Thursday, November 27, 2014
Blog Page 23

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Image: Andrew D. Bernstein | Getty Images

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

How much of a case is Nick Young making for Sixth Man of the Year?

Garrett Garcia // @GarrettGarcia: Nick Young is certainly playing well in his role off the bench.  He puts up great scoring numbers and brings an energy that most players don’t have.  His case for 6th man is a strong one, but with the likes of Rodney Stuckey also making a case in Detriot Young will will have his hands full.

Image: Stephen Dunn | Getty Images
Image: Stephen Dunn | Getty Images

Oren Levy // @LakersOren: Not much. The last seven sixth man of the year winners came from 50+ win teams. There are other great candidates on winning teams this year like Jamal Crawford, Reggie Jackson, and Manu Ginobili. Young has been great for the Lakers this season, but the team will not win enough games for him to gain serious consideration.

Johnny Navarrette // @JohnnyNav: He’s making a nice case for himself but I think he’ll fall short simply because he is scoring and nothing else. When you look at past 6th Man of the Year winners, they do more than just score.  It doesn’t take away from the season he is having though, definitely a bright spot this season and hopefully he calls this home for the years to come.

Jory Dreher // @Jay_Laker: Nick Young is leading all reserves in ppg this season at 15.6ppg and has done everything right to making himself the front runner for 6th man of the year. My only fear is that he will be over looked if the Lakers fail to reach the playoffs.

Belal Abdelfattah // @ItsBelal_A: Nick Young has done a great job of being the one constant on offense for a Laker squad that really doesn’t know who is going to score for them night in and night out. That being said, the 6th Man of the Year is like the MVP, it tends to go to the best 6th man on a title contender, not necessarily to the most deserving player.

Anna Gonda // @AnnaLBG: In a bubble, he’s making a great case! Most of the Lakers’ wins this season would not have come to pass had it not been for Nick Young’s ability to score. In the grand scheme of things, however, his impact would be even greater if the Lakers’ record was better than it is.

Ashkan Kargaran // @aakargaran: Tough to make a case for 6th Man of the Year when your team is struggling and you’re thrust into the starting lineup due to injuries. Jamal Crawford, Reggie Jackson and Mo Williams are all going to finish ahead of Swaggy P.

Robert Benitez // @beeb0: I think Nick Young is definitely in the conversation to win 6th Man of the Year, however, with the Lakers’ current record, it’s hard to see the award going to a player on a sub .500 team.

Melvin Taylor // @MelvinTaylorII: As much as I believe in the swag of Nick Young it would be difficult to do so because he is only assisting the Lakers in scoring. With him being forced into the starting lineup due to injuries that also hurts his case as well. If the team were completely healthy and he still were to produce at this level then the conversation could be opened but since that is not the case he unfortunately does not have one.

Next Question: With the possibility of Pau Gasol not being resigned looming over head, should the Lakers trade him before the deadline?

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Photo by: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Photo by: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The NBA world isn’t just about what you do on the court. We scoured the web for Lakers-related quotations to provide you with the 10 best quotes from the past seven days:

#10:

“At times we all feel like we have to do it ourselves. It’s a lot of one-on-one’s. If somebody does a one-on-one, someone else feels like next time, it’s my turn. We have to learn how to share the ball and keep the ball moving.”

Nick Young, via the Daily News

#9:

“I didn’t know if I was ever going to play again this season. I just have to do whatever I do, whether it’s five minutes or 25 minutes. I don’t expect anything out of this. I’ll just play hard and do my job.”

Chris Kaman, via the Daily News

#8:

“He was fighting through and getting through the process of getting back on the floor after tearing his Achilles, and now you get this fracture. It’s very hard for me as a teammate, as his friend, to understand that that happened to him. But what can you do? He’s tough enough. He’ll get through it and be back and ready to play.”

Pau Gasol on Kobe Bryant’s knee injury, via ESPN

#7:

“I don’t want to be too simple, but you got to win games. We just got to play. We got to get our point guards back, get Kobe back in a month or whatever and then go from there. Hopefully we’ll get some luck. We’re on the other side of the coin right now. We got to be a little lucky and we got to start treading a little bit above .500 for a while, and if we can do that, then we may get some cavalry later on.”

Mike D’Antoni, via ESPN

#6:

“[Kobe] possibly came back too soon. To me he didn’t look like the same player. His shooting will always be there. I think if he had rested a couple of months we might have seen a different Kobe Bryant.”

Jerry West on Kobe Bryant, via the Dan Patrick Show

#5:

“I just want to play, that’s what gets me through every day. I want to play, I still love to play, and I still feel like I have the skills to do it. I’d like to finish my career on a positive note. I’m just fighting every day to get that little bit of joy from playing basketball and being one of the guys, running up and down the court and trying to beat somebody. That’s what keeps me going every day.”

Steve Nash, via ESPN

#4:

“The love for the game is always there. Now, because of the injury and because the finish line is a lot closer, you have a greater appreciation for the entire body of work—and trying to finish it out on your terms. (…) I’m doing more work now than I ever have. The discipline, the will, has to be there more now than it ever was.”

Kobe Bryant, via Bleacher Report

#3:

“He’s a joy to coach and be around. I could not ask for a better human being, player and teammate. He rubs off on me, he makes me happy. He’s ‘swaggy’ out there and feels it, and he starts swaggin’ or something.”

