Pau gasol

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.

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

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.

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!

April 1, 2014 — 7:30 PM (PST)
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

The Lakers come off a very impressive win vs. Phoenix Suns this Sunday to end a 2-game winning streak. Now, they seek to carry Sunday’s momentum into tonight’s matchup vs. Portland Trail Blazers, a team the Lakers defeated in their last meeting.

Pau Gasol seeks to return to tonight’s matchup after dealing with a scary vertigo illness that caused him to miss this past week. Gasol, scoring 17.5 PPG and grabbing 9.8 RPG this season, highly desires to play the last 9 games alongside C Chris Kaman to finish the rest of this season, according to LATimes.com’s Eric Pincus.

Kaman, who Head Coach Mike D’Antoni has thrown to the end of the bench throughout this season for reasons unknown to any Laker fans, dominated the Suns Sunday night by scoring 28 points and grabbing 17 rebounds. Kaman and Gasol showed that they could play well alongside eachother throughout the pre-season, but the twin-tower combination has barely stepped on the floor together this season.

The all- duo of F/C LaMarcus Aldridge and PG Damian Lillard lead the Trail Blazers into STAPLES Center tonight.  Aldridge, who has reached the prime of his career, comes into tonight’s game averaging a career high 23.2 PPG and 11.1 RPG by fully developing his all-around game.

Meanwhile, Lillard has become a star in only his 2nd NBA season. An example of a player who benefitted from playing in college for all 4 years, Lillard has become a household NBA name, averaging 20.9 PPG and 5.5 APG throughout this season.

Projected Starters

PG - Kendall Marshall  Damian Lillard [Advantage: Trail Blazers]
SG - Jodie Meeks / Wesley Matthews [Advantage: Trail Blazers]
SF - Wesley Johnson Nicholas Batum [Advantage: Trail Blazers]
PF - Chris Kaman / LaMarcus Aldridge [Advantage: Trail Blazers]
C - Pau Gasol Robin Lopez  [Advantage: Lakers]

Notable Bench Players

Blazers: G Mo WilliamsDorrell WrightCJ McCollum, Thomas Robinson

Lakers: SG Kent Bazemore, PF Jordan Hill, Nick Young, G Xavier Henry

Bench Advantage: Lakers

Injury List

Blazers: Out-C Joel Freeland

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

Bottom Line

The Lakers have been a very mysterious team this season, winning vs. teams like TrailBlazers and Thunder, while getting swept by very bad teams like the Milwaukee Bucks this season. On April Fools Day, lets see if the Lakers can fool NBA fans and upset the TrailBlazers tonight. For that to happen, the Lakers have to play very good team defense and make a lot of their shots, similar to how well they shot vs. Knicks last Tuesday to blow them out.

Prediction

Trail Blazers: 117-104

With many questions regarding the Lakers needing to be answered this offseason, it looks like two point guards will continue to don the purple and gold next season while the head coach’s future in Los Angeles remains a mystery.

According to Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times, both Steve Nash and Kendall Marshall will both be brought back by the team.

For financial reasons, the Lakers currently plan to keep (Nash) next season, The Times has learned, eating the remainder of his contract ($9.7 million) in one swoop instead of waiving him and spreading the money out over three years…  They also plan to keep Marshall, the 13th selection in the 2012 draft, whom they signed as a free agent a little more than three months ago.

A few months ago, it seemed as if it were going to be a foregone conclusion the Lakers would waive Nash using the stretch provision, but now it seems as if the team would rather wait and allow all of Nash’s salary to come off the books next summer, opposed to paying his contract over the next three years.

Marshall has a non-guaranteed option worth $915,243, so it makes sense to bring him back regardless of his role moving forward.   Marshall does average 8.9 assists, but his shooting ability has declined every month since joining the team in December.

As for Mike D’Antoni, his future will reportedly be decided immediately after the season ends in April:

The Lakers have a dilemma with D’Antoni, who coached the Suns for five successful seasons. They still owe him $4million next season and don’t want to look like a franchise with a coaching turnstile.  But Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol don’t support his small-ball offense and Lakers fans don’t support him, period.  So the team will decide fairly quickly after the April 16 regular-season finale — pay him to not coach the team, just like Mike Brown, or try to make it work next season….

