Julius Randle’s injury clarifies the Lakers’ roadmap

There’s nothing good about Julius Randle’s injury. No matter what anyone may say, a young, promising power forward has been sidelined at the advent of his NBA career. My colleague Harrison Faigen tried to find silver linings peering through this horrific injury, putting a reluctant smile on an other morose situation. However, in my opinion, there’s really nothing the Lakers gain in a positive sense. All this injury does is clarify what the Lakers do going forward.
 
Two games in, the Lakers look extremely far away from anything resembling a playoff team. Yes, it’s only two games, but their two performances, not to mention their preseason games, indicate systemic flaws in the very infrastructure of the team itself that aren’t necessarily beholden to a small sample size. The offense is an absolute mess, one that won’t be fixed by the addition of a single, solitary three-point shooter in the form of Nick Young, or can be helped exponentially by Kobe taking even more shots. The defense is even more inexcusable–I don’t know that I need to expound on that. The Lakers look like a lottery team, pure and simple. As currently constructed, there are very few onlookers who would actually suggest this team could make the playoffs.
 
At this point, the Lakers could take their season in several different directions. Do they stay the course, save up their assets and hope that, with time, the team can become more competitive than they are in their present state? Do they try an open rebuild, trading away valuable role players like Jordan Hill or Jeremy Lin for draft selections or young blue chippers? Or do they take a combination of their nearly $30 million in expiring contracts, young players and draft picks and try and trade for a disgruntled superstar that wants out of his current situation?
 
It would seem Randle’s injury has ruled out that last direction.
 
(Read on, sadly, at Silver Screen & Roll)

 … Read more…

The 2014-2015 Lakers and the Quest for 20

Several years ago, Boston College’s favorite son, Jared “The Junkyard Dog” Dudley (though by opposing ACC crowds, he was often called “Jared Ugly”) came to the Phoenix Suns in package with Jason Richardson. Dudley never should have made it even that far in the NBA.
 
A first round pick by the Charlotte Bobcats, the San Diego, CA native was actually projected to be a second round draft pick. The reigning 2006-2007 ACC Player of the Year had decent size at 6’7″ and 220 lbs, lacked the explosive athleticism that many other small forwards carried at that position. Critics claimed that Dudley’s lack of lateral movement and vertical lift would limit his NBA career, making him a League also-ran rather than the, I daresay dominant swingman he was during his college days.
 
What many didn’t consider was while Dudley was limited in athleticism, he was not at all limited in his work ethic. Through his endless hustle, grit and an unfathomably improved three-point stroke, JYD morphed into a phenomenal NBA role player with the Bobcats and then with the Phoenix Suns. More than that, he morphed himself into a man who has made over $30 million dollars in his NBA career.
 
Still, his athleticism, or lack thereof, has still partially defined his career. Throughout the 2010-2011 NBA season, Dudley’s teammates on the Phoenix Suns derided the baby-faced small forward his almost complete inability to dunk the basketball during in-game play. Even during his college career, Dudley was never known as a powerful player that could take it to the rack, but rather as a guy who relied on a solid mid-range game and contact at the hoop to get his points. Dunking–i.e., jumping off the ground with explosion–was simply not in the cards. Apparently, this was the case during his professional career.
 
And thus came the Quest for 10. Please see this article.
 
In the spring of 2011, Jared Dudley completed his seemingly impossible quest to complete ten dunks during the season. This man–an unlikely NBA player from the outset–defied the critics, his teammates, the very laws of physics and the constraints of his own human vessel to conquer this very personal journey.
 
As we reflect on the Quest for 10, can YOUR….Los Angeles Lakers complete their Quest for 20?… Read more…

Lakers’ lack of talent exposed by injuries

The pomp and circumstance of opening night has yet to begin, and here we are, right back to the middle of the miserable 2013-2014 campaign.
 
The injury bug has again hit the Los Angeles Lakers, coming back with a vengeance that would make Montezuma crap his pants. Before the giant white curtains have even fallen and the video reel is still unedited, we’re looking at a Los Angeles Lakers team ravaged by injury. Here’s the run down thus far:

