Thursday, August 28, 2014
Tags Posts tagged with "Jordan Hill"

Jordan Hill

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Photo courtesy of Ronald Martinez, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Ronald Martinez, Getty Images

With key departures in starters Dwight Howard and Metta World Peace, the Lakers starting line up is a mystery. We know 3 positions will be locked, the point guard in Steve Nash, Shooting guard Kobe Bryant and either Center/Power Forward Pau Gasol. The two positions up for grabs will be the small forward and power forward positions. In Coach Mike D’Antoni system, you sometimes just don’t know what to expect. Will D’Antoni run and gun or will we see a slower pace offense like towards the end of the year when Kobe got hurt. Until then, we can play around with different scenarios for starting line ups and take a couple shots at who we think might start. Lets take a look at the two highlighted positions on the Lakers roster, the power forward and small forward.

Power Forward:

Jordan Hill and Chris Kaman will be the lead candidates for the starting power forward/center job. We know what Jordan brings, toughness, great rebounding and defense. This summer Hill asked Coach D’Antoni how he can improve his game and has reportedly been working on his 15-18 foot jump shot. Kaman on the other hand is veteran thats been in the league for a while. Chris too can pick and pop and play down low. I personally would love to see Jordan start and Kaman off the bench because that would give us a solid center off the bench. Pau Gasol is an extremely gifted player and many fans forgot how talented he is in the post with both hands. Critiques will say he’s soft and can never bang down low, thats a false statement. Gasol wont give us breathe taking dunks but he’ll get the job done. If Pau Gasol can go back to his 09-10 season, in which he was dropping close to 19 points and grabbing 11 rebound, he will be feared again.

Small Forward:

The small forward position for the Lakers is very tricky. We’ve had many good players in the past like Trevor Ariza, Metta World Peace, Rick Fox and “Big Game” James Worthy. If the Lakers went up against Carmelo, Lebron, Kevin Durant we knew we had that stopper on defense, that would be able to somewhat slow them down and take the load off Kobe and company defensively. This position should have more of a scoring punch with Wesley Johnson and Nick Young, but there are definite questions on the defensive end. Wesley is long and can shoot the 3 ball, and should fit well in D’Antoni’s system. Nick Young can score in bunches from almost anywhere on the floor and he loves attacking the rim. I personally think who ever stands out defensively from the two will be grab the most playing time.

Projected Starting Line up: 

Point Guard: Steve Nash will control the rock at the point guard, he’s getting old but his shooting off Kobe double teams and intelligence at the position is rare and what the Lakers need. Nash needs to be more aggressive this upcoming season, more scoring than facilitating.

Credit: SI.com
Credit: SI.com

Shooting Guard: If Kobe is a no go season opener, Jodie Meeks will get the start untill the  Mamba comes back.(Get Ready)

Credit: AP/Danny Moloshok
Credit: AP/Danny Moloshok

Small Forward:NBA: Phoenix Suns-Media Day The small forward position will go to Wesley Johnson, he’s a sniper from outside and plays good perimeter defense. I won’t be suprised if Nick Young gets a couple starts this year or even ends up starting. Nick Youngs offensive explosions would be much appreciated off the bench either subbing in for Kobe or Wesley.

 

 

 

Power Forward: The Power Forward position is a toss up, I want to see Jordan hill start  so Chris

Credit: SI.com
Credit: SI.com

Kaman can give us a solid punch off the bench but wouldn’t be surprised to see it work out the other way. Kaman might just start to help Gasol spread the floor and give him space inside to dominate.

Center: Pau Gasol period. This is his year to dominate, the paint belongs to him. I am extremly eager to watch Gasol this year who I think will have one of his more dominant seasons, and needs to. If Kobe is a no go season opener, Gasol you are the best player on this roster and need to carry this team. I expect more touches for Pau and more Pick and roll situations with Nash and Kobe. With the departure of Dwight, we have to feed the spaniard down low. Laker fans get ready for a great 2013-2014 Season.

Credit: Getty Images
Credit: Getty Images

 

Photo: Tom Szczerbowski | USA TODAY Sports
Photo Credit: USA Today Sports

You read it right.

Steve Nash is not 100% healthy as of yet but that will not stop him from achieving a childhood dream of his. On Tuesday Nash will be trying out for one of the best soccer, or fútbol, franchises in the world in Inter Milan. Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press was first to break the story.

”It’s a dream come true to get a chance to try out, not just to try out but to take the field with Inter Milan, one of the great, storied franchises in professional sports,” Nash said in an interview with The Associated Press. ”I feel like a little kid.”

Nash has always been a huge soccer fan and occasionally jokes about how he would be a great soccer player if he didn’t become as good as he is in basketball. Tuesday he will have the opportunity to show the world the type of player he could be. First, he’ll have to get over his big case of nerves.

”It’s going to be a lot higher than it is playing basketball, for sure,” Nash said. ”I still get nervous for basketball games from time to time. When I get out on the court, I don’t get nervous, but before. To go out there with guys that I look up to and watch play, it’s definitely going to raise the nerves. I’ll be really nervous and really excited.”

As far as his day job goes he still is working to get to 100% health. Everyone knows how injury riddled the Lakers were last season and Nash missed a significant amount of time on the court. Despite that, he has been training hard this off-season and believes that he will have a good year.

”I’ve had a really good summer of training and rehabilitating,” Nash said. ”I’m not 100 percent, but I’m pretty close. Good enough to go out there Tuesday. I’m thrilled I’ve had this time to build myself back up, and I believe I’ll have a great year.”

”We’re all just excited for another opportunity,” Nash said. ”We’ve got some terrific players coming off of difficult seasons. I know Pau Gasol after his injuries, Kobe’s coming off a difficult injury, I was injured for the better part of the season. The three of us are eager to get back out there and there’s other guys, Jordan Hill, Steve Blake, who missed a lot of time last year.

Nash did not stop there as his excitement for next season continued to dominate the conversation.

”We’re excited to see what we can make of ourselves. We really are going to try for the second consecutive year to find chemistry and identity, but we’re excited for it, so we’ll see.”

With Nash already coming of an injury plagued year it would be best for him to continue to work out for basketball activities and rest his body. However you cannot blame the guy for wanting to try something that he has always wanted to do and been good at. As long as he makes it through this experience and remains healthy then the fans should have nothing to worry about. If he does happen to succumb to injury, then he will have risked a lot of Lakers hopes for this upcoming season.

Do you believe Nash should tryout for Inter Milan? Why or why not? Would you if you were in his shoes? Let me know below!

 

Steve Nash and others show off their soccer skills!

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PhotoCredit:GettyImages

Dwight Howard has finally made his big decision and it’s bad news to four out of the five teams who were trying to get him to wear their jersey.  He told Dallas that they were out of the running first, and shortly thereafter news surfaced that he had chosen to sign with Houston.

dwight-howard-houston-rockets-1

This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise to many unless you’ve been living on the moon, and even there you’ve probably heard about all of the Dwight drama.  It was basically a done deal that Dwight wanted to go to Houston to play along side the likes of Jeremy Lin and James Harden; a young core of players where Dwight wouldn’t feel the immense pressure to succeed like he would in Staples Center.  The lights of Hollywood were just too big for the NBA’s best center, and so he decided to go to a place where everything wouldn’t be on his shoulders.

All this news according to Sam Amick of USA Today:

 

Now, Howard can’t officially sign the deal until July 10, when the NBA lifts the moratorium, but it’s a done deal that Howard has made up his mind and he wants to take his talents to Texas.  What does this mean for the Lakers?  Well currently Los Angeles is without a decent center, with only Jordan Hill and Robert Sacre on the roster.  Los Angeles has many options to choose from to fix the currently shallow roster and I’m sure Mitch Kupchak is already on the phone making deals and asking questions.

This news of Howard affects the entire league as some players were basing their decisions off of his as to where they would sign.

However, news just surfaced that Howard’s agent has said Howard has NOT made his decision yet on where he plans to play next season.  Regardless of whether he has finalized his decision or not, it’s likely that Houston will be the winners of the Dwight Howard sweepstakes.

Chris Broussard has reported that Dwight’s camp has notified the Los Angeles Lakers that he will not be returning to the team.  Howard is to sign a 4 year 88 million dollar deal with the Houston Rockets.

I’ll update this article as more news comes out, so be sure to keep checking back Nation.  Are you glad to see him leave LA?  Would you have preferred to see him stay? Let’s hear your thoughts Nation!

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PhotoCredit:BBGSports
Photocredit: NBA.com
Photocredit: NBA.com

Last week I released a series of poll questions about this off-season for the Los Angeles Lakers.  I asked you, the Laker Nation, to answer them and I’d analyze those answers in the coming week.  Well you guys all answered and this article will detail all the possible scenarios from the most popular answers to each poll question. So here we go!  If you’d like to take a quick look back at all the questions, here’s the link to the article - http://lakernation.com/offseason-poll-questions/

 

Question 1:  Would you like to see the Lakers re-sign Dwight Howard? 843 Total Votes

PhotoCredit: HarryHow/GettyImages
PhotoCredit: HarryHow/GettyImages

The majority of you said yes, you would like to see him re-signed with 609 “Yes” votes to 234  “No” votes.

What does this mean? Well unfortunately, it isn’t up to Laker management at this point as the ball is in Dwight’s court (No pun intended).  The majority of you would like to see him stay with the purple and gold with a 5 year max contract.  The Lakers can offer Dwight that extra year and 30 million dollars more than any other of the teams vying for his signature.  However, no one except Dwight knows for sure if that is enough to make him want to stay.  Rumors say he can’t stand D’Antoni and that’s a huge factor in making his ultimate decision. Houston is looking like a viable option for him at this point, and recent news is saying he and Chris Paul are attempting to team up together on one team..  Only time will tell whether Dwight will re-sign with LA or another ball club, and July 1st is the date in which the fire storm hits its climax.

 

Question 2:  Should Chris Paul decide to leave the Clippers, would you want him to sign with the Lakers? 848 Total Votes

The majority of you also said yes you would like to see him sign with the opposite locker room this season and leave the Clippers with 787 “Yes” votes against 61 “No” votes.  Many of you are probably thinking “Of course, who wouldn’t want to see Chris Paul in a Lakers’ jersey?”  Well, there are some issues with him signing

PhotoCredit:Robert Beck:SI
PhotoCredit:Robert Beck:SI

here. First off, Chris would have to “want” to sign with the Lakers, and at this point, I’m not sure why he would.  His Clippers finished with the best record in their franchise history and took the Pacific division crown this season while the Lakers barely made the playoffs.  He, like any other NBA player, wants to win a championship sooner rather than later, and by first glance the Clippers seem to be in the better position.

