Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Blog Page 20

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Credit: TWC Sportsnet

UpdateNick Young has been suspended one game due to the punch he threw at Suns G Goran Dragic. As a result, Young will miss the Lakers’ game at the Boston Celtics on Friday.

The Lakers dropped their sixth straight game, falling to the Phoenix Suns 121-114, but the story of the night was the ejection of Nick Young and his comments following the game–calling out his teammates for the lack of the support during the scuffle that led to his ejection.

Here is the video of the altercation:

“What I was mad about is it was one-on-five,” said Young, who has posted nine points on 4-of-8 shooting before his ejection. “If somebody had gotten in the middle, it wouldn’t have escalated that much.”

It is pretty evident in the video that his teammates did nothing to come to his defense as he was immediately surrounded by five Suns’ players.

While rookie Ryan Kelly attempted to help, it was not until assistant coach Dan D’Antoni came and pulled Young away from the situation that things started to calm down.

The Lakers (14-25) chemistry has been praised since training camp, but frustrations seem to be boiling over after losing 12 out of their last 13 games.  The locker room seemed divided over the issue as Kendall Marshall disagreed with Young’s comments.

“I understand where Nick is coming from. He did get fouled hard. It wasn’t a basketball play by any means,” said Marshall, who had 10 points on only 4-of-16 shooting and 13 assists. “But at the same time, we have to understand you have to win some and lose some. I don’t know if that was the smartest play at the time.”

That same sentiment was shared by coach Mike D’Antoni.

“You don’t fight in this league,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said. “It wouldn’t help us to lose two or three more guys. I hate that Nick feels that way, but I’m sure at the moment he’s just talking.”

Meanwhile, Pau Gasol, who finished the game with 24 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists, backed Young’s comments.  It should be noted that Gasol was on the bench at the time and any player not in the game would be suspended if they stepped on the court.

“Unfortunately we didn’t get a guy in between Nick and the three or four guys going at him,” said Lakers forward Pau Gasol, who posted 24 points on 10-of-20 shooting. “That was a first mistake or slow reaction on our part. We should’ve protected Nick there.”

Will this situation carry over past tonight? It’s hard to say.  While everyone will have an opinion on this, Young’s teammates on the court could have come and pulled him away which did not happen.

Having a teammate’s back does not mean that you have to throw punches, but it would have been good to see players attempt to help “Swaggy P”, instead new issues have poked their ugly head as the Lakers’ continue to free fall in the standings.

With a more than likely suspension looming for Nick Young and possibly Jordan Hill, who stepped onto the court slightly during the chaos, the Lakers could suit up just seven players Friday versus the Boston Celtics.

For more comments on tonight’s situation, here is Mark Medina’s article on tonight’s game.

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Photo courtesy of Christian Petersen, Getty Images

January 16, 2014 — 6:00PM (PST)
US Airways Center, Phoenix, AZ
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

The Los Angeles Lakers (14-24) scored 118 points last night, shooting 52.4 % from the field and 38.2 % from the 3 pt. line. Jodie Meeks scored 26 points shooting 6/10 from the 3 pt line while Nick Young added 28 points. The problem? They allowed 120 points to Cleveland Cavaliers, who only average 96.2 PPG. The Lakers could not stop anybody, letting them get off any shots they wished to take.

Now, the Lakers have to embark on a brutal Grammy’s road trip, which unfortunately starts tonight vs. Phoenix Suns (21-16). However, the Suns, coached by former NBA sharpshooter Jeff Hornacek, have been dealing with injuries, which have caused them to lose 5 of their last 7 games. One of the point guard duo, PG Eric Bledsoe, had surgery on his right knee, which keeps him out indifinitely. Therefore, PG Goran Dragic will lead the show tonight. Dragic has become the cornerstone for the Suns turnaround this season, averaging 19.3 PPG and 6.0 APG. Dragic seeks to run around the Lakers defense in circles again, causing matchup nightmares and leading the Suns to open shots every possession.

Lakers C/PF Pau Gasol decided to play last night despite a strained toe tendon, which jeopardizes his future availability. Gasol made a gracious effort last night, grabbing 20 points and 12 rebounds. However, as Head Coach Mike D’Antoni has done with other injured Lakers, he did not protect Gasol’s health at all, playing him 36 on a bad toe despite another game tonight. A toe sprain might seem something very minor to those who have never suffered from it before, but the injury cannot be neglected since the big toe carries a lot of pressure every time one takes a step on it while running or even walking.

