Trade deadline looming, rumors heating up, players wanting out, oh the joys and familiar sounds of the second half of the season. Days before the trade deadline tend to be the most exciting as rumors buzz around like flies and GM’s scramble to make the best deal possible to put their team in position for a deep playoff run. These rumors certainly have not evaded Los Angeles which is one of the biggest targets on the board before the deadline.
General Manager Mitch Kupchak has come out and publicly said he has no plans of trading the best center in the NBA, it’s just not a good idea. Here’s what Kupchak said via Realgm.com:
“Dwight is our future,” Kupchak said. “He deserves to have his name on the wall and a statue in front of Staples at some point in time.”
And Howard’s response regarding whether he feels Los Angeles is his future via Realgm.com:
“I do,” Howard said about whether he feels the same way. “We talked about it plenty of times.”
“The only thing that matters is right now. Nobody can control what happens this offseason,” Howard said. “But like I said to you guys before, it’s not something I need to talk about every day. There’s no need for me to make a decision. Right now, it’s where I want to be in the future. My goal hasn’t changed. I want to win a championship and want to win one here. I’m here right now and this is our chance to get one this season. It’s been tough. But we have an opportunity to change all that.”
Considering what Laker fans have been hearing lately, that statement from Howard is a breath of fresh air. He didn’t guarantee he’d stay here, but he didn’t rule it out either. And from what I saw, it looks like he truly believes he can make it work here in LA. So if Kupchak says he’s not being traded and Howard believes it can work in LA, why are we even discussing this? Because all this talk and all these quotes can be so easily discredited with a simple phone call.
A phone call regarding a blockbuster deal that comes along to LA that makes Kupchak pull the trigger on trading Howard is always a possibility. He says he won’t trade him and is pretty adamant about that, but stranger things have occurred in the NBA, and I wouldn’t put a trade past Mitch if the right deal came along.
However I truly believe Howard is our future in Los Angeles and we need to do everything in our power to keep him here. Although maybe I spoke to soon as everything can mean a lot. One possibility floating around is that Howard won’t stay in LA as long as Kobe Bryant is there. Here’s the quote via Realgm.com:
“I’ve heard rumblings that if Howard told Laker officials this summer that the only way he’d stay in LA is if Kobe leaves, the Lakers could end up choosing Howard over Kobe,” wrote Chad Ford. “It’s an unlikely scenario, but one worth watching.”
I want to put everything I’m made of into believing this scenario would not occur. I just can’t see Los Angeles parting ways with their superstar and quite possibly the best Laker of all time. Another option Los Angeles has is to use their amnesty clause on Bryant, cutting ties with the star and removing his $30.45 million contract from their books. I still find it incredibly difficult to believe that The Lakers would do this just to keep Howard, Bryant has just meant too much to the franchise to kick him to the curb like that.
So it looks like The Lakers have options.
1. Trade Howard, receive good pieces and throw in the towel on this season to try and rebuild.
2. Amnesty Bryant (trading is unlikely due to his NTC) and keep Howard happy while signing him to a long term deal.
3. Or they could manage to find a way where Bryant and Howard both stick with LA, they set aside their differences, and become best friends.
Ok, I probably took that one a bit far, but I do believe that Howard and Bryant can coexist together in Los Angeles to win a championship, in fact they need to.
Howard is the future of Los Angeles. Whether fans like him, hate him, want him traded, or can’t wait to see him leave to free agency, Los Angeles needs Howard. They need him to play his best, most powerful basketball he is capable of night in and night out. When Kobe Bryant, the man who has brought such fame and fortune to the city of Los Angeles, sends his final goodbyes and retires from the game he loves so much, The Lakers will need to turn to Dwight Howard. Once the trade deadline passes and (hopefully) Dwight is still member of the purple and gold, The Lakers can begin to turn their current season around and convince Howard to stay.
Not to sound like I’m giving up on this season, but I believe next season will be LA’s. A healthy re-signed Howard, a championship hungry Kobe Bryant, and a plan to work together to win that championship will give fans of The Los Angeles Lakers a very bright future to look forward to for years to come.
Every week, our staff writers chime in on the trending topics, rumors and storylines surrounding the Lakers. In today’s State of the Nation, they reflect back on the passing of Lakers’ owner, and Los Angeles icon, Jerry Buss, and look ahead at what’s in store for the Lakers after the All-Star break.
With the recent passing of the Lakers’ late, great owner Dr. Jerry Buss, what will you remember most about him?
When I think of Dr. Buss, I will always think of championships. He spared no expense when it came to making the Lakers better. Whether it was bringing in the marquee players or spending the money to get the high profile coaches, Dr. Buss did whatever it took to make sure his team was always competing for a championship. And the best thing of all was that he let the basketball people make the basketball decisions, while he stuck to the business side of it. The guy truly loved his Lakers.
His life commitment to not only building basketball greatness, but also creating a culture out of the Los Angeles Lakers. Thanks to Dr. Buss, the Purple and Gold are known throughout the whole world as representatives of success, glamor and excellence.
His passion. Not only was he passionate about his Lakers, but also about the city of Los Angeles and most importantly, the fans. Dr. Buss did everything he could to make sure his team had the best possible chance to win the title each and every year. Most importantly, Dr. Buss would go above and beyond his duties as an owner to ensure that the Lakers’ “brand” was always top-notch. RIP Dr. Buss.
