Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Tags Posts tagged with "Nick Young"

Nick Young

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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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Photo courtesy of Emmanuel Dunand, Getty Images
Photo by: Emmanuel Dunand/Getty Images
Photo by: Emmanuel Dunand/Getty Images

The NBA world isn’t just about what you do on the court. We scoured the web for Lakers-related quotations to provide you with the 10 best quotes from the past seven days:

#10:

“In the paint, we’re awful and we’ve got to get tougher. We’ve got to get a little stronger there. If we want to be a good team and if we want to get better, then that’s definitely a point of emphasis.”

Mike D’Antoni, via the L.A. Times

#9:

“It wasn’t clear what the team needed last year … It needed, maybe, an exorcism.”

Mike D’Antoni, via ESPN’s Dave McMenamin

#8:

“Now that we got our closer back, it should be easier. I was trying to step up and do that for Kobe, but we got the real version.”

Nick Young, via the Daily News’ Mark Medina

#7:

“That Achilles tendon injury forces you to play on the ground as well as in the air and that means becoming more fundamentally sound. And Kobe being a fundamentally sound guy anyway, it’s going to be easy for him to make the adjustment. The fundamentals will obviously be there for Kobe, but what about his explosiveness? The explosion will be there, especially if you really rehab it and strengthen it like you should.”

Dominique Wilkins, via ESPN First Take

#6:

“I’m not jumping through the gym by any means. But I don’t need to be able to do that in order to be a great player.”

Kobe Bryant, via the L.A. Times

#5:

“Sometimes I don’t believe I’m on the court with Kobe. He has the ball so much and he demands the ball so much as Kobe Bryant and sometimes you can catch yourself watching him on the floor. We just got to be out there and go with him. Sometimes we’ll bring it up and sometimes he’ll bring it up, we can’t just defer to him every time. It’s my first time out there with him so I deferred to him a lot. I looked for him a lot because he’s out there on the court and that’s what the fans wanted. The whole thing was about Kobe tonight so I got caught up in the moment.”

Nick Young, via ESPN

#4:

“I wasn’t 100 percent but I don’t like to make excuses. I’m just going to try to play through what I have going on. A guy like that (Amir Johnson) shouldn’t have that type of night against your team. We have to do a better job individually and collectively in order so anyone won’t have a game like that.”

Pau Gasol, following the Lakers loss to the Toronto Raptors, via the Daily News

#3:

“It was really weird. I think the last time I had eight months off I was still in the womb.”

Kobe Bryant, after returning to action against the Raptors, via USA Today

#2:

“I think calmer heads kind of prevailed and thought let’s not risk this kind of yo-yo season. Because that might be the case. I might not be able to play anymore. I might have to yo-yo it or I might be able to play the rest of the way. I think right now we want to see if I can play the rest of the way. (…) It’s been just an obviously pretty horrible 13 months for me. It’s really hard. It’s been a really hard 12 months, 13 months and it’s been in particularly even more hard the last six months, seven months since (the nerve issues) happened in April where I just could never quite get over the hump. It’s been . . . It’s a battle every day.”

Steve Nash, via ESPN

#1:

“As tough as ever to find that balance of where my mind needed to be. As soon as the injury happened, I had doubts whether this night would ever happen. And then, I kicked it into the full gear and fought myself to not think about the end result – just think about every single day of work it would take for me to get back again. I found out that I had another gear, a gear that I never knew was there. It’s one thing to push yourself when everyone expects you to be dominant, to perform at the highest level. I had a motivation to do that. But it was something else all together to find a motivation when there was no end goal in sight, when I literally couldn’t walk. I had to sit there and think about coming out and performing, months and months from now, but I didn’t really know when that time was going to be. And you keep going and you keep working and you find out, yes, I can get there… And I got there.”

Kobe Bryant, via Yahoo Sports

 

What is your favorite one? Do you think any quotations got snubbed? Let us know in the comment section below!

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Source: Kobe Bryant/Facebook
Kobe Bryant
Source: Kobe Bryant | Facebook

December 8, 2013 — 6:30 PM (PST)
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC SportsNet / NBATV
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

He’s back.

