December 1, 2013 — 6:30 PM (PST)
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: Time Warner Cable SportsNet
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
The Los Angeles Lakers (9-8) return home to play the red hot Portland Trail Blazers (13-3), who come into STAPLES Center as a surprise 2nd seed in the Western Conference so far this season. The Blazers are led by the duo of F/C LaMarcus Aldridge and PG Damian Lillard. Aldridge, who is having another All-Star caliber season, comes into tonight’s game averaging a career high 22.1 PPG and 9.6 RPG, while Lillard continues to make a name for himself in the NBA, averaging 19.9 PPG and 5.8 APG.
The Lakers, who came off of a successful 2-1 road trip, look to continue their momentum tonight vs. the Trail Blazers. The Lakers won their last game vs. Detroit Pistons, led by G/F Wesley Johnson and F Shawne Williams, who scored 27 points and 20 points respectably, shooting a combined 12-18 from the three-point line. This might be the Lakers last game without G Kobe Bryant, who continues to get himself into game-shape to return to the floor with the rest of the team.
Key Matchup: LaMarcus Aldridge vs. Pau Gasol
This game will come down to the battle of the bigs, notably between Aldridge and Lakers C Pau Gasol. Both players showcase a variety of post moves that comes at a premium in today’s NBA. Both of these players can also comfortably shoot from as far as 20 feet away from the basket, forcing both players to guard against a perimeter shot while protecting against a drive to the basket.
While Aldridge has been playing at a very high level throughout the season, Gasol, has slowly but surely returned to his old form. After struggling to battle conditioning and groin issues earlier this season, Gasol has started to become assertive with the ball again, creating his own shot from the post and driving more aggressively to the basket. As a result, Gasol has increased his scoring productivity, averaging 17.75 PPG his last 8 games compared to a subpar 12.11 PPG his first 9 games this season.
If Gasol can hold his own versus Aldridge and continue to play aggressively and be assertive to call for the ball, look for the Lakers to give themselves a chance to defeat the Blazers tonight.
Trail Blazers: G Mo Williams - who joined the Blazers after a 2-year stint as the starting point guard for the Utah Jazz, has now thrived in his new role as a 6th man for the Portland Trailblazers, averaging 9.1 PPG and 4.8 APG despite only playing 25.5 MPG. If Williams can successfully lead the Trail Blazers’ bench the upgraded Lakers 2nd unit, who average a league leading . When Mo Williams scores more than 10 points this season, the Trail Blazers are a perfect 6-0 this season.
Lakers: F Shawne Williams - who fits the stretch 4 position in coach Mike D’Antoni’s system, finally had himself a breakout game on the stat sheet. Williams scored in double-digit for the first time since February 2, 2012, scoring 20 points and shooting 6-11 from the three-point line. The Lakers hope for Williams to continue to shoot well versus a more stout Trail Blazers defense, who lead the NBA in fewest opponents three-point percentage this year, holding opponents to 32% this season.
PG – Damian Lillard / Steve Blake SG – Wesley Matthews / Jodie Meeks SF – Nicolas Batum / Wesley Johnson PF – LaMarcus Aldridge / Jordan Hill C – Robin Lopez / Pau Gasol
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 over their 66-year history.
December 1, 1981
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar becomes the second all-time leading scorer in NBA history after scoring 14 points in a 117-86 rout of the Utah Jazz. Abdul-Jabbar, the eventual six-time NBA champion, finished the 1981-82 season with more than 28,000 career points, trailing the NBA’s then leading-scorer Wilt Chamberlain by 3,000 points. “Cap” finished his playing career in 1989 as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer with 38,387 points, a record that still holds today.
December 4, 1987
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s streak of consecutive games scoring 10+ points is halted at 787 games. The future hall of famer scored just seven points in an 85-83 Lakers loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. Abdul-Jabbar’s streak currently ranks second best in NBA history, behind Michael Jordan’s 866 consecutive games of scoring in double figures.
December 5, 2012
Kobe Bryant becomes just the fifth player in NBA history to score 30,000 points. Bryant netted 29 points, as the Lakers beat the New Orleans Hornets 103-87. Kobe currently sits behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Michael Jordan, and Wilt Chamberlain for most points scored in an NBA career. At 34, Bryant was the youngest player to ever reach the 30,000 point plateau.
December 6, 2002
The Lakers overcome a 27-point deficit in the fourth quarter to defeat the Dallas Mavericks 105-103 at the Staples Center. Kobe Bryant finished with a game-high 27 points, while scoring 21 of his 27 in the fourth quarter. Bryant hit a jumper with 8.4 seconds left in the game to give the Lakers the lead and the eventual win. Shaquille O’Neal added 26 points and 11 rebounds. This game marks the largest fourth-quarter comeback in Lakers history, and the second largest fourth-quarter rally in NBA history, behind Milwaukee’s 28 point turnaround in 1977.
December 7, 1986
Lakers head coach Pat Riley records his 300th career win behind a 132-100 victory over the Golden State Warriors. The former Lakers guards became the 27th head coach in NBA history to win at least 300 games. Riley broke the record for fastest NBA head coach to 300 wins, which was previously held by Billy Cunningham of the Philadelphia 76ers at 430 games. Riley needed just 416 games to reach the milestone.
