Friday, November 28, 2014
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Pau gasol

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Photo: ESPN.com

With one of the most forgettable seasons in franchise history behind them, the Los Angeles Lakers approach the upcoming NBA season with tremendous optimism and confidence. Stinging from an injury plagued 2013-14 campaign and a complete breakdown of trust within the team, the Lakers aim to return the supremacy of Hollywood back to the purple and gold. With Kobe Bryant returning this season, there is no reason why the team would not be able to make the playoffs come April.

As fans though, why should we believe them? Why should we trust in a team full of turmoil? Why should we believe that the team can still be successful despite the loss of a key piece of the 2009 and 2010 Championships?

The answer starts at the top. With critics around the league pointing the blame of the past season on Jim Buss, management has sought to make better decisions for the team moving forward. Still reeling from the loss of Dwight Howard and the failed Mike D’Antoni experiment, this summer has given everyone the indication that the Lakers are headed for a better year.

With the hiring of coach Byron Scott, the Lakers have brought in a man with extreme mental toughness and character. His dedication and work ethic, both on the offensive and defensive end, will certainly be a big factor moving forward. Adding to this, his relationship with Kobe Bryant will be important in determining the success that the team can ultimately gain. By understanding Bryant’s strengths and weaknesses, he may be able to maximize his skills to compliment his teammates. His veteran leadership and understanding of the Laker culture will help them gain an identity.

Secondly, one cannot deny the talent that the team will be bringing in for next season. Despite the losses of Pau Gasol, Jordan Farmar, Steve Blake and Jodie Meeks, the team will still be competitive despite the lack of a superstar, outside of Bryant. Guys like Carlos Boozer, Ed Davis and Jeremy Lin will surely be productive and can be depended on for significant contributions. They will also have the services of rookies Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson, which will surely bolster the Lakers’ attack. Once everyone gains an understanding of Scott’s system, they will be a force to be reckoned with.

That being said, the most important reason why the Lakers will be successful is pride. Each member of the team, from the coaching staff all the way to the last guy on the bench, knows how big of a deal it is to don the purple and gold. Players like Nick Young have expressed how proud they are of being able to wear the jersey of the franchise with the most wins in NBA history. With so much doubt from people around the league, the team will be playing with a chip on their shoulder to prove the world and naysayers wrong.

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After a miserable 2013-14 season that led to an unusually long off-season, we finally have something to look forward to. Yesterday, the NBA released the 2014-2015 regular season schedule. After saying goodbye to Pau Gasol, Jordan Farmar, Jodie Meeks, and Chris Kaman (among others) the Lakers will begin the season with many fresh faces. Over the Summer, the Lakers added veterans Jeremy Lin, Carlos Boozer, and Ed Davis along with rookies Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson. They will join returning Lakers Xavier Henry, Jordan Hill, Wesley Johnson, Ryan Kelly, Steve Nash, Robert Sacre, and Nick Young. Oh, and I forgot, after only playing 6 games last season, Kobe Bryant will be hungry and healthy to start the season. A sight that Laker fans sorely missed.

With training camp just around the corner… Here is a preview of the 2014-2015 Lakers Regular Season Schedule:

OPENING NIGHT:

Photo Credit: NBA
Photo Credit: NBA

In 1 of only 3 games on opening night, the Lakers will begin their season at home against Dwight Howard and the Houston Rockets. After sitting out all but 6 games last season, this will mark the first time Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard face each other since Howard’s departure 2 summers ago. It will also mark the first time Jeremy Lin will face his former team after being traded this past summer to the Lakers. In 4 games last season, the Rockets took the season series from the Lakers 3-1. However, after losing key role players in Jeremy Lin, Chandler Parsons, and Omer Asik it remains to be seen how the Rockets will fare this season. After opening night, the Lakers and Rockets will meet again on Nov 19 (@HOU) and Jan 25 (@LAL).

CHRISTMAS IN CHICAGO:

(Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports)

December 25th wouldn’t be Christmas without a little Lakers basketball. However, we’ll have a change of scenery this Christmas when the Lakers play their first holiday game away from Staples since 2006, when they played against Shaquille O’Neal and the Miami Heat. This year, Kris Kringle reunites us with a familiar face when the Lakers go up against Pau Gasol and the Chicago Bulls. This will be the first time Gasol and Carlos Boozer face their former teams after swapping places this Summer. It will also be the first time the Lakers will meet Derrick Rose after sitting out almost 2 full seasons due to injury. The two teams will meet again on Jan 29 when Gasol makes his Staples Center return.

GRAMMY ROAD TRIP:

This season’s Grammy trip seems fairly tame compared to those in years past. In previous seasons, the Grammy trip has lasted as long as 7 games in 12 days. This season the Lakers will only visit 4 cities in a 9 day span. The trip will begin in New York when the Lakers face the Knicks for the first time on Feb 1. Then we head to Milwaukee (Feb 4), where Julius Randle and the #2 overall pick, Jabari Paker, will meet for the first time in the NBA. The trip continues in Orlando (Feb 6), where Randle will go up against another lottery pick, Aaron Gordon (#4 overall). The trip will conclude when the Lakers visit Coach Scott’s former team to take on LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, (Kevin Love? Andrew Wiggins?), and the Cavs in Cleveland on Feb 8.

Last season, the Grammy trip was a 7 game trip where the Lakers went 2-5. This season, being an unusually short trip with no back-to-backs, the Lakers should end the road trip with a winning record. I don’t see Milwaukee or Orlando being much of a threat and we all know how much Kobe loves playing in Madison Square Garden. I expect the Lakers to come away from the Grammy trip going 3-1.

BACK-TO-BACKS:

This season, the Lakers will play a total of 16 pairs of B2B games. They’ll start the season right off the bat playing their first 4 games in 2 sets of home/away B2Bs against the Rockets/Suns and the Clippers/Warriors. The Lakers will be the visiting team for a majority of the games in these B2Bs. They will only play 8 of the 32 games at Staples (one will be an away game against the Clippers), all 8 occur on the first night of the B2B. And of course, as it seems to happen every season, the Lakers will play against the Denver Nuggets in the Mile High City on the second night of a B2B following a Clipper home game on April 8th. The Lakers seem to always struggle in this category, in 38 B2B games (19 pairs) last season, the Lakers ended with a record of 11-27, never winning a set of games. They’re going to need to turn that around this season if they expect to improve.

