Sunday, December 21, 2014
Tags Posts tagged with "Steve Blake"

Steve Blake

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Denver Nuggets v Los Angeles Lakers - Game Seven
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Since the 2012-2013 NBA season kicked off, Lakers fans have been on a weekly roller coaster ride. From Opening Night onwards, we’ve seen some good, some bad, and even some ugly. The Laker season has played out like a cheesy day-time soap, changing dramatically from day-to-day, keeping Lakers fans everywhere on their toes.

There is so much going on weekly with this team that it sometimes becomes exhausting trying to keep up with everything. So how do we keep track of all the weekly events in Laker Land?

Simple, by tracking all of the ups and downs of the past week. Without further ado, here is the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly from the last week of Lakers action.

Good – Lakers Ball Movement.

While much of the attention has gone to Kobe Bryant’s new found “Magic Mamba” persona, the Lakers as a unit have really been moving the ball well in the past six games. That was apparent this week during hot stretches against New Orleans, Phoenix, Minnesota and Detroit when the Lakers were getting good looks and easy shots, which lead to them building double-digit leads in each contest.

Side-note: Speaking of ball movement, that Kobe to Clark alley-oop to end the first half in Detroit was absolutely gorgeous.

Bad – Dry Spells.

However, with all of that great ball movement comes one major concern; over-passing the ball. There were a couple of really bad Laker dry spells in the past couple of games where guys became a little too pass-happy. Passing up some good looks leads to bad shots at the end of the shot-clock and also turnovers, which adds up to terrible stretches of play for the Lakers. While the Lakers were able to hold on after nearly blowing leads of 29, 18 and 16 in three wins this week, they were bitten in Phoenix where a 13-point lead was lost in defeat.

Ugly – Metta World Punch?

Things got a little chippy in Detroit for the man formerly known as Ron Artest, again. While this wasn’t as bad as the Malice at the Palace, Metta got into a scuffle with second-year Pistons guard Brandon Knight towards the end of the second quarter. Both players got tangled up going for a rebound, and in the ensuing sequence Metta seemed to throw a slight jab at Knight. World Peace was assessed a flagrant-1 foul on the play. But if you ask Knight, that wasn’t enough of a punishment.

The play needs to be reviewed because he definitely threw a punch. It felt like he threw a punch. That’s why I reacted the way I did.

It will be interesting to see if the league does indeed take a look at the play for any further disciplinary action.

UPDATE – The NBA has suspended Metta for one game following his altercation with Knight.

Bad – Dwight Howard’s Shoulder, Again.

In what is becoming a recurring theme for the All-Star big man, Howard aggravated the torn labrum in his right shoulder again during the Lakers collapse in Phoenix. Howard flew back to LA for treatment, and has since rejoined the team, and is currently day-to-day after sitting out the past two Laker road games. This is an injury that Lakers fans will have to worry about for the rest of the season. Something as serious as a torn labrum will not be completely healed until Howard is able to have surgery performed on it. With Dwight trying to avoid going under the knife during the season, the organization will have to wince and pray every time a defender takes a whack at D12 for the rest of the season.

Good – Pau Gasol’s Aggression.

It’s hard to take positives from an injury like Howard’s, but one good thing to come from him missing a few games is the re-emergence of Gasol. Pau has been the starting (and only) center for the Lakers since Dwight went down, and he has been a revelation in the past two games. Against the Pistons, Gasol had 23 points, 10 boards and 3 assists to follow up a game in Minnesota that was much more dominant than his 22 point, 12 rebound stat-line would suggest. It’s been good to see the Spaniard once again playing like Laker fans are accustomed to seeing. The hope is that he can keep his production up when moved back to his sixth man role.

Ugly – Fourth Quarter Collapses.

Starting with the near collapse against the Pelicans Hornets on Tuesday, the Lakers were anything but solid in the fourth quarter this past week. Los Angeles completely blew a big lead in a road-loss to Phoenix that gave the Lakers what was at the time their eighth straight road loss. The fourth-quarter bug almost bit the team again in Detroit with Earl Clark and Steve Nash (no, really) each missing two free throws in the final 20 seconds of what turned out be a very uncomfortable one-point victory. Against better teams, these lethargic fourth quarters will not get it done, especially come playoff time.

Credit: Stephen Dunn/Getty Image
Credit: Stephen Dunn/Getty Image

Good – The Continued Emergence of Earl Clark.

While this is something that has not been limited to the past week, the emergence of Earl Clark has really helped the Lakers on both ends of the court. Clark is a stretch-four who can play opposite both Howard and Gasol, and considering the troubles those two have had co-existing, that has turned into a great luxury for the Lakers to have. Defensively, Clark has spent time doing everything from trying to slow down the other team’s best player like Lebron James, to guarding the other teams hottest player like Will Bynum in Detroit. He has really helped boost the Lakers on both ends with his versatility and athleticism.

Bad – Mike D’s Rotation Minus Dwight.

If you looked at the Laker line-up to start the second quarter against Detroit or Minnesota, you may have been surprised to notice that Metta World Peace or Antawn Jamison were playing center for the Lakers. You also may have noticed the Pistons and T’Wolves scoring at will in the paint with those two playing the center position while Pau gets a breather. This line-up really has some Laker fans scratching their heads. As we all know, D’Antoni is generally an offense-first coach, but to oplay no big men at any point in an NBA game is kind of ridiculous. Getting Robert Sacre some minutes is a much better option for LA because not only does he give you some type of size inside, he offers some type of resistance at the rim.

Good – Steve Blake Sparking the Bench.

Finally, the missing piece to the championship puzzle returned to action this past Tuesday against the Pelicans Hornets. Okay, so that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but the return of Steve Blake has undeinably impacted the Lakers bench. Blake is doing a good job of getting guys running and involved in a way that Chris Duhon simply couldn’t. Having Blake running the show for the second unit will only benefit the Laker bench, especially Gasol. Blake has played in this system longer than Duhon and Nash, and is comfortable getting Pau the ball in places where he can go to work in the post. This could help the Lakers stem some of the runs made by other teams that have plagued them when the bench is in the game.

Ugly – Creating All-Stars

One thing that has killed the Lakers all season is the fact that almost every game, a role player on the opposing team tends to have an All-Star kind of night. The Lakers have been beaten by guys like Jose Calderon, Greg Smith, Toney Douglas and most recently Michael Beasely this season. They have also nearly blown games to guys like Charlie Villanueva, Will Bynum and Gerald Henderson. Things have gotten so bad for Laker fans that when a guy like Villanueva checks in you automatically have two reactions. One is shock that he is still in the league. The other is the fear that he is about to light the Lakers up. This is especially frustrating when you see that a guy goes right back to doing nothing in his next game. It’s alarming that the Lakers haven’t been able to put a stop to this disturbing trend yet this season, and it’s definitely something to watch for as we approach the postseason.