I pushed this week’s Top to Bottom back to include more than just 2 games. This week covers games against the Warriors, Kings, Wizards, Nets and Pistons. In that stretch, the Lakers went 4-1, losing only on the road to the Wizards, and find themselves above .500 for the first time since opening night. With the Lakers picking up their play and with new people stepping up everyday, it’s getting harder and harder to find a “bottom 3″, so don’t mind my nitpicking. Here is this week’s Top to Bottom:
1. Jordan Farmar
Last week, I had Steve Blake in my Top list and praised him for stepping up in the absence of Steve Nash. This week, it’s the backup point guard that did damage. Jordan Farmar came off the bench and averaged 14.6 points, 5 assists, and only 1.2 turnovers in about 22 minutes a game. Farmar has impressed me all season and his play over the last 5 games ensured his spot at the top of my list. Jordan was also the only Laker to never be in the minus in the +/- category over the last 5 games and even lead the team against the Warriors with a +21 and the Wizards with a +6, he also lead the team in scoring with 22 points against the Wizards. Farmar is spending his time on the court wisely and is the leader of the best bench in the league.
2. Nick Young
Nick Young had his best week as a Laker this past week. Settling into his sixth man role, Young averaged 16.4 points a game and also lead the team in scoring against the Nets with 26 points. Young also secured Sunday night’s win against Detroit when he drew the last second charge on Josh Smith and hit 2 free throws to seal the deal. Young’s defense has also been steadily improving, in the game against the Kings, Young only scored 7 points, but lead the team in the +/- category with a +15. He has also averaged at a little over 1 steal a game over the last 5.
3. Pau Gasol
Pau started this week of games with a charity pledge to help victims of Typhoon Haiyan against the Warriors, in that game Pau was able to score 24 points and donate $24,000 to typhoon relief. Pau continued the week leading the team averaging 19 points and 9.2 rebounds (tied with Jordan Hill) a game. Pau has had his ups and downs this season but his play been improving. With Kobe’s return just around the corner I expect Pau to pick it up and have a little more freedom once defenses have the Mamba to look out for.
1. Xavier Henry
Henry had a great game against the Kings when he lead the team with 21 points, but other than that, he’s been pretty forgettable this week. Henry had weekly averages of 8 points and 2.4 rebounds a game. Even though Henry’s numbers are down, I still think Henry does his job when he’s on the floor. He still has the ability to get to the line almost at will and hit the open jumper, I hope Henry will find his way to the top again soon though.
2. Jordan Hill
Jordan Hill didn’t necessarily have a bad week, he still averaged 6.8 points and 9.2 rebounds in just under 26 minutes a game over the last 5, but those numbers are less than last week when he averaged 18.75 points and 12 rebounds. Hill still brings energy to the starting unit and is a great garbage man, but the scouting report is now out on Hill who has to find other ways to keep the energy up. Hill also suffered a left ankle sprain Sunday night in Detroit, here’s hoping to him getting back on the court healthy and ready to go soon.
3. Lakers Interior Defense
Is it a cop out for me to name the Laker Interior D as a worst player this week? Sure. Does that make it any less true? Not one bit. In the past 5 games, the Lakers gave up a combined total of 252 points in the paint and 81 fast break points. Detroit alone scored 76 of their 102 points in the paint and, in Washington, John Wall had his way getting past defenses with his speed and to the hole almost at will. This past road trip showed a major flaw in the team’s defense, it seems any team with speed and/or a big that can get into the post will have an advantage against the Lakers. Kurt Rambis, who was hired to lead the defense, has his work cut out for him. The Lakers take Portland on at home tomorrow.
On some levels, the Lakers shouldn’t have won tonight. They started the game looking like they were still recovering from last night’s Kobe-hosted Thanksgiving dinner; sluggish and not as alert. They fell behind 16-7 quickly, turning the ball over and failing to play any defense, not to mention getting outrebounded. It wasn’t until the star of the game, Wesley Johnson, hit his second three up to that point and managed to wake up the rest of his team.
The Lakers spent the entire evening answering each Detroit run with a few of their own, falling behind by as much as 10 points. The Pistons owned the paint tonight, and the Lakers did very little to stop them. If not for the threeball, a feature in their offense from which they live and die, the Lakers’ road trip might’ve ended differently. Fortunately for them, their efforts came together in the end and they get to head home with a 106-102 win and a 9-8 record.
High Points Wesley Johnson – Slowly but surely, Wes Johnson has impacted each game in a number of small ways. Some games, he contributes a handful of threes. Other times, his dunks make the highlight reel. And when he’s not scoring, he’s blocking shots, collecting steals or simply interrupting his opponent with his long arms and quick reflexes. Tonight, however, it all seemed to come together. Johnson had his biggest game as a Laker with 27 points on 9-11 from the field, 6-7 from downtown, six rebounds, a pair of assists, and three blocks. He was the recipient of the highlight of the night when, at the end of the first half, Steve Blake inbounded a lob to Johnson, who dunked it in to end the second quarter, under the careless eye of his “defender” Josh Smith. Shawne Williams – Boy was Shawne Williams due for a good shooting night. His stat lines before tonight’s game were filled with putrid shooting percentages. It was about time he made use of the minutes that he’s constantly given, but didn’t seem to earn. He led the bench scoring tonight with his 20 points on 7-13 from the field, 6-11 from downtown, nine rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block. Bench and Balance – The Laker reserves outscored the Pistons bench 52-37. In the deciding fourth quarter, they outscored them 28-4. With the Laker bench producing as much as they do consistently (that’s the keyword, consistently), the scoring responsibility in each game is balanced among the players. Tonight, there were six Lakers in double figures – three starters and three reserves. In each of the Lakers’ 17 games this season, a different player has emerged as the offensive leader. Sure, Pau Gasol has had a few games to his credit, but so have each of his teammates, starter or reserve. That has been the beauty of this ragtag group of players wearing purple and gold this season – their balance, which can be attributed to another keyword this season, chemistry. Pau Gasol – Another double-double night for Gasol, with his 13 points and 12 rebounds. Late-Game Close-Out – Sure, they would’ve been better served had they sustained an effort and focus from beginning to end, but the Lakers managed to get it together during moments in a game in which they have had a difficult time working through – the closing minutes. They figured it out against Brooklyn despite blowing a 27-point lead, and they figured it out tonight in the final quarter after falling behind by 10. Farmar hit a jumper to get them the 101-99 lead with just over a minute to go in the game and Nick Young scored on a layup, took a charge and bit both of his free throws to seal the victory.
