Saturday, November 22, 2014
Blog Page 62

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UPDATE: According to head coach Mike D’Antoni, Lakers forward Pau Gasol will be on the floor tonight when the Lakers take on the Charlotte Bobcats (7:30pm PT) at Staples Center. Pau told reporters that “it would be good for me to get up and down.” By all indications, Pau will give it a go after a solid couple days of practice.

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Pau Gasol, who has missed the past 8 games due to tendinitis in both knees, participated in his first practice in over 2 weeks.

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After a second round exit and a long summer of Olympic basketball, Gasol developed tendinitis in both knees during training camp earlier this year. He has been battling it all season. To further complicate things, the struggling power forward has expressed discomfort in Coach D’Antoni’s new system.

Pau has been averaging a career low in points (12.6), and is only grabbing 8.8 rebounds per game this season. He has been subject to a lot of criticism for his lack of performance this year, which has rumors swirling about the Lakers potentially moving him.

Gasol will participate in Tuesday morning shoot around before deciding if he will make his return or not.

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When asked about his role in the team’s offense, Gasol said he is still a facilitator.

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With Gasol on the verge of returning, all the attention goes back to Steve Nash, who is still out with a fractured fibula. Nash participated in running drills today and hopes to be back by the Christmas day match-up against the New York Knicks.

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Photo Credit: ESPN

The start to the NBA season has not been kind to the Lakers and their fans. Injuries to Steve Nash, Steve Blake, and Pau Gasol have hampered chemistry and the firing of Mike Brown hasn’t produced a whole lot of optimism. The Lakers have looked old, slow, and unorganized on both the offensive and defensive ends. Their new coach, Mike D’Antoni, talked during his introductory press conference about running a “showtime” offense.  Instead, it’s the Lakers who have been run over by the opposition.

The Lakers are now 8 days away from their Christmas Day showdown with the New York Knicks, and I think there are certain things we Lakers’ fans would like for Christmas. Dear Santa, our Christmas Wish List:

1. WINS. The Lakers need a good, substantial winning streak that puts other teams on notice. Even though others may be saying publicly they fear the Lakers, what have the Lakers done so far to make other teams afraid? Nothing. If they can string together 6, 7, or more wins in a row, the fans will be elated… and the rest of the league will not.

2. Consistency. Lakers’ fans want to see more consistent play on both ends of the floor. One night the Lakers look like legitimate contenders, and the next night they look like pretenders. A winning streak is a manifestation of consistency.

3. The Preservation of Kobe Bryant. Kobe needs to shoot less and play fewer minutes if the Lakers are to be there in the end. Kobe is arguably playing the best ball of his career, but chances are he can’t sustain this level the whole season unless he plays less and scores more with fewer shot attempts. Although fans love December, we know our Christmas usually takes place in June.

4. A healthy squad. The season took a huge hit Oct 31 when Steve Nash got injured. It got even worse when an injury that was supposed to cost him a week or two has turned into 7 weeks. Add Steve Blake, Pau Gasol, and Dwight Howard (who is still recovering from back surgery) to the mix, and we’ll find that a healthy squad is a winning one.

5. More touches for Dwight. The Lakers need to feed the “Beast” more! The more touches Howard gets, the more opportunities the shooters will get, including Bryant. Inside/out is the game!

6. More touches for Pau. Pau Gasol is too talented not to have some of the game plan tailored to him. He passes, he shoots, and he plays D and rebounds. Get him more involved! He opens up the floor which helps the shooters and Dwight.

7. Fewer turnovers. The Lakers will not win many games if they continue to turn the ball over. In recent games, there have been less TOs, but it is still a problem. Kobe is averaging 3 per game by himself and Dwight has his share. Protect the ball. Turnovers should not be the gift that keeps on giving!

8. Steve Nash passing. Right now it can only be envisioned, but when Steve Nash gets the ball in his hands, look out. It is going to be a beautiful thing to watch.

9. Jodie Meeks shooting. And shooting and shooting. Get Meeks coming off more picks and let him fire away!

10. Productive bench. The Lakers’ bench is finally looking like they have a clue. The bench players look more comfortable on the floor and since they are younger, should provide more of an up tempo feel.

11. Trades. If the return of Nash and Gasol doesn’t provide the punch it should, it may be time to say goodbye to the Spaniard, and whoever else we can get rid of for the betterment of the team.

12. Christmas in June. We expect the Lakers to be hoisting the O’Brien trophy in June 2013. Just win baby!

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Andrew Bynum

Former Los Angeles Lakers center and current Philadelphia 76er Andrew Bynum has yet to play this NBA season. He was dubbed inactive during training camp due to neither of his knees fully healing for his arthritis after the Orthokine treatment. After the an extended period of time, and a little bowling, his knees worsened and the 76ers officially declared him out indefinitely.

