A dynasty derailed

October, 25, 2016
Oct 25


Outside The Lines examines the Lakers' decline. Jeanie Buss and former players talk about the front office turmoil.

The Golden State Warriors will tip off the season as odds-on favorites, but no team has attracted more bets to win the NBA championship at the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas than the New York Knicks.

The Knicks opened as 100-1 longshots to win the title at the Westgate, but have been bet down to 60-1. They are all the way down to 20-1 at MGM sportsbooks.

The bets on the Knicks aren't very big, but there are lots of them. MGM assistant sportsbook manager Jeff Sherman said the average ticket on the Knicks is $25.

New York has not made the playoffs since 2013 and finished 32-50 last season. Knicks president Phil Jackson revamped the roster in the offseason, adding veterans Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah to go along with Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis.

New York opens the season tonight against the defending-champion Cleveland Cavaliers, who are the second favorites at 11-4. The San Antonio Spurs are next at 6-1. The Warriors are 2-3. No other team has odds in the single digits.

While the Knicks are attracting the most bets, the big money is on Golden State. At William Hill's Nevada sportsbook, 36 percent of the total money bet on the odds to win the NBA title is on the Warriors.

Golden State went 73-9 last season, setting a record for the most wins in the regular season, but lost in the NBA Finals to the Cavaliers. The Warriors added superstar Kevin Durant

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Lakers make final cuts but keep forwards Metta World Peace and Thomas Robinson: As the Lakers wrapped up practice Monday, veteran forwards Metta World Peace and Thomas Robinson stood next to each other on the sideline. While 10 of their teammates scrimmaged, World Peace tapped Robinson on the shoulder and directed his eyes away from the action. Robinson nodded for a second, as if it were a teaching moment. Then they each broke out in laughter, and were left smiling as a late-game scenario played out in front of them. -- Los Angeles Times

Lakers also depending on veteran players to mold young core: Fatigue was setting in as the Lakers labored through a training camp practice when Lou Williams concluded a team huddle by imploring his teammates to stay motivated no matter the circumstances. The Lakers sounded annoyed as officials called fouls on several possessions during a recent pick-up scrimmage. Then, Jose Calderon interrupted the arguments about calls and stressed the need to stay calm during adversity. -- The Orange County Register

Lakers keep Metta World Peace, Thomas Robinson because of their work ethic, toughness: The two players stood at opposite ends of the Lakers’ practice court. Their presence partly explained how they survived various roster cuts. After practice ended, Thomas Robinson worked on free throws and post-up moves. His hustle and efficiency left Lakers coach Luke Walton “shocked” the former No. 5 draft pick lasted briefly in Sacramento (2012-13), Houston (2012-13), Portland (2013-15), Philadelphia (2014-15) and Brooklyn (2015-16). -- The Orange County Register

Metta World Peace attributes longevity to lifestyle habits: The talent seemed too good to pass up. Ron Artest locked down scorers, bulldozed defenders and made opponents fear his mere presence. But then concerns emerged about his anger, his partying and his focus. The talent seemed too diminished. Metta World Peace struggled to score, defend and run as efficiently as he once did. But then encouraging signs emerged with his unyielding work ethic, strong conditioning and valuable wisdom to teammates. -- Los Angeles Daily News


Lakers guard DeAngelo Russell shares how he's changed his mentality entering his second year in the NBA.

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Metta World Peace found himself in the same position for the second straight autumn, fighting for the Los Angeles Lakers’ 15th and final roster spot against players close to half his age, hoping he’d make it while potentially facing retirement -- or perhaps the start of a coaching career -- if he didn’t.

But, just as he did last October, World Peace, formerly known as Ron Artest, made it. The veteran forward, who will turn 37 next month, will be on the Lakers’ roster when they open their 2016-17 regular season Wednesday against the Houston Rockets.

“I definitely had to earn it,” World Peace said after practice Monday at the Lakers’ training facility. “Some people think it’s easy -- [that] spots just somehow magically appear in your favor. But I worked real hard.”

