The Lakers completed last week with a 3-2 record. Although they remained in the 8th slot in the Western Conference, the Lakers suffered a significant loss to their personnel.
In the waning moments of the Lakers’ loss to the Atlanta Hawks, Kobe Bryant sprained his ankle when guard Dahntay Jones slid under him. Despite trying to play in the next game in Indiana, Bryant has since missed the last two games.
The Lakers started the week off well with a 106-97 win over the Orlando Magic. Dwight Howard certainly left his imprint on his return to Orlando, scoring 39 points and grabbing 16 rebounds.
The Lakers then traveled to Atlanta where they lost 96-92, in addition to suffering yet another crushing injury.
Concluding the quick 3-game road trip in Indiana, the Lakers defeated a solid Pacers team with little contribution from Bryant.
Travelling home, the Lakers beat the Sacramento Kings handedly, 113-102. The next night, the Lakers travelled Phoenix, losing 99-76. The Lakers’ 76 points were a season-low, as coach Mike D’Antoni’s 7-man rotation showed signs of fatigue.
Take a look back now at the changes in the Lakers’ stock values and the impact the players should have going forward:
Steve Blake : Now this is the Steve Blake the Lakers thought they signed back in 2010.
Since Bryant’s injury, Blake has averaged 15.7 points per game and 6.3 assists per game. Blake has also shot 56.7% from the field in his last three games.
With all of the hype surrounding the Lakers’ starters and the emergence of Earl Clark this season, Blake’s consistency has been sorely overlooked.
Since his return from the abdominal injury, Blake has helped turn the Lakers’ bench unit into a deadly asset for the Lakers.
With Bryant and hopefully Pau Gasol returning from injury as soon as this Friday, Blake’s improved play should continue.
Blake, in combination with Antawn Jamison, have been integral parts of the Lakers’ recent turnaround.
Dwight Howard : ‘Superman’ is back.
Dwight Howard is playing his best basketball of the season right now. Even with a rough shooting night in Phoenix, Howard averaged 19.4 ppg and 14.4 rpg in his last five games.
In the Lakers win over the Magic, and Howard’s return to Orlando, Howard set a few records.
With 39 free-throw attempts in that game, he tied the NBA record he set last year against Golden State and established a Lakers standard, blowing past Shaquille O’Neal’s old mark of 31 in 1999 against Chicago.
Howard seems to be healthier and in better condition now. His activity level on both ends of the floor has also gradually improved from game to game.
With Bryant out, Howard seemed to take more of a leadership role on this team. His effective leadership significantly helped the Lakers pull out a win in Indiana.
As long as Howard stays relatively healthy, there is no reason why he won’t return to his supremely dominant self by the playoffs.
Antawn Jamison : Like many of the Lakers’ player in Phoenix, Antawn Jamison struggled to find the basket.
Jamison did have great games against Indiana and Sacramento this past week, however.
Against Indiana, Jamison’s three-point shooting helped the Lakers overcome the Pacers’ stout defense. Jamison made 4-7 threes and finished with 17 points and 7 rebounds.
The next game, against Sacramento, Jamison had an even better performance. Jamison made 5-8 three pointers and finished with 27 points and 9 rebounds.
D’Antoni’s short 7-man rotation has paid dividends for both Jamison and Blake off the bench. Both players seem much more comfortable now playing starter-type minutes.
The key will now be whether or not Jamison can continue his stellar play once Bryant and Gasol return.
Metta World Peace : Metta World Peace seems to have finally climbed out of his month-long shooting slump.
World Peace scored double-digit points in each of his last five games. World Peace averaged 17.4 ppg and 4.6 rpg over that stretch.
After the win over Sacramento, World Peace informed the media that he had been dealing with a leg injury.
World Peace claimed that the injury had been hampering his ability to defend as well as post-up.
It seems that that injury has now healed and World Peace is on his way to returning to his early season form.
Steve Nash : Both Steve’s played consistent basketball this past week.
Steve Nash averaged 15.0 ppg and 6.8 apg over his past five games. Nash also hit a season-high in assists against Sacramento, dishing out 12 dimes.
Since Bryant went down with injury, Nash has increased his playmaking role. Nash continues to find his teammates in good operational areas on the offensive end.
Nash has also become more aggressive shooting the ball. Nash attempted double-digit shot attempts in four out of the five games last week.
With Bryant and Gasol returning soon, the onus will fall on the Lakers’ veteran backcourt to make sure the offensive cohesiveness continues.
Earl Clark : Earl Clark can’t seem to get out of his recent funk.
Despite shooting 42.9% from the field, Clark only averaged 6.6 ppg in his last five games.
Clark did average 6.2 rpg this past week, but the Lakers could use even more production from the 6’10” forward.
Recently, Clark has been settling for jump shots way too often. When Clark first emerged as a legitimate scoring threat earlier this season, he was attacking the basket with great ferocity.
In recent weeks Clark seems to have let off the gas a little.
Clark’s knee injury may be more serious than we understand, but the Lakers could certainly use the ‘attacking’ Clark going forward.
Jodie Meeks : Tough week for Jodie Meeks.
Even with Bryant being out for an extended period, Meeks just couldn’t find much consistency on offense.
Meeks, who started in place of Bryant for two games, averaged 5.6 ppg but only shot 30.3% from the field.
As Jamison, Nash and Blake continue to shoot the ball exceptionally well, the Lakers are really only waiting on Meeks to catch up.
Hopefully with Bryant’s return, Meeks will become more comfortable off the bench and return to his sharp shooting behind the arc.
Robert Sacre : Robert Sacre appeared in limited minutes against Orlando, Indiana and Phoenix.
Sacre did score 2 points and grab a rebound against Indiana.
Darius Morris : Darius Morris appeared late in the Lakers’ loss to Phoenix when the game was out of reach.
Morris attempted two shots and made one free-throw.
Chris Duhon : Chris Duhon appeared only in “garbage-time” against Phoenix this week.
Devin Ebanks : Devin Ebanks also appeared late in the loss to Phoenix, but failed to score.
Kobe Bryant : Kobe Bryant sprained his left ankle in the fourth quarter of the Lakers’ loss to Atlanta. The injury occurred when Bryant elevated for a shot and opposing defender Dahntay Jones slid under him.
Bryant claimed afterwards that the play was dirty because Jones did not give Bryant room to come down from his jump shot.
The play was reviewed by the NBA and decided that the play should have been called a foul on Jones, but no punitive damages resulted.
The play, for those of you who have not seen it yet, can be seen here.
Bryant is currently listed as ‘day-to-day’, but is expected to play in the Lakers’ next game, Friday vs. Washington.
Pau Gasol : Pau Gasol continues to make his recovery from his partially torn plantar fascia.
Earlier in the week, there were murmurs that Gasol might play against Sacramento. He did not, but the Lakers remain optimistic that Gasol may also be ready for Friday’s game against the Wizards.
Stay tuned for next weeks’ Lakers Stock Watch as the Lakers try to solidify a playoff berth battling Washington and Golden State.