The Lakers finish the week with a record of 2-2. There was an impressive win over the Brooklyn Nets and a great 20 point comeback against the Charlotte Bobcats, but along with that came an old fashioned beat-down by the Boston Celtics and a fourth quarter meltdown that resulted in a loss to the Miami Heat. Here are this week’s top 3 and bottom 3 performers.
3. Earl Clark
Earl Clark has been a very nice surprise this season. From being buried on the bench to becoming our starting power forward, Clark averaged 13.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game this week highlighted by his 14 point, 12 rebound game against Brooklyn where he lead the team in the +/- category with a +18. He has been the most consistent player on both ends of the court and has provided some much needed energy when on the floor.
2. Steve Nash
Steve Nash celebrated his birthday this week in Thursday night’s loss to the Boston Celtics. With the sudden spark in assists for Kobe Bryant, the former two-time MVP has seen an increase in his scoring averaging 14.5 points per game and shooting at an efficient 51.3% and 40% from beyond the arc.
1. Kobe Bryant
It seems almost impossible to have a top 3 Lakers performer list that doesn’t include Mr. Bryant. Kobe had averages of 24 points, 7 rebounds, and 6.25 assists per game this week. In the past 10 games Kobe has been leading the Lakers in assist averaging 7.4 per game, the Lakers are 7-3 in the last 10 games played.
3. Mike D’Antoni
Dwight Howard Sr. spoke out in defense of his son this week. He voiced his opinions about the very public war of words between Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard this week. Senior put the blame on Coach D’Antoni for not stepping in and quieting down his players to the media, but that isn’t the coach’s only mistake this week… The problems on the court still exist as the Lakers continue to play poor defense and not utilize Dwight Howard on offense. D’Antoni has his work cut out for him with 30 games left in the season and the Lakers being 3.5 games behind playoff contention.
2. Dwight Howard
Dwight has been having a rough week… After re-aggravating his right shoulder injury he sat out three games and returned Thursday in Boston. While Dwight’s numbers weren’t particularly bad, they are nowhere near the numbers we all know he is capable of pulling. In the 3 games he played this week he averaged 12ppg and 9.7 rpg while hitting only 47% of his free throws. Not to mention all the media hype surrounding his shoulder and Kobe’s comments on his return date, Dwight spent the last 3 games playing with very little energy and motivation.
1. Metta World Peace
Metta served a one game suspension for an altercation with Detroit Piston’s guard Brandon Knight against the Brooklyn Nets. When Metta came back against Boston, it was clear his extra time off did nothing for his game. He continued his poor shooting performance this week by only hitting 2-11 from the 3-point line and 10-38 overall.
The NBA world isn’t just about what you do on the court. We scoured the web for Lakers-related quotes, and provide you with the 10 best quotes we’ve found from the past seven days:
When you have a guy that’s still working hard, even when he’s not playing, and then he finally gets his chance and he makes the best of it, that’s how you earn respect, and I think he’s earned it from all of us on the team
Nobody is going to want to play them in the first round. With the veterans the Lakers have, I don’t think it’s going to make a big difference to them if they creep in as the 6, 7, or 8 [seed]. In the playoffs, they’re going to be dangerous.
Most of the time when there’s a communication problem, it’s because the message being received is not the message you want. It’s not that they don’t know what they need to do, how we need to act as a team, whatever. If you don’t like the message, then you go say there’s a communication problem.
I think this season is going to be a disappointment if we don’t win a championship, on the other hand when you look at what we faced this year, it’s probably unlikely that we can find that top gear and what it takes to win a championship.
I mean, I want to play. But at the same time, this is my career, this is my future, this is my life. I can’t leave that up to anybody else because nobody else is going to take care of me. If I go down, then what? Everybody’s life is going to go on. I don’t want to have to have another summer where I’m rehabbing and, you know, trying to get healthy again. I want to come back and have another great year.
It’s about your own commitment to excellence in the area of team success. Not so much are you going to make 100-million dollars and is your career going to be ok. Unfortunately for him, in Los Angeles, you’ve got a legacy of great players that have shown the city what commitment looks like. I’d like to see actions from him that tell me that winning is the most important thing to him, and that he wants to be a Laker.
It would be hard for me to deal with another season [if both D’Antoni and Howard stay with the Lakers for the next season]. I’m not a quitter. Just because things look better on the other side of the fence, I’m not going to take the easy way out. I have a certain level of loyalty here, and I’ve been through a lot of great, amazing things. And there have been others that have been hurtful. But that’s life. I believe 100% if I was starting inside with Dwight we could make the playoffs. I just don’t know if coming off the bench gives the team a chance to be better and win more games.
We don’t have time for [Howard’s shoulder] to heal. We need some urgency. [Dwight] has never been in a position where someone is driving him as hard as I am, as hard as this organization is. It’s win a championship or everything is a complete failure. That’s just how [the Lakers] do it. And that’s foreign to him.
Adidas recently made headlines by announcing their “adizero NBA short sleeve uniform system” that the Golden State Warriors will wear during three home games throughout the rest of this season. Here’s what was said in the press release,
Adidas, the uniform-provider of the NBA, says the jerseys feature “the first-ever super lightweight stretch woven short with maximum ventilation for player comfort. The jersey includes armhole insets with 360-degree stretch fabric that facilitates free range of motion for the arms and shoulders.”
