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Friday Forum

Dave Murphy —  April 12, 2013

We’re truly in the end-game now. Three frames left in the regular season, tonight’s match against the Golden State Warriors being one. The Lakers will be without Steve Nash again, the Warriors will be without Andrew Bogut who sprained his surgically-repaired left ankle against OKC last night. This post is late getting out and there will be a preview coming up so let’s just go straight to the links – some choice reading on tap today:

JM. Poulard who writes for both Warriors World and Forum Blue and Gold, offers a great 3-on-3 with the Lakers side being repped by Darius and Rey.

Dave McMenamin at ESPNLA reports that Jordan Hill has been cleared to ramp up workouts with a possible return if the Lakers go deep into the playoffs.

Ben Rosales at Silver Screen and Roll offers another great Beast or Burden post, looking at the recent play of the current big three.

Andy Kamenetzky at the Land O’Lakers embeds a Bee Gees video into his latest post/podkast thereby covering all the bases including Kobe and Pau.

Ben Bolch for the LATimes takes a close look at Kobe Bryant, defying age and logic as the finish line nears.

Eric Pincus for the LATimes has the preview for tonight’s game against the Golden State Warriors.

Brett Pollakoff for ProBasketballTalk has a great podcast on the Lakers, Warriors, Jazz and Bulls.

Serena Winters for Lakers Nation has tonight’s shoot around report.

Marc J. Spears for Yahoo writes about the Lakers and the playoff possibilities including a memorable line from OKC guard Kevin Martin, “They would be the scariest eighth seed team in history.”

Adrian Wojnarowski for Yahoo reports on talks between Rutgers and Lakers assistant Eddie Jordan. It’s hard to imagine a better choice.

And finally, Thomas Gollanopoulos at Grantland writes about a rap career that didn’t pan out for Kobe Bryant. It’s easy to laugh about the idea, but this is an intriguing in-depth piece – well worth the read.

***

The Lakers are currently a game ahead of Utah but the Jazz hold the tie-breaker and are playing a very winnable match tonight – hosting the Timberwolves. The Lakers will stay in town after tonight’s Warriors’ face-off, welcoming the Spurs on Sunday and Houston on Wednesday for the final game of the regular season.  The Jazz on the other hand will travel to play the T-Wolves again on Monday and close out their regular season in Memphis on Wednesday. This is it. Take your protein pills and put your helmet on.

Wednesday Storylines

Dave Murphy —  April 10, 2013

Last night’s game had it all, some good, some not. It was solid in spots and completely rudderless in others and in the end, there were even moments of brilliance. Kobe caught fire in the fourth quarter, Pau found his assertiveness and in the end, a victory over New Orleans on a night when Utah lost to Oklahoma City. This was a much needed win. The Lakers are up in Portland tonight – the second half of a two-game back-to-back plus the fact that they’re 6 & 25 in the Rose Garden is just a bit worrisome.

Sam Amick for USA Today on a resurgent Pau Gasol.

Brian Kamenetzky at the Land O’Lakers has a podkast and transcript, the zen of Pau.

Drew Garrison at Silver Screen and Roll writes about last night’s two-man give and go with Kobe and Pau.

Mike Bresnahan at the L.A. Times looks towards the challenges posed by tonight’s game. Also Mike plus Eric Pincus from the Times on Metta’s fast return.

Mark Medina for Inside the Lakers writes about the load Kobe’s carrying, trying to will the team into the playoffs.

Anybody who knows me knows that Craig Sager and Phil Jackson are two of my favorite fictional characters. Here, Aaron McGuire from Gothic Ginobili does it up right.

Dave McMenamin at ESPN has an injury update for Steve Nash and Jordan Hill.

This just had to be included – Eric Freeman from Ball Don’t Lie supplies video from MWP’s ‘too sexy for my cat’ speech last night.

Ross Gasmer from Lakers Nation has some Mike D’Antoni quotes from last night.

