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.
Steve Nash is not 100% healthy as of yet but that will not stop him from achieving a childhood dream of his. On Tuesday Nash will be trying out for one of the best soccer, or fútbol, franchises in the world in Inter Milan. Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press was first to break the story.
”It’s a dream come true to get a chance to try out, not just to try out but to take the field with Inter Milan, one of the great, storied franchises in professional sports,” Nash said in an interview with The Associated Press. ”I feel like a little kid.”
Nash has always been a huge soccer fan and occasionally jokes about how he would be a great soccer player if he didn’t become as good as he is in basketball. Tuesday he will have the opportunity to show the world the type of player he could be. First, he’ll have to get over his big case of nerves.
”It’s going to be a lot higher than it is playing basketball, for sure,” Nash said. ”I still get nervous for basketball games from time to time. When I get out on the court, I don’t get nervous, but before. To go out there with guys that I look up to and watch play, it’s definitely going to raise the nerves. I’ll be really nervous and really excited.”
As far as his day job goes he still is working to get to 100% health. Everyone knows how injury riddled the Lakers were last season and Nash missed a significant amount of time on the court. Despite that, he has been training hard this off-season and believes that he will have a good year.
”I’ve had a really good summer of training and rehabilitating,” Nash said. ”I’m not 100 percent, but I’m pretty close. Good enough to go out there Tuesday. I’m thrilled I’ve had this time to build myself back up, and I believe I’ll have a great year.”
”We’re all just excited for another opportunity,” Nash said. ”We’ve got some terrific players coming off of difficult seasons. I know Pau Gasol after his injuries, Kobe’s coming off a difficult injury, I was injured for the better part of the season. The three of us are eager to get back out there and there’s other guys, Jordan Hill, Steve Blake, who missed a lot of time last year.
Nash did not stop there as his excitement for next season continued to dominate the conversation.
”We’re excited to see what we can make of ourselves. We really are going to try for the second consecutive year to find chemistry and identity, but we’re excited for it, so we’ll see.”
With Nash already coming of an injury plagued year it would be best for him to continue to work out for basketball activities and rest his body. However you cannot blame the guy for wanting to try something that he has always wanted to do and been good at. As long as he makes it through this experience and remains healthy then the fans should have nothing to worry about. If he does happen to succumb to injury, then he will have risked a lot of Lakers hopes for this upcoming season.
Do you believe Nash should tryout for Inter Milan? Why or why not? Would you if you were in his shoes? Let me know below!
After such a tumultuous season, the 2012-13 Los Angeles Lakers with a starting lineup consisting of Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol, and Dwight Howard have managed to will their way into the playoffs having secured the 7th seed and a first round matchup with the San Antonio Spurs. This season was likely the most difficult, frustrating, and emotionally draining season for many, if not all, of the Lakers.
Despite the up’s and down’s of this season however, the Lakers managed to will their way into the playoffs winning a rather favorable matchup against the sliding San Antonio Spurs. San Antonio is 3-7 in their last 10 games dating back to their final game in March. They also have been dealing with injuries as of late to Manu Ginobili and their star Tony Parker, which have clearly affected their performance as of late. Facing a beat up Spurs team is the best matchup in the West that Los Angeles could have asked for, as San Antonio isn’t young or fast enough to run LA out of the building much like OKC could do.
This brings me to what these playoffs actually mean for the Los Angeles Lakers, more than just winning and attempting to make a deep run. These playoffs could truly decide the future of the Lakers and what should happen to them after this season is over. Without their fearless leader, Kobe Bryant, this years playoff team lacks a huge component, so big in fact many fans doubt their chances to even move past the first round. Without Kobe, Los Angeles’ journey will certainly be more difficult, but it won’t be impossible, not if certain players step up and try to fill those shoes. This years playoffs could decide whether Dwight resigns, this years playoffs could decide what the Lakers front office does about Kobe Bryant, it could be the difference between the Lakers being a decent team for years to come, or a great one.
I’m pointing my finger directly at Dwight Howard.
Dwight Howard’s time to show LA what he’s all about, and what he is truly capable of is right now. If he wants fan support, front office support, and an overall sense of accomplishment, he’ll put his best games on the court now for the playoffs. Dwight has said the weight shouldn’t fall all on his shoulders, and he’s right, but a large amount of it should because Dwight is a superstar and he needs to perform like one. As of late, him and Pau Gasol have found that elusive chemistry they had longed for since the start of the season. This tandem out on the court is hard to beat especially when they’re playing at their best, an example would be the Lakers last win of the season against the Houston Rockets, Pau and Dwight combined for 38 rebounds, with Pau achieving a triple-double.
The Lakers will have to rely heavily on their front court because of the injuries to their backcourt of Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant. Granted, Steve Blake and Jodie
Meeks have stepped up to fill the void, there’s only so much they can do. With Pau and Dwight at their best, and the rest of the Lakers role players stepping up, Los Angeles will be a difficult opponent for anyone in the Western Conference.
This year means more than just winning to win. This year means winning for the late Dr. Buss. This year means winning for Kobe Bryant, who did all he could to get the Lakers to this point in the season before that untimely achilles tear. This year means winning for the fans of the Los Angeles Lakers who have stuck by the side of the Lakers since the start despite this roller coaster of a season. Dwight’s moment to step into the bright spotlight of Los Angeles is right now, and he couldn’t ask for a better moment.
We can’t predict the future or what will happen at the end of the season, we can only plan for right now and right now is the time to take action. This year will test the will power of the Lakers without their fearless leader being able to build up their spirits in times of hardship, but they’ve shown what they’re capable of these past couple games without him. Here’s to a deep run LakerNation, let’s go.
The Lakers completed last week with a 3-2 record. Although they remained in the 8th slot in the Western Conference, the Lakers suffered a significant loss to their personnel.
In the waning moments of the Lakers’ loss to the Atlanta Hawks, Kobe Bryant sprained his ankle when guard Dahntay Jones slid under him. Despite trying to play in the next game in Indiana, Bryant has since missed the last two games.
The Lakers started the week off well with a 106-97 win over the Orlando Magic. Dwight Howard certainly left his imprint on his return to Orlando, scoring 39 points and grabbing 16 rebounds.
The Lakers then traveled to Atlanta where they lost 96-92, in addition to suffering yet another crushing injury.
Concluding the quick 3-game road trip in Indiana, the Lakers defeated a solid Pacers team with little contribution from Bryant.
Travelling home, the Lakers beat the Sacramento Kings handedly, 113-102. The next night, the Lakers travelled Phoenix, losing 99-76. The Lakers’ 76 points were a season-low, as coach Mike D’Antoni’s 7-man rotation showed signs of fatigue.
Take a look back now at the changes in the Lakers’ stock values and the impact the players should have going forward:
Steve Blake : Now this is the Steve Blake the Lakers thought they signed back in 2010.
Since Bryant’s injury, Blake has averaged 15.7 points per game and 6.3 assists per game. Blake has also shot 56.7% from the field in his last three games.
With all of the hype surrounding the Lakers’ starters and the emergence of Earl Clark this season, Blake’s consistency has been sorely overlooked.
Since his return from the abdominal injury, Blake has helped turn the Lakers’ bench unit into a deadly asset for the Lakers.
With Bryant and hopefully Pau Gasol returning from injury as soon as this Friday, Blake’s improved play should continue.
Blake, in combination with Antawn Jamison, have been integral parts of the Lakers’ recent turnaround.
Dwight Howard : ‘Superman’ is back.
Dwight Howard is playing his best basketball of the season right now. Even with a rough shooting night in Phoenix, Howard averaged 19.4 ppg and 14.4 rpg in his last five games.
In the Lakers win over the Magic, and Howard’s return to Orlando, Howard set a few records.
With 39 free-throw attempts in that game, he tied the NBA record he set last year against Golden State and established a Lakers standard, blowing past Shaquille O’Neal’s old mark of 31 in 1999 against Chicago.
Howard seems to be healthier and in better condition now. His activity level on both ends of the floor has also gradually improved from game to game.
With Bryant out, Howard seemed to take more of a leadership role on this team. His effective leadership significantly helped the Lakers pull out a win in Indiana.
As long as Howard stays relatively healthy, there is no reason why he won’t return to his supremely dominant self by the playoffs.
Antawn Jamison : Like many of the Lakers’ player in Phoenix, Antawn Jamison struggled to find the basket.
Jamison did have great games against Indiana and Sacramento this past week, however.
Against Indiana, Jamison’s three-point shooting helped the Lakers overcome the Pacers’ stout defense. Jamison made 4-7 threes and finished with 17 points and 7 rebounds.
The next game, against Sacramento, Jamison had an even better performance. Jamison made 5-8 three pointers and finished with 27 points and 9 rebounds.
D’Antoni’s short 7-man rotation has paid dividends for both Jamison and Blake off the bench. Both players seem much more comfortable now playing starter-type minutes.
The key will now be whether or not Jamison can continue his stellar play once Bryant and Gasol return.
Metta World Peace : Metta World Peace seems to have finally climbed out of his month-long shooting slump.
World Peace scored double-digit points in each of his last five games. World Peace averaged 17.4 ppg and 4.6 rpg over that stretch.
After the win over Sacramento, World Peace informed the media that he had been dealing with a leg injury.
World Peace claimed that the injury had been hampering his ability to defend as well as post-up.
It seems that that injury has now healed and World Peace is on his way to returning to his early season form.
Steve Nash : Both Steve’s played consistent basketball this past week.
Steve Nash averaged 15.0 ppg and 6.8 apg over his past five games. Nash also hit a season-high in assists against Sacramento, dishing out 12 dimes.
Since Bryant went down with injury, Nash has increased his playmaking role. Nash continues to find his teammates in good operational areas on the offensive end.
Nash has also become more aggressive shooting the ball. Nash attempted double-digit shot attempts in four out of the five games last week.
With Bryant and Gasol returning soon, the onus will fall on the Lakers’ veteran backcourt to make sure the offensive cohesiveness continues.
Earl Clark : Earl Clark can’t seem to get out of his recent funk.
Despite shooting 42.9% from the field, Clark only averaged 6.6 ppg in his last five games.
Clark did average 6.2 rpg this past week, but the Lakers could use even more production from the 6’10” forward.
Recently, Clark has been settling for jump shots way too often. When Clark first emerged as a legitimate scoring threat earlier this season, he was attacking the basket with great ferocity.
In recent weeks Clark seems to have let off the gas a little.
Clark’s knee injury may be more serious than we understand, but the Lakers could certainly use the ‘attacking’ Clark going forward.
Jodie Meeks : Tough week for Jodie Meeks.
Even with Bryant being out for an extended period, Meeks just couldn’t find much consistency on offense.
Meeks, who started in place of Bryant for two games, averaged 5.6 ppg but only shot 30.3% from the field.
As Jamison, Nash and Blake continue to shoot the ball exceptionally well, the Lakers are really only waiting on Meeks to catch up.
Hopefully with Bryant’s return, Meeks will become more comfortable off the bench and return to his sharp shooting behind the arc.
Robert Sacre : Robert Sacre appeared in limited minutes against Orlando, Indiana and Phoenix.
Sacre did score 2 points and grab a rebound against Indiana.