Low Points Turnovers – In the first half alone, the Lakers collected 10 turnovers that resulted in 10 Pistons points. They finished the game with 17 giveaways, which gave way to 20 points for Detroit. Points in the Paint – 76-28 points in the paint disparity between the Pistons and Lakers. It’s a good thing their threeball was working and that Detroit is the worst free throw shooting team in the league. There was just no interior defense for the Lakers, which is where all their focus should have been since Detroit is also the worst three-point shooting team in the league. The Pistons strolled to the hoop at times with no purple uniforms trying to stop them. Rebounds – At one point in the game, the Pistons were outrebounding the Lakers 49-31. They finished with a 55-44 advantage, but the most glaring stat was the offensive rebounds column , 22-11. 22 offensive rebounds which led to 25 second chance points. Free throws – After three quarters, the Lakers were 15-19 from the free throw line. In the fourth quarter alone, however, they went just 5-11, most notable was the 0-2 from Jordan Farmar in the waning seconds of the game that could have sealed the win sooner. Jordan Hill – He went up for a rebound and rolled his left ankle. The prognosis, so far, is a sprained ankle. Hopefully, it’s a mild sprain that can be healed with some ice and relaxation…if even for a day.
The Lakers toughed out a good game tonight, and a lot of their character really shone through as a result. Are they still trying to figure out some things? Yes. But have they made progress? Most definitely.
Next up are the red-hot Portland Trailblazers. Let’s see if the Lakers’ chemistry can help them through that game, but a desire to rebound and play defense would probably be a good start.
The Lakers waived rookie small forward Elias Harris today. Harris, an undrafted free agent from Gonzaga University, was assigned to the D-Fenders multiple times for experience but only participated in two regular season games.
EL SEGUNDO – The Los Angeles Lakers have waived forward Elias Harris, it was announced today.
Harris appeared in two games for the Lakers this season, tallying a rebound, an assist and a steal in 11 minutes. The two-time All-West Coast Conference Team selection out of Gonzaga University started all five games for the Lakers’ 2013 Summer League team in Las Vegas, averaging 10.2 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.2 steals in 27.0 minutes.
This waive trims the Lakers roster down to 14 players as they face the Detroit Pistons tonight in Detroit.
Every few weeks, our staff writers chime in on the trending topics, rumors and storylines surrounding the Lakers. In this week’s State of the Nation, they answer five questions that will ultimately decide the fate of the Lakers.
Do you think it was the right decision to sign Kobe Bryant to an extension before returning from his Achilles injury?
Garrett Garcia // @GarrettGarcia: Yes. Of course it was, regardless of what he looks like when he comes back it was a smart move to sign him to this extension. Kobe Bryant will still be Kobe Bryant, just maybe a bit slower or less explosive, smart move by the Lakers brass.
Oren Levy // @LakersOren: Yes. They most likely prevented any other team from ever being able to sell Kobe Bryant merchandise, and ensured that Kobe is the longest tenured player with a single franchise ever. Right move. Now, the dollar amount.
Johnny Navarrette // @JohnnyNav: It’s definitely a risk, but considering what team doctors are saying and Kobe’s ability to adjust his game throughout the years, it’s a calculated risk that the Lakers are able to take. It’s important to remember that the Achilles will be stronger than ever and when it comes to Kobe’s skill level, there should be little doubt about what he can do.
Alik Ourfalian // @alik_o: Absolutely. Kobe is the face of this franchise. It would be wrong for him to retire anywhere else. They’ve seen him at practice and they know what he’s capable of, so there would be no point in waiting for him to return. Kobe has played through injuries before, from playing an entire season with a broken finger on his shooting hand, to playing with a severely sprained ankle. It’s nothing he hasn’t done before.
Jory Dreher // @Jay_Laker: Without question. I feel the Lakers did the right thing regarding Kobe’s extension. Dr. Jerry Buss would’ve done the same thing as well.
Belal Abdelfattah // @ItsBelal_A: This is something we probably won’t be able to answer for sure until next summer at the earliest, but personally I think it was the right move. When a player brings you five championships and over 17 seasons of excellence, you reward him with faith. People can overreact and rush to opinion on this, but we should all at least give Kobe the benefit of the doubt, he’s earned that.
Anna Gonda // @AnnaLBG: Yes – firstly, you don’t want to go the entire season with this looming over Kobe, the team or management. With the Lakers facing so many uncertainties the last few, not to mention upcoming, seasons, Kobe is the surest bet they have available. I’m giving Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss the benefit of the doubt here as far as Kobe’s performance after the injury goes. They’ve obviously seen him rehab, practice and work out more than any outsiders have so they must be optimistic about his return to form.
