Despite a shortened week due to the All-Star break, the Lakers continued their season-long trend of mediocrity.
The Lakers remained average this past week, splitting their two home games 1-1, and bringing their record to 25-29 on the season.
Despite a 1-8 shooting performance from Kobe Bryant against Phoenix, center Dwight Howard led the Lakers to a 91-85 victory over the Suns with 19 points and 18 rebounds.
Following that ugly win, the Lakers had an opportunity to gain some much-needed momentum going into the All-Star break.
As expected though, the Lakers lost to the Clippers in disappointing fashion on Valentine’s Day. 20 points and 11 assists from Bryant were not enough to overcome the Clippers barrage of threes in the loss.
After an exciting Western Conference win over the East in the 62nd All-Star game Sunday, the Lakers look to get back on track for the stretch run.
Take a look back at the changes in the Lakers’ stock values and the impact the players should have going forward:
Antawn Jamison : One of the biggest bright spots this past week was sixth-man Antawn Jamison.
In recent weeks, Jamison has significantly elevated his game. Jamison, 36, was a huge spark off the bench in both games this past week.
In the win against Phoenix, Jamison scored 19 points on 8-16 shooting with 2 three-pointers and 10 rebounds. Jamison’s scoring burst helped pick up the slack from Bryant’s measly 4 points.
Jamison was also the best player on the floor against the Clippers. The Lakers’ sixth-man poured in 17 points on 7-13 shooting. Jamison’s scoring actually kept the Lakers in the game in the first half of that game.
With Pau Gasol still out indefinitely, the Lakers are forced to lean on Jamison and his scoring ability.
For the Lakers to turn this season around and make a run at the playoffs, Jamison’s production off the bench will be an important part of any turnaround.
Dwight Howard : Like Jamison, Dwight Howard had an excellent week leading up to the All-Star break.
Howard actually showed flashes of the three-time Defensive Player of the Year. With the continued drama surrounding the Lakers, especially with Howard, the Lakers desperately need a focused Howard going forward.
Howard scored 19 points in the win over the Suns, but more importantly, grabbed 18 rebounds and blocked 2 shots. The rebounding void left from Gasol’s absence now falls squarely on Howard.
Howard’s rebounding average of 11.8 rpg has been down this season from his career average of 12.9 rpg.
Hopefully as Howard continues to improve his conditioning, and assuming there are no more set backs with his torn labrum, Howard will return to being a consistent, tenacious rebounder.
In the loss to the Clippers, however, Howard’s rebounding numbers slipped again. Howard only grabbed 8 rebounds but did score 18 points.
With Gasol out, Howard has to be the defensive anchor at all times. Against the Clippers, however, Howard allowed Blake Griffin to get off to a hot start offensively.
Griffin scored 10 points in the first five minutes of the game, something that should not happen with Howard guarding him.
As has been the case all season, the Lakers need even more from Howard. His offensive statistics and efficiency have improved of late, but the Lakers desperately need Howard to become the captain of their defense.
Howard did seem to have fun in the All-Star game this past Sunday, however, something he hasn’t shown much of in his time in Los Angeles. Howard scored 9 points, including a three-pointer, and led the Western Conference in rebounding with 7 boards.
But for his Lakers, Howard must start taking things personally and control the paint on both ends. If Howard truly dedicates himself to those things, the Lakers may be able to string together some winning streaks going forward.
Oh, and Dwight Howard finally lost the headband this week!
Steve Blake : Since returning from injury this season, Blake has been shooting the ball exceptionally well.
Against Phoenix, Blake scored 5 points on 2-2 shooting with 1 three pointer and 3 assists. Blake also shot 3-3 against the Clippers, scoring 7 points and adding 7 assists.
Blake’s consistent play of late has been great for Steve Nash as well. With Blake playing at a high level, coach Mike D’Antoni is able to limit the 39-year old point guard’s minutes and keep Nash fresh.
Despite struggling for much of his tenure in Los Angeles, Blake has returned from injury this season in promising fashion.
It looks like Blake will continue to run the bench unit as the primary backup point guard going forward.
Expect Blake to keep playing at a high level if allowed consistent playing time, and hopefully those high assists numbers will continue.
Kobe Bryant : Tough week for Kobe Bryant.
Bryant shot just 1-8 in the Lakers’ win over Phoenix and finished with 4 points. Bryant did have 9 assists in that game, but also turned the ball over 8 times.
Bryant, in fact, did not even attempt a field goal in the first half. The key for Bryant going forward is to find that middle ground between facilitating and scoring.
In that game especially, Bryant was over-committed to facilitating early. This over-commitment led to Bryant’s poor shooting and a lack of rhythm on the offensive end.
Bryant seemed to find that fine line between the two extremes in the loss to the Clippers. Bryant scored 20 points on 7-13 shooting with 11 assists and 5 rebounds.
Unfortunately, the Lakers’ defense, or lack thereof, was the downfall in that game.
The Clippers starting backcourt scored a combined 45 points. The Lakers starting backcourt, however, only combined for 27 points.
This is a major issue on both the offensive and defensive ends. Along with his own individual scoring, Bryant, and teammate Steve Nash, need to find ways to get each other going, early and often.
With Gasol out, Nash’s offensive scoring role becomes heightened. As a result, Bryant and Nash must find a way to become more effective on the offensive end together.
One way to do this is to run more 1-2 and 2-1 ball screens, either at the top or on the wing. The key here is that if opposing defenders switch, then Bryant can take advantage of smaller defenders on the block.
If opposing defenders go under the screen, however, then Nash can burn them with a quick three-pointer behind the screen.
