jodie meeks

April 6, 2014 — 12:30PM (PST)
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: ABC
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

The Lakers (25-51) take on the Clippers (54-23) in front of a nationally televised audience on ABC today. Yes, in case basketball fans have been stuck a cave for the past few season, the team record shows accuracy; the Clippers now currently sit in the playoff position while the Lakers seek to rebuild.

One would hope that the Lakers will not play as bad as they did during their last meeting vs. Clippers when they lost by 47 points.

Nick Young and Jodie Meeks must shoot the ball well while they are on the court for the Lakers to even have an opportunity to stay within striking distance. Without the ability to run their offense through C Pau Gasol due to his illness, the offense will definitely run through these two players who have enjoyed very successful individual numbers this season.

For basketball, today might be the game PG Steve Nash passes current Warriors Head Coach Mark Jackson for 3rd place in all-time assist leaders. A future 1st ballot hall-of-fame basketball star, Nash only needs 5 more assists to pass Jackson’s mark of 10,334 assists.

Clippers’ PF Blake Griffin will seek opportunities to wreak havoc tonight using his improved all-around post game. Griffin, scoring a career high 24.1 PPG this season, has propelled the Clippers into the 3rd seed in the Western Conference and seek to catch Oklahoma City Thunder for the 2nd seed. Griffin clearly would have won the January MVP award if it existed as he matured and became a team leader during PG Chris Paul‘s absence due to injury.

Projected Starters

PGChris Paul / Kendall Marshall [Advantage: Clippers]

SGDarren Collison / Jodie Meeks [Advantage: Lakers]

SFMatt Barnes Kent Bazemore [Advantage: Clippers]

PFBlake Griffin / Ryan Kelly [Advantage: Clippers]

CDeAndre Jordan / Jordan Hill [Advantage: Clippers]

Notable Bench Players

Clippers: F Jared Dudley, G JJ Redick, F Glen Davis 

Lakers: PG Steve Nash, C Robert Sacre, G/F Nick Young

Bench Advantage: Lakers

Injury List

Clippers: Out-G Jamal Crawford, Out-F Danny Granger, Probable-PF Blake Griffin

Lakers: Out-G Kobe Bryant, Out-C Pau Gasol, Out-G Xavier Henry,  Out-PG Jordan Farmar, Out-C Chris Kaman, GTD-PG Steve Nash,

Bottom Line

This seems to be a huge mismatch on paper that was scheduled on ABC due to the assumption that SG Kobe Bryant will be fully healthy at this point of this season. The Clippers seek to prepare for the playoffs, while the Lakers seek to prepare for the lottery. The only chance for the Lakers to win tonight is to play absolutely perfect defensively and hit a lot of their three-point shots. Even if they do that, difficulties still exist for the Lakers to come away with an upset due to the lack of talent compared to the Clippers.

Prediction

Clippers: 121-106

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

After 4 days off, the Lakers seek revenge as they play vs. San Antonio Spurs tonight for the 2nd game in a row. The Spurs easily handled the Lakers during last Friday’s matchup, defeating the Lakers 119-85 despite future Hall-of-Famers F Tim Duncan, PG Tony Parker, and SG Manu Ginibili all playing under 16 minutes.

The Lakers have a brutal schedule to conclude this season, playing 12 of their last 16 games vs. teams over .500 record. As the Lakers front office seek to determine how to move forward during this upcoming offseason, they have a few bright spot in an otherwise dismal season. One of the bright spot is SG Jodie Meeks, who has played extremely well this season replacing SG Kobe Bryant in the starting lineup. Meeks’ scoring average of 15.3 PPG while shooting at a career high pace of 45% FG and 40.2% from behind the arc. Meeks has made a case to be part of the reloading process for the Lakers offseason. If he cannot reach a deal with the Lakers, he will definitely sign a more lucaritive offer with another team.

Projected Starters

PG – Tony Parker/ Kendall Marshall [Advantage: Spurs]
SG – Danny Green / Jodie Meeks [Advantage: Spurs]
SF – Kawhi Leonard /  Wesley Johnson [Advantage: Spurs]
PF – Tim Duncan / Ryan Kelly [Advantage: Spurs]
C – Boris Diaw / Pau Gasol [Advantage: Lakers]

Notable Bench Players

Spurs: G Manu Ginobili, G Marco Bellinelli, C Tiago Splitter, PG Patrick Mills
Lakers: C Robert Sacre, G Kent Bazemore, Xavier Henry

Bench Advantage: Spurs

Injury List

Spurs: None
Lakers: Out-PG Jordan Farmar, Out-G Kobe Bryant,  Out-PG Steve Nash, Out-F Jordan Hill, Out-F Nick Young

Bottom Line

If the Lakers can find a good opportunity to defeat the Spurs in their current state, it would be tonight. The Lakers have had 4 days off, so they should have fresh legs in order to hit a lot of their 3-pt shots. Although odds are in favor that the Lakers will suffer the same fate vs. Spurs, I believe the Lakers can compete throughout this game if they can come out of the gate with a sense of urgency. I believe we can see an upset for tonight’s game that will definitely bring a positive vibe back into their locker room.

