Monday, December 22, 2014
Tags Posts tagged with "Xavier Henry"

Xavier Henry

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Photo courtesy of Noah Graham, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Noah Graham, Getty Images
Photo courtesy of Noah Graham, Getty Images

Add this game to the top of disheartening losses this season. What a game.

The Portland Trail Blazers came into Staples Center with the second best record in the Western Conference. Naturally, the Lakers were not favored to win tonight and it appeared to be an easy game to call when the home team fell behind by 17 points halfway through the first quarter. The Lakers managed to catch up, however, going into halftime just three points down. It looked like the home team was giving themselves a chance to win…and then the third quarter came.

The Blazers outscored the Lakers 41-24. Again, it looked like they’d be taking this game all the way when they led by as much as 20 points. The Lakers, however, continued to fight, getting to within a single point with still under three minutes left in the game. Unfortunately, They couldn’t stop Portland from scoring and the single-digit deficit became more than the Lakers could overcome with so little time left, so they took the loss, 114-108.

High Points
Backcourt Brothers – The Laker guards really took this game and put it over their shoulders tonight, and it started with Xavier Henry. He contributed 27 points on 9-12 from the field and was the focal point of the Lakers’ two big runs tonight. In the first quarter, he chipped in nine points that helped fuel the come from 17 points down run. In the fourth quarter, he put in 11 points to help the team catch up from a 20-point deficit, highlighted by his four-point play. He’s so good at getting himself to the free throw line where he went 7-11 tonight, and he’s fearless at getting to the rim no matter how much traffic there is to barrel through. He finished the evening with a game-high +23. Jodie Meeks, the team’s leading scorer, put in 20 points of his own. Nick Young was the other bench player who fueled the first scoring run that got the team over the 17-point hole. He finished with 17 points on 7-14 from the field. And of course, there’s Steve Blake, who had to put in double-duty tonight when Jordan Farmar left the game in the first quarter. He finished with 13 points and nine assists.
Attitude – It would have been so easy for the Lakers to just roll over and let Portland have their way with them, but they wouldn’t let up. They came up from being behind by double digits twice in one game. It’s hard to consider moral victories, but this game really showed a lot of grit from this Lakers’ team. It’s an attitude that surely their captain, Kobe Bryant, would appreciate.

Low Points
Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill – The Blazers and the Lakers shot at about the same percentage. They had close to the same number of assists, the turnovers weren’t out of control for either team and the Lakers even blocked seven shots to the Blazers’ one. The glaring stat disparity? Rebounds. Portland outrebounded the Lakers 52-41, 15-9 on the offensive glass. While rebounding should be a team effort, the Lakers’ leading rebounders didn’t do much to help their situation, combining for just 11 boards for the whole game. Their struggles tonight may be due in large part to a sprained ankle, which each player is nursing.
Spotty Defense – Sometimes it’s there, sometimes it’s not. And it’s hard to tell when the Lakers will decide to play any. One quarter, they’re allowing Portland to score 41 points. The next quarter, they go on a 24-5 run. Sustaining their efforts on either end of the court is this team’s weakness so far this season, and it’s cost them a lot of close, winnable games.
Chris Kaman – It’s nice to see Robert Sacre on the floor playing some significant minutes, and he was productive tonight with his 12 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three blocks, but Kaman has been available to play for some time now and hasn’t seen the floor in a couple weeks. It’s not something that’s been given much attention, but with Jordan Hill playing with a sprained ankle, seems logical to bring Kaman in.
Jordan Farmar – After playing for only 56 seconds, Farmar had to leave the floor and was later diagnosed with a left hamstring strain. He left in the first quarter and never returned. Hopefully the next four days off will aid in a quick recovery.

The Lakers’ next game isn’t until Friday against the Sacramento Kings. After a weeklong road trip, it may just be what they need to recoup. Kobe Bryant is scheduled to practice with the team this week and there’s a possibility he’ll play against the Kings if the practices don’t cause any pain. Here’s hoping!