  • Xavier Henry is still having problems with his troublesome right knee, which has kept him out of training camp entirely. He’ll miss the rest of the preseason, and perhaps the beginning of the regular season, as he will go to Germany to get the same treatment on his knee that helped rejuvenate Kobe Bryant several years back. It is not certain when Henry will return.
  • Ryan Kelly has been sidelined with a sore right hamstring for much of the preseason, though apparently his left hamstring is also giving him problems. It’s not certain when Kelly will return.
  • Steve Nash tweaked his back once again, this time from a source much less lethal than Damian Lillard’s knee: bags. Lifting bags. Nash has been injured in one way or another for most of his tenure as a Laker, and it already feels like this year will be no different. It is not certain when Nash will return.
  • Jeremy Lin has tweaked both ankles in training camp and has missed the last two preseason contests. Without Steve Nash, the team has been largely relying on a rotation of Ronnie Price and whoever else can dribble the ball at the point. It is not certain when Lin will return.
  • Nick Young has already been sidelined for several weeks with a torn ligament in his right hand, a injury that will keep him sidelined until late November at the earliest.
  • Jordan Clarkson has been sidelined a week with a strained left calf, leaving the team razor thin at the point. It is not certain when…what? He’ll be back on Tuesday? Sweet!

Of course, some of these injuries are more severe than the others. In regard to Lin, Clarkson and Kelly, these may just be various, unfortunately timed nicks and bruises. However, for Nash, Young and Henry, these could very well be injuries that sideline them for an extended period of time and even worse, linger once they’re back on the court.
 
I’ve read some narratives proclaiming that the injury-bug has hit the Lakers (already) for a third season in a row. That’s not an entirely unfair statement. The team’s eroding record the previous two seasons has largely been a result of Kobe’s legs, Dwight’s back, Pau’s knees and Nash’s everything breaking down at a prodigious pace.
 
I’ve also heard fans say that it’s far too early to write off this team, especially seeing as these injuries are impacting the preseason–a.k.a. the part of the year where wins and losses couldn’t matter less. This too, is not an entirely unfair statement. Perhaps Henry, Nash and Young’s injuries aren’t too severe. Maybe it’s just a creaky knee, a tweaked back and hand surgery that will sideline Swaggy for a few weeks of the regular season.
 
However, these storylines are distracting from the real fatal flaw of the team that’s not the injuries. In fact, the injuries are what has exposed what could be the failing point of this Lakers team.
 
There’s just not enough talent, especially on a team that already looks so reliant on their oldest players.
 
(More at SS&R)

 … Read more…

The blurred line between pessimism and realism with the Lakers

When dealing with a franchise that’s known nothing but winning, how does a Lakers fan even prepare for the upcoming season?
 
How does one get amped up for the year when nearly every single pundit, talking head and blogger is picking the team to not only finish outside of the playoff picture for an almost unprecedented two seasons in a row…but also to be amongst the league’s worst teams?
 
Can Lakers fans rationalize to themselves that their future is without a surefire building block? That the team will be without an established young star for the first time since the mid-nineties and just the second time since the mid-seventies?
 
How will Lakers nation react to the notion that “things won’t work out LA’s way”, which is contrary to the last fifty years of NBA basketball?
 
The answer? Not well. At least from what I’ve seen.
 
We at Silver Screen & Roll pride ourselves on the many facets of our in-depth coverage of all angles of Los Angeles Lakers basketball. However, we feel that one aspect of our community that sets us apart from the rest of the healthy purple & gold blogosphere is our unyielding commitment to unbiased reporting and analysis with a curated focus on what fans are most interested in. From Josh Tucker, C.A. Clark and Dexter Fishmore to Drew Garrison and our newer writers like James Jackson, we have always been a site that has never shied away from expressing our opinions on the Los Angeles Lakers, regardless of what side of criticism they fall on. In other words: we don’t pull our punches. For anyone. Not for anyone whose business card reads “Buss”, not for any man whose name is raised to the rafters of STAPLES Center, not for #24 himself. This has never been, nor will it ever be, a site that is going to trumpet a “rah-rah Lakers” approach, while conveniently ignoring the pitfalls of an all-too-human organization.
 
(Peep the rest at SS&R)

 … Read more…

Without Nick Young, this Lakers season might be over before it begins

On just the fourth day of training camp, it seems that the injury bug that’s been swarming the Lakers for the past two seasons has already descended upon them.
 
Likely starting small forward Nick Young has been sidelined for 6 to 8 weeks with a tear of his radial collateral ligament in his right shooting hand. He reportedly was injured while defending Kobe Bryant in practice in what seems to be a complete fluke accident.
 
This, my friends, could very well kill this Lakers season even before the first preseason game.
 
Nick Young, an almost lone bright spot in an otherwise dreary last year, was coming into this season as either the second or third most important man on the roster. Despite missing 18 games in 2013-2014, Young set career highs in points, three-pointers made, assists and steals. By almost any definable metric, as well as the simple eye test, Young played arguably the best defense of his career, most of which could probably summed up to him finally giving a crap. In many ways, he was the Lakers’ most complete player on the court, as well as, unbelievably so, a locker room leader. There is almost no way I could properly convey just how valuable he was to a putrid Lakers squad last year, and also no way I could properly convey just how utterly shocked I’d have been last year if I knew I’d be writing these words 12 months later.
 
