Friday, December 19, 2014
Blog Page 48

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Photo by: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images North America

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:

Dwight is a loyal athlete and loyal person. He’s not a quitter and doesn’t run from situations. That’s why I believe with this franchise and the way he’s talked so well about it, I can’t see him going anywhere.

Josh Smith on his longtime friend Dwight Howard, via the Daily News’ Mark Medina

#9:

I usually move ahead. The only thing I know in my past is that I had children.

Metta World Peace, after his foul on Kenneth Faried was upgraded to a “flagrant 2″, via ESPN’s Dave McMenamin

#8:

I was in my coffin a few years ago. The vino is out of the barrel.

Kobe Bryant on his recent performances, via the Daily News’ Vincent Bonsignore

#7:

He’s like a little cockroach, man. He just keeps finding the cracks.

Kobe Bryant on Antawn Jamison, via the L.A. Times

#6:

I don’t feel like we have an identity or have reached anywhere near our potential.

Steve Nash, via David Brickley

#5:

I probably would have smacked him in the mouth. I would’ve dealt with the pain afterwards.

Kobe Bryant on Serge Ibaka’s flagrant foul on Blake Griffin, via the Daily News’ Mark Medina

#4:

It really helps out, especially on the bench, knowing when you’re coming in, knowing what your role is. Knowing what is needed of you. You’re not worried about shots or minutes or ‘If I make a mistake I’m coming out.’ Now we have roles, guys know what’s expected, it makes a difference. It helps a lot.

Antawn Jamison on the Lakers settling their rotation, via ESPN

#3:

A lot of things that come out in the media are not even true. All the mocking, all the crazy stuff that they said we’ve done. We’ve never ever fought. So, for people to say that, it’s just ridiculous. But I understand that’s what comes with the territory.

Dwight Howard on the rumors of his bad relationship with Kobe Bryant, via CBS Los Angeles

#2:

It’s going to be a tough ride trying to get into the playoffs, but that’s going to make it fun. Let’s try to overcome the odds and try to get back in there and see if we can scare some people. Let’s enjoy being the underdogs. Let’s enjoy the pressure, let’s welcome it and let’s embrace it and allow it to elevate our process and elevate our progress.

Steve Nash, via ESPN

#1:

I didn’t know if I’d ever get them on the same page. There were a lot of things that just didn’t go well. A lot of it was everybody contributing a little bit to things kind of being kind of screwed up. I think we’re getting most of those things worked out. We just got ourselves into a hole with injuries and me being all over the place early and not knowing what’s the thing [to do] and people not accepting roles. It’s just trying to figure out what fits better. I think we’re getting a pretty good formula down. It’s a big page. It’s kind of in the same book. We’re in the same book right now. We’re getting closer.

Mike D’Antoni, via ESPN

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

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Image Credit: Noah Graham | Getty Images
Photo: Noah Graham | Getty Images

The Lakers continue crawling back into the playoff picture.

A 2-1 week, coupled with losses by Utah and Golden State, certainly helped their cause.

The Lakers lost a difficult game in Denver, 119-108, in which Kobe Bryant scored a game-high 29 points.

Returning home for a quick two-game home stand, the Lakers beat the Minnesota Timberwolves handedly, 116-94. The Lakers followed up that win with an exciting victory over the Atlanta Hawks, 99-98.

With their 2-1 record last week, the Lakers made it back to the .500 mark at 30-30, for the first time since December 28th.

With only 22 games left on the regular season schedule, the Lakers are currently just 2 games back of the Utah Jazz for the 8th seed in the Western Conference.

Take a look back now at the changes in the Lakers’ stock values and the impact the players should have going forward:

Kobe Bryant Up arrow : Even at his elderly age of 34, Kobe Bryant continues playing spectacular basketball.

Bryant even gave the Lakers’ faithful some fireworks late in the win over the Hawks. (If you haven’t seen the play yet, you better just click ‘Play’ below):

Bryant’s exceptional play of late is a testament to his work ethic, diet and determination to make the playoffs.

After the Lakers’ win over the Timberwolves, Bryant had this to say about his mindset:

“I’ve been in attack mode since the [All-Star] break,” Bryant said. “It’s go time.”

It’s certainly been “go time” lately.

Along with his spectacular plays this past week, Bryant was also named the Western Conference Player of the Month for the month of February.

Bryant averaged 23.9 ppg on 48.9% shooting, 6.6 apg and 6.7 rpg in February to be named Player of the Month.

Coming off the award this past week, Bryant topped those averages. In the past three games, Bryant averaged 32.0 ppg on an efficient 52.8% shooting, 6.0 apg and 5.7 rpg.

With Bryant now in full “attack mode”, and the Lakers playing better team-basketball, the rest of the league should be on notice.

Bryant also created a new self-proclaimed nickname for himself this week; the new nickname is ‘Vino’—Spanish and Italian for wine, since he seems to get better with age.

Antawn Jamison Up arrow : The Lakers’ sixth-man has officially returned to his old self. Antawn Jamison is playing the most consistent basketball right now of any Laker not named Kobe.

Photo: Harry How | Getty Images
Photo: Harry How | Getty Images

Jamison averaged 13.7 ppg on 50% shooting and 6.3 rpg. Jamison’s scoring ability has been a huge boost off the bench for the Lakers.

With Pau Gasol still out for another 2+ weeks, Jamison’s consistency has helped keep the Lakers afloat in his absence.

Jamison’s ability to find creases in the defense and move without the ball earned him an endearing nickname from his fellow teammate.

Bryant, who has had a field day of creating nicknames this week, gave Jamison the nickname ‘cockroach’ because he “keeps finding the cracks”.

