No one truly knows when Kobe Bryant will call it a career except Kobe himself, and that’s how it should be. Kobe stated as a rookie that he didn’t plan on playing past 35 years of age, or until he could no longer play at the extremely high level he performs at, and he’s stuck to his guns up to this point in his storied career. The Laker faithful would love to see him play until he can no longer walk or dribble a basketball, I think everyone would actually, the man’s a future Hall of Famer. He’s been with the franchise since he was traded to Los Angeles on draft day in 1996, and he has no plans on ever playing for anyone but the purple and gold.
Kobe doesn’t plan on leading everyone on until the final minute about his retirement plans so he’s given himself a deadline of this upcoming Summer for his decision to be final. This via NBA.com:
“We’ll talk,” Bryant said after piling up 19 points, 14 assists against one turnover and nine rebounds while playing all but 23 seconds of the 103-98 victory over the Kings at Sleep Train Arena. “I’ll talk to my family and stuff and really see if I want to continue to sacrifice as much as I’m sacrificing right now. I’m putting my body through a lot to just try to get ready to play every single night. To do what I’m doing right now, it’s not easy. I’ll tell you, it’s taken a lot of commitment.”
People and fans everywhere don’t often take a moment to sit and think about what it takes to play basketball as marvelously as Kobe Bryant does, sure he has the talent to back it up, but to tap into the full potential of that talent takes sacrifice, commitment, and the strongest love of the game one can imagine. Asked if he thinks next season will be his last, Bryant was short and to the point:
“As I sit here right now, yeah.”
Is there anything the Lakers can say that would make it more likely you play beyond next season?
“No,” Bryant told NBA.com. “It’s my decision. It’s really about what I want to do, if I want to train and be psychotic with my training. That’s what it comes down to. It’s really how I’m feeling physically.”
Personally, I feel Kobe will continue beyond next season, or he’ll take a season off, realize he made a mistake and make a comeback much like Michael Jordan did. However, Kobe would likely come back to Los Angeles and play for them again as opposed to another team, but this is all just speculation and again no one knows what will happen except Bryant himself.
We all have to take a minute and think about how hard Bryant has worked over the past 17 years in the NBA, and the kind of love and dedication to the game he has. Doing that for another 3 years is quite daunting to think about and at 35 years old by the start of next season Bryant may just not have it in him. This Summer will be highly intriguing for Los Angeles with the pending resigning of C Dwight Howard and what direction the Lakers organization would like to take the franchise based on Bryant’s imminent decision. In the end it’s Bryant’s decision to make and no one else should have a say in it, he’s absolutely earned that.
To be back in a position to win again is a phenomenal feeling, and I’m really proud to be a Laker today.
When the Lakers introduced Steve Nash back on July 11th of last year, the overwhelming majority of Laker fans felt that on that day, the Lakers had finally acquired a game-changing point guard. After years of role players at the one, the Lakers had finally picked up a pass-first point guard to make Kobe’s life easier and help close the gap on the other contenders in the West.
However, as has been the case with most of the Lakers expectations from that beautiful July, things haven’t exactly played out as expected.
Nash has become more of a spot-up shooter than playmaking wizard, and watching him play has been a bit frustrating for Laker fans and Nash alike. The majority opinion on the topic is that Kobe Bryant has rendered Nash obsolete by having most of the offense run through him, a fear many had when the Lakers acquired Nash.
But is Nash really struggling as much as we’re made to believe? The idea was that he would make things easier for Bryant, but it seems that Kobe has had to do more work this season than any before. But when it comes to Nash and Bryant is perception really the reality?
While it does seem that Nash has struggled shooting the ball this season, take a look at his shooting chart this year compared to his last season as a Sun in the 2011-2012 season.
Nash in 2012-2013:
Nash in 2011-2012:
Two things immediately stand out from looking at those two shot charts. First, in 45 games this season Nash has made almost as many three’s as he did in the 62 games he played for Phoenix last season. Second, Nash is shooting about 11% worse in the paint this season than he did last season.
So then Nash has been relegated to a spot up shooter while Kobe dominates the ball right? Not exactly. It’s easy to look at the numbers and assume that Nash is no longer creating shots for himself and others effectively, but watching the games tell another story. Since the All-Star break, the Lakers have ran a lot more pick-and-rolls with Nash and Dwight Howard. This has resulted in Nash shooting a lot of open shots as Dwight dives to the hoop and really helped him become a great offensive weapon.
Since the break Nash is shooting 80/171, good for 46.7% from the field. While the shooting percentage may not seem that great, the fact is teams have had to try stopping him, which has made Kobe and Dwight’s lives much easier.
But what about the argument that Nash has become an after-thought when Kobe is on the court with him? The numbers seem to show that is not the case at all. Take a look at what Nash has shot this season in games with Kobe, and his numbers in the three games since Kobe sprained his ankle.
195/389, 50.1% overall
49/113, 43.4% from 3
18/42, 42.9% overall
3/6, 50% from 3
Nash has had to become more of a scorer since Bryant went out, and his numbers have clearly taken a hit because of it. Much has been made of the threat of Nash shooting allowing Kobe to see less defenders, but the fact is that Bryant also allows Nash to get plenty of great looks in the offense.
The demise of Steve Nash has been greatly over-exaggerated this season. While Nash has had to adjust his role in this Lakers offense, he is still a very effective shooter who can make a huge difference in a game. Whether by running the pick-and-roll or by hurting teams with his spot-up shooting, the two-time MVP definitely can be an X-factor for the Lakers going forward.
According to the OC Register’s Kevin Ding, Dwight Howard has parted ways with his business manager after nine years.
Howard has decided to move his career in a new direction.
Kevin Samples, Howard’s cousin and primary advisor for his entire professional career, has been with Howard every step of the way since Howard was drafted in 2004.
With this recent parting, Howard seems confident in calling his own shots in the future:
“We had nine great years together,” Howard told me late Monday night. “Just time to go separate ways.”
“I know what I want to accomplish,” Howard said. “I’ve always written down my goals and everything I want, and I want to make sure I get ‘em. Everything I’ve lost, everything that’s gone away, I’m going to get it back.”
Howard’s early relationship with Samples eventually grew into Dwight Howard Enterprises, consisting of only Howard and Samples.
This was certainly no easy decision for Howard, considering their family ties:
“He’s still my cousin, my family, so we’ll always be around each other,” Howard said. “But we just parted ways on the business side.”
Could this affect Howard’s pending free agency decision? We’ll see.
But Howard has certainly made strides from the infamous “Dwightmare” in Orlando.
Howard’s future in Los Angeles remains up in the air, but if his recent play is any indication, he seems to be getting more comfortable under the bright lights.
One thing is for sure though, the future and legacy of ‘Superman’ is up to one man, and one man only: Dwight Howard.
The Lakers completed last week with a 3-2 record. Although they remained in the 8th slot in the Western Conference, the Lakers suffered a significant loss to their personnel.
In the waning moments of the Lakers’ loss to the Atlanta Hawks, Kobe Bryant sprained his ankle when guard Dahntay Jones slid under him. Despite trying to play in the next game in Indiana, Bryant has since missed the last two games.
The Lakers started the week off well with a 106-97 win over the Orlando Magic. Dwight Howard certainly left his imprint on his return to Orlando, scoring 39 points and grabbing 16 rebounds.
The Lakers then traveled to Atlanta where they lost 96-92, in addition to suffering yet another crushing injury.
Concluding the quick 3-game road trip in Indiana, the Lakers defeated a solid Pacers team with little contribution from Bryant.
Travelling home, the Lakers beat the Sacramento Kings handedly, 113-102. The next night, the Lakers travelled Phoenix, losing 99-76. The Lakers’ 76 points were a season-low, as coach Mike D’Antoni’s 7-man rotation showed signs of fatigue.
