Monday, December 22, 2014
Blog Page 61

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Photo Credit: lakers.com
Photo Credit: lakers.com

With Christmas a mere 3 days away, & the month of December evaporating before our very eyes, it is high time the Lakers deliver some glad tidings and cheer. As I write this, the Lakers find themselves tied with the Mavericks for the 11th seed in the wild, wild West. That means, if my calculations are correct, they have 10 teams currently ahead of them.

Now that may seem like quite a steep hill to climb, mountain to move, or ocean to cross, or any other cliche you would like to use. But we must not dwell on past performances, which led the team to this predicament, but rather look to the future. The rear view mirror serves no purpose other than to give us all painful reflections of a not so memorable season to date. But as I peer out the windshield that gives the view of what lies ahead in the distance, I see a glimmer of sunlight.

I for one, believe the Lakers can’t (or won’t) start feeling real good about themselves individually or as a team all at once. But they can start feeling good step by step, or in this case game by game, then week by week, then month by  month. The Lakers can’t keep their foot off the gas any longer, they must close the month of December on a high note. It is critical they win 3, if not all 4 of their remaining games before the New Year. Can they? Will they? I say emphatically, YES THEY WILL. Allow me to explain to you why.

First up is the Golden State Warriors. A feisty young team, playing great, and getting the Lakers on their home court Saturday. I like what I see from this team. They are they young guns of the West, loaded with talent, good shooters, and a hunger to be a contender. On November 9th, the Lakers beat them by 24. That was the Lakers saying we are much better than you. And the Lakers will say that again because they are much better than the Warriors. They may not be 24 points better again, but I have a feeling they are double digit better.

On Christmas Day, we get the Knicks. We all remember what the Knicks did to us in MSG on December 13th. The whole team had an out of body experience, especially from the 3 point line. Carmelo was on his way to scoring 50, before getting hurt, & the Lakers made a late run to lose by 9. If you think for one minute the Lakers have forgotten about that game, & the crowd won’t be electric with the return of Steve Nash, you don’t know the Lakers. They will win this game.

The following day we go to Denver. This is the trip up game. This is where things could get tricky. Spend Christmas with family & friends, beat the Knicks, then get on a plane & get the emotion up for the Nuggets less than 24 hrs later. Not an easy task, against a decent team, and a better one when they play on their home court. Just so happens that on November 30th, the Lakers beat them by 19 in L.A. This is a key game, and will be a very tough game. Bottom line is, you want to climb the ladder to a higher seed? You have to find a way to win this game. The Lakers will find a way.

December 28th, we get the Blazers at Staples to end the month. Another payback game for the purple and gold. Blazers got us in their place by 10 points on Halloween. The witches and goblins were out, and the Lakers dumped the game. The Blazers are not a real good team this year. They aren’t even that great of a home team like they have been in the past, although you couldn’t have convinced me that fateful night they beat the Lakers. Lakers win this game, and thus win the last 4 on the December schedule, and go into January riding a 7 game winning streak.

You may think these are the ramblings of a Laker loving lunatic, and I can assure you they are. But it’s Christmas time, and if you can’t hold to the  promise for a hope and a future during the holiday season, then when can you?

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Courtesy of Getty Images
Courtesy of Getty Images
Courtesy of Getty Images

In light of the failed Mayan prediction that the world would end on December 21, 2012, here are some of the Apocalyptic scenarios for Laker Nation.

Dwight Howard Will Leave the Lakers

Dwight Howard will become disillusioned with his Laker teammates and the Lakers front office. He will realize that he is stuck with a very old team and a coach who does not teach defense. Howard will also realize that he can never step out of the shadow of Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, even after Bryant retires. The Hollywood limelight does not shine very bright upon Howard because of the struggles of the team. His megawatt smile cannot save his horrid free throw shooting or the defensive breakdowns of his teammates. The Lakers will continue to play terrible basketball and Howard will immediately bolt for the Dallas Mavericks at the end of the season.

Kobe Bryant Will Never Return to the NBA Finals

Once Dwight Howard leaves, Kobe Bryant will be left with a broken team and a fan base with a broken heart. He cannot repair such a situation especially in his last year and with a 35 year-old body. Bryant cannot physically and mentally endure a period like the Smush-Kwame era again. He needs to depend on the youth and athleticism of a Dwight Howard to bring him back to the Promised Land. But without him Bryant will end his career ingloriously and will have no one to pass on the keys to the kingdom to.

The Clippers Will Win an NBA Championship

Imagine a championship parade rolling down the Figueroa with players touting the Larry O’Brien trophy. But what if the parade floats were clad with red, white, and blue and Donald Sterling was the one hoisting a banner at Staples Center? For the Los Angeles Clippers to win an NBA championship would be the ultimate nightmare for the average Laker fan. The city has always viewed the Clippers as “the other team” or “little brother”. But now little brother is now faster, younger, and more athletic with a genius floor general in Chris Paul while older brother is slow and wasting away clinging to the past. The sting of Stern’s infamous veto will pain Laker Nation in the most severe way with a Clippers title.