Prediction

Lakers: 103-99

March 13, 2014 — 6:30 PM (PST)
Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK
TV: TNT / TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

Since the last Lakers game when they upset the Oklahoma City Thunder, a lot has happened in Lakerland in the past 24 hours. Phil Jackson‘s possibility of joining the Knicks, the announcement that SG Kobe Bryant will be out for the rest of this season, Bryant and Lakers legend Magic Johnson making a “hail-mary” pitch to make Phil Jackson reconsider, and also Bryant reportedly wants Lakers Head Coach Mike D’Antoni fired. 

With all this drama ensuing in Los Angeles, many of you have probably forgotten that the Lakers have a game tonight vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (46-17). They actually upset the Thunder this Sunday, 114-110, in front of national audience.

Jodie Meeks has a career night, dominating the Thunder by shooting 11-18 from the field, shooting 6-11 from three and was a perfect 14-14 from the free throw line. Meeks has been one of the bright spots of what has otherwise been a very dismal season, scoring 15.3 PPG, shooting 45.5% from the field and 39.9% from behind the 3-point line, which are all career highs.

The Lakers won by making 13 three-pointers in order to go on that marvelous 3rd quarter run in which they outscored the Thunder 36-19.

The Thunder seek to come back from Sunday’s loss and protect their home floor vs. Lakers.

Thunder F Kevin Durant, who only shot 19 times vs. Lakers in their last meeting, seek to be more aggressive and become more assertive driving to the basket. The Lakers have nobody to match up with Durant pound-for-pound, so Durant needs to demand the ball to prevent his team from getting upset again.

Projected Starters

PG – Russell Westbrook / Kendall Marshall [Advantage: Thunder]
SG – Perry Jones III / Jodie Meeks [Advantage: Lakers]
SF – Kevin Durant / Kent Bazemore [Advantage: Thunder]
PF – Serge Ibaka / Wesley Johnson [Advantage: Thunder]
C – Steven Adams / Pau Gasol [Advantage: Lakers]

Notable Bench Players

Thunder: G Derek Fisher, G Jeremy Lamb, F Nick Collison, SF Caron Butler
Lakers: PG Jordan Farmar, C Robert Sacre, F Ryan Kelly, Marshon Brooks, Xavier Henry

Bench Advantage: Thunder

Injury List

Thunder: Out-C Kendrick Perkins, Out-G Thabo Sefelosha
Lakers: Out-G Kobe Bryant,  Out-PG Steve Nash, Out-F Jordan Hill Out-F Nick Young

Key to Victory

Frustrate Westbrook: The Lakers beat the Thunder twice in the last 2 seasons. Both times, the Lakers frustrated PG Russell Westbrook, forcing him to take bad, highly contested shots, and keep the ball out of Durant’s hand. Westbrook shot 7-23 from the field goal, taking very bad shots during the process. I expect Westbrook to play much better tonight especially on their home floor. However, the chances of stopping Westbrook is higher than stopping Durant.

Bottom Line

With a lot of smoke and fire surrounding the Lakers off the floor, the team have to focus on the task at hand and try to execute on both ends of the floor to defeat the Thunder again. Veteran C Pau Gasol has to lead the players by keeping them focused on what happens on the floor and not what happens. The Sunday’s victory vs. Thunder was sweet. However, major difficulties exist to defeat the Thunder twice in a row.

Prediction

Thunder: 120-111

Back from injury, Steve Nash and Steve Blake will both return to the starting lineup tonight vs. the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Nash will be on a minutes restriction according to coach Mike D’Antoni. The plan is for Nash to play 5-8 minutes in the first quarter then not play again until the third quarter where he will play another 5-8 minutes.

Nash will not play on the second of a back-to-back versus the Cleveland Cavaliers tomorrow night.

It is unclear whether Blake will be on a minutes restriction as well, but he will start alongside Nash. Jodie Meeks will be the third guard in the starting lineup tonight which gives the Lakers a small lineup as all three players are 6’4 and under. Robert Sacre and Ryan Kelly get the start in the front court.

If you are wondering about Chris Kaman, D’Antoni says he “will play a lot of minutes” off the bench.

As for Jordan Farmar, D’Antoni says he will suit up and could play limited minutes.  The plan for Farmar is to get Nash’s minutes tomorrow night so they are hoping to save him for one more day.