Lakers superstar G Kobe Bryant makes his season debut for the Los Angeles Lakers (10-9) against the Toronto Raptors (6-12) tonight in front of a home crowd. Bryant, who returns from a devasating left achilles tear from the April 12th game vs. Golden State Warriors, provides the Lakers with a game-changer and team leader on the floor. Despite playing without Bryant, the Lakers have surprised many NBA experts this season by playing very well as a team,  winning 6 out of their last 8 games to maintain a .500 winning percentage. According to Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni, he expects to see Kobe play in the 20-25 minute range tonight.

The Lakers come off of a solid win versus the Sacramento Kings, where G Jodie Meeks and G/F Wesley Johnson led the way for the Lakers. Meeks scored 19 points by shooting 5-6 from the 3 pt line, including 2 huge 3-pointers to defeat the Kings, while Johnson locked down defensively by having 5 steals. Also, the emergence of C Robert Sacre has been a pleasant surprise for the Lakers. As a surprise starter vs. Kings last game, Sacre held his own against a very talented C DeMarcus Cousins, scoring 11 points, and getting key stops towards the end of the game.

The Raptors, on the other hand, just made news for themselves. According to Yahoo! Sports Marc Spears’ and Adrian Wojnarowski’s sources, the Raptors just traded SF Rudy Gay, Aaron Gray, and F Quincy Acy to the Sacramento Kings for F John Salmons, PG Greivis Vasquez, F Chuck Hayes, F Patrick Patterson, all who will obviously not be available for the Raptors tonight. Therefore, the Raptors will be led by G Demar Derozan. Derozan, a local product out of USC and Compton High School, has seemed to finally use his raw athleticism efficiently, leading the Raptors in scoring at a career high 21.3 PPG.

Projected Starters

PG – Kyle LowrySteve Blake [Advantage: Even]

SGDemar Derozan / Kobe Bryant [Advantage: Lakers]

SF – Terrence RossWesley Johnson [Advantage: Lakers]

PF – Jonas Valanciunus / Pau Gasol [Advantage: Lakers]

C – Amir Johnson / Robert Sacre [Advantage: Raptors]

X-Factors

Raptors: F Steve Novak - Arguably one of the best three-point shooters in the NBA, Novak can cause the Lakers defense a lot of problems if he can get wide open shots. Novak, who is one of many players who thrived in Mike D’Antoni’s offensive system during his days with the New York Knicks, is currently shooting at 37.7% from the 3-pt line after the Raptors acquired him this offseason for F Andrea Bargnani. Novak is the only offensive spark the Raptors have from the bench, so if the Lakers can shut him down with athletic defenders like Johnson or F Shawne Williams, the Lakers bench should outscore the Raptors’s bench by a significant margin tonight.

Lakers: Rest of the Lakers - With Bryant returning to the lineup, the Lakers coaching staff has a major question mark moving forward: how will the rest of the Lakers play with Bryant back. In the past, the Lakers would tend to stand around on offense, waiting for Bryant to save them every time. Hopefully with the rest of the Lakers gaining their own confidence offensively in Bryant’s absence, they can continue to stay aggressive towards the basket and not be hesitant to shoot the ball. Notably, players like Meeks, Johnson, G Xavier Henry, and G/F Nick Young have thrived in Bryant’s absence for the first 19 games, playing very well on both ends of the floor. In order for the Lakers to not only win tonight’s game, but also make some noise in the playoffs, the rest of the Lakers have to continue to move around without the ball and not stand around hoping Bryant will bail them out every possession, especially towards the end of the game.

Bottom Line

Since the atmosphere at Staples tonight will be electric due to Bryant’s return, the Lakers will have to channel their emotions tonight to execute both offensively and defensively. Although the Raptors have a lot of talent in their starting lineup, they are very thin on the bench, something the Lakers bench can thrive off of, especially with Meeks joining the bench unit. Once again, the Lakers do not have a healthy point guard. Without PG Steve Nash and PG Jordan Farmar available for tonight’s game, look for Bryant to play point guard quite often whenever PG Steve Blake, who is currently battling a hyper extended right elbow, needs a rest tonight. If the Lakers continue to play as a team and stay focused especially defensively for the entire 48 minutes of the game, look for the Lakers to get a solid victory in Bryant’s debut.