The 16 B2B match-ups will be against:

10/28-29: HOU/@PHX                    10/31-11/1: LAC/@GSW                11/11-12: @MEM/@NOP

11/18-19: @ATL/@HOU                 12/2-3: @DET/@WAS                    12/14-15: @MIN/@IND

12/25-26: @CHI/@DAL                 1/4-5: IND/@POR                            1/15-16: CLE/@UTA

2/10-11: DEN/@POR                      3/3-4: @CHA/@MIA                       3/15-16: ATL/@GSW

3/24-25: @OKC/@MIN                  3/29-30: @BKN/@PH                     4/7-8: @LAC/@DEN

4/12-13: DAL/@SAC

BATTLE FOR LA:

Photo courtesy of Frederic J. Brown, Getty images.

Fresh off the Donald Sterling fiasco, new Clipper owner, Steve Ballmer, and the rest of the Clipper team will almost certainly have some extra spark this season. Especially after newly appointed Lakers head coach (and former head coach of Clippers superstar Chris Paul), Byron Scott, declared that LA was still a Laker town. The Lakers will face the Clippers the usual 4 times (2 home, 2 away) this season, with the first match coming early in the season on Halloween night as a Laker home game. The remaining match-ups will take place on Jan. 7 (@LAC), Apr. 5 (@LAL), and Apr. 7 (@LAC).

After losing the season opener to the Lakers last season, the Clippers dismantled the Lakers by an average of 36 points in the remaining 3 contests and ended up taking the season series 3-1. The hallway series doesn’t get any easier for the Lakers this season after the Clippers added former Laker Jordan Farmar and Spencer Hawes to their depth chart.

A NEW STORY FOR AN OLD RIVALRY:

Photo: Jason DeCrow AP
Photo: Jason DeCrow AP

The Lakers/Celtics rivalry is a part of NBA history, even though it may not be as enticing these days as they were in the past, regardless if it’s for championships, regular season records, or lottery picks, there will always be a certain buzz surrounding a Lakers/Celtics match-up. This season’s match-ups could be the start of a new story when rookies Julius Randle and Marcus Smart take their places in this historic rivalry. Smart was taken by the Celtics with the 6th pick in the draft, one ahead of Randle. After being drafted, Randle said that he felt he should have been drafted higher. “The teams that passed on me will regret it” he said. Let’s hope he starts when the Lakers face the Celtics on Dec. 5 (@BOS) and Feb. 22 (@LAL).

NEW YORK, NEW YORK:

Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

I wouldn’t normally consider a Lakers/Knicks game to be a “notable” game at the beginning of the season, but this year there are too many stories to ignore. Most of LA is still coping with the fact that Phil Jackson agreed to become the President of Basketball Operations for the Knicks last season, but this season we get the added bonus of seeing the team coached by Kobe’s longtime sidekick, Derek Fisher. Not to mention, there’s that Carmelo Anthony guy who turned down a max contract from the Lakers to re-sign with the Knicks this summer. We can watch all this drama unfold when the Lakers and Knicks faceoff on Feb 1 (@NYK) and Mar 12 (@LAL).

Also, the Brooklyn Nets will be in town to play the Lakers at Staples on Feb 20. Why do I consider this game “notable” you ask? It will be the Lakers first game after the Feb 19 NBA Trade Deadline. It’s never too early to speculate last minute trade deadline deals is it?

OTHER NOTABLE GAMES:

– The defending champion San Antonio Spurs will face the Lakers 3 times this season on Nov 14 (@LAL), Dec 12 (@SAS), and Jan 23 (@SAS).

– LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and the Cleveland Cavaliers will make their first trip to LA on Jan 15 and the Lakers will head to Cleveland as the last stop in the Grammy road trip on Feb 8 for their only 2 meetings of the season.

– Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook will also face Kobe and the Lakers 3 times this season beginning on Dec 19 (@LAL), Mar 1(@LAL), and Mar 24 (@OKC).

– And finally, after all of that, the Lakers will conclude the 2014-2015 regular season with a home and home against the Sacramento Kings on Apr 13 (@SAC) and Apr 15 (@LAL).

It’s obviously too early to tell what kind of success, if any, the Lakers will have this season, but there are encouraging signs. Less back-to-backs than last season along with a shorter Grammy trip will benefit the health of our team. Also, an extended All-Star break will allow the team to rest up to make a push in the second half of the season. If Laker fans have learned anything from the past 2 seasons it’s that health will play a tremendous role in the success of this team. And with a healthy Kobe Bryant ready to start the season, we’re already a leg up over last year.

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Image: Jonathan Daniel | Getty Images

For the first time in three seasons, the Los Angeles Lakers will take their Christmas act on the road.

According to multiple media outlets, the Lakers will face the Chicago Bulls in a showdown with no shortages of story lines.

Kobe Bryant, 36, is coming off of a season-ending knee injury and will look to prove to the basketball world that he is still a force to be reckoned with.

Bulls star Derrick Rose will look to return to MVP form after missing the entire 2013 campaign with a torn ACL.

The game will also mark the first meeting between Bryant and his former teammate and good friend, Pau Gasol, since the Spaniard signed with the Bulls as a free agent this summer.

Then, there is Carlos Boozer. The ex-Bull fell victim to the NBA’s amnesty clause on July 17th of this summer.

The last time the two ball clubs met on Christmas was during the lockout shortened 2011-12 season in which the Bulls were able to overcome a late six point deficit in the final minute to steal a 88-87 victory in front of a stunned STAPLES Center crowd.

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Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images

Another special moment in my basketball career! #NewBeginning #Thankful

That’s the caption under an Instagram photo of Pau Gasol signing his new contract in Chicago.

It’s been over a week since news broke of Gasol’s decision to join Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls for a three-year $22M contract. Despite three-year $29M and two-year $23M offers from the Lakers, the largest of any offers he received, he knew it was time to go, and by all accounts so did everyone else; from every NBA analyst who covered his career here in L.A. to every Laker fan in Southern California.

We’ve been given so many chances to bid the Spaniard farewell in his years since the last Laker championship in 2010. We were prepared to say good-bye in 2012 until the Chris Paul trade was vetoed. In the last four ringless years, from each off-season to the mid-season trade deadline, Gasol’s name was dragged through one trade rumor after another. His departure was constantly imminent. It was never a question of if. It was always a question of when and how, and this summer, everyone got their answer.

While Carmelo Anthony and Lebron James engulfed the media with their “stay or go” show, Gasol’s time of discernment was a quiet one, signaled only by his occasional social media shares – walking through Central Park, barbeques with his family, traveling through Jerusalem, sitting on the beach, listening to classical music. In the way that every play he makes on the court is a cognitive collation of thoughts, so too was his process in free agency. His primary goal wasn’t to be wined and dined by teams vying for his services; and then subsequently be offered an unreasonably lucrative contract. His focus was on joining a team that could (and would) use his talents and abilities to win an NBA title sooner than later, and everyone knows that it just isn’t this Laker team.