Take a look back now at the changes in the Lakers’ stock values and the impact the players should have going forward:
Steve Blake : Now this is the Steve Blake the Lakers thought they signed back in 2010.
Since Bryant’s injury, Blake has averaged 15.7 points per game and 6.3 assists per game. Blake has also shot 56.7% from the field in his last three games.
With all of the hype surrounding the Lakers’ starters and the emergence of Earl Clark this season, Blake’s consistency has been sorely overlooked.
Since his return from the abdominal injury, Blake has helped turn the Lakers’ bench unit into a deadly asset for the Lakers.
With Bryant and hopefully Pau Gasol returning from injury as soon as this Friday, Blake’s improved play should continue.
Blake, in combination with Antawn Jamison, have been integral parts of the Lakers’ recent turnaround.
Dwight Howard : ‘Superman’ is back.
Dwight Howard is playing his best basketball of the season right now. Even with a rough shooting night in Phoenix, Howard averaged 19.4 ppg and 14.4 rpg in his last five games.
In the Lakers win over the Magic, and Howard’s return to Orlando, Howard set a few records.
With 39 free-throw attempts in that game, he tied the NBA record he set last year against Golden State and established a Lakers standard, blowing past Shaquille O’Neal’s old mark of 31 in 1999 against Chicago.
Howard seems to be healthier and in better condition now. His activity level on both ends of the floor has also gradually improved from game to game.
With Bryant out, Howard seemed to take more of a leadership role on this team. His effective leadership significantly helped the Lakers pull out a win in Indiana.
As long as Howard stays relatively healthy, there is no reason why he won’t return to his supremely dominant self by the playoffs.
Antawn Jamison : Like many of the Lakers’ player in Phoenix, Antawn Jamison struggled to find the basket.
Jamison did have great games against Indiana and Sacramento this past week, however.
Against Indiana, Jamison’s three-point shooting helped the Lakers overcome the Pacers’ stout defense. Jamison made 4-7 threes and finished with 17 points and 7 rebounds.
The next game, against Sacramento, Jamison had an even better performance. Jamison made 5-8 three pointers and finished with 27 points and 9 rebounds.
D’Antoni’s short 7-man rotation has paid dividends for both Jamison and Blake off the bench. Both players seem much more comfortable now playing starter-type minutes.
The key will now be whether or not Jamison can continue his stellar play once Bryant and Gasol return.
Metta World Peace : Metta World Peace seems to have finally climbed out of his month-long shooting slump.
World Peace scored double-digit points in each of his last five games. World Peace averaged 17.4 ppg and 4.6 rpg over that stretch.
After the win over Sacramento, World Peace informed the media that he had been dealing with a leg injury.
World Peace claimed that the injury had been hampering his ability to defend as well as post-up.
It seems that that injury has now healed and World Peace is on his way to returning to his early season form.
Steve Nash : Both Steve’s played consistent basketball this past week.
Steve Nash averaged 15.0 ppg and 6.8 apg over his past five games. Nash also hit a season-high in assists against Sacramento, dishing out 12 dimes.
Since Bryant went down with injury, Nash has increased his playmaking role. Nash continues to find his teammates in good operational areas on the offensive end.
Nash has also become more aggressive shooting the ball. Nash attempted double-digit shot attempts in four out of the five games last week.
With Bryant and Gasol returning soon, the onus will fall on the Lakers’ veteran backcourt to make sure the offensive cohesiveness continues.
Earl Clark : Earl Clark can’t seem to get out of his recent funk.
Despite shooting 42.9% from the field, Clark only averaged 6.6 ppg in his last five games.
Clark did average 6.2 rpg this past week, but the Lakers could use even more production from the 6’10” forward.
Recently, Clark has been settling for jump shots way too often. When Clark first emerged as a legitimate scoring threat earlier this season, he was attacking the basket with great ferocity.
In recent weeks Clark seems to have let off the gas a little.
Clark’s knee injury may be more serious than we understand, but the Lakers could certainly use the ‘attacking’ Clark going forward.
Jodie Meeks : Tough week for Jodie Meeks.
Even with Bryant being out for an extended period, Meeks just couldn’t find much consistency on offense.
Meeks, who started in place of Bryant for two games, averaged 5.6 ppg but only shot 30.3% from the field.
As Jamison, Nash and Blake continue to shoot the ball exceptionally well, the Lakers are really only waiting on Meeks to catch up.
Hopefully with Bryant’s return, Meeks will become more comfortable off the bench and return to his sharp shooting behind the arc.
Robert Sacre : Robert Sacre appeared in limited minutes against Orlando, Indiana and Phoenix.
Sacre did score 2 points and grab a rebound against Indiana.
Darius Morris : Darius Morris appeared late in the Lakers’ loss to Phoenix when the game was out of reach.
Morris attempted two shots and made one free-throw.
Chris Duhon : Chris Duhon appeared only in “garbage-time” against Phoenix this week.
Devin Ebanks : Devin Ebanks also appeared late in the loss to Phoenix, but failed to score.
Kobe Bryant : Kobe Bryant sprained his left ankle in the fourth quarter of the Lakers’ loss to Atlanta. The injury occurred when Bryant elevated for a shot and opposing defender Dahntay Jones slid under him.
Bryant claimed afterwards that the play was dirty because Jones did not give Bryant room to come down from his jump shot.
The play was reviewed by the NBA and decided that the play should have been called a foul on Jones, but no punitive damages resulted.
The play, for those of you who have not seen it yet, can be seen here.
Bryant is currently listed as ‘day-to-day’, but is expected to play in the Lakers’ next game, Friday vs. Washington.
Pau Gasol : Pau Gasol continues to make his recovery from his partially torn plantar fascia.
Earlier in the week, there were murmurs that Gasol might play against Sacramento. He did not, but the Lakers remain optimistic that Gasol may also be ready for Friday’s game against the Wizards.
Stay tuned for next weeks’ Lakers Stock Watch as the Lakers try to solidify a playoff berth battling Washington and Golden State.
After a win last night against the Sacramento Kings Dwight Howard performed his usual of answering reporters questions in the locker room. Howard usually does this with his shirt off which prompted a question about his current health.
Our own David Brickley tweeted about it last night:
Reporter (John Ireland) asks awkward question to Dwight Howard. Dwight's response is a must see: http://t.co/rEiXRhKI1p
Kobe Bryant is doubtful for tonight’s game against the Phoenix Suns. After sustaining his ankle injury in the last seconds of the Atlanta Hawks game he played for only a quarter of the win against the Indiana Pacers and did not dress Sunday in the win versus the Sacramento Kings. Via Twitter, Kobe announced he has the #flu alongside his ankle injury. Before Sunday nights game, coach Mike D’Antonitalked to ESPNLA reporter Dave McMenamin on when Kobe will return.
“I think the determining factor is whether he feels like he can contribute and feels like, ‘I’m good enough to play,’” D’Antoni said. “He’s been in the league a long time, he knows his body and he’ll have to make that determination.”
Speculation began to build around tonight’s game as Pau Gasol had planned on returning from his torn Plantar Fascia. However, Saturday Pau felt soreness in his foot after a 2 on 2 game at the team’s practice facility.
“It was to be expected,” Gasol said of the soreness. “As you raise the intensity in the amount of load you put on the foot, it’s going to create a little soreness. It’s a pretty normal reaction with the injury that I had.”
On Sunday Pau met with foot specialist Dr. Kenneth Jung. Those results have yet to be announced but Gasol will undergo an ultrasound on his foot Tuesday. The next possible date for Gasol’s return would be Friday against the Washington Wizards but D’Antoni doesn’t want to get his hopes up just yet.
“You just never know,” D’Antoni said. “There’s really been no contact yet or 5-on-5, he’s working out pretty hard. It’s going to be sooner rather than later. Whether it’s Friday or not, you just can’t tell.”