The question now is what happens to Kendall Marshall? Averaging 10.5 points and 9.6 assists, the young point guard has definitely earned his minutes on the team but with Nash, Blake, and Farmar returning, will his minutes decrease dramatically?  We will have a good idea of that over the next few games.

Are you happy with the changes being made to the Lakers lineup?

 

Saying there hasn’t been many positives this season may be an understatement.  While the injuries to the team have played a factor in the Lakers 16-31 record, it has also given the front office and fans a chance to get a good look at some of the younger players that could be kept past this season.

It is important to remember that a majority of the players on the current roster are on one-year deals.  Because of that, the question will come up at the end of the season, “Who stays and who goes?”

Jodie Meeks has shown quite the improvement this season, averaging 14.7 points per game while shooting 40 pct. from three (a career high) and is a player the Lakers have been able to count on to give his all, game in and game out.

Whether or not the team plans on bringing him back remains to be seen, but Meeks hopes he will be in the purple and gold for a ‘long time’.

“The coaching staff is great and it’s a storied organization. I always pictured playing in a organization that’s prideful about winning. I love it here and hope I can stay a long time.”

Meeks is currently earning around $1.5 million and is in the final year of his contract.  Despite his good play, it is a good bet that Meeks would ask for a similar salary but for more years.   He has definitely earned a spot here in Los Angeles based on his performance, but all we can do is wait to see what the front office has planned this off season.

Would you like to see the Lakers sign Jodie Meeks long-term this summer?

January 16, 2014 — 6:00PM (PST)
US Airways Center, Phoenix, AZ
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

The Los Angeles Lakers (14-24) scored 118 points last night, shooting 52.4 % from the field and 38.2 % from the 3 pt. line. Jodie Meeks scored 26 points shooting 6/10 from the 3 pt line while Nick Young added 28 points. The problem? They allowed 120 points to Cleveland Cavaliers, who only average 96.2 PPG. The Lakers could not stop anybody, letting them get off any shots they wished to take.

Now, the Lakers have to embark on a brutal Grammy’s road trip, which unfortunately starts tonight vs. Phoenix Suns (21-16). However, the Suns, coached by former NBA sharpshooter Jeff Hornacek, have been dealing with injuries, which have caused them to lose 5 of their last 7 games. One of the point guard duo, PG Eric Bledsoe, had surgery on his right knee, which keeps him out indifinitely. Therefore, PG Goran Dragic will lead the show tonight. Dragic has become the cornerstone for the Suns turnaround this season, averaging 19.3 PPG and 6.0 APG. Dragic seeks to run around the Lakers defense in circles again, causing matchup nightmares and leading the Suns to open shots every possession.

Lakers C/PF Pau Gasol decided to play last night despite a strained toe tendon, which jeopardizes his future availability. Gasol made a gracious effort last night, grabbing 20 points and 12 rebounds. However, as Head Coach Mike D’Antoni has done with other injured Lakers, he did not protect Gasol’s health at all, playing him 36 on a bad toe despite another game tonight. A toe sprain might seem something very minor to those who have never suffered from it before, but the injury cannot be neglected since the big toe carries a lot of pressure every time one takes a step on it while running or even walking.

Projected Starters

PG - Kendall Marshall / Goran Dragic [Advantage: Suns]
SG - Jodie Meeks / Gerald Green [Advantage: Even]
SF - Wesley Johnson / PJ Tucker [Advantage: Even]
PF - Pau Gasol / Channing Frye [Advantage: Lakers]
C - Robert Sacre / Miles Plumlee [Advantage: Suns]

Notable Bench Players

Suns: F Markieff Morris, F Marcus Morris, G Leandro Barbosa

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

Bench Advantage: Even

Injury List

Suns: Out-PG Eric Bledsoe, Out-C Emeka Okafor, Questionable-SG Leandro Barbosa

Lakers: Out-G Kobe Bryant, Out-PG Steve Nash, Out-PG Steve Blake, Out-G Xavier Henry, Out-PG Jordan Farmar, GTD-C/F Pau Gasol

Keys for Lakers Victory

Defense: The Lakers defense has been atrocious to say the least this season, evidenced by allowing 120 points to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Regardless of how well the Lakers play offensively, difficulties to win a basketball game occur especially if they continue to allow the NBA’s 2nd worst 105.5 PPG to opposing teams. With Dragic running the show for the Suns, we cannot expect much better from tonight’s game. The only chance the Lakers have to stay competitive tonight has to be to limit the Suns to 1 possession and not allow offensive rebounds, something the Lakers have struggled with throughout this season.

