Update: If you're interested I answered some questions for SSR here.
1.) How is the fanbase taking to the new cast of role players? Xavier Henry seems to be turning into a bit of a folk hero.
I think the fanbase understands the perfect opportunity it has with this team. We get to love their new role players who do well, and not be burdened by the ones who don't, because everybody who flops will be gone next year. Add to that the fact that the Lakers seem to have made a concerted effort to sign athletic players who haven't lived up to their potential, and you have the perfect environment. We have zero expectations, but we have players that could, theoretically, figure it out and become solid players. That's exactly what we've seen (so far) from Xavier Henry. His style of play of fearlessly attacking the basket is desperately needed for a team that is short on players who can take the ball and turn it into points. In Kobe's absence, Henry has led the team in scoring and forced his way into the starting lineup, and I don't see either one of those things changing until Kobe comes back.
2.) Pau Gasol has resumed his natural role as pivot man; other than Kobe, is he the key to this year's Lakers team (other than Kobe's health)?
Gasol is definitely the most important, most capable player other than Kobe on the roster, but I wouldn't label him the key. The simple fact is that the Lakers do not look like a very good team on paper, so any hopes that they have as a team will be keyed by how much better some of the players (like Henry, Wes Johnson and Jordan Farmar) can perform as compared to their previous expectations. We know who Pau Gasol is, and we know what he's capable of. He hasn't always consistently performed to his capability, but if he doesn't, the Lakers are already sunk. And if he does, that's just one of many holes that need to be plugged in the good ship Lakers this season. Gasol's "hole" is neither the biggest, nor the one most worried about.
3.) Which Mavericks player would you most like to see in a Laker uniform?
Aside from the obvious answer of geriatrically reuniting Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki, the player on the Mavs I'd be most interested in is probably Jose Calderon. We've been making googly eyes at Jose for a couple years now (because of the Spanish connection with Pau Gasol), and he seems like the perfect guy to come in to Coach D'Antoni's system and be a poor man's Steve Nash (unfortunately, the role of poor man's Steve Nash is currently being played by Steve Nash). Calderon is a great shooter and a willing and capable passer who we'd love to have in purple and gold.
4.) During his time in Dallas, Chris Kaman seemed convinced he was best suited as a starter, despite all data to the contrary. What's his role in Los Angeles?
Kaman's situation is an interesting one right now. He's clearly second fiddle at the center position after Pau Gasol, and with Coach Mike wanting to at least make an attempt of running his small ball system with this team, it seems unlikely for now that Kaman would join Gasol in the starting lineup as a pair of forward-center hybrids. That could easily be how things stay for the duration of the season, but I don't think it will. Kaman's signing, for me at least, was a curious one. On the surface, it looks fantastic - a one year deal for the mini-MLE (keeping the Lakers' precious 2014 cap space clear) for a very decent player at a bargain rate. The problem is ... the Lakers didn't need Kaman. They already have a center who's better than he is. They already have a back-up center (Jordan Hill) who can perform very capably. So why would the Lakers spend their only non veteran's minimum contract on a player who, while excellent for the price, plays a position at which the Lakers already have great depth? For now, Kaman has slotted in behind Pau and ahead of Jordan Hill (who is struggling to make the rotation despite some astronomical per minute stats), but my gut tells me that Kaman is in L.A. so that the Lakers can pursue further Pau Gasol trades without having to leave a gigantic hole in the center (get it?) of their team.
5.) Who is your favorite non-star Laker player to watch this year so far?
Wes Johnson. We've already talked about Xavier, but if forced to choose between the two, I'd still choose Wes purely on the criteria of watchability. Johnson is just one of those crazy ass athletes; long arms and an insane vertical. He's been playing the majority of his minutes as a small ball power forward, and while there have been times when he's been punished on the low block by bigger dudes, his rebounding in that role has been fantastic, and fantastically entertaining. Watching Wes sky for rebounds has probably been the most entertaining thing any single player has done for the Lakers thus far.
Thanks for talking with me. Looking forward to tonight's game!