Box Score

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Source: Lakers.com

I pushed this week’s Top to Bottom back to include more than just 2 games. This week covers games against the Warriors, Kings, Wizards, Nets and Pistons. In that stretch, the Lakers went 4-1, losing only on the road to the Wizards, and find themselves above .500 for the first time since opening night. With the Lakers picking up their play and with new people stepping up everyday, it’s getting harder and harder to find a “bottom 3″, so don’t mind my nitpicking. Here is this week’s Top to Bottom:

TOP

Image: Maddie Meyer | Getty Images
Image: Maddie Meyer | Getty Images

1. Jordan Farmar

Last week, I had Steve Blake in my Top list and praised him for stepping up in the absence of Steve Nash. This week, it’s the backup point guard that did damage. Jordan Farmar came off the bench and averaged 14.6 points, 5 assists, and only 1.2 turnovers in about 22 minutes a game. Farmar has impressed me all season and his play over the last 5 games ensured his spot at the top of my list. Jordan was also the only Laker to never be in the minus in the +/- category over the last 5 games and even lead the team against the Warriors with a +21 and the Wizards with a +6, he also lead the team in scoring with 22 points against the Wizards. Farmar is spending his time on the court wisely and is the leader of the best bench in the league.

2. Nick Young

Nick Young had his best week as a Laker this past week. Settling into his sixth man role, Young averaged 16.4 points a game and also lead the team in scoring against the Nets with 26 points. Young also secured Sunday night’s win against Detroit when he drew the last second charge on Josh Smith and hit 2 free throws to seal the deal. Young’s defense has also been steadily improving, in the game against the Kings, Young only scored 7 points, but lead the team in the +/- category with a +15. He has also averaged at a little over 1 steal a game over the last 5.

3. Pau Gasol

Pau started this week of games with a charity pledge to help victims of Typhoon Haiyan against the Warriors, in that game Pau was able to score 24 points and donate $24,000 to typhoon relief. Pau continued the week leading the team averaging 19 points and 9.2 rebounds (tied with Jordan Hill) a game. Pau has had his ups and downs this season but his play been improving. With Kobe’s return just around the corner I expect Pau to pick it up and have a little more freedom once defenses have the Mamba to look out for.

BOTTOM

Source: Lakers.com

1. Xavier Henry

Henry had a great game against the Kings when he lead the team with 21 points, but other than that, he’s been pretty forgettable this week. Henry had weekly averages of 8 points and 2.4 rebounds a game. Even though Henry’s numbers are down, I still think Henry does his job when he’s on the floor. He still has the ability to get to the line almost at will and hit the open jumper, I hope Henry will find his way to the top again soon though.

2. Jordan Hill

Jordan Hill didn’t necessarily have a bad week, he still averaged 6.8 points and 9.2 rebounds in just under 26 minutes a game over the last 5, but those numbers are less than last week when he averaged 18.75 points and 12 rebounds. Hill still brings energy to the starting unit and is a great garbage man, but the scouting report is now out on Hill who has to find other ways to keep the energy up. Hill also suffered a left ankle sprain Sunday night in Detroit, here’s hoping to him getting back on the court healthy and ready to go soon.

3. Lakers Interior Defense

Is it a cop out for me to name the Laker Interior D as a worst player this week? Sure. Does that make it any less true? Not one bit. In the past 5 games, the Lakers gave up a combined total of 252 points in the paint and 81 fast break points. Detroit alone scored 76 of their 102 points in the paint and, in Washington, John Wall had his way getting past defenses with his speed and to the hole almost at will. This past road trip showed a major flaw in the team’s defense, it seems any team with speed and/or a big that can get into the post will have an advantage against the Lakers. Kurt Rambis, who was hired to lead the defense, has his work cut out for him. The Lakers take Portland on at home tomorrow.

 

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The Lakers extending Kobe Bryant’s contract is a lot like asking someone to prom. They are essentially asking this one special person to spend one of the most memorable nights of their lives, or rest of their career, with you. It could either turn out great or be one of the worst nights you have ever had or will have in your life. With that being said, signing Bryant pre-return could either be great or costly moving forward.

