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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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 transformsinto 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 Dwight Howard‘s departure, Lakers Executive V.P. of Basketball Operations Jim Buss and General Manager Mitch Kupchak faced a major task this past off-season. The Lakers’ decision-makers were tasked with filling plenty of holes, as evidenced by last season’s debacle.
After eight preseason games and three regular season games, one significant improvement is evident: the bench.
The Lakers have received a major sparkplug from the second unit this season, evidenced by their strong performances throughout the preseason and regular season. The second unit shocked the national audience by carrying the Lakers to an Opening Night victory over its co-tenant rivals, the Los Angeles Clippers, outscoring them 41-24 in the fourth quarter and scoring 76 points as a unit.
Albeit, the Lakers lost the next two games to the Golden State Warriors and the San Antonio Spurs. The Lakers’ bench, however, has shown that it can carry a lot of the weight for the Lakers this season.
Jordan Farmar, a key bench player during the Lakers’ championship runs in 2008-2009 and 2009-2010, took a significant paycut to rejoin the Lakers after stint with the New Jersey Nets as well as overseas in Israel and Turkey. Farmar has gotten off to a blistering start, averaging 11.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 5.0 assists per game, including scoring 16 points to lead the Lakers over the Clippers.
Farmar’s maturity in becoming an effective floor general came from running the show for the Anadolu Efes Istambul in Turkey last season—leading them to a Euroleague playoff appearance.
“I just got a chance to play differeent styles of basketball. My whole professional career, I was in a triangle and I [was not] really running screen and rolls and making decisions and getting away from that. I finally got a chance to do that and learn on the job,” Farmar told NBA on TNT sidelines reporter Craig Sager after defeating the Clippers.
The biggest surprise for the Lakers has been Xavier Henry, who signed a non-guaranteed 1-year deal with the purple and gold. After subpar performances with the Memphis Grizzlies and the New Orleans Hornets during his first three years in the NBA, the 22-year old Henry has given the Lakers a guy who can create his own shots and play solid defense.
Henry, a former lottery-pick out of Kansas, has made a good first impression with the Lakers—scoring a career high 22 points versus the Clippers.
Although Henry scored only 3 points versus the Spurs, he has shown Lakers’ coach Mike D’Antoni that he can make a variety of aggressive moves towards the basket and hit some shots from behind the arc. With Henry’s defensive prowess and his surprising offensive game, he might become one of the biggest off-season acquisition steals for the Lakers.
The Lakers also signed another athletic guard-forward, Wesley Johnson. Johnson, like Henry, has not made an impact in the NBA during his past stints with the Minnesota Timberwolves and Phoenix Suns.
Expect Johnson to make a significant impact on the defensive end by using his length and athleticism—especially in his current role as a “quick-4.” He has the ability to guard every position except for center. Despite being the fourth overall pick in 2011 NBA Draft, Johnson’s offensive contribution will be a bonus, as his main role is on the defensive end.
However, Johnson has scored 11 points and 12 points the past two games respectively, on 50% shooting from the 3-point line.
Johnson excitedly told our own Laker Nation columnists Alex Lambeth and Jory Dreher before training camp that he believes he can have a really good impact just for his length and speed.
“I can get in passing lanes and disrupt shots and bring a spark that will fuel the entire team,” Johnson said. “As long as everyone is on the same page defensively, I think we’ll be just fine.”
Another addition to the bench rotation this season is former NBA All-Star Chris Kaman. With his recent solid play, I expect coach D’Antoni to pencil him into the starting lineup very soon.
Kaman and Lakers’ star Pau Gasol have shown that they can play together. This combination has been much more effective than Gasol and Howard last year.
The combination of these three key additions to the Lakers bench, paired with returnees Jordan Hill and Jodie Meeks, give the Lakers the flexibility and youth to cause matchup nightmares for their opponents—something they have not had in recent years.
The new and improved bench can also help limit the minutes played by veterans Steve Nash, Pau Gasol, and most importantly, Kobe Bryant, once he returns to the lineup.
“We can go out there and take the load off some of those guys,” Johnson continued. “It will definitely be a relief off their shoulders knowing we’re going to compete just as hard as they are.”
With the combination of their depth, and the return of assistant coach and defensive guru Kurt Rambis, the Lakers have shown signs of improved team defense.
