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Nick Young

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Lakers come up short to the Chicago Bulls in overtime, and lose 102-100. Taj Gibson scored the game-winning layup at the buzzer.

Pau Gasol with a strong double-double performance of 20 points, 19 rebounds and 5 blocks. Nick Young also chipped in 31 points off the bench for LAL.

Lakers drop to 2-2 on the Grammy road trip and head to Miami to play the Heat on Thursday at 5:00PM (PST).

BOX SCORE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Projected Starters

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

Notable Bench Players

Bulls: G Tony SnellPG DJ Augustin, F Taj Gibson

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

Bench Advantage: Lakers

Injury List

Bulls: Out-G Derrick Rose

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

Keys for Lakers Victory

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

Bottom Line

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

Prediction

Bulls: 98-89

 

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January 17, 2014 — 4:30PM (PST)
TD Waterhouse Garden, Boston, MA
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

The Los Angeles Lakers (14-25) travel to Boston to play the Boston Celtics (14-26) tonight in a rivalry game.

The catch?

Most fans will not recognize the players who will wear the Lakers and Celtics uniform tonight; both teams have completely overhauled their team since their title runs during the last 2000′s and the early 2010′s.  The only players most fans will recognize tonight from the championship eras would be C/PF Pau Gasol and PG Rajon Rondo, who will make his season debut tonight after recovering from a Torn ACL suffered last season.

For the Lakers, team chemistry seems to be falling apart also. The NBA suspended G/F Nick Young for tonight’s game stemming from his scuffle with all 5 Suns, which included shoving Suns PG Goran Dragic‘s face, while Young’s teammates on the floor did not come to his defense, leaving Young very vulnerable.

Young clearly did not appreciate what transpired on Wednesday, calling out his teammates for not having his back.

“What I was mad about is it was one-on-five,” said Young, who has posted nine points on 4-of-8 shooting before his ejection. “If somebody had gotten in the middle, it wouldn’t have escalated that much.”

Without Young and chemistry issues starting to brew, the Lakers look to claw and fight for a much needed victory tonight, especially after losing 12 of their last 13 games.

Without Young, the Lakers seek immediate spark from SG Manny Harris, who just signed a 10-day contract with the Lakers yesterday. Harris has scored at will for the Los Angeles D-Fenders, the Lakers D-League affiliate, averaging 30.6 PPG and 6.5 RPG. Harris has drawn attention from NBA scouts recently, scoring 43.0 PPG in his last 3 games.

As previously mentioned, Rondo’s return will spark some what of a buzz in what happens to be otherwise a meaningless game between 2 lackluster teams who look to find themselves in the NBA Draft lottery. The Celtics just traded away SG Jordan Crawford and SG Marshawn Brooks to the Golden State Warriors while acquiring Joel Anthony in a cost-saving move.

Projected Starters

PG - Kendall Marshall / Rajon Rondo [Advantage: Celtics]
SG - Jodie Meeks / Avery Bradley [Advantage: Celtics]
SF - Wesley Johnson / Jeff Green [Advantage: Celtics]
PF - Jordan HillKris Humphries [Advantage: Celtics]
C - Pau Gasol / Jared Sullinger [Advantage: Lakers]

Notable Bench Players

Celtics: F Brandon Bass, F Gerald Wallace, G Jerryd Bayless

Lakers: G Manny Harris, C Robert Sacre, F Ryan Kelly, C Chris Kaman

Bench Advantage: Even

Injury List

Celtics: Out-G Keith Bogans PROBABLE-PG Rajon Rondo

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

Keys for Lakers Victory

Defense: Despite scoring 114 vs. Suns on Wednesday, the Lakers defense failed them again, allowing 121 points to Suns. The Lakers have allowed 120.6 PPG during their losing streak, a liability nearly impossible to overcome to obtain a victory. Although Rondo will make his season debut tonight, even a shell of Rondo would torch this current Lakers defense by driving to the basket and creating open shots for his teammates.

Bottom Line

Both the Lakers and the Celtics have almost identical records. Despite losing 9 straight games before finally winning on Wednesday vs. Raptors, the Celtics find themselves still in the playoff hunt by accident, trailing the 8th seeded team in the Eastern Conference by 3 games. Meanwhile, the hopes for the Lakers to squeeze into the playoffs this season seems to be all but gone, especially without Kobe Bryant. If experts can predict 1 or 2 games the Lakers might have a chance to win during this Grammy’s road trip, it would be tonight. However, Rondo’s return and the surrounding pieces for the Celtics will most likely pose the Lakers too much problems and would be difficult once again for the Lakers to steal a victory tonight.

Prediction

Celtics: 123-104

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Sports Illustrated

A couple days after Nick Young’s ejection and criticism of fellow Laker teammates, all seems well as the team prepares to face the rival Boston Celtics.

According to LA Daily News reporter Mark Medina, the Lakers held a team meeting after Young’s post-game comments which implied his teammates did not have his back as multiple Suns’ players surrounded him after Young shoved Suns’ center Alex Len due to a hard foul.  Young was suspended without pay for Friday’s game versus Boston.