Ashkan Kargaran // @aakargaran: Of course not, but this is Kobe Bean Bryant we’re talking about and at this point he can end his career which ever way he chooses.
Robert Benitez // @beeb0: I don’t think it matters. If given the opportunity to sign Kobe Bryant, you sign Kobe Bryant. I don’t think anyone expects Kobe to return and be anything less than great so the timing of the contract extension is moot. The price on the other hand, that’s a different story.
Felipe Amaral // @f_amaral: Business-wise, it wasn’t. A general manager would want to wait and see how a player returning from such a serious injury would look on the court before committing any extra money to him. But Kobe Bryant is a special case for the Lakers. For everything he’s done for the franchise, he deserves this huge vote of confidence by the team’s front office.
Mark Awad // @MarkeyTheBoss_: No, but this is Kobe we’re talking about, the odds are definitely against him. If there was a 35-year-old who could come back from this injury and still dominate, it would be Kobe. The Lakers got it out the way and don’t have to deal with it all offseason.
Kanta Ito // @Kanta_B_Ito: Yes. The best medical team and training staff in the world surround Kobe and has followed him wherever he goes 24/7 to help him return to the court at 100% performance level. Furthermore, Kobe’s work ethic and determination made it easier for the Lakers Organization to sign him before he makes his season debut to show him gratitude and appreciation for the impact he has made to the Lakers Organization for the last 17 years.
Melvin Taylor // @MelvinTaylorII: I believe that the Lakers could have waited longer yes but if they were going to do it anyway then it was best to do so now. Plus it allows them to then know what they will be working with salary cap wise moving forward.
Jordan Grant // @JordanGrant90: I don’t believe it was. While our management has fully earned my trust and respect over the years, I don’t see the benefit in this one. It’s not that I don’t see Kobe coming back in full force, I just don’t see any reason not to wait and see him play. Maybe we’re missing something here.
Jon Gaffer // @jewelslamo: It was right only in the sense of loyalty, respect, & rewarding a superstar for a stellar career. Let’s face it, if it was Steve Nash, do you think this happens?
Kayla Lombardo // @KaylaLombardo11: Yes, because Kobe Bryant is a franchise player who has proven that he can live up to lofty contract expectations and perform under the bright Los Angeles lights, year after year. Not only is Kobe’s contract extension good for Kobe, but it is also good for the Lakers and the NBA, in general. It shows other young emerging stars that if they perform to a Kobe-caliber level, rewards will be in their futures. Say what you want about the business side of sports today, but what’s more American than working hard and seeing a return on your investment of time and effort?
Next Question: At about $24 million per year for the next two years, are the Lakers overpaying Bryant?
Games like tonight have become cliché for the Lakers: Keep the game close, tie or take the lead as the end draws near…and then cue momentary lapses in judgment and let the opponent have the win. When will it change?
This was a completely winnable game, with the Washington Wizards and Lakers (sad to say because it hasn’t been the case in years) having close to the same record coming into tonight’s game (the Lakers at 7-7 and the Wizards at 5-8). No lead went to double digits and neither team was shooting lights out. The Wizards didn’t overpower the Lakers offensively, winning the first three quarters by margins of 2,2, and 1, and tying in the fourth. The difference came down to two simple issues: defense and turnovers. The Lakers didn’t do enough of the first and did too much of the second, and that cost them a victory. Washington won it 116-111.
High Points Jordan Farmar – What a waste of a solid game. Farmar was the Lakers’ star tonight, scoring 22 points on 9-11 from the field, 3-4 from downtown, eight assists, a steal and one turnover. He was the hot hand on the team and was one of two players who finished with a + on the +/- column (along with fellow reserve Nick Young). Offense – The Lakers’ issue wasn’t scoring tonight. There were, in fact, seven of nine players who scored double figures. The three ball was really working for them, mostly in the first half when they went 8-13 from behind the arc. They also moved the ball well, collecting 30 assists on 44 made field goals. Those were the only stats that kept them in the game at all.
Moot Point Pau Gasol – 17 points, six rebounds, eight assists and two blocks. Gasol could have collected more rebounds, but it was an all-around good game for him. The stat that’s suspect are his five turnovers to lead the game.
Low Points Shawne Williams – Williams has been an anomaly for the Lakers, able to do a few good things some of the time, but isn’t doing enough more consistently. He hits a couple of threes in games, and then doesn’t do much else. Tonight he went just 1-7, 0-4 from three, two rebounds, two assists and a turnover. Perhaps he’s getting more playing time due to Chris Kaman’s absence, but he has to figure out a way to be more effective when he’s on the floor, because right now, all he’s doing is taking up someone else’s minutes. Defense – I suppose after three nights in a row of good defense, the Lakers hit their cap because tonight, there was so little to be seen. The Wizards scored so easily, overpowering the Lakers in the paint 56-36 because there was no one in there to stop them from putting the ball in the hole. Washington shot 72% in the first quarter. Had the Lakers’ three point shot been ineffective (they went 6-9 in those first 12 minutes), the Wizards may have led by more than two in that first period. Moreover, the Lakers allowed yet another player to have a career night, with Nene scoring 30 points and point guard John Wall going for 31 points and nine assists. Turnovers – Defense was a key issue in this Laker loss, but the turnovers just exacerbated the inevitable end. 17 turnovers gave the Wizards 28 points and a 21-7 advantage in fastbreak points. The very worst turnovers came towards the end of the game when the Lakers had a chance to take the win. With just over 90 seconds left in the game and down just a single point, and with possession, they committed a shot clock violation(!). About 60 seconds later, still with a chance to tie being behind by just three points, Steve Blake, who has been the Lakers’ backbone so far this season, made a bad pass that resulted in Gasol fouling John Wall and increasing the Wizards’ lead to five points. Inability to Close – It’s happened in five of the Lakers’ eight losses, where they had a chance to close out a game that was within striking distance in the closing minutes, and couldn’t pull out the win. It’s difficult not to wonder what could have been had their closer been on the floor in those losses.
