Despite an 0-4 start which included lopsided losses to the Suns and Warriors and a devastating injury to rookie Julius Randle, there are some positives that can be picked out from this young campaign. While Kobe Bryant looks like his old self, we all know that simply is not enough.
Here are three things the Lakers can build on from their first week of the regular season:
1. The emergence of Jordan Hill: After two lackluster performances to start the year, Hill has stepped his game up against two of the Western Conference’s top teams. He scored 23 points and grabbed five rebounds in each game against the Clippers and Warriors. In addition, he also had four assists and three blocks against Golden State. Frontcourt mate Carlos Boozer has underwhelmed so far, and Hill has taken it upon himself to contribute in any way he can. His jumper has been falling, and that is a testament to the hard work he put in over the summer. He will not put up numbers like this every game, but one can only hope that he stays healthy and continues to be consistent.
2. Jeremy Lin’s confidence: Kobe Bryant has empowered Lin to run the offense but Lin has struggled early on, outside of a quality performance versus the Clippers. His shooting has been up and down, and has turned the ball over far too many times. Despite these downfalls, Lin is becoming more comfortable in his role as the starting point guard with every game played. That confidence showed versus the Clippers, when Lin waved Bryant off when he demanded the ball, which Bryant loved. For the Lakers to make any sort of noise this season, it has to start by playing with an aggressiveness and toughness that matches Kobe’s level, because it means they are willing to step up and shoulder the blame.
3. Minimal injuries early on: After a whirlwind of injuries during training camp that crescendoed with Randle falling to a leg injury in the season opener, the Lakers have come out relatively unscathed in the past three games. Here is to hoping this continues, and that the team can look forward to people coming back, as opposed to more people going down, which plagued the team the last two seasons.
According to Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, the Los Angeles Lakers have re-signed free agent forward Jordan Hill.
The deal, as confirmed by Hill’s agent Kevin Bradbury, is for two-years and $18 million. According to the LA Times’ Mike Bresnahan, the Lakers hold a team option for the second year of Hill’s deal. Each year is $9 million.
Hill, 26, averaged 9.7 ppg, 7.4 rpg and 0.9 bpg last season with the Lakers.
April 8,2014 — 7:30PM (PST)
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
Coming off a very poor performance vs. the Los Angeles Clippers, the Lakers will attempt to even up the season series vs. the Houston Rockets.
Despite another loss, C/PF Jordan Hill continue to show his worthiness to stay on the Lakers roster following season. A player who provides the “Dennis Rodman” effect without all the crazy antics, Hill scored 22 points and 9 rebounds vs Clippers, and has averaged a career high 9.2 PPG and 7.3 RPG this season.
Unfortunately for fans who purchased tickets to boo former Lakers center Dwight Howard tonight, he will not be available tonight, according to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein.
Dwight Howard's return from an ankle problem is drawing near, but sources say his comeback will not be Tuesday night in L.A. against Lakers
Howard’s service will most likely not be necessary since C Omer Asik can fill in nicely and the Lakers simply do not possess enough talent to defeat the Rockets.
SG James Harden has enjoyed life as an NBA starter after the Rockets acquired him from the Oklahoma City Thunder right before the 2012-2013 season, becoming the best NBA Shooting Guard this season due to the unavailability of superstar SG Kobe Bryant. Harden has averaged 25.4 PPG and 5.8 APG this season, hoping to carry the Rockets far into the playoffs in a few weeks.