Jamison, who has averaged 19 points per game for his career, finally seems comfortable in Los Angeles. A defined role and consistent minutes have yielded great performances from Jamison.

This past week, Jamison also gave some insight on what has been the Lakers’ deciding factor in their recent turnaround.

Steve Blake Up arrow : Another player who seems to have found his comfort zone is Steve Blake.

Since Blake’s return on January 29th, the Lakers have gone 11-5 in that stretch.

Blake’s scoring has been an added bonus to the bench unit, but his ability to control the tempo has been key. When Steve Nash goes to the bench, Blake’s ability to control the pace and keep the offense flowing has been important.

Over the past week, Blake averaged 8.0 ppg on 66.7% shooting and 40% from three, 5.0 apg and 3.7 rpg.

Blake’s return to the lineup has had a direct impact on players like Jodie Meeks and Jamison. His ability to create plays for himself and his teammates was something the Lakers dearly missed earlier in the year.

Dwight Howard Up arrow : Dwight Howard didn’t have the best week offensively, but his defensive presence and rebounding were key in the Lakers’ wins.

Photo: Noah Graham | Getty Images
Photo: Noah Graham | Getty Images

Howard only averaged 12.3 ppg, but did average 14.0 rpg in his past three games. The Lakers certainly need Howard to be more dominant in the paint on offense, but those rebounding numbers are promising.

Howard looks to be recovering from both his back and shoulder injuries. Although his torn labrum will not heal on its own, Howard has done a much better job playing through the pain.

Not only has Howard looked more “springy” lately, but he also seems to be getting some of his conditioning back. With a focused Howard on the defensive end and a focused Bryant on the offensive end, the Lakers’ attack should be deadly going forward.

Howard continues to struggle on post moves with his back to the basket, however, so he should instead focus more on rolls to the basket and easy put backs off offensive rebounds.

The Lakers need more than 12 points a game from Howard, but if he continues patrolling the paint like he’s been doing, the Lakers should be fine.

Steve Nash even : Despite an off shooting night in the Lakers’ win over Minnesota, Steve Nash completed the week with a solid performance against Atlanta.

Photo: Noah Graham | Getty Images
Photo: Noah Graham | Getty Images

Nash shot just 4-12 from the field against the Timberwolves, but did contribute 7 assists in the win.

Nash followed up that performance with a stellar game against the Hawks. Nash scored 15 points and dished out 10 assists, which led to a victory.

The main issue hampering Nash of late has been turnovers. Nash had six turnovers in the loss to the Nuggets and five turnovers against the Hawks.

The Lakers, who have been hampered by turnover problems all season long, need to cut down on them in the future.

When the Lakers play quick, athletic teams, they especially have to limit their mistakes and clean up their protection of the ball.

Limiting the turnovers starts with the point guard, and Nash must take it upon himself to take better care of the ball going forward.

Metta World Peace even : This past week Metta World Peace seemed to climb out of his shooting slump some.

World Peace scored 15 points on an efficient 54.5% shooting against the Nuggets. He followed up that efficient shooting with a poor shooting display of 2-7 against Minnesota.

World Peace was especially key in the Lakers win over the Hawks, however. The Lakers’ strongest perimeter defender helped slow down both Josh Smith and Al Horford on the defensive end.

In combination with his solid defense, World Peace also scored 13 points on 62.5% shooting. This efficient shooting was key, especially late in the fourth quarter, when World Peace made an important three-pointer to keep the game close.

With Bryant, Nash, Blake and Jamison playing efficiently on the offensive end, defensives will begin to adjust by keying-in on those players. World Peace can be the ultimate beneficiary of this, if he can end his slump and shoot the ball consistently.

Jodie Meeks even : Backup shooting guard Jodie Meeks had yet another inconsistent week. Despite scoring 16 points against Minnesota, Meeks did little in the Lakers’ other two games.

Photo: Luis Sinco | LA Times
Photo: Luis Sinco | LA Times

Meeks, the Lakers’ most proficient three-point shooter, did shoot 42.9% from three-point land, but his one point performance against Atlanta is unacceptable.

Both Jamison and Blake have found consistency producing when coming off the bench, so if Meeks can find that consistency as well, the Lakers’ bench will be that much better.

Although Meeks has been playing well of late, averaging 9.0 ppg in his past 10 games, the Lakers could use more production from behind the arc.

Bryant’s high level of play alleviates the pressure off Meeks, but if Meeks can match some of Bryant’s production, it could help reduce the minutes of the NBA’s minutes-played leader and save Bryant’s legs.

Earl Clark Down arrow : It seems that Earl Clark has finally come back down to Earth.

Photo: Mike Ehrmann | Getty Images
Photo: Mike Ehrmann | Getty Images

After a breakout January and a solid early-February, Clark has struggled in his last few games.

Clark averaged just 6.3 ppg and 4.0 rpg over the past week. These numbers need to improve from the Lakers’ starting power forward going forward.

It’s obvious that opposing defenses have started to figure out Clark’s game and have adjusted accordingly. The onus now falls on Clark to make his adjustment and return to his productive form.

The key to Clark’s early success was his unrelenting desire to grab offensive reb0unds and attack the rim. Clark’s low rebounding numbers have had a direct impact on his recent poor play.

Until Gasol returns, the Lakers desperately need Clark to return to form and continue attacking the rim. Clark, one of the few young, athletic players on the Lakers, gives the team a different dimension.

This dimension is important because it allows the Lakers to play at multiple paces and keep the ball flowing quickly on offense.

If Clark can return to even half of what he once was, the Lakers could be real, real scary.