Next up are the struggling Brooklyn Nets and yet another back-to-back for the Lakers. Can the Lakers take advantage and go into Thanksgiving with a victory? With this team, there is really no telling.
“He is unique. He is definitely special. He’s a guy that feeds on his own confidence, so when he feels good about himself, he becomes a very effective player and a great scorer. He’s a very skilled offensive player, but he definitely has a personality and we have to embrace it.”
“I have to detach myself somewhat in making sure when I come back, I’m ready to give the team the proper lift. It’s very tough to do. But it’s something that has to be done. (…) It felt good. I put the jersey on and walked out for practice, it felt like it was ’97 again and I was getting my first start as a pro.”
Kobe Bryant after his first practice with the team post the achilles injury, via the Daily News
“He’s looking at, ‘What am I going to do when I’m 50?’ But no, he’s going to try and do everything he can to come back. Whether he can get over this, we’ll see. We think he can. We hope he can. But there’s no talk of him sitting over there eating bon bons the rest of the way.”
“He’s an all-time great and he’s a guy that did it the right way. A true professional, a class act. Hopefully he comes back quickly and healthy, but he’s a guy that I have a tremendous amount of respect for. And I always tell my kids or anybody that asks [if] I get concerned when guys that I think can’t play are about to pass me on the assists list. That has not happened yet. It’s been guys that I consider all-time greats and it’s an honor for me to be in any category with those guys.”
“This wasn’t something I decided to do; this wasn’t something [general manager] Mitch Kupchak decided to do. This was a Buss family decision. We made him the highest-paid player in the NBA because we felt like it was the right thing to do. This wasn’t about what somebody else would pay him or outbidding anyone for him. This was to continue his legacy [with the Lakers], our legacy of loyalty to our iconic players. Loyalty is one of the values our dad instilled in us. It’s how he ran the Lakers and how we aspire to continue to run the Lakers. It’s what our fans and iconic players deserve. He doesn’t have to prove to us one thing. He’s proven everything to us over the last 17 years. We’ve seen what he’s done with broken fingers and torn ligaments. There’s no stopping the guy. We have 100 percent faith in him.”
The Los Angeles Lakers made a huge statement to its organization and its loyal fan base.
Kobe Bean Bryant will be a Laker for life.
The Lakers officially signed superstar SG Kobe Bryant Monday morning to a 2-year extension worth $48.5 million, according to ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Ramona Shelburne. At $48.5 million, Bryant will receive $23.5 million in 2014-15 and $25 million in 2015-16 from the Lakers. Bryant’s contract gives the Lakers an open shot at signing a free agent to a maximum contract either during this off-season or the next.
“This was easy,” Bryant told Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski on Monday night. “This wasn’t a negotiation. The Lakers made their offer with cap and building a great team in mind while still taking care of me as a player. I simply agreed to the offer.”
Assuming Bryant fulfills his new contract, he will become the longest tenured player in NBA history to play with a single franchise—playing for 2 decades with the Los Angeles Lakers.
However, Lakers fans have had mixed reactions in regards to Bryant’s new extension. Due to the league’s complex new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), most Lakers fans have difficulties answering the following question;
How does Bryant’s extension affect the Lakers’ cap room and their quest to help Kobe win another championship to tie Michael Jordan’s 6 championships?
Using their views, let’s take a look at the Lakers’ current salary cap situation for this off-season.
Lakers’ Current Salary Cap Situation
As Larry Coon noted, the Lakers currently have Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, and Robert Sacre on books for next season, while Elias Harris has a non-guaranteed contract and Nick Young has a player option next season. The Lakers will also have a 1st round draft pick, which would fall to the 15th pick if season ended today at a cap hit of about $1.5 million.
Here is the scenario that Larry Coon gives the Lakers to work with:
“If they remove both [Elias] Harris and [Steve] Nash, their team salary will drop to about $34.44 million, which would give them about $28.46 million in cap room. This would give them the opportunity to sign one maximum-salary player, and a second player at around the mid-level amount. They would also be eligible to utilize the Room Mid-Level exception for around $2.7 million.”
Now, let’s say the Lakers use the Room Mid-Level exception on current SG Jodie Meeks, who is averaging 13.3 PPG and shooting 47.7% from behind the three-point line this season.
Also, lets assume the Lakers re-sign PG Jordan Farmar and F Wesley Johnson to veteran minimum deals.
According to Eric Pincus, “Their cap holds will be just $915,243 next summer…the Lakers can negotiate small (7.5%) raises for each, if both sides are willing — after the team uses its cap room.”
Pincus also mentioned that C Pau Gasol and C/PF Jordan Hill’s cap holds stand at $20.3 million and $6.7 million respectively for this off-season. The Lakers would definitely need to renounce Gasol’s bird rights and possibly Hill’s also to make a legitimate run at a max-contract player. Furthermore, Gasol would need to accept a steep discount, approximately $5.5 million to $8 million per season, to have any chance to rejoin the Lakers under any scenario.