Dr. Buss is the reason I fell in love with the Lakers. He built the Lakers culture of going after, and expecting, a title every year. He always spent all that was necessary to win, and spent it wisely. Exercising patience, while not buying into the myth that you need to “rebuild” from time to time, Dr. Buss kept the Lakers competitive. He taught me, and the entire city, basketball. Not just on the court, but team building as well. The man gave Laker fans confidence to expect greatness, and showed us basketball at the highest level. “In Buss we Trust” really says it all.
I’ll remember the great Dr. Buss for his work ethic and his personal drive to be the best. My favorite basketball player of all time is Kobe Bryant, and he has the same type of determination and will power as Dr. Buss. This type of personality is one to look up to and to try and model oneself after. His drive to win and succeed was so influential to anyone who had the pleasure of knowing him. The man was a gentlemen and a scholar and he shall be forever esteemed as one.
I will remember his fandom most of all. He was one of the few owners who cared less about making money, and more about winning and bringing the city of Los Angeles, and Laker fans across the world, joy and happiness. Oh, and titles. He also had the wisdom to put people in the right places. He did not hire, or draft, just anyone. Dr. Buss had the uncanny ability to see success within someone when no else did, a big reason why his risks paid off. Let’s be honest, would you have traded Vlade Divac in 96′ for Kobe? Really?
I’ll always remember that Dr. Jerry Buss had a way of making you feel blessed as a Lakers fan. Nothing was ever impossible when it came to personnel moves or the future of the franchise, whether it be signing free agent superstars (Shaq, Nash), trading for future Hall-of-Famers (Abdul-Jabbar, Gasol), or drafting once in a generation talent (Magic, Bryant). Dr. Buss’s time with the Lakers was truly an astonishing run – one that made Lakers fans admittedly spoiled by the dream-like pace of championships that Dr. Buss brought to the franchise and to the city of Los Angeles. Lakers fans always expected greatness because that was what Dr. Buss worked to deliver every year, and we were blessed as fans to have such an owner impacting not only the Lakers but the success of NBA as well.
I read an article a few years ago that said the best advice that Jerry Buss ever gave to his children was for them to hire the best people for the job, and then get out of their way. For someone who has done so much for the Lakers, for the city of Los Angeles and for the NBA, Dr. Buss has managed to stay away from limelight, only joining in on the occasional Championship celebrations, because he chose to remain behind the scenes. Some owners in the league are either too involved or not involved with the team at all, but GM Mitch Kupchak and Jimmy Buss have noted how often they speak to Dr. Buss before making decisions.
I will always remember him as the man who would do anything to win a championship. I grew up hearing how the Lakers always were always over the luxury tax but Buss didn’t care because they won. He was the guy that put winning above all else. That’s how I’ll remember him.
Next Question:At 25-29 and with 28 games remaining, what record will it take for the Lakers to make the playoffs?
With the passing of Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss, it was announced that the team will commemorate him with special “JB” patches placed on their jerseys for the remainder of the season. The patch will be placed on the right side of the jersey over the Lakers logo, across from the NBA logo patch.
It’s something we all know. In terms of winning championships, it’s the most important thing. That’s what it all comes down to. That’s why we all make sacrifices. That’s what I knew coming into the league. You have to win titles to sit at that same lunch table as Magic (Johnson) and Michael (Jordan) and so forth. LeBron (James) knows that and it’s a challenge he’s willing to accept.
He was a visionary, he was a trailblazer. He did things that were, at that time, people thought wasn’t cool, wasn’t proper. He was a man who walked the walk and talked the talk. He produced championships, because he was the most competitive owner you could ever meet in your life.
Coaching is about, “How do I get these people to play at their peak level?” Yeah, the X’s and O’s mean something, but you can get people to do that. But coaching is much more than that. It is a spiritual quest. And if it’s not that, you don’t have a challenge, you don’t have a mission. Forming a brotherhood and trying to move it forward, that’s the part that I miss.
When someone as celebrated and charismatic as Jerry Buss dies, we are reminded of two things. First, just how much one person with vision and strength of will can accomplish. Second, how fragile each of us is, regardless of how powerful we were. Those two things combine to inspire us to reach for the stars, but also to remain with our feet firmly on the ground among our loved ones. Dr. Buss embodied that compassionate entrepreneurial spirit. He strove to reach greater heights without forgetting his community roots. During his stewardship, the Lakers exemplified his personal standards of excellence and became one of the dominant teams in the NBA and a force of good within the community. The man may be gone, but he has made us all better people for knowing him.
Despite being passed over for the Lakers’ head coaching vacancy in November, legendary coach Phil Jackson remains optimistic about his former team.
This week, Sports Illustrated’s Jack McCallum interviewed the 13-time champion (11 titles as a coach, two as a player) about a few basketball-related topics.
The following is Jackson’s insight on the current Lakers’ issues, Dwight Howard, his own future in the NBA, and whether or not the Lakers will make the playoffs this season:
When asked what Jackson sees in the Lakers right now, considering the personnel changes and injuries, Jackson lamented:
They just don’t put the ball in the post. They’ll use a screen-roll to get the guy in the post. But there’s no consistent plan to do it. Yes, Kobe will go in there. But Dwight just doesn’t get any touches.