Chris Duhon Down arrow : Chris Duhon played 6 minutes against Minnesota in garbage-time. Duhon did record 3 assists in his short time on the floor, however.

Coach Mike D’Antoni seems set on his eight-man rotation now and Duhon is on the outside looking in.

Robert Sacre Down arrow : Robert Sacre is in the same predicament as Duhon. Sacre only played against Minnesota as well, registering 4 points and 1 rebound in 5 minutes of play.

Darius Morris Down arrow : Darius Morris played 5 minutes against the Timberwolves too, registering 1 assist and 1 rebound.

Devin Ebanks Down arrow : With the Minnesota game out of reach late in the fourth quarter, even the rarely used Devin Ebanks got a chance to play. Ebanks played 2 minutes but did score 2 points and grab 3 rebounds in his first opportunity to play since February 7th.

Pau Gasol Injury sign : Pau Gasol continues his rehabilitation from the partially torn plantar fascia he suffered on February 5th.

Gasol has ramped up his rehab some by doing cardio work on the elliptical machine this week. Gasol is now four weeks into his 6-8 week estimate, so he could possibly return as early as two weeks from now.

Stay tuned for next weeks’ Lakers Stock Watch as the Lakers continue chasing a playoff berth battling Oklahoma City, New Orleans, Toronto and Chicago.

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Photo: Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images

The Lakers finished their three game week going 2-1 and finding themselves back at .500. While they’re still 2.5 games behind the final playoff spot, their recent success gives hope to the Laker faithful that we will see an extended season. Here are this week’s top and bottom:

 

TOP

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

3. The Bench

The Laker bench, lead by Antawn Jamison, has been a big part of the Lakers recent success. Jamison topped my list last week and deserves the same credit, but this week Steve Blake and Jodie Meeks deserve recognition as well. The bench averaged 30 ppg this week with a highlight performance against Minnesota when Jamison, Blake, and Meeks were all in double figures. In that game Meeks hit 4 three-pointers on his way to 16 points and Blake hit 3 of his own and ended with 13 points to go along with 6 assists and 7 rebounds.

2. Steve Nash

Steve Nash made his way back into the top list this week after averaging 13.6 points and 7.3 assists. Nash finished the week with a double double (15 points, 10 assists) in Sunday night’s roller coaster against the Hawks where he also lead the team in the +/- category with a remarkable +20 (in a game they only won by 1 point).

1. Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant was good enough to be named Western Conference Player of the Month for February, so he’s good enough to top my list. Kobe had averages of 32 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 6 assists this week while shooting 52.7%. He also buried all talk about his recent three-point shooting slump by hitting 42.8% from beyond the arc. The former MVP has been having an age defying season with more highlight dunks this year then what feels like the past five years. He’s also taken on a new nickname “Vino” (wine) because he gets better with age.

 

BOTTOM

Photo: AP

3. Dwight Howard

Dwight made his way back to the bottom of the list this week mainly because of his free throw shooting. In the three games this week Dwight only hit 5-20 free throws. While a poor free throw percentage is to be expected of Howard, 25% is well below his season average of 48%.

2. Metta World Peace

While his numbers have improved over the last three games, MWP still finds himself on my bottom list this week. Metta still seems to be out of rhythm offensively taking shots he shouldn’t take, trying to drive it in a crowded lane, and not being able to finish around the basket.  He continues to struggle leading the break and still holds the ball much longer than needed.

1. Earl Clark

After surprising the entire league with his career season Earl Clark has began to slow down. Since the emergence of Antawn Jamison, Clark has seen a decrease in minutes and likewise a decrease in productivity. Clark had averages of only 6.3 points and 4 rebounds this week. Clark also lead the team in the minus category against the Nuggets with a -17.

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Courtesy: Getty Images
Courtesy: Getty Images

Another week in Laker Land has passed us, and for the first time in a long time it feels like our boys in Purple and Gold are (finally) headed in the right direction. While the Laker schedule was light on games with only three contests this week, there were plenty of things to take from games against Denver, Minnesota and Atlanta.

Here is a look at the Good, the Bad and the Ugly of the Lakers past week in action.

Good: Kobe Bryant circa 2006 is Back.

Really, I could just post a link to this dunk and it would be enough of an explanation.

The Mamba has been on an absolute tear since the All-Star break ended, and the Lakers 5-1 record during that time is tied directly to what Bryant is doing. In the past five games alone Kobe is averaging a whopping 34.8 points per game, on 66-116 shooting, good for a cool 56.9% from the field. Did I mention that Bryant is doing this at 34-years old, in his 17th NBA season, 60 games into a campaign that has seen him average 38.2 minutes per contest? Oh and all while shooting what would be the highest field goal percentage of his career.

Bryant realizes this is a make or break stretch for the Lakers playoff chances, and he looks to be up for the challenge.

I’ve been in attack mode since the break. It’s go time. We’re getting a little bit closer and we’re starting to get in more of a striking distance where you start watching (the playoff race).

It’s absolutely mind-boggling that this guy is not only still going strong, but getting better as the season and his career progress. With the way Kobe’s been playing since the break, would you really want to bet against him getting the Lakers into the playoffs? Me neither. Kobe is aging like a fine wine (or Vino as he’s now apparently calling himself), just in time to save the Laker season.

Ugly: Interior Defense.