Good – Magic Mamba

What? You thought I was going to do a whole article and not mention Kobe? Bryant has dished out at least eight assists in five of the past six games, including five straight for the first time in his career. It really has been remarkable to watch Kobe adapt and get his teammates involved. In the past six games alone, Mamba has made some of the nicest passes of his career. While he does have a tendency to revert back to his hero-ball ways (see: 4th quarter, Phoenix), Kobe and the Lakers seem to be realizing that the best way to hurt a team is by having them have to guess whether or not Kobe is going to score or pass. This works much better than the old way, where teams just figured Bryant was going to shoot. It will be very interesting to see if the Kobe can keep this up for the rest of the season. The Lakers are clearly a much better team when Magic Mamba is on the court.

 

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Photo: Noah Graham | Getty Images
Image Credit: Noah Graham | Getty Images
Image Credit: Noah Graham | Getty Images

Are the real Los Angeles Lakers finally here? Well, they might just be.

Despite a slow start, with losses to Chicago and Memphis, the Lakers finished the week winning two straight games against Utah and Oklahoma City, both in promising fashion.

‘Shooting guard-turned-point guard’ Kobe Bryant led the Lakers to two straight wins over legitimate Western Conference playoff teams. Bryant’s back-to-back games of 14 assists were key in sparking the Lakers’ success and salvaging a 2-2 record for the week.

With Bryant now assuming a facilitator role within the Lakers’ offense, and Dwight Howard taking on more responsibility on the defensive end, the Lakers seem to have found a winning combination as a team. The Lakers remain 6 games under .500 at 19-25, but they may finally be on the road to recovery.

Take a look back at the changes in the Lakers’ stock values and the impact the players should have going forward:

Kobe Bryant (SG / PG) Up arrow : Bryant may have found his all-important niche on this Lakers team. After continuing to struggle against Chicago and Memphis, Bryant significantly changed his plan of attack.

Against Utah and Oklahoma City, Bryant came up only one rebound short of a triple-double, in both games. Bryant registered 14 points, 14 assists, 9 rebounds in the Lakers’ definitive 102-84 win over the Utah Jazz. Bryant then followed up that near triple-double performance with yet another near triple-double vs. Oklahoma City.

Bryant again registered 14 assists, along with 21 points and 9 rebounds, in the Lakers’ 105-96 win over the Thunder for arguably the Lakers’ best win of the season. Bryant also had a hand in limiting opposing All-Star PG Russell Westbrook to 17 points on just 6-22 shooting from the field.

Despite the Lakers’ miserable start to the season, and the mistake of hiring head coach Mike D’Antoni, it seems that the Lakers’ captain, Kobe Bryant, has figured things out in Laker Land. The Lakers have reportedly scrapped D’Antoni’s offense and are now playing with more freedom, and more flow, on both ends of the floor. The Lakers’ chemistry and communication have also seemed to improve on a collective basis.

Image Credit: Reed Saxon | AP
Image Credit: Reed Saxon | AP

Bryant’s new role in the Lakers’ offense has been that of a full-time facilitator; he is now facilitating in a way that gets all of his teammates going early and significantly improves the overall ball movement. Apparently, Bryant is “happy as hell” in the new role as the Lakers’ playmaker because he values winning over scoring.

Bryant’s playmaking has also led to a more balanced scoring distribution for the Lakers’ offense. In the Lakers’ win over the Thunder, for instance, six different players scored in double figures.

The team’s improved ball movement has led to a higher offensive efficiency, as seen by the Lakers’ back-to-back 100+ point games. The improved efficiency, in less offensive possessions, has also translated to better team defense. Opposing teams in the past two games have had less transition opportunities and Bryant has been able to exert more energy on the defensive end, mainly as a result of his reduced scoring role on offense.

Bryant has also learned that slowing down the offense, while utilizing all of the Lakers’ strengths (especially inside), and capitalizing more on easy offensive opportunities, are the main keys to the Lakers’ success going forward.

Bryant’s facilitation and rededication to team-basketball have also energized his teammates. When players, especially those that are used to being ‘go-to scorers’ for their careers, receive more consistent touches on the offensive end, it translates to a more engaged team on the defensive end.

Bryant, along with Dwight Howard and Metta World Peace, have collectively improved the Lakers’ defense, as evident by the 84 points given up to Utah and the 96 points allowed to Oklahoma City. With those three defenders leading the defense, the Lakers’ communication and rotations have significantly improved on that end.

The primary reason for the Lakers’ recent turnaround has been Bryant’s willingness to become an effective facilitator for the team. The change, or scrapping, of the Lakers offense, along with Bryant’s realization that his reduced scoring role leads to a more successful team, have set the standard for the Lakers. The new offense in which everyone “eats more often” seems to be a rallying point for the team and has significantly increased their chemistry on the court.

Players now seem to actually “buy-in” to team concepts and enjoy playing in this new, free system. Bryant’s reduced role also looks to be contagious, as his teammates, especially Pau Gasol and Howard, have accepted and thrived in the Lakers’ new “team-first” mantra.

Expect the Lakers to continue their success and salvage this season as long as Bryant continues to lead the offensive attack through his superb facilitation on the offensive end.

Pau Gasol (C / PF) Up arrow : Gasol is now the Lakers’ permanent sixth man and has been doing a solid job in that role. Despite scoffing at the idea initially, Gasol began cherishing the sixth man role last week. Gasol remains unhappy with his bench role, but is content enough to accept it for the remainder of the season and not request a trade.

Moving Gasol to the bench as the primary backup center to Howard has created balance between the starters and reserves. With Gasol on the bench, Earl Clark has added athleticism and versatility to the starting lineup, along with allowing Howard to get going inside, early and often.

Once Gasol enters the game, usually for Howard, he has continued the Lakers’ dominance inside and there is little drop-off in production from Howard to Gasol.

Most importantly, Gasol is now able to punish the opposing team’s second unit in his natural center position. This was certainly evident in the Lakers’ two wins where he posted 15 points and 7 rebounds vs. Utah then 16 points and 4 rebounds vs. OKC. Gasol’s contributions were the main reason the Lakers were able to outscore both benches of the Jazz and Thunder.

If Gasol continues to play big minutes off the bench, and finish games at the PF position effectively alongside Howard, the Lakers will be a much stronger team, top to bottom.

