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Category: Mitch Kupchak

Kobe Bryant, Brian Shaw and Ronnie Lester have communication issues with Lakers' front office

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They have had different roles and histories with the Lakers organization, but there's a common thread that's tied Kobe Bryant, Brian Shaw and Ronnie Lester together.

The commonality goes beyond the 13 combined NBA championships they won with the Lakers. It points recently to their frustration over the front office's apparent lack of communication over important issues. The examples prove to be wide-ranging.

Bryant reportedly has been upset that management apparently didn't consult him and give him a heads-up about the hiring of Mike Brown as coach. Shaw, formerly the top assistant on Phil Jackson's staff, wishes he'd been told directly by the team that he wasn't getting the head coaching job, instead of learning of it through media outlets. And Lester, a former assistant general manager for the Lakers, feels offended that they provided little information on the 20 or so Lakers staffers, including himself, who were let go after their contracts expired June 30 and the NBA imposed a lockout.

The circumstances are different, but these examples involving Bryant, Shaw and Lester reveal that some of their misgivings could've been minimized with a simple phone call and more respect. Below is a more detailed look at all three situations. 

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Lakers shouldn't pin Andrew Bynum as their franchise player

61376481There's a constant tug for control, and we're not just talking about the NBA negotiations for a collective bargaining agreement.

We're talking about who will serve as the face of the Lakers' franchise, and there's plenty of evidence suggesting there will be an ongoing effort in determining which side prevails. Lakers executive Jim Buss has told other team officials, as reported by Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, that  center Andrew Bynum is untouchable in trade talks. Meanwhile, Buss  failed to even give Kobe Bryant a head's up about Mike Brown's hire, a decision he only regretted after to the fact in comments made to The Times' T.J. Simers. Bynum made it clear in his exit interview that he wants a larger role in the offense next season, while Bryant immediately fired back that Bynum needs to "fall in line." And though Brown stated in his introductory press conference that "this is Kobe's team," he outlined his vision for  the offensive pecking order working out naturally depending on who's playing well.

If only it were that simple. In light of the aforementioned off-season revelations, Lakers author Roland Lazenby penned a column at Hoopshype.com in which he talked to a Lakers insider who said that "Jim Buss is setting up Drew" to become the Lakers' franchise player. We'll have all of next season (if there even is one) to see how this all dynamic plays out, but there's plenty of reasons why it's misguided to cast Bynum as the team's franchise player now or even into the future. 

I'm not discounting what Bynum has brought to the team so far in his six seasons with the Lakers. Even with many fans clamoring about whether Bynum will ever become the dominant NBA center the Lakers envisioned when drafting him with their No. 10 pick in 2005, I had argued that everyone would need to exercise patience before reaching a definitive conclusion. Even amid various trade rumors that involved the Lakers shipping Bynum elsewhere, I lauded the organization's refusal to quickly pull the trigger on the young center. And even through his various injuries, I noticed that the Lakers still benefited from his presence because of their distinguishable skill set in having two 7-footers in Bynum and Pau Gasol.

But there are several areas I outline below that point out why it'd be wrong for the Lakers to pin Bynum as their next franchise player.

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NBA Draft: Darius Morris brings strong passing skills to the Lakers

Spending many of his childhood days marveling at Magic Johnson's passing abilities, former Windward High product Darius Morris sounded overwhelmed at the prospect of coming full circle with the Lakers selecting him with the 41st pick of the NBA draft and the school planning to retire his jersey.

He sure has a long way to go before even coming close to reaching Johnson's status, let alone actually make the Lakers roster. For one, Morris plans to spend most of the offseason working on his three-point shot since he averaged only a 25% clip his sophomore season at University of Michigan. Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak also openly acknowledged Darius' draft stock would've been higher had he stayed at least another year to develop his game, though Morris maintained having "no regrets at all" for turning pro.

Still, The Times' Mike Bresnahan indicated via Twitter that the Lakers believed Morris would be drafted as high as No. 19, revealing the Lakers are more than satisfied with their draft selections considering they came with four second-round picks at 41, 46, 56 and 58. Acquiring Morris doesn't immediately solve the Lakers' backcourt needs since he's not particularly quick. But he provides a passing role that remained largely absent during the Lakers' 2010-2011 season.

"Being a playmaker and reading what the defense gives me and making players around me better is one of my greatest assets I can bring to the team," said Morris, who led the Big Ten last season in assists (6.7). "In addition to being a playmaker, I can also score at times."

Darius Morris NBA draft interview

 

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NBA Draft: Andrew Goudelock joins Lakers with plenty of confidence

Andrew Goudelock hasn't yet put on a Lakers uniform after his No. 46 pick in the 2011 NBA draft, but it already seems the jersey fits.

He hasn't yet stepped foot in Los Angeles, but it already seems this city will embrace him. It remains unclear how much he'll affect the Lakers, let alone whether he'll make the roster cut, but it already seems there will be space for him.