This past Sunday the Lakers took on the Bynum-less 76ers and won 111-98. According to ESPNLA writer Dave McMenamin, before the game even began Andrew had a couple of comments on his tenure as a Laker and how Kobe Bryant stunted his growth as a player; but by the end of his time in L.A., Bynum felt that Bryant’s ball-dominant ways hurt his development as one of the league’s best centers.

“I thought it really helped me a lot obviously at first, because he draws so much attention it’s hard for guys to double team and key on you, so it helped me tremendously,” Bynum told a group of L.A. reporters before the Lakers played the Sixers on Sunday. “Later, I felt I was able to get the ball more and do more things with the ball, so I could definitely see how it could stunt growth.”

Interestingly enough, Bryant agreed with everything that Andrew stated and spoke in a similar sense:

“For sure, because when you’re playing with me you obviously have to sacrifice something,” Bryant said. “Same thing with me and Shaq (Shaquille O’Neal). You kind of off-set each other to a certain extent. So, I mean, that’s true. When he gets back and he’s healthy, he’ll come out here and he’ll be the focal point of their attack and he’ll be getting the ball more and you’ll see big games from him more consistently.”

Bryant spoke highly of Andrew and briefly pondered about his new hairstyle stating;

“I don’t know what he’s doing with that perm, but I guess he’s a trendsetter.”

Bynum’s hairstyle was inspired by a Boondocks character, but instead of responding those questions, he offered tidbits of advice to Lakers star center Dwight Howard about playing alongside Kobe and how he feels about his dominance within the center position:

“I think Dwight is a great player, but he’s going to have to get accustomed to playing with Kobe and not touching the ball every single play,” Bynum said. Personally I think they traded No. 1 (center) for No. 2.”

Bynum spoke about his knee injuries saying that “hopefully I will be cleared for impact” sometime soon, and that his knees are feeling. The 76ers organization is taking their time with it and want to be sure that there is nothing “floating around in there.” Before ending his series of interviews, he also commented on how the Lakers are doing this year:

“They’re just struggling,” Bynum said of the Lakers’ 10-14 start to the season. “They got injuries and they’re not posting the ball, so, that’s tough too.”

Bynum wasn’t done there.

“They got to make a commitment to defense, No. 1, and No. 2, I think they’re going to have to post the ball within a system that’s going to do that,” he said. “Obviously the talent is there to win a championship from a starter’s point of view, anyway. I think they struggle a little bit off the bench, so that kind of hurts, too.”

Bynum said he has “no regrets” about the path that led him out of L.A. He added “my time is done there” and that the location of where he plays isn’t as important to him as him being healthy enough to allow him to play.

“It doesn’t really matter to me where I play as long as I get to,” Bynum said.

Many Laker fans are thankful for Bynum’s contributions to the organization, as he did aid them in winning two championships. However, there are  just as many who wish that he would have matured more and stayed healthier long enough to develop into the powerful force he is when he is on top of his game.

Regardless of what happened in the past, Drew is now in Philadelphia and the Lakers have Howard, who many believe will be a dominant factor in multiple championships. The future is impossible to predict, but it is a lot clearer with the Laker’s commitment to keeping Howard happy and his potential to become one of the greatest Laker centers ever.

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Photo courtesy of Ronald Martinez, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Bruce Bennett, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Bruce Bennett, Getty Images

With just under two minutes left in the game, Kobe Bryant headed towards the bench as Wells Fargo Center broke out in applause. Bryant raised up his arm and waved at those still left in the arena.

“Next year could be the last time I play in front of this crowd,” he told Mike Trudell after the game.

There was a nostalgic tone in his voice as he said this, looking around the floor as if he were trying to remember every visit to his hometown since he started in the league 17 seasons ago. Not every visit had been a welcome reception, but like Bryant has alluded to in the last few seasons, he’s cherished every moment that has made him a better player and person, good and bad. Tonight, it was good, for him and for his team.

The Lakers took a 25-24 lead at the end of the first quarter and never looked back. The lead rose to as much as 18 points, and while early leads seem to turn into this team’s weakness in the waning minutes of a game, they managed to hold on with a collective effort on both ends of the ball and head back to L.A. with a 2-2 record from this trip.

