Thursday, November 27, 2014
Blog Page 43

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PhotoCredit:GettyImages
PhotoCredit:Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
PhotoCredit:Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Everyone knows Kobe Bryant is one of the world’s greatest competitors that it has ever seen, and everyone knows that the Los Angeles Lakers need him to play well and every minute on the court is of paramount importance to their success.  However, everyone may not know that coach D’Antoni is overplaying Bryant over these past four games as Kobe has played nearly all 48 minutes in every contest.  That’s right, almost 48 minutes, that is unreal even for a player in their mid 20’s let alone a 34 year old Bryant.

In the past four games the Lakers played SAC, DAL, MEM, LAC, and Bryant played 47 minutes 37 seconds, 47 minutes four seconds, 42 minutes 32 seconds, and 47 minutes 20 seconds in each game respectively.  That’s an average of about 46 minutes per game, an extremely high amount for someone with the mileage that Kobe Bryant has on his body.  However, if anyone could do it it’s Bryant, he takes care of himself, conditions well, and makes sure he is always in top shape so he can perform his best on the basketball court.

PhotoCredit:AP-PhotoMarkJ.Terrill
PhotoCredit:AP-PhotoMarkJ.Terrill

Even though Bryant is clearly capable of playing these minutes as he’s exhibited these past four games, it’s going to harm him in the long run should the Lakers make the playoffs.  It’s even affecting him now, and considering Bryant is coming off a severely sprained ankle and a bone spur on the same foot, these minutes seem to be taking a toll on Bryant.

Throughout these past four games Bryant’s shooting percentage is down sitting at 37% during the span, and he’s even worse from beyond the arc at a paltry 5% on 1-20 shooting, the lone make being against the Clippers in a loss on Sunday. This can be attributed to tired legs and Bryant just not quite being able to muster up all his strength at times when he normally could on adequate rest.

There is a silver lining though as Bryant’s RPG and APG have been dramatically higher as he works to get his teammates involved early and often and stays active on the boards, securing rebounds and extra possessions.  Bryant, over the span, is averaging 8 RPG, and 11 APG, both significantly higher than his season averages.  He’s also averaging 22.75 PPG which is noticeably lower than his season average of 26.96 PPG, but that can be attributed to his increased assist total as Bryant is looking to pass more often than taking shots.

Playing these kind of minutes takes a large toll on a 34 year old body with the kind of basketball mileage that Bryant has accumulated throughout his career.  Seeing those numbers dip to a sub-par level is just a precursor of what fans can expect to see come playoff time should the Lakers make it.  If Kobe doesn’t start to see some rest soon he could be completely burnt out come playoff time, having used up his energy just to make it their. Bryant isn’t playing this many minutes unwillingly however says coach D’Antoni.  This via latimes.com:

“A lot of it is in the moment, ‘How do you feel?’ ‘What’s going on?'” said D’Antoni about making sure Bryant isn’t overextended. “We’re trying to steal minutes when we can for him.”

“He insists.  He wants to play,” according to D’Antoni.  “I’ve got to trust how he feels about his body and how he feels about his situation.”

Regardless of whether Kobe wants to play these minutes or not, someone has to step in and say enough is enough and he needs to start saving some of those

PhotoCredit:AP Photo:Mark J. Terrill
PhotoCredit:AP Photo:Mark J. Terrill

minutes for a potential playoff run.  There is no point to work this hard to make the playoffs if the Lakers lose in the first round because their star player is burnt out. There needs to be a common ground where Bryant can play a larger sum of minutes and still get the rest he needs and deserves during these important games.

Kobe Bryant wants his team to make the playoffs more than anything and he is willing to go to extreme measures to ensure that happens.  Unfortunately it’s at the expense of his health and overall stamina which may affect his level of play should the Lakers make the playoffs. Seeing Bryant play this much is a true testament to his will and drive to win, but even he knows he needs to save himself for the playoffs, which is all Los Angeles has ever played for. Bryant’s minutes need to decrease over the next five games if the Lakers hope to keep him at full strength for the playoffs, and they need to find a way to win at least four of those next five games without Bryant playing so much if they hope to hang onto that elusive eighth seed and make a playoff run.