PG – Jeremy Lin / Kendall Marshall [Advantage: Rockets] SG – James Harden / Jodie Meeks[Advantage: Rockets] SF – Chandler Parsons / Wesley Johnson[Advantage: Rockets] PF – Terrence Jones /Ryan Kelly[Advantage: Even] C – Omer Asik / Jordan Hill[Advantage: Rockets]
Notable Bench Players
Rockets: G Jordan Hamilton, F Omri Casspi, G Francisco Garcia, F Greg Smith,
Lakers: C Robert Sacre, F Wesley Johnson, PG Steve Nash, PG Jordan Farmar
Bench Advantage: Rockets
Rockets: Out-PG Patrick Beverley, Out-C Dwight Howard, Questionable-F Greg Smith
Lakers: Out-G Kobe Bryant, Out-C Pau Gasol, Out-G Xavier Henry, Out-G Kent Bazemore, Out-C Chris Kaman
Keys for Lakers Victory
Hit Open Shots: Without any defensive skills, talent, or chemistry with multiple injuries, the Lakers need to like they did when they scored 51 points on the New York Knicks a few weeks ago. SG Jodie Meeks, who has progressed extremely well this season, will be heavily relied upon to fulfill that task, along with F Ryan Kelly, and F/G Nick Young.
Since the Rockets currently have the 4th seed with a few games remaining, this game means significantly more for the Rockets and Lakers. Therefore, getting off to a quick start for the Lakers seems very unlikely. The only entertaining value from the Laker’s fan’s point of view will be the play of PG Steve Nash who ac tually has played well in limited role and might consider retirement following this season.
Last night’s game truly defines the Lakers‘ (24-47) season. They could come up with an unexpected victory against the Knicks, playing the best they can, and then immediately come right back and have an ugly loss. After blowing out the Knicks on Tuesday, the Lakers lost vs. Milwaukee Bucks Thursday, by far the worst NBA team this season.
Now, the Lakers seek to get back to its winning ways by facing off vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (35-35). Based on the last 2 games, it seems like the Lakers will rely heavily on F Jordan Hill and F Nick Young. Hill had a monster game despite the loss, scoring 27 points and grabbing 16 rebounds, and actually had a double-double by the end of the first half.
Meanwhile, Young continues to bring spark off the bench, contributing 17 more points last night. Young brings an asset to the Lakers that they have been lacking throughout the month of February; a guard who can create his own shots at any point of the game.
Despite heading into another playoff-less season, Timberwolves’ PF Kevin Love still dominates his position this season. Love has turned into an NBA star, scoring 26.3 PPG and averaging 12.3 RPG this season. Love has tremendous footwork in the post, a skill he has nearly mastered throughout his NBA career while possessing the ability to shoot behind the three-point line, shooting 38.2%.
PG – Ricky Rubio / Kendall Marshall [Advantage: Timberwolves] SG – Kevin Martin / Jodie Meeks [Advantage: Even] SF – Corey Brewer / Wesley Johnson [Advantage: Even] PF – Kevin Love / Jordan Hill [Advantage: Timberwolves] C – Gorgui Dieng / Chris Kaman [Advantage: Even]
Notable Bench Players
Timberwolves: F Luc Richard M’Bah Moute, G Alexei Shved, F Dante Cunningham, G JJ Barea Lakers: PG Steve Nash, F Nick Young, C Robert Sacre, G Xavier Henry, G Kent Bazemore
Bench Advantage: Even
Timberwolves: Out-C Nickola Pekovic, Out-F Ronny Turiaf, Out-G AJ Price Lakers: Out-C Pau Gasol,Out-PG Jordan Farmar, Out-G Kobe Bryant
Fans never know which Laker product they will get at any given moment; the one that destroyed the Knicks, or the one who lost vs. Bucks. Tonight, the Lakers are playing for 2 consecutive nights on the road, so fatigue will most likely set in for tonight’s matchup. The first quarter will most likely dictate how the Lakers will play tonight.
March 25, 2014 — 7:30 PM (PST)
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
The Lakers look to build off of their win vs. the OrlandoMagic on Sunday as they face off vs. New York Knicks (29-41) tonight.
F Jordan Hill had a career night, scoring 28 points and grabbing 13 rebounds in Sunday’s win. Hill’s numbers do not come from plays getting run through him, but through effort and hustle, primarily grabbing offensive rebounds. Although the chances Hill will match his numbers from Sunday tonight seem unlikely, Hill should still be able to make an impact in tonight’s game also.