Jim Buss Will Run the Lakers Into the Ground

With the help of Chaz “the Bartender” Osbourne as a Lakers scout, Jim Buss will continue to make bone-head moves. The ways of Buss will lead to epic gaffes that will rival picking Sam Bowie over Michael Jordan. He will alienate every significant person that has ever been associated with the Lakers including members of his own family. He will sit on his lonely throne, wear a crown that does not fit, and watch a great kingdom crumble. He will be crippled by his arrogance and incompetence and will not be able to act. The Lakers will be ruined by this one man.

Lebron James: GOAT

Lebron Raymond James will be hailed as the greatest basketball player to ever play the game. Such a statement is seen as blasphemous by Laker fans and most seasoned basketball fans who had the privilege of witnessing the NBA during the 80’s and 90’s. Every true basketball fan and every true Laker fan knows that Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player of all time. Those who think that James is the greatest are bandwagon fans who only started watching basketball in 2003.

Unlike Jordan or Kobe Bryant, James has been worshiped since he was in middle school and greatly depended on his unprecedented athletic talent. The culture of the game will take on the mentality of James and his foolish followers. He has always had everything handed to him on a sliver platter and was bitterly surprised when he did not win a title in his first year with the Miami Heat. But the absence of a dominant Laker team to defend all that is good in basketball will allow James to string together several championship runs and earn a title that does should never belong to him.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

This is turning out to be a season for Pau Gasol to forget. His stat line is a career low, his minutes aren’t where they should be, and he’s already missed eight games with knee tendonitis. Clearly Pau isn’t in full form, and his true potential has not yet been unlocked in Mike D’Antoni’s system.

So with these problems existing, D’Antoni invited Gasol out to dinner at a local Manhattan Beach restaurant to clear the air and talk about how Pau is going to fit into D’Antoni’s new system, according to the LA Times.

Pau had some clear issues he wanted cleared up with D’Antoni. They were as follows:

1. He no longer wanted to be benched in the final minutes of crucial games, or any game for that matter.

2. He wants the ball more in the post instead of on the perimeter, where he is less comfortable.

3. He wants D’Antoni to trust him with the ball in his hands.

Gasol had most recently been benched in the final minutes of the 101-100 win over Charlotte. Being a two- time NBA Champion, Gasol felt he should be playing in these crucial minutes in order to help his team pull away with a W. Sources familiar with the conversation say that D’Antoni agreed to no longer bench Gasol in the final minutes. D’Antoni’s new system also calls for more spacing on the floor, which means he wants Gasol to be out on the perimeter more than in the post where Gasol is most comfortable. And finally, Gasol wants to be trusted as he feels he has earned that trust with the 2 championships he’s been apart of in LA. D’Antoni then had this to say regarding their meal together:

I thought he was great and gave me a lot of insight into a lot of things. It was more of a feeling-out process and what makes him feel comfortable. He’s a very intelligent basketball player. Why wouldn’t I get his opinion about a lot of things?”

Overall this system isn’t quite the perfect fit for Gasol, as he is a post player and this system calls for him playing the perimeter.  However D’Antoni wanting to share a meal with Pau and talk things over shows the great deal of respect that he has for Gasol.  More from that dinner can be seen from here.  Hopefully things get better as the season wears on, and Gasol and D’Antoni can meet halfway with their different ideas of playing basketball.  Bottom line, this dinner was beneficial for both parties, and things should be looking up for Gasol from here on out.

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Photo courtesy of the D-Fenders official Facebook page
Photo courtesy of the D-Fenders official Facebook page

Darius Johnson-Odom is making the most of his opportunities to showcase his talents at the NBA Development League. The rookie guard, acquired by the Lakers in this year’s NBA Draft, leads the Los Angeles D-Fenders in terms of scoring with 21.6 points per game, and is also averaging 5.4 assists and 5 rebounds per contest. Johnson-Odom’s scoring numbers are good for 3rd in the D-League, only trailing former Lakers Chris Douglas-Roberts and Andrew Goudelock, who spent Training Camp with the Purple & Gold in 2012.

“DJO” has been the motor for a D-Fenders team that is currently ranked third in the West Division with a 4-4 record, only two games behind the divisional leaders Santa Cruz Warriors. In the D-League, the best teams in each of the three divisions along with the next five best records overall advance to the playoffs, as the 2011-12 champions D-Fenders are currently out of the playoff picture.

Regardless of post-season hopes, players who are sent to the Development League are surely more concerned about proving to the coaches of their corresponding NBA team that they are worth a spot in their main roster, and Johnson-Odom is certainly opening some eyes at the higher level. After a four game losing streak, DJO stepped up to the plate and led the D-Fenders to two straight wins over the Reno Bighorns, averaging 29 points, 7.5 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 2 steals between those two contests. Most importantly, the rookie has a great ratio of +21.12 in terms of efficiency per game, while averaging just 2.88 turnovers per contest and shooting 46.9% from the field (31.6% from beyond the arc) and 84.8% from the free throw line.

