After 16 NBA Championships and 31 Western Conference Titles, the Lakers have been one of the most storied and successful franchises in NBA history. From the eras of West, Chamberlain, Kareem, Magic, and Kobe, there have been countless record-breaking performances and memorable games that have added to Lakers glory. Let’s take a look back at some notable moments for the purple and gold, from the week of February 23-March 1, over their 66-year history.
February 23, 2007
The Lakers ousted the reeling Celtics 122-96, behind 38 points from Kobe Bryant at the Staples Center. Bryant, who added nine assists, scored 22 points in the first quarter, going 9 for 12 from the field. This game marked the second largest regular-season margin of victory in the history of the Los Angeles-Boston rivalry.
February 23, 2010
Kobe Bryant hit a game-winning three-pointer over Rudy Gay with 4.3 seconds left in regulation to lift the Lakers over the Grizzlies 99-98 in Memphis. Bryant’s game-winner occurred during his first time back on the hardwood after missing five straight games due to an ankle injury. He scored a team-high 32 points, including the Lakers’ final nine points of the game. Pau Gasol finished with 22 points and 13 rebounds for the Lakers in the win.
February 28, 1987
Lakers broadcaster Chick Hearn broadcasted his 2,000th straight game for Los Angeles in a 107-100 loss to the Utah Jazz. His unprecedented streak spanned 3,338 consecutive Lakers games over 36 years.
February 28, 2008
Los Angeles won its tenth straight game with a 106-88 victory over the Miami Heat. Jordan Farmar led a balanced attack for the Lakers, as he scored a career-high 24 points. Kobe Bryant added 21 points, while Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol chipped in for the first place Lakers with 13 points apiece. This win marked the 23rd double-digit winning streak in franchise history.
February 29, 2000
The Lakers defeated the Portland Trailblazers 90-87 in Oregon. Going into the game, both teams had records of 45-11, as well as 11-game winning streaks. Shaquille O’Neal led the way for the purple and gold with 23 points and 10 rebounds, while Kobe Bryant added 22. This victory marked the twelfth straight Los Angeles win, en route to an eventual 19-game winning streak.
The Lakers (16-32) travel to Cleveland to play the Cavaliers (16-32) tonight.
Despite getting PG Steve Nash and PG Steve Blake back, they could not solve defensive deficiencies, allowing 109 points to the Timberwolves.
Nash, who played for the first time since November, played exceptionally well in his limited minutes, scoring 7 points and dishing out 9 assists. However, he will sit out tonight’s game since it’s a back-to-back.
To make matters worse, SG Jodie Meeks and F Jordan Hill left last night’s game due to injuries. Meeks, who will compete in the 3-pt contest during All-Star Weekend, suffered an ankle injury 2 minutes into the game and will miss the rest of this road trip.
Hill, who brings instant energy off the bench, suffered a cervical strain after colliding with his own teammate and his status for tonight’s game remains uncertain.
Meanwhile, the Cavaliers’s fortune has not been much better under Mike Brown’s leadership despite having the Kyrie Irving and Luol Deng duo.
Deng, who was acquired from the Chicago Bulls last month, has averaged 16.2 PPG, 5.3 RPG, and 3.2 APG while playing with the Cavaliers.
A future NBA superstar in the making, PG Kyrie Irving, seeks to lead the struggling Cavaliers into the playoff race. Irving, who averaged 21.7 PPG and 6.2 APG, has showed that he can hold his own against NBA’s elite guards and has even outplayed some of them at times. If Irving can learn how to lead the Cavaliers, no reason exists for them to not be successful.
Rebound: If we evaluate the Lakers based on their last month of play, we can see that they cannot play defense and grab defensive rebounds. Therefore, the Lakers have to focus on not allowing the Cavaliers to grab a lot of offensive rebounds in order to try to limit their possessions.
Both the Lakers and Cavaliers are currently suffering from a multitude of issues. The Cavaliers suffer from locker room issues and players who do not want to play there. Unfortunately, the Lakers have been dealing with trying to maintain the health of their players. Hopefully, the Lakers play with a sense of urgency and relentlessness. They should play with a lot of energy tonight and hopefully come away with a victory tonight.