Darius Morris : Darius Morris appeared late in the Lakers’ loss to Phoenix when the game was out of reach.
Morris attempted two shots and made one free-throw.
Chris Duhon : Chris Duhon appeared only in “garbage-time” against Phoenix this week.
Devin Ebanks : Devin Ebanks also appeared late in the loss to Phoenix, but failed to score.
Kobe Bryant : Kobe Bryant sprained his left ankle in the fourth quarter of the Lakers’ loss to Atlanta. The injury occurred when Bryant elevated for a shot and opposing defender Dahntay Jones slid under him.
Bryant claimed afterwards that the play was dirty because Jones did not give Bryant room to come down from his jump shot.
The play was reviewed by the NBA and decided that the play should have been called a foul on Jones, but no punitive damages resulted.
The play, for those of you who have not seen it yet, can be seen here.
Bryant is currently listed as ‘day-to-day’, but is expected to play in the Lakers’ next game, Friday vs. Washington.
Pau Gasol : Pau Gasol continues to make his recovery from his partially torn plantar fascia.
Earlier in the week, there were murmurs that Gasol might play against Sacramento. He did not, but the Lakers remain optimistic that Gasol may also be ready for Friday’s game against the Wizards.
Stay tuned for next weeks’ Lakers Stock Watch as the Lakers try to solidify a playoff berth battling Washington and Golden State.
Kobe Bryant is doubtful for tonight’s game against the Phoenix Suns. After sustaining his ankle injury in the last seconds of the Atlanta Hawks game he played for only a quarter of the win against the Indiana Pacers and did not dress Sunday in the win versus the Sacramento Kings. Via Twitter, Kobe announced he has the #flu alongside his ankle injury. Before Sunday nights game, coach Mike D’Antonitalked to ESPNLA reporter Dave McMenamin on when Kobe will return.
“I think the determining factor is whether he feels like he can contribute and feels like, ‘I’m good enough to play,’” D’Antoni said. “He’s been in the league a long time, he knows his body and he’ll have to make that determination.”
Speculation began to build around tonight’s game as Pau Gasol had planned on returning from his torn Plantar Fascia. However, Saturday Pau felt soreness in his foot after a 2 on 2 game at the team’s practice facility.
“It was to be expected,” Gasol said of the soreness. “As you raise the intensity in the amount of load you put on the foot, it’s going to create a little soreness. It’s a pretty normal reaction with the injury that I had.”
On Sunday Pau met with foot specialist Dr. Kenneth Jung. Those results have yet to be announced but Gasol will undergo an ultrasound on his foot Tuesday. The next possible date for Gasol’s return would be Friday against the Washington Wizards but D’Antoni doesn’t want to get his hopes up just yet.
“You just never know,” D’Antoni said. “There’s really been no contact yet or 5-on-5, he’s working out pretty hard. It’s going to be sooner rather than later. Whether it’s Friday or not, you just can’t tell.”
Gasol, who missed his 32nd game of the season Sunday, was noncommittal about when he would be back.
“I don’t want to put any date so there are no surprises or disappointments,” Gasol said before the Kings game.
Forward Jordan Hill has begun feverishly working out in hopes to return in late April or early May. Ruled out since January with hip surgery, Hill believed he was done for the season. Despite the news he will be reevaluated in April to check his progress. D’Antoni believes it would be a long stretch for Hill to return so soon as the elliptical machine is different than an NBA game.
“Even if he could come back, to get back in shape and get in the rotation, that would be tough,” D’Antoni said. “That would be a miracle.”
Even with both stars and Hill currently out for the Lakers they have begun surging as of late. With a record of 11-3 since All-Star break (2-0 without Kobe, yes Indiana does count) the Lakers are undergoing a stretch where Dwight Howard, Steve Nash, and team’s role players are finding continuity and an identity.As ESPNLA reporter Ramona Shelburne reported, it couldn’t have come at a better time.
“The ball moves and there are some good guys out there on the floor,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said. “Antawn has had back-to-back 50-point games in this league. Steve Blake is starting with a good team and has played really well in this league. Steve Nash is a two-time MVP. And Dwight Howard is really good. So we don’t have to be one player dominant.
“That ball needs to move and, if it does, then we are really good.”
Ball movement early in the season was as consistent as the Lakers were inconsistent. Too many times the team had to lean on Bryant to bail them out of close calls. However with Kobe out of the lineup and shots falling, the team is making a case that without two of their best players they are still better than people perceive.
“I was talking to Metta [World Peace] and he was like, ‘Now it’s our time to finally play our style, posting up and things like that,’” Jamison said.
“You’ve got guys being accustomed to being the man or being the first and second option,” he said. “We know how to do this and play with each other. And guys are eager to show — when somebody is hurt, when my time comes — we won’t miss a beat.”
The Lakers have three players in Howard, Jamison, and World Peace, who at different points of their careers were leading scorers for NBA teams. They have Nash who once was a two-time MVP and league leader in assists. Steve Blake and Jodi Meeks both were starters for teams and averaged over 10 points per game. Earl Clark was a lottery pick who never got a real chance until this year. Coming to LA everyone knew that things were going to change and sacrifices were to be made. Yet now, they have the chance to live up to the expectations of the purple and gold standard.
“We’re just not making any excuses,” said Jamison, who finished with a game-high 27 points Sunday.
“I think once we finally had our back up against the wall and people were counting us out, that’s when we kind of went, ‘OK, we’ve got to start playing better.’ There’s no excuse for us not to turn this thing around and make it one of the best stories in sports.’”
The Lakers resume play tonight against the Phoenix Suns at 7:00 pacific time.
Finally, after a 3-1 week with wins over New Orleans, Toronto and Chicago, the Lakers have jumped to the 8th seed in the Western Conference.
The Lakers began the week with a tough loss in Oklahoma City, 122-105. In that game, the Lakers conceded 71 points in the first half and were never able to comeback from the early deficit.
The next night, the Lakers conceded 67 points in the first half for another dismal start in New Orleans. The Lakers eventually fell behind by 25 points, but thanks to a 20-0 run to close out the game, they roared back to win 108-102.
Returning home for a quick two-game home stand, the Lakers continued their trend of falling behind early. Thanks to some late-game heroics from Kobe Bryant, however, the Lakers pulled out a win, 118-116 in overtime.
The Lakers finally broke their habit of suffering early deficits by controlling the full game against the Chicago Bulls. A dominant paint presence by Dwight Howard helped the Lakers beat the injury-riddled Bulls by a score of 90-81.
With their three wins this weak, the Lakers are now two games over .500 with a record of 33-31.
With only 18 games left in the 2013 regular season, the Lakers currently hold the 8th seed in the West, but are only a 1/2 game ahead of the Utah in the standings.
Take a look back now at the changes in the Lakers’ stock values and the impact the players should have going forward:
Kobe Bryant : Kobe Bryant, or ‘Vino’ as he now calls himself, is having arguably the best stretch of his 17-year career. At 34 years old, Bryant averaged 33.0 points per game, 7.0 assists per game, and 5.8 rebounds per game this past week.
Bryant also shot 50.6% from the field and 58.9% from three-point range.
Bryant had back-to-back spectacular games against New Orleans and Toronto. He was the main catalyst in the Lakers’ terrific 20-0 run, scoring 42 points and dishing out 12 assists to lead the team to victory.
Bryant followed up that performance with a similar one against Toronto— 41 points, 12 assists and 6 rebounds. Hitting remarkable shots late, Bryant’s play helped the Lakers come out on top in overtime.
The greatness of Bryant’s seemingly ‘superhuman’ abilities is capsulated below:
Bryant’s unmatched determination is the main reason why the Lakers have crawled back into the playoff race.
This recent stretch of excellent play did not come easy for Bryant, however. Bryant struggled finding a balance between scoring and facilitating earlier this season.
It seems that Bryant has now found this elusive balance between over-shooting and over-facilitating. As shown by his efficient scoring and passing, Bryant’s leadership of this Lakers team has reached a new level.
Despite suffering an ulnar nerve contusion in his right elbow against Oklahoma City, Bryant overcame the adversity to lead his team to another terrific week.
Dwight Howard : Along with Bryant’s superb play, Dwight Howard has also picked up his play since the All-Star break. Howard’s control of the glass and defensive paint were especially key in all three Lakers victories.
Howard averaged 16.5 ppg, 16.3 rpg and 3.3 blocks per game over this past week. Howard’s consistent scoring has been icing on the cake in concert with his elevated focus on the defensive end.
If Howard can continue controlling the boards on both ends of the floor, the Lakers should continue to flourish.
The main issue that has hampered Howard of late is foul trouble. With Pau Gasol still out with a foot injury, Howard needs to be on the floor for the Lakers to be successful.
Howard looks much healthier since the All-Star break, however. His legs seem to be coming back now and his explosive finishing ability is improving.
A focused Howard, matched by a hungry Bryant, will be the key to any Lakers playoff push.
Steve Nash : As Howard and Bryant understand how to play with each other more, Steve Nash has also started to settle into his role.
Nash significantly increased his scoring load this past week, averaging 15.8 ppg on 48.9% shooting from the floor.
With Bryant dominating the ball on offense, the two-time MVP has been forced to change his approach. Nash seems to be making this transformation now and his scoring has clearly benefited.
Nash’s three-point shooting ability has also helped open up the floor for the Lakers’ big men. Nash shot 50% from three-point range this week, including 4-6 threes against Toronto.
The Lakers are finally playing their best basketball of the season, and Nash’s sacrifice in playing off the ball has had a huge impact on this turnaround.
Jodie Meeks : With consistent playing time off the bench, Jodie Meeks has become a solid contributor on both ends of the floor.
Meeks’ three-point shooting was deadly this week, as he shot 55.6% from behind the arc.
Benefitting from Bryant’s facilitating, Meeks hit five three pointers to help bring the Lakers back against New Orleans.
Although Meeks is an under-sized shooting guard, his fierce competitive nature has earned him the opportunity to play behind Bryant.
His lack of size was evident when Meeks was routinely isolated on the block against Toronto.
But his unrelenting intensity on the defensive end helped stop the Raptors late and seal the victory.
With Meeks finally shooting consistently from behind the arc, the Lakers’ offensive attack becomes scary.
Antawn Jamison : After a solid few weeks off the bench for Antawn Jamison, his production sputtered some this week.
The Lakers’ sixth-man only averaged 7.3 ppg and 5.3 rpg over his last four games. In comparison, Jamison averaged 13.7 ppg on 50% shooting and 6.3 rpg last week.
Jamison’s scoring ability has been a huge boost off the bench for the Lakers this season, but they certainly need him to return to his double-digit scoring.
With Howard holding down the paint, Jamison should take advantage of his outside opportunities. Bryant’s penetration will continue to create opportunities for his teammates, and Jamison must capitalize.
Steve Blake : Although Steve Blake has been playing well since returning from injury, Blake’s production slipped some this week.
The Lakers are 14-6 since Blake’s return on January 29th, but Blake only averaged 4.0 ppg this week.
Blake did average 5.0 apg over the last four games, however.
With Nash scoring the ball at a higher rate now, the onus on Blake to score may be lifted some.
