Monday, December 22, 2014
Blog Page 95

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Photo by Harry How | Getty Images

The (10-8) Lakers host the (9-5) Clippers tonight as the tenants of the Staples Center resume the renewed hallway series. The Lakers are 20-4 all-time against the Clippers at home, 9-1 in their last 10, winners of the last eight. The Lakers are 6-4 in their last 10 games overall. The Lakers lost game one and trail the Clippers in the season series after winning the series last year (3-1).

As expected, Chris Paul has literally changed everything in this series. If the Lakers do not come out of top tonight, the Clippers will win the season series against the Lakers for the third time in franchise history, as the L.A. Clippers in the 1992-1993 season and as the Buffalo Braves in the 1974-1975 season.

The Clippers are a confident group playing good basketball and enjoying their best 14-game start since 2006-2007. The purple and gold are 9-2 at the Staples Center this season. The Lakers have struggled mightily to score points this season and everyone is frustrated.  The Lakers, on a three-game-losing skid, have gone 11-straight games scoring under the century mark exceeding 100-points only once this season.

The Lakers are searching for answers. Normally this would be a great time to exhibit some patience with the new-look Lakers; however, it is doubtful with a shortened season that the purple and gold have the luxury of time to be patient. The loss of Lamar Odom has increased the workload of Pau Gasol. Gasol is a team player who has made several adjustments this season and has been truly professional throughout the process.

Due to the lack of speed, athleticism on the perimeter, guards that are skilled at running the pick-and-roll play head coach Mike Brown is using Pau Gasol more as a facilitator, jump shooter further away from the basket.

Pau Gasol is a two-time NBA champion dealing with decreased production, increased scrutiny and more than likely not participating in this year’s all-star game.

Gasol has not drawn a line in the sand and demanded more touches in the post, but who could blame him if he did? Gasol has posted 4 triple-doubles, 326 double-doubles, 40 30+-point games and 2 40-point games. However, the state that the Lakers are in seems to scream out go back to the triangle offense.

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(Photo by Mike Ehrmann | Getty Images

Let’s jump in the Delorean for a minute.

The Lakers are about to face the Dallas Mavericks in the 2nd round of the ’10-11 playoffs. You & I walk into Staples Center.

“The Mavs? Dirk? Cuban? HA!”

We have a good laugh while we walk to our $600 seats (which probably means we’re sitting in Section 318). We agree that Dallas is a much better matchup than Portland, but we can’t agree on how long the series will last. You say it’ll be a sweep, I say the Mavs will win Game 3 in Dallas. In either case, we both concede – there’s no way the Lakers are losing this series.

Then it happens.

Only a few seconds before tip-off, our future selves walk into our section through some cheesy CGI portal. They sit down next to us, freeze time and tell us the following:

The Lakers aren’t going to win this series. Actually, they’re not going to even win a single game.

We smile at the obvious stupidity, but continue listening anyway.

And right after the season ends, Phil is going to retire and Jimmy Buss is going to start calling the shots. Brian Shaw will be ignored, Ronnie Lester will be canned without a phone call and Mike Brown will be the heir to Phil’s throne.

We continue to smile, but also wonder about the type of drugs that must be freely available in the future.

After the lockout shortens the season, David Stern will block a trade that brings Chris Paul to the Lakers. Fans will be completely outraged. No need to worry, he ends up in L.A… with the Clippers.

Suddenly, the conversation isn’t amusing or interesting anymore.

The Lakers will panic and trade Lamar Odom to Dallas for a trade exception that doesn’t really help them. And speaking of trades, Dwight Howard will let it be known that the Lakers are on his short list of teams he’d like to be traded to, but Jim Buss will tell the Orlando Sentinel:

“I personally believe now that we have the team that we will be playing with all season long.”

The sudden urge to punch our future selves in the face is ignored only because it would be pretty weird to punch yourself in the face.

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Photo by Jeff Gross | Getty Images

It’s been talked about for years in the city of Los Angeles. Who is to blame for the feud between Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant? Was it Kobe’s ego? Believing that he should be the number one offensive option because of his tireless work ethic and unrivaled drive to be the best player in the NBA? Was is Shaquille O’Neal’s ego? Believing that despite whatever shortcomings he may have had in the work ethic department, he was still hands down the best center in the NBA (not named Hakeem Olajuwan of course) over the last 2 decades and the Lakers wouldnt sniff the NBA Finals without his prescence?

