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Metta World Peace

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After 16 NBA Championships and 31 Western Conference Titles, the Lakers have been one of the most storied and successful franchises in NBA history. From the eras of West, Chamberlain, Kareem, Magic, and Kobe, there have been countless record-breaking performances and memorable games that have added to Lakers glory. Let’s take a look back at some notable moments for the purple and gold, from the week of June 15-21, over their 66-year history.

June 16, 1975

The Bucks traded Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to the Lakers after the three-time MVP requested to be traded away from Milwaukee. Abdul-Jabbar went on to win five NBA championships, three MVP awards, and became the NBA’s all-time leading scorer while wearing the purple and gold. His number 33 was eventually retired by both the Bucks and Lakers after his playing days came to an end in 1989.

June 16, 1999

The Lakers hired Phil Jackson to become their head coach after his wildly successful run as the head coach of Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls. In his first three years as the Lakers’ head coach, Jackson led the team to three-straight NBA championships. During his second coaching stint with Los Angeles, Jackson led the Lakers to consecutive championships in 2009 and 2010. In 12 seasons at the Lakers’ helm, Jackson won five NBA championships and became the NBA’s career leader in playoff victories and playoff winning percentage.

Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

June 17, 2010

The Lakers defeated their rivals, the Boston Celtics, 83-79 in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. Despite an ugly game on both sides, an unlikely hero emerged for Los Angeles, as Metta World Peace, formerly known as Ron Artest, stepped up and dropped 20 points for the Lakers. Although Kobe Bryant struggled uncharacteristically, going 6-24 from the field, he finished with 23 points and 15 rebounds in the win. The Lakers’ Game 7 victory avenged their loss to Boston in the 2008 Finals and secured their second consecutive title.

June 21, 1988

“Big Game” James Worthy picked the perfect time to live up to his nickname, as he recorded the first triple-double of his career with 36 points, 16 rebounds, and 10 assists, to lift the Lakers over the Pistons 108-105, in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. Worthy’s clutch performance allowed the Lakers to become the first NBA team to defend its championship since the 1969 Boston Celtics. With their victory in the title-clinching game, Los Angeles also became the first team in NBA history to win three straight playoff series in seven games, having done so consecutively against Utah, Dallas, and Detroit.

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Photo by Nick Laham | Getty Images

January 25, 2014 — 12:30 PM (PST)
Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
TV: ABC
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

Carmelo Anthony scored 62 points this past Friday vs. a top-10 defensive team in Charlotte Bobcats to single-handedly snap the New York Knicks’ 5-game losing streak.

Now, he and the rest of the Knicks (16-27) get to play vs. the Los Angeles Lakers (16-28), the NBA’s worst defensive team by a wide margin.

The Knicks might arguably be the most disappointing NBA team this season, with multiple locker room problems and playing without any team continuity. Despite the turmoil, Anthony has carried this dysfunctional Knicks all on his own back, scoring 27.0 PPG, grabbing 9.1 RPG, and dishing out 3.0 APG. He creates a matchup nightmare for the Lakers since the Lakers do not possess a player who has the size and strength to match up vs. Anthony.

Rumors and speculations have swirled around Anthony’s potential destination including signing with the Lakers to team up with G Kobe Bryant. However, he currently wears a Knicks uniform and the Lakers have to figure out a way to contain him.

The Lakers, on the other hand, suffered a bad loss vs. Orlando Magic, 114-105 as a result of allowing 38 points in the 3rd quarter. C/F Pau Gasol, who had another double-double vs. Magic by scoring 21 points and grabbing 11 rebounds, seem to now arguably be the best offensive Center in the NBA during the month of January. Gasol needs to play like one today in order to offset Anthony’s probably scoring outburst.

Also, this would be the first time the Lakers will play vs. former Laker and 2010 NBA Finals hero F Metta World Peace, who the Lakers amnestied last offseason to clear cap space. World Peace’s playing status remains uncertain today due to a strained left knee.