While Pau Gasol leaves behind a host of great memories in his time in the purple and gold uniform, he also takes with him invaluable commodities that won’t easily be replaced.

The model teammate – a big brother and friend, Gasol was seen during games encouraging every player, from Kobe Bryant to the last benchwarmer sitting on the floor because there weren’t enough seats on the sidelines. He is as malleable a person as they come, molding himself into whatever you need in order to make the team a good one. Play outside 17 feet away from the basket? Check. Come off the bench so the new coach can test the effectiveness of a new line-up? No problem. Benched in the closing minutes of a game despite being one of the best players on the team? No arguments here. And when Derek Fisher was traded in 2012, who was left to be Bryant’s sole confidante? The Spaniard, naturally.

The gracious leader – some people lead with their voices, some with their actions. Gasol leads with a balance of both. Despite being the subject of trade talks in his last few years with the Lakers, Gasol maintained a focus not many could achieve in his position. He heard every rumor, all the while trying to keep his senses, and his psyche, in tact; focused on leading a hapless team that couldn’t figure out their identity after 2011’s elimination from the post-season and the disastrous injury-riddled seasons after it. Through it all, Gasol’s humility shone through and he showed his teammates, most of them younger than he, a thing or two about keeping things in perspective. Were the trade rumors hurtful and insulting? Yes. But should that take away from your love for the game or your teammates? No.

A class act – if there’s one term that’s been used on Gasol the most it’s classy. He is as classy a human being as they come. Him being a model teammate and a gracious leader – they all come from this singular quality. You don’t have to meet Pau Gasol in person to know how much respect he shows each person he meets.

24 hours after he posted that photo of him signing the new contract, Gasol posted another picture of himself with new teammate, Nicola Mitoric, sporting White Sox jerseys at a Sox game. He even threw the first pitch. Seems only yesterday Gasol was wearing a royal blue and white jersey, throwing the first pitch at a Dodger game. Times have sure changed.

It isn’t 2008 anymore, the year Gasol helped turn a mediocre Laker team into an NBA finals team.

It isn’t 2009 either, the year that Gasol won his first NBA title.

It isn’t 2010, when the Lakers defeated their heated rivals, the Boston Celtics at Staples Center.

It is now 2014, and Pau Gasol is no longer a Laker.

We dreaded his exit it for years, but hoped that by some twist of free agency fate, we could keep him in Los Angeles to wear a purple and gold uniform until his retirement. But after all the trade talk he had to endure, the seasons he spent wondering if he had played his last game as a Laker, Gasol actually got to leave on his own accord, which is exactly the kind of departure he deserved.

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Photo Credit | Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

With free agency well underway now, the two biggest names on the market have chosen their landing spots. Lebron James has decided to return to his hometown of Cleveland, and Carmelo Anthony decided to return to New York and work under Phil Jackson.  James was essentially the first domino to fall as once he made his decision most other free agents began to make theirs.  The Lakers did their best to try and land Anthony but it was futile in the end.  Anthony not signing with the Lakers, unfortunately, meant the departure of long-time PF Pau Gasol, as he declined two separate offers from LA and decided instead to sign with the Chicago Bulls.

The Lakers currently have Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Jeremy Lin, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, Nick “Swaggy P” Young, Kendall Marshall, Jordan Hill, and Robert Sacre filling out the roster for the upcoming season.  The roster is far from what the Lakers would like to have for next season, but it’s going to have to do.  There are a few more roster spots to fill out and it is yet to be seen who will fill those spots but it won’t be a big name as the Lakers don’t have much money to work with now.

The starting five currently lacks a decent small forward, and the Lakers will likely sign someone in free agency who can fill that need.  Here’s what it looks like right now.

PG Jeremy Lin

SG Kobe Bryant

SF ???

PF Julius Randle

C Jordan Hill

It’s not terrible, but it’s not that great either.  The Lakers are sure to go through another dull year without the talent to get them through a formidable Western Conference.

No one knows who Bryant will be when he returns this season, 36 years old when the season starts and he’s coming off two severe injuries stemming Lin-Lakers from two seasons ago.  Jeremy Lin, who was nothing short of a superstar when he truly debuted in New York, has since come back down to earth and is a rather average point guard in the league. We’re yet to see Randle in an NBA game so it’s realistic to expect Randle to put up decent numbers this season as he starts his career with the purple and gold.  Jordan Hill brings his game every night and is a wonderful offensive rebounder who always fights for boards on both sides of the floor.  It should be nice to see him in a starting roll where he can play the majority of the position’s minutes.

And of course there’s always Swaggy P, whose crazy antics and celebrations brought a strong energy to the court every night, that will surely be a welcome sign once again.

The sleeper pick for this season is Jordan Clarkson.  Yes, Jordan Clarkson, I told a friend of mine about him and he replied “Who is that?”.  Exactly.  He isn’t necessarily someone you would have heard of unless you’re an avid follower of Laker basketball, but believe me, this kid has talent and he was an absolute steal at #46 in the second round of this years draft.  Look for him to make his mark this season.

Photo Credit | John Locher / Associated Press
Photo Credit | John Locher / Associated Press

So where do the Lakers stand right now?  Well they definitely don’t look like what many fans felt they would look like a few months ago that’s for sure.  Missing out on the big free agent names is something that the Lakers aren’t used to, normally players are chomping at the bit to play for the Lakers.

This hasn’t been the case since the Lakers missed out on Chris Paul.  By this I mean that ever since that trade was nixed, the Lakers have really been in a downward spiral.  After that, Lamar Odom was traded away to Dallas for basically nothing, and Gasol was to be in trade talks for the next three years.  Phil Jackson had retired from coaching, and the Lakers went on to hire Mike Brown.  Following that, the Lakers looked to get back on track with the sign and trade of Steve Nash and the acquisition of Dwight Howard through a three-team trade.  This turned out to be a miserable failure which led to Brown being fired.  Then the Lakers had to chance to get Jackson back, but NOPE, they threw a total curveball and went with Mike D’Antoni instead.  Yeah, that worked out well.  Howard despised playing in LA under D’Antoni, who couldn’t effectively utilize a big man to save his life, and he didn’t get along so well with Bryant either.  Nash broke his leg in the first week of the season which led him to suddenly become “old” and he never performed like he did in his Phoenix days.  Bryant tore his Achilles tendon in the final game of the 2012-13 season against Golden State, and then the Lakers were swept in the first round by San Antonio. Howard then left for Houston, and the Lakers had a lot of questions facing them for the upcoming 2013-14 season.  Well, Bryant came back mid-season and subsequently broke a bone in his knee and was then out the rest of the season which led the Lakers to finishing with 27 wins and a lottery pick.  Even after getting in the lottery they still managed to only get the seventh pick out of it.

