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Category: Steve Blake

How will the Lakers' bench perform under Mike Brown?

Mike Brown

The questions surrounding the Mike Brown hire centers on a few fundamental questions.

First and foremost, there's hand-wringing over whether he's the right man to coach the Lakers. Fueled partly by Kobe Bryant's refusal to comment on the hire and by the widely held perception that the Cavaliers fired him in 2010 to appease LeBron James, many wonder how Brown will work with the Lakers' superstar.

Because of Brown's hope to have a faster-paced offense and mostly scrap the triangle system, many believe that Derek Fisher will have a reduced role. And with Brown's hope to have an offense centered on Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum receiving looks off pick-and-rolls, many wonder how that philosophy will mix with Brown wanting to still ensure Bryant receives a high volume of shots in his sweet spots. 

There's also one significant area that will determine Mike Brown's success on the Lakers, the team's bench. It's difficult to fully evaluate this issue because the Lakers' roster might be different when the 2011-12 season actually starts, if it starts at all. In light of an uncertain collective bargaining agreement and the Lakers' long-term deals to their core roster, both owner Jerry Buss and General Manager Mitch Kupchak have continuously said they want to make "tweaks" to the roster, a code word that acknowledges the Lakers' financial limitations and the likelihood that any changes will be made among the reserves rather than the starters.

And there's some uncertainty regarding who from the 2010-11 Lakers bench will return, including Lamar Odom (whose two-year, $17-million contract is an attractive option for other teams), Shannon Brown (who opted out of his $2.37-million contract), Derrick Caracter and Devin Ebanks (both of whom have team options for $788,872) and rookies Darius Morris, Andrew Goudelock and Ater Majok (each of which has received no guarantee from Kupchak that he will make the actual roster). 

After the jump is my take on which of the Lakers reserves are likely to remain on the team and how they will fare under Brown. 

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J.J. Barea interested in the Mavericks -- or the Lakers, Heat or Knicks

61376923-- Dallas Mavericks guard J.J. Barea tells Primera Hora's Raul Alzaga (link in Spanish) that he'd prefer signing with Dallas but would also remain open to playing for the Lakers, Heat or Knicks.

-- Pro Basketball Talk's Kurt Helin believes Barea could become an overpaid player.

-- ESPN Los Angeles' Andy and Brian Kamenetzky and 710 ESPN's Dave Miller provide their take on Lakers forward Ron Artest trying to legally change his name to "Metta World Peace."

-- ESPN Los Angeles' Brian Kamenetzky assesses the feasibility of Barea ending up with the Lakers.

-- Lakers.com's Mike Trudell catches up with Darius Morris, whom the Lakers selected with their 41st pick in the 2011 NBA draft.

-- Silver Screen and Roll's WildYams provides a player report card on Steve Blake.

-- Forum Blue and Gold's Darius Soriano looks at some of the issues surrounding a possible NBA lockout.

-- Lakers Nation's Daniel Buerge analyzes how the Lakers fared in the 2011 NBA draft.

Tweet of the Day: "The Boys & Girls Club not only kept me off the streets & made me a better basketball player, but also a better man. Support your local club." -- MagicJohnson (Lakers Hall of Famer Magic Johnson)

Rick Friedman Reader Comment of the Day: "Lakers fans should give these current Lakers team one more chance to redeem themselves after the 0-4 debacle against Dallas in the western semis. I think this current core will give the Mavs and the Heat a run for their money.

Remember that the Mavs and Heat are also having problems retaining their players. Mavs free agents such as Barea, Tyson Chandler, Peja, Stevenson and Caron Butler will attract some teams and might leave Dallas. THE ONLY PROBLEM FOR THE LAKERS is, playing a lot of basketball during the last 3 years. If they can't win next season then NO EXCUSES and BLOW THIS TEAM UP." --- gareth_edwards_317

-- Mark Medina

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

Photo: Mavericks point guard Jose Barea is fouled on a drive down the lane by Lakers power forward Pau Gasol during Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals on May 4, 2011. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

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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Mark Heisler: Mike Brown has won Kobe Bryant over

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Note: We will have a live chat at 12:30 p.m. on Monday so bring your questions then!

-- The Times' Mark Heisler reports that Lakers Coach Mike Brown has met with Kobe Bryant twice, once at Bryant's Newport Beach residence and at the Lakers' practice facility in El Segundo, where they went through plays. Heisler also mentions that Bryant has remained silent on the Brown hire as a way of expressing his disappointment that the Buss family didn't alert him about the hiring beforehand.

-- The Orange County Register's Kevin Ding lists 10 things Steve Blake could have done better to secure a Lakers' three-peat.

-- Former Laker Robert Horry writes an open letter to his daughter Ashlyn, who recently died of a rare genetic condition. 

-- ESPN Los Angeles' Andy and Brian Kamenetzky talk with David Thorpe, of ESPN.com Scouts Inc., about the upcoming NBA Draft. 

-- The New York Daily News' Mitch Lawrence believes the Lakers will shift their sights to Chris Paul or Deron Williams rather than Dwight Howard.

--ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin reports that Brown has considered his three finalists for his coaching staff, including Toronto Raptors assistant coach Scott Roth,

Philadelphia 76ers player development coach Quin Snyder and former University of Utah head coach Jim Boylen.

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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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Dallas' 2011 championship team featured many assets the Lakers lacked

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Privately, Lakers forward Ron Artest believed the team would have no problem handling the Dallas Mavericks in the 2011 Western Conference semifinals. Said Artest on ABC 7's "Sportszone": "I thought we were going to sweep them."

