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Brooklyn Nets vs Los Angeles Lakers

Fri Feb 20, 10:30 PM EST – YES, TWSN

Line: BKN -3.0, O/U: 194.5

Staples Center – Los Angeles, CA

Recent Matchups

Ranks

  • 102.6 ORTG (24)
  • 106.9 DRTG (17)
  • 92 Pace (25)
  • 73.7 DRB% (20)
  • 0.525 TS% (21)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • Joe Johnson 15.5 ppg
  • Mason Plumlee 7 rpg
  • Deron Williams 6.1 apg
  • Brook Lopez 1.7 bpg
  • Jarrett Jack 1.1 spg

Ranks

  • 103.8 ORTG (22)
  • 111.2 DRTG (29)
  • 94.2 Pace (12)
  • 75.1 DRB% (15)
  • 0.512 TS% (27)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • Kobe Bryant 22.3 ppg
  • Jordan Hill 8 rpg
  • Kobe Bryant 5.6 apg
  • Ed Davis 1.2 bpg
  • Ronnie Price 1.5 spg

The trade deadline came and went with the Lakers making nary a move. This, though not what some fans would have wanted, was pretty much expected. As I wrote last month, the Lakers’ most likely trade assets (Jordan Hill, Ed Davis, and Jeremy Lin) all had contract issues that may have affected their trade value and, as it always is, other teams must actually want what the Lakers have to offer while also meeting what the Lakers are willing to accept in a deal. As it has been at most trade deadlines, those two things likely did not line up and the Lakers stood pat.

On Friday afternoon, Mitch Kupchak explained that while the Lakers looked into some things, there was nothing really close to happening. I, for one, am okay with that. The Lakers could have tried to go all in on one of the available point guards on the market or tried to dump one of their current players for future draft considerations, but as I noted in the linked to post above that was likely to be complicated by many factors. So, the Lakers will go into the summer with what they have now and will wind down the season with the same roster that has, to this point, been bad (or, depending on your perspective, good) enough to keep them in the hunt of keeping their own draft pick.

So, with 29 games left on the schedule the Lakers will play out the string as is. Tonight, they host the Nets, another team that looked to make some moves but only ended up trading stalwart big man Kevin Garnett back to Minnesota in exchange for Thaddeus Young. The move was a bit of a surprise (KG had to waive his no trade clause for the deal to happen and Thad Young is the better player at this stage of both player’s careers), but so were many of the other moves that saw 37 players shifted across the league before the noon deadline on Thursday.

I’d dive deeper into tonight’s match up, but to be honest I have little to say about this game in general and have a sick child resting on my couch as I type this. In other words, we all have our priorities and this game is just one of several for me (and a bit lower on the totem pole, to boot). I will say, however, that coming off a long break I expect some sloppiness. Byron Scott worked his players hard in their first practices back from the break, but it will take actual game action for the players to find their rhythm and for the flow of the game to start to be natural again. So, expect some sloppier than normal ball at least through the first half and maybe even longer. The Lakers, of course, have an advantage playing at home, but the Nets — even this version — have the edge in talent and in something worthwhile to play for (they are still chasing a playoff spot in the East).

Which of these angles wins out remains to be seen, and I’ll be watching to find out.

Where you can watch: 7:30pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM.

For the past week, there have been strong rumors linking the Lakers to Goran Dragic. The current Sun will be a free agent this summer and, up until now, the rumors (originally reported by ESPN’s Marc Stein) said the Lakers would strongly pursue him in free agency by offering him a max contract. The thought of trading for Dragic was not really an option because the Suns were reportedly not interested in dealing the Slovenian PG, preferring to try and re-up him this July.

It seems, however, that those plans are about to change:

Wait, there’s more:

And then, there’s this:

So, to recap: Goran Dragic will not re-sign with the Suns this summer and the Suns will try to trade him by this Thursday’s trade deadline. The Lakers are among the teams on Dragic’s short list of preferred trade destinations. If Dragic is not traded, the Lakers will still try to pursue him in free agency where they will likely offer him a boatload of money ($80 million over 4 years).