Projected Starters

PG - Kendall Marshall / Raymond Felton [Advantage: Even]
SG - Jodie Meeks / Pablo Prigioni [Advantage: Lakers]
SF - Nick Young / Iman Shumpert [Advantage: Lakers]
PF - Ryan Kelly / Carmelo Anthony [Advantage: Knicks]
C - Pau Gasol / Tyson Chandler [Advantage: Lakers]

Notable Bench Players

Knicks: G Tim Hardaway Jr.G JR SmithC Jeremy Tyler, Metta World Peace

Lakers: Wesley JohnsonG Manny Harris, F Jordan Hill

Bench Advantage: Lakers

Injury List

Knicks: Out-F Kenyon Martin, Out-F Amare Stoudemire, Out-F Andrea Bargnani, Questionable-F Metta World Peace

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

Defense: No explanation nor analysis necessary. You can figure this one out.

Bottom Line

Hopefully the Knicks play like they have for the majority of this season that caused them to land in 10th place in the Eastern Conference. The Lakers need to win today’s game to salvage this roller-coaster Grammy’s trip, where they currently suffer a 2-4 record. The Lakers definitely possess better team chemistry than the Knicks, so they have to work as a team to grind out this game. Unfortunately, their defense will most likely haunt them, and the Knicks should win this game.

Prediction

Knicks: 116-107

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

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

Power Forward:

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

Small Forward:

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

Projected Starting Line up: 

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

Credit: SI.com
Credit: SI.com

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

Credit: SI.com
Credit: SI.com

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

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

Credit: Getty Images
Credit: Getty Images

 

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Credit: Getty Images

The city of Los Angeles, home of beautiful weather, women and glamour. Home of the greatest organization in sports, The Los Angeles Lakers, but more importantly, the greatest fans. What makes the Lakers and their fans so unique is they mirror one another. They represent L.A., in many ways. The streets of Los Angeles are rough. It’s about taking care of business and being loyal to one another. The fans represent a ride or die mentality for the Lakers organization, and the players of L.A. do the same.

Being a Laker comes with many great advantages, things like playing for an amazing organization that has a history of winning, and playing alongside one of the (if not the) best to do it in Kobe Bryant and of course the fame of Hollywood. More importantly when you put on that Purple and Gold Armor as Kobe would say, you represent this city. As a Laker you represent toughness and feistiness, you are professional and always hungry just like the city. Our players and fans take on personalities of Ice Cube, Jack Nicholson and many more. Ice Cube represents the West Coast and living in hard times earlier in his life, he’s tough and always wants the Lakers to win. Jack on the other hand is calm cool man, but when a play goes wrong or the referee misses a call he loses it, ready to throw a tantrum, and Laker fans out here, we just love it.

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Credit: Getty Images

I say these things to remind us, who we are and what we represent as fans. We look at the past and current players starting off with Shaq. Shaq jokes around and always smiles but when it came to his play on the court he was dominant and just unstoppable, putting up 40 pts and 20 rebound playoff performances.

We look at Derek Fisher not the biggest or fastest but has the heart of a lion and the nuts of an elephant, I’m pretty sure everyone remembers the play between him and Luis Scola, were he just lit him up and dropped on the floor.

We look at Ron Artest A.K.A Metta World Peace, if their was ever a rumble on the court he was there for his teammates and helped us in game 7 with great Defense and clutch shooting. Todays players, Kobe Bean Bryant, one of the most professional, passionate leaders in Lakers history that never backs down from a challenge.

Los Angeles Lakers Victory Parade
Credit: Getty Images

L.A citizens wake up, work the 9 to 5, grind everyday and when all hope seems lost, they still keep working hard and find a way to get the job done. If the Lakers were down 8 with two minutes left, Kobe and his teammates will find a way to bring us back to win the game. L.A fans and L.A players mirror each other, they are one.

