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Another week, another bad break for the Lakers.
Despite a promising start to the week with a win in Brooklyn, the Lakers finished the week at just 2-2.
The Lakers endured a blowout loss in Boston, followed by a come-from-behind victory in Charlotte, then concluded the 2013 Grammy Trip with a discouraging loss in Miami.
Although the Lakers finished the Grammy Road Trip with an overall record of 4-3, they suffered a devastating long-term loss in the process.
In their exciting victory over the Brooklyn Nets, forward/center Pau Gasol suffered an injury to his foot.
After an MRI and a flight back to Los Angeles, Gasol was diagnosed with a partially torn plantar fascia in his foot. Early speculation suggests Gasol will miss anywhere from 6-10 weeks.
Once Gasol was deemed out for the remainder of the trip, the Lakers turned to their injured star center Dwight Howard. Unfortunately, Howard’s slow recovery from his re-aggravated right shoulder injury and his ‘lack of urgency’ stirred up drama between Howard and Kobe Bryant.
After an up-and-down week for Laker Nation, the Lakers currently find themselves with an overall record of 24-28—returning home for the final week before the All-Star break.
Take a look back at the changes in the Lakers’ stock values and the impact the players should have going forward:
Kobe Bryant : Bryant had yet another stellar week offensively this past week. Although he failed to record an assist in the loss to Boston, Bryant still managed to average 5.3 assists over the past four games.
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Bryant also shot the ball well, averaging 24.0 points per game on an efficient 47.9% from the field. Despite this efficient shooting, Bryant has only made 2 three-pointers out of his last 26 attempts.
With both Howard and Gasol in and out of the lineups, Bryant also increased his focus on the glass. In his past four games, Bryant averaged 7.0 rebounds per game—a major factor in helping control the boards while the big men missed time.
Despite Bryant’s efficient play on both ends, he was only able to lead his team to a 2-2 record.
In the Boston game, Bryant tried to get his teammates going early, but they simply just missed shots for most of the game.
In the loss against Miami, Bryant made a conscious effort to be the facilitator on offense in the first half. However, in the second half, Bryant reverted back to his score-first mentality.
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Miami’s pressure, trapping defense made it difficult for the Lakers to have any flow on offense, especially in the fourth quarter.
Bryant’s continual isolation at the mid-post, coupled with Miami’s pressure, resulted in inefficient offense and many turnovers for the Lakers.
Bryant’s increased facilitator role has resulted in additional turnovers lately, as shown by Bryant’s 4.0 turnovers per game average this past week.
With coach Mike D’Antoni failing to make adjustments late in games, that onus to adjust will fall on Bryant to continue making smart decisions down the stretch.
Going forward, Bryant must continue to feed the ball inside to Howard and look for kick outs for the Lakers to win close games late.
Earl Clark : What more can be said about “Easy” Earl Clark? After receiving an opportunity due to injuries, Clark has certainly relished his chance at being a fixture in the Lakers’ rotation.
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Clark continued his emergence this week with standout games against Brooklyn, Charlotte and Miami. Clark registered double-doubles (points and rebounds) in both wins against Brooklyn and Charlotte.
Over the past week, Clark averaged 13.5 ppg on 50% shooting and 9.5 rpg.
Clark’s presence on the boards has been a welcomed sight, especially with the recent loss of Gasol. Clark’s athleticism and efficient shooting have also added key dimensions to the Lakers’ offense.
Despite Clark’s solid numbers, his full contributions do not always show up in the box score. Clark’s hustle and energy have been key factors in the Lakers’ recent success.
Also, with Gasol now out for a while, Clark’s responsibilities on both ends of the floor are sure to increase.
Clark does fit in well with Dwight Howard though, because his outside shooting and slashing ability compliment the center well.
For the Lakers to make a hard push at a playoff spot, sans Gasol, Clark will have to continue his excellent play, and assume this unfamiliar role as the Lakers’ starting four with confidence.
Jodie Meeks : Meeks had a solid week off the bench for the Lakers. After losing Gasol early in the week, a scoring void needed to be picked up.