Another thing is that by signing Chris Paul the Lakers would not be signing Dwight Howard, basically they are both too expensive and the Lakers are already well over the salary cap.  So it’s a choice between a dominant center in Dwight Howard, or one of the most crafty, skilled point guards in Paul.  There is also the problem of having Steve Nash still under contract for 2 more seasons; 9 million dollars coming off the bench isn’t the smartest use of money. The Lakers would more than likely have to trade Nash just a year after trading their draft picks for him, and he won’t be necessarily easy to trade given his age and decreased level of effectiveness shown from this previous season.  It’d be a great upgrade at the point guard position for the Lakera with a player like Paul, leading the offense and keeping up with the young point guards that dominate the league, but the chances are low and he’ll likely re-sign with the Clippers.

 

Question 3:  Should the Lakers trade up in the draft for a better pick?  796 Total Votes

This was a lot closer in votes than the previous two poll questions coming in with 438 “Yes” votes and 358 “No” votes.  Seeing as this goes hand in hand with the following question, I’ll combine the two here.

Question 4:  Who would you like to see traded for the pick? 742 Total Votes

The number one person on the roster that you would like to see traded for a pick was Metta World Peace coming in with 220 votes.  Jodie Meeks came in second place with 155 votes, and third place was Pau Gasol with 138 .  While getting rid of Metta may be a good option as his contract is rather pricey for the player the

PhotoCredit:GettyImages
PhotoCredit:GettyImages

Lakers are getting, he’s just not worth that much to trade away for a decent pick.

Meeks is in the same boat as Metta, although he’s younger and a better shooter so he might warrant a slightly better pick.  Pau Gasol coming in at third however may be the most viable and prime option for a good pick.  Pau has a very expensive price tag though as he totes a 19 million dollar salary.  Trading him would likely get the Lakers a decent pick in the first round somewhere, but most teams would have to offer the Lakers at least one other player to accomodate his large salary.  Trading one of your players with a first round pick for Pau Gasol isn’t a trade teams are going to want to make, Pau just isn’t worth that much any more as his numbers have been in steady decline the past couple seasons.

PhotoCredit:IDSports
PhotoCredit:IDSports

However, recent news has surfaced that the Lakers are interested in Peyton Siva, the explosive guard out of the NCAA Champion Louisville Cardinals.  Siva is projected to go late in the second round, which is completely feasible for the Lakers to trade up for.  Trading for a late second round pick isn’t too difficult for Lakers management to pull off, and they wouldn’t necessarily have to give up one of their starting five either.  Do you guys like the idea of drafting Peyton Siva? Let me know your thoughts!

 

 

 

 

Question 5:  Of these free agents, who would you like to see the Lakers sign? 810 Total Votes

This one was a flat out victory by J.R. Smith receiving 526 total votes, second place sits Nikola Pekovic, the Minnesota big man, with 132 votes, and in third we have Anthony Morrow with 88 votes.  Here’s the thing, as great as it would be for the Lakers to sign a player like J.R. Smith, he’s probably going to be too expensive for them. He’s coming off a $2.8 million dollar salary with New York, and he has a player option in his contract for this upcoming season of which he is likely to opt out of.  Smith has earned himself the sixth man of the year award this past season and because of that he can leave New York and ask for

PhotoCredit:APPhotoFrankFranklinII
PhotoCredit:APPhotoFrankFranklinII

more money elsewhere.  Another possibility is that New York signs him to a new bigger contract, but regardless Smith is looking for a bigger contract and with Los Angeles already well over the cap a signing isn’t likely.

Nikola Pekovic would be somone to look at if Dwight Howard chooses to sign elsewhere.  He could hold down the paint, and eventually become a strong, dominant center in the NBA as a member of the Lakers organization.  We’ll see if Lakers management looks his way should Dwight choose to leave LA.

Then there’s Anthony Morrow, a close friend of Dwight Howard’s and a pretty good shooter.  Morrow’s early years were his best shooting wise and if were to return to that form he’d be a great asset for the shooter deprived Lakers. Not that this would necessarily keep Dwight in LA but having a close friend work along side yourself makes you want to stay put more than if Morrow weren’t there.

 

Question 6:  What would you like to see done with Coach Mike D’Antoni? 836 Total Votes

This was the most one sided poll question yet, and expectantly so. Nearly all of you voted that D’Antoni be fired with 736 votes, and here’s why you’re 100% correct.  Not that this is anything

PhotoCredit:GettyImages

new, but D’Antoni  has a different agenda for the Lakers then they are currently built for.  He wants a quick, run-n-gun style offense, and the Lakers, being the oldest team in the NBA this past season, couldn’t quite keep up as well as he’d hoped.  He was adamant about sticking to his guns, and it wasn’t until the end of the season that things began to click and he decided to use Pau Gasol closer to the basket where he thrives.

Should Dwight Howard choose to re-sign, D’Antoni needs to go.  He doesn’t know how to fully utilize two big men out on the floor and maximize their potential.  He’s not a bad coach by any means, he just doesn’t fit as the missing puzzle piece the Lakers have been searching for since Jackson left. He did well in Phoenix when Steve Nash was there, and that’s why Laker management felt he would thrive with Nash again.  It’s unfortunate if he is to be retained because it will only be to the Lakers’ detriment.  Dwight may also be basing his decision on whether D’Antoni is retained or not, and right now it doesn’t look like Laker management has any plans of getting rid of him.

 

Question 7:  What coach would you rather see if the Lakers are to fire D’Antoni? 837 Total Votes

Since I put the zen master himself as an answer to this question I expected him to get the most votes, and he did with 531 votes.  However in second place came the former Lakers assistant coach Brian Shaw with 219 votes, currently with the Indiana Pacers.  Now since it is unlikely that Lakers management removes D’Antonifrom his head coaching seat these are merely dreams of hope that the Lakers would hire one of these guys.  Phil Jackson would obviously be the best choice as he has proven his success with the Lakers before.

Unfortunately he has said he has no plans on ever returning to coaching and the Lakers last chance to ink the 11 time champion was when they flirted with him

PhotoCredit:JohnWMcDonough:SI
PhotoCredit:JohnWMcDonough:SI

after Mike Brown’s firing.  Shaw is also in talks with multiple teams regarding their head coaching vacancies, most notably the Clippers.  The Lakers are likely to see out Mike D’Antoni’s  current contract because they already owe Mike Brown some money from his early termination and they don’t want to look like they don’t know what they’re doing (Even though it appears Jim Buss doesn’t).  Perhaps D’Antoni has a different game plan for this season, perhaps he wants to use Pau and hopefully Dwight together effectively, and perhaps the Lakers have a great season, perhaps.

 

Question 8:  Who should the Lakers amnesty this season? 823 Total Votes

This was my favorite question based on the answers to it that I really didn’t expect.  In first place came Metta World Peace with 342 votes, which isn’t a huge surprise due to his dwindling performance this past season.  Amnestying him wouldn’t be a terrible option as Peace is likely going to opt into the final year of his contract and he’s due 7.7 million dollars, more than he could get anywhere else at this point in his career.  However I expected you guys to want to amnesty Pau Gasol

because he’s due 19 million, which is a HUGE hindrance to the salary cap room the Lakers have.  Pau actually came in last place with just 65 votes.

Second place went to not amnestying anyone this season with 319 votes.  This was in first place for quite some time until Metta World Peace came in and swooped it, probably because of the way Metta has been tweeting recently.  If you don’t know Metta’s tweets I suggest you follow him, he’s quite the character. I think not using it this season is actually a smart idea because each ball club can only exercise it once between now and the 2015-16 season.  So waiting to see if there is a better chance to use it is a safe and careful plan, which is something the Lakers need at this point in time.

Kobe Bryant was next on the list with 97 votes, now before some of you guys start freaking out over such a ridiculous thought, just think about it.  Bryant is coming off of

PhotoCredit: Noah Graham/Getty Images
PhotoCredit: Noah Graham/Getty Images

a very serious Achilles tendon tear, one which could alter his playing style for the rest of his career.  Here’s what Lakers management can do, they could amnesty Bryant, who could potentially miss a large portion of this current season, and then offer him a contract when he is healthy again, hoping he wouldn’t sign any where else in the meantime.  This would alleviate 30 million dollars on the Lakers books and give them a lot of great options going into this upcoming season. The hard part is amnestying the player who has brought the city 5 more championships and has only ever donned a purple and gold uniform, oh and hoping he doesn’t get bitter about it and sign else where.  Essentially what the Lakers would be doing is dropping the final year of Bryant’s contract, wait until he is fully healthy, then re-sign him to a much cheaper deal, likely in the 17-19 million range.  This option really has a lot of potential to it, but it also is a huge risk that I’m not sure Lakers management would be willing to take.  My guess would be that the Lakers choose not to exercise their amnesty clause this season and they’ll wait for a better opportunity.

 

PhotoCredit:Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Question 9:  Will Kobe Bryant be the same player when he returns from his Achilles tendon tear? 828 Total Votes

No one can really know the answer to this question unless you’re Kobe Bryant himself.  We all have watched Bryant play his heart out every night and know first hand that his work ethic is second to none.  That being said, we can all assu

me Bryant will come back sooner rather than later and playing at the same level he’s shown us all these past 17 seasons.  351 of you felt he’ll be the same player when he returns, 239 said he wouldn’t be, and 238 said he’d be even better than before.  Again, it really is a toss up, and none of us can truly know how Kobe will bounce back after such a detrimentalinjury, but we can make educated guesses based on his history.

 

That’s it for the poll questions everyone, thanks so much for participating and here’s to a successful off-season for the Los Angeles Lakers!  Any questions, comments, or concerns, contact me on Twitter, @GarrettGarcia

 

 

 

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PhotoCredit: http://basketballplayerzz.blogspot.com/
PhotoCredit: Jeff Gross/Getty Images
PhotoCredit: Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Well Nation, we’ve reached yet another off-season, one full of a particularly large amount of questions regarding the Lakers’ future.  So I’ve decided to create a series of questions that you, the fans, will answer about the Laker offseason.  Then in a week or so I’ll gather all the answers and write about what would need to happen for each scenario to occur.  Obviously the big ones are about retaining (or losing) Dwight Howard, and what will come of Kobe Bryant after his devastating Achilles tear.  So Nation, here are the questions, the more who answer the more interesting the possible scenarios will be!

Would you like to see the Lakers re-sign Dwight Howard?

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Should Chris Paul decide to leave the Clippers, would you want him to sign with the Lakers?

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Should the Lakers trade up in the draft for a better pick?