That certainly doesn’t mean the Lakers wouldn’t welcome Blake’s scoring, but his role, as the bench’s “floor general”, is much more important at this point in the season.
Metta World Peace : Another tough shooting week for Metta World Peace.
Although World Peace had been shooting the ball better last week, he returned to his inconsistent form this week.
World Peace averaged 10.3 ppg, but only shot 40.2% from the field and a dismal 27.5% from three-point range.
The consistent play of Bryant, Howard and Nash has created many scoring opportunities for World Peace.
As a result, the 6’9” small forward needs to start capitalizing on these opportunities. If he doesn’t, opposing defenses will shift their focus away from him, forcing him to hit shots.
Despite another shooting slump this week, World Peace’s defense was solid. World Peace played great defense late in the win over Toronto, limiting star Raptor Rudy Gay to just 2-15 shooting in the second half.
World Peace’s role on the Lakers is certainly not to be a prolific scorer, but they could certainly use more consistency from him going forward.
Earl Clark : The biggest surprise of this season has officially hit a wall. After Earl Clark’s great January and February, he has struggled mightily in March.
Clark averaged 9.5 ppg, but only shot 25.2% from the field this week.
Clark’s rebounding numbers have also dipped recently, as he only averaged 5.5 rpg over the past four games.
The Lakers have to hope that Clark will return to his active, productive self once Gasol returns to the lineup.
The return of Gasol will hopefully relieve some of the pressure off Clark and help him become comfortable again.
In the meantime, however, the Lakers need Clark to bring more to the table on a nightly basis.
Clark seems to be struggling with opposing teams making adjustments. Earlier in the season, the Lakers’ starting power forward excelled because opposing teams just weren’t ready for him.
Now, with opposing defenses adjusting to his tendencies, Clark must make the counter-adjustments himself to return to the level of productivity he experienced earlier in the year.
Robert Sacre : Robert Sacre appeared in limited minutes against Oklahoma City and New Orleans, but failed to score in either game.
Sacre has since been assigned to the Lakers’ developmental league-affiliate, the LA D-Fenders.
Darius Morris : Darius Morris did not appear in a game this past week.
As he continues to receive little to no minutes on the Lakers’ bench, Morris was also assigned to the D-Fenders this week.
Chris Duhon : Chris Duhon appeared only in “garbage-time” against Oklahoma City this week.
Devin Ebanks : Devin Ebanks failed to appear in a game this week.
Pau Gasol : Pau Gasol continues to make his recovery from his partially torn plantar fascia.
Gasol, now in week four of his 6-8 week recovery time, has been cleared to begin running on the treadmill.
Hopefully Gasol is able to return sooner than later, and make an immediate impact for the surging Lakers.
Stay tuned for next weeks’ Lakers Stock Watch as the Lakers try to solidify a playoff berth battling Orlando, Atlanta, Indiana and Sacramento.
The Lakers continue crawling back into the playoff picture.
A 2-1 week, coupled with losses by Utah and Golden State, certainly helped their cause.
The Lakers lost a difficult game in Denver, 119-108, in which Kobe Bryant scored a game-high 29 points.
Returning home for a quick two-game home stand, the Lakers beat the Minnesota Timberwolves handedly, 116-94. The Lakers followed up that win with an exciting victory over the Atlanta Hawks, 99-98.
With their 2-1 record last week, the Lakers made it back to the .500 mark at 30-30, for the first time since December 28th.
With only 22 games left on the regular season schedule, the Lakers are currently just 2 games back of the Utah Jazz for the 8th seed in the Western Conference.
Take a look back now at the changes in the Lakers’ stock values and the impact the players should have going forward:
Kobe Bryant : Even at his elderly age of 34, Kobe Bryant continues playing spectacular basketball.
Bryant even gave the Lakers’ faithful some fireworks late in the win over the Hawks. (If you haven’t seen the play yet, you better just click ‘Play’ below):
Bryant’s exceptional play of late is a testament to his work ethic, diet and determination to make the playoffs.
After the Lakers’ win over the Timberwolves, Bryant had this to say about his mindset:
“I’ve been in attack mode since the [All-Star] break,” Bryant said. “It’s go time.”
It’s certainly been “go time” lately.
Along with his spectacular plays this past week, Bryant was also named the Western Conference Player of the Month for the month of February.
Bryant averaged 23.9 ppg on 48.9% shooting, 6.6 apg and 6.7 rpg in February to be named Player of the Month.
Coming off the award this past week, Bryant topped those averages. In the past three games, Bryant averaged 32.0 ppg on an efficient 52.8% shooting, 6.0 apg and 5.7 rpg.
With Bryant now in full “attack mode”, and the Lakers playing better team-basketball, the rest of the league should be on notice.
Bryant also created a new self-proclaimed nickname for himself this week; the new nickname is ‘Vino’—Spanish and Italian for wine, since he seems to get better with age.
Antawn Jamison : The Lakers’ sixth-man has officially returned to his old self. Antawn Jamison is playing the most consistent basketball right now of any Laker not named Kobe.
Jamison averaged 13.7 ppg on 50% shooting and 6.3 rpg. Jamison’s scoring ability has been a huge boost off the bench for the Lakers.
With Pau Gasol still out for another 2+ weeks, Jamison’s consistency has helped keep the Lakers afloat in his absence.
Jamison’s ability to find creases in the defense and move without the ball earned him an endearing nickname from his fellow teammate.
Bryant, who has had a field day of creating nicknames this week, gave Jamison the nickname ‘cockroach’ because he “keeps finding the cracks”.
Jamison, who has averaged 19 points per game for his career, finally seems comfortable in Los Angeles. A defined role and consistent minutes have yielded great performances from Jamison.
This past week, Jamison also gave some insight on what has been the Lakers’ deciding factor in their recent turnaround.
Steve Blake : Another player who seems to have found his comfort zone is Steve Blake.
Since Blake’s return on January 29th, the Lakers have gone 11-5 in that stretch.
Blake’s scoring has been an added bonus to the bench unit, but his ability to control the tempo has been key. When Steve Nash goes to the bench, Blake’s ability to control the pace and keep the offense flowing has been important.
Over the past week, Blake averaged 8.0 ppg on 66.7% shooting and 40% from three, 5.0 apg and 3.7 rpg.
Blake’s return to the lineup has had a direct impact on players like Jodie Meeks and Jamison. His ability to create plays for himself and his teammates was something the Lakers dearly missed earlier in the year.
Dwight Howard : Dwight Howard didn’t have the best week offensively, but his defensive presence and rebounding were key in the Lakers’ wins.
Howard only averaged 12.3 ppg, but did average 14.0 rpg in his past three games. The Lakers certainly need Howard to be more dominant in the paint on offense, but those rebounding numbers are promising.
Howard looks to be recovering from both his back and shoulder injuries. Although his torn labrum will not heal on its own, Howard has done a much better job playing through the pain.
Not only has Howard looked more “springy” lately, but he also seems to be getting some of his conditioning back. With a focused Howard on the defensive end and a focused Bryant on the offensive end, the Lakers’ attack should be deadly going forward.
Howard continues to struggle on post moves with his back to the basket, however, so he should instead focus more on rolls to the basket and easy put backs off offensive rebounds.
The Lakers need more than 12 points a game from Howard, but if he continues patrolling the paint like he’s been doing, the Lakers should be fine.
Steve Nash : Despite an off shooting night in the Lakers’ win over Minnesota, Steve Nash completed the week with a solid performance against Atlanta.
Nash shot just 4-12 from the field against the Timberwolves, but did contribute 7 assists in the win.
Nash followed up that performance with a stellar game against the Hawks. Nash scored 15 points and dished out 10 assists, which led to a victory.
The main issue hampering Nash of late has been turnovers. Nash had six turnovers in the loss to the Nuggets and five turnovers against the Hawks.
The Lakers, who have been hampered by turnover problems all season long, need to cut down on them in the future.
When the Lakers play quick, athletic teams, they especially have to limit their mistakes and clean up their protection of the ball.
Limiting the turnovers starts with the point guard, and Nash must take it upon himself to take better care of the ball going forward.
Metta World Peace : This past week Metta World Peace seemed to climb out of his shooting slump some.
World Peace scored 15 points on an efficient 54.5% shooting against the Nuggets. He followed up that efficient shooting with a poor shooting display of 2-7 against Minnesota.
World Peace was especially key in the Lakers win over the Hawks, however. The Lakers’ strongest perimeter defender helped slow down both Josh Smith and Al Horford on the defensive end.
In combination with his solid defense, World Peace also scored 13 points on 62.5% shooting. This efficient shooting was key, especially late in the fourth quarter, when World Peace made an important three-pointer to keep the game close.
With Bryant, Nash, Blake and Jamison playing efficiently on the offensive end, defensives will begin to adjust by keying-in on those players. World Peace can be the ultimate beneficiary of this, if he can end his slump and shoot the ball consistently.
Jodie Meeks : Backup shooting guard Jodie Meeks had yet another inconsistent week. Despite scoring 16 points against Minnesota, Meeks did little in the Lakers’ other two games.
Meeks, the Lakers’ most proficient three-point shooter, did shoot 42.9% from three-point land, but his one point performance against Atlanta is unacceptable.
Both Jamison and Blake have found consistency producing when coming off the bench, so if Meeks can find that consistency as well, the Lakers’ bench will be that much better.
Although Meeks has been playing well of late, averaging 9.0 ppg in his past 10 games, the Lakers could use more production from behind the arc.
Bryant’s high level of play alleviates the pressure off Meeks, but if Meeks can match some of Bryant’s production, it could help reduce the minutes of the NBA’s minutes-played leader and save Bryant’s legs.
Earl Clark : It seems that Earl Clark has finally come back down to Earth.
After a breakout January and a solid early-February, Clark has struggled in his last few games.
Clark averaged just 6.3 ppg and 4.0 rpg over the past week. These numbers need to improve from the Lakers’ starting power forward going forward.
It’s obvious that opposing defenses have started to figure out Clark’s game and have adjusted accordingly. The onus now falls on Clark to make his adjustment and return to his productive form.
The key to Clark’s early success was his unrelenting desire to grab offensive reb0unds and attack the rim. Clark’s low rebounding numbers have had a direct impact on his recent poor play.
Until Gasol returns, the Lakers desperately need Clark to return to form and continue attacking the rim. Clark, one of the few young, athletic players on the Lakers, gives the team a different dimension.
This dimension is important because it allows the Lakers to play at multiple paces and keep the ball flowing quickly on offense.
If Clark can return to even half of what he once was, the Lakers could be real, real scary.
Chris Duhon : Chris Duhon played 6 minutes against Minnesota in garbage-time. Duhon did record 3 assists in his short time on the floor, however.
Coach Mike D’Antoni seems set on his eight-man rotation now and Duhon is on the outside looking in.
Robert Sacre : Robert Sacre is in the same predicament as Duhon. Sacre only played against Minnesota as well, registering 4 points and 1 rebound in 5 minutes of play.
Darius Morris : Darius Morris played 5 minutes against the Timberwolves too, registering 1 assist and 1 rebound.
