Friday, December 19, 2014
Blog Page 14

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Photo courtesy of Robyn Beck, Getty Images

With another beloved teammate traded away, and news of a star player who may not return this season at all, not to mention the historic losing streak at home, the Lakers needed to experience something, anything, good to abate this painful season. Enter the Boston Celtics.

In their last meeting during the Grammy Road trip, the Lakers defeated their heated rivals, so in the first three quarters of tonight’s contest, it appeared Boston was getting ready for some revenge. With an 11-point lead going into the final 12 minutes, the Celtics could have finished off this downtrodden Laker team, but a line-up of reserves turned their fate around.

Jordan Hill, Jordan Farmar, Chris Kaman, and new teammates, Kent Bazemore and MarShon Brooks, played the entire fourth quarter and not only cut down the lead, but went on a torrid run to create a large advantage of their own to defeat the Boston, 101-92.

High Points
Bench/4th Quarter – The Laker reserves outscored Boston’s bench 63-21. Despite the endless rotation of players going from starter to reserve, and vice versa, the Laker bench has been relatively consistent in their contributions to each game this season, and their contributions have been huge. Those 63 points were from 57% from the field. In the fourth quarter, they outscored the Celtics 38-18, keeping Boston to just 33% shooting while the Lakers shot 70%. They also hit 4-7 from behind the arc.
The New Guys – They say a first impression is a lasting impression, and Bazemore and Brooks have made a good one. They’ve been labeled the “Killer Bs” on the TWC Sportsnet page. Neither player had even practiced with the team before tonight; save for a shootaround this morning. It sure didn’t look it though! Bazemore chipped in 15 points on 5-10 from the field, including 2-5 from three. It’s a new career high in points for the young man from Old Dominion. He also handed out four assists and picked up two steals. MarShon Brooks put in 14 points on 7-11 from the field, and grabbed three steals; including one that ended with his fast break lay-in. Once a bench warmer for the Celtics before he was sent to Golden State, tonight was the perfect game for Brooks to debut in; showed his former team what they’re missing. One game isn’t a lot to go on for two new players, but they’re off to a great start so far. Their mere energy on the defensive end alone is refreshing.
Big Men On The FloorChris Kaman – Give the man a chance, and he performs. After collecting a slew of DNP-Coach’s Decision state lines, Kaman has spent the last few weeks in Gasol’s absence, reminding everyone he can still play. Tonight he scored 16 points on an efficient 7-9 from the field and grabbed eight rebounds. Jordan Hill – talk about a hard worker. He only had 10 points, but he had 12 rebounds, five on the offensive end and he blocked three shots. Pau Gasol – He’s baaack and looks pretty darn good. Gasol played just over 22 minutes tonight, and understandably so since it’s his first game back after sitting out two weeks due to a groin injury. Despite the unusually short minutes, however, he still managed 16 points on 6-12 from the field, seven rebounds, a trio of assists and a pair of blocks. He looked good out there.
Win – Yes, the Lakers finally won a game, but tonight’s victory was comprised of smaller victories that they typically concede to the other team. Points in the paint – they outscored Boston 54-50. In second chance points, they had 19 to the Celtics’ 16. In fast break points, a 12-5 advantage. Even in rebounds they were just one away from tying the Celtics at 46 boards.

Low Points
Wesley Johnson and Ryan Kelly – Johnson and Kelly had strung together a few good games not so long ago, but tonight they produced next to nothing – Johnson with a single point, 0-4 field goals and 1-2 free throws. Kelly played just over 12 minutes, and except for three rebounds, a block and a turnover, his stat line was full of zeroes.
Turnovers – 18 giveaways that turned into 21 Boston points. It could’ve been so much worse.

New blood always seems to give the Lakers a little life (see: Kendall Marshall), but obviously two new players can’t mask the deeper issues that lie beneath. Yes the Lakers have two eager young men looking to prove themselves, but they’re also getting Nick Young back on Sunday and Xavier Henry soon after him. The new (see: recurring) problem will be playing time…again, and new rotations…again, until the games run out. With a victory being such an anomaly this season, however, let’s just enjoy this win and cross that 27-game bridge one 2×4 at a time.

Box Score

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February 21, 2014 — 7:30PM (PST)
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: ESPN / TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

With the build up for yesterday’s NBA Trade Deadline and continuous questions of what the Lakers front office will do this offseason, I bet a lot of Laker Nation forgot that the Los Angeles Lakers (18-36) will host their arch-rival Boston Celtics (19-36) tonight.