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Photo: Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images

The Lakers ended their three game week going 2-1 with their only loss coming to the Clippers. The Lakers had a golden opportunity to increase their lead over the Utah Jazz but instead let the lead slip away and now find themselves half a game behind Utah for the 8th and final playoff spot. With only five games left to go, the Lakers need all the wins they can get if they want to extend their season past next week. Here are this week’s Top to Bottom:

 

TOP

 

Photo: Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images

3. Pau Gasol

Pau’s game has been steadily improving since his return from injury and he has been playing better along side Dwight Howard. This week Pau averaged 15 points and 10.6 rebounds a game while shooting 52.6% from the field. With only five games left in the season Pau is going to have to keep his big boy pants on and continue to put these types of numbers up.

2. Kobe Bryant

Will Kobe Bryant ever cease to amaze us? This week Vino has averaged over 45 minutes a game. With Steve Nash and MWP out Kobe has been forced to play a staggering amount of minutes while trying to will this team into the playoffs. In the three games this week Kobe averaged 24 points, 10 assists, and 7.6 rebounds a game. He also recorded his 19th career triple-double against the Dallas Mavericks when he went for 23 points, 11 rebounds, and 11 assists. Will the Black Mamba be able to continue to play these extended minutes? Does he have a choice?

1. Earl Clark

Last week, Earl Clark reached number 1 on my bottom list and I asked the question “Is ‘Clarksanity’ over?” This week, Eazy ensured us that it is definitely not over yet. With MWP and Steve Nash out with injuries the bench rotation was very short and Clark saw some very productive minutes. Clark averaged 14.6 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks a game highlighted by his performance against the Dallas Mavericks where he went for 17 points, 12 rebounds, and 5 blocked shots while leading the team in the plus/minus category with a +22. Let’s hope Eazy can keep this up in the last five games and hopefully into the playoffs.

 

BOTTOM

 

Photo: USA TODAY Sports

3. Steve Blake

Steve Blake didn’t necessarily have a bad week, but it definitely wasn’t up to par compared to some of his previous games. As a starter, Blake shot 40% from the field and 33% from long range, both short of his season average of 42% each. Blake had weekly averages of 8.3 points and 2.3 assists a game this week. Steve Blake will continue to start for Steve Nash, who still has no return date set.

2. Antawn Jamison

Antawn didn’t get off the bench much against Dallas and the Clippers this week, playing only 17 minutes in each of those games compared to his season average of 21mpg, and in turn was not very productive.  Jamison had weekly averages of only 8.3 points and 2 rebounds a game in the three games played this week and was the only player with a minus versus Dallas (-2) and lead the team in the minus category against the Clippers with a -15. Jamison’s season has been pretty up and down but he has always remained calm and collected. Let’s hope Jamison gets himself going again in these last five games.

1.  Jodie Meeks

Meeks has not seen much success since joining the starting line up. In the three games this week Meeks only averaged 5.3 points and went 4-13 from long range. Meeks will see a decrease in minutes in Tuesday’s game against the New Orleans Hornets when Metta World Peace makes his surprising come back just 12 days after having torn meniscus surgery. Let’s hope Meeks’ return to the bench helps his game as we need him to start knocking down some of those three-pointers.

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Image: Chris Graythen | Getty Images
Image: Chris Graythen | Getty Images

According to reports out of Lakers’ practice today, Metta World Peace is likely to make his return to the lineup as early as Tuesday night:

World Peace originally tore the lateral meniscus in his left knee against the Golden State Warriors back on March 25th. He then had surgery to repair the tear on March 28th.

Lakers’ doctors originally said World Peace would be out at least six weeks after surgery.

