April 8,2014 — 7:30PM (PST)
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: NBATV / TWC SportsNet
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
With the regular season winding down, the Lakers face off the Golden State Warriors, who currently find themselves fighting to keep the 8th place position in the Western Conference standings.
Tuesday night’s game symbolizes the lack of care on the defensive end throughout this season. Although they scored 130 points, they allowed 145 to the Houston Rockets, and the 4th quarter turned into a typical game one might see on a playground basketball court.
The only positive from last game was PG Steve Nash passing Warriors Head Coach Mark Jackson for 3rd place on the all-time assist leaderboard. However, Nash will most likely miss the rest of this season as he has another relapse with his nerve issues and might consider retirement following this season.
Meanwhile, PG Stephen Curry has blossomed into one of the best offensive players in the NBA, scoring 23.5 PPG while dishing out 8.5 APG.
PG Steve Blake will make his return to Staples Center tonight for the first time since getting traded to the Warriors for SG MarShon Brooks and G Kent Bazemore.
PG - Stephen Curry / Kendall Marshall [Advantage: Rockets] SG - Klay Thompson / Jodie Meeks[Advantage: Rockets] SF - Andre Igudola/ Wesley Johnson[Advantage: Rockets] PF - David Lee / Ryan Kelly[Advantage: Even] C - Andrew Bogut / Jordan Hill[Advantage: Rockets]
Notable Bench Players
Rockets: G Steve Blake, F Draymond Green, C Jermaine O’Neal G Jordan CrawfordPG Steve Blake
Lakers: C Robert Sacre, F Wesley Johnson, PG Jordan Farmar, F/G Nick Young
Bench Advantage: Warriors
Lakers: Out-G Kobe Bryant, Out-C Pau Gasol, Out-G Xavier Henry, Out-G Kent Bazemore, Out-C Chris Kaman, Doubtful-PG Steve Nash
With firepower a like Curry, SG Klay Thompson, and SF Andre Igudola, it will most likely be too much talent disadvantage for the Lakers to overcome even if they play with a lot of energy tonight. More importantly for the Lakers players tonight, it will be one of their last few auditions to determine whether they are worthy of staying on this roster next season or signing on with another team. PG Kendall Marshall and C Robert Sacre will be the only 2 players who will not be free agents following this season.
The Los Angeles Lakers have acquired guards Kent Bazemore and MarShon Brooks from the Golden State Warriors in exchange for point guard Steve Blake, it was announced Wednesday by General Manager Mitch Kupchak.
After spending the past 3+ years in Los Angeles, Blake was understandably disappointed in leaving the Lakers.
“I’ve loved my time. I’ve loved playing for coach D’Antoni,” Blake said to ESPNLA.com’s Dave McMenamin. “The freedom he gave me as a player … I’m totally grateful.”
Blake also shared the harsh reality of the effects an NBA trade can have.
“The hardest thing is really for my family, really,” Blake said. “I got a wife, three little kids and now I’m going to have to spend four months, probably, away from them and so that’s going to be the hardest part.”
When asked if Blake would consider returning to the Lakers this summer as an unrestricted free agent, he had this to say:
“Absolutely,” Blake said. “I’ve loved my time here. When you spend (time) in some place this long, you start to get comfortable. We loved where we lived, loved the schools my kids were in and always loved the support of the fans and ownership and everybody. So, it’s one of the best places I’ve ever played at and if in the future they wanted me back, I would absolutely, definitely consider it.”
Blake had been averaging 9.5 PPG, 7.6 APG and 3.8 RPG this season for the Lakers–all of which were career highs.
MarShon Brooks, 25, is a 6’5″ shooting guard with excellent scoring abilities. The third-year guard has averaged 7.8 PPG, 1.4 APG and 2.2 RPG while playing in Brooklyn, Boston and Golden State. Brooks, however, is only averaging 2.6 PPG this season in 5.2 MPG.
Kent Bazemore, 24, is also a 6’5″ shooting guard with tremendous athleticism and great length on the defensive end. The second-year guard has averaged 2.1 PPG, 0.4 APG and 0.6 RPG in the NBA, while also spending multiple stints in the D-League.