The 23-year-old Johnson-Odom was originally a second round pick (55th overall) out of Marquette by the Dallas Mavericks, but had his rights immediately sold to the Lakers. The 6’3, 212 guard impressed the Lakers’ coaching staff in the preseason with his athletic ability and eventually made the final roster into the regular season. DJO appeared in four games as a Laker in limited fashion, until being sent to the D-League in order to receive some much-needed playing time to develop his potential.

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Getty Images
Getty Images
Getty Images

After a rough 2011-2012 playoff run, all Laker fans asked for was that Dwight Howard be in purple and gold for the 2012-2013 season. Who cares about what happened in Orlando? So what that Dwight is coming off back surgery? JUST GET DWIGHT HOWARD TO LOS ANGELES!

Laker Nation got their wish and six-time All-Star and three-time Defensive Player of the Year was all ours. We rejoiced, sitting on top of the basketball world with the acquisition of Steve Nash to lead the offense and role players like Jodi Meeks and Antwan Jamsion signed to bulk up the bench play.

Fast forward to mid-December and the fact the Lakers are on a three-game winning streak against mediocre teams (if that), should not appease fans, but unfortunately, it does. Everyone has an opinion on the slow start to the season, but fans have heard every excuse in the book.

However, one possible solution is not getting enough attention: plain and simple, get Dwight Howard the ball!  You say “but the guy is averaging 18 points per game and 12 rebounds, he is putting up great numbers.”  Well the fact remains that these numbers are a far cry from Howard’s potential.  Over the past 10 games, Howard has never lead the team in field goal attempts (which isn’t much of a surprise); however, over that same span Howard has been a lone 2nd in attempts only once and in 5 of the games has been either 4th or 5th in field goal attempts.  Sounds strange, huh? Why wouldn’t you want the player who leads our team in field goal percentage (.576%) shooting the ball more? This has to play a factor in the Lakers recent woes going 4-6 in December and finding their record under .500.

The reasoning behind it is that in D’Antoni’s offense, players like Metta World Peace and Jodi Meeks (although playing spectacular as of late) feast and have the go ahead to jack up what seems to be any shot. What about the post game? With players like Howard and Gasol working down low, they will always demand attention. This would open up so many more of the beloved perimeter shots D’Antoni is looking for.

Howard coming into the season knew that this was not yet his team and he would not be taking the majority of the shots. However, he could not have expected his role to be so minute offensively. This week, ex-Laker center Andrew Bynum had some words of wisdom for Howard as he spoke about playing with Kobe: “He’s going to get accustomed to playing with Kobe obviously, and not touching the ball every single play”.

Even with the lack of shots, Howard has to be admired this year for the professionalism he has shown pushing through this stretch. Howard knows he is not being utilized to his full potential, but he is putting up outstanding numbers for a player who isnt even 100 percent. You would think the media would be all over this issue, but it seems as if they seem to be more concerned with Gasol’s absence from paint. Mind you, the Lakers have shown that Gasol is expendable, but this year is a test run for Howard. If Howard does not like the direction this team is going, he can go wherever he pleases come free agency this summer.

Let’s hope that Howard’s lack of touches is addressed sooner than later and with Steve Nash set to return to the lineup, Howard will get more looks at the basket. Knowing that size is one of the Lakers biggest advantages and that Kobe will generally take 20+ shots a night, players such as Jodi Meeks and Metta World Peace cannot continue to shoot so often. If the offense continues going down this path the Lakers could be in for a bumpy ride. Instead of coach D’Antoni focusing on tweaking the offense, different rotations, and getting open looks on the floor, maybe it is time for to start looking down other avenues and pulling for the Dwight Solution.

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Image Credit: Noah Graham | Getty Images, Jeff Gross | Getty Images
Image Credit: Noah Graham, Jeff Gross | Getty Images

Pau Gasol finally made his return to the Lakers’ starting lineup Tuesday night, after missing the past eight games with knee tendinitis, but that was not the only change in the Lakers’ rotation.

Metta World Peace:

Along with Gasol returning to the starting lineup, Coach Mike D’Antoni decided to move Metta World Peace to the bench. According to D’Antoni, after the Lakers 101-100 win over the Charlotte Bobcats, he hopes to bring World Peace off the bench for the remainder of the season:

I want [World Peace] to play the four. … For us to have a different team, a different look, he has to play the four. If he starts at the three, then once I get him to the four, it’s too many minutes for him and he needs rest.

