Los Angeles Lakers

The Los Angeles Lakers were able to win the blind bidding process for former Chicago Bull Carlos Boozer on Thursday. The process consisted of teams with enough salary cap space to pay Boozer’s contract for the upcoming 2014-15 NBA season, the Lakers bid consisted of $3.25 million.

The Bulls must still pay Boozer the $13.6 million that they owe him from the final year of his contract. However, by using the amnesty clause, his contract is removed from their luxury-tax and salary-cap which frees the team to make more moves in free agency.

Signing Boozer certainly adds more depth and mileage to a depleted front court as the Lakers were looking very inexperienced and very thin. As it stands, the Lakers currently have Boozer, Jordan Hill (two years, $18 million), first round pick Julius Randle, former lottery selection Ed Davis (signed on Wednesday for two years, $2 million), and center Robert Sacre.

While Boozer is not the max caliber player that Lakers were hoping for, he certainly is a serviceable player who can put score on bigger and quicker opponents, be aggressive and assertive on defense, and mentor the younger players that the Lakers are signing to develop.

Averaging 13.7 points and 8.3 rebounds per game, Boozer is on the downside of production in terms of his career. Yet when the Bulls needed him most, he certainly stepped up to the challenge.

Boozer’s can do mentality and aggressive style of play will bode well for this Lakers team as the young front court players will be able to learn a lot and watch an effective big man perform every night.

“I know I can still play at a high level,” Boozer said in a phone interview with the Chicago Tribune writer K.C. Johnson. “My body feels great. I still have 30-35 minutes a night in me and can average a double-double or close to it. I’m excited about the next chapter.”

January 20, 2014 — 5:00 PM (PST)
United Center, Chicago, Illinois
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

The Lakers (16-25) now have a winning streak.

After beating the Toronto Raptors yesterday morning, the Lakers will play the Chicago Bulls (19-20) on the Bulls’ home court as they have their first winning streak since December 20th, when they had a 2 game winning streak.

G/F Nick Young came back from his 1 game suspension and played with excellent confidence, scoring a game-high 29 points, shooting 7-13 from the field and made 10-11 free throws. F Ryan Kelly thrived in his first career start, scoring 17 points and having confidence getting shots up. The Lakers now have to use these last 2 victories to fuel them in tonight’s game and play with confidence.

The Bulls have made a lot of roster turnovers and its management seems to be looking more into the future especially after superstar PG Derrick Rose tore a meniscus in his knee, ending his season. The Bulls traded all-star SF Luol Deng to the Cleveland Cavaliers a few weeks ago for 3 future draft picks and C Andrew Bynum‘s contract to free up their salary.

However, the Bulls have played well, going 5-2, since Deng’s trade. The Lakers cannot take them lightly and stay focused throughout the game. Without their best 2 players from the beginning of the season, the Bulls win a lot of their games on defense, allowing the 3rd lowest field goal percentage in the NBA at 43.0%. F Carlos Boozer leads the Bulls on the offensive end, averaging 15.0 PPG and 8.6 RPG. Boozer has played solidly despite the roster transactions in trying to keep the Bulls in a playoff position this season.

Boozer lines up next to All-Star C Joakin Noah to create a force on the front line. Noah, who averages 11.7 PPG, 11.0 RPG, and 1.3 BPG,  makes his name on the defensive end, being named on the NBA All-Defensive 1st team last season. Hopefully, C Pau Gasol can stay aggressively despite matching up with Noah at the Center position tonight to keep the Lakers in the game.