Today’s news comes as quite a surprise, considering World Peace had surgery just 12 days ago. World Peace credited healthy eating, yoga and off-season workouts for his speedy recovery.

As Mike Trudell reported, if there are no setbacks or swelling from today’s workout, World Peace is likely to play in Tuesday’s matchup with the New Orleans Hornets.

This miraculous recovery is certainly a welcomed sight for the Lakers.

With only five regular season games remaining, and Kobe Bryant playing close to 48 minutes per game, getting World Peace back in the lineup this soon could be a catalyst for the stretch run.

In related news, point guard Steve Nash did not practice today and is considered “doubtful” for Tuesday’s game. Nash continues dealing with both hip and hamstring injuries, but remains listed as “day-to-day”.

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The Clippers battle the Lakers today with a chance to sweep the season series and clinch the Pacific Division title.   The last time these two teams met, the Clippers hit an incredible 16-30 from three to blow the game wide open.  Particularly memorable was Chauncey Billups going 5-7 from 3 in just 16 minutes and Chris Paul destroying the Lakers to the tune of 24 points and 13 assists.  Those stats actually don’t do Paul justice. He absolutely had his way with the Lakers defense, destroying Nash on isolations, taking advantage of pick and rolls, and of course hitting his fair share of 3s as well.

As strange as it may sound, the Lakers may be better off with Nash sitting this one out. Even if Nash does return, he likely won’t be completely healthy which clearly doesn’t bode well for the Lakers. Steve Blake is much more equipped to guard CP3 than Nash and actually did a decent job on the star guard.  The Clippers boast several players off the ball who can hit from 3 including Butler, Green, Crawford, and Barnes. It’s paramount for Kobe to not roam recklessly as has been his wont for much of the year.  Kobe has been more vigilant off the ball the last few games and I think that will be the case today as well.

In addition to the backcourt’s destruction, Blake Griffin also had his way with the Lakers/Peace in February going for 22 points in 31 minutes. With no Metta today, the Lakers will counter Blake’s athleticism with Dwight or the length of Pau in the half court. Dwight is as healthy as he has been all season, which is critical because of his importance in guarding the pick and roll.  Pau didn’t play in the last game, but he’s playing today and more importantly is playing with purpose. For all of his great shot blocking ability, DeAndre Jordan isn’t actually a great on-ball defender.  In fact, his subpar individual defense was on display earlier this week, getting torched by Roy Hibbert.  The opportunities will be there for Pau to make his mark, regardless of whether Griffin or Jordan is guarding him.

Despite the Clippers having their way with the Lakers throughout the series, several signs point to things turning around today. First and foremost, it can be argued that the Lakers are actually playing better than the Clippers down the stretch. Second, the taste of that last blowout to the Clippers must surely be on the Lakers minds, as is the thought of a potential sweep to these guys.  I imagine those two thoughts are enough to fend off any potential fatigue from playing a 7 man rotation.   Lastly, the aforementioned fundamental factors make today an excellent opportunity to exact some revenge.  I think the Lakers will seize that opportunity.

Play: Lakers +4.5

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Harry How | Getty Images Sport
Harry How | Getty Images Sport

These days, every game is a must-win, but with the Jazz beating the Hornets tonight, the Lakers needed this to maintain its half game lead for the eighth seed.

The Lakers played strong defense for multiple quarters to beat an extremely tough Memphis team. Pau Gasol rose to the occasion against younger brother Marc, and Earl Clark continued to prove to everyone that he can still grow as a player and be a solid contributor off the bench.

On a night where Dwight Howard was limited by fouls and a poor performance from the Lakers guards (not named Kobe Bryant), the Lakers dug deep and mustered enough energy to hold off 86-84.

HIGH POINTS:

Pau Gasol- Despite a sluggish return from a torn plantar fascia injury, Gasol is starting to look like his former self. Active and aggressive the entire game, he notched 19 points (on an efficient 8/14), nine rebounds, and three assists. With Dwight Howard burdened by foul trouble most of the second half, Gasol was key in the Lakers 21-8 run to end the third quarter.