Dwight Howard did not represent LA and who we are. He is extremely talented and is arguably the best center in the league. He is NOT an L.A player, Dwight did not represent this city and our characteristics. He lacked the grittiness, toughness and hunger of the city. Like Tupac said “ To Live and Die in LA it’s the place to be,” We never needed Dwight or needed to beg him, it should have been an honor for him to come back and play. Los Angeles Lakers fans and organization, do not forget who we are, where we come from and what we represent. This is Los Angeles, it doesn’t get better than this. We must remain strong and stay true to ourselves.

Sincerely,

- Just One Of Many Hardworking Los Angeles Citizens and Die Hard Laker Fan. Go Lakers.

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Image: Jared Wickerham | Getty Images
Image: Jared Wickerham | Getty Images
Image: Jared Wickerham | Getty Images

According to the OC Register’s Kevin Ding, the Lakers plan on using their one-time amnesty provision on small forward Metta World Peace:

This comes as little surprise, considering the Lakers’ current financial situation for next season.

With the new “repeater luxury tax” penalizing tax-paying teams, the Lakers’ decision to amnesty World Peace is purely financial.

Even with Dwight Howard bolting to Houston and the inevitable use of the amnesty clause, saving the Lakers about $14.355 million in payroll, the Lakers will still be over the 2013-14 NBA salary cap.

As reported today, the Lakers have agreed to use their taxpayer’s mid-level exception in signing free agent center Chris Kaman, which leaves them with only veteran minimum contracts to fill out the rest of the roster.

One option in filling World Peace’s void is simply moving Kobe Bryant to the small forward position.

The Lakers, however, have also been rumored as having interest in a few free agent wing players.

Stay tuned for official word on the Lakers using their amnesty provision, as the NBA amnesty period runs from July 11 through July 17 of this year.

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Now that the NBA Finals have ended, the basketball world’s attention shifts to the off-season. Beginning with the NBA Draft yesterday and continuing with the beginning of free agency next week, the next three months will shape how the 2013-2014 NBA season goes down.

There might not be a team with a more uncertain future heading into the off-season than the Lakers. Will Dwight stay or will he go? (Here’s my opinion from yesterday in case you missed it)

Do you upgrade an aging roster? Stick to what you have? Get rid of everyone? What exactly should the Lakers do?

Let’s take a look at three options Los Angeles really has this off-season, and which is going to be best for the franchise.

Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles Lakers

Re-sign and Build Around Dwight

The most obvious solution would be to go all in and put everything you have to bringing Howard back to Los Angeles. While injuries caused a dip in his production this season, there is no doubt Dwight is a top ten talent in the NBA and the best center in the league when healthy. Howard is a game-changer, especially on the defensive end of the court. With a player like that in the fold, you have a solid core for the next 5-10 years that you can build around.

With gobs of cap space coming in the summer of 2014, and a very impressive list of free agents, the Lakers could secure Howard and be back in contention within a year.

That is of course if the big man wants to be back in the Purple and Gold. Reports have recently surfaced that the Lakers are a long-shot to bring him back. According to ESPN:

Howard is willing to forgo the extra $30 million the Lakers can pay him to play for a coach and in a system he feels will better use his skillset, one source said.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Boston Celtics

Sign-and-trade Dwight for Depth

So if there’s no bringing him back, what can the Lakers do? Another idea that has been thrown around lately has been the concept of sign-and-trading Dwight to a team of his choosing to bring back some assets in return. While Howard would obviously have to agree to sign with the team he is going to, getting something in return is better than allowing Dwight to walk for nothing. (Contrary to popular belief, the Lakers can send a player out in a sign-and-trade, they just can’t bring a player in via sign-and-trade.)

With reports that Chris Paul and Howard want to form their own super team, the most talked about sign-and-trade has D12 going to the Clippers in exchange for Eric Bledsoe and Blake Griffin. Which sounds like a decent deal, except for the fact that the Lakers don’t want to send Howard to their rivals (if you can even call them that) down the hall, and the contract owed Griffin is going to become increasingly tough to justify if all he ever does is dunk and make Kia commercials.

