Is it a positive thing that both Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant missed time because of injury? Did this give the opportunity for players like Earl Clark and Antwan Jamison to prove themselves? We discuss on STNTV.
One step forward, two steps back. A win against the Kings and two unbelievable losses to the Suns and Wizards. We should have been celebrating the return of both Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant but were blindsided by losing a huge lead to the Wizards. Oh, life as a Laker fan. Here’s what LakerNation had to say in our favorite Tweets of the Week.
I interrupt March Madness to bring you my opinions. Not that they are more important than the most exciting weekend in sports by any stretch of the imagination. However, the NBA is getting close to the start of their own tournament. A little thing called the NBA playoffs. As the regular season winds down, and teams like the Lakers make that final push to grab hold of one of those remaining gold tickets allowing entrance to the playoff pool, the Lakers are poised to make a big splash off the high board.
As I write, Pau Gasol is expected to play tonight after a long absence nursing a foot injury. Kobe will be back on the court after resting his injured ankle, and the rest of the band is ready to go. Nash, Howard, MWP, and the role players are ready for the stretch drive. This is it folks. It’s time for the Lakers to prove they belong in the run for the rings. It’s time to stop losing to teams the likes of the sorry Suns, and show the world they have what it takes to hoist another championship banner. Either ratchet up the effort and energy another notch or start making alternate plans for the summer.
When you look at the teams in the Western Conference that will be staring the Lakers in the face, & blocking their path to the NBA Finals, it can start to become a bit intimidating and a tad bit overwhelming. San Antonio, OKC, Memphis, Denver, Houston, Golden State, the Clippers. All talented teams, all with their own arsenal of weapons at the ready. And all with the same goal as the Lakers. WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP. And let’s not forget teams in the Eastern Conference chasing the same thing. A little team called the Miami Heat have been playing like they may want to run the table again.
With all that being said, let me be very clear about one thing. This Lakers team can be every bit as good and every bit as dangerous as all the teams that will be playing for the Larry O’Brien trophy. You can’t overlook pedigree and your Lakers have a tremendous championship pedigree. And you won’t find a guy with more fight and determination and competitive spirit than Kobe. The question is not are the Lakers good enough to win the championship, it’s do they want to? If they decide they want to stop messing around and form that special brotherhood that championship teams need to form watch out! The championship road is treacherous, but if the Lakers crash the party they could be lethal.
Unfortunately, the Lakers continue to be their own worst enemy, as witnessed with the latest meltdown against the Wizards last night. Simply inexcusable loss, and all the more reason to question who this team really is. We will find out soon enough. Champs or Chumps? It’s up to the Lakers to decide.
It was bound to happen some time. Like the Wizards were due for a road win, the Lakers were due a heavy-handed slap by reality. Falling behind early and then rallying in the end, or creating large leads to start and then having to fight to keep a miniscule advantage for a photo finish victory is not how you win games. Let’s not take anything take away from the Lakers’ huge comebacks against New Orleans and the Raptors, and certainly having a huge lead through most of the game sometimes provides a sort of cushion for less than stellar play towards the end. But, again, this is not how the Lakers should be trying to win games, especially if they plan to make it past the first round of the playoffs.
With Utah losing tonight, the Lakers had a chance to pull further away from the threat of the Jazz retaking the eighth seed. With Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant returning to action after missing games due to injury, the Wizards could have and should have been dispatched early. This appeared to be the plan after the Lakers built an 18-point lead in the first half and led by 16 going into the third quarter. For all their efficiency in their first 24 minutes of play, however, came a complete undoing of all that was right and good in the final 24. The Lakers were outscored 62-43 and the Wizards walked out of Staples with a 103-100 victory.
