Sunday, November 23, 2014
Blog Page 49

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PhotoCredit: Getty Images
PhotoCredit: Espn.go.com
PhotoCredit: Espn.go.com

The whistle blows, the ref makes the gesture and a technical foul is given to a player who has just over stepped his bounds.  Technical fouls occur when a player complains too much, throws a fist or just is acting in an unsportsmanlike way.  The NBA has a rule that if any one player receives 16 technical fouls in a season, they get suspended for one game.  Most players manage to avoid that mark and learn to control their emotions on the court and keep their snide comments to themselves.

Kobe Bryant isn’t quite one of those players.  Bryant received his 14th technical foul last night against The Denver Nuggets right as the second quarter ended.  Joey Crawford blew his whistle and handed Kobe his 14th T for complaining about a foul that should’ve been called on a last second shot attempt.  However this technical was later rescinded by the league office after Bryant spoke with Crawford and he again only has 13.

PhotoCredit: Getty Images
PhotoCredit: Getty Images

Bryant has always gotten close, but only once in his illustrious career has Bryant been suspended for receiving a 16th technical foul in a season. Bryant is leading the league in technical fouls with 13 this season, a stat that isn’t one you’d like to be leading in.  Perhaps it’s just the way things have gone, or perhaps it’s a bigger issue, perhaps it’s the sense of urgency he has and by showing this kind of emotion on the court he hopes to get his teammates fired up.  We all know this has been a trying season and hasn’t gone the way anyone had hoped and maybe that’s why Bryant is letting out more frustration on the court.

Good news for Laker fans is that Kobe is the master of zen taking after former coach Phil Jackson, so fans everywhere need not worry about Bryant hitting that 16 tech threshold.  Bryant knows his team needs him during this critical time and a one game suspension could be extremely detrimental to the team’s success.

Bryant and The Lakers face a tough road ahead, one that’s going to take guts, emotion, and a will to win.  If Kobe can keep his cool and stay under that 16 technical threshold The Lakers have a much higher chance of success and making the playoffs.

 

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Photo Credit: Getty Images
Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Greatness always starts with mediocrity.

Right, I get it. That doesn’t make any sense. Only it totally does. Let me explain it this way…

You can’t rise from the ashes if there aren’t any ashes to rise from, and you certainly can’t overcome the odds if they’re not already stacked against you.

Here’s the problem with that paradigm in sports: We like to sprinkle in the ashes after they’ve already been risen from, and we love to stack the odds after they’ve already been overcome.

It’s called revisionist history, and we do it all the time.

Jordan’s Bulls? Magic’s Lakers? Bird’s Celtics? Shaq and Kobe’s Lakers? All unquestionably stories we would commonly call tales of greatness, but none of them encapsulated greatness in the most enchanting sense of the word.

Front running success is still success by definition, but true greatness typically begins in complete failure.

It’s the difference between Jessica Simpson gracing the cover of Maxim again… and Rosie O’Donnell gracing the cover of Maxim.

The first one you’re not completely shocked by, although you’d find it impressive that Jessica was able to shed a few pounds and find her way back into the limelight.

The other?

Impossible. Not a chance. No way in hell.

… And right on queue, in walks the ’12-13 Lakers – 100 pounds overweight, sloppily drunk and stumbling around the room.

It’s completely absurd – maybe even borderline psychotic – to even suggest that this sub-.500, injury riddled, apathetic Lakers team could even play into the second round of the playoffs, let alone…

Gulp.

Hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy in June.

Championship? … Wait, Championship!?

Impossible. Not a chance. No way in hell.

And that is exactly why this season – this one, right now – carries with it the potential to redefine our own definition of greatness.

We don’t see opportunities like this very often in Laker Nation.

Over the years, and under the spoilage of Jerry Buss, the Lakers have led the NBA in front-runner greatness.

From West and Chamberlin, to Magic and Kareem, to Shaq and Kobe, to Kobe and Pau, nobody expected the Lakers to fail. While there were times of adversity and temporary failure, there was never a forest of ashes to rise from, or insurmountable odds to overcome.

The ’01 Lakers winning the title? A perfect example of greatness achieved by maximizing potential.

The ’05 Lakers winning the title? Now that would have been one for the history books.

With more than half of this season dead and gone, Dwight Howard’s lethargy has been infuriating, Gasol’s injuries have been discouraging, and D’Antoni’s system has been highly questionable (if not completely ludicrous).

Kobe is killing himself just to squeak out games against subpar opponents.

Dr. Jerry Buss tragically passed away.

The Lakers have to essentially run the table… just to make the playoffs.

These are all prerequisites for greatness.

This is one of the few times in Lakers history where there is a smoking pile of ashes to rise from, and insurmountable odds to overcome.

Greatness always starts with mediocrity, remember?

The Lakers have the second part covered, and that’s exactly why this season could be the greatest any of us have ever witnessed.

Impossible. Not a chance. No way in hell.

…. Which is precisely why you should keep watching.

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Photo courtesy of Doug Pensinger, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Doug Pensinger, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Doug Pensinger, Getty Images

3-0 after the All-Star Break, just one game from having that elusive .500 record, motivation gained from the death of their beloved owner – it looked like the Lakers were starting to get somewhere. Unfortunately, we’ve seen them “start to get somewhere” before, and it is games like tonight that quickly remind us (and the team) of just how far they have yet to travel.