Devin Ebanks : With the Minnesota game out of reach late in the fourth quarter, even the rarely used Devin Ebanks got a chance to play. Ebanks played 2 minutes but did score 2 points and grab 3 rebounds in his first opportunity to play since February 7th.
Pau Gasol : Pau Gasol continues his rehabilitation from the partially torn plantar fascia he suffered on February 5th.
Gasol has ramped up his rehab some by doing cardio work on the elliptical machine this week. Gasol is now four weeks into his 6-8 week estimate, so he could possibly return as early as two weeks from now.
Stay tuned for next weeks’ Lakers Stock Watch as the Lakers continue chasing a playoff berth battling Oklahoma City, New Orleans, Toronto and Chicago.
Another week in Laker Land has passed us, and for the first time in a long time it feels like our boys in Purple and Gold are (finally) headed in the right direction. While the Laker schedule was light on games with only three contests this week, there were plenty of things to take from games against Denver, Minnesota and Atlanta.
Here is a look at the Good, the Bad and the Ugly of the Lakers past week in action.
Good: Kobe Bryant circa 2006 is Back.
Really, I could just post a link to this dunk and it would be enough of an explanation.
The Mamba has been on an absolute tear since the All-Star break ended, and the Lakers 5-1 record during that time is tied directly to what Bryant is doing. In the past five games alone Kobe is averaging a whopping 34.8 points per game, on 66-116 shooting, good for a cool 56.9% from the field. Did I mention that Bryant is doing this at 34-years old, in his 17th NBA season, 60 games into a campaign that has seen him average 38.2 minutes per contest? Oh and all while shooting what would be the highest field goal percentage of his career.
Bryant realizes this is a make or break stretch for the Lakers playoff chances, and he looks to be up for the challenge.
I’ve been in attack mode since the break. It’s go time. We’re getting a little bit closer and we’re starting to get in more of a striking distance where you start watching (the playoff race).
It’s absolutely mind-boggling that this guy is not only still going strong, but getting better as the season and his career progress. With the way Kobe’s been playing since the break, would you really want to bet against him getting the Lakers into the playoffs? Me neither. Kobe is aging like a fine wine (or Vino as he’s now apparently calling himself), just in time to save the Laker season.
Ugly: Interior Defense.
One negative that really stood out this week for the Lakers was just how bad their defense is in the paint, especially when Dwight Howard sits. In the loss to Denver, the Lakers gave up an astronomical 78 points in the paint. That’s more than some teams have scored in ENTIRE GAMES recently. The Nuggets were also able to gain a 33-3 edge on the fastbreak, further emphasizing the Lakers inability to not only get in position, but to challenge at the rim at all. This only gets worse when LA’s lone shot blocker has to take a seat. Granted, that Denver game was the second of a road back-to-back in an arena where any team that’s not named the Nuggets is expected to lose, so you can make a bit of an excuse for the Lakers, right?
Wrong. That would be fine and dandy if the Hawks didn’t score almost at will inside at the end of the game last night. While the Lakers were able to escape with a huge win (or avoid a huge collapse, your choice), you simply cannot ignore the fact that Atlanta scored three consecutives times at the basket in the final two minutes. Oh, and all those buckets were basically unguarded lay-ups and dunks. In fact, had Josh Smith been able to handle Devin Harris’ entry pass at the end of the game, we’d probably be lamenting another terrible loss rather than breathing a sigh of relief.
The Lakers should be able to slow down the scoring of other teams inside once Pau returns from his injury right? Wait what do you mean no? Let’s just move on.
Bad: Steve Nash Turnovers.
With the Lakers winning games and Kobe dominating on offense, it’s been difficult to find many things wrong with the Los Angeles offense. One thing that has definitely been off in the six games since the All-Star break has been Steve Nash’s handle. Nash has 20 turnovers (TWENTY!) in those six games, and that number is actually helped by the fact that Nash had none in the blow-out win over Minnesota. It’s hard to pick on anything Nash does because he has done such an incredible job of adjusting to the offense so that his teammates can thrive, basically becoming a spot-up shooter in this system.
But in Denver, those Nash turnovers became very costly. As is often the case with turnovers on the road, Denver was able to turn six Nash turnovers into points on the fast-break that really ignited their offense and helped them kill any Laker hope of winning int he Mile High City.
Good: Dwight Howard.
No, really. This isn’t sarcasm. I’m serious!
I know, it’s been a long time since we had a week free of tearing Dwight down, but the All-Star big man has actually been a force since the All-Star break. Sure he still forces some bad shots in the paint, and yeah his free throws are still terrible. But, hold on let me channel my inner Rock, FINALLY DWIGHT HAS COME BACK, sort of. Howard has really been playing with great energy lately.
Starting with a dominating 24-point, 12-rebound performance against the Celtics and on through the next five games, Howard has shown flashes of the All-Star Laker fans expected to see when he was brought in. In the past six games, Dwight is averaging 17 points and 14 boards per game, while also throwing in two swats a night. His scoring may not be as high as Dwight would like, but he is finally making an impact for the Lakers in a way that translates directly to wins. Boards, defense, and hard screen-and-rolls on offense will help this team win, and Howard seems to have finally figured that out.
Ugly: Opposing Role Players (still) Killing the Lakers.
This has really been a theme of the entire Laker season, but there were a few more instances this week of role guys really hurting the Lakers. In Denver, Wilson Chandler was a late insert into the starting line-up for the Nuggets, and all he did was drop 23 points on the Lakers. And just in case Laker fans forgot what he did to them the last two times these teams met, Corey Brewer chipped in 16 points and plenty of overdone celebrations. These two specifically played a huge role in sparking the Nuggets to a win over the Lakers.
Then, this ugly problem reared its head again against Atlanta. Devin Harris turned into an All-Star for a five-minute stretch spanning the end of the third and beginning of the fourth quarter. By scoring 14 of his 16 points during that span, Harris nearly single-handedly brought the Hawks back from a 16-point deficit. Not to be outdone, Kyle Korver came in and also scored 16 on the Lakers, hitting a few big shots that nearly cost the home team the game.
This is another issue that doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon, but the Lakers are .500 so let’s stop talking about bad stuff!
Bad: Momentum Swings with the Bench.
Okay, so this is still something bad we have to discuss, but I’ll counter it with some good. The Laker bench was great against the T’Wolves this week. Jodie Meeks, Antawn Jamison and Steve Blake all scored in double-digits and helped the Lakers blow Minnesota out of the building.
It was the other two games this week that were cause for alarm, however. After a solid first quarter in Denver, the Laker bench allowed the Nuggets to blow the game open in the second quarter. Denver built a lead the Lakers were never able to recover from. Then against the Hawks, the bench twice blew a double-digit lead they had inherited from the starters. While only Meeks, Jamison and Blake entered the game off the bench, they were a collective -40 against Atlanta.
Simply put, this is not going to get it done most nights. Scoring isn’t a problem for the bench guys, but their inability to stop anyone on the opposing bench from scoring really puts a limitation on what the team can do.
Like most .500 teams, the Lakers have plenty of room for improvement. On the plus side, this is the first time in a roller-coaster of a season where Laker Nation can confidently say that its team is finally on the rise. This time, we just have to hope it’s for the rest of the season. Any more steep drops on this ride will have the Lakers heading straight into the off-season.
Oh and by the way, just in case you forgot what Kobe did yesterday, here you go. You’re welcome.
Antawn Jamison came to Los Angeles for one reason: to win a ring.
Since signing his one-year, veteran’s minimum deal with the Lakers, the 14-year veteran has endured his most unpredictable season yet.
In the twilight of his career, Jamison transitioned from five consecutive games with a DNP-CD in late December, to now leading the Lakers’ bench unit in March.
Jamison, who has averaged 19.0 points and 7.7 rebounds per game over his career, was obviously stunned and discouraged by his lack of playing time. The two-time All-Star specifically chose the Lakers over his hometown Charlotte Bobcats, and their $11 million contract offer, to chase a ring.
Back in July of 2012, when he made that decision, Jamison certainly did not foresee a ‘cheerleading’ role on the Lakers bench.
In a recent interview with ESPNLA’s Ramona Shelburne, Antawn Jamison explained his early frustration, how he stayed professional and the Lakers’ “deciding factor” this season:
When asked about the notorious DNP-CD streak, Jamison had this to say:
“Never in my career had that happened to me,” Jamison said. “Never. I just didn’t know what was going on. Did I do something wrong?”
During one of the most difficult stretches of his career, Jamison tried to stay professional and remained a role model for the younger players.
Jamison then explained coach Mike D’Antoni‘s justification for sitting him:
“He was a man about it,” Jamison said of D’Antoni. “He sat down and talked to me. He told me he liked Metta at the 4. I could understand that.
“And ever since then, we’ve honestly had an open dialogue about things. If there’s something going on, he feels comfortable telling me, ‘Look, I’m trying this. You might be in early, you might be out.’
“It was good to have that wall come down a little bit.”
Since the Lakers’ famed “clear the air” meeting in Memphis on January 23rd, the Lakers have gone 12-5. Jamison’s 13.2 ppg and 5.3 rpg averages in the month of February certainly have a lot to do with the Lakers’ recent turnaround. Jamison, however, explained that it was more than just that:
“It really helps out, especially on the bench, knowing when you’re coming in, knowing what your role is. Knowing what is needed of you,” Jamison said. “You’re not worried about shots or minutes or ‘If I make a mistake I’m coming out.’
“There were games where you knew if we had some more chemistry or stability, the outcome would be totally different. I had guys from opposing teams coming to me like, ‘What’s up with y’all? Y’all chemistry is bad.’
“Other people from other teams saw it. That was the deciding factor between us losing and winning games. Now we have roles, guys know what’s expected, it makes a difference. It helps a lot.”
Backup shooting guard Jodie Meeks also endured a similar discouraging stretch this season. Meeks, like Jamison, fell out of D’Antoni’s rotation in January. Meeks explained how Jamison’s support as a role model helped him get through that difficult stretch:
“I talked to [Jamison] when I was going through it, and he told me to stay professional,” Meeks said. “Stay before and after practice, like I always do, that way when my time comes again I’m not as rusty and I can be effective.
“It’s tough, especially being a relatively young player, not knowing how much you’re going to play or if you’re going to play is tough, mentally.
“But I think I’ve done a good job of dealing with it.”
D’Antoni seems to have now settled on a permanent eight-man rotation, with Jamison, Meeks and Steve Blake anchoring the bench unit. A glaring liability in the past, the Lakers bench played consistent basketball in the month of February. That consistency culminated in 55 bench points in the Lakers most-recent 116-94 win over Minnesota.
D’Antoni also praised Jamison for his exceptional play of late:
“He’s just a smart basketball player,” D’Antoni said of Jamison after Thursday’s game. “He understands spacing. He understands when to cut. He understands timing. He’s the type of basketball player that I love.”
After the Lakers’ win over the Timberwolves, Kobe Bryant also praised Jamison and his ability to make plays. Bryant even likened him to a ‘cockroach’:
Kobe's killer quote of the night was likening Antawn Jamison to "a cockroach": "He keeps finding the cracks."