The Lakers (16-31) travel to Minneapolis to play vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (23-24) to start their 3-game road trip.
The good news?
All 3 point guards for the Lakers return tonight. Steve Nash, Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar will all return to the floor tonight. As this season has plummeted downhill for this team, having multiple players return from their various injuries might give their team a jolt of energy.
With the return of the three point guards, there is uncertainty about how PG Kendall Marshall will be used tonight. Despite a dismal January as a team, Marshall has played very well, scoring 10.5 PPG and dishing out 9.6 APG but has been replaced in the lineup by all 3 point guards. While outrage might occur if he does not play tonight, anything head coach Mike D’Antoni does with his rotation should not surprise Laker Nation.
The bad news?
C Pau Gasol will miss the road trip due to a bruised groin. Gasol, who has once again found himself in trade talks again, played spectacularly well throughout January, averaging 20.8 PPG and 11.9 RPG. He clearly labored up and down the court the last 2 games, so hopefully rest and recovery will get him back on the court soon.
Local UCLA product and all-star starter PF Kevin Love has dominated this season for the Timberwolves. Love has scored 25.5 PPG and grabbed 13.1 RPG. He can shoot from the perimeter while dominating in the low post at the same time, causing match up nightmares for anyone who guards him.
PG - Steve Nash / Ricky Rubio [Advantage: Timberwolves]
SG - Steve Blake / Kevin Martin [Advantage: Timberwolves]
SF - Jodie Meeks / Corey Brewer [Advantage: Timberwolves]
PF - Ryan Kelly / Kevin Love [Advantage: Timberwolves]
C - Robert Sacre / Ronny Turiaf[Advantage: Lakers]
Notable Bench Players
Timberwolves: F Dante Cunningham, G Alexey Schved, G JJ Barea,F Chase Budinger
Lakers: F Nick Young, G Jordan Farmar, F Jordan Hill, PG Kendall Marshall
Bench Advantage: Lakers
Timberwolves: Out-C Nikola Pekovic
Lakers: Out-G Kobe Bryant, Out-C Pau Gasol, Out-G Xavier Henry
Keys for Lakers Victory
Play Defense: Allowing 100 or more points in 19 out of the last 21 games will not win any team any games regardless of how proficient their offense is. Maybe having all their point guards return will help the Lakers exert more effort on defense. However, that seems very unlikely.
The Lakers currently have a 7 game losing streak. Having their point guards all return tonight will help. However, the likelihood they will help solve their defensive rebounding and defensive issues seem very slim to none.
Some good news came out of the Lakers’ practice facility today where Steve Blake, Jordan Farmar, and Steve Nash all participated in Monday’s practice and may suit up for tomorrow’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
D'Antoni said all 3 injured PG's (Nash, Blake and Farmar) practiced today and are a "possibility" to play tomorrow at Minnesota.
If Nash suits up tomorrow, it will be only his seventh game of the season. Nash sat out in early November with nerve root irritation that lingered from last year’s fractured leg injury and has spent the last 3 months trying to get back into basketball shape, Blake suffered a torn ligament in his right elbow in early December, and Farmar suffered a torn hamstring in December, which he re-tore in early January.
Prior to their injuries, Nash was averaging 6.7 points and 4.8 assists a game, Blake averaged 9.8 points and 7.7 assists a game, and Farmer was averaging 8.7 points, 4.7 assists.
In other injury-related news, Pau Gasol (strained groin) will not travel with the team on the upcoming 3-game road trip; Kobe Bryant (fractured knee) is also not expected to make the trip where the Lakers will visit Minnesota, Cleveland, and Philadelphia.
December 27, 2013 — 6:00 PM (PST)
Energy Solutions Arena, Salt Lake City, UT
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
The Los Angeles Lakers (13-16) travel to the Salt Lake City for a very quick trip to play Utah Jazz (8-23), who are not a very good team and seems to be preparing for a high draft pick for the 2014 NBA Draft. Like the Lakers, the Jazz will have the ability to sign high-priced free agents this off-season by making off-season trades to clear their salary cap.