“The uniforms are 26 percent lighter than their traditional counterparts, which Adidas said its research revealed was most important to players. They come with the ever-popular moisture-absorbing feature. The sleeves are made with stretch fabric that wraps 360 degrees around the shoulder to ensure full range of motion, because anyone who has played basketball knows how a T-shirt’s sleeve can interfere with a jumper.”
At the end of the press release is this paragraph,
Adidas hopes to unveil similar short-sleeve jerseys for other NBA teams next season.
What do you think about these new short sleeve jerseys? Are they an idea that the Lakers need to look into? Sound off below!
By this point, everyone knows that Dwight Howard is (and has been) playing through pain this season. What many people do not know is how his pain intensifies during games. After the Miami Heat loss Dwight told Yahoo Sports Eric Adelson how immediately after tip-off the pain kicks in.
“They got me early,” he told Yahoo! Sports in the quiet of the Lakers locker room after Sunday’s 107-97 loss. “They would yank it back.”
The pain that follows the yanks, grabs, or pulls that Howard experiences lasts the rest of the contest, but the worst part is how it affects his game. Since his re-injury against the Phoenix Suns and his return against the Boston Celtics, Dwight barely raises his injured shoulder during play. On shot attempts, blocks, and rebounds he only raises his left arm.
Howard said the Bobcats did the same thing in Charlotte Friday night – even worse, in fact.
“It’s like a jolt,” he said. “Then it hurts the rest of the night.”
Dwight’s struggles, due to his shoulder, have severely hurt the Lakers scoring opportunities. While they rank 6th in the NBA in points per game, outside of Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash there are no consistent and reliable scorers. Earl Clark is certainly developing but he is not enough to dominate the game the way a healthy Dwight can in the paint. When asked about any update regarding his shoulder he replied:
“I’m trying not to make [the injury] even worse.” When asked how long doctors say it might be before the pain goes away, Howard sighed.
“No timetable,” he replied.
Even with no timetable for Dwight to become healthy, something that he has visibly lacked is effort. Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register gave an analysis of Dwight’s effort on the floor versus Miami. It caused Steve Nash to snap on the floor, something he rarely does not matter who you are.
Nash drove and was trapped on the baseline by two Miami defenders, Udonis Haslem about to force Nash out of bounds and Mario Chalmers also there between Nash and Howard, who stood deep in the paint. The other three Lakers had the floor spaced the way Mike D’Antoni wants, all behind the 3-point arc, so no other Heat player could get to Howard.
Howard had time to stand there, stare at Nash and the two Heat players, hold his arms up and wave them.
So Howard’s eyes and arms were working. Tragically, his legs and feet were not.
This has happened time and time again when Howard is on the floor. Either he will roll somewhat, roll a little, or stop and fully expect the ball from the person dribbling.
Howard just stood there instead of trying to help Nash create a passing lane – and get himself an easy dunk, as Nash gestured afterward would’ve happened if Howard just did something besides stand there.
Dwight has always been the type of player that has been handed the ball. From high school, to Orlando, to even here in L.A., he has been given the ball when he wanted it. Now, the topic is not so much as Dwight being given the ball. Instead it is him making an effort to go and get it. When Howard is looked at from that perspective, he has not done such for quite a while. Like Coach Mike D’Antoni has repeated the “ball finds energy”. Earl Clark provides energy night in and night out, therefore he is having a breakout season despite barely playing from October until December. I’m not at all saying Dwight would have a breakout year by being active, but I am saying he would be more efficient and effective even with his injuries by being more like Earl.
If Howard really lusts for individual offense so badly, why not try harder to get the ball? Even if he can’t explode like he did when he fully trusted his body, at least try to do something. Just look at how well things went even with makeshift non-Nash point guards for Jordan Hill – with a herniated disk in his back and other injuries before requiring hip surgery – when he simply rolled hard off picks.
Dwight seems to be getting in his own way more than anyone else. When he first arrived, he seemed thrilled to work pick and rolls with Nash and with Kobe. Now, it looks like all of the media’s criticism has gotten to his head about it. He so badly wants the ball in the post, instead of rolling to the basket for easier shots, that it leaves you scratching your head.
Howard has always been more of a pick and roll big man than a traditional NBA center who plays with their back to the basket. It’s just another one of the reasons why it’s baffling that he is acting differently now. If Dwight wants to salvage this season, then it will take more adjustments in his style of play than ever before.
Games on Lakers’ Schedule this week: Phoenix Suns (17-35), Los Angeles Clippers (36-17)
The most important game this week for the Lakers is against the Phoenix Suns. Yes, the Suns.
The Lakers have returned home from their longest road trip of the season. Although they ended the trip at 4-3 and lost Pau Gasol along the way, the Lakers have been playing much better as of late.
In their last 10 games, the Lakers are 7-3, which is pretty good for a team that has looked lost all season long. The Lakers have two crucial games this week heading into the All-Star break, and they need to win both. Winning both would be a huge boost to start the remaining 28 games.
