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A humbling year to come: Los Angeles Lakers Season Preview

Starting Five: PG Steve Nash, SG Steve Blake, SF Nick Young, PF Shawne Williams, C Pau Gasol
 
Key Bench Players: PG Jordan Farmar, SG Jodie Meeks, G/F Xavier Henry, F Wesley Johnson, PF/C Jordan Hill, C Chris Kaman
 
Offseason Additions: Chris Kaman, Jordan Farmar, Wesley Johnson, Xavier Henry, Nick Young, Shawne Williams, PF Ryan Kelly (48th overall pick)
 
Offseason Subtractions: C Dwight Howard, SF Metta World Peace, PF Antawn Jamison, F Earl Clark, PG Darius Morris, PG Chris Duhon
 
FACT OR FICTION: The Lakers will have a bottom-10 defense.

 
FACT. And therein lies the keys to this upcoming Lakers season. Inescapably, we are about to witness what should be one of the very worst defenses in the NBA. Looking at this team up, down and sideways, there is almost no feasible way that this squad has a reliable method of stopping oppositions from scoring. Right there without further need for an explanation, is a perfectly legitimate reason why this Lakers team won’t be sniffing realistic playoff goals within the last two months of the regular season.
 
Need further convincing? Well, you’ve come to the right place. … Read more...

Los Angeles Lakers Summer 2013 Moves Preview

KOBEsh: In my mind, there’s three big issues heading into the Lakers offseason. In no particular order….

     
  1. Is Dwight Howard going to re-up for five years, $118 million?
  2. Is Mike D’Antoni going to be the coach next season?
  3. Is Pau Gasol going to be on the team next season?
  4.  

Those questions–not a silly Kobe amnesty conversation–are what’s taking up my mindspace after a devastating end to the regular season.
 
CDP, what’s the biggest storyline in your mind?
 
The CDP: I have to think, I have to assume that Dwight is re-upping. I was really hoping that he would play better without Kobe and win a game or two against the Spurs. It turns out that the Laker injury bug kept taking depth and Dwight may have had the worst supporting cast he’s ever seen during that series. Dwight was frustrated, imploded, and left the 2013 playoffs with a mouthful of unbelievable sour grapes. I have to think that the money, market, and potential to own LA after Kobe leaves will still be enough. I don’t really think he’d rather be in Dallas, Atlanta, Utah, or Houston. If he does leave, he never had the cajones to make it in LA anyway, and they’ll have $60M+ in cap room next off-season.
 
Your other two questions are much more interesting to me, especially since Cleveland re-hiring Mike Brown got the Lakers off the hook for his albatross of a contract. I guess the primary question is: what kind of mood are the Lakers in? Will there be pressure to reduce expenses, as there was inexplicably during the lockout – cutting long-time assistants, equipment managers, and valuable scouts? Or will the Lakers defiantly pay the $85M tax bill coming their way – neglecting to use the nuclear amnesty option.  At the moment, the Lakers owe D’Antoni 2 years and $8M and Pau Gasol another year with nearly $20M in salary cap commitments.… Read more...

What went wrong with the 2012-2013 Los Angeles Lakers … big men?

C Dwight Howard: 76 games, 76 games started, 6 missed (for injury) 17.1 ppg, 12.4 rpg, 1.4 apg, .578/.167/.492

 

PF Pau Gasol: 49 games, 42 games started, 32 missed, 13.7 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 4.1 apg, .466/.286/.702

 

PF Jordan Hill: 29 games, 1 game started, 52 missed, 6.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 0.4 apg, .497/.000/.656

 

SF Metta World Peace: 75 games, 66 games started, 7 missed, 12.4 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 1.5 apg, .403/.342/.734

 

F Antawn Jamison: 76 games, 6 games started, 9.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 0.7 apg, .464/.361/.691

 

F Earl Clark: 59 games, 36 games started, 7.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.1 apg, .440/.337/.697

 

SF Devin Ebanks: 19 games, 3 games started, 3.4 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 0.5 apg, .329/.273/.786

 

C Robert Sacre: 32 games, 3 games started, 1.3 ppg, 1.1 rpg, 0.2 apg .375/.000/.636

 

What went wrong with the Lakers bigs?