One of the things I miss most about Phil Jackson is the two-finger whistle. There were times when his bemused refusal to call a time out could frustrate and in all honesty, he seemed to lose his team’s dedication at the end of his last run. Still, he had the ability to focus and organize his teams. There’s something to be said for system basketball. The Lakers increasingly strayed from classic triple-post principles in the later-model Phil lineups but they still operated out of certain fundamental concepts. The injury factor has been joined at the hip with a lack of framework this season and while there are reasons offered, it doesn’t change the fact that a central tenet of coaching is unity. Tonight, the Lakers bring their chances to the Rose Garden – four games to go, four games for the right to continue playing.

 

Friday Forum

Dave Murphy —  April 5, 2013

So here we are, seven games to go, the home stretch!. It’s the same place we were on Wednesday except today’s Friday. Plus, it’s game day – tonight’s visitors to Staples are the Memphis Grizzlies, currently 5th in the west, with a 51 & 24 record, on a four-game win streak and trying to get into the top half of the bracket. The Lakers meanwhile are in 8th place, a half-game up on the Jazz. None of this should be a problem, right? Good. I didn’t think so either. Here’s some links:

Ramona Shelburne at ESPN writes about the difficult choices ahead for Lakers management. Thank you for the bright and happy news on a day when we are feeling supremely confident about the playoffs.

Patrick Michael for the Yahoo network looks at the possibility of New Orleans playing spoiler for those vying for the eighth and final spot in the west.

Brian Kamenetzky from the Land O’Lakers on Dwight Howard’s defensive numbers (along with a great embed from Drew at SS&R).

Drew Garrison for Silver Screen & Roll reports that Steve Nash won’t be suiting up tonight. Blame Drew – he’s the messenger.

Actuarially Sound for Silver Screen & Roll feels that the Lakers’ playoff hopes rest on Dwight’s shoulders.

Andrew Khatchaturian from Beyond the Final Score examines the idea that an overcrowding of star players has hindered the Lakers this season. This hopefully guarantees the win tonight since Nash and Metta are out.

Wait, hold on – Dave McMenamin from ESPN says Metta’s already off his crutches and excited about returning to action sooner than anticipated. Metta had knee surgery last week and was predicted to be out for six weeks. Mister Peace does not live by other people’s rules, man. It is on!

I didn’t find any new articles today about Kobe which could mean that he’s planning to go stealth tonight and annihilate the Grizzlies for daring to think they can come in here and pad their win streak on our backs. There was however a great piece by Darius yesterday about Kobe and off-ball defense.

Anyway. I haven’t had lunch yet and have a rending headache. Which may account for the sparse and loopy nature of today’s links post. So summation – Friday, top of the home stretch, we will enjoy a monumental and sustained run through the rest of the season and into the playoffs, stunning the sports world and assorted national media types who will quickly regroup and say they knew it all along. That is all.

Wednesday Storylines

Dave Murphy —  April 3, 2013

It hasn’t been a good season for the Los Angeles Lakers. We all know this. It has been chronicled every which way and will be chronicled some more before all is said and done. Some nights are are still about the win however and sometimes even more. The Lakers opened and closed the game strong, preserving a chance to make the playoffs. And to Mark Cuban’s great consternation, they basically ended that same chance for the Dallas Mavericks.

If ever there was a time for this year’s model to show up it was last night – Shaq was in the house to have his jersey retired, Phil Jackson was there to present the honors and Jerry West and other Laker legends were there as well to watch, witness and smile. There were subtexts aplenty and a shaky start to the third quarter as Dallas went on a run – I don’t even want to contemplate what a loss would have felt like given the circumstances. Credit Earl Clark for generating a run of his own – the Lakers did plenty of things right in the fourth and won it in a romp.

Dave McMenamin for ESPN, on Kobe’s maxed-out minutes – he’s had a total of 79 seconds rest on the bench over the past two games.