Publicly, Lakers forward Matt Barnes pointed to the Lakers' regular-season victories against Dallas and drew experience when he played with the 2007 Golden State Warriors team that knocked off the Mavericks as a No. 8 seed. Said Barnes a few days after drawing a one-game suspension for getting in a tussle with Mavericks reserve guard Jason Terry: "In Golden State, we showed how to beat Dallas [in the 2007 NBA playoffs.] You go in there and take it right to their chin and they back down. I don't see anything has changed since then, so hopefully we'll have a chance to see them again."

It turns out Artest, Barnes and the rest of the Lakers eat their words. As they soon discovered, these weren't the Dallas Mavericks that would fall short much like the way they did in falling in the first round three out of the past four seasons. In fact, the complete opposite happened. The Mavericks swept the Lakers in the Western Conference semifinals, proved their upset was legit with playoff victories against Oklahoma City and Miami and forced Artest and Barnes to change their stance on Dallas.

Said Artest: Dallas had a strong 12, which was amazing.

Tweeted Barnes: "Congrats to the mavs, you definitely earned that.."

In fact, there were several areas Dallas excelled in that the Lakers severely lacked, and we're not just talking about when the two matched up in the playoffs. We're talking about during Dallas' entire playoff run.

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Which Lakers would be good soccer players?

Photo: Manchester United practices at Wembley Stadium on May 27. Credit: Franck Fife / Getty ImagesThe Lakers would rather not be in this position, spending a large portion of May on things other than marching once again into the NBA Finals.

But the Lakers' four-game sweep at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference semifinals pushed up their calendar quite a bit. Exit interviews took place in the middle of the postseason. The Lakers finalized their coaching search at the tail end of the conference finals. And the Lakers enter Memorial Day weekend having to sit through the hype surrounding the upcoming Heat-Mavericks NBA Finals.

One of the activities this weekend that could help ease some Lakers players' minds: the Champions League final Saturday between Barcelona and Manchester United. Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum traveled to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Pau Gasol, a Spaniard, often roots for Barcelona and recently tweeted about the big game. And the Lakers took in an Arsenal-Chelsea game in London during their preseason European trip. That made me wonder who on the current Lakers roster would perform well on the pitch. Below are a few ideas.

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Steve Blake takes Ron Artest to school in sandball, but Artest accuses Blake of cheating

Ron Artest threw with the same inaccuracy as his questionable long-range shots. His defense looked nothing like it does on the basketball court. And his conditioning only two weeks removed from the 2010-11 season surely looks like he may want to start off-season workouts early.

Artest's impromptu pickup sandball competition with about 50 fans Sunday on the beaches in Southern California epitomized his fun and down-to-earth persona. But even some of his most passionate fans playfully teased Artest for appearing overmatched with Lakers guard Steve Blake. On one play, Blake threw a blitz on Artest and pressured him into throwing an interception, prompting Artest to charge Blake for counting "5-Mississippi" way quickly before charging the line of scrimmage.

"Steve that was too fast," Artest playfully shouted at him. "We're taking it to [NBA commissioner] David Stern!"

"I just followed the rules," Blake insisted. "They said count to 5 Mississippi and I said 5 Mississippi and then I rushed him. He's not ready for this quickness right now."

When I asked Blake if Artest was just being a sore loser, Blake cracked, "That's what [sore] losers do right?" In turn, Artest responded, "No sore losers. He was being a sore counter, a fast counter."

In fact, Artest had a point. Go to the 1:54 mark in the video above and you'll see Blake blitzed Artest after only three seconds. But as Artest readily conceded of Blake's team, "They went 4-0 today."

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Which Laker would make the best professional wrestler?

With the unfortunate news that legendary wrestler Macho Man Randy Savage has died, a few things popped into my mind. His catch phrase, "Oh Yeahhhhh" won't leave my head. I suddenly want to "snap into a Slim Jim." And I've been endlessly asking myself, how can I tie this into the Lakers blog?

Easy. There's a few Lakers who followed professional wrestling growing up, with Lakers forward Lamar Odom sharing often that he loved "Nature Boy" Ric Flair.  Lakers guard Shannon Brown told me one time after practice that he dressed up like Hulk Hogan for Halloween. And even though I've never asked Lakers forward Ron Artest personally, Odom remarked that Artest would make a great professional wrestler because of his on-court antics and funny interviews. So this led me to wonder who on the Lakers would make the best professional wrestler? Below the jump are a few ideas.

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Laker report cards: Steve Blake

61048953Below is the second edition of Laker report cards, this one focusing on Lakers guard Steve Blake.

Grade: C-

In just his second practice in training camp, Lakers guard Steve Blake impressed the coaching staff and teammates so much of his understanding of the triangle offense that Ron Artest asked Coach Phil Jackson if Blake had spent plenty of his summer days practicing at the team's facility in EL Segundo.

In just his first game as a Laker, Blake hit the game-winner and Jackson chose him to play the entire fourth quarter instead of Derek Fisher. And in just the first month of the season, Blake shot a sizzling 47.8% from three-point range. All signs indicated that Blake, who signed with the Lakers last off-season to a four-year, $16-million deal, could be a reliable playmaker off the bench, a dependable outside shooter and possibly even eat into Fisher's minutes.

But none of that happened. Blake's shooting regressed to a 35.9% mark, his lowest shooting percentage for the eight-year veteran since the 2006-07 season. His 20 minutes a game barely threatened Fisher's rotation. And that swagger Blake quickly developed at the beginning of the season soon sagged into a tentativeness that remained consistent for most of the 2010-2011 campaign. He could never seem to reverse course. 

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