To say 2013 was not the Lakers’ year would be an understatement. From the passing of owner Dr. Jerry Buss to franchise players suffering major injuries to big name players opting to leave Los Angeles, it was a year to forget for the purple and gold.
Although it seemed fitting that 2013 ended on such a negative note as the injury-riddled Lakers finished the year with six straight losses, including three in a row to the Utah Jazz, Philadelphia 76ers, and Milwaukee Bucks, teams considered to be the worst in the NBA.
As a result, the Lakers will start 2014 with a 13-19 record and unfortunately for the team and fans, things will not get easier in January.
This month, the Lakers will play 15 games, starting this Friday with a home matchup versus the Jazz and Sunday as they host the Denver Nuggets. From that point on, they will hit the road for 10 out of their next 11 games with notable match-ups against the Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Clippers, Phoenix Suns, Boston Celtics, and Miami Heat. Those 10 road games include the seven game Grammy road trip.
When the Lakers return home on January 28, the Indiana Pacers await them, and then will finish off January versus the Charlotte Bobcats at home.
Six games under .500 with a depleted squad that once again lost point guard Jordan Farmar due to another tear in his left hamstring, there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel for the team, which is again dealing with trade rumors involving disgruntled Pau Gasol and unhappy veterans such as Chris Kaman.
With 50 games left in the season, the Lakers need to start winning games immediately if they have any hopes of making the playoffs. The Western Conference is once again strong and teams will need to be north of .500 to get into the playoffs, unlike in the Eastern Conference where the current fourth seed, Toronto Raptors, are 14-15 while the eighth seed Celtics are 13-18.
Since 2008 (excluding the lockout season), the minimum number of games to reach the playoffs was 45 wins. If that continues to stay true, the Lakers will need to go 32-18 over the final 50 games just to reach that number.
January is a make or break month for the Lakers. Last year, this team made a run towards the playoffs, which coincidentally started in January but this time around, it will be even more difficult with even more injuries, inconsistent offensive, poor defense and questions as to when Kobe will return and if Steve Nash will play again this season.
A few games ago, head coach Mike D’Antoni said this team was ready to turn the corner, then they proceeded to lose to three of the worst teams in the league. With a 6-10 road record, 10 out of 15 games on the road will be a challenge that needs to be met if this season is to be salvaged.
If the losing continues, the Lakers will miss the playoffs for only the sixth time in their history and will be trying their luck in the NBA Draft lottery come June.
Well Nation, this week was a rather eventful one to say the least. Losing Kobe Bryant for another six weeks hurts and just means the Lakers will need yet another player to step up. This past week one player stood out form the crowd and despite the strong and powerful performances by Pau Gasol it wasn’t him. The player of the week is:
Nick Young played at an extremely high level this past week as he put up numbers of 21.5 PPG, 3.5 RPG, and 1.5 APG. The Lakers finished the week with a 2-2 record while losing Kobe Bryant on Friday. Young came off the bench in each contest and managed to make a valuable impact on each game with his scoring and ability to pump up his teammates and the crowd with his “swaggy p” dance.
Young’s excellent energy he brings to the game is something that won’t show up on stat sheets but is one of those intangibles you wish every player could bring to the court.
As long as Young keeps up these scoring numbers he may be the first Laker to repeat as player of the week, but I guess we’ll see how the games go next week!
From day one, the relationship between Pau Gasol and Mike D’Antoni has been anything but cordial and pleasant. During the season and off-season, the relationship was said to be repaired whether it was due to nice dinners or private meetings between the two, but it should not come as any surprise that problems between the two have once again shown its ugly head.
“The fact that I’m not getting the ball in the post affects directly my aggressiveness,” he said. “When I’m not getting the ball where I want to, where I’m most effective, where I can bang guys and utilize my skill, that affects my aggressiveness and overall intensity….
“This year hasn’t been ideal, certain things are not ideal for me, but that’s not going to change any time soon,” he said.
To which D’Antoni responded:
“I can’t lie to him… Our numbers tell us the worst thing we do is post up,” he said.
Which lead us to this response by Gasol:
“I don’t pay attention. Mike is sometimes all over the place, I don’t give much credit to things like that,” he said.