HIGH POINTS:

Metta World Peace – Everything. That’s what MWP did tonight and has been doing consistently this season. It’s not just about the scoring load that he carries. It’s his energy on defense (four steals tonight), his efforts offensively (19 points on 6-10, 3-4 form three and 4-6 from the free throw line) and just the wits with which he plays in general. He’s a more complete player than he was even in the season the Lakers beat the Celtics in the finals. MWP’s scoring back then was a bonus because it was his defense on which the team relied. This season, he’s been a relatively consistent offensive contributor, and with the injuries that the Lakers have sustained, it’s been necessary and he has been able to deliver. From distant threes to barraging his way through the lane for a quick layup, MWP has still got it. And those 16 rebounds? (Yes, 16!) is a new career high.

Photo courtesy of Bruce Bennett, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Bruce Bennett, Getty Images

Kobe Bryant – You never know what you’re going to get if you’re Kobe Bryant coming back to Philly. There have been times when he’s been booed (like the year he received All-Star MVP honors), but there are times like today when the city still shows some love for one of their own and he deserved it with a performance like tonight’s. He started with a fadeaway jumper and finished wit 34 points on 12-21 from the field, including a spectacular baseline drive that ended with Bryant hanging in the air for a second or two before hitting one off the backboard. He also handed out six assists.

Darius Morris – Gave the kid a chance, and he turns into something solid. Subbing into the game for Chris Duhon, as he’s done for the last few games, Morris didn’t waste any time before playing one of the best halves of his young career. He went 5-5 to start, hitting 3-3 from downtown, including one to close the first quarter after a drive-n-kick from Bryant. He finished with 15 points, a pair of assists and zero turnovers in just 18 minutes of play. He appeared to have hurt his ankle towards the end of the first half, however and tried to play in the second half but went just 0-3. Here’s hoping that it’s nothing serious

Threeballin’ – When you’re hot, you’re hot, and the Lakers were on fire from downtown in the first half, going 10-15 form behind the arc. Unfortunately, they cooled down in the second half, going just 4-19, but those 30 points from the first two quarters sure helped to create the advantage.

Sharing the Load – Six Lakers scored in double figures tonight, including 27 from Jodie Meeks and Darius Morris off the bench. The 22 assists on 39 made field goals shows there was a lot of ball movement, which provided an opportunity for everyone on the floor to contribute. This is, of course, ideal and when the Lakers have this much help, the game is a lot easier to win.

LOW POINTS:

Devin Ebanks – Again receiving the starting nod, but doing very little with it. Ebanks played almost 20 minutes but came up with just four rebounds and one assist.

Antawn Jamison – A bit worse off than Ebanks, however, is Jamison. Despite appearing to get into a groove, on this 4-game road trip, he went just 4-16 from the field for a total of 12 points.

That’s two wins in a row for these Lakers, and though it’s nothing relatively impressive, if we’ve learned anything this season, it’s that we must appreciate small glories, and a two-win streak is just that.

Next up, the lowly Charlotte Bobcats are coming into Staples, currently riding an 11-game losing streak. A team desperate for a win is never a good thing, but perhaps the Lakers can take advantage and make it three in a row.

Box Score

 

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Photo Credit: lakers.com

Whether they are winning or losing, the Lakers will always be a hot topic. In a season that has brought us two new All Stars, coaching drama and less than favorable results, Twitter users have taken to the media to vocalize their honest and sometimes hilarious opinions. Tweets of the Week will feature our favorite tweets from celebrities, media and fans.

Comedian Chelsea Peretti’s trademark sarcasm might be confusing some of her followers.

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Lakers superfan and Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea offers the team some advice in the form of a strange analogy.

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@netw3rk dramatizes Mike D’Antoni anticipation for Steve Nash’s return.

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Ben Lyons may be a journalist but he’s still just a basketball fan at heart.

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Marcel Mutoni from Slam Online shares a cute moment between former teammates Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire.

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AmareNashLogo

 

If you would like to be included in Tweets of the Week, include @lakernation or #lakernation in your post. We’d love to hear from you!

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AP Photo/Alex Brandon
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

The Lakers finally got off the schneid Friday night in Washington as they defeated the Wizards 102 – 96, improving their record to 10 – 14. This game highlighted this Laker team’s inconsistency as they let multiple leads slip and had to keep their stars in the game until the game clock hit triple zeroes.

There wasn’t much of an improvement defensively and the offense didn’t look very crisp or efficient either. The majority of the points came on isolation plays or Jodie Meeks 3-pointers, but hey, a win is a win and the Lakers need all the wins they can get at this point. Next up for the Lakers will be the 76ers who will probably be eager to seek revenge on the team that stuck them with the disappointment that is Andrew Bynum. Here are the grades for last night’s victory:

Chris Duhon: C+

Average performance for Duhon as he continues to try and run the offense until Steve Nash returns from injury.