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question

jordanJordan Grant: With the talent the Lakers have, the injuries they’ve faced, the adjustments they’ve had to make, and their overall lack of effort so far, there is no doubt the Lakers have hit their bottom. The team continues to show us glimpses of what they are capable of, followed by long streaks of effortless play, only to try and comeback and win games. This is a pattern that the Lakers must, and I believe will have begin to break. It will continue to take some time for them to get things rolling and develop chemistry, especially within this system, but I believe they will finish the season strong and set themselves up to be around the 6th seed. Once all things are clicking by April, this will be a forced to be reckon with come playoff time.

orenOren Levy: The homer in me wants to say 5th place. The OKC/SA/LAC/MEM group is already out of reach, but I think we can overtake Golden State if this team can get going once everyone is healthy. If I’m being “realistic,” I think we can expect this team to win about 47 games – which should be good for a 6th-7th seed this season. Who would have thought a team with this much talent would have to get their act together just to get a bottom four seed in the playoffs…

matevzMatevz Rojc: This Lakers team will finish the regular season as the 6th seeded team in the Western Conference and they will face the Spurs or the Grizzlies in the 1st round of the Playoffs. Even with a healthy Steve Nash, this team will need at least another 10 games to find its chemistry and consistency. That will cost them the 5th seed in the Western Conference. However, they will be ready for the Playoffs no matter who they play against.

emilEmil Rivera: Because of the health and inconsistent display of passion at times, the Lakers have played extremely well or extremely poor.  With a completely healthy team, including Dwight Howard being at 100% and Steve Nash bringing more consistency to the offense, this Laker team possess the talent to go on 6 or 7 game wins streaks.  Roster consistency, chemistry and determination from the players to play intensely for 48 minutes a game will be crucial to their success.  If all things click, I see this Lakers squad heading to the playoffs as a possible 5th seed in the West, with a strong chance to head back to the NBA Finals.

robertRobert Benitez: With 56 games left in the season and the Lakers close to being full strength, I expect this team to go 38-18 for the rest of the season and finish at or around 50-32. A record like that in the powerhouse Western Conference will probably only be good for the 6-8 seed. But, this team was built for an extended playoff run and I don’t believe beginning the playoffs on the road will be an issue. At least I hope not.

jon-gafferJon Gaffer: Provided they get Nash back & they are able to stay relatively healthy, I firmly believe they can finish with 4 or 5 seed. I’m not ready to bow down to some of the teams the likes of Golden State, Utah,Denver, & Minnesota. I’m not even sold on the old rickety Spurs holding up all yr. Bottom line is if everyone plays up to their capabilities, my prediction is not a reach. However, it’s a real big IF.

zainZain Maredia: This 12-14 record is no way indicative of how the rest of the season will go. The Lakers have pretty much hit rock bottom, judging by Hollywood standards. As the season progresses, however, Dwight Howard will slowly regain his explosiveness, Steve Nash will unite this team on offense, Pau Gasol will find a way to mesh with this star-studded lineup, and team chemistry will only improve, including defensive rotations and bench play. We’ve seen stretches during which the Lakers look like a ridiculously dangerous and talented team; look to see this on a more consistent basis on the path to grabbing the #4 seed in the West.

belalBelal Abdelfattah: While the question seems to be where will the Lakers end up seeding-wise, the most important thing is they find themselves in a great rhythm. In a loaded West, being seeded 1-5 is essentially the same thing, no team is that much better than anyone else. What the Lakers need is to be comfortable with each other and the system because in the playoffs that will get them a title, not winning 50 games or home-court advantage.

alikAlik Ourfalian: Although the Lakers have begun the season poorly, all they need is a solid run to get over the .500 hump and stay there for good. They have currently won three straight, and a win on Saturday against a hot Golden State team will send the Lakers into the much-anticipated Christmas Day game against the Knicks with a four-game win streak. Momentum and focus are key, as is a consistent effort on both ends of the floor game after game. As long as the players keep the big picture in mind, the Lakers can make the playoffs as a fourth or fifth seed in the West and contend for the Larry O’Brien trophy come June.

bummiBummi Anderson: With 14 losses already for the Lakers and both the Clippers and Thunder having 10 and 11 game winning streaks respectively, the Lakers have dug a hole too deep to get into the 4th spot or better. However, the Lakers will climb the ranks and end up a 5th or 6th seed.

alex-lambethAlex Lambeth: The better question here would be whether or not the Lakers will be healthy at the end of the regular season. There is no doubt the Lakers will make the playoffs, their talent supersedes their record so far, but will they be able to snatch a top 6 spot after such a slow start? With Nash returning soon and Gasol being immersed back into the starting lineup, the talent-packed Lakers should be able to capture some “lightning in a bottle” going forward. I see the Lakers winning between 47-50 games this season without anymore major injuries, placing them as the 5th or 6th seed in the Western Conference, but their collective health will determine how deep their run in the playoffs will be.

