Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Blog Page 57

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Photo: Kevork Djansezian | Getty Images
Image Credit: Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images
Image Credit: Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers will fill two of the five positions on the 2013 Western Conference All-Star team. SG Kobe Bryant and C Dwight Howard have been selected to represent the Western Conference in this year’s All-Star game in Houston, Texas on February 17th.

Bryant, the overall leader in fan votes with 1,591,437, will appear in his 15th straight All-Star game. This consecutive All-Star selections mark breaks the tie he shared with Jerry West, Karl Malone and Shaquille O’Neal.

Although Bryant was practically a “shoe-in” selection like usual, Howard’s selection was a little less certain. This season, the NBA decided to eliminate the center position from the ballot altogether; the league cited the recent change in traditional positions, in which the center position has become relatively archaic.

Howard received 922,070 fan votes, eclipsed only by the Thunder’s Kevin Durant in the West’s frontcourt.

Bryant, playing in his 17th season, is a 4-time All-Star MVP. Howard, the number one overall draft pick in the 2004 draft, will make his seventh straight appearance as an All-Star center since his first selection in 2007.

Other notables: PF Pau Gasol finished fifth in frontcourt balloting with 310,845 votes. Fellow point guard Steve Nash came in sixth among Western Conference guards with 270,741.

Bryant and Howard will be joined by two of their co-tenant Clippers, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, in the West’s starting lineup. Kevin Durant will be the third frontcourt player to make up the 2013 Western Conference starting lineup.

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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 predict the outcome of tonight’s showdown with the Miami Heat. That game gets underway tonight, from Staples Center, at 7:30pm PT.

The Lakers are riding a two-game win streak, and the Heat are fresh off a blowout win in Golden State last night. How will it go down at Staples Center tonight, and who comes out on top? 

Photo Credit: Getty Images
Photo Credit: Getty Images

John Gaffer // @jewelslamo:

Lakers win. They should have their entire starting 5 healthy and ready to play tonight. The Heat played last night, so there will be a fatigue factor involved. The Lakers big guys should dominate the boards and give the rebounding-challenged Heat big problems in that area. Bottom line is that every game is a must win for Lakers as they try to steal a playoff spot.

Belal Abdelfattah // @Belal_A:

The Lakers make a statement with a big win tonight. Dwight dominates the boards and let’s everyone know he and the Lakers are finally back.

Bummi Anderson // @BummiNAnderson:

Lakers win tonight. Despite the road win vs. Golden State, the Heat are struggling on the road and haven’t been consistently successful in Staples Center (vs. Lakers or Clipps). Lakers win tonight because Howard’s size will be a huge problem for Miami. Let’s not forget, the Lakers were built to beat Heat.

Felipe Amaral // @F_Amaral:

This is gonna be a great battle. The Lakers will use home-court advantage to control the pace of the game and get a victory that will speak volumes about how they want to approach the rest of their season.

Alex Lambeth // @AlexLambeth:

The Heat. Fresh off a big win in Golden State, as well as LeBron hitting the 20,000 points mark, Miami’s athleticism and outside shooting will prove too much for the Lakers. Expect a physical game and don’t be surprised if the Heat explode from three-point range tonight.

Alik Ourfalian // @alik_o:

Lakers. So far this season, the Lakers have come up big in big games (at Golden State, vs. New York), and they’ve finally started to play as a team. With Gasol back, the Lakers’ size is no match for Miami.

Garrett Garcia // @GarrettGarcia:

Miami. I don’t want to say this, but Miami’s big 3 will take down The Lakers fairly easily this evening. Riding the momentum from a powerhouse performance in Golden State, The Heat will find little to no resistance from a struggling Lakers team.

Ashkan Kargaran // @aakargaran

This game will come down to one man’s performance: Dwight Howard. If the Lakers make an emphasis on feeding Dwight early and often as they did against Milwaukee, they will beat the Heat. If Dwight is ineffective, the Heat will blow this team out. This is a must-win game for the Lakers (so are the rest of the games from this point forward) so I’m going with the Lakers and their new-found defensive effort to beat the reigning champs

Photo Credit: Getty Images
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Anna Gonda // @AnnaLBG:

Dwight Howard’s looking healthier and Pau Gasol might be back, so although two games is a small sample size, the Lakers appear to be headed somewhere good TOGETHER and that (in addition to their size advantage over Miami) should get them a win tonight. This is, of course, provided early foul trouble doesn’t come into play for the home team.

Robert Benitez // @beeb0:

Tonight’s game solely depends on Dwight Howard and the Lakers defense. Lakers win the size match up easily but the Heat are a much more athletic team then the Lakers. Dwight will need a big game down low and need to be at his best defensively. I love my Lakers, but I think Miami might be too much to handle tonight.

Sam Shaw // @Sammyz78

Miami. The Heat own the head-to-head match-up in the Lebron era and the team is motivated to salvage a poor showing on the road. This would be a huge victory and confidence booster for the Lakers, but I don’t see it happening with the roster still in poor health. Despite the Lakers having the advantage of home court and an extra day of rest, Miami will show it is still the better team at this point in the season.

James Cypert // @JamesCypert:

The outcome of tonight’s game will rely entirely upon how D’Antoni wishes to coach it. This year’s Heat team loves to play small and athletic, and LeBron and company have shown that they can run older teams off the court. The Heat’s one weakness? Rebounding. Ranked 29th in the league, teams with strong frontcourts (Utah, Chicago, Indiana) have all destroyed Miami on the glass leading to their 5-6 record over their last 11 games. Should D’Antoni focus on feeding Howard and the returning Pau Gasol all night, the Lakers should finish the evening with their best win together as a starting unit.

