NBA PM: Is Jodie Meeks Lakers’ X-Factor?
Jodie Meeks had a decision to make. After weighing his free agency options for several months, the 25-year-old shooting guard was considering offers from the Washington Wizards, Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers.
The Wizards and Bucks were offering more money than the Lakers, but Meeks couldn’t turn down the chance to play in Los Angeles. He wanted to don the purple and gold jersey and compete for a championship. After the Lakers acquired Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and Antawn Jamison, the decision was a no-brainer. Meeks signed with the Lakers for a portion of the mid-level exception and never looked back.
“It’s been great,” Meeks told HOOPSWORLD. “I’m adjusting pretty well and I’m looking forward to the season getting started. Hopefully we’re starting a journey to a championship. This is by far the most talented team I’ve played on, by far. We have four future Hall of Famers on this team as well as a great coaching staff and a great organization. This is by far the best team that I’ve played on. I’m looking forward to it.”
Meeks is excited to be part of a contender, but he knows that expectations will be high. Entering the season, it’s championship or bust for the Lakers.
“I think some people would say that,” Meeks said. “Our main goal is definitely to win a championship. With all of the talent that we have on this team and all of the veteran guys that we have on this team, I think we’re definitely going to be in the mix when it comes down to it. I’m just focused on getting better every day.”
After starting for the Philadelphia 76ers over the last three seasons, Meeks will have to adjust to coming off of the bench in L.A. He has embraced that role and will do whatever Lakers head coach Mike Brown asks of him.
“I’m just going to come off of the bench, knock down open shots and play hard on defense,” Meeks said. “My main focus is just doing the little things and finding ways to help the team. We have a lot of scorers on this team so I don’t have to come in and average 15 or 20 points. I just need to come in and play hard on both ends.”
While the addition of Meeks was overshadowed by the Lakers’ other offseason moves, he could end up being a huge difference maker for the team. Last season, Meeks was statistically the best spot-up shooter in the league and he thrived in the pick-and-roll. He shot 53.3 percent off of pick-and-rolls and scored 1.46 points per possession, which were both league-highs. Meeks will spread the floor for Los Angeles’ stars and improve the Lakers’ three-point shooting, which ranked 26th in the league last season. Meeks’ contributions will likely be overlooked because he’s playing alongside so many stars, but he may be the team’s X-Factor.
Some pundits point to the Lakers’ bench as a cause for concern, but Meeks doesn’t feel that the team’s depth is an issue. He believes the Lakers have one of the best second units in the league since they have several players who have experience starting in the NBA including himself, Antawn Jamison and Steve Blake.
“I think we definitely have a lot of talent coming off of the bench,” Meeks said. “A lot of our guys coming off of the bench have started or could start for other teams. I think that’s definitely going to help us out as the season goes along.”
After bringing in so many new pieces over the summer, the Lakers are learning on the fly and trying to develop chemistry in a short period of time. Meeks believes the team is making progress and thinks it’s only a matter of time before everyone is on the same page.
“We’re starting to gel,” Meeks said. “I think the preseason really helped us a lot. Having extra practice time and a real preseason really helped us out, unlike last year when teams had a week to get ready. We’re developing chemistry and everybody is gelling well, and I think it’ll continue once the regular season tips off. With the system that we have offensively, there are equal opportunities for everyone to do what they do and help the team. We’ve seen some glimpses of how good we could be during the preseason, and we’re looking forward to seeing more of that during the regular season once everyone gets comfortable with their role.”
The opportunity to learn from Kobe Bryant on a daily basis has helped Meeks expand his game. Even though he’s only been in L.A. for a short period of time, he’s already getting better just from watching Bryant and picking his brain.
“It’s been great,” Meeks said of playing with Bryant. “I’ve only been here for a few months and I’ve already learned a lot from Kobe. His mental preparation and his work ethic have definitely taught me a lot in just these few months. This whole season, I’ll definitely get better from guarding him every day in practice and watching him on the court. Growing up, I admired him and looked up to him because he’s a winner. You have to admire what he’s done.”
Meeks is loving life with the Lakers and he couldn’t be happier with the decision that he made in August.
“This is a storied franchise and when you put on that jersey, it’s exciting,” Meeks said. “The fans are great and always support the team no matter what. I can’t wait for the season to start.”
Sessions Hoping to Change Culture in Charlotte: After the Los Angeles Lakers acquired Steve Nash in a sign-and-trade with the Phoenix Suns, it was clear that Ramon Sessions’ brief stint with the team had come to an end. While Sessions enjoyed his experience with the Lakers, he was seeking a starting job and the first big payday of his career. After weighing his options and talking with a number of teams, Sessions signed a two-year, $10 million deal with the Charlotte Bobcats.