Mike D’Antoni on Nick Young, via Bleacher Report

#2:

“Kobe Bryant shouldn’t play any more this year. They should shut him down. … With or without him, the Lakers suck either way. It’s not like they’re world-beaters. When he comes back in six weeks, they’ll be even more out of it. If they’re smart [they should shut him down]. They’re giving the guy $50 million for the next couple of years. Best-case scenario, they’re an eighth seed. Kobe Bryant is never going to be the same again. Kobe Bryant has probably played 23 or 24 seasons, if you add up playoff games. There’s no way you can blow out your Achilles — this notion that he’s going to come back and be this great, great player, that’s asinine. He can be a good, solid player. You can forget, ‘This guy has the will power.’ Age ain’t got nothing to do with will power. … What’s that little green snake’s name? He’s a little [garter] snake right now. I love you, Kobe. He’s not going to be no damn mamba. He can’t strike at you from a distance any more. He’s going to have to crawl over to bite you.”

Charles Barkley on Kobe Bryant, via Sports Illustrated

#1:

“If [the fans] are discouraged, go find another team to root for. We’re not going to give up. Are you kidding me? Discouraged? That’s not even fair to these guys. They’re going to fight. We’ll be back. We’re not going anywhere. We’re going to fight and try to stay above .500. If anybody hangs their head, then they don’t need to be on our bandwagon. We’re going to fight. We’ll be fine.”

Mike D’Antoni, following the Lakers loss to the Phoenix Suns, via the Daily News

 

What is your favorite one? Do you think any quotations got snubbed? Let us know in the comment section below!

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Image: Nathaniel S. Butler | Contributor
Jerryd Bayless
Jerryd Bayless
Image: Glenn James | Getty Images

According to Bleacher Report’s Ric Bucher, the Memphis Grizzlies have offered the Lakers a swap of guards.

The proposed deal is centered around a Jerryd Bayless-for-Jodie Meeks swap. Such a trade, however, would require the Lakers to add additional outgoing salary to the deal to come closer to the $3.135M Bayless is owed this season—as Meeks only makes $1.5M.

The following is a comparison of the two guards this season:

PG Jerryd Bayless – 7.9 PPG on 36.1% shooting; 2.0 APG; 2.0 RPG; in 21.0 MPG.

SG Jodie Meeks – 12.8 PPG on 46.0% shooting; 1.3 APG; 2.8 RPG; in 30.0 MPG.

Meeks is having a career year so far, posting career highs in points, assists, rebounds and minutes per game. Meeks, a three-point sharpshooter, is shooting a career-high 41.5% from behind the arc this season.

Despite Meeks’ success, the prospects of adding a young point guard like Bayless to the Lakers’ injury-depleted point guard position may be attractive.

Bayless is a free agent at the end of this season, which would help the Lakers maintain their financial flexibility this coming off-season.

Nation, what are your thoughts on this proposed deal? Should the Lakers hold on to Meeks, or would be Bayless be a good option at point guard? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below!

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Jordan Farmar
Image: Stephen Dunn | Getty Images
Jordan Farmar
Image: Stephen Dunn | Getty Images

According to Lakers.com, an ultrasound today showed that PG Jordan Farmar‘s torn hamstring has completely healed. Farmar is now cleared to return to the Lakers lineup.

With Steve Nash and Steve Blake both still injured, adding Farmar to the injury-depleted backcourt will be a welcomed sight.

Farmar will replace quasi-point guard Xavier Henry in the starting lineup tomorrow vs. the Miami HEAT, and is looking to bring a sense of normalcy back to the Lakers’ lineup.

Farmar is averaging 9.2 ppg on 43.8% shooting, 4.4 apg, and 2.9 rpg in 18 games this season.

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Photo courtesy of Christian Petersen, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Christian Petersen, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Christian Petersen, Getty Images

In the words of Legolas in the Two Towers, “Blood has been spilt this night.” Halfway through the third quarter, it was Pau Gasol bleeding from below his right eye after bumping heads with Miles Plumlee. He left the floor, and the game, for good after the incident.

It pretty much sums up the Lakers’ night in Phoenix…and up in Oakland two days ago…and the season, if we’re being honest. They’re going into every battle already so wounded. Some days of fighting are better than others, but with every loss comes more doubt, and how deflating is a 27-point loss to the Suns?

High Points
Not applicable.

Low Points
Rebounding – It’s simple, rebounding is more than just preventing the other team from scoring in their own hoop or giving your own team a chance to score in yours. Rebounding equates effort, and with a 62-39 disparity in favor of Phoenix, it’s not difficult to see where the Lakers stood on effort tonight. Plumlee, the Suns’ center, had 20 rebounds alone, and Eric Bledsoe, a guard, had 11 of his own. The leading rebounders on the Lakers had six boards apiece – Shawne Williams and Xavier Henry. In 20 minutes, Gasol grabbed four rebounds. Jordan Hill, in 14 min, had four.
Threeball – Shots from behind the arc, alone, blew the Lakers out of the arena tonight. The Suns shot 14-32 from downtown (to the Lakers’ 6-20). 42 of Phoenix’s 117 points came from three; more than a third of their total.
Defense – Aside from the 14 three pointers that the Lakers left the Suns open for, the home team also had 40 points in the paint. It was just two points more than the Lakers score inside, but it was just too easy for Goran Dragic to get in there and for Plumlee to score so easily. Also, the Suns grabbed 13 offensive boards. The Lakers have really been letting their opponents do whatever they want around the rim, including grabbing offensive board after offensive board.