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Meeks somewhat answered the call with solid performances in Boston, Charlotte and Miami.
Meeks scored 13 points in Boston and 14 points in Charlotte, hitting all four three-pointers in the win over the Bobcats.
Meeks also hit a huge three late in the comeback against Charlotte, resulting in an important win for the Lakers.
Meeks’ hustle and high activity, especially on the defensive end, were also key in stimulating the eventual comeback.
If Meeks can continue to play consistently, the main beneficiary will be Kobe Bryant. Bryant is playing a league-leading 38.5 minutes per game this season, so Meeks can certainly help to keep him fresh.
Also, with starting small forward Metta World Peace in a deep shooting slump, Meeks’ 50% shooting from behind the arc this week has helped stretch the floor.
The Lakers will need even more of that to take the pressure off Bryant and Howard inside.
Steve Nash : The multitude of injuries for the Lakers has also had a direct effect on Steve Nash. Nash has significantly increased his scoring load as a result.
Nash, whose assist numbers have been down of late, averaged 14.5 ppg on 51.4% shooting and 5.5 apg. Nash’s efficient shooting has complimented Bryant’s facilitating well.
The Lakers might need more from Nash going forward though. With Gasol out for the long-term, and Howard being less of a factor offensively, Nash may need to control the offense even more.
For the Lakers to be successful, Nash must find the right balance between scoring and facilitating.
In the Lakers’ wins this past week, Nash averaged 17.0 ppg and 7.5 apg. In the losses, however, Nash averaged 12.0 ppg and only 3.5 apg.
Obviously, there is a clear winning formula there.
The key will be for both Nash and Bryant to work effectively off each other, which will inevitably increase the flow of the offense collectively.
Antawn Jamison : Jamison has been mediocre of late off the bench as the Lakers’ sixth man. Jamison averaged just 8.0 ppg and 4.3 rpg this past week.
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The Lakers need more than that on a nightly basis to be effective. Since Jamison brings little defensively, he needs to be more efficient scoring the ball.
Jamison shot just 42.9% from the field and 30% from three-point land in his past four games.
With Gasol out and Howard still hampered by injury, the Lakers also need Jamison to rebound more.
Jamison’s 4.3 rpg are not going to get it done off the bench, especially when the Lakers were just out-rebounded by the worst rebounding team in the league (Miami).
With an aging roster, the Lakers desperately need a consistent bench unit. Meeks’ solid play of late has been promising, but the Lakers also need Jamison to reach that level of consistency to spell the starters some rest.
Steve Blake : Although Steve Blake is not a great back-up point guard, he gets the job done better than Chris Duhon. Blake has never been a great scoring threat during his time in Los Angeles, but he does control the game well at the point.
Blake averaged just 4.3 ppg and 2.5 apg this past week. Blake also shot only 37.5% from three-point range, something the Lakers could surely use from the back-up point guard role.
As with Jamison, the Lakers need a little more consistency out of Blake going forward. When Nash goes to the bench, the drop-off to Blake is too large of a margin right now.
When Blake enters the game for Nash, he needs to play more aggressively by getting his teammates good looks. If Blake can slightly shrink that drop-off, it would greatly help the Lakers’ continuity.
Dwight Howard : A tough week for Dwight Howard.
Despite returning from his aggravated shoulder injury against Boston, Howard did not play well this week.
As the Lakers’ second or third offensive option, Howard only averaged 12.0 ppg, 9.7 rpg and 1.7 bpg. Howard did shoot 58.3% from the field, however, but also averaged 3 turnovers per game.
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Howard is clearly still affected by both his off-season back surgery and the torn labrum in his right shoulder. Since Howard cannot damage his shoulder anymore, his dominance on both ends of the floor must improve.
This lack of dominance inside was clearly evident in the Lakers’ loss to Miami. Howard was 6-9 from the field and had 9 rebounds, but coming from the Lakers’ lone premier big man, that’s just not enough.
With the news that Gasol is now out a minimum of six weeks, Howard must take it upon himself to be more dominant.
