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Steve Nash

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Source: Danny Moloshok / Reuters
Kobe Bryant
Source: Danny Moloshok / Reuters

December 10, 2013 — 7:30 PM (PST)
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

The Los Angeles Lakers (10-10) look to bounce back tonight against the Phoenix Suns (11-9) after a very disappointing loss vs. Toronto Raptors on Sunday. Lakers G Kobe Bryant, who made his season debut on Sunday after tearing his left achilles on April 12th game vs. Golden State Warriors, showed a lot of rust especially with his executing his passes as expected. Bryant scored a pedestrian 9 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, while committing 8 turnovers. Lakers fans however should be very patient with Bryant and let him play his way to return to his old form and develop an on-court chemistry with the rest of the Lakers, many of whom have never played with Bryant before Sunday’s game. Although the Lakers will struggle as a team the next few weeks to get Kobe in rhythm with the rest of the Lakers, any team with Bryant on the floor will be better off in the long run.

The Phoenix Suns, on the other hand, look to come into Staples Center after 3 days off and come away with a victory tonight. The Suns are led by the point guard duo of PG Goran Dragic and PG Eric Bledsoe. Dragic has performed very well replacing PG Steve Nash to run the show, averaging 17.7 PPG and 6.4 APG. Bledsoe clearly benefited from PG Chris Paul‘s tutelage during his Los Angeles Clippers days, bringing hope for the Suns franchise moving forward. Bledsoe has eerily similar numbers to Dragic, averaging 18.6 PPG and 6.0 APG, while causing havoc on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor.

Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni has decided to shuffle the starting lineup again to help Bryant on the defensive end so he would not have to guard quick guards like Bledsoe and Dragic tonight. SG Jodie Meeks will replace F Wes Johnson in the lineup to provide a quicker player on defense and F Shawne Williams will replace C Robert Sacre to help spread the floor out and match-up with Suns F Channing Frye.

Projected Starters

PG - Goran Dragic Steve Blake [Advantage: Suns]

SG - Eric Bledsoe / Jodie Meeks [Advantage: Suns]

SF - PJ TuckerKobe Bryant [Advantage: Lakers]

PF - Channing Frye / Shawne Williams [Advantage: Suns]

C - Miles Plumlee / Pau Gasol [Advantage: Lakers]

Notable Bench Players

Suns: G Gerald Green, F Markieff Morris, C Marcus Morris

Lakers: G Xavier Henry, G/F Nick Young, G/F Wesley Johnson, C/F Jordan Hill

X-Factors

Suns: G Gerald Green - who joined the Suns this season after a solid season coming off the bench for the Indiana Pacers, could cause the Lakers a lot of problems tonight. Arguably one of the most athletic players in the NBA, Green definitely helps the Suns run-and-gun style of play with his high flying dunking skills. Although Green has played for the Suns this season scoring at a career high 13.9 PPG, Green has struggled lately, shooting only 6-25 in his last three games. If Green can somewhat offset the points difference the Suns and the Lakers bench, the Suns will be in great shape to win tonight’s game.

Lakers: C Pau Gasol - While the Lakers coaching staff expected Bryant to struggle in his season debut, Bryant did not struggle as much as Gasol vs. Raptors. Gasol, whose sore ankle has clearly affected his mobility on the floor, had another dissappointing game on Sunday, scoring only 11 points on 3-11 shooting, while contributing a lot to Raptors C Amir Johnson‘s career high of 32 points. For the Lakers to have any chance in tonight’s game, Gasol has to play well to offset the Suns backcourt speed. If Gasol lets his sore ankle affect his production as significantly as Sunday’s game, the Suns will make tonight’s game a track meet, which will cause major problems for both Gasol and Bryant.

Bottom Line

As Bryant gets back into regular season form, expect to continue to see a lot of timing issues on the floor as Bryant and the rest of the Lakers learn how to play with each other and communicate more effectively. For the Lakers to have any chance to win tonight’s game, the Lakers bench, who has outscored their opponent’s bench in all but 2 games and lead the NBA in scoring at 48.1 PPG, has to outscore the Suns bench by a significant margin.

Prediction

Suns: 108-96

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Photo courtesy of Emmanuel Dunand, Getty Images
Photo by: Emmanuel Dunand/Getty Images
Photo by: Emmanuel Dunand/Getty Images

The NBA world isn’t just about what you do on the court. We scoured the web for Lakers-related quotations to provide you with the 10 best quotes from the past seven days:

#10:

“In the paint, we’re awful and we’ve got to get tougher. We’ve got to get a little stronger there. If we want to be a good team and if we want to get better, then that’s definitely a point of emphasis.”

Mike D’Antoni, via the L.A. Times

#9:

“It wasn’t clear what the team needed last year … It needed, maybe, an exorcism.”

Mike D’Antoni, via ESPN’s Dave McMenamin

#8:

“Now that we got our closer back, it should be easier. I was trying to step up and do that for Kobe, but we got the real version.”

Nick Young, via the Daily News’ Mark Medina

#7:

“That Achilles tendon injury forces you to play on the ground as well as in the air and that means becoming more fundamentally sound. And Kobe being a fundamentally sound guy anyway, it’s going to be easy for him to make the adjustment. The fundamentals will obviously be there for Kobe, but what about his explosiveness? The explosion will be there, especially if you really rehab it and strengthen it like you should.”

Dominique Wilkins, via ESPN First Take

#6:

“I’m not jumping through the gym by any means. But I don’t need to be able to do that in order to be a great player.”

Kobe Bryant, via the L.A. Times

#5:

“Sometimes I don’t believe I’m on the court with Kobe. He has the ball so much and he demands the ball so much as Kobe Bryant and sometimes you can catch yourself watching him on the floor. We just got to be out there and go with him. Sometimes we’ll bring it up and sometimes he’ll bring it up, we can’t just defer to him every time. It’s my first time out there with him so I deferred to him a lot. I looked for him a lot because he’s out there on the court and that’s what the fans wanted. The whole thing was about Kobe tonight so I got caught up in the moment.”

Nick Young, via ESPN

#4:

“I wasn’t 100 percent but I don’t like to make excuses. I’m just going to try to play through what I have going on. A guy like that (Amir Johnson) shouldn’t have that type of night against your team. We have to do a better job individually and collectively in order so anyone won’t have a game like that.”

Pau Gasol, following the Lakers loss to the Toronto Raptors, via the Daily News

#3:

“It was really weird. I think the last time I had eight months off I was still in the womb.”