Kobe Bryant: B

Poor shooting night for the Mamba, but Kobe once again led by example as he played through a nagging back and still iced the game with this hustle play. Aside from Coach D’Antoni, I doubt anybody needs Steve Nash to return moreso than Kobe. Who knows how much longer he can sustain playing 40+ minutes per night while carrying the team on offense.

Metta World Peace: B-

Good energy and hustle out of Metta tonight even though he was 0 for 6 from behind the arc. When Metta is aggressive and drives the ball on offense the Lakers seem to get good results instead of having him float around the perimeter and wait to take a 3.

Devin Ebanks: B-

Nice to see Devin get some much needed playing time considering how well he fits into this system. The Lakers desperately need an athletic wing player that can make crisp cuts and finish in transition which is exactly what Devin brings to the table.

Dwight Howard: B+

It’s always perplexing when Dwight doesn’t score at least 20 points in a game. Based on sheer talent alone the man should be able to get his 20 points off put backs and alley oops, but that hasn’t been the case this year. The bigger issue here, though, is why Dwight is shooting the ball a measly 8 times. Instead of seeing Kobe taking a contested jumper late in the shot clock, why not just dump the ball down low to Dwight and let him make something happen regardless of the double team?

Jodie Meeks: A-

When Jodie is hot, he is red hot. Laker Nation can see Jodie’s confidence growing with each game and not only that, but the man hustles and plays hard on the defensive end as well. With all the talk about the Lakers being an old, slow team, it’s nice seeing Jodie pick up the slack on both sides of the floor.

Robert Sacre: B+

Quality minutes from the rookie when he was thrown into action after J. Hill was unable to suit up for the game. Sacre probably won’t play much once Pau and Jordan come back from injury, but he definitely earned some trust from the coaching staff as well as the front office in case something like this happens again.

Darius Morris: B

Darius didn’t play many minutes, but he did what was asked of him in his short amount of playing time. It would be nice if the Lakers were able to go to Darius off the bench for a couple minutes a game to pick up the pace and energy even when the starters are still in the game.

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Photo courtesy of Rob Carr, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Rob Carr, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Rob Carr, Getty Images

Something looked weird at Verizon Center tonight; an oddity of sorts in these uncertain days – SMILING FACES. We’d forgotten what Kobe Bryant’s signature smirk looked like; wondered where Dwight Howard’s happy-go-lucky persona had gone; didn’t know when Metta World-Peace’s random comical remarks would make their re-appearance. All it took was a victory. No matter the opponent…no matter the arena – when you’ve lost four in a row like the Lakers have, getting any win means something.

The Lakers, starting Devin Ebanks and sitting out Jordan Hill who was experiencing back spasms, opened the game with a 9-point lead, a welcome change since they’ve been so accustomed to getting blown out to start and then having to catch up the rest of the way. They even led by as much as 16 points in the fourth quarter. But just when you think they’re about to blow out the lowly Wizards, they revert back to some bad habits, allowing the lead to dwindle and essentially offered hope to the other team. This issue has proven costly of late, but tonight they managed to hold on with some defensive effort and a boost from a sharp shooting reserve.

HIGH POINTS:

Jodie Meeks – Perimeter scorer – that’s what Meeks’ role was/is on this team. Despite the Lakers’ losing streak of late, however, Meeks has shown that he can do more than just hit a corner three. Since being given the opportunity to play more (after wasting away at the end of the bench under Mike Brown), Meeks has proven to be an energy guy off the pine, on both sides of the court. Tonight he rebounded his own miss and scored on a layup. In the third quarter, he stole the ball and sprinted to the other side for another layup. He followed that up in the next possession by hitting a three. He finished with 24 points (a high since joining the team) on 9-14 from the field, 4-7 from downtown, five rebounds, an assist and three steals.

Metta World-Peace – 13 points, six rebounds, a pair of dimes, three steals and zero turnovers – who knew MWP would be as steady and dependable as he has been this season? It’s not a stat line to brag about, but like Meeks, it’s his energy, plus the pride he takes in playing defense. With just under two minutes left in the game, Jordan Crawford grabbed the offensive board and passed it to Bradley Beal. MWP trapped Beal on the side and forced him to travel. After possession was awarded to the Lakers, MWP walked towards their side of court – just the end of another day’s work for him on defense.

Dwight Howard – Early foul trouble typically takes players out of the game, but Howard found a way to manage his time on the floor and still make an impact without fouling out. His 12 points and 14 rebounds aside, he also had four blocks and a number of altered shots that aren’t noted on the box score.

Kobe Bryant – 30 points and seven assists is certainly nothing to scoff at, but taking 29 shots and hitting just nine of them is. We have to hand it to Kobe though – despite that awful shooting percentage, he led the team with a +17, back spasms and all. 88 minutes total in back-to-back games, but Bryant said he asked to play in the fourth because he wasn’t tired. Different kind of human, this guy.