Neither Brooks nor Bazemore are under contract past this season. The move does, however, save the Lakers about $4 million in salary and luxury taxes. No draft picks were exchanged in the deal.
After exiting early for the second straight game with nerve irritation, it looks like Steve Nash may be out until after the All-Star break.
After Tuesday’s game vs the Jazz, Nash spoke very briefly to reporters, but did mention he might need some more time to get past this issue:
“I think I need a little more time to get over the hump,” he told the LA Times.
Head coach Mike D’Antoni was noncommittal in his post-game comments regarding his point guard, but at the time seemed like he did not know his status moving forward.
“I imagine it’s day to day. I don’t know anything else,” D’Antoni said of Nash’s status. “I haven’t really talked to him.”
It is definitely a concern that Nash says he needs a little more time to get over this injury considering he took nearly three months to return the court. At 40 years old, it is really hard to imagine this nerve root problem improving enough to where he could play multiple games in a row without setbacks.
Guard Steve Blake also shared his concern to reporters regarding Nash after the game:
“I’m pretty concerned. I know he’s dealing with a lot of pain.”
With Tuesday being Nash’s tenth game of the season, the Lakers cannot apply for the salary exclusion until one year after his final game, whenever that may be. There was talk of a potential medical retirement that would take Nash’s salary off the books, but that is no longer an option because of the number of games he has played in.
Had he retired before ten games, the Lakers could have applied for the salary exclusion 60 days after his final game, clearing his contract for the summer.
In simpler terms, Nash’s salary is on the books this season and next season barring some sort of trade, which is highly unlikely.
The Lakers using the stretch provision on Nash this summer seems more and more likely by the day.
February 7, 2014 — 4:00 PM (PST)
Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN
The Lakers (17-32) finished Wednesday’s game vs. the Cavaliers with only four eligible players on the floor.
Starting with only 8 available players on the floor, F Nick Young suffered a non-displaced fracture of the left patella and a bone bruise, while PG Jordan Farmar insured his lower left leg during the game. They ended up with only four eligible players since C Chris Kaman and C Robert Sacre both fouled out of the game.
Chris Kaman lying down on the bench chairs for a brief moment to take advantage of nobody sitting on the bench and PG Steve Nash changing from his street clothes into his uniform symbolizes the disaster that is the Lakers this season.
Despite all of that, the Lakers finally snapped their 7-game losing streak by defeating the Cavaliers 119-108 by making a franchise record 18 3-pointers.
PG Steve Blake led the way with a triple double, scoring 11 points, grabbing 10 rebounds, and dishing out 15 assists.
Also, F Shawne Williams returns to the Lakers after the Lakers signed him to a 10-day contract to help contribute from the bench again.
They now seek a 2-game winning streak as they play vs. Philadelphia 76ers (15-35) tonight. As a result of suffering a 3-14 record in the last 17 games, the 76ers currently have the 2nd worst NBA record, finding themselves in the running for the 1st overall pick in this upcoming NBA Draft.
G Evan Turner and rookie PG Michael Carter-Williams lead this struggling 76ers team. Turner, an all-around guard, has played very well statistically this season scoring a career-high 18.2 PPG, while grabbing 6.1 APG and dishing out 3.9 APG. Carter-Williams has regressed after taking the NBA by storm in his first month as an NBA player. He currently scores 17.2 PPG while having 6.8 APG, but he has struggled with his shots, shooting at a dismal 39.8 FG
PG – Michael Carter-Williams / Steve Nash [Advantage: Lakers]
SG – Evan Turner / SteveBlake [Advantage: 76ers]
SF - James Anderson / WesleyJohnson [Advantage: Lakers]
PF - Thaddeus Young / RyanKelly [Advantage: Even]
C – Spencer Hawes / RobertSacre [Advantage: 76ers]
Notable Bench Players
76ers: F Lavoy Allen, G Tony Wroten, F Hollis Thompson, G Elliot Williams
Lakers: PG Jordan Farmar, PG Kendall Marshall, F Shawne Williams, C ChrisKaman
Bench Advantage: Even
76ers: Out-C Arnett Moultrie, SG Jason Richardson, F Brandon Davies, C Nerlens Noel
Lakers: Out-G KobeBryant, Out-C Pau Gasol, Out-G JodieMeeks, Out-G/F Nick Young, Out-PG Jordan Farmar, GTD-G Steve Blake
Keys for Lakers Victory
Outscore the 76ers: Laker Nation will double-take the fact that the 76ers can claim themselves as the only team that have actually allowed more PPG than the Lakers this season. Therefore, the Lakers have to take advantage of this situation and score at will, similar to what they did during the first half vs. Cavaliers, which lead to more than a 20 point lead at some points during the 1st half. Everybody know at this point, the Lakers’ defensive situation finds itself in a lost cause, so this would be an opportunity for the Lakers to be aggressive on the offensive end of the floor.