Earl Clark- Assumed by many to have “hit his ceiling”, Clark’s resurgence as of late has been a blessing for the Lakers second unit. Clark scored 13 points and grabbed 5 rebounds, but his defense is what really made a difference, punctuated by a stunning fourth-quarter block on a seemingly open Qunicy Pondexter transition dunk.

Kobe Bryant- The Black Mamba was his efficient self, dishing out nine assists and scoring 24 points. He took what the Grizzlies gave him and was effective in isolation and pick and roll sets.

Defense- We don’t get to write about the Lakers defense very often, but tonight, they played aggressively and with energy. Howard was his usual dominant self inside the paint, but it was the communication that helped the Lakers limit the Grizzlies to only 39 first-half points and 18 fourth-quarter points.

LOW POINTS:

Turnovers- This has been par for the course this season and tonight was no different. A stingy Memphis team had something to do with the 18 Lakers turnovers, but Bryant, Blake and Howard (4-5-4, respectively) simply didn’t take care of the ball very well. If this game was a loss, it would have been due to turnovers, especially since the Grizzlies capitalized for 16 points off turnovers.

Jodie Meeks- It’s difficult to stay mad at Jodie Meeks because he gives 100% effort on the court, but he simply was outclassed by the Memphis backcourt tonight. The Grizzlies exploited Meeks regularly tonight, resulting in huge games from Mike Conley (21 points) and Jerryd Bayless (14 points). Meeks also struggled on the offensive end, going 1/5 for two points.

Short Rotation/Minutes- We know D’Antoni is notorious for short rotations, and at this point, it’s hard to fault him for  only going seven deep given the playoff situation. Surprisingly, Bryant was able to get five minutes of rest tonight while the Lakers clung to a 13-point lead. However, if Nash doesn’t come back soon and Jamison continues to limp through the remainder of the season, the Lakers might burn out too soon.

This was a big win for a team that really needed it to stay alive and has no margin for error. This kind of game against a playoff team can really build momentum heading into the playoffs, and the Lakers will need this type of energy on Sunday against their younger, more explosive neighbors: the Los Angeles Clippers.

 

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The Lakers come in off two impressive wins against the Kings in Sacramento and a Mavericks team desperately trying to qualify for the playoffs. Particularly noteworthy is their defense over the last 7 quarters during which they haven’t conceded more than 23 points. Could the Lakers finally be playing with the urgency befitting a team fighting for their playoff lives? They just may be.

The Grizzlies will pose quite the challenge for the Lakers on the defensive end with stalwarts Tony Allen and Tayshaun Prince both looking to hound Kobe into tough shots all night.   Steve Blake was somewhat loose with the ball last game so look for Mike Conley to exert some extra pressure as well. Expect the Lakers to struggle executing all night with the brunt of the play making falling on Kobe and Steve Blake, both of whom will be severely challenged. Offensively, the Grizzlies prefer to attack in the half court with their fearsome duo of Gasol and Randolph instead of running in transition.   While they are effective, the Lakers are capable of playing good half court defense against teams that don’t challenge them to get back on defense or to make multiple rotations and Memphis fits the bill.

After a series of overs, the Lakers renewed commitment on the defensive end has led to 2 consecutive games going under the total. However, that previous stretch of overs has given the under some value because the odds makers can’t adjust the total too quickly. Add it all up and it seems like we’re in for a defensive struggle where both teams will have problems execute their offense all night.

Play: Under 190

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The Lakers are in the final stretch of the 2012-13 NBA season. Will they hold on to the #8 seed and beat the Utah Jazz to the finish line? We discuss on STNTV.