Despite the injuries, it is very difficult to see the team bringing back D’Antoni after one of the worst seasons in Lakers history. His poor game-management, troubled relationships with veteran players, and lack of defensive system are just some of the reasons working against the coach.

His job security was in question even before reports of Kobe being against retaining the coach due to offensive system preference and as Bresnahan says, the fans are not very fond of him either.

As the Lakers wind down what has arguably been the worst season in franchise history, fans and media alike are asking what does the future hold for the purple and gold.

The summer of 2014 has been a key point of the Lakers plan to return to prominence for the last few years, it is the reason why a number of players were signed to one-year deals as the free agent class has some significant players that could turn teams drastically into contenders.

While it remains to be seen what the Lakers will do on the player personnel front this offseason, there is one move the team can make over the final two months of the season and it is a necessary one.

Fire Mike D’Antoni.

Now before you start thinking this is another hate-fueled article you read on other Lakers websites, blaming D’Antoni for all the Lakers troubles this season, please note that this is not one of them.

Do I expect the Lakers to be title contenders next season with or without D’Antoni?  I would be unrealistic if I said yes without hesitation.  The fact is we do not know how the roster will look next season and we are not sure how Kobe Bryant looks in his return (although I would put money on him looking close to the Kobe we have all come to expect).

One thing is for certain, the Lakers cannot go through another season like the one they are currently having.

Firing D’Antoni is not about turning the team around with a single coaching change, nor am I saying another coach would have done a better job with the current roster situation.

What it is about is laying a foundation for future Lakers teams and its success, something that needs to start this summer instead of accepting another season of transition.

If the Lakers were to allow D’Antoni to stay on for one more season, the decision could have a crippling affect on the franchise past next season and here are some reasons why D’Antoni should not be in any plans moving forward:

FREE AGENTS

The thought that players will want to come play for the Lakers because they are the Lakers is no longer viable.

Are the Lakers still an attractive destination?  Yes, it always will be because of the tradition and history of legendary players, but make no mistake, it is not viewed the same as it was when Dr. Jerry Buss was running the team.

Will elite players come play for Mike D’Antoni? History says no as the biggest free agent that signed with a D’Antoni led team was Amare Stoudemire and the New York Knicks in 2010, but also struck out on signing LeBron James and Dwayne Wade.

He is known as a coach that could get role players to play up to their potential but from his time in New York and short-time in Los Angeles, his inability to deal with star players as well as veterans is concerning to say the least.   Dwight Howard did what no superstar had done before … leave the Lakers.  For whatever reasons that are said about that decision, one constant was his relationship with D’Antoni.

In New York, he eventually wore out his welcome with players such as Carmelo Anthony and even players like Stoudemire, who played for D’Antoni previously in Phoenix.

Looking ahead to 2015, the Lakers are expected to be major players in the Kevin Love sweepstakes but with his recent comments that Minnesota has a better foundation than the Lakers, the team undoubtedly needs to show progress next season in the form of being a playoff team or Love will look at potentially re-signing with the T’Wolves or looking at teams other than the Lakers in his free agency.

The Lakers have never accepted mediocrity.  A bad season here and there happens, but there is a reason why the Lakers will miss the playoffs for only the sixth time in franchise history.   If the team were to stand pat this summer and accept another year of transition, what message does that send to the players in the league?  That’s a very non-Laker message to convey.

KOBE BRYANT

The Lakers wouldn’t dare waste $46 million over two years right?

That is what it would do if D’Antoni were to return.  His up-tempo system hoped to bring back memories of the Showtime Era but that has not happened despite having the second-fastest pace in the NBA, instead resulting in one of the worst defensive teams in the league.

At this stage in his career, is it wise to put Kobe in a fast-pace system?  Logic says no, although I do not doubt Kobe can succeed in any system.

