After exiting early for the second straight game with nerve irritation, it looks like Steve Nash may be out until after the All-Star break.
After Tuesday’s game vs the Jazz, Nash spoke very briefly to reporters, but did mention he might need some more time to get past this issue:
“I think I need a little more time to get over the hump,” he told the LA Times.
Head coach Mike D’Antoni was noncommittal in his post-game comments regarding his point guard, but at the time seemed like he did not know his status moving forward.
“I imagine it’s day to day. I don’t know anything else,” D’Antoni said of Nash’s status. “I haven’t really talked to him.”
It is definitely a concern that Nash says he needs a little more time to get over this injury considering he took nearly three months to return the court. At 40 years old, it is really hard to imagine this nerve root problem improving enough to where he could play multiple games in a row without setbacks.
Guard Steve Blake also shared his concern to reporters regarding Nash after the game:
“I’m pretty concerned. I know he’s dealing with a lot of pain.”
With Tuesday being Nash’s tenth game of the season, the Lakers cannot apply for the salary exclusion until one year after his final game, whenever that may be. There was talk of a potential medical retirement that would take Nash’s salary off the books, but that is no longer an option because of the number of games he has played in.
Had he retired before ten games, the Lakers could have applied for the salary exclusion 60 days after his final game, clearing his contract for the summer.
In simpler terms, Nash’s salary is on the books this season and next season barring some sort of trade, which is highly unlikely.
The Lakers using the stretch provision on Nash this summer seems more and more likely by the day.
“I work as hard as I can everyday to perform and keep going until I’m not playing anymore,” said Nash. “But right now, I have no intentions to stop playing.”
Head coach Mike D’Antoni also chimed in on Nash’s rumored retirement.
“It’s too early for him,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said about Nash’s possible retirement. “He’ll have to decide that. He’ll feel it in his heart and his head. I’m sure he’s getting good advice. Right now we’re trying to get to the next game and play well.”
“Steve Nash finally made it back to the Lakers and has told a few friends this is going to be it, even though he has one season to go on his contract, at $9.7 million. Nash, who turned 40 Friday, doesn’t expect to help much, but that’s been the story of his injury-plagued Laker career. He really missed the camaraderie with his teammates when he was out for three months with a nerve injury in his back, and says he wants to experience that for at least the last part of this season before he calls it a career.”
Still two months away from the end of the regular season, there are plenty of questions that need to be answered regarding the direction of the Lakers, but Nash’s future may be one of the bigger ones.
While many do not know the true intentions of Nash, it is not unreasonable to think he could call it quits this season. Nash has one more year remaining on his contract worth $9.7 million. It is difficult seeing him being able to go through offseason workouts, training camp, the grind of another 82 game season and potentially additional games in the playoffs but being the competitor that he is, Nash is not going to give up without exploring all avenues to continue playing at an elite level.
The 40-year-old point guard has not enjoyed a successful stint with the Lakers. Affected by nerve problems in his left leg, Nash has played in just 59 games over two seasons. This season, he has played in only nine games before having to come out of Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bulls with nerve irritation.
On Monday, Nash did go through practice with the team which is a good sign, but it is important to keep a close watch on his health over the final 31 games of the season. The Lakers say that Nash is probable for Tuesday’s game vs the Jazz.
Back from injury, Steve Nash and Steve Blake will both return to the starting lineup tonight vs. the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Nash will be on a minutes restriction according to coach Mike D’Antoni. The plan is for Nash to play 5-8 minutes in the first quarter then not play again until the third quarter where he will play another 5-8 minutes.
Nash will not play on the second of a back-to-back versus the Cleveland Cavaliers tomorrow night.
It is unclear whether Blake will be on a minutes restriction as well, but he will start alongside Nash. Jodie Meeks will be the third guard in the starting lineup tonight which gives the Lakers a small lineup as all three players are 6’4 and under. Robert Sacre and Ryan Kelly get the start in the front court.
If you are wondering about Chris Kaman, D’Antoni says he “will play a lot of minutes” off the bench.
As for Jordan Farmar, D’Antoni says he will suit up and could play limited minutes. The plan for Farmar is to get Nash’s minutes tomorrow night so they are hoping to save him for one more day.
The question now is what happens to Kendall Marshall? Averaging 10.5 points and 9.6 assists, the young point guard has definitely earned his minutes on the team but with Nash, Blake, and Farmar returning, will his minutes decrease dramatically? We will have a good idea of that over the next few games.
Are you happy with the changes being made to the Lakers lineup?
January 28, 2014 — 7:30 PM (PST)
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
The Los Angeles Lakers finally return from their 2-week Grammy’s road trip to play at STAPLES Center tonight. However, they will have to play the Indiana Pacers (34-9) tonight as a significant underdog. The Pacers have a very talented starting lineup and also an improved bench, especially with former All-Star F Danny Granger returning from a chronic knee issue.
