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Kyrie Irving

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After a miserable 2013-14 season that led to an unusually long off-season, we finally have something to look forward to. Yesterday, the NBA released the 2014-2015 regular season schedule. After saying goodbye to Pau Gasol, Jordan Farmar, Jodie Meeks, and Chris Kaman (among others) the Lakers will begin the season with many fresh faces. Over the Summer, the Lakers added veterans Jeremy Lin, Carlos Boozer, and Ed Davis along with rookies Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson. They will join returning Lakers Xavier Henry, Jordan Hill, Wesley Johnson, Ryan Kelly, Steve Nash, Robert Sacre, and Nick Young. Oh, and I forgot, after only playing 6 games last season, Kobe Bryant will be hungry and healthy to start the season. A sight that Laker fans sorely missed.

With training camp just around the corner… Here is a preview of the 2014-2015 Lakers Regular Season Schedule:

OPENING NIGHT:

Photo Credit: NBA
Photo Credit: NBA

In 1 of only 3 games on opening night, the Lakers will begin their season at home against Dwight Howard and the Houston Rockets. After sitting out all but 6 games last season, this will mark the first time Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard face each other since Howard’s departure 2 summers ago. It will also mark the first time Jeremy Lin will face his former team after being traded this past summer to the Lakers. In 4 games last season, the Rockets took the season series from the Lakers 3-1. However, after losing key role players in Jeremy Lin, Chandler Parsons, and Omer Asik it remains to be seen how the Rockets will fare this season. After opening night, the Lakers and Rockets will meet again on Nov 19 (@HOU) and Jan 25 (@LAL).

CHRISTMAS IN CHICAGO:

(Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports)

December 25th wouldn’t be Christmas without a little Lakers basketball. However, we’ll have a change of scenery this Christmas when the Lakers play their first holiday game away from Staples since 2006, when they played against Shaquille O’Neal and the Miami Heat. This year, Kris Kringle reunites us with a familiar face when the Lakers go up against Pau Gasol and the Chicago Bulls. This will be the first time Gasol and Carlos Boozer face their former teams after swapping places this Summer. It will also be the first time the Lakers will meet Derrick Rose after sitting out almost 2 full seasons due to injury. The two teams will meet again on Jan 29 when Gasol makes his Staples Center return.

GRAMMY ROAD TRIP:

This season’s Grammy trip seems fairly tame compared to those in years past. In previous seasons, the Grammy trip has lasted as long as 7 games in 12 days. This season the Lakers will only visit 4 cities in a 9 day span. The trip will begin in New York when the Lakers face the Knicks for the first time on Feb 1. Then we head to Milwaukee (Feb 4), where Julius Randle and the #2 overall pick, Jabari Paker, will meet for the first time in the NBA. The trip continues in Orlando (Feb 6), where Randle will go up against another lottery pick, Aaron Gordon (#4 overall). The trip will conclude when the Lakers visit Coach Scott’s former team to take on LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, (Kevin Love? Andrew Wiggins?), and the Cavs in Cleveland on Feb 8.

Last season, the Grammy trip was a 7 game trip where the Lakers went 2-5. This season, being an unusually short trip with no back-to-backs, the Lakers should end the road trip with a winning record. I don’t see Milwaukee or Orlando being much of a threat and we all know how much Kobe loves playing in Madison Square Garden. I expect the Lakers to come away from the Grammy trip going 3-1.

BACK-TO-BACKS:

This season, the Lakers will play a total of 16 pairs of B2B games. They’ll start the season right off the bat playing their first 4 games in 2 sets of home/away B2Bs against the Rockets/Suns and the Clippers/Warriors. The Lakers will be the visiting team for a majority of the games in these B2Bs. They will only play 8 of the 32 games at Staples (one will be an away game against the Clippers), all 8 occur on the first night of the B2B. And of course, as it seems to happen every season, the Lakers will play against the Denver Nuggets in the Mile High City on the second night of a B2B following a Clipper home game on April 8th. The Lakers seem to always struggle in this category, in 38 B2B games (19 pairs) last season, the Lakers ended with a record of 11-27, never winning a set of games. They’re going to need to turn that around this season if they expect to improve.