Unfortunately for Gasol, myself and plenty of Lakers’ fans are siding with D’Antoni this time around, which should speak volumes. Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News, published this quote from D’Antoni at shoot around this morning, questioning Gasol’s effort:
“It’s also a nice excuse not to play hard,” D’Antoni said. “That’s a classic, ‘I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.’ Well, you don’t have trouble getting up to the paystub line. You know what you need to do to get your check. You know what to do. They will. They’ll figure it out.”
Gasol’s play dating back to last season as been average at best. This season, he is averaging 14.4 points, 9.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists playing 30.3 minutes a game, but has a field goal percentage of 41%, which is terrible for a center and is the worst in the league for qualified centers, behind Al Jefferson at 44%.
Offensively, he is a shade of his former self and has continued to use D’Antoni as an excuse for his play instead of taking responsibility for it himself. There is zero issue with Gasol wanting to be put in certain spots in the offense, all players want to be comfortable. Where the issue lies is that when Gasol does get into the post, he gets pushed out 5-10 feet from his original position, resulting in long jumpers. Simply put, he can do more by being assertive in the offense, but doesn’t seem interested in doing so more times than not.
On the defensive side of things, there’s not many, if at all any good things to say about Gasol. Although he is battling injuries, there has been times where he does not attempt to jump to block shots and instances where he will shy away from contact. Gasol isn’t a defensive enforcer in any sense, but it’s the effort that bothers me.
Gasol has been a professional on and off the court during his time in Los Angeles. You rarely hear negative things about him, so it’s disappointing to hear a situation like this.
At this point, Gasol has one of two options. The first is to play this season out, keep his mouth shut, and find a better situation for himself in free agency or risk getting traded. The second is simply to demand a trade out of Los Angeles. With the injuries this team has gone through the last two seasons, the loss of Dwight Howard, and the losing, this franchise doesn’t need more distractions as they attempt to get through this season. Unfortunately for Gasol fans, it looks as if a trade could be on the horizon if things do not change.
League sources told Sporting News that the Lakers have been fielding trade offers for Gasol for a while now, and finally could find a new home for their disgruntled big man.
Gasol will earn $19.3 million this year, an obstacle to any deal. But he is in the final year of his contract, making him a workable target for a team hoping to find a short-term big man who won’t sit on the books past this season. Another obstacle—the Lakers are protective of their cap space, and any deal they make would have to include enough expiring salaries to allow them to pursue a max-contract free agent in July.
Could the Lakers find the right deal for Gasol? That’s unclear. They have shopped him for the last three seasons, had in fact traded him in the Chris Paul deal, then kept him around and have turned down offers for the 12-year veteran over the past two seasons.
It’s important to remember that the Lakers will not sacrifice significant cap room unless it’s a player that can help them move forward in their rebuilding process. With Kobe’s extension in place, the team will almost surely look for expiring contracts and draft picks as Sporting News reports, but the question remains if there is a team out there willing to give the Lakers what they want, especially with the inability to trade draft picks until 2019 due to the Steve Nash and Dwight Howard trades.
What happens next is anyone’s guess. This situation seems like it will only get worse but let’s hope a resolution comes quickly so the focus can stay on the basketball court.
Kobe Bryant is still recovering from his torn Achilles tendon but he is making excellent progress. He has publicly said that he has “shattered” the recovering time table for an injury of this calibur and the latest video he put on his Instagram account confirms this even more. The Alter-G Treadmill isn’t an ordinary treadmill, it alters the gravity in the box he stands in so all of his weight isn’t on his healing Achilles. This is a huge step for Kobe because he’s already running on his heel and even though it’s not all of his weight, it’s one step closer to that. The video can be seen below.
It’s great to see Bryant already at this point in his recovery process and it means he’s that much closer to playing basketball again.
Now that Howard has chosen the Houston Rockets over the Lakers reports are coming out with details of his meetings and what Howard’s representatives were saying. According to sources speaking with ESPN.com Howard was looking for a quick end to Bryant’s reign as the leader of the Los Angeles Lakers. It was said that Howard would have a difficult time re-signing with the Lakers if Kobe Bryant were to remain there beyond the 13-14 season, his contract year.