Jamison then reminisced on his decision to sign with the Lakers and what it means to him, this late in his career:
“Whatever the future holds, I can honestly say ‘I had a shot. I had that opportunity and I took it,” Jamison said. “That’s what this has been all about. Playing for the Lakers.
“Because let’s be honest, with the personnel we have, this is the best opportunity I’ve ever had to win.”
One dimension that weighed heavy on Jamison’s decision to sign with the Lakers was his children. Jamison has four kids, ages 12, 7, 6 and 4, who live in North Carolina. They, however, were supportive of his move out west to play for the Lakers:
“I talked to the kids,” Jamison said. “And I talked to their mom [they divorced two years ago], and she said, ‘For one year, I can hold it down if this is what you want to do.’ “
That was a sacrifice for Jamison. He would take less money and play a lesser role in Los Angeles. He would be far from his children. But at this point in his career, it was the only reason to keep playing:
“For me, it was knowing I had an opportunity to win,” he said. “In the back of my mind, I knew that won’t always be there. And how would I feel if I didn’t take it?”
With the Playoffs fast approaching, the Lakers will need Jamison to continue his stellar play, and for that all-important chemistry to keep developing.
The 2013 NBA All-Star break certainly treated the Lakers well this year.
Coming out of last week’s All-Star break, the Lakers have won their last 3 games in a row, and improved their overall record to 28-29 this week.
With Monday’s devastating passing of long-time Lakers’ owner Dr. Jerry Buss, the Lakers rallied around the spirit of their joyous owner.
After a touching pre-game ceremony in the first game since the late owner’s death, the Lakers beat the Boston Celtics handedly, 113-99.
The Lakers followed up that emotional win with a win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday. Kobe Bryant’s 40 points led the Lakers to victory over another team with playoff aspirations.
With two wins under their belts, the Lakers departed Los Angeles for Dallas on Sunday—defeating the 10th-place Mavericks, 103-99.
With 25 games remaining now, the Lakers sit just 2 ½ games back of the 8th seed in the Western Conference.
Also, after the February 21st NBA Trade Deadline this past week, the Lakers’ entire roster remained intact.
Take a look back now at the changes in the Lakers’ stock values and the impact the players should have going forward:
Kobe Bryant : At 34 years of age, the man, the legend, Kobe Bryant, continues to play at an extremely high level.
Bryant did not have a particularly great game against the Celtics, but did contribute 16 points and 7 assists in the win. Bryant also made a number of key defensive stops and even dove on the ground for a loose ball late in that game.
It looked like Bryant, despite an off shooting night, really took it upon himself to give 110% effort on such an emotional night for the Lakers.
Bryant responded against Portland and seemingly reverted back to the “scoring-Kobe” of old.
Bryant poured in 40 points on 15-23 shooting, including 9-9 from the free-throw line, and 7 rebounds. Bryant’s perfect free-throw shooting was key in sealing the win late for the Lakers.
It’s pretty difficult to upstage a 40-point game, right? Well, Bryant found a way to do that against Dallas.
Bryant scored 38 points on 13-21 shooting, and contributed 12 rebounds and 7 assists. Bryant also made 5-5 field goals in the fourth quarter to ensure a Lakers’ victory.
Bryant certainly set the tone offensively early and often, and sealed the victory late with tough shots on the perimeter.
Bryant also drained 4-5 three-pointers in that game, effectively ending his recent “drought” from behind the arc.
With these recent performances, it seems that the 34-year-old has finally figured out his toughest challenge this season.
Bryant struggled finding a balance earlier this season between scoring too much and facilitating too often. With averages of 31.3 ppg and 6.0 apg this past week, Bryant seems to have found that elusive balance.
If Bryant continues playing at this high of a level going forward, Bryant and the Lakers will backup his playoff ‘guarantee’.
Dwight Howard : Could the passing of the great Dr. Buss have had a direct impact on Dwight Howard as well?
It looks like it may have, coupled with the rest and rehabilitation Howard received during the All-Star break.
Howard was the main reason the Lakers got off to such a quick start against the Boston Celtics. Howard established himself inside early and often, and looked much more “springy” to start.
Howard finished the game with a team-high 24 points along with 12 rebounds, 7 of which were offensive.
Against Portland, Howard contributed another solid performance with 19 points, 16 rebounds and 2 blocks.
The treatment Howard received during the All-Star break really paid dividends this week, as Howard had the best back-to-back stretch of his short Lakers career.
In the game against Dallas, however, Howard got into early foul trouble. With Pau Gasol still out at least another 4 weeks, the Lakers desperately need Howard to stay out of foul trouble going forward, especially since he’s the only real center in the rotation.
Howard finished with just 9 points but did contribute 13 rebounds, and played solid defense patrolling the paint.
Howard’s ability to contest and alter shots is not something that shows up the stat sheet, but it’s something that has a huge impact on the outcome of games.
As demonstrated by their current three-game winning streak, the Lakers have been effective on both ends of the floor with this more “active” Dwight Howard.
Antawn Jamison : Two straight weeks of solid performances from Antawn Jamison have been a huge factor in the Lakers’ recent turnaround.
Jamison seems to have finally settled into his role in Los Angeles.
For the month of February, Jamison is averaging 12.7 ppg on 47.5% shooting and 5.3 rpg. Jamison, the Lakers’ sixth-man, has become a considerable threat off the bench.
What once was a glaring weakness for the Lakers, the bench has now become somewhat of a strength. Jamison’s recent play has had a lot to do with this, along with fellow reserves Jodie Meeks and Steve Blake.
Over the last three games, Jamison has averaged 14.7 ppg and 5.3 rpg. This increased production has helped pick up the slack with Gasol injured.
After the Lakers’ win in Dallas, coach Mike D’Antoni had this to say of the bench:
“I think our bench is playing great for us. [Meeks, Jamison and Blake are] crucial to what we’ve been doing as of late.”
If Jamison can continue scoring at this rate, the Lakers’ bench unit will become a potent aspect of this team.
Earl Clark : After a tough week last week for Earl Clark, he turned it around this week.
Clark averaged 10.3 ppg and 9.0 rpg in the last three games. Clark’s 14 points and 16 rebounds were especially instrumental in the Lakers’ win over the Celtics.
Clark, who dislocated his left pinky in the win over Portland, has continued to play with solid energy starting alongside Dwight Howard.
It was a welcomed sight to see Clark bounce back from the difficult stretch he had before the All-Star break. That type of resiliency is promising, especially from a young player like Earl Clark.
With Gasol still out with his plantar fascia tear, Clark’s contributions will be paramount in the Lakers’ continued success.
Steve Nash : Despite a tough 2-11 shooting performance against Portland, Steve Nash finished the week strong.
Nash scored a huge 20 points against Dallas, including 4-5 from three-point range.
Nash’s clutch three-pointer late in the fourth quarter helped catapult the Lakers to victory.
Nash also had a solid game offensively against Boston, in which he scored 14 points on 6-7 shooting and dished out 7 assists.
One particularly surprising part about Nash’s game this season has been his defense. Sure, Nash is not a lock-down defender by any means, but his defensive toughness this season has been great.
Nash has always had the reputation of being a poor defender, but his solid defense on the perimeter of late should have people revisiting that perception.
Finally, Nash did ‘tweak’ his back in the Lakers’ win over the Trail Blazers. Nash is confident that this injury is only temporary, but did say that it is an acute injury, different from his usual back issues.
With Nash playing 30+ minutes per game, that’s certainly something to keep an eye on going forward.
Jodie Meeks : Although Jodie Meeks did not shoot the ball particularly well this week (6-14 from the field and 3-9 from behind the arc), he did hit some timely shots.
Meeks averaged 8.7 ppg this week off the bench and contributed defensively with constant hustle.
Despite Meeks’ scoring contributions, the Lakers could definitely benefit from Meeks shooting more efficiently.
Steve Blake : Since returning to the Lakers’ lineup, Blake has averaged 4.9 ppg and 3.2 apg off the bench.
Although those aren’t the most spectacular stats, Blake’s ability to control the game has been beneficial for everyone on the floor.
Blake’s command of the offense has been a significant upgrade from the inconsistent play of Chris Duhon. Blake’s defensive tenacity has also helped slow quicker opposing point guards.
The Lakers’ bench unit has flourished since his return, but Blake only shot 25% from behind the arc this past week.
Like Meeks, Blake’s three-point shooting efficiency could also use a boost going forward.
Metta World Peace : Had Metta World Peace not played excellent defense on Paul Pierce and Dirk Nowitzki this past week, he would have received a red down arrow.
World Peace struggled mightily from the floor this week, shooting a measly 9-29, or 31%, from the field. World Peace also shot 30.8% from three-point range.
Opposing defenses continue to leave World Peace wide open on the perimeter, and he has to knock down those shots in the future.
With defenses keying in on Bryant, Nash and Howard, World Peace has become the open player.
If World Peace keeps struggling like this, opposing teams will continue scheming their defenses towards allowing World Peace to shoot as much as he’d like.
Despite his offensive struggles, World Peace did play excellent defense in all three games this week.
In the win over Boston, World Peace held Paul Pierce to just 3 points in the second half, despite scoring 23 points in the first half.
Against Portland, World Peace filled up the stat sheet with 6 rebounds, 2 steals and a block. He also had a key defensive stop against the Trail Blazers’ LaMarcus Aldridge late in the fourth quarter.
In Dallas, World Peace played superb fourth quarter defense against a hot-shooting Dirk Nowitzki. Despite Nowitzki scoring 30 points in the game, World Peace locked him down late in the game to seal the victory for the Lakers.
For the Lakers to make the playoffs, however, they will need World Peace to get back on track offensively.
Chris Duhon : Reserve point guard Chris Duhon has failed to crack D’Antoni’s “8-man rotation”.
Duhon only played 3 minutes against the Celtics this week, in ‘garbage-time’, but did make a long distance three-pointer in that game.
Robert Sacre : Reserve center Robert Sacre continues to sit on the bench, even when Dwight Howard gets into foul trouble.
Even with Pau Gasol still out for an extended period, it looks like Sacre will remain on the bench.
Sacre, however, did have a good time on the bench watching Kobe’s scoring spree against Dallas:
Darius Morris : Point guard Darius Morris did not play this week.
Devin Ebanks : Small forward Devin Ebanks also did not play this week.
Pau Gasol : Prior to the Dallas game on Sunday, the OC Register’s Kevin Ding gave an update on Pau Gasol’s recovery from his partially torn plantar fascia:
Not sure about this, but D'Antoni said today real impact of @paugasol would be in playoffs: "By the time he comes back, we'll be in or out."
Despite a shortened week due to the All-Star break, the Lakers continued their season-long trend of mediocrity.
The Lakers remained average this past week, splitting their two home games 1-1, and bringing their record to 25-29 on the season.
Despite a 1-8 shooting performance from Kobe Bryant against Phoenix, center Dwight Howard led the Lakers to a 91-85 victory over the Suns with 19 points and 18 rebounds.
Following that ugly win, the Lakers had an opportunity to gain some much-needed momentum going into the All-Star break.
As expected though, the Lakers lost to the Clippers in disappointing fashion on Valentine’s Day. 20 points and 11 assists from Bryant were not enough to overcome the Clippers barrage of threes in the loss.