Every Bit Helps – With Jordan Hill sitting out, the Lakers’ injury count is up to four, so Mike D’Antoni has had to shuffle and reshuffle playing time among his players. It’s one thing that sets him apart from Phil Jackson (not to mention Mike Brown). He gives players chances and they’ve provided assistance. Tonight, Devin Ebanks started and chipped in eight points and five rebounds. Chris Duhon has been a relatively solid starting PG, adding another five assists to his collection this season. With Howard in foul trouble and Hill out, Robert Sacre got some burn and chipped in four points, four rebounds, a block and some good ol’ fashioned energy.

Win – The biggest high point is, of course, the victory. They’ve been few and far between for the team this season so each one is gold.

LOW POINTS:

Lead Losers – They just can’t help themselves. After a 21-13 lead in the first quarter, the Wizards went on a 12-6 run and got to within two points. In the following quarter, the Lakers’ lead turned into a nine-point deficit. Thank goodness Jodie Meeks scoring eight straight points and MWP closing the half with seven points of his own. The 16-point lead in the fourth quarter reduced to as little as three points with over five minutes left in the game. The Lakers managed to recover, but flashbacks of the loss in Houston came to mind.

* That’s all for the low points tonight. Heck, the Lakers won the game. Let’s not dwell on it.

From the nation’s capital, the Lakers head up to Philly to play the 76ers and reunite with their old pal, Andrew Bynum. He won’t be in uniform, which is anti-climactic, but he’ll probably be there. Here’s hoping the Lakers can start a new streak…the good kind…the one that keeps them smiling.

Box Score

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Photo Credit: Oregonlive

Mitch Kupchak is known as a man who can get any deal done.  After all, he managed to land Dwight Howard… and Steve Nash… in the same off-season.  However, when he made those deals, I seriously doubt he believed they would produce these kind of early returns.  As much as we want (and try) to evaluate this team now, it’s impossible to judge a team without all its pieces together, as Steve Nash and Pau Gasol remain sidelined.

December 15th is the first day in which teams can trade and move players that they may have signed in the offseason.  Here’s what Mitch had to say regarding that,

If you’re happy with your team, then the date doesn’t mean much although you will probably get calls anyway,” Kupchak said Monday in a phone interview with this newspaper. “If you’re not happy with your team, you’ll make calls.”

Mitch clearly isn’t proud of the record the Lakers have managed to earn this season, and neither is anyone else who follows them.  D’Antoni is way under .500  since becoming head coach and he has also shown disappointment with the record so far.

He’s not happy with the record he’s had since he’s been here,” Kupchak said. “But there’s been clearly an uptick in the tempo of the game and that’s something we were looking for.”

Mitch has made it clear that they are sticking with D’Antoni and no changes to his coaching job will be in the near future.  Pau Gasol has also been in many discussions regarding the Lakers recently, as his play has suffered in D’Antoni’s new system.  Mitch addressed the Pau rumors with a blanket statement:

“That has always been the plan,” Kupchak said. “Nothing has happened to change the plan.”  (More regarding what Mitch said can be found here.)

It’s obvious that the Lakers have been a huge disappointment so far this season, and absolutely no one is thrilled with the product they are seeing on a nightly basis.  Even so, it appears that D’Antoni’s job is safe, and Pau isn’t going to be moved.  It makes sense that Mitch wants to see how the team reacts to getting Steve Nash back before he does anything drastic.

There’s no question the Lakers will improve when Nash returns, but history indicates that it will take some time for everyone to make adjustments. In the meantime, we can only sit back and hope they can turn it around, and most importantly, return to that championship form we all envisioned in October.

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Photo courtesy of Bruce Bennett, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Bruce Bennett, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Bruce Bennett, Getty Images

Start spreading the news…if you haven’t already. The Knicks are the hottest team in the league, and the Lakers can barely reach room temperature.

In their fourth loss in a row, the Lakers, again, fell behind to start the game, and had no choice but to play catch-up to give themselves a chance to win. The game is never over until the final buzzer sounds, and it’s somewhat of a silver lining (though you have to really want to see it), that the Lakers continue to fight until the clock says they can fight no more. But why fold over to start the game, and have to make up for it later?

The Lakers fell behind by as much as 26 points, but managed to cut that lead in half before the final quarter. 107-113 was as close as they got with just over a minute left to play, after Metta World-Peace scored on a layup and was fouled, completing a three-point play. But as has been the case often this season when the Lakers played from behind, the damage had already been done and all too often, it was just too little, too late.

