Saturday, December 20, 2014
Blog Page 70

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Photos by: Stephen Dunn, Elsa and Stephen Dunn/Getty Images North America

The Los Angeles Lakers and Phil Jackson are getting closer and closer to a deal that would bring the legendary head coach back to a third stint with the Purple & Gold. Both parties talked yesterday in L.A. and agreed to have a second meeting in a few days. It is still a negotiation process, as the sides try to reach an agreement that would certainly bolster the Laker Nation’s hopes for the season.

Jackson’s health has always been a concern when it comes to his return to the league, but it looks like it’s not that big of a deal this time. Phil has just went through a knee replacement surgery and people close to him state that the 13-time NBA champion – 2 as a player, 11 as a coach – is in good shape and motivated for a comeback. However, one of Jackson’s steepest demands is limiting the road games he will have to travel with the team, along with other responsibilities to ease on the health and stress level of the 67-year-old. Phil would also like to have increased input in the Lakers’ basketball decisions, as reports ESPN’s Chris Broussard.

Although Jackson is the clear-cut frontrunner for the vacant head coaching job of the Lakers, Mitch Kupchak, Jim Buss and the rest of LAL’s front office already have other names in mind if the negotiations with the Zen Master fail. Those would be Mike D’Antoni and Mike Dunleavy, Sr.

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Photo Credit: The Associated Press
Darius Morris
Image Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea | US PRESSWIRE

As the rumors of Phil Jackson’s coaching return continue to swirl around Laker-Land, another promising asset is beginning to emerge. That asset is second-year point guard Darius Morris.

Starting point guard Steve Nash suffered a small, left leg fracture on November 1st in a game against the Portland Trail Blazers. This injury to the two-time MVP has recently opened the door for Darius Morris to step in and contribute. Morris set career highs in points (10), assists (5), rebounds (5) and minutes played (26) in last game’s 101-77 win over the Golden State Warriors.

Interim head coach Bernie Bickerstaff gave him the perfect opportunity to showcase his skills last night, and Morris responded by playing the best game of his career. Sure the past few games have only been a small sample size, but Morris’s stellar play raises the question: who will retain the backup point guard role once Nash returns to the lineup?

Although the Lakers labeled Steve Blake as their backup point guard before Nash’s injury, Morris’s play looks to challenge that position. Since Phil Jackson will most likely be named the next head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, Jackson’s predetermined notion of refusing to play younger players will follow and possibly inhibit Morris’s play. The Lakers are certainly made up of a veteran group, but younger guys like Darius Morris could lead to an effective balance of youth. Hopefully Jackson will change his traditional view and give Morris a long look at the backup point guard position. The following is a breakdown between Blake and Morris:

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Photo by Getty Images

Something that all Lakers fans want to hear.

According to the LA Times, Phil Jackson is all but back in his high chair coaching Kobe, Dwight, and crew:

The Lakers are moving quickly toward hiring Phil Jackson as their next coach, with one person in the organization calling it a “95%” chance he will return for a third tour with the team.

The Lakers plan on meeting with Jackson on Saturday morning to make sure he is interested in the job. The unknown 5% in their equation is the chance Jackson doesn’t want to fill the vacancy created by the Friday firing of Mike Brown, either because of health reasons or other unknown issues.

Additionally, according to CBSSports.com Jackson wants the job:

Phil Jackson has emerged as the clear leading candidate to be the Lakers’ next coach, and two people connected to the 11-time champion coach told CBSSports.com Saturday that all indications point to Jackson wanting the job.

“Phil wants it,” one of the people with ties to Jackson said.

Jackson won 5 championships with the Lakers, and if he returns he would be going for his 12th NBA championship overall as a head coach.

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Photo courtesy of Jeff Gross | Getty Images

 

“You don’t want to coach effort,” said Bernie Bickerstaff, Lakers assistant coach, turned head coach for the day in place of recently-fired Mike Brown.

In six words, Bickerstaff summed up an underlying issue that has plagued this Laker team since last season. Sometimes the effort in their game was there and sometimes it wasn’t. A coach can only do so much to get the victory when the guys wearing jerseys are the personnel paid to actually play. Somewhere between his hiring last summer and his firing this morning, Mike Brown lost the ability (if he ever really had it) to pull effort from his players and it showed in the inconsistency of countless circumstances that surround this “built-to-win-now” Laker team.

From the trial but mostly error of the Princeton offense, to the lack of defensive intensity (despite being know as a defense-first coach), to the ragtag rotation of playing time – Brown over-coached and it did nothing but produce complex situations that players could not comprehend. Tonight, after an eventful day, Bickerstaff said his only goal was to coach this game against the Warriors and try to get the win, which he did, by letting the players play.