Earl Clark (PF) Up arrow : The Lakers have officially found another “diamond in the rough” in Earl Clark. Clark’s continued emergence has been an important part of this recent turnaround. His versatility at the power forward position, starting alongside Howard, has given the Lakers a more balanced attack on both ends of the floor.

Image Credit: Mark J. Terrill | AP
Image Credit: Mark J. Terrill | AP

Clark has cooled off offensively of late, but his intangible contributions such as effort, energy and athleticism have been there consistently. Clark also adds a different element defensively as he can guard multiple positions on that end.

Clarks’ ability to defend multiple positions helps with rotations and allows the Lakers to switch matchups more often. With Jordan Hill out for the season, Clark has also added much-needed frontcourt depth that will pay dividends in keeping Howard and Gasol fresh.

Clark’s ability as an offensive “slasher” should also not go unnoticed either, especially with Bryant’s dedication to facilitating. Clark’s speed and superior athleticism have also contributed to a faster pace for the Lakers and led to more fast break opportunities from the start of games.

Over the Lakers’ past two wins, Clark has only averaged 9 points and 5 rebounds, but his energy and defensive presence have helped the Lakers start games quickly. Expect Clark to produce even more with Bryant continuing to facilitate effectively, and as Clark becomes more comfortable in his starting role.

Metta World Peace (SF / PF) Up arrow : Like many of the Lakers, World Peace has also benefited from Bryant’s control of the offense. World Peace has gotten many easy looks from three-point range, which has translated to a higher shooting percentage.

World Peace consequently made five three-pointers and poured in 17 points vs. Utah. He then followed that up by making three three-pointers and 15 points with 10 rebounds against Oklahoma City.

With World Peace receiving easier scoring opportunities on offense, he has been able to rededicate himself more on the defensive end. World Peace, along with Howard, has started to lead the Lakers’ defense on the perimeter. This was clearly evident by Kevin Durant’s 10-26 shooting performance against World Peace’s tenacious defense.

If Bryant keeps up his stellar play and the Lakers’ ball movement continues to flow, World Peace should shoot the ball even more efficiently going forward. His efficient shooting and easier opportunities should also translate into increased energy on the defensive end. Hopefully, if the recent trend continues, World Peace can return to being a “lockdown defender” once again.

Steve Nash (PG / SG) even : Steve Nash as a shooting guard? Well, with Bryant’s focus on facilitating the offense, Nash has effectively become a ‘combo’ point/shooting guard. Bryant is now handling the ball more than Nash is, which makes Nash much more of a scoring threat.

Nash has adjusted well to Bryant, however. Nash was the recipient of multiple Bryant assists in the past two games, which contributed to his back-to-back 15 and 17 points performances.

Regulating Nash to more of a spot-up shooter on offense certainly restricts his biggest strength as a facilitating point guard, but it is not a bad idea when Nash is a five-time member of the 40 / 50 / 90 club*.

Since the Lakers are no longer running D’Antoni’s offense, Nash’s importance as the offensive captain is reduced. Nash can essentially become the Lakers’ second point guard when Bryant goes to the bench and continue effectively executing Bryant’s plan of attack. Nash should continue to be an effective offensive weapon for the Lakers, especially as a shooter and scorer, but his role as the primary ball-handler seems to have permanently changed.

* The ’40 / 50 / 90’ club includes players who shoot at least 40% from three-point range, 50% from the field and 90% from the free throw line. Nash has accomplished that feat five times in his career.

Dwight Howard (C) even : Along with Bryant, Howard finally seems to “get it”. Howard now looks like he understands that he will not always be the first option offensively. Howard also seems to understand he will not always get the ball where he wants it, when he wants it.

Image Credit: Associated Press
Image Credit: Associated Press

This realization and acceptance has been a major key to the Lakers’ recent surge. Howard now seems content on winning, rather than getting 15+ shot attempts per game.

Howard has also started to apply himself more on the defensive end by contesting shots more consistently. He has even started to communicate and rotate more often and more effectively as the last line of defense.

Howard had a disappointing offensive game against Oklahoma City, as he was in foul trouble and only scored 8 points on 3-7 shooting, but he did not allow those struggles to impact his defensive presence. Despite his struggles, Howard remained upbeat and made his presence felt on the defensive end for the entire 29 minutes he played.

Howard was recently quoted as saying that he and Bryant are “two big dogs and [they] bump heads.” Howard continued by explaining that, “Instead of bumping heads, [they] can both do things to lead this team.”

Those things involve Bryant controlling the offense and Howard leading the defense. If Howard remains focused on leading the Lakers’ team defense and returns to being a defensive enforcer, he could return to that three-time Defensive Player of the Year he was in Orlando.

Now, if that actually happens, it could spell real trouble for the rest of the league.

Antawn Jamison (PF) even : Gasol’s demotion to the bench has had an indirect effect on the play of Antawn Jamison. With Gasol coming off the bench, Jamison now has an effective passing big man that can find him cutting or spotting up for threes.

Jamison certainly has struggled with consistency this season for the Lakers off the bench. If his 4-6 for 12 points in 14 minutes performance vs. the Thunder is any indication, he can still be a potent player off the bench for Los Angeles.

Bryant’s focus on facilitating and Gasol’s presence inside will significantly help Jamison’s stock going forward. If Gasol, Jamison and Meeks can find some consistency between each other, it could make the Lakers’ bench a strength, where it has been a weakness for so many years.

Jodie Meeks (SG) even : Meeks continued to receive sporadic playing time as the Lakers’ “pure shooter” this past week. Meeks has played solid the past two games, however, filling in for Bryant when he went to the bench.

Meeks scored 8 points on 3-6 shooting against the Jazz and scored 5 points on 2-3 shooting against the Thunder. Not only was his timely offensive production a spark off the bench, but also his energy on the defensive end, were keys in the Lakers’ victories.

If Meeks returns to being a consistent three-point threat, while playing solid defense, he can become a legitimate backup to Kobe Bryant.

Chris Duhon (PG) Down arrow : Duhon continues to do little to help the Lakers’ cause. As the Lakers primary backup point guard, he brings little scoring or facilitating production to the table.

Hopefully with Steve Blake returning from injury this Tuesday, and Bryant taking on more of the point guard duties, Duhon will be relegated to the end of the bench.

Darius Morris (PG) Down arrow : The fluctuation of minutes for Morris and Meeks continued this week. Before this week, Morris was getting more minutes than Meeks off the bench as the primary backup shooting guard.

Now, Morris has barely seen the court in the past four games. If Meeks becomes a consistent backup to Bryant, Morris could be glued to the bench, yet again.

Morris’s athleticism and up-tempo style of play can be advantageous for the Lakers, but it seems D’Antoni will roll with Meeks over Morris this upcoming week.