The 16 B2B match-ups will be against:

10/28-29: HOU/@PHX                    10/31-11/1: LAC/@GSW                11/11-12: @MEM/@NOP

11/18-19: @ATL/@HOU                 12/2-3: @DET/@WAS                    12/14-15: @MIN/@IND

12/25-26: @CHI/@DAL                 1/4-5: IND/@POR                            1/15-16: CLE/@UTA

2/10-11: DEN/@POR                      3/3-4: @CHA/@MIA                       3/15-16: ATL/@GSW

3/24-25: @OKC/@MIN                  3/29-30: @BKN/@PH                     4/7-8: @LAC/@DEN

4/12-13: DAL/@SAC

BATTLE FOR LA:

Photo courtesy of Frederic J. Brown, Getty images.

Fresh off the Donald Sterling fiasco, new Clipper owner, Steve Ballmer, and the rest of the Clipper team will almost certainly have some extra spark this season. Especially after newly appointed Lakers head coach (and former head coach of Clippers superstar Chris Paul), Byron Scott, declared that LA was still a Laker town. The Lakers will face the Clippers the usual 4 times (2 home, 2 away) this season, with the first match coming early in the season on Halloween night as a Laker home game. The remaining match-ups will take place on Jan. 7 (@LAC), Apr. 5 (@LAL), and Apr. 7 (@LAC).

After losing the season opener to the Lakers last season, the Clippers dismantled the Lakers by an average of 36 points in the remaining 3 contests and ended up taking the season series 3-1. The hallway series doesn’t get any easier for the Lakers this season after the Clippers added former Laker Jordan Farmar and Spencer Hawes to their depth chart.

A NEW STORY FOR AN OLD RIVALRY:

Photo: Jason DeCrow AP
Photo: Jason DeCrow AP

The Lakers/Celtics rivalry is a part of NBA history, even though it may not be as enticing these days as they were in the past, regardless if it’s for championships, regular season records, or lottery picks, there will always be a certain buzz surrounding a Lakers/Celtics match-up. This season’s match-ups could be the start of a new story when rookies Julius Randle and Marcus Smart take their places in this historic rivalry. Smart was taken by the Celtics with the 6th pick in the draft, one ahead of Randle. After being drafted, Randle said that he felt he should have been drafted higher. “The teams that passed on me will regret it” he said. Let’s hope he starts when the Lakers face the Celtics on Dec. 5 (@BOS) and Feb. 22 (@LAL).

NEW YORK, NEW YORK:

Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

I wouldn’t normally consider a Lakers/Knicks game to be a “notable” game at the beginning of the season, but this year there are too many stories to ignore. Most of LA is still coping with the fact that Phil Jackson agreed to become the President of Basketball Operations for the Knicks last season, but this season we get the added bonus of seeing the team coached by Kobe’s longtime sidekick, Derek Fisher. Not to mention, there’s that Carmelo Anthony guy who turned down a max contract from the Lakers to re-sign with the Knicks this summer. We can watch all this drama unfold when the Lakers and Knicks faceoff on Feb 1 (@NYK) and Mar 12 (@LAL).

Also, the Brooklyn Nets will be in town to play the Lakers at Staples on Feb 20. Why do I consider this game “notable” you ask? It will be the Lakers first game after the Feb 19 NBA Trade Deadline. It’s never too early to speculate last minute trade deadline deals is it?

OTHER NOTABLE GAMES:

– The defending champion San Antonio Spurs will face the Lakers 3 times this season on Nov 14 (@LAL), Dec 12 (@SAS), and Jan 23 (@SAS).

– LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and the Cleveland Cavaliers will make their first trip to LA on Jan 15 and the Lakers will head to Cleveland as the last stop in the Grammy road trip on Feb 8 for their only 2 meetings of the season.

– Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook will also face Kobe and the Lakers 3 times this season beginning on Dec 19 (@LAL), Mar 1(@LAL), and Mar 24 (@OKC).

– And finally, after all of that, the Lakers will conclude the 2014-2015 regular season with a home and home against the Sacramento Kings on Apr 13 (@SAC) and Apr 15 (@LAL).

It’s obviously too early to tell what kind of success, if any, the Lakers will have this season, but there are encouraging signs. Less back-to-backs than last season along with a shorter Grammy trip will benefit the health of our team. Also, an extended All-Star break will allow the team to rest up to make a push in the second half of the season. If Laker fans have learned anything from the past 2 seasons it’s that health will play a tremendous role in the success of this team. And with a healthy Kobe Bryant ready to start the season, we’re already a leg up over last year.

