The well-spoken Derek Fisher doesn't exactly jibe with 50 Cent's gangsta persona. But the Lakers guard apparently remains such close friends with the accomplished rapper that he introduced him on stage Thursday night on Fox's "X-Factor."
Darius Morris is just trying to fit into a veteran-laden squad. But just as it appeared he knew the words to 50 Cent's "In Da Club," Morris has looked quite comfortable with the Lakers.
Steve Blake has renewed confidence and swagger on the basketball court, but he couldn't have appeared more awkward on stage mingling with dancers.
And Matt Barnes? He's kind of used to this thing. He appears to don as many tattoos as 50 Cent himself. He's already appeared in a music video starring Snoop Dogg and Game rapping "Purp & Yellow."
There are simply too many things to like about this video, and it's not just because of 50 Cent belting out old classics and new hits. It's also because each Laker appearance appeared both unexpected and amusing. (H/T to Pro Basketball Talk's Kurt Helin.)
Before the Chris Paul trade got nixed, who would claim the Lakers' starting point guard spot remained one of the pressing questions for the 2011-12 season?
But once it appeared the Lakers would acquire Paul, that question suddenly became moot. Before everyone could wonder how the Lakers could shore up their frontline depth without Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, however, the NBA soon killed the Lakers-Rockets-Hornets deal for what they call "basketball reasons." Now everything appropriately centers on how Gasol and Odom will handle returning to a team that wanted to ship them out, and whether the Lakers can ever acquire Paul and Dwight Howard.
After Thursday's voluntary workouts at the Lakers' facility in El Segundo, Blake shed a dose of perspective on how the Lakers should react to any changes big or small.
"I've been playing eight years and I've seen it all," said Blake, though he uttered those words before the NBA killed the Paul deal. "I've been traded and seen guys get traded. Now it's just the way it is. You don't think anything else of it. If there's a change, you adjust and you move on. There's no harping on it or mentally thinking about it all the time. It's just part of your job and you move forward."
For Blake's part, that includes handling without much reaction Mike Brown's revelation that he's keeping the starting point guard open. Both Blake and Derek Fisher are coming off sub-par seasons, but who starts at point guard reveals to what degree Brown still values Fisher's experience and locker-room clout.
"I'm going to try to be the best player I can be," said Blake, who's added some strength and has added some arc to his shot after averaging a career-low four points per game on 35.9% shooting. "I'm not going out there to try to win a starting job or anything like that. Everyone on this team is my teammate. I'm not here to try to show them up or beat them. I just want our team to be better. Whether it's coming off the bench, fine. Starting, great. It's all about us winning a championship this year."
When reached by phone on Tuesday, Lakers guard Steve Blake declined to address a Yahoo! Sports report indicating he's making a behind-the-scenes effort in pushing for the National Basketball Players Assn. to hold a formal vote for the owners' ultimatum offer on Wednesday.
"I'm not talking about any of that stuff," Blake said.
Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski cited unnamed sources indicating that Blake has asked peers throughout the league for the last two days to contact team players representatives to push the players union to let its 450-plus members vote on the offer. The report indicates Blake hasn't pushed for players to vote "yes" or no," but that the effort has garnered plenty of player support. Still, the story reports Blake is a proponent in accepting the league's current offer, under which players would make 49% to 51% of annual NBA revenue. Union President Derek Fisher said last week there was “no way in the world” it would ever end up being 51% under the guidelines of the proposal.
If players do not agree to the deal, they could choose to dissolve the union and eventually file an antitrust lawsuit against the NBA, though they have been meeting since 1 p.m. EST in New York to determine their next move.
Blake, who's slated to make $12 million the next three seasons with the Lakers, has understandably kept a low profile throughout the work stoppage. In interviews, he's deferred lockout-related questions to Fisher. Blake hasn't shown any interest in playing overseas and instead has mostly worked on his game around his Portland, Ore., residence. With exception for his basketball camp and a Midnight Madness appearance at his alma mater at Unviersity of Maryland, Blake's offseason has mostly entailed on-court workouts and spending time with his his wife, Kristen, and three sons.
Every offseason workout involves some variation regarding the Lakers' shooting.
Guard Steve Blake spent part of his summer altering the arc of his shot. Forwards Matt Barnes and Devin Ebanks as well as rookie guard Darius Morris said their main focus this offseason involved shooting. Though rookie Andrew Goudelock has mostly concentrated on improving his ballhandling and shooting, he said he still takes at least 1,000 shots per day. That doesn't include the likelihood that Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher and, yes, even Metta World Peace have focused on last season's outside shooting inconsistency as well.
Offseason workouts should always be taken with a grain of salt. After all, when is the last time you heard an athlete admit they gained weight, regressed and took it easy during the offseason? Exactly zero. But I find it highly possible that the Lakers can improve their outside shooting collectively from last year's numbers. Then, the Lakers shot 35.2% from the three-point range in the regular season, 28.9% in the postseason and 37.5% from shots from within 16-23 feet, according to Hoopdata. It's not a stretch to think Bryant (32.3%) will improve his shot after a prolonged restful offseason. The improvements individually may not seem like much. But any uptick from Fisher (39.6), Blake (37.8%) and World Peace (35.6%) could be vital. Small contributions from Ebanks, Goudelock and Morris would also help.
All the hand-wringing during the NBA lockout negotiations makes it unclear what exactly a new collective bargaining agreement will entail.