Prediction

Lakers: 104-95

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Photo courtesy of Noah Graham, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Noah Graham, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Noah Graham, Getty Images

Add this game to the top of disheartening losses this season. What a game.

The Portland Trail Blazers came into Staples Center with the second best record in the Western Conference. Naturally, the Lakers were not favored to win tonight and it appeared to be an easy game to call when the home team fell behind by 17 points halfway through the first quarter. The Lakers managed to catch up, however, going into halftime just three points down. It looked like the home team was giving themselves a chance to win…and then the third quarter came.

The Blazers outscored the Lakers 41-24. Again, it looked like they’d be taking this game all the way when they led by as much as 20 points. The Lakers, however, continued to fight, getting to within a single point with still under three minutes left in the game. Unfortunately, They couldn’t stop Portland from scoring and the single-digit deficit became more than the Lakers could overcome with so little time left, so they took the loss, 114-108.

High Points
Backcourt Brothers – The Laker guards really took this game and put it over their shoulders tonight, and it started with Xavier Henry. He contributed 27 points on 9-12 from the field and was the focal point of the Lakers’ two big runs tonight. In the first quarter, he chipped in nine points that helped fuel the come from 17 points down run. In the fourth quarter, he put in 11 points to help the team catch up from a 20-point deficit, highlighted by his four-point play. He’s so good at getting himself to the free throw line where he went 7-11 tonight, and he’s fearless at getting to the rim no matter how much traffic there is to barrel through. He finished the evening with a game-high +23. Jodie Meeks, the team’s leading scorer, put in 20 points of his own. Nick Young was the other bench player who fueled the first scoring run that got the team over the 17-point hole. He finished with 17 points on 7-14 from the field. And of course, there’s Steve Blake, who had to put in double-duty tonight when Jordan Farmar left the game in the first quarter. He finished with 13 points and nine assists.
Attitude – It would have been so easy for the Lakers to just roll over and let Portland have their way with them, but they wouldn’t let up. They came up from being behind by double digits twice in one game. It’s hard to consider moral victories, but this game really showed a lot of grit from this Lakers’ team. It’s an attitude that surely their captain, Kobe Bryant, would appreciate.

Low Points
Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill – The Blazers and the Lakers shot at about the same percentage. They had close to the same number of assists, the turnovers weren’t out of control for either team and the Lakers even blocked seven shots to the Blazers’ one. The glaring stat disparity? Rebounds. Portland outrebounded the Lakers 52-41, 15-9 on the offensive glass. While rebounding should be a team effort, the Lakers’ leading rebounders didn’t do much to help their situation, combining for just 11 boards for the whole game. Their struggles tonight may be due in large part to a sprained ankle, which each player is nursing.
Spotty Defense – Sometimes it’s there, sometimes it’s not. And it’s hard to tell when the Lakers will decide to play any. One quarter, they’re allowing Portland to score 41 points. The next quarter, they go on a 24-5 run. Sustaining their efforts on either end of the court is this team’s weakness so far this season, and it’s cost them a lot of close, winnable games.
Chris Kaman – It’s nice to see Robert Sacre on the floor playing some significant minutes, and he was productive tonight with his 12 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three blocks, but Kaman has been available to play for some time now and hasn’t seen the floor in a couple weeks. It’s not something that’s been given much attention, but with Jordan Hill playing with a sprained ankle, seems logical to bring Kaman in.
Jordan Farmar – After playing for only 56 seconds, Farmar had to leave the floor and was later diagnosed with a left hamstring strain. He left in the first quarter and never returned. Hopefully the next four days off will aid in a quick recovery.

The Lakers’ next game isn’t until Friday against the Sacramento Kings. After a weeklong road trip, it may just be what they need to recoup. Kobe Bryant is scheduled to practice with the team this week and there’s a possibility he’ll play against the Kings if the practices don’t cause any pain. Here’s hoping!