Gasol, who missed his 32nd game of the season Sunday, was noncommittal about when he would be back.
“I don’t want to put any date so there are no surprises or disappointments,” Gasol said before the Kings game.
Forward Jordan Hill has begun feverishly working out in hopes to return in late April or early May. Ruled out since January with hip surgery, Hill believed he was done for the season. Despite the news he will be reevaluated in April to check his progress. D’Antoni believes it would be a long stretch for Hill to return so soon as the elliptical machine is different than an NBA game.
“Even if he could come back, to get back in shape and get in the rotation, that would be tough,” D’Antoni said. “That would be a miracle.”
Even with both stars and Hill currently out for the Lakers they have begun surging as of late. With a record of 11-3 since All-Star break (2-0 without Kobe, yes Indiana does count) the Lakers are undergoing a stretch where Dwight Howard, Steve Nash, and team’s role players are finding continuity and an identity.As ESPNLA reporter Ramona Shelburne reported, it couldn’t have come at a better time.
“The ball moves and there are some good guys out there on the floor,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said. “Antawn has had back-to-back 50-point games in this league. Steve Blake is starting with a good team and has played really well in this league. Steve Nash is a two-time MVP. And Dwight Howard is really good. So we don’t have to be one player dominant.
“That ball needs to move and, if it does, then we are really good.”
Ball movement early in the season was as consistent as the Lakers were inconsistent. Too many times the team had to lean on Bryant to bail them out of close calls. However with Kobe out of the lineup and shots falling, the team is making a case that without two of their best players they are still better than people perceive.
“I was talking to Metta [World Peace] and he was like, ‘Now it’s our time to finally play our style, posting up and things like that,’” Jamison said.
“You’ve got guys being accustomed to being the man or being the first and second option,” he said. “We know how to do this and play with each other. And guys are eager to show — when somebody is hurt, when my time comes — we won’t miss a beat.”
The Lakers have three players in Howard, Jamison, and World Peace, who at different points of their careers were leading scorers for NBA teams. They have Nash who once was a two-time MVP and league leader in assists. Steve Blake and Jodi Meeks both were starters for teams and averaged over 10 points per game. Earl Clark was a lottery pick who never got a real chance until this year. Coming to LA everyone knew that things were going to change and sacrifices were to be made. Yet now, they have the chance to live up to the expectations of the purple and gold standard.
“We’re just not making any excuses,” said Jamison, who finished with a game-high 27 points Sunday.
“I think once we finally had our back up against the wall and people were counting us out, that’s when we kind of went, ‘OK, we’ve got to start playing better.’ There’s no excuse for us not to turn this thing around and make it one of the best stories in sports.’”
The Lakers resume play tonight against the Phoenix Suns at 7:00 pacific time.
Well Nation, it has been five weeks as of yesterday that our all star forward went down with a tear to his plantar fascia on his right foot. The initial injury report said he’d be out 6-8 weeks and it’s looking like he’s going to return at the early end of that timetable. According to Kevin Ding Gasol was about 2 weeks from returning four days ago on March 9, this via BleacherReport.com.
The Lakers’ plan is for Gasol to ramp up his running gradually, and barring any setbacks, he should be running on the court next week. The plan does not include him beginning basketball activities yet, however, so he is unlikely to return to game action until at least two weeks passes.
This is great news for the Lakers as I believe Pau’s return could greatly bolster the starting lineup. With Howard playing with a renewed dominance, Kobe throwing
it back to 2000, and an overall electric surge to the Lakers chemistry, a healthy Pau Gasol can only help this Lakers roster. According to the report it appears that Gasol should return on March 25 at Golden State. Definitely a game where the Lakers could use the length of the seven foot Spaniard to combat the likes of David Lee and Andrew Bogut. However that is just an estimate and he could come back sooner or later than that date.
This am in Orlando, more drills on the court. My foot's feeling well with every step of the way, so everyday I'm closer to be back playing.
These tweets are bits of good news from Pau and give fans a glimpse of when he can possibly return to game action. It’s safe to say Pau has been struggling this season under Mike D’Antoni’s style of offense and has had his worst statistical season of his 12 year career. However, the nine previous games before he went down with his injury he had been playing some of the basketball long time fans of Pau had come to expect. Averaging 16.7 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks in those nine games while shooting 55% from the field. Let’s hope those numbers can continue once he comes back and he can play at the high level he is clearly capable of.
The biggest question though, isn’t when he will come back, but how he will come back. How will he affect the offense? The defense? Will he mesh with D’Antoni’s style of play again, or flounder and end up coming off the bench once again?
I believe Pau won’t be an immediate factor to the team. It’ll take him a bit of time to shake that rust he’s accumulated over the past six weeks and once he rids himself of that he should return to form. The Lakers need Pau to be as great as he can be, they need him to dominate in the low post, grab rebounds and push the opposition out of the paint. If Pau can accomplish that, the Lakers will be a significantly better team for it.
It sounds like Pau is going to return right as the playoff push is in full swing, and his performance should rocket the Los Angeles Lakers into the 6th seed of the Western Conference playoff picture. That’s right, I said it, the 6th seed. Let’s go.
That’s really the only way to look back on what transpired for the Lakers this past week. The Lakers used a 4-1 record and some timely losses from all the teams in front of them (shout out to Milwaukee!) to place themselves squarely in the playoff picture.
This was definitely a week we may all be able to look at in the future and know that this was when the Lakers finally turned their season around for good.
As always, let’s take a look at some of the good, bad and downright ugly of the past week for the Lake Show.
Good – Vino.
This is starting to get ridiculous. Actually it is ridiculous, and is only becoming more and more unfathomable. Heading into last nights game against Orlando, all the Mamba was averaging was 33 points, 9 assists, and 6 boards per on 51% shooting for the week. That was good enough to be named Western Conference Player of the Week, again. We all know that the man is in his 17th NBA season, is 34-years-old, and is supposed to be getting worse and withering away, not getting better and better.
And just when you think you’ve seen it all, that he can’t possibly wow you again, he goes and does this to the Raptors. Seriously, watch all four minutes of that video and enjoy every second, especially that first three, HOW DID HE MAKE THAT SHOT!?!
Oh, that was during the second of consecutive 40+ point, 10+ assist games, becoming the oldest player in NBA history to do that twice, and he did it in back-to-back games. We all need to enjoy what Kobe Bean Bryant is doing right now. I’d call it incredible, but that might not even do him justice right now.
Bad – The First Quarter Against Toronto.
An issue that popped up in three of the five games for the Lakers this week was a total and complete collapse in at least one quarter per game. The first quarter of the Raptors was a great example of that. Toronto, who is a middle of the pack offense at best, averages a whopping 97.8 points per game. They scored more than a third of that in the opening twelve minutes against a prous, plodding Laker defense.
Granted, the Raptors do have newly-acquired Rudy Gay and the streaky DeMar DeRozan, but really 37 points? While the Lakers ultimately came back and won the game in overtime thanks to the Mamba, they spent the last three quarters and overtime catching up from a terrible defensive start against a team they really should have dominated.
Ugly – The Second Quarter Against New Orleans.
If you thought that first against the Raps was bad, take a look at what the Lakers did (or didn’t) do against the Hornets during the second quarter of last weeks game. The Lakers pretty much forgot how to play defense altogether. New Orleans jumped out to a great start, turning a 28-28 tie after one into a blowout at the half. The Hornets shot 13/22 from the field, including four long three’s, en route to a 39 point quarter.
It wasn’t only the Laker defense that was bad during that stretch. The second-unit couldn’t hit a shot to start the quarter, and that coupled with their inability to stop New Orleans from scoring resulted in the Lakers trailing by as many as 25 in the quarter and 19 at the half. Allowing 67 first-half points to a team that averages 94.4 a game is unreal. Well, at least they made up for it in the fourth quarter…
Good – A Furious Fourth-Quarter Rally.