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If you said yes to the previous question, who would you like to see traded for a pick?

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Of these free agents, who would you like to see the Lakers sign?

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What would you like to see done with coach Mike D'Antoni?

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What coach would you rather see if the Lakers are to fire D'Antoni?

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Who should the Lakers amnesty this season?

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Will Kobe Bryant be the same player when he returns from his Achilles' tendon tear?

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Poll analysis is complete! Check it out HERE to see your answers discussed! Thanks!

 

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Photo: Noah Graham | Getty Images
Photo: Noah Graham | Getty Images
Photo: Noah Graham | Getty Images

The Lakers completed last week with a 3-2 record. Although they remained in the 8th slot in the Western Conference, the Lakers suffered a significant loss to their personnel.

In the waning moments of the Lakers’ loss to the Atlanta Hawks, Kobe Bryant sprained his ankle when guard Dahntay Jones slid under him. Despite trying to play in the next game in Indiana, Bryant has since missed the last two games.

The Lakers started the week off well with a 106-97 win over the Orlando Magic. Dwight Howard certainly left his imprint on his return to Orlando, scoring 39 points and grabbing 16 rebounds.

The Lakers then traveled to Atlanta where they lost 96-92, in addition to suffering yet another crushing injury.

Concluding the quick 3-game road trip in Indiana, the Lakers defeated a solid Pacers team with little contribution from Bryant.

Travelling home, the Lakers beat the Sacramento Kings handedly, 113-102. The next night, the Lakers travelled Phoenix, losing 99-76. The Lakers’ 76 points were a season-low, as coach Mike D’Antoni’s 7-man rotation showed signs of fatigue.

Take a look back now at the changes in the Lakers’ stock values and the impact the players should have going forward:

Steve Blake Up arrow : Now this is the Steve Blake the Lakers thought they signed back in 2010.

Since Bryant’s injury, Blake has averaged 15.7 points per game and 6.3 assists per game. Blake has also shot 56.7% from the field in his last three games.

With all of the hype surrounding the Lakers’ starters and the emergence of Earl Clark this season, Blake’s consistency has been sorely overlooked.

Since his return from the abdominal injury, Blake has helped turn the Lakers’ bench unit into a deadly asset for the Lakers.

With Bryant and hopefully Pau Gasol returning from injury as soon as this Friday, Blake’s improved play should continue.

Blake, in combination with Antawn Jamison, have been integral parts of the Lakers’ recent turnaround.

Dwight Howard Up arrow : ‘Superman’ is back.

Photo: Douglas Jones | USA TODAY Sports
Photo: Douglas Jones | USA TODAY Sports

Dwight Howard is playing his best basketball of the season right now. Even with a rough shooting night in Phoenix, Howard averaged 19.4 ppg and 14.4 rpg in his last five games.

In the Lakers win over the Magic, and Howard’s return to Orlando, Howard set a few records.

With 39 free-throw attempts in that game, he tied the NBA record he set last year against Golden State and established a Lakers standard, blowing past Shaquille O’Neal’s old mark of 31 in 1999 against Chicago.

Howard seems to be healthier and in better condition now. His activity level on both ends of the floor has also gradually improved from game to game.

With Bryant out, Howard seemed to take more of a leadership role on this team. His effective leadership significantly helped the Lakers pull out a win in Indiana.

As long as Howard stays relatively healthy, there is no reason why he won’t return to his supremely dominant self by the playoffs.

Antawn Jamison Up arrow : Like many of the Lakers’ player in Phoenix, Antawn Jamison struggled to find the basket.

Jamison did have great games against Indiana and Sacramento this past week, however.

Against Indiana, Jamison’s three-point shooting helped the Lakers overcome the Pacers’ stout defense. Jamison made 4-7 threes and finished with 17 points and 7 rebounds.

The next game, against Sacramento, Jamison had an even better performance. Jamison made 5-8 three pointers and finished with 27 points and 9 rebounds.

D’Antoni’s short 7-man rotation has paid dividends for both Jamison and Blake off the bench. Both players seem much more comfortable now playing starter-type minutes.

The key will now be whether or not Jamison can continue his stellar play once Bryant and Gasol return.

Metta World Peace Up arrow : Metta World Peace seems to have finally climbed out of his month-long shooting slump.

Photo: Ross D. Franklin | AP
Photo: Ross D. Franklin | AP

World Peace scored double-digit points in each of his last five games. World Peace averaged 17.4 ppg and 4.6 rpg over that stretch.

After the win over Sacramento, World Peace informed the media that he had been dealing with a leg injury.

World Peace claimed that the injury had been hampering his ability to defend as well as post-up.

It seems that that injury has now healed and World Peace is on his way to returning to his early season form.

Steve Nash Up arrow : Both Steve’s played consistent basketball this past week.

Steve Nash averaged 15.0 ppg and 6.8 apg over his past five games. Nash also hit a season-high in assists against Sacramento, dishing out 12 dimes.

Since Bryant went down with injury, Nash has increased his playmaking role. Nash continues to find his teammates in good operational areas on the offensive end.

Nash has also become more aggressive shooting the ball. Nash attempted double-digit shot attempts in four out of the five games last week.

With Bryant and Gasol returning soon, the onus will fall on the Lakers’ veteran backcourt to make sure the offensive cohesiveness continues.

Earl Clark even: Earl Clark can’t seem to get out of his recent funk.

Despite shooting 42.9% from the field, Clark only averaged 6.6 ppg in his last five games.

Clark did average 6.2 rpg this past week, but the Lakers could use even more production from the 6’10” forward.

Recently, Clark has been settling for jump shots way too often. When Clark first emerged as a legitimate scoring threat earlier this season, he was attacking the basket with great ferocity.

In recent weeks Clark seems to have let off the gas a little.

Clark’s knee injury may be more serious than we understand, but the Lakers could certainly use the ‘attacking’ Clark going forward.

Jodie Meeks Down arrow : Tough week for Jodie Meeks.

Photo: Reed Saxon | AP
Photo: Reed Saxon | AP

Even with Bryant being out for an extended period, Meeks just couldn’t find much consistency on offense.

Meeks, who started in place of Bryant for two games, averaged 5.6 ppg but only shot 30.3% from the field.

As Jamison, Nash and Blake continue to shoot the ball exceptionally well, the Lakers are really only waiting on Meeks to catch up.

Hopefully with Bryant’s return, Meeks will become more comfortable off the bench and return to his sharp shooting behind the arc.

Robert Sacre Down arrow : Robert Sacre appeared in limited minutes against Orlando, Indiana and Phoenix.

Sacre did score 2 points and grab a rebound against Indiana.

Darius Morris Down arrow : Darius Morris appeared late in the Lakers’ loss to Phoenix when the game was out of reach.

Morris attempted two shots and made one free-throw.

Chris Duhon Down arrow : Chris Duhon appeared only in “garbage-time” against Phoenix this week.

Devin Ebanks Down arrow : Devin Ebanks also appeared late in the loss to Phoenix, but failed to score.

Kobe Bryant Injury sign : Kobe Bryant sprained his left ankle in the fourth quarter of the Lakers’ loss to Atlanta. The injury occurred when Bryant elevated for a shot and opposing defender Dahntay Jones slid under him.

Bryant claimed afterwards that the play was dirty because Jones did not give Bryant room to come down from his jump shot.

The play was reviewed by the NBA and decided that the play should have been called a foul on Jones, but no punitive damages resulted.

The play, for those of you who have not seen it yet, can be seen here.

Bryant is currently listed as ‘day-to-day’, but is expected to play in the Lakers’ next game, Friday vs. Washington.

Pau Gasol Injury sign : Pau Gasol continues to make his recovery from his partially torn plantar fascia.

Earlier in the week, there were murmurs that Gasol might play against Sacramento. He did not, but the Lakers remain optimistic that Gasol may also be ready for Friday’s game against the Wizards.

Stay tuned for next weeks’ Lakers Stock Watch as the Lakers try to solidify a playoff berth battling Washington and Golden State.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images
Photo Credit: Getty Images
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Kobe Bryant is doubtful for tonight’s game against the Phoenix Suns. After sustaining his ankle injury in the last seconds of the Atlanta Hawks game he played for only a quarter of the win against the Indiana Pacers and did not dress Sunday in the win versus the Sacramento Kings. Via Twitter, Kobe announced he has the #flu alongside his ankle injury. Before Sunday nights game, coach Mike D’Antoni talked to ESPNLA reporter Dave McMenamin on when Kobe will return.

“I think the determining factor is whether he feels like he can contribute and feels like, ‘I’m good enough to play,’” D’Antoni said. “He’s been in the league a long time, he knows his body and he’ll have to make that determination.”

Speculation began to build around tonight’s game as Pau Gasol had planned on returning from his torn Plantar Fascia. However, Saturday Pau felt soreness in his foot after a 2 on 2 game at the team’s practice facility.

“It was to be expected,” Gasol said of the soreness. “As you raise the intensity in the amount of load you put on the foot, it’s going to create a little soreness. It’s a pretty normal reaction with the injury that I had.”

On Sunday Pau met with foot specialist Dr. Kenneth Jung. Those results have yet to be announced but Gasol will undergo an ultrasound on his foot Tuesday. The next possible date for Gasol’s return would be Friday against the Washington Wizards but D’Antoni doesn’t want to get his hopes up just yet.

“You just never know,” D’Antoni said. “There’s really been no contact yet or 5-on-5, he’s working out pretty hard. It’s going to be sooner rather than later. Whether it’s Friday or not, you just can’t tell.”

Gasol, who missed his 32nd game of the season Sunday, was noncommittal about when he would be back.

“I don’t want to put any date so there are no surprises or disappointments,” Gasol said before the Kings game.

Forward Jordan Hill has begun feverishly working out in hopes to return in late April or early May. Ruled out since January with hip surgery, Hill believed he was done for the season. Despite the news he will be reevaluated in April to check his progress. D’Antoni believes it would be a long stretch for Hill to return so soon as the elliptical machine is different than an NBA game.

“Even if he could come back, to get back in shape and get in the rotation, that would be tough,” D’Antoni said. “That would be a miracle.”

Even with both stars and Hill currently out for the Lakers they have begun surging as of late. With a record of 11-3 since All-Star break (2-0 without Kobe, yes Indiana does count) the Lakers are undergoing a stretch where Dwight Howard, Steve Nash, and team’s role players are finding continuity and an identity.As ESPNLA reporter Ramona Shelburne reported, it couldn’t have come at a better time.

