaining agreement, killed the deal. The Hornets are owned by the NBA; the league said they rejected the Paul "trade for basketball reasons."

“I guess that means I’m a Laker if the trade didn’t go through,” a somber Odom said in a phone interview with The Times. “I don’t know what to do for the Lakers. I’m even weirded out by the league doing what they did. I don’t know what to do.”

Odom said he thought it was “a lie” when he was first told about the trade to New Orleans.

“And then it doesn’t go through,” Odom said. “Oh, lord. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’ll pray about it.”

The Lakers open training camp Friday at their facility in El Segundo.

“Maybe I’ll see you there tomorrow [at practice],” Odom said. “But I doubt it. You don’t want to go to no place you’re not wanted. I’ll try to give them what they want as much as possible.”

Odom also felt bad for Gasol.

“Imagine how Pau feels,” Odom said. “Pau came to the Lakers and played here for four years, went to the Finals and lost, won two NBA championships and then got swept [by the Dallas Mavericks this year]. Wow! Imagine how he must feel.

“Man, I’m just in total disbelief about all of this,” Odom continued. “They don’t want my services, for whatever reason. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. I was proud to be a Laker, so I’ll try to help them in the process as much as possible."

RELATED:

Lakers' deal for Chris Paul is killed by the NBA

Mike Brown's offense likely to use Kobe Bryant in multiple ways

Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard would mesh well together as Lakers

 --Broderick Turner

Photo: Lakers forward Lamar Odom in May. Credit:  Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

Lakers' talks with Hornets for Chris Paul get more serious

FabforumSo much for cursory and unproductive discussions.

The Lakers have taken stronger steps in their talks with the Hornets for perennial All-Star guard Chris Paul, according to an individual familiar with discussions but not authorized to speak publicly about it.

The Hornets are not interested in acquiring Pau Gasol, so the Houston Rockets have been approached as a third team in discussions to help the Lakers acquire Paul, who can become a free agent after this season.

Under one proposal, Houston would send Luis Scola and Kevin Martin to New Orleans, the Lakers would send Gasol to Houston and the Lakers would get Paul. There would be peripheral players involved as well to make the salaries match up under rules of the new collective-bargaining agreement.

Over the last week, the Lakers had mostly short-lived conversations with New Orleans about Chris Paul, though Thursday marked a change in direction. Friday is the first day of training camp, as well as the first day free agents can sign with another team.

The Lakers' discussions with the Orlando Magic for Dwight Howard remain slow.

RELATED:

Albert Pujols still values his March visit with Kobe Bryant

Mike Brown's offense likely to use Kobe Bryant in multiple ways

Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard would mesh well together

--Mike Bresnahan

Photo: Pau Gasol puts defensive pressure on Chris Paul as Derek Fisher looks on during the 2011 NBA playoffs. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times.

 

Lakers had brief discussion with Orlando regarding Dwight Howard

Dwight3
The Lakers spoke briefly with Orlando on Tuesday about the availability of center Dwight Howard, the Times has learned, a conversation described as "cursory" by a league official with knowledge of the situation.

Translation: The discussion was unproductive.

In fact, no trade proposals were even exchanged.

Howard and New Orleans guard Chris Paul can become free agents after the season, and the Lakers have now had brief talks with both teams regarding the perennial All-Stars. The Lakers were "not even close" to striking a deal with New Orleans, according to a person familiar with the Lakers' thinking who was not authorized to speak publicly.

Training camp for all 30 NBA teams is scheduled to begin Friday.

The Lakers start the season Dec. 25 against Chicago at Staples Center, part of a back-to-back-to-back set that continues Dec. 26 in Sacramento and concludes Dec. 27 against Utah at Staples Center.

RELATED:

Dwight Howard and Chris Paul in L.A.? It's not a farfetched idea

Lakers' condensed schedule presents plenty of challenges

2011-12 Lakers and Clippers schedules

-- Mike Bresnahan and Broderick Turner

Photo: Orlando center Dwight Howard. Credit: Reinhold Matay / Associated Press

Lakers' 2011-12 schedule features many challenges

Kobe Bryant

The Lakers may hardly feel in the holiday spirit.

That's because their 66-game schedule starting Christmas Day features something more depressing than receiving coals in their stockings. They open the regular season with three games in consecutive nights: Dec. 25 at home against Chicago, Dec. 26 at Sacramento and Dec. 27 at home against Utah. That coincides with Andrew Bynum serving a five-game suspension for flattening Mavericks guard J.J. Barea in the playoffs.