However, Jazz can cause the Lakers’s defense a lot of problems. Regardless of who plays on the Lakers, the Jazz have always marked the Lakers on their calendar and we should expect them to play with a lot of passion and energy. Jazz rookie PG Trey Burke has played exceptionally well after missing the first 12 games recovering from a broken finger, averaging 13.5 PPG and 4.9 APG. Also, the Jazz have F Gordan Hayward, who has the skills to shoot over smaller defenders and drive to the basket, has averaged a very solid 15.4 PPG, 5.5 RPG, and 4.7 APG. Hayward will become a free-agent following the season, and I expect a lot of NBA teams offer him a long-term contract.
The Lakers are coming off a very tough loss vs. Miami Heat after playing with a very good spirit and a lot of energy to stay close. G/F Nick Young has led the way for most of the season coming off the bench by having the ability to create his own shot and has averaged a very solid 15.7 PPG, which leads all NBA 6th man, this season. However, the Lakers will be without the services of C Pau Gasol tonight due to an upper respiratory infection that has still caused him problems stemming from last Saturday. Gasol will definitely be missed by the Lakers tonight after playing very solidly recently, becoming more aggressive and looking much slimmer compared to the beginning of the season. Look for C Robert Sacre and C Chris Kaman to fill in Gasol’s role tonight despite Head Coach Mike D’Antoni proclamation that Ryan Kelly will take both of their minutes to spread the floor even more.
PG - Trey Burke / Jordan Farmar [Advantage: Jazz]
SG - Gordon Hayward / Jodie Meeks [Advantage: Jazz]
SF - Richard Jefferson / Wesley Johnson[Advantage: Even]
PF - Marvin Williams/ Pau Gasol [Advantage: Jazz]
C - Derrick Favors / Chris Kaman [Advantage: Even]
Notable Bench Players
Jazz: G Alec Burks, F Jeremy Evans, PG John Lucas III, C Enes Kanter
Lakers: G/F Nick Young, G Xavier Henry, F Jordan Hill, F Ryan Kelly
Bench Advantage: Lakers
Keys for Lakers Success
Keep Guards out of the Paint: Although it might seem like kicking a dead horse at this point, the Lakers need to stop letting opposing guards drive to the basket without any resistance and let them get high percentage shots for themselves or an open teammate. Tonight’s match up will not be much easier, as they try to keep both Burke and Hayward outside of the paint. The guards have to make the offensive players feel more uncomfortable while dribbling the ball and cause turnovers. This is also the main cause for opposing post players to have career highs vs. Lakers continuously this season.
Do Not Allow 2nd Chance Possessions: The Lakers have been struggling a lot at boxing out their players and allowing easy 2nd chance baskets. Their defense has played fairly well recently, but allowing offensive rebounds causes their defense to become very disorganized, causing them to lose their players they matched up with. This is another factor that results in career high performances from non-superstar players from opposing teams. With D’Antoni sitting out their post players like Kaman and Sacre and prioritizing 3-point shooting more, proper fundamentals to box out opposing players like C/F Derrick Favors and C Enes Kanter becomes a high priority since they both possess a significant weight advantage over whoever the Lakers will put out on the floor tonight.
The Lakers have to have their head on straight and play with good fundamentals and high energy tonight to defeat the Jazz. Once again, the opposing team has more talent than the Lakers at least in the starting lineup, so the Lakers cannot rely on talent and play complacent to win tonight. However, PG Jordan Farmar‘s return should once again stabilize the Lakers’ offense and defensive ends as a vocal floor leader for the Lakers. If they play with as much energy and passion as their last game, Laker Nation should be in a good mood after tonight’s victory.
Christmas Day, the Lakers took on the defending champion Miami Heat in a close, hard fought match-up. While the game turned out better than most predicated, lost in the Christmas frenzy was the return of reserve guard Jordan Farmar. Farmar had been out of the lineup since Dec. 1st with a torn left hamstring. While his presence is certainly good for then point guard less Lakers, Kendall Marshall has not played enough nor knows the system well enough to qualify just yet, Farmar, will still need time to recover as he noticeably would not explode off his left hamstring during the game.
Los Angeles Times reporter Melissa Rohlin spoke to Farmar about his comeback,
“I felt like I didn’t play basketball for a month, just the timing, everything just felt a little off,” Farmar said.