They’ve basically eliminated his assets.
Jackson was then asked about Howard’s screen and rolls:
You want the ball 10 feet away from the basket. Throw it into the post, make them double-team and have everybody around to make shots.
That’s what Shaq could do. That’s where you have the Robert Horrys, the Derek Fishers and the Rick Foxes sitting out there getting wide-open jumpers.
Can Howard’s presence inside be similar to Shaq’s, in the aspect of drawing the double team and finding open teammates?
I think he can be. But he is not where he needs to be physically because of the back surgery. He needs a year to recover from something like that. He’s starting to come around, but he has a massive upper body to carry around. He’s a terrific athlete, but he still has to get all that back.
He’s looking better all the time, but his problem right now is turnovers. He’s got to have a little better recognition, and that will help him gain the confidence of his teammates and coach, which he does not have now.
When asked about the issues regarding Howard and Pau Gasol playing together:
Well, what is the problem? We won two championships that way [with two big men]. Pau is one of the best big men in the game. I mean, Pau Gasol is going to be in the Hall of Fame.
Have the Lakers been improving? And will they still make the playoffs?
Yes, I think they are finding a way to play. And that’s nice to see. Steve Nash has had to sacrifice because Kobe is dominating the ball, but Kobe is showing he can be both playmaker and scorer.
Now it’s about defense. And I think that’s coming around.
They make the playoffs; I think they’ve shown they’re going to be in it with every team.
Does Jackson ever feel compelled to visit Staples Center for a game?
I haven’t yet. I’ll probably go when Shaq’s number is retired [on April 2nd].
When asked about Jackson’s run in Los Angeles:
I did have a good run. There were always people who didn’t like the triangle, thought it was too methodical, too unlike Showtime.
But I was always astonished about how well I was treated. When I came back [in 2005] and took the job, people actually thanked me. They didn’t say, “Good luck.” They said “Thank you.” I never forgot that.
Will Jackson ever coach in the NBA again?
I’m not coaching. I told Mitch [Kupchak, Lakers General Manager] that back in October. So when we sat down in November [to talk about taking over after Mike Brown was fired], he brought that up and I said,
“Well, this isn’t about moving or going somewhere else and learning new players. It’s different. So I’m ready to think about coming back, but I still have to think about it.”
But I do hold out the idea that there’s still influence in the game I could have. Red Auerbach, Pete Newell, Wayne Embry, guys like that have had … a number of people have had considerable influence and haven’t been coaches per se.
What about a management job?
Vice president of basketball operations/director of player personnel is more like it.
Jackson was also asked whether he watches games and if he takes notes on them:
I sometimes take notes. I have some people who have come to me and ask, “Would you watch my team, see if you can pick anything up?”
Four or five teams, plus the Lakers. [He wouldn’t identify the other teams.] So while I’m not officially in the consulting business, it might come in handy sometime.
Since he’s been away from the game for two years, has the league changed at all?
Not really. It’s a mimic league. It has been for a long time. Coaches see something and say, “Oh, that’s hard to defend. Maybe we’ll run that.” Screen-roll. Three-point shooters in the corner. Bigs that can roll and pop.
San Antonio has a system, a way of doing things, and maybe a couple others. But most everybody runs that screen-roll.
How does the game look from the outside looking in?
Basketball is a simple game. Your goal is penetration, get the ball close to the basket, and there are three ways to do that. Pass, dribble and offensive rebound.
The easiest one is — or should be — the pass. But the new rules allow you to throw more people at post-up players. NBA basketball is a big man’s game, and in the past they protected that aspect of the game.
Well, those rules went out the window and what they didn’t do was consider this: If they’re going to continue to allow zone defenses to work and shut down the paint, then they have to put six more seconds on the shot clock. A 30-second clock. But they’re so attached to the idea of the 24-second clock that it doesn’t happen.
Anyway, [allowing limited zones] has eliminated some of the post passing and made dribbling a major part of our game. As a result, I think people forgot that there are still ways you can get the ball inside rather than just standing there and throwing the ball in. You have to have a system that makes all things work. Pop [San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich] has that.
How would he describe that system?
Popovich made significant growth 10 years ago or so after David Robinson left. It had been pretty stilted. You know, two big guys. A lot of stuff he does represents the triangle offense.
They flow into it a different way. Strong-side triangle. Pinch-post action. Some of it may have come about because we were going at each other all the time in the playoffs and he had to defend against it.
Finally, what does Jackson miss most about coaching?
What you might expect. Being around the other coaches, being around the guys. It’s what I talked about in my book [Eleven Rings]. Coaching is about, “How do I get these people to play at their peak level?” Yeah, the X’s and O’s mean something, but you can get people to do that.
And a lot of those guys have been hired. The Lawrence Franks and the Frank Vogels. Mike Brown was one of those guys. That’s not a knock. Those guys know how to coach the game.
But coaching is much more than that. It is a spiritual quest. And if it’s not that, you don’t have a challenge, you don’t have a mission. Forming a brotherhood and trying to move it forward, that’s the part that I miss.
Sure sounds a lot like something the current Lakers’ head coach, Mike D’Antoni, lacks.