13-15 – We’re more than a third into the season and the Lakers seem to be heading downwards further. The next contest won’t be any easier – a Christmas Day meeting with the Miami Heat.

That being said, let’s put this awful game behind us, and look forward to things more important than basketball –
Happy Holidays, LakerNation!

Box Score

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Image: Getty Images

Last week’s POW:  Jodie Meeks

Well Nation, this week was a rather eventful one to say the least.  Losing Kobe Bryant for another six weeks hurts and just means the Lakers will need yet another player to step up.  This past week one player stood out form the crowd and despite the strong and powerful performances by Pau Gasol it wasn’t him. The player of the week is:

Nick Young

Stephen R. Sylvanie|USA TODAY SportsNick Young played at an extremely high level this past week as he put up numbers of 21.5 PPG, 3.5 RPG, and 1.5 APG.  The Lakers finished the week with a 2-2 record while losing Kobe Bryant on Friday.  Young came off the bench in each contest and managed to make a valuable impact on each game with his scoring and ability to pump up his teammates and the crowd with his “swaggy p” dance.

Young’s excellent energy he brings to the game is something that won’t show up on stat sheets but is one of those intangibles you wish every player could bring to the court.

As long as Young keeps up these scoring numbers he may be the first Laker to repeat as player of the week, but I guess we’ll see how the games go next week!

 

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Image: Andrew D. Bernstein | Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Stephen Dunn, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Stephen Dunn, Getty Images

December 23, 2013 — 6:00 PM (PST)
US Airways Center, Phoenix, AZ
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

The Los Angeles Lakers (13-14) look to bounce back tonight against the Phoenix Suns (16-10) after a very disappointing loss vs. Golden State Warriors on Saturday. The Lakers’s lack of a true point guard showed last game, as they could not get any good shots, resulting in a 3-21 shooting nightmare during the 3rd quarter. C Pau Gasol looks to rejoin his team tonight after missing last game due to an upper respiratory infection. The Lakers will be led by Gasol and 6th man G/F Nick Young, who has been a constant scorer off the bench, scoring more than 10 points in 13 consecutive games

The Phoenix Suns, on the other hand, come into tonight’s match up very hot, winning 7 of their last 8 games. The Suns are led by the point guard duo of PG Goran Dragic and PG Eric Bledsoe. Dragic has performed very well replacing PG Steve Nash to run the show, averaging 18.1 PPG and 5.9 APG. Bledsoe has slowly blossomed into a perrenial star in this league as he has finally gotten a chance to start for the first time in his NBA career. Bledsoe has eerily similar numbers to Dragic, but leading his team in points and assists, averaging 19.1 PPG and 6.3 APG, while causing havoc on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor.

Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni has decided to shuffle the starting lineup again to match up with the run and gun Suns and match up better with quick guards like Bledsoe and Dragic tonight on the defensive end. F Shawne Williams will replace F Jordan Hill to help spread the floor out and match-up with Suns F Channing Frye.

Projected Starters

PG – Goran Dragic Xavier Henry [Advantage: Suns]

SG – Eric Bledsoe / Jodie Meeks [Advantage: Suns]

SF – PJ TuckerWesley Johnson [Advantage: Even]

PF – Channing Frye / Shawne Williams [Advantage: Suns]

C – Miles Plumlee / Pau Gasol [Advantage: Lakers]

Notable Bench Players

Suns: G Gerald Green, F Markieff Morris, C Marcus Morris

Lakers: G Xavier Henry, G/F Nick Young, G/F Wesley Johnson, C/F Jordan Hill

Bench Advantage: Lakers

Keys for Lakers Success

  1. Defensive Rebounding: The Lakers have been struggling a lot at boxing out their players and allowing easy 2nd chance baskets. Their defense has played fairly well recently, but allowing offensive rebounds causes their defense to become very disorganized, causing them to lose their players they matched up with. The Morris twins, F Marcus Morris, and F Markieff Morris, killed the Lakers last time grabbing offensive rebounds, so anybody near them have to make sure to box these two players out by using proper fundamentals since they both possess a significant weight advantage over any players on the Lakers.
  2. Keep Guards Away From Paint: The Lakers have major problems keeping guards away from the paint, letting them get high percentage shots for themselves or an open teammate. Tonight’s match up will be their worst one, as they try to keep both Dragic and Bledsoe outside of the paint. Dragic destroyed and dissected the Lakers defense during their last meeting, which led to his career high of 31 points. The guards have to make the offensive players feel more uncomfortable while dribbling the ball and cause turnovers. Despite not having a point guard, guards like Meeks, Johnson, Nick Young, and Xavier Henry are all interchangeable skill-wise, so an excuse to play intense defense and show great communications cannot be plausible for this group.

Bottom Line

The very shorthanded Lakers will try to keep the game close and try to steal this game away from the Suns. The Lakers have to play with a lot of energy and effort, outrebounding the Suns, get easy baskets, and compete for all loose balls to grind out a victory tonight. With their Christmas game vs. Miami Heat coming up this Wednesday, the Lakers have to come away with a victory here to have positive momentum moving into Wednesday.