While the Celtics made no moves at the deadline, the Lakers surprised a lot of fans with their decision making. While the Lakers traded PG Steve Blake to the Golden State Warriors for defensive PG Kent Bazemore and scoring G Marshawn Brooks, the Lakers kept both C Chris Kaman and F Jordan Hill to the surprise of many Laker fans and columnists.

With that being said, the roster actually looks similar to their roster vs. Rockets which lies contrary to everyone’s belief.

Coach Mike D’Antoni expects C Pau Gasol to play tonight, which will shelve Kaman back to the bench after he has played very well since D’Antoni decided to play him out of necessity. Hopefully, Kaman will not end up at the end of the bench again.

The Celtics have treated this season as their rebuilding year. However they still possessing good talent that with an additional player or two, they possess potential to become very competitive in Eastern Conference soon.

4-time NBA All-Star PG Rajon Rondo continues to improve and shake off the rust from coming off a year-long ACL tear. Rondo, scoring 13.6 PPG and dishing out 9.5 APG in 11 games, will definitely cause the Lakers a lot of problems tonight by making all five Lakers on defense to keep an eye on him while he drives to the basket, finding open players behind the 3 pt. line or on a cut to the basket.

Meanwhile, C Jared Sullinger has been on a tear during the month of February. After getting scolded by his father for his bad attitude he showed on the floor, Sullinger took his father’s message to heart, playing with much more effort and passion on both ends of the floor. Sullinger has scored 15.7 PPG, grabbing 10.7 RPG, and blocking 1.7 shots per game, which clearly surpass his statistics from November through January.

Projected Starters

PG – Kendall Marshall / Rajon Rondo [Advantage: Celtics]
SG – Jodie Meeks / Avery Bradley [Advantage: Celtics]
SF – Wesley Johnson / Jeff Green [Advantage: Celtics]
PF – Ryan Kelly / Kris Humphries [Advantage: Celtics]
C – Pau Gasol / Jared Sullinger [Advantage: Lakers]

Notable Bench Players

Celtics: F Brandon Bass, F Gerald Wallace, G Jerryd Bayless

Lakers: PG Jordan Farmar, C Robert Sacre, C Chris Kaman

Bench Advantage: Even

Injury List

Celtics: Out-G Keith Bogans Out-C Vitor Faverani, G Avery Bradley

Lakers: Out-G Kobe Bryant, Out-PG Steve Nash, Out-G Xavier Henry, Out-G/F Nick Young, GTD-C Pau Gasol

Keys for Lakers Victory

Feed the Bigs: If Gasol comes back tonight, feeding the post players gives the Lakers their best opportunity to win tonight. Before Gasol’s injury, he played like the player who helped lead the Lakers to 3-straight NBA appearance with SG Kobe Bryant, averaging 20.8 PPG and 11.9 RPG during the month of January. In the few games where Kaman got big minutes, he showed why he possesses one of the most fundamentally sound offensive skills in the league, using his soft hands to properly catch the ball after rolling to the basket and also using his footwork to outsmart defenders. Hopefully, the Lakers slow the pace down tonight and play to their strengths.

Bottom Line

While both teams have a minimal chance of making it to the playoffs, any Celtics vs. Lakers matchup brings intrigue, regardless of who is on the floor. If Rondo plays like the Rondo we all know him to be, he will cause problems on the offensive end and also cause PG Kendall Marshall trouble by playing up-tight on him. The Lakers should come away with a victory tonight to finally snap their worst home-losing streak in years.

Prediction

Celtics: 111-109

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Sam Forencich/NBAe/Getty Images

While all the attention was on the return of former Lakers center Dwight Howard to STAPLES Center during Wednesday night’s matchup with the Rockets, another non-Lakers player also made headlines.

One of the top NBA prospects this year, Australian point guard Dante Exum, spent some time in the stands at STAPLES Center during Wednesday’s game after arriving in Los Angeles just a few days ago.

Exum, a combo-guard with a similar physique to Kobe Bryant‘s high school days, has already made it clear that he wants to play for one team–the Los Angeles Lakers. His interest was confirmed recently in an interview with Bleacher Report, stating that Exum wants to play for the Lakers.

Rumors continued to swirl after Exum signed with Kobe Bryant’s agent, Rob Pelinka, in January.

While Exum wants to play for the Lakers, uncertainty remains as to whether the Lakers feel the same way about him, especially with a strong 2014 NBA Draft class expected.

With the Lakers destined for a lottery draft pick this season, the 2014 NBA Draft is also expected to include the likes of Andrew Wiggins, Jabari ParkerMarcus Smart and Joel Embiid.

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Photo courtesy of Andrew D. Bernstein, Getty Images

Nowhere to run and nowhere to hide. The end of the season is near, and so too this team of damaged goods.