The Lakers arrived in the midst of a snowstorm in Denver after defeating the Mavericks in Dallas yesterday. Having won just one of the last three contests against the Nuggets was no fluke. Their mission is to outrun their opponents, living and dying by the turnovers they attempt to cause and the fast break points they produce as a result. Tonight, against the Lakers would be no different. So despite finally gaining some traction in the standings, and starting to play like a team, the Lakers allowed Denver to create and then take over the pace of this game, and as a result, the road to .500 has been delayed yet again by a 119-108 loss.

LEAST OF THE LOW POINTS:
Kobe Bryant – The Denver crowd hates Bryant, boos each time he touches the ball and cheers with every shot he misses. Always one who likes to silence the masses, Bryant tried to do a little too much in the first quarter with a 1-7 clip. He did go 11-16 the rest of the game, hit 5-6 of his free throws, added in six rebounds and handed out nine assists. Nuggets’ defense loaded up on Bryant on every possession, so he continued his passing. Biggest negative? Four turnovers and a 14th technical for the season.
Dwight Howard – Howard managed to go 6-8 from the field for his 15 points, grabbed 14 rebounds to lead the game and blocked four shots. Negatives? 3-14 from the free throw line and he was blocked twice.
Steve Nash – Another good offensive night for Nash, who managed 16 points on 6-8 from the field and five assists. SIX turnovers though! Nash was throwing dangerous passes across the court, knowing full well that the Denver defense anticipates every passing lane. Sidenote: Nash is still dealing with some back issues.
Metta World Peace – After struggling with his offense lately, MWP managed to go 6-11 from the field for a 15-point, three-steal night.
Bench – Denver’s bench is fourth in the league in scoring at 39.7 ppg, but their rotation goes 11-players deep, with the Lakers using just Antawn Jamison, Jodie Meeks and Steve Blake off the pine consistently as of late. Despite such a variance in depth and contribution, however, it has been these reserves who often breathe life into the Lakers’ game. In the first quarter, the three reserves owned 13 of the Lakers’ 29 points with some sharp shooting from downtown (4-5). Unfortunately, they scored just 12 more points in the final 36 minutes combined. Jamison led the reserves with his 14 points, a consistent contributor in this last stretch of wins.

WORST LOW POINTS:
Free Throws – The NBA should think of another term for free throws because, technically – they’re far from being “free.” The Denver Nuggets gave up 25 fouls to the Lakers’ 17, but it was all worth it because they faced a team who shoots just as awful from the charity stripe as they do. The Lakers attempted 31 free throws and converted just 14. 17 missed points. If they had hit even half of those misses, this game may have ended on a different note. It’s happened on more than one occasion this season, where the number of free throws that the Lakers missed either equals or outnumbers the variance of the final score. Last season, the Lakers were 16th in FT% at 76%. This season, they are 28th in the league, just below 70%.
Turnovers → Fast Break Points – The Nuggets constantly wait for their opponents to make an errant pass or miss their shots because it means they can rebound and run. Denver scored 33 fast break points. Surely the Lakers’ 15 turnovers helped their cause, as well as outrebounding the purple and gold 44-36. Both teams shot around the same percentage, Lakers 55.1%, Denver 55.7%, but it was
Points In The Paint – Most of those fast break points were, naturally, high percentage shots – layups and dunks. By halftime, Denver had outscored the Lakers 50-20 in the paint, and by the end of the game, it was a 78-50 difference inside.
Goaltend is the word – With all the high-flying antics to block shots, both teams were called for goaltending so often that it became hard to tell what deserved the call and what didn’t. Unfortunately, goaltending is not reviewable during the game.

The Lakers haven’t had a .500 record since they were 15-15 back in December, and for the first time since Kobe Bryant joined the team, the Lakers have reached 30 losses before they reached 30 wins. It’s not all that surprising since not much this season has gone in the Lakers’ favor. On a more positive note, the Lakers were once 17-25 so they’ve gone 11-5 since hitting that 8-game hole. Silver linings, people. Hold fast to them.

Box Score

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Source: Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images

This week’s edition of Top to Bottom covers two weeks worth of games. In that span, the Lakers played five games and went 4-1. Here are the top three players from the past two weeks:

Photo by Harry How | Getty Images
Photo by Harry How | Getty Images

TOP

3. Kobe Bryant

Kobe laid an egg against Phoenix two weeks ago when he shot 1-8 and scored only 4 points. He has also had recent struggles from beyond the arc, but if there’s anything we know about the Bean it is that he never gives up. Kobe was able to turn all that around and average 23.6 ppg in the past five games. He also had impressive back to back performances scoring 40 against Portland then went for 38 and hit 4-5 from long range against Dallas on Sunday. He has also kept up his recent assist outburst averaging 7.6 apg in the last five.

2. Dwight Howard

Dwight took off his headband and moved from bottom to the top of the list this week. It’s still obvious that he is not 100% yet, but Howard has been playing much more aggressively and seems to be playing with purpose again. In the past five games he has been averaging 17.8 points and 13.4 rebounds per game.