Bryant, while recovering from his Achilles’ tear, has found a new fire in his heart to play another three or four seasons in the NBA and this goes directly against Howard’s wanting to become the face of LA, so he bolted.
“How can it be Kobe’s team and Dwight’s team?” one source said. “It was about the passing of the torch.”
Here’s the part where it gets gutsy. Howard’s camp reportedly asked the Lakers if they were considering using their amnesty provision on Kobe Bryant, seeing that his return to basketball was up in the air due to his devastating injury. It seems quite audacious to ask such a question, in other words, are you willing to throw out Bryant, arguably the best Laker ever, for Howard who hasn’t really proven his worth up until this point. Of course the Lakers said this wasn’t up for discussion and the end of Bryant’s tenure with the Lakers would be up to Bryant himself, you don’t just
throw in the towel on someone of his caliber.
It had even been discussed that Howard, when in talks with Chris Paul about teaming up, said that they both could play in LA for either the Lakers or the Clippers. This would mean however, trading Nash and Gasol to make room for both their salaries, oh and they’d still be amnestying Bryant. Immediately this plan was off the table for the Lakers as they don’t see this as a viable option going forward.
Howard wanted the transfer of power sooner rather than later, and Kobe, now wanting to play three more seasons, was the biggest obstacle in his way. Here’s what Howard had to say regarding his latest decision in free agency.
“I just really think the timing in L.A., it wasn’t right for me,” Howard told ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Dave McMenamin on Friday. “Maybe two years ago, or 2-3 years from now, it would have been the right time. But I just think right now the timing was off for me. That’s not saying that L.A. is a bad place, but I just think it’s all about timing and fit when you’re talking about basketball. You can put anybody together on the court and expect them to win, but the pieces have to really fit in order for a team to be successful and it was very, very tough, man. It’s probably one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever had to make in my life.”
This actually makes a whole lot of sense when you look at it from Howard’s perspective, should this have happened a couple years ago or a few years into the future Howard may have re-signed with LA as the timing would have been more appropriate. With Bryant still leading the team for three more seasons likely and Howard wanting to be the franchise player now, the puzzle pieces just didn’t fit into place.
Howard also wants it to be known that D’Antoni wasn’t the sole reason for his departure.
“I think that we had our moments, but I think that his style was a little bit different than what I was accustomed to,” Howard told ESPNLosAngeles.com of D’Antoni. “But I don’t want to blame any of that on the coach as the reason why I’m leaving.”
Overall Howard wanted the Lakers to be his own, he wanted to call the shots, have the offense run through him, and be the face of LA. Kobe Bryant still being there however, impeded that vision of Howards, ultimately leading him to sign with a Rockets team that was much more amenable to his needs. I find it interesting that his camp actually was thinking the Lakers would amnesty Kobe Bryant for Howard to take the reigns in the least organic way possible. You can’t force things like this, they just happen with time and that’s how championship teams are built. Dwight Howard’s time in Los Angeles was running out from the second he stepped foot into Staples’ Center, and it clearly just wasn’t meant to be.
How do you feel about Howard’s camp asking if the Lakers would amnesty Kobe Bryant, audacious? Acceptable? Rude? Let’s hear it Nation!
When Bryant went down with his Achilles tear at the end of last season, no one knew what type of player he would return as, but everyone knew he’d return. Turns out, Kobe says the Achilles has fueled him to play at least three more seasons in the NBA. Here’s what he had to say via Lakers Reporter Mike Trudell:
I feel pretty damn confident I can be at a high level for at least another three years. I feel like how I was playing last year – I know I’ll be healthy and I’ll be ready to go this year – I know what I can bring. And I think I can easily do that for another three years. I think the (Achilles) injury has something to do with it. It really increased the drive. And probably San Antonio getting so close to winning No. 5, probably hurt me a little bit too. I want to make sure I push the ring count out a little further. It was really, really close there. They played phenomenally well. But it’s a testament to what skill can do. To what us old guys can do if you play together, if you play with one mind and one purpose you can accomplish great things. It was inspirational for me and hopefully inspirational for the city of Los Angeles and this organization of what we can do, how this tide can change fairly quickly and we’ll be looking at a parade.”
