From Andy Kamenetzky, ESPN Los Angeles: During a recent edition of The Forum, I singled out Darius Morris as the most pleasant surprise of the season for the Los Angeles Lakers. To me, Morris epitomizes an unseen turn of events, given his inexperience and how shaky the kid looked during preseason. If I were to pick a runner-up, however, it would absolutely be Metta World Peace. I actually expected a good start from MWP, given last season’s strong finish (the Harden elbow incident notwithstanding) and how playing alongside Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash would allow him to flourish as defensive stopper with few additional responsibilities. But the small forward has wildly surpassed expectations with his best offensive numbers since donning a Lakers uni, and a lot of people have wondered how. Asked a few times Monday afternoon in El Segundo, Calif., about the effect of coach Mike D’Antoni’s system, MWP insisted the uptick wasn’t a matter of X’s and O’s, but rather improved conditioning. As a Lakers player, Metta typically arrived to camp heavy and worked off the weight, which has resulted in slow starts. Factor in last season’s back issues, which went unaddressed as the lockout prevented contact with the training staff, and conditioning became a bigger issue.
From Eric Pincus, LA Times: The Lakers lost two straight road games last week, in Sacramento and Memphis, before a big win in Dallas. Center Dwight Howard, who averaged just seven points and 6.5 rebounds over those two defeats, blamed himself. ”The two games before [Dallas], my energy wasn’t there,” Howard said. “For this team to be successful it doesn’t matter how many points I score or how many rebounds I get. As long as my energy is there on the defensive end and I’m active on the offensive end if I’m running, it just picks everybody up. My energy level has to stay high.”
From Mark Medina, LA Daily News: The voice remains distinguishable. His West Virginia accent bounces off the walls of the Lakers’ practice facility. Some on the Lakers imitate it. Some smile at it. Everyone listens to it. Dan D’Antoni’s role as a Lakers assistant goes beyond his brotherly connection with Mike, the Lakers’ head coach. With his brother still recovering from recent knee replacement surgery, Mike vocally directed the first few days of practices.And with the Lakers learning to grasp and execute Mike’s faster-paced offense, Dan has become the lead voice in ensuring that process happens. ”I wish it came yesterday,” D’Antoni said. “But the reality is you have to evaluate day to day. I hope management understands.” He’s then reminded the Lakers fired Mike Brown after a 1-4 start, a period in which the Lakers largely struggled with his Princeton-based offense. ”They had a year and that came from a buildup,” said D’Antoni, who was an assistant under Mike in Phoenix and New York. “If they give us a buildup and have a chance to get it in and it doesn’t work, well, that’s the nature of the business.” Four games into the Mike D’Antoni era, the Lakers are 2-2. They didn’t crack the 100-point barrier in three of those four contests, well short of the 110-115 points D’Antoni has set as the standard. The Lakers also have scored only 34 fast-break points through four games after averaging 13.6 in the five games under interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff. Still, Dan D’Antoni stressed the Lakers (7-7) enter tonight’s game against Indiana Pacers (6-8) at Staples Center without two key pieces of their backcourt.
From Dave McMenamin, ESPN Los Angeles: When Kobe Bryant started off the 2012-13 season with four straight games in which he shot 50 percent or better from the field, there was optimism about his improved accuracy. But it was measured. Yes, it was just the fourth-longest 50 percent streak in Bryant’s 17-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers. And yes, he hadn’t had four straight games in which he made more shots than he missed since Jan. 17-25, 2011. But there was still the question of how long he could keep his hot streak going. Well, 10 games have passed since then, and Bryant is still shooting better than he has at any other point in his career.
From Elizabeth Benson, LakersNation.com: Lakers Nation released a big sigh of relief on Saturday night as the Lakers not only got their first victory on the road of the still early season, but they showcased a balanced offensive and defensive attack that the fans and the players know they are capable of playing each and every game day. The 115-89 win over the Dallas Mavericks hopefully turned on a light bulb with the team and will kick them into a higher gear, where they should be playing. One of the adjustments that new coach Mike D’Antoni has made over the past couple of games has been to mix in minutes when Laker newcomer Antawn Jamison is playing the four position. This has turned out to be one of the most successful adjustments that D’Antoni has made during his brief time as head coach so far in LA. First, it is refreshing to see that the Lakers have a coach that can recognize and implement adjustments either during the game or in between games. Remember, this was an idea that former coach Mike Brown was simply unable to comprehend, which only hurt the Lakers’ chances, especially in the playoffs.
From Kurt Helin, Pro Basketball Talk: Phil Jackson was in Santa Barbara because… I don’t know but it is one of the great vacation getaways in the United States so he can choose pretty much any reason he wants. TMZ cameras were in Santa Barbara because, well, they are TMZ. They are everywhere. So the result is you have got TMZ asking Jackson about how the Lakers coaching search went down (hat tip to Sports City).