After retaining Bryant, Young, Sacre, Meeks, Johnson, Farmar, and a 1st round pick before the 10-day July moratorium period ends, the Lakers would then maintain up to approximately $26.63 million of cap space to sign free agents this off-season.
Using the facts obtained from Larry Coon’s and Eric Pincus’ columns, let’s see the most plausible route the Lakers can take from here.
Scenario #1: Sign Carmelo Anthony and choose between Pau Gasol or Jordan Hill
The Lakers told Bryant they have room to sign one max contract.
After hours of studying the salary cap and analyzing multiple reports, Carmelo Anthony seems to be the one and only max player the Lakers can reasonably sign next summer.
Anthony, a 29-year-old superstar forward for the New York Knicks, is currently in his 11th season in the NBA with career averages of 25.0 PPG, 6.4 RPG, and 3.1 APG. Anthony had a monster 2012-2013 season, scoring a career high of 28.7 PPG and leading the Knicks to the 2nd round of the playoffs.
The Knicks, however, are currently struggling with injuries and a lack of team chemistry, causing them to fall to a dismal 3-10 record to start off this season.
To make things worse for the Knicks, they cannot retool their roster around Anthony as their roster currently stands due to expensive contracts. Amar’e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani, two overpaid players way past their primes, will most likely opt-in for $23.4 million and $11.5 million salary respectively next season. Tyson Chandler also has another year left in his contract, worth $14.6 million next season
According to HoopsRumors.com’s Luke Adams, Anthony can earn a max contract for either $129 million for 5 years with the Knicks, or for 96 million for 4 years with another team, including the Lakers as a free agent this off-season. Anthony could also have a player option after his 3rd season under both potential contracts.
Anthony and Bryant have a very close relationship both on and off the court. Bryant and Anthony built their relationship from being teammates at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, where they both made significant contributions in winning two gold medals. Also, their wives Lala Anthony and Vanessa Bryant have a very close friendship as well.
If Anthony signs with the Lakers at the maximum level, Anthony would most likely earn $22.45 million salary his first season, giving the Lakers an additional $4.18 million to sign other free agents, including Hill and Gasol.
For the Lakers to retain Jordan Hill in that scenario, the Lakers would have to renounce Jordan Hill’s bird rights and re-sign him for the remaining cap space of $4.18 million. At this amount, Gasol would most likely not re-sign, leaving the Lakers with no other choice but to re-sign Hill.
If, however, Anthony somehow decides to take a minor paycut to join the Lakers for about $90 million over 4 years instead, he would earn approximately $21 million his first year, leaving the Lakers with $5.63 million cap room left to spend.
At $5.63 million, the Lakers would potentially have the option to sign either Hill or Gasol. Unfortunately, the new CBA will most likely not allow the Lakers to sign both of the valuable big men, forcing the Lakers’ front office to choose between Hill and Gasol.
Bottom line: signing Carmelo Anthony will give Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers their best chance to make another championship run in the short term. However, the Lakers would have to become very creative with their salary cap space if they have any hopes of re-signing both Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill under this scenario.
Scenario #2: Sign Rudy Gay, Re-Sign Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill
In the scenario in which Carmelo Anthony decides to re-sign with the New York Knicks, the Lakers can potentially make an acquisition that would also appease Kobe Bryant.
Rudy Gay, who last season was traded by Memphis Grizzlies to the Toronto Raptors in a multi-team trade, has an opt-out clause in his contract that will allow him become a free agent following this season.
Gay, a 27 year-old NBA veteran, has averaged a solid 18.0 PPG and 5.8 RPG throughout his eight year NBA career. Like Gasol before the Lakers acquired him, Gay has been the best player on his team the majority of his career, despite never making an all-star team. Gay has also shown significant improvement defensively, playing with a lot of hustle and energy on that end lately.
Although the Raptors have a good nucleus of young talent to build around Gay, the Raptors still have little chance to make a run at an NBA Championship.
The Lakers would gain a solid consolation prize in Gay if he opts out after this season.
Gay would most likely not turn down the opportunity to team up with Kobe Bryant and the Lakers to make a run at a title, if the Lakers were to offer him a contract. Like Gasol did after he moved from the Memphis Grizzlies to the Lakers, Gay could evolve from being the best player on a mediocre team to an all-star player who contributes to a title-contending team like the Lakers.
If the Lakers sign Gay for the market value for 4 years, he should cost the Lakers only about $15 million per season. Therefore, the Lakers could re-sign both Jordan Hill and Pau Gasol under this scenario.
The Lakers would have approximately $11.63 million cap room to share between Hill and Gasol. If the Lakers can convince Gasol to take a huge paycut for $7 million and Hill to accept $4.63 million salary for the 2014-2015 under a 2 or 3 year contract, the Lakers would definitely upgrade their lineup despite losing out on the biggest prize in Carmelo Anthony.
Scenario #3: Wait for the 2015-16 Free Agent Class
If the the Lakers miss on both Carmelo Anthony and Rudy Gay, the Lakers should take the same approach this off-season as they did last off-season.
Sign everyone to one-year contracts.
The formula of placing a bandage on the team this season seems to have worked out fairly well—finding diamond in the rough players like Wesley Johnson and SG Xavier Henry.