Projected Starters

PG - Kendall Marshall / Kirk Hinrich [Advantage: Bulls]
SG - Jodie Meeks / Jimmy Butler [Advantage: Bulls]
SF - Wesley Johnson / Mike Dunleavy [Advantage: Bulls]
PF - Ryan Kelly / Carlos Boozer [Advantage: Bulls]
C - Pau Gasol / Joakim Noah [Advantage: Lakers]

Notable Bench Players

Bulls: G Tony SnellPG DJ Augustin, F Taj Gibson

Lakers: G Nick Young, G Manny Harris, F Jordan Hill

Bench Advantage: Lakers

Injury List

Bulls: Out-G Derrick Rose

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

Keys for Lakers Victory

Rebounding: The Lakers absolutely have to limit the Bulls to one possession and not allow offensive rebounds in order to have a chance at winning this match up. The Bulls average the NBA’s 6th best 12.1 offensive rebounds per game, using their big man, Noah, Boozer, and 6th man F Taj Gibson to crash the offensive glass after every shot. This does not suit well at all for the Lakers, who allow the most offensive rebounds in the league by a wide margin at 13.1 offensive rebounds per game. Instead of having the guards leak out after every Bulls shot, all 5 Lakers have to find a Bulls player to box out and then crash the boards to not allow extra unnecessary possessions.

Bottom Line

The Lakers do not match up well vs. the Bulls at all. The Bulls play very physical on both ends of the floor under Head Coach Tom Thibodeau‘s leadership, especially since they do not possess as much talent compared to previous years. Shooting very well like they did vs. Raptors will keep the Lakers in the game, but they need to maintain their energy for a full 48 minutes without allowing any lengthy

Prediction

Bulls: 98-89

 

Tanking.  Something no team truly wants to admit to doing but in reality many teams do it to adequately prepare for the future.  It’s all about selling what you currently have (which typically isn’t much) in order to ensure you aren’t as poor of a team for the following years.  In basketball it’s about being as bad as possible one year so you can get a great pick in the upcoming draft, and 2014 just happens to be one of the most loaded drafts in recent memory.  With a draft class consisting of Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins, Marcus Smart, Joel Embiid, and Julius Randle rounding out the top-five, teams have to consider wanting a top-five pick for this draft.

Now, before everyone starts yelling about how the Lakers aren’t a team that tanks, they’re not a team that gives up, they’re not… Yeah, yeah, yeah I know, but let’s take a look at what that would exactly entail.

Doug Pensinger | Getty Images

Doug Pensinger | Getty Images

The Lakers aren’t winning anything this year with their current roster

With Mike D’Antoni as head coach, and the current arsenal of players, the Lakers aren’t even looking at obtaining a playoff spot right now.  It’s time to face facts and just accept it, even when Kobe Bryant comes back it’ll be a lot to ask to even make an eighth seed.  Even if they managed to make the playoffs they’re likely looking at a first round exit much like last season, to be honest, the rest of the West is just better and more primed to win than the Lakers currently are.  However, most of us already knew this as the Lakers aren’t playing to win this year, they were playing to have a great amount of cap room for next season in hopes of signing a big name free agent.

 

Finishing with a poor record only means a better draft pick

For the most part at least.  I mean, once the Lakers don’t make the playoffs they’ll be in the lottery, but with a poor record they may have a decent shot at getting at least a top-ten pick which, in this draft, would most likely yield a solid player that would make a difference on any team.  If they’re truly BAD, then they can look at getting into the top-five which would yield one of the players listed above, almost certainly an instant game changer.  Of course the NBA Lottery is unpredictable and just about anything can happen as we’ve seen in the past (1993 Orlando, 1990 Seattle).  These players may not all pan out, but the chances of most of them turning into NBA All-Stars one day is immense.

Jamie Squire | Getty Images

Jamie Squire | Getty Images

The Options

So, as you can see it is clearly in the Lakers’ best interest to be a bad team.  I don’t necessarily mean to just play as poorly as possible, but they shouldn’t use all their energy and willpower to just finish eighth or ninth in the West.  Regardless of what fans think, about how the Lakers are a storied franchise that has only missed the playoffs five times in their history and only once since 1995, there is absolutely no benefit to finishing with a first-round exit. NONE.