No one knows for sure if the Lakers’ bench can sustain this stellar play, but the Lakers’ front office should be given major credit for upgrading the bench under the tight circumstances they faced this off-season.
While the Lakers still have low expectations this season, expect the second unit to continue helping the Lakers make some noise this season and hold down the fort until Kobe returns to the lineup.
Last week I released a series of poll questions about this off-season for the Los Angeles Lakers. I asked you, the Laker Nation, to answer them and I’d analyze those answers in the coming week. Well you guys all answered and this article will detail all the possible scenarios from the most popular answers to each poll question. So here we go! If you’d like to take a quick look back at all the questions, here’s the link to the article - http://lakernation.com/offseason-poll-questions/
Question 1: Would you like to see the Lakers re-sign Dwight Howard? 843 Total Votes
The majority of you said yes, you would like to see him re-signed with 609 “Yes” votes to 234 “No” votes.
What does this mean? Well unfortunately, it isn’t up to Laker management at this point as the ball is in Dwight’s court (No pun intended). The majority of you would like to see him stay with the purple and gold with a 5 year max contract. The Lakers can offer Dwight that extra year and 30 million dollars more than any other of the teams vying for his signature. However, no one except Dwight knows for sure if that is enough to make him want to stay. Rumors say he can’t stand D’Antoni and that’s a huge factor in making his ultimate decision. Houston is looking like a viable option for him at this point, and recent news is saying he and Chris Paul are attempting to team up together on one team.. Only time will tell whether Dwight will re-sign with LA or another ball club, and July 1st is the date in which the fire storm hits its climax.
Question 2: Should Chris Paul decide to leave the Clippers, would you want him to sign with the Lakers? 848 Total Votes
The majority of you also said yes you would like to see him sign with the opposite locker room this season and leave the Clippers with 787 “Yes” votes against 61 “No” votes. Many of you are probably thinking “Of course, who wouldn’t want to see Chris Paul in a Lakers’ jersey?” Well, there are some issues with him signing
here. First off, Chris would have to “want” to sign with the Lakers, and at this point, I’m not sure why he would. His Clippers finished with the best record in their franchise history and took the Pacific division crown this season while the Lakers barely made the playoffs. He, like any other NBA player, wants to win a championship sooner rather than later, and by first glance the Clippers seem to be in the better position.
Another thing is that by signing Chris Paul the Lakers would not be signing Dwight Howard, basically they are both too expensive and the Lakers are already well over the salary cap. So it’s a choice between a dominant center in Dwight Howard, or one of the most crafty, skilled point guards in Paul. There is also the problem of having Steve Nash still under contract for 2 more seasons; 9 million dollars coming off the bench isn’t the smartest use of money. The Lakers would more than likely have to trade Nash just a year after trading their draft picks for him, and he won’t be necessarily easy to trade given his age and decreased level of effectiveness shown from this previous season. It’d be a great upgrade at the point guard position for the Lakera with a player like Paul, leading the offense and keeping up with the young point guards that dominate the league, but the chances are low and he’ll likely re-sign with the Clippers.
Question 3: Should the Lakers trade up in the draft for a better pick? 796 Total Votes
This was a lot closer in votes than the previous two poll questions coming in with 438 “Yes” votes and 358 “No” votes. Seeing as this goes hand in hand with the following question, I’ll combine the two here.
Question 4: Who would you like to see traded for the pick? 742 Total Votes
The number one person on the roster that you would like to see traded for a pick was Metta World Peace coming in with 220 votes. Jodie Meeks came in second place with 155 votes, and third place was Pau Gasol with 138 . While getting rid of Metta may be a good option as his contract is rather pricey for the player the
Lakers are getting, he’s just not worth that much to trade away for a decent pick.
Meeks is in the same boat as Metta, although he’s younger and a better shooter so he might warrant a slightly better pick. Pau Gasol coming in at third however may be the most viable and prime option for a good pick. Pau has a very expensive price tag though as he totes a 19 million dollar salary. Trading him would likely get the Lakers a decent pick in the first round somewhere, but most teams would have to offer the Lakers at least one other player to accomodate his large salary. Trading one of your players with a first round pick for Pau Gasol isn’t a trade teams are going to want to make, Pau just isn’t worth that much any more as his numbers have been in steady decline the past couple seasons.