Prediction

Suns: 124-110

Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images
NBAPhotos/ NBAE/ Getty Images
NBAPhotos/ NBAE/ Getty Images

Since 1949, the Lakers have played on Christmas Day 39 times, with a 21-18 record over that stretch. The Lakers playing on Christmas Day has been a staple within the NBA over the years. This Christmas will mark the 15th straight year that the Lakers have been in action on Christmas Day. With a win against the Miami Heat at the Staples Center, the Lakers would tie the New York Knicks for the most Christmas Day victories (22) in NBA history. Let’s take a look back at some notable Christmas Day moments for the purple and gold over their 66-year history.

December 25, 1949

The Lakers played their first ever Christmas Day game when they hosted and defeated the Ft. Wayne Pistons 72-58 in Minneapolis. This season marked the Lakers’ second season in the NBA, during which they would win the franchise’s first NBA title.

December 25, 1963

The Lakers beat the Knicks 134-126 at Madison Square Garden in their first ever Christmas Day meeting with New York. Los Angeles was led by Jerry West and Elgin Baylor, who dropped 47 and 27 points, respectively. It would take 49 more years for the Lakers and Knicks to meet again on Christmas Day.

December 25, 1999

Shaquille O’Neal scored 32 points and collected 11 rebounds to lead the Lakers to a victory in their first Christmas Day game since 1996. Los Angeles defeated the defending NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs 99-93 in the first ever Christmas Day game at the Staples Center. Glen Rice added 25 points for the Lakers, while Kobe Bryant chipped in with 18.

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

December 25, 2001

In this rematch of the 2001 NBA Finals, the Lakers rallied from a 13-point deficit to defeat the Philadelphia 76ers 88-82 at the Staples Center. With Kobe Bryant struggling from the field and Shaquille O’Neal out with an injury, Los Angeles was led by an unlikely hero, Samaki Walker, who scored a season-high 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Allen Iverson dropped 31 points in the loss.

December 25, 2007

After five straight Christmas Day losses, the Lakers defeated the Phoenix Suns 122-115 at the Staples Center. Andrew Bynum scored a then-career-high 28 points and collected 12 rebounds. Kobe Bryant led Los Angeles in scoring with 38 points on the day, while shooting 60% from the field. Bryant surpassed Tom Chambers to move into 30th place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list with his 31st point of the game.

December 28, 2008

The Lakers snapped Boston’s 19-game winning streak, while also avenging their NBA Finals loss from six months before, when they defeated the Celtics 92-83 on Christmas Day at the Staples Center. With the victory, Phil Jackson recorded his 1,000th career win as an NBA head coach, a plateau he reached faster than any other coach in NBA history. Kobe Bryant paced the Lakers with 27 points, while Pau Gasol added 20. This Laker victory sent the then-surging Celtics into a 2-6 slide over their next eight games and helped solidify Los Angeles’ position at the top of the NBA standings.

December 25, 2012

Kobe Bryant set an NBA record when he played in his 15th consecutive Christmas Day game. Bryant broke his own record of 14 straight Christmas Day games, which he set the year before, and further surpassed the previous record of 13 held by Earl Monroe, Shaquille O’Neal, and Dolph Schayes. The Lakers defeated the New York Knicks 100-94 behind Bryant’s 34 points at the Staples Center. On this day, Bryant also eclipsed Oscar Robertson as the NBA’s all-time leading Christmas Day scorer with 383 points.

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Image: Stephen Dunn | Getty Images
Photo Credit: "Hook" (1991) TriStar Pictures
Photo Credit: “Hook” (1991) TriStar Pictures

Watching the Lakers beat the Timberwolves in their first game since Kobe’s knee injury sidelined him, I couldn’t help but think of the Steven Spielberg film, “Hook,” detailing the adventures of an adult Peter Pan’s return to Neverland to find his youth, his children, and to lead his lost boys against Captain Hook.

This season’s Lakers are a ragtag group of youths, outcasts of the NBA, waiting on the return of the mythical Kobe Bryant, just as the lost boys waited on Peter Pan, absent from Neverland at the start of the film.

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images

Basketball teams take on the personality of their leader, and in Kobe’s six games with the Lakers this season, his presence was enormous. He plays a different style than the team had employed, and they were quick to try to adjust to him. Before Kobe’s first game back from injury, the Lakers introduced the other four starters, and then gave Bryant his own theme music, and announced him separately. Kobe is one of the Lakers, but he remains apart from this team. Older, wiser, more accomplished. He is a veteran and a champion, and they are young journeymen. They look up to him and follow him, even though they can never be him. With him sidelined, they must forge ahead together, and find a way to play without him.

Peter Pan leads a ragtag group of “lost boys” that play, fight, and live together. They follow Pan, but he is blessed with gifts of flight and leadership that they will never possess. He is one of them, yet always separate. They take on Pan’s quest to defeat Captain Hook, and follow him to the end, but it is Peter’s fight – not theirs. Pan leaves Neverland and forgets to fly, and the lost boys must search for a new leader and identity.

Photo Credit: "Hook" (1991) TriStar Pictures
Photo Credit: “Hook” (1991) TriStar Pictures

 

 

In Pan’s absence, the lost boys turn to a flamboyant youth named Rufio to lead them. Rufio cannot compete with the mythical Pan, but he is talented, brash, and occasionally dazzling. He allows them to have fun, and gives them a figure to rally behind. The lost boys always know that if Pan returns to form, Rufio must step aside.