Projected Starters

PG – Kendall Marshall / Goran Dragic [Advantage: Suns]
SG – Jodie Meeks / Gerald Green [Advantage: Even]
SF – Wesley Johnson / PJ Tucker [Advantage: Even]
PF – Pau Gasol / Channing Frye [Advantage: Lakers]
C – Robert Sacre / Miles Plumlee [Advantage: Suns]

Notable Bench Players

Suns: F Markieff Morris, F Marcus Morris, G Leandro Barbosa

Lakers: G/F Nick Young, F Jordan Hill, F Ryan Kelly, C Chris Kaman

Bench Advantage: Even

Injury List

Suns: Out-PG Eric Bledsoe, Out-C Emeka Okafor, Questionable-SG Leandro Barbosa

Lakers: Out-G Kobe Bryant, Out-PG Steve Nash, Out-PG Steve Blake, Out-G Xavier Henry, Out-PG Jordan Farmar, GTD-C/F Pau Gasol

Keys for Lakers Victory

Defense: The Lakers defense has been atrocious to say the least this season, evidenced by allowing 120 points to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Regardless of how well the Lakers play offensively, difficulties to win a basketball game occur especially if they continue to allow the NBA’s 2nd worst 105.5 PPG to opposing teams. With Dragic running the show for the Suns, we cannot expect much better from tonight’s game. The only chance the Lakers have to stay competitive tonight has to be to limit the Suns to 1 possession and not allow offensive rebounds, something the Lakers have struggled with throughout this season.

Bottom Line

If the Lakers last 12 games when they lost 11 games foreshadows what will happen tonight vs. Suns, it seems like a sure loss for the Lakers. However, with a change of scenery and playing away from home taking a long road trip, lets see if the Lakers mindset will change starting tonight. The Lakers will have to contain Dragic and not let marginal players like SG Gerald Green and C Marshall Plumlee go off for career nights again like the Lakers allowed them to do last game. If they cannot succeed at that, this game could become ugly tonight.

Prediction

Suns: 125-110

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Photo courtesy of Noah Graham, Getty Images

Hello, rock bottom.

With one last home game before the grueling 7-game Grammy road trip, the Lakers had a chance to get a win against one of the worst teams in the NBA. Despite the vain hope of many (probably including the Lakers themselves), the team did exactly what they’ve been doing for months – starting the game with exception play, and then crashing and burning in the end. Unfortunately for this season’s Lakers, it’s a tale as old as time.

Nevermind that the Cleveland Cavaliers had only won three road games. Nevermind that they just lost in a 44-point blowout to the Sacramento Kings. No circumstance placed forth in their favor seems to help the Lakers do the one thing they’ve done so little of this season – win.

Today marked Game number 38 for both teams, and in a 120-118 loss, the Lakers and Cavaliers now have identical records, 14-24; 10 games below .500.

High Points
First Half – The Lakers’ performances this season, for the most part, can be analyzed into two sections – the first and second halves. They seem to play one half significantly better than the other, which proves difficult to win in the end. At halftime, the Lakers already had four players in double figures, led by Jodie Meeks’ 18 points. They had the same number of rebounds as Cleveland (18) and were moving the ball well with 20 assists on 23 made field goals. They even had 15 fast break points compared to the Cavs’ four. They led by as much as 11 points and had hit seven threes to Cleveland’s four. They even managed to get to the free throw line 13 times, converting 10. They shot 55% for a 63-point first half, 40 of which came in the second quarter alone. All they needed to do was maintain the same effort and focus in the second half. Unfortunately, they didn’t. More on that further down the report.
Jodie Meeks – All season long, Meeks has been the most consistent offensive contributor on the team. Tonight he finished with 26 points (a season high for him) on 9-14 from the field, including 6-10 from three. He also handed out four assists, grabbed three rebounds and in 41 minutes of playing time, didn’t have a single turnover.
Pau Gasol – Nursing a sore left foot after injuring it against the Clippers, Gasol was a game-time decision. It’s unfortunate that this game was lost because he chipped in 20 points on 9-13 from the field, 12 rebounds, three assists, a steal and two blocks. With a game tomorrow in Phoenix and the Lakers having lost tonight’s game, it’s difficult to look in hindsight and wonder if Gasol should have just sat out.
Nick Young – This young man does not shy away from responsibility, especially if it involves shooting his team out of a deficit. Young finished with a game-high 28 points, adding in six assists, which ties his career records in the mess
Kendall Marshall – Only 10 points for the former Tar Heel, but 16 assists?!

Low Points
Second Half – The Lakers shot 50% while the Cavs shot just 42% and they STILL couldn’t win the game. Perhaps because they allowed Cleveland to shoot 9-10 from downtown, helping with the 63 points that they scored in the last two quarters to the Lakers’ 55. Luol Dent was a perfect 4-4 from behind the arc.
Free Throws – The Cavs attempted 24 from the charity stripe and converted 18. The Lakers shot just 10 free throws and could only make seven.
Rebounding – 30-17 rebound advantage for the Cavs. The Lakers allowed them 11 offensive rebounds, which helped with 15 second chance points for Cleveland.

I’d be lying if I said it was shocking that the Lakers lost to such a terrible team. They’ve lost to teams who are just as bad, if not worse, and don’t seem to have an answer for any opponent no matter what their record. The next two weeks away from Staples are built to further test, perhaps break, this team and how they respond will speak volumes about their will.

Box Score

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Xavier Henry
Photo: Kevin C. Cox | Getty Images

Feb. 12, 2014 update: Lakers say Xavier Henry will have his injured right knee drained and will receive a cortisone shot.   He is expected to miss another four weeks.

Henry last played on Dec. 29 versus the Philadelphia 76ers when he suffered the injury.