So, now they’re here, a shell of the championship teams that won in 2009, and 2010; Bryant being the only remaining player from those teams.  Gasol is gone and the Lakers seem to be facing more and more questions each season with hopes of future free agents wanting to come to LA in the coming years.  The Lakers have lost that luster they’ve had for so many years, they just don’t have it, and who knows when it will return.

The current roster doesn’t scream success, heck, it barely even whispers mediocrity.  I don’t see this team making the playoffs this season in such a tough Western Conference, unless someone plays out of their mind and carries the team. Unlikely though.  To top it all off the Lakers don’t even have a first-round pick unless it’s top five; that pick was sent over to Phoenix in the Nash deal.

Uncertainty faces this team to say the least, the Lakers are in an extreme rebuilding process and it could take a while before Staples Center raises another purple and gold banner.

 

Where will the Lakers finish this season?

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Photo Credit| FoxSports

The hero we needed and deserved. A memorable line from The Dark Knight, modified to suit Pau Gasol and his place in Los Angeles’ history. Gasol was acquired on February 1st, 2008 for Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, Aaron Mckie, the draft rights to his brother, Marc Gasol, and two first-round picks.  Rather controversial considering how much better Gasol made the Lakers but Marc Gasol ended up playing at an All-Star level so it evens out, right?  This was the beginning of Gasol’s tenure with Los Angeles, and what a ride it has been.

Gasol, upon being traded to Los Angeles, led them to a 22-5 record and a subsequent NBA finals appearance against the Boston Celtics. Unfortunately, they lost that series in six games in Boston.  The Lakers weren’t done though and they came back the next season with a vengeance, winning the NBA championship in five games over the Orlando Magic.  Gasol averaged 18 ppg and 9 rpg that season while shooting 57% from the field; outstanding numbers that most certainly were the reason the Lakers made it that far that season.

The following season the Lakers did it again, winning the NBA championship in seven games against the Boston Celtics; a rematch of 2008.  Again, without Gasol playing as well as he did (18 ppg, 11 rpg in 2010) the Lakers likely would not have made it as far as they did.  Check out the video below and watch the highlights of Gasol’s 2009-10 playoff play.  It’s sensational.

Gasol was one of the league’s premiere big men and a top power forward at the time, thus raising arguments about who the best power forward in the league truly was.  However, following the failed three-peat attempt in 2011, Gasol came back down to earth.  I don’t believe this is his fault though, as he lost Coach Phil Jackson, arguably the greatest coach in basketball, and then went through a decent year under Coach Mike Brown only to be truly let down by Lakers’ brass when they hired Mike D’Antoni.

Gasol’s numbers took an abhorrent decline in D’Antoni’s first year as coach, averaging a pedestrian 14 ppg, and 8.5 rpg, a career-low in ppg, while only playing 49 games due to injury and D’Antoni actually benching Gasol.  However, this season Gasol’s numbers have definitely bounced back, averaging 17 ppg, 10 rpg, and an underrated 3 apg this season as he attempts to salvage himself and prove to the NBA that he still has some gas left in the tank.  Gasol played only 60 games this season due to various injuries, the latest being a severe case of veritgo that ended his season prematurely.  He certainly showed the NBA he can still play at the same high level he’s shown in the past.

Gasol and Kobe Bryant have had tremendous chemistry throughout their tenure together in Los Angeles.  Winning two championships together back-to-back builds a trust that can’t be earned by just any NBA player, something Gasol and Bryant certainly had.  Bryant may not find another player he can play with and trust as much as Gasol before his career comes to a close.  Sure, they had their hardships, like in the 2011 playoffs against New Orleans when LA dropped game one at home, partially due to a poor performance from Gasol.  Bryant had this to say regarding Gasol post-game.

We could have gotten a little bit more out of everybody. But Pau is our guy. He’s our guy. He’s the next in line. Responsibility and the pressure comes along with that,” he said, “and he’ll be ready to go next game.

Gasol has the relationship with Bryant that not many others ever had; they have each others backs through thick and thin.  As difficult a teammate that Bryant can be Gasol has stuck through and consistently worked on making his team better.  In a blog post earlier this year, Gasol discussed whether his time in Los Angeles was up.

If there’s anything or anyone who could make me stay it’s Kobe Bryant. I’d stay for him, but there’d have to be significant changes. I’ve said it many times: I want to be in a team that has a solid chance to win another tournament and where I can be an important factor in the game….

With Mike D’Antoni out of the picture, it looks more likely that Pau would want to re-sign with the Lakers but that is still up in the air.  Gasol, a first-time unrestricted free agent, has multiple suitors this offseason and he’s sure to take a look at all his options carefully before he makes his choice.

Gasol has often been considered soft, someone who doesn’t try to assert himself down-low or play aggressively enough.  I agree that Gasol hasn’t been the toughest or most formidable foe in the paint, but that’s not the type of player he is, he plays with finesse.  His post moves, footwork, and beautiful touch on his shot will never be forgotten by the Laker faithful.  Laker fans everywhere should be thankful to have had Gasol for the two championships he helped bring to Los Angeles, and the wonderful play he brought to the court, night in and night out.

Gasol is a Laker legend, and rightfully so.  He has always been underappreciated and trashed if he didn’t perform perfectly every night, and it’s unfair to expect that from anyone.  Gasol was the reason the Lakers were able to win back-to-back championships and for the true fans of his game he’ll always be appreciated.

His time in Los Angeles may come to an end this summer, but his legacy will never be forgotten.

Thank you Pau, for everything.

 

 

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July 11, 2014

 

  • Jeremy Lin: The Lakers/Rockets agreed to a trade that sends Lin to the purple and gold along with a 2015 first round pick.  The Lakers send no salary back to the Rockets as Houston prepares to offer Chris Bosh a max contract.
  •  Pau Gasol: The Lakers are open to a S&T deal if Gasol decides to pursue another career opportunity elsewhere (via Mark Medina – LA Daily News)

 

July 10, 2014

 

  • Steve Blake: Reached agreement on a two-year, $4 million contract with the Portland Trail Blazers (via Adrian Wojnarowski – Yahoo! Sports)
  • Pau Gasol: Met with GM Mitch Kupchak at the Lakers practice facility on Wednesday night (via Marc Spears – Yahoo! Sports)
  • Kent Bazemore: Lakers called Kent Bazemore again on Wednesday to reiterate that the team would like to re-sign him (via Michael Scotto – Sheridan Hoops)

 

July 9, 2014

 