But there's one thing that's likely to come to fruition: All teams will have an amnesty clause allowing them to shed a bad contract without any financial consequences.
Forget about wondering what this could mean for Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol or Andrew Bynum. Even if Bryant is nearing the tail-end of his career, Gasol played poorly in the 2011 NBA playoffs and Bynum may remain injury-prone, sizing up those scenarios are just absurd. Bryant remains the team's franchise player, and shedding ties would only start an L.A. riot. Gasol's postseason showing will prove to be nothing more than an aberration. And for Bynum, the Lakers' front office loves him so much there's nothing outside of an offer for Dwight Howard that would prompt the Lakers to part ways.
There are a few others, however, who should be worried about their future should this likely scenario happen.
Minutes before boarding a plane to his alma mater, Lakers guard Steve Blake immediately flashed back to moments during his All-ACC career at the University of Maryland.
He took a cross-country trip from Portland, Ore., to College Park, Md., Thursday afternoon because he will appear in the Terrapins' "Maryland Madness" Friday evening at Comcast Center, a scrimmage featuring the current squad against a handful of the 2002 championship team, including Juan Dixon, Byron Mouton, Chris Wilcox and, of course, Blake. But the event will mean much more to Blake than holding up his prediction that "I think we'll do great" against the current Terps.
It also allows him to reconnect with his alma mater in ways that have proved difficult during his eight-year NBA career. Blake's return to University of Maryland will mark plenty of firsts. They include visiting campus for the first time since 2009, seeing former Terrapins Coach Gary Williams for the first time since his retirement in May, meeting with new Coach Mark Turgeon for the first time and gathering with his old teammates.
"Everyone was so motivated," Blake said in a phone interview. Maryland beat Indiana in the title game, one year after losing to Duke in the Final Four. "The second we were in the locker room after we lost [to Duke], we were all so heartbroken. But we all knew we were coming back. That motivated us for the whole summer. I had never seen guys work so hard to get better. The work wasn't done until we won that championship."
This is the seventh part of a series that focuses on five things each Lakers player must do to have a successful 2011-12 season (assuming there is one, of course).
1. Show aggressiveness. When Steve Blake signed a four-year, $16-million deal before last season, many presumed he'd steal Derek Fisher's starting spot. That didn't happen for many reasons, but the main one was his tentativeness. Blake proved to be a quick study in the triangle offense, but he never seemed comfortable with his role. Blake followed the pecking order almost to a fault, preventing him from showing the playmaking and shooting abilities he usually displayed in his eight-year NBA career.
2. Improve outside shooting. Blake's 35.9% clip from the field reflected a larger problem the Lakers exhibited last season. They lacked a definitive outside shooter, going 35.2% from the three-point range in the regular season, 28.9% in the postseason, and 37.5% from shots from within 16-23 feet, according to Hoopdata. Credit Blake for showing up early to pregame warm-ups and for improving his arc this off-season. But Blake also needs to show more confidence and willingness to take those shots to establish rhythm.
Tweet of the Day: "Little note about Fisher's emails to players: several say they aren't getting them. "I'm reading it when it's leaked," said one veteran." -- ChrisMannixSI (Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix)
Rick Friedman Reader Comment of the Day: "How about you get someone from Lloyd's of London to tell us what it'll cost to insure the remaining 83.5 million on Kobe's contract? Because if you consider an older, hi-mileage player with a busted hand and shaky knee, I'm guessing the 6.7 million Virtual Baloney is offering up will barely cover it." -- Stan Kats
-- Mark Medina
E-mail the Lakers blog at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo: NBA Commissioner David Stern. Credit: L.M. Otero / Associated Press
In between increased family time and rest at his Portland, Ore., home during the NBA lockout, Lakers guard Steve Blake took the first step in what he hopes will lead to a better performance in the 2011-12 season.
"I'm trying to get more arc on my shot," Blake said Thursday in a phone interview. "That's what I've been working on this summer. I'm trying to shoot the ball a little higher and see if that will improve my jump shot. I didn't shoot the ball horribly this year, but I didn't shoot it as well as I wanted to."
Blake shot 35.9% from the field last season, the lowest shooting percentage for the eight-year veteran since the 2004-05 season. Even though Blake often worked on his shot after practices and before games, he averaged a career-low four points in 20 minutes per game. Blake's overall shooting consistency reflected a significant problem for the Lakers: the lack of a reliable outside shooter.
That performance sparked Lakers assistant coach Chuck Person to reach out to Blake before the lockout since team officials now are forbidden from contacting players. Blake said the two outlined various unspecified ways he could elevate his arch, stressing that Blake perfect the technique so it becomes natural when he's shooting in games.
It turns out LeBron James isn't the only one taking his talents to (South) Beach.
Minnesota forward and former UCLA standout Kevin Love is doing the same thing, but he's not announcing his decision in a one-hour TV special and he's not switching teams. With the NBA lockout still unresolved, however, Love decided he's not going to confine himself to working out on the hardwood and competing head to head with Blake Griffin in Jenga. He's going to hit the beach.
The NBA's leading rebounder plans to play in next month's Manhattan Beach Open on the pro volleyball tour, providing more reasons for fans make it out to South Bay to lay out and kick back, the way many will this weekend at Manhattan Beach's six-man volleyball tournament.
It's too early to say whether it will be a home run for other NBA players, but as far as the Lakers go, teaming up in the sand would be a fun exercise in bonding without all the worry about injuries and fatigue. Below the jump is how some on the Lakers roster might fare.