If you were following the news yesterday, or in case you missed it, the Lakers signed Kobe Bryant to a two year extension worth $48.5 million dollars. This extension appears to be the first move the Lakers are making in terms of free agency for the summer of 2014. By extending Bryant, the Lakers get to keep the face of the franchise for a couple more seasons while notifying the league and any future free agents that they will have the opportunity to play alongside the future Hall of Famer. That is, if his health allows it.

With Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose now ruled out for the season, fans hope that Bryant will take a more relaxed approach to returning in hopes to prevent a similar situation from occurring. Having watched Kobe Bryant from afar and knowing the type of competitor he is I can assure you that he will return when he is ready and he feels that his body is as well. Not only is Laker Nation hoping that Bryant returns when he is ready but, future free agents also want him to be in order to consider signing for the purple and gold.

Photo Credit: IB Times

Sam Amick of USA Sports spoke to Carmelo Anthony about Bryant’s extension recently. Anthony essentially spoke light to thoughts that are entertaining many free agents’ minds when considering the Lakers. Will Kobe be himself as a teammate of mine?

When asked if free agents like himself would see Bryant as a star who is still worthy of joining in order to contend for a title, Anthony said, “I mean you’ll have to see. It’s hard to gauge at this point, not until he comes back (from his April Achilles tendon tear) and figures some things out. So I don’t know. They might have some plans up their sleeve.”

Looking long term, Bryant’s extension is enough for the Lakers to still look like the prom queen come free agency. Taking the pay cut of almost $10 million dollars provides room to sign a Carmelo Anthony if he opts out, a LeBron James if he does the same, or any other marquee free agents who are looking to win now. Not only will it allow that flexibility, but it also opens the door to retool the bench to its more formidable years. Maybe even keeping active, young players like Nick Young, Xavier Henry, Jordan Hill, Wesley Johnson or Jordan Farmar. Regardless of the what speculation may arise, this move says that the franchise is making a push the last few years of Bryant’s career to win now.

Bryant will retire with the Lakers. As for who he’ll be playing with and the question of whether that team will be worth talking about, that much remains to be seen.

“I think (Bryant) wanted to get that done,” Anthony told USA TODAY Sports. “Especially now, coming off that injury, that he wanted to solidify that (contract). I don’t think he ever had any doubt of leaving the Lakers, so he got that done early…He wants to win. I want to win. Everybody in the league, we want to win, so I just figured he was going to get that done.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images

I’m not saying that it was the best move for the Lakers to sign Bryant this early, but I will say it provides intrigue if he is or is not able to produce highly. If Bryant is not the same will the Lakers be able to attract those superstar players? Or will they have to settle for players similar to those signed this past off-season?

On the other other hand, if Bryant is healthy and can produce at the level he was pre-injury then the possibilities are endless. With a healthy Bryant, cap space, and the allure of Los Angeles, Mitch Kupchak will have an arsenal ready to reload the Lakers and compete for another title. Yet all of this depends on how healthy Bryant is when he returns to the team.

No matter what does happen, prom just got a lot more interesting.

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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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There are few other words to describe the ambiance of the Lakers’ Opening Night win over the Los Angeles Clippers than that. Not only was this game one of the most exhilarating in recent years, but I also had the special privilege of enjoying it from the most exclusive spot in the arena: Hyde Lounge STAPLES Center.

Hyde Lounge STAPLES Center is by far the best value for any Lakers fans going out to a game. With affordable ticket packages, a full service bar, in-seat waitress service and the most comfortable seating in the arena, this experience is simply unbeatable.

On Opening Night, the Lakers started out slow, just staying within reach of the high-powered Clippers at halftime. L.A. fans, notorious for arriving late to sporting events, just finished trickling into Hyde Lounge by the start of the third quarter.

A closely contested third and all of Hyde Lounge was completely engaged with the action on the court by the start of the fourth quarter.

The Lakers began the fourth down by four points. The bench unit, however, quickly erased that deficit.

A few nifty moves by reserves Jordan Farmar and Xavier Henry got the Lakers within striking distance, but a Jodie Meeks and-one layup really ignited the crowd.

Fans in Hyde Lounge went wild; high-fives were dished out to anyone and everyone within reach. Lakers basketball was fun again, and those within Hyde Lounge were taking full advantage of this exciting revival.