Some may call me a hater, a doubter, a nonbeliever, but I’m just being realistic here, and in basketball realism is one of the best mantras to have. Imagine next season, 2014, with only Kobe Bryant ($23.5 million), Steve Nash ($9.7 million), and Robert Sacre ($915,243) on the books, oh and then there’s the possibility that Nick Young exercises his player option ($1.2 million).  According to Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times, the 2014-15 cap is projected at around $62.1 million, and the Lakers would have about $40.3 million in salary which equals just under $22 million to spend this summer.

But, not so fast!  This changes based on Los Angeles’ draft pick and how high or low it is.  If they finish out of the lottery, then they will likely get an average draft pick to where they can sign their player to a minimum rookie salary.  But, like I said, if the Lakers are terrible and end up with a top-eight or so draft pick then they will obviously be paying that rookie considerably more money.  This is where we can analyze the options a bit more.

Either the Lakers are terrible, and they get a great draft pick, but don’t end up with enough cap room to sign Carmelo Anthony or Lebron James. OR the Lakers finish in the top-eight in the West, get a mediocre pick, and have enough money to sign a big name free agent.  Anthony is the most likely candidate here, as James just doesn’t look like he’s going to land in the city of angels.

Now, let’s be real here again for a minute, do the Lakers really want Anthony?  What has he done that screams “I’m going to win your team a championship, sign me to a max deal!”  Is it the whopping zero championships he earned in Denver? Or maybe it’s the great record he has the Knicks sitting at in New York. Exactly.  I’m not saying Anthony is a bad player, far from it actually, but he’s just not the player the Lakers need to pair alongside Bryant.  Both those guys like to have the basketball in their hand A LOT, and both take a hefty amount of shots per game.  Bryant averages about 20 shots per game for his career, and Anthony takes about, oh would you look at that, 20 shots per game for his career.  That is 40 shots every game between two players, both of which will want it at the end of the game as well.  Oh, and unless Lakers’ brass change their minds soon, Mike D’Antoni will be the one coaching these two, and he has a wonderful track record with superstars! Right…

Here’s the other option, the Lakers finish with a poor record, get a great pick and sign a guy who could potentially be a difference maker for them. They also would be quite young, which means they could be around for a long time.  A top-ten pick would cost the Lakers anywhere between $1.8 million to $4.3 million, according to HoopsWorld’s rookie salary scale from 2012-13.  This takes the Lakers from just under $22 million in space to roughly $18-$20 million in space, not quite enough for a big name free agent, but enough to fill-out the roster with solid role players.  Yes, solid role players, because believe it or not, Bryant, Anthony, (potentially) Nash, and Sacre won’t be enough to fill out the Lakers’ roster.

Also, something to think about should the Lakers sign someone like Anthony; they won’t have much more salary to devote to the other players needed to fill out the roster.  Which means another year much like this season, with players who are willing to sign for minimum salaries just to fill the roster up.  So, tanking and receiving a great draft pick would essentially give the Lakers more financial freedom to sign other good, solid, dependable role players that can truly help them win another championship in the Bryant era.  I like this plan much more for the future of the purple and gold as it gives them flexible cap space, a young budding star (potentially), and the ability to sign more good players instead of one great player.

So, to sum this whole thing up into a paragraph, the Lakers shouldn’t be worried about finishing with a record worthy of sending them to the playoffs, they should be worried about being bad enough to set themselves up for the future.  Granted, the other option involving big name free agents isn’t horrendous, I just see holes and many issues arising from going down that path.  Not that the tanking path doesn’t have its issues, believe me it does, I just see it as a safer and more efficient path to achieving what every NBA team wants, a championship.

Sometimes you just have to be bad in order to get better.  That is what the Lakers must do this season in order to ensure they have a bright and welcoming future in the NBA.

 

Christmas Day, the Lakers took on the defending champion Miami Heat in a close, hard fought match-up. While the game turned out better than most predicated, lost in the Christmas frenzy was the return of reserve guard Jordan Farmar. Farmar had been out of the lineup since Dec. 1st with a torn left hamstring. While his presence is certainly good for then point guard less Lakers, Kendall Marshall has not played enough nor knows the system well enough to qualify just yet, Farmar, will still need time to recover as he noticeably would not explode off his left hamstring during the game.

