Monday, December 22, 2014
Blog Page 63

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Today, Kobe spoke to Stephen A. Smith for an extended sit down. He covers the Lakers’ struggles, frustrations, and their adjustments to the new coach, and style, as well as his thoughts on Pau, Dwight, his future, and Jim Buss.

On Pau’s Frustrations: “It’s tough for Pau, because since we won our second Championship, he’s kind of been an afterthought for whatever reason…we moved Andrew in that second slot, and after that obviously now its Dwight. I’m sure Pau is a little frustrated by that. He believes that we won two championships playing through him, and now he finds himself on the perimeter, so I’m sure its a bit of a shellshock for him.”

Kobe says he spoke to D’Antoni about putting Pau in the post more – and that it is the plan.

Kobe discusses the need to minimize mistakes: turnovers, missed free throws, etc.

On Dwight: “It’s been tough for him. He hasn’t played in almost a year…his conditioning isn’t where he wants it to be…it is frustrating for him…but he is working extremely hard before practice, after practice to get there.”

On the losing streak: “You have to become more and more determined…to turn the tide.”

Kobe says he is satisfied with the roster, and says the group needs to become more determined “and not discouraged” to turn things around. He likes the players on the roster, and thinks they just need to figure out how to maximize the talent on the roster.

On Mike Brown being fired: “I was sad for Mike…that is always a tough process…we’ve always had a great rapport…a great back and forth. It was tough.”

On Phil: “I didn’t think he was an option, everybody publicly knows, whether perceived or valid disputes between Jimmy and Phil, so I didn’t think it was an option until Jim said it was. After that, like everybody else I thought it was a mere formality that Phil was going to be the head coach. That being said, I was excited to have D’Antoni.”

Kobe thinks D’Antoni and Pau can fit together, and they are both willing to work on the fit, and adjust to each other.

Kobe on Pau “I think he’s the key to the whole thing. His ability to post the ball, make plays from the post, and from the elbow, his shooting ability, his decision making ability – we’re not going to find that anywhere else…Everybody knows how I feel about Pau. He’s like a brother to me. But outside of that, the basketball skillset that he brings is a match. Now it’s on him to make sure he comes back in top top form…his mind is in the right place to play with the aggression…that he played with in 2010.”

Kobe is “extremely” happy with Dwight, and thinks his free throw shooting will improve. Kobe says he challenged Dwight to make more free throws, because it will help the team win.

On Dwight and Free Throws:

“We had a game where we lost against Indiana…I kept us in the game scoring, but I hurt the team because I had 10 turnovers, and that’s my responsibility…I didn’t do my job to the best of my ability, and I take that to heart. I want him to be the same way with his free throws…it is our responsibility as leaders of this team to take the burden of it, and to take that to heart.”

Kobe says he told Dwight that “playing with me is not very easy. I’m very demanding, and I want you to perform at your absolute best. I want you to be great, and I want you to maximize your god given abilities.”

Kobe on retirement: “After 17 years, you feel like you hurt something every game.” He acknowledges that there is “not much left” in his career.

Kobe on Jim Buss: “When something goes great in the organization, its not on him. When it doesn’t, it’s all on him…and I respect him for it.”

More Kobe on retirement: “I’m tired. But i will find a way to get more determined, and make that determination be infectious to the team.”

Kobe on the roster and the coach being good enough to win: “I believe so.”

Kobe responded to critics that call him selfish, saying that you must have a large ego to be successful, and Phil used to say he “had the biggest ego in the room” with Kobe and Shaq. You have to be willing to make a few enemies to be successful.

Kobe wants to be remembered as someone who “gave everything he had…who had abilities…but he played as if he was the 12th guy on the roster. If I can be remembered as a person who really maximized everything he had, gave absolutely everything of himself…I’ll be happy with that.

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LA Daily News beat writer Mark Medina stopped in to Fox Sports radio to talk about the Lakers’ current struggles and the frustration in the locker room. He also hit on his discussion with Mitch Kupchak on Monday, and D’Antoni losing his cool with reporters during his post-game interview after a loss to the Cavs. Here are some of the highlights, and of course, you can listen to the full interview here.