After Kobe broke his knee, he exited the lineup, leaving his team with a seismic void to fill: Who will lead these lost boys of the NBA? What is their identity?

 

 

 

Photo Credit: Lakers Twitter (@Lakers)
Photo Credit: Lakers Twitter (@Lakers)

 

 

Enter Nick Young, a.k.a. “Swaggy P.” He’s flamboyant, confident, and occasionally mesmerizing, though not on the same plane as the great Kobe Bryant.With his 25 points against Minnesota, and array of “swaggy” moves, he stamped his personality all over the Kobe-less Lakers. As Coach Mike D’Antoni said, “he starts swaggin’ out there and…it gets everyone’s energy up.” Young’ exuberance is contagious to this team. In Kobe’s absence, they adopt Young’s personality.

 

 

 

Young’s Lakers run and gun, and everyone is in on the fun. Even Kobe’s old running mate Pau Gasol got swept up in the “swag” fest, nailing a three pointer and doing the “Swaggy P” dance.

Like Rufio’s lost boys, Young’s Lakers are carefree, reveling in their roles with the Lakers. The team’s analysts at Time Warner Cable, a year ago so serious in the hunt for a championship that they criticized Dwight Howard for smiling, now bask in all that is “Swaggy P.”

With Kobe out, and no point guards, this Lakers’ season is anarchy. And just like in Neverland, anarchy creates the opportunity for hijinks and fun. The lost boys in L.A. are entertaining themselves and the city, but as much fun as the boys have shooting threes and throwing lobs deep down everyone knows “Swaggy P” and company cannot reach the promised land. They are just filling time before their leader returns, bringing with him a real, daunting quest.

In “Hook,” Peter Pan returns to Neverland fat, grumpy, and unable to fly. He tries to defeat Captain Hook and save his children on his own through reason and bargaining, and fails. The boys put him through a boot camp, teach him to remember the joy of youth, and Peter slowly regains his powers – he has to in order to save his children, captives of Captain Hook.

Kobe will surely return from his knee injury, shaky and not yet ready to fly. He may try to to win his way, serious and plodding, but that will not work with this collection of lost boys. However, if he can accept the culture of this year’s fun Lakers, maybe he can add a legitimacy to the chaos that allows them to battle the fearsome pirates.

The lost boys know that Pan is the only one of them capable of defeating Hook. However, Peter needs them to get him there. The lost boys have to fight the pirates to free Pan to battle Hook mano-a-mano. They do it their own fun and offbeat way, upsetting the pirates with unpredictability.

Kobe must find a way to blend himself in with this team’s strength: Their surprising vitality. Just like Pan, he will have to lead his team from within, not without. Kobe needs his lost boys’ unconventional, frenzied talents to have a shot at accomplishing his goal. The way the Lakers are winning right now may not make any sense – and therein lies its power.

The lost boys in “Hook,” even Rufio, secretly hoped that Pan would return and lead them to bigger and better things, accomplishments that they could not sniff without him. To do so, he had to join them in their ruckus and elevate them, not confine them.

The Lakers certainly hope Kobe can regain flight and lead these lost boys to achievements beyond their wildest imagination. If not, what are they fighting for?

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Photo courtesy of Rocky Widner, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Rocky Widner, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Rocky Widner, Getty Images

Well of course Pau Gasol couldn’t play tonight! How silly it would be for anyone to think that the Lakers could capitalize on the silver linings they continue to fight for in this awful, injury-riddled season. Last night’s win against the Timberwolves, where the Lakers played defense and figured out a way to run their offense despite being down four guards and basically a point forward, was just too positive for the basketball gods not to rain on their parade.

The day after he was two assists away from a triple-double, Gasol suddenly develops a respiratory infection and can’t play? And in tonight’s game, the Lakers forced the Golden State into 18 turnovers, but could only get two points from it? And despite the Warriors shooting under 40%, the Lakers could only muster up 33% from the field themselves?

At what point were the Lakers going to catch a break tonight when, regardless of their defensive efforts, their offense suffered so mightily because they didn’t have a single player who could run the floor? And because of that, they’re back below .500 in a 102-83 loss.

High Points
Defensive Efforts – The Lakers held the Warriors to 34% shooting in the first half. David Lee had 13 points, but Steph Curry and Klay Thompson were only a combined12 points on 4-17 from the field. They were doing SOMETHING right. Unfortunately, defense doesn’t mean a whole lot if you can’t score on the other end, which is exactly how things transpired for the Lakers tonight.
Jordan Hill – 14 points on 6-11 from the field, and 10 rebounds. It’s a solid line for Hill, if only those points didn’t just come in the first half. In just under six minutes of playing time in the last two quarters, Hill contributed five rebounds and one foul…and that’s it.