However, the Lakers chances of winning tonight will be hampered since C Pau Gasol will not play tonight. Gasol, who has been one of a few consistent Laker this season, suffered a vertigo illness that caused him to miss the 2nd half of Sunday’s game and get taken to a hospital by ambulance
Things have turned around for the Knicks franchise ever since rumors they are now only 2 games behind the Atlanta Hawks for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. After losing 6 straight games, Knicks Head Coach Mike Woodson decided to shake up his lineup, bringing G JR Smith and F Amar’e Stoudemire into the starting lineup. Although they lost another game after Woodson switched the starting lineup, the Knicks then went on an 8 game winning streak until losing a close game vs. Cavaliers on Sunday.
F Carmelo Anthony leads the Knicks team into Staples Center tonight. Anthony, who has scored 28.1 PPG while grabbing 8.2 RPG and dishing out 3.1 APG, seemed like a sure thing to depart the Knicks a few weeks ago. Now, with the hire of Jackson and the Knicks strong push to make the playoffs, Anthony not only seems to be unsure about departing New York now and seeks to will his team into the playoffs with his strong play.
PG – Raymond Felton / Kendall Marshall [Advantage: Even] SG – JR Smith / Jodie Meeks [Advantage: Even] SF – Carmelo Anthony / Nick Young [Advantage: Knicks] PF – Amar’e Stoudemire / Jordan Hill [Advantage: Even] C – Tyson Chandler / Chris Kaman [Advantage: Even]
Notable Bench Players
Knicks: F Tim Hardaway Jr., G Shannon Brown, G Iman Shumpert, G Pablo Prigioni, C Cole Aldrich Lakers: F Wesley Johnson, C Robert Sacre, G Xavier Henry, G Kent Bazemore
Bench Advantage: Knicks
Knicks: Out-F Kenyon Martin, Out-F Andrea Bargnani, GTD-G Iman Shumpert Lakers: Out-C Pau Gasol,Out-PG Jordan Farmar, Out-G Kobe Bryant, Doubtful-PGSteve Nash, Will Play-G Xavier Henry
Knowing that Phil Jackson will be in the Knicks front office have definitely given the Knicks player a major jolt that they have been lacking. Although the Lakers looked great vs. Magic on Sunday, the Knicks will play with a huge sense of urgency to sneak into the playoffs. The Lakers will have to play very smart on the defensive end to have a shot at defeating the Knicks tonight.
March 23, 2014 — 6:30 PM (PST)
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
In what could become the worst season in Lakers history, the Lakers will try to gain a victory tonight vs. Orlando Magic (11-32) in a dual between the two teams which lost C Dwight Howard. Both teams will be in the upper echelon of the upcoming NBA draft as they have two of the worst records in NBA this season.
The Lakers, who suffered another loss vs. Wizards on Friday, got solid contributions from a few returnees from injuries. F Nick Young returned from injury to score 21 points, leading the team in that category with SG Jodie Meeks. PG Steve Nash dropped 11 assists despite only playing in 18 minutes, while F Jordan Hill looked excellent. Although Hill was ejected for getting involved in a scuffle with Wizards C Drew Gooden, he still managed to grab 14 rebounds and be a spark plug off the bench.
Former UCLA Bruin G Aaron Afflalo leads these young group of Magic players, scoring 19.3 PPG, grabbing 3.9 RPG, and dishing out 3.5 APG. He has a very solid all around game, playing both ends of the floor well, and seeks to be one of the key players that will stay on the Magic roster after they finish rebuilding their team.
PG – Kendall Marshall / Victor Oladipo [Advantage: Magic]
SG – Jodie Meeks / Aaron Afflalo [Advantage: Magic]
SF – Wesley Johnson / Mo Harkless[Advantage: Even]
PF – Pau Gasol /Nikola Vucevic [Advantage: Lakers]
C – Robert Sacre / Kyle O’Quinn[Advantage: Lakers]
Notable Bench Players
Magic: F Tobias Harris, G Doron Lamb, G Ronnie Price, C DeWayne Dedmon
Lakers: G Nick Young, PG Steve Nash, F Jordan Hill, G Kent Bazemore
Hard to believe the Lakers finally can match-up vs a team with as bad of a record as the Lakers over the last month. However, the Lakers received help from Hill, Young, and Nash’s return, hoping they can help salvage their season as it winds down the homestretch. The match up actually favors the Lakers tonight, so they should be able to come away with a victory tonight.
