Friday, December 19, 2014
Tags Posts tagged with "Mike D’Antoni"

Mike D’Antoni

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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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PhotoCredit:Jayne Kamin-Oncea, US Presswire
PhotoCredit:Jayne Kamin-Oncea, US Presswire

When The Lakers said no thank you to Phil Jackson earlier this season, fans everywhere thought that’d be the last we’d hear of the 11 time champion coach. Well, that seems to be false, as reports have surfaced that Phil Jackson is now mentoring Dwight Howard.  Dwight had this to say regarding his new mentor in Jackson, via Mark Medina, Daily News LA:

“Phil, he texts me and he understands how it is to come off back surgery,” Howard said. “He just said it takes a full year to recover, so you can’t beat yourself up over the things that have happened this year.”

This is something Howard has been attempting to convey to the general public as of late, but most don’t understand and just want immediate results from Howard.  Phil also believes that LA is misusing Howard and aren’t putting him in the situation he needs to succeed.

“Dwight just doesn’t get any touches,” Jackson said. “They’ve basically eliminated his assets.”

Phil is clearly on Dwight’s side regarding his current situation in LA.  Howard is still rehabbing from his back surgery last April, and it’ll likely be through the offseason that Howard gets himself back to 100%.  Howard sometimes wonders what it’d be like if he had postponed his return until he was 100%.

“I said that plenty of times, but I don’t want myself to be thinking so much on what I should’ve done,” Howard said. “The harder I push myself every day to get better and get in shape, my body will respond. This summer, after the season, I’ll get an opportunity to train and get my body right.”

“Looking back on it, I could have sat out the whole season until now and starting playing now, but I just felt like we had such a great opportunity,” he said. “Some of these guys, their windows for winning are very small, and I just wanted to get back and try to do whatever I can to help this team, knowing that I wasn’t in great shape. My body wasn’t all the way there yet.”

PhotoCredit:Harry How/Getty Images
PhotoCredit:Harry How/Getty Images

Howard is also continuing to nurse his torn labrum in his right shoulder, which also hinders him in games.

“Sometimes I have gotten beat up for it, but that’s fine. I’ll take all those hits and I’ll keep moving,” Howard said. “People watch games and they see me playing so they think it’s all good. It’s just a time thing. I’ve just got to keep going, keep pushing myself and it’ll get better.”

Because Phil Jackson is on Howard’s side and understands him, more fans around the league should be more sympathetic towards Howard as he continuously tries to get himself fully healthy.  Howard returned in order to help out his team when he saw they could really use him, he knew it was risky coming back so early from such a serious injury but he wanted to help out as best as he could.

Howard continues to get healthier by the day and incrementally is performing better and better on the court. With Phil Jackson mentoring Howard one has to think what else they could be talking about, a possible return to LA? Perhaps, but it’s unlikely seeing as D’Antoni is still under contract, but you never know, Los Angeles is always full of surprises.

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

Antawn Jamison came to Los Angeles for one reason: to win a ring.

Since signing his one-year, veteran’s minimum deal with the Lakers, the 14-year veteran has endured his most unpredictable season yet.

In the twilight of his career, Jamison transitioned from five consecutive games with a DNP-CD in late December, to now leading the Lakers’ bench unit in March.

Jamison, who has averaged 19.0 points and 7.7 rebounds per game over his career, was obviously stunned and discouraged by his lack of playing time. The two-time All-Star specifically chose the Lakers over his hometown Charlotte Bobcats, and their $11 million contract offer, to chase a ring.

Back in July of 2012, when he made that decision, Jamison certainly did not foresee a ‘cheerleading’ role on the Lakers bench.

In a recent interview with ESPNLA’s Ramona Shelburne, Antawn Jamison explained his early frustration, how he stayed professional and the Lakers’ “deciding factor” this season:

When asked about the notorious DNP-CD streak, Jamison had this to say:

“Never in my career had that happened to me,” Jamison said. “Never. I just didn’t know what was going on. Did I do something wrong?”

During one of the most difficult stretches of his career, Jamison tried to stay professional and remained a role model for the younger players.

Jamison then explained coach Mike D’Antoni‘s justification for sitting him:

“He was a man about it,” Jamison said of D’Antoni. “He sat down and talked to me. He told me he liked Metta at the 4. I could understand that.

“And ever since then, we’ve honestly had an open dialogue about things. If there’s something going on, he feels comfortable telling me, ‘Look, I’m trying this. You might be in early, you might be out.’

“It was good to have that wall come down a little bit.”

Since the Lakers’ famed “clear the air” meeting in Memphis on January 23rd, the Lakers have gone 12-5. Jamison’s 13.2 ppg and 5.3 rpg averages in the month of February certainly have a lot to do with the Lakers’ recent turnaround. Jamison, however, explained that it was more than just that:

“It really helps out, especially on the bench, knowing when you’re coming in, knowing what your role is. Knowing what is needed of you,” Jamison said. “You’re not worried about shots or minutes or ‘If I make a mistake I’m coming out.’

“There were games where you knew if we had some more chemistry or stability, the outcome would be totally different. I had guys from opposing teams coming to me like, ‘What’s up with y’all? Y’all chemistry is bad.’

“Other people from other teams saw it. That was the deciding factor between us losing and winning games. Now we have roles, guys know what’s expected, it makes a difference. It helps a lot.”

Backup shooting guard Jodie Meeks also endured a similar discouraging stretch this season. Meeks, like Jamison, fell out of D’Antoni’s rotation in January. Meeks explained how Jamison’s support as a role model helped him get through that difficult stretch:

“I talked to [Jamison] when I was going through it, and he told me to stay professional,” Meeks said. “Stay before and after practice, like I always do, that way when my time comes again I’m not as rusty and I can be effective.

“It’s tough, especially being a relatively young player, not knowing how much you’re going to play or if you’re going to play is tough, mentally.

“But I think I’ve done a good job of dealing with it.”

D’Antoni seems to have now settled on a permanent eight-man rotation, with Jamison, Meeks and Steve Blake anchoring the bench unit. A glaring liability in the past, the Lakers bench played consistent basketball in the month of February. That consistency culminated in 55 bench points in the Lakers most-recent 116-94 win over Minnesota.

D’Antoni also praised Jamison for his exceptional play of late:

“He’s just a smart basketball player,” D’Antoni said of Jamison after Thursday’s game. “He understands spacing. He understands when to cut. He understands timing. He’s the type of basketball player that I love.”

After the Lakers’ win over the Timberwolves, Kobe Bryant also praised Jamison and his ability to make plays. Bryant even likened him to a ‘cockroach':

Jamison then reminisced on his decision to sign with the Lakers and what it means to him, this late in his career:

“Whatever the future holds, I can honestly say ‘I had a shot. I had that opportunity and I took it,” Jamison said. “That’s what this has been all about. Playing for the Lakers.

“Because let’s be honest, with the personnel we have, this is the best opportunity I’ve ever had to win.”

One dimension that weighed heavy on Jamison’s decision to sign with the Lakers was his children. Jamison has four kids, ages 12, 7, 6 and 4, who live in North Carolina. They, however, were supportive of his move out west to play for the Lakers:

“I talked to the kids,” Jamison said. “And I talked to their mom [they divorced two years ago], and she said, ‘For one year, I can hold it down if this is what you want to do.’ “

That was a sacrifice for Jamison. He would take less money and play a lesser role in Los Angeles. He would be far from his children. But at this point in his career, it was the only reason to keep playing:

“For me, it was knowing I had an opportunity to win,” he said. “In the back of my mind, I knew that won’t always be there. And how would I feel if I didn’t take it?”

With the Playoffs fast approaching, the Lakers will need Jamison to continue his stellar play, and for that all-important chemistry to keep developing.

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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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Image Credit: US Presswire
Image Credit: US Presswire
Image Credit: US Presswire

Despite being passed over for the Lakers’ head coaching vacancy in November, legendary coach Phil Jackson remains optimistic about his former team.

This week, Sports Illustrated’s Jack McCallum interviewed the 13-time champion (11 titles as a coach, two as a player) about a few basketball-related topics.