1. Antawn Jamison

Antawn Jamison has had an interesting season. After five straight “DNP – Coach’s Decision” earlier this season, he has become a big and consistent part of Coach D’Antoni’s rotation. He has been very consistent off the bench in the past couple weeks averaging 16ppg and shooting at an efficient 51.7%.

Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein | NBAE via Getty Images
Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein | NBAE via Getty Images

BOTTOM 

With Coach D’Antoni settling into a consistent rotation and the Lakers finally playing with a sense of urgency the Lakers have gone 4-1 in their last five and 7-3 in their last 10. With the team playing this well this week’s Bottom list is a bit short, here they are.

2. Metta World Peace

While his shooting percentages have gone up in the past five games, Metta continues his struggles shooting only 35% from the field. While he isn’t a defensive liability, the offense seems to lag when the ball is in his hand. He continues to hold the ball far too long and tries to do too much.

1. The whole team against the Clippers

It’s a game we all want to forget. Right before the All-star break the Lakers took on the Clippers for the third time and lost for the third time this season. It was a beat down like no other. The Lakers defense couldn’t stop a barrage of three pointers coming from the Clippers (who went 16-30 from three-point land), Dwight Howard was out rebounded by both DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin, and the entire starting lineup had an average +/- score of -25. It was the Lakers only loss in the past five games, but it was definitely one that stung.

 

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Bank Shot: Game of the Week

Games of the Week: Denver Nuggets (35-22), Minnesota Timberwolves (20-33)

With only two games this week, the most important game this week is against the Denver Nuggets.

Photo courtesy of Robyn Beck, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Robyn Beck, Getty Images

Currently riding a three game winning streak and 11-4 in their last 15 games, the Lakers seem to be gearing up for a legitimate run at a spot in the 2013 NBA Playoffs.

Monday night the Lakers take on the Denver Nuggets in the second game of a back to back. The Lakers defeated the Dallas Mavericks in an early Sunday game, 103-99 and now have their sights on beating the Nuggets who presently sit in the fifth spot of the Western Conference at 35-22.

After an up and down season filled with inconsistency, lackluster performances, and key injuries, the Lakers have only lost seven more games than the Nuggets. The Nuggets have defeated the Lakers twice already this season including a blowout loss on 126-114 the day after Christmas. The game versus the Nuggets is the game of the week for many reasons:

The Lakers need road wins

With a road record of 10-18, the Lakers need to find ways to pick up more wins on the road. The Pepsi Center in Denver would be the perfect place for the Lakers to make a statement against a young team that is hungry to prove it really belongs, and what better way to prove you belong than to beat a team that’s starting to look like the team everybody expected them to be.   This is a game the Lakers have to come out with tons of energy and let winning on the road be their guide.

The Lakers are playing a back to back

The second game of a back to back usually shows the age of this current Lakers team. In the second game of a back to back, on December 26 versus the Nuggets, the Lakers looked old and slow as they were beat badly in transition and many of their shots fell short of the rim. Clearly resembling someone recovering from back surgery, Dwight Howard had a horrible game as he had no lift in his legs. However, this Lakers team is different than the one in December and a win in the mile high city would serve as a legitimate notice to the rest of the league.

With only 25 games remaining, the Lakers cannot afford to lose many more games. The Lakers currently sit two games behind the Houston Rockets (31-27) and four games behind the Utah Jazz (31-25) in the loss column.  The Lakers have to make up games and make them up fast! If the Lakers continue their winning ways combined with the will of Kobe Bryant, the Rockets, Jazz, and even the Warriors may began to feel the heat.

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

The 2013 NBA All-Star break certainly treated the Lakers well this year.

Coming out of last week’s All-Star break, the Lakers have won their last 3 games in a row, and improved their overall record to 28-29 this week.

With Monday’s devastating passing of long-time Lakers’ owner Dr. Jerry Buss, the Lakers rallied around the spirit of their joyous owner.

After a touching pre-game ceremony in the first game since the late owner’s death, the Lakers beat the Boston Celtics handedly, 113-99.

The Lakers followed up that emotional win with a win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday. Kobe Bryant’s 40 points led the Lakers to victory over another team with playoff aspirations.

With two wins under their belts, the Lakers departed Los Angeles for Dallas on Sunday—defeating the 10th-place Mavericks, 103-99.

With 25 games remaining now, the Lakers sit just 2 ½ games back of the 8th seed in the Western Conference.

Also, after the February 21st NBA Trade Deadline this past week, the Lakers’ entire roster remained intact.

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 : At 34 years of age, the man, the legend, Kobe Bryant, continues to play at an extremely high level.

Image Credit: Gary A. Vasquez | USA TODAY Sports
Image Credit: Gary A. Vasquez | USA TODAY Sports

Bryant did not have a particularly great game against the Celtics, but did contribute 16 points and 7 assists in the win. Bryant also made a number of key defensive stops and even dove on the ground for a loose ball late in that game.

It looked like Bryant, despite an off shooting night, really took it upon himself to give 110% effort on such an emotional night for the Lakers.

Bryant responded against Portland and seemingly reverted back to the “scoring-Kobe” of old.

Bryant poured in 40 points on 15-23 shooting, including 9-9 from the free-throw line, and 7 rebounds. Bryant’s perfect free-throw shooting was key in sealing the win late for the Lakers.

It’s pretty difficult to upstage a 40-point game, right? Well, Bryant found a way to do that against Dallas.

