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Photo: ESPN.com

With one of the most forgettable seasons in franchise history behind them, the Los Angeles Lakers approach the upcoming NBA season with tremendous optimism and confidence. Stinging from an injury plagued 2013-14 campaign and a complete breakdown of trust within the team, the Lakers aim to return the supremacy of Hollywood back to the purple and gold. With Kobe Bryant returning this season, there is no reason why the team would not be able to make the playoffs come April.

As fans though, why should we believe them? Why should we trust in a team full of turmoil? Why should we believe that the team can still be successful despite the loss of a key piece of the 2009 and 2010 Championships?

The answer starts at the top. With critics around the league pointing the blame of the past season on Jim Buss, management has sought to make better decisions for the team moving forward. Still reeling from the loss of Dwight Howard and the failed Mike D’Antoni experiment, this summer has given everyone the indication that the Lakers are headed for a better year.

With the hiring of coach Byron Scott, the Lakers have brought in a man with extreme mental toughness and character. His dedication and work ethic, both on the offensive and defensive end, will certainly be a big factor moving forward. Adding to this, his relationship with Kobe Bryant will be important in determining the success that the team can ultimately gain. By understanding Bryant’s strengths and weaknesses, he may be able to maximize his skills to compliment his teammates. His veteran leadership and understanding of the Laker culture will help them gain an identity.

Secondly, one cannot deny the talent that the team will be bringing in for next season. Despite the losses of Pau Gasol, Jordan Farmar, Steve Blake and Jodie Meeks, the team will still be competitive despite the lack of a superstar, outside of Bryant. Guys like Carlos Boozer, Ed Davis and Jeremy Lin will surely be productive and can be depended on for significant contributions. They will also have the services of rookies Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson, which will surely bolster the Lakers’ attack. Once everyone gains an understanding of Scott’s system, they will be a force to be reckoned with.

That being said, the most important reason why the Lakers will be successful is pride. Each member of the team, from the coaching staff all the way to the last guy on the bench, knows how big of a deal it is to don the purple and gold. Players like Nick Young have expressed how proud they are of being able to wear the jersey of the franchise with the most wins in NBA history. With so much doubt from people around the league, the team will be playing with a chip on their shoulder to prove the world and naysayers wrong.

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After a miserable 2013-14 season that led to an unusually long off-season, we finally have something to look forward to. Yesterday, the NBA released the 2014-2015 regular season schedule. After saying goodbye to Pau Gasol, Jordan Farmar, Jodie Meeks, and Chris Kaman (among others) the Lakers will begin the season with many fresh faces. Over the Summer, the Lakers added veterans Jeremy Lin, Carlos Boozer, and Ed Davis along with rookies Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson. They will join returning Lakers Xavier Henry, Jordan Hill, Wesley Johnson, Ryan Kelly, Steve Nash, Robert Sacre, and Nick Young. Oh, and I forgot, after only playing 6 games last season, Kobe Bryant will be hungry and healthy to start the season. A sight that Laker fans sorely missed.

With training camp just around the corner… Here is a preview of the 2014-2015 Lakers Regular Season Schedule:

OPENING NIGHT:

Photo Credit: NBA
Photo Credit: NBA

In 1 of only 3 games on opening night, the Lakers will begin their season at home against Dwight Howard and the Houston Rockets. After sitting out all but 6 games last season, this will mark the first time Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard face each other since Howard’s departure 2 summers ago. It will also mark the first time Jeremy Lin will face his former team after being traded this past summer to the Lakers. In 4 games last season, the Rockets took the season series from the Lakers 3-1. However, after losing key role players in Jeremy Lin, Chandler Parsons, and Omer Asik it remains to be seen how the Rockets will fare this season. After opening night, the Lakers and Rockets will meet again on Nov 19 (@HOU) and Jan 25 (@LAL).

CHRISTMAS IN CHICAGO:

(Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports)

December 25th wouldn’t be Christmas without a little Lakers basketball. However, we’ll have a change of scenery this Christmas when the Lakers play their first holiday game away from Staples since 2006, when they played against Shaquille O’Neal and the Miami Heat. This year, Kris Kringle reunites us with a familiar face when the Lakers go up against Pau Gasol and the Chicago Bulls. This will be the first time Gasol and Carlos Boozer face their former teams after swapping places this Summer. It will also be the first time the Lakers will meet Derrick Rose after sitting out almost 2 full seasons due to injury. The two teams will meet again on Jan 29 when Gasol makes his Staples Center return.

GRAMMY ROAD TRIP:

This season’s Grammy trip seems fairly tame compared to those in years past. In previous seasons, the Grammy trip has lasted as long as 7 games in 12 days. This season the Lakers will only visit 4 cities in a 9 day span. The trip will begin in New York when the Lakers face the Knicks for the first time on Feb 1. Then we head to Milwaukee (Feb 4), where Julius Randle and the #2 overall pick, Jabari Paker, will meet for the first time in the NBA. The trip continues in Orlando (Feb 6), where Randle will go up against another lottery pick, Aaron Gordon (#4 overall). The trip will conclude when the Lakers visit Coach Scott’s former team to take on LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, (Kevin Love? Andrew Wiggins?), and the Cavs in Cleveland on Feb 8.

Last season, the Grammy trip was a 7 game trip where the Lakers went 2-5. This season, being an unusually short trip with no back-to-backs, the Lakers should end the road trip with a winning record. I don’t see Milwaukee or Orlando being much of a threat and we all know how much Kobe loves playing in Madison Square Garden. I expect the Lakers to come away from the Grammy trip going 3-1.