Despite a shortened week due to the All-Star break, the Lakers continued their season-long trend of mediocrity.
The Lakers remained average this past week, splitting their two home games 1-1, and bringing their record to 25-29 on the season.
Despite a 1-8 shooting performance from Kobe Bryant against Phoenix, center Dwight Howard led the Lakers to a 91-85 victory over the Suns with 19 points and 18 rebounds.
Following that ugly win, the Lakers had an opportunity to gain some much-needed momentum going into the All-Star break.
As expected though, the Lakers lost to the Clippers in disappointing fashion on Valentine’s Day. 20 points and 11 assists from Bryant were not enough to overcome the Clippers barrage of threes in the loss.
After an exciting Western Conference win over the East in the 62nd All-Star game Sunday, the Lakers look to get back on track for the stretch run.
Take a look back at the changes in the Lakers’ stock values and the impact the players should have going forward:
Antawn Jamison : One of the biggest bright spots this past week was sixth-man Antawn Jamison.
In recent weeks, Jamison has significantly elevated his game. Jamison, 36, was a huge spark off the bench in both games this past week.
In the win against Phoenix, Jamison scored 19 points on 8-16 shooting with 2 three-pointers and 10 rebounds. Jamison’s scoring burst helped pick up the slack from Bryant’s measly 4 points.
Jamison was also the best player on the floor against the Clippers. The Lakers’ sixth-man poured in 17 points on 7-13 shooting. Jamison’s scoring actually kept the Lakers in the game in the first half of that game.
With Pau Gasol still out indefinitely, the Lakers are forced to lean on Jamison and his scoring ability.
For the Lakers to turn this season around and make a run at the playoffs, Jamison’s production off the bench will be an important part of any turnaround.
Dwight Howard: Like Jamison, Dwight Howard had an excellent week leading up to the All-Star break.
Howard actually showed flashes of the three-time Defensive Player of the Year. With the continued drama surrounding the Lakers, especially with Howard, the Lakers desperately need a focused Howard going forward.
Howard scored 19 points in the win over the Suns, but more importantly, grabbed 18 rebounds and blocked 2 shots. The rebounding void left from Gasol’s absence now falls squarely on Howard.
Howard’s rebounding average of 11.8 rpg has been down this season from his career average of 12.9 rpg.
Hopefully as Howard continues to improve his conditioning, and assuming there are no more set backs with his torn labrum, Howard will return to being a consistent, tenacious rebounder.
In the loss to the Clippers, however, Howard’s rebounding numbers slipped again. Howard only grabbed 8 rebounds but did score 18 points.
With Gasol out, Howard has to be the defensive anchor at all times. Against the Clippers, however, Howard allowed Blake Griffin to get off to a hot start offensively.
Griffin scored 10 points in the first five minutes of the game, something that should not happen with Howard guarding him.
As has been the case all season, the Lakers need even more from Howard. His offensive statistics and efficiency have improved of late, but the Lakers desperately need Howard to become the captain of their defense.
Howard did seem to have fun in the All-Star game this past Sunday, however, something he hasn’t shown much of in his time in Los Angeles. Howard scored 9 points, including a three-pointer, and led the Western Conference in rebounding with 7 boards.
But for his Lakers, Howard must start taking things personally and control the paint on both ends. If Howard truly dedicates himself to those things, the Lakers may be able to string together some winning streaks going forward.
Oh, and Dwight Howard finally lost the headband this week!
Steve Blake : Since returning from injury this season, Blake has been shooting the ball exceptionally well.
Against Phoenix, Blake scored 5 points on 2-2 shooting with 1 three pointer and 3 assists. Blake also shot 3-3 against the Clippers, scoring 7 points and adding 7 assists.
Blake’s consistent play of late has been great for Steve Nash as well. With Blake playing at a high level, coach Mike D’Antoni is able to limit the 39-year old point guard’s minutes and keep Nash fresh.
Despite struggling for much of his tenure in Los Angeles, Blake has returned from injury this season in promising fashion.
It looks like Blake will continue to run the bench unit as the primary backup point guard going forward.
Expect Blake to keep playing at a high level if allowed consistent playing time, and hopefully those high assists numbers will continue.
Kobe Bryant : Tough week for Kobe Bryant.
Bryant shot just 1-8 in the Lakers’ win over Phoenix and finished with 4 points. Bryant did have 9 assists in that game, but also turned the ball over 8 times.
Bryant, in fact, did not even attempt a field goal in the first half. The key for Bryant going forward is to find that middle ground between facilitating and scoring.
In that game especially, Bryant was over-committed to facilitating early. This over-commitment led to Bryant’s poor shooting and a lack of rhythm on the offensive end.
Bryant seemed to find that fine line between the two extremes in the loss to the Clippers. Bryant scored 20 points on 7-13 shooting with 11 assists and 5 rebounds.
Unfortunately, the Lakers’ defense, or lack thereof, was the downfall in that game.
The Clippers starting backcourt scored a combined 45 points. The Lakers starting backcourt, however, only combined for 27 points.
This is a major issue on both the offensive and defensive ends. Along with his own individual scoring, Bryant, and teammate Steve Nash, need to find ways to get each other going, early and often.
With Gasol out, Nash’s offensive scoring role becomes heightened. As a result, Bryant and Nash must find a way to become more effective on the offensive end together.