After an exciting Western Conference win over the East in the 62nd All-Star game Sunday, the Lakers look to get back on track for the stretch run.
Take a look back at the changes in the Lakers’ stock values and the impact the players should have going forward:
Antawn Jamison : One of the biggest bright spots this past week was sixth-man Antawn Jamison.
In recent weeks, Jamison has significantly elevated his game. Jamison, 36, was a huge spark off the bench in both games this past week.
In the win against Phoenix, Jamison scored 19 points on 8-16 shooting with 2 three-pointers and 10 rebounds. Jamison’s scoring burst helped pick up the slack from Bryant’s measly 4 points.
Jamison was also the best player on the floor against the Clippers. The Lakers’ sixth-man poured in 17 points on 7-13 shooting. Jamison’s scoring actually kept the Lakers in the game in the first half of that game.
With Pau Gasol still out indefinitely, the Lakers are forced to lean on Jamison and his scoring ability.
For the Lakers to turn this season around and make a run at the playoffs, Jamison’s production off the bench will be an important part of any turnaround.
Dwight Howard: Like Jamison, Dwight Howard had an excellent week leading up to the All-Star break.
Howard actually showed flashes of the three-time Defensive Player of the Year. With the continued drama surrounding the Lakers, especially with Howard, the Lakers desperately need a focused Howard going forward.
Howard scored 19 points in the win over the Suns, but more importantly, grabbed 18 rebounds and blocked 2 shots. The rebounding void left from Gasol’s absence now falls squarely on Howard.
Howard’s rebounding average of 11.8 rpg has been down this season from his career average of 12.9 rpg.
Hopefully as Howard continues to improve his conditioning, and assuming there are no more set backs with his torn labrum, Howard will return to being a consistent, tenacious rebounder.
In the loss to the Clippers, however, Howard’s rebounding numbers slipped again. Howard only grabbed 8 rebounds but did score 18 points.
With Gasol out, Howard has to be the defensive anchor at all times. Against the Clippers, however, Howard allowed Blake Griffin to get off to a hot start offensively.
Griffin scored 10 points in the first five minutes of the game, something that should not happen with Howard guarding him.
As has been the case all season, the Lakers need even more from Howard. His offensive statistics and efficiency have improved of late, but the Lakers desperately need Howard to become the captain of their defense.
Howard did seem to have fun in the All-Star game this past Sunday, however, something he hasn’t shown much of in his time in Los Angeles. Howard scored 9 points, including a three-pointer, and led the Western Conference in rebounding with 7 boards.
But for his Lakers, Howard must start taking things personally and control the paint on both ends. If Howard truly dedicates himself to those things, the Lakers may be able to string together some winning streaks going forward.
Oh, and Dwight Howard finally lost the headband this week!
Steve Blake : Since returning from injury this season, Blake has been shooting the ball exceptionally well.
Against Phoenix, Blake scored 5 points on 2-2 shooting with 1 three pointer and 3 assists. Blake also shot 3-3 against the Clippers, scoring 7 points and adding 7 assists.
Blake’s consistent play of late has been great for Steve Nash as well. With Blake playing at a high level, coach Mike D’Antoni is able to limit the 39-year old point guard’s minutes and keep Nash fresh.
Despite struggling for much of his tenure in Los Angeles, Blake has returned from injury this season in promising fashion.
It looks like Blake will continue to run the bench unit as the primary backup point guard going forward.
Expect Blake to keep playing at a high level if allowed consistent playing time, and hopefully those high assists numbers will continue.
Kobe Bryant : Tough week for Kobe Bryant.
Bryant shot just 1-8 in the Lakers’ win over Phoenix and finished with 4 points. Bryant did have 9 assists in that game, but also turned the ball over 8 times.
Bryant, in fact, did not even attempt a field goal in the first half. The key for Bryant going forward is to find that middle ground between facilitating and scoring.
In that game especially, Bryant was over-committed to facilitating early. This over-commitment led to Bryant’s poor shooting and a lack of rhythm on the offensive end.
Bryant seemed to find that fine line between the two extremes in the loss to the Clippers. Bryant scored 20 points on 7-13 shooting with 11 assists and 5 rebounds.
Unfortunately, the Lakers’ defense, or lack thereof, was the downfall in that game.
The Clippers starting backcourt scored a combined 45 points. The Lakers starting backcourt, however, only combined for 27 points.
This is a major issue on both the offensive and defensive ends. Along with his own individual scoring, Bryant, and teammate Steve Nash, need to find ways to get each other going, early and often.
With Gasol out, Nash’s offensive scoring role becomes heightened. As a result, Bryant and Nash must find a way to become more effective on the offensive end together.
One way to do this is to run more 1-2 and 2-1 ball screens, either at the top or on the wing. The key here is that if opposing defenders switch, then Bryant can take advantage of smaller defenders on the block.
If opposing defenders go under the screen, however, then Nash can burn them with a quick three-pointer behind the screen.
Along with on the offensive end, Bryant and Nash need to re-dedicate themselves to slowing opposing backcourts. Because the Lakers’ backcourt tandem is on the older side, they need to start funneling the opposition into Howard.
Funneling and helping each other is the only way the Lakers’ slower backcourt will be able to keep up with the likes of Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups, Russell Westbrook, Tony Parker, etc.
Bryant did play well in the All-Star game, highlighted by his late defense on LeBron James to seal the win for the West. Bryant scored 9 points on 4-9 shooting and had 8 assists in just 28 minutes.
Ultimately though, any Lakers turnaround this season will start with the captain, Kobe Bean Bryant. If he is able to find that elusive balance between scoring and facilitating, the Lakers may make their way back into the playoff picture.
Metta World Peace : After struggling for much of the past few weeks, Metta World Peace turned things around some.
Although he continued his shooting slump, World Peace played a little more consistently this week.
In the Lakers win, World Peace scored a surprising 17 points, albeit on 6-16 shooting from the floor. World Peace also snatched 8 rebounds and 4 steals in the win.
This type of aggression is needed from World Peace night in and night out. If World Peace can get back to the consistent play he had earlier in the season, the entire team will benefit on both ends.
Against the Clippers, however, World Peace reverted back to his inconsistent ways. Scoring just 11 points on 4-9 shooting, World Peace was practically a non-factor.
World Peace also made little impact on the defensive end. Both his rebounding and steals numbers dropped to just 4 rebounds and 1 steal in the loss.
Any offensive contributions from World Peace are an added bonus at this point, but his defensive prowess must be present each and every night for the Lakers to win ball games.
Jodie Meeks : Along with Jamison, Jodie Meeks also had a nice week offensively off the bench.
Meeks scored only 6 points in the win over the Suns, but dropped 13 points against the Clippers.
The Lakers could certainly use more of Meeks’ perimeter shooting ability. With Meeks now receiving consistent playing time, the Lakers need him to stretch the floor even more.
Meeks’ 2-4 three-point shooting was a welcomed sight vs. the Clippers, but the Lakers could use more off the bench.
If Meeks can start making 3 to 4 three-pointers per game, that would open up the floor even more for Howard, Bryant and Nash.
Meeks’ energy on the defensive end this season has been a welcomed sight as well. The Lakers certainly need his change-of-pace energy and effort off the bench to continue.
Earl Clark : A tough week for Earl Clark as well.
Clark has been this season’s big surprise, but he came back to Earth some this past week.
After receiving an MRI on his sore right foot last Tuesday, Clark was unable to produce for the Lakers.
Despite registering two double-doubles last week, Clark did not even come close to one this week. Clark scored 11 points on 4-9 shooting against Phoneix, but only had 4 total rebounds.
Clark followed up that mediocre performance with an even worse one against the Clippers. Clark scored just 4 points on 2-10 shooting in that game.
This recent stretch of inconsistency is understandable from a player who has never been in this role before. With the All-Star break now behind us, Clark should be able to regain his consistent, high-energy play.
Hopefully Clark’s foot is not be an issue going forward, but it could certainly flare up if D’Antoni continues playing him healthy minutes per game.
Steve Nash : Although not talked about as much this season, Steve Nash is quietly having a below average year by his standards.
This season, Nash is only averaging 11.8 ppp and 7.4 apg, both down from his career averages of 14.4 ppg and 8.6 apg.
Against the Suns, Nash scored just 10 points and had 8 asissts. Against the Clippers, Nash scored just 7 points on 3-9 shooting and 5 assists.
Although Nash is currently on his way to another 40-50-90 year shooting-wise, he was 0-6 from three-point range this week.
Nash’s poor shooting this past week was probably an anomaly, and the Lakers still desperately need Nash to shoot even more.
Nash, one of the league’s best shooters of all time, has to become more aggressive in the near future. For the Lakers to have success, Nash’s scoring ability needs to be utilized much more.
With Bryant continuing to facilitate the offense, Nash should switch his focus to more of a “shoot-first” mentality.
Nash’s superior shooting ability, coupled with Bryant’s attacking mentality, can significantly help the Lakers’ offense for the stretch run.
Since the Lakers’ backcourt is the oldest and slowest in the NBA, a more efficient offensive attack should also lead to a more efficient half-court defense.
If the Lakers want to make the playoffs, that push will ultimately start with their two most seasoned players, Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant, leading the charge.
Darius Morris : With Steve Blake permanently back from injury now, Morris remains at the end of the rotation.
The Lakers could use his speed and quickness to penetrate opposing defenses, but D’Antoni remains committed to his short rotation of 8-9 players.
Morris did not play against Phoenix, but did play 4 minutes of “garbage-time” against the Clippers, in which he scored 4 points on 2-3 shooting.
Robert Sacre : Even with Gasol still out, Robert Sacre barely played this past week.
Sacre did not play in the Suns game but did play 4 minutes of “garbage-time” against the Clippers.
Chris Duhon : Chris Duhon did not play in either of the Lakers’ games this past week.
Devin Ebanks : Devin Ebanks also did not play in either of the Lakers’ games this past week.
Pau Gasol : After suffering a partially torn fascia in his foot, Pau Gasol continues receiving treatment in Los Angeles.
Gasol is now entering week three of his recovery process. The Lakers could certainly use his contributions with Howard playing hurt, but Gasol remains out indefinitely.
There is no target return date set for Gasol at this time.
Stay tuned for next weeks’ Lakers Stock Watch as the Lakers begin the stretch run battling Boston, Portland and Dallas.
Despite a promising start to the week with a win in Brooklyn, the Lakers finished the week at just 2-2.
The Lakers endured a blowout loss in Boston, followed by a come-from-behind victory in Charlotte, then concluded the 2013 Grammy Trip with a discouraging loss in Miami.
Although the Lakers finished the Grammy Road Trip with an overall record of 4-3, they suffered a devastating long-term loss in the process.
In their exciting victory over the Brooklyn Nets, forward/center Pau Gasol suffered an injury to his foot.
After an MRI and a flight back to Los Angeles, Gasol was diagnosed with a partially torn plantar fascia in his foot. Early speculation suggests Gasol will miss anywhere from 6-10 weeks.
Once Gasol was deemed out for the remainder of the trip, the Lakers turned to their injured star center Dwight Howard. Unfortunately, Howard’s slow recovery from his re-aggravated right shoulder injury and his ‘lack of urgency’ stirred up drama between Howard and Kobe Bryant.