BACK-TO-BACKS:

This season, the Lakers will play a total of 16 pairs of B2B games. They’ll start the season right off the bat playing their first 4 games in 2 sets of home/away B2Bs against the Rockets/Suns and the Clippers/Warriors. The Lakers will be the visiting team for a majority of the games in these B2Bs. They will only play 8 of the 32 games at Staples (one will be an away game against the Clippers), all 8 occur on the first night of the B2B. And of course, as it seems to happen every season, the Lakers will play against the Denver Nuggets in the Mile High City on the second night of a B2B following a Clipper home game on April 8th. The Lakers seem to always struggle in this category, in 38 B2B games (19 pairs) last season, the Lakers ended with a record of 11-27, never winning a set of games. They’re going to need to turn that around this season if they expect to improve.

The 16 B2B match-ups will be against:

10/28-29: HOU/@PHX                    10/31-11/1: LAC/@GSW                11/11-12: @MEM/@NOP

11/18-19: @ATL/@HOU                 12/2-3: @DET/@WAS                    12/14-15: @MIN/@IND

12/25-26: @CHI/@DAL                 1/4-5: IND/@POR                            1/15-16: CLE/@UTA

2/10-11: DEN/@POR                      3/3-4: @CHA/@MIA                       3/15-16: ATL/@GSW

3/24-25: @OKC/@MIN                  3/29-30: @BKN/@PH                     4/7-8: @LAC/@DEN

4/12-13: DAL/@SAC

BATTLE FOR LA:

Photo courtesy of Frederic J. Brown, Getty images.

Fresh off the Donald Sterling fiasco, new Clipper owner, Steve Ballmer, and the rest of the Clipper team will almost certainly have some extra spark this season. Especially after newly appointed Lakers head coach (and former head coach of Clippers superstar Chris Paul), Byron Scott, declared that LA was still a Laker town. The Lakers will face the Clippers the usual 4 times (2 home, 2 away) this season, with the first match coming early in the season on Halloween night as a Laker home game. The remaining match-ups will take place on Jan. 7 (@LAC), Apr. 5 (@LAL), and Apr. 7 (@LAC).

After losing the season opener to the Lakers last season, the Clippers dismantled the Lakers by an average of 36 points in the remaining 3 contests and ended up taking the season series 3-1. The hallway series doesn’t get any easier for the Lakers this season after the Clippers added former Laker Jordan Farmar and Spencer Hawes to their depth chart.

A NEW STORY FOR AN OLD RIVALRY:

Photo: Jason DeCrow AP
Photo: Jason DeCrow AP

The Lakers/Celtics rivalry is a part of NBA history, even though it may not be as enticing these days as they were in the past, regardless if it’s for championships, regular season records, or lottery picks, there will always be a certain buzz surrounding a Lakers/Celtics match-up. This season’s match-ups could be the start of a new story when rookies Julius Randle and Marcus Smart take their places in this historic rivalry. Smart was taken by the Celtics with the 6th pick in the draft, one ahead of Randle. After being drafted, Randle said that he felt he should have been drafted higher. “The teams that passed on me will regret it” he said. Let’s hope he starts when the Lakers face the Celtics on Dec. 5 (@BOS) and Feb. 22 (@LAL).

NEW YORK, NEW YORK:

Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

I wouldn’t normally consider a Lakers/Knicks game to be a “notable” game at the beginning of the season, but this year there are too many stories to ignore. Most of LA is still coping with the fact that Phil Jackson agreed to become the President of Basketball Operations for the Knicks last season, but this season we get the added bonus of seeing the team coached by Kobe’s longtime sidekick, Derek Fisher. Not to mention, there’s that Carmelo Anthony guy who turned down a max contract from the Lakers to re-sign with the Knicks this summer. We can watch all this drama unfold when the Lakers and Knicks faceoff on Feb 1 (@NYK) and Mar 12 (@LAL).

Also, the Brooklyn Nets will be in town to play the Lakers at Staples on Feb 20. Why do I consider this game “notable” you ask? It will be the Lakers first game after the Feb 19 NBA Trade Deadline. It’s never too early to speculate last minute trade deadline deals is it?

OTHER NOTABLE GAMES:

– The defending champion San Antonio Spurs will face the Lakers 3 times this season on Nov 14 (@LAL), Dec 12 (@SAS), and Jan 23 (@SAS).

– LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and the Cleveland Cavaliers will make their first trip to LA on Jan 15 and the Lakers will head to Cleveland as the last stop in the Grammy road trip on Feb 8 for their only 2 meetings of the season.

– Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook will also face Kobe and the Lakers 3 times this season beginning on Dec 19 (@LAL), Mar 1(@LAL), and Mar 24 (@OKC).

– And finally, after all of that, the Lakers will conclude the 2014-2015 regular season with a home and home against the Sacramento Kings on Apr 13 (@SAC) and Apr 15 (@LAL).

It’s obviously too early to tell what kind of success, if any, the Lakers will have this season, but there are encouraging signs. Less back-to-backs than last season along with a shorter Grammy trip will benefit the health of our team. Also, an extended All-Star break will allow the team to rest up to make a push in the second half of the season. If Laker fans have learned anything from the past 2 seasons it’s that health will play a tremendous role in the success of this team. And with a healthy Kobe Bryant ready to start the season, we’re already a leg up over last year.

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Photo courtesy of Robyn Beck, Getty Images

Los Angeles Lakers forward/center Pau Gasol has been a steady rock. Ever since the infamous trade that shipped out Kwame Brown and others for him back in the 2007-2008 season, Gasol has thrived as the second star behind Kobe Bryant. However, age and ever-changing roles for the past three years have seemingly lacerated Gasol to the point where he may never return to his original and consistent form in a Lakers uniform.

Sports Illustrated reporter Chris Mannix recently wrote about Gasol in regards to what he has withstood and what may come next,

“I want to be in a team that is going to be built to win a championship,” Gasol said. “That’s my top priority. Money won’t be the main priority. Length and money are factors, but we’ll see. Until I know all the options, I won’t be able to measure them. But we’re getting close to the end of my career. I want to be in a good situation. It’s an important decision to make.”