One way to do this is to run more 1-2 and 2-1 ball screens, either at the top or on the wing. The key here is that if opposing defenders switch, then Bryant can take advantage of smaller defenders on the block.
If opposing defenders go under the screen, however, then Nash can burn them with a quick three-pointer behind the screen.
Along with on the offensive end, Bryant and Nash need to re-dedicate themselves to slowing opposing backcourts. Because the Lakers’ backcourt tandem is on the older side, they need to start funneling the opposition into Howard.
Funneling and helping each other is the only way the Lakers’ slower backcourt will be able to keep up with the likes of Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups, Russell Westbrook, Tony Parker, etc.
Bryant did play well in the All-Star game, highlighted by his late defense on LeBron James to seal the win for the West. Bryant scored 9 points on 4-9 shooting and had 8 assists in just 28 minutes.
Ultimately though, any Lakers turnaround this season will start with the captain, Kobe Bean Bryant. If he is able to find that elusive balance between scoring and facilitating, the Lakers may make their way back into the playoff picture.
Metta World Peace : After struggling for much of the past few weeks, Metta World Peace turned things around some.
Although he continued his shooting slump, World Peace played a little more consistently this week.
In the Lakers win, World Peace scored a surprising 17 points, albeit on 6-16 shooting from the floor. World Peace also snatched 8 rebounds and 4 steals in the win.
This type of aggression is needed from World Peace night in and night out. If World Peace can get back to the consistent play he had earlier in the season, the entire team will benefit on both ends.
Against the Clippers, however, World Peace reverted back to his inconsistent ways. Scoring just 11 points on 4-9 shooting, World Peace was practically a non-factor.
World Peace also made little impact on the defensive end. Both his rebounding and steals numbers dropped to just 4 rebounds and 1 steal in the loss.
Any offensive contributions from World Peace are an added bonus at this point, but his defensive prowess must be present each and every night for the Lakers to win ball games.
Jodie Meeks : Along with Jamison, Jodie Meeks also had a nice week offensively off the bench.
Meeks scored only 6 points in the win over the Suns, but dropped 13 points against the Clippers.
The Lakers could certainly use more of Meeks’ perimeter shooting ability. With Meeks now receiving consistent playing time, the Lakers need him to stretch the floor even more.
Meeks’ 2-4 three-point shooting was a welcomed sight vs. the Clippers, but the Lakers could use more off the bench.
If Meeks can start making 3 to 4 three-pointers per game, that would open up the floor even more for Howard, Bryant and Nash.
Meeks’ energy on the defensive end this season has been a welcomed sight as well. The Lakers certainly need his change-of-pace energy and effort off the bench to continue.
Earl Clark : A tough week for Earl Clark as well.
Clark has been this season’s big surprise, but he came back to Earth some this past week.
After receiving an MRI on his sore right foot last Tuesday, Clark was unable to produce for the Lakers.
Despite registering two double-doubles last week, Clark did not even come close to one this week. Clark scored 11 points on 4-9 shooting against Phoneix, but only had 4 total rebounds.
Clark followed up that mediocre performance with an even worse one against the Clippers. Clark scored just 4 points on 2-10 shooting in that game.
This recent stretch of inconsistency is understandable from a player who has never been in this role before. With the All-Star break now behind us, Clark should be able to regain his consistent, high-energy play.
Hopefully Clark’s foot is not be an issue going forward, but it could certainly flare up if D’Antoni continues playing him healthy minutes per game.
Steve Nash : Although not talked about as much this season, Steve Nash is quietly having a below average year by his standards.
This season, Nash is only averaging 11.8 ppp and 7.4 apg, both down from his career averages of 14.4 ppg and 8.6 apg.
Against the Suns, Nash scored just 10 points and had 8 asissts. Against the Clippers, Nash scored just 7 points on 3-9 shooting and 5 assists.
Although Nash is currently on his way to another 40-50-90 year shooting-wise, he was 0-6 from three-point range this week.
Nash’s poor shooting this past week was probably an anomaly, and the Lakers still desperately need Nash to shoot even more.
Nash, one of the league’s best shooters of all time, has to become more aggressive in the near future. For the Lakers to have success, Nash’s scoring ability needs to be utilized much more.
With Bryant continuing to facilitate the offense, Nash should switch his focus to more of a “shoot-first” mentality.
Nash’s superior shooting ability, coupled with Bryant’s attacking mentality, can significantly help the Lakers’ offense for the stretch run.
Since the Lakers’ backcourt is the oldest and slowest in the NBA, a more efficient offensive attack should also lead to a more efficient half-court defense.
If the Lakers want to make the playoffs, that push will ultimately start with their two most seasoned players, Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant, leading the charge.
Darius Morris : With Steve Blake permanently back from injury now, Morris remains at the end of the rotation.
The Lakers could use his speed and quickness to penetrate opposing defenses, but D’Antoni remains committed to his short rotation of 8-9 players.
Morris did not play against Phoenix, but did play 4 minutes of “garbage-time” against the Clippers, in which he scored 4 points on 2-3 shooting.
Robert Sacre : Even with Gasol still out, Robert Sacre barely played this past week.
Sacre did not play in the Suns game but did play 4 minutes of “garbage-time” against the Clippers.