Matevz Rojc // @MatevzRojc:

Lakers. However, it all depends on Kobe. First of all, he shouldn’t take more than 20 shots. Miami has a big problem defending on the low post and LeBron will probably guard the power forward position, so Bryant has to pass the ball down low to Howard or Gasol. Second of all, the Lakers can’t try to outrun the Heat, because they simply can’t. I expect the Lakers to win, largely thanks to Dwight (who will drop 30 and 12 again) and Miami’s supporting cast will have an off night.

Melvin Taylor // @PastPossible30:

The Lakers will pull off a huge upset as the Miami Heat fall in a close game. Kobe will come into the contest with a mindset of finding his teammates first and help Dwight Howard and Metta World Peace find easy shots to begin the game. The Lakers will out rebound the Heat and will lead the game in second chance points by not rushing shots but patiently finding the open man and getting buckets.

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After stopping Brandon Jennings in the Lakers’ victory last night, Kobe Bryant dropped by the Loose Cannons Show today to chat with Pat O’Brien and Mike North. He addressed the slow start, potential rifts in the locker room, playing with a sense of urgency, and his future. After Pat ribbed Kobe for not getting him some new Kobe VIII shoes, Kobe promised to get him a pair. Even though Steve Hartman wasn’t on the show, he managed to record a couple of questions for the Black Mamba, and may have gotten a little personal…

Here’s what Kobe had to say to the guys earlier this afternoon.

Pat: Are fans getting their money’s worth so far this season at Laker games?

Kobe: “So far…no.”

Bryant acknowledged that Lakers fans have not been getting enough in terms of the quality of product on the floor this season. He also mentioned that if the Lakers can keep improving and “get where we think this team can go” (presumably, a title), then the season will be a memorable journey, despite the early season struggles.

Pat: It should take 48 wins or so to make the playoffs in the Western Conference. Can you win two of your next three games the rest of the year?

Kobe: “Well that’s the goal…but for us we have to concentrate on the game in front of us.”

Pat: Are the Lakers on the same page? Some players have said they are, but are they REALLY playing together?

Kobe: “Right now we are…we had to go through a period when it feels like we were on the same page, but we really were not. And it is ok to say that…if you have something going on with Metta, or with Steve or myself, we gotta confront each other about that.”

Kobe addressed these issues with the team, urging that it is important to confront each other and help each other out, instead of being “passive aggressive” or “sweeping things under the rug.” Bryant assured the hosts that the Lakers are righting the ship by being open with each other, and confronting each other when necessary, while understanding that they are trying to help each other reach a common goal.

Steve Hartman, out for the day to take a stress test (which he attributes to the Lakers’ woeful record), recorded a question for Kobe:

Steve: Will Number 24 sign a long-term contract extension with the Lakers when his current deal is up?

Kobe: “I Don’t know.” After wishing Steve well, Kobe explained that he has been playing for a long time (17 years to date), and would have to evaluate where he was at the end of next season. He said he would not sign a long-term extension unless he can be sure that he will give “absolutely every ounce” of himself to the Lakers.

Pat: Do there need to be front office changes?

Kobe: No. “Jimmy (Buss) gets a lot of flak that is undeserved.” Kobe praised Jim Buss for bringing in Dwight, Steve Nash, and the supporting cast. This team just had difficulties with the firing of a head coach, and a bad rash of injuries, Kobe said. The front office is fine, the team just needs to get healthy and go through their “growing pains.”

Pat: Dwight Howard said, “let’s pretend we like each other on the court,” while Steve Nash remarked that it might take the summer to develop chemistry from the purple and gold. Is this team trying to win now?

Kobe: “I’ve had to address that…we like each other. Do we go out all the time together? No, but we spend a quite a bit of time together, so to me that was an overreaction.”

More Kobe: “My message is: By any means necessary, it gets done. And it gets done now. I don’t care what injuries you’re dealing with…emotional, personal…whatever is going on, I don’t care. This thing has to get done, and it needs to get done now.”

Pat: What’s going on with Pau?

Kobe: “He had a concussion…it rattles your brain.”

Pat: For fun, who is the greatest active champion on in sports? Tiger Woods, Tom Brady, Derek Jeter and Kobe Bryant. The hosts implore Kobe to pick himself, and Mike informs Kobe that he picked Brady over the Mamba.

Kobe: “I can’t pick myself…you can’t go wrong (with any of them)…I will say that I think I have more than any of them!” Kobe admires watching Tom Brady do his thing, along with the other champions, who have the same drive and passion that he does for their sports.

Pat puts a stop to Hartman’s last question for Kobe – does the Mamba like long walks on the beach? I guess only Vanessa knows for sure…

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The Lakers are riding a 2-game win streak, one that the visiting Miami Heat will try to snap tonight at Staples Center (7:30pm PT). After convincing victories over the Cleveland Cavaliers and Milwaukee Bucks, are the Lakers finally showing signs of turning their season around, or did they just take advantage of a couple bad teams at home?

David Brickley and Jason Riley weigh in on the latest edition of Voice of the Nation: Fastbreak.

Bonus: Be sure to watch the video for your chance to win a Lakers titanium bracelet, courtesy of Phiten.

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Image Credit: Brad Graverson | LANG
Image Credit: Harry How | Getty Images
Image Credit: Harry How | Getty Images

According to the Los Angeles Times’ Eric Pincus, the Lakers and General Manager Mitch Kupchak have sent a request to the NBA for a disabled player exception; the request was sent in just before Tuesday’s deadline. This application comes in the wake of the devastating news that F/C Jordan Hill will miss the remainder of the season with a hip injury.