“The ball moves and there are some good guys out there on the floor,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said. “Antawn has had back-to-back 50-point games in this league. Steve Blake is starting with a good team and has played really well in this league. Steve Nash is a two-time MVP. And Dwight Howard is really good. So we don’t have to be one player dominant.

“That ball needs to move and, if it does, then we are really good.”

Ball movement early in the season was as consistent as the Lakers were inconsistent. Too many times the team had to lean on Bryant to bail them out of close calls. However with Kobe out of the lineup and shots falling, the team is making a case that without two of their best players they are still better than people perceive.

“I was talking to Metta [World Peace] and he was like, ‘Now it’s our time to finally play our style, posting up and things like that,’” Jamison said.

“You’ve got guys being accustomed to being the man or being the first and second option,” he said. “We know how to do this and play with each other. And guys are eager to show — when somebody is hurt, when my time comes — we won’t miss a beat.”

The Lakers have three players in Howard, Jamison, and World Peace, who at different points of their careers were leading scorers for NBA teams. They have Nash who once was a two-time MVP and league leader in assists. Steve Blake and Jodi Meeks both were starters for teams and averaged over 10 points per game. Earl Clark was a lottery pick who never got a real chance until this year.  Coming to LA everyone knew that things were going to change and sacrifices were to be made. Yet now, they have the chance to live up to the expectations of the purple and gold standard.

“We’re just not making any excuses,” said Jamison, who finished with a game-high 27 points Sunday.

“I think once we finally had our back up against the wall and people were counting us out, that’s when we kind of went, ‘OK, we’ve got to start playing better.’ There’s no excuse for us not to turn this thing around and make it one of the best stories in sports.’”

The Lakers resume play tonight against the Phoenix Suns at 7:00 pacific time.

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Photo: Noah Graham | Getty Images
Photo: Noah Graham | Getty Images
Photo: Noah Graham | Getty Images

The Lakers are back in the playoff picture!

Finally, after a 3-1 week with wins over New Orleans, Toronto and Chicago, the Lakers have jumped to the 8th seed in the Western Conference.

The Lakers began the week with a tough loss in Oklahoma City, 122-105. In that game, the Lakers conceded 71 points in the first half and were never able to comeback from the early deficit.

The next night, the Lakers conceded 67 points in the first half for another dismal start in New Orleans. The Lakers eventually fell behind by 25 points, but thanks to a 20-0 run to close out the game, they roared back to win 108-102.

Returning home for a quick two-game home stand, the Lakers continued their trend of falling behind early. Thanks to some late-game heroics from Kobe Bryant, however, the Lakers pulled out a win, 118-116 in overtime.

The Lakers finally broke their habit of suffering early deficits by controlling the full game against the Chicago Bulls. A dominant paint presence by Dwight Howard helped the Lakers beat the injury-riddled Bulls by a score of 90-81.

With their three wins this weak, the Lakers are now two games over .500 with a record of 33-31.

With only 18 games left in the 2013 regular season, the Lakers currently hold the 8th seed in the West, but are only a 1/2 game ahead of the Utah in the standings.

Take a look back now at the changes in the Lakers’ stock values and the impact the players should have going forward:

Kobe Bryant Up arrow : Kobe Bryant, or ‘Vino’ as he now calls himself, is having arguably the best stretch of his 17-year career. At 34 years old, Bryant averaged 33.0 points per game, 7.0 assists per game, and 5.8 rebounds per game this past week.

Bryant also shot 50.6% from the field and 58.9% from three-point range.

Bryant had back-to-back spectacular games against New Orleans and Toronto. He was the main catalyst in the Lakers’ terrific 20-0 run, scoring 42 points and dishing out 12 assists to lead the team to victory.

Bryant followed up that performance with a similar one against Toronto— 41 points, 12 assists and 6 rebounds. Hitting remarkable shots late, Bryant’s play helped the Lakers come out on top in overtime.

The greatness of Bryant’s seemingly ‘superhuman’ abilities is capsulated below:

Bryant’s unmatched determination is the main reason why the Lakers have crawled back into the playoff race.

This recent stretch of excellent play did not come easy for Bryant, however. Bryant struggled finding a balance between scoring and facilitating earlier this season.

It seems that Bryant has now found this elusive balance between over-shooting and over-facilitating. As shown by his efficient scoring and passing, Bryant’s leadership of this Lakers team has reached a new level.

Despite suffering an ulnar nerve contusion in his right elbow against Oklahoma City, Bryant overcame the adversity to lead his team to another terrific week.

Dwight Howard Up arrow : Along with Bryant’s superb play, Dwight Howard has also picked up his play since the All-Star break. Howard’s control of the glass and defensive paint were especially key in all three Lakers victories.

Photo: Stacy Revere | Getty Images
Photo: Stacy Revere | Getty Images

Howard averaged 16.5 ppg, 16.3 rpg and 3.3 blocks per game over this past week. Howard’s consistent scoring has been icing on the cake in concert with his elevated focus on the defensive end.

If Howard can continue controlling the boards on both ends of the floor, the Lakers should continue to flourish.

The main issue that has hampered Howard of late is foul trouble. With Pau Gasol still out with a foot injury, Howard needs to be on the floor for the Lakers to be successful.

Howard looks much healthier since the All-Star break, however. His legs seem to be coming back now and his explosive finishing ability is improving.

A focused Howard, matched by a hungry Bryant, will be the key to any Lakers playoff push.

Steve Nash Up arrow : As Howard and Bryant understand how to play with each other more, Steve Nash has also started to settle into his role.

Nash significantly increased his scoring load this past week, averaging 15.8 ppg on 48.9% shooting from the floor.

With Bryant dominating the ball on offense, the two-time MVP has been forced to change his approach. Nash seems to be making this transformation now and his scoring has clearly benefited.

Nash’s three-point shooting ability has also helped open up the floor for the Lakers’ big men. Nash shot 50% from three-point range this week, including 4-6 threes against Toronto.

The Lakers are finally playing their best basketball of the season, and Nash’s sacrifice in playing off the ball has had a huge impact on this turnaround.

Jodie Meeks Up arrow : With consistent playing time off the bench, Jodie Meeks has become a solid contributor on both ends of the floor.

Photo: Gerald Herbert | AP
Photo: Gerald Herbert | AP

Meeks’ three-point shooting was deadly this week, as he shot 55.6% from behind the arc.

Benefitting from Bryant’s facilitating, Meeks hit five three pointers to help bring the Lakers back against New Orleans.

Although Meeks is an under-sized shooting guard, his fierce competitive nature has earned him the opportunity to play behind Bryant.

His lack of size was evident when Meeks was routinely isolated on the block against Toronto.

But his unrelenting intensity on the defensive end helped stop the Raptors late and seal the victory.

With Meeks finally shooting consistently from behind the arc, the Lakers’ offensive attack becomes scary.

Antawn Jamison even: After a solid few weeks off the bench for Antawn Jamison, his production sputtered some this week.

The Lakers’ sixth-man only averaged 7.3 ppg and 5.3 rpg over his last four games. In comparison, Jamison averaged 13.7 ppg on 50% shooting and 6.3 rpg last week.

Jamison’s scoring ability has been a huge boost off the bench for the Lakers this season, but they certainly need him to return to his double-digit scoring.

With Howard holding down the paint, Jamison should take advantage of his outside opportunities. Bryant’s penetration will continue to create opportunities for his teammates, and Jamison must capitalize.

Steve Blake even: Although Steve Blake has been playing well since returning from injury, Blake’s production slipped some this week.

Photo: Brett Deering | Getty Images
Photo: Brett Deering | Getty Images

The Lakers are 14-6 since Blake’s return on January 29th, but Blake only averaged 4.0 ppg this week.

Blake did average 5.0 apg over the last four games, however.

With Nash scoring the ball at a higher rate now, the onus on Blake to score may be lifted some.

That certainly doesn’t mean the Lakers wouldn’t welcome Blake’s scoring, but his role, as the bench’s “floor general”, is much more important at this point in the season.

Metta World Peace even: Another tough shooting week for Metta World Peace.

Although World Peace had been shooting the ball better last week, he returned to his inconsistent form this week.

World Peace averaged 10.3 ppg, but only shot 40.2% from the field and a dismal 27.5% from three-point range.

The consistent play of Bryant, Howard and Nash has created many scoring opportunities for World Peace.

As a result, the 6’9” small forward needs to start capitalizing on these opportunities. If he doesn’t, opposing defenses will shift their focus away from him, forcing him to hit shots.

Despite another shooting slump this week, World Peace’s defense was solid. World Peace played great defense late in the win over Toronto, limiting star Raptor Rudy Gay to just 2-15 shooting in the second half.

World Peace’s role on the Lakers is certainly not to be a prolific scorer, but they could certainly use more consistency from him going forward.

Earl Clark Down arrow : The biggest surprise of this season has officially hit a wall. After Earl Clark’s great January and February, he has struggled mightily in March.

Photo: Gerald Herbert | AP
Photo: Gerald Herbert | AP

Clark averaged 9.5 ppg, but only shot 25.2% from the field this week.

Clark’s rebounding numbers have also dipped recently, as he only averaged 5.5 rpg over the past four games.

The Lakers have to hope that Clark will return to his active, productive self once Gasol returns to the lineup.

The return of Gasol will hopefully relieve some of the pressure off Clark and help him become comfortable again.

In the meantime, however, the Lakers need Clark to bring more to the table on a nightly basis.

Clark seems to be struggling with opposing teams making adjustments. Earlier in the season, the Lakers’ starting power forward excelled because opposing teams just weren’t ready for him.

Now, with opposing defenses adjusting to his tendencies, Clark must make the counter-adjustments himself to return to the level of productivity he experienced earlier in the year.

Robert Sacre Down arrow : Robert Sacre appeared in limited minutes against Oklahoma City and New Orleans, but failed to score in either game.

Sacre has since been assigned to the Lakers’ developmental league-affiliate, the LA D-Fenders.

Darius Morris Down arrow : Darius Morris did not appear in a game this past week.

As he continues to receive little to no minutes on the Lakers’ bench, Morris was also assigned to the D-Fenders this week.

Chris Duhon Down arrow : Chris Duhon appeared only in “garbage-time” against Oklahoma City this week.

Photo: Pau Gasol | Twitter
Photo: Pau Gasol | Twitter

Devin Ebanks Down arrow : Devin Ebanks failed to appear in a game this week.

Pau Gasol Injury sign : Pau Gasol continues to make his recovery from his partially torn plantar fascia.

Gasol, now in week four of his 6-8 week recovery time, has been cleared to begin running on the treadmill.

Hopefully Gasol is able to return sooner than later, and make an immediate impact for the surging Lakers.