felipeFelipe Amaral: The Lakers have players who are used to winning. Nash and Howard, even though they are new to the team, have been battling for the championship for a long time, playing at a high level in Phoenix or Orlando. There were a lot of changes this season, but there’s too many talent in the Lakers roster to this thing not get figured out one way or another. I expect the Purple&Gold to finish the season somewhere between the 4th and 6th seed in the West and, once you get in the playoffs, it’s a whole different game and the Lakers have the experience, the talent and, most importantly, the desire (Kobe is insatiable; Nash, Howard and D’Antoni seek their first ring) to go all the way.

sam-shawSam Shaw: If the Lakers, at full strength, can beat playoff contending teams soon, it’s not a far-fetched idea that Kobe and Dwight carry the team to the top spot in the Pacific Division. The Thunder and Spurs will continue to perform at a high level for the rest of the season, but it’s unlikely that the Clippers, Warriors and the Grizzlies can keep pace. So far, it’s been a disappointing season, but the return of Steve Nash and a healthier Gasol will put this team back on track. Bold prediction: With the return of the Lakers floor general, this team will find its identity sooner than everyone thinks and the Lakers will win the Pacific with 55 games and enter the playoffs as the 3rd seed.

garretGarrett Garcia: The Lakers will lock up the fifth seed in the West, guaranteed. With a completely healthy team and the chemistry becoming less of an issue, the Lakers can expect that fifth seed to be theirs. A fifth seed may seem low and not “Laker-like” but I think it will be a blessing in disguise as that would mean the Lakers play the fourth seed and have a good shot at winning that series. The Lakers will then turn it on from there and reach the NBA Finals, as expected.

melvinMelvin Taylor: If the Lakers were a celebrity they would be Amanda Bynes; even though it all looks bad at least it’s not as bad as Lindsey Lohan, everything can still be fixed. The Lakers will finish around the 5th or 6th seed in the western conference. Achieving 50 wins or just about that number would be a success with all of the injuries and changes that occurred this season. By then Steve Nash should have the offense clicking and the team will regain a sense of urgency on the defensive end of the ball. This would put them in position to face the 5/6th seeded opponent who will have problems facing a determined Lakers sqaud who have corrected their mistakes and are loaded for a championship run. Happy holidays!

annaAnna Gonda: 12-14 is certainly not the record we’d hoped for this stacked of a team, but unforeseen factors such as injury and coaching turnover haven’t helped the the Lakers reach any level of familiarity, especially with the new combination of players to consider as well. The Western Conference is even more competitive as it has been in recent seasons, with the emergence of young groups like the Clippers, Golden State Warriors and the new Harden/Lin-led team, Houston Rockets. The Lakers may be looking up to these teams who they’ve pummeled in the past from the #12 spot for awhile. However, unless the Lakers are forced to sustain more injuries or another coaching change, they should occupy one of the bottom four spots in the Western Conference when the regular season is over.

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fans

Last night’s 101-100 victory against the Bobcats was an unusual game to say the least. After holding an 11 point first half lead, the Lakers hemorrhaged points for about a quarter and a half – going down by 18, before rallying back for a 1 point win with one of their stars on the bench in crunch time. Here’s a snapshot of what it was like to be inside Staples for the Lakers’ harrowing victory.

High Point: The start of the fourth quarter, as Kobe/Pau/MWP brought the Lakers back, leading to two Bobcats timeouts in the first three minutes – the crowd was electric, easily as loud as it has been all year.

Low Point: The beginning of the third quarter – after a disappointing finish to the half, the Lakers were down by five, and the crowd was slow to return to their seats at the start of the second half (slow even by the usual standards).

The building was silent, and the Bobcats made a BIG run. By the time most fans got into their seats, the team was down double digits, and the pounding kept coming.  During the first six minutes of the third, the Lakers gave up 22 points – after allowing the ‘Cats a season high 58 in the first half.

Watching the Bobcats tear through Staples with the crowd absent was the low point – lower than the boos that came from the stands after they filled up.

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/LKRGIRL/status/281263961087823872″]

Turning Point: Boos rained down at Staples in the third quarter, after the Bobcats took an 18 point lead, hitting 80 points midway through the third. The fans let the team know that the defensive effort was unacceptable – as was the 11-14 start.

However, as the Lakers turned up the intensity, the boos quickly turned to LOUD chants of “Defense!” and cheers.

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/KevinDing/status/281269437699588096″]

The Lakers finally played with heart, and rallied back into the game, and the fans responded. Staples Center was as loud as its been all year, which is not something one would expect during a mid-December game against Charlotte.

It seems that the boos were just the kick in the butt the Lakers needed – after giving up 22 points in about 6 minutes to start the half, the Lakers smothered the Bobcats – they scored just 20 points in the final quarter and a half.  Finally the team responded to adversity, and turned the negative momentum into a call to action, rather than falling to another defeat.