World Peace played sparingly a season ago, averaging 5.0 points over 16.9 minutes in 35 appearances, as he accepted a backseat to the Lakers’ promising young core. That's a role he’ll need to accept again this season. But to World Peace, who will be entering his 17th NBA season, making the team is enough, in a way, as it moves him one step closer toward his goal.

“I’ve got a personal goal of trying to reach 20 years,” he explained, “and in order to reach them goals, I’ve got to take care of my body.”

Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY SportsMetta World Peace set a mighty ambitious goal for himself, and by making the Lakers in his 17th NBA season, he's strengthened his grasp.

World Peace cited that he has cut down on the partying lifestyle he enjoyed when he was younger and is now much more careful about his diet.

“Obviously, there’s such a thing as Father Time, but if you take care of your body and eat [well], you’ll have a chance to run with these young guys,” World Peace said. “These boys are fast. They’re jumping high. In order to compete, you’ve got to treat your body the right way.”

He added, “I think sometimes on my social media, it seems like I’m partying. I do it for fun, but I’m actually not. I’m very aware of, if you’re out drinking a little too much, I’m very aware the consequences I’ll have to pay. I won’t be able to play basketball.”

Though World Peace isn’t the defensive force or offensive threat he was in his earlier days, the Lakers like his energy, toughness and ability to mentor their young core.

“He’s great,” said coach Luke Walton. “He comes in every day, stays after. He runs. He does conditioning. He’s tough. He talks to the younger guys all the time about his experiences, about what he sees. He’s somebody that I trust, that I can talk to about what’s going on. Like I said, he gives us an edge and a toughness on our team.”

Added Lakers point guard D’Angelo Russell, “I don’t know if he’s going to play a lot, but he can lead by example when he’s in practice or whatever, [and] when he’s off the court, in the locker room, on the bus, on the plane, he can really talk with guys and get to pick guys’ brains apart and see where guys really are. He’s such a positive dude. Anytime somebody's going through not playing or struggling, he’s going to be there for him.”

Walton also believes that World Peace’s varied experiences, which include being at the center of the “Malice at the Palace” brawl in 2004, provide World Peace a rich perspective that he can share with his much younger teammates. “He’s been through a lot,” Walton said. “He’s put in the work. He’ll be the first to tell you that he sees a sports psychologist and works on who he is today. And I think because of that, he’s been on both sides of it and he can be very helpful for some of these young guys that are trying to figure it out.”

World Peace said he’ll preach a simple message to his teammates: Pay attention to coach and work hard. “There’s nothing else to think about,” he said. And in terms of his role, he said it won’t change much from last year, either. He still wants to make an impact where possible, though he understands the bigger picture at play.

“I’m going to be the same old Metta,” he said. “I’ll be the same old Metta.”

Anthony Brown finds encouragement in Coach Luke Walton's words: The positive reinforcement touched D’Angelo Russell, who feels emboldened as the Lakers’ leader. It assuaged Jordan Clarkson, who has accepted a bench role without complaint. It motivated Brandon Ingram, who has viewed his reserve role less as a demotion and more as a drive to improve. It turns out Luke Walton’s coaching approach has even extended toward players low on the depth chart. With second-year forward Anthony Brown facing inconsistency last season with his outside shooting, Walton has outlined one specific message. -- The Orange County Register

Lakers, Clippers at different stages of the same path: Practice commenced on Friday morning as Doc Rivers conducted his daily huddle with local media. His veteran team requires little oversight for humdrum drills. In his fourth season at the helm of the Clippers, Rivers was jovial and relaxed. The opener was nearly a week away, and 82 games separated his team from an anticipated playoff run. “Our goal is to be champions,” he said. -- The Orange County Register

Luke Walton will likely change lineups throughout season: The eight-game slate concluded with Lakers coach Luke Walton telling his players he felt pleased with both their progress and effort. But that hardly left him satisfied. The Lakers enter their season opener against the Houston Rockets on Wednesday at Staples Center with a litany of issues Walton hopes to address. Although the starting lineup will likely feature D’Angelo Russell, Lou Williams, Luol Deng, Julius Randle and Timofey Mozgov, that lineup is far from definitive amid the team’s slow starts. -- The Orange County Register

AP Photo/Kelvin KuoFollowing his strong play for China in the Rio Olympics, the Lakers signed Yi Jianlian to a one-year, $8 million deal in August.

