Thursday, December 18, 2014
Blog Page 31

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Image: Mark J. Rebilas | USA TODAY Sports
Image: Mark J. Rebilas | USA TODAY Sports
Image: Mark J. Rebilas | USA TODAY Sports

All week long, our staff writers have chimed in on a series of topics, rumors and storylines leading up to the start of the season. In this week’s final edition of State of the Nation, our writers examine the Lakers’ biggest key to this upcoming season:

Felipe Amaral // @F_Amaral

The biggest key will be staying healthy. The Lakers don’t have much behind Kobe, Nash and Gasol. Even if Bryant comes back at full strength from the Achilles tear, the Purple & Gold will need Nash’s back and Gasol’s knees to hold up if they want to achieve a successful season.

Jordan Grant // @JordanGrant90

The play of our young players, as well as keeping our older players fresh and injury-free. The new guys were brought in with the specific purpose of providing that spark and fresh legs to keep up with the rest of the NBA. If Pau, Nash, and Kobe can stay healthy, we could be looking at a dangerous team who can compete in the playoffs.

Mark Awad // @MarkeyTheBoss_

Two very important elements. First, the defense needs to be a lot better. We can score 120 points a game, but if you can’t slow down a team, it won’t make a difference. Second of all, chemistry is important. Can Gasol and Nash bring the team in together with so much young talent?

Robert Benitez // @beeb0

Obviously staying healthy is a big one, but I also believe team chemistry is going to be very important this season. It’s no secret Dwight Howard wasn’t exactly the happiest guy in the locker room last season and it’s obvious now that he’s gone, the team is clicking better then they did last year. It is important for the Lakers to keep that chemistry throughout the year and play as a cohesive unit.

Bummi Anderson // @BummiNAnderson

Kobe’s return. He has to be at least 75-80% for LA to make some noise this season. I believe he will return to a higher level than most expected.

Oren Levy // @LakersOren

Health. The Lakers may have added young role players, but their three key guys are on the wrong side of 30, and ailing. If Kobe, Pau, and Nash are healthy, this team has serious potential. If not…get ready for the lottery!

Garret Garcia // @GarrettGarcia

The biggest key to success this season is chemistry. Chemistry proved to be the downfall of the Lakers last season, and if the team can mesh well and communicate, they have a lot more potential then they ever did last season.

Melvin Taylor // @MelvinTaylorII

Chemistry. Look back to the Lakers teams who won championships. Above all else they had chemistry with one another. When Farmar, Ariza, Vujacic and company were on the floor, they meshed well with one another. If they Lakers can play as a team, the sky is the limit.

Jory Dreher // @Jay_Laker

Health, health, and health again. With Steve Nash’s health seemingly declining before out very eyes and no timetable for the return of Kobe Bryant, keeping guys like Pau, Nick Young and Chris Kaman healthy long enough to hold down the fort is going to be crucial.

Jon Gaffer // @jewelslamo

Team defense. As the great Pat Riley once said, “No defense, no rings.”

Alex Lambeth // @AlexLambeth

Health. With Kobe Bryant returning from his torn Achilles, and both Pau Gasol and Steve Nash returning from injury-riddled seasons, the Lakers are going to need some ‘luck’ in the injury department to be successful this season.

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Image: Getty Images
Image: Getty Images
Image: Getty Images

All week long, our staff writers chime in on a series of topics, rumors and storylines leading up to the start of the season. In today’s edition of State of the Nation, our writers gauge whether or not fans will embrace coach Mike D’Antoni this season, especially after last season’s debacle:

With a full training camp under his belt, will coach D’Antoni finally receive a “fair shake” from the Lakers’ faithful this season?

Felipe Amaral // @F_Amaral

Not really. D’Antoni has already lost the faithful’s confidence with his performance last season. Even if the Lakers do well this year and exceed expectations, it’s conceivable that the general feeling would be that it’s happening in spite of D’Antoni, not because of him.

Jordan Grant // @JordanGrant90

I think as fans we owe it to him to back off a bit for now. This is a new season and a new start. How we start the season will be critical for him, but he needs to have our full support for the time being.

Mark Awad // @MarkeyTheBoss_

As long as you coach in Los Angeles and haven’t won a title, you will never get a fair shake. Expectations are extremely high here. The season hasn’t started and D’Antoni might already be on the hot seat. The coach has a target on his back and the only way you get rid of it, is to win baby!

Robert Benitez // @beeb0

No. I’ve always been on the “give D’Antoni a chance” bandwagon, but I’m in the minority. Lakers fans’ biggest issue with D’Antoni is simply the fact that he is not Phil Jackson. At the first sign of trouble, fans will be crying for D’Antoni’s head. The only way to change this is for them to win.

Bummi Anderson // @BummiNAnderson

With a full training camp, Mike D’Antoni will not have any excuses. Management went out and got players for his system, so it’s now “put up or shut up.” With Phil’s ghost lurking, D’Antoni will never get a fair shake with the fans, even with a ring.

Oren Levy // @LakersOren

Nope. Winning is the only way for D’Antoni to get any respect from Laker Nation, and this team is not championship caliber. Fair or not, fans see D’Antoni as the guy who took over this team instead of Phil Jackson. D’Antoni will never get a fair shake. But his replacement might.