The Lakers play the Phoenix Suns (17-35) on Tuesday night and the Clippers on Thursday night (36-17), but the game against the Phoenix Suns is the more important of the two. Obviously, a win against the Clips would be huge (can’t believe I wrote that), but the Suns’ game is the one the Lakers must not take lightly. The game versus the Suns is the Game of the Week for many reasons.
To begin, it’s the first home game after a long road trip, so it is easy to have a letdown. The Lakers slept in their own beds for the first time in a long time Sunday night. After more than a week on the road, the players are glad to be home and back in the friendly confines of Staples, but it can spell disaster on the court. The Lakers have been known to come out after a road trip lacking energy, but at this point, lacking energy can only spell doom. This team can ill-afford any more let down games. The Suns will be ready and they have absolutely nothing to lose. The Lakers have to awake from the slumber of being home if they want this game.
The Lakers play the Clippers on Thursday, and that alone makes the game with the Suns even bigger. When there’s a rivalry game on the horizon – and that game is also a statement game – it is easy to overlook a lesser opponent. The Lakers cannot afford to overlook the Suns because they are looking ahead to Thursday night.
The Suns game is a revenge game. The Lakers headed into their Grammy road trip on a three game winning streak. The first game on the road trip was against the Suns and all the pundits expected the Suns to be one of the wins on the trip, but the Lakers lost to them. If the Lakers had beaten the Suns, the Lakers would have finished the road trip with a 5-2 record instead of 4-3. The one loss at the hands of the Suns was a big loss because the Lakers should have, and could have, won that game. The Lakers need to exert some revenge on the Suns for spoiling their plans, and it needs to be done decisively.
Against a team with fewer victories, the Suns’ game is a must win. The Lakers have had a recurring theme all season that they need to break: stop losing to teams that are far less superior to you.
Sunday’s loss to mighty Lebron James and his Miami Heat will probably be a tough pill to swallow for the Lakers simply because the game was theirs to win. Despite the dominating performance of James and Dwyane Wade, a few miscues and lack of discipline down the stretch really killed the Lakers chances to stay competitive at the end.
Here are five takeaways from the Lakers vs. Heat game:
Yes, it’s really about the turnovers.
Through three quarters, the Lakers committed 7 turnovers. In the fourth quarter alone, the Lakers coughed up 8, and ultimately lost control of the game towards the end. Some may credit Miami’s ball hawking ways, but, at least in this game, it looked more like the typical mental lapses that have plagued the Lakers all season. Yes, the Heat jumped a few passing lanes to disrupt the Lakers offensive flow, but some of those passes seemed lazier and forced.
Poor rebounding led to Miami getting second, third and fourth chance opportunities.
It’s almost impossible to beat Miami in a straight shootout, but one weakness (if there really is one) in the Heat’s roster is its lack of size and ability to crash the boards. Ranked 3rd in rebounding compared to Miami’s horrid rank of 30 (yes, that’s right, they are dead last), the Lakers should have dominated the glass. However, Miami crushed the Lakers on the boards 38-29 and there were a number of sequences where the Heat were given multiple opportunities to score on a single trip down the floor.
Earl Clark is earning his stripes, while Metta World Peace seems to be in free fall.
“Easy” Earl has embraced his new starting role and has not disappointed, averaging 12 points and nearly 9 rebounds over the last 10 games, while providing speed and athleticism for the slow starting squad. Along with Kobe Bryant, he has been one of the few players on this Lakers roster to bring consistency each game. While Clark is prone to some mistakes (due to inexperience), his game seems to be evolving every minute he steps on the floor, regardless of the opponent.
On the other hand, Metta World Peace seems to be in somewhat of a tailspin, and has failed to crack the 50% FG shooting mark for 13 games now. Some poor shooting decisions on MWP’s part is the most glaring reason for the slump, but he is even missing open looks. Let’s hope he can break out of this slump sooner than later.
The Lakers chemistry is simply not there every game, or even every quarter.
With such an injury-plagued season, building any type of rhythm with the merry-go-round of players coming in out of the lineup is tough. When this season is done, an argument could be made-especially when it’s time to negotiate with Dwight Howard during free agency-that this team was simply not healthy enough to put together a deep run in the playoffs. It’s not an excuse for the Lakers poor play, but it should be a consideration. Anyone that has played team sports knows that chemistry, along with talent, correlates with success.
With that said, it was amazing to see how well the Lakers played for 36 minutes against Miami, sans Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill. Ball movement, communication and efficient basketball really forced the Heat to play at a higher level. Remember, coming in to Sunday, the Lakers had won 7 of the last 9 games, so they really are getting it together.
Unfortunately, the Lakers may be out of time to really prove to everyone what this team can do.
Despite a 4-3 Grammy road trip, the Lakers are still in a good position to make the playoffs.
It’s not the end of the world, yet. Most critics and fans didn’t expect the Lakers to beat the Heat, but they played the kind of basketball that caught everyone’s attention. The Grammy trip was, for the most part, a success. However, the Lakers will need to continue to win on the road in order to keep up with the Utah Jazz, Houston Rockets and Portland Trailblazers.