Gasol’s contract expires at the end of this season and it seems as if the Lakers may be looking past him to move forward. Players like Gasol are a rarity in today’s NBA in terms of skillset. His numbers have gone down in the past three seasons and there is no debating that he has lost a step. Despite that, he still can be extremely effective when playing within a system where he feels comfortable. When Mike D’Antoni has slowed the offensive pace this year Gasol has performed better both offensively and defensively. When the offensive pace has increased, his play has suffered as his body is unable to withstand that much movement. Even if his skill set is being used correctly in LA, teams across the league are anticipating the chance to capitalize.

“There are a couple thoughts out there on Pau,” says an Eastern Conference executive. “Some people say he is worn out, that he is too far past his prime to really help a contender. There are others that think that LA, that environment the past two season, that style of play has destroyed him and if he goes somewhere else, plays with a different coach, he might be rejuvenated. I could see someone who thinks the latter paying him $10 million a year.”

Another factor that has contributed to Gasol’s decline is the numerous role changes he has had to undergo in the past four seasons. After winning multiple championships he was forced to accept a lesser offensive role to then developing Andrew Bynum. With no complaints he accepted the role and played within himself and the system. Next he was almost traded to the Houston Rockets until then Commissioner David Stern nixed the Chris Paul deal. His role in Houston certainly would have been similar to his championship one had he gone, yet he remained in Los Angeles and became even more humble having to return to the team that signed off on trading him.

While the trade to Houston did not go through he still had to accept a lesser role when the Lakers traded for center Dwight Howard and point guard Steve Nash. At this point he had gone from a championship winning, secondary role with the team to a fourth wheel who would be incorporated only on occasion. All with minimal complaints.

Gasol’s frustrations this season may not make Lakers fans content but nonetheless they make sense. After giving your all to an organization and displaying minimal signs of frustration, it is only a matter of time before it all becomes too much to bear. If Gasol ultimately decides to leave it would be a definite loss to the Lakers organization. He has brought consistency, a humble attitude and personality, as well as monumental contribution in multiple championship runs. However, in staying, Gasol would again add testament to his character by proving that he is more reliable than what you previously believed.

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Photo courtesy of Andrew D. Bernstein, Getty Images

April 8,2014 — 7:30PM (PST)
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TNT
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

Coming off a very poor performance vs. the Los Angeles Clippers, the Lakers will attempt to even up the season series vs. the Houston Rockets.

Despite another loss, C/PF Jordan Hill continue to show his worthiness to stay on the Lakers roster following season. A player who provides the “Dennis Rodman” effect without all the crazy antics, Hill scored 22 points and 9 rebounds vs Clippers, and has averaged a career high 9.2 PPG and 7.3 RPG this season.

Unfortunately for fans who purchased tickets to boo former Lakers center Dwight Howard tonight, he will not be available tonight, according to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein.

Howard’s service will most likely not be necessary since C Omer Asik can fill in nicely and the Lakers simply do not possess enough talent to defeat the Rockets.

SG James Harden has enjoyed life as an NBA starter after the Rockets acquired him from the Oklahoma City Thunder right before the 2012-2013 season, becoming the best NBA Shooting Guard this season due to the unavailability of superstar SG Kobe Bryant. Harden has averaged 25.4 PPG and 5.8 APG this season, hoping to carry the Rockets far into the playoffs in a few weeks.

Projected Starters

PG – Jeremy Lin Kendall Marshall [Advantage: Rockets]
SG – James Harden / Jodie Meeks [Advantage: Rockets]
SF – Chandler Parsons Wesley Johnson [Advantage: Rockets]
PF – Terrence Jones / Ryan Kelly [Advantage: Even]
C – Omer Asik Jordan Hill [Advantage: Rockets]

Notable Bench Players

Rockets: G Jordan Hamilton, F Omri Casspi, G Francisco Garcia, Greg Smith,

Lakers:  C Robert Sacre, F Wesley Johnson, PG Steve Nash, PG Jordan Farmar

Bench Advantage: Rockets

Injury List

Rockets: Out-PG Patrick Beverley, Out-C Dwight HowardQuestionable-F Greg Smith

Lakers: Out-G Kobe Bryant, Out-C Pau Gasol, Out-G Xavier Henry, Out-G Kent Bazemore, Out-C Chris Kaman

Keys for Lakers Victory

Hit Open Shots: Without any defensive skills, talent, or chemistry with multiple injuries, the Lakers need to like they did when they scored 51 points on the New York Knicks a few weeks ago. SG Jodie Meeks, who has progressed extremely well this season, will be heavily relied upon to fulfill that task, along with F Ryan Kelly, and F/G Nick Young.

Bottom Line

Since the Rockets currently have the 4th seed with a few games remaining, this game means significantly more for the Rockets and Lakers. Therefore, getting off to a quick start for the Lakers seems very unlikely. The only entertaining value from the Laker’s fan’s point of view will be the play of PG Steve Nash who ac tually has played well in limited role and might consider retirement following this season.

Prediction

Rockets: 117-110

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Photo courtesy of Bill Baptist, Getty Images

February 19, 2014 — 7:30PM (PST)
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC SportsNet / ESPN
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

Former Lakers center Dwight Howard returns to STAPLES Center tonight as his Houston Rockets (36-17) face off vs. The Los Angeles Lakers (18-35) in their first game since the All-Star break.

All eyes are on Howard tonight, as he plays vs. Lakers at Staples Center for the first time since he left the Lakers. Fair or unfair, many have blamed Howard, who averages 18.8 PPG, 12.5 RPG, and 1.8 BPG this season, for last season’s debacle of a season. With this season’s disaster that the Lakers have faced throughout this season, we can sense that other major factors caused last season’s struggle and Howard’s eventual departure to the Rockets.