You can also watch the interview with Bryant here.
It’s pretty clear that Bryant wants to win that sixth ring to further cement his legacy in basketball history and he feels good enough now to give it another go.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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!
Poll analysis is complete! Check it out HERE to see your answers discussed! Thanks!
Recently, some footage has surfaced of Kobe playing in a Gym Rat Midnight Madness High School Showcase in 1995. The video says 1994, but that year is incorrect.
Keep in mind in 1995 Kobe Bryant was just 17 years old, and the and one reverse layup he completes in the first 10 seconds of the video is quite the difficult feat to accomplish at such an age. The video later shows Kobe throwing down a between the legs dunk that makes the crowd go wild, just like they do nowadays.
This is a cool find and not something you’ll see every day. So check it out and show it off to your friends, bragging about how you were the first one to find it. Also, note Kobe’s jersey number, look familiar?
Last night the San Antonio Spurs handed the Los Angeles Lakers their worst home playoff loss in history. A 120-89 defeat to a dilapidated Lakers team has left fans and the team in utter disbelief. With a season filled with such hope prior to its start, this ending is what no fan ever expected.
The injury bug would be an understatement, it was more of an injury plague, and one that affected every single Lakers starter and most of the bench. No one managed to escape it, and this is just something that comes with being an old team and just never seeming to catch that elusive “break” everyone else seemed to get this season.
Regardless of the injuries and which teams had better luck than the Lakers, they still find themselves in an 0-3 hole against the number two seeded San Antonio Spurs. In NBA history no team has ever come back from this kind of deficit to win the series, so the future looks bleak for this years Lakers team. Of course anything is possible in the NBA and maybe this years team could be the first to ever come back from such a hole, or you could be in need of seeking a mental institution that could lock you up alone in a room for being delusional.
After the game on Friday night players were deflated, Lakers players that is, across the building the Spurs were massaging their hands after delivering such a spanking. These following quotes via the Lakers NBA page:
“We respect these guys, and we’re not trying to give them any momentum whatsoever, Duncan said.”
Well that’s a nice way to talk about embarrassing a storied franchise like the Lakers, a team not used to being a seventh seeded playoff team let alone losing by 31 points at home.
Coach D’Antoni weighed in as well,
“The first half, we gave everything we had, and it obviously wasn’t enough,” Los Angeles coach Mike D’Antoni said. “I thought our guys played as hard as they can play.”
It’s almost sad to hear something like this, with as depleted as the Lakers were last night, and clearly they were, they still tried as hard as they could and that resulted in a 31 point defeat. Wow.
At least Howard hasn’t given up hope, even if everyone else likely has,
“It’s been a very tough year, but we’re not going to make any excuses, and we’re not going to quit,” Howard said.
Honestly, what is he supposed to say? We’re done, we have no shot, let’s just throw in the towel and go home? So his statement doesn’t carry much weight, but at least he said it, that’s what counts.
However Ginobili didn’t quite hold back with his statements,
“We saw the opportunity because of their injuries and the lack of length of the bench and the depth of the bench. We really punished them.”
Punished is a great word for what they did to the Lakers last night, truly couldn’t have said it any better myself. He didn’t sugar coat his commentary and he shouldn’t have, although I’ll bet him and the rest of the Spurs are still bitter from the 2004 and 2008 playoffs, in which LA got the better end of those series’.
So, after such a loss the Lakers didn’t only lose the game and likely the series but they lost their luster and overall shine they used to produce for the Laker faithful. I don’t remember watching a Laker playoff series quite as bad as this one, where it’s really just not competitive. Even getting swept by Dallas in 2011 was more competitive than this, and at least it wasn’t in the first round. The Lakers are known for putting on a show with an extremely high entertainment value, and last night that just wasn’t the case. Even in losses the Lakers managed to fight to the end and keep it interesting with that allure that hovered over Los Angeles like a halo.