HIGH POINTS: First Half – For just the third time this season, the Lakers’ starting line-up looked exactly like the line-up we were promised back in August. With Dwight Howard and Steve Nash healthier, and the team having gone through a series of rotations this season, they appeared like they’d been playing together for years. The Lakers came out swinging in the first quarter, getting to a 16-point advantage to end the first while shooting 68% from the field and holding the Wizards to just 30% shooting. At halftime, the home team was in great shape, shooting 54% (50% from downtown) and still keeping Washington at bay with a 36% clip. The ball was moving and moving well. Led by Kobe Bryant’s six assists, the Lakers handed out 17 dimes on 22 made field goals. All nine players who’d seen minutes had scored, with the reserves outscoring the Wizards bench 29-12. The message on the whiteboard before the second half should have been, “Lather, Rinse, Repeat.” Dwight Howard – Howard continues his solid play with another double-double tonight, 20 points on 8-9 from the field, 15 rebounds, three assists, and a block. He even hit 4-5 from the free throw line and has added a midrange jumper to his arsenal. The Laker bench’s contributions aside, Howard was the best player on the team tonight. The only downside to his night, is that he didn’t have a single shot attempt in the fourth. None. Zero. For someone who has a clear advantage against most every team, and as well as he was shooting tonight, he should have attempted more shots especially when the Lakers lost their lead and needed some easy offense. John Wall and Trevor Ariza – So rarely does the opposing team get mentioned as a highlight, but the Washington Wizards would not have been able to pull out this win without either player. Wall had 24 points on 9-19, 16 assists, three steals and one turnover. He sped to the hoop like a blur and no one in a yellow jersey could seem to stop him. And our old friend, Trevor Ariza, who is still a fan favorite – boy did he torch his old friends. He had just six points on 2-5 from the field in the first half, and then exploded for 19 points on 7-10 from the field (5-7 from downtown) in the second half. Just like his Laker days, he was continuously left open (so wide open you could build a moat around him) and made the opposing team suffer because of it. Mike D’Antoni’s Postgame – D’Antoni is usually so pleasant and politically correct when he’s interviewed, but tonight, he finally let it all out and it was about time. He called out his team for not putting in the effort, something he mentioned shouldn’t be a question at this point in the season. His best and most honest take, however, was this, “This is a good team that just for whatever can’t collectively, mentally, get stimulated to do it every time. And I told them in (the locker room), we put our hands in (the huddle), and you’ve guys have probably seen it, we say ‘Championship!” and go out there. And that’s laughable. Championship? You gotta be kidding me.” Preach, Mike.
LOW POINTS: Turnovers – Nine turnovers in the first half isn’t so bad, if the second half is filled with less than thast, but the Lakers added another eight turnovers to their count tonight for a total of 17 giveaways that resulted in 21 Wizards points. The Lakers weren’t blown out, but it makes this turnover issue an even bigger problem when the loss is by a measly three points and you gave away 21. If they had just taken better care of the ball (or better care of their game, in general), the evening would not have ended the way that it did. Unraveling Second Half – Based on their history, especially this season, it might’ve benefited the Lakers to have played from behind instead of the other way around. After such a well-played first half, the home team just completely laid an egg in the second. The ball movement was gone. There were too many possessions wasted on isolation plays. After 17 assists in the first half, the Lakers handed out just 10 for the entire second half. Bryant had 11 assists through three quarters and then spent the fourth going 4-10. Was his three pointer in the end to get the Lakers within a point of the lead a good play? Yes. But should the have necessitated that shot in the first place? No. As far as defense goes, lets just say that everything the Lakers did to keep the Wizards shooting just 30% in the first quarter, they did not replicate in the final two quarters. Washington shot 58% for the second half led by Wall’s 18 and Ariza’s 19. Antawn Jamison – Just when you thought the injury bug had passed, Jamison plays just seven minutes of the second half, and sits out the rest of the game due to what’s being considered a sprain to his right wrist. The hits – they continue to stike.
Losses to playoff teams are frustrating enough, but losses such as this should be borderline maddening for the Lakers’ coaching staff and downright shameful to the players themselves. Does this loss force them out of the 8th seed? No. But if this team can build large leads and still lose in the end, that 8th spot is certainly not officially theirs until this regular season is completely over.
West was optimistic about the Heat’s chances to keep the winning streak going, seeing very little resistance from the teams Miami is scheduled to face.
“I think [the Heat] have an incredible chance to do it,” West said.”It may not end,” he said. “That’s why I think it’s so remarkable. I look at the schedule and I see one team on there that’s a terrific team and obviously that’s the Spurs. That would be a game that I would be concerned about, playing in San Antonio and they’re going to have Tony Parker back by then.”
“There’s gonna be more and more focus on the games, and I think it makes the players focus more on trying to achieve the record that everyone said couldn’t be broken. I think they’ve got a great chance to do it myself.”
“They’ve got great 3-point shooting and they’re never out of a game because of that. Then they’ve got the best player in the game that does all the little things. I’m sure any coach would love to coach him because he does so much. I never thought this streak would live forever. No, not in today’s games. … I just think it’s a streak that could very easily be broken this year. I really believe that.”