Bryant scored 38 points on 13-21 shooting, and contributed 12 rebounds and 7 assists. Bryant also made 5-5 field goals in the fourth quarter to ensure a Lakers’ victory.

Bryant certainly set the tone offensively early and often, and sealed the victory late with tough shots on the perimeter.

Bryant also drained 4-5 three-pointers in that game, effectively ending his recent “drought” from behind the arc.

With these recent performances, it seems that the 34-year-old has finally figured out his toughest challenge this season.

Bryant struggled finding a balance earlier this season between scoring too much and facilitating too often. With averages of 31.3 ppg and 6.0 apg this past week, Bryant seems to have found that elusive balance.

If Bryant continues playing at this high of a level going forward, Bryant and the Lakers will backup his playoff ‘guarantee’.

Dwight Howard Up arrow : Could the passing of the great Dr. Buss have had a direct impact on Dwight Howard as well?

It looks like it may have, coupled with the rest and rehabilitation Howard received during the All-Star break.

Image Credit: David Crane
Image Credit: David Crane

Howard was the main reason the Lakers got off to such a quick start against the Boston Celtics. Howard established himself inside early and often, and looked much more “springy” to start.

Howard finished the game with a team-high 24 points along with 12 rebounds, 7 of which were offensive.

Against Portland, Howard contributed another solid performance with 19 points, 16 rebounds and 2 blocks.

The treatment Howard received during the All-Star break really paid dividends this week, as Howard had the best back-to-back stretch of his short Lakers career.

In the game against Dallas, however, Howard got into early foul trouble. With Pau Gasol still out at least another 4 weeks, the Lakers desperately need Howard to stay out of foul trouble going forward, especially since he’s the only real center in the rotation.

Howard finished with just 9 points but did contribute 13 rebounds, and played solid defense patrolling the paint.

Howard’s ability to contest and alter shots is not something that shows up the stat sheet, but it’s something that has a huge impact on the outcome of games.

As demonstrated by their current three-game winning streak, the Lakers have been effective on both ends of the floor with this more “active” Dwight Howard.

Antawn Jamison Up arrow : Two straight weeks of solid performances from Antawn Jamison have been a huge factor in the Lakers’ recent turnaround.

Image Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea | USA TODAY Sports
Image Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea | USA TODAY Sports

Jamison seems to have finally settled into his role in Los Angeles.

For the month of February, Jamison is averaging 12.7 ppg on 47.5% shooting and 5.3 rpg. Jamison, the Lakers’ sixth-man, has become a considerable threat off the bench.

What once was a glaring weakness for the Lakers, the bench has now become somewhat of a strength. Jamison’s recent play has had a lot to do with this, along with fellow reserves Jodie Meeks and Steve Blake.

Over the last three games, Jamison has averaged 14.7 ppg and 5.3 rpg. This increased production has helped pick up the slack with Gasol injured.

After the Lakers’ win in Dallas, coach Mike D’Antoni had this to say of the bench:

“I think our bench is playing great for us. [Meeks, Jamison and Blake are] crucial to what we’ve been doing as of late.”

If Jamison can continue scoring at this rate, the Lakers’ bench unit will become a potent aspect of this team.

Earl Clark Up arrow : After a tough week last week for Earl Clark, he turned it around this week.

Clark averaged 10.3 ppg and 9.0 rpg in the last three games. Clark’s 14 points and 16 rebounds were especially instrumental in the Lakers’ win over the Celtics.

Clark, who dislocated his left pinky in the win over Portland, has continued to play with solid energy starting alongside Dwight Howard.

It was a welcomed sight to see Clark bounce back from the difficult stretch he had before the All-Star break. That type of resiliency is promising, especially from a young player like Earl Clark.

With Gasol still out with his plantar fascia tear, Clark’s contributions will be paramount in the Lakers’ continued success.

Steve Nash even : Despite a tough 2-11 shooting performance against Portland, Steve Nash finished the week strong.

Image Credit: Cameron Browne | Getty Images
Image Credit: Cameron Browne | Getty Images

Nash scored a huge 20 points against Dallas, including 4-5 from three-point range.

Nash’s clutch three-pointer late in the fourth quarter helped catapult the Lakers to victory.

Nash also had a solid game offensively against Boston, in which he scored 14 points on 6-7 shooting and dished out 7 assists.

One particularly surprising part about Nash’s game this season has been his defense. Sure, Nash is not a lock-down defender by any means, but his defensive toughness this season has been great.

Nash has always had the reputation of being a poor defender, but his solid defense on the perimeter of late should have people revisiting that perception.

Finally, Nash did ‘tweak’ his back in the Lakers’ win over the Trail Blazers. Nash is confident that this injury is only temporary, but did say that it is an acute injury, different from his usual back issues.

With Nash playing 30+ minutes per game, that’s certainly something to keep an eye on going forward.

Jodie Meeks even : Although Jodie Meeks did not shoot the ball particularly well this week (6-14 from the field and 3-9 from behind the arc), he did hit some timely shots.

Meeks averaged 8.7 ppg this week off the bench and contributed defensively with constant hustle.

Despite Meeks’ scoring contributions, the Lakers could definitely benefit from Meeks shooting more efficiently.