As bad as the second quarter against New Orleans was for the Lakers, the fourth quarter was a total and complete opposite. The Lakers absolutely locked the Hornets down, limiting New Orleans to 4/23 shooting and a whopping 9 points. The soon-to-be Pelicans scored exactly 0 points in the final 6:47 of the game, allowing the Lakers to close it out with a 20-0 run and a huge rally in a 108-102 win.
While the Lakers as a unit played unbelievably in the fourth, there were three guys who really keyed the rally. Jodie Meeks hit four huge 3-pointers that were crucial to the Laker rally. And for the first time all season, we were able to see what the Lakers can do with Kobe controlling the offense and Dwight Howard dominating on defense. Kobe had 15 of his game-high 42 during that 20-0 Laker run, and assisted on many of Meeks big shots in the fourth as well. In fact, Kobe and Jodie (Jobe?) were the only Lakers to hit a field goal in the fourth.
Perhaps the best part of the whole fourth quarter was seeing what Dwight can do on defense when he is dedicated to shutting down the other team. He had a flashback to pre-surgery Dwight when he swatted Robin Lopez on a tying dunk-attempt in the final 30 seconds, and really dominated the quarter defensively. More on Dwight in a bit.
Ugly – Falling Flat in OKC.
First things first, the Lakers showed a lot of heart in this game after falling behind big. Kobe was hurt early but came back to try and push the Lakers to a huge road-win. Los Angeles put in the effort and even got within five points in the fourth quarter, but a Thunder 12-0 run to close out the game made sure that they never got any closer.
While it would have been great to see the Lakers win in OKC, the fact is that this game showed us all a few things. First, the Thunder are a much better team than the Lakers right now, no matter how well LA is playing. There is still a long way to go for the Purple and Gold if they want to truly compete with OKC this season.
Second, the Lakers are still nto a team that has shown they can win on the road against a top-tier opponent. With the way the season has gone, the Lakers are going to have to win at least one road game against a great opponent to win a playoff series, so this has to be a major concern.
Bad – Stopping Opposing PG’s.
Ahh, there’s that problem which never seems to go away for the Lake Show. Tell me if you’ve heard this one before; the Lakers are getting torched by opposing point guards. Yes? Of course you have because this has been an issue for the Lakers since, oh I don’t know, 1996? We knew bringing in Steve Nash would help on offense and hurt on defense, but look at the numbers of the starting point guards the Lakers faced last week:
Sure, Wesbtrook kills everyone, and yeah Vasquez has been doing great passing the ball this season, so those numbers aren’t too bad. Except Lowry has been so bad this year that the Raptors tried to trade him five months after acquiring him. Nate Robinson is a shoot-first, pass-never point guard who racked up eight assists on the Lakers while also being the only Bulls player to score consistently all game.
Those are all pretty bad, but my biggest concern are Westbrook’s numbers. While he is impossible for anyone to realyl stop, he has absolutely murdered the Lakers this season. That’s not a good sign, especially with all roads to the Finals leading through OKC. Raphael Westbrook isn’t a problem that will be going away any time soon.
Ugly- Jodie Meeks D.
Meeks was an integral part of the Laker come back in New Orleans, and he helps stretch the floor which in turn makes life easier for Kobe and Dwight down the stretch.
But have you seen Jodie play defense? Me neither. Unfortunately for Meeks, he’s the guy that teams pick on at crunch time. I mean his defense is so bad I considered making a Joie Meeks joke right here but thought better of it.
Friday night against the Raptors, Toronto kept going to Alan Anderson (I know, me neither.) down the stretch, who scored at will on Meeks. I get Mike D’Antoni wants offense in the game, but when he isn’t hitting 3′s he certainly isn’t contributing on defense. Kobe’s heroics are incredible to watch, but Meeks defense is part of the reason those crazy shots are even neccessary.
Good – Dwight’s Back.
See what I did there?
Heading into his return to Orlando, a lot of people wondered if Dwight would be able to handle the backlash he was about to face. Howard was introduced to a chorus of boo’s louder than anything he’d ever experienced, and we were all curious to see whether he would come out and dominate or fade into the background in the face of adversity. 39 points, 16 rebounds and 3 blocks later, we have an emphatic answer from Dwight and the hope that the problems that plagued the big man this season are all gone. Howard also tied his own NBA record with 39 free-throw attempts, and set the Lakers record by making 25 for the game, including eight straight to close it out.
Howard also was a force in the other four contests the Lakers had this past week. This was clear on the defensive end of the floor, where Howard is flat-out dominating the paint recently. Many Lakers have taken notice of his improved play, including coach Mike D’Antoni.
Dwight is just feeling better, you can see it all over the place. His back is better, he’s in rhythm, whatever it is, he’s a monster defensively.
Which sums up exactly what the Lakers expected from Howard when they acquired him last summer.
So is Dwight officially back? Well if his past two games are any type of evidence, it seems he is pretty darn close. On Sunday he was especially impressive against Chicago putting up 16 points, 21 boards and 4 blocks going against Joakim Noah. You might have heard some “experts” proclaiming Noah to be the best center in the league right now. Dwight sure looked like he’d heard the chatter, dominating Noah on both ends of the court to put that argument to rest.
After a good week for the Lakers, the team has two more tough road games and a home date remaining this week. They face a revenge-hungry Hawks squad in the second of a back-to-back, then head to Indy to take on the defensive-minded, dangerous Pacers. After the mini-trip, the Lakers return home to face a Kings squad that seems to always give them trouble. By Sunday night, this Laker squad has a chance to really launch themselves up the standings in the West.
The Los Angeles Lakers walk into the Amway Center tonight winners of four out of their last five games and tied with the Utah Jazz currently for the 8th seed in the Western Conference playoffs race. However, with all due respect to the attention that the story line have received, it fails in comparison to what will take place tonight. ESPN First Take correspondent Stephen A. Smith said Orlando Magic front office personnel Nick Anderson stated in relation:
“Dwight Howard has no idea what he is in for.”
Today’s game against the Magic marks the return of Dwight Howard to his former residence of eight years. After a tumultuous last season in Orlando and demands to go to Brooklyn he returns as the Lakers new centerpiece with playoff aspirations on his mind. Orlando Sentinel writer Brian Schmitz has already named the buzz around his return to the arena the “Dwightmosphere” as all eyes are on Howard and how he will react to the fans, media, and his former teammates. When originally asked the question, via Mike Bresnahan and Eric Pincus of the LA Times, Dwight responded,
“I’ve thought about it. I think it’s going to be crazy,” said Howard, who played his first eight NBA seasons with the Magic. “I don’t know how I’m going to handle it.
“I remember the situation with LeBron [James] when he went to Cleveland for the first time. After the game, those guys were talking about how they were just trying to be there for him because they know how emotional it was. I’m pretty sure it’s going to be very emotional for me. Even just to talk about it just brings back a lot of emotion, but we’ll see how it goes.”
Yet as the day got closer Dwight began to approach the question in all seriousness.
“I’m just looking forward to being back in Orlando. It’s a place where I spent my life up until now,” said Howard, who played his first eight NBA seasons there. “It’s going to be difficult to see things, but I’m happy that I’m in a better place now than I was the beginning of the season.”
Dwight is doing all he can to prepare for the game. He’s even stated that he will “listen to boo tapes” so that he is not too bothered by the reception he will receive. Yet Howard’s teammates have noticed a change in him. Earlier today Steve Nash joked with the media and Dwight about his preparation for the game.
Steve Nash yells out to media: "This is the longest Dwight's worked on his game after practice."
Recently Howard has taken heavy criticism from the Orlando media and his former teammates after he shared his views about his time as a Magic player. Dwight was known as the big fish in a small pond back then and discussed how he took pride among his teammates not being the best.