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According to Mike Trudell, Lakers guard Xavier Henry will be out at least one more week with a bone bruise/knee strain in his right knee:

“Xavier Henry (knee strain) is out at least 1 more week, at which point he’ll be re-evaluated. That puts him out at least 4 more games.”

Henry was injured against the Philadelphia 76ers on December 31st.  On the season, he is averaging 10.1 points per game and was definitely a bright spot for the Lakers before going down with the injury. 

He’ll be re-evaluated in Chicago or Miami on the upcoming Grammy road trip.

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Source: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images North America

January 14, 2014 — 7:30PM (PST)
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

Laker Nation can admit it. The Los Angeles Lakers (14-23) currently find themselves stuck in a dire state as they play the Cleveland Cavaliers (13-24) tonight–their final home game before they embark on a 7-game, 12-day Grammy road trip. This will be former Lakers Head Coach Mike Brown‘s first game back at Staples Center since the Lakers fired him after five games last season.

They suffered a huge embarrassing loss vs. inter-city rival Los Angeles Clippers 123-87 last Friday in front of a national audience. The Lakers allowed the Clippers to score 43 points in the first quarter and were outscored 31-8 in the third quarter.

The only Laker who has played at a high level during this losing streak is C/F Pau Gasol. Ever since fully recovering from his respiratory issues, Gasol has averaged 21.8 PPG and 11.6 RPG in his last five games. Gasol has shown what he can do when he is fully healthy and receives the ball near the paint where he can attack, without getting double-teamed.

As the Lakers seek to get at least some if not all of their injured guards back within a few weeks, Gasol was injured vs. Clippers on Friday. Gasol, who has been playing very well since recovering from respiratory issues, received an MRI yesterday, which showed a moderate toe sprain. Gasol is listed as a game-time decision for tonight’s game, but many may hope he rests his toe tonight since they are far outside of playoff race and suffering bad luck with injuries.

However, according to ESPNLA.com’s Beto Duran, Lakers Head Coach Mike D’Antoni expects him to play tonight.

Meanwhile, the Cavaliers’s fortune has not been much better under Brown’s leadership. However, they still seek to make the playoffs this season, evidenced by their acquisition of All-Star SF Luol Deng from the Chicago Bulls for disgruntled C Andrew Bynum‘s contract. Deng, who was supposed to be a major piece in the puzzle for a potential Bulls dynasty before PG Derrick Rose‘s unfortunate luck with injuries, has averaged 18.4 PPG, 6.6 RPG, and 3.5 APG while making his mark as a very high quality on-ball defender.

A future NBA superstar in the making, PG Kyrie Irving, seeks to lead the struggling Cavaliers into the playoff race. Irving, who averaged 21.7 PPG and 6.1 APG, has showed that he can hold his own against NBA’s elite guards and has even outplayed some of them at times. If Irving can learn how to lead his young team quickly, expect to see the Cavaliers in the playoffs this season.

Projected Starters

PG – Kyrie IrvingKendall Marshall [Advantage: Cavaliers]
SG – CJ Miles / Jodie Meeks [Advantage: Even]
SF – Luol DengWesley Johnson [Advantage: Cavaliers]
PF – Tristan ThompsonPau Gasol [Advantage: Lakers]
C – Anderson VaerjaoRobert Sacre [Advantage: Cavaliers]

Notable Bench Players

Cavaliers: F Earl Clark, G Dion Waters, F Tyler Zeller, PG Jarrett Jack

Lakers: G/F Nick Young, F Jordan Hill, F Ryan Kelly, C Chris Kaman

Bench Advantage: Even

Injury List

Cavaliers: None

Lakers: Out-G Kobe Bryant, Out-PG Steve Nash, Out-PG Steve Blake, Out-G Xavier Henry, Out-PG Jordan Farmar, GTD-C/F Pau Gasol

Keys for Lakers Victory

Start Over: Hopefully having 3 days off helped the Lakers players clear their mind and start over. After losing 10 out of their last 11 games, they have to play tonight’s game as their 1st game of this season. Mentally restart their season at 0-0 and forget about what has transpired in the past month. They currently have played with no confidence, energy, heart, or passion since SG Kobe Bryant‘s knee injury, so they have to get back on track mentally to play like they did during the 1st month of this season prior to Bryant’s return.

Bottom Line

Both the Lakers and Cavaliers are currently suffering from a multitude of issues. The Cavaliers seek to effectively incorporate Deng into their team while they battle locker room issues. Unfortunately, the Lakers have been dealing with trying to find healthy players to put on the floor, primarily point guards. Hopefully, the three days off will help the Lakers play with a sense of urgency and edge. Regardless of whether Gasol plays or not tonight, they should play with a lot of energy tonight and hopefully win tonight’s game, and carry some positive momentum into their Grammy road trip.

Prediction

Lakers: 93-90

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Photo: Getty Images

Monday, 7:30pm PST — As if the Lakers could afford to lose another man to injury, Pau Gasol has been diagnosed with a moderate strain of the flexor tendon of the big toe on his left foot.