While many hope for their records to stand, West would be perfectly content to see his record fall to LeBron’s Heat, especially because it opens up discussion about other “unbreakable” records in sports.
“You ask me, ‘Does it bother me?’ Absolutely not. I think it’s great for the league. I’m excited for my friend, Pat Riley, to be able to replicate this now as an executive. But as a player, that’s pretty special.”
“I think this is what makes sports so intriguing,” he said. “Is a number out there — DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak. Will anyone ever do that? Football, the Dolphins, undefeated. A lot of people don’t think those things are possible. Well, they are possible, particularly in basketball. I think you get a real unique team, and Miami has a unique team.
The Logo also offered praise and support for LeBron James.
“He’s an amazing player,” West said Thursday. “And, frankly, I’m thrilled for him because of all the negative things said about him as a player. He’s improved as a player, but more importantly as a person.”
West compared the strengths of his and Wilt’s team with LeBron and Wade’s.
“The one thing they’ve got going for them is defensively they can really get after you because of the ability of Wade and particularly LeBron,” West said. “They’re ball hawks, and when you turn the ball over, it’s going to be a layup.
While the Heat are relentless on the perimeter, West says the Lakers have the advantage inside.
“Our strength was in our backcourt in terms of scoring [with West and Gail Goodrich],” West said. “But we had the best rebounding in the league, and we had the best shot-blocking [with Wilt Chamberlain].”
Who on the Heat could have matched up with Chamberlain?
“No one,” West said.
In the end, discussing which team is better might come down to LeBron and Wade vs. Chamberlain and West.
What do you think, Laker Nation? Will the Heat beat the 72’ Lakers’ record?
If so, what does that mean historically for the 2013 HEAT and LeBron James?
To be back in a position to win again is a phenomenal feeling, and I’m really proud to be a Laker today.
When the Lakers introduced Steve Nash back on July 11th of last year, the overwhelming majority of Laker fans felt that on that day, the Lakers had finally acquired a game-changing point guard. After years of role players at the one, the Lakers had finally picked up a pass-first point guard to make Kobe’s life easier and help close the gap on the other contenders in the West.
However, as has been the case with most of the Lakers expectations from that beautiful July, things haven’t exactly played out as expected.
Nash has become more of a spot-up shooter than playmaking wizard, and watching him play has been a bit frustrating for Laker fans and Nash alike. The majority opinion on the topic is that Kobe Bryant has rendered Nash obsolete by having most of the offense run through him, a fear many had when the Lakers acquired Nash.
But is Nash really struggling as much as we’re made to believe? The idea was that he would make things easier for Bryant, but it seems that Kobe has had to do more work this season than any before. But when it comes to Nash and Bryant is perception really the reality?
While it does seem that Nash has struggled shooting the ball this season, take a look at his shooting chart this year compared to his last season as a Sun in the 2011-2012 season.
Nash in 2012-2013:
Nash in 2011-2012:
Two things immediately stand out from looking at those two shot charts. First, in 45 games this season Nash has made almost as many three’s as he did in the 62 games he played for Phoenix last season. Second, Nash is shooting about 11% worse in the paint this season than he did last season.
So then Nash has been relegated to a spot up shooter while Kobe dominates the ball right? Not exactly. It’s easy to look at the numbers and assume that Nash is no longer creating shots for himself and others effectively, but watching the games tell another story. Since the All-Star break, the Lakers have ran a lot more pick-and-rolls with Nash and Dwight Howard. This has resulted in Nash shooting a lot of open shots as Dwight dives to the hoop and really helped him become a great offensive weapon.
Since the break Nash is shooting 80/171, good for 46.7% from the field. While the shooting percentage may not seem that great, the fact is teams have had to try stopping him, which has made Kobe and Dwight’s lives much easier.
But what about the argument that Nash has become an after-thought when Kobe is on the court with him? The numbers seem to show that is not the case at all. Take a look at what Nash has shot this season in games with Kobe, and his numbers in the three games since Kobe sprained his ankle.
195/389, 50.1% overall
49/113, 43.4% from 3
18/42, 42.9% overall
3/6, 50% from 3
Nash has had to become more of a scorer since Bryant went out, and his numbers have clearly taken a hit because of it. Much has been made of the threat of Nash shooting allowing Kobe to see less defenders, but the fact is that Bryant also allows Nash to get plenty of great looks in the offense.