Having a bit of luck also helps, and on Sunday, Lady Luck delivered two big losses from Houston and Portland, compliments of the Sacramento Kings and Orlando Magic.
The Lakers have two games left before the All-Star break, and both are a must-win against the Phoenix Suns and the Los Angeles Clippers. If the Lakers can finish strong, it may be a strong indication that this team has really put the pieces together and are primed to compete for a playoff spot.
As you likely now know, our ticketing partner TiqIQ is a great way to buy Lakers tickets from lots of different sellers. They just emailed me this week to tell me about a new and free ticket selling service called SellerDirect. It’s still in soft launch, but over the next week, they’re opening it up to 5 Lakers season ticket holders, via LakerNation. These sellers will get premium placement for their tickets right next to sellers like the NBA Ticket Exchange and eBay.
I’ll also be promoting SellerDirect listing directly through LakerNation social media. Unlike Stubhub, there are no fees for using sellers direct, and unlike Craigslist, the buyer can actually see who you are and where you want to meet-up, which makes for a transaction with far less opportunity for surprises.
As a bonus, all sellers who apply for the program will automatically be entered to win $200 in free tickets to any event on TiqIQ.com. Even if you’re not selected as a seller for this go-round, they’ve assured us more slots will open soon.
Despite a promising start to the week with a win in Brooklyn, the Lakers finished the week at just 2-2.
The Lakers endured a blowout loss in Boston, followed by a come-from-behind victory in Charlotte, then concluded the 2013 Grammy Trip with a discouraging loss in Miami.
Although the Lakers finished the Grammy Road Trip with an overall record of 4-3, they suffered a devastating long-term loss in the process.
In their exciting victory over the Brooklyn Nets, forward/center Pau Gasol suffered an injury to his foot.
After an MRI and a flight back to Los Angeles, Gasol was diagnosed with a partially torn plantar fascia in his foot. Early speculation suggests Gasol will miss anywhere from 6-10 weeks.
Once Gasol was deemed out for the remainder of the trip, the Lakers turned to their injured star center Dwight Howard. Unfortunately, Howard’s slow recovery from his re-aggravated right shoulder injury and his ‘lack of urgency’ stirred up drama between Howard and Kobe Bryant.
After an up-and-down week for Laker Nation, the Lakers currently find themselves with an overall record of 24-28—returning home for the final week before the All-Star break.
Take a look back at the changes in the Lakers’ stock values and the impact the players should have going forward:
Kobe Bryant : Bryant had yet another stellar week offensively this past week. Although he failed to record an assist in the loss to Boston, Bryant still managed to average 5.3 assists over the past four games.
Bryant also shot the ball well, averaging 24.0 points per game on an efficient 47.9% from the field. Despite this efficient shooting, Bryant has only made 2 three-pointers out of his last 26 attempts.
With both Howard and Gasol in and out of the lineups, Bryant also increased his focus on the glass. In his past four games, Bryant averaged 7.0 rebounds per game—a major factor in helping control the boards while the big men missed time.
Despite Bryant’s efficient play on both ends, he was only able to lead his team to a 2-2 record.
In the Boston game, Bryant tried to get his teammates going early, but they simply just missed shots for most of the game.
In the loss against Miami, Bryant made a conscious effort to be the facilitator on offense in the first half. However, in the second half, Bryant reverted back to his score-first mentality.
Miami’s pressure, trapping defense made it difficult for the Lakers to have any flow on offense, especially in the fourth quarter.
Bryant’s continual isolation at the mid-post, coupled with Miami’s pressure, resulted in inefficient offense and many turnovers for the Lakers.
Bryant’s increased facilitator role has resulted in additional turnovers lately, as shown by Bryant’s 4.0 turnovers per game average this past week.
With coach Mike D’Antoni failing to make adjustments late in games, that onus to adjust will fall on Bryant to continue making smart decisions down the stretch.
Going forward, Bryant must continue to feed the ball inside to Howard and look for kick outs for the Lakers to win close games late.
Earl Clark : What more can be said about “Easy” Earl Clark? After receiving an opportunity due to injuries, Clark has certainly relished his chance at being a fixture in the Lakers’ rotation.
Clark continued his emergence this week with standout games against Brooklyn, Charlotte and Miami. Clark registered double-doubles (points and rebounds) in both wins against Brooklyn and Charlotte.
Over the past week, Clark averaged 13.5 ppg on 50% shooting and 9.5 rpg.
Clark’s presence on the boards has been a welcomed sight, especially with the recent loss of Gasol. Clark’s athleticism and efficient shooting have also added key dimensions to the Lakers’ offense.
Despite Clark’s solid numbers, his full contributions do not always show up in the box score. Clark’s hustle and energy have been key factors in the Lakers’ recent success.
Also, with Gasol now out for a while, Clark’s responsibilities on both ends of the floor are sure to increase.
Clark does fit in well with Dwight Howard though, because his outside shooting and slashing ability compliment the center well.
For the Lakers to make a hard push at a playoff spot, sans Gasol, Clark will have to continue his excellent play, and assume this unfamiliar role as the Lakers’ starting four with confidence.