Kobe Bryant, after returning to action against the Raptors, via USA Today

#2:

“I think calmer heads kind of prevailed and thought let’s not risk this kind of yo-yo season. Because that might be the case. I might not be able to play anymore. I might have to yo-yo it or I might be able to play the rest of the way. I think right now we want to see if I can play the rest of the way. (…) It’s been just an obviously pretty horrible 13 months for me. It’s really hard. It’s been a really hard 12 months, 13 months and it’s been in particularly even more hard the last six months, seven months since (the nerve issues) happened in April where I just could never quite get over the hump. It’s been . . . It’s a battle every day.”

Steve Nash, via ESPN

#1:

“As tough as ever to find that balance of where my mind needed to be. As soon as the injury happened, I had doubts whether this night would ever happen. And then, I kicked it into the full gear and fought myself to not think about the end result – just think about every single day of work it would take for me to get back again. I found out that I had another gear, a gear that I never knew was there. It’s one thing to push yourself when everyone expects you to be dominant, to perform at the highest level. I had a motivation to do that. But it was something else all together to find a motivation when there was no end goal in sight, when I literally couldn’t walk. I had to sit there and think about coming out and performing, months and months from now, but I didn’t really know when that time was going to be. And you keep going and you keep working and you find out, yes, I can get there… And I got there.”

Kobe Bryant, via Yahoo Sports

 

What is your favorite one? Do you think any quotations got snubbed? Let us know in the comment section below!

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Lakers fans will be happy with today’s news coming out of practice regarding Kobe Bryant. #24 practiced with the team and went full speed today in their scrimmage.  Interesting to note that Kobe was seen as being more of a facilitator rather than looking for his own shot.   He was able to cut, go around screens, and did not look limited.

What was the most exciting part of the scrimmage? The ending. That’s when Kobe finished the game with a dunk, showing that he is comfortable exploding off the Achilles.

The next step is to see how Kobe’s Achilles responds after practice and tomorrow, when the Lakers practice again.  It’s positive news for the Black Mamba as he nears his return to the court.

Pau Gasol was on the floor as well so it does not look like he will miss any time with his sprained right ankle.  He commented on Kobe’s day of practice, offering positive words for Lakers’ fans.

In another significant injury update, Steve Nash returned to the floor today and practiced before the media was allowed in.  He did not participate in the 5-on-5 scrimmage because of a sore back.  From the sound of things, it was baby steps for Nash and it could be days and possibly weeks until we see him back in game action.  There’s plenty of concern from Nash and it’s important the Lakers do not rush him back to the court.

The Lakers will travel to Sacramento on Friday to take on the Kings.  Kobe’s return could not come soon enough after Jordan Farmar’s hamstring injury depleting the point guard depth.  Steve Blake practiced, despite a hyper-extended elbow, and is the lone point guard at the moment.  The expectation is that Kobe will play more of a facilitator role upon his return.

Xavier Henry also played some point guard in the scrimmage so there is a chance that if Kobe does not make his return Friday, that Henry could see some time at the back-up point guard position.

Here is the InstaVid from the Lakers of Kobe’s left-handed dunk today:

Also, Gasol had this to say on Twitter after practice.

Stay tuned with LakerNation.com for more news and injury updates!

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Images | Los Angeles Lakers
Source: Los Angeles Lakers

The Los Angeles Lakers made a huge statement to its organization and its loyal fan base.

Kobe Bean Bryant will be a Laker for life.

The Lakers officially signed superstar SG Kobe Bryant Monday morning to a 2-year extension worth $48.5 million, according to ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Ramona Shelburne. At $48.5 million, Bryant will receive $23.5 million in 2014-15 and $25 million in 2015-16 from the Lakers. Bryant’s contract gives the Lakers an open shot at signing a free agent to a maximum contract either during this off-season or the next.

“This was easy,” Bryant told Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski on Monday night. “This wasn’t a negotiation. The Lakers made their offer with cap and building a great team in mind while still taking care of me as a player. I simply agreed to the offer.”

Assuming Bryant fulfills his new contract, he will become the longest tenured player in NBA history to play with a single franchise—playing for 2 decades with the Los Angeles Lakers.

However, Lakers fans have had mixed reactions in regards to Bryant’s new extension. Due to the league’s complex new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), most Lakers fans have difficulties answering the following question;

How does Bryant’s extension affect the Lakers’ cap room and their quest to help Kobe win another championship to tie Michael Jordan’s 6 championships?

Hoopsworld.com columnist Larry Coon and Los Angeles Times Eric Pincus both did a phenomenal job on their columns “A quick update on Kobe’s extension and the Lakers’ cap space” and “What does the Kobe Bryant contract mean to the Lakers’ roster?” These columns are excellent guides on how the Lakers will work with the expected 2014-15 soft salary cap of $62.9 million to build another championship contender.

Using their views, let’s take a look at the Lakers’ current salary cap situation for this off-season.

Lakers’ Current Salary Cap Situation

As Larry Coon noted, the Lakers currently have Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, and Robert Sacre on books for next season, while Elias Harris has a non-guaranteed contract and Nick Young has a player option next season. The Lakers will also have a 1st round draft pick, which would fall to the 15th pick if season ended today at a cap hit of about $1.5 million.

Here is the scenario that Larry Coon gives the Lakers to work with:

“If they remove both [Elias] Harris and [Steve] Nash, their team salary will drop to about $34.44 million, which would give them about $28.46 million in cap room. This would give them the opportunity to sign one maximum-salary player, and a second player at around the mid-level amount. They would also be eligible to utilize the Room Mid-Level exception for around $2.7 million.”

Now, let’s say the Lakers use the Room Mid-Level exception on current SG Jodie Meeks, who is averaging 13.3 PPG and shooting 47.7% from behind the three-point line this season.

Also, lets assume the Lakers re-sign PG Jordan Farmar and F Wesley Johnson to veteran minimum deals.

According to Eric Pincus, “Their cap holds will be just $915,243 next summer…the Lakers can negotiate small (7.5%) raises for each, if both sides are willing — after the team uses its cap room.”

Pincus also mentioned that C Pau Gasol and C/PF Jordan Hill’s cap holds stand at $20.3 million and $6.7 million respectively for this off-season. The Lakers would definitely need to renounce Gasol’s bird rights and possibly Hill’s also to make a legitimate run at a max-contract player. Furthermore, Gasol would need to accept a steep discount, approximately $5.5 million to $8 million per season, to have any chance to rejoin the Lakers under any scenario.

After retaining Bryant, Young, Sacre, Meeks, Johnson, Farmar, and a 1st round pick before the 10-day July moratorium period ends, the Lakers would then maintain up to approximately $26.63 million of cap space to sign free agents this off-season.

Using the facts obtained from Larry Coon’s and Eric Pincus’ columns, let’s see the most plausible route the Lakers can take from here.