The demise of Steve Nash has been greatly over-exaggerated this season. While Nash has had to adjust his role in this Lakers offense, he is still a very effective shooter who can make a huge difference in a game. Whether by running the pick-and-roll or by hurting teams with his spot-up shooting, the two-time MVP definitely can be an X-factor for the Lakers going forward.
I know, you think I’m crazy. Chances are, you clicked on this title to see if it was a mistake. Or a joke. Or some cheap plot to get more views.
A few weeks ago, I wrote this article: Lakers Poised for All-Time Greatness. Now that optimism is starting to rise again in LakerNation, give me four minutes of your time and I’ll explain why I think this Lakers team – the one we’ve been writing of all season – has the potential to be the greatest team in NBA history.
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:
He’s a competitor. That’s really what you’ve got to judge players by. A lot of times, we get caught up in their numbers and what their statistics are, but really you’ve got to look at the core of a player. He hates to lose. He loves competition.
We just hit the wall – ninth game in 14 days in seven cities. You could just kind of see the wheels fall off, specially lately. With some guys being injured, we’ve been playing a seven-man rotation, and I think it caught up with us a little bit. Our legs just came undone.
Steve Nash, on the seven-man rotation used by Mike D’Antoni, following the Lakers’ loss to the Suns, via the OC Register
I don’t know what happened earlier in the season. If I knew I’d tell you. Every excuse in the book.
It’s O.K. You’ve just got to make sure he tells them the right things because he could be giving them different directions than I am. That’s not good — a little bit of a loose cannon. Obviously, he knows what’s going on, and he sees things, but it’s a little scary sometimes.
Before, as an opponent, it used to just kill me to know (the Lakers) would come in and it’d be almost 50-50. That’s one thing I learned this year is that we do have our fair share of Laker fans and it helps us out a lot because not too many situations are hostile. No matter where we go, where we at, we have our fair share of Laker fans and as a player, it’s just great to have that feeling knowing that it can be a little lighter on the road and you have that support of fans pulling for you.
It sucks. It was 70 (Lakers fans) – 30 (Pacers fans) out there. These are the same people that wants autographs after the game. It shouldn’t feel like an away game, especially with an important one like this. Tonight, that’s what it felt like. They always say your fans are your sixth man and you feed off that energy. Energy is down and we turn the ball over and we’re hearing cheers. We’re missing shots and we’re hearing cheers. That kind of brings your head down cause you know you’re at home.
I don’t know how much I have, but whatever I have, I’m going to give you.
Kobe Bryant’s message to the Lakers team prior to the game versus the Pacers, when he played only in the first quarter due to a severely sprained ankle, via ESPN
I was happy I was able to face my fears at the free-throw line and knock ‘em down. I thought that was the best thing for me. To come in here and really learn how to block a lot of stuff out and play — and not allow it to affect me. That’s been big all season to where I would hear the crowd, and I would get up there and … brick. So I think it was good for me. You saw me mature as a player and as a person. And I’m happy.
According to the OC Register’s Kevin Ding, Dwight Howard has parted ways with his business manager after nine years.
Howard has decided to move his career in a new direction.
Kevin Samples, Howard’s cousin and primary advisor for his entire professional career, has been with Howard every step of the way since Howard was drafted in 2004.
With this recent parting, Howard seems confident in calling his own shots in the future:
“We had nine great years together,” Howard told me late Monday night. “Just time to go separate ways.”
“I know what I want to accomplish,” Howard said. “I’ve always written down my goals and everything I want, and I want to make sure I get ‘em. Everything I’ve lost, everything that’s gone away, I’m going to get it back.”
Howard’s early relationship with Samples eventually grew into Dwight Howard Enterprises, consisting of only Howard and Samples.
This was certainly no easy decision for Howard, considering their family ties:
“He’s still my cousin, my family, so we’ll always be around each other,” Howard said. “But we just parted ways on the business side.”
Could this affect Howard’s pending free agency decision? We’ll see.
But Howard has certainly made strides from the infamous “Dwightmare” in Orlando.
Howard’s future in Los Angeles remains up in the air, but if his recent play is any indication, he seems to be getting more comfortable under the bright lights.
One thing is for sure though, the future and legacy of ‘Superman’ is up to one man, and one man only: Dwight Howard.