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Photo by: Gerald Herbert / Associated Press
Photo: Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images
Photo: Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images

To say this has been a tumultuous, nerve wracking, and often times, very difficult season to watch, might be one of the all time understatements known to Lakers fans all over the world. There are so many other adjectives that could describe how I, and I’m sure, countless other inhabitants of the Laker Nation have felt at various times this year, we could fill every seat and luxury box at Staples Center with them. The only certainty we have to hold on to at the moment is 7 more games. 7 more chances for this Lakers team to find some sort of redemption for how this season has gone up to this point.

The Lakers have been a team similar to someone with a nagging cough that has disrupted the daily routine long enough to become a distraction. No matter the remedies, nothing has seemed to be able to take away the Lakers “cough” all year long. Yes, there have been moments in time when they have found pockets of relief, but the symptoms have never completely gone away. And now, the Lakers find themselves in the proverbial season of discontent.

There is no easy way to say that this season may end without a playoff berth. We can dance around that enormous elephant in the gym all we want. The Lakers season is on life support, and there, standing in line to pull the plug on them are 7 teams, as fate would have it, all from the Western Conference, waiting their turn to have a yank on that cord.

Memphis gets the first crack at it on Friday, as they invade Los Angeles. Sunday, another game at Staples with little brother, the Clippers. The following week consists of games on Tuesday with the Hornets, followed by a trip to Portland the next day. A week from this coming Friday the Lakers host the young guns from the Bay, the Warriors. They take a day off, then host the Spurs. The final game of the 7 game brutality ends with a game against the Rockets on April 17th. If this particular scenario isn’t sobering enough for you, throw in the fact the Lakers will have to overtake the Utah Jazz for the 8th seed, and oh by the way, the Jazz hold the tiebreaker over them should that catastrophe take place.

This is it my friends, this is the last roundup. This Lakers team that had all the ingredients on paper to challenge for another NBA title, have fired coaches, lost players to injuries, tried countless team chemistry exercises, gone through horrific losing streaks, fought to stay around mediocrity, and have 7 more games to straighten it all out.

What’s it going to be Kobe? What are you going to do about it Dwight? Hey Pau, do you have anything to say? Nash are you ready to cash out? The season is going to be a disappointment or it is going to be a minor miracle in the making. The choice is simple. The answer is not. 7 games, 7 chances. Let the healing begin, one way or the other.

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Photo: Jayne Kamin-Oncea, USA TODAY Sports
Artwork courtesy of RareInk.com, official art partner of the NBA.
Artwork courtesy of RareInk.com, official art partner of the NBA.

Last night, the Los Angeles Lakers hung Shaquille O’Neal’s number 34 jersey in the rafters next to the all the Laker legends, but something wasn’t right. I don’t know if you noticed, but O’Neal’s jersey doesn’t only stand out as being the first modern Laker jersey being hung, it also stands out as being the first jersey that is hung backwards.

If you look closely, O’Neal’s name is printed right under the v-neck collar where we usually see the team name printed, the back of the jersey has a higher collar with a purple trim. Instead, the jersey should look like the framed one Jeanie Buss presented Shaq during last night’s ceremony.

Many people questioned whether or not all the retired jerseys inside Staples Center showcase the player’s name on the front, as it is a bit difficult to tell with the retro crew necks the Lakers used to wear, but it was confirmed by  Lakers spokesman John Black that the it was indeed a mistake:

“The oversight will be corrected and a new jersey put up as soon as possible,” Lakers spokesman John Black said Wednesday.

Dave McMenamin tweeted that the jersey is expected to be fixed by Friday’s game against Memphis.

Be honest Laker Nation, did you notice it?

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

Shaquille O’Neal’s jersey was retired, the fans got their opportunity to chant, “We want Phil!”  before the man himself, Kobe Bryant played all but 54 seconds of the game and the Dallas Mavericks channeled their inner ZZ Top (scary thought – is there anyone reading this who doesn’t know who ZZ Top is?!). The bottom line is: a lot happened at Staples Center tonight, especially between two teams who are fighting for a spot in the post-season.

