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Category: Question of the Day

Are the Lakers done?

Photo: Lakers players Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol look at each other during a game at Staples Center in April. Credit: Noah Graham / NBAE / Getty Images As part of its series on NBA teams, ESPN.com has turned its eye to the Lakers, with a group of five sportswriters answering five questions. One of the questions: Can the Lakers win the title again with their current core?  Four of the five say sure, but former Times sportswriter J.A. Adande disagrees:

Fiction. Even if they can hold off the up-and-coming Thunder for a year or two, they won't be able to beat the best of the East. Sometimes not even four potential All-Stars is enough.

What do you think? Will the Lakers win with the core they have?

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Kobe Bryant needs to rest this off-season

NBA lockout: How will work stoppage affect Kobe Bryant's scoring?

-- Houston Mitchell

Photo: Lakers players Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol look at each other during a game at Staples Center in April. Credit: Noah Graham / NBAE / Getty Images

Preseason question of the day: How will Luke Walton's back hold up this season?

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The mere mention of his name creates hysteria around this corner of the blogosphere. His injury history and three-year, $16-million contract draw sarcastic remarks. His passing ability, strong understanding of the triangle offense and team-first mentality go unappreciated. And the thought that this would serve as a preseason question of the day may create an uprising among the L.A. Times Lakers blog masses.

But there's no way around it. How Luke Walton's back holds up this season is one of the most important preseason questions for the Lakers. It'll dictate whether he'll be able to bounce back from a 2009-2010 season he described as "frustrating" because a pinched nerve in his lower back limited him to only 29 games. Walton's health will strongly influence how Phil Jackson will use his rotations, and determine Walton's future with the team.

The answer to this question won't make or break the Lakers' season, but it'll likely affect a bunch of moving parts. That's why it's no coincidence that General Manager Mitch Kupchak got West Virginia forward Devin Ebanks with the 43rd pick of the NBA Draft and acquired free agent Matt Barnes. If Walton experiences more back problems this season, the Lakers want to b able to absorb his absence.

"With Luke's back, we're not sure what the future holds for him," Kupchak told reporters after the NBA Draft. "He struggled this year and, to his credit, came back and was available during the playoffs. But he really struggled. He's going to devote the summer to rehabilitation. But if Luke can't really make a contribution next year, we felt we really had to get somebody who could back him up."

Walton recently told Lakers.com's Mike Trudell that he spent a good portion of the offseason visiting with Lakers strength coach Chip Schaefer, a back specialist, a Pilates teacher and a yoga instructor, all in the hope that his back wouldn't require surgery and that he'd feel as strong as possible heading into training camp.

"My back feels great right now," Walton said. "It’s a lot stronger. I’m feeling confident in it and am excited to test it out. That being said, at the same time I’m a little nervous, just because I know how much of a grind the season and training camp can be. I dedicated the whole summer to making it strong enough to last, and that’s what I’m hoping for. If it doesn’t, I’m in a pretty bad spot."

It would also cause a lot of shuffling for the Lakers, likely giving Barnes and Ebanks more playing time. The team would be without a fluid passer -- though Steve Blake could fill that role once he nails down the triangle offense -- and would lose one of its experts in running the offense at a time the newcomers need to quickly learn the system.

Again, this won't make or break the Lakers' chances of three-peating, but that could be a whole lot easier if Walton's back holds up.

We'll find out soon enough.

-- Mark Medina
Twitter.com/latmedina

E-mail the Lakers blog at [email protected]

Photo: Luke Walton. Credit: Lenny Ignelzi / Associated Press

Poll Question: Who needs to fill the production the most during Pau Gasol's absence?

Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom answered that question Tuesday in the Lakers' 88-79 victory over the Houston Rockets. But because the timetable regarding Pau Gasol's left hamstring is uncertain (he likely won't play tonight against the Clippers), this isn't a one-time deal.

Lakers Coach Phil Jackson indicated yesterday during the pre-game scrum that Gasol's left hamstring injury isn't as serious as the right hammy that kept him sidelined for the season's first 11 games. Even if he doesn't miss 11 games like he did with his first injury, the Lakers may find Gasol's injury will be beyond the day-to-day prognosis.

In the pure interest of bracing for that scenario, which Lakers player needs to fill that scoring void? Can Bynum simply replicate the inside production? Can Odom still put up near-triple-double numbers despite playing sick? Or will it come down to Kobe Bryant continuing to amaze everyone with clutch performances despite an injury to his right index finger? Or will Ron Artest's defensive presence be enough?