Both the Lakers and 76ers find themselves in a battle for the NBA Draft lottery position. However, they both still have games to compete in, and the Lakers have to continue to play for the name on the front of their jersey and play to win. Hopefully, the Lakers come out very strong lead by Nash and open up a big lead so they won’t have to suffer from an eventual 76ers run. They should come away with a victory tonight to finally have a winning streak.
The Lakers (16-31) travel to Minneapolis to play vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (23-24) to start their 3-game road trip.
The good news?
All 3 point guards for the Lakers return tonight. Steve Nash, Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar will all return to the floor tonight. As this season has plummeted downhill for this team, having multiple players return from their various injuries might give their team a jolt of energy.
With the return of the three point guards, there is uncertainty about how PG Kendall Marshall will be used tonight. Despite a dismal January as a team, Marshall has played very well, scoring 10.5 PPG and dishing out 9.6 APG but has been replaced in the lineup by all 3 point guards. While outrage might occur if he does not play tonight, anything head coach Mike D’Antoni does with his rotation should not surprise Laker Nation.
The bad news?
C Pau Gasol will miss the road trip due to a bruised groin. Gasol, who has once again found himself in trade talks again, played spectacularly well throughout January, averaging 20.8 PPG and 11.9 RPG. He clearly labored up and down the court the last 2 games, so hopefully rest and recovery will get him back on the court soon.
Local UCLA product and all-star starter PF Kevin Love has dominated this season for the Timberwolves. Love has scored 25.5 PPG and grabbed 13.1 RPG. He can shoot from the perimeter while dominating in the low post at the same time, causing match up nightmares for anyone who guards him.
PG - Steve Nash / Ricky Rubio [Advantage: Timberwolves]
SG - Steve Blake / Kevin Martin [Advantage: Timberwolves]
SF - Jodie Meeks / Corey Brewer [Advantage: Timberwolves]
PF - Ryan Kelly / Kevin Love [Advantage: Timberwolves]
C - Robert Sacre / Ronny Turiaf[Advantage: Lakers]
Notable Bench Players
Timberwolves: F Dante Cunningham, G Alexey Schved, G JJ Barea,F Chase Budinger
Lakers: F Nick Young, G Jordan Farmar, F Jordan Hill, PG Kendall Marshall
Bench Advantage: Lakers
Timberwolves: Out-C Nikola Pekovic
Lakers: Out-G Kobe Bryant, Out-C Pau Gasol, Out-G Xavier Henry
Keys for Lakers Victory
Play Defense: Allowing 100 or more points in 19 out of the last 21 games will not win any team any games regardless of how proficient their offense is. Maybe having all their point guards return will help the Lakers exert more effort on defense. However, that seems very unlikely.
The Lakers currently have a 7 game losing streak. Having their point guards all return tonight will help. However, the likelihood they will help solve their defensive rebounding and defensive issues seem very slim to none.
Back from injury, Steve Nash and Steve Blake will both return to the starting lineup tonight vs. the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Nash will be on a minutes restriction according to coach Mike D’Antoni. The plan is for Nash to play 5-8 minutes in the first quarter then not play again until the third quarter where he will play another 5-8 minutes.
Nash will not play on the second of a back-to-back versus the Cleveland Cavaliers tomorrow night.