The following is Jackson’s insight on the current Lakers’ issues, Dwight Howard, his own future in the NBA, and whether or not the Lakers will make the playoffs this season:

When asked what Jackson sees in the Lakers right now, considering the personnel changes and injuries, Jackson lamented:

They just don’t put the ball in the post. They’ll use a screen-roll to get the guy in the post. But there’s no consistent plan to do it. Yes, Kobe will go in there. But Dwight just doesn’t get any touches.

They’ve basically eliminated his assets.

Jackson was then asked about Howard’s screen and rolls:

You want the ball 10 feet away from the basket. Throw it into the post, make them double-team and have everybody around to make shots.

That’s what Shaq could do. That’s where you have the Robert Horrys, the Derek Fishers and the Rick Foxes sitting out there getting wide-open jumpers.

Can Howard’s presence inside be similar to Shaq’s, in the aspect of drawing the double team and finding open teammates?

I think he can be. But he is not where he needs to be physically because of the back surgery. He needs a year to recover from something like that. He’s starting to come around, but he has a massive upper body to carry around. He’s a terrific athlete, but he still has to get all that back.

He’s looking better all the time, but his problem right now is turnovers. He’s got to have a little better recognition, and that will help him gain the confidence of his teammates and coach, which he does not have now.

When asked about the issues regarding Howard and Pau Gasol playing together:

Well, what is the problem? We won two championships that way [with two big men]. Pau is one of the best big men in the game. I mean, Pau Gasol is going to be in the Hall of Fame.

Have the Lakers been improving? And will they still make the playoffs?

Yes, I think they are finding a way to play. And that’s nice to see. Steve Nash has had to sacrifice because Kobe is dominating the ball, but Kobe is showing he can be both playmaker and scorer.

Now it’s about defense. And I think that’s coming around.

They make the playoffs; I think they’ve shown they’re going to be in it with every team.

Does Jackson ever feel compelled to visit Staples Center for a game?

I haven’t yet. I’ll probably go when Shaq’s number is retired [on April 2nd].

When asked about Jackson’s run in Los Angeles:

I did have a good run. There were always people who didn’t like the triangle, thought it was too methodical, too unlike Showtime.

But I was always astonished about how well I was treated. When I came back [in 2005] and took the job, people actually thanked me. They didn’t say, “Good luck.” They said “Thank you.” I never forgot that.

Will Jackson ever coach in the NBA again?

I’m not coaching. I told Mitch [Kupchak, Lakers General Manager] that back in October. So when we sat down in November [to talk about taking over after Mike Brown was fired], he brought that up and I said,

“Well, this isn’t about moving or going somewhere else and learning new players. It’s different. So I’m ready to think about coming back, but I still have to think about it.”

But I do hold out the idea that there’s still influence in the game I could have. Red Auerbach, Pete Newell, Wayne Embry, guys like that have had … a number of people have had considerable influence and haven’t been coaches per se.

What about a management job?

Vice president of basketball operations/director of player personnel is more like it.

Jackson was also asked whether he watches games and if he takes notes on them:

I sometimes take notes. I have some people who have come to me and ask, “Would you watch my team, see if you can pick anything up?”

Four or five teams, plus the Lakers. [He wouldn’t identify the other teams.] So while I’m not officially in the consulting business, it might come in handy sometime.

Since he’s been away from the game for two years, has the league changed at all?

Not really. It’s a mimic league. It has been for a long time. Coaches see something and say, “Oh, that’s hard to defend. Maybe we’ll run that.” Screen-roll. Three-point shooters in the corner. Bigs that can roll and pop.

San Antonio has a system, a way of doing things, and maybe a couple others. But most everybody runs that screen-roll.

How does the game look from the outside looking in?

Basketball is a simple game. Your goal is penetration, get the ball close to the basket, and there are three ways to do that. Pass, dribble and offensive rebound.

The easiest one is — or should be — the pass. But the new rules allow you to throw more people at post-up players. NBA basketball is a big man’s game, and in the past they protected that aspect of the game.

Well, those rules went out the window and what they didn’t do was consider this: If they’re going to continue to allow zone defenses to work and shut down the paint, then they have to put six more seconds on the shot clock. A 30-second clock. But they’re so attached to the idea of the 24-second clock that it doesn’t happen.

Anyway, [allowing limited zones] has eliminated some of the post passing and made dribbling a major part of our game. As a result, I think people forgot that there are still ways you can get the ball inside rather than just standing there and throwing the ball in. You have to have a system that makes all things work. Pop [San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich] has that.

How would he describe that system?

Popovich made significant growth 10 years ago or so after David Robinson left. It had been pretty stilted. You know, two big guys. A lot of stuff he does represents the triangle offense.

They flow into it a different way. Strong-side triangle. Pinch-post action. Some of it may have come about because we were going at each other all the time in the playoffs and he had to defend against it.

Finally, what does Jackson miss most about coaching?

What you might expect. Being around the other coaches, being around the guys. It’s what I talked about in my book [Eleven Rings]. Coaching is about, “How do I get these people to play at their peak level?” Yeah, the X’s and O’s mean something, but you can get people to do that.

And a lot of those guys have been hired. The Lawrence Franks and the Frank Vogels. Mike Brown was one of those guys. That’s not a knock. Those guys know how to coach the game.

But coaching is much more than that. It is a spiritual quest. And if it’s not that, you don’t have a challenge, you don’t have a mission. Forming a brotherhood and trying to move it forward, that’s the part that I miss.

Sure sounds a lot like something the current Lakers’ head coach, Mike D’Antoni, lacks.

That all-important “spiritual quest.”

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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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Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash
Courtesy: Getty Images

Breathe in, breathe out, repeat. Another week in Laker Land has come and gone, and once again, fans are having to remind themselves to stay calm and carry on. As has been the norm this season, the past week was filled with some great highs and some horrible lows.

From injuries, to short-handed victories, to parental guidance, here is a recap of the Lakers past week.

Good – Winning in Brooklyn with no Front-Court.

The week started out pretty well for the Lakers. They went into Brooklyn short-handed knowing Dwight Howard was out with an injury and that Metta World Peace was suspended for the game. Things got worse from there as Pau Gasol was injured with about five minutes left in a tightly-contested game (more on that later). This left the Lakers with Earl Clark and Antawn Jamison as their only front-court players to try and close out a key game on the roadtrip.

From everything we’d seen this season, there was no reason to think the short-handed Lakers would go on a 10-0 run to close the game against a quality opponent on the road, but that’s exactly what they did. The impressive 92-83 win was a great confidence-boost for a team desperately in need of one.

Bad – Ow Gasol.

Not everything that happened in Brooklyn was positive for the Lakers. Unfortunately, recently demote big-man Pau Gasol suffered a partially torn plantar fascia in his already injured right foot. Gasol is now expected to miss six to eight weeks, but was trying to look at things positively when he took to Twitter to discuss the injury:

@PauGasol: I’m hoping to recover asap so I can be back with the team and keep fighting until the end of the season. #GoLakers #AlwaysPositive

Pau was considered a near-lock to be traded at the deadline, due mainly to the fact that Coach D’Antoni can’t figure out his rotation or how to get his two talented bigs playing together. However, this injury should put a stop to any trade talk involving the Spaniard. The Lakers up-hill climb into the playoff picture becomes even more difficult with the former All-Star sidelined.

Ugly – MWP is MIA.

One of the things that has really stood out in the past couple of Laker games, especially the losses, is just how much Metta World Peace is struggling lately. In three games this week (MWP was suspended for the fourth), the man formerly known as Artest has shot a horrendous 10-38 (26%) from the field. MWP also had just ten rebounds in those three games, a paltry 3.3 per game average for the Lakers starting forward.

Defensively, Peace hasn’t been much better. While getting torched by Lebron James doesn’t make him any different than any other defender in the league nowadays, Metta struggled mightily against Paul Pierce in Boston. Wheelchair Paul was able to get rolling early on offense and ignite the Celtics in their blowout win over the Lakers. Speaking of Boston…

Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Ugly – The Entire Boston Game.

