Lakers' roster needs rebuilding
Steve Fryer column: Checking in on the Lakers' mess, the Triple Crown, the Angels and more.
Taking a look around the Southern California sports scene:
•Where to begin with all of the Lakers problems? Andrew Bynum's career path continues to be two steps forward and one step back, Pau Gasol often looked like a guy who just showed up and is trying to learn his role, and the team has the weakest pack of Lakers reserves since the late '70s. The worst, on the surface, is the tension between Kobe Bryant and Coach Mike Brown that was most openly displayed when they silently yet obviously tussled over which one would be in charge of the timeout huddle.
•Metta World Peace will become an ex-Laker this offseason. His contributions do not approach the level of difficulty and distraction he creates.
•The Lakers franchise must accept its fallibility and comprehend that today, for one of only three or four times in the past 50 years, the organization and the roster is in dire need of rebuilding. It is an average team that got to the NBA's final eight mostly because 2011-12 is a low-quality season for NBA basketball. Why can't this team identify and then sign one player who can consistently come off of the bench to get open, catch the basketball and hit an open shot?
•People moan and grimace at some of the shots Bryant takes. But he has never taken a shot he can't make. He just can't make those tough ones as often as he did five years ago.
•Bryant can create for himself better-percentage shots if he becomes a more productive passer off of the dribble-drive. But that will require teammates to stop being spectators and become cutters to open spaces on the floor – something we have not seen the Lakers do for a few years. Once opposing teams know this is now happening, they will have to defend Bryant's drive-and-dish, thus giving Bryant easier shots as he attacks the basket.
•That brings us back to Gasol. The guy is so out-of-sync with Bryant. He does not know when to become a cutter, he can't figure out where Bryant needs a screen to be set and can't remember how to execute a pick-and-roll with Bryant off of the double team.
•The Kings have outplayed Phoenix in every game of their NHL Western Conference series, including Sunday's 2-0 Kings loss at Staples. The Kings outskated and outshot (36-21) the Coyotes. But Phoenix goalie Mike Smith, who sometimes plays and acts like belligerent Billy Smith used to play in goal for the New York Islanders' Cup-winning teams, was unbeatable.
•It was a sensational horse race and it made for great television, but viewer ratings were down for Saturday's Preakness Stakes – an overnight rating of 5.5 (a percentage measure of TV viewership in 56 of the nation's biggest markets). Last year's Preakness had a rating of 6.0, and in 2004 it was 9.2. But look for NBC to score good numbers for the Belmont Stakes on June 9, with Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner I'll Have Another vying to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed swept the three races in 1978.
•At 1 1/4miles, the Kentucky Derby was I'll Have Another's longest race, and the Belmont will beat that at 1 1/2miles. His winning streak is at four races, having won at Santa Anita the Robert B. Lewis and the Santa Anita Derby this spring.
•Memories of Jim Eppard, young Angels prospect in the late-1980s: broad-shouldered, left-handed hitter with a wonderfully smooth swing. But first basemen like Eppard who could not hit for power were not going to stick around long. In 150 plate appearances with the Angels, he hit zero home runs with 16 RBIs.
•But if pinch-hitting is the toughest job in the game, well, Eppard was pretty good there. In 1988, he tied for the MLB lead in pinch hits, with eight, with Bill Buckner and George Hendrick. The Angels batting coach back then was Deron Johnson, one of baseball's all-time great guys.
•Sorry to pass along the news that ex-Angel Billy Cowan, living in Hermosa Beach, had a stroke earlier this month. He is part of Angels history, as the first baseman who completed the franchise's first triple play on June 26, 1970. Plenty of Angels angles all over that play, against the Royals in Kansas City – on first base for KC was Cookie Rojas, father of Angels play-by-play guy Victor Rojas, on second was ex-Angel Paul Schaal, and playing third for the Angels was Chico Ruiz, who grabbed Amos Otis' ground ball and stepped on third base for one out, threw to Sandy Alomar Sr. at second base for the second out and Alomar relayed to Cowan at first to finish it.
•Chicago Cubs owner Joe Ricketts is the sole donor behind the Ending Spending Fund, a super PAC. The Cubs' spending has them ranked No. 6 in players' salaries among the 16 teams in the National League, but the rate of return is not very good. The Cubs have the second-worst record in the National League; the San Diego Padres have the worst record, but the lowest player payroll, too.
•He's been doing it with style for a quarter century. Local TV sports host Jim Hill still makes it seem easy doing a job that is much harder than it looks.