Scenario #1: Sign Carmelo Anthony and choose between Pau Gasol or Jordan Hill

Source: Jeff Gross/Getty Images North America
Source: Jeff Gross/Getty Images North America

The Lakers told Bryant they have room to sign one max contract.

After hours of studying the salary cap and analyzing multiple reports, Carmelo Anthony seems to be the one and only max player the Lakers can reasonably sign next summer.

Anthony, a 29-year-old superstar forward for the New York Knicks, is currently in his 11th season in the NBA with career averages of 25.0 PPG, 6.4 RPG, and 3.1 APG. Anthony had a monster 2012-2013 season, scoring a career high of 28.7 PPG and leading the Knicks to the 2nd round of the playoffs.

The Knicks, however, are currently struggling with injuries and a lack of team chemistry, causing them to fall to a dismal 3-10 record to start off this season.

To make things worse for the Knicks, they cannot retool their roster around Anthony as their roster currently stands due to expensive contracts. Amar’e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani, two overpaid players way past their primes, will most likely opt-in for $23.4 million and $11.5 million salary respectively next season. Tyson Chandler also has another year left in his contract, worth $14.6 million next season

According to HoopsRumors.com’s Luke Adams, Anthony can earn a max contract for either $129 million for 5 years with the Knicks, or for 96 million for 4 years with another team, including the Lakers as a free agent this off-season. Anthony could also have a player option after his 3rd season under both potential contracts.

Anthony and Bryant have a very close relationship both on and off the court. Bryant and Anthony built their relationship from being teammates at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, where they both made significant contributions in winning two gold medals. Also, their wives Lala Anthony and Vanessa Bryant have a very close friendship as well.

If Anthony signs with the Lakers at the maximum level, Anthony would most likely earn $22.45 million salary his first season, giving the Lakers an additional $4.18 million to sign other free agents, including Hill and Gasol.

For the Lakers to retain Jordan Hill in that scenario, the Lakers would have to renounce Jordan Hill’s bird rights and re-sign him for the remaining cap space of $4.18 million. At this amount, Gasol would most likely not re-sign, leaving the Lakers with no other choice but to re-sign Hill.

If, however, Anthony somehow decides to take a minor paycut to join the Lakers for about $90 million over 4 years instead, he would earn approximately $21 million his first year, leaving the Lakers with $5.63 million cap room left to spend.

At $5.63 million, the Lakers would potentially have the option to sign either Hill or Gasol. Unfortunately, the new CBA will most likely not allow the Lakers to sign both of the valuable big men, forcing the Lakers’ front office to choose between Hill and Gasol.

Bottom line: signing Carmelo Anthony will give Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers their best chance to make another championship run in the short term. However, the Lakers would have to become very creative with their salary cap space if they have any hopes of re-signing both Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill under this scenario.

Scenario #2: Sign Rudy Gay, Re-Sign Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill

Source: NBAE via Getty Images

In the scenario in which Carmelo Anthony decides to re-sign with the New York Knicks, the Lakers can potentially make an acquisition that would also appease Kobe Bryant.

Rudy Gay, who last season was traded by Memphis Grizzlies to the Toronto Raptors in a multi-team trade, has an opt-out clause in his contract that will allow him become a free agent following this season.

Gay, a 27 year-old NBA veteran, has averaged a solid 18.0 PPG and 5.8 RPG throughout his eight year NBA career. Like Gasol before the Lakers acquired him, Gay has been the best player on his team the majority of his career, despite never making an all-star team. Gay has also shown significant improvement defensively, playing with a lot of hustle and energy on that end lately.

Although the Raptors have a good nucleus of young talent to build around Gay, the Raptors still have little chance to make a run at an NBA Championship.

The Lakers would gain a solid consolation prize in Gay if he opts out after this season.

Gay would most likely not turn down the opportunity to team up with Kobe Bryant and the Lakers to make a run at a title, if the Lakers were to offer him a contract. Like Gasol did after he moved from the Memphis Grizzlies to the Lakers, Gay could evolve from being the best player on a mediocre team to an all-star player who contributes to a title-contending team like the Lakers.

If the Lakers sign Gay for the market value for 4 years, he should cost the Lakers only about $15 million per season. Therefore, the Lakers could re-sign both Jordan Hill and Pau Gasol under this scenario.

The Lakers would have approximately $11.63 million cap room to share between Hill and Gasol. If the Lakers can convince Gasol to take a huge paycut for $7 million and Hill to accept $4.63 million salary for the 2014-2015 under a 2 or 3 year contract, the Lakers would definitely upgrade their lineup despite losing out on the biggest prize in Carmelo Anthony.

Scenario #3: Wait for the 2015-16 Free Agent Class

If the the Lakers miss on both Carmelo Anthony and Rudy Gay, the Lakers should take the same approach this off-season as they did last off-season.

Sign everyone to one-year contracts.

The formula of placing a bandage on the team this season seems to have worked out fairly well—finding diamond in the rough players like Wesley Johnson and SG Xavier Henry.

Rather than overpaying for a player or signing average players to multi-year contracts, the Lakers could build the team around Bryant with eager young players who seek to revitalize their careers under the tutelage of Bryant.

This current Lakers team has shown that they have the heart and energy to compete with any team in the NBA. They have already defeated the Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State Warriors, and Houston Rockets without Bryant—staying afloat at a respectable 7-7 record.

Through patience and waiting until the 2015-16 free agent class, the Lakers could potential have many potential free agents to choose from.

The 2015-16 free agent class includes Minnesota Timberwolves C/PF Kevin Love and PG Ricky Rubio, Boston Celtics PG Rajon Rondo and F Jeff Green, Brooklyn Nets C Brook Lopez, and Indiana Pacers C Roy Hibbert.

If the Lakers are forced to take this route, Bryant’s chance at a title for 2014-15 might become the same as this season. However, it will definitely give him the best chance to win if they sign one of those free agents under this scenario.

Bottom Line

The status of Steve Nash determines how much cap room the Lakers have to retool their roster around Kobe Bryant. As mentioned before, the Lakers can either waive Nash or continue supporting him as he attempts to play through nerve damage.

If the Lakers decide to let Nash finish his contract and play next season, the Lakers will not have the cap space to sign Jordan Hill or Pau Gasol under the Carmelo Anthony Scenario, and would have to choose between Hill and Gasol under the Rudy Gay scenario.

Furthermore, Larry Coon explained two additional scenarios in regards to Steve Nash during his interview with Beto Duran and Arash Markazi on ESPN LA Radio’s Mason and Ireland Show, two more possibilities exist in regards to Steve Nash.

If Nash retires, his entire 2014-15 salary would come off the books. Nash and the Lakers would most likely negotiate a buyout after retirement, in which the buyout amount will count against cap, but the Lakers can stretch that cap hit over a three year period.