If the Lakers are going to move Howard they need to take advantage of this opportunity and bring in a young talent that can help transform the franchise. A trade that gets the Lakers younger and more talented in exchange for Dwight would be the main objective of the franchise.

So what trade accomplishes these goals? That’s easy. A three-way trade between the Lakers, Clippers, and… (drumroll please) the T’Wolves! Minnesota happens to have a very talented young power forward who most people (Minny included), don’t expect to stick around past his opt-out after this season. A trade sending Dwight to the Clippers, Blake Griffin to the Wolves and Bledsoe and All-Star Kevin Love to the Lakers makes sense for all involved.

Paul and Howard get to team up in Clipper uniforms, Ricky Rubio gets the perfect alley-oop target, and the Lakers get two young, dynamic players to upgrade their roster. Which sounds like the perfect trade, meaning it will be almost impossible to pull off.

Andrew Wiggins 2

Blow it Up and Start Over

So if Dwight doesn’t want to come back, and the Lakers can’t get the right assets in return with a sign-and-trade, what option lies behind the proverbial door number three?

Blow it all up and rebuild. Let Dwight walk. Trade Pau. Amnesty Metta. Don’t bring Kobe back to play this year. Tank, tank, tank, tank, tank. (Then fire D’Antoni, I beg of you.)

If we’ve learned anything from the OKC’s and Spurs of the league, it’s that drafting talent is as important as signing talent. Unless you have Lebron James, you just can’t win in the league today without cheap, young talent.

In Los Angeles, it’s title or bust every season for the Lakers. And with a championship looking less and less likely next season, blowing it up for a franchise-changing lottery pick (Andrew Wiggins anyone?) could be the best route to take.

With ridiculous amounts of cap space next summer, the Lakers could potentially have a great, young talent on a rookie contract and two or three max players in the starting line-up with him. Doesn’t that seem like the best option towards a quick rebuild back into title contention?

The Lakers have some big decisions to make in the next couple of weeks. Will they look for instant gratification again, or decide to finally bite the bullet and rebuild for the future? Either way, you can guarantee it will be an interesting summer in Laker Land.

Belal Abdelfattah is a sports addict, sneaker junkie, and Laker Nation contributor. Follow him on Twitter over at @ItsBelal_A

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

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

 

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

PhotoCredit: HarryHow/GettyImages
PhotoCredit: HarryHow/GettyImages

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

PhotoCredit:GettyImages
PhotoCredit:GettyImages

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

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

PhotoCredit:IDSports
PhotoCredit:IDSports

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

PhotoCredit:APPhotoFrankFranklinII
PhotoCredit:APPhotoFrankFranklinII

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

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

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

 

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

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

PhotoCredit:GettyImages

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

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

 

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

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

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

PhotoCredit:JohnWMcDonough:SI
PhotoCredit:JohnWMcDonough:SI

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

PhotoCredit:Jeff Gross/Getty Images

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

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Image: Chris Graythen | Getty Images
Image: Chris Graythen | Getty Images

According to reports out of Lakers’ practice today, Metta World Peace is likely to make his return to the lineup as early as Tuesday night:

World Peace originally tore the lateral meniscus in his left knee against the Golden State Warriors back on March 25th. He then had surgery to repair the tear on March 28th.

Lakers’ doctors originally said World Peace would be out at least six weeks after surgery.

Today’s news comes as quite a surprise, considering World Peace had surgery just 12 days ago. World Peace credited healthy eating, yoga and off-season workouts for his speedy recovery.

As Mike Trudell reported, if there are no setbacks or swelling from today’s workout, World Peace is likely to play in Tuesday’s matchup with the New Orleans Hornets.

This miraculous recovery is certainly a welcomed sight for the Lakers.

With only five regular season games remaining, and Kobe Bryant playing close to 48 minutes per game, getting World Peace back in the lineup this soon could be a catalyst for the stretch run.