Feb. 17, 4:00pm PST — According to Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, the Lakers have had discussions on a deal to send forward/center Jordan Hill to the Brooklyn Nets.
The Nets have a $5.25 million disabled player exception that they could use to absorb the remaining $3.5 million on Hill’s expiring contract.
As Wojnarowski mentions, Hill has never been a particular favorite of head coach Mike D’Antoni. If D’Antoni remains the coach this summer, Hill does not seem to factor into the Lakers’ long term plans.
Moving Hill to the Nets before the trade deadline, while receiving nothing but cap relief in return, would help the Lakers as they attempt to get under the luxury tax threshold this season.
The 2014 NBA Trade Deadline is Thursday, February 20 at 12:00pm PST.
Keep it locked to LakerNation.com for all the latest surrounding the Lakers’ trade rumors!
Sunday night was the beginning of the Empire striking back. With Kobe Bryant’s Vader like return after rupturing his Achilles last season, he was the focus of the night while the Raptors, and the world, paid attention to his every move. The consensus was the focus on Bryant would create more scoring opportunities for everyone else, especially former all-star forward Pau Gasol. While it indeed created more open looks for the Gasol, he struggled to adjust as he is currently battling an ankle injury that caused him to trudge up and down the floor. When asked about his quality of play last night Gasol, via Mark Medina of the LA Daily News, stated that he is not 100 % but will still battle through his injury as best as he can.
“I wasn’t 100 percent but I don’t like to make excuses,” said Gasol, who has been nursing a sprained right ankle. “I’m just going to try to play through what I have going on.”
While modesty is appreciated from Gasol it will take more than that to prevent the onslaught of opponents who will attack him inside. His sprained ankle limited him on rebounds both offensively and defensively, sliding on pick and roll switches, running up and down the court, protecting the paint, offering help defense, and lastly on the offensive end. He simply looked troubled and uncomfortable. Pau is the consummate professional and will play as long as his body allows it but being unable to stop Amir Johnson en route to a 32 point performance where he shot 14 for 17 is unacceptable.
“A guy like that shouldn’t have that type of night against your team,” Gasol said. “We have to do a better job individually and collectively in order so anyone won’t have a game like that.”
Do not misunderstand me. All of Amir’s 32 points were not on Gasol. A good number of them came from him being more active than Gasol and every other Laker big, including Shawne Williams, on the court. However, if Amir can score 32 points against the Lakers inside defense by just being active, this upcoming stretch will be difficult with Phoenix’s Morris’ twins, Oklahoma City’s Serge Ibaka, and Al Jefferson of the Charlotte Bobcats. Going beyond just big men, it could become even tougher for Gasol to provide help relief for perimeter penetration. There were too many times against the Raptors where their guards or wing players would drive to the basket without being effected by Gasol’s presence. I will not say it is impossible for Gasol to guard their big men but, it will be a tall task for him to provide inside relief if he cannot move efficiently in the paint. That goes for the big man he is guarding or the help defense he attempts to provide for perimeter penetration. To put his injury and its effect into perspective, I took a look at some recently released NBA stats on the Lakers next three opponents. Phoenix, OKC, and Charlotte all have at least 1 player in the top 25 of total points for drives to the basket.
Oklahoma City is the exception with two players, Kevin Durant and Reggie Jackson. If you take it a step further and look at the top 50, All three teams now have at least TWO players in this category and OKC has three with Russell Westbrook. Looking at their drives to the basket per game, the Lakers inside defense will be have to potentially stop at least 5.1 drives to the basket (Durant’s number) by the team’s top perimeter players. This number increases to 5.2 with Reggie Jackson, 5.5 with Kemba Walker, 7.0 with Eric Bledsoe, 7.1 with Westbrook, and 9.3 with Goran Dragic. With the knowledge, and reality, of how poor defensively the Lakers are inside these numbers could increase exponentially. Not to even mention the number of kick out passes that these drives could lead to or drives by other players.