Chinese star Yi Jianlian and forward Anthony Brown were the final two players waived by the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday, meaning former All-Star forward Metta World Peace and fellow veteran Thomas Robinson have made the team's season-opening roster.

With the Lakers facing roster cut-down decisions by 5 p.m. ET on Monday, Yi and his representatives requested that the team let him go to pursue other opportunities -- largely because the role he envisioned in Los Angeles didn't materialize.

"Yi was productive in practices and games with us, and was a consummate professional both on and off the court," Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said in a statement. "However, he felt that the minutes and opportunities he'd be afforded here were not in line with his goals and ambitions, and that he'd be better off in a different situation. We appreciate his efforts and wish him great success as he goes forward with his career."

This will mark NBA season No. 17 for World Peace, who will turn 37 in November. He averaged 5.0 points over 16.9 minutes in 35 appearances for the Lakers last season.

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Relive the best posterizing dunks in recent NBA history, from Blake Griffin's stuff on Timofey Mozgov to DeAndre Jordan's monster flush over Brandon Knight.

Lakers looking for improvement after franchise's worst season

October, 20, 2016
Oct 20

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- As the Los Angeles Lakers embark on the post-Kobe Bryant era, their most notable newcomer is one of his former teammates, first-year head coach Luke Walton.

The 36-year-old Walton, a player on back-to-back Lakers championship teams in 2009 and 2010, is tasked with changing the culture and ultimately restoring luster to the franchise.

"I think he is our best free-agent signing in a few years," Lakers president Jeanie Buss said.

But that isn't as impressive as it sounds, given that every marquee free agent the Lakers have pursued in recent years has spurned them.

And while Buss, the team's top official, and her brother Jim, executive VP of basketball operations, apparently see eye-to-eye on Walton, the state of the siblings' relationship adds Hollywood drama to the Lakers' unprecedented struggles on the court.

Jeanie, 55, and Jim, 56, attained their positions at the behest of their late father, Jerry, who won 10 NBA championships in 34 years as owner of the storied franchise. By the time he died in 2013 after battling cancer, the Lakers' slide had begun.

The club has since endured its three worst seasons ever, posting successive records of 27-55, 21-61 and 17-65.

Last season's debacle led to Jim and general manager Mitch Kupchak firing coach Byron Scott in April, a move that Jeanie says she did not know was coming. She told Outside the Lines it would "probably make me more comfortable" to be consulted on important basketball decisions, but "I have to defer to them, because I've empowered them to run the basketball operation."

Official job titles notwithstanding, the Scott episode "says that her brother is in charge of basketball operations and she has absolutely no say-so," said John Salley, who played 11 seasons in the NBA and won the last of his four NBA championships as a member of the Lakers.

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The odds are against Metta World Peace making the Los Angeles Lakers' opening night roster, but the Lakers have interest in keeping the veteran forward around as an assistant coach if they can't make room for him as an active player, according to league sources.

Sources told ESPN.com that World Peace's impact as a mentor to young players last season was a big reason they invited him to training camp again under new coach Luke Walton.

This time, though, competition is much stiffer for the Lakers' 15th and final roster spot, thanks to the post-Olympics signing of China star Yi Jianlian and the strong play of camp invitee Thomas Robinson.

Sources say World Peace's preference, at age 36, is to continue his playing career, even if the Lakers ultimately decide they won't keep him and that forces him to look elsewhere. L.A.'s decision must be made by Monday at 5 p.m., when all NBA teams are required to get down to 15 players in advance of the first night of the regular season.

Yi, who can operate as a backup center as well as a floor-stretching forward, is regarded as the favorite to win the duel for the Lakers' last roster spot, after L.A. signed him to a one-year, $8 million deal to lure the former Milwaukee Bucks lottery pick away from his native China and back to the NBA. But because of the unique way the contract is structured, only $250,000 of that total is guaranteed, with Yi required to earn $6.8 million in what the league deems "likely" bonuses to collect the full amount.