HIGH POINTS:

Fight On – Rarely will they get credit for continuing to play until the very end, but the Lakers didn’t get blown out when all was said and done. It’s not much for a high point, but desperate times, folks.

Temp Big Three – While Steve Nash and Pau Gasol are out, the Lakers’s alternate Big 3 had to come out with a vengeance.

Kobe Bryant – He scored, he rebounded and made plays. 31 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, a steal and one block. The image above with the ice pack strapped to his back – that’s what happens when you try to carry your team, which is what he always tries to do. He will get blamed for it often, but when his teammates are not producing, Bryant isn’t going to stand back and watch them figure out how to score – he will get it done himself…even if it means playing 44 minutes.

Metta World-Peace – Going through a scoring slump the last few games, MWP finally let it out tonight. He scored 23 points on 7-15 from the field, 3-6 from downtown, six rebounds, two steals and a block. He also hit six of his seven free throw attempts.

Dwight Howard – 20 points on 8-11 from the field, but only seven rebounds. He didn’t fill the box score much, but that he managed to score as much as he did shows he’s pulling some of the offensive weight. He even converted on four of his six free throw attempts. That alone deserves mention.
Other high points? – No one else got hurt? That’s always a high for this team these days.

LOW POINTS:

Punched First – Essentially, the problem the Lakers encountered tonight is that they let the Knicks bully them first. The Knicks outscored the Lakers 41-27 in the first quarter, but the Lakers only lost the second quarter by five points and won the second half by 10. This is nothing new. It, in fact, has become a bad habit of this team. It’s as if they don’t check into the game mentally until after the second half, and by that time, it’s usually too late. They shot just under 39% in the first half, hoisting up 19 three pointers and only converting on five. Their eight turnovers led to nine points and on the break, the Knicks outscored them 13-4. They looked helpless. It wasn’t until the latter part of the third quarter and then the fourth quarter, where they showed any signs of life. Even their defense improved, holding New York to just 38% shooting in the final quarter.

Carmelo Anthony, after going off for 22 points on 8-9 from the field and a perfect 3-3 from downtown, in the first quarter, scored just eight points the rest of the way after leaving the game with a sprained ankle. The Knicks eventually “cooled off,” and the Lakers  found a way to score, but that 41-point on 74% shooting that they allowed in that first quarter made all the difference.

The Lakers out-rebounded the Knicks 44-33, they won the battle in the paint 38-32, and even in second chance points, they had a 17-6 advantage. Their 14 turnovers led to 14 points for the Knicks, but the Knicks’ six turnovers yielded 14 points as well, so that’s a wash. In the end, it was just too much ground for them to cover, being down by so much after the first 12 minutes and then getting further down by 26 points.

This team’s shortcomings have been the focal point all season – injured players, lack of defensive intensity, too many turnovers, awful free throw shooting. But the honest to God truth is, these are all fixable. Injured players will heal and that’s why there are back-ups. Defense is about effort – you either put in the work to make sure the other team doesn’t score, or you don’t. Like Yoda said, “You do, or do not. There is no try.” Turnovers can be remedied through careful and purposeful passing and receiving. Free throw shooting isn’t about mechanics and such – it’s about repetition. There are solutions to these physical, concrete issues, but what the Lakers are dealing with at the moment is not physical – it’s completely mental. At least it’s turned into that.

Their troubles this season have nothing to do with a lack of talent or personnel. It’s all about their lack of collective purpose – they each seem to be playing for something other than the teammate who is stretching next to them, or the coach who hurried his recovery time from knee replacement surgery to be physically present at practice and on the sidelines. Kobe Bryant’s purpose each season is always clear, but it may not always be the case with the rest of the guys in the locker room. Pau Gasol, Bryant’s co-captain, isn’t supporting him like one. He’s worried about his place in the offense and, in general, on the team more than he is about possibly getting that third ring. Steve Nash, one of the greatest playmakers in this league, can’t create the offense from the bench. Dwight Howard is learning how to be a leader but can’t get the rest of this team to play defense.

With one of the worst starts in their most current history, the Lakers find themselves disjointed, embarrassed and frustrated. They’re stuck in a dark vortex right now that they can’t seem to pull themselves out of. The deeper they fall, the harder it will be for them to rescue themselves. So while it’s fine and dandy to run some defensive drills, take care of the ball more or shoot hundreds of free throws, if the Lakers can’t extract the pride with which they played when they won those nine games, that may be all they get this season.

Box Score

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AP Photo/Kathy Willens
AP Photo/Kathy Willens

Haven’t we seen this before? The Lakers get crushed for the majority of the game, expend all their team energy on cutting down the double-digit deficit only to come up short in the end. The sad part is that the Knicks’ best player, Carmelo Anthony, didn’t even play most of the 2nd half and he still ended the night with 30 points.