Along with on the offensive end, Bryant and Nash need to re-dedicate themselves to slowing opposing backcourts. Because the Lakers’ backcourt tandem is on the older side, they need to start funneling the opposition into Howard.
Funneling and helping each other is the only way the Lakers’ slower backcourt will be able to keep up with the likes of Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups, Russell Westbrook, Tony Parker, etc.
Bryant did play well in the All-Star game, highlighted by his late defense on LeBron James to seal the win for the West. Bryant scored 9 points on 4-9 shooting and had 8 assists in just 28 minutes.
Ultimately though, any Lakers turnaround this season will start with the captain, Kobe Bean Bryant. If he is able to find that elusive balance between scoring and facilitating, the Lakers may make their way back into the playoff picture.
Metta World Peace : After struggling for much of the past few weeks, Metta World Peace turned things around some.
Although he continued his shooting slump, World Peace played a little more consistently this week.
In the Lakers win, World Peace scored a surprising 17 points, albeit on 6-16 shooting from the floor. World Peace also snatched 8 rebounds and 4 steals in the win.
This type of aggression is needed from World Peace night in and night out. If World Peace can get back to the consistent play he had earlier in the season, the entire team will benefit on both ends.
Against the Clippers, however, World Peace reverted back to his inconsistent ways. Scoring just 11 points on 4-9 shooting, World Peace was practically a non-factor.
World Peace also made little impact on the defensive end. Both his rebounding and steals numbers dropped to just 4 rebounds and 1 steal in the loss.
Any offensive contributions from World Peace are an added bonus at this point, but his defensive prowess must be present each and every night for the Lakers to win ball games.
Jodie Meeks : Along with Jamison, Jodie Meeks also had a nice week offensively off the bench.
Meeks scored only 6 points in the win over the Suns, but dropped 13 points against the Clippers.
The Lakers could certainly use more of Meeks’ perimeter shooting ability. With Meeks now receiving consistent playing time, the Lakers need him to stretch the floor even more.
Meeks’ 2-4 three-point shooting was a welcomed sight vs. the Clippers, but the Lakers could use more off the bench.
If Meeks can start making 3 to 4 three-pointers per game, that would open up the floor even more for Howard, Bryant and Nash.
Meeks’ energy on the defensive end this season has been a welcomed sight as well. The Lakers certainly need his change-of-pace energy and effort off the bench to continue.
Earl Clark : A tough week for Earl Clark as well.
Clark has been this season’s big surprise, but he came back to Earth some this past week.
After receiving an MRI on his sore right foot last Tuesday, Clark was unable to produce for the Lakers.
Despite registering two double-doubles last week, Clark did not even come close to one this week. Clark scored 11 points on 4-9 shooting against Phoneix, but only had 4 total rebounds.
Clark followed up that mediocre performance with an even worse one against the Clippers. Clark scored just 4 points on 2-10 shooting in that game.
This recent stretch of inconsistency is understandable from a player who has never been in this role before. With the All-Star break now behind us, Clark should be able to regain his consistent, high-energy play.
Hopefully Clark’s foot is not be an issue going forward, but it could certainly flare up if D’Antoni continues playing him healthy minutes per game.
Steve Nash : Although not talked about as much this season, Steve Nash is quietly having a below average year by his standards.
This season, Nash is only averaging 11.8 ppp and 7.4 apg, both down from his career averages of 14.4 ppg and 8.6 apg.
Against the Suns, Nash scored just 10 points and had 8 asissts. Against the Clippers, Nash scored just 7 points on 3-9 shooting and 5 assists.
Although Nash is currently on his way to another 40-50-90 year shooting-wise, he was 0-6 from three-point range this week.
Nash’s poor shooting this past week was probably an anomaly, and the Lakers still desperately need Nash to shoot even more.
Nash, one of the league’s best shooters of all time, has to become more aggressive in the near future. For the Lakers to have success, Nash’s scoring ability needs to be utilized much more.
With Bryant continuing to facilitate the offense, Nash should switch his focus to more of a “shoot-first” mentality.
Nash’s superior shooting ability, coupled with Bryant’s attacking mentality, can significantly help the Lakers’ offense for the stretch run.
Since the Lakers’ backcourt is the oldest and slowest in the NBA, a more efficient offensive attack should also lead to a more efficient half-court defense.
If the Lakers want to make the playoffs, that push will ultimately start with their two most seasoned players, Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant, leading the charge.
Darius Morris : With Steve Blake permanently back from injury now, Morris remains at the end of the rotation.
The Lakers could use his speed and quickness to penetrate opposing defenses, but D’Antoni remains committed to his short rotation of 8-9 players.
Morris did not play against Phoenix, but did play 4 minutes of “garbage-time” against the Clippers, in which he scored 4 points on 2-3 shooting.
Robert Sacre : Even with Gasol still out, Robert Sacre barely played this past week.
Sacre did not play in the Suns game but did play 4 minutes of “garbage-time” against the Clippers.
Chris Duhon : Chris Duhon did not play in either of the Lakers’ games this past week.
Devin Ebanks : Devin Ebanks also did not play in either of the Lakers’ games this past week.
Pau Gasol : After suffering a partially torn fascia in his foot, Pau Gasol continues receiving treatment in Los Angeles.
Gasol is now entering week three of his recovery process. The Lakers could certainly use his contributions with Howard playing hurt, but Gasol remains out indefinitely.
There is no target return date set for Gasol at this time.
Stay tuned for next weeks’ Lakers Stock Watch as the Lakers begin the stretch run battling Boston, Portland and Dallas.