If you wanted to find a reason for this particular Laker loss, you could probably choose from one of fifteen or so. Porous defense? Check. Lack of rebounding? Definitely. Zero energy from your All-Star Center who may have only been playing to shut your All-Star Shooting Guard up? Checkmate.

The worst part of this game was probably the fact that Boston of all teams was the squad who go to enjoy beating down the Lakers. Let’s just chalk this up to being a bad game on a long roadtrip and forget it ever happened. Any objections? Didn’t think so. Moving on.

Good – The Charlotte Comeback.

Now I know a lot of people really look at this win as a loss and find it hard to look at anything positively in a game that the Lakers trailed by 20 against the lowly Bobcats, but hear me out people. First off, a 20-point comeback in the sixth game of a seven game roadtrip is not something you should dismiss, no matter the opponent. This is the NBA after all, so most of these teams are talented enough to win a couple of good games and (almost) nobody is expected to blow a 20-point lead at home.

The Lakers really looked great for most of the second half, with Kobe dissecting the defense with his shot and passing ability, and Dwight Howard dominating the fourth quarter defensively for what seemed like the first time as a Laker. Criticize the effort all you want, but a win is a win, especially this season for the Lakers. With all that being said…

Bad – Being Down 20 in Charlotte.

Okay, now that the optimist got his point out I’d just like to state the Bobcats are probably the only team in the league you expect to blow a 20-point lead. Which means they’re terrible. Which means that even though a comeback like that is great, being down 20 to a team like Charlotte just shows how bipolar this Laker squad can be. This was the second time this season the Bobcats gave the Lakers a win in a game they had a huge lead, meaning the already bad Laker record could look much worse.

Bad – Mike D’s Rotation, Again.

I know I ranted on this last week, but I still for the life of me cannot understand the thought process Mike D’Antoni must go through with his rotations. How does a head coach in the NBA not realize that size is important in this league? How does Mike not think about putting Robert Sacre into a game when Dwight Howard sits, even after the Celtics and Heat are pounding the Lakers on the glass? Boston and Miami are two of the worst rebounding teams of all-time.

D’Antoni also has a penchant for leaving the bench in about a minute or two too long when they play well, giving them just enough time to undo all of their good work. It’s beyond frustrating and this is more a venting than anything, but I think most Laker fans would agree that Mike D might not have any clue what he is doing sometimes. Hopefully he realizes sooner than later that this isn’t NBA 2K13, and offensive-minded units won’t win you games against good teams.

Ugly – The 4th in Miami.

Speaking of Mike D’s rotation issues, the fourth quarter against the Heat was a prime example of leaving bench player in for too long. In what was essentially a must-win for the Lakers, D’Antoni went with his second unit for a few minutes longer than he should have, allowing Miami to seize control of the game. The Lakers started the fourth turning the ball over multiple times, and it didn’t help the cause that the starters came back into the game and started doing the same.

In the end, Los Angeles committed a whopping eight turnovers in the fourth, while forcing Miami into exactly zero. That’s not going to get it done on the road against the defending Champs. The fourth quarter also saw the Lakers go back to the hero-ball offense that grinds everything to a halt and makes this team almost unbearable to watch in the half-court. Just like the game in Boston, the fourth quarter against the Heat is something to forget.

Good – Surviving the Grammy Trip.

While most Laker fans and pundits agree Los Angeles needed a 5-2 record for the annual Grammy roadtrip to be a success, the Lakers came out with a 4-3 record. In past seasons, this trip has been an indicator of what we can expect from the Lake Show the rest of the season. While this season’s trip was up and down, a winning record on a road trip is a step in the right direction for a team that has struggled away from home all year. The Lakers are going to have to win games on the road to just make the playoffs, and hopefully to make some noise once they get there.

Teams need success they can draw from once the playoffs arrive, and games like the comeback in Charlotte and the short-handed Brooklyn victory should give the Lakers some confidence.

Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Ugly – Kobe, Dwight and Papa Howard.

One of the most interesting things from the roadtrip was the drama surrounding Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard. After Pau went down with his injury, the sense of urgency surrounding the team was greater than it had been all season. Kobe came out and basically said that the Lakers didn’t have time to wait for Dwight to recover, followed by Dwight coming out and saying Kobe isn’t a doctor, all while Laker fans everywhere rolled their eyes at the soap opera.

This time, instead of just going away like most other Laker stories this season, the Bryant/Howard issue took a left-turn into the land of comedy. Dwight Howard Sr. spoke with the Atlanta Constitution-Journal, saying among other things that his son and Kobe needed to have a sit down to discuss their issues. Howard Sr. also went on to blame Coach D’Antoni for not controlling things and keeping all the drama in-house. I think it’s safe to say that we can all agree this is getting to the point of embarrassment for the Lakers. Here’s hoping the drama goes away, Dwight plays like the old Dwight, and Mike D’Antoni gets fired.

Wait what?

Since returning from injury in the Boston game, Dwight Howard has been a shell of the shell of himself that he was originally this season. Get all that? Don’t get me wrong, even at 70% Howard is still the most intimidating center in the league. However, it’s impossible not to notice the drop-off in his game this season as compared to what fans were used to prior to his back injury.

That drop-off has gotten even worse since Howard’s return from injury. In three games since his return, Howard is averaging 12 points and 9.6 rebounds per game. Solid numbers, sure, for Emeka Okafor. But this is Dwight Howard we’re talking about. The main issue with Howard seems to be that he lets his offense predicate how he plays. When Howard gets touches early, he tends to try harder to dominate defensively.

The Lakers have realized this, force-feeding the big man inside even if it’s to the detriment of the team, in hopes that it will inspire him to play defense. But when Dwight doesn’t get shots, well Dwight doesn’t really care. This all sound familiar? It should, because it is the same problem the Lakers had thought they solved by trading away Andrew Bynum. It will be interesting to see if Dwight can tough through this injury and be the player the Lakers need him to be to have any success this season.

Good – Kobe Turning the Clock.

By now, everyone has seen Kobe’s thunderous slam over Kris Humphries and Gerald Wallace in the fourth quarter of the Mamba’s first game in Brooklyn. ESPN has shown it on a continuous loop since it happened, and the video has probably been retweeted a million times by now. If you are one of the three people who haven’t seen it yet, all you neeed to know is the fact that a 34-year old in his 17th season can do this in the middle of a game is absolutely incredible.

That dunk was just another reminder that we need to enjoy watching Kobe on the court, because sooner rather than later, his highlights will be just a distant memory.

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Photo courtesy of Bruce Bennett, Getty Images
Image Credit: Jared Wickerham | Getty Images
Image Credit: Jared Wickerham | Getty Images

By this point, everyone knows that Dwight Howard is (and has been) playing through pain this season. What many people do not know is how his pain intensifies during games. After the Miami Heat loss Dwight told Yahoo Sports Eric Adelson how immediately after tip-off the pain kicks in.

“They got me early,” he told Yahoo! Sports in the quiet of the Lakers locker room after Sunday’s 107-97 loss. “They would yank it back.”

The pain that follows the yanks, grabs, or pulls that Howard experiences lasts the rest of the contest, but the worst part is how it affects his game. Since his re-injury against the Phoenix Suns and his return against the Boston Celtics, Dwight barely raises his injured shoulder during play. On shot attempts, blocks, and rebounds he only raises his left arm.

Howard said the Bobcats did the same thing in Charlotte Friday night – even worse, in fact.

“It’s like a jolt,” he said. “Then it hurts the rest of the night.”

Dwight’s struggles, due to his shoulder, have severely hurt the Lakers scoring opportunities. While they rank 6th in the NBA in points per game, outside of Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash there are no consistent and reliable scorers. Earl Clark is certainly developing but he is not enough to dominate the game the way a healthy Dwight can in the paint. When asked about any update regarding his shoulder he replied:

“I’m trying not to make [the injury] even worse.” When asked how long doctors say it might be before the pain goes away, Howard sighed.

“No timetable,” he replied.

Even with no timetable for Dwight to become healthy, something that he has visibly lacked is effort. Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register gave an analysis of Dwight’s effort on the floor versus Miami. It caused Steve Nash to snap on the floor, something he rarely does not matter who you are.