In another meeting with their former teammate, Dwight Howard (20 points, 13 rebounds, three blocks), and his new team, the surging 37-17 Rockets, the Lakers were no better than they were the last time the two teams met. With Steve Blake traded to the Golden State Warriors, Kendall Marshall was placed back in his starting position, with the return of Jodie Meeks and Jordan Farmar as well.

The Lakers won the fourth quarter by three points, and they hit 80% of their free throws compared to Houston’s 48% from the charity stripe. Aside from a few fine performances, those are really the only positives to be gained from this game, and even that is a stretch.

The Rockets led by as much as 36 points and won 134-108.

High Points
Wesley Johnson – 24 points on 9-13 from the field, seven rebounds and a pair of assists in just over 42 minutes of playing time. It was a productive night for Johnson. If only he could have produced on a more consistent basis.
Kendall Marshall – With Steve Blake shipped off to the Warriors and Jordan Farmar not ready to play heavy minutes in his return, Marshall did what Marshall has been doing for months for this hobbled team – just play. He finished with 20 points on 7-13 from the field, 16 assists and three steals.
Jodie Meeks – In his first game back since he exited the game in the first quarter of the meeting with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Meeks turned up a solid game, chipping in 19 points on 7-14 from the field. He played just over 34 minutes, having to share the spotlight in the PG position with Farmar’s minutes being monitored.

Low Points
The sudden trade of a respected teammate and player who did loads for this team? The 56-32 rebound discrepancy? The 19 offensive rebounds given up, which helped with 26 second chance points for Houston?? The 36-point deficit? All the injured players who are still far from returning? The nearing of a forgettable season’s end? Pick a low point – any low point. All apply.

54 games into the season and the Lakers have yet to hit 20 wins. The sooner April comes around, the better.

Box Score

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Image: Justin Edmonds | Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers have acquired guards Kent Bazemore and MarShon Brooks from the Golden State Warriors in exchange for point guard Steve Blake, it was announced Wednesday by General Manager Mitch Kupchak.

After spending the past 3+ years in Los Angeles, Blake was understandably disappointed in leaving the Lakers.

“I’ve loved my time. I’ve loved playing for coach D’Antoni,” Blake said to ESPNLA.com’s Dave McMenamin. “The freedom he gave me as a player … I’m totally grateful.”

Blake also shared the harsh reality of the effects an NBA trade can have.

“The hardest thing is really for my family, really,” Blake said. “I got a wife, three little kids and now I’m going to have to spend four months, probably, away from them and so that’s going to be the hardest part.”

When asked if Blake would consider returning to the Lakers this summer as an unrestricted free agent, he had this to say:

“Absolutely,” Blake said. “I’ve loved my time here. When you spend (time) in some place this long, you start to get comfortable. We loved where we lived, loved the schools my kids were in and always loved the support of the fans and ownership and everybody. So, it’s one of the best places I’ve ever played at and if in the future they wanted me back, I would absolutely, definitely consider it.”

Blake had been averaging 9.5 PPG, 7.6 APG and 3.8 RPG this season for the Lakers–all of which were career highs.

New Lakers:

MarShon Brooks, 25, is a 6’5″ shooting guard with excellent scoring abilities. The third-year guard has averaged 7.8 PPG, 1.4 APG and 2.2 RPG while playing in Brooklyn, Boston and Golden State. Brooks, however, is only averaging 2.6 PPG this season in 5.2 MPG.

Kent Bazemore, 24, is also a 6’5″ shooting guard with tremendous athleticism and great length on the defensive end. The second-year guard has averaged 2.1 PPG, 0.4 APG and 0.6 RPG in the NBA, while also spending multiple stints in the D-League.

Neither Brooks nor Bazemore are under contract past this season. The move does, however, save the Lakers about $4 million in salary and luxury taxes. No draft picks were exchanged in the deal.

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Photo courtesy of Bill Baptist, Getty Images

February 19, 2014 — 7:30PM (PST)
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC SportsNet / ESPN
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

Former Lakers center Dwight Howard returns to STAPLES Center tonight as his Houston Rockets (36-17) face off vs. The Los Angeles Lakers (18-35) in their first game since the All-Star break.

All eyes are on Howard tonight, as he plays vs. Lakers at Staples Center for the first time since he left the Lakers. Fair or unfair, many have blamed Howard, who averages 18.8 PPG, 12.5 RPG, and 1.8 BPG this season, for last season’s debacle of a season. With this season’s disaster that the Lakers have faced throughout this season, we can sense that other major factors caused last season’s struggle and Howard’s eventual departure to the Rockets.