“We just talked. We’re all on the same page now. It’s just a misunderstanding,” Young said after the Lakers’ morning shootaround at TD Garden. “We all know what to do now in situations like that. Once we talked we air everything out, we’re all good.”

The teammate at the center of the controversy was guard Kendall Marshall, who responded to Young’s comments by saying that Young “wanted to see what he wanted to see” at the time.  After pictures were posted on Twitter and Instagram (which Young “liked” then “unliked” showing Marshall standing at the three point line while the altercation was occurring, he took blame for his non-actions and comments.

“I take full blame being that I was on the court and being a point guard, I should’ve been the first one over there to pull him out there with what was going on, regardless of what I thought was happening,” Marshall said. “He had every right to get upset. It’s our job as teammates to be there for each other. I went up to him, squashed it and told him it will never happen again.”

With the situation seemingly behind them, the Lakers are focused on moving forward and say they know how to handle any future situations like the one in Phoenix.

“You have to get in. You don’t have to fight,” Young said. “You just have to step in between. Nobody wants to fight. Nobody wants to get beat up on national TV.”

Meanwhile, Marshall threw in some humor about what would happen if Young were to get into a scuffle again.

“We’ll run over there, have 15 guys pick up Nick and carry him away.”

At 14-25 (second worst in the Western Conference), the Lakers desperately need to get back on track.  Boston (14-26) have had struggles of their own and both teams are far different than when the two teams met in the Finals a few seasons ago.  Despite that, the team continues to shed positive light on the team’s current state.

“When you’ve lost 12 of 13, if you don’t have a little adversity, something is wrong,” Marshall said. “I think it’s good for [Young] to get upset with us over that and show some passion. Maybe it will light a fire under all of us and we can build on it.”

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Credit: TWC Sportsnet

UpdateNick Young has been suspended one game due to the punch he threw at Suns G Goran Dragic. As a result, Young will miss the Lakers’ game at the Boston Celtics on Friday.

The Lakers dropped their sixth straight game, falling to the Phoenix Suns 121-114, but the story of the night was the ejection of Nick Young and his comments following the game–calling out his teammates for the lack of the support during the scuffle that led to his ejection.

Here is the video of the altercation:

“What I was mad about is it was one-on-five,” said Young, who has posted nine points on 4-of-8 shooting before his ejection. “If somebody had gotten in the middle, it wouldn’t have escalated that much.”

It is pretty evident in the video that his teammates did nothing to come to his defense as he was immediately surrounded by five Suns’ players.

While rookie Ryan Kelly attempted to help, it was not until assistant coach Dan D’Antoni came and pulled Young away from the situation that things started to calm down.

The Lakers (14-25) chemistry has been praised since training camp, but frustrations seem to be boiling over after losing 12 out of their last 13 games.  The locker room seemed divided over the issue as Kendall Marshall disagreed with Young’s comments.

“I understand where Nick is coming from. He did get fouled hard. It wasn’t a basketball play by any means,” said Marshall, who had 10 points on only 4-of-16 shooting and 13 assists. “But at the same time, we have to understand you have to win some and lose some. I don’t know if that was the smartest play at the time.”

That same sentiment was shared by coach Mike D’Antoni.

“You don’t fight in this league,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said. “It wouldn’t help us to lose two or three more guys. I hate that Nick feels that way, but I’m sure at the moment he’s just talking.”

Meanwhile, Pau Gasol, who finished the game with 24 points, 9 rebounds, and 5 assists, backed Young’s comments.  It should be noted that Gasol was on the bench at the time and any player not in the game would be suspended if they stepped on the court.

“Unfortunately we didn’t get a guy in between Nick and the three or four guys going at him,” said Lakers forward Pau Gasol, who posted 24 points on 10-of-20 shooting. “That was a first mistake or slow reaction on our part. We should’ve protected Nick there.”

Will this situation carry over past tonight? It’s hard to say.  While everyone will have an opinion on this, Young’s teammates on the court could have come and pulled him away which did not happen.

Having a teammate’s back does not mean that you have to throw punches, but it would have been good to see players attempt to help “Swaggy P”, instead new issues have poked their ugly head as the Lakers’ continue to free fall in the standings.

With a more than likely suspension looming for Nick Young and possibly Jordan Hill, who stepped onto the court slightly during the chaos, the Lakers could suit up just seven players Friday versus the Boston Celtics.

For more comments on tonight’s situation, here is Mark Medina’s article on tonight’s game.

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Image: Jeff Gross | Getty Images
Image: Jeff Gross | Getty Images
Image: Jeff Gross | Getty Images

December 31, 2013 — 7:30 PM (PST)
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

The Los Angeles Lakers (13-18) will play the second of their 4-game home series vs. Milwaukee Bucks (6-24) tonight as they try to snap their 5-game losing streak. The Lakers suffered a very ugly loss vs. Philadelphia 76ers this Sunday as they were clearly not in sync at both the offensive and defensive ends.  G Nick Young led the Lakers, scoring 26 points including making all 12 of his free-throws. However, Young clearly showed frustrations on the court and seemed to be playing out of rhythm, which resulted in a poor 6-21 shooting night and committed 6 turnovers.