  • Kobe Bryant: While not a free agent, Kobe at his basketball camp in Santa Barbara spoke to the media before it got started.  Couple things to note, endorsed Byron Scott as the next head coach of the Lakers and mentioned that the Buss family has a solid plan they want “to put a contender on the floor next year… “they’re going for it.” Also said there is a plan B in place if Melo does not sign with the Lakers.
  • Carmelo Anthony: Barring a ‘last minute change of heart’, Anthony will reportedly re-sign with the Knicks and will announce his decision on Thursday, according to a source close to the forward.  Other sources, including his agent Leon Rose, all denied that a decision was made (via Frank Isola – NY Daily News)
  • Isaiah Thomas: “I’m just waiting to see how it goes and waiting for Carmelo to decide. His decision just opens it up for me.” (via Eli Friedman – ThunderousIntentions/OKC Blog)

July 7, 2014

 

  • LeBron James: It is said that LeBron’s decision will come down to the Miami Heat or Cleveland Cavaliers (via Adrian Wojnarowski – Yahoo! Sports)
  • Jordan Crawford: The guard is receiving interest from the Lakers,  Bulls, Mavs, Knicks, and Nets (via Marc Spears – Yahoo! Sports)
  • Pau Gasol: The Thunder, once considered a front-runner, feel like Gasol is now a long shot. The center met with OKC coach Scott Brooks on Monday.  The Lakers, Spurs, and Bulls are all interested.  It is reported that Gasol has concerns about leaving a ‘culturally diverse’ city like Los Angeles and asked Brooks about the quality of life in Oklahoma City (via Dave McMenamin – ESPN)

July 6, 2014

 

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

    Carmelo Anthony: There is a “rising sense around the league” that Melo will choose between the Lakers and the Knicks (via Marc Stein – ESPN) UPDATE: “After contemplating his options this weekend, free agent Carmelo Anthony’s decision isn’t expected to linger late into the week, a source said” (via Marc Spears – Yahoo! Sports)

  • Jordan Farmar: The point guard agreed to a 2yr/$4.2M deal with the Clippers (via Brad Turner – LA Times)
  • Isaiah Thomas: The Lakers are a “real possibility for Thomas.  While the Heat are also pursuing the point guard, the Lakers have the money to get a deal done.  As with everything else, nothing will happen until decisions from Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James are made (via Jared Zwerling – Bleacher Report/NBA TV)

 

July 5, 2014

Carmelo Anthony
Image: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke
  • LeBron James: The Lakers met with LeBron James’ agent Rich Paul on Friday, and the four-time MVP is giving similar consideration to what the Lakers have to offer, according to sources. (via Ramona Shelburne / Chris Broussard)
  • Carmelo Anthony: The one stumbling block is that Anthony is holding out hope that good friend LeBron James can find the two a place where the money is good and they can run together. (via NY Daily News)
    The Lakers’ pitch — of teaming Anthony with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and prized rookie Julius Randle on a team with no long-term salary obligations — made what one source described as a “strong impression” on Anthony. (via Ramona Shelburne / Chris Broussard)
    The Lakers made a MAJOR impact on Melo this week. It is now a legit three-way battle between Los Angeles, Chicago and New York to land him. As one source in process says of Lakers bid, “They can promise max money (4 years, $97M) without any roster moves needing to be made.” (via Bill Simmons / Adrian Wojnarowski)
  • Pau Gasol: Gasol has emerged as a key selling point for the Lakers. While the Spaniard has been listening to pitches from championship contenders who lack much financial flexibility, such as Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Miami and Chicago, sources believe he would quickly re-sign with the Lakers if they are able to land Anthony or James. (via Ramona Shelburne / Chris Broussard)

July 4, 2014

  • LeBron James: Lakers met with LeBron James’s agent, Rich Paul, Friday in Cleveland. (via David Aldridge)

July 3, 2014

  • LeBron James: GM Mitch Kupchak is on a plane to Cleveland to meet with Rich Paul, agent for James.  They will reportedly meet Friday. (via Ramona Shelburne – ESPN) MORE: Lakers said they didn’t have meeting set up with LeBron James’ agent but Kupchak + Lakers biz VP Tim Harris are in CLE. Kupchak and Harris flew to CLE on a private jet immediately after meeting with Carmelo in Los Angeles this afternoon. (via Mike Bresnahan – LA Times)
  • Carmelo Anthony: The Lakers are scheduled to meet with Melo this afternoon and it is reported that Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher have flown into Los Angeles to meet with the forward later this evening.  Dave McMenamin of ESPN reports that Laker legend James Worthy will be involved in the meeting. UPDATE: Lakers have offered a 4-yr/$97M deal to Melo (the maximum salary)
  • Pau Gasol: Carmelo Anthony reportedly wants to sell Gasol on playing in New York together.  The center continues to get interest from teams and could be a priority for teams that miss out on Melo and LeBron.
  • Chris Kaman: The center signed a 2yr/$10M deal with the Portland Trailblazers
  • Jordan Farmar: Clippers are interested in the point guard and it could be a fit after Darren Collison left to sign a deal with the Sacramento Kings.
  • Isaiah Thomas: The Sacramento Kings signed Darren Collison to a 3-yr/$16M deal which could mean the end for Thomas in Sacramento. The Lakers have expressed interest in the point guard. UPDATE: Thomas’ preferred destinations in order are: Lakers, Heat, and Pistons.

 

July 2, 2014

 

  • Photo Credit: Getty Images
    Photo Credit: Getty Images

    Pau Gasol: The San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder have emerged as serious suitors for the center.  OKC’s Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook spoke directly to Gasol in LA today and the Thunder are considered a “frontrunner” (via Ramona Shelburne – ESPN)

  • Greg Monroe: If the Lakers are unable to re-sign Pau Gasol, it has Monroe on its list of potential replacements. Signing the center could be tough since he is a restricted free agent (via Brian Windhorst on SportsCenter)
  • Jordan Farmar, Xavier Henry, Wesley Johnson, and Chris Kaman: All players’ agents were contacted by general manager Mitch Kupchak about a potential return to the Lakers (via Dave McMenamin – ESPN)
  • Kyle Lowry:  The Lakers are among the bidders for the point guard who is mulling over an offer to stay with the Toronto Raptors (via Brian Windhorst – ESPN) UPDATE: Lowry has agreed to a 4yr/$48 million deal to stay with the Toronto Raptors (via Adrian Wojnarowski – Yahoo! Sports)
  •  Carmelo Anthony: UPDATE (2:30 pm) – The Lakers are ‘laser-focused’ on its Thursday meeting with Melo.  They’re making other calls, but all other business is conditional on that
    (via Ramona Shelburne – ESPN)
  • Lance Stephenson: The Lakers reached out to Stephenson’s agent to express interest in the guard. The Pacers offered Stephenson 5-yrs/$44M but the offer was not accepted (via Chris Broussard – ESPN)

 

July 1, 2014

 