Like previously mentioned, Farmar did not look like his normal self. Sitting out for almost a month and then coming back to play against the Heat certainly did not help but one has to appreciate how much Farmar wanted to be on the court to help contribute. When asked about his performance he held no gripes in mentioning how he does not fully trust his left hamstring just yet.
“Just knowing that it kept me out for a month, and not wanting to make that explosive move that might set me back,” he said. “I’ll gain more and more confidence, and then hopefully it’ll get out of my mind and I’ll just be able to play.”
Farmar played almost 33 minutes on Wednesday, while recording three points (he shot one for seven from the field), five rebounds, two assist, and four turnovers. While those numbers are not his averages they certainly are acceptable for someone coming back so soon after being out and not being able to do many basketball related activities.
“I haven’t even played five-on-five since I got hurt, so this is the first time I’ve really played basketball,” he said.
Coach D’Antoni spoke on Farmar’s performance and said “his next game will be better,” and “and a week from now he’ll be rolling.” That is great news for the Lakers since Farmar’s aggressiveness and lead guard abilities have been sorely missed. Jordan will need time to heal and slowly integrate back into his old form as the explosion off that left hamstring will be needed time and time again throughout this season. With just he and Kendall Marshall to play point for the Lakers, Xavier Henry too until Steve Blake is back, the team will count on him on every game as he will undoubtedly have some tough match-ups ahead. Farmar’s injury is just one of many for this Lakers team so far but the commitment he has to even return so soon to help make this club better is something special and will go a long way.
December 25, 2013 — 2:00 PM (PST)
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
The Los Angeles Lakers (13-15) look to shock the world today as they face the reigning back-to-back NBA Champions, the Miami HEAT (21-6) in another Christmas Day matchup. The Lakers are coming off another very disappointing loss vs. the Phoenix Suns, a game in which fans had to witness C Miles Plumlee score 22 points and grab a career-high 20 rebounds while Gerald Green also scored 22 points and made 6 wide open 3-pointers. Lakers Mike D’Antoni got so frustrated after the game that he made an ill-advised comment, obviously taken out of context stating that “if [Lakers fans are] discouraged, find another team to root for” while trying to defend his players. D’Antoni apologized for that comment, explaining that it came out of frustration after yesterday’s practice.
However, the Lakers finally got some great news; they finally have a point guard. PG Jordan Farmar has fully recovered from a torn left hamstring and will start for the Lakers tomorrow. Farmar, who has shown a great improvement from his first stint with the Lakers, has shown he can effectively be a team leader both on and off the floor. Farmar has averaged a solid 9.2 PPG and 4.4 APG in only 18.9 MPG, all statistics that will greatly increase since the Lakers will depend heavily on him without another true point guard other than the newly acquired PG Kendall Marshall.
The Heat are on their way to another top seed in the playoffs in their quest to win a 3rd straight NBA Championship. Reigning MVP F LeBron James, has blossomed into a true all-around player, which came mainly from greatly improving his post game, which now leaves smaller players who used to be able to guard James very vulnerable in the post. A back injury has slowed James statistically so far this season, who averages 25.4 PPG, 6.9 RPG, and 6.6 APG, which are not up to his high standards. Heat G Dwyane Wade has played very well so far this season while avoiding injuries, averaging 19.9 PPG and 4.8 APG while shooting a career-high 54.1% so far this season. Although Wake has scored a career-low in terms of points per game, his high field goal shooting percentage has shown that he is still having a very great season. For the Heat however, regular season statistics are irrelevant as long as they are fully healthy once playoffs begin.
PG - Mario Chalmers / Jordan Farmar [Advantage: Even]
SG - Dwyane Wade / Jodie Meeks [Advantage: Heat]
SF - Shane Battier / Wesley Johnson[Advantage: Heat]
PF - LeBron James / Shawne Williams [Advantage: Heat]
C - Chris Bosh / Pau Gasol [Advantage: Even]
Notable Bench Players
HEAT: F Udonis Haslem, F/G Michael Beasley, G Ray Allen, PG Norris Cole, C Chris Andersen
Lakers: G/F Nick Young, G Xavier Henry, F Jordan Hill, C Chris Kaman
Bench Advantage: Even
Keys for Lakers Success
Feed the Bigs: The Lakers have one asset that the Heat do not have: Multiple post players who can score. Although the Lakers are a run and gun team, it will be up to Mike D’Antoni to delve away from his usual style of play to take advantage of Gasol and Kaman’s ability to score. The Heat lack size in the post, playing undersized big men like Bosh and Haslem as centers. If the Lakers slow the game down and use their advantage over the Heat, they could have a fair chance at making the game competitive.