The Lakers also suffered more bad injury news as G Xavier Henry is now out for at least 7-10 days after MRI showed a bone bruise in his right knee. However, The Lakers will finally have Pau Gasol’s services available for tonight’s game after feeling better from an upper respiratory infection.  Gasol still seemed very sick and fatigued following practice, which will most likely affect the amount of minutes he can play tonight. Also, 6th Man of the Year candidate G Nick Young will replace F Wesley Johnson tonight since Johnson will miss tonight’s game due to gastroenteritis.

The Milwaukee Bucks, on the other hand, come into STAPLES Center losing 8 of their last 10 games. Like the 76ers, the Bucks’s intentions to try to receive a high pick for the 2014 NBA Draft is very clear. The Bucks are led by a very quick and talented PG Brandon Knight. Knight, who has averaged 14.0 PPG and 4.5 APG, looks to take advantage of the poor Lakers defense by driving to the basket. Since Lakers PG Jordan Farmar might  be tentative with his hamstring, Knight should have an excellent night considering the lack of defense and effort the Lakers have been playing with recently.

Projected Starters

PG - Brandon KnightJordan Farmar [Advantage: Bucks]

SG - Khris Middleton / Jodie Meeks [Advantage: Even]

SF - Larry Sanders Nick Young [Advantage: Bucks]

PF - Giannis Antetokounmpo Shawne Williams [Advantage: Bucks]

C - Ersan Ilyasova Pau Gasol [Advantage: Lakers]

Notable Bench Players

Bucks: G OJ Mayo, SF Caron Butler, Gary Neal

Lakers:  F Wesley Johnson, F Jordan Hill, Chris Kaman, PG Kendall Marshall

Bench Advantage: Bucks

Injury List

Bucks: Out-G Carlos Delfino, C Zaza Pachulia, F John Henson, Questionable-G Gary Neal

Lakers: Out-G Kobe Bryant, PG Steve Nash, PG Steve Blake G Xavier Henry, Questionable-F Wesley Johnson, Probable-PG Jordan Farmar, C Pau Gasol

Keys for Lakers Victory

Make Open Shots: Regardless of who the Lakers play against, the Lakers will not beat anybody if they cannot shoot the ball well. Period. When the Lakers shoot the ball well especially from behind the 3-pt line, they always have a chance to compete an win. However, if they shoot poorly like they have for the majority of their last 5 games, the Lakers will not beat anyone. Lakers shooters, notably G Jodie Meeks, F Shawne Williams, and G/F Nick Young, have to start making open shots more consistently to keep themselves in the game. Once again, the Lakers are outmatched talent wise, so they have to create wide-open shots not only for themselves, but for their teammates too.

Bottom Line

If a more extreme term for a “must-win” regular season game for the Lakers exists, it would be tonight. The Bucks are by far the worst team in the NBA, so another loss will become catastrophic for the Lakers and the championship hopes. Hopefully, the Lakers will prevail and show a sense of urgency and play with not only effort, but also play efficiently and effectively. The Lakers’ effort cannot be questioned, but they have to execute better especially on the defensive end. If they continue to breakdown on defense and allow offensive rebounds, it might become a long night for the Lakers. However, the Lakers should finally snap their 5-game losing streak and come away with a victory tonight to end the 2013 year on a positive note.

Prediction

Lakers: 104-98

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Source: Lakers.com
Source: Lakers.com
Source: Lakers.com

December 29, 2013 — 6:30 PM (PST)
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

The Los Angeles Lakers (13-17) head back home where they will play 4 consecutive home games starting tonight vs. Philadelphia 76ers (8-21), a team destined for the lottery this season. The Lakers let a very winnable game slip from them Friday vs. Utah Jazz despite great games from G/F Nick Young and C Chris Kaman. Young scored 21 points including 13of his points in the 3rd quarter but fouled out in middle of 4th quarter, which swung the momentum to Jazz’s favor, and Kaman scored 19 points and grabbed 10 rebounds as he replaced C Pau Gasol in the starting lineup.

However, the Lakers tonight will play tonight without Gasol due to an upper respiratory infection. To make matters worse, Chris Kaman suffered a sprained ankle during Friday’s game and his availability for tonight’s game is uncertain. The Lakers will have to finish at least 3-1 during this 4-game home stretch since they should defeat these next 4 opponents. They are currently suffering a 4-game losing streak, so getting these victories are very crucial to give themselves an opportunity to make a run at a playoff berth.

Meanwhile, the 76ers basically waived the white flag before the season even began, trading all-star PG Jrue Holiday to the New Orleans Pelicans for C Nerlens Noel, who still is recovering from a torn ACL suffered last January at University of Kentucky. However, the 76ers can definitely still make the playoffs this season in the very abysmal Eastern Conference especially with the play of their rookie PG Michael Carter-Williams. Williams, a 4th overall pick from University of Syracuse, will win the Rookie of the Year award if he stays healthy, averaging 18.1 PPG, 5.5 RPG, and 7.7 APG. The 76ers lost 7 straight games during the beginning of December when Carter-Williams was recovering from a freak bacterial infection in his knee.