  • Kyle Lowry:  The Lakers are among the bidders for the point guard who is mulling over an offer to stay with the Toronto Raptors (via Brian Windhorst – ESPN)
  • Josh McRoberts: The Lakers have shown interest in McRoberts who played for the team during the 2011-2012 season (via Jeff Goodman – ESPN)
  •  Pau Gasol: The Lakers placed a call to Gasol to express interest in bringing him back (via Ramona Shelburne – ESPN) — UPDATE (5:25 pm): Gasol met with Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak on Tuesday and the meeting lasted a “few hours” (via Dave McMenamin)
  • Jodie MeeksThe Lakers reached out to Meeks to show its interest in bringing the guard back (via Mark Medina – LA Daily News) UPDATE: Meeks and the Detroit Pistons have agreed to a 3yr/$19 million deal (via Adrian Wojnarowski – Yahoo! Sports)
  • Image: Robert Mayer | US Presswire
    Image: Robert Mayer | US Presswire

    LeBron James: The Lakers placed a call to Rich Paul, the agent for LeBron (via Ramona Shelburne – ESPN)

  • Carmelo Anthony: The Lakers secured a meeting with Anthony that will take place on Thursday (via Ramona Shelburne – ESPN)
  • Chris Bosh: The Lakers have expressed interest in the power forward (via Chris Broussard – ESPN)
  • Chandler Parsons: The Lakers expressed interest in the small forward (via Jeff Goodman – ESPN)
  • Trevor Ariza: The Lakers are on the list of Ariza’s potential destinations (via Dave McMenamin – ESPN)
  • Luol Deng: The Lakers have shown interest in Deng (via Alex Kennedy – Basketball Insiders)
  • Nick Young: The Lakers contacted Young’s representatives to express its interest in bringing him back (via Mike Bresnahan – LA Times)
  • Jordan Hill: The Lakers expressed interest in bringing Hill back (via Adrian Wojnarowski -Yahoo! Sports)
  • Isaiah Thomas: The Lakers were one of the teams to contact Thomas’ agent to express interest in the point guard (via Alex Kennedy – Basketball Insiders)
  • Caron Butler: The Lakers have expressed interest in the veteran forward (via David Aldridge – NBA.com)
  • Kent Bazemore: The Lakers reached out to the guard to express interest in bringing him back (via Michael Scotto – Sheridan Hoops)

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Lionel Hollins
Image: Kevin C. Cox | Getty Images

In case you missed it, the Los Angeles Lakers have been working meticulously in their head coaching search after learning their draft position. As of Last week ,they interviewed two coaches who have previous good history with the team; Mike Dunleavy Sr. and Byron Scott. On Tuesday they are set to interview former Memphis Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins.

The first candidate the Lakers interviewed was Mike Dunleavy Sr. last Sunday. He has previous history with the team as he was the Lakers head coach for the seasons of 1990 through 1992 (with an overall record, including playoffs, of 124-73), succeeding then coach Pat Riley. In 1991 the Dunleavy led team reached the NBA Finals beating the Portland Trailblazers, but ultimately losing to the Chicago Bulls.

Getty Images

Dunleavy also knows what is at stake for the Lakers as his most recent coaching position in the league was with the LA Clippers. Due to that, Dunleavy understands the dynamic of being overshadowed by the other LA team and trying to find ways to claim the primer position. The Clippers teams he coached then had very similar seasons to last seasons Lakers team yet it has been four seasons since he coached last.

Scott, who interviewed with the team last Tuesday per ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, believes that he is the “perfect guy” for this job.

“I don’t feel I’m a very arrogant guy, but I feel like I am the perfect guy for this job,” Scott told the “Max & Marcellus” show on ESPNLA 710 Radio on Thursday. “I got a great relationship with Kobe. I know the team, know the roster. I watched them all season long and I just think it would be a great fit.”

“Obviously, if I get the job, the first conversation I have is with Kobe [Bryant],” said Scott, who spent last season as an analyst for Time Warner Cable SportsNet, the Lakers’ television partner. “We have to talk about the future of the Los Angeles Lakers. We have to also talk about which type of direction we’ll be taking and also talk about the type of game that he’s going to be playing because he’s going to have to change his game a little bit, and I think he knows that.

“We got to sit down and talk about the minutes and things like that. We just got to come to an agreement. But he knows me. I’m an old-school type guy. I’m an old-school type guy and I want him to understand that and I think he does understand that…But I think the biggest thing is, No. 1, I respect the hell out of Kobe and I think he respects me. That’s the first hurdle we got to get past, and then other things, we’ll be able to solve all those little issues.”

Scott continued the conversation by speaking on what his defensive approach would be with the team. Last season’s Lakers team finished 29th in opponents points per game, they undoubtedly need to strengthen the defensive side of the ball before next season begins. Scott, a valuable player for three Lakers championship teams on the offensive end but better known for his defense, has an idea of what needs to be done to fix the team’s defensive woes.

Byron Scott
Image: Chris Chambers | Getty Images

“That’s what I was taught when I came to the Lakers, that defense wins championships,” said Scott, who was coached by Pat Riley in L.A. “I think Kobe knows that. I think Pau [Gasol] knows that, because they won championships with that formula. And I think that’s the first thing we got to get better at, the defensive part of basketball. Then we got to get better at the rebounding. So, it’s something that we would do on a day-to-day basis. You got to work on that every day, and it has to be a team’s identity and a staple.”

He concluded with discussing how the Lakers don’t need to think that rebuilding will be a three or four year process.  As we all know, the Lakers have a certain allure to them that can fast track any rebuilding phase.

“Obviously there are a lot of holes to fill, but unlike a lot of people who think this is a three-, four-year process, I really don’t think so,” Scott said. “Again, this is one of the best organizations in basketball. Mitch has done a fantastic job, and I think Jim really has a good idea of where they want to go and what direction they want to head in. So I don’t think it’s going to take three or four years. I think it might take a couple of years at the most to get right back where they need to be.”

The last, and most, recent news of on the organization’s coaching search broke yesterday. Yahoo Sports! Adrian Wojnarowaski tweeted that the Lakers will meet with former Memphis Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins on Tuesday.

Hollins, an NBA champion with the Trailblazers in 1977, All-Star in 1978, All Defensive First Team in 1978 and Second in 1979, is known league wide for his team’s stifling defense. While head coach of the Grizzlies, Hollins led his teams to franchise high winning percentage, playoff home court advantage for the first time in team history, and a franchise record 56 wins. Hollins could become the best option out of the three candidates as his previous success can translate with the Lakers right away since majority of the team will have played against a former team of his.

