Report: Lakers may go hard after Rajon Rondo this summer


The Lakers need more talent on the roster. Desperately. Kobe Bryant is jacking up 37 shots a game and while nobody (even Kobe) thinks that’s ideal, who else do you really want on that roster taking more shots. Their next best guys — Jeremy Lin, Ed Davis and so on — are role players asked to do too much.

So who do the Lakers target next summer as a free agent?

While I had heard some Greg Monroe rumblings, Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated threw out another interesting name: Rajon Rondo.

There is one player who makes sense in LA next season: Rajon Rondo. Several rival executives believe the Lakers will make a strong run at Rondo next summer, and it’s easy to see why. Rondo is young (28), plays a critical position and shares the same win-at-all-bleeping-cost attitude as Bryant. The Celtics are rebuilding and have a young playmaker in Marcus Smart, which may limit their desire to hand Rondo max money.

Kobe and Rondo? What could go wrong with those egos in the same room?

Certainly Rondo knows how to be a floor general and he would be a massive defensive upgrade over Jeremy Lin. Rondo is an All-Star player. But he’s also not a good shooter (.379 true shooting percentage this season, 20 percent from three). He’s a player who when he has great teammates can help elevate them (as he did when the Celtics were contenders) but he’s not necessarily a guy who himself can take over a team and lift it up. Plus Mannix asks this question.

Even with Rondo (and, for the sake of argument, let’s say Greg Monroe) what are the Lakers? A playoff team? With Randle back and another high draft pick — which the Lakers will hand to Phoenix if it’s not in the top-five — maybe. A contending team? Not even close.

For the record, I’m not convinced the Celtics don’t go big and keep Rondo, using him as one star to lure another.

Mannix suggests the Lakers should consider trading Kobe. That’s not going to happen, he’s worth too much to them financially — plus good luck moving that oversized contract to a contender. What contender has room for that or would give up the assets necessary to match that salary. Plus, Kobe isn’t really a guy you just plug in as a role player on an existing contender with an established hierarchy. He changes all the dynamics, You think you can just slide Kobe onto the Spurs and it works?

What the Lakers do next summer — and who will be really interested — is going to be a great storyline to watch. Rebuilding this team is not going to be easy.

Tough schedule could have Lakers 0-through-Thanksgiving


If you’re looking for the silver lining, Tuesday night was the best game the Lakers have played this season. They were in it late against Phoenix and only lost by six. Still the scoreboard is the scoreboard and the Lakers are 0-5 having lost by a league-worst average of 14.8 points per game (15.8 per 100 possessions).

That losing streak could conceivably get to 0-15 and all the way to Thanksgiving.

It’s hard to imagine on a Kobe Bryant led team, but a look at a tough schedule ahead doesn’t show many realistic wins on the horizon.

The Lakers best chance at win No. 1 for a while is their next game, Sunday at home against Charlotte at Staples Center. The Hornets are 1-3 this young season, Lance Stephenson has not found his groove and with that their offense has struggled, plus Sunday’s game will be the first of a road trip (Charlotte plays Friday at home then fly across the country Saturday). Still, the Hornets have a top 10 defense, they have Al Jefferson inside and Kemba Walker at the point. They are not a bad team.

Fall Sunday and the Lakers 0-6 record could easily grow to 0-12 or more, at which point it becomes a national story with SportsCenter talking about it every night and radio hosts (and some fans) nationwide savoring schadenfreude at the Lakers’ expense. Plus Kobe is not going to enjoy getting asked about it over and over.

Look at the Lakers schedule after Sunday:

Nov. 11 at Memphis
Nov. 12 at New Orleans
Nov. 14 San Antonio
Nov. 16 Golden State
Nov. 18 at Atlanta
Nov. 19 at Houston
Nov. 21 at Dallas
Nov. 23 Denver
Nov. 26 Memphis
Nov. 27 Thanksgiving

The games you see as most winnable in that stretch may be New Orleans, but that is the second night of a road back-to-back, plus Anthony Davis will destroy the Lakers front line (like he does everyone). Atlanta is better than people think (is Carlos Boozer going to stop Al Horford?) and that game is on the road. Denver maybe, their offense has struggled to start the season, but they are playing top five defense so far.

The first game after Thanksgiving is Minnesota at home, a game that is certainly winnable for LA.

This is the NBA and so on any given night the Lakers could pick up a win — Jeremy Lin gets hot for a night, Kobe Bryant just goes off and is efficient in doing it — but right now the Lakers defense is so bad that they need those kinds of exceptional nights just to be in games. Defensively the Lakers are not walling off penetration — teams have averaged 26 shots in the restricted area against he Lakers per game and are shooting a very high 68.5 percent on those — nor are they rotating out well, as evidenced by the fact they have allowed more corner three attempts against them than any team in the league so far, and opponents are shooting 44.9 percent on those.

All of which is to say, the Lakers need to find their defense and their energy by Sunday and pick up a win against Jordan’s Hornets at home.

If not, the Lakers losing streak could get into the teens and stretch all the way to Thanksgiving. It’s hard to imagine but it’s not impossible. And if it does the Lakers will be in the national spotlight for all the wrong reasons.

Kobe Bryant pretty much was the Lakers’ offense Tuesday (VIDEO)


There are two ways to look at Kobe Bryant’s performance Tuesday night, and how you do really speaks more to how you feel about Kobe than anything else.

On one side, there’s the argument that sure he scored 39 points, but it was an inefficient 39 off 37 shots — he was 14-of-37 from the floor for 37.8 percent shooting. He was 7-of-19 in the paint, 4-of-11 from the midrange. He took 42 percent of his team’s total shots. Kobe got his numbers but the Lakers can’t win if the offense isn’t efficient, and by the way they lost to the Suns and now are 0-5 on the season.