Pacers F Paul George has blossomed into a bonafide NBA Superstar. Elected as an NBA All-Star starter this season, George plays both ends of the floor significantly well, scoring 23.5 PPG, grabbing 6.3 RPG, dishing out 3.4 APG, and take 1.9 SPG from his opponent which ranks him 7th in the league.
The Pacers also have 2 more potential all-stars on their team in C Roy Hibbert and G Lance Stephenson.
Hibbert, who many NBA experts consider as the best center in the Eastern Conference, makes his name as an anchor on the defensive end, blocking 2.6 shots per game, grabbing 7.8 RPG, and also contributing 11.9 PPG on the offensive end. His length and skills have made the Pacers the biggest threat to de-throne the 2-time NBA Champions Miami Heat throughout these last 3 seasons.
Stephenson has evolved from a bench-warmer to a potential all-star this season and also seems to be the probable winner of the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award. Stephenson has played this season much more under control and consistently, averaging 14.2 PPG, grabbing 7.0 RPG, and dishing out a team-leading 5.3 APG. Stephenson’s emergence has let Granger come back slowly by coming off the bench without any pressure this season.
The Lakers, meanwhile, have arguably had the worst defensive team in NBA history, allowing more than 100 points for every game in the year 2014 after their 1st game of this 2014 year. If the Lakers cannot get their act together on the defensive end, the Lakers will never become a winning basketball team no matter how much Head Coach Mike D’Antoni tries to improve its offense.
PG - Kendall Marshall / George Hill [Advantage: Pacers]
SG - Jodie Meeks / Lance Stephenson [Advantage: Pacers]
SF - Wesley Johnson / Paul George [Advantage: Pacers]
PF - Ryan Kelly / David West [Advantage: Pacers]
C - Pau Gasol / Roy Hibbert [Advantage: Lakers]
Notable Bench Players
Knicks: F Danny Granger, F Luis Scola, G CJ Watson,C Ian Mahimi
Lakers: F Nick Young, G Manny Harris, F Jordan Hill
Bench Advantage: Pacers
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: Nothing to explain here. The Lakers have allowed 100 or more points in 31 out of 45 games so far this season, which. Before D’Antoni game-plans anything on the offensive end, he needs to shore up major deficiencies on the defensive end to have any chance of winning basketball games.
Hopefully the Pacers play lethargically and play down to the Lakers level. The Lakers have to get off to an excellent start before the Pacers start getting warmed up. Otherwise, this will be a very ugly game for the Lakers versus a team that views this season as their best opportunity to win a championship.
Tanking. Something no team truly wants to admit to doing but in reality many teams do it to adequately prepare for the future. It’s all about selling what you currently have (which typically isn’t much) in order to ensure you aren’t as poor of a team for the following years. In basketball it’s about being as bad as possible one year so you can get a great pick in the upcoming draft, and 2014 just happens to be one of the most loaded drafts in recent memory. With a draft class consisting of Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins, Marcus Smart, Joel Embiid, and Julius Randle rounding out the top-five, teams have to consider wanting a top-five pick for this draft.
Now, before everyone starts yelling about how the Lakers aren’t a team that tanks, they’re not a team that gives up, they’re not… Yeah, yeah, yeah I know, but let’s take a look at what that would exactly entail.
The Lakers aren’t winning anything this year with their current roster
With Mike D’Antoni as head coach, and the current arsenal of players, the Lakers aren’t even looking at obtaining a playoff spot right now. It’s time to face facts and just accept it, even when Kobe Bryant comes back it’ll be a lot to ask to even make an eighth seed. Even if they managed to make the playoffs they’re likely looking at a first round exit much like last season, to be honest, the rest of the West is just better and more primed to win than the Lakers currently are. However, most of us already knew this as the Lakers aren’t playing to win this year, they were playing to have a great amount of cap room for next season in hopes of signing a big name free agent.
Finishing with a poor record only means a better draft pick
For the most part at least. I mean, once the Lakers don’t make the playoffs they’ll be in the lottery, but with a poor record they may have a decent shot at getting at least a top-ten pick which, in this draft, would most likely yield a solid player that would make a difference on any team. If they’re truly BAD, then they can look at getting into the top-five which would yield one of the players listed above, almost certainly an instant game changer. Of course the NBA Lottery is unpredictable and just about anything can happen as we’ve seen in the past (1993 Orlando, 1990 Seattle). These players may not all pan out, but the chances of most of them turning into NBA All-Stars one day is immense.
So, as you can see it is clearly in the Lakers’ best interest to be a bad team. I don’t necessarily mean to just play as poorly as possible, but they shouldn’t use all their energy and willpower to just finish eighth or ninth in the West. Regardless of what fans think, about how the Lakers are a storied franchise that has only missed the playoffs five times in their history and only once since 1995, there is absolutely no benefit to finishing with a first-round exit. NONE.
Some may call me a hater, a doubter, a nonbeliever, but I’m just being realistic here, and in basketball realism is one of the best mantras to have. Imagine next season, 2014, with only Kobe Bryant ($23.5 million), Steve Nash ($9.7 million), and Robert Sacre ($915,243) on the books, oh and then there’s the possibility that Nick Young exercises his player option ($1.2 million). According to Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times, the 2014-15 cap is projected at around $62.1 million, and the Lakers would have about $40.3 million in salary which equals just under $22 million to spend this summer.