Robert Sacre (C) Down arrow : As Gasol settles into his sixth man role as the Lakers’ backup center, Robert Sacre has resumed his role as an ‘emergency big man.’

Barring any type of injury to the Lakers’ frontline or major foul trouble, Sacre will continue his “Sacre-dance” on the bench.

Steve Blake (PG) Injury sign Up arrow : Blake has finally been medically cleared to return to the court and will make his return to the lineup this Tuesday vs. New Orleans. Blake has not fully healed from his groin injury, which stemmed from the lower abdominal strain back in November, but he will attempt to play through it for the time being.

Coach D’Antoni recently expressed his excitement for Blake’s return at practice:

Expect to see Blake come off the bench against the Hornets (or Pelicans) on Tuesday night in limited minutes.

Notes: Jordan Hill had successful hip surgery this past week on his injured left hip. The surgery included the removal of loose fragments, repair of a torn labrum and a microfracture procedure to repair damaged cartilage. Hill is expected to be out approximately six months. Also, reserve SF Devin Ebanks continues his DNP-CD streak.

Stay tuned for next weeks’ Lakers Stock Watch as the Lakers begin their ‘Grammy Trip’ battling New Orleans, Phoenix, Minnesota and Detroit over the next week.

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Photo: Noah Graham | Getty Images
Image Credit: Noah Graham | Getty Images
Image Credit: Noah Graham | Getty Images

“Another disappointing week in the books for the Los Angeles Lakers.” This seems to be a recurring theme for the season.

After a promising 2-0 start to the week, the Lakers finished this past week with a 2-2 record; a record that will simply not cut it for the 17-23 Lakers. The Lakers started the week off with solid wins against Cleveland and Milwaukee, but ended the week in discouraging fashion with losses to Miami and Toronto, thus adding to their current 5-game road losing streak.

Forward Earl Clark continued his surge towards becoming a mainstay in the Lakers’ rotation, while both Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol returned from injury. The returns of the two big men failed to help the Lakers climb out of their rut, however, as the Lakers ended the week right where they started, six games under .500.

Take a look back at the changes in the Lakers’ stock values and the impact the players should have going forward:

Earl Clark (SF/PF) Up arrow : Clark, 25, continued his stellar play this week and proved he was not a “fluke.” Clark’s energy and effort, both off the bench and in the starting lineup, have been a huge lift for this inconsistent Lakers team.

Image Credit: USA TODAY Sports
Image Credit: USA TODAY Sports

Over the past four games, Clark averaged 9.8 ppg, 9.8 rpg, and 3.0 apg in 29 minutes per game. Clark started at power forward for the Lakers vs. Cleveland, Milwaukee and Miami, but came off the bench against Toronto.

Clark’s game against Toronto was the main reason the Lakers had a chance to win the game late. Clark registered a very active double-double with 14 points and 14 rebounds, on 6/10 shooting from the field. Clark’s high activity level and his ability to snatch offensive rebounds (6) were key to keeping the Lakers in the game.

Coach Mike D’Antoni’s “run and fun” system works the best with a “stretch four” player playing power forward. Clark, being 6’10”, certainly fits the bill. If he can continue to produce and bring energy off the bench, Clark could seriously push Gasol for the starting power forward position.

Clark, the 14th overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, has been an end of the rotation type player for much of his career. In Los Angeles, however, Clark has seized his opportunity with the Lakers’ recent injuries, and has finally been able to show all the hard work he put in this season.

Expect Clark to keep receiving ample playing time, as long as his energy and effort continue to be there on a consistent basis.

Dwight Howard (C) Up arrow : Howard had a solid week after returning from a torn labrum injury in his right shoulder. Howard returned against Cleveland and had back-to-back monster performances vs. Cleveland and Milwaukee.

Despite having a solid start to the week, Howard was ejected in the 2nd quarter against Toronto for picking up his second technical foul. Over the past week, Howard averaged 17.8 ppg, 12 rpg, 1.3 apg, and 1.8 bpg on an efficient 71.8% shooting.

Howard’s two exceptional performances, 22 & 14 vs. Cleveland and 31 & 16 vs. Milwaukee, were a big reason why the Lakers won both of those games. Howard’s activity level has also improved on the defensive end since returning from injury.

For the Lakers to be successful going forward, they have to give the ball to Howard in the post early. As evident in the Lakers’ two wins, getting Howard going early yields success for the remainder of the game. With Howard getting early touches, he seems to become even more active on defense on the help-side and on both defensive and offensive glasses.

Howard will continue to recover from off-season back surgery but he needs become the Lakers’ defensive captain, quickly. Howard’s defensive presence has been there some nights, but it must become a consistent part of the Lakers’ attack every night if they want to make the playoffs.

Along with the need for Howard’s superior defensive presence, Howard must start making his free throws at a higher percentage. This need was particularly evident when Howard missed two key free throws down the stretch of the game against Miami, which could have led to a Lakers win.

Howard was also selected as a frontcourt starter on the 2013 Western Conference All-Star team this past week.

Pau Gasol (PF/C) Up arrow : After missing six games with a concussion, Gasol returned against Miami. Gasol came off the bench vs. Miami in which he registered 12 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists on 4/7 shooting in just 24 minutes.

With his solid performance against Miami, Gasol was re-inserted into the starting lineup in the following game. Gasol followed up that solid offensive game with another one in Toronto. After Howard was ejected, Gasol became the Lakers’ offensive focus in the post. Gasol finished the game with 25 points on 10/15 shooting, but only had 5 rebounds.

Image Credit: Kevork Djansezian | Getty Images
Image Credit: Kevork Djansezian | Getty Images

Gasol’s ability to score in the paint has been a consistent part of his offensive game, but the Lakers need much more from their 32-year-old Spaniard. Since returning to the Lakers’ lineup, Gasol has only grabbed 9 total rebounds in two games. The Lakers need Gasol to be a much more consistent rebounder for them going forward.

Despite two decent games offensively, Gasol continues to struggle this season. Gasol is averaging career lows in points (12.2), rebounds (8.2) and field goal percentage (42%). If Gasol wants to continue to start for the Lakers, rather than come off the bench as D’Antoni has toyed with recently, he must become more consistent on both ends of the floor.

Continue keeping an eye on Gasol as the NBA Trade Deadline nears (February 21st), although there has been little reported interest in the Lakers’ 7-footer thus far.

Kobe Bryant (SG) even : Bryant’s defense was the main reason the Lakers won their two games this past week. Coach D’Antoni has decided to place Bryant on each opposing team’s best guard going forward.