Gasol’s status for tomorrow game against the Cleveland Cavaliers is officially a game time decision.

Prior to the injury, Gasol was playing some of his best basketball, averaging 24ppg, 11rpg, 5apg, and 3bpg in his last six games.

The latest injury may leave the Lakers with only eight healthy players available–one can not help but wonder if they seek additional help in the front court with the roster space they opened by waiving Shawne Williams a week ago.

Monday, 11:30am PST — The injuries continue to pile up for the Lakers, as Pau Gasol is scheduled to receive an MRI on his injured left foot Monday.

The injury came at an unspecified point during Friday night’s game against the Clippers. Depending on the severity of the results from the pending MRI, the Lakers may be down to just eight healthy bodies.

Although we are still at least two weeks away from Kobe Bryant and/or Steve Nash returning to the lineup, Laker Nation may get a small sign of relief today, as Xavier Henry is set to be re-evaluated.

The Lakers (14-23) could use all of the manpower possible, as they face the Cleveland Cavaliers (13-24)  tomorrow night at STAPLES Center, before embarking on their dreaded seven game-in-twelve days Grammy road trip.

Update: Henry experienced some soreness in his right knee after running a few drills with the team on Monday. Henry has been officially ruled OUT for Tuesday’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

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(Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Tanking.  Something no team truly wants to admit to doing but in reality many teams do it to adequately prepare for the future.  It’s all about selling what you currently have (which typically isn’t much) in order to ensure you aren’t as poor of a team for the following years.  In basketball it’s about being as bad as possible one year so you can get a great pick in the upcoming draft, and 2014 just happens to be one of the most loaded drafts in recent memory.  With a draft class consisting of Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins, Marcus Smart, Joel Embiid, and Julius Randle rounding out the top-five, teams have to consider wanting a top-five pick for this draft.

Now, before everyone starts yelling about how the Lakers aren’t a team that tanks, they’re not a team that gives up, they’re not… Yeah, yeah, yeah I know, but let’s take a look at what that would exactly entail.

Doug Pensinger | Getty Images
Doug Pensinger | Getty Images

The Lakers aren’t winning anything this year with their current roster

With Mike D’Antoni as head coach, and the current arsenal of players, the Lakers aren’t even looking at obtaining a playoff spot right now.  It’s time to face facts and just accept it, even when Kobe Bryant comes back it’ll be a lot to ask to even make an eighth seed.  Even if they managed to make the playoffs they’re likely looking at a first round exit much like last season, to be honest, the rest of the West is just better and more primed to win than the Lakers currently are.  However, most of us already knew this as the Lakers aren’t playing to win this year, they were playing to have a great amount of cap room for next season in hopes of signing a big name free agent.

 

Finishing with a poor record only means a better draft pick

For the most part at least.  I mean, once the Lakers don’t make the playoffs they’ll be in the lottery, but with a poor record they may have a decent shot at getting at least a top-ten pick which, in this draft, would most likely yield a solid player that would make a difference on any team.  If they’re truly BAD, then they can look at getting into the top-five which would yield one of the players listed above, almost certainly an instant game changer.  Of course the NBA Lottery is unpredictable and just about anything can happen as we’ve seen in the past (1993 Orlando, 1990 Seattle).  These players may not all pan out, but the chances of most of them turning into NBA All-Stars one day is immense.

Jamie Squire | Getty Images
Jamie Squire | Getty Images

The Options

So, as you can see it is clearly in the Lakers’ best interest to be a bad team.  I don’t necessarily mean to just play as poorly as possible, but they shouldn’t use all their energy and willpower to just finish eighth or ninth in the West.  Regardless of what fans think, about how the Lakers are a storied franchise that has only missed the playoffs five times in their history and only once since 1995, there is absolutely no benefit to finishing with a first-round exit. NONE.

Some may call me a hater, a doubter, a nonbeliever, but I’m just being realistic here, and in basketball realism is one of the best mantras to have. Imagine next season, 2014, with only Kobe Bryant ($23.5 million), Steve Nash ($9.7 million), and Robert Sacre ($915,243) on the books, oh and then there’s the possibility that Nick Young exercises his player option ($1.2 million).  According to Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times, the 2014-15 cap is projected at around $62.1 million, and the Lakers would have about $40.3 million in salary which equals just under $22 million to spend this summer.

But, not so fast!  This changes based on Los Angeles’ draft pick and how high or low it is.  If they finish out of the lottery, then they will likely get an average draft pick to where they can sign their player to a minimum rookie salary.  But, like I said, if the Lakers are terrible and end up with a top-eight or so draft pick then they will obviously be paying that rookie considerably more money.  This is where we can analyze the options a bit more.

Either the Lakers are terrible, and they get a great draft pick, but don’t end up with enough cap room to sign Carmelo Anthony or Lebron James. OR the Lakers finish in the top-eight in the West, get a mediocre pick, and have enough money to sign a big name free agent.  Anthony is the most likely candidate here, as James just doesn’t look like he’s going to land in the city of angels.

