Saturday, December 20, 2014
Blog Page 64

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Photo courtesy of Ronald Martinez, Getty Images

When the universe gives you a 3-19 from the field version of James Harden, a Rockets squad that shoots 32% in each of the first three quarters and a 17-point lead in the third quarter; all without your starting power forward, starting point guard and back-up point guard – YOU DO EVERYTHING IN YOUR POWER TO WIN THE GAME IN THE FINAL MINUTES. Play tighter defense, take better care of the ball, run an efficient offense.

Through three quarters, the Lakers looked like they were going to recover from the disappointing loss against the Orlando Magic two days ago. Pau Gasol sat out to care for the tendinitis in his knees (something that I think he should have done sooner), but Antawn Jamison stepped in to take his spot in the starting line-up, as did Chris Duhon in place of Darius Morris.

The Lakers rolled for about 40 minutes, leading by 13 points with just over nine minutes left to play in the game. But as has happened a few times this season, they lost focus when it mattered most, and the Rockets took full advantage of it. The lead dwindled in the final half of the quarter, with Houston running a popular play called “Hack-A-Dwight,” sending the clearly unconfident Howard to shoot free throws and wasting Laker possessions on the All-Star’s inability to score from the line.

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With Los Angeles Lakers all-star forward Pau Gasol sitting due to knee tendinitis, the trade rumors about him have been raging. ESPNLos Angeles columnist Dave McMenamin recently reported that General Manager Mitch Kupchak will begin investing potential trades involving the two-time champion if his play remains the same,

“a source told ESPNLosAngeles.com that Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak has recently spoken to Gasol’s representatives and the gist of the conversation was that if Gasol is unable to adjust to D’Antoni’s system, the team will have no choice but to search for possible trade scenarios”

Kobe Bryant, in a Ramona Shelburne story, has spoken in favor of Gasol despite his playing woes and the recent speculations,

“I love Pau like a brother,” Bryant told ESPNLosAngeles.com on Tuesday. “I really do. I want him to dominate like I know he can.”

“I want him to dig in and be determined, not discouraged,” Bryant continued. “We should go to him more on the post because he can dominate from there as he has to the tune of two rings. I’m sure we will adjust and figure out a balance when he comes back healthy.”

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Image Credit: Hector Amezcua
Image Credit: Hector Amezcua

Coming off their embarrassing 113-103 loss to the Orlando Magic, the Lakers enter Houston tonight carrying an 8-9 record. Along with the recent news of Antawn Jamison starting at power forward tonight because of Pau Gasol’s knee tendinitis, coach Mike D’Antoni has decided to make another change to the starting lineup.

According to ESPNLA.com’s Dave McMenamin, point guard Chris Duhon will also be inserted into the starting lineup tonight:

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/mcten/status/276018605626376192″]

Darius Morris, who has been the starting point guard for the Lakers since both Steve Nash and Steve Blake went down with injuries, has struggled of late in the starting role. Over the past five games, Morris has averaged a paltry 4.4 points per game on 31% shooting in just over 28 minutes per game. D’Antoni has now decided to put Morris back on the bench in favor of Duhon. Duhon, in that same amount of games, has averaged 4.0 points per game on 36.8% shooting in about 25 minutes per game.

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Courtesy Complex Sports

Pau Gasol will sit out tonight’s game against the Houston Rockets, due to tendinitis in his knees.

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/mcten/status/276017157303836672″]

Pau has struggled lately, even sitting out the final minutes of Sunday night’s loss to the Magic. It appears the tendinitis has finally caught up to him, and he is going to take a couple of games off to recover.

Does tendinitis account for Gasol’s struggles? Or is something else also going on? Will playing Jamison with the starters help the Lakers in D’Antoni’s system?

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I was scrolling down my Twitter timeline after the Lakers’ loss to Orlando when I saw the following tweet:

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/GregDavtyan/status/275464209322614784″]

Think about it…

Commissioner David Stern said that “the Spurs did a disservice to the league and our fans” by sitting out four of their top players in their only visit to Miami this season. Well watching Dwight Howard shoot free throws the entire game isn’t much of a service to the league or fans either.

The Orlando Magic began hacking Dwight with 38 seconds left in the third quarter and it continued well into the fourth quarter, until the two-minute mark (NBA rules state that a foul away from the ball in the last two minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime result in one free throw, attempted by any player on the team that was fouled, as well as possession of the ball). There were five intentional fouls in nine possessions in a four minutes stretch in the fourth, which resulted in 10 free throws for Dwight (he made five of them).