Rather than overpaying for a player or signing average players to multi-year contracts, the Lakers could build the team around Bryant with eager young players who seek to revitalize their careers under the tutelage of Bryant.
This current Lakers team has shown that they have the heart and energy to compete with any team in the NBA. They have already defeated the Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State Warriors, and Houston Rockets without Bryant—staying afloat at a respectable 7-7 record.
Through patience and waiting until the 2015-16 free agent class, the Lakers could potential have many potential free agents to choose from.
The 2015-16 free agent class includes Minnesota Timberwolves C/PF Kevin Love and PG Ricky Rubio, Boston Celtics PG Rajon Rondo and F Jeff Green, Brooklyn Nets C Brook Lopez, and Indiana Pacers C Roy Hibbert.
If the Lakers are forced to take this route, Bryant’s chance at a title for 2014-15 might become the same as this season. However, it will definitely give him the best chance to win if they sign one of those free agents under this scenario.
The status of Steve Nash determines how much cap room the Lakers have to retool their roster around Kobe Bryant. As mentioned before, the Lakers can either waive Nash or continue supporting him as he attempts to play through nerve damage.
If the Lakers decide to let Nash finish his contract and play next season, the Lakers will not have the cap space to sign Jordan Hill or Pau Gasol under the Carmelo Anthony Scenario, and would have to choose between Hill and Gasol under the Rudy Gay scenario.
Furthermore, Larry Coon explained two additional scenarios in regards to Steve Nash during his interview with Beto Duran and Arash Markazi on ESPN LA Radio’s Mason and Ireland Show, two more possibilities exist in regards to Steve Nash.
If Nash retires, his entire 2014-15 salary would come off the books. Nash and the Lakers would most likely negotiate a buyout after retirement, in which the buyout amount will count against cap, but the Lakers can stretch that cap hit over a three year period.
In the unlikely scenario where Nash retires for medical reasons, the Lakers would receive a full salary cap relief from Nash’s contract while paying him the $9.7 million he is owed for the 2014-2015 season.
Under Scenario #1 and Scenario #2 as previously mentioned, the Lakers will fill the rest of the team with veteran minimum level salary players this off-season, similar to this season. However, the Lakers know how to find talent that have not been utilized to its full potential by other teams. Players such as PF/C DeJuan Blair, C Ryan Hollins, and G/F Brandon Rush are examples of veteran minimum level players who can make a major contribution to the Lakers’ championship run.
Although fans have shown mixed emotions regarding the amount of money Bryant is scheduled to receive on his new extension, we know a few things for a fact:
The Lakers clearly know what they are doing.
Doctors have full confidence that Bryant will return to how he played prior to his devastating Achilles injury.
And finally, the Lakers and Bryant are fully committed to a final NBA championship run.
The Lakers extending Kobe Bryant’s contract is a lot like asking someone to prom. They are essentially asking this one special person to spend one of the most memorable nights of their lives, or rest of their career, with you. It could either turn out great or be one of the worst nights you have ever had or will have in your life. With that being said, signing Bryant pre-return could either be great or costly moving forward.
If you were following the news yesterday, or in case you missed it, the Lakers signed Kobe Bryant to a two year extension worth $48.5 million dollars. This extension appears to be the first move the Lakers are making in terms of free agency for the summer of 2014. By extending Bryant, the Lakers get to keep the face of the franchise for a couple more seasons while notifying the league and any future free agents that they will have the opportunity to play alongside the future Hall of Famer. That is, if his health allows it.
With Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose now ruled out for the season, fans hope that Bryant will take a more relaxed approach to returning in hopes to prevent a similar situation from occurring. Having watched Kobe Bryant from afar and knowing the type of competitor he is I can assure you that he will return when he is ready and he feels that his body is as well. Not only is Laker Nation hoping that Bryant returns when he is ready but, future free agents also want him to be in order to consider signing for the purple and gold.
When asked if free agents like himself would see Bryant as a star who is still worthy of joining in order to contend for a title, Anthony said, “I mean you’ll have to see. It’s hard to gauge at this point, not until he comes back (from his April Achilles tendon tear) and figures some things out. So I don’t know. They might have some plans up their sleeve.”
Looking long term, Bryant’s extension is enough for the Lakers to still look like the prom queen come free agency. Taking the pay cut of almost $10 million dollars provides room to sign a Carmelo Anthony if he opts out, a LeBron James if he does the same, or any other marquee free agents who are looking to win now. Not only will it allow that flexibility, but it also opens the door to retool the bench to its more formidable years. Maybe even keeping active, young players like Nick Young, Xavier Henry, Jordan Hill, Wesley Johnson or Jordan Farmar. Regardless of the what speculation may arise, this move says that the franchise is making a push the last few years of Bryant’s career to win now.
Bryant will retire with the Lakers. As for who he’ll be playing with and the question of whether that team will be worth talking about, that much remains to be seen.
“I think (Bryant) wanted to get that done,” Anthony told USA TODAY Sports. “Especially now, coming off that injury, that he wanted to solidify that (contract). I don’t think he ever had any doubt of leaving the Lakers, so he got that done early…He wants to win. I want to win. Everybody in the league, we want to win, so I just figured he was going to get that done.”
I’m not saying that it was the best move for the Lakers to sign Bryant this early, but I will say it provides intrigue if he is or is not able to produce highly. If Bryant is not the same will the Lakers be able to attract those superstar players? Or will they have to settle for players similar to those signed this past off-season?