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Brandon Ingram turned a corner against the Golden State Warriors: Brandon Ingram laughed when he heard the lighthearted question. Should Lakers point guard Marcelo Huertas be concerned about the backup point guard slot, given what a great job Ingram did at the point for parts of Wednesday night’s exhibition? Then he collected himself and offered the kind of measured and serious response he generally does. -- Los Angeles Times

Changes could lead to a breakout second season for Lakers guard D'Angelo Russell: The barriers no longer stand in front of D'Angelo Russell. He has a coach who will develop him more with positive reinforcement than frequent criticism. He is now leading a Lakers team instead of deferring to a Hall-of-Fame teammate. He also has an extra year of experience that taught him various lessons in work habits, maturity and basketball expertise. But even if Russell feels empowered in his second season, he does not feel encouraged that unnamed general managers voted him fourth in an NBA.com poll on which players are most likely to have a breakout season. -- The Orange County Register

Lakers sought national anthem protest that stresses unity without disrespecting others: The nearly 20 players stood side-by-side near center court. Behind them, 20 more players did the same thing. Every player on the Lakers and the Portland Trail Blazers then performed one uniform gesture. They locked arms together during the national anthem before a recent preseason game at Staples Center. Since San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started kneeling during the anthem before games during the NFL preseason, other pro, college and high school athletes have followed with their own gestures to protest social injustice. So, the Lakers huddled in recent weeks and brainstormed how they would protest with one specific goal in mind. -- The Orange County Register

Luke Walton and D'Angelo RussellJoshua Dahl/USA TODAY Sports

This story is part of ESPN The Magazine's Oct. 31 NBA Preview Issue. Subscribe today!

Los Angeles Lakers

Overall: 109

Title track: 29

Ownership: 73

Coaching: 72

Players: 109

Fan relations: 112

Affordability: 116

Stadium experience: 80

Bang for the buck: 120

Change from last year: -8

Coming off their worst season in franchise history and after missing the playoffs three straight seasons, is it any wonder the rebuilding Lakers continue their Ultimate Standings slide? The (somewhat) bright side: Kobe Bryant and Byron Scott are out, which gives Luke Walton and the Lakers' kids a chance to start anew.

What's good

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Brandon Ingram plays his best game, but Lakers fall to Warriors: Rookie Brandon Ingram played his best game of the preseason and led the team with 21 points. He also had four assists, seven rebounds and two steals. “I think I’m making progressions every time I step on the floor,” Ingram said. -- Los Angeles Times

Brandon Ingram has breakout game in 123-112 preseason loss to Warriors: The movement looked so natural as Brandon Ingram navigated his way around the court. He sank shots with balance as he set his feet and squared up in triple threat position. He scanned the court and found open teammates both in half-court and transition. He slid his deceptively thin frame into the lane to pluck rebounds off the rim as if they were apples on a tree. The Lakers fell in love with Ingram when he perfected all those qualities during his lone season at Duke. After seeing him experience some hiccups in summer league and training camp, the Lakers saw Ingram flash signs of promising growth in their 123-112 preseason loss to the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday at Valley View Casino Center. -- Los Angeles Daily News

Luke Walton visits father's statue before exhibition vs. Warriors in San Diego: The man’s outstretched arms and infectious smile capture his friendly personality. The bike represents one of his favorite hobbies. And the statue depicting Hall-of-Famer center Bill Walton shows how much his native city reveres him. Despite endless preparation ahead of him before the Lakers’ exhibition against Golden State on Wednesday at Valley View Casino Center, Lakers coach Luke Walton visited his father’s statue in the arena’s upper concourse. “I heard nobody wants it,” Walton said. “Is that true?” -- The Orange County Register


Timofey Mozgov impresses in the third quarter with a perfectly executed jam and a highlight-reel block at the other end.



Kobe Bryant
17.6 2.8 0.9 28.2
ReboundsJ. Randle 10.2
AssistsM. Huertas 3.4
StealsD. Russell 1.2
BlocksT. Black 0.5