On the other side is this argument: Who else on this roster do you want taking more shots besides Kobe? Carlos Boozer? Jordan Hill? Sure you do. I think you can make a case for a little more Jeremy Lin and Ed Davis, but that’s no real answer. There is not other options on this team that opposing defenses fear or have to adjust their game f0r, so Kobe has to work hard and be the bulk of the offense.

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I think what you’re getting out of Kobe right now is all you can reasonably expect from the man at this age coming off these surgeries — his comeback has been impressive. The problem is the Lakers offense often seems to be a two-man game with everyone else standing around — there is little cutting or off the ball movement. It’s not hard to defend, which leads to inefficient offense. Both coach Byron Scott and the players need to change that.

The Lakers defense is abysmal and not going to become good anytime soon. If they are going to get wins they are going to have to out score teams, and to do that they need to be more efficient. Somehow.


Flip Saunders: Sam Cassell dance cost Timberwolves a championship


The NBA hates the Sam Cassell dance. The league just fined Timberwolves guard Kevin Martin for gesturing about his cojones, and it will surely fine any other player who tries the move.

I guess the NBA believes the dance gives it a bad image or something.

But you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who thinks the dance has harmed him more than Martin’s coach, Flip Saunders, who also coached the 2004 Timberwolves.

In 2004, Minnesota started Cassell at point guard, and he competed through a back injury during a second-round win over the Kings. In that series, he also made famous the dance that now often bears his name.

Cassell struggled through the conference finals, averaging 9.3 points and 2.5 assists in 16.0 minutes per game – down from 19.8 and 7.3 in 35.0 during the regular season. Despite holding the No. 1 seed, the Timberwolves lost to a Lakers team featuring Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Karl Malone and Gary Paton.

To Saunders, Minnesota’s conference-finals loss and Cassell’s second round-dance are connected.

Kent Youngblood of the StarTribune:

Saunders takes a rather dim view of the gesture as well, but he has his reasons. According to Saunders, Cassell injured his hip doing that gesture that night, and was injured and ineffective in the conference finals, which the Wolves lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in six games.

“We lost a championship by that,” Saunders said. “When [Cassell] did that he had an avulsion fracture in his hip. … So, from that perspective, I’ve always been against that type of thing.”

Maybe Minnesota would have beaten the Lakers with a healthy Cassell. Maybe.

But Cassell was already injured before he ever danced, so at most, the celebration only aggravated an injury. When you choose to rely on a 34-year-old point guard, you choose to accept a larger injury risk.

Besides, even if the Timberwolves slid past the Lakers, they weren’t going to beat the Pistons in the Finals. Detroit demolished the Lakers in five games, earning three blowouts and another comfortable win with one overtime loss mixed in.

If Saunders wants to claim Cassell’s dance cost his team a conference title, fine. There’s a plausible case to be made.

But to claim the Timberwolves would have won the NBA championship? That’s too much revisionist history for me.

Would Kobe Bryant leave Lakers as free agent in 2016?


Kevin Durant will be a free agent in 2016, when rumor has it he’ll choose between the Thunder and the Wizards. LeBron James will likely hit the market that year as well – though by hit the market, I mean immediately re-sign with the Cavaliers on a max contract as the new national TV deals begin.

Though his impending free agency has gotten less attention, the third of the NBA’s triumvirate of most popular players will also have an expiring contract in 2016 – Kobe Bryant.

Kobe – who signed a two-year, $48.5 million extension with the Lakers – said he wouldn’t push for a trade as him team struggles. But would he leave in free agency?

Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding, who has covered the Lakers since Kobe became a starter:

Knowing Kobe as well as I do, even though he probably doesn’t think this quite right now, when that contract does expire in two years and if he can still play at a high level, then I think maybe he does start to think about ‘Well, the Lakers aren’t a team that can win a championship right now. Maybe I do go check it out.’ I mean, this will be four years at that point where he would not have played in a playoff game perhaps, and to end his career that way would be a little embarrassing.

I definitely think it’s a possibility. I don’t think Kobe is sitting here thinking about ‘Well, what team can I jump to in two years’ by any means. But if the Lakers do not succeed in free agency either this summer or next summer, then think about: What is the reality for Kobe Bryant?

How could the same player who claimed “I bleed purple and gold” consider signing elsewhere?

For one, this is speculation from Ding, but it’s very informed speculation. Also: frustration.

Kobe has played just 10 games for the sad-sack version of Lakers we’ve seen the last two years. It’s much easier to remain patient when you’re removed from the everyday aggravation. As Kobe plays more and experiences loss after loss after loss, he might change his view.

There are a lot of reasons to believe Kobe will remain a Laker for the rest of career – chief among them that his career won’t necessarily continue beyond his current contract. He’ll be 38 in two years, and few players have continue physically at that age.

The Lakers, as their no-negotiation extension offer showed, are also far more invested in Kobe than any other team. There’s an aura around Kobe and the Lakers that wouldn’t exist anywhere else, and it helps the Lakers sell tickets, merchandise, sponsorships and media rights. For both sides, there’s something special the possibility of Kobe retiring as the greatest Laker of all time, and that recognition is harder to gain if he ends his career elsewhere.

But, if Kobe is still playing in two years and the Lakers haven’t turned a corner, I expect him to explore the market. Why not? He’s earned the right – and he has before.

Kobe is loyal to the Lakers, no question. Loyal to the degree he would stay with them forever no matter what? I doubt it.