Los Angeles Lakers
Will the return of Derek Fisher -- who won three championships with the Lakers -- be enough to make Los Angeles a title contender again?
What Went Right:
They reacquired some Fisher flavor.
Saying he wanted to be closer to medical facilities for his ailing daughter, veteran guard Derek Fisher voided his contract with the Jazz and returned to the team with whom he won three NBA titles from 2000-02. The lefty's pesky defense and understanding of the triangle offense should be a big help to the Lakers, who let starting point guard Smush Parker leave as a free agent for the Heat.
They re-signed Luke Walton and Chris Mihm.
GM Mitch Kupchak also brought back another key role player who understands the offense in Walton. The fifth-year small forward started 60 games a year ago, averaging 11.4 points (on 47.4 percent shooting), 5.0 rebounds and 4.3 assists. Mihm, meanwhile, re-signed with a two-year deal after being wooed by several teams. The 7-foot veteran center missed all of last season with an ankle injury, but is now fully healthy and should provide some much-needed size down low.
They got a decent PG prospect.
With the No. 19 pick in the draft, the Lakers selected Georgia Tech freshman point guard Javaris Crittenton. The 6-5 playmaker is the kind of tall point guard Phil Jackson likes, but he's still very raw. Crittenton probably won't be ready to contribute much early, but he showed promise in the summer league and could be a factor late in the season and beyond.
What Went Wrong:
Kobe dropped the hammer.
Frustrated after another early playoff exit, Bryant publicly ripped Lakers management for not doing enough to surround him with the help he needed. The nine-time All-Star even went so far as to demand a trade, sending shock waves through the NBA. Bryant later apologized for going public with his remarks, but he has not yet backed off his stance. The Lakers don't want to trade their superstar, but it remains to be seen whether Bryant will force their hand.
KG went to Boston.
Hoping to appease Bryant, the Lakers made an unsuccessful attempt to pry Garnett from the T'Wolves. While Garnett owns a home in Malibu and was said to be high on the idea of joining Kobe in Hollywood, the Lakers just didn't have the pieces needed to get the deal done. The fact that the Celtics later managed to acquire KG without giving up an All-Star in return only figures to add to Bryant's frustration.
When your superstar player rips the organization and demands a trade, it's not a good offseason. Only Fisher falling into their lap has kept it from being a total disaster.
Los Angeles Clippers
What Went Right:
Knight to the rescue.
With 38-year-old Sam Cassell starting to slow down and Shaun Livingston still recovering from a devastating knee injury, the Clippers needed a steady point guard. They got one in Brevin Knight, a 10-year veteran who averaged 9.1 points and 6.6 assists a year ago for the Bobcats. He should be a reliable backup for Cassell, and he comes at a reasonable price of $4 million deal over two years.
They got the Kobe Stopper.
Needing to shore up his bench and perimeter defense, GM Elgin Baylor took a flier on free-agent Ruben Patterson. The defensive-minded small forward, who once proclaimed himself "the Kobe Stopper," has character issues that make him something of a long-range gamble. But he's coming off his best season statistically, racking up career marks of 14.7 points (on 55 percent shooting) and 5.4 rebounds while playing in 81 games for Milwaukee.
They added some prospects.
The Clippers believe they added to their future pipeline by drafting Florida State power forward Al Thornton with their first-round pick (No. 14 overall), Marist guard Jared Jordan with their second-round pick (No. 45) and signing free-agent Josh Powell. Thornton, in particular, could play a big role right away as one of the replacements for the injured Elton Brand.
What Went Wrong:
Brand got hurt.
In the NBA's biggest injury of the offseason, Brand tore his Achilles tendon while working out and had to undergo surgery to repair it. The veteran power forward is expected to be out until midseason at the earliest, leaving the Clippers without their leading scorer, rebounder and shot-blocker. Brand's injury is reminiscent of the blow Memphis experienced a year ago when it lost star power forward Pau Gasol to a broken foot for two months to start the season. The Grizzlies fell behind and never recovered en route to the NBA's worst record.
Brand's injury alone makes for a dismal offseason, and they didn't do much else to improve the roster. In the tough West, it adds up to another lottery finish.
What Went Right:
They locked up Kevin Martin.
In a move for the long-term future, the Kings signed the popular shooting guard to a five-year extension worth a reported $50 million. Martin, a fourth-year pro, was one of Sacramento's few bright spots a year ago, as he averaged a team-leading 20.2 points on 47.3 percent shooting to go with 4.4 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. The Kings wanted to get K-Mart locked up so they wouldn't have to worry about him leaving as a free agent next summer.
They signed Mikki Moore.
Hoping to improve on his team's dismal rebounding and shot-blocking, GM Geoff Petrie signed the 7-foot journeyman center to a three-year $18 million free agent deal. Moore, 31, averaged a career-high 9.8 points and 5.1 rebounds in 26 minutes a year ago for the Nets, while leading the NBA in field goal percentage (60.9). His length, athleticism and ability to run the floor should provide some dimensions they lack with reigning starting center Brad Miller.
Ron Artest stayed out of trouble.
It might not seem like a big deal, but Artest was on his best behavior this summer. The mercurial guard spent part of it touring Africa with fellow NBA players, where he impressed observers with his maturity and concern. The Kings hope it's a sign that Artest has put his difficulties behind him and that he's ready for a season without controversy.
What Went Wrong:
They got played by Stan the Man.
While charismatic Reggie Theus might turn out to be a fine coach, he was not the Kings' first choice. Stan Van Gundy appeared to be the front-runner before he abruptly changed direction and signed with the Magic instead. Van Gundy's U-turn left the Kings scrambling. Sacramento can only hope Theus, who has no previous NBA coaching experience, can learn fast on the job.
They failed to clear out dead weight
After last year's dismal campaign, one could argue the Kings needed to make a major shakeup. While their roster features some big NBA names in Mike Bibby, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Brad Miller and Kenny Thomas, those veterans just did not play up to their abilities in '06-'07. Petrie no doubt would have liked to move one or more for the right player(s) in return, but it didn't happen.
Locking up Martin was a good move, but it doesn't address their concerns for this season. They better hope Theus can inspire those vets.