UPDATE: Kaman will play tonight (sprained ankle), but C/F Jordan Hill will now start at the Center position.

Projected Starters

PG - Michael-Carter Williams Jordan Farmar [Advantage: 76ers]

SG - Evan Turner / Jodie Meeks [Advantage: 76ers]

SF - Hollis Thompson Wesley Johnson [Advantage: Even]

PF - Thaddeous Young Shawne Williams [Advantage: 76ers]

C - Spencer Hawes Jordan Hill [Advantage: Even]

Notable Bench Players

76ers: G Tony Wroten, James Anderson, Elliot Williams, C/F Lavoy Allen

Lakers: G/F Nick YoungXavier Henry, F Jordan Hill, Chris Kaman

Bench Advantage: Lakers

Keys for Lakers Success

  1. Make Open Shots: The 76ers allow the 3rd highest FG % at 47.1% and the 4th highest 3pt % allowed at 38.3%. If the Lakers shooters, notably G Jodie Meeks, F Shawne Williams, and G Nick Young, can make open shots tonight, the Lakers will come away with an easy win tonight. This matchup is very advantageous for Mike D’Antoni’s fast paced offense since they should have great wide open shots especially on fast breaks. Furthermore, the 76ers have nobody who can protect the basket, so expect the Lakers, especially PG Jordan Farmar, to drive to the basket very often and attack the paint so either he can get a layup or wait until the defense collapses on him so he can kick the ball out to all the Lakers shooters.
  2. Stop Michael Carter-Williams: Since Evan Turner’s ability to play tonight at full strength is uncertain, all 5 defenders have to keep their eye on Carter-Williams. With Carter-Williams on the floor, the 76ers play much better, having a 7-10 record. The Lakers have had a lot of problems keeping guards in front of them on defense, causing big men like Kaman and Gasol to help out, leading to wide-open dunks. Since Farmar is back however, they should not have as much trouble keeping players like Carter-Williams in front of them and contain them.

Bottom Line

This game is a must win for the Lakers. Why? Because the 76ers are one of the few NBA teams that should be an easy win for the Lakers on paper. Although the 76ers have more talent than the Lakers on the starting lineup, the Lakers clearly have a much better chemistry and play better together than the 76ers. Also, PG Jordan Farmar‘s return makes the Lakers’ offense and defense much better since he’s a natural vocal floor leader for the Lakers. Lets hope that the Lakers can come away with a stress-free victory tonight to finally snap their 4-game losing streak.

Prediction

Lakers: 114-97

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Courtesy: Getty Images
Courtesy: Getty Images
Courtesy: Getty Images

December 27, 2013 — 6:00 PM (PST)
Energy Solutions Arena, Salt Lake City, UT
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

The Los Angeles Lakers (13-16) travel to the Salt Lake City for a very quick trip to play Utah Jazz (8-23), who are not a very good team and seems to be preparing for a high draft pick for the 2014 NBA Draft. Like the Lakers, the Jazz will have the ability to sign high-priced free agents this off-season by making off-season trades to clear their salary cap.

However, Jazz can cause the Lakers’s defense a lot of problems. Regardless of who plays on the Lakers, the Jazz have always marked the Lakers on their calendar and we should expect them to play with a lot of passion and energy. Jazz rookie PG Trey Burke has played exceptionally well after missing the first 12 games recovering from a broken finger, averaging 13.5 PPG and 4.9 APG. Also, the Jazz have F Gordan Hayward, who has the skills to shoot over smaller defenders and drive to the basket, has averaged a very solid 15.4 PPG, 5.5 RPG, and 4.7 APG. Hayward will become a free-agent following the season, and I expect a lot of NBA teams offer him a long-term contract.

The Lakers are coming off a very tough loss vs. Miami Heat after playing with a very good spirit and a lot of energy to stay close. G/F Nick Young has led the way for most of the season coming off the bench by having the ability to create his own shot and has averaged a very solid 15.7 PPG, which leads all NBA 6th man, this season. However, the Lakers will be without the services of C Pau Gasol tonight due to an upper respiratory infection that has still caused him problems stemming from last Saturday. Gasol will definitely be missed by the Lakers tonight after playing very solidly recently, becoming more aggressive and looking much slimmer compared to the beginning of the season. Look for C Robert Sacre and C Chris Kaman to fill in Gasol’s role tonight despite Head Coach Mike D’Antoni proclamation that Ryan Kelly will take both of their minutes to spread the floor even more.