Well, for Lakers forward, Robert Horry, who told Russian website, www.sports.ru, by way of our friends at probasketballtalk.com that the true culprit for the much publicized feud between the two superstars was not the fault of the players themselves, but Lakers head coach Phil Jackson:

I think Phil Jackson started that feud. It happened many times that after team practice he would say, “Kobe said this about Shaq, and Shaq said that about Kobe… We couldn’t believe how could that happen, because just the day before we saw them together, jumping on one another. Phil liked it when there was conflict of some sort.

I always tell people; if you look at those championships, you’ll see who were the closest players on the team. Normally those are the guys who are the first to hug each other. And when we were winning, it was always Shaq and Kobe who hugged. I think this will answer your question. Later it was blown out of proportion by the media and both players started doing something that didn’t make sense.”

One would find it a little odd, if not counter-productive, that Jackson would attempt to drive a rift between his two star players. But when you look a little deeper, how farfetched is this? Are we to believe that Jackson is above creating possible tension in the locker room? Jackson has always been known as a coach who could “manage personalities” and get guys who aren’t on the same page to co-exist. With that being said, it doesnt take a rocket scientist to realize that Shaq and Kobe didnt need Phil Jackson to stir the pot, that feud would have inevitably come to a head regardless of Phil’s interjections. Despite Horry’s description of Shaq and Kobe hugging and jumping on one another, one would have to be pretty naive to believe that the genesis of their rift can solely be attributed to Jackson. O’Neal and Bryant were both very headstrong individuals who both wanted to be THE guy. That they would end up clashing at some point was an inevitability. I’m not calling conspiracy theory here. I’m just saying that it would not surprise me if Jackson somehow threw fuel on the Shaq-Kobe fire to further prove to the masses his greatness as a coach by leading a team of ego-driven, dysfunctional players to multiple championships.

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Photo by Ezra Shaw | Getty Images

For 12 minutes on Sunday night, the Lakers played perfectly to their blueprint of success for the 2011-12 season. The bigs got going early, with Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol each scoring the first pair of Lakers baskets; the Lakers overall played suffocating team defense, finishing the first quarter with three blocked shots, causing five turnovers and holding the Pacers to 28% shooting; and Kobe Bryant powered the Laker Machine, scoring 11 points on close baskets to put the Lakers ahead 27-14 after a quarter of play.

Then, it slowly fell apart.

The Lakers would lose every subsequent quarter, and with those, the game. The Pacers’ greatest strength, their deep roster, only amplified the problems of the Lakers. Roy Hibbert, who would leave in the first quarter with a broken nose, would return to score 18 points and pull down eight rebounds, helping the Pacers outrebound Bynum, Gasol and the Lakers 50-43. Five other Pacers would finish with double-digit scoring, as their team holds the NBA’s sole distinction of having seven players average double-digits throughout the season. The Lakers, despite inspired performances from Matt Barnes and Metta World Peace, only had four players in double-digits, with Bryant continuing his “time-capsule” season with 33 points.

A 13-point first-quarter lead evaporated over the course of 1 1/2 quarters, as the Pacers fought back to take the lead midway through the third quarter. The rest of the way, the Lakers and Pacers would fight through nine ties and 13 lead changes, with the Lakers trailing by one with less than a minute to play. After a disjointed offensive push by Derek Fisher that would lead to a turnover, the Lakers would still have a shot at a tie with nine seconds remaining, but Kobe Bryant’s game-tying three-pointer from 30 feet out with 3.5 seconds left would go long off the back iron.

Six years ago today, Bryant scored 81 points to push the Lakers past the Toronto Raptors. Today, despite a stronger roster than that day in 2006, a lot of the same problems remain. Until Bryant can get a reliable scorer to take some of the burden off of him night after night, Bryant and the Lakers are going to have to get used to losses like tonight.

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Sam Greenwood - Getty Images

The (10-6) Los Angeles Lakers continue their two-game road trip seeking their second road win of the season in the city best known for Walt Disney World resort, founded by the Walt Disney Company in 1971, Orlando, to face the (10-4) Magic. Central Florida is home to Universal Orlando, including Universal City Walk, attracts 51 million tourists a year and is home to the second best team in the NBA’s Southeast Division.

The Lakers are looking to bounce back from a disappointing loss to the Heat, the ugliest loss of the season. Miami took over in the second quarter outscoring the Lakers 27-17 and never looked back.

The surprising takeaway from the loss was Kobe Bryant playing 41 minutes in the first of back-to-back games, the Lakers in ability to defend the perimeter, poor shooting from behind the arc and not being able to limit their opponents’ points off turnovers.