– The Lakers have had the same defensive inconsistency throughout the season, regardless of who the coach is. These problems have not been corrected.

About the Lakers’ 1-10 record when Kobe scores 30 or more: “Kobe has shot very efficiently, so that stat is partially a product of Kobe kicking it up a notch when teammates are struggling, but there have been some games when Kobe has forced the issue offensively, and players like Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol have been frustrated by not getting the ball enough.”

– The Lakers have very little fluidity on offense, which leads to problems on both ends of the floor, and frustration among the team.

– Kobe talked to the media for 15 minutes after the Cavs game. He was honest, and frustrated, calling this the “most difficult stretch he’s ever experienced” in his Lakers career.

– Right now Medina said Kobe was under control, and trying not to “blow his lid off.”

– Kobe has at times tried to preach patience, and dial up the urgency, such as a few weeks ago, when the bench players beat the starters at practice, and Kobe exploded and left the practice facility. Kobe vacillates between these two tactics to motivate his team.

– Medina talked to Mitch Kupchack on Monday. Mitch said the Lakers are ok, and they don’t expect to add a point guard in Nash’s absence, or make roster changes.

– Medina speculates that the strategy could be changing, because until now the Lakers have taken a short-term approach, expecting Nash to return any day. Now that it is unclear when he will be back, they can’t view Nash as a savior, and may look to upgrade at the point guard spot.

Mitch on whether the Lakers will keep Pau Gasol: “That’s been our plan. Nothing has changed that plan.”

– Mitch is leaving himself wiggle room to move Pau, but right now the Lakers are hoping Pau’s struggles came from his knee tendinitis. Management expects Gasol will perform better when he is healthy, and paired with Steve Nash.

– D’Antoni and Pau are at odds with what Gasol’s role is. Pau’s strength is in the post, and he has expressed a desire for more touches down low. D’Antoni doesn’t want to pound the post, so they have a clash of styles. One of them will have to adjust for the Lakers to improve, and that hasn’t happened so far.

– After the game last night, D’Antoni got testy with T.J. Simers. Here is the video of the exchange:

Medina:  “I think to be honest, his (TJ Simers) question was justified.  He was talking about the Lakers defensive problems that still keep persisting.  Obviously, it was a fair question to ask and I think it just shows the frustration”.

– Lakers Vs. Knicks – Can they win? Medina: “I Don’t see how that’s possible.” NY 8-0 at home, Lakers coming off a loss to Cleveland.

– The Lakers have long term issues – not much offensive chemistry, they turn the ball over, and teams run on them, because the Lakers are not a fast team.

– Kyrie Irving looked great against L.A. after returning from an injury.

– Kobe played good defense on the one isolation against Kyrie, and blocked his shot, but despite that “Sportscenter” defensive play, the Lakers didn’t play much defense the rest of the way.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images
Photo Credit: Getty Images

As if a 3-7 record in their last 10 games isn’t bad enough, it sounds as if newly acquired PG Steve Nash is out for at least another two weeks. Nash told USA Today Sports this little tid bit of holiday cheer.

“I think it will be at least another two weeks,” Nash told the newspaper late Monday night. “I can move. I can shoot. I just can’t run full speed. And I’m not even in shape. I’ll probably need at least a week of practice once I start running.”

Suddenly, he has become affectionately known to me as Steve Crash… as in an accident of such enormous magnitude, it has become a scene where bystanders are slowing down to get a glimpse of the wreckage.

That fateful night of October 31st, when he collided with Portland Trailblazers rookie Damian Lillard, has proven to be 2 months of excruciating pain for Laker Nation & followers of the purple & gold all over the world.

I hate to keep beating the same drum continually, but this was not supposed to happen. Nash was brought here to improve the point guard position, he was going to add the jet fuel to the tank that was desperately lacking that high octane. He was bringing with him a pedigree that could back up all the hoopla surrounding the move to get him to Los Angeles. Instead, what we have received is disappointment, all caused by a freak accident.