Garret Garcia // @GarrettGarcia

I can’t say he will. Phil Jackson was one of the most beloved coaches in Lakers history and D’Antoni will always be the coach who beat him out for the position. D’Antoni will need to start winning and building a team the Lakers can stand behind. Unfortunately, this season doesn’t look like his year.

Melvin Taylor // @MelvinTaylorII

D’Antoni will never truly receive a fair shake unless he wins a championship as the Lakers coach. Point, blank, period. Sorry, but that is the way it is here. You cannot come to this franchise and expect anything less to be sufficient.

Jon Gaffer // @jewelslamo

D’Antoni has been through this scenario with other teams, but not with Lakers fans. We expect results, & demand a winning product. Respect is earned, not given out freely.

Jory Dreher // @Jay_Laker

While I want to say yes, I think it depends on how the Lakers come out of the gate. This is unfair in itself, however, when you consider Steve Nash’s health and the fact that Kobe’s return is still a question mark.

 

Final Question Tomorrow: What will be the biggest key to the Lakers’ success this season?

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Image: Getty Images
Image: Getty Images
Image: Getty Images

All week long, our staff writers chime in on a series of topics, rumors and storylines leading up to the start of the season. In today’s edition of State of the Nation, our writers predict the Lakers’ record through the first seven games of the season (LAC, @GSW, SAS, ATL, @DAL, @HOU, @NO):

In their first 7 games, the Lakers will face six playoff teams, including two back-to-backs. What is your prediction through the first 7 games?

Felipe Amaral // @F_Amaral

2-5 is reasonable. It won’t be pretty and only three of those games will be played at STAPLES Center, so we should expect a slow start.

Jordan Grant // @JordanGrant90

3-4. To be honest I have tempered expectations for this season as well as our first few games. I think the team is still learning to gel together with all the new pieces in place.

Mark Awad // @MarkeyTheBoss_

7-0, why not? The league changes each and every year. We have new weapons and a new identity on both sides of the ball.

Robert Benitez // @beeb0

5-2 with Kobe, 3-4 without Kobe. Opening back-to-back against the Clippers and Warriors won’t be easy for the Lakers. But this entirely depends on if/when Kobe will be back. If he suits up for the season opener and plays the first seven games I believe they have a chance of going 5-2. However, without Kobe for those 7 games I don’t see them doing any better than 3-4.

Bummi Anderson // @BummiNAnderson

4-3. The team is younger with viable backups at each position.

Oren Levy // @LakersOren

4-3. Opening back-to-back against the Clippers and Golden State will be tough, but after that, the Lakers have Dallas, Atlanta, and New Orleans. Those should be wins. All they need to do is go 1-3 against the LAC, GS, SA, and HOU to stay above .500 early on.

Garret Garcia // @GarrettGarcia

3-4. The Lakers open up with a tough stretch against some challenging teams and 3-4 will be a nice record to escape with. The back-to-backs should not be as difficult as they used to be, due to the infusion of youth and athleticism, but nonetheless they will be difficult.

Melvin Taylor // @MelvinTaylorII

4-3. Not too high, not too low. Preseason is one thing, but the regular season means more in the long run. Having a tough task this early, however, can set the tone for the rest of the season. After last year’s performance, 4-3 seems like a dream come true this early.

Jory Dreher // @Jay_Laker

4-3. I think early on a few teams may look at them as “Kobe-less” and it’ll become a let down game, where the opposition fails to prepare properly.

Jon Gaffer // @jewelslamo

I have been saying it since last year. If the Lakers don’t play defense they could lose 6 of 7 games. If they clamp down and concentrate on actually stopping teams from getting easy baskets, they could win 3 of the first 7 games.

Alex Lambeth // @AlexLambeth

3-4. A difficult opening stretch, including two back-to-backs, should be the ultimate test for the Lakers right off the bat. Without Kobe, a record above .500 mark be somewhat surprising, as the Lakers battle some of the top teams in the Western Conference.

 

Next Question Tomorrow: With a full training camp under his belt, will coach D’Antoni receive a “fair shake” from the Lakers’ faithful this season?

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Photo courtesy of Jeff Gross, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Jeff Gross, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Jeff Gross, Getty Images

They’re not exactly the sharp shooting Golden State Warriors, nor do they resemble the run-‘n-gun Denver Nuggets, but the Utah Jazz, rebuilding though they are, sure gave the Lakers a scare to start the game. They went up 9-0 in a blink of an eye, with the home team clearly hung over from their weeklong trip to China.

In the first quarter, the Lakers scored just 18 points on a pathetic 35% shooting, and gave up 26 points and 56% FG to the Jazz. It didn’t look promising, to say the least. Thankfully, the second quarter came around with a set of fresh feet on the floor and with an 8-0 run to start, it was all Lakers from that point on, led by the sparks off the pine. 36 minutes after that slow start, the Lakers got their 108-94 win.

