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Kent Bazemore

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February 26, 2014 — 5:00 PM (PST)
FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

Closing out this short two-game road trip, the Lakers head to Memphis to face off vs. Memphis Grizzlies (31-24), who find themselves in the thick of the playoff chase.

The Lakers philosophy last night to play small in order for the Pacers to match up vs. the Lakers’ quickness backfired terribly. The Pacers grabbed 20 more rebounds than the Lakers, including 20 offensive rebounds, and the Lakers could not shoot the ball well, and shot only 34.8 % from the 3 point line.

However, Laker Nation cannot help but to feel optimistic about newly acquired G Kent Bazemore, who has shown the Lakers that he can score well when given the opportunity. In his first 3 games with the Lakers, Bazemore has surpassed his career high during each game, scoring 15, 17, and 23 points respectively.

Now, the Lakers will try to play small vs. arguably the slowest team in the NBA in the Grizzlies, who run their entire offense through their twin towers, C Marc Gasol and PF Zach Randolph.

The only real headline for the Lakers tonight lies upon the matchup of the Gasol brothers, Pau and Marc. Despite scoring only 13 points vs. Pacers, C Pau Gasol has played significantly well due to shedding excess weight from the beginning of the season. Despite the Lakers losing streaks throughout the last 2 months, Gasol has shown Lakers management that he can still be a key piece in a championship run following this season. Meanwhile, Pau’s brother C Marc Gasol has had another solid season despite his mid-season injury, averaging 13.2 PPG and 6.4 RPG. We should expect to see a lot of Gasol post action throughout this game.

Gasol’s counterpart, PF Zach Randolph, who both averages 18.1 PPG and 10.8 RPG, brings a very old school low-post game. Call it what you want, Randolph might possess one of the slowest speed and quickness in the NBA and have trouble dunking the ball, but he uses his body extremely well. He backs defenders down with his tremendous strength and has the excellent ability to position his body in the correct areas of the floor to grab rebounds and get off easy shots.

PG Mike Conley, arguably the most underrated and improved point guard in the NBA, could have easily become an all-star this season, scoring a team leading 18.7 PPG and dishing out 6.5 APG. Grizzlies can consider Conley as the main reason the Grizzlies are in the playoff chase, keeping the team afloat while Marc Gasol missed time due to his injury.

Projected Starters

PG – Kendall Marshall  Mike Conley[Advantage: Lakers]

SG – Jodie Meeks / Courtney Lee [Advantage: Grizzlies]

SF – Kent Bazemore Tayshaun Prince [Advantage: Even]

PF – Wesley Johnson / Zach Randolph[Advantage: Grizzlies]

C – Pau Gasol Marc Gasol [Advantage: Lakers]

Notable Bench Players

Grizzlies: G Tony Allen, Mike MillerNick Calathes

Lakers: PG Jordan FarmarC Chris Kaman, F Jordan Hill, G Marshon Brooks

Bench Advantage: Lakers

Injury List

Grizzlies: Out-F Quincy Pondexter

Lakers: Out-G Kobe Bryant, Out-PG Steve Nash, Out-F/G Nick Young, Out-G Xavier Henry

Keys for Lakers Success

Defensive Rebounding: The Grizzlies play very big, using Gasol and Randolph to their advantage. Randolph is tied for 10th place in offensive rebounding, so whoever guards him has to beat him to the spot and box him out to get rebounds. The Lakers gave up 20 offensive rebounds yesterday and seem to suffer from a huge mismatch down in the paint. As Gasol said during yesterday’s post-game interview, if the Lakers decide to play small and put Johnson on Randolph, “good luck, right?”

Bottom Line

Hopefully, the Lakers limit the Grizzlies to 1 possession by rebounding the ball well. The Lakers have to play with a lot of energy as they have to use their athleticism to their advantage. If the Lakers hit their shots, the will have a good chance to beat the Grizzlies today. However, they have to get the basic fundamentals down, limiting turnovers and grabbing rebounds, to get themselves into position to win tonight’s game.

Prediction

Grizzles: 96-90

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February 25, 2014 — 4:00 PM (PST)
Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

The Los Angeles Lakers take the show on the road as they take a quick road trip as they play vs. one of the Eastern Conference favorites, the Indiana Pacers (42-13)

The Lakers, cannot get away from injuries. F/G Nick Young, who returned Sunday to play his first game in 3 weeks, will sit out during this 2-game road trip as he felt some soreness in his knee that caused him to sit out.

Pau Gasol played very well Sunday, racking up another double-double by scoring 22 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.