With his recent string of injuries, a half-court system involving Kobe in the post is the best thing for the Black Mamba and the final two years of his career.   It would also be nice to have a coach limit Kobe’s minute’s ala Greg Popovich with the Spurs, something D’Antoni has failed to do in his time here.

With the extension given to Kobe, the Lakers made it known this is Kobe’s team and since that is the case, the offensive system should be suited to his abilities at this point and time.   To maximize Kobe over the next two years and also preserve his health, a new offensive system needs to be implemented and D’Antoni simply is not going away from what he knows best, the run-and-gun style of play.

PAU GASOL

The relationship between Gasol and D’Antoni has deteriorated from the day the head coach walked into the practice facility in El Segundo.  Feelings expressed both privately and publically have left the two at odds and as we enter this summer, one thing is certain…

One of them will have to go.

There is no scenario where Gasol returns to play in a system that puts post play on the back burner and there is no scenario where D’Antoni adjusts his system to emphasize post play.

While Gasol’s return to the Lakers is not certain even if D’Antoni were to be fired, it certainly increases the chances significantly if it were to happen.  Gasol would need to take a pay cut to re-sign with the Lakers and at this point of his career he may have to.

Keeping D’Antoni while letting Gasol leave would also take another close friend of Kobe away and that is something that will not go over well after the Derek Fisher trade from two seasons ago.  While the franchise looks to reload, is letting a veteran with championship experience like Gasol a wise thing to do?

Will the Lakers let go of a player who can still produce consistent numbers on the offensive end?  Fans have been down on Gasol from the past two seasons but fact remains it is difficult in today’s NBA to find a post player like Gasol who can score, rebound, and pass.  While the defense is not there, as long as he is not expected to be a defensive anchor, the Lakers can get by.

THE FANS

Laker fans are a different breed.  A very proud fan base, the purple and gold faithful are also a impatient bunch and do not take losing seasons very well.

Attendance has dropped this season and fans have voiced their displeasure through out the season with style of offense, lack of defense, and non-existent passion the team has displayed at different times this season.

As with free agents, if the team were to commit to D’Antoni for one more season, what message is the front office sending to the fans?  With a lack of fan support, this franchise loses another defining quality that makes the Lakers the Lakers.

At the end of the day, I ask Laker fans and management alike, if D’Antoni is not part of the solution, what is the point of keeping him around?  One thing in sports that is a constant, if the discussion is when a coach will be fired, that situation is already resolved, it is just about when the firing will take place.

For the fans, I understand it is a rough season, but with every bad season, there are another 10-15 better seasons coming for the purple and gold.  Be patient although it may be difficult to do so.

For the Lakers franchise, it is time to move out of this dark cloud of uncertainty and frustration.  Well firing a coach will not mean much in the short team (this season), it will pay off in the future.

And that is what matters the most.

According to Sporting News’ Sean Deveney, Kobe Bryant has had enough of the losing and sources close to the superstar have said that Kobe will not play for head coach Mike D’Antoni next season and wants a new coach in place for the 2014-2015 season.

Bryant, sources said, has “no interest” in playing for D’Antoni next season, and wants a new coach in place for the 2014-15 season.

 

It is not exactly a shocking revelation as Kobe is one of the fiercest competitors in sports today, but the fact this news is starting to leak out after his strong words in his press conference on Wednesday in which he called out the front office and called for change this summer:

Then it goes down to the coaching staff, what Mike (D’Antoni) is going to do, what they want to do with Mike and it goes from there. It’s gotta start from the top.

Unfortunately for D’Antoni, the writing on the wall is looking clearer and clearer by the day.  Just a few days ago, ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith said that his sources informed him that D’Antoni would be fired at the end of this season and additionally, Bleacher Report’s Ric Bucher said in his article that some Lakers players have been assured D’Antoni will not return next season:

At least two other players frustrated with their current roles were told to be patient because the Lakers will have a new head coach next season, sources said.