Howard inadvertently provided the prologue for Tuesday with a recent TV interview in which he said his teams in Orlando were “full of people nobody wanted.”
Howard quickly sought to clarify his comments, saying he merely meant to call his former teammates “underdogs.”
“Everybody overlooked us for the whole time I was there in Orlando and I hated that,” he said.
His former teammates did not take too kindly to those words as they responded hastily. Schmitz reported that Jameer Nelson, drafted the same year as Dwight and a center piece of the Magic franchise said,
“At some point, when are you [Dwight] gonna as a man, when are you going to take ownership and stay out of the media in a professional manner?” Nelson told the Sentinel after Wednesday’s shooatround in Miami.
Glen Davis even chimed in saying he was “shocked” by his friend’s quote:
Davis responded: “I’m really, really shocked. You know, amazed how he’s approaching this. I would think [it’d be best for] him to focus on his team and what he’s doing. You know, I’m going to let Dwight be Dwight. Everybody sees what he’s going through and how he’s feeling. I’m an Orlando Magic, and I love my guys that I play with, and that’s what I focus on. So, you let his comments be his comments, but his comments speak for itself.”
“Just go out there and bust their [rear]. Show them what they’re missing. Save the emotional [stuff] for when you retire. Please”
The Orlando Magic are towards the depths of the eastern conference with a record of 18-46 and no real playoff hope. This game has been circled on their calendar all season long as this is the closest to the “playoff atmosphere” as they will get. The Magic have no true NBA star but have a very balanced offensive attack as four of their starters average double digit numbers.
With the hype surrounding the game the Lakers need to stay focused and take care of business. The playoffs are already looming and having confirmed that they are “scoreboard watching” a loss to Orlando will let the air out of the team and only cause for a tougher fight for the eight playoff seed. The Lakers have an easier schedule ahead of them in comparison to the Jazz, who own the tiebreaker between the teams. Post Orlando, they face a majority of opponents whom are below .500 while the Jazz must face a number of the NBA’s elite. Outside of Utah, the Lakers are also battling with the Houston Rockets. The Rockets are 1 game ahead of both teams for the seventh seed in the playoffs and also face an easier schedule while trying to retain their position.
Dwight Howard can assert his dominance as he will be matched up against second year player Nikola Vucevic for majority of the night. It’s been speculated and widely assumed that he will receive a lot of early touches to get into a good rhythm offensively. There’s no telling how Dwight will react once the game begins. Regardless of the outcome, Dwight is a Laker and will have to put all the baggage behind him.
“All that stuff is over with now,” Howard said. “Today is a new day. Whatever happened in the past, I”m going to leave it behind me. Like I said, I have nothing but love for the fans here. They treated me well. It didn’t end right. It didn’t end the way we all wanted it to end, but I’m in a better place and everybody has to move on.”
Finally, after a 3-1 week with wins over New Orleans, Toronto and Chicago, the Lakers have jumped to the 8th seed in the Western Conference.
The Lakers began the week with a tough loss in Oklahoma City, 122-105. In that game, the Lakers conceded 71 points in the first half and were never able to comeback from the early deficit.
The next night, the Lakers conceded 67 points in the first half for another dismal start in New Orleans. The Lakers eventually fell behind by 25 points, but thanks to a 20-0 run to close out the game, they roared back to win 108-102.
Returning home for a quick two-game home stand, the Lakers continued their trend of falling behind early. Thanks to some late-game heroics from Kobe Bryant, however, the Lakers pulled out a win, 118-116 in overtime.
The Lakers finally broke their habit of suffering early deficits by controlling the full game against the Chicago Bulls. A dominant paint presence by Dwight Howard helped the Lakers beat the injury-riddled Bulls by a score of 90-81.
With their three wins this weak, the Lakers are now two games over .500 with a record of 33-31.
With only 18 games left in the 2013 regular season, the Lakers currently hold the 8th seed in the West, but are only a 1/2 game ahead of the Utah in the standings.
Take a look back now at the changes in the Lakers’ stock values and the impact the players should have going forward:
Kobe Bryant : Kobe Bryant, or ‘Vino’ as he now calls himself, is having arguably the best stretch of his 17-year career. At 34 years old, Bryant averaged 33.0 points per game, 7.0 assists per game, and 5.8 rebounds per game this past week.
Bryant also shot 50.6% from the field and 58.9% from three-point range.
Bryant had back-to-back spectacular games against New Orleans and Toronto. He was the main catalyst in the Lakers’ terrific 20-0 run, scoring 42 points and dishing out 12 assists to lead the team to victory.
Bryant followed up that performance with a similar one against Toronto— 41 points, 12 assists and 6 rebounds. Hitting remarkable shots late, Bryant’s play helped the Lakers come out on top in overtime.
The greatness of Bryant’s seemingly ‘superhuman’ abilities is capsulated below:
Bryant’s unmatched determination is the main reason why the Lakers have crawled back into the playoff race.
This recent stretch of excellent play did not come easy for Bryant, however. Bryant struggled finding a balance between scoring and facilitating earlier this season.
It seems that Bryant has now found this elusive balance between over-shooting and over-facilitating. As shown by his efficient scoring and passing, Bryant’s leadership of this Lakers team has reached a new level.
Despite suffering an ulnar nerve contusion in his right elbow against Oklahoma City, Bryant overcame the adversity to lead his team to another terrific week.
Dwight Howard : Along with Bryant’s superb play, Dwight Howard has also picked up his play since the All-Star break. Howard’s control of the glass and defensive paint were especially key in all three Lakers victories.
Howard averaged 16.5 ppg, 16.3 rpg and 3.3 blocks per game over this past week. Howard’s consistent scoring has been icing on the cake in concert with his elevated focus on the defensive end.
If Howard can continue controlling the boards on both ends of the floor, the Lakers should continue to flourish.
The main issue that has hampered Howard of late is foul trouble. With Pau Gasol still out with a foot injury, Howard needs to be on the floor for the Lakers to be successful.
Howard looks much healthier since the All-Star break, however. His legs seem to be coming back now and his explosive finishing ability is improving.
A focused Howard, matched by a hungry Bryant, will be the key to any Lakers playoff push.
Steve Nash : As Howard and Bryant understand how to play with each other more, Steve Nash has also started to settle into his role.
Nash significantly increased his scoring load this past week, averaging 15.8 ppg on 48.9% shooting from the floor.
With Bryant dominating the ball on offense, the two-time MVP has been forced to change his approach. Nash seems to be making this transformation now and his scoring has clearly benefited.
Nash’s three-point shooting ability has also helped open up the floor for the Lakers’ big men. Nash shot 50% from three-point range this week, including 4-6 threes against Toronto.
The Lakers are finally playing their best basketball of the season, and Nash’s sacrifice in playing off the ball has had a huge impact on this turnaround.
Jodie Meeks : With consistent playing time off the bench, Jodie Meeks has become a solid contributor on both ends of the floor.
Meeks’ three-point shooting was deadly this week, as he shot 55.6% from behind the arc.
Benefitting from Bryant’s facilitating, Meeks hit five three pointers to help bring the Lakers back against New Orleans.
Although Meeks is an under-sized shooting guard, his fierce competitive nature has earned him the opportunity to play behind Bryant.
His lack of size was evident when Meeks was routinely isolated on the block against Toronto.
But his unrelenting intensity on the defensive end helped stop the Raptors late and seal the victory.
With Meeks finally shooting consistently from behind the arc, the Lakers’ offensive attack becomes scary.
Antawn Jamison : After a solid few weeks off the bench for Antawn Jamison, his production sputtered some this week.
The Lakers’ sixth-man only averaged 7.3 ppg and 5.3 rpg over his last four games. In comparison, Jamison averaged 13.7 ppg on 50% shooting and 6.3 rpg last week.