“I knew he had his ankle bothering him here or there, but we need him,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said. “If you look at the stat sheet, our bench was all double figures. I might have to think about who starts. I don’t know.”
This injury opens the door for coach Mike D’Antoni to begin playing Jordan Hill more. Originally Hill was moved from the starting lineup, and replaced by Robert Sacre, due to his production decrease. However, after watching the game against the Raptors (and how hurt Gasol is), Hill seems to have found his energy. He was all over the court grabbing rebounds, putting back dunks, and playing active defense. Gasol is ranked number 9 in total rebounds in the league this season while Hill is ranked number 22. Gasol, who averages 9.7 rebounds per game, is better than Hill, 8.5, by a margin of 1.2 rebounds. This number would increase for Hill if given more or equal the amount of time to play. Not only do those stats reassure that Hill could provide more productivity than the currently injured Gasol but there are two more stats that tell an even greater story.
Those are percentage of rebounds per chance and contested rebound percentage. Before diving into it, I will state that I believe some if not most, of Hill’s rebounds come off sheer effort. Looking at the data, Gasol’s percentage of rebounds per chance are 65.8% for the 30.6 minutes he plays a game. Hill’s percentage of rebounds per chance 63.9% for every 21.7 minutes he plays. That’s a difference of 1.9% even with the 8.9 minutes Gasol receives over Hill. The second set of data again is contested rebound percentage. These are the percent of contested rebounds a player grabs per game. Gasol has a percentage of 32.5%. Hill’s average is 36.9%, a difference of 4.3% with the 8.9 minutes less he plays than Gasol.
“Pau will be back,” D’Antoni said. “He’s battled through some injuries. Just like everybody else, there was a product of no flow out there. It just wasn’t where it was. He’s fine.”
The data tells me that when Gasol is healthy the only problem the Lakers have, with him, is an aging forward who will not be able to move as fast as he used to. That is fine but if Gasol continues to look as bad as he did it could become a big problem. With this ankle sprain, D’Antoni needs to let Pau recover while giving more time to Jordan Hill. Making this change in a rotation that he is looking to shake up could provide the spark the Hill needs to play better, Gasol needs to recover, and for the team to gel with Bryant’s return.
“We talked a little bit after the game in the locker room in terms of making some adjustments and things that we read,” Bryant said. “It didn’t look like he had his legs underneath him that much. But I don’t know. We’ll see. We’ll talk it out some more and figure it out and see how he feels and where his body is and go from there.”
A downside to this could be decreased productivity from Gasol because of the pinch on minutes. Yet this early in the season I am sure Gasol would like to focus on his recovery for the long haul, even if it means giving more time to Hill and Sacre for the moment.
“We’ll lean on each other,” Bryant said. “As you can see, our bench is phenomenal. They play extremely well man. We just have to go out there and support each other. Any given night somebody can step up and be explosive. We just have to support each other and make each other better.”
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 Los Angeles Lakers made a huge statement to its organization and its loyal fan base.
Kobe Bean Bryant will be a Laker for life.
The Lakers officially signed superstar SG Kobe Bryant Monday morning to a 2-year extension worth $48.5 million, according to ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Ramona Shelburne. At $48.5 million, Bryant will receive $23.5 million in 2014-15 and $25 million in 2015-16 from the Lakers. Bryant’s contract gives the Lakers an open shot at signing a free agent to a maximum contract either during this off-season or the next.
“This was easy,” Bryant told Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski on Monday night. “This wasn’t a negotiation. The Lakers made their offer with cap and building a great team in mind while still taking care of me as a player. I simply agreed to the offer.”
Assuming Bryant fulfills his new contract, he will become the longest tenured player in NBA history to play with a single franchise—playing for 2 decades with the Los Angeles Lakers.
However, Lakers fans have had mixed reactions in regards to Bryant’s new extension. Due to the league’s complex new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), most Lakers fans have difficulties answering the following question;
How does Bryant’s extension affect the Lakers’ cap room and their quest to help Kobe win another championship to tie Michael Jordan’s 6 championships?