Steve Blake even : Since returning to the Lakers’ lineup, Blake has averaged 4.9 ppg and 3.2 apg off the bench.

Although those aren’t the most spectacular stats, Blake’s ability to control the game has been beneficial for everyone on the floor.

Blake’s command of the offense has been a significant upgrade from the inconsistent play of Chris Duhon. Blake’s defensive tenacity has also helped slow quicker opposing point guards.

The Lakers’ bench unit has flourished since his return, but Blake only shot 25% from behind the arc this past week.

Like Meeks, Blake’s three-point shooting efficiency could also use a boost going forward.

Metta World Peace even : Had Metta World Peace not played excellent defense on Paul Pierce and Dirk Nowitzki this past week, he would have received a red down arrow.

World Peace struggled mightily from the floor this week, shooting a measly 9-29, or 31%, from the field. World Peace also shot 30.8% from three-point range.

Image Credit: Wally Skalij | LA Times
Image Credit: Wally Skalij | LA Times

Opposing defenses continue to leave World Peace wide open on the perimeter, and he has to knock down those shots in the future.

With defenses keying in on Bryant, Nash and Howard, World Peace has become the open player.

If World Peace keeps struggling like this, opposing teams will continue scheming their defenses towards allowing World Peace to shoot as much as he’d like.

Despite his offensive struggles, World Peace did play excellent defense in all three games this week.

In the win over Boston, World Peace held Paul Pierce to just 3 points in the second half, despite scoring 23 points in the first half.

Against Portland, World Peace filled up the stat sheet with 6 rebounds, 2 steals and a block. He also had a key defensive stop against the Trail Blazers’ LaMarcus Aldridge late in the fourth quarter.

In Dallas, World Peace played superb fourth quarter defense against a hot-shooting Dirk Nowitzki. Despite Nowitzki scoring 30 points in the game, World Peace locked him down late in the game to seal the victory for the Lakers.

For the Lakers to make the playoffs, however, they will need World Peace to get back on track offensively.

Chris Duhon Down arrow : Reserve point guard Chris Duhon has failed to crack D’Antoni’s “8-man rotation”.

Duhon only played 3 minutes against the Celtics this week, in ‘garbage-time’, but did make a long distance three-pointer in that game.

Robert Sacre Down arrow : Reserve center Robert Sacre continues to sit on the bench, even when Dwight Howard gets into foul trouble.

Even with Pau Gasol still out for an extended period, it looks like Sacre will remain on the bench.

Sacre, however, did have a good time on the bench watching Kobe’s scoring spree against Dallas:

Image Credit: SBNation
Image Credit: SBNation

Darius Morris Down arrow : Point guard Darius Morris did not play this week.

Devin Ebanks Down arrow : Small forward Devin Ebanks also did not play this week.

Pau Gasol Injury sign : Prior to the Dallas game on Sunday, the OC Register’s Kevin Ding gave an update on Pau Gasol’s recovery from his partially torn plantar fascia:

Jordan Hill Injury sign : Kevin Ding also provided an update on injured forward/center Jordan Hill, who is recovering from hip surgery.

Although a long shot, Ding did suggest Hill might be able to contribute for the Lakers if they reach the NBA Finals in June:

Stay tuned for next weeks’ Lakers Stock Watch as the Lakers continue chasing a playoff berth battling Denver, Minnesota and Atlanta.

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Should he be a facilitator? Is he the problem? Does he really make his teammates better?

All the questions above are valid and topics that we can choose to debate at a later time.

Now it’s simply time to stop and give a man credit where credit is due.

Kobe Bryant did something that had nothing to do with shooting a basketball this week, and it may be one of his greatest accomplishments.

When Laker Nation needed him the most, Bryant stepped up.

On Wednesday, prior to tip-off against the arch rival Boston Celtics, Bryant came to the center of the court. He had no notes or a teleprompter, just teary eyes, as he understood what he had to do.

Photo by Stephen Dunn | Getty Images
Photo by Stephen Dunn | Getty Images

Eloquently echo the feeling of an entire nation of emotional Laker fans.

“On Monday, we lost who we all know to be the greatest owner in sports. Ever.” Bryant said. “He was a brilliant and incredible owner, but he was even a better person with a great heart.“

“His vision has transcended the game, and we are all, all spoiled by his vision and by his drive to win year after year after year.” Bryant smiled. “Through our years being here at Staples Center the one thing that we could always count on was the great Dr. Jerry Buss overlooking his franchise from his box.”

Bryant then pointed up at Buss’ seat and asked Staples Center for a moment of silence to honor a man that is responsible for 10 world championships, 16 trips to the NBA finals, and more importantly affecting the lives of millions upon millions of people.

On Thursday, Dr. Jerry Buss was honored in a memorial service. Names such as Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Pat Riley, and Phil Jackson graced the stage and reflected on how Buss affected them as a person.

Bryant once again stood alone on Thursday. An audience of people waiting to hear what the face of the franchise had to say about his owner who had passed away just three days earlier.

Once again, Bryant didn’t look down at notes, didn’t need a teleprompter, nor did he stutter over his words.

He captivated the room as he so often does, told a joke to ease the seriousness of the moment, and most importantly spoke from the heart.

He ended with a message to his current teammates. “We are playing for something bigger than ourselves, bigger than one season, we are playing for the memory of a great man. Dr. Jerry Buss.”