However, recent news has surfaced that the Lakers are interested in Peyton Siva, the explosive guard out of the NCAA Champion Louisville Cardinals. Siva is projected to go late in the second round, which is completely feasible for the Lakers to trade up for. Trading for a late second round pick isn’t too difficult for Lakers management to pull off, and they wouldn’t necessarily have to give up one of their starting five either. Do you guys like the idea of drafting Peyton Siva? Let me know your thoughts!
Question 5: Of these free agents, who would you like to see the Lakers sign? 810 Total Votes
This one was a flat out victory by J.R. Smith receiving 526 total votes, second place sits Nikola Pekovic, the Minnesota big man, with 132 votes, and in third we have Anthony Morrow with 88 votes. Here’s the thing, as great as it would be for the Lakers to sign a player like J.R. Smith, he’s probably going to be too expensive for them. He’s coming off a $2.8 million dollar salary with New York, and he has a player option in his contract for this upcoming season of which he is likely to opt out of. Smith has earned himself the sixth man of the year award this past season and because of that he can leave New York and ask for
more money elsewhere. Another possibility is that New York signs him to a new bigger contract, but regardless Smith is looking for a bigger contract and with Los Angeles already well over the cap a signing isn’t likely.
Nikola Pekovic would be somone to look at if Dwight Howard chooses to sign elsewhere. He could hold down the paint, and eventually become a strong, dominant center in the NBA as a member of the Lakers organization. We’ll see if Lakers management looks his way should Dwight choose to leave LA.
Then there’s Anthony Morrow, a close friend of Dwight Howard’s and a pretty good shooter. Morrow’s early years were his best shooting wise and if were to return to that form he’d be a great asset for the shooter deprived Lakers. Not that this would necessarily keep Dwight in LA but having a close friend work along side yourself makes you want to stay put more than if Morrow weren’t there.
Question 6: What would you like to see done with Coach Mike D’Antoni? 836 Total Votes
This was the most one sided poll question yet, and expectantly so. Nearly all of you voted that D’Antoni be fired with 736 votes, and here’s why you’re 100% correct. Not that this is anything
new, but D’Antoni has a different agenda for the Lakers then they are currently built for. He wants a quick, run-n-gun style offense, and the Lakers, being the oldest team in the NBA this past season, couldn’t quite keep up as well as he’d hoped. He was adamant about sticking to his guns, and it wasn’t until the end of the season that things began to click and he decided to use Pau Gasol closer to the basket where he thrives.
Should Dwight Howard choose to re-sign, D’Antoni needs to go. He doesn’t know how to fully utilize two big men out on the floor and maximize their potential. He’s not a bad coach by any means, he just doesn’t fit as the missing puzzle piece the Lakers have been searching for since Jackson left. He did well in Phoenix when Steve Nash was there, and that’s why Laker management felt he would thrive with Nash again. It’s unfortunate if he is to be retained because it will only be to the Lakers’ detriment. Dwight may also be basing his decision on whether D’Antoni is retained or not, and right now it doesn’t look like Laker management has any plans of getting rid of him.
Question 7: What coach would you rather see if the Lakers are to fire D’Antoni? 837 Total Votes
Since I put the zen master himself as an answer to this question I expected him to get the most votes, and he did with 531 votes. However in second place came the former Lakers assistant coach Brian Shaw with 219 votes, currently with the Indiana Pacers. Now since it is unlikely that Lakers management removes D’Antonifrom his head coaching seat these are merely dreams of hope that the Lakers would hire one of these guys. Phil Jackson would obviously be the best choice as he has proven his success with the Lakers before.
Unfortunately he has said he has no plans on ever returning to coaching and the Lakers last chance to ink the 11 time champion was when they flirted with him
after Mike Brown’s firing. Shaw is also in talks with multiple teams regarding their head coaching vacancies, most notably the Clippers. The Lakers are likely to see out Mike D’Antoni’s current contract because they already owe Mike Brown some money from his early termination and they don’t want to look like they don’t know what they’re doing (Even though it appears Jim Buss doesn’t). Perhaps D’Antoni has a different game plan for this season, perhaps he wants to use Pau and hopefully Dwight together effectively, and perhaps the Lakers have a great season, perhaps.