Ramona Shelburne for ESPN, on Dwight stepping up in crunch time and the challenges posed by Shaq.

On a night that saw fans cheering loudly for Phil Jackson, Kelly Dwyer for Ball Don’t Lie credits Shaquille for keeping things on point with a classy speech.

Drew Garrison for Silver Screen and Roll, recapping the Lakers win and Kobe’s triple-double.

Marc J. Spears for Yahoo Sports writes about the respect that Kobe Bryant now has for his former foe.

Kurt Helin for ProBasketballTalk, on Mark Cuban and his ‘first housewife’ dig at Phil Jackson.

Brian Kamenetzky for the Land O’Lakers, relives an iconic Kobe-to-Shaq moment in Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference Championship against Portland, with a classic Chick Hearn narration.

Serena Winters for Lakers Nation provides post-game clips from Kobe Dwight.

***

It was the closing seconds of the game and the Lakers were up by a ton. There was virtually no chance the Mavericks were going to mount a serious challenge – their plodding hack-a-Howard had run its course and failed to make a difference. Kobe was still in the game though and while his motivation to play so much and so spectacularly is understood, the question still becomes at what cost and why the gamble? The Los Angeles Lakers have been absolutely decimated by injuries this year. They are flying into the home stretch on shredded wings and fuselage.

Seven games left. The same win/loss record as Utah but the Jazz hold the tiebreaker. Thankfully, the Lakers have a couple days to rest before facing Memphis on Friday. Hopefully, Steve Nash will be back for the last leg of a season that has left most observers scratching their heads. Buckle them up for the end of a bumpy ride.

Wednesday Storylines

Dave Murphy —  March 27, 2013

The Los Angeles Lakers simply can’t keep the same starting lineup on the floor. Sometimes, Mike D’Antoni won’t permit it. More often, the unceasing parade of injuries won’t allow it. Of the 14 guys on the roster, each has started at least once. That’s about the only commonality you’re gonna get this season. Scratch that, losing has also been a commonality. It’s technically not a majority at this specific time and place – the Lakers are 36 & 35 going into tonight’s game. The latest addition to the inactive list is Metta World Peace, more about that in the links below.

The Lakers are in Minnesota tonight and if there’s ever a shot to end a three-game skid and rally the troops you’d probably pick this match-up. The Timberwolves have lost 21 of these meetings in a row, their last victory being in double overtime, March 6, 2007. The Lakers went 42 & 40 that season. That was back in the days of Smush and Kwame and Vlad Rad. Eleven months later Pau Gasol arrived. Things got better for quite a while after that, until the Lakers managed to put together a supergroup for the ages and found themselves back where they had been six years earlier. In Minnesota, nursing a .500 record and per chance, a date with the record books once again.

Dave McMenamin for ESPN brings news of Metta’s torn knee ligament. Course of remedy to be determmined.

Eric Freeman from Ball Don’t Lie also reports on Metta’s injury, noting that further info would be coming after Peace’s appointment with team doctor Steve Lombardo today.

Satchel Price for SBNation updates Metta’s situation with news that he is likely lost for the remainder of the regular season.

Kevin Arnovitz for TrueHoop writes about the NBA’s hurt locker.

Kevin Ding for the OCRegister reasons that Kobe is the one who controls the Lakers’ trust issues.

Mike Bresnahan from the L.A. Times, on Dwight Howard’s dearth of touches in the 4th quarter.

C.A. Clark from Silver Screen and Roll tees off on Kobe Bryant’s defense.

The Kam Bros and their Land O’Lakers offer up a new podkast; Kobe’s defense, the losing streak and DJ Mbenga stories.

Kurt Helin for ProBasketballTalk shines a light on the Mavericks, suddenly looming large in the Lakers’ rear-view mirror.

Elizabeth Benson for Lakers Nation brings the pregame report for tonight’s match-up.