Answer in the poll question below.

-- Mark Medina

Follow me on Twitter at latmedina

Old friends, new "enemies": QOTD

Let me preface this post by stating that the Ron Artest-Trevor Ariza "swap" isn't a K Brother obsession, Frenemies even if a string of posts over the last several days makes it reasonable to assume otherwise.  It just so happens the particular offseason storyline has popped up organically during some recent threads. Add another to that list.

After Monday's practice, I asked Artest about today's game against Houston, his first time facing the Rockets since leaving their roster. The Lakers being Ron's fifth team, he's certainly no stranger to competing against a franchise that once employed him. Players like to downplay these particular matchups ("It's just another game" being the most popular cliche.), but there's an undeniable charge from going mano y' mano with your old squad. Particularly when the situation involves getting traded or the team opts to let you go as a free agent, the latter applying to Artest.   On the surface, the makings of a garden-variety "gunning to drop 35 on your asses" matchup, but the specifics make things a little different.

Not only is he barely removed from his stint as a Rocket (five games into the new season), but time in Houston helped rebuild Artest's rep as a professional.  Even in a contract year that might prompt his best behavior and an established relationship with Rick Adelman, the "Ron Artest business" was considered a risky one.  The move paid off, as Artest played some of the best ball of his career and was regarded as a team leader, a tag not exactly littering his resume.  In the meantime, an unpredictability more quirky than volatile emerged for Artest.  He seemed genuinely happy in Houston, which hadn't always been the case in the past.  The feeling was mutual as fans mobbed him during the final moments of Houston's first round series against the Blazers. This moment put the "i" in "irony," which wasn't lost on Artest.

Continue reading »

Check your mail, Ron Ron

Ever since Ron Artest and his controversial NBA past became part of the Laker's present, there's been speculation a-plenty about who'll emerge the force keeping the small forward in check?  Will it be Phil Jackson, certainly no stranger to the art of reigning in eccentric/volatile personalities?  Kobe Bryant, the ultimate alpha male and the frequent target of Ron Ron's hero worship?  Derek Fisher, a vet who commands respect from even the biggest of superstar teammates?  Lamar Odom, Artest's buddy since childhood?  DJ Mbenga, something of an intimidating martial arts bad ass?  Well, add another name to the list of prospective calming forces:

Kyle Slavin.

The Second Coming's host recently penned an open letter to Artest about the importance of minding his P's and Q's while donning purple and gold.  In a nutshell, Slavin presents Ron's Laker stint as the best opportunity to define the story of his career.  Or rather edit that story's pages, what with all the missteps that have overshadowed Artest's work as one of the decade's best two-way players.  An early paragraph from Slavin sets a very clear tone:

    Let me be absolutely clear: you absolutely cannot mess this season up. You fail here, and you will never redeem your career again. You ruin this good thing we have going in LA, and the rest of your basketball days will be tarnished by it. In LA, we fans run deep. We know our basketball, we know our history, and we have more than a passing interest in the Lake Show. We will be here longer than you. We have more influence than you. Win us over, and you will be a Hall of Famer. Lose our faith, and you will never see this level of love again.

Sounds about right.  So there's one letter to a Laker, which got me thinking.  If y'all decided to type an opus to another member of the roster, what would you say and to which player?  Or would you just pick up where Slavin left off and tack on a little more for Artest's reading pleasure?

Thanks to True Hoop for the heads up.

AK

Question of the Day: Self examination required

Thursday's Titans/Steelers palate-whetting appetizer notwithstanding,Sunday marks the full on launch of fantasy football season (and, from what I understand, actual football season as well). Not everyone plays FBB... but a lot of people (myself included) do. Or basketball, baseball, and so on.

Most of us play for some sort of stakes, as well. Generally money.

With that in mind, I heard a really fun question listening to the radio this week: Would you rather win your fantasy league or have your favorite team win a Super Bowl/Larry O/Stanley Cup/Baseball Trophy with Flags On It? More accurately, since nobody should ever put the "pride" of winning a fantasy title ahead of the excitement of a real championship for their team- that's just lame- what would be your price in a straight cash-for-banner swap?

(UPDATE: Some people seem to be concentrating on the fantasy sports aspect of the question, which isn't the point, just the entry into the topic. More simply put, how much is a title for your favorite team worth to you? That, for all intents and purposes, was the question being asked on the show, and it's the one I'm asking here.)