Meanwhile, very high probability exists that tonight will be the final game the Lakers roster would look like their current state. The Lakers will most likely make moves before tomorrow’s trade deadline, which would include getting additional picks for the upcoming NBA Draft, getting under the luxury tax threshold, or rebuild for another championship run with SG Kobe Bryant.

As usual, C Pau Gasol has once again been placed in the trade block, while PF Jordan Hill has been involved in many trade talks, notably Brooklyn Nets. Other candidates to get traded before tomorrow’s deadline include C Chris Kaman and PG Steve Blake, mainly since trading their contracts will get them much closer to get under the luxury tax threshold.

Ironically, the Lakers will be led by C Chris Kaman tonight, who for whatever reason Mike D’Antoni has placed at the end of the bench for the majority of this season. One of the most skilled center in the NBA on the offensive end, Kaman has been by far one of the most consistent Laker since finally receiving any playing time, scoring 22 PPG and grabbing 10.5 RPG in the last 4 games. If this is Kaman’s last game with the Lakers, he will definitely help another team’s cause at going for this year’s NBA Championship.

Projected Starters

PG – Patrick Beverly Kendall Marshall [Advantage: Rockets]
SG – James Harden / Steve Blake [Advantage: Rockets]
SF – Chandler Parsons Wesley Johnson [Advantage: Rockets]
PF – Terrence Jones Ryan Kelly [Advantage: Even]
C – Dwight Howard Chris Kaman [Advantage: Rockets]

Notable Bench Players

Rockets: PG Jeremy Lin, F Omri Casspi, G Francisco Garcia, Greg Smith, Omer Asik 

Lakers:  C Robert Sacre, F Jordan Hill, SG Jodie Meeks

Bench Advantage: Rockets

Injury List

Rockets: Questionable-PG Patrick Beverley, Questionable-F Greg Smith

Lakers: Out-G Kobe Bryant, Out-C Pau Gasol, Out-G Xavier Henry, Out-G/F Nick Young, Doubtful-PG Steve Nash, Doubtful-PG Jordan FarmarProbable-SG Jodie Meeks

Keys for Lakers Victory

Defense: The Lakers’ defense played well the 1st 3 quarters vs. Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder, holding them to only 72 points in the first 3 quarters. Hopefully the Lakers will come with the same energy tonight, especially since Howard returns to Staples Center and this game will be broadcasted nationally. The Rockets have a lot of weapons other than SG James Harden and Howard; SF Chandler Parsons and PG Jeremy Lin have shown that they can also take over games if needed, so the Lakers have to play great team defense and communicate well in order to contain the Rockets lineup.

Bottom Line

I expect the Lakers to play very inspired basketball tonight especially during the 1st half. They have to play with the same energy they came out with vs. Thunder but maintain throughout the duration of tonight’s game. Unfortunately, the Rockets’ talent will be very tough to overcome for the very shorthanded Lakers tonight, especially as 4 of our 5 top players are not even in uniform tonight.

Prediction

Rockets: 112-97

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Jordan Hill
Image: Ethan Miller | Getty Images

Update (Feb. 20, 12:00pm PST) — Jordan Hill, along with Pau Gasol and Chris Kaman, remains a Laker through the 2014 NBA Trade Deadline.

Update (Feb. 19, 11:00am PST) — The Lakers and Brooklyn Nets are reportedly progressing on a deal to send Jordan Hill to Brooklyn.

Along with the Nets, the Phoenix Suns have emerged as a potential suitor for Hill.

Feb. 17, 4:00pm PST — According to Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, the Lakers have had discussions on a deal to send forward/center Jordan Hill to the Brooklyn Nets. 

The Nets have a $5.25 million disabled player exception that they could use to absorb the remaining $3.5 million on Hill’s expiring contract.

As Wojnarowski mentions, Hill has never been a particular favorite of head coach Mike D’Antoni. If D’Antoni remains the coach this summer, Hill does not seem to factor into the Lakers’ long term plans.

Moving Hill to the Nets before the trade deadline, while receiving nothing but cap relief in return, would help the Lakers as they attempt to get under the luxury tax threshold this season.

The 2014 NBA Trade Deadline is Thursday, February 20 at 12:00pm PST.

Keep it locked to LakerNation.com for all the latest surrounding the Lakers’ trade rumors!

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Image: Scott Halleran | Getty Images

Every few weeks, our staff writers chime in on the trending topics, rumors and storylines surrounding the Lakers. In this post-All-Star Break edition of State of the Nation, they answer five questions that will ultimately decide the fate of the Lakers.

Will the Lakers be active at the trade deadline?