“We played free tonight,” Dwight Howard said after the game. “We didn’t think too much.”

Asked what the difference was between tonight’s game and previous games, Antawn Jamison shared in Howard’s sentiment, saying simply, “We [weren’t] thinking.”

Yes, basketball is a thinking man’s game, but players can’t give way to their analysis by sacrificing their instincts, and that is what the Lakers were noticeably suffering from. “Paralysis by analysis,” James Worthy called it.

Tonight, Bickerstaff let the players play the game, and in the process the bench got more burn and produced, Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant were aggressive on both ends of the floor, and as a result, they got the win.

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Photo by USA Today

As the Lakers prepare to face the Golden State Warriors at Staples Center tonight, there will be a new (but familiar) face prowling (maybe sometimes sitting) on the Lakers sideline tonight.

There is a new sheriff in town, & his name is Bernie Bickerstaff.

Bernie is going to be laying down the law in La La land at least for the next 48 hrs or so. He has the dubious task of playing stand in coach until Mitch & the Buss boys figure out who will be the real coach the rest of this season. We don’t know who that guy is going to be, although names galore have been flying around all day. Whoever it is, I’m sure the announcement will make a big splash in the Laker pond. It won’t be a little ripple, it will be a wave any surfer boy or girl would proudly want to jump on & ride.

It will be gnarly dude.

But let’s get back to Bernie’s big night on the town. The upstart Warriors from the Bay are here. They come in with a winning record (3-2), a hunger to hang another L on the Lakers, & head on out of town. With all that said, I thought I would introduce everyone to our new coach. He may not have the title long, so here goes. Bernie Bickerstaff.

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Devin warming up for a game
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Lakers forward Devin Ebanks was arrested early this morning for driving under the influence. Ebanks has been utilized this season as the both the backup shooting guard and small forward for the team and is regularly one of the first players off the bench. LA Times and Lakers Beat Writer Mike Bresnahan tweeted:

While every sporting headline will be captivated by the firing of head coach Mike Brown, this type of attention will definitely bring about punishment from the Laker franchise and the league office.

This could become a huge blow for the bench rotation. Devin, who was drafted in 2010 during the second round, has been a good, developing player for the franchise and is called by some the next Trevor Ariza. He is currently averaging 10 minutes a game and has produced when he is on the floor. Hopefully the hiring of a new coach will assist him in maturing past this incident and becoming more of a professional when not wearing a Laker uniform.

Mike Bresnahan and Andrew Blankstein of the LA Times have the full story.

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/Mike_Bresnahan/statuses/266965775087177728″]

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Stephen Dunn | Getty Images

Sources have told USA Today’s Sam Amick that Lakers coach Mike Brown has been relieved of his coaching duties after a disappointing 1-4 start. Per ESPN:

Earlier Friday, sources had told ESPN.com’s Marc Stein that the team was using its upcoming six-game homestand to evaluate Brown, but after numerous discussions over the past 48 hours, Lakers management came to a unanimous decision that the team wasn’t heading in the right direction.

With enormous expectations to start the season, injuries to Steve Nash and a lack of bench production left the Lakers at the bottom of the Pacific Division and with one of the worst starts in franchise history. Brown’s offseason implementation of the Princeton offense drew mixed reviews and less than desirable results, culminating in a 95-86 loss to the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night. Further issues also played a role in the firing, per Yahoo! Sports:

Within the organization, there was a sense that Brown has frayed his connection to the locker room with long practices and game-day shootarounds, sources said. Brown began to address that issue recently with shortened sessions.

Assistant coach Bernie Bickerstaff announced to coach tonight’s game against the Golden State Warriors, but the Lakers have noted that there will be a “national search to replace Mike Brown”, per Mike Breshnahan of the Los Angeles Times.

Additionally, sources have told Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski that “Mike D’Antoni has been a prominent name discussed as replacement.” D’Antoni is currently recovering from knee surgery and would be out until December should the Lakers consider him for the vacancy.

We’ll keep you updated as more information comes in.

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Courtesy Jayne Kamin-Oncea/US PRESSWIRE

Amidst the controversial “Death Stare” video circling online that features Bryant scowling at his head coach, Kobe says he still supports Mike Brown.

In a recent press release, Bryant spoke out about the video and the way it was interpreted by fans.

I don’t give a (expletive) how it was interpreted,” Bryant said. “It doesn’t really matter to me. I’m too old to deal with that stuff. I really am. I’ve been (Brown’s) biggest supporter.”