After digesting all that, there are two ways to look at this:

  1. The Lakers should try to trade for Goran Dragic
  2. The Lakers should wait until free agency and try to acquire him in July.

Both of these sides have solid arguments, so let’s quickly tackle both, starting with the latter.

Pursuing Dragic in free agency only requires two things: for Dragic to be a free agent and the Lakers to have the money to pay him. Luckily for the Lakers, both of those things will be true come July. The benefits to taking this approach are two fold. First, the Lakers do not have to surrender any assets in their pursuit of the point guard. This is important since the Lakers do not have many assets to offer. The second is ¬†that the Lakers really do not need to do anything that would improve their team right now. Being that the Lakers draft pick is only protected if it falls in the top five of the draft, it’s to their benefit to not acquire players who help them win more games right now. Whether or not you like watching a losing team (I do not) or if you are pro “tank” (I am not; though I’m more ambivalent on this now than 3 months ago), there is no argument in which not having a top 5 pick is better than having it. If you find that argument, please tell me as I am happy to listen.

It’s difficult to stress how meaningful those two points above really are. The Lakers are a team who really cannot afford to give up anything of value for a player they can chase in free agency. You want to give up the Houston pick? Fine, but just remember you can have that pick and Dragic if you are good enough in selling your franchise and convincing him your money and vision are worth it. Further, that top 5 pick may not yet be an asset, but if it becomes real it will instantly become as valuable an asset as the Lakers have possessed since they turned Andrew Bynum into Dwight Howard.

In saying all that, trading for Dragic now does have its benefits.

At the top of that list is the fact that trading for Dragic nets you his Bird Rights. While the Lakers were burned with that line of thinking when they acquired Dwight Howard, Dragic is a bit different for a key reason: Dragic’s cap hold this summer is only $11.25 million. This low-ish cap number allows the Lakers a certain amount of flexibility in how they negotiate with Dragic while still chasing other free agents. For example, let’s say the following things occur:

  • The Lakers trade for Dragic
  • The Lakers decline Jordan Hill’s team option (or trade him before Thursday)
  • The Lakers are left with roughly $20 million in cap “space” this July after all relevant cap holds for players not named Dragic are accounted for (NOTE: This is not a real number and is for example purposes only)

Of that $20 million in cap space, $11.25 million of it will be tied up in Dragic, but the Lakers would still have $8.75 million to pursue another free agent (or more). Maybe that means the Lakers ink Ed Davis. Maybe they chase another big man. Maybe they go after a wing who can defend (like DeMarre Carroll). Or maybe they just roll that space over into the season, giving them flexibility in other trades that allows them to take on salary in a move. The key is, though, that they have the ability to do something besides just sign Dragic in free agency due to controlling his Bird Rights. And, yes, while those rights also mean the Lakers could pay him more than any other team (and would likely be pressured to do so by his agent), that flexibility has value.

On the flip side, if pursuing Dragic in free agency all of the Lakers’ cap space is likely devoted to making him an offer. And this would be after renouncing rights to all their current free agents and not picking up Jordan Hill’s option. So, presented in this context, would you rather only have the ability to pay Dragic or would you like to have the ability to pay him and pursue one or more other options in free agency?

Of course, your answer may well be that you don’t want Dragic at all. Not in free agency, not in a trade, not ever. That’s a perfectly valid opinion. I mean, if the choice is paying Dragic $20 million to have him on your roster or not paying him at all, it’s perfectly reasonable to say “thanks, but no thanks” and move on to other options. And, despite typing all those words in the paragraphs above, it’s not like it’s some sort of given the Lakers just snap their fingers and end up with him via a trade or in free agency. Any deal for him requires the Suns to say yes or for him and his agent to agree to terms. As we’ve seen in years past, this isn’t a gimme.

But, this is the rumor season, the trade deadline is on Thursday, and the Lakers are prominently mentioned as a viable option for a very good player. Plus, there are good arguments on both sides of the argument on how to best pursue him. So, what say you?

*I should add that ESPN’s Beto Duran explains that Goran Dragic speaks fluid Spanish and that he could become the face of TWC Deportes. This may or may not be something that should be considered and left me only responding with !!!!! to Beto’s tweet at me. But, considering the Lakers’ broadcast partnerships was a variable in the Dwight and Carmelo free agency pitches, it’s probably a variable worth considering.