Johnny Navarrette // @JohnnyNav: It is hard to see the Lakers not being active this deadline. With the Lakers fighting for lottery positioning at this point, they have some goals financially they need to accomplish like getting under the tax threshold. I think the most realistic trade options are Pau Gasol, Steve Blake, Jordan Hill, and Chris Kaman.

Photo Credit | Tony Gutierrez AP
Image: Tony Gutierrez | AP

Oren Levy // @LakersOren: They should be active at the deadline. The Lakers’ season is effectively over, and the Lakers have some parts that could be valuable to contenders. Ideally, the Lakers should accomplish two things before the deadline: Get below the luxury tax, and acquire future assets. If they can get below the tax line (to avoid repeater tax in future years), and turn Gasol/Kaman/Hill/Blake/Whoever into a 1st round pick and a couple of 2nd rounders, they’ve improved their position.

Jory Dreher // @Jay_Laker: With the impending tax bill looming for a team that’s not going to make the playoffs, they almost have to deal for cap relief purposes. The Lakers have held discussions with the Brooklyn Nets in regards to a possible Jordan Hill deal, and we still hear the chatter about Pau to Phoenix–so I would be surprised if they stand pat.

Ash Kargaran // @aakargaran: Yes. The Lakers will be trying to find a trade partner for Pau Gasol. At this point, the Lakers may even take less value for Gasol just so they can guarantee he doesn’t walk away for nothing, a la Dwight Howard last year.

Kanta Ito // @Kanta_B_Ito: They have to be, but in order to build for the future. Players like Kaman, Hill, and Blake might get involved in minor deals in order for the Lakers to get under the luxury tax this season. However, reports of Pau Gasol getting shopped around creates a possibility that a blockbuster deal could occur before the trade deadline.

Garrett Garcia // @GarrettGarcia: The Lakers will be active at the trade deadline I believe, however it won’t necessarily be a big move like many may think.  Could be a series of small moves to help the team get under the luxury tax threshold or help the business side of the team.

Robert Benitez // @beeb0: Yes, whether it will be Pau or some small pieces, a change is definitely coming.

Melvin Taylor // @MelvinTaylorII: No I do not believe they will be. With all of the rumors surrounding the team I think they will keep what they have currently and finish out the season as best they can.

Next Question: How will the Lakers fare over the final 29 games?

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Image: Ezra Shaw | Getty Images

Update (Feb 20, 12:00pm PST) — Pau Gasol, along with Jordan Hill and Chris Kaman, remains a Laker through the 2014 NBA Trade Deadline.

According to Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders, rival NBA executives believe the Lakers and Suns will resume trade talks, with Pau Gasol ultimately being traded to Phoenix.

Gasol, a free agent this off-season, has been looking into free agent destinations and is expected to leave Los Angeles this summer. Rival executives believe the Lakers will deal Gasol rather than lose him in the summer.

The Lakers have been looking for a first round draft pick in return for Gasol, as well as the expiring contract of Suns’ center Emeka Okafor.

With the NBA Trade Deadline less than 48 hours away, it will be interesting to see if Gasol is indeed finally traded this time.

Stay tuned to LakerNation.com for all the latest trade rumors and trade deadline news!

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Photo: Jared Wickerham | Getty Images

According to Ken Berger of CBS Sports, the Lakers are putting together trade packages in an attempt to acquire all-star forward Kevin Love from the Minnesota Timberwolves:

“The Lakers and Mavericks are trying to assemble trade offers for prospective free agent Kevin Love, but thus far the Timberwolves have given no indication they’ll consider moving the All-Star forward by Thursday’s deadline, league sources told CBSSports.com.

Love will be a free agent in 2015, and it is widely known around the league that he and his agent, New York-based Jeff Schwartz, are determined to get him to a major market. The Lakers, Love’s first choice, “have the best shot” of landing the Southern California native, one person familiar with the player’s thinking said. There is no incentive in the CBA for Love to sign an extension with Minnesota before he has a chance to decline his player option and hit the open market in July 2015.”

Regarding what the Lakers would offer, Berger says:

“Any Lakers offer would have to include Pau Gasol, whose $19.3 million contract comes off the books this summer. Rival executives believe the Lakers’ best chance of moving Gasol is to a team that views him as worthy re-signing to a more reasonable deal this summer — not as a rental. The Lakers also can offer their 2014 first-round pick, which has value. With Kobe Bryant out indefinitely, the Lakers are tied for the fourth-worst record in the league.”