After an up-and-down week for Laker Nation, the Lakers currently find themselves with an overall record of 24-28—returning home for the final week before the All-Star break.
Take a look back at the changes in the Lakers’ stock values and the impact the players should have going forward:
Kobe Bryant : Bryant had yet another stellar week offensively this past week. Although he failed to record an assist in the loss to Boston, Bryant still managed to average 5.3 assists over the past four games.
Bryant also shot the ball well, averaging 24.0 points per game on an efficient 47.9% from the field. Despite this efficient shooting, Bryant has only made 2 three-pointers out of his last 26 attempts.
With both Howard and Gasol in and out of the lineups, Bryant also increased his focus on the glass. In his past four games, Bryant averaged 7.0 rebounds per game—a major factor in helping control the boards while the big men missed time.
Despite Bryant’s efficient play on both ends, he was only able to lead his team to a 2-2 record.
In the Boston game, Bryant tried to get his teammates going early, but they simply just missed shots for most of the game.
In the loss against Miami, Bryant made a conscious effort to be the facilitator on offense in the first half. However, in the second half, Bryant reverted back to his score-first mentality.
Miami’s pressure, trapping defense made it difficult for the Lakers to have any flow on offense, especially in the fourth quarter.
Bryant’s continual isolation at the mid-post, coupled with Miami’s pressure, resulted in inefficient offense and many turnovers for the Lakers.
Bryant’s increased facilitator role has resulted in additional turnovers lately, as shown by Bryant’s 4.0 turnovers per game average this past week.
With coach Mike D’Antoni failing to make adjustments late in games, that onus to adjust will fall on Bryant to continue making smart decisions down the stretch.
Going forward, Bryant must continue to feed the ball inside to Howard and look for kick outs for the Lakers to win close games late.
Earl Clark : What more can be said about “Easy” Earl Clark? After receiving an opportunity due to injuries, Clark has certainly relished his chance at being a fixture in the Lakers’ rotation.
Clark continued his emergence this week with standout games against Brooklyn, Charlotte and Miami. Clark registered double-doubles (points and rebounds) in both wins against Brooklyn and Charlotte.
Over the past week, Clark averaged 13.5 ppg on 50% shooting and 9.5 rpg.
Clark’s presence on the boards has been a welcomed sight, especially with the recent loss of Gasol. Clark’s athleticism and efficient shooting have also added key dimensions to the Lakers’ offense.
Despite Clark’s solid numbers, his full contributions do not always show up in the box score. Clark’s hustle and energy have been key factors in the Lakers’ recent success.
Also, with Gasol now out for a while, Clark’s responsibilities on both ends of the floor are sure to increase.
Clark does fit in well with Dwight Howard though, because his outside shooting and slashing ability compliment the center well.
For the Lakers to make a hard push at a playoff spot, sans Gasol, Clark will have to continue his excellent play, and assume this unfamiliar role as the Lakers’ starting four with confidence.
Jodie Meeks : Meeks had a solid week off the bench for the Lakers. After losing Gasol early in the week, a scoring void needed to be picked up.
Meeks somewhat answered the call with solid performances in Boston, Charlotte and Miami.
Meeks scored 13 points in Boston and 14 points in Charlotte, hitting all four three-pointers in the win over the Bobcats.
Meeks also hit a huge three late in the comeback against Charlotte, resulting in an important win for the Lakers.
Meeks’ hustle and high activity, especially on the defensive end, were also key in stimulating the eventual comeback.
If Meeks can continue to play consistently, the main beneficiary will be Kobe Bryant. Bryant is playing a league-leading 38.5 minutes per game this season, so Meeks can certainly help to keep him fresh.
Also, with starting small forward Metta World Peace in a deep shooting slump, Meeks’ 50% shooting from behind the arc this week has helped stretch the floor.
The Lakers will need even more of that to take the pressure off Bryant and Howard inside.
Steve Nash : The multitude of injuries for the Lakers has also had a direct effect on Steve Nash. Nash has significantly increased his scoring load as a result.
Nash, whose assist numbers have been down of late, averaged 14.5 ppg on 51.4% shooting and 5.5 apg. Nash’s efficient shooting has complimented Bryant’s facilitating well.
The Lakers might need more from Nash going forward though. With Gasol out for the long-term, and Howard being less of a factor offensively, Nash may need to control the offense even more.
For the Lakers to be successful, Nash must find the right balance between scoring and facilitating.
In the Lakers’ wins this past week, Nash averaged 17.0 ppg and 7.5 apg. In the losses, however, Nash averaged 12.0 ppg and only 3.5 apg.
Obviously, there is a clear winning formula there.
The key will be for both Nash and Bryant to work effectively off each other, which will inevitably increase the flow of the offense collectively.
Antawn Jamison : Jamison has been mediocre of late off the bench as the Lakers’ sixth man. Jamison averaged just 8.0 ppg and 4.3 rpg this past week.
The Lakers need more than that on a nightly basis to be effective. Since Jamison brings little defensively, he needs to be more efficient scoring the ball.
Jamison shot just 42.9% from the field and 30% from three-point land in his past four games.
With Gasol out and Howard still hampered by injury, the Lakers also need Jamison to rebound more.
Jamison’s 4.3 rpg are not going to get it done off the bench, especially when the Lakers were just out-rebounded by the worst rebounding team in the league (Miami).
With an aging roster, the Lakers desperately need a consistent bench unit. Meeks’ solid play of late has been promising, but the Lakers also need Jamison to reach that level of consistency to spell the starters some rest.
Steve Blake : Although Steve Blake is not a great back-up point guard, he gets the job done better than Chris Duhon. Blake has never been a great scoring threat during his time in Los Angeles, but he does control the game well at the point.
Blake averaged just 4.3 ppg and 2.5 apg this past week. Blake also shot only 37.5% from three-point range, something the Lakers could surely use from the back-up point guard role.
As with Jamison, the Lakers need a little more consistency out of Blake going forward. When Nash goes to the bench, the drop-off to Blake is too large of a margin right now.
When Blake enters the game for Nash, he needs to play more aggressively by getting his teammates good looks. If Blake can slightly shrink that drop-off, it would greatly help the Lakers’ continuity.
Dwight Howard : A tough week for Dwight Howard.
Despite returning from his aggravated shoulder injury against Boston, Howard did not play well this week.
As the Lakers’ second or third offensive option, Howard only averaged 12.0 ppg, 9.7 rpg and 1.7 bpg. Howard did shoot 58.3% from the field, however, but also averaged 3 turnovers per game.
Howard is clearly still affected by both his off-season back surgery and the torn labrum in his right shoulder. Since Howard cannot damage his shoulder anymore, his dominance on both ends of the floor must improve.
This lack of dominance inside was clearly evident in the Lakers’ loss to Miami. Howard was 6-9 from the field and had 9 rebounds, but coming from the Lakers’ lone premier big man, that’s just not enough.
With the news that Gasol is now out a minimum of six weeks, Howard must take it upon himself to be more dominant.
Along with his poor play on the court, Howard also created some unnecessary drama of the court. Howard, along with D’Antoni and Bryant, need to find a way to co-exist successfully, or else this season could make a turn for the worse quickly.
Howard doesn’t seem like he will be close to full health this season, but he must become more efficient on the glass. Howard’s recent rebounding numbers have been below average for him, and without Gasol there to help him, he must control both the offensive and defensive glasses.
Howard needs to establish himself more inside on offense as well. Too many times Howard does not seal off his man or establish deep post-position.
To make matters worse, Howard has been setting terrible screens lately. The athletic center must start setting better ball screens because his rolls to the basket have been rendered ineffective lately. Howard continuously sets weak, brush screens in pick-and-rolls, which don’t work for his teammate nor himself.
Back in Orlando, Howard would absolutely punish smaller defenders on switches, something he has done little this season.
For the Lakers to make a serious push back into the Western Conference playoff picture, Howard and Bryant must set aside their differences.
Howard’s play going forward will significantly determine whether or not the Lakers right the ship this season.
Metta World Peace : World Peace was suspended in the Brooklyn game for his flagrant foul on Brandon Knight. Along with the suspension, World Peace also continued his dismal shooting slump this past week.
Shooting just 26.3% from the field in his past three games, World Peace averaged 8.3 ppg and 3.3 rpg. This is unacceptable from the Lakers’ starting small forward.
World Peace’s individual defense has also struggled of late. In both Laker losses, World Peace allowed Paul Pierce and LeBron James to get going early. Pierce finished with 24 points and James had 30 points.
The Lakers desperately need a solid perimeter defender to stop these types of players. World Peace, who played great to start the season, has slowed down significantly in the past month.
World Peace needs to find some way to get out of his current shooting slump. If he can play better offensively, that will hopefully translate into better defensive performances.
Lately, opposing defenses leave him open and focus in on Bryant, Nash and Howard. If opposing defenses continue to do that, World Peace must make them pay by hitting open shots consistently.
Robert Sacre : In the Lakers’ win over Brooklyn, Robert Sacre actually received some meaningful minutes.
In return for his 10 minutes, Sacre scored 4 points and played solid defense inside. Unfortunately for Sacre, Gasol’s injury has not translated into more playing time for the reserve center.
If, however, the Lakers’ thin string of big men gets into foul trouble, or another major injury occurs, Sacre could see consistent minutes in the future.
Chris Duhon : This past week, Chris Duhon continued his role as the Lakers’ “emergency” guard. Duhon appeared in two games (Brooklyn and Boston) but only scored 2 total points.
Duhon did average 1.5 apg in limited minutes, but his prospects of playing consistent minutes in the future look bleak—especially with the consistent play of fellow back-up point guard Steve Blake.
Devin Ebanks : We had a rare Devin Ebanks sighting this past week. After not playing in 13 straight games, Ebanks played 5 minutes of ‘garbage time’ against Boston.
Ebanks did score 5 points on 2-6 shooting, but he looks to remain a permanent benchwarmer going forward.
Darius Morris : Like Ebanks, Morris received 5 minutes of playing time against Boston. Morris registered 2 assists in garbage minutes, but failed to do much else.
After being a regular starter earlier this season, Morris now looks to be sharing Ebanks’ role as glued to the bench.
Pau Gasol : Just when you thought the back breaks were over for the Lakers, they encounter another unfortunate set-back.
Pau Gasol had been playing solid basketball for the first time this season, until he suffered the major foot injury against Brooklyn.
After a next-day MRI in Boston revealed a partially torn plantar fascia, Gasol flew back to Los Angeles to consult with team doctors.
Gasol had been dealing with plantar fasciitis earlier in the season, but this time it was serious.
Unfortunately, the Lakers will now lose Gasol for a minimum of 6 weeks, and up to 10 weeks, right as they begin their stretch run towards the playoffs.
This injury news was just another of the many crushing blows the Lakers have experienced this season.
Stay tuned for next weeks’ Lakers Stock Watch as the Lakers head into the All-Star Break battling Phoenix and the Clippers.
The Los Angeles Lakers finished off last week with an exceptional 3-1 record. The Lakers have now won 5 of their last 6 games.