In the unlikely scenario where Nash retires for medical reasons, the Lakers would receive a full salary cap relief from Nash’s contract while paying him the $9.7 million he is owed for the 2014-2015 season.

Under Scenario #1 and Scenario #2 as previously mentioned, the Lakers will fill the rest of the team with veteran minimum level salary players this off-season, similar to this season. However, the Lakers know how to find talent that have not been utilized to its full potential by other teams. Players such as PF/C DeJuan Blair, C Ryan Hollins, and G/F Brandon Rush are examples of veteran minimum level players who can make a major contribution to the Lakers’ championship run.

Although fans have shown mixed emotions regarding the amount of money Bryant is scheduled to receive on his new extension, we know a few things for a fact:

The Lakers clearly know what they are doing.

Doctors have full confidence that Bryant will return to how he played prior to his devastating Achilles injury.

And finally, the Lakers and Bryant are fully committed to a final NBA championship run.

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Photo Credit: AP Photo

The Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant has begun practicing with the team, has been cleared for all basketball related activities, and has stated that he hopes to return before the month of November ends. While the news certainly sparked hope and anxiousness from Lakers fans worldwide awaiting his return, they will have to keep calm as Bryant will not be returning by this weekend.

According to Yahoo! Sports reporter Adrian Wojnarowski, Bryant is still evaluating his limitations to decide when is the appropriate time for his return.

“You’ve got to be honest with yourself, and if you have those limitations, then you’ve got to figure out a way to be effective around those,” Bryant told reporters at the Lakers practice facility Tuesday. “You can’t be stubborn about that. If there are certain things that I used to do that I can’t do now, I won’t try to do them. I’ve got to figure out another way.”

Bryant has been ruled out of Friday’s game against the Golden State Warriors, Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said, and league sources say that he’s ruled out the possibility of returning against Sacramento on Sunday in the Staples Center.

Photo Credit: NBA.com

Bryant is certainly one of the rarest of them all. He has surpassed basketball norms to still be one of the best players in the league today. Judging by the class of 1996 alone,  none are playing to the level Bryant is capable of at this age. Steve Nash, Jermaine O’Neal, and Ray Allen are the few still relevant from the class. It is even a miracle that Bryant is still playing,  let alone returning from an injury as serious as a snapped Achilles. All the while, he could be one of the top 5 players in the league when at 100%.

At this stage in his career, Bryant is right to calculate when it is best for him to return from an injury this severe. He does not have much time left and he will be sure that every minute he plays will not be one wasted, but one to prove how rare and valuable he is.

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Photo Credit: LA Times
Photo Credit: CBS Sports

Looking at the Lakers this season in comparison to last year something that stands out is injuries. The Lakers had a number of players out for a great deal of the year during the 2012-2013 season and because of it they were never really were able to become comfortable with one another on the floor. Injuries were just one of the many problems from last year, but to keep a long story short we will keep last year where it is; in the past.

This year, while injuries have played another key role (ie. Kobe Bryant), they have played a more significant role than previously believed with former all-star and 2-time MVP point guard Steve Nash. During the summer, Nash told media that he felt great recovering from last season and preparing for this one as he tried out for Inter Milan.

As of right now via sports journalist Peter Vecsey, Nash is considering retirement due to the severity of the injury and the nerve problems he is experiencing:

If Steve were to medically retire he would receive his contractual payment for this year and next year and he would come off the books for the Lakers next season. While monetarily this would be a good move to increase the amount the Lakers could spend during the off-season it is a major cause for concern considering Nash is a key piece of the Lakers big three.

Again, last season Nash did deal with a serious injury suffering a non-displaced fracture in his left leg that originally was going to sideline him for a week. Nash ultimately did not return to the floor for almost seven. Even after returning Nash flashed glimpses of the Steve Nash we all have come to know but never really was able to recapture his old form.

Coming back to this current season, Nash is still suffering lingering effects from that dis-placed fracture. The nerve problems he is having from this injury have caused nerve root irritation that was reportedly, thanks to USA sports’ Sam Amick, going to keep him out for two weeks.

With this news from Peter Vecsey,whatever current plans the Lakers had may be thrown out of the window. At this point, they will ultimately need to decide on what to do in the case Nash does medically retire and leave a shorthanded roster in even worse shape than it currently is.

What do you believe the Lakers should do with this new knowledge? Should they trade Nash, allow him to retire, sign another you point guard? Do you believe this injury will force him into retirement? Sound off below and I will be sure to reply!

UPDATE

Via Mark Medina of the LA Daily News, the Lakers have become adamant in their saying that Steve Nash is not considering retirement. Coach Mike D’Antoni took the stand for Nash saying that he is here for the long haul.

“He’s looking at, ‘What am I going to do when I’m 50?’ But no, he’s going to try and do everything he can to come back,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said. “Whether he can get over this, we’ll see. We think he can. We hope he can. But there’s no talk of him sitting over there eating bon bons the rest of the way.”

A close source to Steve used the word “premature” in relation to discussion of Nash retiring because of the injury. While the tweet from Vecsey caused a stir among those within the basketball community D’Antoni again reassured everyone saying he has spent time recently with Steve.

“Steve and I have been extremely close through this process,” Bryant said. “We’re just talking, and particularly the last few games, we’ve been talking and watching the game and talking about the game and other things. I understand the frustration that comes along with that.”

While it has been cleared up that Steve is not considering retirement it still does open an interesting discussion in what the Lakers should do with their aging lead guard. Nash, who will be 40 in February, is far beyond the average age of the point guard in the NBA today. While no final decisions need to be made yet, a discussion sure does need to begin.

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Courtesy: Getty Images

Mike D'Antoni

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.

Starting Line-Up:

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.

Courtesy: Getty Images
Courtesy: Getty Images

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.

Bench:

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.

Courtesy: Getty Images
Courtesy: Getty Images
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:

Jodie Meeks

Shawne Williams

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.

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Chris+Paul+Steve+Nash+Los+Angeles+Lakers+v+GfS0ma3gqs2x

Another journey begins on October 29th, 2013. The Los Angeles Lakers will kick off another season, but something feels very different this year. No number 24 in the starting line up due to an Achilles injury, and no Dr. Buss in the front office. A bunch of new faces are walking around Laker town like Nick Young, Wesley Johnson, and former Clipper center Chris Kaman. Even Mark “Mad Dog” Madsen is back. This season is what critics call a “toss up” season. The Lakers aren’t expected to make it to the Finals, let alone the playoffs, something we have not seen since 2005.