The fans at Staples know their team – when to cheer the team on and provide support, and when to kick the team in the butt with a chorus of boos. Last night, Laker Nation did both, admonishing the Lakers for a lack of effort when they allowed the woeful Bobcats to walk all over them, and cheering with abandon as the Lakers turned it around,

Home Crowds should not be a one trick pony (cheer as loud as you can, all the time), and Laker fans know this. Seasoned through many Championship season, Laker Nation knows that there is a time to cheer, a time to boo, and a time to sit quietly, and watch the Lakers do their thing. When it matters most, the purple and gold faithful know what to do.

Fan of the Night: The “MVP” Guy, who chants MVP for every Laker. During a Metta World Peace trip to the line, the MVP Guy chanted “MVP! “ for Metta, who clanked the freethrow. MVP Guy interrupted his chant briefly to say “You suck Metta!” and went right back to chanting MVP…Metta made the second. Nice work, fan.

JumboTron Highlight: The “Friend Zone” Kiss cam moment – a man went for the kiss, and was met with the lady’s cheek. Ouch. It’s bad enough if that happens at home, but in front of 20,000 people? Yikes.

Runner Up: An old lady covered head to toe in purple and gold, complete with copious amounts of costume jewelry, dancing (correctly!) to “Gangham Style.” I guess that song transcends age.

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Photo courtesy of Jeff Gross | Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Jeff Gross | Getty Images

After watching the enigmatic Los Angeles Lakers squeak by the lowly Charlotte Bobcats Tuesday night, I concluded that when the Los Angeles Lakers take the floor Saturday night against the Golden State Warriors (17-8), it should undoubtedly be played as a statement game.

Both teams need to play with added intensity, but it’s the Lakers who need to make the statement. The Warriors are a young, upstart team having a great start to their season. They will certainly be out to prove they have arrived and are legitimate contenders.

The Lakers will be riding a 3 game winning streak, but this game is the opportunity to serve notice on the Western Conference that they are on their way back to the top. With 12 wins and 14 losses in an already signature season of inconsistency, the Lakers have to win this game and do it with defense, energy, and continuity. This is the biggest game of the Lakers season (for now), even if Steve Nash waits until the Christmas game to return to action.

With or without Nash, the Lakers are out of excuses. Every single Laker must play this game against the Warriors with intensity. Past Lakers teams have been known for coasting through the regular season and flipping the switch during the playoffs, but those teams had earned the right to coast because they won championships. This team, with the exception of Kobe, Metta, and Pau, has earned no right…YET.

This mentality (or lack of mentality) has to stop if the Lakers have plans for June. The Lakers need to make their statement, and when it’s all said and done Saturday night; their statement needs to be said with an exclamation point, and not with a period.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images
Chris Carlson / AP
Chris Carlson / AP

Kobe Bryant put up 30 points in Tuesdays win over the Bobcats, marking his 7th straight game with at least 30 points. With this streak, Kobe became the first player in NBA history of at least 34 years of age to do so. The only other players to come close were Kareem Abdul-Jabar and Michael Jordan, whose streaks both ended at 5 straight games.

Even at age 34, Kobe leads the league in scoring with 29.5 points per game. His last game with less than 30 points was in early December against the Hornets, a game in which he came up just short with 29. If he had finished with one more point in that game, his record would now stand at 10 instead of 7.

So far on the season, the Mamba has eclipsed the 30 point mark in 15 out of 26 games. And for those who might argue that he is shooting too much, he has been doing so by hitting on over 47% of his shots for the year.

It will be interesting to see how the return of Steve Nash (or as Kobe likes to call him, “Gatsby”) will affect Kobe’s scoring. Will Nash’s ability to create open looks improve Kobe’s scoring numbers, or will adding an additional facilitator and scoring threat take away from his attempts? It remains to be seen, but fortunately we should find out quite soon.

In the meantime, Kobe will look to add to his streak on Saturday as the Lakers take on the Warriors. While keeping the streak going would be impressive, one can only assume he will be more focused on what stat shows up in the win column.

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Photo courtesy of Jeff Gross, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Jeff Gross, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Jeff Gross, Getty Images

Talk about a game of runs. After falling behind 16-8 to start the game, the Lakers rattled off a 19-9 run to end the first quarter. Almost midway through the second quarter, the Lakers sat at a 40-29 lead, until the Bobcats closed the half on a 29-11 run of their own, which continued through the third quarter where the lead ballooned to 18 points. The fourth quarter run started with the Lakers, who scored 13 straight points to turn a deficit into a lead that they never relinquished.

Losers of 11 games in a row, the Bobcats were due for a win, and they’ve always had the Lakers’ number…but not this time. This time, the Lakers didn’t give up on the game (or each other) and made adjustments (or just woke themselves up) to avoid a loss and start racking up some wins, regardless of the opponent.

Tonight saw yet another Mike D’Antoni experiment with the opening line-up and rotation, starting Devin Ebanks in place of Metta World Peace, as well as the return of Pau Gasol after eight games of resting the tendinitis in his knees. Kobe Bryant saw more time in the small forward position (which D’Antoni indicated will occur more often as he plans to place MWP in the power forward spot), while Jodie Meeks enjoys an increase in his playing time in Bryant’s shooting guard role. The Lakers continue to be a work in progress, but at least they’re producing some victories as a result.