Keep James and Wade out of the Paint: James and Wade will be impossible to stop if the Lakers defense lets them drive to the basket. Both superstars are able to finish very strong inside the paint while finding shooters like Allen and Battier. Although both players, especially James, have greatly improved their jump shooting skills, the only chance the Lakers have at keeping the game close is to force both players to settle for contested jump shots. Otherwise, they will run circles around the Lakers defense like how Dragic and Bledsoe did during the Lakers last game.
For the Lakers to have a chance of winning tonight’s game, everything would have to go right for them and for everything to go wrong for the Heat. If the Heat’s jump shots are off and if the Lakers can keep the heat away from drives to the basket, maybe the Lakers can keep this game close. Although I expect the Lakers to play inspired basketball today, the Heat’s talent and skills will most likely be too much to come away with a victory.
Farmar has averaged 9.2 ppg and 4.4 apg in 18 games this season. With Nash already out, this injury will affect the point guard situation as Steve Blake is the lone point guard on the roster. With Kobe Bryant’s return on the horizon, he will help the burden of ball handling duties as he has done throughout his career but it remains to be seen how much the Lakers want Kobe to burden as he returns from the Achilles injury.
The injury happened in Sunday night’s game versus the Portland Trailblazers as Farmar was running down court but pulled up grabbing the hamstring and immediately asked to be taken out of the game.
In related injury news, Pau Gasol also had an MRI this morning on his troublesome right ankle:
Injury Update: @paugasol's MRI confirmed that he has a mild sprain of his right ankle.
Add this game to the top of disheartening losses this season. What a game.
The Portland Trail Blazers came into Staples Center with the second best record in the Western Conference. Naturally, the Lakers were not favored to win tonight and it appeared to be an easy game to call when the home team fell behind by 17 points halfway through the first quarter. The Lakers managed to catch up, however, going into halftime just three points down. It looked like the home team was giving themselves a chance to win…and then the third quarter came.
The Blazers outscored the Lakers 41-24. Again, it looked like they’d be taking this game all the way when they led by as much as 20 points. The Lakers, however, continued to fight, getting to within a single point with still under three minutes left in the game. Unfortunately, They couldn’t stop Portland from scoring and the single-digit deficit became more than the Lakers could overcome with so little time left, so they took the loss, 114-108.
High Points Backcourt Brothers – The Laker guards really took this game and put it over their shoulders tonight, and it started with Xavier Henry. He contributed 27 points on 9-12 from the field and was the focal point of the Lakers’ two big runs tonight. In the first quarter, he chipped in nine points that helped fuel the come from 17 points down run. In the fourth quarter, he put in 11 points to help the team catch up from a 20-point deficit, highlighted by his four-point play. He’s so good at getting himself to the free throw line where he went 7-11 tonight, and he’s fearless at getting to the rim no matter how much traffic there is to barrel through. He finished the evening with a game-high +23. Jodie Meeks, the team’s leading scorer, put in 20 points of his own. Nick Young was the other bench player who fueled the first scoring run that got the team over the 17-point hole. He finished with 17 points on 7-14 from the field. And of course, there’s Steve Blake, who had to put in double-duty tonight when Jordan Farmar left the game in the first quarter. He finished with 13 points and nine assists. Attitude – It would have been so easy for the Lakers to just roll over and let Portland have their way with them, but they wouldn’t let up. They came up from being behind by double digits twice in one game. It’s hard to consider moral victories, but this game really showed a lot of grit from this Lakers’ team. It’s an attitude that surely their captain, Kobe Bryant, would appreciate.