Low Points
Wesley Johnson – In his last five games, Wes Johnson is just 12-40 from the field. He went 0-7 tonight and if not for two free throws, would’ve had nothing but a donut in the points column. He’s 3-19 from three in those same five games.
No Playmaker – It’s not just about the bodies they’re able to suit up. It’s about the role those bodies play on this team and the domino effect that has occurred in their absence. Steve Nash, Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar are the Lakers’ floor generals. When they went down, the next best thing was Kobe Bryant, a player who’s adept at having the ball in his hands and knowing what to do besides score with it. After Kobe is sidelined, the Lakers call on Xavier Henry to run the point but really, the player who ran the game last night was Pau Gasol, one of the best passing big men in the league. He had more assists in last night’s win than his fellow Spaniard and Minnesota Timberwolf point guard Ricky Rubio. Tonight, Gasol can’t play. Who is left on this team, other than new Laker, Kendall Marshall, who played just under six minutes tonight and could only muster three points and four turnovers. Without a primary ball handler, the Lakers painted themselves into a corner on a lot of their possessions. There was a lot of passing, but little intent behind those passes. And when there was intent, the player meant to receive the pass wasn’t ready and it resulted in turnovers. 11 assists to 24 Laker turnovers, from which the Warriors took 28 points. Unfortunately, the Lakers couldn’t do the same off of 18 Warriors turnovers (seven points is nothing). Another effect of having no playmaker – no ball movement. Last night the Lakers had 27 assists. Tonight they had 11 – nine assists in the first half and two (TWO!) in the entire second half.

Add this to the list of Laker games to forget. They hit a season low, scoring just 83 points. Next up are the Suns in Phoenix.

Box Score

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Photo courtesy of Andrew Bernstein, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Noah Graham, Getty Images.
Photo courtesy of Noah Graham, Getty Images

December 21, 2013 — 7:30 PM (PST)
Oracle Arena, Oakland, CA
TV:  TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

The Los Angeles Lakers (13-13) shocked the national audience last night by easily dismantling the Minnesota Timberwolves after learning that G Kobe Bryant will now be out for approximately 6 weeks after suffering a fractured lateral tibial plateau in his left knee. It was one of the few games where fans could argue that every single Laker who stepped on the floor had a solid game if not excellent.

Notably, C/PF Pau Gasol looks like the Pau Gasol of old, almost having a triple double with 21 points, 13 rebounds, and 8 assists. Ever since that fiasco between Gasol and Mike D’Antoni and Kobe Bryant‘s advice for Gasol to slim down and lose mroe weight, Gasol looks much slimmer physically to the Lakers championship days. In the last 5 games, Gasol has averaged 17.4 PPG, 9.2 RPG which are very close to his career averages in those 2 categories. Unfortunately, Gasol will not be available tonight due to an upper respiratory infection. G Nick Young has proven throughout the season that he can somewhat fill in for Bryant and led the Lakers victory along with Gasol by scoring 25 points on 9-14 shooting from the field. G Xavier Henry also made a tremendous contribution as the temporary starting point guard, scoring 21 points, dishing out 4 assists, and only committing 3 turnovers, which is excellent for a player playing out of position.

However, the Lakers have to carry this momentum into Oracle Arena vs. a very hungry Golden State Warriors (14-13), who are coming off a very embarrasing loss vs. the San Antonio Spurs who played without Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili. They have been a disappointment so far this season considering they came into the season with their highest expectations since the “Run TMC” era in the early 1990’s. Individually, the Warriors feature the dangerous “Splash Brothers” of PG Stephen Curry and Lakers Radio Announcer Mychal Thompson’s son SG Klay Thompson. Curry and Thompson have had another great season, scoring 25.4 PPG and 19.8 PPG and shooting from behind the 3 pt line at 41.3% and 42.6% respectively. The cause for high expectations in the Bay Area for the Warriors is the acquisition of SF Andre Iguodala, who played a key part for the 2012 Team USA basketball team along with Kobe Bryant to win a gold medal. Iguodala is very comparable to the great Scottie Pippen as a very unselfish player who will always guard the opposing team’s best player and also has the ability to play all 5 positions on the floor other than Center.

Projected Starters

PG – Stephen Curry Xavier Henry [Advantage: Warriors]

SG – Klay Thompson / Jodie Meeks [Advantage: Warriors]

SF – Andre Iguodala Wesley Johnson [Advantage: Warriors]

PF – David LeeJordan Hill [Advantage: Warriors]

C – Andrew Bogut Chris Kaman [Advantage: Even]

Notable Bench Players

Warriors: F Harrison Barnes, F/C Maurice SpeightsDraymond Green

Lakers: G/F Nick YoungF Shawne Williams, Chris Kaman

Bench Advantage: Lakers

Keys for Lakers Success

  1. Effort: Lets face it. The Lakers cannot beat any of their opponents anytime soon by pure talent especially with Bryant and their entire point guard players out. Therefore, the Lakers have to play with a lot of energy and effort. The Lakers have to out rebound the Timberwolves, get easy baskets, and compete for all loose balls to grind out a victory tonight. Players like F Jordan HillRobert Sacre, and F Wes Johnson has to continue to get rebounds, play hard on both ends, and do the intangible things that do not show in the box score.
  2. Close Out on Shooters: The Warriors love shooting to say the least. The Lakers learned the hard way in their 1st visit to Oracle Arena, letting the Warriors take many uncontested shots, which resulted in the Warriors shooting 53.5% from the field and the Lakers losing by 31 points. When the Warriors visited Staples Center however, the Warriors were forced into more contested shoots, leading to them shooting only 41.5 % from the field, which also resulted in a Lakers victory. If the Lakers force contested shots and stay aware of where shooters, especially Curry and Thompson are, the Lakers have a chance to stay close vs. Warriors.