As a result of this change in defensive scheme, Bryant limited the Cavaliers’ Kyrie Irving to just 15 points on 7/15 shooting. Bryant also contained Milwaukee’s reigning Eastern Conference Player-of-the-Week, Brandon Jennings, to just 12 points on 4/14 shooting.

Bryant’s defense on opposing guards was key in the Lakers’ success on the defensive end. Going forward, Bryant must continue to set the tone on the perimeter defensively because it trickles down to the other players on the floor.

With Bryant taking on a bigger task defensively, his efficiency on offense has suffered. Over the past four games, Bryant has shot just 43.3% from the field, despite scoring 25.5 ppg. In the Lakers’ two losses, Bryant shot a dismal 31.6% and forced a season-high 32 shot attempts against Toronto.

It seems that with Bryant taking a larger role defensively, his energy on offense has been negatively impacted. Bryant is constantly short on his jump shots and has settled from the perimeter more than he had earlier in the season. Bryant still leads the league in scoring (29.7 ppg) but his FG% is now down to 47.4% on the season.

After the Lakers’ loss to the Raptors on Sunday, Bryant was quoted as saying, “My legs are a little tired out there, and it’s been impacting my jumper, making it short at times.”

If D’Antoni continues putting Bryant on the opposing team’s best guard defensively, Bryant must make the adjustment on offense. The Lakers will not win many games with Bryant forcing 32 shots or shooting 31.6% from the field.

After the loss to the Raptors Sunday morning, Bryant took the blame for the Lakers’ recent struggles:

With Bryant expending more energy on the defensive end of late, he needs to find his teammates more often and get them going early. Doing this early in games should lessen the offensive burden on Bryant, in particular.

Bryant was also selected as a backcourt starter on the 2013 Western Conference All-Star team with a league-leading 1,591,437 fan votes.

Steve Nash (PG) even : Nash had a decent week both scoring and assist-wise, but turnovers and defensive lapses plagued him. Nash has helped bring some consistency to the Lakers’ point guard position this season, but he needs to shoot the ball more for the Lakers to be successful.

Over the past week, Nash has averaged 3.3 turnovers per game along with 10.8 ppg and 9.0 apg. At age 38, Nash is averaging 32.8 minutes per game this season. That number will hopefully decrease once backup point guard Steve Blake returns from injury.

In the last four games, Nash has only shot 45.5% from the field, an uncharacteristically low shooting percentage for him. Still, Nash continues to get open looks when Howard or Gasol is doubled inside, so he must continue to shoot with confidence. If Nash is even more aggressive with his own shot, it could open up the floor even more for his teammates.

Image Credit: Ezra Shaw | Getty Images
Image Credit: Ezra Shaw | Getty Images

In the game against Miami, Nash looked relatively helpless against the Heat’s trapping defense. The Lakers continued to run high pick and rolls, even after the Heat made it clear they were focused on stopping them. In this instance, the Lakers should have made an adjustment; this adjustment falls on the “floor general”, Steve Nash.

If D’Antoni continues to fail to make adjustments late in games, like he has on numerous occasions this year, Nash must take it upon himself to read the defense and make the necessary adjustments. Nash should have directed Gasol to the high post to relieve the pressure, instead of continuing to run high pick and rolls that were rendered ineffective.

Along with making late-game adjustments, Nash needs to start the Lakers half-court offense sooner in the shot clock, especially against athletic teams. Too many times the Lakers’ offense starts around the 10-second mark and the ball becomes stuck on one side. Nash should make sure the Lakers take advantage of the entire shot clock by moving the ball from side to side when he crosses half-court.

Since Nash is the emotional and floor leader, his improved play and on-court direction will prove paramount in turning this season around.

In this past week, Nash also continued his streak of made free throws (26/26), and remains a perfect 100% from the free-throw line on the season.

Metta World Peace (SF/PF) even : Despite being torched by Heat F LeBron James, World Peace has played consistently over the past week. World Peace averaged 11.3 ppg and 4 rpg while shooting 42.9% from the field and 35% from three-point range in that period.

Although World Peace has not been as efficient as he was earlier in the season, his averages are still a welcomed sight from the supposed “fifth option” of the Lakers. The Lakers need even more from the 13-year veteran, however, especially on the defensive end.

World Peace’s defense on LeBron James in the Lakers’ loss to the Heat was poor, to say the least. World Peace allowed James to become comfortable early in the game and let him become both a playmaker and scorer, simultaneously. In the future, World Peace must take away one of those two abilities to be successful against the league’s top scorers.

The Lakers need World Peace to return to being a “lock down” defender on the perimeter. Most of the Lakers recent struggles have come on the defensive end of the floor. World Peace has done little to help those struggles and the Lakers’ collective defense this season, posting a 105 Defensive Rating*.

World Peace has had his best season in Los Angeles so far this season, but the Lakers dearly need him to return to being a defensive force. World Peace, Bryant and Howard need to come together and create some defensive cohesion.

* Defensive Rating = an estimate of the number of individual points allowed per 100 possessions; a good DRtg is below 100.

Antawn Jamison (PF) even : Jamison has played inconsistently since becoming a major part of the Lakers’ rotation. The problem with Jamison is that you never know what you will get from him on any given night. Jamison could go off for 30 points one game, then the next game he could only get you 5 points.

Image Credit: Gary A. Vasquez | US Presswire
Image Credit: Gary A. Vasquez | US Presswire

Jamison had a high last week of 16 points in the win against Cleveland, in which he made 4/5 three pointers, but he also had a low of 5 points against Toronto, where he went 2/6 shooting from the floor.

Jamison’s role on the Lakers is certainly not to play defense or rebound, instead it is to score. Unfortunately, Jamison has yet to become a consistent scoring threat off the bench for the Lakers this season. A player with a career average of 19.2 points per game has become a player with an average of only 7.7 points per game.

Although Jamison is playing fewer minutes and receiving fewer opportunities with the talent around him, the Lakers need him to become more consistent from the floor. With Jordan Hill now out for the season, the Lakers will need both Jamison and Clark to become consistent to bolster the bench.

Jamison’s averages of 10.8 ppg / 5.8 rpg / 1.5 apg on 50% shooting in the last four games is just not enough production from the Lakers’ “best” bench scorer.

Chris Duhon (PG) Down arrow : Duhon continues to be the Lakers’ backup point guard, but also continues to have little impact off the bench. Duhon takes care of the ball (only 1 turnover in his last four games), but does little else to help the Lakers.

The Lakers’ main backup for Steve Nash, Duhon, has only scored 4 points in the last four games. Duhon does get ample playing time (21.5 mpg), but he does little else besides initiate the offense.