Along with his poor play on the court, Howard also created some unnecessary drama of the court. Howard, along with D’Antoni and Bryant, need to find a way to co-exist successfully, or else this season could make a turn for the worse quickly.
Howard doesn’t seem like he will be close to full health this season, but he must become more efficient on the glass. Howard’s recent rebounding numbers have been below average for him, and without Gasol there to help him, he must control both the offensive and defensive glasses.
Howard needs to establish himself more inside on offense as well. Too many times Howard does not seal off his man or establish deep post-position.
To make matters worse, Howard has been setting terrible screens lately. The athletic center must start setting better ball screens because his rolls to the basket have been rendered ineffective lately. Howard continuously sets weak, brush screens in pick-and-rolls, which don’t work for his teammate nor himself.
Back in Orlando, Howard would absolutely punish smaller defenders on switches, something he has done little this season.
For the Lakers to make a serious push back into the Western Conference playoff picture, Howard and Bryant must set aside their differences.
Howard’s play going forward will significantly determine whether or not the Lakers right the ship this season.
Metta World Peace : World Peace was suspended in the Brooklyn game for his flagrant foul on Brandon Knight. Along with the suspension, World Peace also continued his dismal shooting slump this past week.
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Shooting just 26.3% from the field in his past three games, World Peace averaged 8.3 ppg and 3.3 rpg. This is unacceptable from the Lakers’ starting small forward.
World Peace’s individual defense has also struggled of late. In both Laker losses, World Peace allowed Paul Pierce and LeBron James to get going early. Pierce finished with 24 points and James had 30 points.
The Lakers desperately need a solid perimeter defender to stop these types of players. World Peace, who played great to start the season, has slowed down significantly in the past month.
World Peace needs to find some way to get out of his current shooting slump. If he can play better offensively, that will hopefully translate into better defensive performances.
Lately, opposing defenses leave him open and focus in on Bryant, Nash and Howard. If opposing defenses continue to do that, World Peace must make them pay by hitting open shots consistently.
Robert Sacre : In the Lakers’ win over Brooklyn, Robert Sacre actually received some meaningful minutes.
In return for his 10 minutes, Sacre scored 4 points and played solid defense inside. Unfortunately for Sacre, Gasol’s injury has not translated into more playing time for the reserve center.
If, however, the Lakers’ thin string of big men gets into foul trouble, or another major injury occurs, Sacre could see consistent minutes in the future.
Chris Duhon : This past week, Chris Duhon continued his role as the Lakers’ “emergency” guard. Duhon appeared in two games (Brooklyn and Boston) but only scored 2 total points.
Duhon did average 1.5 apg in limited minutes, but his prospects of playing consistent minutes in the future look bleak—especially with the consistent play of fellow back-up point guard Steve Blake.
Devin Ebanks : We had a rare Devin Ebanks sighting this past week. After not playing in 13 straight games, Ebanks played 5 minutes of ‘garbage time’ against Boston.
Ebanks did score 5 points on 2-6 shooting, but he looks to remain a permanent benchwarmer going forward.
Darius Morris : Like Ebanks, Morris received 5 minutes of playing time against Boston. Morris registered 2 assists in garbage minutes, but failed to do much else.
After being a regular starter earlier this season, Morris now looks to be sharing Ebanks’ role as glued to the bench.
Pau Gasol : Just when you thought the back breaks were over for the Lakers, they encounter another unfortunate set-back.
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Pau Gasol had been playing solid basketball for the first time this season, until he suffered the major foot injury against Brooklyn.
After a next-day MRI in Boston revealed a partially torn plantar fascia, Gasol flew back to Los Angeles to consult with team doctors.
Gasol had been dealing with plantar fasciitis earlier in the season, but this time it was serious.
Unfortunately, the Lakers will now lose Gasol for a minimum of 6 weeks, and up to 10 weeks, right as they begin their stretch run towards the playoffs.
This injury news was just another of the many crushing blows the Lakers have experienced this season.
Stay tuned for next weeks’ Lakers Stock Watch as the Lakers head into the All-Star Break battling Phoenix and the Clippers.