The Lakers continue to show no improvement and still cannot seem to execute the simple stuff. Whether it’s passing the ball into the post or just getting a stop when the game is tight, the Lakers have not shown any type of progress since the hiring of Mike D’Antoni. As the TNT crew stated during the game, this Lakers team has no trust whatsoever for each other and until that happens this team will not progress.

A major reason this team cannot get stops is because guys are getting beat off the dribble on the perimeter leaving their anchor, Dwight, in a tough situation where he must either rotate and leave his man open for a rebound or alley-oop, or Dwight could stay with his man and let the penetrator get right to the rim. The team is 0 – 2 on their current 4 game road trip and Friday’s game against the lowly 3 – 16 Washington Wizards will not be an easy one. Here are the grades for Thursday night’s L:

Chris Duhon: F

Coach D seems to be playing Meeks in the backcourt with Kobe more often because of Meeks’ defensive prowess as well as his 3-point shooting. While Duhon is a better ball handler and can shoot the ball well, his pick- and-roll and individual defense is non-existent.

Kobe Bryant: B

Still can’t figure out if Kobe is right or wrong with the way he plays without Nash and Gasol in the line up. When your teammates can’t hit their shots and play with minimal effort, what should you do? Young Kobe was able to win some games by taking over, but Kobe in his 17th year cannot will his team to win anymore, he needs help.

Metta World Peace: B

Tough task for Metta in guarding the favorite for MVP this season, Carmelo Anthony, but he did put up a fight in MSG unlike some of his other teammates.

Antawn Jamison: F

Like Steve Kerr said during tonight’s telecast, when Antawn plays well, the Lakers as a team seem to play well. Tonight Antawn was not on his game and neither were the Lakers.

Dwight Howard: B-

Dwight once again shot well from the field going 8 for 11, but 7 rebounds will not cut it. With that being said, we must remember that Dwight is constantly helping because his teammates are getting beat by their man on the perimeter so Dwight is forced to rotate and help instead of being able to box out his man for the rebound. Dwight isn’t helping his cause when he gets dumb fouls like his 2nd foul early in the 4th quarter that leaves his team even more short handed with Pau and Dwight in the front court.

Jodie Meeks: C+

Bad shooting night for Jodie, but that is his job on this team. If Jodie doesn’t pull the trigger, teams will just continue to clog the lane and get the ball out of Dwight’s hands.

Devin Ebanks: B-

Laker Nation has been waiting to see Devin make a contribution in this system and maybe Thursday night was the beginning of something special. Being able to run the floor, stretch the floor, and play good defense are all important factors in order to play in the D’Antoni system and Ebanks has all of those qualities.

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Photo Courtesy of nydailynews.com
Photo Courtesy of nydailynews.com

Tonight the Lakers take their act to the bright lights of Broadway as they look to take on Carmelo Anthony and the surging New York Knicks.

It’s a clash of two teams heading in two very different directions.

The New York Knicks, with the arsenal of Jason Kidd and J. R. Smith, are looking like a Broadway-worthy cast, as they find themselves leading the Eastern Conference with a 16-5 record, with 2 of those wins against the defending NBA Champion Miami Heat.  The Knicks have won 8 of their last 10 contests, including a 100-97 victory Tuesday night, over their new cross-town rival, Brooklyn Nets.  Carmelo poured in 45 points to help in the Knicks effort.  And with the play of veteran, Jason Kidd and the offensive explosions of Smith off of the bench, the Knicks are looking like legitimate contenders for the Larry O’Brien trophy.

The same can’t be said of the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Lakers most recent performances wouldn’t even cut it at the Apollo Theater.  They currently reside in the cellar of the Western Conference with a 9-13 record.  Even with the loaded talent that this squad employs, they seem to be missing something.  This was made more than apparent when the Cleveland Cavaliers picked up just their 5th win of the season, defeating the Lakers 100-94 on Tuesday night in Cleveland.  Kobe Bryant did all he could, scoring 42 points in the contest.  Dwight Howard added 19 points of his own on 3 for 9 shooting and grabbed 20 rebounds.

One of the more interesting sub-plots is this game is that this will be Lakers Head Coach, Mike D’Antoni’s first appearance at the Garden since he resigned as the Knicks Head Coach.   Also worth noting is that the superstars of the NBA usually put up huge numbers when they visit the Knicks.  Kobe Bryant knows this all too well, posting a Madison Square Garden record 61 points in 2009.   But the Lakers will have to focus where they have been struggling to focus:  Defense.