There have been plenty of burned bridges this season between players and D’Antoni, notably big men Pau Gasol, Jordan Hill, and Chris Kaman.  In what has become a concerning trend of inconsistent playing time and comments in the media, it is not a surprise to hear that players are frustrated with the coach in what has been arguably the worst season in Los Angeles Lakers history.  Deveney shared similar sentiments on Twitter on Wednesday:

Despite all of that, the feelings of one Kobe Bean Bryant have the most impact on the direction of the franchise.  Kobe, who was notoriously called a “fan” by D’Antoni after a Twitter-spree during the Lakers first round matchup versus the San Antonio Spurs last season, seems to have put his foot down.

While he did not say it directly, it sounds like Kobe’s comments in his press conference were loud and clear as they were in 2007…

“Do something and do it now.”

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 March 9-15, over their 66-year history.

March 9, 1988

Pat Riley got his 400th career coaching win in a 104-99 victory over the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. Riley reached the 400-win mark in just 540 games, making him the fastest coach to do so in NBA history.

March 9, 2010

Kobe Bryant hit a game-winning fade-away jump shot over Antoine Wright with 1.9 seconds remaining in regulation to lift the Lakers over the Toronto Raptors 109-107 at the Staples Center. Bryant, who scored 14 points in the fourth quarter, finished the game with 32 points. This victory ended a three-game losing streak for Los Angeles, which hadn’t lost four straight since April 2007. Andrew Bynum chipped in with 22 points for the Lakers, while Pau Gasol added 17 points and nine rebounds in the win.

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images

March 10, 1987

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar set an NBA record for most-ever personal fouls committed, after fouling Denver’s Danny Schayes during the first quarter of an eventual Lakers victory over the Nuggets. With this foul, Abdul-Jabbar raised his career total to 4,194, which put him one ahead of Elvin Hayes, the previous all-time leader. Abdul-Jabbar finished his career with 4,657 fouls, which still stands atop the NBA’s all-time list.

March 12, 2005

Kobe Bryant hit a game-winning jump shot over Keith Bogans with 0.9 seconds left in the game to propel the Lakers passed the Bobcats 117-116 in Charlotte. Bryant scored 21 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter, on 8-for-12 shooting from the field. He added four rebounds and nine assists in the win. This victory gave Los Angeles its first consecutive road wins of the 2004-2005 season.

March 13, 1992

Chick Hearn broadcasted his 2,500th consecutive game for the Lakers, when they played the Cavaliers at the Richfield Coliseum in Cleveland. Hearn’s record-breaking streak spanned 3,338 games from 1965 to 2001.

 

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 March 2-8, over their 66-year history.

March 2, 2008

The Lakers defeated the Dallas Mavericks 108-104 in overtime at the STAPLES Center. Kobe Bryant scored a game-high 52 points to lead the way, including 22 in the fourth quarter and eight in overtime. This game marked the 22nd time in Bryant’s illustrious career that he hit the 50-point plateau. Pau Gasol added 17 points and 14 rebounds for Los Angeles in the win. With his 52 points, Bryant moved past Walt Bellamy into 25th place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.

March 3, 2004

Kobe Bryant hit a jump shot over Yao Ming with 32 seconds left in regulation to give the Lakers a one-point lead en route to an eventual 96-93 victory over the Houston Rockets. The Rockets later intentionally fouled Derek Fisher, who then hit two free throws to seal the win. Bryant, who finished with 18 points, led the way for the Lakers as they rallied from an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter. Bryant also added 13 assists for Los Angeles, which were two short of his career high. Houston’s Yao Ming finished with 33 points for the tough-luck losers.

Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

March 6, 2000

On his 28th birthday, Shaquille O’Neal scored an NBA season-high and career-high 61 points and collected 23 rebounds, as the Lakers defeated the Clippers 123-103. Shaq shot 68.6% from the field to lift the Lakers to their 16th consecutive victory. O’Neal’s previous career-high came in 1994, when he scored 53 points for the Orlando Magic against Milwaukee.

March 7, 1996

Magic Johnson dished out seven assists in a 102-89 victory over the Kings in Sacramento to become just the second NBA player in history to tally 10,000 career assists. Johnson finished his career with 10,141 assists, and currently sits in 5th place on the NBA’s all-time assists list. He holds the NBA record for most assists per game with 11.2.