Jamison’s scoring ability has been a huge boost off the bench for the Lakers this season, but they certainly need him to return to his double-digit scoring.
With Howard holding down the paint, Jamison should take advantage of his outside opportunities. Bryant’s penetration will continue to create opportunities for his teammates, and Jamison must capitalize.
Steve Blake : Although Steve Blake has been playing well since returning from injury, Blake’s production slipped some this week.
The Lakers are 14-6 since Blake’s return on January 29th, but Blake only averaged 4.0 ppg this week.
Blake did average 5.0 apg over the last four games, however.
With Nash scoring the ball at a higher rate now, the onus on Blake to score may be lifted some.
That certainly doesn’t mean the Lakers wouldn’t welcome Blake’s scoring, but his role, as the bench’s “floor general”, is much more important at this point in the season.
Metta World Peace : Another tough shooting week for Metta World Peace.
Although World Peace had been shooting the ball better last week, he returned to his inconsistent form this week.
World Peace averaged 10.3 ppg, but only shot 40.2% from the field and a dismal 27.5% from three-point range.
The consistent play of Bryant, Howard and Nash has created many scoring opportunities for World Peace.
As a result, the 6’9” small forward needs to start capitalizing on these opportunities. If he doesn’t, opposing defenses will shift their focus away from him, forcing him to hit shots.
Despite another shooting slump this week, World Peace’s defense was solid. World Peace played great defense late in the win over Toronto, limiting star Raptor Rudy Gay to just 2-15 shooting in the second half.
World Peace’s role on the Lakers is certainly not to be a prolific scorer, but they could certainly use more consistency from him going forward.
Earl Clark : The biggest surprise of this season has officially hit a wall. After Earl Clark’s great January and February, he has struggled mightily in March.
Clark averaged 9.5 ppg, but only shot 25.2% from the field this week.
Clark’s rebounding numbers have also dipped recently, as he only averaged 5.5 rpg over the past four games.
The Lakers have to hope that Clark will return to his active, productive self once Gasol returns to the lineup.
The return of Gasol will hopefully relieve some of the pressure off Clark and help him become comfortable again.
In the meantime, however, the Lakers need Clark to bring more to the table on a nightly basis.
Clark seems to be struggling with opposing teams making adjustments. Earlier in the season, the Lakers’ starting power forward excelled because opposing teams just weren’t ready for him.
Now, with opposing defenses adjusting to his tendencies, Clark must make the counter-adjustments himself to return to the level of productivity he experienced earlier in the year.
Robert Sacre : Robert Sacre appeared in limited minutes against Oklahoma City and New Orleans, but failed to score in either game.
Sacre has since been assigned to the Lakers’ developmental league-affiliate, the LA D-Fenders.
Darius Morris : Darius Morris did not appear in a game this past week.
As he continues to receive little to no minutes on the Lakers’ bench, Morris was also assigned to the D-Fenders this week.
Chris Duhon : Chris Duhon appeared only in “garbage-time” against Oklahoma City this week.
Devin Ebanks : Devin Ebanks failed to appear in a game this week.
Pau Gasol : Pau Gasol continues to make his recovery from his partially torn plantar fascia.
Gasol, now in week four of his 6-8 week recovery time, has been cleared to begin running on the treadmill.
Hopefully Gasol is able to return sooner than later, and make an immediate impact for the surging Lakers.
Stay tuned for next weeks’ Lakers Stock Watch as the Lakers try to solidify a playoff berth battling Orlando, Atlanta, Indiana and Sacramento.
When The Lakers said no thank you to Phil Jackson earlier this season, fans everywhere thought that’d be the last we’d hear of the 11 time champion coach. Well, that seems to be false, as reports have surfaced that Phil Jackson is now mentoring Dwight Howard. Dwight had this to say regarding his new mentor in Jackson, via Mark Medina, Daily News LA:
“Phil, he texts me and he understands how it is to come off back surgery,” Howard said. “He just said it takes a full year to recover, so you can’t beat yourself up over the things that have happened this year.”
This is something Howard has been attempting to convey to the general public as of late, but most don’t understand and just want immediate results from Howard. Phil also believes that LA is misusing Howard and aren’t putting him in the situation he needs to succeed.
“Dwight just doesn’t get any touches,” Jackson said. “They’ve basically eliminated his assets.”
Phil is clearly on Dwight’s side regarding his current situation in LA. Howard is still rehabbing from his back surgery last April, and it’ll likely be through the offseason that Howard gets himself back to 100%. Howard sometimes wonders what it’d be like if he had postponed his return until he was 100%.
“I said that plenty of times, but I don’t want myself to be thinking so much on what I should’ve done,” Howard said. “The harder I push myself every day to get better and get in shape, my body will respond. This summer, after the season, I’ll get an opportunity to train and get my body right.”
“Looking back on it, I could have sat out the whole season until now and starting playing now, but I just felt like we had such a great opportunity,” he said. “Some of these guys, their windows for winning are very small, and I just wanted to get back and try to do whatever I can to help this team, knowing that I wasn’t in great shape. My body wasn’t all the way there yet.”
Howard is also continuing to nurse his torn labrum in his right shoulder, which also hinders him in games.
“Sometimes I have gotten beat up for it, but that’s fine. I’ll take all those hits and I’ll keep moving,” Howard said. “People watch games and they see me playing so they think it’s all good. It’s just a time thing. I’ve just got to keep going, keep pushing myself and it’ll get better.”
Because Phil Jackson is on Howard’s side and understands him, more fans around the league should be more sympathetic towards Howard as he continuously tries to get himself fully healthy. Howard returned in order to help out his team when he saw they could really use him, he knew it was risky coming back so early from such a serious injury but he wanted to help out as best as he could.
Howard continues to get healthier by the day and incrementally is performing better and better on the court. With Phil Jackson mentoring Howard one has to think what else they could be talking about, a possible return to LA? Perhaps, but it’s unlikely seeing as D’Antoni is still under contract, but you never know, Los Angeles is always full of surprises.
Remember way back when The Lakers traded their star center Andrew Bynum to Philadelphia in the three way trade that landed Los Angeles Dwight Howard? Of course we
do, how could anyone forget? Well, despite what many LA fans think about Howard’s sub-par play thus far, it’s still better than that of former Laker Andrew Bynum.
Bynum has played a whopping 0 games this season and is averaging a huge 0 PPG and 0 RPG. Howard, while not playing to his full potential yet, at least has given it a go this season and attempted to help the team as best as he can. While many fans of the purple and gold didn’t want to see Bynum go for Howard, we have to be thankful that Howard is at least healthy enough to play this season. Who knows where The Lakers would be without Bynum or Howard this season, it’s hard to imagine they could be any worse than their current record shows but that would likely be the case.
The District Attorney of Philadelphia had something to say regarding Bynum’s recent lack of play via his personal Twitter account and (LarryBrownSports)
@JmitchInquirer how much is he getting paid? Do I need to launch a grand jury investigation?
From what the Philly DA is saying, it sounds like he wants to investigate Bynum for fraud for his lack of playing this season. Bynum is due 17 million this season and he hasn’t helped the 76ers one bit towards winning basketball games. Considering $17 million is due to Bynum for playing basketball, which he isn’t doing, I think District Attorney Williams has a legitimate case. I think it’s safe to say, no matter Los Angeles’ current situation, The Lakers received the better end of the deal, hands down.
@gonzoCSN my hands are full with murderers and rapist but I will let you know if I decide to investigate Bynum. Fans and Doug deserve more!
However, based on the last tweet it completely sounds like this will never happen. Granted I understand that the district attorney of a city such as Philadelphia has much more important things to worry about than an overpaid basketball player, he probably shouldn’t start the fire if he doesn’t intend to stoke it. We’ll see if anything comes out of this but don’t hold your breath.
The Lakers continue crawling back into the playoff picture.