According to Pincus, a disabled player exception can be awarded to a team when a player is projected to be out for the season (until at least June 15). If this request were granted (the league’s response could come sometime in the next week), the Lakers would then gain an additional $1.78 million in spending power.

The amount the Lakers can gain in additional cap space is relevant to half of Hill’s 2012-13 contract, or $1.78M. This exception can be used to sign a free agent or to acquire a player in the final year of his contract, making up to $1.88 million.

In order for the NBA to approve a disabled player exception, the league must evaluate all medical records related to the injury as well as verify that Hill’s recovery time is legitimate.

The following is a list of a few available free agents the Lakers may consider if granted the disabled player exception:

–       Kenyon Martin (PF): both the Lakers and  New York Knicks have been reported as being interested in the 34-year-old forward’s services this season. There have been reservations about Martin’s impact on the locker room and his volatile attitude, which could add even more drama to already drama-filled season for the Lakers. Martin is unique, however, in that he can defend multiple positions well, something the Lakers certainly lack off the bench.

–       Chris Andersen (C): nicknamed “Birdman”, the 34-year-old active rebounder and defender could help fill the bench void created by Hill’s injury. Andersen, like Martin, is another volatile player who might not be worth the risk for the Lakers this season.

–       Delonte West (PG/SG): another potential locker room problem here with West. After being released from the Dallas Mavericks for his behavior earlier this season, the Lakers may want to stay clear of West and his baggage. Despite this, however, West is an above average defender at the 1 and 2 positions, and he can stretch the floor with his three-point shooting ability.

–       Long shot: Derek Fisher (PG): with the report that backup point guard Steve Blake continues to experience complications with his abdominal injury, could the Lakers consider adding a familiar face in Fisher for the long haul? It’s possible and Fisher would certainly appeal to the long-time Lakers’ Fisher-fans, but it seems like a long shot at best.

–       Trade: the disabled player exception can also be used in a trade. If the Lakers continue to struggle as the trade deadline nears (Feb. 21), don’t be surprised if this exception is used in a trade to bring back a player in the final year of his contract, making up to $1.88 million.

The Lakers should receive a response from the league in less than a week. If granted, it will be yet another asset at GM Mitch Kupchak’s disposal to potentially improve the Lakers’ roster this season.

 

* The majority of the information in this article was provided from Eric Pincus’s report.

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

As we all know, Pau Gasol hasn’t been his usual dominating self as of late.  With his latest ailment being a concussion, Gasol has missed the past 5 games and is unsure of when his return will be.  Fortunately all is not lost for the All-Star as Steve Nash has recently said he’d like to get Gasol more involved in the Lakers offense.

Nash had this to say regarding Gasol

“I’m going to try to get Pau involved,” Nash said. “Obviously, I think he’s a terrific player. I think when we played together recently, there was a lot of opportunities where (the defense) would jump out on my pick-and-rolls, I’d get it back to him quickly. He can be the playmaker in 4-on-3, 3-on-2 situations where he really thrives. The fact of the matter, it’s tough to get inside to him when Dwight and him are on the floor together. To Pau’s credit, he can stretch the floor more than Dwight and he’s more of a playmaker, so sometimes he’s going to find himself on the perimeter.”

I miss the Pau that averaged 18 PPG and 11 RPG back in 2009-2010. This season he’s but a shadow of his former self averaging 12 PPG and 8 RPG. Pau is full of potential, he’s just in a system that doesn’t necessarily fit his style of play.  Nash hopes to fix that upon his return and get Gasol back to his old self.

“I think Pau is a tremendous basketball player,” Nash said. “I need to see him get his health and his confidence back. Even when he has been inside this year he hasn’t looked very confident. For me, I really want to see him really feel better physically, mentally, confident and enjoy the game because I don’t know if he’s been himself this year. If we can get him back to himself, it doesn’t matter where he plays. He’ll be great.”

Nash see’s it as a difficult task to get Pau the ball down low when Howard is also on the court, but he knows Pau can stretch the floor better than Howard and is quite frankly a better passer.  This news is only good, as it looks like Nash hasn’t forgotten about Gasol and would like to see him thrive like he used to.  It’s just a matter of time until we see if Nash’s magic will work on Gasol or if he will continue to struggle in the D’Antoni style offense.

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

They may have come in with an unimpressive 18-18 record, but the Milwaukee Bucks have something that the Lakers don’t – a spot in the top eight of their conference. With scoring specialist Monta Ellis and NBA Player of the Week, Brandon Jennings, the Bucks are no bottom-dwelling team, and they showed that tonight by answering every Laker run until the last few minutes when the game had essentially been decided in the home team’s favor.

Coming off their first win of the year against the Cleveland Cavaliers, there was still no telling which Laker team would show up in tonight’s game. They have appeared listless, uninspired and hopeless in many games, but in others showed excellent teamwork and spirit. Fortunately today, the latter group of guys came to play.

The Lakers were off and running as soon as the ball went up, charging to a 14-4 lead to start the game. A 16-6 run to the close the first quarter by the Bucks, however, created a more competitive contest throughout. Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard were almost impenetrable on both ends of the court, and the Lakers’ efforts as a team on both offense and defense was a welcome sight.