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(Getty Images)

As if the Lakers haven’t shaken up their roster enough this off-season, multiple sources are reporting the Lakers are interested in acquiring New Orleans forward Ryan Anderson for the struggling Gasol.

Gasol has been mentioned in numerous trade rumors ever since last year’s three team trade between the Lakers, New Orleans Hornets and Houston Rockets, which would have brought Chris Paul to the Lakers. League commissioner David Stern later vetoed the deal.

Gasol, not known for his shooting outside the paint, has been noticeably frustrated with Mike D’Antoni’s style of offense this season and has been unable to find his role within the system. To make matters worse, Coach D’Antoni has benched Gasol in the closing minutes of games, limiting his playing time in favor of Antwan Jamison.

Mitch Kupchak along with Kobe have both would prefer to keep Gasol, but it’s speculated that Jim Buss is pushing the issue and wants a forward better suited for D’Antoni’s system.  Ryan Anderson could prove to be that player, as he played alongside Dwight Howard in Orlando for three seasons.

Management and coaching staff continue to evaluate whether Gasol can find his place in the new D’Antoni system, one has to wonder how much of that responsibility lies with Gasol himself who has received criticism from Kobe.  Gasol likely has some time, as the Lakers are hesitant to pull the trigger on any trade until Steve Nash returns from a leg fracture.

Gasol is out tonight’s game vs. the Houston Rockets due to lingering tendonitis in his knees. Stay tuned for more developments Laker Nation.

 

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©Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before; Kobe Bryant is getting set to reach a historic milestone. As many times as I’ve heard it, it never gets old.

The man behind such accomplishments as the most points in Laker’s history, second most points in a game (81), most three pointers made in a game (12), and getting his coach fired with just one stare, is now set to break 30,000 career points sometime in the coming week. Kobe has been the youngest player to score 23,000-29,000 points, and will also be the youngest player to reach 30,000 points. It seems the Mamba’s career point total moves faster than my odometer (#LAtraffic).

With the new milestone, Kobe will still remain in 5th on the all-time scoring list, behind Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan, Karl Malone, and Kareem-Abdul-Jabbar respectively. At 30,000 points, Kobe would be 1,419 points behind Wilt Chamberlain, a record he should easily pass in the later half of the season.

So for now the question turns to when will he reach this milestone? Laker fans would love the chance to recognize Kobe’s feat in the friendly confines of the Staples Center. Kobe is 52 points away, and the Lakers schedule has them on a three game road trip to Houston, New Orleans, And Oklahoma City. With Kobe averaging 27.3 points a game, it looks most likely to either happen on the road against New Orleans or Oklahoma City. Otherwise, in the off chance that Kobe only averages around 17 points for the next three games(or Mike D’Antoni channels his inner Greg Poppovich), it is possible for it to happen the following game at home against Utah.

While it would be great for him to get it at home, one can’t help but think Kobe won’t mind too much either way. It seems Kobe has only had one goal his whole career, and that one won’t be decided until June.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

Before ultimately losing in hist first game against the Orlando Magic, former Magic superstar Dwight Howard told John Denton in a recent interview:

“You only get one shot. People might not ever understand that, but at the end of the day it’s not their life. You can’t let anybody else dictate how they want your life to be,” he said. “I only have one shot to play and do something that I love. Not everybody is blessed and have an opportunity to do what they love.”

“So I want to do it the best that I can and I’m going to take everything in I can to get what I can out of the NBA. Which, for me, is winning a championship,” Howard said. “So if I have to play on another team or do whatever I have to do to get one, that’s my goal. This is my passion, so I’ll continue to fight.”

While Dwight is known to change his public stance fairly regularly, this statement gives us a nice peek inside his mindset with the Lakers.

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(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times / September 30, 2012)

In February of 2008 the Los Angeles Lakers seemingly got away with murder, at least in the eyes of every non-Lakers fan. Los Angeles traded Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, Aaron McKie, the rights to Marc Gasol and 2 future first round picks (2008 and 2010) for Pau Gasol.

This immediately catapulted the Lakers from a mid-level playoff team to a perennial favorite. At the time, people around the NBA knew the sky was the limit for the Lakers when you combined Gasol with Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum. Even looking back now, the Lakers managed 2 championships in 4 years despite Andrew Bynum seemingly getting injured as often as a Kevin James movie bombed.

Over the past few years, Gasol’s role has seemed to be constantly changing. When he is asked to run a high screen pick and roll, he is one of the best big men in the game. However when he is asked to provide muscle down low, he hasn’t been able to hold his own. Asking Gasol to be a team enforcer is unfair, just like asking Seth Rogen to play an attractive male role in a movie. They both need to be put in the right situation to excel.