Bottom Line

If the Lakers last 12 games when they lost 11 games foreshadows what will happen tonight vs. Suns, it seems like a sure loss for the Lakers. However, with a change of scenery and playing away from home taking a long road trip, lets see if the Lakers mindset will change starting tonight. The Lakers will have to contain Dragic and not let marginal players like SG Gerald Green and C Marshall Plumlee go off for career nights again like the Lakers allowed them to do last game. If they cannot succeed at that, this game could become ugly tonight.

Prediction

Suns: 125-110

Image: Nathaniel S. Butler | Contributor
Jerryd Bayless

Image: Glenn James | Getty Images

According to Bleacher Report’s Ric Bucher, the Memphis Grizzlies have offered the Lakers a swap of guards.

The proposed deal is centered around a Jerryd Bayless-for-Jodie Meeks swap. Such a trade, however, would require the Lakers to add additional outgoing salary to the deal to come closer to the $3.135M Bayless is owed this season—as Meeks only makes $1.5M.

The following is a comparison of the two guards this season:

PG Jerryd Bayless – 7.9 PPG on 36.1% shooting; 2.0 APG; 2.0 RPG; in 21.0 MPG.

SG Jodie Meeks – 12.8 PPG on 46.0% shooting; 1.3 APG; 2.8 RPG; in 30.0 MPG.

Meeks is having a career year so far, posting career highs in points, assists, rebounds and minutes per game. Meeks, a three-point sharpshooter, is shooting a career-high 41.5% from behind the arc this season.

Despite Meeks’ success, the prospects of adding a young point guard like Bayless to the Lakers’ injury-depleted point guard position may be attractive.

Bayless is a free agent at the end of this season, which would help the Lakers maintain their financial flexibility this coming off-season.

Nation, what are your thoughts on this proposed deal? Should the Lakers hold on to Meeks, or would be Bayless be a good option at point guard? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below!

Last week’s POW:  Jodie Meeks

Well Nation, this week was a rather eventful one to say the least.  Losing Kobe Bryant for another six weeks hurts and just means the Lakers will need yet another player to step up.  This past week one player stood out form the crowd and despite the strong and powerful performances by Pau Gasol it wasn’t him. The player of the week is:

Nick Young

Stephen R. Sylvanie|USA TODAY SportsNick Young played at an extremely high level this past week as he put up numbers of 21.5 PPG, 3.5 RPG, and 1.5 APG.  The Lakers finished the week with a 2-2 record while losing Kobe Bryant on Friday.  Young came off the bench in each contest and managed to make a valuable impact on each game with his scoring and ability to pump up his teammates and the crowd with his “swaggy p” dance.

Young’s excellent energy he brings to the game is something that won’t show up on stat sheets but is one of those intangibles you wish every player could bring to the court.

As long as Young keeps up these scoring numbers he may be the first Laker to repeat as player of the week, but I guess we’ll see how the games go next week!

 

Kobe Bryant

Source: Danny Moloshok / Reuters

December 10, 2013 — 7:30 PM (PST)
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

The Los Angeles Lakers (10-10) look to bounce back tonight against the Phoenix Suns (11-9) after a very disappointing loss vs. Toronto Raptors on Sunday. Lakers G Kobe Bryant, who made his season debut on Sunday after tearing his left achilles on April 12th game vs. Golden State Warriors, showed a lot of rust especially with his executing his passes as expected. Bryant scored a pedestrian 9 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, while committing 8 turnovers. Lakers fans however should be very patient with Bryant and let him play his way to return to his old form and develop an on-court chemistry with the rest of the Lakers, many of whom have never played with Bryant before Sunday’s game. Although the Lakers will struggle as a team the next few weeks to get Kobe in rhythm with the rest of the Lakers, any team with Bryant on the floor will be better off in the long run.

The Phoenix Suns, on the other hand, look to come into Staples Center after 3 days off and come away with a victory tonight. The Suns are led by the point guard duo of PG Goran Dragic and PG Eric Bledsoe. Dragic has performed very well replacing PG Steve Nash to run the show, averaging 17.7 PPG and 6.4 APG. Bledsoe clearly benefited from PG Chris Paul‘s tutelage during his Los Angeles Clippers days, bringing hope for the Suns franchise moving forward. Bledsoe has eerily similar numbers to Dragic, averaging 18.6 PPG and 6.0 APG, while causing havoc on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor.

Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni has decided to shuffle the starting lineup again to help Bryant on the defensive end so he would not have to guard quick guards like Bledsoe and Dragic tonight. SG Jodie Meeks will replace F Wes Johnson in the lineup to provide a quicker player on defense and F Shawne Williams will replace C Robert Sacre to help spread the floor out and match-up with Suns F Channing Frye.