Question 8: Who should the Lakers amnesty this season? 823 Total Votes
This was my favorite question based on the answers to it that I really didn’t expect. In first place came Metta World Peace with 342 votes, which isn’t a huge surprise due to his dwindling performance this past season. Amnestying him wouldn’t be a terrible option as Peace is likely going to opt into the final year of his contract and he’s due 7.7 million dollars, more than he could get anywhere else at this point in his career. However I expected you guys to want to amnesty Pau Gasol
because he’s due 19 million, which is a HUGE hindrance to the salary cap room the Lakers have. Pau actually came in last place with just 65 votes.
Second place went to not amnestying anyone this season with 319 votes. This was in first place for quite some time until Metta World Peace came in and swooped it, probably because of the way Metta has been tweeting recently. If you don’t know Metta’s tweets I suggest you follow him, he’s quite the character. I think not using it this season is actually a smart idea because each ball club can only exercise it once between now and the 2015-16 season. So waiting to see if there is a better chance to use it is a safe and careful plan, which is something the Lakers need at this point in time.
Kobe Bryant was next on the list with 97 votes, now before some of you guys start freaking out over such a ridiculous thought, just think about it. Bryant is coming off of
a very serious Achilles tendon tear, one which could alter his playing style for the rest of his career. Here’s what Lakers management can do, they could amnesty Bryant, who could potentially miss a large portion of this current season, and then offer him a contract when he is healthy again, hoping he wouldn’t sign any where else in the meantime. This would alleviate 30 million dollars on the Lakers books and give them a lot of great options going into this upcoming season. The hard part is amnestying the player who has brought the city 5 more championships and has only ever donned a purple and gold uniform, oh and hoping he doesn’t get bitter about it and sign else where. Essentially what the Lakers would be doing is dropping the final year of Bryant’s contract, wait until he is fully healthy, then re-sign him to a much cheaper deal, likely in the 17-19 million range. This option really has a lot of potential to it, but it also is a huge risk that I’m not sure Lakers management would be willing to take. My guess would be that the Lakers choose not to exercise their amnesty clause this season and they’ll wait for a better opportunity.
Question 9: Will Kobe Bryant be the same player when he returns from his Achilles tendon tear? 828 Total Votes
No one can really know the answer to this question unless you’re Kobe Bryant himself. We all have watched Bryant play his heart out every night and know first hand that his work ethic is second to none. That being said, we can all assu
me Bryant will come back sooner rather than later and playing at the same level he’s shown us all these past 17 seasons. 351 of you felt he’ll be the same player when he returns, 239 said he wouldn’t be, and 238 said he’d be even better than before. Again, it really is a toss up, and none of us can truly know how Kobe will bounce back after such a detrimentalinjury, but we can make educated guesses based on his history.
That’s it for the poll questions everyone, thanks so much for participating and here’s to a successful off-season for the Los Angeles Lakers! Any questions, comments, or concerns, contact me on Twitter, @GarrettGarcia
Well Nation, we’ve reached yet another off-season, one full of a particularly large amount of questions regarding the Lakers’ future. So I’ve decided to create a series of questions that you, the fans, will answer about the Laker offseason. Then in a week or so I’ll gather all the answers and write about what would need to happen for each scenario to occur. Obviously the big ones are about retaining (or losing) Dwight Howard, and what will come of Kobe Bryant after his devastating Achilles tear. So Nation, here are the questions, the more who answer the more interesting the possible scenarios will be!
Poll analysis is complete! Check it out HERE to see your answers discussed! Thanks!
After such a tumultuous season, the 2012-13 Los Angeles Lakers with a starting lineup consisting of Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol, and Dwight Howard have managed to will their way into the playoffs having secured the 7th seed and a first round matchup with the San Antonio Spurs. This season was likely the most difficult, frustrating, and emotionally draining season for many, if not all, of the Lakers.
Despite the up’s and down’s of this season however, the Lakers managed to will their way into the playoffs winning a rather favorable matchup against the sliding San Antonio Spurs. San Antonio is 3-7 in their last 10 games dating back to their final game in March. They also have been dealing with injuries as of late to Manu Ginobili and their star Tony Parker, which have clearly affected their performance as of late. Facing a beat up Spurs team is the best matchup in the West that Los Angeles could have asked for, as San Antonio isn’t young or fast enough to run LA out of the building much like OKC could do.