The Lakers will play 20 of their 66 games on consecutive nights. They have a 10-day, six-game trip in February with stops in Denver (Feb. 3), Utah (Feb. 4), Philadelphia (Feb. 6), Boston (Feb. 9), New York (Feb. 10) and Toronto (Feb. 12). Their holiday schedule also remains busy with a home game New Year's Eve at 12:30 p.m. against Denver followed by a rematch in Denver on New Year's Day at 5 p.m.

Because of the shortened season, the Lakers will play only 18 games against Eastern Conference teams, meaning they won't play in Chicago, New Jersey, Charlotte and Indianapolis. The Lakers will travel to Boston, Miami and Orlando, but the Magic won't play at Staples Center.

Despite a compressed schedule, the Lakers will appear regularly on national television. TNT features the Lakers in nine broadcasts, NBA TV will show 10 games and ESPN/ABC will air 15 games. Lakers fans may also want to circle these dates: Jan. 16 (vs. Dallas), Jan. 19 (at Miami), Feb. 23 (at Oklahoma City). The NBA playoffs begin on April 28 and the last possible game of the NBA Finals will be on June 26. 

And then let's not forget Dec. 19 and Dec. 21, when the Lakers play the Clippers at Staples Center in preseason games.

RELATED:

Lakers will begin season with back-to-back-to-back games

Five ways to handle Lakers' reduced practice schedule

Magic Johnson predicts Lakers won't win NBA Finals

--Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

Rashad McCants works out at Lakers facility

At this rate, the same amount NBA hopefuls have showed up to the Lakers' practice facility Tuesday as the actual roster.

Lakers guards Derek Fisher, Devin Ebanks and Darius Morris practiced, while players such as Leon Powe, Marcus Banks and Rashad McCants arrived hoping they can provide some favorable impressions on the Lakers' front office.

Considering that the Lakers are pondering more aggressive moves, such as acquiring Dwight Howard and/or Chris Paul, this hardly qualifies as an urgent manner. But to an NBA hopeful, no one's ever been given a job when they haven't applied.

In McCants' case, he would know. Though he has never had off-the-court issues, he's been saddled with a reputation for having a bad attitude. He also never showed up at the Cleveland Cavaliers' mini-camp last off-season before playing in China and for the D-League's Texas Legends last season

"Focus on the future," McCants said. "Everything that's happened in the past has been in the past. I've grown a lot. Right now, my focus is helping any team to the playoffs and to the championship. Maturing as a player, maturing as a person, has just been about helping the team win and do my part to help the team to get more wins to a championship."

McCants said he's maintained contact with General Manager Mitch Kupchak because of their North Carolina connections and the Lakers' apparent interest in him in past seasons. McCants labeled the Lakers as "an ideal team for me to play for" as a reserve and plans to practice at the Lakers' and Clippers' practice facilities the rest of the week. Nonetheless, that'd bring inevitable complications with Lamar Odom considering that his wife Khloe Kardashian once had a relationship with McCants. 

"To be in this atmosphere and feel that championship swag is important, said McCants. Hopefully that can lead me into training camp."

RELATED:

Lakers should offer Andrew Bynum for Chris Paul

Lakers can't let limited payroll inhibit risk-taking

Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard would mesh well together

— Mark Medina

Email the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

Lakers will begin season with back-to-back-to-back games

Kobe Bryant

The Lakers won’t wait long for a dreaded back-to-back-to-back situation.

They are scheduled to play three games over the first three days of the season: Dec. 25 at home against Chicago, Dec. 26 at Sacramento and Dec. 27 at home against Utah.

Ho-ho-ho?

The NBA schedule has not been publicly released, but details have been obtained by The Times, including the Lakers’ frantic start.

Teams haven’t played three games in three nights since the last lockout-shortened season in 1999, but every team has at least one sequence in the upcoming 66-game season. Some teams will have two or three sets of terrible threes.

The Lakers have no other sets of back-to-back-to-backs as of now, though there might still be changes to the schedule, which will be finalized and released Tuesday by the NBA.

Adding to the Lakers’ early challenge: Andrew Bynum will serve a five-game suspension for body-slamming Dallas guard J.J. Barea in last season’s playoffs.

Christmas isn’t the only holiday on which the Lakers play. They are scheduled to travel to Denver on Jan. 1 and also play the afternoon of Dec. 31 against an unknown opponent.

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