The Lakers’ bench continued their quick attacks on both ends of the floor, clearly catching the Clippers off guard. A barrage of three-pointers (14 threes in total that night) and a career high 22 points from Henry later, the Lakers earned their deciding Opening Night victory over their co-tenant Clippers, 116-103.

Basking in the Lakers’ victory and falling streamers wasn’t all, however.

Now, the night really began. At Hyde Lounge, the experience doesn’t end with the final buzzer. As if an exhilarating victory over the Clippers was not enough, Hyde Lounge transforms into a full-fledged nightclub after each game.

Curtains are drawn after the final buzzer and a full service bar, live DJ and all that the world-famous Hyde Lounge has to offer is unlocked. For those looking for that “nightlife” experience, the post-game festivities are perfect considering you don’t even need to leave Staples Center to hit the club, and you get to beat all of that horrendous L.A. traffic after the game.

With the Lakers’ regular season now just beginning, I highly recommend attending future games in style at Hyde Lounge. Rather than buying a ticket to just watch the game in the 300 levels, you can instead receive a complete experience for just about the same price.

With Hyde Lounge, you will not be disappointed.

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Image: Noah Graham | Getty Images

Which bench player has impressed you the most so far?

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Image: Noah Graham | Getty Images
Image: Noah Graham | Getty Images

With contributions by Kanta Ito.

With Dwight Howard‘s departure, Lakers Executive V.P. of Basketball Operations Jim Buss and General Manager Mitch Kupchak faced a major task this past off-season. The Lakers’ decision-makers were tasked with filling plenty of holes, as evidenced by last season’s debacle.

After eight preseason games and three regular season games, one significant improvement is evident: the bench.

The Lakers have received a major sparkplug from the second unit this season, evidenced by their strong performances throughout the preseason and regular season. The second unit shocked the national audience by carrying the Lakers to an Opening Night victory over its co-tenant rivals, the Los Angeles Clippers, outscoring them 41-24 in the fourth quarter and scoring 76 points as a unit.

Albeit, the Lakers lost the next two games to the Golden State Warriors and the San Antonio Spurs. The Lakers’ bench, however, has shown that it can carry a lot of the weight for the Lakers this season.

Jordan Farmar, a key bench player during the Lakers’ championship runs in 2008-2009 and 2009-2010, took a significant paycut to rejoin the Lakers after stint with the New Jersey Nets as well as overseas in Israel and Turkey. Farmar has gotten off to a blistering start, averaging 11.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 5.0 assists per game, including scoring 16 points to lead the Lakers over the Clippers.

Farmar’s maturity in becoming an effective floor general came from running the show for the Anadolu Efes Istambul in Turkey last season—leading them to a Euroleague playoff appearance.

“I just got a chance to play differeent styles of basketball. My whole professional career, I was in a triangle and I [was not] really running screen and rolls and making decisions and getting away from that. I finally got a chance to do that and learn on the job,” Farmar told NBA on TNT sidelines reporter Craig Sager after defeating the Clippers.

The biggest surprise for the Lakers has been Xavier Henry, who signed a non-guaranteed 1-year deal with the purple and gold. After subpar performances with the Memphis Grizzlies and the New Orleans Hornets during his first three years in the NBA, the 22-year old Henry has given the Lakers a guy who can create his own shots and play solid defense.

Henry, a former lottery-pick out of Kansas, has made a good first impression with the Lakers—scoring a career high 22 points versus the Clippers.

Although Henry scored only 3 points versus the Spurs, he has shown Lakers’ coach Mike D’Antoni that he can make a variety of aggressive moves towards the basket and hit some shots from behind the arc. With Henry’s defensive prowess and his surprising offensive game, he might become one of the biggest off-season acquisition steals for the Lakers.

The Lakers also signed another athletic guard-forward, Wesley Johnson. Johnson, like Henry, has not made an impact in the NBA during his past stints with the Minnesota Timberwolves and Phoenix Suns.

Expect Johnson to make a significant impact on the defensive end by using his length and athleticism—especially in his current role as a “quick-4.” He has the ability to guard every position except for center. Despite being the fourth overall pick in 2011 NBA Draft, Johnson’s offensive contribution will be a bonus, as his main role is on the defensive end.