The Knicks are 5th in the league in scoring.  The Lakers don’t seem to be able to guard much of anything these days.  Their defensive rotations are slow and even worse, most of the Lakers don’t seem to have a sense of urgency when it comes to guarding the cylinder.  And offensively it seems like players not named World Peace and Howard are content with standing around watching Bryant.  If these old habits continue to persist, the Knicks will have the Lakers looking less like a team that should be competing for a title, and more like a Kindergarten rendition of “Peter Pan”.

Grab your popcorn, Laker fans.  The show is about to begin.

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Photo by: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images North America
Photo by: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images North America

Phil Jackson was recently caught by TMZ cameras on his way to a restaurant and was asked about whether he would consider coming back to the Los Angeles Lakers as their head coach. Here is what P.J. had to say:

“No”, simply answered Jackson. On whether the Mike D’Antoni experiment will eventually work out for both parties, Phil merely stated that “they will get it going”. Championship level, Mr. Jackson? “I don’t know about that”, said the 13-time NBA champion, as he made his way inside the establishment.

So, there you have it, Laker Nation. It looks like the door has already been closed by the Zen Master, who was reportedly not pleased with how things unfolded for him, and the way that the Lakers handled the situation. 

With more than a quarter of the season in the books, the Lakers are already 9 games behind the conference leaders. This may come as a surprise, but Jackson’s decisive comments should be seen as positive. There is no time to mourn the “could have been’s” had Phil been the chosen one. Instead, they must focus on the task at hand, which is getting back on track and ready to roll sooner, rather than later.

As for Laker Nation, the crazy ride continues.  With Phil Jackson as the past, and Mike D’Antoni as the present, the city must continue to support its most historic franchise, clinging to the belief that the Lakers will “get it going”.

As far as Championships go… Who really knows anyways?

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(Associated Press)
(Associated Press)
(Associated Press)

Entering the season, you would have never imagined that by mid-December we’d be lost for words trying to describe the Los Angeles Lakers. As we continue to hold our hopes high, it seems that almost every game is another jab in the side, forcing all of us to ask the redundant question: When is the switch going to flip on?”

After Tuesday night’s loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Lakers looked like an unidentifiable unit, as if they had no purpose out there on the floor.  What will be done to correct the many issues the Lakers face game in and game out? Why are mediocre teams running circles around such a talented team? What assurance does Laker Nation have that everything will be okay?

Kobe sat down with Steven A. Smith in a lengthy interview that aired Wednesday on ESPN, addressing an array of issues from Pau’s contributions to the team, management, coaching changes, and most importantly the poor production this season.

Like the great leader he is, Kobe is there to bring a sense of calm to the chaotic storm that is the 2012-2013 Los Angeles Lakers. Kobe addressed the issues and explained his approach to the season thus far; it is reassuring to know this team WILL be on track this season… the only question is WHEN?

Every team is going to deal with injuries (I.e. Nash and Gasol), but if there is any positive spin on this it’s that injuries in December are better than injuries in May. This is also a time for players like Chris Duhon, Jodi Meeks and Antwan Jamison to step into a bigger role, and more importantly, the unit as a whole has the opportunity to come together and learn how to push through adversity.

Sure, there is plenty of room to be discouraged, but the season is far from over. During his interview with Kobe, Steven A. Smith asked if Bryant felt his level of tenacity (in terms of turning things around this season), has been matched by his teammates, Bryant responded:

“I’m a bit of a psychopath when it comes to that and I don’t expect my teammates to have that level of concern, but I hope that they’re feeling determined and not discouraged,” “That’s something that we’ll talk about, because there’s a difference. It’s human nature to get discouraged by things- ‘We’re not as good as we thought we were,’ and this, that and the other, but I think at that moment is where you have to dig deep and become more determined and say by any means necessary we’re going to get this thing done, we’re going to turn this thing around, and it has to be a group thing.”

We know the type of player Mamba is. He brings a work ethic to the table that is unmatched by any player in any sport. The thought of losing turns his stomach: “I’ll endure anything to win” Bryant said Wednesday. If the Lakers floor General remains calm, cool and collected through this rough stretch, his teammates will follow suit. This isn’t the first time the Lakers have had to overcome obstacles (and it certainly won’t be the last), but we can keep the faith because this team has an unbelievable skill set. Once the injuries heal and all cylinders are firing in Coach D’Antoni’s system, the Lakers will be an elite force competing with the rest of the league for the NBA Finals.

With no solid victories over any formidable opponent this season, things will not get any easier tonight. Coming off an embarrassing loss and facing the best team in the East, the Lakers have something to prove on the road tonight at Madison Square against the red-hot New York Knicks.

Tipoff is at 8:00 pm EST.

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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.