Jodie Meeks : Meeks had a solid week off the bench for the Lakers. After losing Gasol early in the week, a scoring void needed to be picked up.
Meeks somewhat answered the call with solid performances in Boston, Charlotte and Miami.
Meeks scored 13 points in Boston and 14 points in Charlotte, hitting all four three-pointers in the win over the Bobcats.
Meeks also hit a huge three late in the comeback against Charlotte, resulting in an important win for the Lakers.
Meeks’ hustle and high activity, especially on the defensive end, were also key in stimulating the eventual comeback.
If Meeks can continue to play consistently, the main beneficiary will be Kobe Bryant. Bryant is playing a league-leading 38.5 minutes per game this season, so Meeks can certainly help to keep him fresh.
Also, with starting small forward Metta World Peace in a deep shooting slump, Meeks’ 50% shooting from behind the arc this week has helped stretch the floor.
The Lakers will need even more of that to take the pressure off Bryant and Howard inside.
Steve Nash : The multitude of injuries for the Lakers has also had a direct effect on Steve Nash. Nash has significantly increased his scoring load as a result.
Nash, whose assist numbers have been down of late, averaged 14.5 ppg on 51.4% shooting and 5.5 apg. Nash’s efficient shooting has complimented Bryant’s facilitating well.
The Lakers might need more from Nash going forward though. With Gasol out for the long-term, and Howard being less of a factor offensively, Nash may need to control the offense even more.
For the Lakers to be successful, Nash must find the right balance between scoring and facilitating.
In the Lakers’ wins this past week, Nash averaged 17.0 ppg and 7.5 apg. In the losses, however, Nash averaged 12.0 ppg and only 3.5 apg.
Obviously, there is a clear winning formula there.
The key will be for both Nash and Bryant to work effectively off each other, which will inevitably increase the flow of the offense collectively.
Antawn Jamison : Jamison has been mediocre of late off the bench as the Lakers’ sixth man. Jamison averaged just 8.0 ppg and 4.3 rpg this past week.
The Lakers need more than that on a nightly basis to be effective. Since Jamison brings little defensively, he needs to be more efficient scoring the ball.
Jamison shot just 42.9% from the field and 30% from three-point land in his past four games.
With Gasol out and Howard still hampered by injury, the Lakers also need Jamison to rebound more.
Jamison’s 4.3 rpg are not going to get it done off the bench, especially when the Lakers were just out-rebounded by the worst rebounding team in the league (Miami).
With an aging roster, the Lakers desperately need a consistent bench unit. Meeks’ solid play of late has been promising, but the Lakers also need Jamison to reach that level of consistency to spell the starters some rest.
Steve Blake : Although Steve Blake is not a great back-up point guard, he gets the job done better than Chris Duhon. Blake has never been a great scoring threat during his time in Los Angeles, but he does control the game well at the point.
Blake averaged just 4.3 ppg and 2.5 apg this past week. Blake also shot only 37.5% from three-point range, something the Lakers could surely use from the back-up point guard role.
As with Jamison, the Lakers need a little more consistency out of Blake going forward. When Nash goes to the bench, the drop-off to Blake is too large of a margin right now.
When Blake enters the game for Nash, he needs to play more aggressively by getting his teammates good looks. If Blake can slightly shrink that drop-off, it would greatly help the Lakers’ continuity.
Dwight Howard : A tough week for Dwight Howard.
Despite returning from his aggravated shoulder injury against Boston, Howard did not play well this week.
As the Lakers’ second or third offensive option, Howard only averaged 12.0 ppg, 9.7 rpg and 1.7 bpg. Howard did shoot 58.3% from the field, however, but also averaged 3 turnovers per game.
Howard is clearly still affected by both his off-season back surgery and the torn labrum in his right shoulder. Since Howard cannot damage his shoulder anymore, his dominance on both ends of the floor must improve.
This lack of dominance inside was clearly evident in the Lakers’ loss to Miami. Howard was 6-9 from the field and had 9 rebounds, but coming from the Lakers’ lone premier big man, that’s just not enough.
With the news that Gasol is now out a minimum of six weeks, Howard must take it upon himself to be more dominant.
Along with his poor play on the court, Howard also created some unnecessary drama of the court. Howard, along with D’Antoni and Bryant, need to find a way to co-exist successfully, or else this season could make a turn for the worse quickly.
Howard doesn’t seem like he will be close to full health this season, but he must become more efficient on the glass. Howard’s recent rebounding numbers have been below average for him, and without Gasol there to help him, he must control both the offensive and defensive glasses.
Howard needs to establish himself more inside on offense as well. Too many times Howard does not seal off his man or establish deep post-position.
To make matters worse, Howard has been setting terrible screens lately. The athletic center must start setting better ball screens because his rolls to the basket have been rendered ineffective lately. Howard continuously sets weak, brush screens in pick-and-rolls, which don’t work for his teammate nor himself.
Back in Orlando, Howard would absolutely punish smaller defenders on switches, something he has done little this season.
For the Lakers to make a serious push back into the Western Conference playoff picture, Howard and Bryant must set aside their differences.
Howard’s play going forward will significantly determine whether or not the Lakers right the ship this season.