Some vowing to grow their beards until their record hit .500 (Dallas was 36-37 before the game), the Mavs came in having won six of their last 10 games and currently sit at #10 in the Western Conference standings, right below the Lakers. They, as much as the home team, want their playoff chance, but the Lakers fought that much harder to keep them from gaining any ground tonight. Kobe and company did not fear the beards, and as a result came out with a 101-81 victory.

HIGH POINTS:
Kobe Bryant – Following his 47 minutes and 14 seconds of playing time against Sacramento just three days ago, Bryant thought he’d give that method for winning another shot and logged in 47 minutes and four seconds tonight. It’s not the most efficient way to preserve an older, albeit durable, body, but to be fair, that approach is 2-0 so far. The best thing to come from such heavy minutes – his production and the production he exorcises out of this team when he plays the all-around game that he did tonight. Yes, I just referred to Bryant as an exorcist, because he helps his teammates drive out their inner demons to get the best out of them. He not only scored 23 points in the game on a relatively respectable 8-18 from the field, he also grabbed 11 rebounds, handed out 11 assists, racked up four steals and blocked two shots. He sucked in Dallas’ defense like a vortex, and had his pick of one open teammate after another; Earl Clark for three, Pau Gasol for a dunk, Dwight Howard for a layup. And before checking out of the game, having played just over 46 minutes, scored on a running hook. #MambaVino
Double-Doubles Galore – Earl Clark, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol all reached double-doubles, combining for 55 points and 34 rebounds. With Bryant playing the three in MWP’s place, the Lakers’ front court did a lot of work tonight.
Earl Clark – It’s been awhile since we’ve seen the phenom perform as well as he did in this game, but timing is everything and with Metta World Peace and Steve Nash sitting out, the team needed every bit of Clark’s 17 points on 7-14 (3-5 from downtown), 12 rebounds, a career-high five blocks, assist and steal. Most importantly, they needed his energy and hustle. Clark didn’t just stand around and wait for the ball to come to him. He was active. In one sequence, he scored on a layup, was fouled, missed the free throw, but received a pass from Gasol soon after and hit a three pointer. In the next possession, he ran after a loose ball and handed it to Antawn Jamison for a layup. He led the game with a +22.
Dwight Howard – If there were ever a game for Howard to avoid NOT producing, it would have been tonight when Shaq’s jersey was retired. Thankfully, Howard would not be swayed by such distractions. He continued, instead, to dominate like he knows how, to the tune of 24 points on 7-12 and 12 rebounds. And despite going just 3-8 from the free throw line in the first three quarters, he went 7-12 in the fourth, 6-8 during the Hack-a-Howard sequence. Howard has taken a lot of jabs from O’Neal, and now his #34 hanging at Staples Center will serve as a constant reminder of the dominant center that Shaq claims he was (and deservedly so), and that Howard is not and will probably never be. Or perhaps, D12 can use that as his own personal bulletin board material and prove Shaq wrong. But that’s speculation for another day.
Defense – The Lakers can play defense – who knew?! Well, they can when they commit to it and they surely did tonight. The most they gave up in a quarter was 21 points on 38% shooting in the first 12 minutes. The Mavs scored just 40 points in the first half on 44% from the field, and just 41 points in the second half on 40% shooting. Chris Kaman led the team with just 14 points and Dirk Howitzki had a tough night at the hands of the Laker frontline of Howard, Gasol and Clark. Dallas’ leader was held to just 11 points on 4-13 from the field and went just 2-6 from the free throw line. The Lakers also dominated the glass 57-37.
Paint Points – The Mavs’ inside game left with Tyson Chandler, and it was as obvious as ever in this game. It wasn’t even close as they were outscored 44-26 inside.