When Duhon does shoot, however, he is only shooting 40% from the field and 37.5% from three-point range. As a result, Duhon has become a glaring liability for the Lakers. As much as a “bust” Steve Blake has been for the Lakers over the past few years, he is clearly needed to give them some type of production from the backup point guard position.

Darius Morris (PG) Down arrow : It seems that Morris has now been relegated to just an emergency guard. Coach D’Antoni made Morris the main backup at the shooting guard position earlier in the week, but now with two straight games of only 5 minutes of play, Morris seems to have an even smaller role.

Morris played well against Cleveland, registering 14 points on 5/9 shooting, but has only scored 5 points over the past three games. Morris’s athleticism is something the Lakers can surely use and take advantage of, but D’Antoni seems confident in leaving him on the bench.

Robert Sacre (C) Down arrow : With Howard and Gasol returning from injury, Sacre’s role has also been reduced. Sacre, despite playing 18 minutes in the win against Cleveland, has only played a total of 12 minutes over the last three games.

Despite playing solid while filling in for the injured big men, it now seems like Sacre will only see the floor if Howard or Gasol get into foul trouble or become injured again. Like Morris, Sacre looks to be in the same situation as an “emergency big man.”

Jodie Meeks (SG) Down arrow : Meeks is now glued to the bench. Despite once being a consistent three-point threat for the Lakers, D’Antoni has chosen to leave Meeks on the bench. Meeks has not shot well from behind the arc in the past few weeks, and has yet to get a real chance to revive his shooting ability.

It looks like Morris is now the official backup shooting guard, although even Morris is rarely given a chance. Meeks can certainly be a great asset off the bench, because of his ability to stretch the floor, but as long as D’Antoni is the coach, it seems that Meeks will remain glued to the bench.

Steve Blake (PG) Injury sign : Blake began the week playing three-on-three games at practice. Blake has fully recovered from his abdominal surgery, but is now dealing with a groin issue. He is expected to receive a cortisone shot in his groin on Sunday, however, which will hopefully speed up the recovery process.

The Lakers are optimistic that Blake will be able to return to the lineup within the next 1-2 weeks. His return would be a welcomed sight for the Lakers’ bench, especially with Duhon’s poor play of late.

Notes: SF Devin Ebanks has not played in a game since January 11th against Oklahoma City. Ebanks, 23, is averaging 3.6 ppg and 2.2 rpg this season, but has only played in one of the past 13 games.

 

Stay tuned for next weeks’ Lakers Stock Watch as the Lakers battle Chicago, Memphis, Utah and Oklahoma City over the next week.

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Image Credit: Alex Lambeth | LakerNation
Image Credit: Alex Lambeth | LakerNation
Image Credit: Alex Lambeth | LakerNation

January 16th, 2013 — The 9th Annual Lakers All-Access event at STAPLES Center was a great opportunity for fans to interact with their favorite team. The night included a shoot around on the Lakers’ court, a photo opportunity with the championship trophies and Lakers girls, as well as a silent auction for autographed memorabilia.

The event concluded with two separate panels discussions, both moderated by Voice-of-the-Lakers Bill Macdonald. The first panel consisted of Laker Legends: General Manager Mitch Kupchak, Robert Horry, James Worthy and Jamaal Wilkes. The second panel consisted of present Lakers: head coach Mike D’Antoni and players Antawn Jamison and Steve Blake. The following is a brief recap of the important quotes from the panel discussions:

Robert Horry:

When Kobe’s on the weak side, he needs to start paying attention to where the ball is and not be flying around thinking he’s just some ‘stealth bomber’ and he can get steals all the time.

- Wants to see Pau Gasol continue coming off the bench for the rest of the season; says Gasol should watch tape of Manu Ginobli and James Harden to understand how to be an effective sixth man.

- Frustrates both him and his Time Warner Cable Sports Net co-host, James Worthy, to see a team with so much talent, struggle so much early on.

- Would like to see the NBA take out the zone defense: “If you can’t play man-to-man defense, then go home.”

James Worthy:

If you ever tried to block Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s hook shot, you would probably need facial reconstruction surgery when you were done from his elbows.

- Enjoys receiving feedback on Twitter from fans; helps shape direction on TWCSN telecasts.

- Wants to see Kobe Bryant get cleaner shots and not force shots as much on offense when he as such great teammates around him. Mentioned both Blake and Steve Nash as great shooters.

- Would like to see the NBA go back to just two referees; game was more fun and more up-tempo because of less calls, and players could get away with more off the ball.

- Wants to see consistency from game-to-game with Gasol being implemented back into the lineup.

Jamaal Wilkes:

If the Lakers make the playoffs, I wouldn’t want to be the team that has to play them.

- Shared the fact that he learned how to shoot in such a unique way at about 11 or 12 years old: “No one wanted to mess with it when I got to high school.”

- When Wilkes arrived at UCLA, coach John Wooden said that as long as it had good backspin, rolled off his fingertips and went in the basket, then there was nothing that needed to be changed.

- The NBA used to be more physical, but that physicality was accepted more back then, which is the main difference in the league, past and present.

- Wouldn’t count out the Lakers. They’re not panicking and seems like they’re figuring more things out now, called them “shell-shocked” initially.

Mitch Kupchak:

The Western Conference is a much tougher conference these days. We have to win 3 out of every 4 games going forward, not 2 out of every 4, and be playing well come April.

- Kupchak preached patience; thinks this season would be a much different story without the multitude of injuries the Lakers have suffered so far.

- If he had to pick one player to start a franchise with, besides Michael Jordan, it would be Kareem. Cited “The Captain’s” great skill for a big man as well as his longevity of spending 20 years in the NBA.

- One rule that the NBA has discussed implementing is the European goal-tending rule; Kupchak doesn’t like the rule personally.

Mike D’Antoni:

The fans are better here in Los Angeles than they were in New York. In New York, they’re with you until the 3rd quarter then they’re against you.

- On Steve Blake: great, smart basketball player and he’s tough as nails. Excited to coach him because he believes Blake will pick up the system quickly.

- His experience playing in Italy was wonderful; traveled everywhere with his team and it made him into a different person.

- Doesn’t know whom he’s talking to sometimes between Ron Artest and Metta World Peace; says that he tends to switch between identities often.

- Still thinks it’s early in the season, hopes they’ve turned it around now. Still have steps to go, but likes where the energy and effort are on a nightly basis.

- Defensively they’ve found a couple things that work well and they’ll run with them. Energy is not an issue as the players bring it every night.

- Kind of hit rock bottom but have learned how to get through the rough parts and turn them into positives. Did that vs. Milwaukee and Cleveland.