But, not so fast! This changes based on Los Angeles’ draft pick and how high or low it is. If they finish out of the lottery, then they will likely get an average draft pick to where they can sign their player to a minimum rookie salary. But, like I said, if the Lakers are terrible and end up with a top-eight or so draft pick then they will obviously be paying that rookie considerably more money. This is where we can analyze the options a bit more.
Either the Lakers are terrible, and they get a great draft pick, but don’t end up with enough cap room to sign Carmelo Anthony or Lebron James. OR the Lakers finish in the top-eight in the West, get a mediocre pick, and have enough money to sign a big name free agent. Anthony is the most likely candidate here, as James just doesn’t look like he’s going to land in the city of angels.
Now, let’s be real here again for a minute, do the Lakers really want Anthony? What has he done that screams “I’m going to win your team a championship, sign me to a max deal!” Is it the whopping zero championships he earned in Denver? Or maybe it’s the great record he has the Knicks sitting at in New York. Exactly. I’m not saying Anthony is a bad player, far from it actually, but he’s just not the player the Lakers need to pair alongside Bryant. Both those guys like to have the basketball in their hand A LOT, and both take a hefty amount of shots per game. Bryant averages about 20 shots per game for his career, and Anthony takes about, oh would you look at that, 20 shots per game for his career. That is 40 shots every game between two players, both of which will want it at the end of the game as well. Oh, and unless Lakers’ brass change their minds soon, Mike D’Antoni will be the one coaching these two, and he has a wonderful track record with superstars! Right…
Here’s the other option, the Lakers finish with a poor record, get a great pick and sign a guy who could potentially be a difference maker for them. They also would be quite young, which means they could be around for a long time. A top-ten pick would cost the Lakers anywhere between $1.8 million to $4.3 million, according to HoopsWorld’s rookie salary scale from 2012-13. This takes the Lakers from just under $22 million in space to roughly $18-$20 million in space, not quite enough for a big name free agent, but enough to fill-out the roster with solid role players. Yes, solid role players, because believe it or not, Bryant, Anthony, (potentially) Nash, and Sacre won’t be enough to fill out the Lakers’ roster.
Also, something to think about should the Lakers sign someone like Anthony; they won’t have much more salary to devote to the other players needed to fill out the roster. Which means another year much like this season, with players who are willing to sign for minimum salaries just to fill the roster up. So, tanking and receiving a great draft pick would essentially give the Lakers more financial freedom to sign other good, solid, dependable role players that can truly help them win another championship in the Bryant era. I like this plan much more for the future of the purple and gold as it gives them flexible cap space, a young budding star (potentially), and the ability to sign more good players instead of one great player.
So, to sum this whole thing up into a paragraph, the Lakers shouldn’t be worried about finishing with a record worthy of sending them to the playoffs, they should be worried about being bad enough to set themselves up for the future. Granted, the other option involving big name free agents isn’t horrendous, I just see holes and many issues arising from going down that path. Not that the tanking path doesn’t have its issues, believe me it does, I just see it as a safer and more efficient path to achieving what every NBA team wants, a championship.
Sometimes you just have to be bad in order to get better. That is what the Lakers must do this season in order to ensure they have a bright and welcoming future in the NBA.
The Lakers, currently 14-22, started the season with low expectations. That was even before they were hit with the injury bug for the second straight season which has resulted in inconsistent play and embarrassing losses to some of the NBA’s worst.
Despite the team being tied for the second most losses in the Western Conference, speaking to the Los Angeles Times, Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak gave his vote of confidence to head coach Mike D’Antoni, expressing his pleasure with the Lakers second-year coach:
“We’re happy with Mike,” Kupchak said Wednesday. “You can look back six weeks ago and say it’s exciting and we’re playing great. It’s hard to ignore the injuries but it was a fun game to watch when we were playing without Kobe [Bryant] and anticipating his return. In other words, ‘Wow, we’re playing this well now and Kobe has still yet to return and neither has [Steve] Nash?’ So we had high hopes.”
Well I’m not sure if many fans will agree with the sentiment as the Lakers have lost 9 of 10 games, I will say that D’Antoni has done a good job with the roster he has had to work with since the start of the season.
Although, one thing about the fans here in Los Angeles, losing is a tough pill to swallow and is unacceptable regardless of the reasons. As Kupchak said, six weeks ago, many were pleased with the performance of the team, but fast forward to today, that feeling has all but disappeared.
The question remains, will injuries to the roster save D’Antoni’s job heading into next season?
We all remember Jim Buss and his vote of confidence for former coach Mike Brown, two days before he was fired. The Lakers started the season 1-4 before Brown was relieved of his duties, but even then, was coaching a roster that had no Steve Nash (hurt in second game versus the Blazers) as well as a rehabbing Dwight Howard, who was not close to 100% after back surgery a few months earlier. If the injury excuse did not save Brown, how long will it save D’Antoni?