One negative that really stood out this week for the Lakers was just how bad their defense is in the paint, especially when Dwight Howard sits. In the loss to Denver, the Lakers gave up an astronomical 78 points in the paint. That’s more than some teams have scored in ENTIRE GAMES recently. The Nuggets were also able to gain a 33-3 edge on the fastbreak, further emphasizing the Lakers inability to not only get in position, but to challenge at the rim at all. This only gets worse when LA’s lone shot blocker has to take a seat. Granted, that Denver game was the second of a road back-to-back in an arena where any team that’s not named the Nuggets is expected to lose, so you can make a bit of an excuse for the Lakers, right?

Wrong. That would be fine and dandy if the Hawks didn’t score almost at will inside at the end of the game last night. While the Lakers were able to escape with a huge win (or avoid a huge collapse, your choice), you simply cannot ignore the fact that Atlanta scored three consecutives times at the basket in the final two minutes. Oh, and all those buckets were basically unguarded lay-ups and dunks. In fact, had Josh Smith been able to handle Devin Harris’ entry pass at the end of the game, we’d probably be lamenting another terrible loss rather than breathing a sigh of relief.

The Lakers should be able to slow down the scoring of other teams inside once Pau returns from his injury right? Wait what do you mean no? Let’s just move on.

Bad: Steve Nash Turnovers.

With the Lakers winning games and Kobe dominating on offense, it’s been difficult to find many things wrong with the Los Angeles offense. One thing that has definitely been off in the six games since the All-Star break has been Steve Nash’s handle. Nash has 20 turnovers (TWENTY!) in those six games, and that number is actually helped by the fact that Nash had none in the blow-out win over Minnesota. It’s hard to pick on anything Nash does because he has done such an incredible job of adjusting to the offense so that his teammates can thrive, basically becoming a spot-up shooter in this system.

But in Denver, those Nash turnovers became very costly. As is often the case with turnovers on the road, Denver was able to turn six Nash turnovers into points on the fast-break that really ignited their offense and helped them kill any Laker hope of winning int he Mile High City.

Courtesy: Getty Images
Courtesy: Getty Images

Good: Dwight Howard.

No, really. This isn’t sarcasm. I’m serious!

I know, it’s been a long time since we had a week free of tearing Dwight down, but the All-Star big man has actually been a force since the All-Star break. Sure he still forces some bad shots in the paint, and yeah his free throws are still terrible. But, hold on let me channel my inner Rock, FINALLY DWIGHT HAS COME BACK, sort of. Howard has really been playing with great energy lately.

Starting with a dominating 24-point, 12-rebound performance against the Celtics and on through the next five games, Howard has shown flashes of the All-Star Laker fans expected to see when he was brought in. In the past six games, Dwight is averaging 17 points and 14 boards per game, while also throwing in two swats a night. His scoring may not be as high as Dwight would like, but he is finally making an impact for the Lakers in a way that translates directly to wins. Boards, defense, and hard screen-and-rolls on offense will help this team win, and Howard seems to have finally figured that out.

Ugly: Opposing Role Players (still) Killing the Lakers.

This has really been a theme of the entire Laker season, but there were a few more instances this week of role guys really hurting the Lakers. In Denver, Wilson Chandler was a late insert into the starting line-up for the Nuggets, and all he did was drop 23 points on the Lakers. And just in case Laker fans forgot what he did to them the last two times these teams met, Corey Brewer chipped in 16 points and plenty of overdone celebrations. These two specifically played a huge role in sparking the Nuggets to a win over the Lakers.

Then, this ugly problem reared its head again against Atlanta. Devin Harris turned into an All-Star for a five-minute stretch spanning the end of the third and beginning of the fourth quarter. By scoring 14 of his 16 points during that span, Harris nearly single-handedly brought the Hawks back from a 16-point deficit. Not to be outdone, Kyle Korver came in and also scored 16 on the Lakers, hitting a few big shots that nearly cost the home team the game.

This is another issue that doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon, but the Lakers are .500 so let’s stop talking about bad stuff!

Bad: Momentum Swings with the Bench.

Okay, so this is still something bad we have to discuss, but I’ll counter it with some good. The Laker bench was great against the T’Wolves this week. Jodie Meeks, Antawn Jamison and Steve Blake all scored in double-digits and helped the Lakers blow Minnesota out of the building.

It was the other two games this week that were cause for alarm, however. After a solid first quarter in Denver, the Laker bench allowed the Nuggets to blow the game open in the second quarter. Denver built a lead the Lakers were never able to recover from. Then against the Hawks, the bench twice blew a double-digit lead they had inherited from the starters. While only Meeks, Jamison and Blake entered the game off the bench, they were a collective -40 against Atlanta.

Simply put, this is not going to get it done most nights. Scoring isn’t a problem for the bench guys, but their inability to stop anyone on the opposing bench from scoring really puts a limitation on what the team can do.

Like most .500 teams, the Lakers have plenty of room for improvement. On the plus side, this is the first time in a roller-coaster of a season where Laker Nation can confidently say that its team is finally on the rise. This time, we just have to hope it’s for the rest of the season. Any more steep drops on this ride will have the Lakers heading straight into the off-season.

Oh and by the way, just in case you forgot what Kobe did yesterday, here you go. You’re welcome.

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

500 – FINALLY. It’s been two months since the Lakers’ record was even Stevens (15-15 back in December). It was, quite literally, touch and go there in the final minutes, however, as the home team built a 16-point lead in the third quarter, and then lost it completely before heading into the fourth.

Atlanta’s Devin Harris was 0-3 in the first half, but came into the third quarter and rattled off 12 points on 4-5 to help the Hawks out of that large deficit. After the Lakers lost the large advantage (a bad habit that has reared its ugly head many times this season), the score went back and forth until the final buzzer at 98-99.