Chris Duhon : Chris Duhon did not play in either of the Lakers’ games this past week.
Devin Ebanks : Devin Ebanks also did not play in either of the Lakers’ games this past week.
Pau Gasol : After suffering a partially torn fascia in his foot, Pau Gasol continues receiving treatment in Los Angeles.
Gasol is now entering week three of his recovery process. The Lakers could certainly use his contributions with Howard playing hurt, but Gasol remains out indefinitely.
There is no target return date set for Gasol at this time.
Stay tuned for next weeks’ Lakers Stock Watch as the Lakers begin the stretch run battling Boston, Portland and Dallas.
For NBA players, All-Star weekend is a time to relax from the hectic schedule they endure during a regular season. For players that participate in the festivities, it is a great chance to prove yourself against the NBA’s elite. For Lakers fans, this was the time for stars Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard to settle their differences and rebuild their relationship in hopes of salvaging their season.
Boy, that last sentence could not be further from the truth.
The NY Post reported that while in Houston: “Howard [was] mocking Bryant behind his back in the locker room,” in front of other players.
Howard “grabbed Kobe’s uniform, put it on, and imitated him in front of all the other players on the West team. He was joking and berating Kobe” to fellow NBA stars, including the Clippers’ Chris Paul and Blake Griffin and Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant.
Upon entering the locker room, Bryant did not even respond to Howard, but made sure to speak to everyone else that was there.
Bryant later arrived in the locker room, “said hello to everyone on the team except Howard, grabbed his stuff and moved as far away from Howard as he could.”
“”It’s not a good feeling at all,” Bryant said, the shame of a 125-101 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers hanging over him. Once things got difficult, we need to step up and meet that challenge. I’m not very happy right now, and hopefully my teammates feel the same way.”
The problem is, Bryant seemed to know before those words even left his mouth that his teammates’ minds weren’t in the same head space as his, as he tries desperately to turn this season around.
“After we lose by 20 or 30 points, we definitely can’t be laughing and joking around with a team that just kicked your ass, that’s for sure,” Bryant said…Just focus on how bad you want it and how important this is.”
While in Houston, Bryant was asked for his opinion regarding the rumors about the Lakers trading Dwight.
Bryant said, “It doesn’t matter” what his team does with Howard as the trade deadline approaches.
With the sudden passing of owner Jerry Buss and the Boston Celtics coming to the Staples Center Wednesday, Lakers supporters can only hope the stars will be able to settle their differences. While it may not seem likely, some change will have to occur if they want to salvage this season, and maybe more importantly, keep their new center piece from walking this summer.
Lakers owner Jerry Buss passed away this morning at the age of 80. Buss had been hospitalized for cancer for much of the past 18 months, according to the Lakers. His assistant, Bob Steiner, told the Associated Press that Dr. Buss ultimately died of kidney failure at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
Jerry Buss completed his Ph.D. in chemistry at the University of Southern California at the age of 24. He also taught at USC in the chemistry department. His first investment was $1,000 in a West L.A. apartment building in order to provide income so that he could continue to teach. Dr. Buss’s success in real estate had him commit to it full-time.
In 1979, Dr. Buss purchased the Lakers, the L.A. Kings, and the Forum from Jack Kent Cooke for $67.5 million. The Lakers drafted Magic Johnson the same year. They won 60 games in the 1979-80 NBA season and went on to defeat the Philadelphia 76ers in the NBA Finals. The Showtime era was born.
The Lakers new style of play fit perfectly with Dr. Buss’s efforts for the team to go hand in hand with the city they played in.
“One of the first things I tried to do when I bought the team was to make it an identification for this city, like Motown in Detroit,” Dr. Buss told the Los Angeles Times in 2008. “I try to keep that identification alive. I’m a real Angeleno. I want us to be part of the community.”
His first move to improve showmanship in the NBA was the formation of the Laker Girls in 1979.
“I thought the game itself was fantastic, but the ambiance was really kind of dead. It was quiet and boring, and so I thought what I’d like to do is spice it up with having some dancers,” he said.
He also brought in a live band to play during games.
Much like the Staples Center today, the Forum would be filled with stars the likes of Jack Nicholson. But Dr. Buss made sure his team was also full of stars on the court. He signed Magic Johnson to a 25-year $25 million contract in 1981. The Lakers drafted James Worthy and Mychal Thomson with the first overall picks in 1982 and 1987, respectively. The Showtime Lakers brought five championships to L.A.
The Lakers signed Shaquille O’neal to a seven-year $121 million contract in 1996. The same year, Dr. Buss took a chance on a 17-year-old kid out of high school, trading his starting center to acquire Kobe Bryant from the Charlotte Hornets.
“He’s meant everything to me in my career in terms of taking a risk on a 17-year-old kid coming out of high school and then believing in me my entire career,” Bryant told reporters during All-Star weekend.
In 1999, the Lakers also brought on Phil Jackson to coach the team. The duo of Bryant and O’Neal won a championship in Jackson’s first year, followed by two more.
After O’Neal’s departure in 2004, the Lakers missed the playoffs in 2005 and were eliminated in the first round the following two years. But the Lakers traded for Pau Gasol in 2008 and made their way back to the NBA Finals three straight years, winning two.