It has been evident since Nash has been missing, that the Lakers have been missing him. The offense isn’t flowing the way it is designed to. Nash is the guy that gets everyone involved, gets them the open looks on the wing, the easy dunks, the graceful layups. In his absence, we have seen far too many sloppy turnovers, & unprovoked mistakes. This has become an epidemic on the way to the bottom of the Western Conference standings. Let’s stop kidding ourselves. The engine is sputtering, & in desperate need of a tune up.

Nash needs to be cleared to practice before he can start taking the team for a test drive. Exactly when that will be isn’t clear. What is clear is that the Lakers need him back on the road (or in this case the basketball court). I, for one, anxiously await for that time to come soon & very soon. Christmas is approaching quickly, and the best present a Lakers fan could get would be seeing Steve Nash back in the starting lineup. We didn’t trade for Steve Crash, we traded for Steve Nash. So we will wait, and wait, and wait some more if we have to.

After all, what other choice do we have?

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AP Photo
AP Photo

Are the Lakers the most embarrassing team in the NBA? After yet another disappointing loss, this time to the (4-17) Cleveland Cavaliers, unfortunately they could very well be. The Lakers lost 100-94, making them 1-5 out of their last 6 games and putting them at 9-13 on the season.

What about the (3-15) Washington Wizards you might ask, surely it must be more difficult to root for the Wizards? While the Wiz may have a worse record, they don’t have nearly the talent the Lakers have. The players, coaching, talent, history, and resources are all there in Los Angeles. The  only thing missing are the results. The Lakers don’t have all of their star players though, surely they will pick things up when they are back, right? Maybe so, but how many games has John Wall played this year? With the talent the Lakers have, the problems go beyond having Nash and now Gasol sitting on the bench. Kobe can’t seem to wrap his head around it either,

This is one of the most challenging stretches of my 17 years, and the most baffling, too. We have the talent and personnel to do it, but we’re not, and it’s baffling. It’s extremely frustrating.”

On Tuesday night, it was a new city, same problems. While the defense seemed to improve, the Lakers for the third game in a row had a huge slump in the 2nd quarter, getting outscored 25-16. Turnovers were once again a major problem, finishing with 18 for the game.

The Lakers struggled at the line shooting 25-40, and in an area that has been great for them all season, they finished the game shooting only 7-27 from the 3 point line. Kyrie Irving shined in his return from injury, putting up 28 points and 11 assists and Kobe finished with 42 points on 28 shots. The Lakers now move to 1-10 on the season when Kobe scores over 30 points.

The Lakers have developed a pattern of digging themselves into a deep hole, and then struggling the rest of the game to crawl back out. Tuesday was no different, with the Lakers falling behind by 16 before bringing it back to within 3 by the final seconds. Once again, this hole was too deep to climb out of.

On Thursday the Lakers face the red hot Knicks, a preview of the marquee matchup on Christmas day. We must now hope that the hole the Lakers are digging themselves to begin this season, isn’t quite deep enough for the Lakers to climb to the prize at the top of it. For right now at least, it seems there is nowhere to go but up.

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AP Photo/Mark Duncan

Another pitiful loss that displayed another pitiful defensive effort from the Lakers Tuesday night as they fell to the Cavaliers by the score of 100 – 94. The Lakers are now 9 – 13 on the season and continue to show absolutely no spirit or heart on either side of the ball.

For some reason this team cannot figure out how to space the floor on offense and rotate properly on defense. Kobe continues to shoot the ball too much and while Dwight is getting enough touches, he cannot convert his free throws after he gets fouled. There is absolutely no chemistry or continuity on this team and the return of Steve Nash and Pau Gasol may not be enough to overcome that.

It seems as though whenever this team turns the ball over it’s an automatic basket for the opposition as none of the Laker players care enough to hustle back on defense. Things better get straightened out quickly or this Lakers team may not even make it to the postseason, resulting in the biggest shocker in NBA history. Here are the grades for Tuesday night’s L:

Chris Duhon: C

Duhon has a decent grasp of this offense, but he is such a defensive liability that his positive contributions do not outweigh the negative ones.