LOW POINTS:
Antawn Jamison – Against his fellow Tar Heel, Vince Carter, it would’ve been nice to see Jamison compete, but it just wasn’t his night. He scored just four points on 2-7 from the field, and filled the rest of this stat line with donuts – zero rebounds, zero assists, zero everything. It’s hard to tell if his wrist bothered him or if it was just a bad game. Thankfully, Clark came off the bench to fill in the stat hole that Jamison left.
Turnovers – A game after making just seven miscues against the Kings, the Lakers racked up 18 turnovers which led to 16 Dallas points. They had seven in the first half, but in the fourth quarter alone, turned it over seven times. Steve Blake was responsible for three of those seven, which allowed Dallas’ scoring runs. Fortunately for the Lakers, their defense was able to get them through a few scoring droughts.

It’s not a great time to be in ninth place in the West, yet that is what the Lakers are faced with. Is it any surprise, though? With the season that they’ve had, is it really shocking that the Lakers reached the 8th seed and fell back down? It would be so unlike this season to provide a straight path for this team, but as they’ve shown all year, they’re not waving the white flag until it’s absolutely necessary, and with seven games left in the regular season – it ain’t over yet.

Box Score

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

 

#10:

I need to just bring some energy. Metta’s whole game is energy. For me, I try to do that with the first and second team. One thing I never worry about is my shooting. I’ll just keep shooting. They’ll fall eventually.

Jodie Meeks, who’s replacing the injured Metta World Peace in the starting line-up, via the Daily News

#9:

No, they’re too old. I don’t want to do anything and then somebody gets hurt.

Dwight Howard, on if he did any April Fool’s jokes with his teammates, via the Daily News’ Mark Medina

#8:

You think about it all the time. But we’re not going anyplace without him, and he’s got to get over it. And he will. We have faith in him. It’s not going to happen if I jerk him out.

Mike D’Antoni, on if he considers taking Dwight out of the game in “Hack-a-Howard” situations, via Fox Sports

#7:

You don’t see a big with his skill set. You’d be hard-pressed to find a big with his skillset in the history of the game. We put him at the elbow for five straight minutes and he just tore them up – he tore them up. With his touch from the outside, posting up, passing the ball, you don’t see that skill set.

Kobe Bryant, on Pau Gasol after the Lakers win over the Kings, via Lakers.com

#6:

We need every game. We just got to come out and play with the right intensity, the right effort for 48 minutes and we should win all these games.

Dwight Howard, via ESPN

#5:

What a journey. It’s been a very, very long journey. I’m certainly extremely appreciative of all the support and the Laker faithful, the ‘Laker Nation,’ from being a 17-year-old kid to a 34-year-old man and all the support they’ve given me throughout my career.

Kobe Bryant, on passing Wilt Chamberlain on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, via ESPN

#4:

That’s the one thing that could stop a team from making the run that they want to make during the season, is injuries. Unfortunately we’ve been hit with injuries all year. It just seems like every time somebody got healthy, somebody else went down. But that’s when somebody else has to step up and play and play big. We just have to trust each other more and hold each other accountable.

Dwight Howard, via ESPN

#3:

I’ll talk to my family and really see if I want to continue to sacrifice as much as I’m sacrificing right now. I’m putting my body through a lot to just try to get ready to play every single night. To do what I’m doing right now, it’s not easy. I’ll tell you, it’s taken a lot of commitment. [On whether the next season will be his last:] As I sit here right now, yeah. It’s my decision. It’s really about what I want to do, if I want to train and be psychotic with my training. That’s what it comes down to. It’s really how I’m feeling physically.

Kobe Bryant, on retirement, via NBA.com

#2:

[Our relationship is] really good now. We have such a mutual respect for each other. You can’t expect Michael [Jordan] to play with Wilt [Chamberlain] for his entire career. That’s just not going to work. I had too much talent and too much to showcase. And then there was a challenge issued by him about me not being able to win without him. That’s a challenge I couldn’t pass. But ultimately during those years I sacrificed a lot, numbers-wise, to play with him. Personalities and playing for each other weren’t the best of dynamics because he always wanted to do things a certain way and I was always on him about his work ethic. He didn’t want to hear that, but I didn’t care. It was tough for that relationship to work forever. But there was a mutual respect, and that’s why you see us engaging with each other and conversing with each other because we knew what that was about. The thing that I respected about him was when he stepped on the court he was ferocious. That’s the thing we both had in common. Between those lines nothing could stop us.