I know they’re injured but the product on the floor was just not something to be very proud of or worthy of remembrance. The fans boo’d midway through the second quarter and by the end of the game were chanting “We want Phil”, and at this point the chance of the Lakers getting PJ back is about as good as winning this series. The funny thing is that it’s not even all D’Antoni’s fault, the man never got a chance to have his whole team at his disposal, and that’s difficult for any coach, even Phil Jackson.
As negative as this article may sound, I’d like to point out a few bright spots or silver linings from last nights trouncing. Andrew Goudelock deserves to be
considered for a roster spot next season, he played great last night and showed he deserves to be given a chance. Same goes for Darius Morris as he played great as well and stepped up when his moment came. Pau Gasol also posted only the seventh Laker playoff triple double ever, congratulations to the big man for going out there and competing in every aspect of the game. Dwight had good numbers too, putting up 25 and 11 but they could’ve been better for somebody of his caliber. The guys went out and competed, it just wasn’t nearly enough.
Bottom line is the Lakers are done for this season, not much dispute there. Whether they fold on Sunday night or extend it back to San Antonio, the season is over and can go down as a colossal failure. Last nights loss was but a microcosm of the entire season. With a starting line up consisting of Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol, and Dwight Howard nobody anticipated it all going down this way, no one saw the team personifying the Hindenburg disaster. Set your sights on next year Laker Nation, changes will be made, injuries will heal, and the Los Angeles Lakers will be in top form to compete for an NBA Championship, mark my words.
That’s really the only way to look back on what transpired for the Lakers this past week. The Lakers used a 4-1 record and some timely losses from all the teams in front of them (shout out to Milwaukee!) to place themselves squarely in the playoff picture.
This was definitely a week we may all be able to look at in the future and know that this was when the Lakers finally turned their season around for good.
As always, let’s take a look at some of the good, bad and downright ugly of the past week for the Lake Show.
Good – Vino.
This is starting to get ridiculous. Actually it is ridiculous, and is only becoming more and more unfathomable. Heading into last nights game against Orlando, all the Mamba was averaging was 33 points, 9 assists, and 6 boards per on 51% shooting for the week. That was good enough to be named Western Conference Player of the Week, again. We all know that the man is in his 17th NBA season, is 34-years-old, and is supposed to be getting worse and withering away, not getting better and better.
And just when you think you’ve seen it all, that he can’t possibly wow you again, he goes and does this to the Raptors. Seriously, watch all four minutes of that video and enjoy every second, especially that first three, HOW DID HE MAKE THAT SHOT!?!
Oh, that was during the second of consecutive 40+ point, 10+ assist games, becoming the oldest player in NBA history to do that twice, and he did it in back-to-back games. We all need to enjoy what Kobe Bean Bryant is doing right now. I’d call it incredible, but that might not even do him justice right now.
Bad – The First Quarter Against Toronto.
An issue that popped up in three of the five games for the Lakers this week was a total and complete collapse in at least one quarter per game. The first quarter of the Raptors was a great example of that. Toronto, who is a middle of the pack offense at best, averages a whopping 97.8 points per game. They scored more than a third of that in the opening twelve minutes against a prous, plodding Laker defense.
Granted, the Raptors do have newly-acquired Rudy Gay and the streaky DeMar DeRozan, but really 37 points? While the Lakers ultimately came back and won the game in overtime thanks to the Mamba, they spent the last three quarters and overtime catching up from a terrible defensive start against a team they really should have dominated.
Ugly – The Second Quarter Against New Orleans.
If you thought that first against the Raps was bad, take a look at what the Lakers did (or didn’t) do against the Hornets during the second quarter of last weeks game. The Lakers pretty much forgot how to play defense altogether. New Orleans jumped out to a great start, turning a 28-28 tie after one into a blowout at the half. The Hornets shot 13/22 from the field, including four long three’s, en route to a 39 point quarter.
It wasn’t only the Laker defense that was bad during that stretch. The second-unit couldn’t hit a shot to start the quarter, and that coupled with their inability to stop New Orleans from scoring resulted in the Lakers trailing by as many as 25 in the quarter and 19 at the half. Allowing 67 first-half points to a team that averages 94.4 a game is unreal. Well, at least they made up for it in the fourth quarter…
Good – A Furious Fourth-Quarter Rally.