Metta World Peace : World Peace was suspended in the Brooklyn game for his flagrant foul on Brandon Knight. Along with the suspension, World Peace also continued his dismal shooting slump this past week.
Shooting just 26.3% from the field in his past three games, World Peace averaged 8.3 ppg and 3.3 rpg. This is unacceptable from the Lakers’ starting small forward.
World Peace’s individual defense has also struggled of late. In both Laker losses, World Peace allowed Paul Pierce and LeBron James to get going early. Pierce finished with 24 points and James had 30 points.
The Lakers desperately need a solid perimeter defender to stop these types of players. World Peace, who played great to start the season, has slowed down significantly in the past month.
World Peace needs to find some way to get out of his current shooting slump. If he can play better offensively, that will hopefully translate into better defensive performances.
Lately, opposing defenses leave him open and focus in on Bryant, Nash and Howard. If opposing defenses continue to do that, World Peace must make them pay by hitting open shots consistently.
Robert Sacre : In the Lakers’ win over Brooklyn, Robert Sacre actually received some meaningful minutes.
In return for his 10 minutes, Sacre scored 4 points and played solid defense inside. Unfortunately for Sacre, Gasol’s injury has not translated into more playing time for the reserve center.
If, however, the Lakers’ thin string of big men gets into foul trouble, or another major injury occurs, Sacre could see consistent minutes in the future.
Chris Duhon : This past week, Chris Duhon continued his role as the Lakers’ “emergency” guard. Duhon appeared in two games (Brooklyn and Boston) but only scored 2 total points.
Duhon did average 1.5 apg in limited minutes, but his prospects of playing consistent minutes in the future look bleak—especially with the consistent play of fellow back-up point guard Steve Blake.
Devin Ebanks : We had a rare Devin Ebanks sighting this past week. After not playing in 13 straight games, Ebanks played 5 minutes of ‘garbage time’ against Boston.
Ebanks did score 5 points on 2-6 shooting, but he looks to remain a permanent benchwarmer going forward.
Darius Morris : Like Ebanks, Morris received 5 minutes of playing time against Boston. Morris registered 2 assists in garbage minutes, but failed to do much else.
After being a regular starter earlier this season, Morris now looks to be sharing Ebanks’ role as glued to the bench.
Pau Gasol : Just when you thought the back breaks were over for the Lakers, they encounter another unfortunate set-back.
Pau Gasol had been playing solid basketball for the first time this season, until he suffered the major foot injury against Brooklyn.
After a next-day MRI in Boston revealed a partially torn plantar fascia, Gasol flew back to Los Angeles to consult with team doctors.
Gasol had been dealing with plantar fasciitis earlier in the season, but this time it was serious.
Unfortunately, the Lakers will now lose Gasol for a minimum of 6 weeks, and up to 10 weeks, right as they begin their stretch run towards the playoffs.
This injury news was just another of the many crushing blows the Lakers have experienced this season.
Stay tuned for next weeks’ Lakers Stock Watch as the Lakers head into the All-Star Break battling Phoenix and the Clippers.
Here’s a line you haven’t read this season: The Lakers could have won it. Okay fine, we’ve actually said that before…a lot, because goodness knows the Lakers have come close to winning a lot of games this past season but have always found a way to falter in the end. If we re-watch those 28 losses, I guarantee at least half of them were close to victories. The only problem is, moaning and groaning over what has already come to pass, doesn’t change the present, and at the moment, the Lakers are sitting in a deep hole from which playoff hopes continue to fall further.
Like their last meeting at Staples Center, the Lakers and Heat kept the game competitive until the last few minutes. Even without Pau Gasol, who contributed minimally in the last game anyway, Kobe Bryant and company kept the Heat defense on their toes, with Bryant continuing to dish, Steve Nash continuing to score and the Laker frontline of Dwight Howard and Earl Clark doing some damage on the scoreboard. But after tying at the half, and Miami taking a three-point lead after three quarters, things went south beach on the Lakers and they added yet another loss, 97-107.
HIGH POINTS: First Three Quarters – It’s always hard to see the good in losses, but we’ve had to do it so often this season that sometimes a silver lining is all we have. Through 36 minutes, the Heat led the Lakers by just five points, 78-73. Four Lakers were in double figures and, despite allowing 54% shooting for the Heat, the visitors weren’t shooting an awful percentage at 47%. They turned the ball over just seven times (!) compared to Miami’s 11 turnovers, and were playing a good enough defense to stay close and keep it competitive There were 10 lead changes, 10 ties, and up to that point, the Lakers had once led by seven points and the Heat’s largest lead was five. Against such a formidable team, the Lakers weren’t in bad shape to make a run in the final 12 minutes to get the victory, but even despite shooting 67% to Miami’s 57% in the fourth quarter, and finally outrebounding the Heat, their 8-0 lead in turnovers prevented any such comeback.
Kobe Bryant – In an interview aired between timeouts/commercial breaks, Steve Nash (15 points on 3-5, perfect 8-8 from the free throw line) stressed the importance of doing what’s best for the team, even if it makes your game uncomfortable. He, himself, has given up a large control of the ball handling responsibilities to Bryant, and Bryant has given up his natural instincts to score to get the rest of his teammates going and to keep the defense guessing. Despite the loss, Bryant poured in 28 points on 11-19 from the field, handed out nine assists and grabbed six boards. With three other teammates in double figures, today’s loss wasn’t about Bryant trying to force his scoring, which is often the argument his detractors make. Bryant did it all today, but his teammates needed to do a little more too.