The Lakers will start the year off against the hometown rivals, Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers made an early exit last season as did the Lakers in a first round bounce. The Clippers have a new attitude and identity, just ask Laker fans how they felt when the Clippers covered the Lakers championship banners. Coach Doc Rivers brings an aggressive coaching style and may arguably be the best head coach in the league. The Clippers have always been the smaller brother in Los Angeles, but behind a new coach, they look to take over Los Angeles and give the Lakers a sour season opener.

What To Look For? 

What will most intrigue Laker fans is the starting line-up, and how effective the new look Lakers will play together. Rumors are Steve Nash and Steve Blake will take care of the back court, Nick Young on the wing, along with the surprise of the preseason Shawne Williams at forward. Pau Gasol will move back in the post at center, which is his most effective position.  Keep an eye out for Coach D’Antoni’s rotation of players like Chris Kaman, Wesley Johnson and Xavier Henry.

Defense, Defense, Defense. The old saying is “defense wins championships” and the last time the Lakers won a championship, it was because of their defense. Last season the Lakers struggled especially in transition defense. Let’s see how effective the new and youthful Lakers can be on the perimeter and inside. Ball movement and shot selection are very important.

What To Expect? 

A young, energetic group of Lakers will be willing to run back and fourth with the Clippers, and for that matter, all season. The Lakers seem to have lakers-bannersslightly gotten better on defense, but expect them to put up a 1oo plus points every night due to Coach D’Antoni system. Every season is a new season and after watching the last couple of pre season games, the Lakers can go on scoring bursts. This team has fire power, especially in the back court. Turnovers will happen. How often they happen will be up to this team and its discipline. The Western Conference is going to be extremely competeive this year.

Kobe Bryant?

Image: AP
Image: AP

The Lakers will be without their leader Kobe Bryant to start the year. In Los Angeles, we have never had an issue on whose taking the last shot, it was always Bryant. Bryant would deliver in crunch time situations and pick his team up from deficits. That will now be a concern since he is not available in the line up. We have no official timetable for when the Mamba plans to return, but in all honesty, it won’t be soon. Bryant is not in shape and has yet to even practice in full contact with his team. Speculation is that Bryant will sit out the whole year; others have set a date for Christmas. The most important element is him being at 100%. A torn Achilles is not an easy injury to overcome and age is not on Bryant’s side.

If the Lakers start fast and stay strong defensively, expect a 1-0 start for the Lakers. If it is a close game, hold your breathe Laker fans. The Lakers need to be a lot more aggressive than the Clippers. They need to be mentally and physically tougher than them, especially in the low post area. Nash and Gasol must keep this young team focused and on schedule. The Clippers vs. Lakers rivalry will continue another season. Let the battle of Los Angeles begin.

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Image: Mark J. Rebilas | USA TODAY Sports
Image: Mark J. Rebilas | USA TODAY Sports
Image: Mark J. Rebilas | USA TODAY Sports

All week long, our staff writers have chimed in on a series of topics, rumors and storylines leading up to the start of the season. In this week’s final edition of State of the Nation, our writers examine the Lakers’ biggest key to this upcoming season:

Felipe Amaral // @F_Amaral

The biggest key will be staying healthy. The Lakers don’t have much behind Kobe, Nash and Gasol. Even if Bryant comes back at full strength from the Achilles tear, the Purple & Gold will need Nash’s back and Gasol’s knees to hold up if they want to achieve a successful season.

Jordan Grant // @JordanGrant90

The play of our young players, as well as keeping our older players fresh and injury-free. The new guys were brought in with the specific purpose of providing that spark and fresh legs to keep up with the rest of the NBA. If Pau, Nash, and Kobe can stay healthy, we could be looking at a dangerous team who can compete in the playoffs.

Mark Awad // @MarkeyTheBoss_

Two very important elements. First, the defense needs to be a lot better. We can score 120 points a game, but if you can’t slow down a team, it won’t make a difference. Second of all, chemistry is important. Can Gasol and Nash bring the team in together with so much young talent?

Robert Benitez // @beeb0

Obviously staying healthy is a big one, but I also believe team chemistry is going to be very important this season. It’s no secret Dwight Howard wasn’t exactly the happiest guy in the locker room last season and it’s obvious now that he’s gone, the team is clicking better then they did last year. It is important for the Lakers to keep that chemistry throughout the year and play as a cohesive unit.

Bummi Anderson // @BummiNAnderson

Kobe’s return. He has to be at least 75-80% for LA to make some noise this season. I believe he will return to a higher level than most expected.

Oren Levy // @LakersOren

Health. The Lakers may have added young role players, but their three key guys are on the wrong side of 30, and ailing. If Kobe, Pau, and Nash are healthy, this team has serious potential. If not…get ready for the lottery!

Garret Garcia // @GarrettGarcia

The biggest key to success this season is chemistry. Chemistry proved to be the downfall of the Lakers last season, and if the team can mesh well and communicate, they have a lot more potential then they ever did last season.

Melvin Taylor // @MelvinTaylorII

Chemistry. Look back to the Lakers teams who won championships. Above all else they had chemistry with one another. When Farmar, Ariza, Vujacic and company were on the floor, they meshed well with one another. If they Lakers can play as a team, the sky is the limit.

Jory Dreher // @Jay_Laker

Health, health, and health again. With Steve Nash’s health seemingly declining before out very eyes and no timetable for the return of Kobe Bryant, keeping guys like Pau, Nick Young and Chris Kaman healthy long enough to hold down the fort is going to be crucial.

Jon Gaffer // @jewelslamo

Team defense. As the great Pat Riley once said, “No defense, no rings.”

Alex Lambeth // @AlexLambeth

Health. With Kobe Bryant returning from his torn Achilles, and both Pau Gasol and Steve Nash returning from injury-riddled seasons, the Lakers are going to need some ‘luck’ in the injury department to be successful this season.

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Image: Noah Graham | Getty Images

All week long, our staff writers will chime in on a series of topics, rumors and storylines leading up to the start of the season. In today’s edition of State of the Nation, our writers highlight which player has surprised them the most thus far:

Felipe Amaral // @F_Amaral

Chris Kaman. He displayed great chemistry with Pau Gasol right off the bat and that looks to be a good building block for the team in the upcoming season. The Lakers have had success in recent years with two skilled seven-footers sharing the court and that might happen again with Gasol and Kaman.

Jordan Grant // @JordanGrant90

Xavier Henry has been the biggest surprise this preseason. Perhaps it’s more surprising that I’ve never seen a player refuse to pass the ball under any circumstances. Nevertheless, he has proven that he has some great skills and can be a valuable asset to the team. Hopefully Kobe, of all people, can teach him a thing or two about sharing the rock.

Jon Gaffer // @jewelslamo

Steve Nash has surprised me the most in the preseason. He’s already nursing injuries. I thought he would at least get about 15 games under his belt before he blew a tire.