As bad as the second quarter against New Orleans was for the Lakers, the fourth quarter was a total and complete opposite. The Lakers absolutely locked the Hornets down, limiting New Orleans to 4/23 shooting and a whopping 9 points. The soon-to-be Pelicans scored exactly 0 points in the final 6:47 of the game, allowing the Lakers to close it out with a 20-0 run and a huge rally in a 108-102 win.
While the Lakers as a unit played unbelievably in the fourth, there were three guys who really keyed the rally. Jodie Meeks hit four huge 3-pointers that were crucial to the Laker rally. And for the first time all season, we were able to see what the Lakers can do with Kobe controlling the offense and Dwight Howard dominating on defense. Kobe had 15 of his game-high 42 during that 20-0 Laker run, and assisted on many of Meeks big shots in the fourth as well. In fact, Kobe and Jodie (Jobe?) were the only Lakers to hit a field goal in the fourth.
Perhaps the best part of the whole fourth quarter was seeing what Dwight can do on defense when he is dedicated to shutting down the other team. He had a flashback to pre-surgery Dwight when he swatted Robin Lopez on a tying dunk-attempt in the final 30 seconds, and really dominated the quarter defensively. More on Dwight in a bit.
Ugly – Falling Flat in OKC.
First things first, the Lakers showed a lot of heart in this game after falling behind big. Kobe was hurt early but came back to try and push the Lakers to a huge road-win. Los Angeles put in the effort and even got within five points in the fourth quarter, but a Thunder 12-0 run to close out the game made sure that they never got any closer.
While it would have been great to see the Lakers win in OKC, the fact is that this game showed us all a few things. First, the Thunder are a much better team than the Lakers right now, no matter how well LA is playing. There is still a long way to go for the Purple and Gold if they want to truly compete with OKC this season.
Second, the Lakers are still nto a team that has shown they can win on the road against a top-tier opponent. With the way the season has gone, the Lakers are going to have to win at least one road game against a great opponent to win a playoff series, so this has to be a major concern.
Bad – Stopping Opposing PG’s.
Ahh, there’s that problem which never seems to go away for the Lake Show. Tell me if you’ve heard this one before; the Lakers are getting torched by opposing point guards. Yes? Of course you have because this has been an issue for the Lakers since, oh I don’t know, 1996? We knew bringing in Steve Nash would help on offense and hurt on defense, but look at the numbers of the starting point guards the Lakers faced last week:
Sure, Wesbtrook kills everyone, and yeah Vasquez has been doing great passing the ball this season, so those numbers aren’t too bad. Except Lowry has been so bad this year that the Raptors tried to trade him five months after acquiring him. Nate Robinson is a shoot-first, pass-never point guard who racked up eight assists on the Lakers while also being the only Bulls player to score consistently all game.
Those are all pretty bad, but my biggest concern are Westbrook’s numbers. While he is impossible for anyone to realyl stop, he has absolutely murdered the Lakers this season. That’s not a good sign, especially with all roads to the Finals leading through OKC. Raphael Westbrook isn’t a problem that will be going away any time soon.
Ugly- Jodie Meeks D.
Meeks was an integral part of the Laker come back in New Orleans, and he helps stretch the floor which in turn makes life easier for Kobe and Dwight down the stretch.
But have you seen Jodie play defense? Me neither. Unfortunately for Meeks, he’s the guy that teams pick on at crunch time. I mean his defense is so bad I considered making a Joie Meeks joke right here but thought better of it.
Friday night against the Raptors, Toronto kept going to Alan Anderson (I know, me neither.) down the stretch, who scored at will on Meeks. I get Mike D’Antoni wants offense in the game, but when he isn’t hitting 3′s he certainly isn’t contributing on defense. Kobe’s heroics are incredible to watch, but Meeks defense is part of the reason those crazy shots are even neccessary.
Good – Dwight’s Back.
See what I did there?