Projected Starters

PG - Trey Burke Jordan Farmar [Advantage: Jazz]

SG - Gordon Hayward / Jodie Meeks [Advantage: Jazz]

SF - Richard Jefferson Wesley Johnson [Advantage: Even]

PF - Marvin Williams Pau Gasol [Advantage: Jazz]

C - Derrick Favors Chris Kaman [Advantage: Even]

Notable Bench Players

Jazz: G Alec Burks, Jeremy EvansPG John Lucas III, Enes Kanter

Lakers: G/F Nick YoungXavier Henry, F Jordan Hill, Ryan Kelly

Bench Advantage: Lakers

Keys for Lakers Success

  1. Keep Guards out of the Paint: Although it might seem like kicking a dead horse at this point, the Lakers need to stop letting opposing guards drive to the basket without any resistance and let them get high percentage shots for themselves or an open teammate. Tonight’s match up will not be much easier, as they try to keep both Burke and Hayward outside of the paint. The guards have to make the offensive players feel more uncomfortable while dribbling the ball and cause turnovers. This is also the main cause for opposing post players to have career highs vs. Lakers continuously this season.
  2. Do Not Allow 2nd Chance PossessionsThe Lakers have been struggling a lot at boxing out their players and allowing easy 2nd chance baskets. Their defense has played fairly well recently, but allowing offensive rebounds causes their defense to become very disorganized, causing them to lose their players they matched up with. This is another factor that results in career high performances from non-superstar players from opposing teams. With D’Antoni sitting out their post players like Kaman and Sacre and prioritizing 3-point shooting more, proper fundamentals to box out opposing players like C/F Derrick Favors and C Enes Kanter becomes a high priority since they both possess a significant weight advantage over whoever the Lakers will put out on the floor tonight.

Bottom Line

The Lakers have to have their head on straight and play with good fundamentals and high energy tonight to defeat the Jazz. Once again, the opposing team has more talent than the Lakers at least in the starting lineup, so the Lakers cannot rely on talent and play complacent to win tonight. However, PG Jordan Farmar‘s return should once again stabilize the Lakers’ offense and defensive ends as a vocal floor leader for the Lakers. If they play with as much energy and passion as their last game, Laker Nation should be in a good mood after tonight’s victory.

Prediction

Lakers: 99-96

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Image: Getty Images

Last week’s POW:  Jodie Meeks

Well Nation, this week was a rather eventful one to say the least.  Losing Kobe Bryant for another six weeks hurts and just means the Lakers will need yet another player to step up.  This past week one player stood out form the crowd and despite the strong and powerful performances by Pau Gasol it wasn’t him. The player of the week is:

Nick Young

Stephen R. Sylvanie|USA TODAY SportsNick Young played at an extremely high level this past week as he put up numbers of 21.5 PPG, 3.5 RPG, and 1.5 APG.  The Lakers finished the week with a 2-2 record while losing Kobe Bryant on Friday.  Young came off the bench in each contest and managed to make a valuable impact on each game with his scoring and ability to pump up his teammates and the crowd with his “swaggy p” dance.

Young’s excellent energy he brings to the game is something that won’t show up on stat sheets but is one of those intangibles you wish every player could bring to the court.

As long as Young keeps up these scoring numbers he may be the first Laker to repeat as player of the week, but I guess we’ll see how the games go next week!

 

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Image: Andrew D. Bernstein | Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Stephen Dunn, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Stephen Dunn, Getty Images

December 23, 2013 — 6:00 PM (PST)
US Airways Center, Phoenix, AZ
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

The Los Angeles Lakers (13-14) look to bounce back tonight against the Phoenix Suns (16-10) after a very disappointing loss vs. Golden State Warriors on Saturday. The Lakers’s lack of a true point guard showed last game, as they could not get any good shots, resulting in a 3-21 shooting nightmare during the 3rd quarter. C Pau Gasol looks to rejoin his team tonight after missing last game due to an upper respiratory infection. The Lakers will be led by Gasol and 6th man G/F Nick Young, who has been a constant scorer off the bench, scoring more than 10 points in 13 consecutive games

The Phoenix Suns, on the other hand, come into tonight’s match up very hot, winning 7 of their last 8 games. The Suns are led by the point guard duo of PG Goran Dragic and PG Eric Bledsoe. Dragic has performed very well replacing PG Steve Nash to run the show, averaging 18.1 PPG and 5.9 APG. Bledsoe has slowly blossomed into a perrenial star in this league as he has finally gotten a chance to start for the first time in his NBA career. Bledsoe has eerily similar numbers to Dragic, but leading his team in points and assists, averaging 19.1 PPG and 6.3 APG, while causing havoc on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor.

Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni has decided to shuffle the starting lineup again to match up with the run and gun Suns and match up better with quick guards like Bledsoe and Dragic tonight on the defensive end. F Shawne Williams will replace F Jordan Hill to help spread the floor out and match-up with Suns F Channing Frye.

Projected Starters

PG - Goran Dragic Xavier Henry [Advantage: Suns]

SG - Eric Bledsoe / Jodie Meeks [Advantage: Suns]

SF - PJ TuckerWesley Johnson [Advantage: Even]

PF - Channing Frye / Shawne Williams [Advantage: Suns]

C - Miles Plumlee / Pau Gasol [Advantage: Lakers]