Getty Images

After 16 NBA Championships and 31 Western Conference Titles, the Lakers have been one of the most storied and successful franchises in NBA history. From the eras of West, Chamberlain, Kareem, Magic, and Kobe, there have been countless record-breaking performances and memorable games that have added to Lakers glory. Let’s take a look back at some notable moments for the purple and gold, from the week of May 18-24, over their 66-year history.

May 19, 1987

Magic Johnson won the 1986-87 NBA Most Valuable Player award following a campaign in which he averaged 23.9 points per game, while dishing out a league-leading 12.2 assists per game. Johnson became the NBA’s first guard to be named MVP in 23 years.

May 19, 2009

Kobe Bryant scored 40 points to lead the Lakers to a come-from-behind 105-103 win in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals over the Denver Nuggets. Despite trailing by seven points late in the fourth quarter, Bryant notched six free throws in the final 30 seconds of the game to fuel Los Angeles’ comeback. Pau Gasol added 13 points and 14 rebounds for the Lakers, including two free throws to tie the game at 99.

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

May 21, 2008

Kobe Bryant hit an eventual game-winning 10-foot jump shot with 23.9 seconds remaining in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals against San Antonio to lift the Lakers over the Spurs 89-85. Bryant scored 25 points in the second half, en route to a 27-point performance at the STAPLES Center. He led Los Angeles’ second half comeback, as they rallied from a 20-point deficit to win. The Lakers eventually won the series in five games and advanced to the NBA Finals.

May 23, 1987

The Lakers defeated the Seattle SuperSonics 122-121 in a thrilling Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals. The killer tandem of James Worthy and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar scored 39 and 28 points, respectively. The Lakers went on to sweep the series and advance to the NBA Finals, where they eventually defeated the Boston Celtics in six games.

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Photo by: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images North America

Lakers’ star player Pau Gasol may not return next season, then again maybe he will. At this point it is all contingent upon Kobe Bryant and the oncoming changes within the Lakers organization. Gasol has a blog in Spanish that he posts to quite often. Previously, LA Daily News writer Mark Medina translated one of Gasol’s latest posts.

“Re-signing for the Lakers is a possibility, but I’m not sure whether to say it’s a remote one. If there’s anything or anyone who could make me stay it’s Kobe Bryant. I’d stay for him, but there’d have to be significant changes. I’ve said it many times: I want to be in a team that has a solid chance to win another tournament and where I can be an important factor in the game….

“I’ve never concealed the fact that (Lakers coach Mike) D’Antoni’s style doesn’t suit my game. Everybody knows this. I don’t know if my decision will be swayed by whether Mike stays or leaves. Obviously, the coach is a very important factor for any team.”

Gasol spoke out about his frustrations with former coach Mike D’Antoni’s system before and certainly has no gripes with discussing his future plans. Yet this is the first time that he’s spoken publicly about Bryant’s affiliation with his future plans. Since then, Bryant has responded to Gasol by telling him how much he wants the big man to return. While this latest response hasn’t been public, ESPN’s Chris Broussard on Mike and Mike in the morning has reported that they have been in communication.

Another reason why Gasol may stay is due to general manager Mitch Kupchak wanting to retain Gasol at the NBA’s trading deadline. First reported by Mike Bresnahan of the LA Times, Kupchak and part owner and executive vice president of basketball operations Jim Buss, were not in agreement on what to do with Gasol.

“As the team tries to retool its roster, Jim continues to work closely with Kupchak, who sounds out ideas with Buss before they arrive at a decision. Buss and Kupchak were torn on what to do with veteran Pau Gasol as the NBA trade deadline approached in February and the team lagged in the standings.”

Buss was fine with trading him, Kupchak wasn’t so sure. In the end, the Lakers were never offered more than a second-round draft pick for the aging star, a pittance in their mind. And they didn’t want to seem like they were dumping Gasol’s $19.3-million salary for nothing.

“Mitch wins a lot more of these battles than people imagine,” said an agent who asked not to be identified because he deals with the Lakers. “They respect his caution.”

If anyone knows what can still be successful within this league it is Mitch Kupchak. Yes the Lakers this past season were not great, but considering how the past two years in LA have gone nobody would have expected a swift turnaround. They have done the best they could with what they had. At the least, last season displayed which players could be retained moving forward and who the organization will move on without.

Basketball may have transitioned to a guard oriented game but the big men can be the difference between being a good team and a great one. Not many big men in today’s game have a skillset similar to Gasol’s. Bryant is smart in recognizing this as Gasol, when utilized correctly, can still be a primer big man. Building a team around a core of Bryant, Gasol, and a third star would do well in the league and could compete for a title with complementing pieces. The next couple of months will be instrumental in the Lakers restructuring themselves, bringing back Gasol would be a great benefit as he has become an integral part of their identity and a player that can make a difference.

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Photo courtesy of Robyn Beck, Getty Images

Los Angeles Lakers forward/center Pau Gasol has been a steady rock. Ever since the infamous trade that shipped out Kwame Brown and others for him back in the 2007-2008 season, Gasol has thrived as the second star behind Kobe Bryant. However, age and ever-changing roles for the past three years have seemingly lacerated Gasol to the point where he may never return to his original and consistent form in a Lakers uniform.

Sports Illustrated reporter Chris Mannix recently wrote about Gasol in regards to what he has withstood and what may come next,

“I want to be in a team that is going to be built to win a championship,” Gasol said. “That’s my top priority. Money won’t be the main priority. Length and money are factors, but we’ll see. Until I know all the options, I won’t be able to measure them. But we’re getting close to the end of my career. I want to be in a good situation. It’s an important decision to make.”

Gasol’s contract expires at the end of this season and it seems as if the Lakers may be looking past him to move forward. Players like Gasol are a rarity in today’s NBA in terms of skillset. His numbers have gone down in the past three seasons and there is no debating that he has lost a step. Despite that, he still can be extremely effective when playing within a system where he feels comfortable. When Mike D’Antoni has slowed the offensive pace this year Gasol has performed better both offensively and defensively. When the offensive pace has increased, his play has suffered as his body is unable to withstand that much movement. Even if his skill set is being used correctly in LA, teams across the league are anticipating the chance to capitalize.

“There are a couple thoughts out there on Pau,” says an Eastern Conference executive. “Some people say he is worn out, that he is too far past his prime to really help a contender. There are others that think that LA, that environment the past two season, that style of play has destroyed him and if he goes somewhere else, plays with a different coach, he might be rejuvenated. I could see someone who thinks the latter paying him $10 million a year.”

Another factor that has contributed to Gasol’s decline is the numerous role changes he has had to undergo in the past four seasons. After winning multiple championships he was forced to accept a lesser offensive role to then developing Andrew Bynum. With no complaints he accepted the role and played within himself and the system. Next he was almost traded to the Houston Rockets until then Commissioner David Stern nixed the Chris Paul deal. His role in Houston certainly would have been similar to his championship one had he gone, yet he remained in Los Angeles and became even more humble having to return to the team that signed off on trading him.