Heading into his return to Orlando, a lot of people wondered if Dwight would be able to handle the backlash he was about to face. Howard was introduced to a chorus of boo’s louder than anything he’d ever experienced, and we were all curious to see whether he would come out and dominate or fade into the background in the face of adversity. 39 points, 16 rebounds and 3 blocks later, we have an emphatic answer from Dwight and the hope that the problems that plagued the big man this season are all gone. Howard also tied his own NBA record with 39 free-throw attempts, and set the Lakers record by making 25 for the game, including eight straight to close it out.
Howard also was a force in the other four contests the Lakers had this past week. This was clear on the defensive end of the floor, where Howard is flat-out dominating the paint recently. Many Lakers have taken notice of his improved play, including coach Mike D’Antoni.
Dwight is just feeling better, you can see it all over the place. His back is better, he’s in rhythm, whatever it is, he’s a monster defensively.
Which sums up exactly what the Lakers expected from Howard when they acquired him last summer.
So is Dwight officially back? Well if his past two games are any type of evidence, it seems he is pretty darn close. On Sunday he was especially impressive against Chicago putting up 16 points, 21 boards and 4 blocks going against Joakim Noah. You might have heard some “experts” proclaiming Noah to be the best center in the league right now. Dwight sure looked like he’d heard the chatter, dominating Noah on both ends of the court to put that argument to rest.
After a good week for the Lakers, the team has two more tough road games and a home date remaining this week. They face a revenge-hungry Hawks squad in the second of a back-to-back, then head to Indy to take on the defensive-minded, dangerous Pacers. After the mini-trip, the Lakers return home to face a Kings squad that seems to always give them trouble. By Sunday night, this Laker squad has a chance to really launch themselves up the standings in the West.
Another week in Laker Land has passed us, and for the first time in a long time it feels like our boys in Purple and Gold are (finally) headed in the right direction. While the Laker schedule was light on games with only three contests this week, there were plenty of things to take from games against Denver, Minnesota and Atlanta.
Here is a look at the Good, the Bad and the Ugly of the Lakers past week in action.
Good: Kobe Bryant circa 2006 is Back.
Really, I could just post a link to this dunk and it would be enough of an explanation.
The Mamba has been on an absolute tear since the All-Star break ended, and the Lakers 5-1 record during that time is tied directly to what Bryant is doing. In the past five games alone Kobe is averaging a whopping 34.8 points per game, on 66-116 shooting, good for a cool 56.9% from the field. Did I mention that Bryant is doing this at 34-years old, in his 17th NBA season, 60 games into a campaign that has seen him average 38.2 minutes per contest? Oh and all while shooting what would be the highest field goal percentage of his career.
Bryant realizes this is a make or break stretch for the Lakers playoff chances, and he looks to be up for the challenge.
I’ve been in attack mode since the break. It’s go time. We’re getting a little bit closer and we’re starting to get in more of a striking distance where you start watching (the playoff race).
It’s absolutely mind-boggling that this guy is not only still going strong, but getting better as the season and his career progress. With the way Kobe’s been playing since the break, would you really want to bet against him getting the Lakers into the playoffs? Me neither. Kobe is aging like a fine wine (or Vino as he’s now apparently calling himself), just in time to save the Laker season.
Ugly: Interior Defense.
One negative that really stood out this week for the Lakers was just how bad their defense is in the paint, especially when Dwight Howard sits. In the loss to Denver, the Lakers gave up an astronomical 78 points in the paint. That’s more than some teams have scored in ENTIRE GAMES recently. The Nuggets were also able to gain a 33-3 edge on the fastbreak, further emphasizing the Lakers inability to not only get in position, but to challenge at the rim at all. This only gets worse when LA’s lone shot blocker has to take a seat. Granted, that Denver game was the second of a road back-to-back in an arena where any team that’s not named the Nuggets is expected to lose, so you can make a bit of an excuse for the Lakers, right?
Wrong. That would be fine and dandy if the Hawks didn’t score almost at will inside at the end of the game last night. While the Lakers were able to escape with a huge win (or avoid a huge collapse, your choice), you simply cannot ignore the fact that Atlanta scored three consecutives times at the basket in the final two minutes. Oh, and all those buckets were basically unguarded lay-ups and dunks. In fact, had Josh Smith been able to handle Devin Harris’ entry pass at the end of the game, we’d probably be lamenting another terrible loss rather than breathing a sigh of relief.