Photo Credit: WCB Sports

Los Angeles Times reporter Melissa Rohlin spoke to Farmar about his comeback,

“I felt like I didn’t play basketball for a month, just the timing, everything just felt a little off,” Farmar said.

Like previously mentioned, Farmar did not look like his normal self. Sitting out for almost a month and then coming back to play against the Heat certainly did not help but one has to appreciate how much Farmar wanted to be on the court to help contribute. When asked about his performance he held no gripes in mentioning how he does not fully trust his left hamstring just yet.

“Just knowing that it kept me out for a month, and not wanting to make that explosive move that might set me back,” he said. “I’ll gain more and more confidence, and then hopefully it’ll get out of my mind and I’ll just be able to play.”

Farmar played almost 33 minutes on Wednesday, while recording three points (he shot one for seven from the field), five rebounds, two assist, and four turnovers. While those numbers are not his averages they certainly are acceptable for someone coming back so soon after being out and not being able to do many basketball related activities.

“I haven’t even played five-on-five since I got hurt, so this is the first time I’ve really played basketball,” he said.

Coach D’Antoni spoke on Farmar’s performance and said ”his next game will be better,” and “and a week from now he’ll be rolling.” That is great news for the Lakers since Farmar’s aggressiveness and lead guard abilities have been sorely missed. Jordan will need time to heal and slowly integrate back into his old form as the explosion off that left hamstring will be needed time and time again throughout this season. With just he and Kendall Marshall to play point for the Lakers, Xavier Henry too until Steve Blake is back, the team will count on him on every game as he will undoubtedly have some tough match-ups ahead. Farmar’s injury is just one of many for this Lakers team so far but the commitment he has to even return so soon to help make this club better is something special and will go a long way.

 

Last week’s POW:  Jodie Meeks

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

Stephen R. Sylvanie|USA TODAY SportsNick 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!

 

Last week’s POW:  Wes Johnson

Last week is in the books and Laker fans now move onto the next week in this season.  Kobe Bryant returned last night and needless to say he was a bit rusty.  If he had played quite well I would have chosen him as player of the week but he wasn’t quite up to par.  Only two games made up the Lakers’ week and that was against Sacramento and Toronto.  This week we had one person play better than the rest throughout the two games: Jodie Meeks.

Jodie Meeks

Photo Credit | Getty Images

Jodie Meeks played well this week because of his strong shooting performance, he shot 56% from the field, had 16.5 ppg, 2 apg, 2.5 rpg over the last two games.  Meeks made some clutch 3-pointers in the game against Sacramento, and continued his hot shooting performance against Toronto albeit in a loss.

Meeks has always been a high caliber shooter and when the Lakers can get him into space to shoot he can be deadly.  I liked seeing him hit some threes this past week that really ignited the Lakers to rally and win the game, in the case of Sacramento at least.

His scoring definitely helped in the win over Sacramento as he started and played some solid efficient minutes in that game.

Hopefully the Lakers can utilize Meeks properly with Kobe Bryant back in the starting lineup.  Then he can continue to deliver clutch threes for the lakers when the games get close.

 

Last week’s POW: Pau Gasol

This was certainly an interesting week for the Los Angeles Lakers as they had a few key players dealing with injuries which led to others having to step up.  Gasol dealt with an ailing ankle and sprained left hand which clearly had him at less than 100 percent on the court.  No one really performed at an outstanding level on a consistent basis all week but one player definitely earned player of the week honors for his powerful performance against Detroit.

Wesley Johnson

Photo Credit | Getty Images

Wesley Johnson averaged 12.3 PPG this past week adding nearly two blocks and six rebounds over that span.  Johnson’s best game was against Detroit where he torched them for 27 points on 9/11 shooting (6/7 3Pt) adding three blocks and six rebounds en route to a 106-102 road win for the Lakers.  Johnson hasn’t been a gaudy stat guy all season but this performance should stand out because without Johnson the Lakers would likely have fallen to Detroit.