However, Johnson has scored 11 points and 12 points the past two games respectively, on 50% shooting from the 3-point line.

Johnson excitedly told our own Laker Nation columnists Alex Lambeth and Jory Dreher before training camp that he believes he can have a really good impact just for his length and speed.

“I can get in passing lanes and disrupt shots and bring a spark that will fuel the entire team,” Johnson said. “As long as everyone is on the same page defensively, I think we’ll be just fine.”

Another addition to the bench rotation this season is former NBA All-Star Chris Kaman. With his recent solid play, I expect coach D’Antoni to pencil him into the starting lineup very soon.

Kaman and Lakers’ star Pau Gasol have shown that they can play together. This combination has been much more effective than Gasol and Howard last year.

The combination of these three key additions to the Lakers bench, paired with returnees Jordan Hill and Jodie Meeks, give the Lakers the flexibility and youth to cause matchup nightmares for their opponents—something they have not had in recent years.

The new and improved bench can also help limit the minutes played by veterans Steve Nash, Pau Gasol, and most importantly, Kobe Bryant, once he returns to the lineup.

“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.”

With the combination of their depth, and the return of assistant coach and defensive guru Kurt Rambis, the Lakers have shown signs of improved team defense.

No one knows for sure if the Lakers’ bench can sustain this stellar play, but the Lakers’ front office should be given major credit for upgrading the bench under the tight circumstances they faced this off-season.

While the Lakers still have low expectations this season, expect the second unit to continue helping the Lakers make some noise this season and hold down the fort until Kobe returns to the lineup.

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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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For fans, it is easy to look at a player’s history in the league and quickly decide if he will be of little help to their team.

Former lottery pick Xavier Henry, signed on with the team back in September and understandably was seen as another training camp invite after his first three seasons in the league being categorized as “underwhelming”.

The 22-year old shooting guard has turned some heads in early game action, notably in the first preseason game versus the Golden State Warriors, where Henry scored 29 points.  As an encore performance, the Belgium born player scored 15 points versus the Denver Nuggets the following night.

After five games, Henry is averaging 13.6 points a game, on 43% shooting from the field and 55% from beyond the arc.   With his shooting touch and athleticism, the 22-year old has shown that he could be something more than just another camp body and has forced his way into the Lakers roster situation.

As it stands, the Lakers roster is at 16 players following the latest roster casualty, Darius Johnson-Odom, who was cut Wednesday evening.  While a team can carry 15 players on their roster, the likeliest of scenarios is the roster being trimmed down to 14 before opening night.

With the Lakers roster currently guard heavy, it would not be shocking to see Henry cut, but at the same it would not come as a surprise to see him make the squad.   It could very well come down to a decision between Henry and Marcus Landry for the final spot.

While both have a good chance to start the season with the D-Fenders if they are in fact released, it will be a tough decision with the emergence of Henry and Mike D’Antoni’s familiarity with Landry.

What makes the potential roster spot for Henry so intriguing is the effect it could have on other players, namely Jodie Meeks, who could become expendable.

While nothing is definite, Henry has the potential to exceed the production Meeks has given in his short time in Los Angeles.  With his athleticism, shooting, and ability to get to the rim, he could be more of a fit than Meeks, who is considered a catch-and-shoot player, while Henry can be seen as the more dynamic of the two.

Henry, selected 12th overall by the Memphis Grizzlies in 2010, has dealt with high expectations since his days in high school, where he was considered one of the top shooting guards in the country.  After leaving the University of Kansas after one season, Henry failed to live up to the expectations of a lottery pick, averaging 4.5 points a game in three seasons.  Although as we have seen in the past with D’Antoni’s free flowing system, it could be just the situation Henry needs to improve his production on the offensive end.

Up to this point, Henry has made a pretty good argument for himself to earn the final roster spot despite playing through a wrist injury.  With three games left in the pre-season, he has a chance to strengthen that argument.

While I do not expect Henry to be in the running for sixth man of the year, he could be yet another diamond in the rough role player that can quality depth to the bench, something the Lakers have not had in quite some time.