Projected Starters

PG - Goran Dragic Steve Blake [Advantage: Suns]

SG - Eric Bledsoe / Jodie Meeks [Advantage: Suns]

SF - PJ TuckerKobe Bryant [Advantage: Lakers]

PF - Channing Frye / Shawne Williams [Advantage: Suns]

C - Miles Plumlee / Pau Gasol [Advantage: Lakers]

Notable Bench Players

Suns: G Gerald Green, F Markieff Morris, C Marcus Morris

Lakers: G Xavier Henry, G/F Nick Young, G/F Wesley Johnson, C/F Jordan Hill

X-Factors

Suns: G Gerald Green - who joined the Suns this season after a solid season coming off the bench for the Indiana Pacers, could cause the Lakers a lot of problems tonight. Arguably one of the most athletic players in the NBA, Green definitely helps the Suns run-and-gun style of play with his high flying dunking skills. Although Green has played for the Suns this season scoring at a career high 13.9 PPG, Green has struggled lately, shooting only 6-25 in his last three games. If Green can somewhat offset the points difference the Suns and the Lakers bench, the Suns will be in great shape to win tonight’s game.

Lakers: C Pau Gasol - While the Lakers coaching staff expected Bryant to struggle in his season debut, Bryant did not struggle as much as Gasol vs. Raptors. Gasol, whose sore ankle has clearly affected his mobility on the floor, had another dissappointing game on Sunday, scoring only 11 points on 3-11 shooting, while contributing a lot to Raptors C Amir Johnson‘s career high of 32 points. For the Lakers to have any chance in tonight’s game, Gasol has to play well to offset the Suns backcourt speed. If Gasol lets his sore ankle affect his production as significantly as Sunday’s game, the Suns will make tonight’s game a track meet, which will cause major problems for both Gasol and Bryant.

Bottom Line

As Bryant gets back into regular season form, expect to continue to see a lot of timing issues on the floor as Bryant and the rest of the Lakers learn how to play with each other and communicate more effectively. For the Lakers to have any chance to win tonight’s game, the Lakers bench, who has outscored their opponent’s bench in all but 2 games and lead the NBA in scoring at 48.1 PPG, has to outscore the Suns bench by a significant margin.

Prediction

Suns: 108-96

Last week’s POW:  Wes Johnson

Last week is in the books and Laker fans now move onto the next week in this season.  Kobe Bryant returned last night and needless to say he was a bit rusty.  If he had played quite well I would have chosen him as player of the week but he wasn’t quite up to par.  Only two games made up the Lakers’ week and that was against Sacramento and Toronto.  This week we had one person play better than the rest throughout the two games: Jodie Meeks.

Jodie Meeks

Photo Credit | Getty Images

Jodie Meeks played well this week because of his strong shooting performance, he shot 56% from the field, had 16.5 ppg, 2 apg, 2.5 rpg over the last two games.  Meeks made some clutch 3-pointers in the game against Sacramento, and continued his hot shooting performance against Toronto albeit in a loss.

Meeks has always been a high caliber shooter and when the Lakers can get him into space to shoot he can be deadly.  I liked seeing him hit some threes this past week that really ignited the Lakers to rally and win the game, in the case of Sacramento at least.

His scoring definitely helped in the win over Sacramento as he started and played some solid efficient minutes in that game.

Hopefully the Lakers can utilize Meeks properly with Kobe Bryant back in the starting lineup.  Then he can continue to deliver clutch threes for the lakers when the games get close.

 

Kobe Bryant

Source: Kobe Bryant | Facebook

December 8, 2013 — 6:30 PM (PST)
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC SportsNet / NBATV
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

He’s back.

Lakers superstar G Kobe Bryant makes his season debut for the Los Angeles Lakers (10-9) against the Toronto Raptors (6-12) tonight in front of a home crowd. Bryant, who returns from a devasating left achilles tear from the April 12th game vs. Golden State Warriors, provides the Lakers with a game-changer and team leader on the floor. Despite playing without Bryant, the Lakers have surprised many NBA experts this season by playing very well as a team,  winning 6 out of their last 8 games to maintain a .500 winning percentage. According to Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni, he expects to see Kobe play in the 20-25 minute range tonight.

The Lakers come off of a solid win versus the Sacramento Kings, where G Jodie Meeks and G/F Wesley Johnson led the way for the Lakers. Meeks scored 19 points by shooting 5-6 from the 3 pt line, including 2 huge 3-pointers to defeat the Kings, while Johnson locked down defensively by having 5 steals. Also, the emergence of C Robert Sacre has been a pleasant surprise for the Lakers. As a surprise starter vs. Kings last game, Sacre held his own against a very talented C DeMarcus Cousins, scoring 11 points, and getting key stops towards the end of the game.