High Points:
Bench Mob 2.0 – A year ago today, after losing their sixth pre-season game in 2012, I posted an article titled, “The Bench Prob.” Dependable reserves were lacking last season. Steve Blake was hurt, and the bulk of the reserve time was given to two players – Jodie Meeks and Antawn Jamison. Yes, tonight was only a pre-season game, and the coaching staff may still be tinkering with line-ups, resulting in the various permutation of players, but the fact that there are so many capable players from which to choose, is the big difference from last season. The Laker bench scored 74 points on 58% from the field. Will they have the opportunity to score this much in the regular season? Possibly, especially with Kobe Bryant’s return date still uncertain. The point is – the Lakers have bench players who can score, make plays and play defense; and do it well. That 8-0 run to start the second quarter was had on the defensive efforts of the five reserves on the floor. They went from shooting just 35% in the first quarter, to 47% going into half time, and brought the Jazz’s shooting percentage down to 41%. Most notable of the bench players, were:
Wes Johnson – Seems we’ve been waiting for Wesley Johnson to make an impact on a game, and he did so tonight. He finished with 14 points on 5-8 from the field, 2-3 from behind the arc, six rebounds, a steal and zero turnovers. In one sequence, he intercepted a pass and tossed the ball to Jodie Meeks who scored on a threeball. His long limbs are only as useful as his level of activity, and Johnson was active tonight.
Jordan Farmar – It’s like he never left, looking as comfortable as he has out there. And his absence the last few seasons has only made this return all the more welcome. In just under 23 minutes playing time, Farmar led the game with 20 points on an efficient 5-7 from the field, 2-3 from behind the arc, 8-9 from the free throw line and handed out a trio of assists. He even managed to get a block.
Jodie Meeks – We’ve been waiting for Meeks to find his flow in the pre-season, and he finally broke out tonight. It wasn’t just his offense that highlighted his night either (15 points on 5-9, 2-4 from 3PT), it was his defense, a facet of his game that wasn’t expected last season, but came as a welcome surprise. He had two steals and three defensive boards, sticking to the likes of Gordon Hayward, who started the game well enough, but finished just 5-15 from the field.

Low
Starters – It wasn’t the most efficient night for the starting five, and it would’ve been nice to see them play a lot more as the regular season approaches, but the reserves played so well, they were almost unnecessary. They only scored a combined 34 points, and compared to the bench players, looked a lot more sluggish on the floor.
Outrebounded – …again. Utah’s Derrick Favors, by himself, had 13 rebounds and the Lakers’ leading rebounder had just six (Pau Gasol, Blake and Johnson).

One more game before the regular season begins. The Lakers still have 16 players on the roster, and are sure to make one or two more cuts before next Tuesday’s opening game against the Clippers. That day just can’t come soon enough.

Box Score

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Image: AP

Kobe Bryant

All week long, our staff writers chime in on a series of topics, rumors and storylines leading up to the start of the season. In today’s edition of State of the Nation, our writers offer their opinions on ESPN ranking Kobe Bryant as the NBA’s 25th best player:

What are your thoughts on Kobe Bryant being ranked 25th by ESPN, and what type of season do you see him having?

Felipe Amaral // @F_Amaral

Outrageous and utterly disrespectful. I wouldn’t take any of the 24 players ranked ahead before the Black Mamba. Coming back from the Achilles, I expect Kobe to take it slow at first, but finish the season strong to prove the world he’s just different. By 2014, it will be all systems go for Mr. Bryant.

Jordan Grant // @JordanGrant90

Kobe’s spot at number 25 is a mistake. You’d rather have 24 NBA players on your team before Kobe Bryant? I’ll attribute the ranking strictly to his age and injury, but when it comes to anything Kobe, he has earned the benefit of the doubt.

Mark Awad // @MarkeyTheBoss_

25th? Disrespectful. Do we ever wonder how Kobe only has one MVP but five championships? I’ll take Kobe with one leg to be a top 10 player. No way the NBA has 24 other players better than him. First match his toughness, second his basketball I.Q. They say the game of basketball is 90% mental and 10% athleticism. Having an Achilles tear is bad, but you just can’t count someone out who nearly led the league in scoring at the age of 35. I would like to see Kobe come back mid-season; have him rest, get in shape, there’s no rush.

Robert Benitez // @beeb0

Kobe’s rank at 25 is purely based on his injury, and for that, it’s a fair rating. If healthy, Kobe would have been ranked in the top 10 where he belongs.

Bummi Anderson // @BummiNAnderson

Kobe being ranked 25th best player is blasphemous! Yes, you take into account the difficulty of returning from an Achilles injury, but Kobe’s endurance, championship pedigree, and work ethic should have been taken into account. Please show me 24 more players who are better on two legs than Kobe on one! 

Oren Levy // @LakersOren

I understand they expect the injury to take a toll on him, but 25 is too low. Kobe was first team All-NBA last season. Anything less than third team would surprise me, even with the Achilles injury. That’s top 15. Still, Kobe has been consistently underrated in NBA Ranks (never ranked in top 5), so it’s nothing new.

Garret Garcia // @GarrettGarcia

Like just about all other fans, I feel it is far too low of a ranking.  However, Kobe is often underrated in rankings and he uses it as fuel to empower himself and prove his doubters wrong.

Melvin Taylor // @MelvinTaylorII

It’s preposterous for Kobe to be ranked the 25th best player. Even with a torn Achilles I would still rather him play than 24 of the other players on the list. The best part about this ranking is that Kobe’s heard about it and is feeding off it. I can guarantee you right now that this ranking will only make a better and even more efficient Kobe.