The Lakers completed last week with a 3-2 record. Although they remained in the 8th slot in the Western Conference, the Lakers suffered a significant loss to their personnel.
In the waning moments of the Lakers’ loss to the Atlanta Hawks, Kobe Bryant sprained his ankle when guard Dahntay Jones slid under him. Despite trying to play in the next game in Indiana, Bryant has since missed the last two games.
The Lakers started the week off well with a 106-97 win over the Orlando Magic. Dwight Howard certainly left his imprint on his return to Orlando, scoring 39 points and grabbing 16 rebounds.
The Lakers then traveled to Atlanta where they lost 96-92, in addition to suffering yet another crushing injury.
Concluding the quick 3-game road trip in Indiana, the Lakers defeated a solid Pacers team with little contribution from Bryant.
Travelling home, the Lakers beat the Sacramento Kings handedly, 113-102. The next night, the Lakers travelled Phoenix, losing 99-76. The Lakers’ 76 points were a season-low, as coach Mike D’Antoni’s 7-man rotation showed signs of fatigue.
Take a look back now at the changes in the Lakers’ stock values and the impact the players should have going forward:
Steve Blake : Now this is the Steve Blake the Lakers thought they signed back in 2010.
Since Bryant’s injury, Blake has averaged 15.7 points per game and 6.3 assists per game. Blake has also shot 56.7% from the field in his last three games.
With all of the hype surrounding the Lakers’ starters and the emergence of Earl Clark this season, Blake’s consistency has been sorely overlooked.
Since his return from the abdominal injury, Blake has helped turn the Lakers’ bench unit into a deadly asset for the Lakers.
With Bryant and hopefully Pau Gasol returning from injury as soon as this Friday, Blake’s improved play should continue.
Blake, in combination with Antawn Jamison, have been integral parts of the Lakers’ recent turnaround.
Dwight Howard : ‘Superman’ is back.
Dwight Howard is playing his best basketball of the season right now. Even with a rough shooting night in Phoenix, Howard averaged 19.4 ppg and 14.4 rpg in his last five games.
In the Lakers win over the Magic, and Howard’s return to Orlando, Howard set a few records.
With 39 free-throw attempts in that game, he tied the NBA record he set last year against Golden State and established a Lakers standard, blowing past Shaquille O’Neal’s old mark of 31 in 1999 against Chicago.
Howard seems to be healthier and in better condition now. His activity level on both ends of the floor has also gradually improved from game to game.
With Bryant out, Howard seemed to take more of a leadership role on this team. His effective leadership significantly helped the Lakers pull out a win in Indiana.
As long as Howard stays relatively healthy, there is no reason why he won’t return to his supremely dominant self by the playoffs.
Antawn Jamison : Like many of the Lakers’ player in Phoenix, Antawn Jamison struggled to find the basket.
Jamison did have great games against Indiana and Sacramento this past week, however.
Against Indiana, Jamison’s three-point shooting helped the Lakers overcome the Pacers’ stout defense. Jamison made 4-7 threes and finished with 17 points and 7 rebounds.
The next game, against Sacramento, Jamison had an even better performance. Jamison made 5-8 three pointers and finished with 27 points and 9 rebounds.
D’Antoni’s short 7-man rotation has paid dividends for both Jamison and Blake off the bench. Both players seem much more comfortable now playing starter-type minutes.
The key will now be whether or not Jamison can continue his stellar play once Bryant and Gasol return.
Metta World Peace : Metta World Peace seems to have finally climbed out of his month-long shooting slump.
World Peace scored double-digit points in each of his last five games. World Peace averaged 17.4 ppg and 4.6 rpg over that stretch.
After the win over Sacramento, World Peace informed the media that he had been dealing with a leg injury.
World Peace claimed that the injury had been hampering his ability to defend as well as post-up.
It seems that that injury has now healed and World Peace is on his way to returning to his early season form.
Steve Nash : Both Steve’s played consistent basketball this past week.
Steve Nash averaged 15.0 ppg and 6.8 apg over his past five games. Nash also hit a season-high in assists against Sacramento, dishing out 12 dimes.
Since Bryant went down with injury, Nash has increased his playmaking role. Nash continues to find his teammates in good operational areas on the offensive end.
Nash has also become more aggressive shooting the ball. Nash attempted double-digit shot attempts in four out of the five games last week.