Despite being injured, Kobe Bryant is still the Laker who most moves the needle when it comes to fans. Despite the Lakers’ awful record, his season ending injury, and his, compared to previous standards, sub-par play, he was still voted into the All-Star game as a starter and the release of the 10th iteration of his signature shoe was still quite the event. So, when Kobe goes on a bit of a media blitz, it’s sure to catch everyone’s attention.

On Monday evening, “Kobe the Interview” aired on NBA TV. The interview is well worth your time, if only for the career retrospective and insight Kobe provides on recovering from injuries, the longevity of his career, and capturing of the special moments that have made Kobe the player he is. NBA.com has a brief summary up here, but it’d be worth it for you to search your cable guide and see if/when it will be re-aired.

If “the interview” wasn’t enough to satiate your thirst for Kobe, you’re in luck. On Tuesday morning a sit-down between Kobe and Chuck Klosterman was released by GQ Magazine. Even more than the NBA TV piece, the interview with Klosterman gave us an unfiltered look at Kobe and offered some fantastic quotes that capture the Kobe we all want to see more of. He was introspective, smart, funny, and unabashedly honest. The entire piece is worth your time, but here are a few of my favorite parts:

Continue Reading…

The Lakers enter all-star weekend with only 13 wins to 40(!) losses. I remember back when Phil Jackson was the coach and the Lakers were competing for a top seed in the conference, his philosophy was to always try to get to 40 wins before getting to 20 losses. The thought was, if you could get to that number, you could spend the last 25 games (or so) getting into playoff form and preparing for what would be, hopefully, a long run deep into May or June. Clearly, the Lakers are a long, long way off from those days.

What they are also a long way off from is having any sort of place in this “mid-season” showcase of the league’s best. Yes, Kobe was voted into Sunday’s game, but after having surgery to repair a torn labrum that will cost him the season he will not even make an appearance in New York. Similarly, Julius Randle’s broken leg kept him out of Friday’s rookie/sophomore game where he could have helped the “USA” team in the new format where American born players faced off against players born from the rest of the world. And with no Lakers competing in any of the other events, this weekend will be a far cry from what we’ve been used to in year’s past.

Maybe that’s for the best. I’m sure many Lakers fans are actually happy for the escape from watching their guys and are ready to invest some time in the talents the rest of the league has to show. Speaking of which…

*Friday’s “Rising Stars” game showed some nice players from both teams, but I was particularly impressed with Andrew Wiggins of the T’Wolves and Rudy Gobert from the Jazz. Both showed off superior athleticism and nice instincts on both sides of the floor. Gobert is clearly still a bit raw, but the tools are there and with his size, length, and athleticism he can turn into a force if he keeps his current development trajectory. On twitter I said that Gobert is like JaVale McGee if JaVale wasn’t so…JaVale. Just a great canvas to develop into a top big man.

*I’ll put it on the record now. My winners for tonight’s contests are: Team Curry in the Shooting Stars Event, Isaiah Thomas in the Skills Challenge, Kyle Korver in the 3 point shootout, and Zach LaVine in the Dunk Contest. Yes, that’s a lot of “chalk” in my group of winners, but this seems like a weekend where guys who do what they do best are actually in the contests they should be in and they’re going to remind everyone of why they were chosen.

*I know that everyone is looking forward to the three point shootout; that group of participants is as deep and talented a shooting class as has ever competed. But, honestly, I’m still most looking forward to the dunkers and, specifically, LaVine. It’s been 15 years since Vince Carter wowed the crowd in Oakland with a performance that redefined the event. And while I don’t think LaVine can match that effort, but I do believe the hype around his above the rim ability is warranted.

*Speaking of Vince’s night back in 2000, you should read this long-form piece by CBS’ Zach Harper on the Night Vinsanity was born. Just a great piece.

*Another great read comes from friend of the site Andy Kamenetzky who writes on Magic Johnson’s latest comments about Jim Buss. I could not agree more with what AK wrote if I’d typed the words myself.