Brown has been under a lot of pressure recently after the Lakers earned their fourth loss in five games to start the year. Fans have criticized the new Princeton Offense that the Lakers have implemented this season. Under the new offense, the Lakers have averaged just 97.2 points per game, which is 15th in the league.

This has been Bryant’s worst start to a season in his 17-year career.

Bryant continued to voice his frustration about the attention the video has received.

“God, people are bored,” he exclaimed.

 

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Courtesy Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

Jodie Meeks was benched for for the second time this season against the Utah Jazz. After averaging only two points per game in the three matches he’s played in, some might argue that the Lakers’ choice to bench him was the right one. But during these times of distress, it wouldn’t hurt the Lakers to reconsider their decision and allow the sharpshooting Meeks to play more often.

Mike Brown has decided to play Devin Ebanks in the two guard spot this year instead of Meeks. The reason being he wants his second unit to be a lengthy, defensive minded squad. But Ebanks hasn’t been much of an improvement from Meeks this year.

In his four games, Ebanks has averaged just 2.5 points per game in just over 10 minutes a game. In terms of defensive production, Ebanks been as inefficient, totaling one block and zero steals.

When Meeks was brought in, he was supposed to be one of the offensive threats in the Lakers’ bench. So far, fans have too to see that. His lack of production is not entirely his fault, however. In just three games, Meeks has only been on the floor for an average of just over seven minutes a game.

But as history has shown, when given the right amount of playing time, Meeks performs.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

It’s more than a well known issue that the Lakers have had bench struggles for years, and it has always been up to the starting line-up to get the job done night in and night out.  This trend seems to be continuing this year, and doesn’t show many signs of letting up soon.  These first five games of the season have shown nothing but a letdown from the bench, again.  One has to ask, is this trend a curse the Lakers carry with them and bestow upon everyone who plays a secondary role? Or is just a poor job of bench players getting the job done combined with poor rotations?

I’d like to say it is the latter, and the Lakers need to figure out how to get more production from their bench as soon as possible. We can look around the league and see the teams with winning records and notice most, if not all of them, have productive and efficient benches. I hate to compare our team to other teams in the league, but when it comes to bench play, we falter and fall behind.

Since the loss of Lamar Odom, our sixth man and premium option off the bench, the Lakers haven’t had the bench play that is needed to compete in the NBA. They’re in need of someone who can step up and take control of the bench, become the true leader, and that man is likely to be Antawn Jamison.  The Lakers organization brought in Jamison to be a scorer off the bench and provide that spark they so desperately need every night.  However, his 4.3 points/game isn’t going to get it done.

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Photo Credit: US Presswire

Making a huge assumption that health will not be an issue down the road, the one obstacle that may cause trouble along the Lakers’ path to a championship this year is defense or lack thereof.

The acquisition of Steve Nash drew applause all across Laker Nation in the offseason and was expected to help take a great deal of pressure off of Kobe on the offensive end. However, in landing the 2-time regular season MVP, the Lakers also gained a defensive liability. The 38 year-old is paired with a 34 year-old in the backcourt, and, while that is a great offensive duo, perimeter defense will be mediocre at best. Already through the first five games, Kobe, Nash, and Steve Blake have been beaten off the dribble and have closed out on perimeter shooters a half-second too late on many occasions. It’s not a question of effort on the part of these veterans; they just physically cannot move with quick guards ten to fifteen years younger than them.

The Lakers’ playoff woes the past few years began and ended with excessive penetration of the defense by quick guards such as Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and J.J. Barea.

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Photo courtes of NBA.com

Let’s play a game.  Can anyone tell me what’s wrong with the picture to the right?

If you answered “nothing”, then congratulations!  You have a cable provider that offers Time Warner Sports Net which means you have been able to watch the Laker games.  But if you’re like me and millions of others, you will notice that there are two other providers that haven’t made this list.  In my case, that provider happens to be DirecTV.

I understand that at the end of the day, this is business as usual.  Time Warner paid over $3 billion dollars to exclusively distribute Laker games to the masses of Laker fans who religiously watch on TV.  And you can’t fault the Lakers organization for making such a deal since it gives them the capital to make such acquisitions like Dwight Howard and Steve Nash to keep us entertained.  DirecTV understands this as well.  I commend them for trying to reach a deal that will not only make their subscribers that are patiently waiting to finally get a glimpse of the long anticipated action, but also those customers who may not be as enthusiastic (yes, not everyone is a fan as shocking as that may be).

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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.