Jon Gaffer // @jewelslamo

Bryant ranked 25th is all a matter of conjecture. Do I think he should be higher? Probably.

Alex Lambeth // @AlexLambeth

25th is far too low for Kobe Bean Bryant. It is certainly difficult to get a feel for how effective Bryant will be coming off Achilles surgery, but being ranked behind the likes of Chris Bosh, Joakim Noah and John Wall is inexcusable. If Bryant’s rigorous rehabilitation this off-season is any indication, he should be able to overcome this potentially catastrophic injury and reclaim a top 10 status by the end of the season.

 

Next Question Tomorrow: In their first 7 games, the Lakers will face six playoff teams, including two back-to-backs. What is your prediction through the first 7 games?

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Image: Noah Graham | Getty Images

All week long, our staff writers will chime in on a series of topics, rumors and storylines leading up to the start of the season. In today’s edition of State of the Nation, our writers highlight which player has surprised them the most thus far:

Felipe Amaral // @F_Amaral

Chris Kaman. He displayed great chemistry with Pau Gasol right off the bat and that looks to be a good building block for the team in the upcoming season. The Lakers have had success in recent years with two skilled seven-footers sharing the court and that might happen again with Gasol and Kaman.

Jordan Grant // @JordanGrant90

Xavier Henry has been the biggest surprise this preseason. Perhaps it’s more surprising that I’ve never seen a player refuse to pass the ball under any circumstances. Nevertheless, he has proven that he has some great skills and can be a valuable asset to the team. Hopefully Kobe, of all people, can teach him a thing or two about sharing the rock.

Jon Gaffer // @jewelslamo

Steve Nash has surprised me the most in the preseason. He’s already nursing injuries. I thought he would at least get about 15 games under his belt before he blew a tire.

Mark Awad // @MarkeyTheBoss_

No doubt Chris Kaman. Averaging nearly a double-double in the preseason, Kaman seems to have found his groove with fellow big Pau Gasol. No attitude or demand from Kaman, he just does as the coaches tell him with no pressure at all.

Robert Benitez // @beeb0

I’ve been impressed with the entire team so far this preseason, but Nick Young tops the list. Young has been a consistent scorer and has moved the ball efficiently, as well. He also has the skill to get to the basket and create shots for himself, as well as his teammates.

Bummi Anderson // @BummiNAnderson

Pau Gasol. Gasol has struggled mightily the last two seasons while accommodating Andrew Bynum & Dwight Howard. His health has also declined, particularly this past season. Gasol has come out this preseason looking healthy and more aggressive, and it has translated into him having a very good preseason.

Oren Levy // @LakersOren

Wesley Johnson. With his length and athleticism, I expected him to succeed early and often in coach Mike D’Antoni’s system. Instead, he looked hesitant in early preseason action before injuring his foot and missing time.

Alex Lambeth // @AlexLambeth

Chris Kaman. Kaman’s ability to score both inside the paint and from the mid-range has particularly surprised me. Also, his ability to mesh with Pau Gasol has been a welcomed sight thus far. Perhaps Kaman has been injured these past few years, because he certainly looks like the productive Kaman of old.

Garrett Garcia // @GarrettGarcia

Chris Kaman.  Kaman has come into his own with the Lakers and is playing a solid role as center.  He comes without the drama and superstar treatment Howard demanded, and he goes out and plays hard, doing what the coaching staff asks of him.

Melvin Taylor // @MelvinTaylorII

The player that has surprised me most this preseason is Chris Kaman. Playing alongside Gasol has looked almost effortless for him. There will be defensive lapses because of their ages, however, they could become a great duo if Kaman continues to elevate his game.

 

Next Question Tomorrow: What are your thoughts on Kobe Bryant being ranked as the NBA’s 25th best player by ESPN, and what type of season do you see him having?

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As many have heard, the Clippers recently covered up the Lakers’ championship banners and retired numbers at Staples Center, something that will be done for Clippers home games this season.

I have no problem with the Clippers trying to make their home games feel more “Clipper-ish”.  What I do have a problem with are the steps they are taking to do so.

Covering up championship banners is one thing, but covering up retired numbers of Lakers’ legends, including that of the great late Chick Hearn is ridiculous.  I don’t even want to start with the fact that the jerseys are covered with a picture of guard Jamal Crawford.

clippers-banners-close-up-500x250

The decision, which was reportedly that of Doc Rivers, raises some questions as to the thought process behind it.   Considering he was the head coach of the Boston Celtics, the move makes sense since he was associated with the Lakers’ rivals, but one has to believe he would not be okay with the move if another NBA team played at TD Garden and covered up the Celtics’ championship banners for their home games.

A rivalry with the Lakers is nothing new for Rivers, who coached the Celtics in the 2008 and 2010 Finals, prevailing in 2008.

“Listen, I think this is our arena when we play,” Rivers told the Los Angeles Times. “So I just thought it would be good that we show our guys. No disrespect to them. But when we play, it’s the Clippers’ arena as far as I know.” – Sports Illustrated article

Let’s face it, the banners being covered up is not just to make the arena feel more like a Clippers’ game.  It is clearly an attempt to step out of the shadow of the Lakers’ storied history and try to create a new identity for themselves.