Mark Awad // @MarkeyTheBoss_

No doubt Chris Kaman. Averaging nearly a double-double in the preseason, Kaman seems to have found his groove with fellow big Pau Gasol. No attitude or demand from Kaman, he just does as the coaches tell him with no pressure at all.

Robert Benitez // @beeb0

I’ve been impressed with the entire team so far this preseason, but Nick Young tops the list. Young has been a consistent scorer and has moved the ball efficiently, as well. He also has the skill to get to the basket and create shots for himself, as well as his teammates.

Bummi Anderson // @BummiNAnderson

Pau Gasol. Gasol has struggled mightily the last two seasons while accommodating Andrew Bynum & Dwight Howard. His health has also declined, particularly this past season. Gasol has come out this preseason looking healthy and more aggressive, and it has translated into him having a very good preseason.

Oren Levy // @LakersOren

Wesley Johnson. With his length and athleticism, I expected him to succeed early and often in coach Mike D’Antoni’s system. Instead, he looked hesitant in early preseason action before injuring his foot and missing time.

Alex Lambeth // @AlexLambeth

Chris Kaman. Kaman’s ability to score both inside the paint and from the mid-range has particularly surprised me. Also, his ability to mesh with Pau Gasol has been a welcomed sight thus far. Perhaps Kaman has been injured these past few years, because he certainly looks like the productive Kaman of old.

Garrett Garcia // @GarrettGarcia

Chris Kaman.  Kaman has come into his own with the Lakers and is playing a solid role as center.  He comes without the drama and superstar treatment Howard demanded, and he goes out and plays hard, doing what the coaching staff asks of him.

Melvin Taylor // @MelvinTaylorII

The player that has surprised me most this preseason is Chris Kaman. Playing alongside Gasol has looked almost effortless for him. There will be defensive lapses because of their ages, however, they could become a great duo if Kaman continues to elevate his game.

 

Next Question Tomorrow: What are your thoughts on Kobe Bryant being ranked as the NBA’s 25th best player by ESPN, and what type of season do you see him having?

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Wesley Johnson
Photo: Getty Images

By Alex Lambeth, with contributions from Jory Dreher

Image: Getty Images
Image: Getty Images

Wesley Johnson has yet to find a home in the NBA.

Drafted fourth overall out of Syracuse University in the 2010 NBA draft, the Lakers will be Johnson’s third team in just four years.

Johnson, a 6’7″ 215 pound shooting guard, has his sights set on a breakout year with Los Angeles.

Johnson, who prefers “Wesley” to “Wes”, enters his fourth NBA season with career averages of 7.7 points, 1.2 assists and 2.8 rebounds per game.

In an exclusive interview with LakerNation.com, Johnson expressed his excitement to finally wear the purple and gold.

“It’s really a dream come true for me. I’ve wanted to play here since I was younger. My family really respects the Lakers for all they stand for,” Johnson told Laker Nation. “They always hold the Lakers to the highest standard, on a pedestal, just because they love watching them play.”

“My mom loved Magic [Johnson]. Being able to play for the Lakers and with my mom being able to see me play for them, it’s going to be fun,” Johnson said. “I can’t really give you a whole explanation about how excited I am just to be a part of Laker Nation. It’s definitely a dream come true.”

As one of the many new faces in the Lakers’ locker room this season, Johnson described himself as being “fun and laid back,” but also “a very high energy type of player.”

“It’s going to be fun watching me play this year. I’m excited about playing in Staples Center, in front of Laker Nation fans, and everybody,” Johnson said. “I’m really looking forward to it.”

Despite an uncertain future, Johnson hopes to make Los Angeles his home for years to come.

“I would love to make this my home. I’m here every summer,” Johnson explained. “When I first held my jersey, I was like, ‘I’m with the Lakers. I’m wearing number 11. I’m in L.A.’

“You just can’t beat this, man. It’s all a great situation and I’m going to play like it.”

That number 11 holds very special meaning to Johnson, who has worn the numbers 4 and 2 in previous years.

“Number 11 is what I wore my whole life when I was in high school, in Little League, everything,” Johnson said. “It basically marks the beginning for me.”

Johnson certainly seeks to jumpstart his career in Los Angeles. Johnson, a former lottery-pick, feels he has a lot to prove this season.

“I think I have a lot to prove every season, but even more so this season,” said Johnson. “Having that Lakers uniform on my back and how my career has transpired up to this point, I definitely have a lot to prove.”

When Johnson first entered the league, he was projected as ‘the guy’. Coming into this year, however, Johnson looks forward to simply finding his niche with the Lakers.

“There’s a lot of guys on this team that already have that role, so there’s not a lot of focus on me. Guys like Nick [Young] and Jordan [Farmar] and myself can all come in and play.”

“We can go out there and take the load off some of those guys,” Johnson continued. “It will definitely be a relief off their shoulders knowing we’re going to compete just as hard as they are.”

As Johnson mentioned, the Lakers also signed former USC-product Nick Young this off-season. Johnson elaborated on his relationship with Young.

“Nick and I talk a lot, actually. We’ve been in the gym and excited to play with one another,” Johnson said. “He’s a high-energy guy like me and he’s definitely fun to play with, with all the stuff that he can do on the court. Playing alongside of him is definitely going to be exciting for us both.”

“We’re really starting to figure out how each of us plays and where we both like the ball,” Johnson explained. “We’re getting that chemistry down between us too, so it will definitely be fun to see.”

Along with Young, Johnson has been developing a great rapport with Jordan Farmar, who returns to the Lakers’ backcourt after a stint overseas.

“Jordan has already told me he wants to pick up 94 feet [defensively],” Johnson said. “I told him, ‘I got the back. If you’re picking up 94 feet, then I’m picking up right there with you.’”

“So there’s definitely going to be that youth and excitement back on the court again,” Johnson predicted. “Everyone is so eager to play. Nash has that fire within him too so it’s really going to rub off on everyone.”

With all the youth and athleticism the Lakers added this off-season, Laker Nation could be in for a nice surprise this season.

Johnson went on to discuss the impact he looks to have on the defensive end as well.

“I think I can have a really good impact just for my length and my speed, and also just getting in passing lanes and disrupting shots. I’m going to bring a spark that will fuel the entire team,” Johnson said excitedly.

“What’s important for us is just getting everyone to come out as a collective group and giving a good defensive effort,” Johnson said. “I’m definitely going to use my wingspan to make plays happen. As long as everyone is on the same page defensively, I think we’ll be just fine.”

Johnson was also well aware of ESPN.com ranking the Lakers to finish 12th in the Western Conference this season.