Nash drove and was trapped on the baseline by two Miami defenders, Udonis Haslem about to force Nash out of bounds and Mario Chalmers also there between Nash and Howard, who stood deep in the paint. The other three Lakers had the floor spaced the way Mike D’Antoni wants, all behind the 3-point arc, so no other Heat player could get to Howard.

Howard had time to stand there, stare at Nash and the two Heat players, hold his arms up and wave them.

So Howard’s eyes and arms were working. Tragically, his legs and feet were not.

This has happened time and time again when Howard is on the floor. Either he will roll somewhat, roll a little, or stop and fully expect the ball from the person dribbling.

Howard just stood there instead of trying to help Nash create a passing lane – and get himself an easy dunk, as Nash gestured afterward would’ve happened if Howard just did something besides stand there.

Dwight has always been the type of player that has been handed the ball. From high school, to Orlando, to even here in L.A., he has been given the ball when he wanted it. Now, the topic is not so much as Dwight being given the ball. Instead it is him making an effort to go and get it. When Howard is looked at from that perspective, he has not done such for quite a while. Like Coach Mike D’Antoni has repeated the “ball finds energy”. Earl Clark provides energy night in and night out, therefore he is having a breakout season despite barely playing from October until December. I’m not at all saying Dwight would have a breakout year by being active, but I am saying he would be more efficient and effective even with his injuries by being more like Earl.

If Howard really lusts for individual offense so badly, why not try harder to get the ball? Even if he can’t explode like he did when he fully trusted his body, at least try to do something. Just look at how well things went even with makeshift non-Nash point guards for Jordan Hill – with a herniated disk in his back and other injuries before requiring hip surgery – when he simply rolled hard off picks.

Dwight seems to be getting in his own way more than anyone else. When he first arrived, he seemed thrilled to work pick and rolls with Nash and with Kobe. Now, it looks like all of the media’s criticism has gotten to his head about it. He so badly wants the ball in the post, instead of rolling to the basket for easier shots, that it leaves you scratching your head.

Howard has always been more of a pick and roll big man than a traditional NBA center who plays with their back to the basket. It’s just another one of the reasons why it’s baffling that he is acting differently now. If Dwight wants to salvage this season, then it will take more adjustments in his style of play than ever before.

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

Another week, another bad break for the Lakers.

Despite a promising start to the week with a win in Brooklyn, the Lakers finished the week at just 2-2.

The Lakers endured a blowout loss in Boston, followed by a come-from-behind victory in Charlotte, then concluded the 2013 Grammy Trip with a discouraging loss in Miami.

Although the Lakers finished the Grammy Road Trip with an overall record of 4-3, they suffered a devastating long-term loss in the process.

In their exciting victory over the Brooklyn Nets, forward/center Pau Gasol suffered an injury to his foot.

After an MRI and a flight back to Los Angeles, Gasol was diagnosed with a partially torn plantar fascia in his foot. Early speculation suggests Gasol will miss anywhere from 6-10 weeks.

Once Gasol was deemed out for the remainder of the trip, the Lakers turned to their injured star center Dwight Howard. Unfortunately, Howard’s slow recovery from his re-aggravated right shoulder injury and his ‘lack of urgency’ stirred up drama between Howard and Kobe Bryant.

After an up-and-down week for Laker Nation, the Lakers currently find themselves with an overall record of 24-28—returning home for the final week before the All-Star break.

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

Kobe Bryant Up arrow : Bryant had yet another stellar week offensively this past week. Although he failed to record an assist in the loss to Boston, Bryant still managed to average 5.3 assists over the past four games.

Image Credit: Mike Ehrmann | Getty Images
Image Credit: Mike Ehrmann | Getty Images

Bryant also shot the ball well, averaging 24.0 points per game on an efficient 47.9% from the field. Despite this efficient shooting, Bryant has only made 2 three-pointers out of his last 26 attempts.

With both Howard and Gasol in and out of the lineups, Bryant also increased his focus on the glass. In his past four games, Bryant averaged 7.0 rebounds per game—a major factor in helping control the boards while the big men missed time.

Despite Bryant’s efficient play on both ends, he was only able to lead his team to a 2-2 record.

In the Boston game, Bryant tried to get his teammates going early, but they simply just missed shots for most of the game.

In the loss against Miami, Bryant made a conscious effort to be the facilitator on offense in the first half. However, in the second half, Bryant reverted back to his score-first mentality.

Image Credit: AP
Image Credit: AP

Miami’s pressure, trapping defense made it difficult for the Lakers to have any flow on offense, especially in the fourth quarter.

Bryant’s continual isolation at the mid-post, coupled with Miami’s pressure, resulted in inefficient offense and many turnovers for the Lakers.

Bryant’s increased facilitator role has resulted in additional turnovers lately, as shown by Bryant’s 4.0 turnovers per game average this past week.

With coach Mike D’Antoni failing to make adjustments late in games, that onus to adjust will fall on Bryant to continue making smart decisions down the stretch.

Going forward, Bryant must continue to feed the ball inside to Howard and look for kick outs for the Lakers to win close games late.

Earl Clark Up arrow : What more can be said about “Easy” Earl Clark? After receiving an opportunity due to injuries, Clark has certainly relished his chance at being a fixture in the Lakers’ rotation.

Image Credit: Chuck Burton | AP
Image Credit: Chuck Burton | AP

Clark continued his emergence this week with standout games against Brooklyn, Charlotte and Miami. Clark registered double-doubles (points and rebounds) in both wins against Brooklyn and Charlotte.

Over the past week, Clark averaged 13.5 ppg on 50% shooting and 9.5 rpg.

Clark’s presence on the boards has been a welcomed sight, especially with the recent loss of Gasol. Clark’s athleticism and efficient shooting have also added key dimensions to the Lakers’ offense.

Despite Clark’s solid numbers, his full contributions do not always show up in the box score. Clark’s hustle and energy have been key factors in the Lakers’ recent success.

Also, with Gasol now out for a while, Clark’s responsibilities on both ends of the floor are sure to increase.

Clark does fit in well with Dwight Howard though, because his outside shooting and slashing ability compliment the center well.

For the Lakers to make a hard push at a playoff spot, sans Gasol, Clark will have to continue his excellent play, and assume this unfamiliar role as the Lakers’ starting four with confidence.

Jodie Meeks Up arrow : Meeks had a solid week off the bench for the Lakers. After losing Gasol early in the week, a scoring void needed to be picked up.

Image Credit: Ezra Shaw | Getty Images
Image Credit: Ezra Shaw | Getty Images

Meeks somewhat answered the call with solid performances in Boston, Charlotte and Miami.

Meeks scored 13 points in Boston and 14 points in Charlotte, hitting all four three-pointers in the win over the Bobcats.

Meeks also hit a huge three late in the comeback against Charlotte, resulting in an important win for the Lakers.

Meeks’ hustle and high activity, especially on the defensive end, were also key in stimulating the eventual comeback.

If Meeks can continue to play consistently, the main beneficiary will be Kobe Bryant. Bryant is playing a league-leading 38.5 minutes per game this season, so Meeks can certainly help to keep him fresh.

Also, with starting small forward Metta World Peace in a deep shooting slump, Meeks’ 50% shooting from behind the arc this week has helped stretch the floor.

The Lakers will need even more of that to take the pressure off Bryant and Howard inside.

Steve Nash even: The multitude of injuries for the Lakers has also had a direct effect on Steve Nash. Nash has significantly increased his scoring load as a result.

Nash, whose assist numbers have been down of late, averaged 14.5 ppg on 51.4% shooting and 5.5 apg. Nash’s efficient shooting has complimented Bryant’s facilitating well.

The Lakers might need more from Nash going forward though. With Gasol out for the long-term, and Howard being less of a factor offensively, Nash may need to control the offense even more.

For the Lakers to be successful, Nash must find the right balance between scoring and facilitating.

In the Lakers’ wins this past week, Nash averaged 17.0 ppg and 7.5 apg. In the losses, however, Nash averaged 12.0 ppg and only 3.5 apg.