In related news, point guard Steve Nash did not practice today and is considered “doubtful” for Tuesday’s game. Nash continues dealing with both hip and hamstring injuries, but remains listed as “day-to-day”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dwight Howard Up arrow : ‘Superman’ is back.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jodie Meeks Down arrow : Tough week for Jodie Meeks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Morris attempted two shots and made one free-throw.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Lakers are back in the playoff picture!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

The Lakers continue crawling back into the playoff picture.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s certainly been “go time” lately.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image Credit: David Crane
Image Credit: David Crane

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image Credit: SBNation
Image Credit: SBNation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Despite a shortened week due to the All-Star break, the Lakers continued their season-long trend of mediocrity.

The Lakers remained average this past week, splitting their two home games 1-1, and bringing their record to 25-29 on the season.

Despite a 1-8 shooting performance from Kobe Bryant against Phoenix, center Dwight Howard led the Lakers to a 91-85 victory over the Suns with 19 points and 18 rebounds.

Following that ugly win, the Lakers had an opportunity to gain some much-needed momentum going into the All-Star break.

As expected though, the Lakers lost to the Clippers in disappointing fashion on Valentine’s Day. 20 points and 11 assists from Bryant were not enough to overcome the Clippers barrage of threes in the loss.

After an exciting Western Conference win over the East in the 62nd All-Star game Sunday, the Lakers look to get back on track for the stretch run.

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

Antawn Jamison Up arrow : One of the biggest bright spots this past week was sixth-man Antawn Jamison.

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

In recent weeks, Jamison has significantly elevated his game. Jamison, 36, was a huge spark off the bench in both games this past week.

In the win against Phoenix, Jamison scored 19 points on 8-16 shooting with 2 three-pointers and 10 rebounds. Jamison’s scoring burst helped pick up the slack from Bryant’s measly 4 points.

Jamison was also the best player on the floor against the Clippers. The Lakers’ sixth-man poured in 17 points on 7-13 shooting. Jamison’s scoring actually kept the Lakers in the game in the first half of that game.

With Pau Gasol still out indefinitely, the Lakers are forced to lean on Jamison and his scoring ability.

For the Lakers to turn this season around and make a run at the playoffs, Jamison’s production off the bench will be an important part of any turnaround.

Dwight Howard Up arrow : Like Jamison, Dwight Howard had an excellent week leading up to the All-Star break.

Howard actually showed flashes of the three-time Defensive Player of the Year. With the continued drama surrounding the Lakers, especially with Howard, the Lakers desperately need a focused Howard going forward.

Howard scored 19 points in the win over the Suns, but more importantly, grabbed 18 rebounds and blocked 2 shots. The rebounding void left from Gasol’s absence now falls squarely on Howard.

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

Howard’s rebounding average of 11.8 rpg has been down this season from his career average of 12.9 rpg.

Hopefully as Howard continues to improve his conditioning, and assuming there are no more set backs with his torn labrum, Howard will return to being a consistent, tenacious rebounder.

In the loss to the Clippers, however, Howard’s rebounding numbers slipped again. Howard only grabbed 8 rebounds but did score 18 points.

With Gasol out, Howard has to be the defensive anchor at all times. Against the Clippers, however, Howard allowed Blake Griffin to get off to a hot start offensively.

Griffin scored 10 points in the first five minutes of the game, something that should not happen with Howard guarding him.

As has been the case all season, the Lakers need even more from Howard. His offensive statistics and efficiency have improved of late, but the Lakers desperately need Howard to become the captain of their defense.

Howard did seem to have fun in the All-Star game this past Sunday, however, something he hasn’t shown much of in his time in Los Angeles. Howard scored 9 points, including a three-pointer, and led the Western Conference in rebounding with 7 boards.

But for his Lakers, Howard must start taking things personally and control the paint on both ends. If Howard truly dedicates himself to those things, the Lakers may be able to string together some winning streaks going forward.

Oh, and Dwight Howard finally lost the headband this week!

Steve Blake Up arrow : Since returning from injury this season, Blake has been shooting the ball exceptionally well.