Using their views, let’s take a look at the Lakers’ current salary cap situation for this off-season.
Lakers’ Current Salary Cap Situation
As Larry Coon noted, the Lakers currently have Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, and Robert Sacre on books for next season, while Elias Harris has a non-guaranteed contract and Nick Young has a player option next season. The Lakers will also have a 1st round draft pick, which would fall to the 15th pick if season ended today at a cap hit of about $1.5 million.
Here is the scenario that Larry Coon gives the Lakers to work with:
“If they remove both [Elias] Harris and [Steve] Nash, their team salary will drop to about $34.44 million, which would give them about $28.46 million in cap room. This would give them the opportunity to sign one maximum-salary player, and a second player at around the mid-level amount. They would also be eligible to utilize the Room Mid-Level exception for around $2.7 million.”
Now, let’s say the Lakers use the Room Mid-Level exception on current SG Jodie Meeks, who is averaging 13.3 PPG and shooting 47.7% from behind the three-point line this season.
Also, lets assume the Lakers re-sign PG Jordan Farmar and F Wesley Johnson to veteran minimum deals.
According to Eric Pincus, “Their cap holds will be just $915,243 next summer…the Lakers can negotiate small (7.5%) raises for each, if both sides are willing — after the team uses its cap room.”
Pincus also mentioned that C Pau Gasol and C/PF Jordan Hill’s cap holds stand at $20.3 million and $6.7 million respectively for this off-season. The Lakers would definitely need to renounce Gasol’s bird rights and possibly Hill’s also to make a legitimate run at a max-contract player. Furthermore, Gasol would need to accept a steep discount, approximately $5.5 million to $8 million per season, to have any chance to rejoin the Lakers under any scenario.
After retaining Bryant, Young, Sacre, Meeks, Johnson, Farmar, and a 1st round pick before the 10-day July moratorium period ends, the Lakers would then maintain up to approximately $26.63 million of cap space to sign free agents this off-season.
Using the facts obtained from Larry Coon’s and Eric Pincus’ columns, let’s see the most plausible route the Lakers can take from here.
Scenario #1: Sign Carmelo Anthony and choose between Pau Gasol or Jordan Hill
The Lakers told Bryant they have room to sign one max contract.
After hours of studying the salary cap and analyzing multiple reports, Carmelo Anthony seems to be the one and only max player the Lakers can reasonably sign next summer.
Anthony, a 29-year-old superstar forward for the New York Knicks, is currently in his 11th season in the NBA with career averages of 25.0 PPG, 6.4 RPG, and 3.1 APG. Anthony had a monster 2012-2013 season, scoring a career high of 28.7 PPG and leading the Knicks to the 2nd round of the playoffs.
The Knicks, however, are currently struggling with injuries and a lack of team chemistry, causing them to fall to a dismal 3-10 record to start off this season.
To make things worse for the Knicks, they cannot retool their roster around Anthony as their roster currently stands due to expensive contracts. Amar’e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani, two overpaid players way past their primes, will most likely opt-in for $23.4 million and $11.5 million salary respectively next season. Tyson Chandler also has another year left in his contract, worth $14.6 million next season
According to HoopsRumors.com’s Luke Adams, Anthony can earn a max contract for either $129 million for 5 years with the Knicks, or for 96 million for 4 years with another team, including the Lakers as a free agent this off-season. Anthony could also have a player option after his 3rd season under both potential contracts.
Anthony and Bryant have a very close relationship both on and off the court. Bryant and Anthony built their relationship from being teammates at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, where they both made significant contributions in winning two gold medals. Also, their wives Lala Anthony and Vanessa Bryant have a very close friendship as well.
If Anthony signs with the Lakers at the maximum level, Anthony would most likely earn $22.45 million salary his first season, giving the Lakers an additional $4.18 million to sign other free agents, including Hill and Gasol.