Now, let’s be real here again for a minute, do the Lakers really want Anthony?  What has he done that screams “I’m going to win your team a championship, sign me to a max deal!”  Is it the whopping zero championships he earned in Denver? Or maybe it’s the great record he has the Knicks sitting at in New York. Exactly.  I’m not saying Anthony is a bad player, far from it actually, but he’s just not the player the Lakers need to pair alongside Bryant.  Both those guys like to have the basketball in their hand A LOT, and both take a hefty amount of shots per game.  Bryant averages about 20 shots per game for his career, and Anthony takes about, oh would you look at that, 20 shots per game for his career.  That is 40 shots every game between two players, both of which will want it at the end of the game as well.  Oh, and unless Lakers’ brass change their minds soon, Mike D’Antoni will be the one coaching these two, and he has a wonderful track record with superstars! Right…

Here’s the other option, the Lakers finish with a poor record, get a great pick and sign a guy who could potentially be a difference maker for them. They also would be quite young, which means they could be around for a long time.  A top-ten pick would cost the Lakers anywhere between $1.8 million to $4.3 million, according to HoopsWorld’s rookie salary scale from 2012-13.  This takes the Lakers from just under $22 million in space to roughly $18-$20 million in space, not quite enough for a big name free agent, but enough to fill-out the roster with solid role players.  Yes, solid role players, because believe it or not, Bryant, Anthony, (potentially) Nash, and Sacre won’t be enough to fill out the Lakers’ roster.

Also, something to think about should the Lakers sign someone like Anthony; they won’t have much more salary to devote to the other players needed to fill out the roster.  Which means another year much like this season, with players who are willing to sign for minimum salaries just to fill the roster up.  So, tanking and receiving a great draft pick would essentially give the Lakers more financial freedom to sign other good, solid, dependable role players that can truly help them win another championship in the Bryant era.  I like this plan much more for the future of the purple and gold as it gives them flexible cap space, a young budding star (potentially), and the ability to sign more good players instead of one great player.

So, to sum this whole thing up into a paragraph, the Lakers shouldn’t be worried about finishing with a record worthy of sending them to the playoffs, they should be worried about being bad enough to set themselves up for the future.  Granted, the other option involving big name free agents isn’t horrendous, I just see holes and many issues arising from going down that path.  Not that the tanking path doesn’t have its issues, believe me it does, I just see it as a safer and more efficient path to achieving what every NBA team wants, a championship.

Sometimes you just have to be bad in order to get better.  That is what the Lakers must do this season in order to ensure they have a bright and welcoming future in the NBA.

 

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 January 12-18, over their 66-year history.

January 12, 2006

Kobe Bryant hit a game-winning jump shot over LeBron James with 8.6 seconds left in regulation to lift the Lakers to a 99-98 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers at the Staples Center. Despite a sore right wrist, Bryant scored the final six points down the stretch for Los Angeles and finished with a team-high 27 points in the win. Lamar Odom chipped in with 20 points, while Smush Parker added 12.

January 14, 2008

On a night without star center Andrew Bynum, Kobe Bryant picked up the slack for the Lakers, as he hit a game-winning jump shot with 4.3 seconds left in overtime to propel Los Angeles over the Seattle SuperSonics 123-121 in Seattle. Bryant scored a season-best and game-high 48 points, marking his 87th career 40-point game, which put him one behind former Laker Elgin Baylor for third all-time in NBA history. This game marked the seventh straight win for the Lakers, which was their longest winning streak since March 2004.

Ken Levine/Getty Images
Ken Levine/Getty Images

January 17, 1968

The Lakers won their first game at the Great Western Forum, otherwise known as Mecca West.  Jerry West led the scoring attack for Los Angeles as he dropped 39 points in a 125-116 victory over Wilt Chamberlain’s Philadelphia 76ers. Gail Goodrich added 29 points, while Elgin Baylor contributed 18 in the win. The Forum was home to six Lakers NBA championships from 1967-1999.

January 17, 1994

As a result of the damages caused by the 6.7 magnitude Northridge earthquake in the San Fernando Valley region of Los Angeles, the Great Western Forum was closed. Thus, a game between the Lakers and Sacramento Kings at the Forum was postponed. The Clippers were also forced to postpone two of their home games. The Northridge earthquake, which killed 60 people and injured more than 7,000, is one of the worst earthquakes to ever hit southern California.

January 18, 1960

The Minneapolis Lakers survived a plane crash during a treacherous blizzard that forced an emergency landing in a small field in Carroll, Iowa. The crash came as a result of an electrical failure within the plane. Unbelievably, the team avoided potential disaster as no one was hurt. In 2010, to honor the 50th anniversary of the miracle that took place in Carroll, Iowa, the Lakers donated $25,000 towards the building of an outdoor basketball court on the very spot the plane landed.

January 18, 1972

Jerry West of the Los Angeles Lakers hit a 20-foot buzzer-beater to lift the Western Conference All-Stars over the Eastern Conference team in front of his hometown crowd at the Great Western Forum. West scored 13 points in 27 minutes of action, en route to being named All-Star Game MVP.

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Photo: Nick Ut / Associated Press

Courtesy of Lakers reporter Mike Trudell, an interview with Mitch Kupchak went online this morning on Lakers.com.