The Raptors, on the other hand, just made news for themselves. According to Yahoo! Sports Marc Spears’ and Adrian Wojnarowski’s sources, the Raptors just traded SF Rudy Gay, Aaron Gray, and F Quincy Acy to the Sacramento Kings for F John Salmons, PG Greivis Vasquez, F Chuck Hayes, F Patrick Patterson, all who will obviously not be available for the Raptors tonight. Therefore, the Raptors will be led by G Demar Derozan. Derozan, a local product out of USC and Compton High School, has seemed to finally use his raw athleticism efficiently, leading the Raptors in scoring at a career high 21.3 PPG.

Projected Starters

PG - Kyle LowrySteve Blake [Advantage: Even]

SGDemar Derozan / Kobe Bryant [Advantage: Lakers]

SF - Terrence RossWesley Johnson [Advantage: Lakers]

PF - Jonas Valanciunus / Pau Gasol [Advantage: Lakers]

C - Amir Johnson / Robert Sacre [Advantage: Raptors]

X-Factors

Raptors: F Steve Novak - Arguably one of the best three-point shooters in the NBA, Novak can cause the Lakers defense a lot of problems if he can get wide open shots. Novak, who is one of many players who thrived in Mike D’Antoni’s offensive system during his days with the New York Knicks, is currently shooting at 37.7% from the 3-pt line after the Raptors acquired him this offseason for F Andrea Bargnani. Novak is the only offensive spark the Raptors have from the bench, so if the Lakers can shut him down with athletic defenders like Johnson or F Shawne Williams, the Lakers bench should outscore the Raptors’s bench by a significant margin tonight.

Lakers: Rest of the Lakers - With Bryant returning to the lineup, the Lakers coaching staff has a major question mark moving forward: how will the rest of the Lakers play with Bryant back. In the past, the Lakers would tend to stand around on offense, waiting for Bryant to save them every time. Hopefully with the rest of the Lakers gaining their own confidence offensively in Bryant’s absence, they can continue to stay aggressive towards the basket and not be hesitant to shoot the ball. Notably, players like Meeks, Johnson, G Xavier Henry, and G/F Nick Young have thrived in Bryant’s absence for the first 19 games, playing very well on both ends of the floor. In order for the Lakers to not only win tonight’s game, but also make some noise in the playoffs, the rest of the Lakers have to continue to move around without the ball and not stand around hoping Bryant will bail them out every possession, especially towards the end of the game.

Bottom Line

Since the atmosphere at Staples tonight will be electric due to Bryant’s return, the Lakers will have to channel their emotions tonight to execute both offensively and defensively. Although the Raptors have a lot of talent in their starting lineup, they are very thin on the bench, something the Lakers bench can thrive off of, especially with Meeks joining the bench unit. Once again, the Lakers do not have a healthy point guard. Without PG Steve Nash and PG Jordan Farmar available for tonight’s game, look for Bryant to play point guard quite often whenever PG Steve Blake, who is currently battling a hyper extended right elbow, needs a rest tonight. If the Lakers continue to play as a team and stay focused especially defensively for the entire 48 minutes of the game, look for the Lakers to get a solid victory in Bryant’s debut.

Prediction

Lakers: 104-95

Photo courtesy of Noah Graham, Getty Images

Photo courtesy of Noah Graham, Getty Images

Add this game to the top of disheartening losses this season. What a game.

The Portland Trail Blazers came into Staples Center with the second best record in the Western Conference. Naturally, the Lakers were not favored to win tonight and it appeared to be an easy game to call when the home team fell behind by 17 points halfway through the first quarter. The Lakers managed to catch up, however, going into halftime just three points down. It looked like the home team was giving themselves a chance to win…and then the third quarter came.

The Blazers outscored the Lakers 41-24. Again, it looked like they’d be taking this game all the way when they led by as much as 20 points. The Lakers, however, continued to fight, getting to within a single point with still under three minutes left in the game. Unfortunately, They couldn’t stop Portland from scoring and the single-digit deficit became more than the Lakers could overcome with so little time left, so they took the loss, 114-108.