Bryant has never been afraid of stepping up to a challenge because he has the confidence that he will succeed. What he did on Wednesday night, and then again Thursday afternoon is a very difficult thing to do. His clutch gene that so often helps him on the basketball court kicked into gear.

Both speeches captivated his audience as he spoke with eloquence and grace.

And it may be one of his most impressive accomplishments of his career.

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Los Angeles Lakers v Miami Heat
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Valentine’s Night Massacre.

After watching the Clippers hand the Lakers a 24 point drubbing on Valentine’s night, I wasn’t exactly filled with romance. The Lakers were dominated in every phase of the game, and what made matters worse, they looked like they were just going through the motions. The Clippers have become one of the more dominant teams in the Western Conference, and I put them in the top 3 along with OKC and the Spurs.

All that aside, I am getting a tad bit upset over the fact the Lakers are feeding into the already growing egos of the Clippers. By this I mean, the Clippers already know they are a good team. The last thing they need is for their big brothers of Los Angeles to keep rolling over for them every time they play each other. The Lakers looked so bad in this game, the refs should have stepped in and called it off.

Sure, the Lakers had some runs where they would cut into the lead, but then they would stop playing defense, or turn the ball over, or throw up an ill advised 3 pointer, or, well you get the picture. The moral of the story here is you can’t spot the other guy the first 3 letters in a game of  h-o-r-s-e when they are better than you. Adjectives that came to mind after watching this game were dreadful, disgusting, and down right nauseating. Not exactly the way you want to see your team roll into the All Star break.

End Of An Era.

As if Monday’s aren’t already bad enough for most of us working stiffs, news of beloved Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss passing away did nothing to make the day any brighter. The man was a true legend in the hearts and minds of anyone associated with the Lakers organization, whether that be front office, trainers, scouts, players, or even us fans. The mere thought that Dr. Buss would no longer be seen sitting in his leather chair from his suite high atop the Staples Center, was hard for me to imagine.

As I have said before, when I think of Dr. Buss, I am always going to think of championships. He spoiled me with Magic Johnson, SHOWTIME, hiring Pat Riley and Phil Jackson as head coaches, Shaq and Kobe, Big Shot Bob Horry, D Fish, and hanging banners and collecting trophies. The best part of all, was how Dr. Buss would share all the spoils on his team and on his fans year after year.

RIP DR. Buss. You will truly be missed.

Revenge Is Best Served Cold.

It took 13 days to accomplish it, but the Lakers got a much needed win over the hated Celtics this past Wednesday. First game back from the All Star Break, a moving video tribute to Dr. Buss before the start of the game, and a stirring speech from Kobe. Sometimes the irony of things is too much to grasp all at once. Wasn’t it a twist of fate that Boston was on the schedule this night?

Dr. Buss once said:

“One of the reasons I bought the Lakers was to beat the Boston Celtics”.

I know one thing for sure: One of the reasons I love the Lakers is because I despise the Celtics. Even better, it just so happened the guys in green had to play the night before in Denver, take a late flight into LAX, get less sleep than their old bodies would prefer, and come play the Lakers. This was poetic justice at its finest.

The Lakers did not disappoint, as they delivered a solid performance, and put the geriatrics away without much problem. Always warms my heart to see Pierce and Garnett sitting on the bench in the fourth quarter of a game they are losing and losing badly. The week provided a rainbow of emotions for Laker Nation, but the beautiful pot of gold at the end of it was worth it.

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How can anyone dislike The Black Mamba?

Well some people do as Forbes.com released the Top 10 Most Disliked Athletes in America. Where does Kobe rank? Who came in as the #1 most hated athlete this year? STNTV’s Kevin Figgers runs down the list 10 through 1.

Make sure to SUBSCRIBE to our channel for all your Lakers News all season long.

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Kevork Djansezian | Getty Images Sport
Kevork Djansezian | Getty Images Sport

The basketball world paid its respects on Thursday to Hall-of-Fame Lakers owner Gerald “Jerry” Buss during an invitation-only memorial service.

Friends, family members and current and former NBA stars attended the service at LA Live’s Nokia Center, including NBA commissioner David Stern and deputy commissioner Adam Silver, former Lakers coaches Pat Riley and Phil Jackson and a slew of former Lakers. Among the current and former Lakers in attendance were Jerry West, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal and current Lakers Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol.

Former players, family and friends spoke of the impact of Jerry Buss on their own lives, on the Lakers, and on the entire sports world:

“He loved Los Angeles, and as we can see, Los Angeles loved him too. If you’ve spent time with this man, you didn’t want it to end…If you were a reporter, you wanted five more minutes. If you were a friend, you just wanted to hang out for another hour. If you were his child, you wanted 80 more years,” said oldest son Johnny Buss.

“Jerry Buss led us through the dark ages of basketball….He made it more than sports. We are all richer for having known him. He has left a gigantic shadow for all of sports. He was also a great friend and someone that I admired from a distance even when I left [the Lakers],” said former Lakers guard and General Manager Jerry West.”

“Jerry created a new Laker paradigm and for 30 years captured the imagination of the entire sports world. For 30 years, we all followed Jerry Buss…He would be there for you, your family, the team, for those of us in need, the community…his trust was a given,” said formers Laker coach Pat Riley.

