“Who Are These Fucking Guys?” A guide to the new Lakers.

First Things first…

Now, then.

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers-Media Day

Yep. I know. Alot of people had a ton of good times with this picture. “hey look, it’s Kobe and ‘who the fuck knows’!!!”. True as it might be, I can actually proudly (or regrettably) confess to actually knowing who the fuck all of the new guys are and more to the point, how I think they are all going t actually contribute to making the Lakers one of the surprise teams in the West.

I’m 100% serious, by the way.

So yeah, here’s what you need to know about the guys you’ll see standing next to Kobe, Pau and Nash this year.

Shawne “POS” Williams, aka Stoned Obama. Special Skill: Apathy

A first round pick out of Memphis. Williams is a very talented, athletic forward with legitimate three point threat whose life in the NBA has been a journeyman’s existence, mostly because he seems to lack the passion required to play this game for a living, as testament to the old Don Nelson adage, “Big guys play because they are big”.

That’s not to say Williams hasn’t had his share of highlights on the professional level.

All that said, a guy like Williams has alot more value on this team than most other places, especially since his best NBA season was with D’ Antoni’s Knicks in 2011. As a power forward who rebounds and can stretch the floor, he’s got some use here.

Ryan Kelly, aka SadBeard . Special Skill: Shooting from great distances

Drafted to do what Williams does, which is stretch the floor with his shooting and maybe grab some rebounds. Kelly may struggle athletically in the NBA, but his shooting touch means he’ll be given a chance to stick around on this team and maybe, just maybe, his sad little beard will fill out.

Me, I’ve got a feeling he’s going to develop into a real sleeper pick, something like Ryan Anderson without the athleticism.

Jordan Farmar,  aka “I’m all Ears”. Special Skill: Runs fast, jumps high.

You remember him, right?

Draftd by the Lakers, he spent four up & down seasons in Phil Jackson’s triangle, never quite grasping it or finding ways to utilize his significant athletic prowess (lightning wuick, 42 inch vertical leap) in a system that doesn’t have much use for it.  As soon as he could, he split for greener pastures (and more money) in New Jersey before playing in Europe for a year.

Now he’s back here are being specifically identified by Kobe and D’ Antoni as a really good fit for the run & gun style the lakers will employ this year, and Jordan tore ass in the pre-season so, so far, so good.

Look for him to play alot off the bench as the 3rd guard and even more if Nash gets hurt again.

Nick Young, AKA Swaggy P. Special Skill: Scoring the ball, by any means necessary.

He gave himself that nickname, in case you were curious about the origins.

Doesn’t matter if it’s the NBA, College, Europe or your local park team, almost every basketball squad has a guy that can either shoot you in or out of any game, all by himself. Of course, Kobe is the absolute Grand Marshall of this shit, but Nick Young will be his understudy for 2014.

Nick Young has bounced around the NBA for the last 6 years with his have “ball will shoot it mentality”. On a bad team, he’ll start and be among the teams scoring leaders. On a good one, he’ll come off the bench as an instant offense. On my annual trips to the Vegas Summer League, Nick Young was as dominant a player as I’ve ever seen there, regularly approaching the 30 or 40 point with ease. For now, he’ll start in Kobe’s place, but I’d assume he’s bumped to 6th or 7th man stance when Kobe returns.

Boy, I sure fucking hope they don’t plan on starting the two together.

Anyway, every team needs characters and this guy is that.

Wesley Johnson, aka Son of El Busto Special Skill: still not sure on that one.

Shout to the original El Busto himself, Tony Battie.

Member #8 in former Minnesota GM David Khan’s memorial Parade of Draft Fuckups,  Johnson was taken as the 4th pick in the 2010 Draft as an athletic wing who can shoot and at age 23 was thought to be something of a finished product where most draft picks are taken on potential. In reality, Johnson has thus far proven to be an average athlete who can’t shoot very well an lacks assertiveness. On this Laker team, he’ll be given a chance to show he can hit open shots on the wing and maybe flash a little of the potential he was thought to have. One of the benefits of D’ Antoni’s offense is that it can give new life to the careers of offensively gifted players in the same way that Colorado boots the fortunes of power hitting Baseball players or Quentin Tarantino resurrects long-forgotten actors.

As it stands, this is probably Johnson’s last chance to stick in the NBA after being picked in the top 5.

Chris Kaman, aka Giant Tom Petty aka KPax aka the Bermuda Triangle aka Baby Arms Special Skill: getting hurt.

All clowning aside, Chris Kaman is one the short list of most fascinating players not only in the NBA, but in all of professional sports. The hair, once long and unruly, is now gone altogether. The game is varied and full of skill, but the luck is piss poor. In his many years spent in a Clipper uniform, I’ve never seen a player who had more shots go halfway in then out on them, more balls take bad bounces, more fouls go against him, then Kaman. The guy just screams bad luck.

And then there’s the injuries. In 10 years, he’s missed more than 25% of his games do to one malady or another. I mean, you name the injury, he’s had it. I’m pretty sure he had the fucking chicken pox at some point in the last few years.

Of course, he’s still around because the guy can legitimately play the game. Of course, the fact that he’s a 31 year old former all-star center making only 3.1 million in a league where someone once gave Kwame Brown 9 million speaks volumes abut his League-wide perception.

For what it’s worth, he and Pau looked awesome playing together in the pre-season. Still, I’m skeptical he’ll ever ditch that Charlie Brown-like raincloud that seems to follow him around. Bless his heart and all, but at this point, having Kaman on your roster just seems like an invitation for bad shit to happen.

Xavier Henry (it’s not pronounced Xavier, it’s zah-vee-A!) Special Skill: he’s got alot of them, actually.

This is the one that caught my eye.

Have a look at this list. It’s the top high school players on the planet in 2009. Now, did you catch who was #3, ahead of John Wall, Boogie Cousins and Lance Stephenson, among others?

It’s Henry, the same guy who even though he didn’t exactly light the world on fire in his one year at Kansas, still showed enough potential to be drafted #12 by Memphis in 2010. A year later, he was traded by the Grizzlies and two years after that the Hornets chose to let him walk as a free agent. By all accounts though, Henry’s story is that of a player who has struggled to adjust to both the game and the lifestyle of the NBA, but is definitely not a guy who lacks the talent to survive or even thrive at this level.

This, of course, makes him a terribly exciting prospect on this team, at this time. Henry showed some real flashes in the pre-season, including a 30 point game against Golden State. He showed that he has the talent and athletic ability to be a real, legitimate offensive force if he wants to be. The trick will be finding consistency.

There’s no doubt this guy can play, but can he put it all together and be a pro? Much like Earl Clark last year, I think henry is going to emerge as a real sleeper in 2014. Like I said, the D’ Antoni system has a way of featuring guys who can score the ball, and Henry can definitely do it if he’s given the chance.


As an addendum, a word about Darius Johnson-Odom. Wes and I were very much looking forward to watching the man we had dubbed “Mekhi Pfeiffer, post-stroke”, (try not to laugh, I implore you)  but sadly he didn’t make the team. Godspeed, MPPS. We can only hope you catch on somewhere.

-John Hathwell


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