Tonight’s matchup could pit Orlando & L.A.’s center of present against potentially their center of the future. The media will sell tonight’s game as Andrew Bynum vs. Dwight Howard, but the reality is that tonight’s battle at the Amway Center pits the Lakers against the Magic. All of us will have a definitive answer to Dwight Howard’s trade demands by March 15, 2012 the trade deadline.

The Lakers are playing badly on the road, consequently the Magic are playing well at home. The Lakers are lacking rhythm and their offense is still a work in progress. Injuries and lack of execution have played a huge role. The Lakers need to start bringing it on the road and playing at a higher energy level with much more intensity. The Lakers are a Pau Gasol three-point shot away from being winless on the road this season. The Lakers need to get off to a fast start as opposed to digging themselves a deep hole that is very difficult to come back from.

The Lakers have to play solid against the pick-and-roll play, stop the dribble penetration of the guards, control the tempo, get back in transition and rotate out to open shooters and extend the defense out to the three-point line. Dwight Howard presents several challenges the Lakers have to play him with more one-on-one coverage as much as possible. If the Lakers can make Howard a scorer and not allow the Magic shooters to get off it could make for a closer game.

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Photo by Mike Ehrmann | Getty Images

The match-up was sure hyped up. As every media outlet begged the question…

Who’s better LeBron or Kobe?

Unfortunately the game was not competitive, as the Miami Heat got the lead early and never let it slip away. However, there was some interesting quotes after the game when LeBron was asked about his 2008 Team USA teammate.

TNT’s Craig Sager asked how it is playing against Kobe Bryant. James mentioned how Bryant goes 100% on each possession, but he also said the following:

“He’s someone I idolized in high school.”

James then expanded on the above in his post-game locker room interview:

[Kobe] was someone when I was in high school I looked up to. [Kobe] going straight out of high school and seeing the success he had, I looked up to him. Like I said, its always a pleasure and honor to be out on the same court with one of the greatest.”

“Its never been between me and Kobe, even-though we get all the press and all the limelight we try to do whaveter it takes to help our team win…I don’t need to prove anything to Kobe, and he of course does not need to prove anything to me.”

Kobe Bryant, now in his 16th NBA Season, came into the league as a rookie in 1996.

At that time LeBron James was only 11-years old.

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Getty Images | Mike Ehrmann

Remember when the Lakers could score in bunches but couldn’t defend a lick? When scoring was not only the very least of this team’s issues, but a non-issue at all? Everyone could score, from Kobe at the top to DJ Mbenga at the end of the bench. Tonight, like the last game against Dallas, the Lakers couldn’t score if they were sitting on the backboard. And it wasn’t just jump shots they were missing. In one sequence, Andrew Bynum missed a hook shot from two feet away, so Josh McRoberts grabbed the offensive rebound and brought the ball up to the rim to drop it off, and it STILL didn’t make it inside.

It is moments like this that make us wonder if it’s just bad luck, perhaps an off shooting night…but two games in a row? It’s not a luck issue – it’s an efficiency issue, as in they have very little to none on the offensive end.

In the first quarter, the Lakers only shot 27% but still managed to stay within five points because they didn’t turn the ball over once in those 12 minutes. In the second quarter, however, they didn’t have a thing to offer but 17 points on 35% shooting and four turnovers, while the Heat scored 27 points.

The third quarter was more of the same, and the lead ballooned to 22 points in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter until the Lakers finally started to get going. Bryant scored 14 of his 24 points in that final quarter, and the Lakers shot 52%. Unfortunately, by the time the Lakers got within 10 points, with still over a minute left in the game, Miami finally woke up to finish the job. The Lakers outscored the Heat 31-21 in the final 12 minutes, but by then, the damage they created for themselves in the first three quarters had already been done and there was no time left to recover.

According to the final box score, the Lakers shot almost the same percentage (42%) as the Heat (45%). They had the same number of assists (19) and almost the same amount of turnovers (Lakers with 14 and the Heat with 13). They even got to the line almost as many times (Lakers 16, Heat 18) and converted the same amount (13), and they even had a similar number of steals (Lakers 7, Heat 8), but the differences beyond that are quite glaring (see Low Points).

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Photo by Mike Ehrmann | Getty Images

The (10-5) Los Angeles Lakers are in the home of the largest concentration of international banks in the United States and home to several large companies both nationally and internationally; Miami, Florida to face the (9-4) Heat.

Tonight’s marquee NBA match up at American Airlines Arena is another game that the Lakers had circled on their calendar upon the release of the NBA schedule. The Lakers played well in their last trip to South Beach, but did not execute down the stretch or come away with a victory.

Kobe Bryant and the Lakers really wanted the win badly and were collectively upset that they let one slip away. The loss bothered Kobe Bryant so much that after 98% of fans left the arena he came back out on the court to work on his shot.