For the Lakers to retain Jordan Hill in that scenario, the Lakers would have to renounce Jordan Hill’s bird rights and re-sign him for the remaining cap space of $4.18 million. At this amount, Gasol would most likely not re-sign, leaving the Lakers with no other choice but to re-sign Hill.
If, however, Anthony somehow decides to take a minor paycut to join the Lakers for about $90 million over 4 years instead, he would earn approximately $21 million his first year, leaving the Lakers with $5.63 million cap room left to spend.
At $5.63 million, the Lakers would potentially have the option to sign either Hill or Gasol. Unfortunately, the new CBA will most likely not allow the Lakers to sign both of the valuable big men, forcing the Lakers’ front office to choose between Hill and Gasol.
Bottom line: signing Carmelo Anthony will give Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers their best chance to make another championship run in the short term. However, the Lakers would have to become very creative with their salary cap space if they have any hopes of re-signing both Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill under this scenario.
Scenario #2: Sign Rudy Gay, Re-Sign Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill
In the scenario in which Carmelo Anthony decides to re-sign with the New York Knicks, the Lakers can potentially make an acquisition that would also appease Kobe Bryant.
Rudy Gay, who last season was traded by Memphis Grizzlies to the Toronto Raptors in a multi-team trade, has an opt-out clause in his contract that will allow him become a free agent following this season.
Gay, a 27 year-old NBA veteran, has averaged a solid 18.0 PPG and 5.8 RPG throughout his eight year NBA career. Like Gasol before the Lakers acquired him, Gay has been the best player on his team the majority of his career, despite never making an all-star team. Gay has also shown significant improvement defensively, playing with a lot of hustle and energy on that end lately.
Although the Raptors have a good nucleus of young talent to build around Gay, the Raptors still have little chance to make a run at an NBA Championship.
The Lakers would gain a solid consolation prize in Gay if he opts out after this season.
Gay would most likely not turn down the opportunity to team up with Kobe Bryant and the Lakers to make a run at a title, if the Lakers were to offer him a contract. Like Gasol did after he moved from the Memphis Grizzlies to the Lakers, Gay could evolve from being the best player on a mediocre team to an all-star player who contributes to a title-contending team like the Lakers.
If the Lakers sign Gay for the market value for 4 years, he should cost the Lakers only about $15 million per season. Therefore, the Lakers could re-sign both Jordan Hill and Pau Gasol under this scenario.
The Lakers would have approximately $11.63 million cap room to share between Hill and Gasol. If the Lakers can convince Gasol to take a huge paycut for $7 million and Hill to accept $4.63 million salary for the 2014-2015 under a 2 or 3 year contract, the Lakers would definitely upgrade their lineup despite losing out on the biggest prize in Carmelo Anthony.
Scenario #3: Wait for the 2015-16 Free Agent Class
If the the Lakers miss on both Carmelo Anthony and Rudy Gay, the Lakers should take the same approach this off-season as they did last off-season.
Sign everyone to one-year contracts.
The formula of placing a bandage on the team this season seems to have worked out fairly well—finding diamond in the rough players like Wesley Johnson and SG Xavier Henry.
Rather than overpaying for a player or signing average players to multi-year contracts, the Lakers could build the team around Bryant with eager young players who seek to revitalize their careers under the tutelage of Bryant.
This current Lakers team has shown that they have the heart and energy to compete with any team in the NBA. They have already defeated the Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State Warriors, and Houston Rockets without Bryant—staying afloat at a respectable 7-7 record.
Through patience and waiting until the 2015-16 free agent class, the Lakers could potential have many potential free agents to choose from.
The 2015-16 free agent class includes Minnesota Timberwolves C/PF Kevin Love and PG Ricky Rubio, Boston Celtics PG Rajon Rondo and F Jeff Green, Brooklyn Nets C Brook Lopez, and Indiana Pacers C Roy Hibbert.
If the Lakers are forced to take this route, Bryant’s chance at a title for 2014-15 might become the same as this season. However, it will definitely give him the best chance to win if they sign one of those free agents under this scenario.