High Points
Backcourt Brothers – The Laker guards really took this game and put it over their shoulders tonight, and it started with Xavier Henry. He contributed 27 points on 9-12 from the field and was the focal point of the Lakers’ two big runs tonight. In the first quarter, he chipped in nine points that helped fuel the come from 17 points down run. In the fourth quarter, he put in 11 points to help the team catch up from a 20-point deficit, highlighted by his four-point play. He’s so good at getting himself to the free throw line where he went 7-11 tonight, and he’s fearless at getting to the rim no matter how much traffic there is to barrel through. He finished the evening with a game-high +23. Jodie Meeks, the team’s leading scorer, put in 20 points of his own. Nick Young was the other bench player who fueled the first scoring run that got the team over the 17-point hole. He finished with 17 points on 7-14 from the field. And of course, there’s Steve Blake, who had to put in double-duty tonight when Jordan Farmar left the game in the first quarter. He finished with 13 points and nine assists.
Attitude – It would have been so easy for the Lakers to just roll over and let Portland have their way with them, but they wouldn’t let up. They came up from being behind by double digits twice in one game. It’s hard to consider moral victories, but this game really showed a lot of grit from this Lakers’ team. It’s an attitude that surely their captain, Kobe Bryant, would appreciate.

Low Points
Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill – The Blazers and the Lakers shot at about the same percentage. They had close to the same number of assists, the turnovers weren’t out of control for either team and the Lakers even blocked seven shots to the Blazers’ one. The glaring stat disparity? Rebounds. Portland outrebounded the Lakers 52-41, 15-9 on the offensive glass. While rebounding should be a team effort, the Lakers’ leading rebounders didn’t do much to help their situation, combining for just 11 boards for the whole game. Their struggles tonight may be due in large part to a sprained ankle, which each player is nursing.
Spotty Defense – Sometimes it’s there, sometimes it’s not. And it’s hard to tell when the Lakers will decide to play any. One quarter, they’re allowing Portland to score 41 points. The next quarter, they go on a 24-5 run. Sustaining their efforts on either end of the court is this team’s weakness so far this season, and it’s cost them a lot of close, winnable games.
Chris Kaman – It’s nice to see Robert Sacre on the floor playing some significant minutes, and he was productive tonight with his 12 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three blocks, but Kaman has been available to play for some time now and hasn’t seen the floor in a couple weeks. It’s not something that’s been given much attention, but with Jordan Hill playing with a sprained ankle, seems logical to bring Kaman in.
Jordan Farmar – After playing for only 56 seconds, Farmar had to leave the floor and was later diagnosed with a left hamstring strain. He left in the first quarter and never returned. Hopefully the next four days off will aid in a quick recovery.

The Lakers’ next game isn’t until Friday against the Sacramento Kings. After a weeklong road trip, it may just be what they need to recoup. Kobe Bryant is scheduled to practice with the team this week and there’s a possibility he’ll play against the Kings if the practices don’t cause any pain. Here’s hoping!

Box Score

Mike D'Antoni

Five games into the 2013-14 NBA season, most teams know for the most part which players will be in their eight or nine-man rotations. At this point, the Lakers are definitely not one of those teams. Coach Mike D’Antoni has been tinkering with rotations and player combinations to the extreme, going with an 11-man rotation thus far that has already produced over 34 player combinations. As can be expected, results have been far from consistent. As Steve Nash put it:

“We’re not a well-oiled machine. We don’t even know what line-ups suit us best yet, let alone what each other are going to do.”

Clearly, D’Antoni is going to have to eventually slim the rotations down. Because of the depth of this roster as well as the uncertainty of the bench pieces, the Lakers are likely to go to a nine-man rotation as the season wears on. So what can we expect to see on the court in the coming months? Let’s take a look at the likely line-ups the Lakers will employ the rest of the season.

Starting Line-Up:

PG – Steve Blake

Probably not the Steve you were expecting huh? Five games in, it’s clear that Steve Nash is still dealing with nagging injuries and adjusting to age. Blake, not Nash, is best suited to lead the starting unit because of his aggressiveness on defense and because he has simply looked better on the court than Nash.

Courtesy: Getty Images

Courtesy: Getty Images

SG – Xavier Henry

On a roster full of question marks, Henry has emerged as a breakout player so far this season for the Lakers. His aggressiveness on both ends of the court fits well in LA’s fast-paced system, and he seems to have all but locked up a starting spot for the foreseeable future. He can also slide down to the small forward position in smaller line-ups with a two point-guard backcourt.

SF – Kobe Bryant

When the Mamba returns, he will obviously be a fixture in the starting line-up. There has been talk for a while of Bryant sliding down to the small forward position, and upon his return that is where he’s expected to be. It will be interesting to see how Kobe plays in the uptempo system that places a premium on ball movement, but knowing the veteran I’m sure (hoping) he’ll fit in just fine.

PF – Jordan Hill

On a roster filled with guys who like to (try to) be scorers, the rebounding machine that is Jordan Hill is a perfect fit for this Laker team. Hill has a constant motor and is always around the basketball at every rebound opportunity. He currently sits in the top 20 for rebounds per 48 minutes and should be there all season long with the rebounding opportunities this team can present.