His booming and articulate voice coming out of a speakerphone conveyed the maturity he developed in four years as a shooting guard at the College of Charleston. His strong sense of security oozed out when he confirmed a pre-draft quote: "I'm going to be able to shoot until the day I die." Not only did he embrace it, Goudelock took it a step further: "Unless something happens, unless I gain some type of disease where I forget how to shoot, I’m going to shoot until the day I die." And his direct honesty on recognizing the need to play to his shooting strengths, his need to sharpen up on defense and the need to immediately begin work the day after the NBA draft shows he has the proper perspective. "Tonight I’m going to enjoy it," he said. "Then it’s back to work for me."

But this isn't an assessment based on a seven-minute conference call with the L.A. media. It just confirms what's already apparent. Goudelock averaged 23.7 points on 45.5% shooting as a senior last season, continuing a pattern in which he increased his scoring average by at least three points and set a school record in points (2,571) and fourth-best in assists (424). He shot 40.7% from three-point range, suggesting he should already bolster the Lakers' 35.2% average from last season. 

"I’m not afraid of anybody," Goudelock said. "Whenever I have that confidence with me, I think it bodes well when I’m playing against competition because I don’t care who it is. When I step on that floor, I’m giving it 150% and I’m going to try to kill them."

Andrew Goudelock NBA draft interview

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NBA Draft: Lakers trade draft rights of Chuckwudiebere Maduabum to Denver for future second round draft pick

At least the Lakers' concerns following the NBA Draft don't involve worrying about pronouncing the name of Chukwudiebere Maduabum correctly. Or trying to convince the Nigerian star to follow Ron Artest's suit and legally change his name.

The Lakers traded the draft rights of Maduabum to the Denver Nuggets for a future second round draft pick. The 6'9" forward appeared in three games last season with the Bakersfield Jam of the NBA Development League.

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--Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected]

Mitch Kupchak expresses amusement over Ron Artest changing his name

There are many unanswered questions about why Ron Artest spent time on the day of the NBA draft filing paperwork at Los Angeles County Superior Court to legally change his name to "Metta World Peace."

Of course, the first question is why? And no, Artest's entry of "personal reasons" on the court document doesn't quite explain it. But another question involves what name will go on the back of Artest's -- er, I mean, World Peace's -- jersey.  A league official said that is up to the team and Artest.

Still, these are important questions that must be answered. Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak, for one, spent Thursday night drafting guards Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock with the 41st and 46th picks and Chukwudiebere Maduabum and Ater Majok with the 56th and 58th picks. But bringing up Artest's proposed name change led Kupchak to crack a smile for possibly the first time in his life. Don't be shocked. When asked his preference for what name Ron Ron should have on the back of his jersey, Kupchak delivered the ultimate punchline:

"I'm an advocate for world peace," Kupchak deadpanned.

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-- Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected]

NBA draft: Mitch Kupchak doesn't expect Shannon Brown to exercise option

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With only a week remaining before the current collective bargaining agreement expires, Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak said guard Shannon Brown still hasn't exercised his $2.37-million option to return next season.

"My guess, and it's only a guess, is he will choose not to extend one more year," Kupchak said during the NBA draft at the Lakers' practice facility in El Segundo. "Not knowing the answer to that at this time, we're probably going to look to add a player to our backcourt."

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--Mark Medina

E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected]

Photo: Lakers guard Shannon Brown tries to split the defense of Denver's Raymond Felton (20) and Ty Lawson during a game last season. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

NBA Draft: Looking at Lakers draft candidates

Mitch Kupchak Unless the Lakers use the NBA draft Thursday as an opportunity to make trades, there shouldn't be any expectations that much of significance will come out of the proceedings.

The Lakers have four-second round picks -- at Nos. 41, 46, 56 and 58 -- meaning that it's unlikely any of these selections will dramatically affect the roster. But there are a few possibilities that could at least address some of those needs. ESPN.com's Chad Ford and DraftExpress provided a list of candidates whom the Lakers could select. Below is a look at some of those players and how they might fit in with the Lakers. 

Nolan Smith (point guard, shooting guard, Duke)

Skinny: The Times' Broderick Turner reported that Smith impressed the Lakers with his workout, though it's possible he won't be available when the Lakers make their first pick. Smith is listed at 6 feet 3, so it's conceivable he'd play at shooting guard. Smith finished as the Blue Devils’ leader in scoring (20.6 points per game) and assists (5.1) as a senior and averaged 4.5 rebounds, filling a big void when teammate Kyrie Irving suffered a right toe injury. Smith has a high basketball IQ and good ballhandling skills, but he's not incredibly athletic or quick.

Malcolm Thomas (power forward, San Diego State)

Skinny: Thomas proved crucial during San Diego's 34-3 season, ranking second on the team in scoring (11.4 ppg) and rebounding (8.1). He had a team-high 75 blocks. Thomas has reportedly admitted his weaknesses to team officials during pre-draft workouts, acknowledging his desire to improve his perimeter scoring and his inside strength. But many consider him NBA ready as a defensive presence and a shot-blocker. He's listed at 6-8 but reportedly has a 7-1 wingspan to compensate for that lack of size.  