It should be noted that the Lakers cannot trade their 2014 first-round pick until they are officially on the clock in this summer’s draft.  The next first round pick that would be eligible to be traded by the Lakers would not be until 2019.  Although, IF the Lakers were to acquire a second first round pick in the next 48 hours, their own 2014 first round pick becomes eligible to be traded.

While it seems unlikely the Lakers could acquire Love at the deadline barring some sort of multi-team deal, fans should be excited that management looks like they are not waiting until this summer to bring this team back to the NBA’s elite going into next season.

The trade deadline is Thursday, February 20 at 12:00 PM PST.

Keep it locked to LakerNation.com for all the latest surrounding the Lakers’ trade rumors!

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Image: Christian Petersen | Getty Images

In an interview before Sunday’s All-Star game, Kobe Bryant told reporters that the recovery from his left knee injury is ‘coming slowly’ and that no return date has been set.

When asked if he was concerned that his body was starting to give out on him, Kobe responded, “Of course. Absolutely. That’s part of the excitement of the challenge, that level of uncertainty.”

The uncertainty, not the injury, Kobe says is the biggest challenge that he will need to overcome going forward but is hopeful that he will receive good news fairly soon saying, “I’m optimistic coming out of the break that I will have some improvements once I get back to L.A.”

There has been talk amongst fans and the media as to whether Kobe should sit out the rest of the season.  With Kobe not due to return until March at the earliest, one has to wonder if any additional setbacks will turn that into him missing the rest of the year.   When asked if he would return this season, Kobe was non-committal, only saying, “I just try to focus, keep my blinders on.”

Fans should not worry though.  The little doubt that Kobe mentioned in his comments will surely go away sooner than later.  Kobe on the challenge ahead, “And to have those conversations with yourself and not be intimidated by that and not be succumbing to that is part of the challenge.”

Kobe is one of the fiercest competitors in not just basketball, but in all sports.  If the Black Mamba is able to return to the court this season, that is what he is going to do despite what anyone tells him to do.  

In addition, Kobe also talked briefly about the future of the franchise going forward.

“What we have coming up this offseason with the cap space and what we have ahead of ourselves seems to be right in the Lakers wheelhouse in terms of turning things around pretty quickly,” Bryant said. “We have had summers like this, they have never really faltered. They’ve normally made really sound and excellent decisions that put us right back in contention. So I think this offseason is right in their wheelhouse.”

Does Kobe want input in this summers offseason decisions?

“In all honesty, I don’t want it,” Bryant said, when asked if he expected to have more input in front office decisions this summer. “That’s what they do. I’m not a general manager. I don’t know about scouting players and doing things of that nature, so I’ll let them do their job. They have obviously done a phenomenal job at it for years, so I’m not going to jump in the way. All I ask is if something is going to go down, just let me know about it beforehand so I don’t hear about it on a ticker or something. But that’s about it.”

One of the constant feelings about Kobe is that he a difficult teammate to play with, which has been said about him since the early 2000’s and something he is not oblivious to:

“I’m a difficult person to deal with,” Bryant said. “For people who don’t have the same kind of competitiveness or commitment to winning, then I become an absolute pain in the neck. Because I’m going to drag you into the gym every single day. If you need to be drug in, that’s what I’m going to do.

“But for players that have that level of commitment, it’s very, very, easy,” he said. “And we can wind up enhancing the entire group and elevating them to that type of level. But if we don’t have that commitment, man, I’ll absolutely be very, very tough to get along with. No question about it.”

Getty Images

After 16 NBA Championships and 31 Western Conference Titles, the Lakers have been one of the most storied and successful franchises in NBA history. From the eras of West, Chamberlain, Kareem, Magic, and Kobe, there have been countless record-breaking performances and memorable games that have added to Lakers glory. Let’s take a look back at some notable moments for the purple and gold, from the week of February 16-22, over their 66-year history.

February 16, 1972

Wilt Chamberlain scored his 30,000th point in a 110-109 loss to the Phoenix Suns. He became the first NBA player in history to reach this plateau. Chamberlain finished his playing career in 1973 as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer with 31,419 points. Chamberlain has since been passed on the all-time scoring list and currently sits in fifth place.

February 16, 1992

Magic Johnson’s number 32 was retired during the halftime ceremony of a Lakers-Celtics game at the Great Western Forum in Los Angeles. Johnson joined Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the only players in Lakers’ history at the time to have their jerseys retired. Johnson and the other greats have since been joined by James Worthy, Gail Goodrich, Jamaal Wilkes, and Shaquille O’Neal.