Johnson has quietly made a name for himself in Los Angeles and has definitely produced greater numbers than he has in the past for his other teams. Johnson can catch fire on any given night and his scoring numbers will greatly help a .500 Lakers squad.

 

Be sure to check back next week for another player of the week!

The Lakers extending Kobe Bryant’s contract is a lot like asking someone to prom. They are essentially asking this one special person to spend one of the most memorable nights of their lives, or rest of their career, with you. It could either turn out great or be one of the worst nights you have ever had or will have in your life. With that being said, signing Bryant pre-return could either be great or costly moving forward.

If you were following the news yesterday, or in case you missed it, the Lakers signed Kobe Bryant to a two year extension worth $48.5 million dollars. This extension appears to be the first move the Lakers are making in terms of free agency for the summer of 2014. By extending Bryant, the Lakers get to keep the face of the franchise for a couple more seasons while notifying the league and any future free agents that they will have the opportunity to play alongside the future Hall of Famer. That is, if his health allows it.

With Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose now ruled out for the season, fans hope that Bryant will take a more relaxed approach to returning in hopes to prevent a similar situation from occurring. Having watched Kobe Bryant from afar and knowing the type of competitor he is I can assure you that he will return when he is ready and he feels that his body is as well. Not only is Laker Nation hoping that Bryant returns when he is ready but, future free agents also want him to be in order to consider signing for the purple and gold.

Photo Credit: IB Times

Sam Amick of USA Sports spoke to Carmelo Anthony about Bryant’s extension recently. Anthony essentially spoke light to thoughts that are entertaining many free agents’ minds when considering the Lakers. Will Kobe be himself as a teammate of mine?

When asked if free agents like himself would see Bryant as a star who is still worthy of joining in order to contend for a title, Anthony said, “I mean you’ll have to see. It’s hard to gauge at this point, not until he comes back (from his April Achilles tendon tear) and figures some things out. So I don’t know. They might have some plans up their sleeve.”

Looking long term, Bryant’s extension is enough for the Lakers to still look like the prom queen come free agency. Taking the pay cut of almost $10 million dollars provides room to sign a Carmelo Anthony if he opts out, a LeBron James if he does the same, or any other marquee free agents who are looking to win now. Not only will it allow that flexibility, but it also opens the door to retool the bench to its more formidable years. Maybe even keeping active, young players like Nick Young, Xavier Henry, Jordan Hill, Wesley Johnson or Jordan Farmar. Regardless of the what speculation may arise, this move says that the franchise is making a push the last few years of Bryant’s career to win now.

Bryant will retire with the Lakers. As for who he’ll be playing with and the question of whether that team will be worth talking about, that much remains to be seen.

“I think (Bryant) wanted to get that done,” Anthony told USA TODAY Sports. “Especially now, coming off that injury, that he wanted to solidify that (contract). I don’t think he ever had any doubt of leaving the Lakers, so he got that done early…He wants to win. I want to win. Everybody in the league, we want to win, so I just figured he was going to get that done.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images

I’m not saying that it was the best move for the Lakers to sign Bryant this early, but I will say it provides intrigue if he is or is not able to produce highly. If Bryant is not the same will the Lakers be able to attract those superstar players? Or will they have to settle for players similar to those signed this past off-season?

On the other other hand, if Bryant is healthy and can produce at the level he was pre-injury then the possibilities are endless. With a healthy Bryant, cap space, and the allure of Los Angeles, Mitch Kupchak will have an arsenal ready to reload the Lakers and compete for another title. Yet all of this depends on how healthy Bryant is when he returns to the team.

No matter what does happen, prom just got a lot more interesting.

It is safe to say this Lakers squad so far is not what many fans are used to seeing.  Kobe Bryant is still without a timetable to return from his Achilles injury and Steve Nash is far from his former self, leaving the Lakers with Pau Gasol as a centerpiece.  The starting line-up has switched up already and they’re only six games into the season, which goes to show coach D’Antoni is still experimenting with all the guys on the squad.  But through three games it is clear the offense is running through Pau Gasol and he is of key importance to the Lakers’ success this season.