“That’s disrespectful,” Johnson said in an annoyed tone. “That’s really for us to go out there and prove everyone wrong. That’s why everyone is so eager and we’ve been in the [practice facility] everyday up to this point.”

“Everyone is in there to build chemistry to show everybody that we’re not 12th. We know that we’re not 12th, but it’s definitely going to be more fuel to the fire.”

So, what exactly will Johnson bring to the Lakers, specifically in coach Mike D’Antoni’s offense?

“I think my game fits well. I was actually talking to [D'Antoni] about it today. It reminds me of when I was back at [Syracuse] with coach Boeheim and how it’s a free flowing offense,” Johnson explained.

“You can make reads off one another and there’s no particular spot on the floor that everyone has to get to. I feel like I’ll flourish in this offense,” said Johnson. “It’s really just high tempo, get up and down, and being able to shoot the ball and finish. So it plays to all my strengths.”

Once Johnson signed with the Lakers this summer, he knew he would need to improve his shot making ability to be as effective as possible in D’Antoni’s offense.

“I’ve pretty much worked on every part of my game,” Johnson said as he discussed his off-season workout regimen. “Of course I’ve been working on my three point shot because that’s what the [Lakers] have been emphasizing to me. Being able to shoot the ball is key for me and I’ve really been working on break down moves to get my shot off.”

“I feel very comfortable shooting the ball from anywhere on the floor right now, but my corner three is coming along great,” Johnson continued. “Other than that, I’ve just been working on my overall game and trying to become a more balanced player.”

In addition to working on his own game this off-season, Johnson has started taking advantage of his veteran teammates.

“I told Kobe [Bryant] that I’m definitely going to be asking him a lot of questions. I told him I’m going to be picking his brain a lot,” Johnson shared. “I’m looking forward to learning anything that he’s learned over the past 17 years he’s been playing. Anything he’s willing to give me that I can work on as a player, I’ll listen.”

“Steve [Nash] has also been in and out so I’ve been bouncing things off him too,” Johnson said. “Just to get his feel on how players he’s played with before have been effective in this offense.”

Johnson continued, “It’s only right that I do pick their brains because they’ve been around for a while and they understand the concept of winning and what it takes. I’m definitely going do my best to learn from them.”

As Johnson continues tapping into the valuable assets around him, he also explains that he has learned a lot from the rather unpredictable start to his career.

“I’ve really just tried to learn as much as I can from every situation I’ve been in,” Johnson said. “You never really know what is going to happen in this league. I just try to look at everything as a learning experience and not as a fault.”

“Sure I’ve moved around a lot,” Johnson said. “But I still look at it as a learning experience and just go from there.”

Johnson also opened up on a more personal level, discussing his close relationship with his mother and father.

“I was blessed to have both of my parents in my life, so they definitely taught me good values,” Johnson shared. “They taught me to be humble by just watching them and how hard they worked all my life. It’s definitely rubbed off on me, so I give them all the credit.”

As Johnson prepares to call yet another NBA city ‘home’ this year, he brings along with him his twin boys.

“These days my free time goes to them and I’m doing the father thing,” Johnson said proudly. “I’m focused on making sure they grow right and play with them, doing everything a father does. When I’m with them we’re at the beach or going to the park.”

“I also play with my nephews on NBA 2k,” Johnson explained about his recreational activities. “I also shop. I try to catch up on my sleep. But other than that, I’m usually with my boys.”

Now that he resides in one of the most eccentric cities in the country, Johnson shared that he is always looking for that good ‘home-cooked meal’.

“I’m always trying to find those hole-in-the-wall places with some good home-cooked meals. That’s what I need,” Johnson said. “The restaurants here are cool, but I’m looking for those homemade tacos, some soul food, all the home-cooked meals.”

Johnson also gave some insight into his pre-game music playlist, which primarily consists of rappers Jay Z and T.I.

As Johnson prepares for arguably the biggest season of his career, there is just one simple thing he looks forward to.

“Just being a Laker,” Johnson explained with a laugh. “You can’t beat playing in Staples Center, in front of the fans. Just coming to Staples Center always gives you that extra energy to put on a show. I’m definitely looking forward to it.”

With the start of training camp already on the horizon, Johnson ended our conversation with a heart-felt message for all of Laker Nation:

“You’re going see a lot of hungry players this year, especially from the youth. I would definitely recommend Laker Nation to come out to some games this season. It’s going to be an exciting year, a fun year, filled with a lot of action. Dunks. High-flying plays. Everything you can think of and want will be there.”

“A lot of guys are already working hard everyday just to prove to the Nation, the world, that we’re back and we’re going to start the season on the right foot. So there will definitely be a lot of hard playing out there.”

“We know Laker Nation will be behind us but we just want to let you know to keep at it and we’re going to play our hearts out for you. We’re here for you and we’re going to play for you. Like I’ve been saying, it’s going to be a good year, it’s going to be a fun year. This is one of the seasons I definitely look forward to.”

As Wesley Johnson prepares for his fourth NBA season, look for him to have a break out year this season. Johnson was quick to point out that he has learned a lot in his short NBA career thus far, and will use that experience to find his niche with the Lakers.

The athletic wing will have a great opportunity to back up Kobe Bryant, and may even compete for the starting small forward position this season.

For the first time in his NBA career, Johnson seems comfortable, thanks to his new role with the team he grew up loving. However, there is still something we have yet to see from the former lottery-pick: Johnson realizing his full potential and becoming the best player that he can be.

Under the tutelage of Bryant and Nash, he has the perfect opportunity to do so as a Laker.

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Photo courtesy of Ronald Martinez, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Ronald Martinez, Getty Images

With key departures in starters Dwight Howard and Metta World Peace, the Lakers starting line up is a mystery. We know 3 positions will be locked, the point guard in Steve Nash, Shooting guard Kobe Bryant and either Center/Power Forward Pau Gasol. The two positions up for grabs will be the small forward and power forward positions. In Coach Mike D’Antoni system, you sometimes just don’t know what to expect. Will D’Antoni run and gun or will we see a slower pace offense like towards the end of the year when Kobe got hurt. Until then, we can play around with different scenarios for starting line ups and take a couple shots at who we think might start. Lets take a look at the two highlighted positions on the Lakers roster, the power forward and small forward.

Power Forward:

Jordan Hill and Chris Kaman will be the lead candidates for the starting power forward/center job. We know what Jordan brings, toughness, great rebounding and defense. This summer Hill asked Coach D’Antoni how he can improve his game and has reportedly been working on his 15-18 foot jump shot. Kaman on the other hand is veteran thats been in the league for a while. Chris too can pick and pop and play down low. I personally would love to see Jordan start and Kaman off the bench because that would give us a solid center off the bench. Pau Gasol is an extremely gifted player and many fans forgot how talented he is in the post with both hands. Critiques will say he’s soft and can never bang down low, thats a false statement. Gasol wont give us breathe taking dunks but he’ll get the job done. If Pau Gasol can go back to his 09-10 season, in which he was dropping close to 19 points and grabbing 11 rebound, he will be feared again.