HIGH POINTS:

Metta World Peace – Starting or coming off the bench, it’s all the same to MWP who produced and made an impact either way. Being relegated to the pine after having such a great season wouldn’t sit well with many players, and Mike Brown already tried this last season without success, but that old version of MWP didn’t look or play like the current model. World-Peace may not have started the game, but he finished it and had over 36 minutes of playing time to prove his importance to this team.

His defense, as usual, was key. MWP’s active hands and desire to play every possession (offensive or defensive) is his trump card. Aside from his 17 points, he had seven rebounds, two assists, a block and four of the team’s six steals. He slapped the ball away from Kemba Walker and earned two free throws, and then showed Byron Mullens why it’s never a good a idea to turn his back on him when he could easily just take the ball from under your arm.

Kobe Bryant – In his seventh straight 30+ point game, Bryant continues to defy the critics. In a possession late in the game, the Lakers had 2.2 seconds left on the shot clock. He accepted the inbounds pass and calmly, from the corner, buried a three-pointer as he’s done so many times before. He had 30 points tonight, in addition to six rebounds, seven assists (equaling Kemba Walker’s assist total), a steal and a block of Bismack Biyombo’s attempt at the rim.

Dwight Howard – Let the stat line speak for itself: 16 points, 18 rebounds, four blocks, including a block in the final seconds of the game which prevented the Bobcats from

Pau Gasol – After missing two weeks and eight games of action, Gasol returned to the floor and, despite some expected rust, looked as active as we’ve seen all season. Actually, he’s never appeared this active this season. Whatever was ailing him a couple of weeks ago seems to have waned. He didn’t shoot at a very efficient rate (just 3-10), but neither did many of his teammates. It was his activity that was obvious. He had three blocks and five rebounds in the first quarter alone. He opened the fourth quarter with a driving layup, and then did a little give ‘n go with MWP, who scored easily at the hoop. On his way to the bench, Gasol let out a roar – which we haven’t seen him do in a long while. He finished with 10 points, nine rebounds, five assists and four blocks.

Second-half defense – After allowing the lowly Bobcats to scored 58 points in the first half (33 points in the second quarter) on 43% from the field, the Lakers tightened up their defense in the final quarter. After shooting 47% through three quarters, Charlotte scored just 16 points on 22% shooting from the field. Darius Morris was sent in to keep Kemba Walker in check. The young guard had gone off for 24 points on 10-19 before the final quarter, but Morris held him to just four points on 2-6. Since the Lakers didn’t’ shoot well (just under 40%), their defense helped a great deal in securing this victory.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Gross, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Jeff Gross, Getty Images

Scoring Load – Five players in double figures, including two from the bench. Even the shot attempts were relatively more even. Bryant had 24 shot attempts, but Dwight Howard, Gasol, Jodie Meeks and MWP all had double digit scoring.

Turnovers and Free throws – Only 11 turnovers for the game and 21-27 from the free throw line. Dwight Howard went 6-8 from the charity stripe. How about that?! In the last few games, he’s been standing about 6-7 inches from the line and since his free throws tend to be long, that half a foot has made all the difference.

LOW POINTS:

It’s the Charlotte Bobcats – …who have won just seven games and are riding an 11-game losing streak coming into Staples. There was no

reason the Lakers couldn’t have had an easier time winning tonight. That 11-point lead in the first quarter should’ve been the start of a blow-out, not an opportunity to get careless and allow Charlotte to take over. One of the worse defensive teams in the league, the Bobcats capitalized on all of the Lakers’ missed threes (they went just 10-31 from downtown) – long shots + long rebounds = run outs. The Lakers needed to focus on their strength inside more. 31 attempts from downtown with Gasol and Howard on the floor is just a waste.

Oh those pesky Bobcats. No matter how badly their season is going (and it’s literally been a bad season since they’ve been a team), they’ve always had the Lakers’ number. In fact, aside from the Boston Celtics, the Charlotte Bobcats are the only other team in the league with a winning record against this team…until tonight. Tonight the Lakers reached a .500 record with Michael Jordan’s team and get three days of rest before facing the sharp shooting Golden State Warriors on Saturday. Hopefully they can reach a .500 record overall and soon.

Box Score

 

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AP Photo/Chris Carlson
AP Photo/Chris Carlson

The Lakers were able to defeat the Charlotte Bobcats and extend their winning streak to 3 games. With Pau back in the lineup the team was still not able to successfully run their half-court offense when both Pau and Dwight were in the game together. They got away with doing that tonight, but if the Lakers really want to win a championship they will need to find a way to have both Gasol and Howard on the floor during crunch time.