In addition, Kupchak commented on the possibility of the team making moves as they move closer to the Feb. 20 trade deadline and was asked what the odds were that Pau Gasol would still be with the team:
“My job is to be the caretaker of this team for this year and going forward,” Kupchak said. “And every move we make, depending upon the makeup of the team and your record at the time, has to be done with vision.
“I don’t know where we’re going to be six weeks from now and certainly we’re going through a very rough time right now, but we’re going to monitor the team closely and look for opportunities to help the team either in the short run or the long term.”
For those who have followed the Lakers closely over the past few years, Kupchak’s answer is an eye opener coming from an individual who stays fairly quiet when asked about player dealings and will usually say he is happy with the team and does not anticipate any moves. His silence regarding Gasol is something that should noted as the team moves forward.
Finally, for the fans that feel the Lakers should “tank” and go for the high lottery pick in this June’s NBA Draft, the feeling is not mutual with the front office:
“In any sport, that should never be a factor, whether it’s NBA basketball or football or baseball,” Kupchak said adamantly. “That’s the worst possible message you could send to anybody anywhere, whether it’s a fan or a player or a coach, and we will not do that. Our players will play hard and fight to the very end.”
Christmas Day, the Lakers took on the defending champion Miami Heat in a close, hard fought match-up. While the game turned out better than most predicated, lost in the Christmas frenzy was the return of reserve guard Jordan Farmar. Farmar had been out of the lineup since Dec. 1st with a torn left hamstring. While his presence is certainly good for then point guard less Lakers, Kendall Marshall has not played enough nor knows the system well enough to qualify just yet, Farmar, will still need time to recover as he noticeably would not explode off his left hamstring during the game.
Los Angeles Times reporter Melissa Rohlin spoke to Farmar about his comeback,
“I felt like I didn’t play basketball for a month, just the timing, everything just felt a little off,” Farmar said.
Like previously mentioned, Farmar did not look like his normal self. Sitting out for almost a month and then coming back to play against the Heat certainly did not help but one has to appreciate how much Farmar wanted to be on the court to help contribute. When asked about his performance he held no gripes in mentioning how he does not fully trust his left hamstring just yet.
“Just knowing that it kept me out for a month, and not wanting to make that explosive move that might set me back,” he said. “I’ll gain more and more confidence, and then hopefully it’ll get out of my mind and I’ll just be able to play.”
Farmar played almost 33 minutes on Wednesday, while recording three points (he shot one for seven from the field), five rebounds, two assist, and four turnovers. While those numbers are not his averages they certainly are acceptable for someone coming back so soon after being out and not being able to do many basketball related activities.
“I haven’t even played five-on-five since I got hurt, so this is the first time I’ve really played basketball,” he said.
Coach D’Antoni spoke on Farmar’s performance and said “his next game will be better,” and “and a week from now he’ll be rolling.” That is great news for the Lakers since Farmar’s aggressiveness and lead guard abilities have been sorely missed. Jordan will need time to heal and slowly integrate back into his old form as the explosion off that left hamstring will be needed time and time again throughout this season. With just he and Kendall Marshall to play point for the Lakers, Xavier Henry too until Steve Blake is back, the team will count on him on every game as he will undoubtedly have some tough match-ups ahead. Farmar’s injury is just one of many for this Lakers team so far but the commitment he has to even return so soon to help make this club better is something special and will go a long way.
December 25, 2013 — 2:00 PM (PST)
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
The Los Angeles Lakers (13-15) look to shock the world today as they face the reigning back-to-back NBA Champions, the Miami HEAT (21-6) in another Christmas Day matchup. The Lakers are coming off another very disappointing loss vs. the Phoenix Suns, a game in which fans had to witness C Miles Plumlee score 22 points and grab a career-high 20 rebounds while Gerald Green also scored 22 points and made 6 wide open 3-pointers. Lakers Mike D’Antoni got so frustrated after the game that he made an ill-advised comment, obviously taken out of context stating that “if [Lakers fans are] discouraged, find another team to root for” while trying to defend his players. D’Antoni apologized for that comment, explaining that it came out of frustration after yesterday’s practice.
However, the Lakers finally got some great news; they finally have a point guard. PG Jordan Farmar has fully recovered from a torn left hamstring and will start for the Lakers tomorrow. Farmar, who has shown a great improvement from his first stint with the Lakers, has shown he can effectively be a team leader both on and off the floor. Farmar has averaged a solid 9.2 PPG and 4.4 APG in only 18.9 MPG, all statistics that will greatly increase since the Lakers will depend heavily on him without another true point guard other than the newly acquired PG Kendall Marshall.