It is unclear whether Blake will be on a minutes restriction as well, but he will start alongside Nash. Jodie Meeks will be the third guard in the starting lineup tonight which gives the Lakers a small lineup as all three players are 6’4 and under. Robert Sacre and Ryan Kelly get the start in the front court.
If you are wondering about Chris Kaman, D’Antoni says he “will play a lot of minutes” off the bench.
As for Jordan Farmar, D’Antoni says he will suit up and could play limited minutes. The plan for Farmar is to get Nash’s minutes tomorrow night so they are hoping to save him for one more day.
The question now is what happens to Kendall Marshall? Averaging 10.5 points and 9.6 assists, the young point guard has definitely earned his minutes on the team but with Nash, Blake, and Farmar returning, will his minutes decrease dramatically? We will have a good idea of that over the next few games.
Are you happy with the changes being made to the Lakers lineup?
Some good news came out of the Lakers’ practice facility today where Steve Blake, Jordan Farmar, and Steve Nash all participated in Monday’s practice and may suit up for tomorrow’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
D'Antoni said all 3 injured PG's (Nash, Blake and Farmar) practiced today and are a "possibility" to play tomorrow at Minnesota.
If Nash suits up tomorrow, it will be only his seventh game of the season. Nash sat out in early November with nerve root irritation that lingered from last year’s fractured leg injury and has spent the last 3 months trying to get back into basketball shape, Blake suffered a torn ligament in his right elbow in early December, and Farmar suffered a torn hamstring in December, which he re-tore in early January.
Prior to their injuries, Nash was averaging 6.7 points and 4.8 assists a game, Blake averaged 9.8 points and 7.7 assists a game, and Farmer was averaging 8.7 points, 4.7 assists.
In other injury-related news, Pau Gasol (strained groin) will not travel with the team on the upcoming 3-game road trip; Kobe Bryant (fractured knee) is also not expected to make the trip where the Lakers will visit Minnesota, Cleveland, and Philadelphia.
Christmas Day, the Lakers took on the defending champion Miami Heat in a close, hard fought match-up. While the game turned out better than most predicated, lost in the Christmas frenzy was the return of reserve guard Jordan Farmar. Farmar had been out of the lineup since Dec. 1st with a torn left hamstring. While his presence is certainly good for then point guard less Lakers, Kendall Marshall has not played enough nor knows the system well enough to qualify just yet, Farmar, will still need time to recover as he noticeably would not explode off his left hamstring during the game.
Los Angeles Times reporter Melissa Rohlin spoke to Farmar about his comeback,
“I felt like I didn’t play basketball for a month, just the timing, everything just felt a little off,” Farmar said.
Like previously mentioned, Farmar did not look like his normal self. Sitting out for almost a month and then coming back to play against the Heat certainly did not help but one has to appreciate how much Farmar wanted to be on the court to help contribute. When asked about his performance he held no gripes in mentioning how he does not fully trust his left hamstring just yet.
“Just knowing that it kept me out for a month, and not wanting to make that explosive move that might set me back,” he said. “I’ll gain more and more confidence, and then hopefully it’ll get out of my mind and I’ll just be able to play.”
Farmar played almost 33 minutes on Wednesday, while recording three points (he shot one for seven from the field), five rebounds, two assist, and four turnovers. While those numbers are not his averages they certainly are acceptable for someone coming back so soon after being out and not being able to do many basketball related activities.
“I haven’t even played five-on-five since I got hurt, so this is the first time I’ve really played basketball,” he said.
Coach D’Antoni spoke on Farmar’s performance and said “his next game will be better,” and “and a week from now he’ll be rolling.” That is great news for the Lakers since Farmar’s aggressiveness and lead guard abilities have been sorely missed. Jordan will need time to heal and slowly integrate back into his old form as the explosion off that left hamstring will be needed time and time again throughout this season. With just he and Kendall Marshall to play point for the Lakers, Xavier Henry too until Steve Blake is back, the team will count on him on every game as he will undoubtedly have some tough match-ups ahead. Farmar’s injury is just one of many for this Lakers team so far but the commitment he has to even return so soon to help make this club better is something special and will go a long way.