This brings me to what these playoffs actually mean for the Los Angeles Lakers, more than just winning and attempting to make a deep run. These playoffs could truly decide the future of the Lakers and what should happen to them after this season is over. Without their fearless leader, Kobe Bryant, this years playoff team lacks a huge component, so big in fact many fans doubt their chances to even move past the first round. Without Kobe, Los Angeles’ journey will certainly be more difficult, but it won’t be impossible, not if certain players step up and try to fill those shoes. This years playoffs could decide whether Dwight resigns, this years playoffs could decide what the Lakers front office does about Kobe Bryant, it could be the difference between the Lakers being a decent team for years to come, or a great one.
I’m pointing my finger directly at Dwight Howard.
Dwight Howard’s time to show LA what he’s all about, and what he is truly capable of is right now. If he wants fan support, front office support, and an overall sense of accomplishment, he’ll put his best games on the court now for the playoffs. Dwight has said the weight shouldn’t fall all on his shoulders, and he’s right, but a large amount of it should because Dwight is a superstar and he needs to perform like one. As of late, him and Pau Gasol have found that elusive chemistry they had longed for since the start of the season. This tandem out on the court is hard to beat especially when they’re playing at their best, an example would be the Lakers last win of the season against the Houston Rockets, Pau and Dwight combined for 38 rebounds, with Pau achieving a triple-double.
The Lakers will have to rely heavily on their front court because of the injuries to their backcourt of Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant. Granted, Steve Blake and Jodie
Meeks have stepped up to fill the void, there’s only so much they can do. With Pau and Dwight at their best, and the rest of the Lakers role players stepping up, Los Angeles will be a difficult opponent for anyone in the Western Conference.
This year means more than just winning to win. This year means winning for the late Dr. Buss. This year means winning for Kobe Bryant, who did all he could to get the Lakers to this point in the season before that untimely achilles tear. This year means winning for the fans of the Los Angeles Lakers who have stuck by the side of the Lakers since the start despite this roller coaster of a season. Dwight’s moment to step into the bright spotlight of Los Angeles is right now, and he couldn’t ask for a better moment.
We can’t predict the future or what will happen at the end of the season, we can only plan for right now and right now is the time to take action. This year will test the will power of the Lakers without their fearless leader being able to build up their spirits in times of hardship, but they’ve shown what they’re capable of these past couple games without him. Here’s to a deep run LakerNation, let’s go.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Antawn Jamison came to Los Angeles for one reason: to win a ring.
Since signing his one-year, veteran’s minimum deal with the Lakers, the 14-year veteran has endured his most unpredictable season yet.
In the twilight of his career, Jamison transitioned from five consecutive games with a DNP-CD in late December, to now leading the Lakers’ bench unit in March.
Jamison, who has averaged 19.0 points and 7.7 rebounds per game over his career, was obviously stunned and discouraged by his lack of playing time. The two-time All-Star specifically chose the Lakers over his hometown Charlotte Bobcats, and their $11 million contract offer, to chase a ring.
Back in July of 2012, when he made that decision, Jamison certainly did not foresee a ‘cheerleading’ role on the Lakers bench.
In a recent interview with ESPNLA’s Ramona Shelburne, Antawn Jamison explained his early frustration, how he stayed professional and the Lakers’ “deciding factor” this season:
When asked about the notorious DNP-CD streak, Jamison had this to say:
“Never in my career had that happened to me,” Jamison said. “Never. I just didn’t know what was going on. Did I do something wrong?”
During one of the most difficult stretches of his career, Jamison tried to stay professional and remained a role model for the younger players.
Jamison then explained coach Mike D’Antoni‘s justification for sitting him:
“He was a man about it,” Jamison said of D’Antoni. “He sat down and talked to me. He told me he liked Metta at the 4. I could understand that.
“And ever since then, we’ve honestly had an open dialogue about things. If there’s something going on, he feels comfortable telling me, ‘Look, I’m trying this. You might be in early, you might be out.’
“It was good to have that wall come down a little bit.”