Until Kobe Bryant returns Pau Gasol will be the number one option to go through on offense and thus far he has proven to be effective with 10.4 rpg, 2.8 apg, 1 bpg, and

PhotoCredit:Harry How/Getty Images

Photo Credit:Harry How/Getty Images

14.6 ppg in an average of 27 minutes of action.  Gasol’s numbers should be a little bit higher for a more effective and efficient offense, but they aren’t bad and are an improvement from last season.  Gasol is a true talent, his post moves are fantastic, he has a high basketball IQ, and is one of the best passing big men the game has ever seen.  With someone of his caliber down low on the block, the Lakers would be ignorant not to use him to his full potential.

It is clear he is more involved in the offense this season than last season, partly because he dealt with numerous injuries last season, and also because of the departure of Dwight Howard.  With Gasol having more room to work down low, and a clean bill of health, the Lakers need to take advantage of their big man.

Gasol should comfortably average about 18 ppg and 12 rpg this season with the way the Lakers are currently situated.  These kind of numbers could be even higher if things go better than expected in the current system.

The Lakers are clearly still searching for an identity under head coach Mike D’Antoni and they are still without their veteran leader in Kobe Bryant.  Gasol is the most seasoned veteran on the team and is the largest embodiment of the 2009 and 2010 championship Lakers squads.  With him leading the way, the Lakers should find success by following the 7-foot Spaniard.  If they underutilize Pau again, however, they will find their season ending in a similar fashion to last year’s disastrous finish.

Mike D'Antoni

Five games into the 2013-14 NBA season, most teams know for the most part which players will be in their eight or nine-man rotations. At this point, the Lakers are definitely not one of those teams. Coach Mike D’Antoni has been tinkering with rotations and player combinations to the extreme, going with an 11-man rotation thus far that has already produced over 34 player combinations. As can be expected, results have been far from consistent. As Steve Nash put it:

“We’re not a well-oiled machine. We don’t even know what line-ups suit us best yet, let alone what each other are going to do.”

Clearly, D’Antoni is going to have to eventually slim the rotations down. Because of the depth of this roster as well as the uncertainty of the bench pieces, the Lakers are likely to go to a nine-man rotation as the season wears on. So what can we expect to see on the court in the coming months? Let’s take a look at the likely line-ups the Lakers will employ the rest of the season.

Starting Line-Up:

PG – Steve Blake

Probably not the Steve you were expecting huh? Five games in, it’s clear that Steve Nash is still dealing with nagging injuries and adjusting to age. Blake, not Nash, is best suited to lead the starting unit because of his aggressiveness on defense and because he has simply looked better on the court than Nash.

Courtesy: Getty Images

Courtesy: Getty Images

SG – Xavier Henry

On a roster full of question marks, Henry has emerged as a breakout player so far this season for the Lakers. His aggressiveness on both ends of the court fits well in LA’s fast-paced system, and he seems to have all but locked up a starting spot for the foreseeable future. He can also slide down to the small forward position in smaller line-ups with a two point-guard backcourt.

SF – Kobe Bryant

When the Mamba returns, he will obviously be a fixture in the starting line-up. There has been talk for a while of Bryant sliding down to the small forward position, and upon his return that is where he’s expected to be. It will be interesting to see how Kobe plays in the uptempo system that places a premium on ball movement, but knowing the veteran I’m sure (hoping) he’ll fit in just fine.

PF – Jordan Hill

On a roster filled with guys who like to (try to) be scorers, the rebounding machine that is Jordan Hill is a perfect fit for this Laker team. Hill has a constant motor and is always around the basketball at every rebound opportunity. He currently sits in the top 20 for rebounds per 48 minutes and should be there all season long with the rebounding opportunities this team can present.

