NBA Sunday: L.A. Lakers Point Guard Search
Finding a Lakers Point Guard
So many teams in the NBA have pressing needs in their starting lineups right now, especially in light of the massive injuries slamming the league at the moment, but few are as glaring or as public as the Los Angeles Lakers’ desperate need for help at the point guard position.
At 15-12, L.A. currently boasts only the seventh-best record in the Western Conference, but for a team starring Kobe Bryant that has made the Finals three of the last four years, that’s obviously unacceptable. Derek Fisher is having a hard time of things this year, and it wouldn’t be presumptuous at all to say that summer negotiations taking away from training time had something to do with that. Age probably does, too, and neither Steve Blake nor the considerably younger Darius Morris have been able to do much to help. Between the three of them, they’re averaging a paltry 15.5 ppg and 7.6 apg.
For comparison’s sake, the 38-year-old Steve Nash is averaging 14.6 ppg and 10.3 apg all by himself. New York’s Jeremy Lin (you may have heard of him) is averaging 26.8 ppg and 8 apg since nearly short-circuiting the internet a week ago. Chris Paul, the point guard the Lakers almost ended up with, is starting in the All-Star game in a couple weeks. So point guards of all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds are seeing success in this league, but the Lakers don’t have one. The question so many L.A. fans are asking themselves these days is, how do they get one?
The options aren’t glaringly optimistic, but there are a few things the Lakers can try. ESPN.com’s Stephen A. Smith suggested on Saturday that L.A. could potentially give Allen Iverson an opportunity, “as long as he was willing to go to the NBA Developmental League for a few weeks first,” but the gripe all along about The Answer is that he’s not the answer at point guard. The whole reason Lin is helping the Knicks is because he’s a distributor on a team that had been shutting the ball down too often. Iverson is the opposite of that, so even though he’s a big name, the fit probably wouldn’t be great.
Smith also suggests the team might have interest in veteran Rafer Alston, who last played with the Miami HEAT and New Jersey Nets in 2009-2010, but he’s been attached to the Lakers in rumors for a long time. The fact that nothing has happened with him yet means he’s clearly not the team’s first choice.
The first choice, at least for Kobe Bryant, appears to be Gilbert Arenas. According to Ken Berger of CBS Sports, Bryant not only approves of adding Arenas, he’s reached out to him in hopes of getting him into a Lakers uniform. Even a casual NBA fan knows that Arenas is just as bad a pure point guard as Iverson would be, but at 30 years old Arenas has more left in the tank than any of the team’s other obvious options, and he does still have the ability to score. That could explain why he’d be Kobe’s preference.
Whatever the team ends up doing, it’s pretty clear that something needs to be done. At the very least, L.A. seems primed to bring in Arenas for a test drive. If he performs well, he could be Laker within a few weeks. It not, fans will have to go back to wondering what might have been had the Chris Paul trade gone through. Whatever happens, they just want to win more games, and a serviceable NBA point guard would definitely help with that.
Jerry West Stepping Up His Role With Warriors
When the Golden State Warriors brought Jerry West aboard, a lot of people thought he’d get right down to brass tacks and overhaul the team. After all, you don’t hire a two-time Executive of the Year and NBA front office legend in West without expecting him to work the same sort of magic that rebuilt the Lakers and Grizzlies.
That just hasn’t been the case so far, however, as West has mostly sat back and watched his new organization rather than gone for immediate and wholesale changes. Now, however, he plans to start taking a more active role. Apparently, he’s gotten his lay of the team and now has a better grasp on what needs to be done.
“I’m going to be up here a lot more. I think something can be done here, and it’s kind of fun for me,” West told Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle. Unfortunately, that game plan doesn’t look like it’s going to include a lot of trades because in West’s opinion, most of the available big names are most likely to be players with huge contracts that wouldn’t be great pick-ups in the first place. What West really wants to do is gear up for this summer, where he and GM Larry Riley, owner Joe Lacob, and head coach Mark Jackson can have a full offseason to put together a real plan of action in improving the team.
According to Simmons, West’s #1 concern this season is keeping the team’s first round draft pick, which will go to Utah if it’s outside of the top seven. That doesn’t mean West wants to tank the season, obviously, but if the season ended today they’d end up with the ninth-worst record in the league, which wouldn’t bode well for their lottery chances. The 2012 draft isn’t one a team wants to miss out on, even at pick #9. West believes there are, by his count, eight difference-makers in this draft. That includes a handful of centers, which West knows is a problem for the Warriors.
“We need to solve our one glaring need at center,” West said, “and once you have some chips, that’s when you can make a trade or shake things up to get something you don’t have. It’s challenging, but I’m confident that it can be done.”
Golden State will have about $10 million in cap space this summer, and that combined with a top-seven pick in the draft would certainly put them in a situation to come back and be more competitive in 2012-2013.
In the meantime, however, it doesn’t sound like West has it in his mind to do anything drastic. That means all those Monta Ellis trade rumors floating around are most likely just that. Next year, though? Golden State could be primed for a flurry of activity. West is apparently only getting started.
Don’t Forget About DeMarcus
It’s easy to forget about a team like the Sacramento Kings. They play in a relatively small market, they don’t boast any superstars on their roster, and they’re neither bad enough nor good enough to make a lot of headlines on a national scale. For these reasons, the majority of NBA fans are missing out on a pretty great sophomore season by Sacramento big man DeMarcus Cousins.
Cousins, who was named to the pool of rookies and sophs who will play in All-Star Saturday’s Rising Stars Challenge, is quietly averaging 15.8 ppg and 11.3 rpg, the latter number putting him among the top five rebounders in the league.
Interim head coach Keith Smart has had a lot to do with that success. “Everything I’d seen or heard about him I’ve seen a complete personality shift,” Smart told the Sacramento Bee’s Jason Jones earlier this week.
It wasn’t all that long ago that Cousins was getting blasted to the media by former head coach Paul Westphal. It seemed then as though all the fears about Cousins’ enigmatic personality were coming to fruition. Apparently, all it took was a little change of leadership, and this kid sprung right to life.
“I think he’s slowly understanding how important he is to the team with fouls and being in great shape,” Smart added. “Those things are falling in place for him.”
This season might not be when the Kings get themselves back into the national spotlight for basketball reasons, but if and when they do, it seems pretty likely that Cousins will have had a big role in the resurgence.