Kobe Bryant: B+

Gotta give it up to Kobe for the offensive performance, but the Mamba has been a large reason why this team is so bad on defense. Whenever there is a defensive rotation miscue, it’s almost always because of Kobe. He doesn’t rotate to help and he doesn’t get back on defense when the Lakers turn the ball over. This may be due to the fact that he’s in his 17th season or that he has to carry this team night in and night out on the offensive end. Whatever the reason, this blueprint the Lakers have going for them has proven that it can’t work in the short term and with all the minutes Kobe is playing, he is going to be exhausted once the postseason comes around.

Metta World Peace: B-

Metta once again seems confused when he is on the offensive end unless he stands in the corner and shoots 3’s. Why not post him up on the elbow and see if he can create for himself or for his teammates?

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Photo by Keith Allison
Photo by Keith Allison

A quarter of the 2012/13 season is behind us and the championship caliber Lakers are still in search of their identity. They started the season with a 1-4 record… if you include the preseason, that’s 1-12. All of that losing was under coach Mike Brown. He got fired and the Lakers hired Steve Nash’s former head coach Mike D’Antoni. After a couple wins over Denver and New Jersey, it looked like the Lakers were starting to play to expectations. Fast forward just a few weeks, and they’ve played 21 games and are sitting under .500.

All of this begs the question: was is really Mike Brown’s fault for the slow start?

Let’s face it. Before the season began, the Lakers were (and maybe still are) the best team on paper. They have some issues with the bench players not being consistent, but they also have the most dynamic starting lineup in the league. It’s no secret that the Princeton offense – with or without Mike Brown – just couldn’t work with these players. Coach Brown is a great defensive coach (or so we’ve heard), but that might be the only thing highlighted on his resume. At the end of the day, he is better suited to be an assistant coach.

When the Lakers hired D’Antoni as their head coach, we all assumed it would be the exact opposite. He knows a lot about basketball, no doubt there, but he also doesn’t pay attention to defense, which is clearly the wrong thing to do. As the old cliche goes, offense wins games, but defense wins championships.

Under Mike Brown, the Lakers faced Dallas (without Dirk Nowitzki), Portland, LA Clippers, Detroit and Utah. In that bunch, the only understandable loss is to the Clippers. Clearly, they have far more team chemistry than the Lakers. But, to lose to the Dallas Mavericks without Dirk on topening night when you had no injured players? That is simply unacceptable, especially considering the Lakers talent level (both Nash and Gasol played in that game). The rotations Brown utilized were just odd and didn’t work, not to mention that whole Princeton offense disaster.

To be fair, it wasn’t only Mike Brown’s fault for the 1-4 record after five games. Players were still getting to know each other and the media put a lot of pressure on them. However, this is Los Angeles. If you are not up for the task, there are always people waiting in line to replace you.

In hindsight, the players just didn’t have confidence in what Mike Brown was doing, and in my opinion, D’Antoni is a better option because of his experience and overall basketball knowledge. Of course, we all wanted and expected Phil Jackson to return, but D’Antoni is who we got and now we need to have faith in him to turn this Lakers squad back into a championship caliber team by playoff time.

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Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press

It was hard to watch. And just when things were starting to look up, it got even harder to watch. The same problems that have plagued the Lakers all season prevailed once again on Sunday, as the Lakers fell to the Jazz 117-110. A last ditch comeback effort fell short and then imploded when the Lakers, down 5 with under a minute, committed a foul despite already letting the shot clock run all the way down to 5.

Lack of defense continues to be a problem as the Lakers gave up 117 points, on 54% shooting. The Jazz outscored the Lakers 54-34 in the paint, 19-4 on fast-break points, and 21-15 from the free throw line. In fact, the one area the Lakers showed signs of promise was from long distance, hitting 15 of 28 three pointers. Transition defense, turnovers, and points in the paint continued to be an issue as they have been all season. One game after giving up 41 points in the 2nd quarter to OKC, the Lakers gave up 35 in the 2nd to Utah.

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AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

The Utah Jazz came into the Staples Center on Sunday night and bullied the Lakers all night long.  They outscored the Lakers 54 – 34 in the paint and played with so much more energy than the home team.