Meanwhile, very high probability exists that tonight will be the final game the Lakers roster would look like their current state. The Lakers will most likely make moves before tomorrow’s trade deadline, which would include getting additional picks for the upcoming NBA Draft, getting under the luxury tax threshold, or rebuild for another championship run with SG Kobe Bryant.

As usual, C Pau Gasol has once again been placed in the trade block, while PF Jordan Hill has been involved in many trade talks, notably Brooklyn Nets. Other candidates to get traded before tomorrow’s deadline include C Chris Kaman and PG Steve Blake, mainly since trading their contracts will get them much closer to get under the luxury tax threshold.

Ironically, the Lakers will be led by C Chris Kaman tonight, who for whatever reason Mike D’Antoni has placed at the end of the bench for the majority of this season. One of the most skilled center in the NBA on the offensive end, Kaman has been by far one of the most consistent Laker since finally receiving any playing time, scoring 22 PPG and grabbing 10.5 RPG in the last 4 games. If this is Kaman’s last game with the Lakers, he will definitely help another team’s cause at going for this year’s NBA Championship.

Projected Starters

PG – Patrick Beverly Kendall Marshall [Advantage: Rockets]
SG – James Harden / Steve Blake [Advantage: Rockets]
SF – Chandler Parsons Wesley Johnson [Advantage: Rockets]
PF – Terrence Jones Ryan Kelly [Advantage: Even]
C – Dwight Howard Chris Kaman [Advantage: Rockets]

Notable Bench Players

Rockets: PG Jeremy Lin, F Omri Casspi, G Francisco Garcia, Greg Smith, Omer Asik 

Lakers:  C Robert Sacre, F Jordan Hill, SG Jodie Meeks

Bench Advantage: Rockets

Injury List

Rockets: Questionable-PG Patrick Beverley, Questionable-F Greg Smith

Lakers: Out-G Kobe Bryant, Out-C Pau Gasol, Out-G Xavier Henry, Out-G/F Nick Young, Doubtful-PG Steve Nash, Doubtful-PG Jordan FarmarProbable-SG Jodie Meeks

Keys for Lakers Victory

Defense: The Lakers’ defense played well the 1st 3 quarters vs. Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder, holding them to only 72 points in the first 3 quarters. Hopefully the Lakers will come with the same energy tonight, especially since Howard returns to Staples Center and this game will be broadcasted nationally. The Rockets have a lot of weapons other than SG James Harden and Howard; SF Chandler Parsons and PG Jeremy Lin have shown that they can also take over games if needed, so the Lakers have to play great team defense and communicate well in order to contain the Rockets lineup.

Bottom Line

I expect the Lakers to play very inspired basketball tonight especially during the 1st half. They have to play with the same energy they came out with vs. Thunder but maintain throughout the duration of tonight’s game. Unfortunately, the Rockets’ talent will be very tough to overcome for the very shorthanded Lakers tonight, especially as 4 of our 5 top players are not even in uniform tonight.

Prediction

Rockets: 112-97

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Image Credit: US Presswire

The Zen Master has spoken.

Former Laker Hall-of-Fame coach Phil Jackson sat down with former Laker and current NBA TV Analyst Rick Fox to discuss memories from his 11 NBA championships as a coach, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, and also his basketball coaching future.

Jackson made some pretty optimistic comments on whether or not Bryant could come back to become dominant after recovering from his recent injury.

“Kobe’s minutes he’s played, the time he’s been on the court, the duress, the way he’s played, has taken a toll obviously, his injury has been a part of chain of events because of what’s happened to his Achilles tendons,” Jackson said. “I think he’ll be back, and I think he’ll still be a scorer. … Kobe can still post up, be a good screen and roll player, hit shots, and hit some three pointer.”

He also responded to Fox’s question on whether or not he personally would have re-signed Bryant to a 2-year extension.

“Yeah, I would’ve. They paid him more than I would’ve gone for, But what he’s given to the organization, what he gives back, he brings a sense that ‘we are going to win,'” said Jackson. “We have to have a guy on our team doesn’t settle for 2nd. That’s one of the area where the value of Kobe, even at his age, is terrific.”

Former Lakers C Dwight Howard clearly had a dysfunctional stint with current head coach Mike D’Antoni that caused him to leave the Lakers. When Fox asked Jackson whether or not he would have stayed if the Lakers had chosen to hire him over D’Antoni, Jackson responded:

“There’s a true chance that would’ve [stayed]. Dwight gave up a little early on the Lakers, but maybe it wasn’t for him. Maybe he didn’t find the culture exactly what he needed to blossom and benefit from the game, but it cost the Lakers a lot, it cost them a draft pick.”

The Lakers currently sit at a dismal 16-30 record, good for second-to-last place, slightly ahead of the Sacrament Kings. Many fans want D’Antoni fired to let Jackson coach one last time.

When Fox asked Jackson about his coaching future, he was very candid in his response.

“I have no intention of coaching again…physically, I have to reconcile a fact that I’m in a position after 5 operations in 3, 4 years, [and] at my age it takes a little bit more to recover from it,” Jackson stated.

He then left a small room of hope for Lakers fans who want him back.

“But who knows, maybe I will have a regenerative tissue that will get me back at it.”

Will Phil Jackson ever coach the Lakers again and help Kobe get his sixth NBA Championship?

View Results

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Photo courtesy of Bill Baptist, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Bill Baptist, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Bill Baptist, Getty Images

January 8, 2014 — 5:00PM (PST)
Toyota Center, Houston, TX
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

The Los Angeles Lakers (14-21) come into tonight’s rematch vs. center Dwight Howard and the Houston Rockets (22-13) with no momentum, especially after losing last night’s game vs. the Dallas Mavericks, 110-97. Their defense was not much better last night, allowing the Mavericks to shoot over 50% from the field goal in three of the four quarters

To make matters worse, G/F Nick Young struggled last night dealing with a back issue and his availability for tonight’s game is uncertain. If Young cannot play tonight, the Lakers are left with only eight healthy players available for tonight’s game.