The Lakers should be able to slow down the scoring of other teams inside once Pau returns from his injury right? Wait what do you mean no? Let’s just move on.
Bad: Steve Nash Turnovers.
With the Lakers winning games and Kobe dominating on offense, it’s been difficult to find many things wrong with the Los Angeles offense. One thing that has definitely been off in the six games since the All-Star break has been Steve Nash’s handle. Nash has 20 turnovers (TWENTY!) in those six games, and that number is actually helped by the fact that Nash had none in the blow-out win over Minnesota. It’s hard to pick on anything Nash does because he has done such an incredible job of adjusting to the offense so that his teammates can thrive, basically becoming a spot-up shooter in this system.
But in Denver, those Nash turnovers became very costly. As is often the case with turnovers on the road, Denver was able to turn six Nash turnovers into points on the fast-break that really ignited their offense and helped them kill any Laker hope of winning int he Mile High City.
Good: Dwight Howard.
No, really. This isn’t sarcasm. I’m serious!
I know, it’s been a long time since we had a week free of tearing Dwight down, but the All-Star big man has actually been a force since the All-Star break. Sure he still forces some bad shots in the paint, and yeah his free throws are still terrible. But, hold on let me channel my inner Rock, FINALLY DWIGHT HAS COME BACK, sort of. Howard has really been playing with great energy lately.
Starting with a dominating 24-point, 12-rebound performance against the Celtics and on through the next five games, Howard has shown flashes of the All-Star Laker fans expected to see when he was brought in. In the past six games, Dwight is averaging 17 points and 14 boards per game, while also throwing in two swats a night. His scoring may not be as high as Dwight would like, but he is finally making an impact for the Lakers in a way that translates directly to wins. Boards, defense, and hard screen-and-rolls on offense will help this team win, and Howard seems to have finally figured that out.
Ugly: Opposing Role Players (still) Killing the Lakers.
This has really been a theme of the entire Laker season, but there were a few more instances this week of role guys really hurting the Lakers. In Denver, Wilson Chandler was a late insert into the starting line-up for the Nuggets, and all he did was drop 23 points on the Lakers. And just in case Laker fans forgot what he did to them the last two times these teams met, Corey Brewer chipped in 16 points and plenty of overdone celebrations. These two specifically played a huge role in sparking the Nuggets to a win over the Lakers.
Then, this ugly problem reared its head again against Atlanta. Devin Harris turned into an All-Star for a five-minute stretch spanning the end of the third and beginning of the fourth quarter. By scoring 14 of his 16 points during that span, Harris nearly single-handedly brought the Hawks back from a 16-point deficit. Not to be outdone, Kyle Korver came in and also scored 16 on the Lakers, hitting a few big shots that nearly cost the home team the game.
This is another issue that doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon, but the Lakers are .500 so let’s stop talking about bad stuff!
Bad: Momentum Swings with the Bench.
Okay, so this is still something bad we have to discuss, but I’ll counter it with some good. The Laker bench was great against the T’Wolves this week. Jodie Meeks, Antawn Jamison and Steve Blake all scored in double-digits and helped the Lakers blow Minnesota out of the building.
It was the other two games this week that were cause for alarm, however. After a solid first quarter in Denver, the Laker bench allowed the Nuggets to blow the game open in the second quarter. Denver built a lead the Lakers were never able to recover from. Then against the Hawks, the bench twice blew a double-digit lead they had inherited from the starters. While only Meeks, Jamison and Blake entered the game off the bench, they were a collective -40 against Atlanta.
Simply put, this is not going to get it done most nights. Scoring isn’t a problem for the bench guys, but their inability to stop anyone on the opposing bench from scoring really puts a limitation on what the team can do.
Like most .500 teams, the Lakers have plenty of room for improvement. On the plus side, this is the first time in a roller-coaster of a season where Laker Nation can confidently say that its team is finally on the rise. This time, we just have to hope it’s for the rest of the season. Any more steep drops on this ride will have the Lakers heading straight into the off-season.
Oh and by the way, just in case you forgot what Kobe did yesterday, here you go. You’re welcome.