With Bryant and Gasol returning soon, the onus will fall on the Lakers’ veteran backcourt to make sure the offensive cohesiveness continues.
Earl Clark : Earl Clark can’t seem to get out of his recent funk.
Despite shooting 42.9% from the field, Clark only averaged 6.6 ppg in his last five games.
Clark did average 6.2 rpg this past week, but the Lakers could use even more production from the 6’10” forward.
Recently, Clark has been settling for jump shots way too often. When Clark first emerged as a legitimate scoring threat earlier this season, he was attacking the basket with great ferocity.
In recent weeks Clark seems to have let off the gas a little.
Clark’s knee injury may be more serious than we understand, but the Lakers could certainly use the ‘attacking’ Clark going forward.
Jodie Meeks : Tough week for Jodie Meeks.
Even with Bryant being out for an extended period, Meeks just couldn’t find much consistency on offense.
Meeks, who started in place of Bryant for two games, averaged 5.6 ppg but only shot 30.3% from the field.
As Jamison, Nash and Blake continue to shoot the ball exceptionally well, the Lakers are really only waiting on Meeks to catch up.
Hopefully with Bryant’s return, Meeks will become more comfortable off the bench and return to his sharp shooting behind the arc.
Robert Sacre : Robert Sacre appeared in limited minutes against Orlando, Indiana and Phoenix.
Sacre did score 2 points and grab a rebound against Indiana.
Darius Morris : Darius Morris appeared late in the Lakers’ loss to Phoenix when the game was out of reach.
Morris attempted two shots and made one free-throw.
Chris Duhon : Chris Duhon appeared only in “garbage-time” against Phoenix this week.
Devin Ebanks : Devin Ebanks also appeared late in the loss to Phoenix, but failed to score.
Kobe Bryant : Kobe Bryant sprained his left ankle in the fourth quarter of the Lakers’ loss to Atlanta. The injury occurred when Bryant elevated for a shot and opposing defender Dahntay Jones slid under him.
Bryant claimed afterwards that the play was dirty because Jones did not give Bryant room to come down from his jump shot.
The play was reviewed by the NBA and decided that the play should have been called a foul on Jones, but no punitive damages resulted.
The play, for those of you who have not seen it yet, can be seen here.
Bryant is currently listed as ‘day-to-day’, but is expected to play in the Lakers’ next game, Friday vs. Washington.
Pau Gasol : Pau Gasol continues to make his recovery from his partially torn plantar fascia.
Earlier in the week, there were murmurs that Gasol might play against Sacramento. He did not, but the Lakers remain optimistic that Gasol may also be ready for Friday’s game against the Wizards.
Stay tuned for next weeks’ Lakers Stock Watch as the Lakers try to solidify a playoff berth battling Washington and Golden State.
The Lakers have yet to win the second game of a back-to-back this season. Earlier in the year, the reasons for this failure were quite simple in that, the Lakers didn’t need back-to-back games to lose. They could have 2-3 days off in between and still couldn’t figure out how to win. The solutions back then were to get injured players healthy and then build team chemistry. The Lakers appear to have the chemistry issue somewhat solved, but the injury bug continues to bite, and tonight was the product of that still unsolved problem – a 99-76 rout by the Phoenix Suns.
No one new was injured, and that’s about the only high point to be gained from tonight’s game.
LOW POINTS: Short Rotation = Short on Energy – The player with the shortest floor time last night against the Sacramento Kings was Earl Clark, who clocked in for 27 minutes. Other than Jodie Meeks who played for 28, the rest of the Lakers played at least 34 minutes and Dwight Howard played over 40. Yes, it’s crunch time for the Lakers and Kobe Bryant will never be the first to use fatigue as an excuse for poor play, but the proof is in the pudding, or in this case the playing. Mike D’Antoni, despite having four players who played zero minutes last night, played the same 7-man rotation, until the game was well out of the Lakers’ hands, at which point he emptied his bench for the final three minutes. It was a chain reaction of one bad stat after another because of it. No Ball Movement = Stagnant Offense – Except for Steve Blake, who shot 6-11 for his 13 points, no Laker shot over 50% and the team went just 33% from the field and 23% from downtown. The guys in purple had such little lift, they were missing layups and the field goals columns in the box score resemble that of an elementary school B-team’s stat sheet. Metta World Peace had 22 points last night on 10-13 and could only muster up 5-17 tonight. Dwight Howard, who only attempted six shots last night and converted four, took 18 shots against the Suns and only hit six. Steve Nash had another 19-point game but needed 17 attempts to get there. And Antawn Jamison, the star of last night’s contest for his 27 points on 8-14, scored just three points on 1-6 tonight. The Lakers’ offense had no flow and the ball had no one from whom to gain its energy. After 28 assists last night, the Lakers handed out just 15 dimes on 29 made field goals, topped off by the 18 turnovers that handed the Suns 22 of their 99 points. Rebounds – The fourth best rebounding team in the league was outrebounded by the 17th place Suns, 55-45. The +10 came on rebounds on the defensive end for Phoenix, who only allowed the Lakers 11 second chance points compared to their 22. And due to their failure to control the offensive glass, the Lakers allowed Phoenix to score 18 fast break points.