The Lakers have been running their offense throught PG Kendall Marshall, and C/F Pau GasolMarshall did not have as good of a game last night as he did during his first 2 starts, scoring 18 points but only dishing out 6 assists and committing 6 turnovers. Gasol also struggled for the first time since he had a relapse from his sinus infection, scoring only 15 points on 5-14 shooting and grabbing 13 rebounds.

Meanwhile, the Houston Rockets come into tonight’s match-up looking to seek revenge from their last match-up when Lakers PG Steve Blake hit the game-winning 3 pt. shot. C Dwight Howard has had another all-star season from the Center position, averaging 17.4 PPG, 12.9 RPG, and 1.8 BPG. Howard still has offensive deficiencies at times, but has shown great defensive prowess for the Rockets this season, something the Lakers dearly miss. Another all-star, SG James Harden has definitely enjoyed his tenure for the Rockets, averaging 24.4 PPG while dishing out 5.2 RPG. Harden’s craftiness while attacking the basket will once again cause the Lakers a lot of problems tonight.

Projected Starters

PG – Jeremy Lin Kendall Marshall [Advantage: Rockets]

SG – James Harden / Jodie Meeks [Advantage: Rockets]

SF – Chandler Parsons Wesley Johnson [Advantage: Rockets]

PF – Terrence Jones Pau Gasol [Advantage: Lakers]

C – Dwight Howard Robert Sacre [Advantage: Rockets]

Notable Bench Players

Rockets: PG Aaron Brooks, F Omri Casspi, G Francisco Garcia, Greg Smith 

Lakers:  G/F Nick Young, F Jordan Hill, Ryan Kelly

Bench Advantage: Even

Injury List

Rockets: Out-C Omer Asik, Out-PG Patrick Beverley, Questionable-SF Chandler Parsons, Questionable-F Greg Smith

Lakers: Out-G Kobe Bryant, Out-PG Steve Nash, Out-PG Steve Blake, Out-G Xavier Henry, Out-PG Jordan Farmar, Probable-G/F Nick Young

Keys for Lakers Victory

Defense: The Lakers’ defense did not fare much better vs. Mavericks, allowing 110 points and allowing them to get easy shots up. Their defense will be exposed again, especially since both guards, Harden and PG Jeremy Lin, love driving to the basket and creating shots for themselves and their teammates. Gasol should not have too much trouble guarding Howard one-on-one, but the Lakers will be vulnerable guarding the other 4 players on the floor.

Shoot the Ball Well: Is taking a lot of three-point shots a recipe for a championship? Absolutely not. However, it could be the only recipe available for the Lakers to give themselves a shot to win tonight’s game. When the Lakers defeated the Rockets in their last matchup, the Lakers made 45.7% of their three-point shots. Since the Lakers have been devastated by numerous amounts of injury, players like SG Jodie Meeks have to shoot the ball extremely well tonight with confidence for the Lakers to even have a chance at the end to steal the game from the Rockets.

Bottom Line

Hopefully the Lakers will play as inspired tonight as they did during their last meeting vs. Rockets. However, the Lakers roster looks much different now, with all of their point guards who started off the season on the roster now out for the foreseeable future. With the Lakers’ ship sinking quickly the way it is, Laker Nation can only hope for the Lakers to keep themselves respectable vs. Rockets throughout tonight’s game.

Prediction

Rockets: 98-85

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Image: Kevork Djansezian | Getty Images

Former Lakers coach Phil Jackson will appear in an upcoming interview to be aired on CampusInsiders.com on October 28 and November 1 at 10:30 a.m. PT. In the interview with Seth Davis, Jackson reflected on numerous basketball-related topics.

Stemming from last season’s “midnight coaching decision,” Jackson explained that he probably would not have even coached the Lakers last season:

“I probably would’ve made a decision not to coach the team anyway because of my health,” Jackson told Davis.

“I was like, ‘It’s midnight. Let me sleep on this one.'”

Jackson’s hesitance ultimately led to the Lakers choosing Mike D’Antoni to fill the coaching vacancy.

Jackson also addressed whether or not he’s done with coaching in the NBA:

“I’m realistically thinking about the fact that I probably won’t be able to physically coach again,” Jackson explained.

Another hot topic over the past few months has been none other than former Laker Dwight Howard. Host Seth Davis doubts you can with a championship with Howard as your center; Jackson, however, disagrees:

“I think you’re wrong. I’ve had those type of feelings that you’ve had for years, about various players in the league,” Jackson said.

In addition to Lakers-related topics, Jackson also reflected on how Michael Jordan demoralized his teammates in practice, Jordan’s Hall of Fame speech, his response to Kendrick Lamar’s jab in Big Sean’s song ‘Control’, among other topics, in his upcoming interview with CampusInsiders.com.

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Image: Nokia Theatre
Image: Nokia Theatre
Image: Nokia Theatre

August 15th, 2013 The Kobe & Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation partnered with the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center to host Kobe Up Close.

All proceeds from the event went towards eliminating homelessness in Los Angeles.

The event was a unique opportunity for Lakers fans to access the unfiltered mind of their beloved superstar, Kobe Bryant.

In attendance at the event were current Lakers Robert Sacre, Ryan Kelly and Wesley Johnson, new assistant coach Mark Madsen, former Lakers coach Bill Sharman, Lakers executives Jeanie Buss and Jim Buss, former NFL player Terrell Owens, among others.

The event began with CBS sportscaster Jim Hill speaking on Bryant.

Hill on his first impression of Bryant back when he was drafted by the Lakers:

“I remember Jerry West talking about Kobe Bryant and saying he was going to be very, very special. He was going to be one of the true great ones. And Jerry doesn’t say that about a lot of people, especially young people.”

“The first time I met Kobe, I knew then he was going to be not only a great one, but a very special one.”

On just how special Bryant really is:

“We will never see the likes of Kobe Bryant again, he is truly a gifted basketball player.”