Box Score

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Source: Lakers.com

I pushed this week’s Top to Bottom back to include more than just 2 games. This week covers games against the Warriors, Kings, Wizards, Nets and Pistons. In that stretch, the Lakers went 4-1, losing only on the road to the Wizards, and find themselves above .500 for the first time since opening night. With the Lakers picking up their play and with new people stepping up everyday, it’s getting harder and harder to find a “bottom 3″, so don’t mind my nitpicking. Here is this week’s Top to Bottom:

TOP

Image: Maddie Meyer | Getty Images
Image: Maddie Meyer | Getty Images

1. Jordan Farmar

Last week, I had Steve Blake in my Top list and praised him for stepping up in the absence of Steve Nash. This week, it’s the backup point guard that did damage. Jordan Farmar came off the bench and averaged 14.6 points, 5 assists, and only 1.2 turnovers in about 22 minutes a game. Farmar has impressed me all season and his play over the last 5 games ensured his spot at the top of my list. Jordan was also the only Laker to never be in the minus in the +/- category over the last 5 games and even lead the team against the Warriors with a +21 and the Wizards with a +6, he also lead the team in scoring with 22 points against the Wizards. Farmar is spending his time on the court wisely and is the leader of the best bench in the league.

2. Nick Young

Nick Young had his best week as a Laker this past week. Settling into his sixth man role, Young averaged 16.4 points a game and also lead the team in scoring against the Nets with 26 points. Young also secured Sunday night’s win against Detroit when he drew the last second charge on Josh Smith and hit 2 free throws to seal the deal. Young’s defense has also been steadily improving, in the game against the Kings, Young only scored 7 points, but lead the team in the +/- category with a +15. He has also averaged at a little over 1 steal a game over the last 5.

3. Pau Gasol

Pau started this week of games with a charity pledge to help victims of Typhoon Haiyan against the Warriors, in that game Pau was able to score 24 points and donate $24,000 to typhoon relief. Pau continued the week leading the team averaging 19 points and 9.2 rebounds (tied with Jordan Hill) a game. Pau has had his ups and downs this season but his play been improving. With Kobe’s return just around the corner I expect Pau to pick it up and have a little more freedom once defenses have the Mamba to look out for.

BOTTOM

Source: Lakers.com

1. Xavier Henry

Henry had a great game against the Kings when he lead the team with 21 points, but other than that, he’s been pretty forgettable this week. Henry had weekly averages of 8 points and 2.4 rebounds a game. Even though Henry’s numbers are down, I still think Henry does his job when he’s on the floor. He still has the ability to get to the line almost at will and hit the open jumper, I hope Henry will find his way to the top again soon though.

2. Jordan Hill

Jordan Hill didn’t necessarily have a bad week, he still averaged 6.8 points and 9.2 rebounds in just under 26 minutes a game over the last 5, but those numbers are less than last week when he averaged 18.75 points and 12 rebounds. Hill still brings energy to the starting unit and is a great garbage man, but the scouting report is now out on Hill who has to find other ways to keep the energy up. Hill also suffered a left ankle sprain Sunday night in Detroit, here’s hoping to him getting back on the court healthy and ready to go soon.

3. Lakers Interior Defense

Is it a cop out for me to name the Laker Interior D as a worst player this week? Sure. Does that make it any less true? Not one bit. In the past 5 games, the Lakers gave up a combined total of 252 points in the paint and 81 fast break points. Detroit alone scored 76 of their 102 points in the paint and, in Washington, John Wall had his way getting past defenses with his speed and to the hole almost at will. This past road trip showed a major flaw in the team’s defense, it seems any team with speed and/or a big that can get into the post will have an advantage against the Lakers. Kurt Rambis, who was hired to lead the defense, has his work cut out for him. The Lakers take Portland on at home tomorrow.