***

So where are we now? The moment you know (you know, you know). Given the age of the roster and contractual realities, this was guaranteed be a team in transition. The hope of course, was that it would also be lightning in a bottle, a glorious coming together of past and present stars, the endgame being champagne and at some point, memoirs. Instead it has been a rubbernecking pileup by the side of the road.

The Lakers lace them up against the T-Wolves tonight. Jodie Meeks will start at the two-guard and Kobe will slide over to the wing. It won’t be nationally televised. Eleven games to go in the regular season, trying to hang onto eighth place in the west. Fingers are crossed. Just walking the dead.

Wednesday Storylines

Dave Murphy —  March 20, 2013

The Lakers have just 13 games left in the regular season which basically means they’re well into the fourth quarter. They remain in eighth place in the west and are one game back from Houston. At the top of the bracket, San Antonio is a game ahead of OKC. You can work the math however you want, I personally wouldn’t want to face either of those teams in the first round.

The Lakers still have a slim shot at catching the Golden State Warriors for sixth place and that opens up some possibilities – a seven-game showdown against the Clippers perhaps, a team who just dropped a stunner to the Sacramento Kings. Or, Memphis or Denver – the latter just became the first team to beat the Thunder three times this year, extending their win streak to 13. So maybe that’s not an optimal match-up, Denver has only lost three games at home all season.

Is there the possibility of a Staples Center hallway series and how would we get there from here? Golden State faces San Antonio tonight and the Wizards on Saturday. The Lakers face the Wizards on Friday and Golden State on Monday. In other words, there’s a serpentine path toward getting a little closer in the next few days. Are you clear yet? Did you ever go clear? Maybe it’s better that I don’t start quoting Leonard Cohen songs. Or maybe I should, this whole numbers game confuses me and all I really care about is when Kobe and Pau are coming back.

The Lakers are in the middle of a three-day rest period. The time off has given some pause for reflections on various subjects, including questions about Mike D’Antoni’s seven-man rotation against the Suns on the back end of a back-to-back. There’s also been news about the severing of a longtime relationship. Dwight Howard has parted ways with his business manager of nine years, a guy who also happens to be his first cousin. The move is seen as another step along the path to becoming his own man. And finally, Metta World Peace and Pau Gasol have expressed their best wishes, for Andrew Bynum’s speedy recovery. Their former teammate had arthroscopic surgery on both knees Tuesday, cleaning out loose debris.

Continue Reading…

Friday Forum

Dave Murphy —  March 15, 2013

The game against the Hawks the other night was a mess. Two banged-up teams on the end of a back-to-back and by the time it was over, the Lakers were a whole lot gimpier. That plus another loss at a point in the season where eighth-place teams can’t afford to be losing. If they come out with a game like that tonight, the Indiana Pacers will eat them alive. Believe it.

At the moment, Kobe Bryant’s availability is uncertain. There is a common way of thinking when it comes to Kobe’s injuries. He is able to play through extraordinary pain, his ability to compartmentalize is legendary. We are spoiled as fans because we have come to expect it and count on it. The same goes for his teammates. They’re talking a good game right now about stepping into the breach. Let’s hope they deliver – a gimpy right elbow and sprained left ankle are just the latest in Mamba’s long parade of hurts and at some point, the candles will simply fail to light.

Dave McMenamin for ESPN examines Kobe’s ankle and the issue of being undercut by Dahntay Jones.

The Great Mambino for Silver Screen & Roll also weighs in on the Dahntay brouhaha.

Brian Kamenetzky from the Land O’Lakers looks at the consequences of the injury, going forward.

Kevin Ding for the OCRegister reports on Kobe’s non-stop treatment plan plus a question of degrees.

At TrueHoop, Henry Abbott riffed on the play that injured Kobe and how players have incentive to walk the line between fair and foul when playing defense.

Jeff Miller for the OCRegister on the Lakers’ uphill battle and lessened leverage.