Since the Lakers’ famed “clear the air” meeting in Memphis on January 23rd, the Lakers have gone 12-5. Jamison’s 13.2 ppg and 5.3 rpg averages in the month of February certainly have a lot to do with the Lakers’ recent turnaround. Jamison, however, explained that it was more than just that:
“It really helps out, especially on the bench, knowing when you’re coming in, knowing what your role is. Knowing what is needed of you,” Jamison said. “You’re not worried about shots or minutes or ‘If I make a mistake I’m coming out.’
“There were games where you knew if we had some more chemistry or stability, the outcome would be totally different. I had guys from opposing teams coming to me like, ‘What’s up with y’all? Y’all chemistry is bad.’
“Other people from other teams saw it. That was the deciding factor between us losing and winning games. Now we have roles, guys know what’s expected, it makes a difference. It helps a lot.”
Backup shooting guard Jodie Meeks also endured a similar discouraging stretch this season. Meeks, like Jamison, fell out of D’Antoni’s rotation in January. Meeks explained how Jamison’s support as a role model helped him get through that difficult stretch:
“I talked to [Jamison] when I was going through it, and he told me to stay professional,” Meeks said. “Stay before and after practice, like I always do, that way when my time comes again I’m not as rusty and I can be effective.
“It’s tough, especially being a relatively young player, not knowing how much you’re going to play or if you’re going to play is tough, mentally.
“But I think I’ve done a good job of dealing with it.”
D’Antoni seems to have now settled on a permanent eight-man rotation, with Jamison, Meeks and Steve Blake anchoring the bench unit. A glaring liability in the past, the Lakers bench played consistent basketball in the month of February. That consistency culminated in 55 bench points in the Lakers most-recent 116-94 win over Minnesota.
D’Antoni also praised Jamison for his exceptional play of late:
“He’s just a smart basketball player,” D’Antoni said of Jamison after Thursday’s game. “He understands spacing. He understands when to cut. He understands timing. He’s the type of basketball player that I love.”
After the Lakers’ win over the Timberwolves, Kobe Bryant also praised Jamison and his ability to make plays. Bryant even likened him to a ‘cockroach’:
Kobe's killer quote of the night was likening Antawn Jamison to "a cockroach": "He keeps finding the cracks."
Jamison then reminisced on his decision to sign with the Lakers and what it means to him, this late in his career:
“Whatever the future holds, I can honestly say ‘I had a shot. I had that opportunity and I took it,” Jamison said. “That’s what this has been all about. Playing for the Lakers.
“Because let’s be honest, with the personnel we have, this is the best opportunity I’ve ever had to win.”
One dimension that weighed heavy on Jamison’s decision to sign with the Lakers was his children. Jamison has four kids, ages 12, 7, 6 and 4, who live in North Carolina. They, however, were supportive of his move out west to play for the Lakers:
“I talked to the kids,” Jamison said. “And I talked to their mom [they divorced two years ago], and she said, ‘For one year, I can hold it down if this is what you want to do.’ “
That was a sacrifice for Jamison. He would take less money and play a lesser role in Los Angeles. He would be far from his children. But at this point in his career, it was the only reason to keep playing:
“For me, it was knowing I had an opportunity to win,” he said. “In the back of my mind, I knew that won’t always be there. And how would I feel if I didn’t take it?”
With the Playoffs fast approaching, the Lakers will need Jamison to continue his stellar play, and for that all-important chemistry to keep developing.
The 2013 NBA All-Star break certainly treated the Lakers well this year.
Coming out of last week’s All-Star break, the Lakers have won their last 3 games in a row, and improved their overall record to 28-29 this week.
With Monday’s devastating passing of long-time Lakers’ owner Dr. Jerry Buss, the Lakers rallied around the spirit of their joyous owner.
After a touching pre-game ceremony in the first game since the late owner’s death, the Lakers beat the Boston Celtics handedly, 113-99.
The Lakers followed up that emotional win with a win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday. Kobe Bryant’s 40 points led the Lakers to victory over another team with playoff aspirations.
With two wins under their belts, the Lakers departed Los Angeles for Dallas on Sunday—defeating the 10th-place Mavericks, 103-99.
With 25 games remaining now, the Lakers sit just 2 ½ games back of the 8th seed in the Western Conference.
Also, after the February 21st NBA Trade Deadline this past week, the Lakers’ entire roster remained intact.
Take a look back now at the changes in the Lakers’ stock values and the impact the players should have going forward:
Kobe Bryant : At 34 years of age, the man, the legend, Kobe Bryant, continues to play at an extremely high level.