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NBA Draft
Image: Mike Stobe | Getty Images

To trade or not to trade? That seems to be the question amongst the Lakers’ front office.

According to the Los Angeles Daily News’ Mark Medina, Lakers’ general manager Mitch Kupchak says he is willing to trade the current pick (projected position 1-9) for a good offer. He also wants to trade for another pick for middle/late 1st round.

I have long been an advocate for the Lakers trading their 2014 draft pick regardless of position if it nets them a superstar like Cleveland Cavaliers All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving or Minnesota Timberwolves stud Kevin Love. Both players are ready to contribute right away.

It is no secret the Lakers’ $48 million dollar man, Kobe Bryant, wants to win now. Despite how you may feel about his hefty extension, the Lakers owe it to themselves and Bryant to make sure that they are in the best possible situation when it comes to contending.

Not making the playoffs, or struggling to secure an eighth seed in the Western Conference will be deemed as a failure for the franchise where championship or bust is everything.

Your move, Mitch.

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Photo: USA Today Sports

January 14, 2014 — 4:00 PM (PST)
Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN

The Lakers (16-32) travel to Cleveland to play the Cavaliers (16-32) tonight.

Despite getting PG Steve Nash and PG Steve Blake back, they could not solve defensive deficiencies, allowing 109 points to the Timberwolves.

Nash, who played for the first time since November, played exceptionally well in his limited minutes, scoring 7 points and dishing out 9 assists. However, he will sit out tonight’s game since it’s a back-to-back.

To make matters worse, SG Jodie Meeks and F Jordan Hill left last night’s game due to injuries. Meeks, who will compete in the 3-pt contest during All-Star Weekend, suffered an ankle injury 2 minutes into the game and will miss the rest of this road trip.

Hill, who brings instant energy off the bench, suffered a cervical strain after colliding with his own teammate and his status for tonight’s game remains uncertain.

Meanwhile, the Cavaliers’s fortune has not been much better under Mike Brown’s leadership despite having the Kyrie Irving and Luol Deng duo.

Deng, who was acquired from the Chicago Bulls last month, has averaged 16.2 PPG, 5.3 RPG, and 3.2 APG while playing with the Cavaliers.

A future NBA superstar in the making, PG Kyrie Irving, seeks to lead the struggling Cavaliers into the playoff race. Irving, who averaged 21.7 PPG and 6.2 APG, has showed that he can hold his own against NBA’s elite guards and has even outplayed some of them at times. If Irving can learn how to lead the Cavaliers, no reason exists for them to not be successful.

Projected Starters

PG – Kyrie Irving / Jordan Farmar [Advantage: Cavaliers]
SG – CJ Miles / Steve Blake [Advantage: Even]
SF – Luol Deng / Wesley Johnson [Advantage: Cavaliers]
PF – Tristan Thompson / Ryan Kelly [Advantage: Cavaliers]
C – Anderson Vaerjao / Robert Sacre [Advantage: Cavaliers]

Notable Bench Players

Cavaliers: F Earl Clark, G Dion Waters, F Tyler Zeller, PG Jarrett Jack

Lakers: G/F Nick Young, G Kendall Marshall, G Manny Harris, C Chris Kaman

Bench Advantage: Lakers

Injury List

Cavaliers: None

Lakers: Out-G Kobe Bryant, Out-PG Steve Nash, Out-G Jodie Meeks, GTD-F Jordan Hill

Keys for Lakers Victory

Rebound: If we evaluate the Lakers based on their last month of play, we can see that they cannot play defense and grab defensive rebounds. Therefore, the Lakers have to focus on not allowing the Cavaliers to grab a lot of offensive rebounds in order to try to limit their possessions.

Bottom Line

Both the Lakers and Cavaliers are currently suffering from a multitude of issues. The Cavaliers suffer from locker room issues and players who do not want to play there. Unfortunately, the Lakers have been dealing with trying to maintain the health of their players. Hopefully, the Lakers play with a sense of urgency and relentlessness. They should play with a lot of energy tonight and hopefully come away with a victory tonight.