This is a crucial blow to the already injury-decimated Lakers as they currently have no healthy point guards. Blake joins Steve Nash and Jordan Farmar on the injured list.
Blake has stepped up his game since Nash went down earlier in the season, averaging 9.8 points and 7.7 assists in 31 minutes per game this season. He has played a big part in keeping the team afloat as they waited for the return of Kobe Bryant.
Blake said today that he will not have surgery but will instead get Platalet-Rich Plasma (PRP) therapy on his elbow.
The Lakers have an open roster spot, so it is more than likely that they will add someone in the near future. An interesting name to keep an eye on is Leandro Barbosa, who is playing in Brazil with Club Pinheiros and has fully recovered from his leg injury. He knows Mike D’Antoni’s system from Phoenix and seems like a logical choice.
It should be noted that Barbosa has an out-clause in his contract that will allow him to return to the NBA.
In the meantime, D’Antoni says Kobe and Jodie Meeks will be the starters. Kobe will be the primary ball handler in the offense until other options are brought it.
We here at Laker Nation wish Steve Blake a fast and speedy recovery!
December 8, 2013 — 6:30 PM (PST)
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC SportsNet / NBATV
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
Lakers superstar G Kobe Bryant makes his season debut for the Los Angeles Lakers (10-9) against the Toronto Raptors (6-12) tonight in front of a home crowd. Bryant, who returns from a devasating left achilles tear from the April 12th game vs. Golden State Warriors, provides the Lakers with a game-changer and team leader on the floor. Despite playing without Bryant, the Lakers have surprised many NBA experts this season by playing very well as a team, winning 6 out of their last 8 games to maintain a .500 winning percentage. According to Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni, he expects to see Kobe play in the 20-25 minute range tonight.
The Lakers come off of a solid win versus the Sacramento Kings, where G Jodie Meeks and G/F Wesley Johnson led the way for the Lakers. Meeks scored 19 points by shooting 5-6 from the 3 pt line, including 2 huge 3-pointers to defeat the Kings, while Johnson locked down defensively by having 5 steals. Also, the emergence of C Robert Sacre has been a pleasant surprise for the Lakers. As a surprise starter vs. Kings last game, Sacre held his own against a very talented C DeMarcus Cousins, scoring 11 points, and getting key stops towards the end of the game.
The Raptors, on the other hand, just made news for themselves. According to Yahoo! Sports Marc Spears’ and Adrian Wojnarowski’s sources, the Raptors just traded SF Rudy Gay, C Aaron Gray, and F Quincy Acy to the Sacramento Kings for F John Salmons, PG Greivis Vasquez, F Chuck Hayes, F Patrick Patterson, all who will obviously not be available for the Raptors tonight. Therefore, the Raptors will be led by G Demar Derozan. Derozan, a local product out of USC and Compton High School, has seemed to finally use his raw athleticism efficiently, leading the Raptors in scoring at a career high 21.3 PPG.
SF - Terrence Ross/ Wesley Johnson [Advantage: Lakers]
PF - Jonas Valanciunus / Pau Gasol [Advantage: Lakers]
C - Amir Johnson / Robert Sacre [Advantage: Raptors]
Raptors: F Steve Novak - Arguably one of the best three-point shooters in the NBA, Novak can cause the Lakers defense a lot of problems if he can get wide open shots. Novak, who is one of many players who thrived in Mike D’Antoni’s offensive system during his days with the New York Knicks, is currently shooting at 37.7% from the 3-pt line after the Raptors acquired him this offseason for F Andrea Bargnani. Novak is the only offensive spark the Raptors have from the bench, so if the Lakers can shut him down with athletic defenders like Johnson or F Shawne Williams, the Lakers bench should outscore the Raptors’s bench by a significant margin tonight.
Lakers: Rest of the Lakers - With Bryant returning to the lineup, the Lakers coaching staff has a major question mark moving forward: how will the rest of the Lakers play with Bryant back. In the past, the Lakers would tend to stand around on offense, waiting for Bryant to save them every time. Hopefully with the rest of the Lakers gaining their own confidence offensively in Bryant’s absence, they can continue to stay aggressive towards the basket and not be hesitant to shoot the ball. Notably, players like Meeks, Johnson, G Xavier Henry, and G/F Nick Young have thrived in Bryant’s absence for the first 19 games, playing very well on both ends of the floor. In order for the Lakers to not only win tonight’s game, but also make some noise in the playoffs, the rest of the Lakers have to continue to move around without the ball and not stand around hoping Bryant will bail them out every possession, especially towards the end of the game.