A 2-1 week, coupled with losses by Utah and Golden State, certainly helped their cause.
The Lakers lost a difficult game in Denver, 119-108, in which Kobe Bryant scored a game-high 29 points.
Returning home for a quick two-game home stand, the Lakers beat the Minnesota Timberwolves handedly, 116-94. The Lakers followed up that win with an exciting victory over the Atlanta Hawks, 99-98.
With their 2-1 record last week, the Lakers made it back to the .500 mark at 30-30, for the first time since December 28th.
With only 22 games left on the regular season schedule, the Lakers are currently just 2 games back of the Utah Jazz for the 8th seed in the Western Conference.
Take a look back now at the changes in the Lakers’ stock values and the impact the players should have going forward:
Kobe Bryant : Even at his elderly age of 34, Kobe Bryant continues playing spectacular basketball.
Bryant even gave the Lakers’ faithful some fireworks late in the win over the Hawks. (If you haven’t seen the play yet, you better just click ‘Play’ below):
Bryant’s exceptional play of late is a testament to his work ethic, diet and determination to make the playoffs.
After the Lakers’ win over the Timberwolves, Bryant had this to say about his mindset:
“I’ve been in attack mode since the [All-Star] break,” Bryant said. “It’s go time.”
It’s certainly been “go time” lately.
Along with his spectacular plays this past week, Bryant was also named the Western Conference Player of the Month for the month of February.
Bryant averaged 23.9 ppg on 48.9% shooting, 6.6 apg and 6.7 rpg in February to be named Player of the Month.
Coming off the award this past week, Bryant topped those averages. In the past three games, Bryant averaged 32.0 ppg on an efficient 52.8% shooting, 6.0 apg and 5.7 rpg.
With Bryant now in full “attack mode”, and the Lakers playing better team-basketball, the rest of the league should be on notice.
Bryant also created a new self-proclaimed nickname for himself this week; the new nickname is ‘Vino’—Spanish and Italian for wine, since he seems to get better with age.
Antawn Jamison : The Lakers’ sixth-man has officially returned to his old self. Antawn Jamison is playing the most consistent basketball right now of any Laker not named Kobe.
Jamison averaged 13.7 ppg on 50% shooting and 6.3 rpg. Jamison’s scoring ability has been a huge boost off the bench for the Lakers.
With Pau Gasol still out for another 2+ weeks, Jamison’s consistency has helped keep the Lakers afloat in his absence.
Jamison’s ability to find creases in the defense and move without the ball earned him an endearing nickname from his fellow teammate.
Bryant, who has had a field day of creating nicknames this week, gave Jamison the nickname ‘cockroach’ because he “keeps finding the cracks”.
Jamison, who has averaged 19 points per game for his career, finally seems comfortable in Los Angeles. A defined role and consistent minutes have yielded great performances from Jamison.
This past week, Jamison also gave some insight on what has been the Lakers’ deciding factor in their recent turnaround.
Steve Blake : Another player who seems to have found his comfort zone is Steve Blake.
Since Blake’s return on January 29th, the Lakers have gone 11-5 in that stretch.
Blake’s scoring has been an added bonus to the bench unit, but his ability to control the tempo has been key. When Steve Nash goes to the bench, Blake’s ability to control the pace and keep the offense flowing has been important.
Over the past week, Blake averaged 8.0 ppg on 66.7% shooting and 40% from three, 5.0 apg and 3.7 rpg.
Blake’s return to the lineup has had a direct impact on players like Jodie Meeks and Jamison. His ability to create plays for himself and his teammates was something the Lakers dearly missed earlier in the year.
Dwight Howard : Dwight Howard didn’t have the best week offensively, but his defensive presence and rebounding were key in the Lakers’ wins.
Howard only averaged 12.3 ppg, but did average 14.0 rpg in his past three games. The Lakers certainly need Howard to be more dominant in the paint on offense, but those rebounding numbers are promising.
Howard looks to be recovering from both his back and shoulder injuries. Although his torn labrum will not heal on its own, Howard has done a much better job playing through the pain.
Not only has Howard looked more “springy” lately, but he also seems to be getting some of his conditioning back. With a focused Howard on the defensive end and a focused Bryant on the offensive end, the Lakers’ attack should be deadly going forward.
Howard continues to struggle on post moves with his back to the basket, however, so he should instead focus more on rolls to the basket and easy put backs off offensive rebounds.
The Lakers need more than 12 points a game from Howard, but if he continues patrolling the paint like he’s been doing, the Lakers should be fine.
Steve Nash : Despite an off shooting night in the Lakers’ win over Minnesota, Steve Nash completed the week with a solid performance against Atlanta.
Nash shot just 4-12 from the field against the Timberwolves, but did contribute 7 assists in the win.
Nash followed up that performance with a stellar game against the Hawks. Nash scored 15 points and dished out 10 assists, which led to a victory.
The main issue hampering Nash of late has been turnovers. Nash had six turnovers in the loss to the Nuggets and five turnovers against the Hawks.
The Lakers, who have been hampered by turnover problems all season long, need to cut down on them in the future.
When the Lakers play quick, athletic teams, they especially have to limit their mistakes and clean up their protection of the ball.
Limiting the turnovers starts with the point guard, and Nash must take it upon himself to take better care of the ball going forward.
Metta World Peace : This past week Metta World Peace seemed to climb out of his shooting slump some.
World Peace scored 15 points on an efficient 54.5% shooting against the Nuggets. He followed up that efficient shooting with a poor shooting display of 2-7 against Minnesota.
World Peace was especially key in the Lakers win over the Hawks, however. The Lakers’ strongest perimeter defender helped slow down both Josh Smith and Al Horford on the defensive end.
In combination with his solid defense, World Peace also scored 13 points on 62.5% shooting. This efficient shooting was key, especially late in the fourth quarter, when World Peace made an important three-pointer to keep the game close.
With Bryant, Nash, Blake and Jamison playing efficiently on the offensive end, defensives will begin to adjust by keying-in on those players. World Peace can be the ultimate beneficiary of this, if he can end his slump and shoot the ball consistently.
Jodie Meeks : Backup shooting guard Jodie Meeks had yet another inconsistent week. Despite scoring 16 points against Minnesota, Meeks did little in the Lakers’ other two games.
Meeks, the Lakers’ most proficient three-point shooter, did shoot 42.9% from three-point land, but his one point performance against Atlanta is unacceptable.
Both Jamison and Blake have found consistency producing when coming off the bench, so if Meeks can find that consistency as well, the Lakers’ bench will be that much better.
Although Meeks has been playing well of late, averaging 9.0 ppg in his past 10 games, the Lakers could use more production from behind the arc.
Bryant’s high level of play alleviates the pressure off Meeks, but if Meeks can match some of Bryant’s production, it could help reduce the minutes of the NBA’s minutes-played leader and save Bryant’s legs.
Earl Clark : It seems that Earl Clark has finally come back down to Earth.
After a breakout January and a solid early-February, Clark has struggled in his last few games.
Clark averaged just 6.3 ppg and 4.0 rpg over the past week. These numbers need to improve from the Lakers’ starting power forward going forward.
It’s obvious that opposing defenses have started to figure out Clark’s game and have adjusted accordingly. The onus now falls on Clark to make his adjustment and return to his productive form.
The key to Clark’s early success was his unrelenting desire to grab offensive reb0unds and attack the rim. Clark’s low rebounding numbers have had a direct impact on his recent poor play.
Until Gasol returns, the Lakers desperately need Clark to return to form and continue attacking the rim. Clark, one of the few young, athletic players on the Lakers, gives the team a different dimension.
This dimension is important because it allows the Lakers to play at multiple paces and keep the ball flowing quickly on offense.
If Clark can return to even half of what he once was, the Lakers could be real, real scary.
Chris Duhon : Chris Duhon played 6 minutes against Minnesota in garbage-time. Duhon did record 3 assists in his short time on the floor, however.