 

Stay tuned for next weeks’ Lakers Stock Watch as the Lakers try to solidify a playoff berth battling Orlando, Atlanta, Indiana and Sacramento.

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Image Credit: Noah Graham | Getty Images
Photo: Noah Graham | Getty Images

The Lakers continue crawling back into the playoff picture.

A 2-1 week, coupled with losses by Utah and Golden State, certainly helped their cause.

The Lakers lost a difficult game in Denver, 119-108, in which Kobe Bryant scored a game-high 29 points.

Returning home for a quick two-game home stand, the Lakers beat the Minnesota Timberwolves handedly, 116-94. The Lakers followed up that win with an exciting victory over the Atlanta Hawks, 99-98.

With their 2-1 record last week, the Lakers made it back to the .500 mark at 30-30, for the first time since December 28th.

With only 22 games left on the regular season schedule, the Lakers are currently just 2 games back of the Utah Jazz for the 8th seed in the Western Conference.

Take a look back now at the changes in the Lakers’ stock values and the impact the players should have going forward:

Kobe Bryant Up arrow : Even at his elderly age of 34, Kobe Bryant continues playing spectacular basketball.

Bryant even gave the Lakers’ faithful some fireworks late in the win over the Hawks. (If you haven’t seen the play yet, you better just click ‘Play’ below):

Bryant’s exceptional play of late is a testament to his work ethic, diet and determination to make the playoffs.

After the Lakers’ win over the Timberwolves, Bryant had this to say about his mindset:

“I’ve been in attack mode since the [All-Star] break,” Bryant said. “It’s go time.”

It’s certainly been “go time” lately.

Along with his spectacular plays this past week, Bryant was also named the Western Conference Player of the Month for the month of February.

Bryant averaged 23.9 ppg on 48.9% shooting, 6.6 apg and 6.7 rpg in February to be named Player of the Month.

Coming off the award this past week, Bryant topped those averages. In the past three games, Bryant averaged 32.0 ppg on an efficient 52.8% shooting, 6.0 apg and 5.7 rpg.

With Bryant now in full “attack mode”, and the Lakers playing better team-basketball, the rest of the league should be on notice.

Bryant also created a new self-proclaimed nickname for himself this week; the new nickname is ‘Vino’—Spanish and Italian for wine, since he seems to get better with age.

Antawn Jamison Up arrow : The Lakers’ sixth-man has officially returned to his old self. Antawn Jamison is playing the most consistent basketball right now of any Laker not named Kobe.

Photo: Harry How | Getty Images
Photo: Harry How | Getty Images

Jamison averaged 13.7 ppg on 50% shooting and 6.3 rpg. Jamison’s scoring ability has been a huge boost off the bench for the Lakers.

With Pau Gasol still out for another 2+ weeks, Jamison’s consistency has helped keep the Lakers afloat in his absence.

Jamison’s ability to find creases in the defense and move without the ball earned him an endearing nickname from his fellow teammate.

Bryant, who has had a field day of creating nicknames this week, gave Jamison the nickname ‘cockroach’ because he “keeps finding the cracks”.

Jamison, who has averaged 19 points per game for his career, finally seems comfortable in Los Angeles. A defined role and consistent minutes have yielded great performances from Jamison.

This past week, Jamison also gave some insight on what has been the Lakers’ deciding factor in their recent turnaround.

Steve Blake Up arrow : Another player who seems to have found his comfort zone is Steve Blake.

Since Blake’s return on January 29th, the Lakers have gone 11-5 in that stretch.

Blake’s scoring has been an added bonus to the bench unit, but his ability to control the tempo has been key. When Steve Nash goes to the bench, Blake’s ability to control the pace and keep the offense flowing has been important.

Over the past week, Blake averaged 8.0 ppg on 66.7% shooting and 40% from three, 5.0 apg and 3.7 rpg.

Blake’s return to the lineup has had a direct impact on players like Jodie Meeks and Jamison. His ability to create plays for himself and his teammates was something the Lakers dearly missed earlier in the year.

Dwight Howard Up arrow : Dwight Howard didn’t have the best week offensively, but his defensive presence and rebounding were key in the Lakers’ wins.

Photo: Noah Graham | Getty Images
Photo: Noah Graham | Getty Images

Howard only averaged 12.3 ppg, but did average 14.0 rpg in his past three games. The Lakers certainly need Howard to be more dominant in the paint on offense, but those rebounding numbers are promising.

Howard looks to be recovering from both his back and shoulder injuries. Although his torn labrum will not heal on its own, Howard has done a much better job playing through the pain.

Not only has Howard looked more “springy” lately, but he also seems to be getting some of his conditioning back. With a focused Howard on the defensive end and a focused Bryant on the offensive end, the Lakers’ attack should be deadly going forward.

Howard continues to struggle on post moves with his back to the basket, however, so he should instead focus more on rolls to the basket and easy put backs off offensive rebounds.

The Lakers need more than 12 points a game from Howard, but if he continues patrolling the paint like he’s been doing, the Lakers should be fine.

Steve Nash even : Despite an off shooting night in the Lakers’ win over Minnesota, Steve Nash completed the week with a solid performance against Atlanta.

Photo: Noah Graham | Getty Images
Photo: Noah Graham | Getty Images

Nash shot just 4-12 from the field against the Timberwolves, but did contribute 7 assists in the win.

Nash followed up that performance with a stellar game against the Hawks. Nash scored 15 points and dished out 10 assists, which led to a victory.

The main issue hampering Nash of late has been turnovers. Nash had six turnovers in the loss to the Nuggets and five turnovers against the Hawks.

The Lakers, who have been hampered by turnover problems all season long, need to cut down on them in the future.

When the Lakers play quick, athletic teams, they especially have to limit their mistakes and clean up their protection of the ball.

Limiting the turnovers starts with the point guard, and Nash must take it upon himself to take better care of the ball going forward.

Metta World Peace even : This past week Metta World Peace seemed to climb out of his shooting slump some.

World Peace scored 15 points on an efficient 54.5% shooting against the Nuggets. He followed up that efficient shooting with a poor shooting display of 2-7 against Minnesota.

World Peace was especially key in the Lakers win over the Hawks, however. The Lakers’ strongest perimeter defender helped slow down both Josh Smith and Al Horford on the defensive end.

In combination with his solid defense, World Peace also scored 13 points on 62.5% shooting. This efficient shooting was key, especially late in the fourth quarter, when World Peace made an important three-pointer to keep the game close.

With Bryant, Nash, Blake and Jamison playing efficiently on the offensive end, defensives will begin to adjust by keying-in on those players. World Peace can be the ultimate beneficiary of this, if he can end his slump and shoot the ball consistently.

Jodie Meeks even : Backup shooting guard Jodie Meeks had yet another inconsistent week. Despite scoring 16 points against Minnesota, Meeks did little in the Lakers’ other two games.

Photo: Luis Sinco | LA Times
Photo: Luis Sinco | LA Times

Meeks, the Lakers’ most proficient three-point shooter, did shoot 42.9% from three-point land, but his one point performance against Atlanta is unacceptable.

Both Jamison and Blake have found consistency producing when coming off the bench, so if Meeks can find that consistency as well, the Lakers’ bench will be that much better.

Although Meeks has been playing well of late, averaging 9.0 ppg in his past 10 games, the Lakers could use more production from behind the arc.

Bryant’s high level of play alleviates the pressure off Meeks, but if Meeks can match some of Bryant’s production, it could help reduce the minutes of the NBA’s minutes-played leader and save Bryant’s legs.

Earl Clark Down arrow : It seems that Earl Clark has finally come back down to Earth.

Photo: Mike Ehrmann | Getty Images
Photo: Mike Ehrmann | Getty Images

After a breakout January and a solid early-February, Clark has struggled in his last few games.

Clark averaged just 6.3 ppg and 4.0 rpg over the past week. These numbers need to improve from the Lakers’ starting power forward going forward.

It’s obvious that opposing defenses have started to figure out Clark’s game and have adjusted accordingly. The onus now falls on Clark to make his adjustment and return to his productive form.

The key to Clark’s early success was his unrelenting desire to grab offensive reb0unds and attack the rim. Clark’s low rebounding numbers have had a direct impact on his recent poor play.

Until Gasol returns, the Lakers desperately need Clark to return to form and continue attacking the rim. Clark, one of the few young, athletic players on the Lakers, gives the team a different dimension.

This dimension is important because it allows the Lakers to play at multiple paces and keep the ball flowing quickly on offense.

If Clark can return to even half of what he once was, the Lakers could be real, real scary.

Chris Duhon Down arrow : Chris Duhon played 6 minutes against Minnesota in garbage-time. Duhon did record 3 assists in his short time on the floor, however.

Coach Mike D’Antoni seems set on his eight-man rotation now and Duhon is on the outside looking in.

Robert Sacre Down arrow : Robert Sacre is in the same predicament as Duhon. Sacre only played against Minnesota as well, registering 4 points and 1 rebound in 5 minutes of play.

Darius Morris Down arrow : Darius Morris played 5 minutes against the Timberwolves too, registering 1 assist and 1 rebound.

Devin Ebanks Down arrow : With the Minnesota game out of reach late in the fourth quarter, even the rarely used Devin Ebanks got a chance to play. Ebanks played 2 minutes but did score 2 points and grab 3 rebounds in his first opportunity to play since February 7th.

Pau Gasol Injury sign : Pau Gasol continues his rehabilitation from the partially torn plantar fascia he suffered on February 5th.

Gasol has ramped up his rehab some by doing cardio work on the elliptical machine this week. Gasol is now four weeks into his 6-8 week estimate, so he could possibly return as early as two weeks from now.

Stay tuned for next weeks’ Lakers Stock Watch as the Lakers continue chasing a playoff berth battling Oklahoma City, New Orleans, Toronto and Chicago.

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Photo: Noah Graham | Getty Images
Image Credit: Noah Graham | Getty Images
Image Credit: Noah Graham | Getty Images

The 2013 NBA All-Star break certainly treated the Lakers well this year.

Coming out of last week’s All-Star break, the Lakers have won their last 3 games in a row, and improved their overall record to 28-29 this week.

With Monday’s devastating passing of long-time Lakers’ owner Dr. Jerry Buss, the Lakers rallied around the spirit of their joyous owner.

After a touching pre-game ceremony in the first game since the late owner’s death, the Lakers beat the Boston Celtics handedly, 113-99.

The Lakers followed up that emotional win with a win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday. Kobe Bryant’s 40 points led the Lakers to victory over another team with playoff aspirations.

With two wins under their belts, the Lakers departed Los Angeles for Dallas on Sunday—defeating the 10th-place Mavericks, 103-99.