Notable Bench Players

Suns: G Gerald Green, F Markieff Morris, C Marcus Morris

Lakers: G Xavier Henry, G/F Nick Young, G/F Wesley Johnson, C/F Jordan Hill

Bench Advantage: Lakers

Keys for Lakers Success

  1. Defensive Rebounding: The Lakers have been struggling a lot at boxing out their players and allowing easy 2nd chance baskets. Their defense has played fairly well recently, but allowing offensive rebounds causes their defense to become very disorganized, causing them to lose their players they matched up with. The Morris twins, F Marcus Morris, and F Markieff Morris, killed the Lakers last time grabbing offensive rebounds, so anybody near them have to make sure to box these two players out by using proper fundamentals since they both possess a significant weight advantage over any players on the Lakers.
  2. Keep Guards Away From Paint: The Lakers have major problems keeping guards away from the paint, letting them get high percentage shots for themselves or an open teammate. Tonight’s match up will be their worst one, as they try to keep both Dragic and Bledsoe outside of the paint. Dragic destroyed and dissected the Lakers defense during their last meeting, which led to his career high of 31 points. The guards have to make the offensive players feel more uncomfortable while dribbling the ball and cause turnovers. Despite not having a point guard, guards like Meeks, Johnson, Nick Young, and Xavier Henry are all interchangeable skill-wise, so an excuse to play intense defense and show great communications cannot be plausible for this group.

Bottom Line

The very shorthanded Lakers will try to keep the game close and try to steal this game away from the Suns. The Lakers have to play with a lot of energy and effort, outrebounding the Suns, get easy baskets, and compete for all loose balls to grind out a victory tonight. With their Christmas game vs. Miami Heat coming up this Wednesday, the Lakers have to come away with a victory here to have positive momentum moving into Wednesday.

Prediction

Suns: 124-110

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Image: Stephen Dunn | Getty Images
Photo Credit: "Hook" (1991) TriStar Pictures
Photo Credit: “Hook” (1991) TriStar Pictures

Watching the Lakers beat the Timberwolves in their first game since Kobe’s knee injury sidelined him, I couldn’t help but think of the Steven Spielberg film, “Hook,” detailing the adventures of an adult Peter Pan’s return to Neverland to find his youth, his children, and to lead his lost boys against Captain Hook.

This season’s Lakers are a ragtag group of youths, outcasts of the NBA, waiting on the return of the mythical Kobe Bryant, just as the lost boys waited on Peter Pan, absent from Neverland at the start of the film.

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images

Basketball teams take on the personality of their leader, and in Kobe’s six games with the Lakers this season, his presence was enormous. He plays a different style than the team had employed, and they were quick to try to adjust to him. Before Kobe’s first game back from injury, the Lakers introduced the other four starters, and then gave Bryant his own theme music, and announced him separately. Kobe is one of the Lakers, but he remains apart from this team. Older, wiser, more accomplished. He is a veteran and a champion, and they are young journeymen. They look up to him and follow him, even though they can never be him. With him sidelined, they must forge ahead together, and find a way to play without him.

Peter Pan leads a ragtag group of “lost boys” that play, fight, and live together. They follow Pan, but he is blessed with gifts of flight and leadership that they will never possess. He is one of them, yet always separate. They take on Pan’s quest to defeat Captain Hook, and follow him to the end, but it is Peter’s fight – not theirs. Pan leaves Neverland and forgets to fly, and the lost boys must search for a new leader and identity.

Photo Credit: "Hook" (1991) TriStar Pictures
Photo Credit: “Hook” (1991) TriStar Pictures

 

 

In Pan’s absence, the lost boys turn to a flamboyant youth named Rufio to lead them. Rufio cannot compete with the mythical Pan, but he is talented, brash, and occasionally dazzling. He allows them to have fun, and gives them a figure to rally behind. The lost boys always know that if Pan returns to form, Rufio must step aside.

After Kobe broke his knee, he exited the lineup, leaving his team with a seismic void to fill: Who will lead these lost boys of the NBA? What is their identity?

 

 

 

Photo Credit: Lakers Twitter (@Lakers)
Photo Credit: Lakers Twitter (@Lakers)

 

 

Enter Nick Young, a.k.a. “Swaggy P.” He’s flamboyant, confident, and occasionally mesmerizing, though not on the same plane as the great Kobe Bryant.With his 25 points against Minnesota, and array of “swaggy” moves, he stamped his personality all over the Kobe-less Lakers. As Coach Mike D’Antoni said, “he starts swaggin’ out there and…it gets everyone’s energy up.” Young’ exuberance is contagious to this team. In Kobe’s absence, they adopt Young’s personality.

 

 

 

Young’s Lakers run and gun, and everyone is in on the fun. Even Kobe’s old running mate Pau Gasol got swept up in the “swag” fest, nailing a three pointer and doing the “Swaggy P” dance.

Like Rufio’s lost boys, Young’s Lakers are carefree, reveling in their roles with the Lakers. The team’s analysts at Time Warner Cable, a year ago so serious in the hunt for a championship that they criticized Dwight Howard for smiling, now bask in all that is “Swaggy P.”

With Kobe out, and no point guards, this Lakers’ season is anarchy. And just like in Neverland, anarchy creates the opportunity for hijinks and fun. The lost boys in L.A. are entertaining themselves and the city, but as much fun as the boys have shooting threes and throwing lobs deep down everyone knows “Swaggy P” and company cannot reach the promised land. They are just filling time before their leader returns, bringing with him a real, daunting quest.