Jordan Farmar

February 28, 2014 — 7:30 PM (PST)
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

The Lakers will face off vs. inter-state rivals Sacramento Kings in a battle of Western Conference bottom dwellers who destine themselves for a lottery pick in this upcoming NBA Draft.

Currently suffering a 3-game losing streak, the Lakers seek to get back on a winning track and end another dismal month on a positive note by playing with high energy tonight. The Lakers could not quite finish their comeback vs. Grizzlies after falling behind by 19 in the first half.

Along with Gasol, who I will mention later, SG Jodie Meeks continues to have a career year this season, scoring 19 points while shooting 7-10 from the field vs. Grizzlies. Meeks has scored 14.4 PPG this season while shooting a very high 39.4 % from behind the 3-point line.

The Kings will be without their leader C DeMarcus Cousins tonight to serve a one-game suspension for his actions vs. Rockets. Therefore, the Kings will be led by SF Rudy Gay, an all around player who averages 20.1 PPG and 6.3 RPG. Lakers‘ F Wesley Johnson will need to lock him up tonight in order to come away with a victory tonight.

Projected Starters

PG - Kendall Marshall  Isaiah Thomas [Advantage: Kings]

SG - Jodie Meeks / Ben McLemore [Advantage: Lakers]

SF - Kent Bazemore Rudy Gay [Advantage: Kings]

PF - Wesley Johnson / Jason Thompson [Advantage: Even]

C - Pau Gasol Aaron Gray  [Advantage: Lakers]

Notable Bench Players

Kings: PG Ray McCallumReggie EvansDerrick Williams

Lakers: PG Jordan FarmarChris Kaman, Jordan Hill, G Marshon Brooks

Bench Advantage: Lakers

Injury List

Kings: Out-C DeMarcus Cousins, Out-G Jason Terry

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

Keys for Lakers Success

Feed the Bigs: Kings C Demarcus Cousins will miss tonight’s game, leaving a gaping hole in the post for the Kings that the Lakers must take full advantage of. C Pau Gasol had a successful 2nd half vs. Grizzlies by scoring 12 points while dishing out 3 assists after teammate PG Jordan Farmar insisted the team ditch the small-ball philosophy and run the entire offense through Gasol. Although the Lakers fell short vs. Grizzlies, the Gasol led Lakers out scored the Grizzlies by 15 in the 2nd half. Even if Gasol is not out on the floor, The Lakers should run their offense around C Chris Kaman, who people can argue as one of the most offensively skilled center in the NBA.

Bottom Line

Tonight, the Lakers should and will get a victory vs. the Kings. That is if they play to their strength, which means to play through Gasol and Kaman. Currently, the Lakers would do anything to win a game, whether it’s within their usual offensive system or not. Regardless of the rankings these two teams currently sit themselves in, a win vs. Kings always brings peace to the city of Los Angeles.

Prediction

Lakers: 110-103

February 26, 2014 — 5:00 PM (PST)
FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

Closing out this short two-game road trip, the Lakers head to Memphis to face off vs. Memphis Grizzlies (31-24), who find themselves in the thick of the playoff chase.

The Lakers philosophy last night to play small in order for the Pacers to match up vs. the Lakers’ quickness backfired terribly. The Pacers grabbed 20 more rebounds than the Lakers, including 20 offensive rebounds, and the Lakers could not shoot the ball well, and shot only 34.8 % from the 3 point line.

However, Laker Nation cannot help but to feel optimistic about newly acquired G Kent Bazemore, who has shown the Lakers that he can score well when given the opportunity. In his first 3 games with the Lakers, Bazemore has surpassed his career high during each game, scoring 15, 17, and 23 points respectively.

Now, the Lakers will try to play small vs. arguably the slowest team in the NBA in the Grizzlies, who run their entire offense through their twin towers, C Marc Gasol and PF Zach Randolph.