 

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

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

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

Photo Credit: IB Times

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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

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

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

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Courtesy: Getty Images

Mike D'Antoni

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

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

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

Starting Line-Up:

PG – Steve Blake

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

Courtesy: Getty Images
Courtesy: Getty Images

SG – Xavier Henry

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

SF – Kobe Bryant

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

PF – Jordan Hill

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

C – Pau Gasol

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

Bench:

G – Steve Nash

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

Courtesy: Getty Images
Courtesy: Getty Images
G – Jordan Farmar

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

F – Nick Young/Wesley Johnson

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

C – Chris Kaman

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

Odd Men Out:

Jodie Meeks

Shawne Williams

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

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

Every sport, at their core, has simple goals and strategies. For basketball, it’s getting the ball in the hoop and preventing the other team from doing the same. The team who can do both, or at the very least one of these things, better than the other wins. The Lakers, in five regular season games, have been good at both just once – the first game where they blew out the Clippers. Since then they have gotten blown out by Golden State and Dallas, outsmarted and outhustled against the Spurs, and barely won by the skin of their teeth versus Atlanta. So far we’ve learned one thing about this team, and that’s that they don’t take to simplicity well.

After giving up 35 points to the Mavericks in the first quarter, while only able to score 22 themselves, the Lakers continued to make decisions contrary to the solution that could have won them this game. Down 16 points in the second quarter and running ahead with the ball, by all means, Pau Gasol, shoot a three in transition (miss). Down by 30 points in the third quarter after Jose Calderon hit a three, Jordan Farmar pulls for a jumper (again, miss). The Lakers were raining bricks on Dallas tonight, opting always for the low-percentage shot over the inside game that provides a better chance to score.

For a second time this season, the Lakers looked lost from every corner of the court, and the Mavericks took advantage, taking the 123-104 victory.

High Points
Monta Ellis – 30 points on 11-14 from the field, a perfect 8-8 from the free throw line and six rebounds. Once a scorer, always a scorer and Ellis is one of the league’s prolific ones. Not known for his three-point shot, Ellis scored most from mid-range and inside, often beating his man off the dribble and heading in for a layup. No Steve Blake or Nick Young could stop him tonight.
Nick Young – Speaking of Nick Young, he couldn’t stop Ellis, but he did what he could on the offensive end, going 8-12 from the field for his team-leading 21 points. Coming off the bench seems to have aided Young in his offensive struggles as a starter.

Low Points
Defense – Where to begin with the defense? How about zero, because there was none on the perimeter (13-27 from downtown for the Mavs) and none whatsoever inside the arc either (52-36 advantage for Dallas in the paint). The Mavs strolled so easily and so often to the basket for layups and dunks that the Lakers may have well just sat out. Communication is important on the offensive end, but it is even more so vital on defense, and the Lakers are not heeding.
No Rebounds, No Rings – The Lakers played all thirteen dressed players tonight, and three had absolutely no boards (Young, Shawne Williams, who only played about five minutes, and Steve Blake). Pau Gasol, a historically good rebounder, had just eight boards in 31 minutes, which wouldn’t seem so disappointing if not for the rest of his team barely fighting for rebounds themselves. Dallas grabbed 50 rebounds to the Lakers’ 35. With all the shots they missed, they could have given themselves more chances to score, but chose not to bother.
Lack of Leadership – Kobe Bryant on the sidelines, advising teammates during the game, shows more leadership in a suit than the veterans on this team who are out there on the floor. When your team has cut the lead from 30 points to just 12, where’s the leader to help close the gap even further? Who, out there, will barrel themselves to the basket to score and be fouled? Who is going to run plays to get the other players involved in the surge? Who is going to rebound every miss, contest every shot and play defense? It’s easy to point the finger at Mike D’Antoni, and to a certain extent the Lakers’ coaching staff, when the team plays as listless as they did tonight. But at a certain point in the game, and the early season while Bryant isn’t playing, there has to be someone else who will step up and be that guy. There is no Derek Fisher on this team to back up Bryant, but there is Gasol. Nash is a veteran leader and D’Antoni’s guy, true, but this isn’t his team. While Bryant is re-conditioning for his return, Gasol needs to take the reigns on this team. He needs to shoulder the load. He needs to lead the way, and 10 points on 4-9 from the field, with eight rebounds, four assists and zero blocks is not the way to do it.