Prediction

Lakers: 107-104

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Source: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images North America

January 14, 2014 — 7:30PM (PST)
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

Laker Nation can admit it. The Los Angeles Lakers (14-23) currently find themselves stuck in a dire state as they play the Cleveland Cavaliers (13-24) tonight–their final home game before they embark on a 7-game, 12-day Grammy road trip. This will be former Lakers Head Coach Mike Brown‘s first game back at Staples Center since the Lakers fired him after five games last season.

They suffered a huge embarrassing loss vs. inter-city rival Los Angeles Clippers 123-87 last Friday in front of a national audience. The Lakers allowed the Clippers to score 43 points in the first quarter and were outscored 31-8 in the third quarter.

The only Laker who has played at a high level during this losing streak is C/F Pau Gasol. Ever since fully recovering from his respiratory issues, Gasol has averaged 21.8 PPG and 11.6 RPG in his last five games. Gasol has shown what he can do when he is fully healthy and receives the ball near the paint where he can attack, without getting double-teamed.

As the Lakers seek to get at least some if not all of their injured guards back within a few weeks, Gasol was injured vs. Clippers on Friday. Gasol, who has been playing very well since recovering from respiratory issues, received an MRI yesterday, which showed a moderate toe sprain. Gasol is listed as a game-time decision for tonight’s game, but many may hope he rests his toe tonight since they are far outside of playoff race and suffering bad luck with injuries.

However, according to ESPNLA.com’s Beto Duran, Lakers Head Coach Mike D’Antoni expects him to play tonight.

Meanwhile, the Cavaliers’s fortune has not been much better under Brown’s leadership. However, they still seek to make the playoffs this season, evidenced by their acquisition of All-Star SF Luol Deng from the Chicago Bulls for disgruntled C Andrew Bynum‘s contract. Deng, who was supposed to be a major piece in the puzzle for a potential Bulls dynasty before PG Derrick Rose‘s unfortunate luck with injuries, has averaged 18.4 PPG, 6.6 RPG, and 3.5 APG while making his mark as a very high quality on-ball defender.

A future NBA superstar in the making, PG Kyrie Irving, seeks to lead the struggling Cavaliers into the playoff race. Irving, who averaged 21.7 PPG and 6.1 APG, has showed that he can hold his own against NBA’s elite guards and has even outplayed some of them at times. If Irving can learn how to lead his young team quickly, expect to see the Cavaliers in the playoffs this season.

Projected Starters

PG – Kyrie IrvingKendall Marshall [Advantage: Cavaliers]
SG – CJ Miles / Jodie Meeks [Advantage: Even]
SF – Luol DengWesley Johnson [Advantage: Cavaliers]
PF – Tristan ThompsonPau Gasol [Advantage: Lakers]
C – Anderson VaerjaoRobert Sacre [Advantage: Cavaliers]

Notable Bench Players

Cavaliers: F Earl Clark, G Dion Waters, F Tyler Zeller, PG Jarrett Jack

Lakers: G/F Nick Young, F Jordan Hill, F Ryan Kelly, C Chris Kaman

Bench Advantage: Even

Injury List

Cavaliers: None

Lakers: Out-G Kobe Bryant, Out-PG Steve Nash, Out-PG Steve Blake, Out-G Xavier Henry, Out-PG Jordan Farmar, GTD-C/F Pau Gasol

Keys for Lakers Victory

Start Over: Hopefully having 3 days off helped the Lakers players clear their mind and start over. After losing 10 out of their last 11 games, they have to play tonight’s game as their 1st game of this season. Mentally restart their season at 0-0 and forget about what has transpired in the past month. They currently have played with no confidence, energy, heart, or passion since SG Kobe Bryant‘s knee injury, so they have to get back on track mentally to play like they did during the 1st month of this season prior to Bryant’s return.

Bottom Line

Both the Lakers and Cavaliers are currently suffering from a multitude of issues. The Cavaliers seek to effectively incorporate Deng into their team while they battle locker room issues. Unfortunately, the Lakers have been dealing with trying to find healthy players to put on the floor, primarily point guards. Hopefully, the three days off will help the Lakers play with a sense of urgency and edge. Regardless of whether Gasol plays or not tonight, they should play with a lot of energy tonight and hopefully win tonight’s game, and carry some positive momentum into their Grammy road trip.

Prediction

Lakers: 93-90

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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.