The only real headline for the Lakers tonight lies upon the matchup of the Gasol brothers, Pau and Marc. Despite scoring only 13 points vs. Pacers, C Pau Gasol has played significantly well due to shedding excess weight from the beginning of the season. Despite the Lakers losing streaks throughout the last 2 months, Gasol has shown Lakers management that he can still be a key piece in a championship run following this season. Meanwhile, Pau’s brother C Marc Gasol has had another solid season despite his mid-season injury, averaging 13.2 PPG and 6.4 RPG. We should expect to see a lot of Gasol post action throughout this game.

Gasol’s counterpart, PF Zach Randolph, who both averages 18.1 PPG and 10.8 RPG, brings a very old school low-post game. Call it what you want, Randolph might possess one of the slowest speed and quickness in the NBA and have trouble dunking the ball, but he uses his body extremely well. He backs defenders down with his tremendous strength and has the excellent ability to position his body in the correct areas of the floor to grab rebounds and get off easy shots.

PG Mike Conley, arguably the most underrated and improved point guard in the NBA, could have easily become an all-star this season, scoring a team leading 18.7 PPG and dishing out 6.5 APG. Grizzlies can consider Conley as the main reason the Grizzlies are in the playoff chase, keeping the team afloat while Marc Gasol missed time due to his injury.

Projected Starters

PG - Kendall Marshall  Mike Conley[Advantage: Lakers]

SG - Jodie Meeks / Courtney Lee [Advantage: Grizzlies]

SF - Kent Bazemore Tayshaun Prince [Advantage: Even]

PF - Wesley Johnson / Zach Randolph[Advantage: Grizzlies]

C - Pau Gasol Marc Gasol [Advantage: Lakers]

Notable Bench Players

Grizzlies: G Tony Allen, Mike MillerNick Calathes

Lakers: PG Jordan FarmarC Chris Kaman, F Jordan Hill, G Marshon Brooks

Bench Advantage: Lakers

Injury List

Grizzlies: Out-F Quincy Pondexter

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

Keys for Lakers Success

Defensive Rebounding: The Grizzlies play very big, using Gasol and Randolph to their advantage. Randolph is tied for 10th place in offensive rebounding, so whoever guards him has to beat him to the spot and box him out to get rebounds. The Lakers gave up 20 offensive rebounds yesterday and seem to suffer from a huge mismatch down in the paint. As Gasol said during yesterday’s post-game interview, if the Lakers decide to play small and put Johnson on Randolph, “good luck, right?”

Bottom Line

Hopefully, the Lakers limit the Grizzlies to 1 possession by rebounding the ball well. The Lakers have to play with a lot of energy as they have to use their athleticism to their advantage. If the Lakers hit their shots, the will have a good chance to beat the Grizzlies today. However, they have to get the basic fundamentals down, limiting turnovers and grabbing rebounds, to get themselves into position to win tonight’s game.

Prediction

Grizzles: 96-90

After the Lakers’ most recent loss, a 118-98 drubbing by the league best Indiana Pacers, Pau Gasol made sure his voice was heard post-game.

“There’s just too many individual actions right now. It’s really not a good flow and rhythm out there.”

“We got to be unselfish. If we see a teammate open, we have to make sure that guy gets the ball. Otherwise, it’s really deflating”

“When you get outrebounded by 20, I don’t care who you are and what you do, it’s not going to work and you’re not going to win.”

“I don’t think there’s a lot of discipline right now”

Gasol clearly isn’t pleased with how things are going, I don’t think anyone is for that matter.  D’Antoni decided to play small ball against the Pacers and ended up having the much smaller Wes Johnson guard the much larger David West.

“We do have guys with size who can do well.”

Tonight, Gasol played 27 minutes, Kaman played 14, Hill played 10, and Sacre played 6.  Clearly D’Antoni is favoring his smaller guys and is straying away from the bigs on the team, which is a detriment when the Lakers are playing bigger teams like the Pacers.

Gasol’s frustration hasn’t only been seen today, it reared its head back in December as well.