In a strange game, the Lakers had the lead, lost it, then stormed back in the 4th quarter to re-capture the lead from the Bobcats. Lakers are off until Saturday against the Golden State Warriors and hope to have Steve Nash back in the lineup. Hopefully, these extra days off will allow the team to practice more and correct some of the mental errors that have plagued them all year (i.e. turnovers). Here are the grades for Tuesday night’s W:

Chris Duhon: D

Duhon kills this team defensively as Laker Nation saw what happened when Darius Morris replaced him in the second half.

Kobe Bryant: B+

Another 30 point night for the Mamba, along with 6 boards and 7 assists as well. Kobe facilitated very well early and shot this team back into the game after they fell behind by 18 in the second half. Always nice to have a future Hall of Famer close out close games for your team.

Metta World Peace: B-

Tough shooting night from Metta, but his hustle and defense was key to the Lakers completing their comeback.

Pau Gasol: B

Pau had a little more bounce in his step, but he still can’t seem to find his role in this system. Pau played great defense, though, and as he gets back into game shape, he will help this Lakers team even more on both sides of the court.

Dwight Howard: B+

Take away the 5 turnovers and Dwight’s stats are very nice. Pau back in the lineup does not space the floor much, but it helps Dwight out on defense and on the boards.

Jodie Meeks: B+

Jodie gets extended minutes and makes the most of the opportunity. When Jodie is able to catch and shoot in rhythm, there really aren’t many better shooters in this league. The best part is, he will only get better once Steve Nash returns.

Darius Morris: A-

The biggest reason the Lakers were able to come back from their 18 point deficit was because of Darius Morris and his pressure defense. Darius was instant energy and his defense on Ramon Sessions and Kemba Walker was fantastic down the stretch. As Darius progresses this year, don’t be surprised if Darius becomes Steve Nash’s backup to provide defense and energy for this team.

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Photo Courtesy of Bleacherreport.com
Photo Courtesy of Bleacherreport.com

Tonight, the Los Angeles Lakers return home with their 2 game win streak to take on Kemba Walker and the Charlotte Bobcats.

Yes, the Lakers are on a win streak.

The Lakers are enjoying a rare taste of victory as they are coming off a 111-98 drubbing of the uninspired Philadelphia 76ers.  Kobe Bryant, playing more of a facilitating role as of late, scored 34 points and dished out a team-high 6 assists.  Metta World Peace was looking rather youthful as he added 19 points, including 3 of 4 from behind arc and gobbling up a game-high 16 rebounds.

The Bobcats come to Tinsletown losing 11 of their last 12 contests.  They have not won a single game in the month of December and their last win was in November against none other than the Washington Wizards.  Although Charlotte has been coming up short in wins, second year guard Kemba Walker is starting to draw the attention of the league as he begins his campaign to become one of the NBA’s elite point guards.  This was more than evident as he torched the Orlando Magic, scoring 32 points in the 107-98 loss to the Orlando Magic.

Although the Lakers have won two in a row, they are far from being out of the woods and back into title contention talk for the time being.  The Bobcats will be looking to use their youth and atheleticism to dismantle an already anemic Laker defense.  Walker alone will be difficult for any of the Laker guards not wearing number 24 to stay in front of.

What should be a huge boost for the Lakers tonight is the return of their 7 foot Spaniard, Pau Gasol.  Gasol has been sidelined for the past couple of weeks with knee tendinitis but will be making his return to the line-up.  With Gasol’s return tonight, and with talk of Mike D’Antoni’s 7-second offense facilitator, Steve Nash’s possible return to the Lakers against the Golden State Warriors on Saturday, the Lakers seem to be on the verge of mending their wounds and getting closer to becoming a healthy team.  But that’s Saturday.

The Bobcats are looking to come into the dog house known as Staples Center tonight and leave with a win.  The Lakers need to show the Bobcats what happens when you try to take food from a hungry dog.

Bon appetite big dogs!

 

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Photo Credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images

It’s no secret the Lakers 11-14 start is, well… let’s just call it surprising. Just less than a third of the season is in the books, and you have to scroll down the western conference standings to even find the pre-season favorites at number 12.

Yesterday, the Lakers looked under their Christmas tree to find reports that Pau Gasol could play tonight against Charlotte (7:30pm PT). This morning, they may be finding another gift: Steve Nash, who has missed 23 games this season (and hasn’t even played for D’Antoni yet), is aiming for a Saturday return against Golden State. The two-time MVP went through a limited practice yesterday (Monday) and will continue to monitor his progress throughout the week.

Barring any major setbacks, this Lakers team may be close to full force by Christmas Day.

While the sky has been falling in L.A. for the past month, just imagine what would happen to any other team in the NBA had they lost their starting point guard (Nash), backup point guard (Blake) and starting forward (Gasol). Factor in a pair of coaching changes and a completely revamped roster, and suddenly those pieces of sky in your living room seem a little bit premature.

The most important piece to the Lakers championship puzzle is health. If the Lakers can find a way to get healthy (and stay healthy), there’s still plenty of time to turn things around.

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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.