 

Howard and Gasol didn’t learn how to play with one another for five months.

 

Or perhaps, Mike Brown and Mike D’Antoni couldn’t figure it out until it was too late. Either way, what most thought would be a fluid transition with one of the game’s best shut down defenders and most versatile bigs turned out to be clunky and awkward.

 

Of the 13 two-man combinations that spent 900 minutes or more together, Howard and Gasol settled in as having the lowest offensive efficiency (points per 100 possessions) at 103.5–the season average was 105.6. Of course, this isn’t a perfect metric by any means, but the Lakers didn’t grab more a higher percentage of rebounds (51.1% versus a season average of 51.2%) and gave up 16.4 TO a game (15 was the season average).

 

Just watching them, it was clear that Gasol wasn’t being used as efficiently as possible. He often set up on long-range jumpers, shooting from 16 feet or more almost as many times as at the rim. In fact, Pau took 1 more 3-pointer this year in 49 games than he did in 65 games last year. To make matters worse, Howard had his worst offensive season by almost any metric, and was taking away the low post touches that Gasol excels at.

 
(Read on at Silver Screen & Roll)… Read more...

Injuries–not the coach or front office–are what’s killed the 2012-2013 Los Angeles Lakers

(My latest from Silver Screen & Roll)
 
In early January, the Los Angeles Lakers went through an almost unthinkable wave of injuries. Within a two-game span, the team’s entire big man rotation crumbled with a laundry list of various maladies; Dwight Howard with a torn labrum in his right shoulder, Pau Gasol with a brutal concussion after an errant JaVale McGee elbow and reserve Jordan Hill with a torn labrum in his left hip. At the time, it was frankly implausible that this could happen all at once. The Lakers had already been snake bitten all season long, with Steve Nash, Steve Blake and Gasol missing huge chunks of games with various injuries. The thought of one star going down was devastating enough–but a coach’s entire front court getting hurt? All in a 48-hour period? Ridiculous.
 
And then it happened again.
 
During Game 2 in the opening round of the playoffs against the San Antonio Spurs, Mike D’Antoni’s back court rotation cratered with various physical problems. In addition to Kobe Bryant (ruptured left Achilles tendon) and Jodie Meeks (sprained left ankle) being on the shelf in the past week, Steve Blake strained his hamstring, while Steve Nash aggravated an already painful nerve irritation affecting his back, hip and hamstring. Blake has already been ruled out for tonight’s game, while Nash and Meeks are listed as doubtful. It appears that much like that fateful 48 hour period in early January, what remains of an already fragile Lakers guards corps has gone down in 3 short days.
 
The odds of this happening once, let alone twice is of course, astronomical. With the exception of Antawn Jamison (who has been playing through a painful tear in his right wrist) and Earl Clark (who only began to play during the aforementioned January apocalypse on any man 6’11” and above), every single Lakers rotation player has missed time with injury, almost all of them serious health concerns. To punch the point home, let’s go to the tape:
 
Steve Nash: Missed 32 games (Hip/back/hamstring: 8 games, fractured right fibula: 24 games)
 
Steve Blake: Missed 37 games (Torn abdominal muscle: 37 games, strained right hamstring: 0 games, but out for tonight’s game)
 
Pau Gasol: Missed 33 games (Tendinitis both knees: 8 games, concussion: 5 games, right plantar fascia tear: 20 games)
 
Jordan Hill: Missed 53 games (Torn labrum/damaged cartilage left hip: 53 games)
 
Dwight Howard: Missed 6 games (Torn labrum right shoulder: 6 games)
 
Metta World Peace: Missed 6 games (Right torn meniscus: 6 games)
 
Kobe Bryant: Missed 6 games (Left ankle sprain: 2 games, ruptured left Achilles tendon: 4 games)
 
Jodie Meeks: Missed 0 games (Left ankle sprain: 0 games, but expected to miss tonight’s contest)
 
(Read on after the jump)

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Seeing is believing, as the Lakers take an unreal victory in Brooklyn

(A MAMBINO live report from Brooklyn for the Nets-Lakers game last night)
 
“Unreal. Just…unreal.”
 