In “Hook,” Peter Pan returns to Neverland fat, grumpy, and unable to fly. He tries to defeat Captain Hook and save his children on his own through reason and bargaining, and fails. The boys put him through a boot camp, teach him to remember the joy of youth, and Peter slowly regains his powers – he has to in order to save his children, captives of Captain Hook.

Kobe will surely return from his knee injury, shaky and not yet ready to fly. He may try to to win his way, serious and plodding, but that will not work with this collection of lost boys. However, if he can accept the culture of this year’s fun Lakers, maybe he can add a legitimacy to the chaos that allows them to battle the fearsome pirates.

The lost boys know that Pan is the only one of them capable of defeating Hook. However, Peter needs them to get him there. The lost boys have to fight the pirates to free Pan to battle Hook mano-a-mano. They do it their own fun and offbeat way, upsetting the pirates with unpredictability.

Kobe must find a way to blend himself in with this team’s strength: Their surprising vitality. Just like Pan, he will have to lead his team from within, not without. Kobe needs his lost boys’ unconventional, frenzied talents to have a shot at accomplishing his goal. The way the Lakers are winning right now may not make any sense – and therein lies its power.

The lost boys in “Hook,” even Rufio, secretly hoped that Pan would return and lead them to bigger and better things, accomplishments that they could not sniff without him. To do so, he had to join them in their ruckus and elevate them, not confine them.

The Lakers certainly hope Kobe can regain flight and lead these lost boys to achievements beyond their wildest imagination. If not, what are they fighting for?

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Photo courtesy of Andrew Bernstein, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Noah Graham, Getty Images.
Photo courtesy of Noah Graham, Getty Images

December 21, 2013 — 7:30 PM (PST)
Oracle Arena, Oakland, CA
TV:  TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

The Los Angeles Lakers (13-13) shocked the national audience last night by easily dismantling the Minnesota Timberwolves after learning that G Kobe Bryant will now be out for approximately 6 weeks after suffering a fractured lateral tibial plateau in his left knee. It was one of the few games where fans could argue that every single Laker who stepped on the floor had a solid game if not excellent.

Notably, C/PF Pau Gasol looks like the Pau Gasol of old, almost having a triple double with 21 points, 13 rebounds, and 8 assists. Ever since that fiasco between Gasol and Mike D’Antoni and Kobe Bryant‘s advice for Gasol to slim down and lose mroe weight, Gasol looks much slimmer physically to the Lakers championship days. In the last 5 games, Gasol has averaged 17.4 PPG, 9.2 RPG which are very close to his career averages in those 2 categories. Unfortunately, Gasol will not be available tonight due to an upper respiratory infection. G Nick Young has proven throughout the season that he can somewhat fill in for Bryant and led the Lakers victory along with Gasol by scoring 25 points on 9-14 shooting from the field. G Xavier Henry also made a tremendous contribution as the temporary starting point guard, scoring 21 points, dishing out 4 assists, and only committing 3 turnovers, which is excellent for a player playing out of position.

However, the Lakers have to carry this momentum into Oracle Arena vs. a very hungry Golden State Warriors (14-13), who are coming off a very embarrasing loss vs. the San Antonio Spurs who played without Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili. They have been a disappointment so far this season considering they came into the season with their highest expectations since the “Run TMC” era in the early 1990′s. Individually, the Warriors feature the dangerous “Splash Brothers” of PG Stephen Curry and Lakers Radio Announcer Mychal Thompson’s son SG Klay Thompson. Curry and Thompson have had another great season, scoring 25.4 PPG and 19.8 PPG and shooting from behind the 3 pt line at 41.3% and 42.6% respectively. The cause for high expectations in the Bay Area for the Warriors is the acquisition of SF Andre Iguodala, who played a key part for the 2012 Team USA basketball team along with Kobe Bryant to win a gold medal. Iguodala is very comparable to the great Scottie Pippen as a very unselfish player who will always guard the opposing team’s best player and also has the ability to play all 5 positions on the floor other than Center.

Projected Starters

PG - Stephen Curry Xavier Henry [Advantage: Warriors]

SG - Klay Thompson / Jodie Meeks [Advantage: Warriors]

SF - Andre Iguodala Wesley Johnson [Advantage: Warriors]

PF - David LeeJordan Hill [Advantage: Warriors]

C - Andrew Bogut Chris Kaman [Advantage: Even]

Notable Bench Players

Warriors: F Harrison Barnes, F/C Maurice SpeightsDraymond Green

Lakers: G/F Nick YoungF Shawne Williams, Chris Kaman

Bench Advantage: Lakers

Keys for Lakers Success

  1. Effort: Lets face it. The Lakers cannot beat any of their opponents anytime soon by pure talent especially with Bryant and their entire point guard players out. Therefore, the Lakers have to play with a lot of energy and effort. The Lakers have to out rebound the Timberwolves, get easy baskets, and compete for all loose balls to grind out a victory tonight. Players like F Jordan HillRobert Sacre, and F Wes Johnson has to continue to get rebounds, play hard on both ends, and do the intangible things that do not show in the box score.
  2. Close Out on Shooters: The Warriors love shooting to say the least. The Lakers learned the hard way in their 1st visit to Oracle Arena, letting the Warriors take many uncontested shots, which resulted in the Warriors shooting 53.5% from the field and the Lakers losing by 31 points. When the Warriors visited Staples Center however, the Warriors were forced into more contested shoots, leading to them shooting only 41.5 % from the field, which also resulted in a Lakers victory. If the Lakers force contested shots and stay aware of where shooters, especially Curry and Thompson are, the Lakers have a chance to stay close vs. Warriors.