HIGH POINTS:
Mamba ModeKobe, we need you to score (31 points on 12-19, 3-5 from 3PT, 4-4 FTs). Kobe, we need you to help run the offense (six assists, one turnover). Kobe, we need you to defend one of the best players on the opposing team (Brandon Jennings, 12 points on 4-14, one assist). Ask and ye shall receive. Kobe Bryant did it all tonight, to say the least. He’s asked to do a lot on most nights, but tonight he did everything and did it well. He was on the lookout for easy hoops, whether he was the one shooting or the one creating the play. On Jennings, who is averaging 18.5 ppg, 5.9 apg this season, Bryant played a spirited defense that’s surely wearing, but he didn’t show it, as per usual.
Beast Mode – 31 points on 14-18 from the field, 16 rebounds and four blocks. The highlight of Dwight Howard’s stat line isn’t so much his double-double. It’s that he attempted 18 shots – dunks, hook shots and layups; high percentage attempts. Howard’s teammates really looked for him inside in this game and it paid off in dividends. His dunks were furious, his hook shot fluid and he even scored by catching the ball from Steve Nash’s pass and in mid-air, laid it up.
Offense Ignites Defense – …at least it does for this team. The Lakers shot 50% for the game and they handed out 30 assists on 42 made field goals. Moving the ball is, of course, the core of Mike D’Antoni’s system, and the Lakers made it work this time.  With their scoring in tow, the team was fired up on the defensive end and it showed. Milwaukee averages 96.5 ppg and tonight they barely reached 88 points. The Bucks were held to 40% shooting after the first half, and only 31% in the second. 38 points was all they scored in the last two quarters, and for the game, they shot just 36%. As mentioned, Bryant kept his eye on Jennings, but the team defense was effective as whole, keeping players like Monta Ellis to just 17 points on 6-16.
Small Contributions, Big Impact – Metta World Peace chipped in 12 points, six rebounds three assists and two blocks. Antawn Jamison, back from hibernation the last few games, came up with 10 points, eight rebounds and three assists of his own. Even Earl Clark, who barely scored six points, chipped in nine rebounds, four assists and a block.
Victory – No win is greater than another. One game only gets a team one win, but tonight, the Lakers looked like they figured some things out; more likely REMEMBERED that they’d won in this fashion before. Hopefully their memory serves them well on Thursday against Miami.

LOW POINTS:
Offensive Rebounds – The Lakers gave up 21 offensive boards, which allowed the Bucks to score 24 points on 11-20 second chance points. 24 points!
Steve Nash – Nash wasn’t a non-factor in this game (Is he EVER?), but he had a bad shooting night, 3-10 from the field. It was an odd sight to watch Nash go 0-4 from downtown. He led the game with 11 assists, however.

Yes – it’s difficult to get excited when the Lakers win because they’ve done it so rarely this season, but the hope is that they move forward from here on out. They have a long road to even be eligible for a playoff berth, but it’s not completely impossible. Now the question that remains is – can they play like they did tonight for a stretch of games, or are these scattered wins just a fluke? Hopefully, it’s the former.

Box Score

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Image Credit: Getty Images
Image Credit: Getty Images

Lakers’ F/C Jordan Hill, 25, has been one of the most exciting Lakers to watch over the past year. Acquired by the Lakers last year at the NBA trade deadline, Hill has exceeded expectations in Los Angeles.

This past Friday, however, Hill received some devastating news regarding the hip injury he suffered in the Lakers’ loss to the Nuggets on January 6th.

The Lakers’ most consistent reserve player will miss the remainder of the season with “loose bone fragments in his hip, in addition to a possible labral tear.”

His contribution off the bench has been one of the most consistent things the Lakers have looked forward to, night in and night out. Unfortunately now, the Lakers will be forced to make a push towards the playoffs without their key role player.

 

After the Lakers’ loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, and after the team had received the discouraging news, Hill had this to say:

“I feel like I let down the team,” said Hill. “I let down the fans.”

Hill, the 8th overall pick in the 2009 NBA draft, had been having a career year this season. Hill, one of the few bright spots to this otherwise dismal season, had one of the highest total rebounds per game per 36 minutes at 13.0. In comparison, starting center Dwight Howard only has a 12.5 rpg per 36 minutes average this season.

The Lakers will dearly miss Hill’s ability to keep possessions alive and as well as create extra possessions with his offensive rebounding ability. Hill had an exceptional average of 6.4 offensive rebounds per game per 36 minutes this season.

Hill also described how the injury had happened in the game against Denver:

“Andre Miller drove baseline and Kobe [Bryant], trying to go back and guard him, he accidentally stepped on my foot,” he said. “I stayed in one spot but my hip kept going. It kind of pulled the joint out.”

Unfortunately for both Hill and the Lakers, Hill will definitely need surgery to repair the fragments and prepare his hip for next season:

“I definitely need surgery. It’s definitely mandatory,” said the Lakers forward/center. “I have fragments floating around that need to be out.”

Along with the disappointment surrounding the surgery, the recovery time is not as promising as Lakers fans would like:

“They say about six months, so I have no idea,” said Hill. “I’m just going to see how it turns out.”

Despite this estimated timetable, Hill is expected to get a second opinion to see if he can speed up the recovery time.

Just as his constant energy and effort have become contagious for the Lakers over the past year, Hill remains disappointed he is unable to be out on the court with his teammates and bring those intangibles on a nightly basis:

“I’m a competitor. I take pride in going out there to help my team out,” said Hill. “I’ve probably never missed more than five or four games. Just knowing that I’m never going to return, it definitely hit me. It definitely was a shock.”

With this season still on an up-and-down rollercoaster, the Lakers will receive no comfort knowing their most consistent big man is out for the season. Lakers’ point guard Steve Nash summed up the situation perfectly:

“I’m really, really disappointed for Jordan,” said Nash. “He was one of the bright spots. I thought he was finding a really nice niche with the offense and his energy on the boards and on defense is always going to be great for our depth. It’s another big blow in a season of blows.”