Bryant did not have a particularly great game against the Celtics, but did contribute 16 points and 7 assists in the win. Bryant also made a number of key defensive stops and even dove on the ground for a loose ball late in that game.
It looked like Bryant, despite an off shooting night, really took it upon himself to give 110% effort on such an emotional night for the Lakers.
Bryant responded against Portland and seemingly reverted back to the “scoring-Kobe” of old.
Bryant poured in 40 points on 15-23 shooting, including 9-9 from the free-throw line, and 7 rebounds. Bryant’s perfect free-throw shooting was key in sealing the win late for the Lakers.
It’s pretty difficult to upstage a 40-point game, right? Well, Bryant found a way to do that against Dallas.
Bryant scored 38 points on 13-21 shooting, and contributed 12 rebounds and 7 assists. Bryant also made 5-5 field goals in the fourth quarter to ensure a Lakers’ victory.
Bryant certainly set the tone offensively early and often, and sealed the victory late with tough shots on the perimeter.
Bryant also drained 4-5 three-pointers in that game, effectively ending his recent “drought” from behind the arc.
With these recent performances, it seems that the 34-year-old has finally figured out his toughest challenge this season.
Bryant struggled finding a balance earlier this season between scoring too much and facilitating too often. With averages of 31.3 ppg and 6.0 apg this past week, Bryant seems to have found that elusive balance.
If Bryant continues playing at this high of a level going forward, Bryant and the Lakers will backup his playoff ‘guarantee’.
Dwight Howard : Could the passing of the great Dr. Buss have had a direct impact on Dwight Howard as well?
It looks like it may have, coupled with the rest and rehabilitation Howard received during the All-Star break.
Howard was the main reason the Lakers got off to such a quick start against the Boston Celtics. Howard established himself inside early and often, and looked much more “springy” to start.
Howard finished the game with a team-high 24 points along with 12 rebounds, 7 of which were offensive.
Against Portland, Howard contributed another solid performance with 19 points, 16 rebounds and 2 blocks.
The treatment Howard received during the All-Star break really paid dividends this week, as Howard had the best back-to-back stretch of his short Lakers career.
In the game against Dallas, however, Howard got into early foul trouble. With Pau Gasol still out at least another 4 weeks, the Lakers desperately need Howard to stay out of foul trouble going forward, especially since he’s the only real center in the rotation.
Howard finished with just 9 points but did contribute 13 rebounds, and played solid defense patrolling the paint.
Howard’s ability to contest and alter shots is not something that shows up the stat sheet, but it’s something that has a huge impact on the outcome of games.
As demonstrated by their current three-game winning streak, the Lakers have been effective on both ends of the floor with this more “active” Dwight Howard.
Antawn Jamison : Two straight weeks of solid performances from Antawn Jamison have been a huge factor in the Lakers’ recent turnaround.
Jamison seems to have finally settled into his role in Los Angeles.
For the month of February, Jamison is averaging 12.7 ppg on 47.5% shooting and 5.3 rpg. Jamison, the Lakers’ sixth-man, has become a considerable threat off the bench.
What once was a glaring weakness for the Lakers, the bench has now become somewhat of a strength. Jamison’s recent play has had a lot to do with this, along with fellow reserves Jodie Meeks and Steve Blake.
Over the last three games, Jamison has averaged 14.7 ppg and 5.3 rpg. This increased production has helped pick up the slack with Gasol injured.
After the Lakers’ win in Dallas, coach Mike D’Antoni had this to say of the bench:
“I think our bench is playing great for us. [Meeks, Jamison and Blake are] crucial to what we’ve been doing as of late.”
If Jamison can continue scoring at this rate, the Lakers’ bench unit will become a potent aspect of this team.
Earl Clark : After a tough week last week for Earl Clark, he turned it around this week.
Clark averaged 10.3 ppg and 9.0 rpg in the last three games. Clark’s 14 points and 16 rebounds were especially instrumental in the Lakers’ win over the Celtics.
Clark, who dislocated his left pinky in the win over Portland, has continued to play with solid energy starting alongside Dwight Howard.
It was a welcomed sight to see Clark bounce back from the difficult stretch he had before the All-Star break. That type of resiliency is promising, especially from a young player like Earl Clark.