Bottom Line

If the San Antonio Spurs can defeat a healthy Warriors without playing their “Big 3″ in Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker, the Lakers can sure have a good shot at defeating them also, especially if they plated with as much energy as they did last night. Unfortunately, the Lakers will not have home court advantage tomorrow playing on the road, so they cannot rely on their home fans to energize them. Furthermore, we all know that the Warriors are furious after losing in embarrassing fashion vs. some resemblance of the Spurs in front of national TV audience. Therefore, they will play with a tremendous amount of energy, something the Lakers have to counter-attack by playing very smart on both ends of the floor. Hopefully my prediction will be wrong again, but it’s hard for me to see the Warriors lay an egg again and lose another heart breaker especially on their home floor vs. Lakers.

Prediction

Warriors: 115-106

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Photo courtesy of Stephen Dunn, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Stephen Dunn, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Stephen Dunn, Getty Images

All three point guards out of commission – how much worse could it get, right?

How about Kobe Bryant coming in for six games, and then having to be sidelined for another six weeks due to a knee injury?

The hits just keep on coming to this Laker team, don’t they? Thankfully, as they’ve shown quite a few times in this early season – they’ve got some fight in them despite the arrows that keep flying their way. After getting thumped by the Minnesota Timberwolves in their last meeting, the Lakers showed their opponent at the onset that there would be no 40+ point quarters this time.

The Lakers opened their first two defensive possessions with stops, shot 68% and led by 11 points early in the first quarter. Save for a relatively weak showing in the second quarter, they kept the game close and threw a final punch in the end – a 104-91 victory.

High Points
Defense – The Timberwolves were blocked in consecutive possessions to open the game, courtesy of Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill. They were kept under a 40% field goal percentage in every quarter, and finished with just 35% shooting for the game. Kevin Love had 20 points in the first half, but was kept to just five points in the entire second half. Scoring machine Kevin Martin went just 6-16 for his 14 points, and he scored 10 of those in the first half. The Lakers also had nine blocks, with Gasol, Kaman and Sacre getting a pair each. Defensive efforts (except maybe in the second quarter and under the Offensive Rebounds column) was key to tonight’s win, especially since it was a collective effort. Guys were rotating effectively, covering for each other, running shooters off the three-point line (where Minny went just 5-22). In the final quarter, the Lakers really locked down on their D, allowing Minnesota to shoot just 6-25 from the field for 24%, allowing just 15 points in the final 12 minutes. It’s the most sustained defense the Lakers have shown in a long time.
Ball Movement – 27 assists for the Lakers led by Pau Gasol’s. Xavier Henry may have started the game as the “official” point guard, but his four assists were eclipsed by Gasol’s eight dimes. The first half saw 16 assists on 21 made field goals. Four players scored in double figures.
Pau Gasol – It was an almost-triple-double for the Spaniard who, in a practice interview earlier in the day, sounded down talking about the injury to Bryant. Gasol looked resolved early in the game, however, playing how we remember him playing in those back-to-back championship seasons. He’s had more than enough chances to lead this team in the absence of so many teammates, and he has faltered more often than not. In having Bryant go out of commission again, there was a fear that Gasol may revert back to his inability to lead this team. Tonight, however, he did everything. He was aggressive on all fronts, scoring 21 points on 10-15 from the field, grabbing 13 rebounds, handing out eight assists and blocking two shots. His only black mark came in the form of seven turnovers, but without Bryant, Steve Nash, Jordan Farmar and Steve Blake as the primary ball handlers, Gasol will surely take the lead. Being one of the best passing big men in the league will come in handy for his team.
Xavier Henry – Talk about going from obscurity to starting point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers! To think that in the pre-season, Henry’s place on the roster was even a question, and now he’s being thrown into a prominent position with all the faith in the world from his coaches and teammates to succeed. Henry wasn’t exactly Nash out there, dishing every which way. In fact, he only had four assists. He did, however, score 21 points on 8-19 from the field, grabbed four rebounds, racked up three steals and only had three turnovers.

Photo courtesy of Stephen Dunn, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Stephen Dunn, Getty Images

Nick Young – Is there a player more fun to watch on this squad than SwaggyP? Every shot he makes, whether a run of the mill jumper, layup or three, gets the crowd and his teammates on their feet. 25 points on 9-14 was a huge contribution to tonight’s win, but Young’s value to this team is more than his production. The great chemistry among this group of players has been mentioned time and again this season; and you can see the perfect example of it in Young. The fun moment he shared with Gasol after the center hit that corner three is an image that encapsulates his role in the locker room. It’s reminiscent of Metta World Peace’s carefree personality and amicability, and in a sense, Lamar Odom’s. It’s not hard to see that SwaggyP is becoming the heart of this down-but-not-out Laker team.
Points In the Paint – It was a small margin, just 50 to the T-wolves’ 46, but that the Lakers even had that many is a plus. They also only attempted 19 threes, which is a number they could rack up in one half. Tonight the Lakers really made an effort to get to higher percentage shots, which aided in them shooting 54% for the game.