Against Phoenix, Blake scored 5 points on 2-2 shooting with 1 three pointer and 3 assists. Blake also shot 3-3 against the Clippers, scoring 7 points and adding 7 assists.

Blake’s consistent play of late has been great for Steve Nash as well. With Blake playing at a high level, coach Mike D’Antoni is able to limit the 39-year old point guard’s minutes and keep Nash fresh.

Despite struggling for much of his tenure in Los Angeles, Blake has returned from injury this season in promising fashion.

It looks like Blake will continue to run the bench unit as the primary backup point guard going forward.

Expect Blake to keep playing at a high level if allowed consistent playing time, and hopefully those high assists numbers will continue.

Kobe Bryant even : Tough week for Kobe Bryant.

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

Bryant shot just 1-8 in the Lakers’ win over Phoenix and finished with 4 points. Bryant did have 9 assists in that game, but also turned the ball over 8 times.

Bryant, in fact, did not even attempt a field goal in the first half. The key for Bryant going forward is to find that middle ground between facilitating and scoring.

In that game especially, Bryant was over-committed to facilitating early. This over-commitment led to Bryant’s poor shooting and a lack of rhythm on the offensive end.

Bryant seemed to find that fine line between the two extremes in the loss to the Clippers. Bryant scored 20 points on 7-13 shooting with 11 assists and 5 rebounds.

Unfortunately, the Lakers’ defense, or lack thereof, was the downfall in that game.

The Clippers starting backcourt scored a combined 45 points. The Lakers starting backcourt, however, only combined for 27 points.

This is a major issue on both the offensive and defensive ends. Along with his own individual scoring, Bryant, and teammate Steve Nash, need to find ways to get each other going, early and often.

With Gasol out, Nash’s offensive scoring role becomes heightened. As a result, Bryant and Nash must find a way to become more effective on the offensive end together.

One way to do this is to run more 1-2 and 2-1 ball screens, either at the top or on the wing. The key here is that if opposing defenders switch, then Bryant can take advantage of smaller defenders on the block.

If opposing defenders go under the screen, however, then Nash can burn them with a quick three-pointer behind the screen.

Along with on the offensive end, Bryant and Nash need to re-dedicate themselves to slowing opposing backcourts. Because the Lakers’ backcourt tandem is on the older side, they need to start funneling the opposition into Howard.

Funneling and helping each other is the only way the Lakers’ slower backcourt will be able to keep up with the likes of Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups, Russell Westbrook, Tony Parker, etc.

Bryant did play well in the All-Star game, highlighted by his late defense on LeBron James to seal the win for the West. Bryant scored 9 points on 4-9 shooting and had 8 assists in just 28 minutes.

Ultimately though, any Lakers turnaround this season will start with the captain, Kobe Bean Bryant. If he is able to find that elusive balance between scoring and facilitating, the Lakers may make their way back into the playoff picture.

Metta World Peace even : After struggling for much of the past few weeks, Metta World Peace turned things around some.

Image Credit: Allen J. Schaben | LA Times
Image Credit: Allen J. Schaben | LA Times

Although he continued his shooting slump, World Peace played a little more consistently this week.

In the Lakers win, World Peace scored a surprising 17 points, albeit on 6-16 shooting from the floor. World Peace also snatched 8 rebounds and 4 steals in the win.

This type of aggression is needed from World Peace night in and night out. If World Peace can get back to the consistent play he had earlier in the season, the entire team will benefit on both ends.

Against the Clippers, however, World Peace reverted back to his inconsistent ways. Scoring just 11 points on 4-9 shooting, World Peace was practically a non-factor.

World Peace also made little impact on the defensive end. Both his rebounding and steals numbers dropped to just 4 rebounds and 1 steal in the loss.

Any offensive contributions from World Peace are an added bonus at this point, but his defensive prowess must be present each and every night for the Lakers to win ball games.

Jodie Meeks even : Along with Jamison, Jodie Meeks also had a nice week offensively off the bench.

Meeks scored only 6 points in the win over the Suns, but dropped 13 points against the Clippers.