Robert Laberge/Getty Images
Robert Laberge/Getty Images

February 17, 2004

Kobe Bryant scored a tie-breaking layup with 31.8 seconds left in regulation to lift the Lakers over the Portland Trailblazers 89-86 in Los Angeles. Bryant finished with a game-high 31 points, including his team’s last five. He also added eight rebounds and 10 assists, just falling short of a triple-double. Shaquille O’Neal added 21 points and 11 rebounds for the Lakers in the win.

February 22, 2002

Kobe Bryant hit a game-winning jump shot over George Lynch, as the Lakers defeated the Charlotte Hornets 96-94 in North Carolina. Bryant finished the game with 21 points and nine rebounds, while Shaquille O’Neal led Los Angeles with 31 points.

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Image Credit: Alex Lambeth | LakerNation

I went to STAPLES Center last night for one reason: to see Kevin Durant in person. As a lifetime Lakers fan who normally watches Lakers games for the competition, and uses Clipper games to watch visiting superstars and contenders, I had mixed feelings.

Photo Credit: Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images
Photo Credit: Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images

If you asked me on my way to Staples, I would have said that my ideal scenario would have been that the game was close, that the Lakers lost, and that Kevin Durant had 40+. I DO NOT want the Lakers to tank. However, I DO want a good draft pick.

More than anything else last night, I wanted to see Kevin Durant have a big game. This terrified me, because I never celebrated opponents having big games at Staples.

Before last night, I never understood how Knicks fans could speak fondly of MJ’s double nickel, and Kobe’s 61 at the Garden. I always felt I would be embarrassed if an opponent held the scoring record in OUR building.

As I walked to the arena, I understood. It was not a good feeling. I became a Laker fan because I loved the pursuit of championships. I have a deep seeded desire to see great teams and great players play great basketball.

I was scared because I felt like a Knicks fan.  A fan who cherishes good basketball but is tortured by a dysfunctional organization and a bad team, and thus must enjoy basketball vicariously through great opponents that visit.

Like a Knicks fan, I wanted to see great basketball, but knew my team could not provide it. Kobe was not even in the building, nursing injuries and age, and Mike D’Antoni is leading the charge to the lottery, just as he did in New York.

Photo Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times
Photo Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

The game started out fun. The Thunder looked sluggish, and the Lakers were winning. Durant had 10 points and six rebounds in the first quarter. Each time he put the ball in the basket, there were as many cheers as groans in the crowd. Clearly I wasn’t the only one starving to appreciate greatness.

The energy in the building was loose. My fellow spectators applauded great plays, regardless of which team made them. Serge Ibaka’s 5 blocks drew just as many claps as Kendall Marshall’s 17 assists. The score didn’t matter. The outcome of the game didn’t matter. Only the plays and the players did.

The second and third quarters were uneventful. The Lakers held their lead, even extending it to double digits, and Durant was quiet. He was scoring, but it was not a great KD game.

The Thunder began to close the gap in the fourth, and, as I have been for much of this season, I was fine with it. Kevin Durant came alive, and was thrilling. Derek Fisher hit a big 3 to tie the game at 87, which made me smile, reminding me of his many big shots in this building back when the Lakers were the reason I came to Staples.

The Thunder took the lead, and it seemed inevitable that another home loss was coming for the Lakers (the seventh straight, a franchise record).

Then the energy changed. The Lakers fought back.

Kendall Marshall drove to the basket and scored to tie the game, drawing a foul. He let out a scream afterward, and the crowd roared.

I roared with them. Suddenly, for the first time since early in the season, I was emotionally invested in the game. So were the rest of the fans at Staples. We WANTED that win.

Steve Blake hit a circus shot (And 1!), and I rose to my feet, along with 18,000 of the Laker faithful. It was a reflex, one developed from countless close meaningful games, against top tier opponents. We were on our feet, and we were loud. In that moment, I remembered what it felt like to cheer for my team.

After a season of apathy, it was wonderful. It felt good to root for the Lakers. Just for one moment being a Laker fan felt like it used to. When rooting for the Lakers meant wanting them to win night in and night out, instead of looking at the standings and thinking about draft position.

In that moment, I didn’t want the Lakers to get a high draft pick. I wanted them to WIN. I didn’t want Durant to score any more. I wanted Wes to lock him up. I wanted the Lakers to be the LAKERS, the dominant team with the great player, not the lottery team that the contender plays down to.

I realized in that moment how much I miss the Lakers.

I miss obsessing over the Lakers’ execution late in a close game in February, and I miss telling myself, “it’s only February, they’ll get it together in May and June.”

For just a moment during last night’s game, the Lakers seemed like the Lakers again, and Staples Center felt like Staples.