After Gasol openly complained about not being utilized in the post enough, D’Antoni had this to say:

“It’s also a nice excuse not to play hard, that’s a classic, ‘I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.’ Well you don’t have trouble getting up to the pay stub line.  You know what you need to do to get your check.  You know what to do. They will.  They’ll figure it out.”

Gasol has not been happy with the way D’Antoni utilizes his bigs on his team, he would much rather play small ball with a run-n-gun style offense.  It’s unfortunate to see Gasol so upset with his usage and the overall usage of the team as he has definitely earned more respect than he is receiving from D’Antoni.

Needless to say the Lakers are going to have to choose between the two this coming off-season as Gasol most certainly doesn’t want to return to a team where he isn’t used properly.  For that matter, no big man would want to come to Los Angeles if D’Antoni is still coaching, as they would receive limited minutes and not be put in a system where they could realize their full potential.

This off-season will be telling, Laker Nation, telling indeed.

February 25, 2014 — 4:00 PM (PST)
Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

The Los Angeles Lakers take the show on the road as they take a quick road trip as they play vs. one of the Eastern Conference favorites, the Indiana Pacers (42-13)

The Lakers, cannot get away from injuries. F/G Nick Young, who returned Sunday to play his first game in 3 weeks, will sit out during this 2-game road trip as he felt some soreness in his knee that caused him to sit out.

Pau Gasol played very well Sunday, racking up another double-double by scoring 22 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.

Meanwhile, newly acquired G Kent Bazemore has taken full advantage of Mike D’Antoni‘s offensive system, which has given him the green light on the offensive end for the first time in his career. Bazemore has surpassed his career high in points, scoring 15 and 17 points respectively in his first 2 games.

The Pacers currently follow “the rich get richer” motto. When the rest of NBA did not think the Pacers could improve their roster any further, the Pacers shocked everyone by acquiring 76ers best player, G Evan Turner and also C/F Lavoy Allen in a trade for F Danny Granger. 

Turner, who will make his Pacers debut tonight along with Allen, has had his best season so far this season for the 76ers, scoring a career-high 17.4 PPG, while grabbing 6.0 APG and dishing out 3.7 APG. Turner’s brings scoring firepower off the bench when he gives George and G Lance Stephenson a break.

With Turner’s acquisition, the Pacers won’t lose any scoring powers in the Shooting Guard and Small Forward position.

Pacers F Paul George has blossomed into a bonafide NBA Superstar. George plays both ends of the floor significantly well, scoring 22.7 PPG, grabbing 6.4 RPG, dishing out 3.4 APG, and take 1.8 SPG from his opponent which ranks him 8th in the league.

Projected Starters

PG - Kendall Marshall / George Hill [Advantage: Pacers]
SG - Kent Bazemore / Lance Stephenson [Advantage: Pacers]
SF - Jodie Meeks / Paul George [Advantage: Pacers]
PF - Wesley Johnson / David West [Advantage: Pacers]
C - Pau Gasol / Roy Hibbert [Advantage: Lakers]

Notable Bench Players

Pacers: F Evan TurnerF Luis ScolaG CJ Watson, C/F Lavoy Allen

Lakers: C Chris Kaman, F Jordan Hill, Marshon Brooks, PG Jordan Farmar

Bench Advantage: Pacers

Injury List

Pacers: Out-C Andrew Bynum

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

Keys for Lakers Victory

Out-run the Pacers: Sounds very crazy thinking turning this game into a track meet with Pacers’ having young athletic players like George, Stephenson, and Turner. However, the Pacers do work best when they slow the game down and utilize F David West All-Star C Roy Hibbert. If the Lakers control the tempo of this game by playing they way that D’Antoni likes to, maybe they can catch the Pacers off-guard and make this game somehow competitive.

Bottom Line

The Lakers have to play almost perfect and the Pacers have to play very uninspired basketball for the Lakers to put themselves in position to win tonight’s game. The Lakers have to get off to an excellent start and hit their 3 pt. shots. Otherwise, this will be a very ugly game for the Lakers versus a team that views this season as their best opportunity to win a championship.

Prediction

Pacers: 109-96

Laker Nation network