After a 113-93 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers last night, to end a six-game losing streak, you can rest assured the Lakers are doing everything possible to climb out of this early season hole. Hill’s contributions off the bench will be dearly missed this season, but his teammate, Earl Clark, seems to have gotten the message that someone must pick up the slack.

With any championship-aspiring team, when one player goes down with injury, another player must pick them up in their absence. Over the past three games, Clark has shown the ability to fill in nicely for Hill, a welcomed sight especially with PF Pau Gasol still out with a concussion.

As the season wears on, the Lakers will continue to need other players to step up in Hill’s absence. Not only will the Lakers miss Hill’s rebounding ability, but Hill was also one of the more athletic Laker. This older Lakers team lacks an abundance of athleticism, so without Hill in the lineup, they will especially lose athleticism on the interior.

Hill’s improved mid-range shooting ability is also something the Lakers will miss. Hill dramatically improved his shooting stroke this season; he even increased his range to about 15-18 feet. His ability to make opposing post defenders respect his mid-range jumper was something that helped free Gasol and Howard from double teams inside.

It’s a real shame the Lakers, and Hill himself, won’t be able to fully appreciate the fruits of his labor. Hill has put in a lot of work this season and it had shown over the first 32 games he was healthy.

For the Lakers, Hill is a long-term investment, as shown by his two-year extension this past off-season. Once Hill recovers from hip surgery, he should continue to improve his game as well as work himself into one of the best rebounding big men in the NBA.

In the meantime, however, you can rest assured the Lakers’ most consistent player, Jordan Hill, will continue to bring his constant energy and effort this season; only this time it will be from the sidelines.

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

The Lakers finally get a victory in 2013…and it only took two weeks…against the now 9-30 Cleveland Cavaliers. It’s been six games since this team and their anxious fans have tasted a win so let’s all get real – beggars can’t be choosers and boy, were we all begging.

It appeared to be a relatively easy game for the Lakers to play, and that’s due, in large part, to the fact that they didn’t make it hard on themselves to begin with. They jumped to a 19-point lead in the first quarter and never looked back. That would be a wire-to-wire victory, a phenomenon that this team hasn’t encountered often this season.

Dwight Howard was back in action after missing the last two games because of a right shoulder injury, Kobe Bryant’s shooting touch returned, Steve Nash did what Steve Nash does and as a team, and as a whole, the Lakers played with a sense of purpose – the losing streak would end at six.

HIGH POINTS:
Equal Opportunity – 32 assists on 40 made field goals. Every player who hit the floor, save for Jodie Meeks who only played 4:25 minutes, handed out at least one dime, led by Steve Nash’s nine, Chris Duhon’s seven and Bryant’s six. The excellent ball movement proved to be beneficial for all. No player attempted more than 14 shots (Bryant, who hit nine and finished with 23 points), and after him was Howard (22 points on 9-11, 14 rebounds, two assists, a steal and a block). Six players scored in double figures and the Lakers finished with a 58% FG% and were also 13-25 from behind the arc, something they’ve struggle with of late. If the team is this generous with the ball, the offense will never fail them. And as has been the case, when the offense is clicking, so is the defense.
Defense – The only way to accomplish a scoring run is by preventing the other team from scoring themselves, and tonight, the Lakers again showed that when they so choose, they can play defense. In the first quarter, they held the Cavs to 36% shooting while they racked up 37 points on 65% from the field. Metta World Peace, who scored just eight points, had four steals, which made a world of difference.
Stepping Up – If there’s anything this Laker team has proven this season, it’s that they have on their team, young players who are not afraid to contribute when their name is called. With Jordan Hill and Pau Gasol both out, the team has leaned on young Earl Clark and he has not disappointed. Tonight he chipped in 13 points on 5-9, grabbed nine rebounds, handed out four assists and blocked three shots. The bench put in 37 points.
Victory – It’s been a long time since the Lakers have put together a win like this. It’s been a long time since the Lakers have won at all. It feels good.

LOW POINTS:
The Lakers played hard and with purpose for the majority of the game AND they got the victory. Let’s not dwell on low points, as they are few. They did allow the Cavs to get back in the game because of their carelessness, but they stayed the course through the end.
Turnovers – 22 giveaways, that’s too many for one game.

The Lakers have just two games the rest of this week, and we can only hope that tonight’s contest will have inspired them somehow. It’s a long road back to .500.

Box Score

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Photo: Noah Graham | Getty Images
Lakers Stock Watch
Image Credit: Noah Graham | Getty Images

The Lakers have continued building, or regressing, on their six-game losing streak this past week. Despite losses of Dwight Howard (torn labrum), Pau Gasol (concussion) and Jordan Hill (bone fragments in hip – Out for the Season), the emergence of forward Earl Clark has been a pleasant surprise.

Since last Sunday, the Lakers have suffered losses to Denver, Houston, San Antonio and Oklahoma City, all while giving up 116 points per game in that stretch. Taking those past performances into account, the following is a look at the stock changes for the Lakers going forward:

Earl Clark (SF/PF) Up arrow : Clark’s emergence in the past three games has been the lone bright spot for the Lakers during their six-game losing streak. After losing the entire Laker front-court against Denver, coach Mike D’Antoni turned to Clark to fill spot minutes at the forward position in the subsequent game against Houston.

Clark responded with a decent performance of 5 points, 9 rebounds and 3 assists in 21 minutes off the bench. The next night, in San Antonio, Clark was again thrusted into the Lakers’ rotation. This time, Clark had a coming-out party as a Laker in which he posted career highs in both points and rebounds. Clark, a main reason the depleted Lakers were able to make a game out of their matchup with the Spurs, scored 22 points on 9/12 shooting, grabbed 13 rebounds and dished out 3 assists.