The 26-year-old is one of several new faces in Charlotte. New head coach Mike Dunlap is hoping that Sessions – along with recent additions Ben Gordon, Brendan Haywood, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Jeffrey Taylor – can help change the culture in Charlotte and improve on last year’s miserable 7-59 record. Sessions is up for the challenge.
HOOPSWORLD caught up with Sessions to discuss his transition from Los Angeles to Charlotte, his expectations for the upcoming season and more in this exclusive interview:
Tinsley, Jazz Confident Entering Season: Last season, the Utah Jazz managed to finish six games over .500 and sneak into the playoffs as the eighth seed in the Western Conference. The Jazz exceeded everyone’s expectations, competing in the West despite featuring seven players under the age of 25 years old including key pieces such as Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Alec Burks, and Enes Kanter.
Now, entering this season, the Jazz have added several veterans in an attempt to bolster the roster and build off of last year’s success. Utah traded for Mo Williams and Marvin Williams, signed Randy Foye and retained Jamaal Tinsley. They want to win now while they continue to develop their young talent.
Tinsley, who’s entering his second season with the Jazz and tenth year in the league, loves the moves that Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey made over the summer.
“I like these guys,” Tinsley said of Utah’s new additions. “They all understand what it takes to win. They are all threats on the wing. These guys are veterans so they know what’s expected of them in games and in practice, and they’re vocal on the court and off the court.”
Usually when a team brings in new starters, there’s a transition period. However, the Jazz haven’t had any issues integrating their new point guard and small forward. Both players are excited for the fresh start in Utah and are satisfied with their role. Mo Williams is thrilled to be a starting point guard again after coming off of the bench with the Los Angeles Clippers last season. Marvin Williams welcomed the change of scenery since he had hit a plateau with the Atlanta Hawks and didn’t get many touches playing alongside Joe Johnson, Josh Smith and Al Horford. They have meshed with their new teammates quickly and everybody understands their role entering the season.
“We have gelled already,” Tinsley said. “Everyone came into the gym ready to sacrifice and perform. We’re all looking to contribute in any way possible. We’re all excited for the upcoming season.”
Tinsley has emerged as one of Utah’s leaders. Just two years ago, Tinsley was out of the league, but now he’s become a strong presence in the locker room and an excellent glue guy for the Jazz. Even though he’s the oldest player on the active roster at 34 years old, he’s arguably the hardest worker on the team.
Tinsley came into training camp with just three percent body fat and weighing in at 186 pounds, nine fewer than last season. Tinsley has a grueling workout plan that many of his teammates have implemented. Over the offseason, the veteran point guard was running eight miles each day. During the season, he runs four miles before each game and then four more miles afterwards.
“I love getting extra work in,” Tinsley said. “It’s contagious because guys look at you and want to get better. They see how it can affect their performance on the court.”
Last year, Utah snuck into the playoffs because they played together and worked hard. With the same young core returning and several key veterans added to the mix, Tinsley believes the Jazz are headed in the right direction and poised to take the next step.
“I like who we’re becoming,” Tinsley said. “Guys come in every day ready to work. We’re ready to go.”
HOOPSWORLD Season Previews: The NBA season is here, with plenty of storylines.
Can the Miami HEAT repeat their championship quest from last season? Is this the final championship run for the aging Boston Celtics and San Antonio Spurs? Will Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks finally put all of their talent together and join the league’s elite? Can the new-look Los Angeles Lakers, now boasting Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, unseat the Oklahoma City Thunder as Western Conference champions? Is this the year the Minnesota Timberwolves reach the playoffs behind All-Star Kevin Love? Likewise, the Toronto Raptors and Golden State Warriors seem poised to make playoff runs of their own, but can they seal the deal? Are the Dallas Mavericks toast, or will their new group of hungry veterans surprise us all?
The HOOPSWORLD team covered all of these questions and more in our team previews. Check out the season preview for each team by clicking their logo here:
The 2012-13 season tips off in a few hours, which means fantasy basketball is getting underway as well. Your draft may be over, but your roster may still need some work. HOOPSWORLD’s Tommy Beer has all the fantasy rankings here:
NBA Chats: There was one NBA chat on today’s schedule. HOOPSWORLD’s Anthony Macri answered your questions at 10 a.m. ET. Coach Macri works with the ASEAN Basketball League in Southeast Asia and is based in Jakarta. Coach Macri is involved in all aspects of the league’s operation as a consultant and has worked with dozens of NBA players developing their games. You can always find the next upcoming chat here: Upcoming NBA Chats. If you are looking for a completed chat, check here: Chat Archive.