The memorial featured musical interludes from Randy Newman (whose  “I Love LA” plays after every home victory), the USC marching band, and broadway star Davis Gaines. Flower arrangements and 10 NBA Championship trophies adorned the stage and surrounded the podium for the event.

The service came one day after an emotional 113-99 win over the Boston Celtics that saw a pre-game memorial video and a short speech from Kobe Bryant. Following Bryant’s words, a spotlight shadowed on the empty seat in the owner’s box formally occupied by Dr. Buss. The Staple Center crowd honored Dr. Buss with a moment of silence before erupting in cheers following the playback of Dr. Buss talking about the Lakers franchise.

When speaking at the memorial service, Bryant had choice words for the current Lakers squad at the memorial when talking about Dr. Buss:

I encourage all of you to 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 in that we all believed in Dr. Jerry Buss. We’re playing for something bigger than ourselves, bigger than a single season. We’re playing for the memory of Dr. Jerry Buss.

Lakers fans had shown their support for the Buss family and Lakers organization over the past few days, leaving flowers and mementos by the Lakers statues outside of Staples Center. Across the street at LA Live, fans have been writing messages of support on a giant banner featuring a photo of Dr. Buss.

Buss, 80, died Monday morning at Cedars Sinai hospital due to complications stemming from an undisclosed form of cancer. Reports of his illness had been kept quiet during Buss’s 18-month fight with the illness.

The Lakers will sport purple and gold patches with the initials “JB” on the jerseys for the remainder of the season.

 

 

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Image: Andrew D. Bernstein | Getty Images
Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images
Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

I arrived about an hour early for last night’s game against the Celtics, and I’m glad I did.

Everything, both inside and outside of Staples Center was a tribute to Dr. Jerry Buss.

Fans filled L.A. Live – a complex that would not have been possible with Jerry, and signed the giant memorial banners hung there.

Upon entering the arena, video tributes played throughout the hallways for Jerry. Laker fans settled in – on time for once, and got set for the video tribute to Dr. Buss inside the arena.

Kobe then got up to speak, and showed that being a franchise player is about more than numbers. A franchise player for the Lakers must find words when there are none. He must lead more than just 12 men on the roster, but the entire city through tough times. The Lakers are Los Angeles, and the franchise player is their leader. Like Magic before him, Kobe has been a model of a franchise player.

Following this tribute, there was a moment of silence. The arena darkened, the Jumbotron turned off. After a moment, Dr. Buss’ voice echoed through the arena.

“The real purpose of what I do is to try to have this city totally involved and identify with them. That when you think of L.A. people will say ‘oh, thats where the Lakers play. Lakers, Lakers’”

“Jerry! Jerry!” The crowd chanted. Emotion filled the building. It swelled from the court all the way to the rafters, where Jerry hung 10 championship banners. Jerry has united the city, given them a team to identify with.

The emotion may have been too much for the girl singing the national anthem, because she lost herself in the middle of the song, and had to pause.

But the crowd cheered her on, and she finished the anthem. It was time for the game to begin.

Nearly every aspect of the game was a reminder of Dr. Buss. The lighting in the arena, which he wanted to be “like a broadway show,” Randy Newman’s “I Love L.A.”, the Lakers band, Jack sitting courtside, and of course, the Laker Girls. His presence fills every aspect of the entertainment experience.

Sitting there, watching, I couldn’t help but think. How will it all change in the coming years?

The Celtics won the tip, and the crowd roared “Defense!” on the first possession. This never happens at Laker games, but neither the fans nor the players were willing to let the Lakers lose this game.

Dwight came out strong, committing to the defensive end, and working hard in the post.  Maybe he felt the love everyone showed towards Dr. Buss, and is beginning to understand what it means to be a Laker. The crowd certainly responded to him. He showed heart when we all felt it.

Maybe now he can finally get on the same page as this fan base – understand the deep love for the Lakers we all have.

Dr. Buss’ presence hung over the entire game. He touched every facet of the game experience, and turned Lakers-Celtics into a legitimate rivalry. Before Jerry, the Celtics dominated the Lakers, and the NBA.

Jerry Buss bought the Lakers and beat the Celtics (10-4 titles, and 3-2 head to head in finals), turning the Lakers from mere foils for the Celtics’ greatness, to feared and hated rivals. He gave L.A. a taste of the beating Boston, and L.A. ate it up.

During the game, the crowd chanted “Boston Sucks” on no less than four occasions. In the second half, the house band even began pounding a beat for “Boston Sucks” chants. The Lakers, the arena, and the fans were all united in carrying on the rivalry, which is the real celebration of Dr. Buss’ Legacy.

While the night began with a moment of silence to honor Dr. Buss, it ended with the ultimate tribute. A victory over the hated Celtics, and fans chanting the ritual “Boston Sucks” commemorating the rivalry that Jerry Buss created.

After the game ended, “Boston Sucks” chants filled Staples Center and the streets outside.

Laker fans were being simply being Laker fans. However, just like Dr. Buss created courtside seats, the Laker Girls, and Showtime, he created the identity of the modern Laker fan.