Continue reading »

If you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with

Csny Henry Abbott over at the ol' ESPN True Hoop recently polled his fellow True Hoop scribes about the NBA squad they enjoy watching the most when their favorite team wasn't playing (in Abbott's case, the Portland Trail Blazers).  For most of the T.H. family, the Golden State Warriors took the prize, which isn't terribly surprising. 

As BK once described Nellie's bunch- with their "jacking up any and all shots/don't bother defending anybody because that drains energy better focused on jacking up any and all shots" style- they're the ultimate NBA Live team.  And if you're able to treat the Warriors with the same emotional attachment as one typically affords a video game squad, they fit a very specific bill.

For Abbott, the poor man's "Seven Seconds or Less" Phoenix Suns didn't quite cut it, so he chose the original.  I think I gotta agree with him. 

Continue reading »

Question of the Day: Pick your basketball skill

Last weekend, I strapped on the my Nike's (with extra cushy and supportive after market insoles added, just like the pros) for the big Lakers/710 ESPN 3-on-3 tournament down at Staples. Fair to say things didn't go well for team Purple Rain (two losses) or me (twisted ankle, zero votes in the tournament MVP voting). But as I waded through the sea of hoops humanity, filled with players who, like myself, weren't exactly horrible and clearly enjoy the game but who's love of playing is far outstripped by any ability to do it like an NBAer, I got to thinking:

If you could pick one skill you see in an NBA game- passing, ball handling, dead-eye shooting, jumping, shot blocking, rebounding, and so on- and do it like a pro, which would you choose? The rest of your game would still be yours, but in that one area, you'd rock. (Note: I don't know how many dudes (or dude-ettes) with genuine, upper-one-percent, get picked first at the rec but can't play because pickup games a violation of their current contract type skills frequent this site, but if you're one- and you're almost certainly not- feel free to click away, because the following likely doesn't apply to you.)

It's a tough question, at least for me.

Continue reading »

What if Michael Vick played basketball?

Thursday night, the Philadelphia Eagles signed former Falcons QB Michael Vick. 

I am not among those who thinks Vick should be banned from the NFL for life, or wasn't punished. He did terrible things, but went to jail and paid fully the penalty assigned to him by our justice system. I'm not talking about probation or house arrest. Vick went to big boy jail, and stayed for a long time. Not long enough for some, but hardly a slap on the wrist. As a GM in the NFL, I wouldn't have done it, but don't object on a moral level that the Eagles came to a different conclusion.*

But as a fan, would you want him? If Michael Vick was a point guard instead of a quarterback, would you be accepting if the Lakers brought him to LA? What if you knew he could improve the team, helping provide depth behind Derek Fisher at a position of relative weakness for the champs?

Continue reading »

The Lakers and Free Agency: Your Question of the Day

The fun begins late tomorrow night, as the NBA's free agent free for all officially kicks off. 

Here's the list of guys who will or could be on the market.  LA's priority is bringing back Lamar Odom and Trevor Ariza.  Which leads to today's Question of the Day:

Lamar Odom and Trevor Ariza II Is there anyone on the list linked above you'd choose instead of Ariza or Odom? 

The big names are guys like Jason Kidd, Rasheed Wallace, Ben Gordon, Chris Andersen, Ron Artest, Andre Miller, Shawn Marion, (presumably) Carlos Boozer, and Morris Almond.  Okay, maybe not him.  But I love the name.

(UPDATE, 6:13 pm: Yikes!  I realize I forgot Hedo Turkoglu, who is obviously an intriguing and talented player.  If this is a conversation to be had, he should be in it.  BK)

Don't worry too much about money-  think of the player.  Would you swap out X for TA, or Y for LO?  And so on?  Would you pick two from that list and let both Odom and Ariza walk?  What say you?   Personally, I'd keep last year's team intact.  I'm not a fan of how Kidd fits in, didn't want Artest last year either, and think Gordon's high volume shooting doesn't work with LA.  (Plus, and this is a fairly significant point, my understanding is the Lakers have a decent two guard already.)  Marion is an intriguing name, but only if he came with a time machine.  Last year's version in Miami/Toronto didn't play all that well but did manage to continue to cement his reputation as a malcontent.  Why bring that into a well-functioning locker room? 

But what say you?

BK

(Photo: Andrew Bernstein, Getty Images)

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