While the trade to Houston did not go through he still had to accept a lesser role when the Lakers traded for center Dwight Howard and point guard Steve Nash. At this point he had gone from a championship winning, secondary role with the team to a fourth wheel who would be incorporated only on occasion. All with minimal complaints.

Gasol’s frustrations this season may not make Lakers fans content but nonetheless they make sense. After giving your all to an organization and displaying minimal signs of frustration, it is only a matter of time before it all becomes too much to bear. If Gasol ultimately decides to leave it would be a definite loss to the Lakers organization. He has brought consistency, a humble attitude and personality, as well as monumental contribution in multiple championship runs. However, in staying, Gasol would again add testament to his character by proving that he is more reliable than what you previously believed.

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April 4, 2014 — 7:30 PM (PST)
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

The Los Angeles Lakers return home tonight to face off vs. a Dallas Mavericks team who had a very impressive victory vs. Clippers last night in their first of two games at Staples Center.

PF Dirk Nowitzki has regained his old form after having a very poor season last year. Nowitzki, who has averaged 21.6 PPG, and 6.2 RPG, led the Mavericks last night by scoring 26 points and grabbing 11 rebounds to gain a crucial victory to stay alive in the playoff chase.

With PG Jose Calderon, SG Monta Ellis, and SG Vince Carter having the ability to drive to the basket and create their own shots, the Lakers have to make sure they stayed focused on the defensive end.

Meanwhile, the Lakers seem to always be short handed throughout the entire season. As this season winds down, more players will be sidelined.

C Pau Gasol and G Xavier Henry might be sidelined for the rest of this season due to Vertigo illness and a fractured wrist respectively.

Without Gasol available, C Chris Kaman and PF Jordan Hill will be counted on to fill in Gasol’s minutes.

Whenever PG Steve Nash cannot play due to his nerve issues, G Marshon Brooks might finally get some playing time at the point guard position since PG Kendall Marshall will be the only healthy point guard moving forward.

Projected Starters

PG – Jose Calderon Kendall Marshall [Advantage: Mavericks]

SG – Monta EllisJodie Meeks [Advantage: Mavericks]

SF – Shawn Marion Kent Bazemore [Advantage: Mavericks]

PF – Dirk Nowitzki Jordan Hill [Advantage: Mavericks]

C – Samuel Dalembert Chris Kaman [Advantage: Lakers]

Notable Bench Players

Mavericks: G Vince Carter, F Brandon Wright, F Jae Crowder, PG Devin Harris

Lakers:  F Nick Young, C Robert Sacre, F Ryan Kelly, PG Steve Nash, F Wesley Johnson

Bench Advantage: Lakers

Injury List

Mavericks: Out-G Gal Mekel 

Lakers: Out-G Kobe Bryant, Probable-PG Steve Nash, Out-G Xavier Henry, Out-PG Jordan Farmar , Out-C Pau Gasol

Bottom Line

The Lakers can play inspired basketball tonight knowing that they can spoil the chances of one of their Western Conference foes from making the playoffs. However, they are outmatched talent-wise, so they have got to play very well on both ends of the floor, especially shooting the ball well and boxing out their players to grab rebounds.

Prediction

Mavericks: 110-98

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Image: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

According to the Los Angeles Times’ Mike Bresnahan, Pau Gasol and Xavier Henry could both miss the remainder of the season as they continue to battle the injury bug that has plagued not only them, but the entire team this year.

With seven games remaining, it is very realistic that both players could be done for the season and may have even played their last game in the purple and gold, most notably Gasol:

The team is leaning toward sitting him for its final seven games while he recovers from a severe recurrence of vertigo.  He won’t play Friday against Dallas after dizziness kept him confined at the team hotel Wednesday while the Lakers played Sacramento. He flew back on the team charter that night after missing a fifth game because of the illness.

Gasol has experienced a rough couple of seasons under coach Mike D’Antoni, who has failed to properly utilize the skill set of Gasol, while also trading barbs at one another through the media.  The 33-year old Gasol is set to become a free agent this summer and may look to finish his career elsewhere if D’Antoni remains the Lakers head coach.

Gasol is averaging 17.4 points and 9.7 rebounds in 31.4 minutes a game this season.

Meanwhile, Henry continues to fight through multiple injuries and from the sound of things, his season is over:

Xavier Henry is not expected to return this season after being slowed by wrist and knee injuries. He averaged 10 points in 43 games.

Earlier this season, Henry suffered a right knee injury which caused the guard to miss two months of action.  He returned in early March, but tore ligaments in his left wrist shortly after, adding to his woes.  In four seasons, Henry has yet to play in more than 50 games due to injuries.

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Image Credit: Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers are set to take on the Sacramento Kings tonight with a current record of 25-49. While defeating the Kings is the primary focus of tonight, Bleacher Report columnist Kevin Ding certainly made headlines with his comments on Mike D’Antoni‘s future with the Lakers. In the column, Ding reported how D’Antoni may be around longer than most anticipate:

“D’Antoni has one more guaranteed season left on his Lakers contract, and the club is leaning toward retaining him despite some privately disgruntled players and massive public disdain. It’s not clear which way the organization will go with him.”

Financially the decision to retain D’Antoni makes sense. Going back to the 2012-2013 season, the Lakers made a huge financial commitment after firing head coach Mike Brown and consequently hiring D’Antoni days later. Until the Cavaliers signed Brown, the Lakers were due to pay the remaining salary on his contract while paying D’Antoni his salary in his three-year $12 million dollar deal. Add in the new $48 million dollar deal Kobe Bryant also signed and you can see why finances are key in this situation.

With this Lakers team being one of the few in history to not make the playoffs and have players speak out publicly about not retaining D’Antoni for next season, this could turn into a huge fault for the organization. Media, fans, and players alike have spoken out repeatedly about how a change in coaching needs to be made moving forward. Bringing D’Antoni back for another season would not only derail morale for the team but make a statement to potential free agents that seven seconds or less will lead the way in the team’s future.

The Lakers will soon need to make an official stand on D’Antoni’s future in regards to next season and potentially his fourth season as head coach. Luring free agents to Los Angeles will become increasingly difficult if they believe that not only the role players on the team are disgruntled, but star players like Bryant and Pau Gasol are too. Moving on is always something difficult to do, but in some situations it is a necessary part of life. If the Lakers are serious about reclaiming their position as one of the top franchises in the league then it is something they will have to do.

Stay tuned to LakerNation.com for more Los Angeles Lakers news and updates!

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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.