Then Kevin Durant buried a huge 3, and took his team out with a W, and reality sunk in. I’m sure Thunder fans will obsess over the Thunder’s crunch time execution, and feel relief that they escaped with a win, maintaining a slim lead for the 1st overall seed.

Kevin Durant had 43, but it was an off night for him. He missed 10 3’s and had 6 turnovers. If he was in rhythm, he would have had 60. The Thunder won, but they didn’t play well. If they played to their potential, they would have won by 20.

There was a championship contender in the building last night. It just wasn’t the Lakers. That presence was enough to remind me for a minute what a championship contender looked like, and made it feel twice as awful when it was over.

I miss the games the Lakers played poorly and won. The games Kobe had an off night, but still somehow ended up with 35 and 8 rebounds and a win.

By the end of the night, my fandom was reaffirmed. Instead of letting the loss go with a sigh, I had a pit in my stomach.

I am not content to sit back and watch the Lakers play poor basketball.

Last night rid me of my perverse desire to see a great player have a big game against the Purple and Gold.

I will not speak fondly of Kevin Durant scoring 43 against the Lakers.

I hope the Lakers get back to their winning ways so that the perversion doesn’t return. I don’t want Laker Nation to end up like the Knicks faithful, so starved for good basketball that we celebrate moments that are scars to a franchise, as if they were badges of honor.

The next time I visit Staples Center to see the Lakers play a top tier opponent, I want to go with the intention to see the Lakers. I want the visiting all-star to have his worst game of the season, because of the Lakers’ defense. I want the Lakers to win, and I want it to matter that they won.

Anything less is not worthy of the Lakers.

Go Lakers.

1
Photo courtesy of Noah Graham, Getty Images

Almost.

If there was a word to describe this entire Laker season, it’s this one.

Steve Nash is almost ready to play. Kobe Bryant is almost ready to start rehabbing. The Lakers almost have their injured players back. They almost beat the Bulls. They almost won against the Heat. And tonight, they almost defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder. Almost.

Let’s not deny it – we all probably expected a completely lopsided win tonight, with OKC at the very top of the league, and the Lakers fifth from the bottom. Surprisingly enough, however, the Lakers led the entire game…until the final 6:33 minutes of the fourth quarter. In those last minutes, OKC showed why they’re on top and the Lakers are not.

It’s not about how you start, it’s how you finish, and the Thunder, led by Kevin Durant, are expert finishers. They won it in the end, 107-103

High Points
Quarters 1, 2 and 3 – The Lakers did all their damage in the first three quarters of the game. They kept the Thunder at 29% from the field in the first quarter. They scored 82 points, shot 52% from the field, 44% from behind the arc, were even with OKC at 32 rebounds apiece, and they had 26 assists on 34 made field goals. They also had 14 turnovers which, for three quarters, wasn’t completely awful, especially with the Thunder committing 13 of their own. Five Lakers were in double figures and the team was playing with the proper energy level and efficiency. They went into the fourth quarter with a 10-point lead.
Kendall Marshall – Six Lakers scored in double figures in the end, but Marshall stood out. He finished with 14 points on 6-13, 17 assists and seven rebounds. He has been one of the most consistent players on the team, win or lose, since he arrived. Despite this season being only his second in the NBA, his court vision and game is that of a veteran.
Teamwork – With their team in dire need of able bodies, the Lakers needed every bit that each of the eight players available had to offer. Wesley Johnson and Chris Kaman chipped in 19 points each. Shawne Williams, on a 10-day contract after previously being waived by the team, scored 15 points, grabbed nine rebounds, and was a catalyst in the Lakers’ lead throughout the game. Steve Blake, still nursing all sorts of injuries, put in 13 points, grabbed six rebounds, and handed out a pair of assists. Jordan Hill put in 10 points of his own on 4-7 from the field.

Low Points
Fourth Quarter – What a mess! After playing so hard and efficiently the entire game, the Lakers picked the last quarter to go soft. They shot just 35% from the field, 20% from three, and were outscored by OKC, 35-21. They also committed nine turnovers in that fourth quarter alone and had only scored three points in the first four minutes. And by the way, Kevin Durant scored 19 points in the fourth.
Free Throws – 13-22 from the charity stripe – nine missed free throws. In a game that came as close as it did towards the end, this was a huge factor. OKC went 21-24 from the free throw line, 12-12 in that final quarter.

The Lakers are 2-8 in their last 10 games, and thank goodness for this All-Star weekend because the team could use a break from losing and the fans will surely appreciate a break from watching.

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With the Lakers off to a poor start, trade rumors have begun to swirl around Kobe Bryant, leading many to speculate if he'll leave for greener pastures. Kobe puts those rumors to rest in his interview with Yahoo Sports.