With the Lakers headed towards a big off-season with ample cap space, it is important they find young players that will stay on the roster past this season.

While we can only hope he is not cut because of a rosters numbers game, Henry has done more than enough to earn his spot with the purple and gold.

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Photo courtesy of Noah Graham, Getty Images.
Photo courtesy of Noah Graham, Getty Images.
Photo courtesy of Noah Graham, Getty Images.

It’s been a long off-season for the Lakers. It’s been a long off-season every year since, let’s face it, the last championship in 2010. As badly as the 2012-2013 season ended, however, there’s always the promise of new beginnings.

After last weekend’s media day and the week’s worth of training camp, the team had tonight’s game against the Golden State Warriors to play out their new beginning – new coaching staff, new players, re-newed system. With the Big Three of Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol sitting out, the new guys got a run and did not disappoint.

HIGH POINTS:
Xavier (pronounced ZAH-vee-yay) Henry – Talk about first impressions. Signed as a free agent after being selected by the Memphis Grizzlies back in 2010, and then most recently playing for the then New Orleans Hornets, Henry is a hopeful for an already crowded backcourt for the Lakers, and tonight he showcased his value. 29 points on 9-15 from the field, 9-11 from the free throw line, 2-4 from three, seven rebounds and a pair of steals – not bad for your first game in the purple and gold. And the half-court buzzer beater to end the first half? Not a bad way to get the fans on your side. If Henry continues this play, he may just make the final cut and help the bench’s ability to contribute more consistently. He lead the game with a +21.
Nick Young – Nothing seems to get in the way of Nick and his swag; not a recently sprained ankle from practice, nor foul trouble (he finished with five). Young poured in 17 points in his Laker debut. He went 4-9 from the field and went a perfect 8-8 from the charity stripe. His box score leave a lot to be desired, but despite not filling it up to reflect a more well-rounded game, Young was part of the Lakers’ active defense, even grabbing a steal in the process.
Chris Kaman – Kaman played just over 21 minutes, but did enough to show why he was on the team’s radar. Going into his 11th year, Kaman is just as comfortable in the post as he is shooting 18 feet away. He’s also a solid passer, like Gasol. He finished with 10 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and two blocks.
Honorable High PointsJordan Farmar looks great in his old jersey, and the fans in the arena gave him the loudest cheers of the evening when he checked into the game. He scored only nine points, but led all players with his seven assists and three steals. • Defense. Yes, a team under Mike D’Antoni can play defense, and according to all the players, it’s been a focus in training camp this year. The Lakers didn’t become the Detroit Pistons of the 80’s, but the defense was noticeably more active in this game than it was last season, even with a three-time defensive player of the year on it. Efforts to contest shots, run back on defense, etc. were shown by the Laker tonight, causing the three-point happy Warriors to shoot just 5-21 from their sweet spots behind the arc and just under 40% from the field.
Win – Despite it being a mere pre-season game, having gone 0-8 in the last pre-season, this victory just feels encouraging.

LOW POINTS:
Sloppiness – The two teams combined for 43 turnovers in the game, which says volumes. That the Lakers could even keep up with the fast-paced play of the Warriors shows their young side this season, but 20 turnovers in the pre-season means far less than it will when the wins and losses begin to count.

Well, so far so good. D’Antoni didn’t empty the bench, but there are seven more pre-season games to do that. He said his goal is to finalize some sort of rotation before the regular season begins, so expect more permutations of players on the floor. Both Gasol and Nash are expected to play Sunday against the Denver Nuggets.

Box Score

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Another day, another signing for the Lakers.  This time in the form of shooting guard Xavier Henry:

Henry, the 12th overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft by the Memphis Grizzlies, played the last two seasons with the New Orleans Pelicans.  He has played limited minutes, averaging 14 minutes a game during three seasons.

The 6’6 shooting guard adds more depth to what is an already crowded backcourt.   Henry has averaged 3.9 PPG in his brief NBA career which hasn’t exactly lived up to expectations coming out of the University of Kansas.  He was ranked a top ten high school prospect by multiple recruiting services but was one and done in college before jumping to the NBA.

The terms of the deal were not announced.

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