DeAndre Liggins (shooting guard, Kentucky)

Skinny: The Lakers are in dire need of outside shooting, but they won't get that from Liggins. His offensive stats during his three seasons with the Wildcats were fairly modest -- he averaged 8.6 points per game. But the Lakers would benefit from his perimeter defense. Liggins was often assigned to cover the opposing team's best guard, and he led the Wildcats in steals (46, 1.2 per game) and earned various honors (Southeastern Conference all-defensive team, NCAA East Regional all-tournament team). He would be a solid pickup and could help solve the Lakers' problems with defending speedy guards. 

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NBA mock drafts rarely highlight Lakers' picks

6a00d8341c506253ef015432ed85f6970c-320wiNBA mock drafts are a yearly ritual. But the only buzz you hear surrounding this year's draft are crickets, giving everyone more reason to mock the draft than actually make one (unless we're talking about Jimmer Fredette). 

Talk surrounding the NBA primarily centers on a collective bargaining agreement that expires in nine days. The uncertainty surrounding the 2011-2012 season prompted 41 players to withdraw their names from the draft. And in the case of the Lakers, any chance of the front office "blowing up this team" has a probability of nearly zero considering that their four second-round picks at Nos. 41, 46, 56 and 58 (unless of course the Lakers fall into David Kahn's trap in trading Pau Gasol to Minnesota, but plenty of reports indicate that would require them being held at gunpoint).

The Lakers' past draft history indicates, however, that the players they select at least have some chance to stay on the team's roster. Six of the 13 players the Lakers selected in the second round since 2003 currently played in the NBA last season. Below is a look at how those draft picks fared.

Luke Walton (drafted No. 32 in 2003 from University of Arizona)

The mere mention of his name creates mob-like hysteria for one very simple reason. Walton's 11.4 points per game on 47.4% shooting in the 2006-07 season truly indicated an average player playing with an average team. But it somehow convinced General Manager Mitch Kupchak to sign Walton to a six-year, $30-million contract.

The long-term deal has hurt the Lakers because Walton's extensive injury history kept him sidelined for 17 games in the 2008-09 season and all but 29 games in the 2009-10 season. Even with Walton at full strength, however, his value in understanding the triangle and being a good teammate nowhere near compensated for his lack of athleticism, poor shooting percentage and below-par defense. 

Walton's long-term deal also has hurt the Lakers because it significantly sapped them from making  moves that could've bolstered the roster. Walton's defense may be suspect, but his contract easily swatted down potential moves, such as the Lakers acquiring a backup center to help Pau Gasol absorb Andrew Bynum's injury last season, the team trading away Sasha Vujacic to the New Jersey Nets for Joe Smithand a $4-million cash profit, and the team's tightening finances in the 2010 off-season to the likes of Phil Jackson, Derek Fisher, Steve Blake, and Matt Barnes

The damage is far from over, with Walton still with two years remaining on his $11.48-million contract. But lost in this hysteria involves this reality: It's not Walton's fault the Lakers signed him to the deal. Point that finger at the front office. 

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Lamenting the Lakers' lost reserves from the 2010 NBA title team points to 20/20 hindsight

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Throughout each exit interview, every Laker dropped a morsel suggesting the missing piece to the championship puzzle.

Coach Phil Jackson lamented the team's lack of  speed. Center Andrew Bynum wished the team practiced with more intensity. And nearly everyone acknowledged in some form that the heavy basketball mileage accumulated through three consecutive NBA Finals appearances finally caught up to them. 

Interestingly enough, some of the Lakers from the 2010 championship team fit that description before parting ways. Jordan Farmar, who accepted a three-year, $12-million offer with the New Jersey Nets, provided plenty of speed as a backup point guard. Sasha Vujacic, whom the Lakers traded to the New Jersey Nets for Joe Smith, earned a reputation for playing with full intensity in practice and in games. DJ Mbenga and Josh Powell provided enough minutes to keep the Lakers' front line fresh, but the Lakers' failure to re-sign them resulted in Mbenga and Powell joining the New Orleans Hornets and Atlanta Hawks, respectively. 

The Lakers could have used all those missing ingredients, but fans shouldn't criticize Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak for replacing that bench with a veteran-laden reserve unit. Kupchak hardly expressed much satisfaction with the team's bench, citing Steve Blake's feeling uncomfortable on the floor, Matt Barnes' lateral meniscus tear limiting him and Theo Ratliff's arthroscopic surgery on his left knee happening only eight games into the season. But no one could've anticipated the worst-case scenario involving the newly signed players to unfold.

Sure, I found it risky for the Lakers to sign a 37-year-old Ratliff because of the uncertainty about how long he would last. Sure, I found it a little odd that little effort was made to give Smith a role to play  after lamenting the team's lack of support in helping Pau Gasol absorb Andrew Bynum's minutes while Bynum recovered from offseason surgery. And sure, the Lakers at some point are going to have to inject youth into the team to make the transition seamless when the contracts of Kobe Bryant (2013-14), Gasol (2013-14), Ron Artest (2013-14), Lamar Odom (2012-13) and Derek Fisher (2012-13) run out. But criticizing Lakers' front-office decisions during the 2010 offseason only points to 20/20 hindsight.

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