During Dr. Buss’s reign as owner of one of the winningest franchises in sports, the Lakers made the Finals 16 times in 33 seasons, winning 10 championships. He never shied away from spending money if it meant his team would win.
According to J.A. Adande, in 2002, before the Lakers beat the Nets in the Finals, Buss wanted to cut payroll to avoid paying the luxury tax.
“Then they beat the Nets in the Finals, and at a victory party afterward a giddy Buss came up to me and said, ‘I’ve got a secret for you: We’re going way over the tax! I love winning!’” writes Adande.
The Lakers all-star lineup this year places them as the second most valuable team in the NBA at $1 billion, according to Forbes magazine.
Dr. Buss was inducted to the NBA Hall of Fame in 2010. “These men put their hands together, their souls together, and brought me with them. And I thank each and every one of them from the bottom of my heart,” Buss said about his players during a speech.
“We not only have lost our cherished father, but a beloved man of our community and a person respected by the world basketball community […] It was our father’s often stated desire and expectation that the Lakers remain in the Buss family. The Lakers have been our lives as well and we will honor his wish and do everything in our power to continue his unparalleled legacy.”
Kobe Bryant joined ESPN radio’s Steve Mason and John Ireland today to talk about the passing of Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss.
Bryant talked about Jerry Buss’ historic 34 year run which included 16 trips to the NBA Finals, and 10 championships:
“That’s ridiculous. That run is unprecedented. It’s unmatched in any other sport. It’s silly. It’s absolutely silly. Hopefully LA understands everything that he has been able to accomplish with this franchise in a very, very competitive sport with some very, very competitive teams. I mean that’s just ridiculous.”
Kobe also touched on what he will remember most about the Lakers owner:
“The last conversation that we had. Because I was trying to encourage him, and he was feeling good that day. I was trying to encourage him to come down to the opening game and just come down to the court. Because he would never come down to the court. I said ‘Come down to the court and let these people of Los Angeles give you the love that you deserve. Let them just one time give you a standing ovation, the applause, just everything that you deserve for everything that you have done.’ He said ‘I normally wouldn’t do that but actually I would like to do that.’ I think that will be the one thing that I take from it.”
Bryant and the Lakers start their post All-Star schedule back up on Wednesday against the Boston Celtics at Staples Center.
Jerry is known as one of the greatest owners in NBA history, winning 10 NBA titles and being inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 2010. Mark Heisler of the LA Times gathered a quote from David Stern on Mr. Buss.
Jerry Buss helped set the league on the course it is on today,” NBA Commissioner David Sternsaid. “Remember, he showed us it was about ‘Showtime,’ the notion that an arena can become the focal point for not just basketball, but entertainment. He made it the place to see and be seen.”
Buss has been out of the public eye the past few seasons, as he was battling a cancer that has remained undisclosed. Since then, his children have taken their respective roles within the franchise to supplant him.
From all of us here at Laker Nation, Rest in peace, Dr. Jerry Buss. You will be greatly missed, but never forgotten.
On Michael Jordan’s 50th birthday, Kobe Bryant showed that MJ’s imprint on the game is far from gone. Like Jordan, the Mamba approaches the game with an intelligence and relentless drive that gives him an edge over his opponents.
While Jordan/Kobe comparisons can get overdone, Kobe’s suffocating defense on LeBron James in the closing minutes of the all-star game, including 24’s block on the King’s jumpshot, were explicitly Jordanesque.
In an Outside the Lines piece on MJ, Michael discusses how he would defend LeBron, were he still playing:
The announcers gush about LeBron, mentioning him in the same sentence with Jordan, who hears every word. Those words have an effect on him. He stares at the TV and points out a flaw in LeBron’s game.
“I study him,” he says.
When LeBron goes right, he usually drives; when he goes left, he usually shoots a jumper. It has to do with his mechanics and how he loads the ball for release. “So if I have to guard him,” Jordan says, “I’m gonna push him left so nine times out of 10, he’s gonna shoot a jump shot. If he goes right, he’s going to the hole and I can’t stop him. So I ain’t letting him go right.”
Kobe Bryant, the “Air Apparent” to MJ, did just that in the closing minutes of the West’s victory over the East in the All-Star game, holding the reigning NBA Champ and MVP to just one point in the final six minutes of a close game, and blocking his shot twice.
Kobe relentlessly pushed LeBron to his left, as MJ said he would, and kept the King in check, punctuating his shut-down of LeBron by blocking James’ jumper — after James went left.
While LeBron is the best player in the world, Kobe shows that he still has a few tricks up his sleeve, just like His Royal Airness before him.
It may just have been a few plays in a glorified exhibition game, but Kobe’s intelligent and relentless defense on LeBron was reminiscent of another great shooting guard, who reached the half-century mark today.
On Michael’s 50th birthday, Kobe made good on the Jordan comparisons, and let MJ and LeBron know that in the conversation for best player alive, and all-time, Kobe’s name must come up.
If there’s one thing that has united Lakers fans this year, it’s our shared distaste for the teams head coach. It’s not just the teams poor performance, but more so their lack of consistent improvement throughout the season under D’Antoni. The following is a compilation of Mike D’Antoni’s 10 most memorable quotes throughout the year:
On possible roster additions before the trade deadline:
We need to play guys who know the system. We could bring somebody in to bring them on the bench for a while. But that doesn’t make any sense for us either. We’re in a strange situation.”