Since the atmosphere at Staples tonight will be electric due to Bryant’s return, the Lakers will have to channel their emotions tonight to execute both offensively and defensively. Although the Raptors have a lot of talent in their starting lineup, they are very thin on the bench, something the Lakers bench can thrive off of, especially with Meeks joining the bench unit. Once again, the Lakers do not have a healthy point guard. Without PG Steve Nash and PG Jordan Farmar available for tonight’s game, look for Bryant to play point guard quite often whenever PG Steve Blake, who is currently battling a hyper extended right elbow, needs a rest tonight. If the Lakers continue to play as a team and stay focused especially defensively for the entire 48 minutes of the game, look for the Lakers to get a solid victory in Bryant’s debut.
Farmar has averaged 9.2 ppg and 4.4 apg in 18 games this season. With Nash already out, this injury will affect the point guard situation as Steve Blake is the lone point guard on the roster. With Kobe Bryant’s return on the horizon, he will help the burden of ball handling duties as he has done throughout his career but it remains to be seen how much the Lakers want Kobe to burden as he returns from the Achilles injury.
The injury happened in Sunday night’s game versus the Portland Trailblazers as Farmar was running down court but pulled up grabbing the hamstring and immediately asked to be taken out of the game.
In related injury news, Pau Gasol also had an MRI this morning on his troublesome right ankle:
Injury Update: @paugasol's MRI confirmed that he has a mild sprain of his right ankle.
Add this game to the top of disheartening losses this season. What a game.
The Portland Trail Blazers came into Staples Center with the second best record in the Western Conference. Naturally, the Lakers were not favored to win tonight and it appeared to be an easy game to call when the home team fell behind by 17 points halfway through the first quarter. The Lakers managed to catch up, however, going into halftime just three points down. It looked like the home team was giving themselves a chance to win…and then the third quarter came.
The Blazers outscored the Lakers 41-24. Again, it looked like they’d be taking this game all the way when they led by as much as 20 points. The Lakers, however, continued to fight, getting to within a single point with still under three minutes left in the game. Unfortunately, They couldn’t stop Portland from scoring and the single-digit deficit became more than the Lakers could overcome with so little time left, so they took the loss, 114-108.
High Points Backcourt Brothers – The Laker guards really took this game and put it over their shoulders tonight, and it started with Xavier Henry. He contributed 27 points on 9-12 from the field and was the focal point of the Lakers’ two big runs tonight. In the first quarter, he chipped in nine points that helped fuel the come from 17 points down run. In the fourth quarter, he put in 11 points to help the team catch up from a 20-point deficit, highlighted by his four-point play. He’s so good at getting himself to the free throw line where he went 7-11 tonight, and he’s fearless at getting to the rim no matter how much traffic there is to barrel through. He finished the evening with a game-high +23. Jodie Meeks, the team’s leading scorer, put in 20 points of his own. Nick Young was the other bench player who fueled the first scoring run that got the team over the 17-point hole. He finished with 17 points on 7-14 from the field. And of course, there’s Steve Blake, who had to put in double-duty tonight when Jordan Farmar left the game in the first quarter. He finished with 13 points and nine assists. Attitude – It would have been so easy for the Lakers to just roll over and let Portland have their way with them, but they wouldn’t let up. They came up from being behind by double digits twice in one game. It’s hard to consider moral victories, but this game really showed a lot of grit from this Lakers’ team. It’s an attitude that surely their captain, Kobe Bryant, would appreciate.