I slumped back in my seat time after time, stunned at the game that was taking place in front of me. Quarter after quarter, the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers continued to shake convention in a contest that couldn’t be any less believable. Still, I whispered in amazement for 48 minutes, sometimes with a smile on my face and others with a bewildered scowl, hands atop my head.
 
The Los Angeles Lakers beat the Brooklyn Nets in their first visit to the Barclays Center last night, 92-83, in a game the Lakers had to have, Brooklyn couldn’t have tried harder to give away and ultimately, Pau Gasol would love to have back.
 
The Barclays Center is merely a 30-minute train ride away from my apartment. This gigantic iron behemoth is brilliantly located in the middle of New York’s second most heralded borough, crossing almost a dozen subway lines and the Long Island Railroad. It stands out from the surrounding environ of a typical urban center, as if Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum lost the war on July 4th and a spaceship landed in the middle of the BK. The Barclays Center is convenient, marvelous, and most importantly, thanks to its NBA tenants, cheap.
 
Despite a move out of the swamp in New Jersey to a brilliant, shining, $1 billion dollar arena, the now Brooklyn Nets are struggling to find their place in NYC. Attendance is up to 16th this season, a solid upward trend from finishing no better than 25th in crowd support since 2009. However, like with any expansion or relocation franchise, it’s been difficult to find a fervent, dedicated fan base when a team has little tradition, few marketable stars, and generations of followers tied to another organization. New Yorkers are still very dedicated to their beloved Knicks, and the ticket price to see the now contending Bockers is sky high. For the playoff-bound Nets? There’s a far smaller mortgage to be paid for attending a game in Brooklyn. Knowing all of this before showing up to Barclays tonight, I shouldn’t have been so surprised by the swath of Lakers fans in front of me.
 
Still, even high fives from strangers clad in Lakers hats and headbands couldn’t distract me from the task at hand–defeating the then 28-19 Brooklyn Nets. LA came into the game short-staffed, with Dwight Howard missing his second consecutive game due to a re-aggravated shoulder injury and Metta World Peace due to a bogus suspension for “punching” Brandon Knight during Sunday’s Pistons game. Chief amongst my concerns were how anyone would be able to check the 6’7″ Joe Johnson, if Reggie Evans would now gobble up 25 boards instead of 16 now that Dwight was ruled out and if Steves Nash and Blake would just spot Deron Williams the 20 he would eventually score.
 
Amazingly–unreal-ly–this never came to pass.
 
(Read the rest at Silver Screen and Roll after the jump)… Read more...

Dwight and Pau Out "Indefinitely": What Do the Lakers Do Now?

(My latest from Silver Screen & Roll. Check it!)

In a season that’s becoming progressively bleaker by the day, could today be the death blow to a prospective championship season on life support?

All within the last 24 hours, three Lakers big men toppled towards the hardwood, as if they were gigantic dominoes being flicked by the oversized pincer of the injury bug. Following yesterday’s game against the Denver Nuggets, reserve forward-center Jordan Hill added to his already thick medical folder with a torn hip muscle that will cause him to miss at least a week of action.

That wasn’t all: more apparent in Sunday’s contest was the bloody injury to Pau Gasol. At the time, announcers Bill McDonald and Stu Lantz postulated he had suffered a broken nose from a flailing JaVale McGee elbow (is there any other kind?). Today, news came down that Gasol’s nose was merely lacerated, but the real damage came from within–the Spaniard had been concussed, and would miss at least the next two games.

Surprisingly, the most devastating news of the day was yet to come. Dwight Howard, who sprained his shoulder on Friday in a loss against the Clippers, had re-aggravated the injury against the Nuggs and was noticeably wincing during the game. An examination afterwards revealed that Howard was playing with a torn labrum in his right shoulder, which led the team to list the center out “indefinitely”. Later in the day, Dwight was adamant that he wouldn’t need surgery to correct the injury, but rather just rehabilitation. Either way, the Lakers’ starting center would be out at least one week, if not more if surgery is deemed necessary. It seems impossible, but Howard’s cartoonishly gigantic shoulders weren’t even exempt from a storm of health problems for the Lakers’ frontline.