With 25 games remaining now, the Lakers sit just 2 ½ games back of the 8th seed in the Western Conference.

Also, after the February 21st NBA Trade Deadline this past week, the Lakers’ entire roster remained intact.

Take a look back now at the changes in the Lakers’ stock values and the impact the players should have going forward:

Kobe Bryant Up arrow : At 34 years of age, the man, the legend, Kobe Bryant, continues to play at an extremely high level.

Image Credit: Gary A. Vasquez | USA TODAY Sports
Image Credit: Gary A. Vasquez | USA TODAY Sports

Bryant did not have a particularly great game against the Celtics, but did contribute 16 points and 7 assists in the win. Bryant also made a number of key defensive stops and even dove on the ground for a loose ball late in that game.

It looked like Bryant, despite an off shooting night, really took it upon himself to give 110% effort on such an emotional night for the Lakers.

Bryant responded against Portland and seemingly reverted back to the “scoring-Kobe” of old.

Bryant poured in 40 points on 15-23 shooting, including 9-9 from the free-throw line, and 7 rebounds. Bryant’s perfect free-throw shooting was key in sealing the win late for the Lakers.

It’s pretty difficult to upstage a 40-point game, right? Well, Bryant found a way to do that against Dallas.

Bryant scored 38 points on 13-21 shooting, and contributed 12 rebounds and 7 assists. Bryant also made 5-5 field goals in the fourth quarter to ensure a Lakers’ victory.

Bryant certainly set the tone offensively early and often, and sealed the victory late with tough shots on the perimeter.

Bryant also drained 4-5 three-pointers in that game, effectively ending his recent “drought” from behind the arc.

With these recent performances, it seems that the 34-year-old has finally figured out his toughest challenge this season.

Bryant struggled finding a balance earlier this season between scoring too much and facilitating too often. With averages of 31.3 ppg and 6.0 apg this past week, Bryant seems to have found that elusive balance.

If Bryant continues playing at this high of a level going forward, Bryant and the Lakers will backup his playoff ‘guarantee’.

Dwight Howard Up arrow : Could the passing of the great Dr. Buss have had a direct impact on Dwight Howard as well?

It looks like it may have, coupled with the rest and rehabilitation Howard received during the All-Star break.

Image Credit: David Crane
Image Credit: David Crane

Howard was the main reason the Lakers got off to such a quick start against the Boston Celtics. Howard established himself inside early and often, and looked much more “springy” to start.

Howard finished the game with a team-high 24 points along with 12 rebounds, 7 of which were offensive.

Against Portland, Howard contributed another solid performance with 19 points, 16 rebounds and 2 blocks.

The treatment Howard received during the All-Star break really paid dividends this week, as Howard had the best back-to-back stretch of his short Lakers career.

In the game against Dallas, however, Howard got into early foul trouble. With Pau Gasol still out at least another 4 weeks, the Lakers desperately need Howard to stay out of foul trouble going forward, especially since he’s the only real center in the rotation.

Howard finished with just 9 points but did contribute 13 rebounds, and played solid defense patrolling the paint.

Howard’s ability to contest and alter shots is not something that shows up the stat sheet, but it’s something that has a huge impact on the outcome of games.

As demonstrated by their current three-game winning streak, the Lakers have been effective on both ends of the floor with this more “active” Dwight Howard.

Antawn Jamison Up arrow : Two straight weeks of solid performances from Antawn Jamison have been a huge factor in the Lakers’ recent turnaround.

Image Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea | USA TODAY Sports
Image Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea | USA TODAY Sports

Jamison seems to have finally settled into his role in Los Angeles.

For the month of February, Jamison is averaging 12.7 ppg on 47.5% shooting and 5.3 rpg. Jamison, the Lakers’ sixth-man, has become a considerable threat off the bench.

What once was a glaring weakness for the Lakers, the bench has now become somewhat of a strength. Jamison’s recent play has had a lot to do with this, along with fellow reserves Jodie Meeks and Steve Blake.

Over the last three games, Jamison has averaged 14.7 ppg and 5.3 rpg. This increased production has helped pick up the slack with Gasol injured.

After the Lakers’ win in Dallas, coach Mike D’Antoni had this to say of the bench:

“I think our bench is playing great for us. [Meeks, Jamison and Blake are] crucial to what we’ve been doing as of late.”

If Jamison can continue scoring at this rate, the Lakers’ bench unit will become a potent aspect of this team.

Earl Clark Up arrow : After a tough week last week for Earl Clark, he turned it around this week.

Clark averaged 10.3 ppg and 9.0 rpg in the last three games. Clark’s 14 points and 16 rebounds were especially instrumental in the Lakers’ win over the Celtics.

Clark, who dislocated his left pinky in the win over Portland, has continued to play with solid energy starting alongside Dwight Howard.

It was a welcomed sight to see Clark bounce back from the difficult stretch he had before the All-Star break. That type of resiliency is promising, especially from a young player like Earl Clark.

With Gasol still out with his plantar fascia tear, Clark’s contributions will be paramount in the Lakers’ continued success.

Steve Nash even : Despite a tough 2-11 shooting performance against Portland, Steve Nash finished the week strong.

Image Credit: Cameron Browne | Getty Images
Image Credit: Cameron Browne | Getty Images

Nash scored a huge 20 points against Dallas, including 4-5 from three-point range.

Nash’s clutch three-pointer late in the fourth quarter helped catapult the Lakers to victory.

Nash also had a solid game offensively against Boston, in which he scored 14 points on 6-7 shooting and dished out 7 assists.

One particularly surprising part about Nash’s game this season has been his defense. Sure, Nash is not a lock-down defender by any means, but his defensive toughness this season has been great.

Nash has always had the reputation of being a poor defender, but his solid defense on the perimeter of late should have people revisiting that perception.

Finally, Nash did ‘tweak’ his back in the Lakers’ win over the Trail Blazers. Nash is confident that this injury is only temporary, but did say that it is an acute injury, different from his usual back issues.

With Nash playing 30+ minutes per game, that’s certainly something to keep an eye on going forward.

Jodie Meeks even : Although Jodie Meeks did not shoot the ball particularly well this week (6-14 from the field and 3-9 from behind the arc), he did hit some timely shots.

Meeks averaged 8.7 ppg this week off the bench and contributed defensively with constant hustle.

Despite Meeks’ scoring contributions, the Lakers could definitely benefit from Meeks shooting more efficiently.

Steve Blake even : Since returning to the Lakers’ lineup, Blake has averaged 4.9 ppg and 3.2 apg off the bench.

Although those aren’t the most spectacular stats, Blake’s ability to control the game has been beneficial for everyone on the floor.

Blake’s command of the offense has been a significant upgrade from the inconsistent play of Chris Duhon. Blake’s defensive tenacity has also helped slow quicker opposing point guards.

The Lakers’ bench unit has flourished since his return, but Blake only shot 25% from behind the arc this past week.

Like Meeks, Blake’s three-point shooting efficiency could also use a boost going forward.

Metta World Peace even : Had Metta World Peace not played excellent defense on Paul Pierce and Dirk Nowitzki this past week, he would have received a red down arrow.

World Peace struggled mightily from the floor this week, shooting a measly 9-29, or 31%, from the field. World Peace also shot 30.8% from three-point range.

Image Credit: Wally Skalij | LA Times
Image Credit: Wally Skalij | LA Times

Opposing defenses continue to leave World Peace wide open on the perimeter, and he has to knock down those shots in the future.

With defenses keying in on Bryant, Nash and Howard, World Peace has become the open player.

If World Peace keeps struggling like this, opposing teams will continue scheming their defenses towards allowing World Peace to shoot as much as he’d like.

Despite his offensive struggles, World Peace did play excellent defense in all three games this week.

In the win over Boston, World Peace held Paul Pierce to just 3 points in the second half, despite scoring 23 points in the first half.

Against Portland, World Peace filled up the stat sheet with 6 rebounds, 2 steals and a block. He also had a key defensive stop against the Trail Blazers’ LaMarcus Aldridge late in the fourth quarter.

In Dallas, World Peace played superb fourth quarter defense against a hot-shooting Dirk Nowitzki. Despite Nowitzki scoring 30 points in the game, World Peace locked him down late in the game to seal the victory for the Lakers.

For the Lakers to make the playoffs, however, they will need World Peace to get back on track offensively.

Chris Duhon Down arrow : Reserve point guard Chris Duhon has failed to crack D’Antoni’s “8-man rotation”.

Duhon only played 3 minutes against the Celtics this week, in ‘garbage-time’, but did make a long distance three-pointer in that game.

Robert Sacre Down arrow : Reserve center Robert Sacre continues to sit on the bench, even when Dwight Howard gets into foul trouble.

Even with Pau Gasol still out for an extended period, it looks like Sacre will remain on the bench.

Sacre, however, did have a good time on the bench watching Kobe’s scoring spree against Dallas:

Image Credit: SBNation
Image Credit: SBNation

Darius Morris Down arrow : Point guard Darius Morris did not play this week.

Devin Ebanks Down arrow : Small forward Devin Ebanks also did not play this week.

Pau Gasol Injury sign : Prior to the Dallas game on Sunday, the OC Register’s Kevin Ding gave an update on Pau Gasol’s recovery from his partially torn plantar fascia:

Jordan Hill Injury sign : Kevin Ding also provided an update on injured forward/center Jordan Hill, who is recovering from hip surgery.

Although a long shot, Ding did suggest Hill might be able to contribute for the Lakers if they reach the NBA Finals in June:

Stay tuned for next weeks’ Lakers Stock Watch as the Lakers continue chasing a playoff berth battling Denver, Minnesota and Atlanta.

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Image Credit: Harry How | Getty Images
Image Credit: Harry How | Getty Images

After a 15-day waiting period, the NBA has successfully granted the Lakers a ‘disabled player exception‘ for injured reserve Jordan Hill.

Hill injured his left hip on January 6th in the Lakers’ loss to the Denver Nuggets. Hill then underwent successful, season-ending hip surgery on January 23rd to remove loose bone fragments and repair a torn labrum and damaged cartilage.

Hill is now officially out for a minimum of 6 months. As a result of his long-term injury, the league has finally awarded the Lakers a disabled player exception.

The exception can be used to sign a free agent for about $1.78 million, or in a trade to acquire a player making up to $1.88 million in the final year of his contract.

According to the LA Times’ Eric Pincus, General Manager Mitch Kupchak acknowledged that the team may or may not use the exception, but that it could be used to help lubricate a larger trade.