Bottom Line

If the San Antonio Spurs can defeat a healthy Warriors without playing their “Big 3″ in Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker, the Lakers can sure have a good shot at defeating them also, especially if they plated with as much energy as they did last night. Unfortunately, the Lakers will not have home court advantage tomorrow playing on the road, so they cannot rely on their home fans to energize them. Furthermore, we all know that the Warriors are furious after losing in embarrassing fashion vs. some resemblance of the Spurs in front of national TV audience. Therefore, they will play with a tremendous amount of energy, something the Lakers have to counter-attack by playing very smart on both ends of the floor. Hopefully my prediction will be wrong again, but it’s hard for me to see the Warriors lay an egg again and lose another heart breaker especially on their home floor vs. Lakers.

Prediction

Warriors: 115-106

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Photo by Stephen Dunn| Getty Images
Photo by Stephen Dunn| Getty Images
Photo by Stephen Dunn| Getty Images

December 20, 2013 — 7:30 PM (PST)
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: ESPN / TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

The Los Angeles Lakers (12-13) try to pick up the broken piece of glasses and battle the Minnesota Timberwolves (13-13) tonight after learning that G Kobe Bryant will now be out for approximately 6 weeks after suffering a fractured lateral tibial plateau in his left knee. Along with Bryant, the 3 Lakers point guards, PG Steve Nash, PG Steve Blake, and PG Jordan Farmar, are still sidelined due to their injuries and not expected to return anytime soon. As a result, the Lakers signed D-League PG Kendall Marshall to a non-guaranteed contract to fill the back-up point guard position. 

With all the injuries, players like G Nick Young, G Xavier Henry, and SG Jodie Meeks have to cover for Bryant’s loss and perform as well as they did before Bryant’s return. Without Bryant, the Lakers will run Mike D’Antoni‘s system that involes a lot of ball movement and running up and down the floor. 

The Lakers now have to play the Minnesota Timberwolves, who visited the Lakers earlier season and won by 23 points. They are a much improved team this season, mainly due to  staying healthy as a team unlike last season. The Timberwolves are led by the duo of local UCLA product PF Kevin Love and PG Ricky Rubio, both of them being potential all-stars this season. Love has had another dominant season, averaging 25.2 PPG and 13.7 RPG. He can shoot from the perimeter while dominating in the low post at the same time, causing match up nightmares for anyone who guards him. Rubio reminds a lot of old NBA fans of the great “Pistol Pete” Maravich as a point guard who can make difficult plays look very easy using his insane craftiness. Rubio has had a solid season himself, averaging 9.4 PPG and 7.9 APG. Althought the Timberwolves have the talent in their starting lineup to be one of the top teams in the Western Conference, their lack of depth has cost them a lot of games this season.

Projected Starters

PG - Ricky Rubio Xavier Henry [Advantage: Timberwolves]

SG - Kevin Martin / Jodie Meeks [Advantage: Timberwolves]

SF - Corey Brewer Wesley Johnson [Advantage: Timberwolves]

PF - Kevin LoveJordan Hill [Advantage: Timberwolves]

C - Nikola Pekovic Pau Gasol [Advantage: Even]

Notable Bench Players

Grizzlies: G JJ Barea, Alexei ShvedDante Cunningham

Lakers: G/F Nick YoungF Shawne Williams, Robert Sacre

Bench Advantage: Lakers

Keys for Lakers Success

  1. Effort: Lets face it. The Lakers cannot beat any of their opponents anytime soon by pure talent especially with Bryant and their entire point guard players out. Therefore, the Lakers have to play with a lot of energy and effort. The Lakers have to out rebound the Timberwolves, get easy baskets, and compete for all loose balls to grind out a victory tonight. Players like F Jordan HillRobert Sacre, and F Wes Johnson has to continue to get rebounds, play hard on both ends, and do the intangible things that do not show in the box score.
  2. Swaggy P: With Bryant out, that leaves Lakers 6th man Nick Young as the only player who can create his own shots on the offensive end. Young has had a fantastic year so far, leading the Lakers in scoring at 14.9 PPG on 43.5 % shooting under Bryant’s tutelage. Young will be relied very heavily upon to score at the end of games and when the offense becomes stagnant.

Bottom Line

With Bryant’s absence, the optimism for tonight’s game is very bleak to say the least. Hopefully, the Lakers play with an inspired energy the way Bryant would want them to tonight. The Lakers also have to make their shots and not allow the Timberwolves extra possessions especially since their talent is superior to the Lakers.

Prediction

Timberwolves: 115-98

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Former number two overall NBA draft pick Michael Beasley worked out for the Los Angeles Lakers for a second time Wednesday.