HIGH POINTS:
Kobe Bryant – 34 points on 13-27 from the field, six rebounds, four assists and two steals. If not for the five turnovers, this would have been a relatively more successful stat line, but Mamba’s been on an offensive tear since the All-Star break and the Lakers have been benefiting from his fruits. He provided the highlight play of the game when, with under two minutes left in the game and the Lakers behind by a point, Bryant drove in and dunked one on Atlanta’s Josh Smith.
Rebounds – After two quarters, the Lakers had outrebounded the Hawks 26-17, with Atlanta not collecting a single offensive rebound. Los Lakers finished with 43 boards to the Hawks’ 36, led by Dwight Howard’s 15 rebounds.
.500 – It’s been a tough road to .500 but the Lakers managed to get there and are now 7-2 since All-Star weekend.

LOW POINTS:
Blown Leads – The Lakers had an 11-point lead in the first quarter, but allowed Atlanta to come back in the second quarter to take a seven-point lead. The Lakers managed to take the lead back before the half, and then went on an 11-4 run in the third quarter to give themselves a 16-point cushion. Unfortunately, the Hawks went on their scoring run shortly after, getting to within three points until Bryant hit a three-pointer at the end of the quarter to bring the lead to at least six before the fourth. The Lakers are not new to this way of victimizing themselves during a game. It’s sometimes not worth getting to such a large lead if they fail to build on it, or at the very least protect it. It makes the game exciting in the end, true, but the last few seconds of the game could have gone either way tonight and the Lakers were fortunate to come out victors in the end.
Turnovers – It’s a habit that, at this point in the season, the Lakers should have remedied. By halftime, they’d racked up 12 turnovers already, and finished with 21. 21 turnovers led to 29 points for the Hawks.
Defense – Up by one point with about 34 seconds left in the game, and all the Lakers had to do was play defense for one Atlanta possession, but somehow, Al Horford managed to score on a wide open dunk. It appears Dwight Howard (and his teammates on the floor) lost track of Horford. That dunk gave Atlanta back the lead. Fortunately for the Lakers, Bryant managed to score on a driving layup to give the home team the lead to end the game.

It’s been a long road back to a .500 record. Unfortunately, it’s a feat in which the Lakers cannot dwell because in two days, this record will be challenged by the mighty OKC Thunder…in OKC.

Box Score

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Photo courtesy of Bruce Bennett, Getty Images

For the past few summers, Dwight Howard has made the trip to Houston to train with Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon in hopes to further his low post offensive game.

Via Twitter on Saturday, a fan asked Dwight Howard if he will continue to do so. Dwight politely responded that he will.

Despite having back surgery and a torn labrum in his shoulder, Howard is still averaging 16. 2 points and 11.9 rebounds per game. This continued off-season training, along with a healthy body, will help Howard develop into a more sophisticated low post threat, ending his predictability on offense. This development, alongside more continuity with the current players, makes the Lakers future look bright… no matter how dark the present may be.

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Photo: Harry How | Getty Images
Photo: Harry How | Getty Images
Photo: Harry How | Getty Images

Antawn Jamison came to Los Angeles for one reason: to win a ring.

Since signing his one-year, veteran’s minimum deal with the Lakers, the 14-year veteran has endured his most unpredictable season yet.

In the twilight of his career, Jamison transitioned from five consecutive games with a DNP-CD in late December, to now leading the Lakers’ bench unit in March.

Jamison, who has averaged 19.0 points and 7.7 rebounds per game over his career, was obviously stunned and discouraged by his lack of playing time. The two-time All-Star specifically chose the Lakers over his hometown Charlotte Bobcats, and their $11 million contract offer, to chase a ring.

Back in July of 2012, when he made that decision, Jamison certainly did not foresee a ‘cheerleading’ role on the Lakers bench.

In a recent interview with ESPNLA’s Ramona Shelburne, Antawn Jamison explained his early frustration, how he stayed professional and the Lakers’ “deciding factor” this season:

When asked about the notorious DNP-CD streak, Jamison had this to say:

“Never in my career had that happened to me,” Jamison said. “Never. I just didn’t know what was going on. Did I do something wrong?”

During one of the most difficult stretches of his career, Jamison tried to stay professional and remained a role model for the younger players.

Jamison then explained coach Mike D’Antoni‘s justification for sitting him:

“He was a man about it,” Jamison said of D’Antoni. “He sat down and talked to me. He told me he liked Metta at the 4. I could understand that.

“And ever since then, we’ve honestly had an open dialogue about things. If there’s something going on, he feels comfortable telling me, ‘Look, I’m trying this. You might be in early, you might be out.’

“It was good to have that wall come down a little bit.”

Since the Lakers’ famed “clear the air” meeting in Memphis on January 23rd, the Lakers have gone 12-5. Jamison’s 13.2 ppg and 5.3 rpg averages in the month of February certainly have a lot to do with the Lakers’ recent turnaround. Jamison, however, explained that it was more than just that:

“It really helps out, especially on the bench, knowing when you’re coming in, knowing what your role is. Knowing what is needed of you,” Jamison said. “You’re not worried about shots or minutes or ‘If I make a mistake I’m coming out.’

“There were games where you knew if we had some more chemistry or stability, the outcome would be totally different. I had guys from opposing teams coming to me like, ‘What’s up with y’all? Y’all chemistry is bad.’

“Other people from other teams saw it. That was the deciding factor between us losing and winning games. Now we have roles, guys know what’s expected, it makes a difference. It helps a lot.”

Backup shooting guard Jodie Meeks also endured a similar discouraging stretch this season. Meeks, like Jamison, fell out of D’Antoni’s rotation in January. Meeks explained how Jamison’s support as a role model helped him get through that difficult stretch:

“I talked to [Jamison] when I was going through it, and he told me to stay professional,” Meeks said. “Stay before and after practice, like I always do, that way when my time comes again I’m not as rusty and I can be effective.