Although, there are other alternatives to accomplish that, such as hanging a banner of your own, which is usually something that get’s you noticed.  Or even moving out out of Staples Center to Anaheim or back to San Diego is another option.  As long as the Clippers stay in Los Angeles, they will be known as the other basketball team in LA.

Yes, Staples Center belongs to the Clippers too.  It also belongs to the Sparks (WNBA) and Kings (NHL) as well.   Stop and think how people would react if those franchises decided to start covering up other team’s banners to make their game feel more like a home game.  It is silly to even think about.

Unfortunately for the Clippers, this move is irrelevant.   You can’t cover up the reputation of the purple and gold.  Covering up banners only puts more emphasis on the fact that the Lakers have won 16 NBA titles and that the Clippers have to hang glorified Fathead posters in an attempt to make people forget about the Lakers at their home games.

Fans of the Clippers that I have spoken to have all surprisingly been against the covering of the banners, even to the point where they called it childish.  All fans will have different opinions on it, but I’m sure that their fan base would be more than happy with not bringing any attention to the Lakers, which is what this has resulted in.

The Clippers will be one of the top teams in the league this season.  They have the talent and coaching to do so, it’s just unfortunate that this move can be seen as something Donald Sterling would have done years ago when they were down and out.

Let’s just hope that statues aren’t the next thing to be covered up or that Doc Rivers forces the Team LA store to not sell any Lakers gear during home games.

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Photo Credit: Evan Gole / Getty Images

While the Lakers were off in China, the Clippers made some changes to the Staples Center scenery. During their home games, the Clippers now will place banners of their starters and key reserves in front of the Lakers’ championship banners, and retired jerseys, blocking them from view.

Photo Credit: Evan Gole / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Evan Gole / Getty Images

The goal, new coach Doc Rivers says, is to promote The Clippers’ own players, and give the building a Clipper feeling.

Rivers has a history of making modifications to Staples Center to give his team a psychological edge. While he coached the Celtics, Doc hid money in the visitor’s locker room, telling his players they could have it once they played the Lakers again – in the finals. Keeping that money stashed in the Lakers’ home helped bond the Celtics, and give them confidence against the Purple and Gold.

The Clippers, like most of the league, are certainly enjoying kicking the Lakers while they are down.

But if those banners and jerseys lurking behind the likes of Jared Dudley and J.J. Redick are any indication, the Lakers won’t be down for long.

 

 

 

 

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Photo Credit: Getty Images
Photo Credit: Getty Images
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Getting Shanghai’d in Shanghai – the headline writes itself, doesn’t it? In their final meeting of the pre-season series in China, the Lakers and Warriors faced off in seemingly equal footing to start the game, but ended in a completely lopsided victory for Golden State.

After Pau Gasol and Andrew Bogut greeted the crowd at Mercedes Benz Arena, the contest that followed seemed a relatively equal match-up. Neither team was shooting lights-out, David Lee was muted slightly from the previous monster game and the Lakers even closed out the half on a 10-0 run.

The second half was a completely different contest, however. The score was 68-65 Warriors, at the six-minute mark of the third quarter, until Klay Thompson unleashed a trio of threes that marked the start of the Lakers’ unfortunate end. Golden State pummeled the purple gold, 115-86.

High Points

First Half – The Warriors still managed to score 52 points on 50% shooting, but the Lakers’ defensive efforts were there. Behind by eight points with three minutes left in the second quarter, they managed to get five consecutive stops and capitalized on the other end to recapture the lead. They also forced Golden State into 10 turnovers while committing just six of their own and they got to the free throw line more than twice as much as their opponents, scoring on 13-16 from the charity stripe.

Low Points

Second Half – Aside from Jodie Meeks intercepting a pass and then getting it back on the other end to score a three, the Lakers did little else to salvage this game. In a nutshell, they were outscored 63-35 in the final two quarters. [See below].

Perimeter Defense – Coach Dave Miller preaches it to the point of exhaustion, but he’s got a point – K.I.P. = Know Your Personnel. The Warriors shoot threes. Their two star players aren’t called the Splash Brothers for nothing, yet the Lakers failed to rotate to the shooter(s) possession after possession. The Warriors went 15-26 from behind the arc. 45 of Golden State’s 115 points came from 22 feet out; the majority of those attempts uncontested. Aside from their shooting acumen, is their ability to run on the break.

Lack of Ball Movement – The Lakers handed out 19 assists for the game. The Warriors’ Andre Iguodola, by himself, sent out 14. It’s never a good sign when the small forward from one team hands out almost as many dimes as the opposing team, especially when that opposing team is led by Steve Nash. 14 Lakers saw the floor, but only six players handed out an assist. Every Warrior who saw the floor, save for Bogut, who left the game early in the first quarter due to back issues, made some sort of play, led by Iguodola’s efforts. The Lakers only had 10 assists in the first half, and handed out even less in the second so it’s no surprise that their six turnovers in the first two quarters, were followed by 15 in the last two. Nine assists to 15 turnovers is no way to win a game, and with the 31-18 disadvantage on fast break points, those turnovers were costly.

Rebounds – This seems to be a trend for the Lakers, this lack of interest in cleaning up the glass. Again this pre-season, they were outrebounded. Tonight it was a 46-36 disparity, with notably little efforts on the offensive boards.