- Players must have great chemistry and trust each other on the court. Guys must understand their role as well, which is simply to play hard, shoot when you’re open and then run back down the floor.

- Hates when players complain about touches or about their role on the team; the “ball finds energy” and everyone has the same role on the team (to play as hard as you can and shoot when you’re in the game).

Antawn Jamison:

If I had to change my name, [like World Peace did], I would probably change it to Denzel. I looked like a young Denzel Washington back in the day.

- Loves playing in LA and has had “an unbelievable experience here.” Especially likes seeing all the Lakers fans on the road.

- Felt like he deserved to be on a historic franchise such as the Lakers after 14 years in the league. Chose the Lakers because they “value championships over everything else.”

- Determined that Mike D’Antoni and his brother, assistant coach Dan D’Antoni, can’t be related because of their polar opposite personalities; says that it makes for an interesting locker room.

- Spacing and timing are the keys to making everything come together effectively this season: “Look at the personnel, it’s almost impossible to stop us.”

- By doing the things that D’Antoni preaches, it creates more opportunities for everyone. Trusting both the system and each other has opened the players’ eyes to just how good they can be collectively.

Steve Blake:

I love playing in LA and hopefully I’ll continue to have success here. I hope to be Laker for a long time.

Injury update: Blake will receive a cortisone shot on Sunday to treat his recent groin issue. Blake has recovered from the abdominal surgery but must take care of his groin trouble before returning to the court.

- Likes seeing his teammates “buy-in” to D’Antoni’s system and trust each other on both ends of the floor; seems like they’re playing more “playoff-style basketball” of late.

- Nice to see guys stepping up when others go down with injuries. Especially likes seeing his teammates “not taking any possessions off.”

LakerNation: Be sure to be on the lookout for next year’s ‘Annual Lakers All-Access’ event sometime in January 2014. It is definitely a great opportunity for fans to gain a personal, behind-the-scenes look at your Los Angeles Lakers!

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Photo: Noah Graham | Getty Images
Lakers Stock Watch
Image Credit: Noah Graham | Getty Images

The Lakers have continued building, or regressing, on their six-game losing streak this past week. Despite losses of Dwight Howard (torn labrum), Pau Gasol (concussion) and Jordan Hill (bone fragments in hip – Out for the Season), the emergence of forward Earl Clark has been a pleasant surprise.

Since last Sunday, the Lakers have suffered losses to Denver, Houston, San Antonio and Oklahoma City, all while giving up 116 points per game in that stretch. Taking those past performances into account, the following is a look at the stock changes for the Lakers going forward:

Earl Clark (SF/PF) Up arrow : Clark’s emergence in the past three games has been the lone bright spot for the Lakers during their six-game losing streak. After losing the entire Laker front-court against Denver, coach Mike D’Antoni turned to Clark to fill spot minutes at the forward position in the subsequent game against Houston.

Clark responded with a decent performance of 5 points, 9 rebounds and 3 assists in 21 minutes off the bench. The next night, in San Antonio, Clark was again thrusted into the Lakers’ rotation. This time, Clark had a coming-out party as a Laker in which he posted career highs in both points and rebounds. Clark, a main reason the depleted Lakers were able to make a game out of their matchup with the Spurs, scored 22 points on 9/12 shooting, grabbed 13 rebounds and dished out 3 assists.

With his huge performance in San Antonio, Clark has begun drawing clever nicknames such as “Earl-Sanity” and “Clarkemonium”, among others. With his stellar play against the Spurs, Clark was placed in the starting lineup against Oklahoma City and entrusted with the task of guarding Kevin Durant.

Although Durant scored a season-high 42 points, Clark’s energy and effort were key to the Lakers’ success early in the game. Clark finished the night with a double-double (10 points, 10 rebounds and 3 blocked shots), but was unable to contain Durant all night.

It seems that with back-to-back solid performances, Clark has cemented himself in D’Antoni’s rotation. Clark’s unique combination of size, length and ball-handling ability make him a valuable piece in the Lakers’ rotation. With the recent news that F/C Jordan Hill is lost for the remainder of the season, Clark could become an important replacement going forward.

Steve Nash (PG) Up arrow : Nash’s return from his shin injury has been a welcomed sight for the Lakers and Lakers fans alike. Although Nash hasn’t quite been the “savior” for the Lakers this season, his ability to control the pace and offense for the Lakers have been key.

Over the past four games, the Lakers have averaged about 106 points per game. This high offensive efficiency has been due in large part to the Lakers’ two-time MVP point guard. Nash’s ability to put players in the right spots on offense was something the Lakers were clearly lacking in his absence. Since Nash’s return, the Lakers are averaging 106 ppg, a step up from the 102 ppg they averaged without him. Unfortunately, the Lakers’ demise this season has not been on the offensive end, but much more importantly on the defensive end.

Nash has averaged an efficient 11.7 ppg on 50% shooting and 9.7 assists per game in the past four games for the Lakers. The Lakers, however, may need Nash to be even more aggressive on offense and look to shoot more often if Howard and Gasol remain out for an extended period of time. Surprisingly enough, Nash’s usage rate this season is at a career low of 15%. This will need to increase for the Lakers to have any future success.

* For a reference point on usage rate: Ramon Session’s usage rate for the Lakers last season was 20.5%.

Antawn Jamison (PF) Up arrow : With the multitude of injuries to the Lakers’ front-line, Jamison has gotten a chance once again to be a fixture in the Lakers’ rotation. Jamison has seized this opportunity and played solid in the bigs’ absence, registering 11.3 points per game in that stretch.

Jamison has been in and out of D’Antoni’s rotation this season, but with his recent play, he may have made a case to stay in. Jamison will have heavy competition for minutes with Earl Clark though, once Howard and Gasol return to the lineup.

As for now, however, Jamison will need to continue playing solid basketball, as the Lakers need his scoring punch without their usual interior presence. Another performance, like the one he had against Oklahoma City (19 points and 10 rebounds), would be a huge boost for the depleted Lakers.

Robert Sacre (C) Up arrow : With Dwight Howard missing extended time with a torn labrum, Sacre has been called upon to start at the center position. Sacre is not the most dazzling player, but his scrappiness and constant energy have been a shot in the arm for the Lakers.

Sacre, the last pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, has played decently since being called up from the Lakers’ D-League affiliate, the D-Fenders. Anytime you go from the developmental league to starting for the Los Angeles Lakers, you must be doing something right, or that team must have a lot of recent injuries (which is the case here).

Kobe Bryant (SG) even : Bryant, 34, continues to have a historic season individually thus far. Unfortunately, Bryant’s exceptional play has yet to translate into wins this season for the Lakers.