Obviously, there is a clear winning formula there.

The key will be for both Nash and Bryant to work effectively off each other, which will inevitably increase the flow of the offense collectively.

Antawn Jamison even: Jamison has been mediocre of late off the bench as the Lakers’ sixth man. Jamison averaged just 8.0 ppg and 4.3 rpg this past week.

Image Credit: Sue Ogrocki | Associated Press
Image Credit: Sue Ogrocki | Associated Press

The Lakers need more than that on a nightly basis to be effective. Since Jamison brings little defensively, he needs to be more efficient scoring the ball.

Jamison shot just 42.9% from the field and 30% from three-point land in his past four games.

With Gasol out and Howard still hampered by injury, the Lakers also need Jamison to rebound more.

Jamison’s 4.3 rpg are not going to get it done off the bench, especially when the Lakers were just out-rebounded by the worst rebounding team in the league (Miami).

With an aging roster, the Lakers desperately need a consistent bench unit. Meeks’ solid play of late has been promising, but the Lakers also need Jamison to reach that level of consistency to spell the starters some rest.

Steve Blake even: Although Steve Blake is not a great back-up point guard, he gets the job done better than Chris Duhon. Blake has never been a great scoring threat during his time in Los Angeles, but he does control the game well at the point.

Blake averaged just 4.3 ppg and 2.5 apg this past week. Blake also shot only 37.5% from three-point range, something the Lakers could surely use from the back-up point guard role.

As with Jamison, the Lakers need a little more consistency out of Blake going forward. When Nash goes to the bench, the drop-off to Blake is too large of a margin right now.

When Blake enters the game for Nash, he needs to play more aggressively by getting his teammates good looks. If Blake can slightly shrink that drop-off, it would greatly help the Lakers’ continuity.

Dwight Howard Down arrow : A tough week for Dwight Howard.

Despite returning from his aggravated shoulder injury against Boston, Howard did not play well this week.

As the Lakers’ second or third offensive option, Howard only averaged 12.0 ppg, 9.7 rpg and 1.7 bpg. Howard did shoot 58.3% from the field, however, but also averaged 3 turnovers per game.

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

Howard is clearly still affected by both his off-season back surgery and the torn labrum in his right shoulder. Since Howard cannot damage his shoulder anymore, his dominance on both ends of the floor must improve.

This lack of dominance inside was clearly evident in the Lakers’ loss to Miami. Howard was 6-9 from the field and had 9 rebounds, but coming from the Lakers’ lone premier big man, that’s just not enough.

With the news that Gasol is now out a minimum of six weeks, Howard must take it upon himself to be more dominant.

Along with his poor play on the court, Howard also created some unnecessary drama of the court. Howard, along with D’Antoni and Bryant, need to find a way to co-exist successfully, or else this season could make a turn for the worse quickly.

Howard doesn’t seem like he will be close to full health this season, but he must become more efficient on the glass. Howard’s recent rebounding numbers have been below average for him, and without Gasol there to help him, he must control both the offensive and defensive glasses.

Howard needs to establish himself more inside on offense as well. Too many times Howard does not seal off his man or establish deep post-position.

To make matters worse, Howard has been setting terrible screens lately. The athletic center must start setting better ball screens because his rolls to the basket have been rendered ineffective lately. Howard continuously sets weak, brush screens in pick-and-rolls, which don’t work for his teammate nor himself.

Back in Orlando, Howard would absolutely punish smaller defenders on switches, something he has done little this season.

For the Lakers to make a serious push back into the Western Conference playoff picture, Howard and Bryant must set aside their differences.

Howard’s play going forward will significantly determine whether or not the Lakers right the ship this season.

Metta World Peace Down arrow : World Peace was suspended in the Brooklyn game for his flagrant foul on Brandon Knight. Along with the suspension, World Peace also continued his dismal shooting slump this past week.

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

Shooting just 26.3% from the field in his past three games, World Peace averaged 8.3 ppg and 3.3 rpg. This is unacceptable from the Lakers’ starting small forward.

World Peace’s individual defense has also struggled of late. In both Laker losses, World Peace allowed Paul Pierce and LeBron James to get going early. Pierce finished with 24 points and James had 30 points.

The Lakers desperately need a solid perimeter defender to stop these types of players. World Peace, who played great to start the season, has slowed down significantly in the past month.

World Peace needs to find some way to get out of his current shooting slump. If he can play better offensively, that will hopefully translate into better defensive performances.

Lately, opposing defenses leave him open and focus in on Bryant, Nash and Howard. If opposing defenses continue to do that, World Peace must make them pay by hitting open shots consistently.

Robert Sacre Down arrow : In the Lakers’ win over Brooklyn, Robert Sacre actually received some meaningful minutes.

In return for his 10 minutes, Sacre scored 4 points and played solid defense inside. Unfortunately for Sacre, Gasol’s injury has not translated into more playing time for the reserve center.

If, however, the Lakers’ thin string of big men gets into foul trouble, or another major injury occurs, Sacre could see consistent minutes in the future.

Chris Duhon Down arrow : This past week, Chris Duhon continued his role as the Lakers’ “emergency” guard. Duhon appeared in two games (Brooklyn and Boston) but only scored 2 total points.

Duhon did average 1.5 apg in limited minutes, but his prospects of playing consistent minutes in the future look bleak—especially with the consistent play of fellow back-up point guard Steve Blake.

Devin Ebanks Down arrow : We had a rare Devin Ebanks sighting this past week. After not playing in 13 straight games, Ebanks played 5 minutes of ‘garbage time’ against Boston.

Ebanks did score 5 points on 2-6 shooting, but he looks to remain a permanent benchwarmer going forward.

Darius Morris Down arrow : Like Ebanks, Morris received 5 minutes of playing time against Boston. Morris registered 2 assists in garbage minutes, but failed to do much else.

After being a regular starter earlier this season, Morris now looks to be sharing Ebanks’ role as glued to the bench.

Pau Gasol Injury sign : Just when you thought the back breaks were over for the Lakers, they encounter another unfortunate set-back.

Image Credit: Emmanuel Dunand | Getty Images
Image Credit: Emmanuel Dunand | Getty Images

Pau Gasol had been playing solid basketball for the first time this season, until he suffered the major foot injury against Brooklyn.

After a next-day MRI in Boston revealed a partially torn plantar fascia, Gasol flew back to Los Angeles to consult with team doctors.

Gasol had been dealing with plantar fasciitis earlier in the season, but this time it was serious.

Unfortunately, the Lakers will now lose Gasol for a minimum of 6 weeks, and up to 10 weeks, right as they begin their stretch run towards the playoffs.

This injury news was just another of the many crushing blows the Lakers have experienced this season.

Stay tuned for next weeks’ Lakers Stock Watch as the Lakers head into the All-Star Break battling Phoenix and the Clippers.

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Image Credit: Jared Wickerham | Getty Images

You thought the “Dwightmare” was over, right?

Image Credit: Greg M. Cooper | USA Today Sports
Image Credit: Greg M. Cooper | USA Today Sports

Well unfortunately, it looks to be making its slow and steady return.

The Lakers suffered yet another devastating loss Thursday night, losing to the Boston Celtics 116-95. Prior to their blowout loss in Boston, however, the Lakers’ locker room has begun dividing.

The issue at hand was, and still is, Dwight Howard’s shoulder. Howard had missed the last three games with a re-aggravated right shoulder, stemming from the torn labrum he’s been dealing with for the past month.

The Lakers’ backcourt tandem, Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash, were quoted before the game urging Howard to show a sense of urgency and play through the pain of his injury.

Bryant eluded to ESPNBoston.com that, “We don’t have time for [Howard’s shoulder] to heal. We need some urgency. Pain is something that you have to balance out and manage.”

Howard, along with Metta World Peace to some extent, opposed these views.

Howard fired back, specifically at Bryant, saying, “That’s his opinion; that’s it. He’s not a doctor. I’m not a doctor. That’s his opinion.”