Coach Mike D’Antoni seems set on his eight-man rotation now and Duhon is on the outside looking in.
Robert Sacre : Robert Sacre is in the same predicament as Duhon. Sacre only played against Minnesota as well, registering 4 points and 1 rebound in 5 minutes of play.
Darius Morris : Darius Morris played 5 minutes against the Timberwolves too, registering 1 assist and 1 rebound.
Devin Ebanks : With the Minnesota game out of reach late in the fourth quarter, even the rarely used Devin Ebanks got a chance to play. Ebanks played 2 minutes but did score 2 points and grab 3 rebounds in his first opportunity to play since February 7th.
Pau Gasol : Pau Gasol continues his rehabilitation from the partially torn plantar fascia he suffered on February 5th.
Gasol has ramped up his rehab some by doing cardio work on the elliptical machine this week. Gasol is now four weeks into his 6-8 week estimate, so he could possibly return as early as two weeks from now.
Stay tuned for next weeks’ Lakers Stock Watch as the Lakers continue chasing a playoff berth battling Oklahoma City, New Orleans, Toronto and Chicago.
Another week in Laker Land has passed us, and for the first time in a long time it feels like our boys in Purple and Gold are (finally) headed in the right direction. While the Laker schedule was light on games with only three contests this week, there were plenty of things to take from games against Denver, Minnesota and Atlanta.
Here is a look at the Good, the Bad and the Ugly of the Lakers past week in action.
Good: Kobe Bryant circa 2006 is Back.
Really, I could just post a link to this dunk and it would be enough of an explanation.
The Mamba has been on an absolute tear since the All-Star break ended, and the Lakers 5-1 record during that time is tied directly to what Bryant is doing. In the past five games alone Kobe is averaging a whopping 34.8 points per game, on 66-116 shooting, good for a cool 56.9% from the field. Did I mention that Bryant is doing this at 34-years old, in his 17th NBA season, 60 games into a campaign that has seen him average 38.2 minutes per contest? Oh and all while shooting what would be the highest field goal percentage of his career.
Bryant realizes this is a make or break stretch for the Lakers playoff chances, and he looks to be up for the challenge.
I’ve been in attack mode since the break. It’s go time. We’re getting a little bit closer and we’re starting to get in more of a striking distance where you start watching (the playoff race).
It’s absolutely mind-boggling that this guy is not only still going strong, but getting better as the season and his career progress. With the way Kobe’s been playing since the break, would you really want to bet against him getting the Lakers into the playoffs? Me neither. Kobe is aging like a fine wine (or Vino as he’s now apparently calling himself), just in time to save the Laker season.
Ugly: Interior Defense.
One negative that really stood out this week for the Lakers was just how bad their defense is in the paint, especially when Dwight Howard sits. In the loss to Denver, the Lakers gave up an astronomical 78 points in the paint. That’s more than some teams have scored in ENTIRE GAMES recently. The Nuggets were also able to gain a 33-3 edge on the fastbreak, further emphasizing the Lakers inability to not only get in position, but to challenge at the rim at all. This only gets worse when LA’s lone shot blocker has to take a seat. Granted, that Denver game was the second of a road back-to-back in an arena where any team that’s not named the Nuggets is expected to lose, so you can make a bit of an excuse for the Lakers, right?
Wrong. That would be fine and dandy if the Hawks didn’t score almost at will inside at the end of the game last night. While the Lakers were able to escape with a huge win (or avoid a huge collapse, your choice), you simply cannot ignore the fact that Atlanta scored three consecutives times at the basket in the final two minutes. Oh, and all those buckets were basically unguarded lay-ups and dunks. In fact, had Josh Smith been able to handle Devin Harris’ entry pass at the end of the game, we’d probably be lamenting another terrible loss rather than breathing a sigh of relief.
The Lakers should be able to slow down the scoring of other teams inside once Pau returns from his injury right? Wait what do you mean no? Let’s just move on.
Bad: Steve Nash Turnovers.
With the Lakers winning games and Kobe dominating on offense, it’s been difficult to find many things wrong with the Los Angeles offense. One thing that has definitely been off in the six games since the All-Star break has been Steve Nash’s handle. Nash has 20 turnovers (TWENTY!) in those six games, and that number is actually helped by the fact that Nash had none in the blow-out win over Minnesota. It’s hard to pick on anything Nash does because he has done such an incredible job of adjusting to the offense so that his teammates can thrive, basically becoming a spot-up shooter in this system.
But in Denver, those Nash turnovers became very costly. As is often the case with turnovers on the road, Denver was able to turn six Nash turnovers into points on the fast-break that really ignited their offense and helped them kill any Laker hope of winning int he Mile High City.
Good: Dwight Howard.
No, really. This isn’t sarcasm. I’m serious!
I know, it’s been a long time since we had a week free of tearing Dwight down, but the All-Star big man has actually been a force since the All-Star break. Sure he still forces some bad shots in the paint, and yeah his free throws are still terrible. But, hold on let me channel my inner Rock, FINALLY DWIGHT HAS COME BACK, sort of. Howard has really been playing with great energy lately.
Starting with a dominating 24-point, 12-rebound performance against the Celtics and on through the next five games, Howard has shown flashes of the All-Star Laker fans expected to see when he was brought in. In the past six games, Dwight is averaging 17 points and 14 boards per game, while also throwing in two swats a night. His scoring may not be as high as Dwight would like, but he is finally making an impact for the Lakers in a way that translates directly to wins. Boards, defense, and hard screen-and-rolls on offense will help this team win, and Howard seems to have finally figured that out.
Ugly: Opposing Role Players (still) Killing the Lakers.
This has really been a theme of the entire Laker season, but there were a few more instances this week of role guys really hurting the Lakers. In Denver, Wilson Chandler was a late insert into the starting line-up for the Nuggets, and all he did was drop 23 points on the Lakers. And just in case Laker fans forgot what he did to them the last two times these teams met, Corey Brewer chipped in 16 points and plenty of overdone celebrations. These two specifically played a huge role in sparking the Nuggets to a win over the Lakers.
Then, this ugly problem reared its head again against Atlanta. Devin Harris turned into an All-Star for a five-minute stretch spanning the end of the third and beginning of the fourth quarter. By scoring 14 of his 16 points during that span, Harris nearly single-handedly brought the Hawks back from a 16-point deficit. Not to be outdone, Kyle Korver came in and also scored 16 on the Lakers, hitting a few big shots that nearly cost the home team the game.
This is another issue that doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon, but the Lakers are .500 so let’s stop talking about bad stuff!
Bad: Momentum Swings with the Bench.
Okay, so this is still something bad we have to discuss, but I’ll counter it with some good. The Laker bench was great against the T’Wolves this week. Jodie Meeks, Antawn Jamison and Steve Blake all scored in double-digits and helped the Lakers blow Minnesota out of the building.
It was the other two games this week that were cause for alarm, however. After a solid first quarter in Denver, the Laker bench allowed the Nuggets to blow the game open in the second quarter. Denver built a lead the Lakers were never able to recover from. Then against the Hawks, the bench twice blew a double-digit lead they had inherited from the starters. While only Meeks, Jamison and Blake entered the game off the bench, they were a collective -40 against Atlanta.
Simply put, this is not going to get it done most nights. Scoring isn’t a problem for the bench guys, but their inability to stop anyone on the opposing bench from scoring really puts a limitation on what the team can do.
Like most .500 teams, the Lakers have plenty of room for improvement. On the plus side, this is the first time in a roller-coaster of a season where Laker Nation can confidently say that its team is finally on the rise. This time, we just have to hope it’s for the rest of the season. Any more steep drops on this ride will have the Lakers heading straight into the off-season.
Oh and by the way, just in case you forgot what Kobe did yesterday, here you go. You’re welcome.