The Lakers could certainly use more of Meeks’ perimeter shooting ability. With Meeks now receiving consistent playing time, the Lakers need him to stretch the floor even more.

Meeks’ 2-4 three-point shooting was a welcomed sight vs. the Clippers, but the Lakers could use more off the bench.

If Meeks can start making 3 to 4 three-pointers per game, that would open up the floor even more for Howard, Bryant and Nash.

Meeks’ energy on the defensive end this season has been a welcomed sight as well. The Lakers certainly need his change-of-pace energy and effort off the bench to continue.

Earl Clark Down arrow : A tough week for Earl Clark as well.

Image Credit: David Crane | Daily News
Image Credit: David Crane | Daily News

Clark has been this season’s big surprise, but he came back to Earth some this past week.

After receiving an MRI on his sore right foot last Tuesday, Clark was unable to produce for the Lakers.

Despite registering two double-doubles last week, Clark did not even come close to one this week. Clark scored 11 points on 4-9 shooting against Phoneix, but only had 4 total rebounds.

Clark followed up that mediocre performance with an even worse one against the Clippers. Clark scored just 4 points on 2-10 shooting in that game.

This recent stretch of inconsistency is understandable from a player who has never been in this role before. With the All-Star break now behind us, Clark should be able to regain his consistent, high-energy play.

Hopefully Clark’s foot is not be an issue going forward, but it could certainly flare up if D’Antoni continues playing him healthy minutes per game.

Steve Nash Down arrow : Although not talked about as much this season, Steve Nash is quietly having a below average year by his standards.

This season, Nash is only averaging 11.8 ppp and 7.4 apg, both down from his career averages of 14.4 ppg and 8.6 apg.

Against the Suns, Nash scored just 10 points and had 8 asissts. Against the Clippers, Nash scored just 7 points on 3-9 shooting and 5 assists.

Although Nash is currently on his way to another 40-50-90 year shooting-wise, he was 0-6 from three-point range this week.

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

Nash’s poor shooting this past week was probably an anomaly, and the Lakers still desperately need Nash to shoot even more.

Nash, one of the league’s best shooters of all time, has to become more aggressive in the near future. For the Lakers to have success, Nash’s scoring ability needs to be utilized much more.

With Bryant continuing to facilitate the offense, Nash should switch his focus to more of a “shoot-first” mentality.

Nash’s superior shooting ability, coupled with Bryant’s attacking mentality, can significantly help the Lakers’ offense for the stretch run.

Since the Lakers’ backcourt is the oldest and slowest in the NBA, a more efficient offensive attack should also lead to a more efficient half-court defense.

If the Lakers want to make the playoffs, that push will ultimately start with their two most seasoned players, Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant, leading the charge.

Darius Morris Down arrow : With Steve Blake permanently back from injury now, Morris remains at the end of the rotation.

The Lakers could use his speed and quickness to penetrate opposing defenses, but D’Antoni remains committed to his short rotation of 8-9 players.

Morris did not play against Phoenix, but did play 4 minutes of “garbage-time” against the Clippers, in which he scored 4 points on 2-3 shooting.

Robert Sacre Down arrow : Even with Gasol still out, Robert Sacre barely played this past week.

Sacre did not play in the Suns game but did play 4 minutes of “garbage-time” against the Clippers.

Chris Duhon Down arrow : Chris Duhon did not play in either of the Lakers’ games this past week.

Devin Ebanks Down arrow : Devin Ebanks also did not play in either of the Lakers’ games this past week.

Pau Gasol Injury sign : After suffering a partially torn fascia in his foot, Pau Gasol continues receiving treatment in Los Angeles.

Gasol is now entering week three of his recovery process. The Lakers could certainly use his contributions with Howard playing hurt, but Gasol remains out indefinitely.

There is no target return date set for Gasol at this time.

Stay tuned for next weeks’ Lakers Stock Watch as the Lakers begin the stretch run battling Boston, Portland and Dallas.

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