Kupchak provided some insight on the current state of the Lakers as well as the future of the team.

On the Lakers “tanking”:

“I’ve been here over 30 years, and it’s never something that’s been discussed or talked about.”

Kupchak noted that while expectations vary from season to season, the main goal is to win games.  Kupchak put it best when saying that ownership would never say, “It’s best to lose” and that it is the worst message you can send to a franchise, coaches, players, and it’s fans.

Although, he added that there are some teams that know realistically they will be a sub-.500 team, but it’s important to realize that is different from tanking which he defined as purposely telling the coach to lose, which is “unacceptable”.  Kupchak also said “rebuilding is another matter.”

Something to note, Kupchak said “coaches are defined by their record.”  Very interesting to say the least.

On the repeater tax penalty impacting roster decisions this year and in the future:

“You have to be out of the luxury tax in two out of five years to avoid a repeater penalty. If we stay in the tax this season, it will be three consecutive seasons as taxpayers.”

It’s important to note that Kupchak says ownership has NEVER been afraid to be in the tax.  He then goes on to explain the rules of the tax, saying if your $30 million over the tax as a repeater, the bill will around $130 million, while if you’re only $1 million over, it will be near $2.5 million so it definitely makes a difference.

On the upcoming draft:

“One through ten is as good as I’ve seen in a long time.”

When comparing it to the 2003 draft, which included LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Dwayne Wade, he says that going into that draft, no one knew it would be that good but when you look back on it, it was a great draft.  He says that he doesn’t know if this draft will be that way, but the potential of players one through 10 is very good.

He says they are scouting all players in the draft and groups them in the top five, top 10, etc. all the way up to 70.  Once May/June come around, Kupchak says they will narrow their focus on particular players because they will know their draft position at that time.

On the 2014 free agency plan:

“Several years ago, we made a conscious decision to line contracts up for this coming year of free agency.”

 The only payer on the books for next year was Steve Nash, which obviously changed with the extension of Kobe Bryant but says they will still have “significant” financial flexibility this summer, as well as next summer.

On the Lakers’ next star:

Kupchak says that in meetings with the front office and scouts, they will talk about if they got a certain players just like the public and fans do.   While it’s all speculation at that point, the only thing they know for certain is that the rush starts at 9 p.m. on June 30th for free agency.

On Kobe Bryant’s extension:

“One of the premier free agents this coming summer was going to be Kobe Bryant. He’ll no longer be a free agent. We have acquired him.”

He notes that when looking at free agency this summer, they will look at what’s the best basketball and business decisions.

Also, Kupchak says that they will not only look at free agency, but at adding players through trades, while also weighing the option of waiting another year for a big acquisition.

On Pau Gasol’s status and future in Los Angeles:

“I think he’s had a great year. I do.”

Also goes on to say that Gasol is playing some of his best basketball and that he probably did not expect to play with the current group of players due to injuries.   Under the circumstances, he thinks Gasol has done a great job.

As for Gasol’s future, Kupchak notes that he will be a free agent this year and that he sees no reason he can’t finish the season as a Laker.   Says that he’ll have options to move on to other teams and that years/money will be a factor in his decision.  Kupchak adds that he loves Los Angeles and the franchise and if he wants to continue to play here, the Lakers would love to have him.

The interview is a must-read for all Lakers fans.  There is more from Kupchak regarding role players such as Xavier Henry, Kendall Marshall, and Nick Young, plus more on Gasol being an asset for other teams in the league.

To read the full interview, click here.

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The camera zoomed in on Kobe Bryant sitting on the Lakers’ bench, dressed appropriately in a black suit as he watched his team beaten to a pulp on the court. He rubbed his closed eyes constantly, perhaps hoping that he’ll open them and wake up from a bad dream…a really bad dream…a nightmare.

That’s what this season has been, despite all the promise that the Lakers showed in summer camp, training camp, the pre-season and even in the first game where they knocked the Clippers off their socks. That first game of the season seems like ages ago, because tonight’s contest was really no contest at all.

Except for a short-lived three-point lead by the Lakers in the first quarter, it was all Clippers all the time (even without the services of an injured Chris Paul), capped off by a 123-87 loss for the purple and gold.

High Points
Free throws – 25-28 from the line. In a close game, this would’ve been key. In a game where your opponent’s largest lead was 43 points, a good free throw percentage doesn’t matter so much.

Low Points
They’re there – the very lowest point since the last championship season in 2010, and tonight was one of their worst games. They gave up a 43-point first quarter to a Clippers team who shot almost 71%. The third quarter, their Achilles heal, was a 31-8 point disparity. The Lakers scored just eight points in that quarter on 10% shooting. Six Lakers scored in double figures, led by Kendall Marshall’s 16. He was the single “bright” spot, adding to his total were 10 assists and four rebounds. Every other player in a purple uniform didn’t produce any better. Pau Gasol was only 5-15 from the field, Jodie Meeks was 2-10, Nick Young was 3-14 and Ryan Kelly was 1-6 . The Clippers, were led by Blake Griffin’s 33 points on 12-15 from the field. He also went 9-11 from the charity stripe, a once upon a time weakness for the forward. As usual, the Lakers were also outrebounded, 56-47 and they racked up 21 turnovers that provided the Clippers with 37 points.