Meanwhile, newly acquired G Kent Bazemore has taken full advantage of Mike D’Antoni‘s offensive system, which has given him the green light on the offensive end for the first time in his career. Bazemore has surpassed his career high in points, scoring 15 and 17 points respectively in his first 2 games.

The Pacers currently follow “the rich get richer” motto. When the rest of NBA did not think the Pacers could improve their roster any further, the Pacers shocked everyone by acquiring 76ers best player, G Evan Turner and also C/F Lavoy Allen in a trade for F Danny Granger. 

Turner, who will make his Pacers debut tonight along with Allen, has had his best season so far this season for the 76ers, scoring a career-high 17.4 PPG, while grabbing 6.0 APG and dishing out 3.7 APG. Turner’s brings scoring firepower off the bench when he gives George and G Lance Stephenson a break.

With Turner’s acquisition, the Pacers won’t lose any scoring powers in the Shooting Guard and Small Forward position.

Pacers F Paul George has blossomed into a bonafide NBA Superstar. George plays both ends of the floor significantly well, scoring 22.7 PPG, grabbing 6.4 RPG, dishing out 3.4 APG, and take 1.8 SPG from his opponent which ranks him 8th in the league.

Projected Starters

PG – Kendall Marshall / George Hill [Advantage: Pacers]
SG – Kent Bazemore / Lance Stephenson [Advantage: Pacers]
SF – Jodie Meeks / Paul George [Advantage: Pacers]
PF – Wesley Johnson / David West [Advantage: Pacers]
C – Pau Gasol / Roy Hibbert [Advantage: Lakers]

Notable Bench Players

Pacers: F Evan TurnerF Luis ScolaG CJ Watson, C/F Lavoy Allen

Lakers: C Chris Kaman, F Jordan Hill, Marshon Brooks, PG Jordan Farmar

Bench Advantage: Pacers

Injury List

Pacers: Out-C Andrew Bynum

Lakers: Out-G Kobe Bryant, Out-PG Steve Nash, Out-F/G Nick Young, Out-G Xavier Henry

Keys for Lakers Victory

Out-run the Pacers: Sounds very crazy thinking turning this game into a track meet with Pacers’ having young athletic players like George, Stephenson, and Turner. However, the Pacers do work best when they slow the game down and utilize F David West All-Star C Roy Hibbert. If the Lakers control the tempo of this game by playing they way that D’Antoni likes to, maybe they can catch the Pacers off-guard and make this game somehow competitive.

Bottom Line

The Lakers have to play almost perfect and the Pacers have to play very uninspired basketball for the Lakers to put themselves in position to win tonight’s game. The Lakers have to get off to an excellent start and hit their 3 pt. shots. Otherwise, this will be a very ugly game for the Lakers versus a team that views this season as their best opportunity to win a championship.

Prediction

Pacers: 109-96

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Image: Maddie Meyer | Getty Images

February 23, 2014 — 6:00PM (PST)
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

The Lakers enter tonight’s game riding some momentum and optimism for its on-court product for the first time in months.

The bench carried team to victory in its Friday’s victory vs. Celtics in similar fashion that got them off to a great start this season.

Now, their biggest ammunition from the bench, F/G Nick Young, will return to the floor for the first time in 3 weeks. Young, who suffered a non-displaced fracture of the patella, has arguably been the most consistent Laker this season, bringing instant scoring off the bench and a player who can close out games in absence of SG Kobe Bryant. Scoring 16.9 PPG this season, many voters would have highly considered Young as the front-runner to win the 6th Man of the Year award if the Lakers had more success this season.

Newcomers G Kent Bazemore and G Marshon Brooks, who the Lakers acquired in the PG Steve Blake trade, energized the crowd Friday night by playing with a lot of effort especially on the defensive end. Bazemore, who scored a career high 15 pts. in Friday’s win, will get the start tonight as the Lakers will play small tonight. G Jodie Meeks will slide to the Small Forward position while F Wesley Johnson will start at the Power Forward position.

The Brooklyn Nets are now a much different team since the last time Lakers and Nets played each other in November. The Nets now find themselves in the 8th seed as former Celtics F Paul Pierce and F Kevin Garnett have learned to adapt their game to the rest of the lineup.

Joe Johnson as lead the Nets to skyrocket up the NBA standings after getting off to a historically slow start that drew a lot of concerns throughout Brooklyn. Johnson can score at will at any point in the game, scoring 15.3 PPG on 43.9 % shooting.