The Heat are on their way to another top seed in the playoffs in their quest to win a 3rd straight NBA Championship. Reigning MVP F LeBron James, has blossomed into a true all-around player, which came mainly from greatly improving his post game, which now leaves smaller players who used to be able to guard James very vulnerable in the post. A back injury has slowed James statistically so far this season, who averages 25.4 PPG, 6.9 RPG, and 6.6 APG, which are not up to his high standards. Heat G Dwyane Wade has played very well so far this season while avoiding injuries, averaging 19.9 PPG and 4.8 APG while shooting a career-high 54.1% so far this season. Although Wake has scored a career-low in terms of points per game, his high field goal shooting percentage has shown that he is still having a very great season. For the Heat however, regular season statistics are irrelevant as long as they are fully healthy once playoffs begin.
PG - Mario Chalmers / Jordan Farmar [Advantage: Even]
SG - Dwyane Wade / Jodie Meeks [Advantage: Heat]
SF - Shane Battier / Wesley Johnson[Advantage: Heat]
PF - LeBron James / Shawne Williams [Advantage: Heat]
C - Chris Bosh / Pau Gasol [Advantage: Even]
Notable Bench Players
HEAT: F Udonis Haslem, F/G Michael Beasley, G Ray Allen, PG Norris Cole, C Chris Andersen
Lakers: G/F Nick Young, G Xavier Henry, F Jordan Hill, C Chris Kaman
Bench Advantage: Even
Keys for Lakers Success
Feed the Bigs: The Lakers have one asset that the Heat do not have: Multiple post players who can score. Although the Lakers are a run and gun team, it will be up to Mike D’Antoni to delve away from his usual style of play to take advantage of Gasol and Kaman’s ability to score. The Heat lack size in the post, playing undersized big men like Bosh and Haslem as centers. If the Lakers slow the game down and use their advantage over the Heat, they could have a fair chance at making the game competitive.
Keep James and Wade out of the Paint: James and Wade will be impossible to stop if the Lakers defense lets them drive to the basket. Both superstars are able to finish very strong inside the paint while finding shooters like Allen and Battier. Although both players, especially James, have greatly improved their jump shooting skills, the only chance the Lakers have at keeping the game close is to force both players to settle for contested jump shots. Otherwise, they will run circles around the Lakers defense like how Dragic and Bledsoe did during the Lakers last game.
For the Lakers to have a chance of winning tonight’s game, everything would have to go right for them and for everything to go wrong for the Heat. If the Heat’s jump shots are off and if the Lakers can keep the heat away from drives to the basket, maybe the Lakers can keep this game close. Although I expect the Lakers to play inspired basketball today, the Heat’s talent and skills will most likely be too much to come away with a victory.
Well Nation, this week was a rather eventful one to say the least. Losing Kobe Bryant for another six weeks hurts and just means the Lakers will need yet another player to step up. This past week one player stood out form the crowd and despite the strong and powerful performances by Pau Gasol it wasn’t him. The player of the week is:
Nick Young played at an extremely high level this past week as he put up numbers of 21.5 PPG, 3.5 RPG, and 1.5 APG. The Lakers finished the week with a 2-2 record while losing Kobe Bryant on Friday. Young came off the bench in each contest and managed to make a valuable impact on each game with his scoring and ability to pump up his teammates and the crowd with his “swaggy p” dance.
Young’s excellent energy he brings to the game is something that won’t show up on stat sheets but is one of those intangibles you wish every player could bring to the court.
As long as Young keeps up these scoring numbers he may be the first Laker to repeat as player of the week, but I guess we’ll see how the games go next week!
From day one, the relationship between Pau Gasol and Mike D’Antoni has been anything but cordial and pleasant. During the season and off-season, the relationship was said to be repaired whether it was due to nice dinners or private meetings between the two, but it should not come as any surprise that problems between the two have once again shown its ugly head.
“The fact that I’m not getting the ball in the post affects directly my aggressiveness,” he said. “When I’m not getting the ball where I want to, where I’m most effective, where I can bang guys and utilize my skill, that affects my aggressiveness and overall intensity….
“This year hasn’t been ideal, certain things are not ideal for me, but that’s not going to change any time soon,” he said.
To which D’Antoni responded:
“I can’t lie to him… Our numbers tell us the worst thing we do is post up,” he said.
Which lead us to this response by Gasol:
“I don’t pay attention. Mike is sometimes all over the place, I don’t give much credit to things like that,” he said.
Unfortunately for Gasol, myself and plenty of Lakers’ fans are siding with D’Antoni this time around, which should speak volumes. Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News, published this quote from D’Antoni at shoot around this morning, questioning Gasol’s effort:
“It’s also a nice excuse not to play hard,” D’Antoni said. “That’s a classic, ‘I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.’ Well, you don’t have trouble getting up to the paystub line. You know what you need to do to get your check. You know what to do. They will. They’ll figure it out.”
Gasol’s play dating back to last season as been average at best. This season, he is averaging 14.4 points, 9.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists playing 30.3 minutes a game, but has a field goal percentage of 41%, which is terrible for a center and is the worst in the league for qualified centers, behind Al Jefferson at 44%.