The Lakers enter tonight’s road game after a hard fought three-point win over the defending champion Mavericks. The Heat snapped a three-game losing streak in a come from behind win over the Spurs. The Heat swept the two-game season series against the Lakers last year after splitting the series in the 2009-2010 season.

The purple and gold are 5-5 in their last 10 meetings with the Heat. In Miami, the Lakers are 3-7 in their last 10 games. The last Laker win over the Heat on 12/9/10 in L.A. came on another miraculous Kobe Bryant one-foot, running three-pointer off the glass shot at the buzzer.

Kobe Bryant has amassed four 40+ points scoring games, but is averaging 31 points per game. In 23 career starts against the Heat, Kobe is averaging 24.6 points per game. Lebron James is suffering from flu-like symptoms and his participation in this contest will be a game-time decision.   In 16 career games against the Lakers, Lebron James is averaging 27.3 points per game.

The Heat, are running a lot more and could destroy the Lakers in the open floor. To combat this fact, L.A. has to limit Miami’s chances to run and get back in transition. The Lakers have played playoff caliber defense all season and it has kept them in every game this season.

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    Photo by Mike Ehrmann | Getty Images

    One of the more anticipated matchups of the young NBA season may have suffered a crushing blow. According to Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press, Miami Heat All-Star forward, Lebron James, left this mornings team shootaround with an undisclosed illness and is officially listed as a game-time decision for tonights matchup against the Lakers.

    The Heat will also be without All-Star guard, Dwyane Wade, who himself has missed 5 games this season due to foot and ankle injuries. Veteran swingman, Shane Battier, would be the likely be James’ replacement in the starting lineup for Miami.

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    Photo by Ned Dishman | NBAE via Getty Images

    On Wednesday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met with Hall-of-Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA’s All-Time Leading Scorer, to discuss his new role as a global Cultural Ambassador.

    Secretary Clinton and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar discussed his upcoming trip to Brazil as a Cultural Ambassador and the strong relationship between the people of the United States and Brazil.

    Abdul-Jabbar had this to say via a press release:

    “I am excited and honored to serve my country as a Cultural Ambassador for the U.S. Department of State,” said Kareem Abdul-Jabbar who has focused his efforts after his NBA career on engaging youth through socially-minded projects and deducation. “I look forward to meeting with young people all over the world and discussing ways in which we can strengthen our understanding of one another through education, through sports, and through greater cultural tolerance.”

    He will continue his public service as a Cultural Ambassador throughout 2012.

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    In 519 games (382 starts) with the Lakers, Odom posted career averages of 13.7 points, 9.5 rebounds and 3.7 assists.

    Odom was a crowd favorite, and helped the franchise win two world championships.

    In his first return to Los Angeles after his trade to the Dallas Mavericks. The 2010-11 6th man of the year checked in at the 7:32 mark, and immediately got a standing ovation from the Staples Center crowd:

    Lamar Odom predicted that Laker fans would cheer for him in an interview back in mid December. When asked by Dan Patrick what he expects the Lakers fans to do when his name is announced?, “They’ll cheer, I think so.” Odom said.

    They cheered, and deservingly so.

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    Stephen Dunn | Getty Images

    Lamar Odom has not been in a good place for the last sixth months. Casual Laker fans are more than aware of the absence of Odom as the NBA’s reigning Sixth Man of the Year from the Lakers’ bench after Odom requested to be traded following the vetoed trade for Chris Paul, but his emotionally-draining offseason losses have taken their toll as well.

    Couple those with his rough start to the current NBA season along with his reported request for a “basketball hiatus” before his trade to the Mavericks and you have a Lamar Odom shooting 31% from the field and dishing out turnovers like assists. Fortunately for Odom, a familiar face reemerged from retirement to give Odom some sound advice on dealing with loss and new beginnings: Zen master and former Lakers coach Phil Jackson. Lamar Odom, from ESPN Dallas:

    “He [Phil Jackson] told me just to be strong and get myself together and get myself in that place mentally where I can use basketball as my sanctuary,” Odom said. “He said relearn to do that through meditation and other forms to get to a place where you kind of leave everything else behind and focus on the now, the moment. And that’s what I have to work on in order to put myself in a place where I can go out here and actually play the game like I used to play it.”

    It’s uncertain whether or not Odom’s talk with Jackson will quickly heal the wounds from the last six months. Though, if Odom’s play against the Lakers last night is any indication (Odom’s hot start would lead him to finish second in scoring for the Mavs with 10 points), Odom may be on the path towards working through his struggles.

     

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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.