The only other good thing about tonight’s loss is that the Utah Jazz were defeated by the New York Knicks, so the Lakers live to see another day in the eighth seed, plus get a three-day break before Friday’s contest against the Washington Wizards. With Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol’s return still questionable, Mike D’Antoni needs to loosen his grip on this rotation, roll with the punches, if you will, and use fresh players off the bench; because if the Bryant/Gasol absence is extended, and this seven-man cycle continues, this Laker team may not survive another knockout like tonight’s.
The Lakers started the week off on a three game East coast road trip where they went 2-1, losing only to the Atlanta Hawks after a controversial miss call by the refs, then came back home to finish the week against the Sacramento Kings at Staples Center. With Kobe Bryant missing games against Indiana (most of it at least) and Sacramento, the rest of the team had some big shoes to fill. Luckily for us, this team is filled with many unsung heroes. With everybody stepping their game up it was too hard keeping the Top list to three. So here are this week’s Top FOUR players of the week.
4. Metta World Peace
Your eyes do not deceive you… yes, MWP made his way out of the Bottom list and into the Top this week. MWP averaged 18.75 points and 1.5 steals in the four games this week. His highlight performance was Sunday’s game against his former team, the Sacramento Kings, where he went 10-13 from the field and scored 22 points. Let’s hope Metta can keep this up!
3. Dwight Howard
Superman Returns… Dwight Howard played his first game in Orlando as a visitor and made sure he made the fans there remember what they were missing. Dwight had his best game as a Laker scoring 39 points to go along with 16 rebounds and 3 blocked shots in Orlando. He also had weekly averages of 20.25 points, 15.25 rebounds, and 3.25 blocks a game this week. In Sunday’s game agaisnt Sacramento, Dwight recorded his 38th double double of the season which is highest in the league second to only Golden State’s David Lee (44).
2. Antawn Jamison
Antawn started the week off rocky but stepped it up in a big way when they needed him to. Jamison averaged 15.25 points and 7 rebounds a game throughout the week while shooting 59% from the field. But it was the Indiana and Sacramento games that earned the former sixth-man of the year a spot on the Top list. In those two games, Jamison averaged 22 points a game and hit 9 three pointers. He also lead the team in the +/- category in Sunday’s game with a +23.
1. Steve Blake
Since Blake’s return from injury the Lakers have a record of 17-7. Much like Jamison, Blake’s biggest contributions this week came after Kobe went down. In the past two games, Blake averaged 17 points, 7.5 assists, 5.5 rebounds, and 2.5 steals a game while shooting 58% from the field and hitting 9-14 from long range. Blake’s play has definitely increased this year with the benefit of learning from Steve Nash. The offense has been running smoothly and Blake has a knack for finding the opening player and hitting those baseline turnarounds.
With a longer than normal Top list, this week’s bottom list is shorter than normal, but I think it’s a good thing when I can’t find enough players to complain about right? Here are this week’s Bottom:
2. Earl Clark
Earl Clark makes his third straight appearance on the Bottom list. Clark averaged only 7.25 points and 5.25 rebounds a game this week and lead the team in the minus category against Indiana and Sacramento. Eazy’s slump has everyone questioning his starting position when Pau returns from injury. Do you think he should remain in the starting line up?
1. Jodie Meeks
This is Jodie’s debut on my list and unfortunately it’s at the bottom. Our three-point specialist went only 4-15 from behind the arch and shot 29% from the field overall. Meeks had his worst game of the week against Indiana where he went 0-7 from the field and failed to score a single point. He was also the only player to score single digits in Sunday’s game against Sacramento.
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.