“He doesn’t look at basketball as a job. For him it’s a passion. He’s spoiled us with his excellence.”

“What drives Kobe the most is when people doubt him. You will see a devoted Kobe this season like you’ve never seen before.”

Former Laker Robert Horry also spoke on Bryant before the main event started.

Horry on Bryant’s mental edge:

“Kobe’s mindset is amazing. When you see someone in the locker room as focused as he was, it really lifts everyone else up.”

On his relentless work ethic:

“When you walk into practice and you see him in there working hard. He’s in there sweating before you get there and after you leave.”

After Horry’s short segment, the main event with Kobe Bryant and Jimmy Kimmel began.

Bryant on the number of minutes he played last season:

“I don’t think it was too many. The Achilles injury was just a freak injury.”

On whether he’ll play less minutes next season:

“That’s the goal … I could sit back until June, I just want that jewelry.”

On when he will play again:

“I don’t know if I’ll be ready opening night, but I am really ahead of schedule.”

On whether it was a personal decision to stop tweeting during games last season or a franchise decision:

“That was my decision. The Lakers know I’m a little too stubborn to ever be told anything.”

On his popularity in China:

“I really don’t know. I started going out there in 1998 and have gone every summer since.”

Kobe was a Lakers fan even before he came to the United States:

“While I was living in Italy, my grandpa used to send me tapes of Lakers games and I absolutely fell in love with them.”

On his decision to skip college and go straight to the NBA out of high school:

“I liked Duke and I absolutely love Coach K. If I had had to make a decision though, I would have gone to North Carolina. Mainly because of the competition and being able to play against Vince Carter every day to improve.”

“The first college letter I ever received was from West Point … I was just happy to get a letter.”

Would he tell others to skip college?

“I would just tell others to follow their dreams.”

On his pre-draft workout with the Clippers:

“The Clippers told me they wouldn’t draft me because they wanted to ‘turn things around.’ They said they wouldn’t be taken seriously if they drafted a 17-year-old kid out of high school.”

On the late Dr. Jerry Buss:

“He knew exactly what his vision was. He was very patient, understanding. He allowed me room to grow as a person.”

On his first time meeting Shaquille O’Neal:

“It was the coolest thing in the world that he had a huge cell phone.”

Which title was Bryant’s favorite during his time with Shaq?

“Number 2. We should have gone undefeated. It still bothers us to this day that we let that one game drop.”

What is Bryant’s relationship with Michael Jordan like?

“It’s like a big brother relationship. He gives me phenomenal advice on how to better elevate my teammates.”

On who are the toughest players he’s played against:

“Allen Iverson was a load to handle. Stephon Marbury dropped 50 on me once. Gilbert Arenas. Today, probably Carmelo Anthony because he’s so strong. Kevin Durant too. The guy who gave me the most trouble though was Tracy McGrady.”

When asked if he was certain he’d be a Laker for life, Bryant responded: “Yeah.”

Bryant on Dwight Howard and his exodus from Los Angeles:

“Dwight is a great kid. We have different perspectives on what it takes to win and what it takes to be successful.”

On trying to convince Howard to stay:

“It’s all about the organization and trying to set them up the best I can for when I retire.”

On his once volatile relationship with Shaq:

“It never bothered me when other people said, ‘You only won because of Shaq.’ It bothered me when Shaq said it.”

On his evolution as both a player and a person:

“I was so consumed with my craft in the beginning of my career. … I go into games now looking at what my guys are going through and who’s struggling, and how I can help. I look at my teammates now as partners.”

When asked if he could have one former teammate return, who would it be:

“I’d take Derek Fisher back … that’s my guy.”

On what he’s most proud of:

“Being a 17-year-old kid and challenging the system at the time.”

Is Bryant chasing Kareem Abdul-Jabar’s all-time scoring mark?

“I’m so obsessed with winning that those type of things don’t really matter to me.”

Which is Bryant’s favorite nickname right now?

“I like Vino right now. Black Mamba is my alter-ego.”

On the ESPN experts projecting the Lakers to finish 12th in the West this season:

“I use it as motivation, as fuel. We were the favorites last year and they were wrong about that.”

On who is the ‘next Kobe Bryant’:

“There’s several. Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving. Even Nick Young. They all have that gene.”

The event ended with Terrell Owens asking Bryant a few questions. The two share a common neuro-muscular scientist consultant in Barrence Baytos. Both Bryant and Owens raved about Baytos and Bryant called him a “genius” who has helped prolong his career.

The Kobe Up Close event was a great opportunity to delve into the mind of Kobe Bryant.

This revealing ‘other side’ to the ever-intense Black Mamba was certainly riveting and quite interesting.

Bryant will continue what he called an “aggressive” rehabilitation process as he prepares to return from his Achilles tendon tear.

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The NBA announced today the new schedule for the upcoming 2013-2014 NBA season.  Riddled with marquis games, rivalries, and guaranteed blowouts this season looks to be quite the ride.  You can look at the schedule here via ESPN.

The season opens on October 29th with Los Angeles playing Los Angeles in an epic battle of LA.  Some other notable games for the Lakers are playing the Heat at Staples Center on Christmas Day, and visiting Dwight Howard and the Rockets on November 7th.  The opening night game versus the Clippers will perhaps have a lot more meaning than appears at first glance.  Starting the season with a win there would give the Laker faithful a real hope for the rest of the season seeing as they were swept by their co tenants last year in the season series.  Dwight Howard doesn’t make a trip back to LA until February 19th when the Lakers host the Houston Rockets.  The Grammy road trip spans from January 15th – January 26th playing six games over that duration against PHX, BOS, TOR, CHI, MIA, ORL, and NYK, certainly no walk in the park.

The Lakers have a good core put together and should put up better numbers than many are anticipating this season so don’t throw in the towel just yet.  This season is sure to be filled with its share of ups and downs but has a rich helping of great, exciting games for fans every where to enjoy.