Howard also spoke directly about his future and the effect this injury could have on his career, via ESPNLA’s Dave McMenamin:

“I want to play,” Howard said at Thursday’s shoot-around. “I mean, why wouldn’t I want to play? But at the same time, this is my career, this is my future, this is my life.

“I can’t leave that up to anybody else because nobody else is going to take care of me. So, if people are pissed off that I don’t play or if I do play, whatever it may be, so what? This is my career. If I go down, then what? Everybody’s life is going to go on.

“I don’t want to have another summer where I’m rehabbing and trying to get healthy again. I want to come back and have another great year. That’s what I want to do.”

With Pau Gasol out indefinitely with a partially torn plantar fascia, Howard did little to step in and help the Lakers against Boston. Howard fouled out in just 28 minutes of play, registering 9 points on 4-8 shooting, 9 rebounds and 4 turnovers.

After the game, coach Mike D’Antoni explained that Howard in fact could have played earlier than Thursday:

“Yeah, he’s been cleared for a while,” D’Antoni said. “I mean, he’s always clear because he has a tear. It’s going to be there but he had pain, so obviously he’s not going to play with the pain, and he felt better today. That’s why he played.”

According to CSNNE.com’s Jimmy Toscano, however, Howard had a completely different story:

“I can’t get involved with what they’ve been saying to the media,” Howard said. “I understand they’ve been saying certain things, but I know my health. I haven’t been cleared for weeks to play.

“This is my body, and I have to control my body and my future and my career. So I can’t worry about anybody else.”

As a result, Howard has made it quite clear that “his” body and “his” career are first and foremost to him. For Howard, those two things clearly take precedent over the Lakers.

A “me” before “we” attitude can’t bode well with Howard’s teammates either, and certainly not with the front office that brought him to Los Angeles. Subsequently, this disconnection between Howard and the Lakers is becoming clearer and clearer by the day.

There lies a major problem. Although Howard has publicly admitted that he has learned from his mistakes in Orlando, it seems he has figured out a new way to cause drama.

This time, however, it is not just an issue between himself and his coach, but instead the problem arises between his personal aspirations and the collective urgency of the franchise.

Howard’s focus on his own future, rather than the present, is a telling sign of where his true commitment resides.

The Lakers, on the other hand, have their sights set on this year and this year alone. With over a $100 million payroll and an aging Kobe Bryant leading the way, the window of opportunity for another Lakers’ championship is quickly closing.

As soon-to-be free agent, Dwight Howard, explicitly points out, his future in Los Angeles is in the Lakers’ hands. He, however, sees that future slowly slipping away:

“Hopefully they’ll start supporting me the way they need to,” Howard told CSNNE.com. “Until then, I’m going to continue to do whatever I can to help our team win.”

This is inevitably leading us down the path towards “Dwightmare pt. 2″—yet this time, it is Dwight Howard vs. Lakers.

Unfortunately for the Lakers, they do not have a head coach with the ability, nor the respect, to command this dividing locker room, and steer it in the right direction. With D’Antoni’s standoffish style of management as well as his non-confrontational demeanor, this issue will continue to fester.

The bottom line comes down to whether or not the Lakers’ players want to salvage this season. With little prospects of change coming at the head coaching position, this turnaround must come from within the locker room.

As of right now though, this complete and utter disconnect between Howard and the Lakers is harming the chemistry on the court.

This strict divide, between a team with one set of goals and a player with his own set of goals, is what may eventually end the Lakers’ aspirations of making Howard the future face of the franchise.

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Trust Isuues
Photo Credit: In Flex We Trust

As Drake once said the number one problem with relationships today are trust issues. Usually someone has their phone locked, tweets blocked, or just do not want to tell their partner how they feel in fear of being the bad guy (or girl). On Monday, Lakers star center Dwight Howard sat down in an exclusive interview with ESPN broadcast journalist Stephen A. Smith to discuss all-things Lakers and his role in the team’s future plans:

In a one-on-one interview, Dwight Howard swore he’s committed to the Lakers — for this season. That he wants to remain a Laker — for this season. That he’s happier with Kobe Bryant now, more so than he was before, although he said there’s still room for their relationship to get better.

“I’m learning from Kobe,” Howard told me on Monday. “I’m watching how he works, how he operates, what he knows and feels about this organization. Things continue to get better every day. But there’s always room for growth.”

Let’s just say Dwight is trying not to be the bad guy in this relationship:

Howard is free to trust everyone or no one. Free to dictate his own terms. That means his own system, arguably his own coach, and definitely which franchise to choose between the Lakers, Mavs and Hawks, just to name a few.

“I’ve trusted enough people in my career,” Howard deadpanned. “Now it’s time for me to trust myself. I’ve given and given. I’ve thought about everyone else. Now it’s time for me to think about me.”

Throughout the article Stephen A. brings up the point that the Lakers do not have time to waste with Dwight. On July 1st he becomes a restricted free agent and is free to roam to any team he wants to. The problem with that scenario is that Dwight is the Lakers future: for better or for worse:

He never swore his allegiance to the Purple and Gold. He never said he wanted to be a Laker for life. Dwight Howard never displayed affection for the pantheon of Lakers big men serving as his predecessors — just that he wanted to one day be as iconic as they are.

This is the best the Los Angeles Lakers can hope for from D-Howard at the moment. That he’s great. Committed to excellence.

And so it is precisely for that reason that, as we sit here today, with the Lakers visiting the Nets in Brooklyn and an injured Howard on the sideline, GM Mitch Kupchak should make sure to visit his Nets counterpart, Billy King, for the sole purpose of attempting to trade L.A.’s resident big man.

Quick, fast and in a hurry!

Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak recently stated that:

“We will not trade Dwight Howard,” Kupchak told Newsday last month. “We have no intention of making a trade. It’s unlikely that we’ll make any trade with any of our principal players.”

Yet Smith stuck to his guns about his feelings on the statement:

Such proclamations do not make the Lakers look smart, or like an organization with a clue about what is in the heart and mind of Howard.

Trade him for some combination involving Nets center Brook Lopez. Trade him for multiple pieces involving Hawks forward Josh Smith — who desperately wants out of Atlanta — and other respectable parts.

Dwight even touched upon how he and, power forward, Pau Gasol can be effective together on the court despite what may be said:

Howard also said he believes he and Pau Gasol should play together, even though coach Mike D’Antoni has them playing apart.

What part of all this are the Lakers finding difficult to comprehend?

Somebody help me out here, please!

Stephen A. Smith makes very valid points. Losing Dwight could derail the Lakers for a number of years. They essentially gave up draft picks to bring him here as he is the present and the future of the organization.

The Lakers do need to find out what exactly Dwight’s thoughts are because there is no future if he decides to leave Los Angeles during free agency. With an aged point guard in Steve Nash, a disgruntled but valuable player in Gasol, and a hall-of-famer in the twilight of his career named Kobe Bryant the Lakers have no time to waste.

To say that this season has been been more frustrating than exciting would be an understatement. Everyone had high hopes once the trades were made however we all have been left looking confused rather than looking like Confucius. Call me crazy, but I still do believe that with Bryant’s willingness to become a play maker, rather than his usual scoring self, the Lakers can still make a title-run. Yet it will take less #countonKobe and more #countonDwight to make it there.

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Image Credit: Andrew D. Bernstein | Getty Images
Image Credit: Andrew D. Bernstein | Getty Images
Image Credit: Andrew D. Bernstein | Getty Images

What should the Lakers do with Pau Gasol?

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Pau Gasol is a true professional.

Thankfully, those words ring true for the Lakers’ 7-footer, because it’s no secret that Gasol is having a difficult time as a Laker right now.

In a season marked by disappointment and frustration, the two-time NBA champion has maintained a level head. Despite being publicly embarrassed and marginalized by head coach Mike D’Antoni, Gasol remains confident and upbeat about the Lakers’ prospects.

Being the ultimate team player that he is, Gasol certainly does not deserve this type of embarrassment from his coach. Gasol, however, continues to handle each additional dig from D’Antoni, with a presence unmatched by most NBA players.