It’s time to head home to the good ol’ U.S. of A – thank goodness. A 2-4 pre-season record now stands, thought it’s hard to analyze the true metrics of a win or loss when the Lakers’ starters’ minutes are kept on a relatively short leash, and the opposing team plays their regular rotation players until the final buzzer. A new starting line-up was placed on the floor again today, but with just two more games in the pre-season schedule, the Lakers’ coaching staff has to define some sort of normalcy and regularity with the rotation by the time the regular season begins.

Box Score

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For fans, it is easy to look at a player’s history in the league and quickly decide if he will be of little help to their team.

Former lottery pick Xavier Henry, signed on with the team back in September and understandably was seen as another training camp invite after his first three seasons in the league being categorized as “underwhelming”.

The 22-year old shooting guard has turned some heads in early game action, notably in the first preseason game versus the Golden State Warriors, where Henry scored 29 points.  As an encore performance, the Belgium born player scored 15 points versus the Denver Nuggets the following night.

After five games, Henry is averaging 13.6 points a game, on 43% shooting from the field and 55% from beyond the arc.   With his shooting touch and athleticism, the 22-year old has shown that he could be something more than just another camp body and has forced his way into the Lakers roster situation.

As it stands, the Lakers roster is at 16 players following the latest roster casualty, Darius Johnson-Odom, who was cut Wednesday evening.  While a team can carry 15 players on their roster, the likeliest of scenarios is the roster being trimmed down to 14 before opening night.

With the Lakers roster currently guard heavy, it would not be shocking to see Henry cut, but at the same it would not come as a surprise to see him make the squad.   It could very well come down to a decision between Henry and Marcus Landry for the final spot.

While both have a good chance to start the season with the D-Fenders if they are in fact released, it will be a tough decision with the emergence of Henry and Mike D’Antoni’s familiarity with Landry.

What makes the potential roster spot for Henry so intriguing is the effect it could have on other players, namely Jodie Meeks, who could become expendable.

While nothing is definite, Henry has the potential to exceed the production Meeks has given in his short time in Los Angeles.  With his athleticism, shooting, and ability to get to the rim, he could be more of a fit than Meeks, who is considered a catch-and-shoot player, while Henry can be seen as the more dynamic of the two.

Henry, selected 12th overall by the Memphis Grizzlies in 2010, has dealt with high expectations since his days in high school, where he was considered one of the top shooting guards in the country.  After leaving the University of Kansas after one season, Henry failed to live up to the expectations of a lottery pick, averaging 4.5 points a game in three seasons.  Although as we have seen in the past with D’Antoni’s free flowing system, it could be just the situation Henry needs to improve his production on the offensive end.

Up to this point, Henry has made a pretty good argument for himself to earn the final roster spot despite playing through a wrist injury.  With three games left in the pre-season, he has a chance to strengthen that argument.

While I do not expect Henry to be in the running for sixth man of the year, he could be yet another diamond in the rough role player that can quality depth to the bench, something the Lakers have not had in quite some time.

With the Lakers headed towards a big off-season with ample cap space, it is important they find young players that will stay on the roster past this season.

While we can only hope he is not cut because of a rosters numbers game, Henry has done more than enough to earn his spot with the purple and gold.

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

Playing across the Pacific in China, a country of two billion people, the Lakers took on the Golden State Warriors for the second time this pre-season. Not surprisingly, it was an offensive show. What can you expect from two offensively-minded teams?

The Lakers appear to have found their consistency on the offensive end, putting up an exceptional shooting show for the fans in Beijing…for three quarters, that is. Despite leading by as much as 11-points going into the final quarter, the Laker line-up to finish the game couldn’t compete with the Warriors’ star players and they lost 100-95.

High Points
David Lee – It’s only fair to give accolades to the player with the most impressive stat line tonight, and with 31 points on 12-16 from the field, six rebounds, four assists and a steal, Lee takes the cake. He couldn’t miss, scoring 22 of his final point tally in the first half on a hot 9-11 shooting. Fellow Warrior Andrew Bogut led the game with 14 rebounds and Steph Curry finished what was turning out to be a bad shooting night with 24 points on 7-18, but Lee clearly stood out.
Gasol-Kaman – And so the awesome twosome live! Who knew?! With the team set to run Mike D’Antoni’s offense, the idea of two bigs on the floor with Steve Nash didn’t seem like a plausible cog in a system based on speed. But not even D’Antoni can deny the effectiveness of two physically and mentally able big men like Gasol and Kaman. The two have similar abilities (good range of shooting, smart playmaking), and have started for the third time in this pre-season. Clearly this starting combo is a first option (so far) for the Lakers’ coaching staff. Gasol finished with 15 points, six rebounds and three assists in his almost 27 minutes of play; and Kaman rattled off 14 points on a perfect 7-7 from the field, 10 rebounds, three assists and a block in 22 minutes.
Nick Young – He’s looked like a kid in a candy store ever since he posed with that Laker jersey at his introductory press conference. Since then, Young has proven that his excitement and enthusiasm is not all he can contribute to this team. Score, score, score – that’s what this former Trojan can do. And he can not only score, he can score from virtually anywhere. Tonight he finished with 18 points on a consistent 7-10 from the field, including 3-4 from behind the ark. He managed to hand out a trio of dimes and went 23 minutes without a single turnover.