C – Pau Gasol

With the departure of He Who Shall Not Be Named to Houston, Gasol has been able to move back to his more natural position of center. As the man in the middle of a team surrounded by shooters, Gasol will be able to display his passing skill and low post repertoire in the paint. While the relationship between Pau and D’Antoni is up and down to say the least, Gasol should get plenty of opportunities to go to work with this roster.

Bench:

G – Steve Nash

Aside from Bryant, Nash is currently the biggest question mark on the Laker roster. Is he aging and no longer capable of being the player he once was? Or, as Nash believes, does he just need to shake a few lingering injuries before being back to normal? This storyline will only grow as the season moves on, especially as trade rumors continue to grow louder and louder.

Courtesy: Getty Images

Courtesy: Getty Images

G – Jordan Farmar

When the Lakers signed Farmar, many people thought it was nothing more than a nostalgia signing on the cheap. But through five games this season, Jordan has been the Lakers best point guard averaging 10 points and 5 assists in under 23 minutes a game. Farmar’s energy and aggressiveness will be key to sparking the second unit all season long.

F – Nick Young/Wesley Johnson

Johnson and Young are the two bench players whose minutes will most likely fluctuate all season long. Because they bring two completely different elements to the court, their minutes will be based on what is needed on a game-to-game basis. When starters are struggling to get buckets, Young will be called upon to provide a scoring spark. When the offense is clicking, it’s likely that D’Antoni will want to use Johnson for his defensive prowess to slow down opponents. Either way, it will be interesting to see these two young forwards try to separate themselves from one another.

C – Chris Kaman

Kaman is more of a fit due to need rather than what he provides on the court. While he can hit an open midrange shot and crash the boards, the Caveman will get minutes due to the fact that he provides size to back up Gasol and Hill. Shawne Williams is also an option here, however he is more of a stretch four who provides shooting that is not a major need on this second unit.

Odd Men Out:

Jodie Meeks

Shawne Williams

Needless to say, I do not envy the decisions that Mike D’Antoni will need to make dividing up the minutes amongst his players. There are sure to be questions, confusion and discontent amongst players as the season wears on and minutes are cut. But when looking at the lack of depth last season, it is a good problem for Coach D’Antoni to have. At least until a few tough losses and people start calling for his job. Oh wait that already is happening? This is going to be one very interesting season.

The NBA announced today the new schedule for the upcoming 2013-2014 NBA season.  Riddled with marquis games, rivalries, and guaranteed blowouts this season looks to be quite the ride.  You can look at the schedule here via ESPN.

The season opens on October 29th with Los Angeles playing Los Angeles in an epic battle of LA.  Some other notable games for the Lakers are playing the Heat at Staples Center on Christmas Day, and visiting Dwight Howard and the Rockets on November 7th.  The opening night game versus the Clippers will perhaps have a lot more meaning than appears at first glance.  Starting the season with a win there would give the Laker faithful a real hope for the rest of the season seeing as they were swept by their co tenants last year in the season series.  Dwight Howard doesn’t make a trip back to LA until February 19th when the Lakers host the Houston Rockets.  The Grammy road trip spans from January 15th – January 26th playing six games over that duration against PHX, BOS, TOR, CHI, MIA, ORL, and NYK, certainly no walk in the park.

The Lakers have a good core put together and should put up better numbers than many are anticipating this season so don’t throw in the towel just yet.  This season is sure to be filled with its share of ups and downs but has a rich helping of great, exciting games for fans every where to enjoy.

Here’s to a good season Nation, less than 3 months away.

While on his tour in China, Kobe Bryant gave an update to NBA.com’s Jonathan Hartzell on where he is at in his recovery from the ruptured left achilles’ tendon he suffered last April:

“The surgical procedure was different […] and because of that the recovery has been different,” Bryant said in the southern city of Shenzhen. “The normal timetable for recovery from an Achilles, we’ve shattered that. Three-and-a-half months I can already walk just fine, I’m lifting weights with the Achilles just fine and that’s different. So we don’t know what that timetable is going to be. It’s kind of new territory for us all.”’