These days reveling in beating Boston is the ultimate expression of being a Laker fan. Dr. Buss led the Lakers to defeat the Celtics the first time, and he didn’t stop there. Beating the Celtics 3-2 head-to-head, and 10-4 (championship count) over the course of his ownership, Dr. Buss taught the Lakers and their fans what it felt like to beat the Celtics, and now we can’t get enough.

Jerry Buss craved victory over the Celtics, and now we do. He gave us a reason to chant. He gave us a rival, and defeated that rival. He gave us more than any owner has ever given a fan-base, and we are grateful.

The “Boston Sucks” chants are more than just a jab at the Celtics. They honor Dr. Jerry Buss, the man who beat Boston.

Dr. Buss, you have taught this team, and this city to enjoy the thrill of victory, especially when it comes at Boston’s expense.

Now, the Lakers and their fans fight on without you.

We got off to a pretty good start.

Dr. Buss, you have taught us well, and we will uphold your legacy.

Boston Sucks.

Rest in Peace, Dr. Buss.

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According to Yahoo! Sports Adrian Wojnarowski, the Lakers are offering Steve Blake, Chris Duhon, Devin Ebanks and Darius Morris for 2nd-rounders to free up roster spots.

As of right now, no deals have been made. The NBA trade deadline is today at 12pm PT, giving the Lakers approximately four hours to make a deal.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter for the latest updates on today’s trade deadline.

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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

The evening started solemnly, with a video montage dedicated to dearly departed Lakers’ owner, Jerry Buss. Images of him ranged from sitting courtside next to daughter, Jeanie Buss to photos of him celebrating with the team after numerous Championships won. In the end, it painted a picture of Dr. Buss as not only the owner of one of the most successful sports franchises (arguably ever), but it showed what he was at heart – a fan. So what better way to honor the Lakers’ biggest fan than defeating their most hated rivals?

In their first game since Jerry Buss’ death, it’s only fitting that their opponents be the Boston Celtics. In the two teams’ last meeting in Boston, the Lakers were overrun. Kobe Bryant did the bulk of the scoring, but other than him, the rest of the team lacked a collective effort and the Lakers lost 95-116.

Perhaps the emotions surrounding the loss of their owner was extra motivation; or maybe the Lakers were well-rested after the All-Star break and realize the brevity of the remainder of the season. It’s possible they enjoyed the comforts of playing at home or the simple fact that they were playing the Celtics provided some extra incentive. Whatever the cause, the Lakers played with a bounce in their step tonight; a sort of determination peeking out more than usual, and what it got them was a 113-99 victory over Boston.

HIGH POINTS:
Balance – Seven Lakers scored in double figures tonight, led by Dwight Howard’s 24 points on 10-13 from the field. Howard looked more alert and focused in this game, and not just on the offensive side. He officially only had one block in the game, but he altered more than a handful of attempts by the Celtics. He also grabbed 12 rebounds, and looked more comfortable and relatively healthier than he did before the season break.
Earl Clark – We can never say enough of Clark these days, can we? His last game, against the Clippers, was not reflective of his usual efforts, but he more than made up for it tonight. It wasn’t just about his 14 points and 16 (!) rebounds, it is about his constant readiness. Like Jordan Hill before he went down with an injury, and even reminiscent of Lamar Odom, Clark embodies anticipatory skills that has helped this Laker team remain alert. Clark doesn’t know how to give up on a play. A missed shot is an opportunity for an offensive rebound (of which he had five) and second chance points (two points for which Clark fought in a crowd of green jerseys to score).
Steve Nash – It’s been a long time coming, but we’ve all been waiting for Nash to punish the opponent with not just his passing skills, but his scoring as well. Tonight he went 6-7 from the field, including 2-2 from downtown, and added seven assists, which helped him surpass Magic Johnson for fourth place on the NBA All-Time Assist Leaders list. Nash just turned 39 years old a couple of weeks ago, and he remains one of the smartest, craftiest point guards in the league. He makes 39 look like the new 20.
Sustained Energy and Effort – Halfway through the first quarter, the Lakers took a 16-15 lead and never looked back. They led by as much as 22-points in the final quarter and held on to win by 14.
Points in the Paint – In their last meeting, the Celtics outscored the Lakers 58-36 in the paint. Tonight, the Lakers returned the favor, outscoring Boston 54-30 inside.
Defense – Forcing Boston into numerous shot clock violations and 14 turnovers, outrebounding them 49-34 – this is the

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

most sustained the Lakers have ever played defense all season. The adjustments made at halftime were on point, especially on Paul Pierce. In the first half, Pierce scored 23 points on 9-15 from the field. In the second half, just three points on 0-2.

LOW POINTS:
The low point to come from every Laker win is the uncertainty of whether they can carry out the same effort for a longer stretch of games. The Lakers are in 9th place in the Western Conference, still trying to catch up with the Houston Rockets, who sit at the 8th spot. There are 27 games left in the season so suffice it to say, the Lakers don’t have a lot of time to dig themselves out of this hole.

Before leading the Staples Center crowd in a moment of silence, Kobe Bryant, clearly holding back his emotions, said the following about Jerry Buss: “His vision has transcended the game and we are all spoiled by his vision and his drive to win year after year after year.” Here’s hoping that the Lakers can honor Dr. Buss’ legacy by showing up to every game ready to put in the effort, ready to focus on the task at hand, and most of all – show up ready to win.

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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.