Low Points
4th Quarter – They closed the third quarter with an 11-point lead, but the interchanging line-ups of Jordan Hill, Darius Johnson-Odom, Xavier Henry, Elias Harris, Shawne Williams, Robert Sacre and Ryan Kelly just couldn’t close in the end. It took two and a half minutes before the Lakers scored their first points in the fourth, after Golden State had hit two three-pointers to cut the lead to five points. It seemed that for every Warrior make, there were two Laker misses. The Warriors outscored the Lakers 31-15 in that final quarter, which was enough for Golden State to take the game. To be fair, the Warriors played their regular rotation players against the last Laker players who emptied the bench, so it was no contest.

Despite losing the game in the end, the Lakers competed for 36 minutes against a solid Warriors team, and their chemistry off the court (based on players’ interaction on this long journey via social media), seems to be affecting their chemistry on it.

Box Score

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

All week long, our staff writers have chimed in on a series of topics, rumors and storylines leading up to the start of the season. In the final edition of State of the Nation this week, they wonder if this Lakers team has it in them to make any noise in the postseason.

As currently constructed, how far can the Lakers go in the playoffs?

Alex Lambeth // @AlexLambeth:

Again, the Lakers’ success this season remains contingent upon their ability to stay healthy and Kobe’s return. Even in the stacked Western Conference, the Lakers can be a competitive force. But as a potential 6-8 seed, they will have trouble matching up with the top tier teams in the West.

Jon Gaffer // @jewelslamo:

IF they make the playoffs, it’s one round and see ya’ later.

Mark Awad // @MarkeyTheBoss_:

The Lakers will go as far as Kobe, Nash and especially Pau take them. I’m expecting Kobe to be healthy come playoff time, and by then, Nash will be orchestrating the offense. It’ll be up to Gasol to find an identity in the paint. When we talk about facing bigs like Dwight, Duncan, Randolph and Griffin, Pau will have his work cut out for him.

Robert Benitez // @beeb0:

I don’t see the Lakers getting higher than 7th place, which puts them against the 2 seed who will probably be Oklahoma City, the Clippers, or even the Spurs again. If any of those scenarios come true, they’re a first round exit team.

Ashkan Kargaran // @aakargaran

If the Lakers were to sneak into the playoffs, they will be bounced out in the first round. This team, as currently constructed, is too good to be a lottery team and not good enough to be a contender. This is the worst position to be in as an NBA franchise, especially when the upcoming draft is loaded with talent.

Bummi Anderson // @BummiNAnderson

The Lakers have too many pieces to miss the playoffs entirely. However, I can’t see them climbing the ladder in the Western Conference, so look for them to finish around the 7th seed and most likely lose in the first round.

Melvin Taylor // @MelvinTaylorII:

2nd round. The first round might be tough, but it is possible. The second round will be a true test, and one that may be too much for this current team to pass.

Oren Levy // @LakersOren:

They can make the WCF if everything breaks right. The West is tough at the top this year, with San Antonio, OKC, LAC, and the Rockets looking good. However, each of those contenders has flaws. Westrbook is hurt, starting the Thunder at a disadvantage, and the Spurs are one year older, coming off a devastating Finals loss. The Clippers have no clear best five to close out games, and the Rockets have yet to play a game together. There is no obvious favorite out West, which leaves the door open for this run-and-gun group to go far – if they can come together just right.

Garrett Garcia // @GarrettGarcia:

The Lakers will likely find themselves ousted in the first round again, but they’re not likely to get swept again. The West is far too formidable for L.A. to make many moves in the playoffs.

Anna Gonda // @AnnaLBG:

Without considering their health, or the health of the teams around them, as they are currently constructed, the Lakers could make it to the second round.

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Photo courtesy of Ethan Miller, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Ethan Miller, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Ethan Miller, Getty Images

“The Lakers left their defense in Ontario,” my friend texted.

Looks like they dropped off their offense somewhere between Vegas and Barstow too, I thought.

Maybe they’re still getting over last night’s get-together in Sin City. Maybe all the experimental rotations are still confusing the chemistry. Whatever the excuse, the Lakers started the game well enough, then completely collapsed in the end, losing to the Sacramento Kings, 104-86.

High
Gasol-Kaman Tandem – They played the majority of their 22:23 minutes apiece in the first half, starting together for the second game in a row. So far, two games’ worth of the Lakers’ new twin towers is proof enough that this partnership not only works – it works well. The game opened with Gasol sending a lob from the top of the key to Kaman; a play they duplicated later in the quarter. Gasol and Kaman scored (13 and 12 points respectively), made plays (five and two assists) and kept their hands active on the glass (five and six rebounds). Gasol, especially, looks more comfortable playing in the last three pre-season games than he has in the last three seasons.
Nick Young – Young’s game is a little less refined than that of Kobe Bryant’s, but his footwork, ability to score from all distances, situations and body contortions, and most of all confidence are reminiscent of the Mamba and are just as exciting. Young’s been one of the more consistent players in the pre-season, and tonight he went for 17 points on 6-13 from the field, 2-5 from downtown, grabbed five rebounds, handed out a pair of assists and even got a steal. Young started in the small forward position and has certainly made a good impression on the coaching staff. If he continues this play before the regular season, his place in the rotation will be solidified.
Jodie Meeks – Finally! A relatively good shooting night for Jodie Meeks. With his threeball still warming up (let’s face it, he’s been lukewarm at best), Meeks did what he doesn’t do often – score at the hoop. In a series of cuts to the basket, Meeks was on the receiving end of hand-offs that earned him some easy scoring. He finished with a solid 19 points on 6-13 from the field.
Turnovers – After racking of 65 turnovers in their previous three games, the 10 mistakes tonight were a pleasant sight. The downside is that the Lakers had just two turnovers in the entire first half, but got careless in the final two quarters.