It’s not that all of these injuries are that devastating in the short-term–all of them call for the Lakers’ bigs to miss no more than two to five games. However, it’s the nature of the injuries that could prolong the players’ absences for a serious stretch of time. Hill’s latest boo-boo is the nineteenth of the season, seemingly. So far, the former Wildcat has been sidelined with a herniated disc and a sprained ankle. Though a hip injury is another short-term problem, it’s obvious at this point that Hill is just an injury-prone player. Gasol’s concussion calls for just a two-game leave, but concussions can range from temporary setbacks to lifelong disabilities. It’s improbable that Pau could be done for the season or anything close to that, but there’s no telling how he’ll respond in the coming days. Howard’s shoulder is another wild card–though he’s insisted that surgery isn’t an option, labrum tears can be assuaged by anything ranging from rehabilitation to invasive surgery, depending on how large the tear. For now, he’s saying that this is just a rest and strengthening process, but again, the pervasive cloud of uncertainty rolls over the Lakers.

(Read on after the jump)… Read more...

Pau Gasol Trade Scenarios: Is It Even Possible?

(Doing some work for Silver Screen and Rollcheck it!)

At first there were whispers. And then, after a fashion, the whispers turned to chatter. The chatter soon turned into a dull roar and now we’re into a full-on, Kevin Garnett primal scream: trade Pau Gasol.
The 2011 2nd Team All-NBAer hasn’t helped matters much: since Mike D’Antoni took over, Pau is averaging 10 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists, to go along with .388 shooting and a woeful 64% from the charity stripe. Those stats are fine if you’re Jason Kidd or Kurt Thomas–not so much when you’re the 9th highest-paid player in the league. Gasol’s numbers have followed a frightening trend from the end of the 2010 playoffs, in which the hardened, vengeance-driven warrior was one of the driving forces behind an epic Game 7 victory over the Celtics in the Finals (just…sit on that one for a minute Lakers fans. All be well).
However, as we’ve covered extensively on this blog, and even further than that in just about any comments section, the most glaring reason behind Pau trade whispers has been his shocking lack of energy on both ends of the floor. Whether it’s been the coaching changes, lack of managerial or fan support, system demands or perhaps just plain old injury, Gasol has lacked much of the aggression and effort Los Angeles fell in love with in 2008. He’s slow to rotate on pick and roll defense, as well as perimeter closeouts, and has been shockingly sedentary finishing around the rim offensively. More importantly, the Lakers aren’t winning. With the team sitting at 8-9, Pau’s play hasn’t been the main thrust behind an under-.500 record, but when the team is losing, everything is magnified and there’s going to be a scapegoat. Pau, for the moment, seems to be that guy.
The obvious solution here? The once unthinkable: trade Pau Gasol.The question is where? And for whom?
(Read on hereRead more...

Pau Gasol for Amar’e Stoudemire? Pure Fiction


From: Andrew Hova
To: KOBEsh
Date: 8:21 pm, November 27th, 2012
Subject: Amar’e for Gasol? Oh please make it sooo

This was an e-mail I received last night as I got off of a plane. In a panic, my fingers couldn’t light up Twitter fast enough. I was stricken with my worst fear come to light–not so much that the Lakers were close to trading Gasol, but rather that New York Knick Amar’e Stoudemire would be the quarry. 

I searched and searched, but all I saw was speculation. There weren’t any solid reports, just rumors floating around that a swap of the two disaffected power forwards could be a possible deal going forward. Both men aren’t entirely happy in their current environments and roles on their current squads, and more importantly, have largely underperformed the last year and a half. Switching the two wouldn’t be an entirely far-fetched idea, based on various factors of their ages, contracts and personnel redundancies on the Lakers and Knicks, respectively.

That being said, there isn’t a scenario where this trade would be anything but an outright disaster for the Lakers.