Offensively, he is a shade of his former self and has continued to use D’Antoni as an excuse for his play instead of taking responsibility for it himself. There is zero issue with Gasol wanting to be put in certain spots in the offense, all players want to be comfortable. Where the issue lies is that when Gasol does get into the post, he gets pushed out 5-10 feet from his original position, resulting in long jumpers. Simply put, he can do more by being assertive in the offense, but doesn’t seem interested in doing so more times than not.
On the defensive side of things, there’s not many, if at all any good things to say about Gasol. Although he is battling injuries, there has been times where he does not attempt to jump to block shots and instances where he will shy away from contact. Gasol isn’t a defensive enforcer in any sense, but it’s the effort that bothers me.
Gasol has been a professional on and off the court during his time in Los Angeles. You rarely hear negative things about him, so it’s disappointing to hear a situation like this.
At this point, Gasol has one of two options. The first is to play this season out, keep his mouth shut, and find a better situation for himself in free agency or risk getting traded. The second is simply to demand a trade out of Los Angeles. With the injuries this team has gone through the last two seasons, the loss of Dwight Howard, and the losing, this franchise doesn’t need more distractions as they attempt to get through this season. Unfortunately for Gasol fans, it looks as if a trade could be on the horizon if things do not change.
League sources told Sporting News that the Lakers have been fielding trade offers for Gasol for a while now, and finally could find a new home for their disgruntled big man.
Gasol will earn $19.3 million this year, an obstacle to any deal. But he is in the final year of his contract, making him a workable target for a team hoping to find a short-term big man who won’t sit on the books past this season. Another obstacle—the Lakers are protective of their cap space, and any deal they make would have to include enough expiring salaries to allow them to pursue a max-contract free agent in July.
Could the Lakers find the right deal for Gasol? That’s unclear. They have shopped him for the last three seasons, had in fact traded him in the Chris Paul deal, then kept him around and have turned down offers for the 12-year veteran over the past two seasons.
It’s important to remember that the Lakers will not sacrifice significant cap room unless it’s a player that can help them move forward in their rebuilding process. With Kobe’s extension in place, the team will almost surely look for expiring contracts and draft picks as Sporting News reports, but the question remains if there is a team out there willing to give the Lakers what they want, especially with the inability to trade draft picks until 2019 due to the Steve Nash and Dwight Howard trades.
What happens next is anyone’s guess. This situation seems like it will only get worse but let’s hope a resolution comes quickly so the focus can stay on the basketball court.
December 10, 2013 — 7:30 PM (PST)
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
The Los Angeles Lakers (10-10) look to bounce back tonight against the Phoenix Suns (11-9) after a very disappointing loss vs. Toronto Raptors on Sunday. Lakers G Kobe Bryant, who made his season debut on Sunday after tearing his left achilles on April 12th game vs. Golden State Warriors, showed a lot of rust especially with his executing his passes as expected. Bryant scored a pedestrian 9 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, while committing 8 turnovers. Lakers fans however should be very patient with Bryant and let him play his way to return to his old form and develop an on-court chemistry with the rest of the Lakers, many of whom have never played with Bryant before Sunday’s game. Although the Lakers will struggle as a team the next few weeks to get Kobe in rhythm with the rest of the Lakers, any team with Bryant on the floor will be better off in the long run.
The Phoenix Suns, on the other hand, look to come into Staples Center after 3 days off and come away with a victory tonight. The Suns are led by the point guard duo of PG Goran Dragic and PG Eric Bledsoe. Dragic has performed very well replacing PG Steve Nash to run the show, averaging 17.7 PPG and 6.4 APG. Bledsoe clearly benefited from PG Chris Paul‘s tutelage during his Los Angeles Clippers days, bringing hope for the Suns franchise moving forward. Bledsoe has eerily similar numbers to Dragic, averaging 18.6 PPG and 6.0 APG, while causing havoc on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor.
Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni has decided to shuffle the starting lineup again to help Bryant on the defensive end so he would not have to guard quick guards like Bledsoe and Dragic tonight. SG Jodie Meeks will replace F Wes Johnson in the lineup to provide a quicker player on defense and F Shawne Williams will replace C Robert Sacre to help spread the floor out and match-up with Suns F Channing Frye.
PG - Goran Dragic / Steve Blake [Advantage: Suns]
SG - Eric Bledsoe / Jodie Meeks [Advantage: Suns]
SF - PJ Tucker/ Kobe Bryant [Advantage: Lakers]
PF - Channing Frye / Shawne Williams [Advantage: Suns]
C - Miles Plumlee / Pau Gasol [Advantage: Lakers]
Notable Bench Players
Suns: G Gerald Green, F Markieff Morris, C Marcus Morris
Lakers: G Xavier Henry, G/F Nick Young, G/F Wesley Johnson, C/F Jordan Hill
Suns: G Gerald Green - who joined the Suns this season after a solid season coming off the bench for the Indiana Pacers, could cause the Lakers a lot of problems tonight. Arguably one of the most athletic players in the NBA, Green definitely helps the Suns run-and-gun style of play with his high flying dunking skills. Although Green has played for the Suns this season scoring at a career high 13.9 PPG, Green has struggled lately, shooting only 6-25 in his last three games. If Green can somewhat offset the points difference the Suns and the Lakers bench, the Suns will be in great shape to win tonight’s game.