The constant putdowns started with D’Antoni’s benching of Gasol late in a game against Memphis. D’Antoni defended the benching by saying, “I was thinking, I’d like to win this game.”

D’Antoni consequently benched Gasol permanently later in the season. Although he never explicitly admitted it, the famed “7 seconds or less” coach wanted to play ‘small ball’, rather than maximize the Lakers’ strength inside.

Gasol, a starter his entire career, was understandably frustrated by his demotion to the bench. As a result, D’Antoni fired more shots at the Spaniard in the media.

Before the Lakers’ game in Phoenix, D’Antoni told reporters, “I guess the ‘all for one’ lasted about 48 hours. Not bad.” This was an obvious dig at Gasol, who has personally been unhappy with his role since the benching.

In a recent interview with the LA Times’ TJ Simers, Gasol finally opened up about his frustrations, the current state of the Lakers, his view of coach D’Antoni, as well as his potential future in Los Angeles:

In response to Gasol’s dinner meeting with coach D’Antoni a few weeks back, Gasol had this to say:

“It was an effort on our part to try and come to an understanding,” Gasol said. “But I don’t think it’s translated to an understanding. Nothing significant has happened; it’s probably even gone a little backwards.”

On the notion that Gasol was a “happy camper now because D’Antoni was saving Gasol’s knees and prolonging his career”:

“Never heard that,” Gasol said.

Gasol, 32 and with one year remaining on his contract, was then asked what would happen if All-Star center Dwight Howard and coach D’Antoni remain with the Lakers this off-season:

“It would be hard for me to deal with another season knowing the facts you just mentioned,” said Gasol. “It’s a possibility [that I ask for a fresh start elsewhere].”

However, Gasol will not ask for a trade before the February 21st trade deadline:

“I’m not a quitter,” he said. “Just because things look better on the other side of the fence, I’m not going to take the easy way out. “I have a certain level of loyalty here, and I’ve been through a lot of great, amazing things. And there have been others that have been hurtful. But that’s life.

“I don’t have cancer, my mom wasn’t dying and I’m still playing basketball. I love the Lakers and Los Angeles, and none of that has changed just because certain things are out of my control.”

Despite D’Antoni’s constant disrespect of the 11-year veteran, Gasol refused to blame D’Antoni for misusing him:

“He has his philosophy and system, and the Lakers hired him,” said Gasol. “It’s not his fault. His philosophy is to play with one big guy and four guys spread out, so then he had to make a decision: Dwight or Pau?” It was an easy decision. The Lakers are committed to making Howard happy so he will return.

Gasol then offered up a prediction for the future:

“They try to decide how I can be productive in this mix, while I know I’m not going to be in position to do what I do best and help us win more games. It’s frustrating, but it’s not going to stop me from playing as hard as I can in whatever role.”

Gasol also elaborated on his displeasure for being under-utilized:

“I’m fortunate to be doing what I am for a living and being highly rewarded for it,” Gasol said. “But it hurts me that this unique opportunity we have with such good players is not being maximized.”

Gasol on whether being disrespected by D’Antoni will affect him:

“I’m not going to let it affect me. In a way he’s messing with my season, but not my career,” he said. “I know what I’ve accomplished, and I still feel like I’m one of the best players in the world.”

Although the two bigs have had difficulties playing together at times, Gasol remained optimistic:

“Dwight is a huge presence defensively,” said Gasol. “In a perfect world I’d love to see us dominating as an interior couple, thereby making everything easier for our teammates.

“I’m always trying to pass to Dwight to get him going. He hasn’t been very effective from the post, so I want to give him easy shots and get him into rhythm. You know he’s going to get fouled and then he’ll make one out of two.”

Like many around Los Angeles, Gasol agrees that both he and Dwight can co-exist effectively, and that he still deserves to be starting for the Lakers:

“Nothing is going to change, but I have no doubt we could coexist and dominate every single game,” Gasol said.

“I believe 100% if I was starting inside with Dwight we could make the playoffs. I just don’t know if coming off the bench gives the team a chance to be better and win more games.”

Be sure to make your vote count on what you think Pau Gasol’s future should be in the poll question above!

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

The Lakers are back! Well, sort of.

The Los Angeles Lakers finished off last week with an exceptional 3-1 record. The Lakers have now won 5 of their last 6 games.

This past week, the Lakers beat New Orleans, Minnesota and Detroit as they embarked on their annual “Grammy Road Trip”. The Lakers’ lone loss in Phoenix came after All-Star center Dwight Howard reinjured his right shoulder.

Despite Howard’s injury, the Lakers finished a solid week with significant help from a rejuvenated Pau Gasol. Along with Gasol’s contributions, Kobe Bryant continued his stellar facilitating on the offensive end.

With Gasol returning to his All-Star form, the Lakers have managed to continue finding success, even without their star center. Despite losing big leads in Minnesota, Detroit, and especially in their loss to Phoenix, the Lakers escaped the week with a 22-26 overall record.

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

Pau Gasol Up arrow : Despite a difficult start to the season, to say the least, Pau Gasol seems to have found his rhythm.

Image Credit: Doug Pensinger | Getty Images
Image Credit: Doug Pensinger | Getty Images

Since returning from his concussion, Gasol has averaged 16.5 points per game on 55.3% shooting and 7.4 rebounds per game. Gasol’s numbers are still below his career averages, but this recent 10-game stretch has been much more efficient than earlier in the season.

With Dwight Howard going down against Phoenix, Gasol has stepped up in his absence. Gasol looks more aggressive on the block and more comfortable being the only true post player in the lineup.

Instead of first looking to pass when he catches the ball, Gasol is now looking to shoot or drive. This is a welcomed sight, because Gasol’s quick aggressiveness is vital to his success on the offensive end.

Gasol will certainly have to adjust his game when Howard returns, but if his recent aggressiveness is any indication, that adjustment should continue to yield positive results.

As much as D’Antoni seems disinclined to make Gasol and Howard work together, Gasol’s new aggressive attitude can help alleviate any issues between the two premier big men.

The key for Gasol is confidence. Like most big men, when Gasol gets going early and often, he gains confidence that usually lasts for the remainder of the game. This confidence has shown by Gasol’s improved midrange shooting consistency and his confidence in driving to the basket.

Kobe Bryant’s facilitating has also been a huge help in ‘reviving’ Gasol’s game. Bryant is finding Gasol in good, operational areas in which Gasol can use his versatility to score in multiple ways.

The Lakers certainly need Gasol to return to his All-Star playing ability. Whether it be off the bench or as a starter, Gasol’s play on both ends of the floor is absolutely vital this season.

With Howard still not fully healthy, expect Gasol to continue his aggressive play on the block.

Kobe Bryant Up arrow : Kobe “Magic” Bryant continued his assist tear this past week. Bryant again focused on getting his teammates going and improving ball movement on the offensive end.

Over the past four games, Bryant has averaged 8.3 assists per game. Bryant’s facilitating role has increased the ball movement, spacing, and just simply makes the Lakers more fun to watch.

Bryant’s facilitating has especially helped rejuvenate Gasol. Bryant seems to have made a conscious effort over the past few games to get Gasol involved early and often. This tactic has led to an “engaged” Gasol, a scary notion for opposing teams.

Bryant’s exceptional passing also led to the Lakers making 12 three-pointers against Minnesota. Bryant, along with his teammates, contributed to moving the ball quickly, which resulted in open perimeter shots.

There is no doubt that Bryant can return to his scoring ways in a moment’s notice, but with the Lakers’ newfound winning ways, why change what works?

“If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”

It seems Bryant is content in being the offense’s main facilitator, a role he has not always embraced in the past.

With the playoffs fast approaching, Bryant must continue finding a balance between scoring and facilitating. Once Bryant finds that elusive balance, the Lakers could become even more deadly.

Earl Clark Up arrow : What a pleasant surprise Earl Clark has been this season! Along with “Magic Mamba”, Clark’s versatility at the power forward position has been key in the Lakers’ recent resurgence.