On the other other hand, if Bryant is healthy and can produce at the level he was pre-injury then the possibilities are endless. With a healthy Bryant, cap space, and the allure of Los Angeles, Mitch Kupchak will have an arsenal ready to reload the Lakers and compete for another title. Yet all of this depends on how healthy Bryant is when he returns to the team.
No matter what does happen, prom just got a lot more interesting.
Ever since Steve Nash went down with yet another one of his long extended injuries, a sense of calm has come over the point guard position. From the very moment the Lakers acquired Nash and his laundry list of physical ailments last year, it has become increasingly apparent that he was not going to be the answer to the Lakers point guard woes.
Nash could often be seen sprawled out on the floor of the sidelines while he was still with the Suns. The sight of seeing him trying to convince his back not to tighten up on him, yet alone give out on him, became an all too familiar one in Phoenix his last couple of years. And Lakers fans got a dose of it right out of the gate at the start of last year, when he got hurt the first game of the year, and wasn’t seen for weeks thereafter.
Make no mistake, this is not a tirade about Nash, his failing body, or the fact he never lived up to the expectations the Lakers fans had for him. No, instead, this is a tribute to the man who doesn’t get the publicity, I believe he deserves. That man, is Steve Blake.
Steve Blake, the former Terrapin floor leader who achieved honorable mention All-America, third team All-ACC, honorable mention All-ACC Defensive team and second team ACC All-Tournament honors in 2001-02, while starting all 36 games that year, helping to guide the Terps to the National Championship over the Indiana Hoosiers in the spring of 2002.
Steve Blake has been the epitome of a journeyman guard in the NBA. Breaking in at the age of 24 in 2003-04 with Washington, and playing for multiple teams in between, he has now found a home with the Lakers. The guy is a grinder, he plays as hard as anyone in the league, and he plays with grit and determination. Let’s not kid ourselves into thinking he is, or ever will be thought of as being on the same level of a healthy Steve Nash. However, if we are keeping it real, he has delivered more than Nash has since he came to L.A.
Steve Blake has provided the floor leadership the Lakers so desperately need in this season of transition. Steve Blake is not flashy, nor is he super fast. He doesn’t possess a freakish physique, and he will never be remembered for anything exceptionally spectacular. Steve Blake is going to be remembered for the intangible things he has brought to the Lakers this year.
He has been a calming voice of reason on the floor, holding down the fort until Kobe can get back. He has provided veteran leadership to the young kids the Lakers brought in this year. Blake has been there to remind them, this isn’t playground basketball anymore. This is the NBA, where the team overrides the personal stats. He has helped this team take on an identity it never had at the beginning of the season.
It is highly unlikely you will ever see a bronze bust of Steve Blake in the NBA Hall of Fame. He will probably never be a league MVP. But what he has been to the Lakers so far this year, is something that they needed, at the precise time they needed him. Say hello to Steve Blake everyone. I think your’e going to like the guy.
It’s that time again for the player of the week for November 18-24. The Lakers only played two games this week and got a decent amount of some much needed rest. They won both games this week, one against Golden State and the other against Sacramento–both great wins. This week, one player stood out from the rest with his smart and consistent play: Pau Gasol.
Pau Gasol averaged 22 points and 10 rebounds per game this past week, which was phenomenal for him as he had struggled with his shot prior to this week.
The two double-double performances definitely helped the Lakers to the two W’s this week, and seeing Gasol play this well and efficiently again is a great sign for things to come.
If Gasol can keep up this consistent and efficient play the Lakers have a much higher chance at success in close games. Gasol is a great talent to have and when he plays his best basketball, he gives the Lakers their best chance to win as his talent can be overwhelming for opposing teams.
Look for Gasol to keep up his current pace this week and for the Lakers to earn a few more W’s on the upcoming road trip.
While Kobe Bryant has yet to return to the court, some unexpected (and GREAT) news broke early today from the Los Angeles Lakers:
EL SEGUNDO – The Los Angeles Lakers have signed Kobe Bryant to a two-year contract extension, it was announced today by General Manager Mitch Kupchak. Per team policy, terms of the contract were not released.
“This is a very happy day for Lakers fans and for the Lakers organization,” said Kupchak. “We’ve said all along that our priority and hope was to have Kobe finish his career as a Laker, and this should ensure that that happens. To play 20 years in the NBA, and to do so with the same team, is unprecedented, and quite an accomplishment. Most importantly however, it assures us that one of the best players in the world will remain a Laker, bringing us excellent play and excitement for years to come.”
The expectation was that Kobe would enter free agency as the Lakers began to retool their roster with plenty of cap space this upcoming offseason. While many felt that he would ultimately return to the purple and gold, this is fantastic news for the organization and the fans, showing that the franchise player is not done quite yet as he searches for his sixth NBA title and the franchises quest for #17.
While there are no contract details available in the press release outside it being for two years, it is said that Kobe will be the highest paid player the next two seasons:
Kobe's contract will be $23.5 million and $25 million, source tells ESPNLA.
The reaction amongst Lakers fans is that of excitement, but also some cautiousness with the amount. Here’s something important to remember. The Lakers will never be an under the cap franchise. They will add the pieces necessary to bring a title back to Los Angeles. Will they ever be around $100 million salary like they were last season?
Most likely not.
This franchise will pay the luxury tax when needed and one thing I know with this front office, they do not do this type of extension without a plan in mind. So stay tuned!
Follow LakerNation throughout the day for reaction and more details!
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.