Small Forward:

The small forward position for the Lakers is very tricky. We’ve had many good players in the past like Trevor Ariza, Metta World Peace, Rick Fox and “Big Game” James Worthy. If the Lakers went up against Carmelo, Lebron, Kevin Durant we knew we had that stopper on defense, that would be able to somewhat slow them down and take the load off Kobe and company defensively. This position should have more of a scoring punch with Wesley Johnson and Nick Young, but there are definite questions on the defensive end. Wesley is long and can shoot the 3 ball, and should fit well in D’Antoni’s system. Nick Young can score in bunches from almost anywhere on the floor and he loves attacking the rim. I personally think who ever stands out defensively from the two will be grab the most playing time.

Projected Starting Line up: 

Point Guard: Steve Nash will control the rock at the point guard, he’s getting old but his shooting off Kobe double teams and intelligence at the position is rare and what the Lakers need. Nash needs to be more aggressive this upcoming season, more scoring than facilitating.

Credit: SI.com
Credit: SI.com

Shooting Guard: If Kobe is a no go season opener, Jodie Meeks will get the start untill the  Mamba comes back.(Get Ready)

Credit: AP/Danny Moloshok
Credit: AP/Danny Moloshok

Small Forward:NBA: Phoenix Suns-Media Day The small forward position will go to Wesley Johnson, he’s a sniper from outside and plays good perimeter defense. I won’t be suprised if Nick Young gets a couple starts this year or even ends up starting. Nick Youngs offensive explosions would be much appreciated off the bench either subbing in for Kobe or Wesley.

 

 

 

Power Forward: The Power Forward position is a toss up, I want to see Jordan hill start  so Chris

Credit: SI.com
Credit: SI.com

Kaman can give us a solid punch off the bench but wouldn’t be surprised to see it work out the other way. Kaman might just start to help Gasol spread the floor and give him space inside to dominate.

Center: Pau Gasol period. This is his year to dominate, the paint belongs to him. I am extremly eager to watch Gasol this year who I think will have one of his more dominant seasons, and needs to. If Kobe is a no go season opener, Gasol you are the best player on this roster and need to carry this team. I expect more touches for Pau and more Pick and roll situations with Nash and Kobe. With the departure of Dwight, we have to feed the spaniard down low. Laker fans get ready for a great 2013-2014 Season.

Credit: Getty Images
Credit: Getty Images

 

Photo: Tom Szczerbowski | USA TODAY Sports
Photo Credit: USA Today Sports

You read it right.

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!

 

Steve Nash and others show off their soccer skills!

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Image: CHRIS TROTMAN | GETTY IMAGES

According to ESPNLA.com’s Ramona Shelburne and ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst, the Lakers are focusing on rebuilding around the two biggest free agents for 2014 – Lebron James and Carmelo Anthony.

Image: Harry How | Getty Images
Image: Harry How | Getty Images

In accordance with ESPN.com’s Marc Stein’s prediction of a $62.1 million salary cap for the 2014-15 season, the Lakers will theoretically have about $51.5 million in cap space next summer.

Although the reality of pairing James and Anthony together is still a long-shot at this point, the Lakers have made it clear that they plan to try.

The Lakers have positioned themselves into making a realistic run at not just one superstar next summer, but possibly two in the same off-season.

By refusing to commit to any contracts past this upcoming season, the Lakers have maintained maximum flexibility to cash-in on the 2014 free agency frenzy.

A league source with knowledge of the situation told ESPN:

“It’s all wishful thinking at this point,” a league source said. “Teams are doing more wishing than LeBron is wanting right now.

“It’s not about where LeBron wants to go [to win]. He already has two rings. If LeBron moved to Reno, teams would come to him.”

James, who has an opt-out clause for next season, has not made it clear as to whether he plans to exercise his opt-out or not.

It seems that James has learned from his previous “decision” by refusing to discuss his future plans until the time comes.

Image: Jeff Gross | Getty Images
Image: Jeff Gross | Getty Images

In addition to James, Anthony also has an early termination option in his contract after this next season.

One source close to Anthony’s situation told ESPN:

“It would make sense for him to exercise the early termination option on his contract after next season to become a free agent and secure either a four- or five-year extension.”

Although the Lakers have tons of cap space next season, there is nothing concrete to sell potential free agents on.

As it currently stands, the Lakers do not even have any current marquee players, like they would have had had Dwight Howard re-signed this off-season.

Not even Kobe Bryant, who is in the final year of his contract, is guaranteed to be in the fold after next year.

Bryant has said recently that he plans to play another two or three more seasons, but would need to take a major pay-cut for the Lakers to maintain enough room to purse two max-level free agents.

Bryant, however, recently told ESPNLA.com’s Dave McMenamin that he intends to be involved in the Lakers’ recruiting efforts for 2014:

“It’s an open conversation, via text and also meeting in person and just picking up the phone and calling,” Bryant said of his involvement. “[The Lakers] have kept me in the loop pretty well.”

With Bryant at the head of the recruiting process, it could bode well for the Lakers’ pursuit of Anthony, in particular.

Image: Phil Walter | Getty Images
Image: Phil Walter | Getty Images

Bryant and Anthony developed a close relationship during their time together in the recent Summer Olympics, and have remained friends since.

The two superstars have also discussed potentially playing together in the past.

It should be interesting to see if the Lakers can in fact lure two max-level free agents next summer, in addition to re-signing Bryant at an affordable price.

The Lakers remain poised to do so, however, with Steve Nash ($9.7 million) and Robert Sacre ($915,243) the only players on the books for 2014-15.

According to the ESPNLA.com’s report, the new collective bargaining agreement would allow the Lakers to waive the final year of Nash’s contract, so they could potentially “stretch” his $9.7 million out over three years.

This would mean that only $3.2 million would count against the 2014-15 salary cap, giving the Lakers even more cap flexibility.

As a result of this cap rule, the Lakers could then grant Bryant’s wish and extend his contract for another few seasons at between $10-15 million per season.

Even with Bryant making about $10-15 million per season, the Lakers would still theoretically have enough room to pursue two max-level players.

In addition to Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James, the 2014 free agency class potentially includes Dwyane Wade, Amar’e Stoudemire, Chris Bosh, Luol Deng, Danny Granger, Andrew Bogut, Dirk Nowitzki, and current Lakers Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, among others.

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The past season for the Lakers was one of the most painful things to watch. A new era aims to change that. The question is, however: Why should we believe?