Earl Clark – Win or lose, this kid is never short on the effort, and today he went for 18 points on 8-17 from the field (17 shot attempts, second on the team to Bryant’s 19) and grabbed nine rebounds.
Dwight Howard – Howard did a lot of good things today, getting 15 points on 6-9 from the field and hitting 3-5 from the free throw line, but despite his nine rebounds, there was just something off-putting today about his demeanor. After a failed defensive assignment got Miami an easy bucket, Nash and Howard were seen having words. When the two nicest players in the NBA are having words, it’s never a good thing, despite it indicating communication on the floor. Moreover, Bryant and Howard didn’t appear to interact much today. This might just be an exaggeration from a viewer’s point of view, but it’s no secret the Lakers’ locker room isn’t in the most harmonious state.
Rebounding – The Lakers are third in the league in rebounding and the Heat are last. DEAD. LAST. With 38 boards in the game, Miami reached their average 38.9 rpg. The Lakers grabbed just 29 rebounds, despite their average being 45.4 rpg. In the end, both teams had 16 second chance points apiece, but with the Lakers asleep on the offensive boards, the Heat managed to outscore them 19-4 in fast break points.
Metta World Peace – Once the Lakers’ saving grace, MWP has become a liability on offense. Today he shot just 3-11 from the field and had zero rebounds. Despite expending energy defending Lebron James (which did nothing since James managed to score 32 points on 12-18), it’s still an unusual stat line for someone who puts in as much effort on the floor as World Peace usuall does.
Looking at the final box score, it wouldn’t be a far-fetched notion to think the Lakers could have pulled this one out. They shot 50% from the field for the game to Miami’s 55%. They shot from downtown at a much higher percentage (7-12, 58%) than the Heat (6-16, 38%). They attempted 12 more free throws and converted 77% (20-26 vs. 13-14 for Miami) of them. The points in the paint were identical at 46 points each. And before the final quarter, they only had seven turnovers to Miami’s 11. But they were just outhustled on the glass, they got careless in the end and the Heat took advantage. The Lakers may, indeed, hit 30 losses before they hit 30 wins, but we’ll just cross that depressing bridge if/when we get to it. 4-3 on this long Grammy road trip. Those gold and white jerseys can’t come soon enough.
Phil Jackson always said that things could “turn on a trifle.” A streak of good fortune could turn tragic with a one careless decision. A long period of confusion and frustration could turn favorable with a single, serendipitous opportunity for change. For the Lakers, down by 20 points in the third quarter against the still-lowly and forever struggling Charlotte Bobcats, a bad hangover from one of their worst losses of the season in Boston appeared ready for an extended stay. But in the last five minutes before the final quarter, the visiting team suddenly found their second wind.
Earl Clark’s three-point play, a three-pointer from Jodie Meeks, another three from Steve Nash, a layup from Kobe Bryant, converted free throws – suddenly the 51-71 deficit turned into just a nine-point Bobcats lead and the Lakers turned into a team who was ready to finish off the night with a 100-93 victory.
HIGH POINTS: All-In – The Lakers found some normalcy again after their blowout loss last night against the Celtics. The balance was back (six players in double figures, every player with at least a pair of rebounds, and 6-8 handed out at least one assist). Kobe Bryant, scoreless in the first half after two field goal attempts, went off for 20 points on 6-13 from the field in the second half, handed out eight assists to lead the team and even blocked his old teammate, Ramon Sessions’ attempt to score. His last three assists to end the third quarter went to Meeks and Nash’s threes, as well as Clark’s jumper which led to a three-point play and got the Lakers to within eight points of the lead. Nash, starting to score more in the last few games, put in 17 of his own and handed out seven assists. Clark and Dwight Howard each had a double-double, combining for 29 points, 21 rebounds and four blocks. Their defense in the end is worth mentioning, with Howard keeping watch in the paint and Clark actively seeking to rebound. Reserve dynamic duo Antawn Jamison and Meeks made huge contributions; Jamison in the form of nine points, five rebounds and three blocks; Meeks with 14 points, including a perfect 4-4 from downtown. Never Say Die – After a first half where they shot just 40% from the field, turned the ball over 11 times and allowed the Bobcats to score 53 points and commit just three turnovers, there was really nowhere else for the Lakers to go but up, and thankfully, that’s the direction the Lakers decided to journey. They outscored the home team 59-40 in the final two quarters, including a 31-15 fourth quarter to bring the game in their favor. They turned the ball over just twice in the entire half and forced Charlotte into 8 turnovers of their own. A 20-point lead could have easily turned into 25 or 30, but the Lakers bared down, played some defense
LOW POINTS: First-half – It didn’t take a genius to see that the Lakers were just not into this game when it began. Perhaps they were tired from having to play in their sixth game of this long road trip; or maybe getting to Charlotte from Boston at 3 am didn’t help; there was also Gasol’s absence in the rotation and the fact that the Bobcats seem to have the Lakers’ number the majority of the time that they meet. Whatever the reasons were, it was obvious the Lakers weren’t ready to play. They were sloppy and just downright careless (11 turnovers) and there were no signs it would be any different in the second half. Thankfully, they were a different team after halftime.