Low Points Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill – The Blazers and the Lakers shot at about the same percentage. They had close to the same number of assists, the turnovers weren’t out of control for either team and the Lakers even blocked seven shots to the Blazers’ one. The glaring stat disparity? Rebounds. Portland outrebounded the Lakers 52-41, 15-9 on the offensive glass. While rebounding should be a team effort, the Lakers’ leading rebounders didn’t do much to help their situation, combining for just 11 boards for the whole game. Their struggles tonight may be due in large part to a sprained ankle, which each player is nursing. Spotty Defense – Sometimes it’s there, sometimes it’s not. And it’s hard to tell when the Lakers will decide to play any. One quarter, they’re allowing Portland to score 41 points. The next quarter, they go on a 24-5 run. Sustaining their efforts on either end of the court is this team’s weakness so far this season, and it’s cost them a lot of close, winnable games. Chris Kaman – It’s nice to see Robert Sacre on the floor playing some significant minutes, and he was productive tonight with his 12 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three blocks, but Kaman has been available to play for some time now and hasn’t seen the floor in a couple weeks. It’s not something that’s been given much attention, but with Jordan Hill playing with a sprained ankle, seems logical to bring Kaman in. Jordan Farmar – After playing for only 56 seconds, Farmar had to leave the floor and was later diagnosed with a left hamstring strain. He left in the first quarter and never returned. Hopefully the next four days off will aid in a quick recovery.
The Lakers’ next game isn’t until Friday against the Sacramento Kings. After a weeklong road trip, it may just be what they need to recoup. Kobe Bryant is scheduled to practice with the team this week and there’s a possibility he’ll play against the Kings if the practices don’t cause any pain. Here’s hoping!
Ever since Steve Nash went down with yet another one of his long extended injuries, a sense of calm has come over the point guard position. From the very moment the Lakers acquired Nash and his laundry list of physical ailments last year, it has become increasingly apparent that he was not going to be the answer to the Lakers point guard woes.
Nash could often be seen sprawled out on the floor of the sidelines while he was still with the Suns. The sight of seeing him trying to convince his back not to tighten up on him, yet alone give out on him, became an all too familiar one in Phoenix his last couple of years. And Lakers fans got a dose of it right out of the gate at the start of last year, when he got hurt the first game of the year, and wasn’t seen for weeks thereafter.
Make no mistake, this is not a tirade about Nash, his failing body, or the fact he never lived up to the expectations the Lakers fans had for him. No, instead, this is a tribute to the man who doesn’t get the publicity, I believe he deserves. That man, is Steve Blake.
Steve Blake, the former Terrapin floor leader who achieved honorable mention All-America, third team All-ACC, honorable mention All-ACC Defensive team and second team ACC All-Tournament honors in 2001-02, while starting all 36 games that year, helping to guide the Terps to the National Championship over the Indiana Hoosiers in the spring of 2002.
Steve Blake has been the epitome of a journeyman guard in the NBA. Breaking in at the age of 24 in 2003-04 with Washington, and playing for multiple teams in between, he has now found a home with the Lakers. The guy is a grinder, he plays as hard as anyone in the league, and he plays with grit and determination. Let’s not kid ourselves into thinking he is, or ever will be thought of as being on the same level of a healthy Steve Nash. However, if we are keeping it real, he has delivered more than Nash has since he came to L.A.
Steve Blake has provided the floor leadership the Lakers so desperately need in this season of transition. Steve Blake is not flashy, nor is he super fast. He doesn’t possess a freakish physique, and he will never be remembered for anything exceptionally spectacular. Steve Blake is going to be remembered for the intangible things he has brought to the Lakers this year.
He has been a calming voice of reason on the floor, holding down the fort until Kobe can get back. He has provided veteran leadership to the young kids the Lakers brought in this year. Blake has been there to remind them, this isn’t playground basketball anymore. This is the NBA, where the team overrides the personal stats. He has helped this team take on an identity it never had at the beginning of the season.
It is highly unlikely you will ever see a bronze bust of Steve Blake in the NBA Hall of Fame. He will probably never be a league MVP. But what he has been to the Lakers so far this year, is something that they needed, at the precise time they needed him. Say hello to Steve Blake everyone. I think your’e going to like the guy.