Low Points
Turnovers – The Lakers had just three turnovers in the first quarter, which didn’t lead to any T-wolves points. It was an efficiently-run quarter with 12 assists on 14 made field goals. But the second quarter was a hot mess, with 10 turnovers that turned into eight points for Minnesota and a pathetic 27-16 quarter score that quickly erased a once-11 point lead. It’s no coincidence that without Gasol on the floor for the first four minutes of that quarter, the Lakers lost their ball movement. They had just four assists in the entire 12 minutes.
Rebounds – Offensive boards haven’t been a priority this season, with the preference to run back on defense asap. The Lakers only had seven offensive rebounds tonight. However, allowing the opposing team to grab 22 offensive rebounds of their own is unacceptable. That alone gave Minnesota 20 second chance points.
Lead Maintenance – They just can’t help themselves, toying with fate when fate has given them an early lead. It’s almost pointless for the Lakers to get ahead so early in the game when they’re so adept at losing it just as quickly.

With the number of injuries that this team has been faced with, it would be easy to just give up, lay down and get run over, even so early in the season. But the Lakers started the season as underdogs and they seem to be relishing it. They’ll be short-handed for a long while, even with the newly acquired Kendall Marshall to fill in at the point when his time comes, but if they play again like they did tonight, it’s hard to count them out just yet.

Box Score

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Photo by Stephen Dunn| Getty Images
Photo by Stephen Dunn| Getty Images
Photo by Stephen Dunn| Getty Images

December 20, 2013 — 7:30 PM (PST)
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: ESPN / TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

The Los Angeles Lakers (12-13) try to pick up the broken piece of glasses and battle the Minnesota Timberwolves (13-13) tonight after learning that G Kobe Bryant will now be out for approximately 6 weeks after suffering a fractured lateral tibial plateau in his left knee. Along with Bryant, the 3 Lakers point guards, PG Steve Nash, PG Steve Blake, and PG Jordan Farmar, are still sidelined due to their injuries and not expected to return anytime soon. As a result, the Lakers signed D-League PG Kendall Marshall to a non-guaranteed contract to fill the back-up point guard position. 

With all the injuries, players like G Nick Young, G Xavier Henry, and SG Jodie Meeks have to cover for Bryant’s loss and perform as well as they did before Bryant’s return. Without Bryant, the Lakers will run Mike D’Antoni‘s system that involes a lot of ball movement and running up and down the floor. 

The Lakers now have to play the Minnesota Timberwolves, who visited the Lakers earlier season and won by 23 points. They are a much improved team this season, mainly due to  staying healthy as a team unlike last season. The Timberwolves are led by the duo of local UCLA product PF Kevin Love and PG Ricky Rubio, both of them being potential all-stars this season. Love has had another dominant season, averaging 25.2 PPG and 13.7 RPG. He can shoot from the perimeter while dominating in the low post at the same time, causing match up nightmares for anyone who guards him. Rubio reminds a lot of old NBA fans of the great “Pistol Pete” Maravich as a point guard who can make difficult plays look very easy using his insane craftiness. Rubio has had a solid season himself, averaging 9.4 PPG and 7.9 APG. Althought the Timberwolves have the talent in their starting lineup to be one of the top teams in the Western Conference, their lack of depth has cost them a lot of games this season.

Projected Starters

PG – Ricky Rubio Xavier Henry [Advantage: Timberwolves]

SG – Kevin Martin / Jodie Meeks [Advantage: Timberwolves]

SF – Corey Brewer Wesley Johnson [Advantage: Timberwolves]

PF – Kevin LoveJordan Hill [Advantage: Timberwolves]

C – Nikola Pekovic Pau Gasol [Advantage: Even]

Notable Bench Players

Grizzlies: G JJ Barea, Alexei ShvedDante Cunningham

Lakers: G/F Nick YoungF Shawne Williams, Robert Sacre

Bench Advantage: Lakers

Keys for Lakers Success

  1. Effort: Lets face it. The Lakers cannot beat any of their opponents anytime soon by pure talent especially with Bryant and their entire point guard players out. Therefore, the Lakers have to play with a lot of energy and effort. The Lakers have to out rebound the Timberwolves, get easy baskets, and compete for all loose balls to grind out a victory tonight. Players like F Jordan HillRobert Sacre, and F Wes Johnson has to continue to get rebounds, play hard on both ends, and do the intangible things that do not show in the box score.
  2. Swaggy P: With Bryant out, that leaves Lakers 6th man Nick Young as the only player who can create his own shots on the offensive end. Young has had a fantastic year so far, leading the Lakers in scoring at 14.9 PPG on 43.5 % shooting under Bryant’s tutelage. Young will be relied very heavily upon to score at the end of games and when the offense becomes stagnant.

Bottom Line

With Bryant’s absence, the optimism for tonight’s game is very bleak to say the least. Hopefully, the Lakers play with an inspired energy the way Bryant would want them to tonight. The Lakers also have to make their shots and not allow the Timberwolves extra possessions especially since their talent is superior to the Lakers.

Prediction

Timberwolves: 115-98

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YouTube sensation ThePerson18 releases a brand new video the day after Kobe Bryant‘s injury news.

The video montage entitled “Kobe Bryant – The Plagued Warrior” depicts the treacherous road Bryant has endured over the past nine months, and the numerous critics that stand in the way of his quest for a sixth ring.

Bryant also tweeted the following optimism yesterday to remind Laker fans that he is broken, but not beaten.

Nation, give us your thoughts on Bryant’s injury and your feelings going forward in the comments section below!

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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.