On Lakers players accepting their role:
Everybody knows their role. We spell it out every day. You might not accept that role and now you have, ‘Well, he doesn’t understand me,’ “Yeah, I do. You just don’t want to do what I want you to do.”
On the Clippers beating the Lakers 125-101:
They beat us. They kicked us. We just played helter-skelter.”
On the Laker’s decision to hire him instead of going with Phil Jackson:
I have real close friends that were Lakers fans, and they were disappointed I got the job.”
On how fans reaction affects him:
I don’t care, and so fans can curse, scream and carry on like there is no tomorrow. I don’t read and I don’t listen, I don’t watch anything but tape. I think about the team and I live my life. Then I’ll have a nice dinner and a glass of wine.”
On Gasol publicly expressing frustration with being benched:
I guess the ‘all for one’ lasted about 48 hours. Not bad.”
On whether the Bobcats were a dangerous opponent for the Lakers:
We’re playing, aren’t we? (Then) there’s a danger,” D’Antoni said with a laugh. “If they play the national anthem, we’re in danger.”
On Kobe’s off-ball defense:
Umm, it’s good … You know. I think sometimes he just … You know … Umm … Yeah, it’s good.”
On benching Gasol the entire fourth quarter in the Lakers 106-98 loss to the Grizzlies:
I was thinking I’d like to win this game. That’s the reason.”
On the Lakers struggles:
We’ve got an All-Star team. Have you ever watched an All-Star Game? It’s God-awful because everybody gets the ball, they go one-on-one and then they play no defense. That’s our team.”
The Eastern Conference may have the defending NBA Champs, but the All-Star Game in the last three seasons has belonged to the West.
This year’s game, like most All-Star Games, was played with little to no defense, as seen by the total points scored in each quarter by both teams: 57, 77, 78 and 69. In the second quarter, the East shot 61% from the field and the West shot 63%.
It was mostly competitive throughout, with the lead changing 22 times – the East leading by as much as two points and the West getting ahead by as much as 11. In the end, however, despite the East attempting to make a run at the win after back-to-back three pointers by Paul George, the West still managed to hold for the victory, 138-143
HIGH POINTS: Chris Paul – Infuriating, though it was, to watch CP3 and not still dream of what could’ve been, it’s hard to deny just how amazing he is. 20 points on 7-10 from the field, 15 assists and four steals – Most-Valuable Player honors were well-deserved. Kevin Durant – The reigning All-Star MVP may have been passed over in favor of Chris Paul, but Durant hardly disappointed. 30 points on 13-24 from the field (the most FGs attempted in the game), six rebounds, a pair of steals and some of the most spectacular dunks in the game. Rest assured, the All-Star Game MVP in 2012 will not be his last. Kobe Bryant – Bryant’s All-Star Resume reads as follows: Youngest Slam Dunk Champion at 18 years old 169 days, 15 All-Star Game appearances (tied with Kevin Garnett for the second most appearances, just below Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s 18), a starter in every appearance, four-time MVP and leading scorer in NBA All-Star history. In his 15th appearance, it’s hard to imagine still having a love and desire to perform in a game that doesn’t mean anything to your team, but Bryant doesn’t discern between what matters and what doesn’t. When it comes to competition, he’s in it to win it. His stat line tonight isn’t a standout – nine points on 7-9, four rebounds, eight assists (second on the team behind CP3’s 15), two steals and two blocks – but in the last few minutes of the game, he played the closer on the unexpected side of the court. Bryant took to guarding Lebron James in the finals minutes as a personal duty, much like he does in every game. In the last three minutes of the final quarter, with the East seemingly potting a comeback, Bryant stole the ball from James and blocked him on two other occasions to seal the win.
LOW POINTS: Chris Bosh – All three Miami Heat players on the Eastern Conference team started and Bosh did the absolute least from the big three. He went 3-9 from the field for his six points (including an airball), grabbed two rebounds, had three turnovers, and fell victim to between the legs passes from Chris Paul and Tony Parker, not to mention a nasty crossover from Bryant. He was a -14 overall, the lowest +/- in the game. It’s baffling why he was chosen to be an All-Star at all. Dwight Howard – In limited playing time (14:11 minutes), Howard managed to score nine points and grab seven rebounds; which is about what he does for the Lakers often this season. With back and shoulder injuries with which to contend, this is all Howard could contribute as his first (and possibly last) All-Star Appearance as a Laker.
There goes another All-Star weekend in the books, and from this point, the season tends to pass significantly more quickly than before the break, and the trade rumors and transactions will occupy a great amount of time between now and the deadline (February 21st). Hold on to your favorite players in your imagination, fans. They may not be there on February 22nd.
Even though it has been a short Laker week due to All Star break, it was definitely an eventful one. Twitter had a lot to say about the big losses to the Heat and Clippers and the win against the Suns. They was also a lot of talk about a security guard at a recent home game. Here are Laker Nation’s Tweets of the Week!
Lil Wayne claimed he was kicked out for being a Laker fan at the game against the Heat. Was it not the sizzurp Weezy? (Laker Nation has no evidence of Lil Wayne possessing sizzurp at the American Airlines Arena)
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.