It was reported that Xavier Henry would be examined in the next week, and that Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant would also be evaluated soon after that. This would otherwise be good news, had the team been playing even remotely better than they have been. Unfortunately, news like this produces nothing but more uncertainty and false hope – which seem to be the theme of the Lakers’ season anyway.

Box Score

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Image: Jeff Gross | Getty Images
Pau Gasol defends Blake Griffin
Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

January 10, 2014 — 7:30PM (PST)
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: ESPN / Watch ESPN / TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

Since both superstars and team leaders of their respective teams, SG Kobe Bryant for the Lakers and PG Chris Paul for the Clippers cannot play tonight, the media attention to this matchup is definitely as hyped as it should have. However, that does not deter away from how important this game is for both the Los Angeles Lakers (14-22) and the Los Angeles Clippers (25-13) tonight. The Lakers have to win tonight to finally lift their ship up from rock bottom after losing their last 9 of 10 games. Meanwhile, the Clippers have to make sure they maintain the 4th seed in the Western Conference while Paul recovers from his injury.

The only Laker who has played at a very high level during this losing streak is C/F Pau Gasol. Ever since fully recovering from his respiratory issues, Gasol has averaged 21.8 PPG and 11.6 RPG in his last 5 games. Gasol has shown what he can do when he is fully healthy and receives the ball near the paint where he can attack, without getting double-teamed.

The cause for C Chris Kaman not playing meaningful minutes has boggled all Lakers fans mind throughout this season however. Kaman has a high basketball IQ and similar to Gasol, has very crafty post-game and can shoot a mid-range jump shot well also. Per 36 minutes, Kaman has averaged 16.6 PPG and 11.9 RPG despite his limited minutes on the floor. Mike D’Antoni said this morning during his interview with Mark Willard and Mychal Thompson that he just does not have minutes to give Kaman right now. Well, since the Lakers have lost 9 out of their last 10 games without playing him, they might as well give him playing time, especially alongside, to try something different.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Clippers come into tonight’s match-up as the overwhelming favorites vs. Lakers, something Los Angeles basketball fans are clearly not used to. Without, Paul, the Clippers are led by their 2 post players, All-Star PF Blake Griffin, and C DeAndre Jordan. Griffin has greatly improved in his all-around game, averaging 22.0 PPG and 10.3 RPG, but his improvement and on-court leadership skills will be greatly tested for this game and the upcoming weeks. Jordan has dominated on the defensive end, 13.5 RPG and 2.4 BPG, which are among the league leaders this season.

Projected Starters

PG – Darren Collison Kendall Marshall [Advantage: Clippers]

SG – Jamal Crawford / Jodie Meeks [Advantage: Clippers]

SF – Jared Dudley Wesley Johnson [Advantage: Clippers]

PF – Blake Griffin Pau Gasol [Advantage: Even]

C – DeAndre Jordan Robert Sacre [Advantage: Clippers]

Notable Bench Players

Clippers: F Matt Barnes, G Willie Green, F Antawn Jamison, G Darius Morris

Lakers:  G/F Nick Young, F Jordan Hill, Ryan Kelly

Bench Advantage: Lakers

Injury List

Clippers: Out-PG Chris Paul, Out-SF Reggie Bullock, Probable-SG JJ Redick

Lakers: Out-G Kobe Bryant, Out-PG Steve Nash, Out-PG Steve Blake, Out-G Xavier Henry, Out-PG Jordan Farmar, Probable-G/F Nick Young

Keys for Lakers Victory

Defense/Rebound : The Lakers’ defense once again had a poor effort defensively, allowing 113 points, 61 of those points coming in the 2nd half to the Houston Rockets. To make matters worse, the Lakers allow the most offensive rebounds in the NBA, giving up 13 rebounds per game. Their exposure on the boards comes from not having enough players who are strong enough to battle in the post to grab rebounds and a lack of effort. Instead of going small all of the time, the Lakers have to change their rotation to get more players on the floor who are capable of stopping drives to the basket and grab rebounds. Tonight will not be easy at all, as they have to battle both Jordan and Griffin to grab as many rebounds as they can. Putting Kaman in the game will alleviate some of that issues. That, is if D’Antoni decides to play him.

Bottom Line

At this rate, the Lakers will not beat anyone anytime soon. Hopefully, the Clippers decide to not take the Lakers seriously tonight and play down to their level to give the Lakers a puncher’s chance at tonight’s game. However, too many injuries have hampered the Lakers to the point where their spirit has decreased significantly from the beginning of the season. The Clippers are in a battle for a high playoff spot, and it would be hard to think that a Doc Rivers coached basketball team will lay an egg once again vs. Lakers like they did during the opening night of the season.

Prediction

Clippers: 120-102

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According to Ken Berger of CBS Sports, an NBA executive has said that it is known around the league that Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love wants to join the Lakers when he becomes a free agent:

“They should trade him,” one Eastern Conference executive said. “No one thinks he’s staying. Everyone knows he wants to go to the Lakers.”