After years of defying the odds when it comes to injuries, it should come as no surprise to hear this positive news regarding the health of the Lakers superstar, who will be entering his 18th year in the league.

While it’s okay to be optimistic about Kobe’s recovery process, it’s important to remember that we are still three months away from the start of the season and that Kobe is still a long way away from being able to step back onto the court at the level we’ve come to see.

Source: Bryant ‘Shatters’ Recovery Timetable (NBA.com)

UPDATE: Here is a video of Kobe talking about his recovery:

Kobe talks about recovery

Andrew Goudelock drops 31 points in Summer League Victory!

Photo Credit: USA Today Sports

The Mini Mamba, Andrew Goudelock, signed a one-year contract with UNICS Kazan of Russia the team on Friday. (Via Live5news)

https://twitter.com/bc_unics/statuses/360758354517307393

Goudelock had been hoping to secure a contract with an NBA team, especially after a solid week in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas earlier this month, but the LA Daily News reports that the offer from Russia was worth “Considerably more” than any offer he got in the states.

Goudelock was named Development League MVP last year with averages of 21.1 points, 5.2 assists and 3.9 rebounds in 52 games for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers and the Sioux Falls Skyforce. He played in only one regular season game this past season and started in game three of the playoffs scoring 20 points.

The Lakers decided not to take up Goudelock’s $1.1 million qualifying offer and make him a restricted free agent. He was extended an invitation to play for the Lakers’ summer league team however he believed playing elsewhere, the Chicago Bulls ultimately, would display his skill set and earn him a contract.

While Goudelock was one of the top performers within the Summer League he was not given a serious contract offer.

https://twitter.com/MarkG_Medina/statuses/360846295931437056

Here is to Mini Mamba and his time for the Lakers. Hopefully he will return to the NBA and find a stable home within another franchise next year.

Do you believe the Lakers should have retained Goudelock? Tell us your thoughts below!

Elias Harris Highlights via Fox Sports

Photo Credit: Spox

The Los Angeles Lakers signed undrafted rookie forward Elias Harris to a two year contract worth the minimum salary on Friday. (Via LA Times Eric Pincus)

Harris is a former Gonzaga forward who also played for the Lakers summer league team with averages of 10.2 points and 5.6 rebounds a game.

“I tried to show what I’m capable of,” Harris recently told The Times. “I’m a guy who is willing to work. I’m not just a guy who is going to sit around and think everything’s going to fall into my lap. That’s just not me. I hope I get the opportunity and I can reward the guys with playing hard.”

Harris, just a few days ago, spoke to Pincus about hoping for his dream to come true to play for the Lakers. Now with this contract, he will get his wish and a prime opportunity.

“I really hope so.  I really hope I get an opportunity with the Lakers or whoever wants to give me a shot — primarily with the Lakers,” said Harris. “Once I get 100% comfortable and know my role 100%, I think I can help a team out.  I really believe that.”

“I hope [I'm going to] the Lakers.  If it doesn’t work out for me, then I’ll have to change my plan and try to take a different kind of tour to reach my dream … just go over to Europe and come back next year.”

Elias’ tough play and basketball IQ seemed to have left a mark with the Lakers staff. Player development coach Mark Madsen spoke highly of Harris when asked about the promising players from the summer league roster,

“Elias had a great career up at Gonzaga,” Madsen told The Times. “I think the word that comes to my mind with Elias is ‘versatility.’ At times we asked him to guard two men.

“His ability to guard men, and with the ability to put the ball on the floor and attack the basket, is a tremendous skill set,” continued Madsen.

While Harris may not have the highest of expectations placed upon him he certainly can develop into a valuable prospect. While at Gonzaga, Harris was known for his fundamentals, defensive and rebounding abilities. All aspects the Lakers will sorely need moving forward.

Do you believe Harris was a good signing for the Lakers? Or should they have gone after another free agent? Sound off below!

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