“It’s tough, especially being a relatively young player, not knowing how much you’re going to play or if you’re going to play is tough, mentally.

“But I think I’ve done a good job of dealing with it.”

D’Antoni seems to have now settled on a permanent eight-man rotation, with Jamison, Meeks and Steve Blake anchoring the bench unit. A glaring liability in the past, the Lakers bench played consistent basketball in the month of February. That consistency culminated in 55 bench points in the Lakers most-recent 116-94 win over Minnesota.

D’Antoni also praised Jamison for his exceptional play of late:

“He’s just a smart basketball player,” D’Antoni said of Jamison after Thursday’s game. “He understands spacing. He understands when to cut. He understands timing. He’s the type of basketball player that I love.”

After the Lakers’ win over the Timberwolves, Kobe Bryant also praised Jamison and his ability to make plays. Bryant even likened him to a ‘cockroach':

Jamison then reminisced on his decision to sign with the Lakers and what it means to him, this late in his career:

“Whatever the future holds, I can honestly say ‘I had a shot. I had that opportunity and I took it,” Jamison said. “That’s what this has been all about. Playing for the Lakers.

“Because let’s be honest, with the personnel we have, this is the best opportunity I’ve ever had to win.”

One dimension that weighed heavy on Jamison’s decision to sign with the Lakers was his children. Jamison has four kids, ages 12, 7, 6 and 4, who live in North Carolina. They, however, were supportive of his move out west to play for the Lakers:

“I talked to the kids,” Jamison said. “And I talked to their mom [they divorced two years ago], and she said, ‘For one year, I can hold it down if this is what you want to do.’ “

That was a sacrifice for Jamison. He would take less money and play a lesser role in Los Angeles. He would be far from his children. But at this point in his career, it was the only reason to keep playing:

“For me, it was knowing I had an opportunity to win,” he said. “In the back of my mind, I knew that won’t always be there. And how would I feel if I didn’t take it?”

With the Playoffs fast approaching, the Lakers will need Jamison to continue his stellar play, and for that all-important chemistry to keep developing.

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Photo courtesy of Harry How, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Harry How, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Harry How, Getty Images

The Lakers have now beaten the Minnesota Timberwolves in 21 straight games, which is the most dominant one NBA team has been over another. With the team’s stars, Kevin Love, Brandon Roy, Andrei Kirilenko, and most recently, Nikola Pekovic (who left in the first quarter and didn’t return) leaving them shorthanded, the Lakers had to take advantage of their opponents’ disadvantages. With the season winding down, and the Lakers still trying to claw their way into that final seed in the Western Conference, every win is a big one no matter which team is on the schedule. They can’t control how the teams above them perform, but they can help themselves by preventing any more losing streaks. At 5-1 since the All-Star break, they’re on the right track so far.

Metta World Peace opened the game with a three pointer, foreshadowing a storm of threes to come. The Lakers had one of their best shooting nights from behind the arc, and Kobe Bryant led the way offensively with a dunk contest all his own. Dwight Howard led the way defensively, meeting every penetration by the likes of Ricky Rubio and J.J. Barea with bated breath before pouncing on most every shot attempt that came near the hoop. The bench was also key, helping up the lead to as much as 25 points, and anchoring to secure the 116-94 victory.

HIGH POINTS:
Kobe Bryant – Father Time called. He told Kobe to party on, and that he did. Two one-handed dunks, which would have been three if he hadn’t missed the third attempt. Fortunately, he rebounded his own miss and scored on a layup anyway. 33 points on 13-22 from the field, 4-8 from downtown, five rebounds, five assists and two steals.
Bench Mobbin’ – Leading the reserves tonight was Steve Blake, whose return has regulated the Lakers’ rotation and thereby stabilized the playing time of his pine fellows. After missing more than half the season with a rib injury, Blake came back looking as confident and comfortable as he’s ever been since donning the purple and gold jersey. Coach Mike D’Antoni mentioned wanting to work with Blake for years and we can see why. Blake has been a solid back-up for Steve Nash, and not just on the offensive end. He has always been a scrappy, fiery player, unafraid to take on any defensive assignment. Tonight he put in a good amount of work – 13 points on 4-6 from the field, 3-5 from downtown, grabbed seven rebounds, handed out six assists, and in 25 minutes of play, didn’t commit a single turnover. Antawn Jamison – Chipping in double-digit scoring in the last few weeks, Antawn Jamison is averaging 15.9 ppg in the past seven games. That is consistency. Jamison always seems to be in the right place at the right time, ready to meet a bounce pass from Blake on his way to the hoop, ready to receive a pass from Bryant for a baseline lay-in, ready to grab the offensive board from a teammate’s miss and ready to catch a pass from behind the arc for a three. This readiness is Jamison’s trump card. There were stretches this season where he was buried at the end of the bench, but when his number came up, he wasn’t just ready to play. He was ready to put in the effort to play well. Tonight he had another efficient night, with 17 points on 7-11 from the field, including 2-4 from three and he grabbed eight rebounds. Jodie Meeks, who was 0-3 in the first half, went 5-8 in the second half, rattling off 4-6 from behind the arc. 16 huge points from Meeks tonight. Including the players who came off the bench when the victory was sealed, the reserves’ collective line reads as follows: 52 points on 58% from the field, 23 rebounds and 11 assists.
Downtown Dominance – What a difference the three makes. The Lakers went 16-32 from behind the arc tonight, with six players chipping in their three points. It was one three pointer shy of meeting their high for the season of 17 against the Denver Nuggets, so many months ago. 48 of the Lakers’ 116 points came from downtown. Who would’ve thunk?
Defense – Dwight Howard didn’t have a huge offensive night, just 11 points on 5-6, but his 13 rebounds, steal, four blocks and presence in every lane that led to the Minnesota basket were his key contributions, and if he were to put in this type of effort in every game, the Lakers would be a completely different team.