The feeling could be mutual as it has been rumored that the Lakers have targeted the all-star forward for some time now.

This season, Love is averaging 26.1 points and 13.2 rebounds per game.  He is considered one of the league’s elite rebounders, with his best season coming back in 2010-2011 when he pulled down 15.2 rebounds per game.

Love, 25, has the ability to opt-out of his contract after the 2015 season.  His situation could heavily impact this off-season for the Lakers as they look to become contenders once again.

Stay tuned with LakerNation for more on this situation!

 

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Photo: Noah Graham/Getty Images

The Lakers, currently 14-22, started the season with low expectations.  That was even before they were hit with the injury bug for the second straight season which has resulted in inconsistent play and embarrassing losses to some of the NBA’s worst.  

Despite the team being tied for the second most losses in the Western Conference, speaking to the Los Angeles Times, Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak gave his vote of confidence to head coach Mike D’Antoni, expressing his pleasure with the Lakers second-year coach:

“We’re happy with Mike,” Kupchak said Wednesday. “You can look back six weeks ago and say it’s exciting and we’re playing great. It’s hard to ignore the injuries but it was a fun game to watch when we were playing without Kobe [Bryant] and anticipating his return. In other words, ‘Wow, we’re playing this well now and Kobe has still yet to return and neither has [Steve] Nash?’ So we had high hopes.”

Well I’m not sure if many fans will agree with the sentiment as the Lakers have lost 9 of 10 games, I will say that D’Antoni has done a good job with the roster he has had to work with since the start of the season.

Although, one thing about the fans here in Los Angeles, losing is a tough pill to swallow and is unacceptable regardless of the reasons.  As Kupchak said, six weeks ago, many were pleased with the performance of the team, but fast forward to today, that feeling has all but disappeared.

The question remains, will injuries to the roster save D’Antoni’s job heading into next season?

We all remember Jim Buss and his vote of confidence for former coach Mike Brown, two days before he was fired.  The Lakers started the season 1-4 before Brown was relieved of his duties, but even then, was coaching a roster that had no Steve Nash (hurt in second game versus the Blazers) as well as a rehabbing Dwight Howard, who was not close to 100% after back surgery a few months earlier.   If the injury excuse did not save Brown, how long will it save D’Antoni?

In addition, Kupchak commented on the possibility of the team making moves as they move closer to the Feb. 20 trade deadline and was asked what the odds were that Pau Gasol would still be with the team:

“My job is to be the caretaker of this team for this year and going forward,” Kupchak said. “And every move we make, depending upon the makeup of the team and your record at the time, has to be done with vision.

“I don’t know where we’re going to be six weeks from now and certainly we’re going through a very rough time right now, but we’re going to monitor the team closely and look for opportunities to help the team either in the short run or the long term.”

For those who have followed the Lakers closely over the past few years, Kupchak’s answer is an eye opener coming from an individual who stays fairly quiet when asked about player dealings and will usually say he is happy with the team and does not anticipate any moves.  His silence regarding Gasol is something that should noted as the team moves forward.

Finally, for the fans that feel the Lakers should “tank” and go for the high lottery pick in this June’s NBA Draft, the feeling is not mutual with the front office:

“In any sport, that should never be a factor, whether it’s NBA basketball or football or baseball,” Kupchak said adamantly. “That’s the worst possible message you could send to anybody anywhere, whether it’s a fan or a player or a coach, and we will not do that. Our players will play hard and fight to the very end.”

 

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Image: Getty Images

Last week’s POW: Nick Young

So this week we’ve seen the emergence of Kendall Marshall as a great fill-in for the injury riddled backcourt of the Los Angeles Lakers.  With his exciting “D’Antoni-esque” style of play there’s no wonder why he seems to be flourishing in D’Antoni’s system.  However, it’s not just Marshall that stood out this week, Pau Gasol has shown dazzling chemistry with new PG Marshall.

So without further ado, this week’s player(s) of the week is:

Kendall Marshall / Pau Gasol

Kendall Marshall and Pau Gasol have both shown spectacular chemistry over the past week with both of them posting great numbers. Marshall in his first week as starting PG has put up 13 PPG, 13 APG, and 4 RPG, with a couple particularly strong performances in which he put up 15 and 17 assists.  Pau Gasol has posted 24 PPG, 11RPG, 5 APG, and a solid 3 BPG.  These two have seemed to click instantly on the court as Marshall knows who to find when he needs someone consistent and likely to score a bucket.

Photo Credit | Tony Gutierrez AP
Photo Credit | Tony Gutierrez AP
Photo Credit | Tony Gutierrez AP
Photo Credit | Tony Gutierrez AP

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If these two can continue their chemistry the Lakers should be better off than they currently are sitting eight games under .500.  However, with rumors that Pau is going to be moved before the deadline and uncertainty surrounding the Lakers’ roster, this great pair may only be able to play together for a short time.  Regardless though, they’ve played some fantastic basketball over the past week and Lakers fans should continue to see a high level of performance from this new duo.

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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.