At this point, such a pact is purely rumor-mill material. But just to nip this one right quick, there’s no way that LA should or would pursue this deal as a one-for-one switcheroo. 


1). Contract length and cost

First and foremost, this is a money issue. Pau is owed just a bit over $38 million for this season and the next. Amar’e on the other hand, is scheduled to receive over $64 million in salary over three seasons…without insurance due to his balky knees. Yes, both players might be in a simple need of a scenery change, but doing so for the sake of an extra year and nearly $26 million dollars just isn’t worth it. More importantly, this would nearly cap out the Lakers in the summer of 2014, when Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Metta World Peace and Steve Blake come off the books to the tune of $60 million dollars. Amar’e’s prospective salary would shutter the possibility of bringing in another free agent swingman to pair with Dwight Howard (if he’s resigned this summer), Steve Nash (under contract for 2014-2015) and perhaps Kobe Bryant on a short-term deal. 
In terms of sheer money, this deal is so ludicrous that Chris Bridges couldn’t even sanction it. 

2). Pau Gasol is better than Amar’e Stoudemire

This is a much bigger and longer argument, but even in a down year, there’s little doubt in my mind that Pau Gasol is a far more effective player of the two:
Stoudemire 2011-2012: 17.5 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 1.1 apg, 1.0 bpg, .483 FG%, 17.7 PER
Gasol 2011-2013: 16.6 PPG, 10.2 rpg, 3.6 apg, 1.3 bpg, .488 FG%, 19.5 PER

Aside from points per game (in which Pau took 1.6 less shots per game), it’s clear that Gasol is the superior guy at this point. He’s more efficient and athletic than Amar’e, and in regards to his offensive skill set, is vastly more versatile. Stoudemire is rapidly becoming more and more an outside jump shooter, as his explosiveness has wilted like Ramon Sessions in a big spot. 

Amar’e is largely a one-trick pony at this point–he can score, but without the variance in which Gasol can and also sans the more impressive rebounding and assist numbers. It goes that without saying that Stoudemire is one of the league’s worst defensive players, whereas Pau is at least adequate. 

3). Durability

But what that last bullet left out was that Pau aggregated all those statistics in 80 games, where the Knicks forward only played in 47 games in that

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MAMBINO’s NBA Finals Pick

(Part of this is lifted from the Silver Screen and Roll crew’s season prediction roundtable post. Check it out when you have the time!)

NBA Finals Pick: Los Angeles Lakers…and Miami Heat
 

Even as what would amount to a 51 win team (prorated over a 82 game season), the Lakers were still very middling last year. They needed to get vastly better on both ends of the court if they wanted to compete for a Western Conference Finals berth, much less a NBA title shot…which they very well may have done. 
Defensively, I expect the Lakers to improve leaps and bounds immediately with Dwight Howard on the court. As I detailed yesterday in MAMBINO’s Defensive Player of the Year prediction, D12’s impact on the team should be stark. In his few games of preseason action, there was such a canyon-like difference on his activity versus Andrew Bynum’s that, paired with how much better he made mediocre defensive players in Orlando, it’s easy to think that LA’s defense will be suffocating. Offensively, the team could take months to adjust to one another with a new system and point guard, but over that stretch I can see the defense making up for the confusion on the scoring end.
The key for the Lakers was getting to the Finals; Oklahoma City was the most troublesome matchup for LA, especially with Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins able to give Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard the most one-on-one trouble as any duo in the league. However, with the Harden trade, I feel like the Lakers are much better suited not only offensively without his defense on Kobe, but also defensively in regards to staying in front of only two of the best 20 players in the league, rather than three. It’s not a forgone conclusion that the Lakers can get past OKC–how can you underestimate Durant and Westbrook?–but the prospects just got a lot better. 