(Read the rest here at SS&R!)

 … Read more…

Can Kobe Bryant’s exit echo Derek Jeter’s?

As his latest and greatest of his opposite field singles dribbled into the hands of Baltimore Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis on Thursday night, Derek Jeter rounded first base as his neck snapped to his left. He stared with rapt attention as pinch runner Antoan Richardson raced home and barely beat out Markakis’s laser throw from 250 feet out. Jeter had singled home the winning run in the bottom of the ninth, ending his career at Yankee Stadium with a walk-off, opposite field single in the clutch. No, there was nothing really on the line here except for a meaningless late September win. However, one of the greatest competitors in the history of North American professional sports left the stage on his own two feet as a walk-off winner with a hit that exemplified his entire career.
 
Now, let’s pay no nevermind to the fact that Jeter played both Saturday and Sunday in Boston, though his last at-bat yesterday was an infield single. What the Yankees shortstop will always be remembered for is surely his grand finale at Yankee Stadium on Thursday. As the latest major market sports star retires after a glittering career, it brings into clear focus the same exact scene we could be seeing two years from now when our own Kobe Bryant hangs up his sneakers for good.
 
(More at SS&R)

 … Read more…

The Dodgers are in the playoffs! Time to freak out!

The Dodgers are in the playoffs! I feel nauseous!
 
For any True Blue fan out there, they each know that October merely brings heartache and anxiety. Nothing more, nothing less. I kind of have to hurl right now!
 
As always, my man Que-Ese and I were commiserating about the causes for the potential ulcers likely to befall us in the coming days and (hopefully) weeks. But, like a true friends (who will never ever ever leave each other), we’ve tried to serve as the salve to one another’s Dodger blues. Below is an e-mail exchange in which we’ve both finely laid out our biggest reservations, then a rebuttal why it might not be a big deal and finally, our predictions for the series.
 
KOBEsh: The bullpen. Duh.
 
Some writers have suggested that the Dodgers only have two reliable pitchers in their bullpen, which is a disconcerting thought all on its own. However, I think that may be outshooting the truth altogether.
 
Kenley Jansen has been pretty great this season, though I wouldn’t say absolutely dominant. Sure, he’s got 101 strikeouts and allowed just 55 hits in 65 innings pitched, but he also got himself into trouble unnecessarily. With no outs, Jansen allowed a .779 OPS, as opposed to .567 and .466 on the second and third outs. In other words, he’s letting a leadoff man on at an alarming rate and then relying on his dominant stuff to make up for it. Not the type of breathing room you want to give up to a fellow division-winning team.
 
The only other “reliable” bullpen pitcher has this stat line for September: 7 games, 5.1 innings pitched, 9 hits and 2 homers allowed and a 11.81 ERA. That’s J.P. Howell, who had emerged into the team’s best 8th inning reliever.
 
Other than that, we’re looking at Brandon League (a nice 2.57 ERA, but an ugly 1.46 WHIP) Brian Wilson (a nice K%, but giving up hits and walks by the boatload), 39 year-old Jamey Wright (72 hits in 70 IP), Chris Perez (who had a nice September, but still walked 4 batters in 7 innings) and rookie Pedro Baez.
 
Yes, I’m really worried.
 
Que-Ese: Here’s why you shouldn’t fret about the bullpen:
 
Jansen is a stud. His premium pitch is a cut fastball. The thing about those, is that sometimes they get put into play. If they hit their spots, he’ll be fine.… Read more…

If Kobe only plays for titles, how could this Lakers team become contenders?

On Lakers Media Day, Kobe Bryant, still in his late-career, filterless swoon, mentioned this to Ramona Shelburne amidst commentary on former coach Mike D’Antoni:

“For me, it’s winning and no in between…it’s championship or a waste of time”

This is nothing new from Kobe. If you’ve heard this once, you’ve heard it dozens of times…like later that day, to ESPN’s Arash Markazi:

“He [Byron Scott] agrees with me and it’s the Lakers organization we’re here for one reason only and that’s to hang championship banners, not division banners or conference banners or anything else. We don’t do that. We focus on winning championships and that’s very important for our young guys to understand.”

Kobe Bryant does not play for anything besides Larry O’Brien trophies. Even insinuating that he’s ever satisfied with less than that would be taken as an insult. He’d probably give you one of his patented “furrowed-brow-flared-nostril-frowny-face” snarls if you said anything like that (amongst his many amazing physical feats, Kobe has the unreal ability to make anyone feel like they’ve asked the most ridiculous question ever with a simple look). Bryant begins every year believing that he can help get his team to the promised land.
 