Here’s to a good season Nation, less than 3 months away.

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Image: CHRIS TROTMAN | GETTY IMAGES

According to ESPNLA.com’s Ramona Shelburne and ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst, the Lakers are focusing on rebuilding around the two biggest free agents for 2014 – Lebron James and Carmelo Anthony.

Image: Harry How | Getty Images
Image: Harry How | Getty Images

In accordance with ESPN.com’s Marc Stein’s prediction of a $62.1 million salary cap for the 2014-15 season, the Lakers will theoretically have about $51.5 million in cap space next summer.

Although the reality of pairing James and Anthony together is still a long-shot at this point, the Lakers have made it clear that they plan to try.

The Lakers have positioned themselves into making a realistic run at not just one superstar next summer, but possibly two in the same off-season.

By refusing to commit to any contracts past this upcoming season, the Lakers have maintained maximum flexibility to cash-in on the 2014 free agency frenzy.

A league source with knowledge of the situation told ESPN:

“It’s all wishful thinking at this point,” a league source said. “Teams are doing more wishing than LeBron is wanting right now.

“It’s not about where LeBron wants to go [to win]. He already has two rings. If LeBron moved to Reno, teams would come to him.”

James, who has an opt-out clause for next season, has not made it clear as to whether he plans to exercise his opt-out or not.

It seems that James has learned from his previous “decision” by refusing to discuss his future plans until the time comes.

Image: Jeff Gross | Getty Images
Image: Jeff Gross | Getty Images

In addition to James, Anthony also has an early termination option in his contract after this next season.

One source close to Anthony’s situation told ESPN:

“It would make sense for him to exercise the early termination option on his contract after next season to become a free agent and secure either a four- or five-year extension.”

Although the Lakers have tons of cap space next season, there is nothing concrete to sell potential free agents on.

As it currently stands, the Lakers do not even have any current marquee players, like they would have had had Dwight Howard re-signed this off-season.

Not even Kobe Bryant, who is in the final year of his contract, is guaranteed to be in the fold after next year.

Bryant has said recently that he plans to play another two or three more seasons, but would need to take a major pay-cut for the Lakers to maintain enough room to purse two max-level free agents.

Bryant, however, recently told ESPNLA.com’s Dave McMenamin that he intends to be involved in the Lakers’ recruiting efforts for 2014:

“It’s an open conversation, via text and also meeting in person and just picking up the phone and calling,” Bryant said of his involvement. “[The Lakers] have kept me in the loop pretty well.”

With Bryant at the head of the recruiting process, it could bode well for the Lakers’ pursuit of Anthony, in particular.

Image: Phil Walter | Getty Images
Image: Phil Walter | Getty Images

Bryant and Anthony developed a close relationship during their time together in the recent Summer Olympics, and have remained friends since.

The two superstars have also discussed potentially playing together in the past.

It should be interesting to see if the Lakers can in fact lure two max-level free agents next summer, in addition to re-signing Bryant at an affordable price.

The Lakers remain poised to do so, however, with Steve Nash ($9.7 million) and Robert Sacre ($915,243) the only players on the books for 2014-15.

According to the ESPNLA.com’s report, the new collective bargaining agreement would allow the Lakers to waive the final year of Nash’s contract, so they could potentially “stretch” his $9.7 million out over three years.

This would mean that only $3.2 million would count against the 2014-15 salary cap, giving the Lakers even more cap flexibility.

As a result of this cap rule, the Lakers could then grant Bryant’s wish and extend his contract for another few seasons at between $10-15 million per season.

Even with Bryant making about $10-15 million per season, the Lakers would still theoretically have enough room to pursue two max-level players.

In addition to Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James, the 2014 free agency class potentially includes Dwyane Wade, Amar’e Stoudemire, Chris Bosh, Luol Deng, Danny Granger, Andrew Bogut, Dirk Nowitzki, and current Lakers Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, among others.

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PhotoCredit:JARED WICKERHAM/GETTY IMAGES

Now that Howard has chosen the Houston Rockets over the Lakers reports are coming out with details of his meetings and what Howard’s representatives were saying.  According to sources speaking with ESPN.com Howard was looking for a quick end to Bryant’s reign as the leader of the Los Angeles Lakers.  It was said that Howard would have a difficult time re-signing with the Lakers if Kobe Bryant were to remain there beyond the 13-14 season, his contract year.

Bryant, while recovering from his Achilles’ tear, has found a new fire in his heart to play another three or four seasons in the NBA and this goes directly against Howard’s wanting to become the face of LA, so he bolted.

“How can it be Kobe’s team and Dwight’s team?” one source said. “It was about the passing of the torch.”

Here’s the part where it gets gutsy.  Howard’s camp reportedly asked the Lakers if they were considering using their amnesty provision on Kobe Bryant, seeing that his return to basketball was up in the air due to his devastating injury.  It seems quite audacious to ask such a question, in other words, are you willing to throw out Bryant, arguably the best Laker ever, for Howard who hasn’t really proven his worth up until this point.  Of course the Lakers said this wasn’t up for discussion and the end of Bryant’s tenure with the Lakers would be up to Bryant himself, you don’t just

PhotoCredit:AP/Sue Ogrocki
PhotoCredit:AP/Sue Ogrocki

throw in the towel on someone of his caliber.

It had even been discussed that Howard, when in talks with Chris Paul about teaming up, said that they both could play in LA for either the Lakers or the Clippers.  This would mean however, trading Nash and Gasol to make room for both their salaries, oh and they’d still be amnestying Bryant. Immediately this plan was off the table for the Lakers as they don’t see this as a viable option going forward.

Howard wanted the transfer of power sooner rather than later, and Kobe, now wanting to play three more seasons, was the biggest obstacle in his way.  Here’s what Howard had to say regarding his latest decision in free agency.