Over this past week, Bryant has played considerably well without the three big men. Bryant registered averages of 26 ppg on 38.5% shooting, 4.5 rpg, 5.5 apg in 39 minutes per game. Bryant continues to lead the league in scoring at 30.0 points per game.

At his current age of 34 years old, Bryant continues to amaze and silence his critics. In fact, no guard has ever averaged over 15 points per game in his 17th season or later. Bryant has doubled that average with his 30 ppg average.

The main thing here that prevents Bryant’s stock from increasing is his defensive deficiencies. Like most Lakers this season, there have been too many defensive lapses on a consistent basis. Bryant continues to suffer breakdowns defensively, most notably in Harden and Durant’s recent offensive explosions.

If the Lakers want to turn this season around, they have to buckle down defensively, and that especially starts with their captain, Kobe Bean Bryant.

Metta World Peace (SF/PF) even : World Peace is having his best season offensively for the Lakers. Along with his shooting percentage being up to 42.1%, his points per game average is at 13.8 ppg this season, compared to just 7.7 ppg last season. World Peace is finally in shape, after losing about 15 pounds in the off-season, and this has helped him considerably to start the year. He both looks and moves much quicker than he has in years past.

In this tough stretch of games last week, World Peace averaged 18.7 ppg, 5.2 rpg and 3.2 steals per game. World Peace had great back-to-back games in Houston and San Antonio, in which he registered 24 points and 23 points, respectively. World Peace also had 7 steals in the loss to the Spurs, something the Lakers desperately need to continue in order to have success on the defensive end.

World Peace has arguably been the Lakers’ most consistent player this season. His offensive efficiency is as high as it’s been as a member of the Lakers. Although his offense has been great, World Peace’s defense is still not what it once was. Allowing Durant and Harden to both go off last week, granted World Peace wasn’t always guarding them the entire game, is something that would not have happened a few years ago.

World Peace, along with Bryant, is going to have to turn it up on the defensive end and start leading by example if the Lakers want to have a legitimate shot at turning this season around.

Jodie Meeks (SG) Down arrow : Meeks was specifically brought in to be a consistent backup to Kobe Bryant this season. Unfortunately, that has not happen thus far as Meeks has been relatively streaky.

Meeks is currently in a long slump from three-point range, extending further back than just this past week. Since Christmas, Meeks is shooting a dismal 28.6% from beyond the arc. This percentage, from the team’s supposed “most consistent three-point shooter”, is unacceptable for a team in search of a playoff berth.

Although his shooting has not always been there, Meeks does bring consistent energy and effort off the bench. His effort often seems to be contagious, especially when the starters lack energy to begin games.

Meeks can be a integral piece in the Lakers’ cog this season, but he needs to start hitting three pointers at a higher percentage. If Meeks is able to regain his confidence and consistent shooting ability, he will be able to open up the inside for the Lakers’ bigs as well as for easier drives for Nash and Bryant.

Chris Duhon (PG) Down arrow : Duhon remains the Lakers’ backup point guard, but has had little impact of the bench. Duhon takes care of the ball well (only 4 turnovers in his last four games), but he does little else to help the Lakers.

Averaging 17 minutes per game over the last four, Duhon has scored a combined 10 points and 12 assists in that stretch. Sure, Nash is one of the best point guards in the league, but having a backup with that type of production is unacceptable and a liability for this Lakers team.

Darius Morris (PG) Down arrow : Remember when Morris was a regular starter for the Lakers? Those days seem to be over. Even with his superior speed and ability to get to the basket, Morris seems to be relegated to the end of the bench.

Over the past four games, Morris has only played in three games in which he has averaged 12 minutes per game. In that stretch, Morris has averaged 7.3 ppg and 5 apg, but D’Antoni seems to favor Duhon as the primary backup point guard.

The Lakers could certainly use Morris’s speed off the bench in a “change of pace” type of role. His defense has been lacking of late, but if in the right role, Morris can still be a valuable asset off the bench.

Dwight Howard (C) Injury sign : Howard went down with a torn labrum injury in his right shoulder last Sunday against the Nuggets. Howard has missed the last three games, but will start at center tonight against Cleveland.

With Howard out of the lineup, the Lakers have struggled defending the paint. Although not fully healthy this season, Howard’s presence in the key and as the last line of defense remains unmatched by any of his teammates.

If the Lakers want to make a decisive run at the playoffs soon, getting Howard back in the lineup will be a step in the right direction.

Pau Gasol (PF) Injury sign : Like Howard, Gasol suffered a major injury in the Lakers’ loss to Denver. Gasol was inadvertently hit in the face by Nuggets’ center JaVale McGee and suffered a concussion. Gasol has also missed the last three games and will not be allowed to return until he passes the NBA’s strict concussion program.

Along with Howard, Gasol’s absence has been felt on the inside, especially on offense. The Lakers need Gasol’s facilitating ability back in the lineup to become even more efficient on the offensive end.

Gasol continues to be re-evaluated daily but is officially listed as OUT against the Cavaliers.

Jordan Hill (PF/C) Injury sign : This was absolutely the most crushing blow of the past week. Hill injured his hip in the game against Denver last Sunday, but received discouraging news on Friday.

After an MRI revealed lose bone fragments in his hip, as well as a possible labral tear of a muscle in his hip, Hill will be forced to have surgery. Early estimates say that Hill will miss the rest of the season, but he will try to get a second opinion tomorrow to see if he can speed up the recovery process.

Hill’s injury is just the latest of the many crushing blows the Lakers have felt this season. Hill has been having the best season of his career and his energy and rebounding ability have been unmatched by almost anyone in the entire NBA. Hill’s 13.0 rebounds per game per 36 minutes was one of the highest rebounding marks in the league.

The Lakers will unfortunately have to right the ship without Hill’s services. Maybe the emergence of Earl Clark will soften the blow, but Hill’s value to this team is irreplaceable.

Notes: Lakers’ backup PG Steve Blake remains sidelined after abdominal surgery in November, but he expects to return to the court sometime in the next few weeks. Reserve small forward Devin Ebanks continues to be a DNP-CD in the Lakers’ box score, despite being re-signed this off-season and being seen as an “exciting prospect for the future.”

 

Stay tuned for next weeks’ Lakers Stock Watch as the Lakers battle Cleveland, Milwaukee, Miami and Toronto this week.

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With the Lakers off to a poor start, trade rumors have begun to swirl around Kobe Bryant, leading many to speculate if he'll leave for greener pastures. Kobe puts those rumors to rest in his interview with Yahoo Sports.