Coming off a season where the Lakers went 27-55 and the team’s two best players departed via free agency (in Pau Gasol and Jodie Meeks), a championship seems…unlikely, to say the least. Even the most optimistic (read: delusional) fan couldn’t possibly see this squad, as currently constructed, as title contenders. It’d be like asking Jimmy Buss to get an adult haircut–I guess it could happen, but holding out hope is just a waste of your time.
 
This isn’t to say that Kobe truly believes this team is championship material. Until he comes out and says that, let’s not paint the psychotically competitive Black Mamba as a certified psychotic. Well, at least in this sense.
 
However, Bryant has spurred an interesting idea: in the most far-fetched of scenarios, what would have to happen this season for the Lakers to even sniff championship contender status?
 
(Peep the rest at SS&R)

 … Read more…

2014-2015′s Best Reality Show: Your L.A. Lakers

Less than two months from the start of training camp, the Los Angeles Lakers are in a unique position that the franchise has seldom faced going into any NBA season: with long odds against them to make the postseason.
 
There’s really little to argue against that premise, with the exception of citing intangible motivating factors like “Kobe Bryant’s undying will to win” or looking to an even higher power (some would argue) and saying that God loves the Lakers too much for them to be bad for this long. But examining all the empirical evidence, the damning facts are there.
 
After the Lakers struck out almost completely in free agency this past summer, the team will once again revolve around the excellence of Kobe Bryant. While this has obviously behooved the organization for the past decade–and even further past that–the Black Mamba is 36 years old, past his prime and coming off of two devastating leg injuries. Bryant is still the straw that stirs the purple & gold drink, but even as much as he’d like to channel his inner 30-something Reggie Jackson, time–and NBA history–are against him.
 
That right there should be enough to make any rational Lakers fan a bit dour on the team’s prospects. But the rest of the supporting cast isn’t helping matters. The roster is filled with reclamation projects (Xavier Henry, Wesley Johnson, Ed Davis), unproven youngsters (Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, Ryan Kelly, Robert Sacre), faded stars (Steve Nash, Carlos Boozer) and young veterans still trying to find their games (Jeremy Lin, Jordan Hill). Altogether, the fit just doesn’t look quite there. Offensively, this team doesn’t even remotely resemble any of the teams that Byron Scott’s had success with, and that’s even with Kobe Bryant performing at the peak of his powers. Defensively, the word “disaster” comes to mind, but that term may not even be adequate for what could lie ahead for this Lakers team.
 
All in all, placing your emotional stock in this team right now looks about as heady of an investment as throwing down for a piece of Myspace in 2014. Beyond the factors that the Lakers can control, they’re looking at a Western Conference that will be (clich√© alert) as competitive as it’s ever been. There could be as many as 9 teams that win close to 50 games and that’s discounting any possible strides that New Orleans might make. To me, the Lakers have virtually no chance at making the playoffs. Combine that with an uncertain forecast for the 2015 offseason and free agency (Kevin Love may not be an option any longer) and the Phoenix Suns owning the team’s upcoming draft pick (thus all but eliminating the motivation to tank), LA’s road map back to title contention is as muddled as we’ve ever seen. We saw this almost unprecedented situation for the franchise at the end of last season: a Los Angeles Lakers team flirting on the fringes of NBA irrelevance. Come February, March and April, why should anyone pay attention to a team that’s well out of the race for even the bottom rungs of the playoff bracket? With the future on hold for yet another season, there’s a chance that we’re not even witnessing more than one Julius Randle-sized building block for the next great Lakers team. Besides a guttural, instinctive urge to follow this team, what’s there to watch? What’s there to care about?
 
Controversy. Isn’t that always the case with the Lo… Read more…

The highs and lows of the 2014-2015 LA Lakers schedule

It’s Christmas in August!
 
Or at the very least, we all know what we’ll be doing on Christmas…while we’re still in August.
 
The 2014-2015 NBA schedule was released for all 30 teams Wednesday afternoon, including the 82-game slate for every franchise. Topping the list are the all-important opening night, home opener and of course prestigious Christmas Day roster of games that has been known to cause quite a few angry barbs thrown my way at the MAMBINO house.
 
Looking at LA’s season, a few distinct points fly out at me:

  • For all of our negativity and pessimistic outlooks on the team’s chances next season, the Lakers still have 28 nationally televised games on ABC, ESPN, NBA TV and TNT. That’s just 1 less than last year’s 29, which, as we all know was slightly less as the Lake Show was taken off ESPN and NBA TV several times on their way to the lottery.

(Read the rest at SS&R)

 … Read more…