With his huge performance in San Antonio, Clark has begun drawing clever nicknames such as “Earl-Sanity” and “Clarkemonium”, among others. With his stellar play against the Spurs, Clark was placed in the starting lineup against Oklahoma City and entrusted with the task of guarding Kevin Durant.

Although Durant scored a season-high 42 points, Clark’s energy and effort were key to the Lakers’ success early in the game. Clark finished the night with a double-double (10 points, 10 rebounds and 3 blocked shots), but was unable to contain Durant all night.

It seems that with back-to-back solid performances, Clark has cemented himself in D’Antoni’s rotation. Clark’s unique combination of size, length and ball-handling ability make him a valuable piece in the Lakers’ rotation. With the recent news that F/C Jordan Hill is lost for the remainder of the season, Clark could become an important replacement going forward.

Steve Nash (PG) Up arrow : Nash’s return from his shin injury has been a welcomed sight for the Lakers and Lakers fans alike. Although Nash hasn’t quite been the “savior” for the Lakers this season, his ability to control the pace and offense for the Lakers have been key.

Over the past four games, the Lakers have averaged about 106 points per game. This high offensive efficiency has been due in large part to the Lakers’ two-time MVP point guard. Nash’s ability to put players in the right spots on offense was something the Lakers were clearly lacking in his absence. Since Nash’s return, the Lakers are averaging 106 ppg, a step up from the 102 ppg they averaged without him. Unfortunately, the Lakers’ demise this season has not been on the offensive end, but much more importantly on the defensive end.

Nash has averaged an efficient 11.7 ppg on 50% shooting and 9.7 assists per game in the past four games for the Lakers. The Lakers, however, may need Nash to be even more aggressive on offense and look to shoot more often if Howard and Gasol remain out for an extended period of time. Surprisingly enough, Nash’s usage rate this season is at a career low of 15%. This will need to increase for the Lakers to have any future success.

* For a reference point on usage rate: Ramon Session’s usage rate for the Lakers last season was 20.5%.

Antawn Jamison (PF) Up arrow : With the multitude of injuries to the Lakers’ front-line, Jamison has gotten a chance once again to be a fixture in the Lakers’ rotation. Jamison has seized this opportunity and played solid in the bigs’ absence, registering 11.3 points per game in that stretch.

Jamison has been in and out of D’Antoni’s rotation this season, but with his recent play, he may have made a case to stay in. Jamison will have heavy competition for minutes with Earl Clark though, once Howard and Gasol return to the lineup.

As for now, however, Jamison will need to continue playing solid basketball, as the Lakers need his scoring punch without their usual interior presence. Another performance, like the one he had against Oklahoma City (19 points and 10 rebounds), would be a huge boost for the depleted Lakers.

Robert Sacre (C) Up arrow : With Dwight Howard missing extended time with a torn labrum, Sacre has been called upon to start at the center position. Sacre is not the most dazzling player, but his scrappiness and constant energy have been a shot in the arm for the Lakers.

Sacre, the last pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, has played decently since being called up from the Lakers’ D-League affiliate, the D-Fenders. Anytime you go from the developmental league to starting for the Los Angeles Lakers, you must be doing something right, or that team must have a lot of recent injuries (which is the case here).

Kobe Bryant (SG) even : Bryant, 34, continues to have a historic season individually thus far. Unfortunately, Bryant’s exceptional play has yet to translate into wins this season for the Lakers.

Over this past week, Bryant has played considerably well without the three big men. Bryant registered averages of 26 ppg on 38.5% shooting, 4.5 rpg, 5.5 apg in 39 minutes per game. Bryant continues to lead the league in scoring at 30.0 points per game.

At his current age of 34 years old, Bryant continues to amaze and silence his critics. In fact, no guard has ever averaged over 15 points per game in his 17th season or later. Bryant has doubled that average with his 30 ppg average.

The main thing here that prevents Bryant’s stock from increasing is his defensive deficiencies. Like most Lakers this season, there have been too many defensive lapses on a consistent basis. Bryant continues to suffer breakdowns defensively, most notably in Harden and Durant’s recent offensive explosions.

If the Lakers want to turn this season around, they have to buckle down defensively, and that especially starts with their captain, Kobe Bean Bryant.

Metta World Peace (SF/PF) even : World Peace is having his best season offensively for the Lakers. Along with his shooting percentage being up to 42.1%, his points per game average is at 13.8 ppg this season, compared to just 7.7 ppg last season. World Peace is finally in shape, after losing about 15 pounds in the off-season, and this has helped him considerably to start the year. He both looks and moves much quicker than he has in years past.

In this tough stretch of games last week, World Peace averaged 18.7 ppg, 5.2 rpg and 3.2 steals per game. World Peace had great back-to-back games in Houston and San Antonio, in which he registered 24 points and 23 points, respectively. World Peace also had 7 steals in the loss to the Spurs, something the Lakers desperately need to continue in order to have success on the defensive end.

World Peace has arguably been the Lakers’ most consistent player this season. His offensive efficiency is as high as it’s been as a member of the Lakers. Although his offense has been great, World Peace’s defense is still not what it once was. Allowing Durant and Harden to both go off last week, granted World Peace wasn’t always guarding them the entire game, is something that would not have happened a few years ago.

World Peace, along with Bryant, is going to have to turn it up on the defensive end and start leading by example if the Lakers want to have a legitimate shot at turning this season around.