Low Points Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill – The Blazers and the Lakers shot at about the same percentage. They had close to the same number of assists, the turnovers weren’t out of control for either team and the Lakers even blocked seven shots to the Blazers’ one. The glaring stat disparity? Rebounds. Portland outrebounded the Lakers 52-41, 15-9 on the offensive glass. While rebounding should be a team effort, the Lakers’ leading rebounders didn’t do much to help their situation, combining for just 11 boards for the whole game. Their struggles tonight may be due in large part to a sprained ankle, which each player is nursing. Spotty Defense – Sometimes it’s there, sometimes it’s not. And it’s hard to tell when the Lakers will decide to play any. One quarter, they’re allowing Portland to score 41 points. The next quarter, they go on a 24-5 run. Sustaining their efforts on either end of the court is this team’s weakness so far this season, and it’s cost them a lot of close, winnable games. Chris Kaman – It’s nice to see Robert Sacre on the floor playing some significant minutes, and he was productive tonight with his 12 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three blocks, but Kaman has been available to play for some time now and hasn’t seen the floor in a couple weeks. It’s not something that’s been given much attention, but with Jordan Hill playing with a sprained ankle, seems logical to bring Kaman in. Jordan Farmar – After playing for only 56 seconds, Farmar had to leave the floor and was later diagnosed with a left hamstring strain. He left in the first quarter and never returned. Hopefully the next four days off will aid in a quick recovery.
The Lakers’ next game isn’t until Friday against the Sacramento Kings. After a weeklong road trip, it may just be what they need to recoup. Kobe Bryant is scheduled to practice with the team this week and there’s a possibility he’ll play against the Kings if the practices don’t cause any pain. Here’s hoping!
I pushed this week’s Top to Bottom back to include more than just 2 games. This week covers games against the Warriors, Kings, Wizards, Nets and Pistons. In that stretch, the Lakers went 4-1, losing only on the road to the Wizards, and find themselves above .500 for the first time since opening night. With the Lakers picking up their play and with new people stepping up everyday, it’s getting harder and harder to find a “bottom 3″, so don’t mind my nitpicking. Here is this week’s Top to Bottom:
1. Jordan Farmar
Last week, I had Steve Blake in my Top list and praised him for stepping up in the absence of Steve Nash. This week, it’s the backup point guard that did damage. Jordan Farmar came off the bench and averaged 14.6 points, 5 assists, and only 1.2 turnovers in about 22 minutes a game. Farmar has impressed me all season and his play over the last 5 games ensured his spot at the top of my list. Jordan was also the only Laker to never be in the minus in the +/- category over the last 5 games and even lead the team against the Warriors with a +21 and the Wizards with a +6, he also lead the team in scoring with 22 points against the Wizards. Farmar is spending his time on the court wisely and is the leader of the best bench in the league.
2. Nick Young
Nick Young had his best week as a Laker this past week. Settling into his sixth man role, Young averaged 16.4 points a game and also lead the team in scoring against the Nets with 26 points. Young also secured Sunday night’s win against Detroit when he drew the last second charge on Josh Smith and hit 2 free throws to seal the deal. Young’s defense has also been steadily improving, in the game against the Kings, Young only scored 7 points, but lead the team in the +/- category with a +15. He has also averaged at a little over 1 steal a game over the last 5.
3. Pau Gasol
Pau started this week of games with a charity pledge to help victims of Typhoon Haiyan against the Warriors, in that game Pau was able to score 24 points and donate $24,000 to typhoon relief. Pau continued the week leading the team averaging 19 points and 9.2 rebounds (tied with Jordan Hill) a game. Pau has had his ups and downs this season but his play been improving. With Kobe’s return just around the corner I expect Pau to pick it up and have a little more freedom once defenses have the Mamba to look out for.
1. Xavier Henry
Henry had a great game against the Kings when he lead the team with 21 points, but other than that, he’s been pretty forgettable this week. Henry had weekly averages of 8 points and 2.4 rebounds a game. Even though Henry’s numbers are down, I still think Henry does his job when he’s on the floor. He still has the ability to get to the line almost at will and hit the open jumper, I hope Henry will find his way to the top again soon though.