Moving onto the NBA Finals, the Lakers should have an advantage against both of their prospective Eastern Conference counterparts, Miami and Boston. Against the Celtics, the Lakers should have the upper hand, as the Lakers front line should be able to punish Boston’s down low. Boston’s athleticism is nearly on par with the 30-something Lakers, and like the LA teams since their 2008 Finals loss, this is a physical squad that isn’t going to get muscled about. While Rajon Rondo will be uncontainable in front of Steve Nash, I suspect the massive advantages the Lakers have in the paint will over power whatever Boston can throw regarding a potentially jumper-happy team. 

Against Miami, the advantages aren’t so cut and dry. On one hand, the Lakers will be able to slow the game down and pound the Heat with a half-court offense that, if the Show is able to get that far, they’ll surely have mastered. Gasol, Howard and Kobe, some of the best high post-low post players in the league, are a handful against any defense, especially with the bevy of cutters and newly-minted shooter the Lakers have.  Chris Bosh, Udonis Haslem and Joel Anthony are Miami’s big men, so on paper it is quite academic. The Lakers should dominate. 
But the confetti paper under Miami’s rafter from last June speaks volumes. The Heat‘s swarming half court defense showed that Erik Spoelstra’s squad is full of versatile, athletic and intelligent defenders who hedge at the right times and know exactly where to cut off passing lanes. In the Finals, the Heat forced Oklahoma City into a series of isolation plays and low-percentage jump shots by packing the paint and on the s
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How could the Lakers NOT Win the NBA Title?


For the past few weeks, I’ve been a part of a series of Lakers roundtable posts by the fine folks over at Silver Screen & Roll. In the long, droning pace that’s the NBA offseason, we’ve debated a number of subjects, but lately focusing on what could hinder this glamorous All-Star-laden starting five from doing anything besides parading down Figueroa in June. Here they are, aggregated and expanded upon. Check it out!
Injuries. Plain and simple.

As I ran down a couple weeks ago, you really can’t consider the Lakers the clear favorites for the Western Conference because quite frankly, there’s too many variables before this famed new starting five even hits the hardwood together. This team’s potential is vast; not just as a regular season juggernaut, but as a historically unprecedented vehicle for postseason glory. Thus, my prediction for their current standings had nothing to do with what I think their ceiling is. Far from it, in fact.

Out of everything regarding the Lakers potential deficiencies, team chemistry isn’t a factor I’m worried about. The Lakers are facing a season of massive adjustments just in their starting five alone, from Steve Nash playing with the most talent he’s ever had on a basketball court (all due respect to Marion, Amar’e and Joe Johnson, but we’re talking about Kobe, Gasol and Howard here), to Dwight and Kobe getting less touches than they’ve ever gotten in their careers to Pau’s role as a glorified Brad Miller-esque role as a facilitator and rebounder in the lane (that wasn’t meant to be an insult..for real reals). However, these two biggest mitigating factors makes me think that these changes in on-court philosophy are miniscule compared to the task at hand:
1) Nash’s ability as a floor general: Kobe, Howard and Pau will (theoretically) all be taking less shots, less personal glory and a lighter stat sheet than they’re used to. It’s Steve Nash’s job to make them feel like it’s worth it. My dad always says that the most brilliant part of Phil Jackson’s version of the triangle offense was that because of the intricacies of the scheme, most, if not all five of the players would touch the ball on every single possession. After all, there’s nothing more that a basketball professional loves than feeling the touch of leather on his hands and believing that yes, he is a crucial part of the game. Nash has shown that he’d single-handedly be able to replicate one of the most efficient pieces of the triangle by juggling the egos of his teammates and adjusting his passing ratio accordingly. I have no doubt that he’ll be able to utilize the weapons he has in front of them to their deadliest efficiency, as well as smooth over any on-court frustrations. This is what Steve Nash does. And he does it quite well.

2) The championship hunger of all five starters: Everyone has their reasons, but none should make any individual more motivated than the next. For Steve Nash, he’ll finally hold his first trophy at age 39, and one of the greatest players ever will finally have his ring. Kobe, he’s looking at a historic sixth title, which would tie him with Jordan, Kareem, Robert Horry and a host of Celtics, as well as put him ahead of Magic Johnson and solidify his resume as perhaps one of the top five players ever to grace the NBA. For Pau, this is chance to put more hardware in his prRead more...