With Pau and Nash still out with injuries, these losses the Lakers are suffering make it much more difficult for the team to be patient with their two injured stars. At times these Lakers play with no fight until they have dug themselves a hole too deep to escape from and make the game somewhat close.

That being said, this team is getting better. Laker Nation doesn’t want to hear about Coach D having no training camp, no Nash, no Blake, no Pau, but these things are reality and have had an adverse affect on this squad. Four game road trip coming up next and we will see if the Lakers have improved since their last roadie. Regardless, here are the grades from the L:

 

Darius Morris: D

Quiet game for Darius as Chris Duhon and Jodie Meeks have seen more playing time due to their superior 3 point shooting.

Kobe Bryant: B

Nice scoring output from the Mamba, but 0 rebounds for the entire game? When Dwight rotates to help on defense, his man is constantly getting easy rebounds and put backs. This is not all on Kobe, but when you have no rebounds for the entire game, you’re not giving maximum effort on both ends of the floor.

Metta World Peace: C+

Similar to Kobe, Metta had no rebounds for the game as well. Metta’s role on this team is to hit outside shots, play hard-nosed defense, and play with a high amount of energy on both ends of the floor. Zero rebounds does not equate to hustle and energy.

Antawn Jamison: C

Antawn could not handle any of the Utah big men tonight and therefore did not get much playing time. He was also off rhythm with his offense as he went 1 for 6 from the field. Antawn lacks the playmaking that Pau brings to the court; hopefully Laker Nation will embrace and appreciate the Spaniard when he finally comes back.

Dwight Howard: B+

Dwight is upset and he has good reason to be. Why should Dwight rotate off his man and try to block a shot when his man almost always gets the offensive rebound or an easy put back? Defense comes down to effort and trust; Dwight is getting healthier and the effort is there, but the trust in his teammates has yet to take shape.

Chris Duhon: B+

Solid game from Duhon after getting torched on Friday night by Russell Westbrook. If CD can get 11 assists in this system, just imagine the type of numbers Nash will put up when he gets back onto the court. Duhon is a great 3 point shooter and should have the same green light that Jodie Meeks has when his defender double teams Dwight down low.

Jodie Meeks: B

Nice shooting and energy on the defensive end from Meeks. Still, Laker Nation would much rather see Jodie catch and shoot than handle the ball on pick-and-rolls.

Jordan Hill: A-

By far the best player on the court for the Lakers tonight as J. Hill brought the energy and heart as usual. I never thought Jordan could get outmuscled, but Enes Kanter manhandled Jordan down in the paint. Still, Jordan did all he could to help the Lakers win through his hustle.

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Image Credit: Stephen Dunn | Getty Images

As the Lakers prepared for tonight’s game against the Utah Jazz this morning at shoot-around, they were energized by promising news regarding injured Steve Nash and Pau Gasol. Both players have been ruled out for tonight’s game against the Jazz, but the prospects of them returning to the court in the near future looks promising.

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Photo Credit: ProHoopsCentral

We’re not where we should be.  We’re not what we expected to be.  We’re not winning games.  We’re not the Los Angeles Lakers right now.

The Lakers season has gotten off to a rocky start to say the least, and all of this without Steve Nash.  There has been heavy speculation that when Steve Nash returns, all of our problems will disappear and we’ll be back to where we’re expected to be.

As much as I want to believe this, I have my reservations about putting all my faith into one man.  Steve Nash, however, isn’t an ordinary man. He is extremely talented, and is one of the best PG’s to ever play the game.  I still don’t think he will be the man to change everything around and make us the team we should be at this point in the season.

Of course I’m not saying the Lakers won’t be better with Nash’s return. Certainly they’ll be much better.  However, expecting instant, 100% change upon his return is quite simply foolish.  Nash must get his work in with the team, and get a good feel on how everyone plays before it will start to make an impact upon the season.  Once the Lakers find out how to play with each other at everyone’s full potential, then, and only then, will the Lakers fully realize the power house team that they can’t seem to bring out of the shadows.

I hope with the return of Nash, that the Lakers will return to original expectations as soon as possible. I just don’t want fans to get there hopes up and be disappointed, as seems to be the general mood this season.