Five games into the 2013-14 NBA season, most teams know for the most part which players will be in their eight or nine-man rotations. At this point, the Lakers are definitely not one of those teams. Coach Mike D’Antoni has been tinkering with rotations and player combinations to the extreme, going with an 11-man rotation thus far that has already produced over 34 player combinations. As can be expected, results have been far from consistent. As Steve Nash put it:
“We’re not a well-oiled machine. We don’t even know what line-ups suit us best yet, let alone what each other are going to do.”
Clearly, D’Antoni is going to have to eventually slim the rotations down. Because of the depth of this roster as well as the uncertainty of the bench pieces, the Lakers are likely to go to a nine-man rotation as the season wears on. So what can we expect to see on the court in the coming months? Let’s take a look at the likely line-ups the Lakers will employ the rest of the season.
PG – Steve Blake
Probably not the Steve you were expecting huh? Five games in, it’s clear that Steve Nash is still dealing with nagging injuries and adjusting to age. Blake, not Nash, is best suited to lead the starting unit because of his aggressiveness on defense and because he has simply looked better on the court than Nash.
SG – Xavier Henry
On a roster full of question marks, Henry has emerged as a breakout player so far this season for the Lakers. His aggressiveness on both ends of the court fits well in LA’s fast-paced system, and he seems to have all but locked up a starting spot for the foreseeable future. He can also slide down to the small forward position in smaller line-ups with a two point-guard backcourt.
SF – Kobe Bryant
When the Mamba returns, he will obviously be a fixture in the starting line-up. There has been talk for a while of Bryant sliding down to the small forward position, and upon his return that is where he’s expected to be. It will be interesting to see how Kobe plays in the uptempo system that places a premium on ball movement, but knowing the veteran I’m sure (hoping) he’ll fit in just fine.
PF – Jordan Hill
On a roster filled with guys who like to (try to) be scorers, the rebounding machine that is Jordan Hill is a perfect fit for this Laker team. Hill has a constant motor and is always around the basketball at every rebound opportunity. He currently sits in the top 20 for rebounds per 48 minutes and should be there all season long with the rebounding opportunities this team can present.
C – Pau Gasol
With the departure of He Who Shall Not Be Named to Houston, Gasol has been able to move back to his more natural position of center. As the man in the middle of a team surrounded by shooters, Gasol will be able to display his passing skill and low post repertoire in the paint. While the relationship between Pau and D’Antoni is up and down to say the least, Gasol should get plenty of opportunities to go to work with this roster.
G – Steve Nash
Aside from Bryant, Nash is currently the biggest question mark on the Laker roster. Is he aging and no longer capable of being the player he once was? Or, as Nash believes, does he just need to shake a few lingering injuries before being back to normal? This storyline will only grow as the season moves on, especially as trade rumors continue to grow louder and louder.
G – Jordan Farmar
When the Lakers signed Farmar, many people thought it was nothing more than a nostalgia signing on the cheap. But through five games this season, Jordan has been the Lakers best point guard averaging 10 points and 5 assists in under 23 minutes a game. Farmar’s energy and aggressiveness will be key to sparking the second unit all season long.
F – Nick Young/Wesley Johnson
Johnson and Young are the two bench players whose minutes will most likely fluctuate all season long. Because they bring two completely different elements to the court, their minutes will be based on what is needed on a game-to-game basis. When starters are struggling to get buckets, Young will be called upon to provide a scoring spark. When the offense is clicking, it’s likely that D’Antoni will want to use Johnson for his defensive prowess to slow down opponents. Either way, it will be interesting to see these two young forwards try to separate themselves from one another.
C – Chris Kaman
Kaman is more of a fit due to need rather than what he provides on the court. While he can hit an open midrange shot and crash the boards, the Caveman will get minutes due to the fact that he provides size to back up Gasol and Hill. Shawne Williams is also an option here, however he is more of a stretch four who provides shooting that is not a major need on this second unit.
Odd Men Out:
Needless to say, I do not envy the decisions that Mike D’Antoni will need to make dividing up the minutes amongst his players. There are sure to be questions, confusion and discontent amongst players as the season wears on and minutes are cut. But when looking at the lack of depth last season, it is a good problem for Coach D’Antoni to have. At least until a few tough losses and people start calling for his job. Oh wait that already is happening? This is going to be one very interesting season.