Low
Defense – After allowing Sacramento to score 30 points in the first quarter, the Lakers tightened their defense in the second, allowing just 18 points before halftime. Unfortunately, short-term memory kicked in before the second half where the Kings rattled off 56 points. The score was 73-69 in favor of Sacramento after three quarters. It was a manageable deficit to start the final 12 minutes. But quicker than you can say turnover, the lead ballooned to 22 points, because not only could they not stop they ball, they couldn’t shoot it either.
Offense – Tonight’s offensive struggles didn’t mirror that of Sunday night against the Nuggets, when the Lakers tried to score from all over the floor, near and far. No. The ability to score this evening is due in large part to the 32 threes they attempted, and a mere eight of which they converted. Sacrament took 17 three pointers and scored on eight. Even Meeks, a three point specialist, is undergoing such disconnect with his longshot this pre-season, that he’s resorted to cutting to the hoop to get some easy layups. It’s a wonder why the rest of his teammates didn’t follow suit. Having done so might’ve won this game for the Lakers. The threeball was just too tempting, and as a result, Meeks went just 2-7 from downtown, Marcus Landry was 1-4 and Steve Blake was 0-8! After shooting just 38% in the first half, the Lakers finished the game at a paltry 35% from the field.
Rebounds – Outrebounded…again. A 50-38 disparity on the glass. Robert Sacre played 12 minutes at the center position and didn’t collect a single rebound. The team missed 55 shots and managed to get their hands on just seven offensive boards. There was talk on the radio after one of the Laker practices, that the coaching staff have asked the players to run back on defense as quickly as they can, often having to abandon their chance at an offensive board. Unfortunately in tonight’s case, getting back on D didn’t seem to make much difference because they were outhustled to the hoop regardless.
Steve Nash – Nash played just 8:34 minutes, sitting out the rest of the game due to a sore left ankle. Apparently, he’d felt pain in that area before training camp began. Hopefully this isn’t an indication of another lingering injury.

Lakers are off to China on Friday afternoon, and they’ll be there just over a week to play a couple of games against the Golden State Warriors. Here’s hoping another game of struggling O and D aren’t part of their travel plans.

Box Score

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

All week long, our staff writers chime in on a series of topics, rumors and storylines leading up to the start of the season. In today’s edition of State of the Nation, they ask the question that everyone is asking… .

How many games will the Lakers win this season?

Alex Lambeth // @AlexLambeth:

46 games. Is that a little optimistic? Sure. But if the Lakers can stay relatively healthy, develop chemistry and Kobe returns to form, the Lakers have the pieces to compete in the Western Conference and make the playoffs.

Jon Gaffer // @jewelslamo:

Lakers should win 40 games IF they have committed themselves to playing better defense. The problem is, we know where defense ranks with their coach.

Mark Awad // @MarkeyTheBoss_:

I’d say between 42 and 52. The west is tough. They Lakers might just be an 8th seed again, but I could see them moving as high as the 5th seed. It all depends how this team will click.

Robert Benitez // @beeb0:

I say over .500… I’ll put them at 46 wins.

Ashkan Kargaran // @aakargaran

Completely depends on how many games Kobe will miss this season. My guess is that he’ll be back around Christmas, so I project the team to finish with about 35 wins and not make the playoffs.

Bummi Anderson // @BummiNAnderson

In a huge surprise, look for 46-50 wins.

Melvin Taylor // @MelvinTaylorII:

41 games. Not too high, not too low, but .500 is pretty good goal for this team. If they gel well enough, I could see them getting to 50-55 wins.

Oren Levy // @LakersOren:

50. The Lakers improved at every position, except for Center, during the off-season. In addition to integrating a new coach mid-season, last year the Lakers had terrible luck with injuries. Nash missed 32 games, Gasol 33. Key reserves Jordan Hill and Steve Blake missed a combined 90 games. Assuming the Lakers are healthy this year, their new length and depth on the wing (Nick Young, Wes Johnson, Xavier Henry, Jordan Farmar, Shawne Williams) will compensate for the downgrade from Howard to Kaman at Center, and then some.

Garrett Garcia // @GarrettGarcia:

The Lakers will realistically win 45 games if they don’t make any signficant moves and continue throughout the season with the same roster.

Anna Gonda // @AnnaLBG:

Optimism says the Lakers will win 50 games. A notch below optimism says they’ll probably win about 47.

 

Next Question Tomorrow: As currently constructed, how far can the Lakers go in the playoffs?

 

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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.