Lakers: C Pau Gasol - While the Lakers coaching staff expected Bryant to struggle in his season debut, Bryant did not struggle as much as Gasol vs. Raptors. Gasol, whose sore ankle has clearly affected his mobility on the floor, had another dissappointing game on Sunday, scoring only 11 points on 3-11 shooting, while contributing a lot to Raptors C Amir Johnson‘s career high of 32 points. For the Lakers to have any chance in tonight’s game, Gasol has to play well to offset the Suns backcourt speed. If Gasol lets his sore ankle affect his production as significantly as Sunday’s game, the Suns will make tonight’s game a track meet, which will cause major problems for both Gasol and Bryant.
As Bryant gets back into regular season form, expect to continue to see a lot of timing issues on the floor as Bryant and the rest of the Lakers learn how to play with each other and communicate more effectively. For the Lakers to have any chance to win tonight’s game, the Lakers bench, who has outscored their opponent’s bench in all but 2 games and lead the NBA in scoring at 48.1 PPG, has to outscore the Suns bench by a significant margin.
The NBA world isn’t just about what you do on the court. We scoured the web for Lakers-related quotations to provide you with the 10 best quotes from the past seven days:
“In the paint, we’re awful and we’ve got to get tougher. We’ve got to get a little stronger there. If we want to be a good team and if we want to get better, then that’s definitely a point of emphasis.”
“That Achilles tendon injury forces you to play on the ground as well as in the air and that means becoming more fundamentally sound. And Kobe being a fundamentally sound guy anyway, it’s going to be easy for him to make the adjustment. The fundamentals will obviously be there for Kobe, but what about his explosiveness? The explosion will be there, especially if you really rehab it and strengthen it like you should.”
“Sometimes I don’t believe I’m on the court with Kobe. He has the ball so much and he demands the ball so much as Kobe Bryant and sometimes you can catch yourself watching him on the floor. We just got to be out there and go with him. Sometimes we’ll bring it up and sometimes he’ll bring it up, we can’t just defer to him every time. It’s my first time out there with him so I deferred to him a lot. I looked for him a lot because he’s out there on the court and that’s what the fans wanted. The whole thing was about Kobe tonight so I got caught up in the moment.”
“I wasn’t 100 percent but I don’t like to make excuses. I’m just going to try to play through what I have going on. A guy like that (Amir Johnson) shouldn’t have that type of night against your team. We have to do a better job individually and collectively in order so anyone won’t have a game like that.”
“It was really weird. I think the last time I had eight months off I was still in the womb.”
Kobe Bryant, after returning to action against the Raptors, via USA Today
“I think calmer heads kind of prevailed and thought let’s not risk this kind of yo-yo season. Because that might be the case. I might not be able to play anymore. I might have to yo-yo it or I might be able to play the rest of the way. I think right now we want to see if I can play the rest of the way. (…) It’s been just an obviously pretty horrible 13 months for me. It’s really hard. It’s been a really hard 12 months, 13 months and it’s been in particularly even more hard the last six months, seven months since (the nerve issues) happened in April where I just could never quite get over the hump. It’s been . . . It’s a battle every day.”
“As tough as ever to find that balance of where my mind needed to be. As soon as the injury happened, I had doubts whether this night would ever happen. And then, I kicked it into the full gear and fought myself to not think about the end result – just think about every single day of work it would take for me to get back again. I found out that I had another gear, a gear that I never knew was there. It’s one thing to push yourself when everyone expects you to be dominant, to perform at the highest level. I had a motivation to do that. But it was something else all together to find a motivation when there was no end goal in sight, when I literally couldn’t walk. I had to sit there and think about coming out and performing, months and months from now, but I didn’t really know when that time was going to be. And you keep going and you keep working and you find out, yes, I can get there… And I got there.”
Sunday night was the beginning of the Empire striking back. With Kobe Bryant’s Vader like return after rupturing his Achilles last season, he was the focus of the night while the Raptors, and the world, paid attention to his every move. The consensus was the focus on Bryant would create more scoring opportunities for everyone else, especially former all-star forward Pau Gasol. While it indeed created more open looks for the Gasol, he struggled to adjust as he is currently battling an ankle injury that caused him to trudge up and down the floor. When asked about his quality of play last night Gasol, via Mark Medina of the LA Daily News, stated that he is not 100 % but will still battle through his injury as best as he can.
“I wasn’t 100 percent but I don’t like to make excuses,” said Gasol, who has been nursing a sprained right ankle. “I’m just going to try to play through what I have going on.”
While modesty is appreciated from Gasol it will take more than that to prevent the onslaught of opponents who will attack him inside. His sprained ankle limited him on rebounds both offensively and defensively, sliding on pick and roll switches, running up and down the court, protecting the paint, offering help defense, and lastly on the offensive end. He simply looked troubled and uncomfortable. Pau is the consummate professional and will play as long as his body allows it but being unable to stop Amir Johnson en route to a 32 point performance where he shot 14 for 17 is unacceptable.