LOW POINTS:
Free throws – 12-21 from the charity stripe, and Howard was not the only one to blame. A typically competent free throw shooter, Bryant went just 3-7 from the line tonight.
Metta World Peace – When the year began, the Lakers relied on MWP’s offense, but lately, he hasn’t been able to retain his touch. He chipped in two three pointers tonight, but was 2-7 from the field for the game.

It was a game that the Lakers were favored to win, and win they did in dominating fashion. They led by 16 points after three quarters, and instead of falling apart like they did in the last meeting in Minnesota (where they lost a 28-point lead and had to scramble to eke out a win), they stayed the course and won easily in the end. Neither Kobe Bryant nor Steve Nash played a second of the fourth quarter, and D’Antoni emptied his bench. Next up are the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday.

Box Score

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Image Credit: Noah Graham | Getty Images
Source: Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images
Source: Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images

Can you smell it? Have you started to sense it? Are you beginning to visualize it? You are probably asking yourself by now, what is this Laker loving lunatic talking about?  THE PLAYOFF PUSH!! What else could it be? Maybe you haven’t been paying attention, or maybe you have been and you aren’t seeing or feeling what I am.

Regardless of which scenario best describes where you fit into this, it’s time to stop with the head scratching and the disbelief and tune into what is now becoming the best reality TV show going right now. The Lakers are making their move, and the rest of the West better get out of their way.

For those of you that may or not remember, I made the statement not too long ago that the Lakers needed to compile a record of 20-8 their remaining 28 games of the season, and the lower seeded teams needed to start tanking and tanking fast. The Lakers are 3-1 post All-Star break, and the lower seeds are playing the role of the Titanic.

Last Sunday in Dallas was an electric, playoff atmosphere. Nowitzki and Kobe trading off balance jump shots and Kobe draining some ridiculous, jaw dropping stuff that only Kobe can do. He even put on a crazy cross dribble move on Vince Carter that almost caused Vinsanity to be air lifted to Dallas Medical with a broken ankle and bruised ego. It was what we spoiled Lakers Lovers have come to expect. A vintage performance.

The lone loss since the break came the very next night in Denver. This has always been a tough place for the Lakers to win, and to play the high octane Nuggets on the second game of a back to back is a tough task for even the elite teams of the league to pull off. Don’t get me wrong, I am not making excuses for the Lakers. This was a game they needed. Your defense gives up 119 points in a game, your team won’t win many of them. Surprise, The Lakers got dumped by 11 and it could have been worse. Once again, with a .500 record within their grasp, they failed miserably.

This is where the story is going to take a turn for the better. This is the part that is going to leave your body tingling. Are you ready? OK here it is. Remember the previous reference to the lower seeded teams and how they needed to tank?  Guess what? THEY ARE TANKING!! You don’t believe me? The 8th seeded Rockets, the team the Lakers desperately need to pass for playoff entry, have lost 2 straight, and are only 2-1/2 ahead of LA. The 7th seeded Utah Jazz have dumped 3 in a row and are a mere 3 games ahead of the purple and gold.

If you really want to reach for the stars, the Warriors have a 2 game losing streak and have seen their lead shrink to 5 games over the Lakers for the 6 seed. Not to mention Portland and Dallas, the other two teams with a playoff pulse are slowly fading into life support mode.

In Paul Revere fashion, I am screaming this as loud as I can. All within ear shot, or nearest to an iPhone, iPad, or however you get news these days, listen up! THE LAKERS ARE COMING! THE LAKERS ARE COMING! No really, they really are. They are coming home for 2 games at Staples Center. T Wolves tonight, Hawks on Sunday. Hopefully, two more wins and two steps closer to the playoffs. Oh, and that much closer to a team that won’t want to see L.A.

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Photo Cred: Getty Images
Photo Cred: Getty Images
Photo Cred: Getty Images

Whether you are a Laker Nation die-hard or a disgruntled Orlando Magic fan, you are going to have an opinion of the Dwight Howard signing over the summer. The three time Defensive Player of the Year recipient and seven time All-Star was brought to Los Angeles to propel an aging Laker roster over the wall they have hit the previous two post seasons. With Howards presence in the paint, multiple championships seemed to be in reach and future of the franchise looked bright as the Lakers had a superstar who would carry the torch into the eventual post Kobe era.

Sounds good, right?

Young into his Laker career, fans and media have labeled Howard a disappointment both on and off the court. Well get over it, put it behind you, because the plan is he’s here to stay. Coming off significant back surgery, Howard returned to action months before the suggested time frame laid out by doctors. You could not have expected Howard to come back 100% and in the same form as most remember in Orlando. Give the man some credit, he has played through pain, criticism, and the pressure of playing alongside the greatest player of this era, The Black Mamba.

Yet with all this going on, Howard has averaged 16.3 ppg, leading the Lakers in field goal percentage, blocks and rebounds. Although below his averages, Howard has had to learn two different offenses that are clearly not using his skill sets to its maximum potential. Especially Coach D’Antoni’s system, which gives the green light to any perimeter shooter while ignoring the significance of post play.