Just like the game at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn, Time Warner Cable Arena was filled with Laker fans who cheered when their team caught up and chanted “M-V-P” when Bryant was shooting free throws. It’s a testament to the loyalty of Laker fans who continue following their team, despite a less than stellar season. Six games into this long road trip, and the Lakers are at a respectable 4-2 so far. Next comes a challenge in Miami on Sunday afternoon against the defending champion Heat. Get your predictions in now, folks. It will be a good one.
Well unfortunately, it looks to be making its slow and steady return.
The Lakers suffered yet another devastating loss Thursday night, losing to the Boston Celtics 116-95. Prior to their blowout loss in Boston, however, the Lakers’ locker room has begun dividing.
The issue at hand was, and still is, Dwight Howard’s shoulder. Howard had missed the last three games with a re-aggravated right shoulder, stemming from the torn labrum he’s been dealing with for the past month.
The Lakers’ backcourt tandem, Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash, were quoted before the game urging Howard to show a sense of urgency and play through the pain of his injury.
Bryant eluded to ESPNBoston.com that, “We don’t have time for [Howard’s shoulder] to heal. We need some urgency. Pain is something that you have to balance out and manage.”
Howard, along with Metta World Peace to some extent, opposed these views.
Howard fired back, specifically at Bryant, saying, “That’s his opinion; that’s it. He’s not a doctor. I’m not a doctor. That’s his opinion.”
Howard also spoke directly about his future and the effect this injury could have on his career, via ESPNLA’s Dave McMenamin:
“I want to play,” Howard said at Thursday’s shoot-around. “I mean, why wouldn’t I want to play? But at the same time, this is my career, this is my future, this is my life.
“I can’t leave that up to anybody else because nobody else is going to take care of me. So, if people are pissed off that I don’t play or if I do play, whatever it may be, so what? This is my career. If I go down, then what? Everybody’s life is going to go on.
“I don’t want to have another summer where I’m rehabbing and trying to get healthy again. I want to come back and have another great year. That’s what I want to do.”
With Pau Gasolout indefinitely with a partially torn plantar fascia, Howard did little to step in and help the Lakers against Boston. Howard fouled out in just 28 minutes of play, registering 9 points on 4-8 shooting, 9 rebounds and 4 turnovers.
After the game, coach Mike D’Antoni explained that Howard in fact could have played earlier than Thursday:
“Yeah, he’s been cleared for a while,” D’Antoni said. “I mean, he’s always clear because he has a tear. It’s going to be there but he had pain, so obviously he’s not going to play with the pain, and he felt better today. That’s why he played.”
“I can’t get involved with what they’ve been saying to the media,” Howard said. “I understand they’ve been saying certain things, but I know my health. I haven’t been cleared for weeks to play.
“This is my body, and I have to control my body and my future and my career. So I can’t worry about anybody else.”
As a result, Howard has made it quite clear that “his” body and “his” career are first and foremost to him. For Howard, those two things clearly take precedent over the Lakers.
A “me” before “we” attitude can’t bode well with Howard’s teammates either, and certainly not with the front office that brought him to Los Angeles. Subsequently, this disconnection between Howard and the Lakers is becoming clearer and clearer by the day.
There lies a major problem. Although Howard has publicly admitted that he has learned from his mistakes in Orlando, it seems he has figured out a new way to cause drama.
This time, however, it is not just an issue between himself and his coach, but instead the problem arises between his personal aspirations and the collective urgency of the franchise.
Howard’s focus on his own future, rather than the present, is a telling sign of where his true commitment resides.
The Lakers, on the other hand, have their sights set on this year and this year alone. With over a $100 million payroll and an aging Kobe Bryant leading the way, the window of opportunity for another Lakers’ championship is quickly closing.
As soon-to-be free agent, Dwight Howard, explicitly points out, his future in Los Angeles is in the Lakers’ hands. He, however, sees that future slowly slipping away:
“Hopefully they’ll start supporting me the way they need to,” Howard told CSNNE.com. “Until then, I’m going to continue to do whatever I can to help our team win.”
This is inevitably leading us down the path towards “Dwightmare pt. 2″—yet this time, it is Dwight Howard vs. Lakers.
Unfortunately for the Lakers, they do not have a head coach with the ability, nor the respect, to command this dividing locker room, and steer it in the right direction. With D’Antoni’s standoffish style of management as well as his non-confrontational demeanor, this issue will continue to fester.
The bottom line comes down to whether or not the Lakers’ players want to salvage this season. With little prospects of change coming at the head coaching position, this turnaround must come from within the locker room.
As of right now though, this complete and utter disconnect between Howard and the Lakers is harming the chemistry on the court.
This strict divide, between a team with one set of goals and a player with his own set of goals, is what may eventually end the Lakers’ aspirations of making Howard the future face of the franchise.
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.