Along with the disabled player exception, the Lakers still have three separate trade exceptions worth $1.4 million, $1.2 million and $544k. The $1.4 million trade exception, acquired in last season’s deadline acquisition of Ramon Sessions, is set to expire at this year’s trade deadline, however.

With the February 21st NBA trade deadline fast approaching, these exceptions could be useful in making a complicated transaction work under the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement.

The disabled player exception could be used to add a free agent for the rest of the season, but it looks more likely that the Lakers would only use it to help facilitate a trade.

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Photo: Noah Graham | Getty Images
Image Credit: Noah Graham | Getty Images
Image Credit: Noah Graham | Getty Images

Are the real Los Angeles Lakers finally here? Well, they might just be.

Despite a slow start, with losses to Chicago and Memphis, the Lakers finished the week winning two straight games against Utah and Oklahoma City, both in promising fashion.

‘Shooting guard-turned-point guard’ Kobe Bryant led the Lakers to two straight wins over legitimate Western Conference playoff teams. Bryant’s back-to-back games of 14 assists were key in sparking the Lakers’ success and salvaging a 2-2 record for the week.

With Bryant now assuming a facilitator role within the Lakers’ offense, and Dwight Howard taking on more responsibility on the defensive end, the Lakers seem to have found a winning combination as a team. The Lakers remain 6 games under .500 at 19-25, but they may finally be on the road to recovery.

Take a look back at the changes in the Lakers’ stock values and the impact the players should have going forward:

Kobe Bryant (SG / PG) Up arrow : Bryant may have found his all-important niche on this Lakers team. After continuing to struggle against Chicago and Memphis, Bryant significantly changed his plan of attack.

Against Utah and Oklahoma City, Bryant came up only one rebound short of a triple-double, in both games. Bryant registered 14 points, 14 assists, 9 rebounds in the Lakers’ definitive 102-84 win over the Utah Jazz. Bryant then followed up that near triple-double performance with yet another near triple-double vs. Oklahoma City.

Bryant again registered 14 assists, along with 21 points and 9 rebounds, in the Lakers’ 105-96 win over the Thunder for arguably the Lakers’ best win of the season. Bryant also had a hand in limiting opposing All-Star PG Russell Westbrook to 17 points on just 6-22 shooting from the field.

Despite the Lakers’ miserable start to the season, and the mistake of hiring head coach Mike D’Antoni, it seems that the Lakers’ captain, Kobe Bryant, has figured things out in Laker Land. The Lakers have reportedly scrapped D’Antoni’s offense and are now playing with more freedom, and more flow, on both ends of the floor. The Lakers’ chemistry and communication have also seemed to improve on a collective basis.

Image Credit: Reed Saxon | AP
Image Credit: Reed Saxon | AP

Bryant’s new role in the Lakers’ offense has been that of a full-time facilitator; he is now facilitating in a way that gets all of his teammates going early and significantly improves the overall ball movement. Apparently, Bryant is “happy as hell” in the new role as the Lakers’ playmaker because he values winning over scoring.

Bryant’s playmaking has also led to a more balanced scoring distribution for the Lakers’ offense. In the Lakers’ win over the Thunder, for instance, six different players scored in double figures.

The team’s improved ball movement has led to a higher offensive efficiency, as seen by the Lakers’ back-to-back 100+ point games. The improved efficiency, in less offensive possessions, has also translated to better team defense. Opposing teams in the past two games have had less transition opportunities and Bryant has been able to exert more energy on the defensive end, mainly as a result of his reduced scoring role on offense.

Bryant has also learned that slowing down the offense, while utilizing all of the Lakers’ strengths (especially inside), and capitalizing more on easy offensive opportunities, are the main keys to the Lakers’ success going forward.

Bryant’s facilitation and rededication to team-basketball have also energized his teammates. When players, especially those that are used to being ‘go-to scorers’ for their careers, receive more consistent touches on the offensive end, it translates to a more engaged team on the defensive end.

Bryant, along with Dwight Howard and Metta World Peace, have collectively improved the Lakers’ defense, as evident by the 84 points given up to Utah and the 96 points allowed to Oklahoma City. With those three defenders leading the defense, the Lakers’ communication and rotations have significantly improved on that end.

The primary reason for the Lakers’ recent turnaround has been Bryant’s willingness to become an effective facilitator for the team. The change, or scrapping, of the Lakers offense, along with Bryant’s realization that his reduced scoring role leads to a more successful team, have set the standard for the Lakers. The new offense in which everyone “eats more often” seems to be a rallying point for the team and has significantly increased their chemistry on the court.

Players now seem to actually “buy-in” to team concepts and enjoy playing in this new, free system. Bryant’s reduced role also looks to be contagious, as his teammates, especially Pau Gasol and Howard, have accepted and thrived in the Lakers’ new “team-first” mantra.

Expect the Lakers to continue their success and salvage this season as long as Bryant continues to lead the offensive attack through his superb facilitation on the offensive end.

Pau Gasol (C / PF) Up arrow : Gasol is now the Lakers’ permanent sixth man and has been doing a solid job in that role. Despite scoffing at the idea initially, Gasol began cherishing the sixth man role last week. Gasol remains unhappy with his bench role, but is content enough to accept it for the remainder of the season and not request a trade.

Moving Gasol to the bench as the primary backup center to Howard has created balance between the starters and reserves. With Gasol on the bench, Earl Clark has added athleticism and versatility to the starting lineup, along with allowing Howard to get going inside, early and often.

Once Gasol enters the game, usually for Howard, he has continued the Lakers’ dominance inside and there is little drop-off in production from Howard to Gasol.

Most importantly, Gasol is now able to punish the opposing team’s second unit in his natural center position. This was certainly evident in the Lakers’ two wins where he posted 15 points and 7 rebounds vs. Utah then 16 points and 4 rebounds vs. OKC. Gasol’s contributions were the main reason the Lakers were able to outscore both benches of the Jazz and Thunder.

If Gasol continues to play big minutes off the bench, and finish games at the PF position effectively alongside Howard, the Lakers will be a much stronger team, top to bottom.

Earl Clark (PF) Up arrow : The Lakers have officially found another “diamond in the rough” in Earl Clark. Clark’s continued emergence has been an important part of this recent turnaround. His versatility at the power forward position, starting alongside Howard, has given the Lakers a more balanced attack on both ends of the floor.

Image Credit: Mark J. Terrill | AP
Image Credit: Mark J. Terrill | AP

Clark has cooled off offensively of late, but his intangible contributions such as effort, energy and athleticism have been there consistently. Clark also adds a different element defensively as he can guard multiple positions on that end.

Clarks’ ability to defend multiple positions helps with rotations and allows the Lakers to switch matchups more often. With Jordan Hill out for the season, Clark has also added much-needed frontcourt depth that will pay dividends in keeping Howard and Gasol fresh.

Clark’s ability as an offensive “slasher” should also not go unnoticed either, especially with Bryant’s dedication to facilitating. Clark’s speed and superior athleticism have also contributed to a faster pace for the Lakers and led to more fast break opportunities from the start of games.

Over the Lakers’ past two wins, Clark has only averaged 9 points and 5 rebounds, but his energy and defensive presence have helped the Lakers start games quickly. Expect Clark to produce even more with Bryant continuing to facilitate effectively, and as Clark becomes more comfortable in his starting role.

Metta World Peace (SF / PF) Up arrow : Like many of the Lakers, World Peace has also benefited from Bryant’s control of the offense. World Peace has gotten many easy looks from three-point range, which has translated to a higher shooting percentage.

World Peace consequently made five three-pointers and poured in 17 points vs. Utah. He then followed that up by making three three-pointers and 15 points with 10 rebounds against Oklahoma City.

With World Peace receiving easier scoring opportunities on offense, he has been able to rededicate himself more on the defensive end. World Peace, along with Howard, has started to lead the Lakers’ defense on the perimeter. This was clearly evident by Kevin Durant’s 10-26 shooting performance against World Peace’s tenacious defense.

If Bryant keeps up his stellar play and the Lakers’ ball movement continues to flow, World Peace should shoot the ball even more efficiently going forward. His efficient shooting and easier opportunities should also translate into increased energy on the defensive end. Hopefully, if the recent trend continues, World Peace can return to being a “lockdown defender” once again.

Steve Nash (PG / SG) even : Steve Nash as a shooting guard? Well, with Bryant’s focus on facilitating the offense, Nash has effectively become a ‘combo’ point/shooting guard. Bryant is now handling the ball more than Nash is, which makes Nash much more of a scoring threat.

Nash has adjusted well to Bryant, however. Nash was the recipient of multiple Bryant assists in the past two games, which contributed to his back-to-back 15 and 17 points performances.

Regulating Nash to more of a spot-up shooter on offense certainly restricts his biggest strength as a facilitating point guard, but it is not a bad idea when Nash is a five-time member of the 40 / 50 / 90 club*.

Since the Lakers are no longer running D’Antoni’s offense, Nash’s importance as the offensive captain is reduced. Nash can essentially become the Lakers’ second point guard when Bryant goes to the bench and continue effectively executing Bryant’s plan of attack. Nash should continue to be an effective offensive weapon for the Lakers, especially as a shooter and scorer, but his role as the primary ball-handler seems to have permanently changed.

* The ’40 / 50 / 90’ club includes players who shoot at least 40% from three-point range, 50% from the field and 90% from the free throw line. Nash has accomplished that feat five times in his career.

Dwight Howard (C) even : Along with Bryant, Howard finally seems to “get it”. Howard now looks like he understands that he will not always be the first option offensively. Howard also seems to understand he will not always get the ball where he wants it, when he wants it.

Image Credit: Associated Press
Image Credit: Associated Press

This realization and acceptance has been a major key to the Lakers’ recent surge. Howard now seems content on winning, rather than getting 15+ shot attempts per game.

Howard has also started to apply himself more on the defensive end by contesting shots more consistently. He has even started to communicate and rotate more often and more effectively as the last line of defense.

Howard had a disappointing offensive game against Oklahoma City, as he was in foul trouble and only scored 8 points on 3-7 shooting, but he did not allow those struggles to impact his defensive presence. Despite his struggles, Howard remained upbeat and made his presence felt on the defensive end for the entire 29 minutes he played.

Howard was recently quoted as saying that he and Bryant are “two big dogs and [they] bump heads.” Howard continued by explaining that, “Instead of bumping heads, [they] can both do things to lead this team.”

Those things involve Bryant controlling the offense and Howard leading the defense. If Howard remains focused on leading the Lakers’ team defense and returns to being a defensive enforcer, he could return to that three-time Defensive Player of the Year he was in Orlando.

Now, if that actually happens, it could spell real trouble for the rest of the league.