This past week, the Lakers beat New Orleans, Minnesota and Detroit as they embarked on their annual “Grammy Road Trip”. The Lakers’ lone loss in Phoenix came after All-Star center Dwight Howard reinjured his right shoulder.
Despite Howard’s injury, the Lakers finished a solid week with significant help from a rejuvenated Pau Gasol. Along with Gasol’s contributions, Kobe Bryant continued his stellar facilitating on the offensive end.
With Gasol returning to his All-Star form, the Lakers have managed to continue finding success, even without their star center. Despite losing big leads in Minnesota, Detroit, and especially in their loss to Phoenix, the Lakers escaped the week with a 22-26 overall record.
Take a look back at the changes in the Lakers’ stock values and the impact the players should have going forward:
Pau Gasol : Despite a difficult start to the season, to say the least, Pau Gasol seems to have found his rhythm.
Since returning from his concussion, Gasol has averaged 16.5 points per game on 55.3% shooting and 7.4 rebounds per game. Gasol’s numbers are still below his career averages, but this recent 10-game stretch has been much more efficient than earlier in the season.
With Dwight Howard going down against Phoenix, Gasol has stepped up in his absence. Gasol looks more aggressive on the block and more comfortable being the only true post player in the lineup.
Instead of first looking to pass when he catches the ball, Gasol is now looking to shoot or drive. This is a welcomed sight, because Gasol’s quick aggressiveness is vital to his success on the offensive end.
Gasol will certainly have to adjust his game when Howard returns, but if his recent aggressiveness is any indication, that adjustment should continue to yield positive results.
As much as D’Antoni seems disinclined to make Gasol and Howard work together, Gasol’s new aggressive attitude can help alleviate any issues between the two premier big men.
The key for Gasol is confidence. Like most big men, when Gasol gets going early and often, he gains confidence that usually lasts for the remainder of the game. This confidence has shown by Gasol’s improved midrange shooting consistency and his confidence in driving to the basket.
Kobe Bryant’s facilitating has also been a huge help in ‘reviving’ Gasol’s game. Bryant is finding Gasol in good, operational areas in which Gasol can use his versatility to score in multiple ways.
The Lakers certainly need Gasol to return to his All-Star playing ability. Whether it be off the bench or as a starter, Gasol’s play on both ends of the floor is absolutely vital this season.
With Howard still not fully healthy, expect Gasol to continue his aggressive play on the block.
Kobe Bryant : Kobe “Magic” Bryant continued his assist tear this past week. Bryant again focused on getting his teammates going and improving ball movement on the offensive end.
Over the past four games, Bryant has averaged 8.3 assists per game. Bryant’s facilitating role has increased the ball movement, spacing, and just simply makes the Lakers more fun to watch.
Bryant’s facilitating has especially helped rejuvenate Gasol. Bryant seems to have made a conscious effort over the past few games to get Gasol involved early and often. This tactic has led to an “engaged” Gasol, a scary notion for opposing teams.
Bryant’s exceptional passing also led to the Lakers making 12 three-pointers against Minnesota. Bryant, along with his teammates, contributed to moving the ball quickly, which resulted in open perimeter shots.
There is no doubt that Bryant can return to his scoring ways in a moment’s notice, but with the Lakers’ newfound winning ways, why change what works?
“If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”
It seems Bryant is content in being the offense’s main facilitator, a role he has not always embraced in the past.
With the playoffs fast approaching, Bryant must continue finding a balance between scoring and facilitating. Once Bryant finds that elusive balance, the Lakers could become even more deadly.
Earl Clark : What a pleasant surprise Earl Clark has been this season! Along with “Magic Mamba”, Clark’s versatility at the power forward position has been key in the Lakers’ recent resurgence.
Clark had arguably the best game of his career against New Orleans in which he notched 20 points, 12 rebounds and 4 assists in the Lakers win. Clark also had back-to-back double doubles vs. Minnesota (13 & 10) and Detroit (17 & 10).
Clark’s ability to space the floor with his three-point shooting has also been a welcomed surprise. Clark is shooting a blistering 50% from behind the arc this season.
With Gasol going to the bench full-time when Howard is healthy, Clark has stepped into the starting power forward position with no problems. Clark constantly brings energy and effort from the starting tipoff, something the Lakers often lacked earlier in the season.
Clark’s rebounding and defensive versatility have been important as well. In Howard’s absence especially, Clark has taken it upon himself to improve his rebounding. His dedication to rebounding has helped the Lakers control the glass in recent games.
Clark’s defensive versatility has also led to an improved team defense and better defensive rotations. Clark’s unique ability to switch and guard multiple positions make him a great defensive asset.
It’s difficult to say that Earl Clark has been this season’s “savior”, but his contributions on both ends of the floor have been a huge part of the Lakers’ recent turnaround.
Antawn Jamison : Remember that stretch of six straight games with a DNP-CD for Antawn Jamison? Well, it seems those days are far behind us.
Jamison has become a consistent player off the bench for the Lakers. In his last four games, Jamison averaged 14.3 ppg and 5.5 rpg in just 22.5 minutes per game.
Jamison’s consistency has helped the Lakers continue their efficient offensive play once Gasol or Clark goes to the bench. It seems that Jamison has found his groove and is playing more relaxed lately.
The Lakers specifically signed Jamison in the off-season to be the anchor of the bench. Over the past few games Jamison looks to be embracing that role.
Jamison’s offensive game remains awkward and unorthodox, but for the most part it’s effective. Jamison also compliments both Gasol and Clark well because of his ability to stretch the floor and find holes in the defense by slashing inside for easy dunks and layups.
For the Lakers to continue to have success, Jamison has to anchor the bench unit even more. The bench has given up too many leads late, something the Lakers must fix if they want to make the playoffs.
Jamison must thus take it upon himself to lead the Lakers’ bench unit and maintain leads, rather than lose them.
Steve Blake : Since returning from his groin and abdominal injuries, Steve Blake has resumed his backup point guard duties. Replacing Chris Duhon as the primary backup, Blake has done a decent job running the offense when replacing starter Steve Nash.
After missing 37 games, Blake returned to the lineup against New Orleans. Despite only scoring 2 points, Blake’s 4 assists were a welcomed sight. Blake has since averaged 6.0 ppg and 2.7 apg.
These numbers are not extraordinary, but they are certainly an improvement over Duhon.
Blake’s three-point shooting ability has also been an added bonus to the Lakers’ rotation. Since returning to the lineup, Blake is shooting 36.3% from behind the arc on 4-11 three-pointers.
Blake has certainly underachieved in his time in Los Angeles, but he is the best backup point guard on the Lakers’ roster. Blake controls the game much better than Duhon and Darius Morris, which will help the Lakers’ bench unit even more going forward.
Steve Nash: Steve Nash is essentially playing out of position now. Over his past four games, Nash has only averaged 6.0 assists per game, way below his career average of 8.6 apg.
With Bryant as the primary facilitator, Nash has continued to be more of a spot-up shooter over the past week. This changing of roles has obviously been successful with the Lakers winning 5 of their last 6 games.
The Lakers will still need Nash to be an aggressive player on offense, however, especially when Bryant goes to the bench. Nash has done a decent job balancing his scoring and facilitating with Bryant of late—a major key to the Lakers’ success on offense.
In the past week, Nash averaged 12.8 ppg on 50% shooting. This bodes well for the Lakers because Nash is able to take a little more of the scoring load off Bryant’s shoulders.
Nash has especially been solid from three-point range this season, shooting an exceptional 44.4% from behind the arc. In fact, in the last four games, Nash is shooting a scorching 53.8% from three.
With Gasol’s aggressiveness inside and Bryant drawing defenders on his penetration, Nash continues to be efficient on kick outs for three-pointers.
Unfortunately, Nash’s free throw shooting is a different story. Nash gave all of Laker Nation a good scare in Detroit, in which he missed two consecutive free throws late in the game*.
If Nash is able to keep up this ultra-efficient three-point shooting, however, and Bryant keeps facilitating, the Lakers’ spacing on offense will continue to improve.
* Nash had made 33 consecutive free throws in the last minute of fourth quarters before his two misses on Sunday.
Jodie Meeks : Over the past week, Jodie Meeks has become a little more consistent off the bench for coach Mike D’Antoni. Since retaking the primary backup shooting guard role, Meeks has played consistently.
Meeks averaged 8.7 ppg in the past week, but only shot 30% from the field. For the Lakers’ “best three-point shooter”, that shooting percentage must improve.
Meeks’ defense has been better of late, creating havoc and bringing energy off the bench. Meeks is an underrated defender, which has allowed him to stay on the floor, despite his poor shooting.
With Jamison and Blake playing well off the bench, the Lakers lone missing piece to the equation is Meeks. If Meeks can find some consistency with his shot, the Lakers’ bench could become deadly.
Metta World Peace : World Peace had the worst week of any Laker this past week. Although World Peace played decent defensively, he had a dismal shooting week.
World Peace averaged 8.0 ppg and 6.3 rpg, but shot an awful 27.3% from the field. The Lakers desperately need World Peace to return to how he was playing earlier in the season.
Despite starting off the season strong, World Peace is now shooting just 40.1% from the field and 34.9% from three-point land.
World Peace’s main role on the Lakers is to be a lock-down perimeter defender, but he cannot shoot 27.3% from the field for the Lakers to be successful against good teams.
Unfortunately, World Peace has been suspended for Tuesday’s game in Brooklyn for grabbing Detroit’s Brandon Knight around the neck and striking him in the jaw.
Robert Sacre : Despite Dwight Howard re-aggravating his labrum tear, reserve center Robert Sacre received zero minutes off the bench this past week.
Sacre may actually get the chance to play this upcoming week, though. With Howard being out for an extended period of time, Sacre could see some meaningful minutes if the Lakers’ big men get into foul trouble.
Chris Duhon : With Steve Blake’s return, point guard Chris Duhon has officially been relegated to the end of the bench.
Duhon did not play in any of the Lakers’ games last week.
Darius Morris : Steve Blake’s return also seems to spell the end for Darius Morris’s minutes as well.
Morris did not play in any of the Lakers’ games last week, either.
Dwight Howard : In the fourth quarter of the Lakers loss to Phoenix, Dwight Howard reinjured his right shoulder. Howard powered up for a dunk, but Suns guard Shannon Brown stripped him and fouled him hard on his right arm.
The result was gruesome. Howard instantly clutched his right shoulder—the shoulder with the torn labrum. After a few seconds, Howard fell to the ground in agony.
This shoulder injury looks like it will bother Howard for the rest of the season. Howard, who is out again against Brooklyn, continues to deflect questions about season-ending surgery.
Howard looks like he will attempt to push through this painful injury, although his return to the Lakers’ lineup remains uncertain.
Howard is still officially listed as ‘day-to-day’.
Notes: The Lakers received a ‘disabled player exception’ for injured Jordan Hill this past week. The ‘DPE’ can used to help facilitate a trade or sign a free agent. Reserve SF Devin Ebanks continued adding to his current 12-game DNP-CD streak.
Stay tuned for next weeks’ Lakers Stock Watch as the Lakers conclude their ‘Grammy Trip’ battling Brooklyn, Boston, Charlotte and Miami over the next week.