“A guy like that shouldn’t have that type of night against your team,” Gasol said. “We have to do a better job individually and collectively in order so anyone won’t have a game like that.”
Do not misunderstand me. All of Amir’s 32 points were not on Gasol. A good number of them came from him being more active than Gasol and every other Laker big, including Shawne Williams, on the court. However, if Amir can score 32 points against the Lakers inside defense by just being active, this upcoming stretch will be difficult with Phoenix’s Morris’ twins, Oklahoma City’s Serge Ibaka, and Al Jefferson of the Charlotte Bobcats. Going beyond just big men, it could become even tougher for Gasol to provide help relief for perimeter penetration. There were too many times against the Raptors where their guards or wing players would drive to the basket without being effected by Gasol’s presence. I will not say it is impossible for Gasol to guard their big men but, it will be a tall task for him to provide inside relief if he cannot move efficiently in the paint. That goes for the big man he is guarding or the help defense he attempts to provide for perimeter penetration. To put his injury and its effect into perspective, I took a look at some recently released NBA stats on the Lakers next three opponents. Phoenix, OKC, and Charlotte all have at least 1 player in the top 25 of total points for drives to the basket.
Oklahoma City is the exception with two players, Kevin Durant and Reggie Jackson. If you take it a step further and look at the top 50, All three teams now have at least TWO players in this category and OKC has three with Russell Westbrook. Looking at their drives to the basket per game, the Lakers inside defense will be have to potentially stop at least 5.1 drives to the basket (Durant’s number) by the team’s top perimeter players. This number increases to 5.2 with Reggie Jackson, 5.5 with Kemba Walker, 7.0 with Eric Bledsoe, 7.1 with Westbrook, and 9.3 with Goran Dragic. With the knowledge, and reality, of how poor defensively the Lakers are inside these numbers could increase exponentially. Not to even mention the number of kick out passes that these drives could lead to or drives by other players.
“I knew he had his ankle bothering him here or there, but we need him,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said. “If you look at the stat sheet, our bench was all double figures. I might have to think about who starts. I don’t know.”
This injury opens the door for coach Mike D’Antoni to begin playing Jordan Hill more. Originally Hill was moved from the starting lineup, and replaced by Robert Sacre, due to his production decrease. However, after watching the game against the Raptors (and how hurt Gasol is), Hill seems to have found his energy. He was all over the court grabbing rebounds, putting back dunks, and playing active defense. Gasol is ranked number 9 in total rebounds in the league this season while Hill is ranked number 22. Gasol, who averages 9.7 rebounds per game, is better than Hill, 8.5, by a margin of 1.2 rebounds. This number would increase for Hill if given more or equal the amount of time to play. Not only do those stats reassure that Hill could provide more productivity than the currently injured Gasol but there are two more stats that tell an even greater story.
Those are percentage of rebounds per chance and contested rebound percentage. Before diving into it, I will state that I believe some if not most, of Hill’s rebounds come off sheer effort. Looking at the data, Gasol’s percentage of rebounds per chance are 65.8% for the 30.6 minutes he plays a game. Hill’s percentage of rebounds per chance 63.9% for every 21.7 minutes he plays. That’s a difference of 1.9% even with the 8.9 minutes Gasol receives over Hill. The second set of data again is contested rebound percentage. These are the percent of contested rebounds a player grabs per game. Gasol has a percentage of 32.5%. Hill’s average is 36.9%, a difference of 4.3% with the 8.9 minutes less he plays than Gasol.
“Pau will be back,” D’Antoni said. “He’s battled through some injuries. Just like everybody else, there was a product of no flow out there. It just wasn’t where it was. He’s fine.”
The data tells me that when Gasol is healthy the only problem the Lakers have, with him, is an aging forward who will not be able to move as fast as he used to. That is fine but if Gasol continues to look as bad as he did it could become a big problem. With this ankle sprain, D’Antoni needs to let Pau recover while giving more time to Jordan Hill. Making this change in a rotation that he is looking to shake up could provide the spark the Hill needs to play better, Gasol needs to recover, and for the team to gel with Bryant’s return.
“We talked a little bit after the game in the locker room in terms of making some adjustments and things that we read,” Bryant said. “It didn’t look like he had his legs underneath him that much. But I don’t know. We’ll see. We’ll talk it out some more and figure it out and see how he feels and where his body is and go from there.”
A downside to this could be decreased productivity from Gasol because of the pinch on minutes. Yet this early in the season I am sure Gasol would like to focus on his recovery for the long haul, even if it means giving more time to Hill and Sacre for the moment.
“We’ll lean on each other,” Bryant said. “As you can see, our bench is phenomenal. They play extremely well man. We just have to go out there and support each other. Any given night somebody can step up and be explosive. We just have to support each other and make each other better.”