Jodie Meeks (SG) Down arrow : Meeks was specifically brought in to be a consistent backup to Kobe Bryant this season. Unfortunately, that has not happen thus far as Meeks has been relatively streaky.

Meeks is currently in a long slump from three-point range, extending further back than just this past week. Since Christmas, Meeks is shooting a dismal 28.6% from beyond the arc. This percentage, from the team’s supposed “most consistent three-point shooter”, is unacceptable for a team in search of a playoff berth.

Although his shooting has not always been there, Meeks does bring consistent energy and effort off the bench. His effort often seems to be contagious, especially when the starters lack energy to begin games.

Meeks can be a integral piece in the Lakers’ cog this season, but he needs to start hitting three pointers at a higher percentage. If Meeks is able to regain his confidence and consistent shooting ability, he will be able to open up the inside for the Lakers’ bigs as well as for easier drives for Nash and Bryant.

Chris Duhon (PG) Down arrow : Duhon remains the Lakers’ backup point guard, but has had little impact of the bench. Duhon takes care of the ball well (only 4 turnovers in his last four games), but he does little else to help the Lakers.

Averaging 17 minutes per game over the last four, Duhon has scored a combined 10 points and 12 assists in that stretch. Sure, Nash is one of the best point guards in the league, but having a backup with that type of production is unacceptable and a liability for this Lakers team.

Darius Morris (PG) Down arrow : Remember when Morris was a regular starter for the Lakers? Those days seem to be over. Even with his superior speed and ability to get to the basket, Morris seems to be relegated to the end of the bench.

Over the past four games, Morris has only played in three games in which he has averaged 12 minutes per game. In that stretch, Morris has averaged 7.3 ppg and 5 apg, but D’Antoni seems to favor Duhon as the primary backup point guard.

The Lakers could certainly use Morris’s speed off the bench in a “change of pace” type of role. His defense has been lacking of late, but if in the right role, Morris can still be a valuable asset off the bench.

Dwight Howard (C) Injury sign : Howard went down with a torn labrum injury in his right shoulder last Sunday against the Nuggets. Howard has missed the last three games, but will start at center tonight against Cleveland.

With Howard out of the lineup, the Lakers have struggled defending the paint. Although not fully healthy this season, Howard’s presence in the key and as the last line of defense remains unmatched by any of his teammates.

If the Lakers want to make a decisive run at the playoffs soon, getting Howard back in the lineup will be a step in the right direction.

Pau Gasol (PF) Injury sign : Like Howard, Gasol suffered a major injury in the Lakers’ loss to Denver. Gasol was inadvertently hit in the face by Nuggets’ center JaVale McGee and suffered a concussion. Gasol has also missed the last three games and will not be allowed to return until he passes the NBA’s strict concussion program.

Along with Howard, Gasol’s absence has been felt on the inside, especially on offense. The Lakers need Gasol’s facilitating ability back in the lineup to become even more efficient on the offensive end.

Gasol continues to be re-evaluated daily but is officially listed as OUT against the Cavaliers.

Jordan Hill (PF/C) Injury sign : This was absolutely the most crushing blow of the past week. Hill injured his hip in the game against Denver last Sunday, but received discouraging news on Friday.

After an MRI revealed lose bone fragments in his hip, as well as a possible labral tear of a muscle in his hip, Hill will be forced to have surgery. Early estimates say that Hill will miss the rest of the season, but he will try to get a second opinion tomorrow to see if he can speed up the recovery process.

Hill’s injury is just the latest of the many crushing blows the Lakers have felt this season. Hill has been having the best season of his career and his energy and rebounding ability have been unmatched by almost anyone in the entire NBA. Hill’s 13.0 rebounds per game per 36 minutes was one of the highest rebounding marks in the league.

The Lakers will unfortunately have to right the ship without Hill’s services. Maybe the emergence of Earl Clark will soften the blow, but Hill’s value to this team is irreplaceable.

Notes: Lakers’ backup PG Steve Blake remains sidelined after abdominal surgery in November, but he expects to return to the court sometime in the next few weeks. Reserve small forward Devin Ebanks continues to be a DNP-CD in the Lakers’ box score, despite being re-signed this off-season and being seen as an “exciting prospect for the future.”

 

Stay tuned for next weeks’ Lakers Stock Watch as the Lakers battle Cleveland, Milwaukee, Miami and Toronto this week.

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Courtesy of Getty Images
Courtesy of Getty Images

Metta World Peace, Jodie Meeks, and Darius Morris have a poor tendency to drive to the basket in transition when the numbers do not favor them.

I cringe each time the Lakers get a stop on the defensive end and the ball ends up in the hands of MWP, Jodie Meeks, or Darius Morris. These three push the ball up the floor against three and sometimes four defenders. Seeing how the Lakers are a slow, nonathletic team, it would be wise to slow the pace of the game and put the ball in Steve Nash’s hands for a quality offensive possession.

The slow, lumbering MWP barely has any lift when he takes the ball coast-to-coast and usually attempts a lay-up instead of a dunk. He is 50/50 at best on those lay-ups but would fare better if he trusted his point guard to take advantage of their defensive stop and set up a play.

The coaching staff is impressed with the hustle and aggression Jodie Meeks has been showing but sometimes it works against him when he drives to the hoop. At 6 feet 4 inches, Meeks should think twice when going to the basket against multiple defenders.

Darius Morris, whose signature back-to-back turnovers angers me more than anything, should heed the same warning. Chill out, youngin’! Let Steve Nash orchestrate things instead of wildly driving against several defenders and flailing up a shot. I like the hustle but you have to play smarter.