C – Pau Gasol

With the departure of He Who Shall Not Be Named to Houston, Gasol has been able to move back to his more natural position of center. As the man in the middle of a team surrounded by shooters, Gasol will be able to display his passing skill and low post repertoire in the paint. While the relationship between Pau and D’Antoni is up and down to say the least, Gasol should get plenty of opportunities to go to work with this roster.

Bench:

G – Steve Nash

Aside from Bryant, Nash is currently the biggest question mark on the Laker roster. Is he aging and no longer capable of being the player he once was? Or, as Nash believes, does he just need to shake a few lingering injuries before being back to normal? This storyline will only grow as the season moves on, especially as trade rumors continue to grow louder and louder.

Courtesy: Getty Images

Courtesy: Getty Images

G – Jordan Farmar

When the Lakers signed Farmar, many people thought it was nothing more than a nostalgia signing on the cheap. But through five games this season, Jordan has been the Lakers best point guard averaging 10 points and 5 assists in under 23 minutes a game. Farmar’s energy and aggressiveness will be key to sparking the second unit all season long.

F – Nick Young/Wesley Johnson

Johnson and Young are the two bench players whose minutes will most likely fluctuate all season long. Because they bring two completely different elements to the court, their minutes will be based on what is needed on a game-to-game basis. When starters are struggling to get buckets, Young will be called upon to provide a scoring spark. When the offense is clicking, it’s likely that D’Antoni will want to use Johnson for his defensive prowess to slow down opponents. Either way, it will be interesting to see these two young forwards try to separate themselves from one another.

C – Chris Kaman

Kaman is more of a fit due to need rather than what he provides on the court. While he can hit an open midrange shot and crash the boards, the Caveman will get minutes due to the fact that he provides size to back up Gasol and Hill. Shawne Williams is also an option here, however he is more of a stretch four who provides shooting that is not a major need on this second unit.

Odd Men Out:

Jodie Meeks

Shawne Williams

Needless to say, I do not envy the decisions that Mike D’Antoni will need to make dividing up the minutes amongst his players. There are sure to be questions, confusion and discontent amongst players as the season wears on and minutes are cut. But when looking at the lack of depth last season, it is a good problem for Coach D’Antoni to have. At least until a few tough losses and people start calling for his job. Oh wait that already is happening? This is going to be one very interesting season.

Electric.IMG_1727

There are few other words to describe the ambiance of the Lakers’ Opening Night win over the Los Angeles Clippers than that. Not only was this game one of the most exhilarating in recent years, but I also had the special privilege of enjoying it from the most exclusive spot in the arena: Hyde Lounge STAPLES Center.

Hyde Lounge STAPLES Center is by far the best value for any Lakers fans going out to a game. With affordable ticket packages, a full service bar, in-seat waitress service and the most comfortable seating in the arena, this experience is simply unbeatable.

On Opening Night, the Lakers started out slow, just staying within reach of the high-powered Clippers at halftime. L.A. fans, notorious for arriving late to sporting events, just finished trickling into Hyde Lounge by the start of the third quarter.

A closely contested third and all of Hyde Lounge was completely engaged with the action on the court by the start of the fourth quarter.

The Lakers began the fourth down by four points. The bench unit, however, quickly erased that deficit.

A few nifty moves by reserves Jordan Farmar and Xavier Henry got the Lakers within striking distance, but a Jodie Meeks and-one layup really ignited the crowd.

Fans in Hyde Lounge went wild; high-fives were dished out to anyone and everyone within reach. Lakers basketball was fun again, and those within Hyde Lounge were taking full advantage of this exciting revival.

The Lakers’ bench continued their quick attacks on both ends of the floor, clearly catching the Clippers off guard. A barrage of three-pointers (14 threes in total that night) and a career high 22 points from Henry later, the Lakers earned their deciding Opening Night victory over their co-tenant Clippers, 116-103.

Basking in the Lakers’ victory and falling streamers wasn’t all, however.

Now, the night really began. At Hyde Lounge, the experience doesn’t end with the final buzzer. As if an exhilarating victory over the Clippers was not enough, Hyde Lounge transforms into a full-fledged nightclub after each game.

Curtains are drawn after the final buzzer and a full service bar, live DJ and all that the world-famous Hyde Lounge has to offer is unlocked. For those looking for that “nightlife” experience, the post-game festivities are perfect considering you don’t even need to leave Staples Center to hit the club, and you get to beat all of that horrendous L.A. traffic after the game.

With the Lakers’ regular season now just beginning, I highly recommend attending future games in style at Hyde Lounge. Rather than buying a ticket to just watch the game in the 300 levels, you can instead receive a complete experience for just about the same price.

With Hyde Lounge, you will not be disappointed.

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