“I just really think the timing in L.A., it wasn’t right for me,” Howard told ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Dave McMenamin on Friday. “Maybe two years ago, or 2-3 years from now, it would have been the right time. But I just think right now the timing was off for me. That’s not saying that L.A. is a bad place, but I just think it’s all about timing and fit when you’re talking about basketball. You can put anybody together on the court and expect them to win, but the pieces have to really fit in order for a team to be successful and it was very, very tough, man. It’s probably one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever had to make in my life.”

This actually makes a whole lot of sense when you look at it from Howard’s perspective, should this have happened a couple years ago or a few years into the future Howard may have re-signed with LA as the timing would have been more appropriate.  With Bryant still leading the team for three more seasons likely and Howard wanting to be the franchise player now, the puzzle pieces just didn’t fit into place.

Howard also wants it to be known that D’Antoni wasn’t the sole reason for his departure.

“I think that we had our moments, but I think that his style was a little bit different than what I was accustomed to,” Howard told ESPNLosAngeles.com of D’Antoni. “But I don’t want to blame any of that on the coach as the reason why I’m leaving.”

Overall Howard wanted the Lakers to be his own, he wanted to call the shots, have the offense run through him, and be the face of LA.  Kobe Bryant still being there however, impeded that vision of Howards, ultimately leading him to sign with a Rockets team that was much more amenable to his needs.  I find it interesting that his camp actually was thinking the Lakers would amnesty Kobe Bryant for Howard to take the reigns in the least organic way possible.  You can’t force things like this, they just happen with time and that’s how championship teams are built. Dwight Howard’s time in Los Angeles was running out from the second he stepped foot into Staples’ Center, and it clearly just wasn’t meant to be.

How do you feel about Howard’s camp asking if the Lakers would amnesty Kobe Bryant, audacious? Acceptable? Rude? Let’s hear it Nation!

 

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Credit: Getty Images

The city of Los Angeles, home of beautiful weather, women and glamour. Home of the greatest organization in sports, The Los Angeles Lakers, but more importantly, the greatest fans. What makes the Lakers and their fans so unique is they mirror one another. They represent L.A., in many ways. The streets of Los Angeles are rough. It’s about taking care of business and being loyal to one another. The fans represent a ride or die mentality for the Lakers organization, and the players of L.A. do the same.

Being a Laker comes with many great advantages, things like playing for an amazing organization that has a history of winning, and playing alongside one of the (if not the) best to do it in Kobe Bryant and of course the fame of Hollywood. More importantly when you put on that Purple and Gold Armor as Kobe would say, you represent this city. As a Laker you represent toughness and feistiness, you are professional and always hungry just like the city. Our players and fans take on personalities of Ice Cube, Jack Nicholson and many more. Ice Cube represents the West Coast and living in hard times earlier in his life, he’s tough and always wants the Lakers to win. Jack on the other hand is calm cool man, but when a play goes wrong or the referee misses a call he loses it, ready to throw a tantrum, and Laker fans out here, we just love it.

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Credit: Getty Images

I say these things to remind us, who we are and what we represent as fans. We look at the past and current players starting off with Shaq. Shaq jokes around and always smiles but when it came to his play on the court he was dominant and just unstoppable, putting up 40 pts and 20 rebound playoff performances.

We look at Derek Fisher not the biggest or fastest but has the heart of a lion and the nuts of an elephant, I’m pretty sure everyone remembers the play between him and Luis Scola, were he just lit him up and dropped on the floor.

We look at Ron Artest A.K.A Metta World Peace, if their was ever a rumble on the court he was there for his teammates and helped us in game 7 with great Defense and clutch shooting. Todays players, Kobe Bean Bryant, one of the most professional, passionate leaders in Lakers history that never backs down from a challenge.

Los Angeles Lakers Victory Parade
Credit: Getty Images

L.A citizens wake up, work the 9 to 5, grind everyday and when all hope seems lost, they still keep working hard and find a way to get the job done. If the Lakers were down 8 with two minutes left, Kobe and his teammates will find a way to bring us back to win the game. L.A fans and L.A players mirror each other, they are one.

Dwight Howard did not represent LA and who we are. He is extremely talented and is arguably the best center in the league. He is NOT an L.A player, Dwight did not represent this city and our characteristics. He lacked the grittiness, toughness and hunger of the city. Like Tupac said “ To Live and Die in LA it’s the place to be,” We never needed Dwight or needed to beg him, it should have been an honor for him to come back and play. Los Angeles Lakers fans and organization, do not forget who we are, where we come from and what we represent. This is Los Angeles, it doesn’t get better than this. We must remain strong and stay true to ourselves.

Sincerely,

– Just One Of Many Hardworking Los Angeles Citizens and Die Hard Laker Fan. Go Lakers.

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Image: Jared Wickerham | Getty Images
Image: Jared Wickerham | Getty Images
Image: Jared Wickerham | Getty Images

According to the OC Register’s Kevin Ding, the Lakers plan on using their one-time amnesty provision on small forward Metta World Peace:

This comes as little surprise, considering the Lakers’ current financial situation for next season.

With the new “repeater luxury tax” penalizing tax-paying teams, the Lakers’ decision to amnesty World Peace is purely financial.

Even with Dwight Howard bolting to Houston and the inevitable use of the amnesty clause, saving the Lakers about $14.355 million in payroll, the Lakers will still be over the 2013-14 NBA salary cap.

As reported today, the Lakers have agreed to use their taxpayer’s mid-level exception in signing free agent center Chris Kaman, which leaves them with only veteran minimum contracts to fill out the rest of the roster.

One option in filling World Peace’s void is simply moving Kobe Bryant to the small forward position.

The Lakers, however, have also been rumored as having interest in a few free agent wing players.

Stay tuned for official word on the Lakers using their amnesty provision, as the NBA amnesty period runs from July 11 through July 17 of this year.

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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.