Whether these three Lakers are adhering to D’Antoni’s run-n-gun offensive philosophy or just trying too hard to snap out of the team’s slump, they must make smarter choices in transition. The worst case scenario is the Lakers get a stop, try to push the ball, and get blocked leading to an easy basket for the opposing team.

The athleticism of a Lebron James, who seemingly always makes defenses’ pay in transition, is not what these Lakers possess.

 

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Photo Credit: sneakernews.com

This year is the Year of the Snake on the Chinese lunar calendar, and to celebrate, Nike is dropping the “Year of the Snake” Collection. It’s only fitting that the new collection features three versions of the Black Mamba’s latest sneakers, the Kobe 8s.

The first shoe features the ultimate Black Mamba reference, made of black leather in snake print.

Photo Credit: sneakernews.com
Photo Credit: sneakernews.com

The second is a “one-piece design [which] uses Vac-Tech and laser-etching technologies” made of red suede, according to Sneaker News. This pair is designed for off-court wear.

Photo Credit: sneakernews.com
Photo Credit: sneakernews.com

The final design is the Kobe 8 System in a red and black snake skin print. This pair features an ultra-light fit and lightweight cushioning for support. Four icons on the outsole represent Kobe’s speed, precision, vision and versatility.

Photo Credit: sneakernews.com
Photo Credit: sneakernews.com

 

Stay tuned for the release dates!

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Hard times have fallen on the Lakers and their fans. They say that music heals the soul. We at Laker Nation offer you Tears of Purple and Gold, a song playlist to help you cope with this season’s Laker tragedies.

Tears of Purple and Gold

1. Skyfall – Adele

The game is over and it’s another loss. As Laker fans, our reactions are dramatic and over-the-top. Cue the iconic James Bond theme, the grand orchestral arrangement, and the soulful voice of Adele. She sings about “the end.” One could translate this into the end of a short-lived era of hope for a Nash/Howard/Gasol/Bryant championship run. The end seems to be coming close and as Adele sings, we will stand tall, face it all together.

2. In the End – Linkin Park

Did Kobe co-write this song with Mike Shinoda & Chester Bennington? Take a look at these lyrics.

I tried so hard
And got so far
But in the end
It doesn’t even matter

This could very well be a transcription of Kobe’s thoughts.

I’ve put my trust in you
Pushed as far as I can go

A possible message to Pau. Yikes.

 3. We Can Work It Out – Beatles

If you’re an optimistic fan, this song is for you.

4. Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out – Mayer Hawthorne

If you’re a pessimistic fan, this song is for you.

5. Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want – The Smiths

Seriously, can we just get a win? Can the injuries just stop already? As you reflect on the incredibly bad luck the team has had this year, you can listen to the Smiths and the vocal stylings of the King of Melancholy, Morrissey.

6. Keep Ya Head Up – 2Pac

Here’s a suggestion for an epic halftime show at Staples Center. 2Pac’s hologram performs this song. We could use the positivity.

7. Shots (Lakers version) – LMFAO

People have different ways of coping with tragedy. Partying could be yours. If you’re of age, enjoy a few shots. It’ll help you forget the shots that were missed during the game.

8. Viva La Vida – Coldplay

Golden trophies. Purple and gold confetti. Free tacos. We had it all.

That was when [we] ruled the world.

9. I Will Follow You Into the Dark – Death Cab for Cutie

There has been a lot of talk about whether or not this team will make it to the playoffs. The chances of the team making it are grim. Right now it seems like all signs lead to a dark path of an early offseason, something Laker fans aren’t used to. But we’ll be there, right behind them.

10. I Love LA – Randy Newman

When all is said and done, the Lakers will always live in our hearts as an amazing team for an amazing city. Laker Nation will never stop loving our team.

Bonus track: I Am Kazaam – Shaquille O’Neal

This is has no emotional relevance to the Lakers’ situation right now. This is purely for laughter and entertainment.

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Photo courtesy of Frederic J. Brown, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Frederic J. Brown, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Frederic J. Brown, Getty Images

Nowadays, the question isn’t, “Will the Lakers be able to win this game?” It’s, “How much do you think the Lakers will lose by?” Pardon the use of a preposition to end a sentence, but in desperate times such as this, grammar is but a triviality. Sadly, as desperate as the Lakers SHOULD be playing, they don’t.

The almost-win this past Wednesday against San Antonio shone another glimmer of hope. We saw the emergence of Earl Clark, and a smidge of fight from this team. But tonight, with another opportunity to right the ship, the Lakers failed to match the energy of the Oklahoma City Thunder and are now a lowly 15-21.

HIGH POINTS:
Moving on…

LOW POINTS:

Defense – OKC shot over 51% for the game. Kevin Durant went off for 42 points on 16-25 from the field and Russell Westbrook chipped in 27 points and 10 assists of his own. The Thunder had 64 points by halftime, including a 39-point second quarter. We can harp on all the injuries that the Lakers have had to absorb and all the circumstances with which they’ve had to deal this season, but defense is about EFFORT more than anything. Just as scorers practice shooting or getting to the basket to exercise their skill, defense must be played time and again for any player to develop any instincts. Right now, the Lakers’ defense should be called Seven Seconds or Less because that’s approximately how long their defensive efforts last.

Jordan Hill News – According to the Lakers’ sideline reporter, Mike Trudell, Hill had further tests done on his hip and it’s likely he will need surgery, which will render him inactive for the remainder of the season. He hits just keep on coming, don’t they?

There isn’t a lot to report tonight. Nothing NEW to report anyway. The Lakers now sit at 15-21 for the season, have yet to win a game in the new year and are riding a 6-game losing streak. Each game is becoming more bleak as we all wait for this team to wake up.

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