Antawn Jamison (PF) even : Gasol’s demotion to the bench has had an indirect effect on the play of Antawn Jamison. With Gasol coming off the bench, Jamison now has an effective passing big man that can find him cutting or spotting up for threes.

Jamison certainly has struggled with consistency this season for the Lakers off the bench. If his 4-6 for 12 points in 14 minutes performance vs. the Thunder is any indication, he can still be a potent player off the bench for Los Angeles.

Bryant’s focus on facilitating and Gasol’s presence inside will significantly help Jamison’s stock going forward. If Gasol, Jamison and Meeks can find some consistency between each other, it could make the Lakers’ bench a strength, where it has been a weakness for so many years.

Jodie Meeks (SG) even : Meeks continued to receive sporadic playing time as the Lakers’ “pure shooter” this past week. Meeks has played solid the past two games, however, filling in for Bryant when he went to the bench.

Meeks scored 8 points on 3-6 shooting against the Jazz and scored 5 points on 2-3 shooting against the Thunder. Not only was his timely offensive production a spark off the bench, but also his energy on the defensive end, were keys in the Lakers’ victories.

If Meeks returns to being a consistent three-point threat, while playing solid defense, he can become a legitimate backup to Kobe Bryant.

Chris Duhon (PG) Down arrow : Duhon continues to do little to help the Lakers’ cause. As the Lakers primary backup point guard, he brings little scoring or facilitating production to the table.

Hopefully with Steve Blake returning from injury this Tuesday, and Bryant taking on more of the point guard duties, Duhon will be relegated to the end of the bench.

Darius Morris (PG) Down arrow : The fluctuation of minutes for Morris and Meeks continued this week. Before this week, Morris was getting more minutes than Meeks off the bench as the primary backup shooting guard.

Now, Morris has barely seen the court in the past four games. If Meeks becomes a consistent backup to Bryant, Morris could be glued to the bench, yet again.

Morris’s athleticism and up-tempo style of play can be advantageous for the Lakers, but it seems D’Antoni will roll with Meeks over Morris this upcoming week.

Robert Sacre (C) Down arrow : As Gasol settles into his sixth man role as the Lakers’ backup center, Robert Sacre has resumed his role as an ‘emergency big man.’

Barring any type of injury to the Lakers’ frontline or major foul trouble, Sacre will continue his “Sacre-dance” on the bench.

Steve Blake (PG) Injury sign Up arrow : Blake has finally been medically cleared to return to the court and will make his return to the lineup this Tuesday vs. New Orleans. Blake has not fully healed from his groin injury, which stemmed from the lower abdominal strain back in November, but he will attempt to play through it for the time being.

Coach D’Antoni recently expressed his excitement for Blake’s return at practice:

Expect to see Blake come off the bench against the Hornets (or Pelicans) on Tuesday night in limited minutes.

Notes: Jordan Hill had successful hip surgery this past week on his injured left hip. The surgery included the removal of loose fragments, repair of a torn labrum and a microfracture procedure to repair damaged cartilage. Hill is expected to be out approximately six months. Also, reserve SF Devin Ebanks continues his DNP-CD streak.

Stay tuned for next weeks’ Lakers Stock Watch as the Lakers begin their ‘Grammy Trip’ battling New Orleans, Phoenix, Minnesota and Detroit over the next week.

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Image Credit: Brad Graverson | LANG
Image Credit: Harry How | Getty Images
Image Credit: Harry How | Getty Images

According to the Los Angeles Times’ Eric Pincus, the Lakers and General Manager Mitch Kupchak have sent a request to the NBA for a disabled player exception; the request was sent in just before Tuesday’s deadline. This application comes in the wake of the devastating news that F/C Jordan Hill will miss the remainder of the season with a hip injury.

According to Pincus, a disabled player exception can be awarded to a team when a player is projected to be out for the season (until at least June 15). If this request were granted (the league’s response could come sometime in the next week), the Lakers would then gain an additional $1.78 million in spending power.

The amount the Lakers can gain in additional cap space is relevant to half of Hill’s 2012-13 contract, or $1.78M. This exception can be used to sign a free agent or to acquire a player in the final year of his contract, making up to $1.88 million.

In order for the NBA to approve a disabled player exception, the league must evaluate all medical records related to the injury as well as verify that Hill’s recovery time is legitimate.

The following is a list of a few available free agents the Lakers may consider if granted the disabled player exception:

-       Kenyon Martin (PF): both the Lakers and  New York Knicks have been reported as being interested in the 34-year-old forward’s services this season. There have been reservations about Martin’s impact on the locker room and his volatile attitude, which could add even more drama to already drama-filled season for the Lakers. Martin is unique, however, in that he can defend multiple positions well, something the Lakers certainly lack off the bench.

-       Chris Andersen (C): nicknamed “Birdman”, the 34-year-old active rebounder and defender could help fill the bench void created by Hill’s injury. Andersen, like Martin, is another volatile player who might not be worth the risk for the Lakers this season.

-       Delonte West (PG/SG): another potential locker room problem here with West. After being released from the Dallas Mavericks for his behavior earlier this season, the Lakers may want to stay clear of West and his baggage. Despite this, however, West is an above average defender at the 1 and 2 positions, and he can stretch the floor with his three-point shooting ability.

-       Long shot: Derek Fisher (PG): with the report that backup point guard Steve Blake continues to experience complications with his abdominal injury, could the Lakers consider adding a familiar face in Fisher for the long haul? It’s possible and Fisher would certainly appeal to the long-time Lakers’ Fisher-fans, but it seems like a long shot at best.

-       Trade: the disabled player exception can also be used in a trade. If the Lakers continue to struggle as the trade deadline nears (Feb. 21), don’t be surprised if this exception is used in a trade to bring back a player in the final year of his contract, making up to $1.88 million.

The Lakers should receive a response from the league in less than a week. If granted, it will be yet another asset at GM Mitch Kupchak’s disposal to potentially improve the Lakers’ roster this season.

 

* The majority of the information in this article was provided from Eric Pincus’s report.

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Image Credit: Getty Images
Image Credit: Getty Images

Lakers’ F/C Jordan Hill, 25, has been one of the most exciting Lakers to watch over the past year. Acquired by the Lakers last year at the NBA trade deadline, Hill has exceeded expectations in Los Angeles.

This past Friday, however, Hill received some devastating news regarding the hip injury he suffered in the Lakers’ loss to the Nuggets on January 6th.

The Lakers’ most consistent reserve player will miss the remainder of the season with “loose bone fragments in his hip, in addition to a possible labral tear.”

His contribution off the bench has been one of the most consistent things the Lakers have looked forward to, night in and night out. Unfortunately now, the Lakers will be forced to make a push towards the playoffs without their key role player.

 

After the Lakers’ loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, and after the team had received the discouraging news, Hill had this to say:

“I feel like I let down the team,” said Hill. “I let down the fans.”

Hill, the 8th overall pick in the 2009 NBA draft, had been having a career year this season. Hill, one of the few bright spots to this otherwise dismal season, had one of the highest total rebounds per game per 36 minutes at 13.0. In comparison, starting center Dwight Howard only has a 12.5 rpg per 36 minutes average this season.

The Lakers will dearly miss Hill’s ability to keep possessions alive and as well as create extra possessions with his offensive rebounding ability. Hill had an exceptional average of 6.4 offensive rebounds per game per 36 minutes this season.

Hill also described how the injury had happened in the game against Denver:

“Andre Miller drove baseline and Kobe [Bryant], trying to go back and guard him, he accidentally stepped on my foot,” he said. “I stayed in one spot but my hip kept going. It kind of pulled the joint out.”

Unfortunately for both Hill and the Lakers, Hill will definitely need surgery to repair the fragments and prepare his hip for next season:

“I definitely need surgery. It’s definitely mandatory,” said the Lakers forward/center. “I have fragments floating around that need to be out.”

Along with the disappointment surrounding the surgery, the recovery time is not as promising as Lakers fans would like:

“They say about six months, so I have no idea,” said Hill. “I’m just going to see how it turns out.”

Despite this estimated timetable, Hill is expected to get a second opinion to see if he can speed up the recovery time.

Just as his constant energy and effort have become contagious for the Lakers over the past year, Hill remains disappointed he is unable to be out on the court with his teammates and bring those intangibles on a nightly basis:

“I’m a competitor. I take pride in going out there to help my team out,” said Hill. “I’ve probably never missed more than five or four games. Just knowing that I’m never going to return, it definitely hit me. It definitely was a shock.”

With this season still on an up-and-down rollercoaster, the Lakers will receive no comfort knowing their most consistent big man is out for the season. Lakers’ point guard Steve Nash summed up the situation perfectly:

“I’m really, really disappointed for Jordan,” said Nash. “He was one of the bright spots. I thought he was finding a really nice niche with the offense and his energy on the boards and on defense is always going to be great for our depth. It’s another big blow in a season of blows.”

After a 113-93 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers last night, to end a six-game losing streak, you can rest assured the Lakers are doing everything possible to climb out of this early season hole. Hill’s contributions off the bench will be dearly missed this season, but his teammate, Earl Clark, seems to have gotten the message that someone must pick up the slack.

With any championship-aspiring team, when one player goes down with injury, another player must pick them up in their absence. Over the past three games, Clark has shown the ability to fill in nicely for Hill, a welcomed sight especially with PF Pau Gasol still out with a concussion.

As the season wears on, the Lakers will continue to need other players to step up in Hill’s absence. Not only will the Lakers miss Hill’s rebounding ability, but Hill was also one of the more athletic Laker. This older Lakers team lacks an abundance of athleticism, so without Hill in the lineup, they will especially lose athleticism on the interior.

Hill’s improved mid-range shooting ability is also something the Lakers will miss. Hill dramatically improved his shooting stroke this season; he even increased his range to about 15-18 feet. His ability to make opposing post defenders respect his mid-range jumper was something that helped free Gasol and Howard from double teams inside.

It’s a real shame the Lakers, and Hill himself, won’t be able to fully appreciate the fruits of his labor. Hill has put in a lot of work this season and it had shown over the first 32 games he was healthy.

For the Lakers, Hill is a long-term investment, as shown by his two-year extension this past off-season. Once Hill recovers from hip surgery, he should continue to improve his game as well as work himself into one of the best rebounding big men in the NBA.

In the meantime, however, you can rest assured the Lakers’ most consistent player, Jordan Hill, will continue to bring his constant energy and effort this season; only this time it will be from the sidelines.

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Former number two overall NBA draft pick Michael Beasley worked out for the Los Angeles Lakers for a second time Wednesday.