With Gasol still out with his plantar fascia tear, Clark’s contributions will be paramount in the Lakers’ continued success.
Steve Nash : Despite a tough 2-11 shooting performance against Portland, Steve Nash finished the week strong.
Nash scored a huge 20 points against Dallas, including 4-5 from three-point range.
Nash’s clutch three-pointer late in the fourth quarter helped catapult the Lakers to victory.
Nash also had a solid game offensively against Boston, in which he scored 14 points on 6-7 shooting and dished out 7 assists.
One particularly surprising part about Nash’s game this season has been his defense. Sure, Nash is not a lock-down defender by any means, but his defensive toughness this season has been great.
Nash has always had the reputation of being a poor defender, but his solid defense on the perimeter of late should have people revisiting that perception.
Finally, Nash did ‘tweak’ his back in the Lakers’ win over the Trail Blazers. Nash is confident that this injury is only temporary, but did say that it is an acute injury, different from his usual back issues.
With Nash playing 30+ minutes per game, that’s certainly something to keep an eye on going forward.
Jodie Meeks : Although Jodie Meeks did not shoot the ball particularly well this week (6-14 from the field and 3-9 from behind the arc), he did hit some timely shots.
Meeks averaged 8.7 ppg this week off the bench and contributed defensively with constant hustle.
Despite Meeks’ scoring contributions, the Lakers could definitely benefit from Meeks shooting more efficiently.
Steve Blake : Since returning to the Lakers’ lineup, Blake has averaged 4.9 ppg and 3.2 apg off the bench.
Although those aren’t the most spectacular stats, Blake’s ability to control the game has been beneficial for everyone on the floor.
Blake’s command of the offense has been a significant upgrade from the inconsistent play of Chris Duhon. Blake’s defensive tenacity has also helped slow quicker opposing point guards.
The Lakers’ bench unit has flourished since his return, but Blake only shot 25% from behind the arc this past week.
Like Meeks, Blake’s three-point shooting efficiency could also use a boost going forward.
Metta World Peace : Had Metta World Peace not played excellent defense on Paul Pierce and Dirk Nowitzki this past week, he would have received a red down arrow.
World Peace struggled mightily from the floor this week, shooting a measly 9-29, or 31%, from the field. World Peace also shot 30.8% from three-point range.
Opposing defenses continue to leave World Peace wide open on the perimeter, and he has to knock down those shots in the future.
With defenses keying in on Bryant, Nash and Howard, World Peace has become the open player.
If World Peace keeps struggling like this, opposing teams will continue scheming their defenses towards allowing World Peace to shoot as much as he’d like.
Despite his offensive struggles, World Peace did play excellent defense in all three games this week.
In the win over Boston, World Peace held Paul Pierce to just 3 points in the second half, despite scoring 23 points in the first half.
Against Portland, World Peace filled up the stat sheet with 6 rebounds, 2 steals and a block. He also had a key defensive stop against the Trail Blazers’ LaMarcus Aldridge late in the fourth quarter.
In Dallas, World Peace played superb fourth quarter defense against a hot-shooting Dirk Nowitzki. Despite Nowitzki scoring 30 points in the game, World Peace locked him down late in the game to seal the victory for the Lakers.
For the Lakers to make the playoffs, however, they will need World Peace to get back on track offensively.
Chris Duhon : Reserve point guard Chris Duhon has failed to crack D’Antoni’s “8-man rotation”.
Duhon only played 3 minutes against the Celtics this week, in ‘garbage-time’, but did make a long distance three-pointer in that game.
Robert Sacre : Reserve center Robert Sacre continues to sit on the bench, even when Dwight Howard gets into foul trouble.
Even with Pau Gasol still out for an extended period, it looks like Sacre will remain on the bench.
Sacre, however, did have a good time on the bench watching Kobe’s scoring spree against Dallas:
Darius Morris : Point guard Darius Morris did not play this week.
Devin Ebanks : Small forward Devin Ebanks also did not play this week.
Pau Gasol : Prior to the Dallas game on Sunday, the OC Register’s Kevin Ding gave an update on Pau Gasol’s recovery from his partially torn plantar fascia:
Not sure about this, but D'Antoni said today real impact of @paugasol would be in playoffs: "By the time he comes back, we'll be in or out."