Potential History-Making

Fans who watch tonight’s game might be witness to a monumental history tonight. C Jason Collins, who announced he is gay during last offseason, signed with the Brooklyn Nets earlier today on a 10-day contract. A 13-year NBA veteran, Collins will bring another asset that will help with team chemistry and still possesses the ability to guard and rebound the ball well whenever Head Coach Jason Kidd calls his number.

If Collins plays tonight, he will become the first openly gay player to ever play an NBA game.

Projected Starters

PG – Kendall Marshall / Deron Williams [Advantage: Nets]
SG – Kent Bazemore Joe Johnson [Advantage: Nets]
SF – Jodie Meeks / Paul Pierce  [Advantage: Nets]
PF – Wesley Johnson / Andrei Kirilenko [Advantage: Nets]
C – Pau Gasol / Mason Plumlee [Advantage: Lakers]

Notable Bench Players

Nets: F Andray Blatche, F Mirza Teletovic, G Alan Anderson, C JASON COLLINS

Lakers: G/F NICK YOUNG, PG Jordan Farmar, G Marshon Brooks, C Chris Kaman, F Ryan Kelly

Bench Advantage: Lakers

Injury List

Nets: Out-C Brook Lopez, Out-F/C Kevin Garnett, Out-C Shaun Livingston, Out-G Marcus Thornton

Lakers: Out-G Kobe Bryant, Out-PG Steve Nash, Out-G Xavier Henry

Keys for Lakers Victory

Spark from Bench: The Lakers’ entire bench stepped up Friday, closing out the Celtics by playing the entire 4th quarter. Brooks and Bazemore definitely brought energy to a team that lacked any inspiration, engaging fans to the game as they showed appreciation to the newcomers. Although Bazemore will be inserted into the starting lineup tonight, the bench has to contribute as well as they did Friday. Young’s return will instantly boost the Lakers bench, who now have enough healthy bodies to put out on the court.

Bottom Line

If the Lakers stay relatively healthy for once and play with the same effort they did on Friday, they possess the ability and skills to close the rest of this season on a positive note in what fans otherwise call a “lost season”. Whether or Laker Nation wants the Lakers to not play well in order to receive a high lottery pick in the upcoming NBA draft is up for debate.

For tonight, the Lakers definitely have the potential of coming away with another home victory.

Prediction

Nets: 105-101

NOTE: Tonight’s game will be a 6:00 PM start instead of its usual 6:30 Sunday start.

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Image: Justin Edmonds | Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers have acquired guards Kent Bazemore and MarShon Brooks from the Golden State Warriors in exchange for point guard Steve Blake, it was announced Wednesday by General Manager Mitch Kupchak.

After spending the past 3+ years in Los Angeles, Blake was understandably disappointed in leaving the Lakers.

“I’ve loved my time. I’ve loved playing for coach D’Antoni,” Blake said to ESPNLA.com’s Dave McMenamin. “The freedom he gave me as a player … I’m totally grateful.”

Blake also shared the harsh reality of the effects an NBA trade can have.

“The hardest thing is really for my family, really,” Blake said. “I got a wife, three little kids and now I’m going to have to spend four months, probably, away from them and so that’s going to be the hardest part.”

When asked if Blake would consider returning to the Lakers this summer as an unrestricted free agent, he had this to say:

“Absolutely,” Blake said. “I’ve loved my time here. When you spend (time) in some place this long, you start to get comfortable. We loved where we lived, loved the schools my kids were in and always loved the support of the fans and ownership and everybody. So, it’s one of the best places I’ve ever played at and if in the future they wanted me back, I would absolutely, definitely consider it.”

Blake had been averaging 9.5 PPG, 7.6 APG and 3.8 RPG this season for the Lakers–all of which were career highs.

New Lakers:

MarShon Brooks, 25, is a 6’5″ shooting guard with excellent scoring abilities. The third-year guard has averaged 7.8 PPG, 1.4 APG and 2.2 RPG while playing in Brooklyn, Boston and Golden State. Brooks, however, is only averaging 2.6 PPG this season in 5.2 MPG.

Kent Bazemore, 24, is also a 6’5″ shooting guard with tremendous athleticism and great length on the defensive end. The second-year guard has averaged 2.1 PPG, 0.4 APG and 0.6 RPG in the NBA, while also spending multiple stints in the D-League.

Neither Brooks nor Bazemore are under contract past this season. The move does, however, save the Lakers about $4 million in salary and luxury taxes. No draft picks were exchanged in the deal.

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With the Lakers off to a poor start, trade rumors have begun to swirl around Kobe Bryant, leading many to speculate if he'll leave for greener pastures. Kobe puts those rumors to rest in his interview with Yahoo Sports.