These Gasol limitations are what made the Dwight Howard acquisition seem perfect. While Gasol looks like he just emerged from sleeping in a van for the past week, Howard looks more like a professional wrestler than a basketball player. Howard could play down low, blocking shots at will and grabbing any rebound that came his way. This would free Gasol up and allow him to roam a bit further from the basket, perhaps to set screens for a cutting Bryant or even to roll off screens for open jumpers. He should be living 6 -9 feet from the basket.

With the Lakers barely clinging to a 8-8 record as we now enter December, Laker fans are left to wonder “What is wrong with Gasol?”

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AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

The Lakers put on a nice show for the Staples Center faithful on Friday night while improving to 8 – 8 on the season after defeating the Denver Nuggets. From the opening tip it was evident that Dwight Howard was going to dominate the game on both ends of the court. Tonight was a true break out night for the two Lakers who will have to carry the bench for the year: Antawn Jamison and Jodie Meeks.

The energy was definitely present for the Lakers at home, but they have yet to consistently carry that same energy on the road if you don’t include the blowout in Dallas. The team will have a 3 game road trip next week so we will see if this energetic play carries over.

Two negatives from the game were the lack of transition defense and the amount of points in the paint that Denver had (60). Also, bring Robert Sacre back from the D-League because big plays just aren’t the same without the kung-fu master. Here are the grades for last night’s W:

Darius Morris: C+

Outshined by Duhon’s good game, but Darius did a nice job against two solid, yet drastically different players in Ty Lawson and Andre Miller.

Kobe Bryant: B+

Not a great game for Kobe, but he went back to playing maestro in this offense which is exactly what he needs to do for this team to be successful until Steve Nash returns. Whenever the Lakers needed a bucket, Kobe was there for a mid-range pull up jumper that he makes look so easy.

Metta World Peace: B-

Not a great night shooting for Metta, but he brought the defense and energy as usual. With Jordan Hill playing less minutes, the Lakers need Metta to bring the hustle every night as he has been doing so far.

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

With the game clock nearing the end of the night, Dwight Howard stood on the corner behind the three point line, when Chris Duhon threw him a pass. Wide open (as he should be from that position), Howard rose up, released and swish! It was his second career three-pointer; 28th point for the night and the 17th three for the Lakers in the game, tying their all-time high. Andrew Bynum must be really jealous.

It was the perfect ending to a nearly perfect night, and without the Laker bench’s performance, this may have been another game under the wrong column. After the loss against Indiana just three days ago, the team put together the same effort they had against the blow-out in Dallas and it paid off in dividends.

On a night where the usual offensive suspects (namely Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol), weren’t their usual stellar scoring selves, a group of teammates picked up the slack in a large way, and put this game (despite a few runs by Denver) on cruise control for much of the night.

The energy was more than obvious – it permeated even through the TWC logo on the corner of my television. The Lakers looked lively out there. They were having fun, all at the expense of the Denver Nuggets.

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Photo Credit: NBAE/Getty Images

With star Steve Nash injured and backup point guard Steve Blake also injured the Los Angeles Lakers are short their top two point guards. This looked like a situation where having four point guards on the roster was a positive.

Second year player Darius Morris, who surpassed Chris Duhon for the starting job after Blake was injured, has been doing well with the minutes he has been given but is still looking to improve his performance.

In 19 games from last season Darius totaled 46 points. With 15 games and 8 starts this season Darius has scored 83 points and doing his best to lead the Lakers to victories within their new system.

“I just thank my teammates for giving me that confidence,” Morris said. “Thank God, most importantly, but also my coaching staff as well, just telling me to go out there and play. Really just trying to simplify it for me. Steve Nash has been giving me some great advice as well, so people around me are really helping me.”

In the Princeton offense Darius was a step ahead of the rest of the team as they ran pieces of it during his lone season at Michigan. With new head coach Mike D’Antoni’s offensive system Darius has succeeded in averaging career highs in every statistic. However the most important piece to Darius’ success would be having Steve Nash teaching him the ins and outs.

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Despite injuries to Steve Nash and Steve Blake, the Lakers never made a serious pass at Derek Fisher. After several weeks of silence and speculation, Rick Carlisle and the Dallas Mavericks announced they have signed the 38 year-old veteran.

“We need help at point guard,” Carlisle said. “I found out … that [Darren] Collison would be out, and we were fortunate to get [Jared] Cunningham active. We feel [Fisher] can help us. It’s not a cure-all to all of our team challenges, but his expertise and experience will help.”

Dallas with be Fisher’s fifth career stop over the course of his 16 year career.

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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.