Over time, the Lakers will improve greatly, and they will start to become the dominant team we all know they have the potential to be.  Getting to that point may be a bit of a bumpy road though, and most likely will not have fans as happy as they want to be.  Once they get to that point though, fans will be cheering at the top of their lungs and hopefully watching footage of their favorite team doused in champagne in June.

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Photo courtesy of Brett Deering, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Brett Deering, Getty Images

Well, that almost went just as we’d planned. Admit it – you were ready to watch the Lakers get blown out of the Chesapeake Energy Arena tonight. Playing without Steve Nash AND Pau Gasol, how could they possibly survive the young, hot-shooting Oklahoma City Thunder? How much more would Kobe Bryant have to undertake when his teammates continue to fall by the wayside due to injury? As has been the case with this Lakers team this season, there have been more questions than answers, but until they are a complete, active roster, it’s a difficult team to evaluate.

The Lakers did, in fact survive tonight, and despite how bleak their chances looked when they fell behind by as much as 19 points, they only lost by six points after a surge late in the final quarter. No – there are no moral victories here. You either mark a team’s game as a WIN or a LOSS, but similar to the loss against the San Antonio Spurs (which feels ages ago), there were encouraging signs for a team whose record is anything but.

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Photo Courtesy of Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
Photo Courtesy of Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

With 1:16 left in the second quarter, Kobe Bryant accomplished what only 4 other players in NBA history have been able to do:  Score over 30,000 points over their careers.

And yet,  he’s still not good enough.

Whether it’s on television, radio or even at work, the topic of KB24 making history has not only drawn praises from those of us in Laker Land, but also criticism from around the basketball world.  Of course, the criticism is nothing new.  Kobe has felt the venom of many sports columnists and commentators.

They remind us of how, with all the accolades and accomplishments, Kobe Bryant still cannot fill the Nike branded shoes that once were laced by the player that with no doubt has fueled his desire to be the absolute best…His Airness, Michael Jordan.

To say that watching Michael Jordan play was breathtaking and mesmerizing wouldn’t do him justice.  It was much, much, more than that.  Jordan changed how the game is played.  He even changed the business of basketball, making it a global phenomenon.  David Stern and the NBA would not be enjoying the wealth of world-wide dominance if it wasn’t for Jordan.  Who’s to say that Bryant could have or would have done the same to the game?

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Photo courtesy of Stacy Revere, Getty Iamges

At this point in the Lakers’ progress, any win is a good win, and it doesn’t matter whether they earned it during the first half, the second half or by maintaining an effort throughout. Last night against the Rockets, the Lakers started exceptionally well but couldn’t finish. Tonight, they spent the first half fumbling through their offense, and then came back after halftime looking revived and energetic – they were a completely different team.

This is the caveat with these Lakers right now – they’re enigmatic, a little schizophrenic; you never know what kind of game they’re going to play until the ball goes up at center court. Thankfully, the game they decided to play tonight was a winning one.

Kobe Bryant reached another milestone, Dwight Howard played an all-around great game, Antawn Jamison stood in (admirably) for Pau Gasol again, Chris Duhon played like a veteran point guard and the bench really came through to make sure they contributed to the success of this contest. The Lakers as a whole pulled through in the second half what they failed to do in the first, and because of it, they’re closer (again) to .500.

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AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

The Lakers improved to 9 – 10 on the year as they defeated the New Orleans Hornets 103 – 87. It was a nice bounce back performance as the Lakers limited their turnovers and put the game away early in the 4th quarter.

On a night where Kobe eclipsed the 30,000 career point mark, he and his team spread the ball around and made just under 50% of their 3-pointers for the game. The Lakers will have their biggest game of the season Friday night in Oklahoma City as they try to make a statement in Kevin Durant’s house. Here are the grades for tonight’s W:

Chris Duhon: B

10 assists is music to the ears of any Laker fan, especially when it comes from the point guard position.

Kobe Bryant: A-

Historic night for the Mamba as he racked up a total of 29 points on an efficient 17 shots. He also held on to the ball, managing to have only one turnover for the game.

Metta World Peace: B

Metta showed his shooting touch once again tonight and knocked down some nice shots.

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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.