Think back to January 15, 2013. Just a regular day for some, but for the Laker Nation it was Dwight Howard’s coming out party. Howard looked superb, lighting up the Milwaukee Bucks for 31 points, going 14-18 from the field, with 16 rebounds and 4 blocks. For once this season, eagerly waiting Laker fans finally witnessed the pure dominance of Howard. It was a spectacle to see at both ends of the floor and the start of what was going to be a bright season, or so Laker fans thought…

In the next 13 games, Howard’s play proved to be the same old story. Posting a 5-8 record, and amongst never ending drama, Howard and the Lakers limped into the All-Star break once again searching for answers. One think was clear; Howard was not involved on offense. Multiple sources were the cause of this problem, but in reality, there were just not enough shots to go around.

Take a look into the numbers:

Over this 13 game span, Howard averaged 12.2 ppg, shooting 55% from the field on only 8.3 FGA. Meanwhile Metta World Peace (34% shooting, 11.2 ppg, 12.1 FGA) and the newly emerged Earl Clark (45% shooting, 10.8 ppg, 9.9 FGA) were both culprits of shooting more and averaging less. This is boggling to the basketball mind. Why have your less productive players shoot more than your bread and butter?

Kobe and Howard should lay the foundation for the offense, then let Nash and company feast on the scraps. Not to mention, a solid post game will open up even more of those beloved perimeter shots. Yeah you say D’Antoni’s offense does not run this way, but hell, at least try to implement it a few games.

With 24 games remaining in the regular season, the only way the Lakers will be hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy is if D’Antoni’s system is critiqued in order to incorporate more post play/players. As the Lakers attempt to chip away at the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, you can see strides are being taken in the right direction, but will it be enough?

As much as Laker fans love a good ol’ fashioned gun show, we know Kobe and company shooting their way through the playoffs will only get the Lakers so far. The Lakers have the ingredients to make their presence felt come post season, and with a playoff endorsement, you are crazy to count them out just yet. Have faith in the big man Laker Nation, because whether you hate or love the guy, the Lakers recipe for success lies on the shoulders of Dwight Howard.

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PhotCredit:Kirby-Lee-USA-TODAY-Sports
PhotoCredit:EliteSports
PhotoCredit:EliteSports.com

With rumors swirling around Los Angeles that Dwight is miserable and wants to get on the next train straight out of Los Angeles, no one would believe Howard would allow a release of a commercial saying he’s, and we quote, All in for L.A.

In case you haven’t seen it yet, here it is:

This commercial is something to marvel at.  If Dwight is as happy as he appears here, then L.A. has something to look forward to at seasons end.  Dwight makes it sound like he wants to stay with the Lakers, and hopefully he means it.

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Photo by: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images North America

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:

It’s revealing of the individual’s ignorance. To think that 17 years of my career, is there anything about me that says I’m going to allow you guys to see me slow up?

Kobe Bryant, on his doubters, via the OC Register

#9:

I wish they would’ve amnestied Kobe before the game

Dirk Nowitzki, joking about Mark Cuban’s comments on the Lakers possibly amnestying Kobe, via Ramona Shelburne

#8:

If he goes one-on-one and tries to play an “And-1″ kind of game, then he is very normal or bad.

Mike D’Antoni on Steve Nash, via ESPN

#7:

It’s great to win when you don’t play your best, not on your A game; that’s what it’s all about. Playoff teams always find a way.

Steve Nash, after the win over the Trail Blazers, via Lakers.com

#6:

People forget it’s been only 10 months since Dwight had major back surgery, he’s been traded, he injured a (right) shoulder that may require offseason surgery. He’s the best center in the NBA. The criticism, to me, is unwarranted and he should know – and I think he does – that we support him 100 percent.

Mitch Kupchak on Dwight Howard, via Lakers.com

#5:

It’s not a question of if we make the playoffs. We will. And when we get there, I have no fear of anyone — Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Denver … whoever. I have zero nervousness about that. We will make the playoffs. And we will compete.

Kobe Bryant, via Sports Illustrated

#4:

Jerry dreamt it, we saw it, we went after it, and it became a reality. Jerry created a new Laker paradigm and for 30 years, it captured the imagination of the entire sports world. We weren’t just the best of the best. The Lakers are unique, they still are. The Lakers separated themselves from the pack and left footprints to follow, and there’s a lot of teams that are trying.

Pat Riley, at the Dr. Buss Memorial

#3:

Kobe, if I had a diamond of great value, four or five carats, would I give up that diamond for four diamonds of one carat? No. There’s no equal value that what we can get for you. A trade would not match what you can bring to this team.

Dr. Jerry Buss, as revealed by Phil Jackson at the Dr. Buss Memorial

#2:

Jerry embraced life with the same enthusiasm and energy when Magic embraced me when we beat the Clippers in his first NBA game. His passion for life made Jerry a modern Renaissance Man. He was a beloved college professor, a courageous entrepreneur and generous philanthropist. No matter what he did, he was a success. His greatest quality was his willingness to share his success with every one else.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, at the Dr. Buss Memorial

#1:

I encourage all of you, me included, to just look around the room and look at the greatness of one man’s vision. Look at all the players that are here, the coaches that are here… We all have one thing in common: we all believed in Dr. Jerry Buss. And so for us to look around this room and to understand that we are playing for something bigger than ourselves, bigger than a single season. We are playing for the memory of a great man: Dr. Jerry Buss.

Kobe Bryant, at the Dr. Buss Memorial

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

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With the Lakers off to a poor start, trade rumors have begun to swirl around Kobe Bryant, leading many to speculate if he'll leave for greener pastures. Kobe puts those rumors to rest in his interview with Yahoo Sports.