The status of Steve Nash determines how much cap room the Lakers have to retool their roster around Kobe Bryant. As mentioned before, the Lakers can either waive Nash or continue supporting him as he attempts to play through nerve damage.
If the Lakers decide to let Nash finish his contract and play next season, the Lakers will not have the cap space to sign Jordan Hill or Pau Gasol under the Carmelo Anthony Scenario, and would have to choose between Hill and Gasol under the Rudy Gay scenario.
Furthermore, Larry Coon explained two additional scenarios in regards to Steve Nash during his interview with Beto Duran and Arash Markazi on ESPN LA Radio’s Mason and Ireland Show, two more possibilities exist in regards to Steve Nash.
If Nash retires, his entire 2014-15 salary would come off the books. Nash and the Lakers would most likely negotiate a buyout after retirement, in which the buyout amount will count against cap, but the Lakers can stretch that cap hit over a three year period.
In the unlikely scenario where Nash retires for medical reasons, the Lakers would receive a full salary cap relief from Nash’s contract while paying him the $9.7 million he is owed for the 2014-2015 season.
Under Scenario #1 and Scenario #2 as previously mentioned, the Lakers will fill the rest of the team with veteran minimum level salary players this off-season, similar to this season. However, the Lakers know how to find talent that have not been utilized to its full potential by other teams. Players such as PF/C DeJuan Blair, C Ryan Hollins, and G/F Brandon Rush are examples of veteran minimum level players who can make a major contribution to the Lakers’ championship run.
Although fans have shown mixed emotions regarding the amount of money Bryant is scheduled to receive on his new extension, we know a few things for a fact:
The Lakers clearly know what they are doing.
Doctors have full confidence that Bryant will return to how he played prior to his devastating Achilles injury.
And finally, the Lakers and Bryant are fully committed to a final NBA championship run.
It’s that time again for the player of the week for November 18-24. The Lakers only played two games this week and got a decent amount of some much needed rest. They won both games this week, one against Golden State and the other against Sacramento–both great wins. This week, one player stood out from the rest with his smart and consistent play: Pau Gasol.
Pau Gasol averaged 22 points and 10 rebounds per game this past week, which was phenomenal for him as he had struggled with his shot prior to this week.
The two double-double performances definitely helped the Lakers to the two W’s this week, and seeing Gasol play this well and efficiently again is a great sign for things to come.
If Gasol can keep up this consistent and efficient play the Lakers have a much higher chance at success in close games. Gasol is a great talent to have and when he plays his best basketball, he gives the Lakers their best chance to win as his talent can be overwhelming for opposing teams.
Look for Gasol to keep up his current pace this week and for the Lakers to earn a few more W’s on the upcoming road trip.
This here is the first player of the week article of the season, a new weekly series I’ve started. Every Monday I’ll post an article stating who has earned player of the week honors from the previous week. So, without further ado, let’s introduce the first player of the week:
Jordan Hill played some great basketball this past week and has more than earned player of the week honors, however, Steve Blake came in a close second.
Hill averaged 18.8 PPG, 12 RPG, and added a nice 2.5 BPG, in 30 minutes per game this past week. Hill led the Lakers to a 2-2 record this week which could have easily been 3-1 except for a collapse against Memphis. Hill’s play as of late has given the Lakers a great boost in their play and has definitely ignited a lackluster Lakers squad.
Hill was recently given an increase in minutes by Coach D’Antoni and it has definitely paid off as of late as Hill is infusing a great amount of energy into the lineup.
Hill had always been a monster on the boards with his tremendous hustle and ability to grab offensive rebounds to give the Lakers extra possessions. The hustle and energy he provides are the intangibles the Lakers need while Kobe Bryant rehabs from his torn Achilles’ tendon.
Expect Hill to continue this recent trend of strong play as long as D’Antoni gives him the minutes, and don’t be surprised if Hill earns player of the week honors next week as well.
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.
With the Lakers off to a poor start, trade rumors have begun to swirl around Kobe Bryant, leading many to speculate if he'll leave for greener pastures. Kobe puts those rumors to rest in his interview with Yahoo Sports.