*Lastly, the actual date was a couple of weeks ago, but it was 5 years ago that I took over Forum Blue & Gold from Kurt Helin who departed to run Pro Basketball Talk. With that, I just want to say thank you to everyone who has continued to support me and site over the years. That includes all the contributors who have provided such excellent content on the main page, those who visit the site to read that content, and the commenters who make up one of the best communities in the NBA blogosphere. Without all of you, this site wouldn’t be what it is today.

Los Angeles Lakers vs Portland Trail Blazers

Wed Feb 11, 10:00 PM EST – TWSN, KGW

Line: POR -13.5, O/U: 196.0

Moda Center at the Rose Quarter – Portland, OR

Recent Matchups

Ranks

  • 103.9 ORTG (22)
  • 111.2 DRTG (29)
  • 94.3 Pace (10)
  • 75.2 DRB% (11)
  • 0.513 TS% (27)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • Kobe Bryant 22.3 ppg
  • Jordan Hill 8 rpg
  • Kobe Bryant 5.6 apg
  • Ed Davis 1.2 bpg
  • Ronnie Price 1.5 spg

Ranks

  • 107.5 ORTG (11)
  • 102.1 DRTG (3)
  • 94.3 Pace (12)
  • 75.4 DRB% (9)
  • 0.54 TS% (13)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • LaMarcus Aldridge 23.7 ppg
  • LaMarcus Aldridge 10.3 rpg
  • Damian Lillard 6.3 apg
  • Robin Lopez 1.5 bpg
  • Damian Lillard 1.5 spg

In a way, you have to hand it to the Lakers as they keep finding creative ways to lose. After losing late leads to the Bucks and Magic and then losing in overtime, the Lakers decided to forgo OT altogether against the Nuggets and lose the game by simply surrendering a game they pretty much controlled the entire time in regulation. The Nuggets scored the last nine points of the game and to win by 10 going away.

The star of that game was Ty Lawson (32 points and 16 assists), who the Lakers simply could not contain off the dribble in isolation or out of the pick and roll. This, of course, does not bode well in tonight’s game with Damian Lillard lurking. Lillard has absolutely tormented the Lakers, averaging 36.5 points (on 56.8% shooting, 50% from behind the arc) and six assists in the two previous meetings between these teams. And it’s not like Lillard was gunning for the entire game to get those numbers, either. Most of his damage was actually done on the 4th quarter of both games where he simply blitzed the Lakers, scoring 37 points in only 18 minutes of action over both wins.

So, yes, the Lakers are in trouble tonight. And I’d say that even if Lillard wasn’t going all Beatrix Kiddo on the Crazy 88’s whenever the Lakers are the opponent. Though they went¬†through a rough patch (but still playing over .500 ball) with Robin Lopez out, the Blazers are still one of the best teams in the west and offer a deep, versatile lineup that is simply more talented than the Lakers. If lining up both rosters tonight side by side for a draft, you would likely select six or seven Blazers before even considering taking a Laker.

The fact that the Lakers are playing on the 2nd night of a back to back make things even more challenging. But, if they are to compete tonight, a few things need to happen:

  1. The Lakers’ bigs must control the backboards and limit LaMarcus Aldridge’s effectiveness. LMA can be a deadly jumpshooter and has enough of a post game to be a matchup nightmare. But, if he can be guarded closely and forced into misses, the Lakers have a better shot to win. I expect Robert Sacre to get the first minutes against LMA and hopefully his strength can keep the Blazer off his spots and limit his shot making.
  2. The wings must make shots. The Blazers are a proficient three point shooting team and if the Lakers are going to keep pace they too will need to make some jumpers. The charge will need to be led by Wayne Ellington and a slumping Nick Young, who are both capable of getting hot. Jordan Clarkson will also need to hit a few jumpers — something that will also help his ability to get into the paint.
  3. Carlos Boozer will have to hit his shots. Boozer has been a very nice offensive player since moving to the bench and that will need to continue tonight. If he is hitting his 15 foot jumper, it can help buoy the second unit’s offense.

Of course, even if all these things happen the Lakers are likely to lose. But, those things working out in their favor give them the best chance.

Where you can watch: 7:00pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM Los Angeles.