Image Credit: Stephen Dunn | Getty Images
Image Credit: Stephen Dunn | Getty Images

Clark had arguably the best game of his career against New Orleans in which he notched 20 points, 12 rebounds and 4 assists in the Lakers win. Clark also had back-to-back double doubles vs. Minnesota (13 & 10) and Detroit (17 & 10).

Clark’s ability to space the floor with his three-point shooting has also been a welcomed surprise. Clark is shooting a blistering 50% from behind the arc this season.

With Gasol going to the bench full-time when Howard is healthy, Clark has stepped into the starting power forward position with no problems. Clark constantly brings energy and effort from the starting tipoff, something the Lakers often lacked earlier in the season.

Clark’s rebounding and defensive versatility have been important as well. In Howard’s absence especially, Clark has taken it upon himself to improve his rebounding. His dedication to rebounding has helped the Lakers control the glass in recent games.

Clark’s defensive versatility has also led to an improved team defense and better defensive rotations. Clark’s unique ability to switch and guard multiple positions make him a great defensive asset.

It’s difficult to say that Earl Clark has been this season’s “savior”, but his contributions on both ends of the floor have been a huge part of the Lakers’ recent turnaround.

Antawn Jamison Up arrow : Remember that stretch of six straight games with a DNP-CD for Antawn Jamison? Well, it seems those days are far behind us.

Jamison has become a consistent player off the bench for the Lakers. In his last four games, Jamison averaged 14.3 ppg and 5.5 rpg in just 22.5 minutes per game.

Jamison’s consistency has helped the Lakers continue their efficient offensive play once Gasol or Clark goes to the bench. It seems that Jamison has found his groove and is playing more relaxed lately.

The Lakers specifically signed Jamison in the off-season to be the anchor of the bench. Over the past few games Jamison looks to be embracing that role.

Jamison’s offensive game remains awkward and unorthodox, but for the most part it’s effective. Jamison also compliments both Gasol and Clark well because of his ability to stretch the floor and find holes in the defense by slashing inside for easy dunks and layups.

For the Lakers to continue to have success, Jamison has to anchor the bench unit even more. The bench has given up too many leads late, something the Lakers must fix if they want to make the playoffs.

Jamison must thus take it upon himself to lead the Lakers’ bench unit and maintain leads, rather than lose them.

Steve Blake even: Since returning from his groin and abdominal injuries, Steve Blake has resumed his backup point guard duties. Replacing Chris Duhon as the primary backup, Blake has done a decent job running the offense when replacing starter Steve Nash.

Image Credit: Garrett Ellwood | Getty Images
Image Credit: Garrett Ellwood | Getty Images

After missing 37 games, Blake returned to the lineup against New Orleans. Despite only scoring 2 points, Blake’s 4 assists were a welcomed sight. Blake has since averaged 6.0 ppg and 2.7 apg.

These numbers are not extraordinary, but they are certainly an improvement over Duhon.

Blake’s three-point shooting ability has also been an added bonus to the Lakers’ rotation. Since returning to the lineup, Blake is shooting 36.3% from behind the arc on 4-11 three-pointers.

Blake has certainly underachieved in his time in Los Angeles, but he is the best backup point guard on the Lakers’ roster. Blake controls the game much better than Duhon and Darius Morris, which will help the Lakers’ bench unit even more going forward.

Steve Nash even: Steve Nash is essentially playing out of position now. Over his past four games, Nash has only averaged 6.0 assists per game, way below his career average of 8.6 apg.

With Bryant as the primary facilitator, Nash has continued to be more of a spot-up shooter over the past week. This changing of roles has obviously been successful with the Lakers winning 5 of their last 6 games.

The Lakers will still need Nash to be an aggressive player on offense, however, especially when Bryant goes to the bench. Nash has done a decent job balancing his scoring and facilitating with Bryant of late—a major key to the Lakers’ success on offense.

In the past week, Nash averaged 12.8 ppg on 50% shooting. This bodes well for the Lakers because Nash is able to take a little more of the scoring load off Bryant’s shoulders.

Nash has especially been solid from three-point range this season, shooting an exceptional 44.4% from behind the arc. In fact, in the last four games, Nash is shooting a scorching 53.8% from three.

With Gasol’s aggressiveness inside and Bryant drawing defenders on his penetration, Nash continues to be efficient on kick outs for three-pointers.

Unfortunately, Nash’s free throw shooting is a different story. Nash gave all of Laker Nation a good scare in Detroit, in which he missed two consecutive free throws late in the game*.

If Nash is able to keep up this ultra-efficient three-point shooting, however, and Bryant keeps facilitating, the Lakers’ spacing on offense will continue to improve.

* Nash had made 33 consecutive free throws in the last minute of fourth quarters before his two misses on Sunday.

Jodie Meeks even: Over the past week, Jodie Meeks has become a little more consistent off the bench for coach Mike D’Antoni. Since retaking the primary backup shooting guard role, Meeks has played consistently.

Meeks averaged 8.7 ppg in the past week, but only shot 30% from the field. For the Lakers’ “best three-point shooter”, that shooting percentage must improve.

Meeks’ defense has been better of late, creating havoc and bringing energy off the bench. Meeks is an underrated defender, which has allowed him to stay on the floor, despite his poor shooting.

With Jamison and Blake playing well off the bench, the Lakers lone missing piece to the equation is Meeks. If Meeks can find some consistency with his shot, the Lakers’ bench could become deadly.

Metta World Peace Down arrow : World Peace had the worst week of any Laker this past week. Although World Peace played decent defensively, he had a dismal shooting week.

Image Credit: Rick Osentoski | USA TODAY Sports
Image Credit: Rick Osentoski | USA TODAY Sports

World Peace averaged 8.0 ppg and 6.3 rpg, but shot an awful 27.3% from the field. The Lakers desperately need World Peace to return to how he was playing earlier in the season.

Despite starting off the season strong, World Peace is now shooting just 40.1% from the field and 34.9% from three-point land.

World Peace’s main role on the Lakers is to be a lock-down perimeter defender, but he cannot shoot 27.3% from the field for the Lakers to be successful against good teams.

Unfortunately, World Peace has been suspended for Tuesday’s game in Brooklyn for grabbing Detroit’s Brandon Knight around the neck and striking him in the jaw.

Robert Sacre Down arrow : Despite Dwight Howard re-aggravating his labrum tear, reserve center Robert Sacre received zero minutes off the bench this past week.

Sacre may actually get the chance to play this upcoming week, though. With Howard being out for an extended period of time, Sacre could see some meaningful minutes if the Lakers’ big men get into foul trouble.

Chris Duhon Down arrow : With Steve Blake’s return, point guard Chris Duhon has officially been relegated to the end of the bench.

Duhon did not play in any of the Lakers’ games last week.

Darius Morris Down arrow : Steve Blake’s return also seems to spell the end for Darius Morris’s minutes as well.

Morris did not play in any of the Lakers’ games last week, either.

Dwight Howard Injury sign : In the fourth quarter of the Lakers loss to Phoenix, Dwight Howard reinjured his right shoulder. Howard powered up for a dunk, but Suns guard Shannon Brown stripped him and fouled him hard on his right arm.

The result was gruesome. Howard instantly clutched his right shoulder—the shoulder with the torn labrum. After a few seconds, Howard fell to the ground in agony.

This shoulder injury looks like it will bother Howard for the rest of the season. Howard, who is out again against Brooklyn, continues to deflect questions about season-ending surgery.

Howard looks like he will attempt to push through this painful injury, although his return to the Lakers’ lineup remains uncertain.

Howard is still officially listed as ‘day-to-day’.

Notes: The Lakers received a ‘disabled player exception’ for injured Jordan Hill this past week. The ‘DPE’ can used to help facilitate a trade or sign a free agent. Reserve SF Devin Ebanks continued adding to his current 12-game DNP-CD streak.

Stay tuned for next weeks’ Lakers Stock Watch as the Lakers conclude their ‘Grammy Trip’ battling Brooklyn, Boston, Charlotte and Miami over the next week.

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With the Lakers off to a poor start, trade rumors have begun to swirl around Kobe Bryant, leading many to speculate if he'll leave for greener pastures. Kobe puts those rumors to rest in his interview with Yahoo Sports.