2. Jordan Hill
Jordan Hill didn’t necessarily have a bad week, he still averaged 6.8 points and 9.2 rebounds in just under 26 minutes a game over the last 5, but those numbers are less than last week when he averaged 18.75 points and 12 rebounds. Hill still brings energy to the starting unit and is a great garbage man, but the scouting report is now out on Hill who has to find other ways to keep the energy up. Hill also suffered a left ankle sprain Sunday night in Detroit, here’s hoping to him getting back on the court healthy and ready to go soon.
3. Lakers Interior Defense
Is it a cop out for me to name the Laker Interior D as a worst player this week? Sure. Does that make it any less true? Not one bit. In the past 5 games, the Lakers gave up a combined total of 252 points in the paint and 81 fast break points. Detroit alone scored 76 of their 102 points in the paint and, in Washington, John Wall had his way getting past defenses with his speed and to the hole almost at will. This past road trip showed a major flaw in the team’s defense, it seems any team with speed and/or a big that can get into the post will have an advantage against the Lakers. Kurt Rambis, who was hired to lead the defense, has his work cut out for him. The Lakers take Portland on at home tomorrow.
The Lakers extending Kobe Bryant’s contract is a lot like asking someone to prom. They are essentially asking this one special person to spend one of the most memorable nights of their lives, or rest of their career, with you. It could either turn out great or be one of the worst nights you have ever had or will have in your life. With that being said, signing Bryant pre-return could either be great or costly moving forward.
If you were following the news yesterday, or in case you missed it, the Lakers signed Kobe Bryant to a two year extension worth $48.5 million dollars. This extension appears to be the first move the Lakers are making in terms of free agency for the summer of 2014. By extending Bryant, the Lakers get to keep the face of the franchise for a couple more seasons while notifying the league and any future free agents that they will have the opportunity to play alongside the future Hall of Famer. That is, if his health allows it.
With Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose now ruled out for the season, fans hope that Bryant will take a more relaxed approach to returning in hopes to prevent a similar situation from occurring. Having watched Kobe Bryant from afar and knowing the type of competitor he is I can assure you that he will return when he is ready and he feels that his body is as well. Not only is Laker Nation hoping that Bryant returns when he is ready but, future free agents also want him to be in order to consider signing for the purple and gold.
When asked if free agents like himself would see Bryant as a star who is still worthy of joining in order to contend for a title, Anthony said, “I mean you’ll have to see. It’s hard to gauge at this point, not until he comes back (from his April Achilles tendon tear) and figures some things out. So I don’t know. They might have some plans up their sleeve.”
Looking long term, Bryant’s extension is enough for the Lakers to still look like the prom queen come free agency. Taking the pay cut of almost $10 million dollars provides room to sign a Carmelo Anthony if he opts out, a LeBron James if he does the same, or any other marquee free agents who are looking to win now. Not only will it allow that flexibility, but it also opens the door to retool the bench to its more formidable years. Maybe even keeping active, young players like Nick Young, Xavier Henry, Jordan Hill, Wesley Johnson or Jordan Farmar. Regardless of the what speculation may arise, this move says that the franchise is making a push the last few years of Bryant’s career to win now.
Bryant will retire with the Lakers. As for who he’ll be playing with and the question of whether that team will be worth talking about, that much remains to be seen.
“I think (Bryant) wanted to get that done,” Anthony told USA TODAY Sports. “Especially now, coming off that injury, that he wanted to solidify that (contract). I don’t think he ever had any doubt of leaving the Lakers, so he got that done early…He wants to win. I want to win. Everybody in the league, we want to win, so I just figured he was going to get that done.”
I’m not saying that it was the best move for the Lakers to sign Bryant this early, but I will say it provides intrigue if he is or is not able to produce highly. If Bryant is not the same will the Lakers be able to attract those superstar players? Or will they have to settle for players similar to those signed this past off-season?
On the other other hand, if Bryant is healthy and can produce at the level he was pre-injury then the possibilities are endless. With a healthy Bryant, cap space, and the allure of Los Angeles, Mitch Kupchak will have an arsenal ready to reload the Lakers and compete for another title. Yet all of this depends on how healthy Bryant is when he returns to the team.
No matter what does happen, prom just got a lot more interesting.
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.