Each morning, I start my day with a simple request: Make good choices. It’s time the Lakers (players and coaches alike) start asking the same of themselves. They’re making the game harder than it has to be by making disappointing and baffling decisions on the court. Keep the game simple. Field goal percentage down? Take higher percentage attempts. Getting outrebounded? Rebound more. Have a size advantage? Feed it inside. Opponents scoring too easily, communicate on defense.

This Laker team has shown their potential, even without an active Kobe Bryant. But they can’t seem to show it in consecutive efforts. Fortunately for them, there are still 77 games to go.

Box Score

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Chris+Paul+Steve+Nash+Los+Angeles+Lakers+v+GfS0ma3gqs2x

Another journey begins on October 29th, 2013. The Los Angeles Lakers will kick off another season, but something feels very different this year. No number 24 in the starting line up due to an Achilles injury, and no Dr. Buss in the front office. A bunch of new faces are walking around Laker town like Nick Young, Wesley Johnson, and former Clipper center Chris Kaman. Even Mark “Mad Dog” Madsen is back. This season is what critics call a “toss up” season. The Lakers aren’t expected to make it to the Finals, let alone the playoffs, something we have not seen since 2005.

The Lakers will start the year off against the hometown rivals, Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers made an early exit last season as did the Lakers in a first round bounce. The Clippers have a new attitude and identity, just ask Laker fans how they felt when the Clippers covered the Lakers championship banners. Coach Doc Rivers brings an aggressive coaching style and may arguably be the best head coach in the league. The Clippers have always been the smaller brother in Los Angeles, but behind a new coach, they look to take over Los Angeles and give the Lakers a sour season opener.

What To Look For? 

What will most intrigue Laker fans is the starting line-up, and how effective the new look Lakers will play together. Rumors are Steve Nash and Steve Blake will take care of the back court, Nick Young on the wing, along with the surprise of the preseason Shawne Williams at forward. Pau Gasol will move back in the post at center, which is his most effective position.  Keep an eye out for Coach D’Antoni’s rotation of players like Chris Kaman, Wesley Johnson and Xavier Henry.

Defense, Defense, Defense. The old saying is “defense wins championships” and the last time the Lakers won a championship, it was because of their defense. Last season the Lakers struggled especially in transition defense. Let’s see how effective the new and youthful Lakers can be on the perimeter and inside. Ball movement and shot selection are very important.

What To Expect? 

A young, energetic group of Lakers will be willing to run back and fourth with the Clippers, and for that matter, all season. The Lakers seem to have lakers-bannersslightly gotten better on defense, but expect them to put up a 1oo plus points every night due to Coach D’Antoni system. Every season is a new season and after watching the last couple of pre season games, the Lakers can go on scoring bursts. This team has fire power, especially in the back court. Turnovers will happen. How often they happen will be up to this team and its discipline. The Western Conference is going to be extremely competeive this year.

Kobe Bryant?

Image: AP
Image: AP

The Lakers will be without their leader Kobe Bryant to start the year. In Los Angeles, we have never had an issue on whose taking the last shot, it was always Bryant. Bryant would deliver in crunch time situations and pick his team up from deficits. That will now be a concern since he is not available in the line up. We have no official timetable for when the Mamba plans to return, but in all honesty, it won’t be soon. Bryant is not in shape and has yet to even practice in full contact with his team. Speculation is that Bryant will sit out the whole year; others have set a date for Christmas. The most important element is him being at 100%. A torn Achilles is not an easy injury to overcome and age is not on Bryant’s side.

If the Lakers start fast and stay strong defensively, expect a 1-0 start for the Lakers. If it is a close game, hold your breathe Laker fans. The Lakers need to be a lot more aggressive than the Clippers. They need to be mentally and physically tougher than them, especially in the low post area. Nash and Gasol must keep this young team focused and on schedule. The Clippers vs. Lakers rivalry will continue another season. Let the battle of Los Angeles begin.

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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.