Kobe Bryant on Shaquille O’neal, via Yahoo Sports

#1:

First I’d like to thank the late great Dr. Jerry Buss, who was more than an owner. He was a friend, a confidant and a genius who taught me how to be a champion. To the Laker fans, give yourselves a big round of applause. You are the greatest fans on Earth. I can remember certain times where I wasn’t sure if we could win, but then I’d look into the stands and I’d see the certainty and confidence on your faces, and I knew it was in the bag. Big shoutout to my teammates: without you guys, I’m not here. Thanks for believing in me as a leader and as a friend. Kobe, we had a million great times and a thousand bad times. A million outweights a thousand, and the positive always outweights the negative. You are my teammate and my brother, and I’m proud to call you both. Thank you all.

Shaquille O’neal, who’s having his jersey retired at the Staples Center, via Lakers.com

Do you think any quotations got snubbed? Let us know in the comment section below!

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The Lakers come in off an impressive victory over a high-powered Kings team that has given fits to a lot of teams over the last month. They even made a concerted effort on the defensive side of the ball holding the Kings to 61 points over the last 3 quarters after yielding a whopping 37 points in the first quarter. Could the inspired defensive effort be related to a suddenly precarious hold on the last playoff spot?

For all of their ups and downs, the Lakers have been good at home in 2013 losing only to the likes of the Nuggets, Heat, Thunder, and Clippers before their gaffe against the Wizards, a game in which they were up by as much as 18. They are 8-11 ATS at home in 2013, but they have had several impressive covers against the Jazz, Bulls, Celtics, and Thunder. Even in several of their non-covers(i.e Hawks, Wizards, Suns), the Lakers had big leads only to cough them up. While that shouldn’t be condoned, it bears mentioning that this Lakers team has been dominant in several stretches of different games, just not for the entire games.

The Mavs do deserve credit I suppose for scraping out victories against the Clippers and Bulls, but haven’t been as impressive as their rise back to .500 would indicate. They were beaten soundly at home by the Nets and Pacers and were very fortunate in the aforementioned Clippers and Bulls games.

In what amounts to a game in which the Lakers will most likely cover should they win outright, I can’t see the Mavs pulling through here. The urgency will be there for the Mavs as will a sense of revenge for the loss the Lakers gave them in Dallas a little over a month ago, but that’s just giving Laker backers a better line. It’s put up or shut up time and the Lakers are better and at home.

Play: Lakers -3

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Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld | Getty Images
(Photo: Ezra O. Shaw/Allsport)
(Photo: Ezra O. Shaw/Allsport)

With the Lakers set to retire Shaq’s Number 34 tonight, let’s take a trip down memory lane nd celebrate 8 great moments of the Big Aristotle’s Laker career – one for each year Wilt Chaimberneezy spent in Purple and Gold.

Nobody rubs it in like Shaq. It’s safe to say we all know the big fella’s name(s)!

Faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive. Able to leap over Trail Blazers with a single bound…

Look up in the sky, its a bird, its a plane, its…SHAQ

Laying the beat for the greatest dance of all time.

Defensive player of the year? Rag doll to the Diesel.

This was true during the threepeat…

Unfortunately, it turned into “The more I eat, the more bigger I get. And the more bigger I get, the more games I miss and the more money I want.”

Shaq toyed with the Nets, on route to his third straight finals MVP. Bring out the brooms, the Diesel is cleaning house.

The first championship since 1988…and the future was so bright. It was the culmination of Shaq’s Superman season -one of the greatest individual seasons of all time.

“Get a look at the dynasty, this is the next one!”

Thanks for the memories, Shaq.

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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.