Adrian Wojnarowski for Yahoo Sports writes about Kobe’s race against the clock.

Eric Freeman for Ball Don’t Lie on a day that was all about Kobe’s ankle and the league ruling.

Finally for a change of pace, Kelly Dwyer for Ball Don’t Lie brings news of the insurance policy that will kick in if Andrew Bynum misses the remainder of the season for the 76ers.

Mike Bresnahan for the LATimes has some good news, Pau Gasol should be back on the court next week and in a starting role again. Mike also looks at the Pacers, a team with a 26/7 home record.

Eric Pincus for the LATimes looks at the Heat’s run as they try to break the Lakers’ all-time winning streak of 33.

Mark Medina for the Long Beach Press-Telegram writes about Brian Shaw, still associate head coach for the Pacers and patiently biding his time.

***

May of 2011 was a dark time for the Lakers. The team had been bounced in the second round, ending Phil Jackson’s last stand. Brian Shaw had generally been considered the front-runner to take over Jackson’s spot but barely got a proforma sniff. He learned about Mike Brown’s hiring through the media and was just one member of a mass forced exodus. Much has been written about that strange chapter and much more will be written once Kobe’s days as a player are done – it’s just too fascinating to ignore, in a repelling kind of way.

There will always be questions about what a Shaw-coached team might have accomplished. The lockout-shortened season was rough all over. It’s hard to imagine however, that his familiarity with the team would have been a detriment. The collision of new faces and a new system seemed unending, a slow-motion chain reaction that continued through another second-round exit. And then it started up again in the fall as old wounds were reopened and another curious coaching interview took place.

Tonight, Kobe Bryant may or may not be in uniform. Brian Shaw will be sitting in his customary spot next to Frank Vogel. The Pacers are currently in second place in the east with New York close behind. The Lakers have been pushing hard lately to get into the hunt and now have to push harder just to stay in. And per usual, nobody’s pushed harder than Bryant. Tonight another episode as the Lakers world turns.

Wednesday Storylines

Dave Murphy —  March 13, 2013

Dwight Howard stepped to the free throw line and took a deep breath. Dwight stepped to the free throw line. The free throw line. The line. Again and again, 39 times, matching his total number of points. It’s a lot of times at the line. It’s a lot of points. It was his first trip back to a city where he had been much loved, a city that he jilted badly, awkwardly and way too many times before it was finally over – a long messy divorce in that messy way that divorces can be. There can be a fine line between being fouled for basketball reasons and being fouled for other reasons altogether. Sometimes the line isn’t there at all.

There’s guys that always have to clown around. Dwight’s one of them. He’s the kid in school that wants to make you laugh, the actor at the party who won’t stop after he manages to tell a good one. Dueling Shakespeare lines anyone? It’s just who he is and the fact that he came wrapped in an outsized package with outsized expectations further complicated things. Playing hurt and making excuses and telling jokes when it just wasn’t that cool anymore. Until he started playing according to the expectations of a major media market and the team started winning. We love our zany guy because he’s our zany guy. Winning cures all.

Adrian Wojnarowski for Yahoo Sports, on heckles, boos and broken hearts.

Dave McMenamin for ESPN considers a season full of Minesweeper distractions, now moving forward. Dave also reports on Pau Gasol’s rehab progress.

Lately, it has seemed as though Earl Clark is starting to hit the proverbial NBA wall. Ramona Shelburne from ESPN Los Angeles has the story.

Kevin Ding from the OCRegister on last night’s hostile environment and Dwight killing them with kindness.

Andy Kamenetzky from the Land O’Lakers likens the improved team chemistry to improv and theater situations.

Mike Bresnahan from the LATimes recaps Orlando – buried at the line.

Eric Pincus for the LATimes, previews tonight’s game against Atlanta.

Ben Rosales for Silver Screen and Roll and the flipping of the switch, a beast or burden story.

Aaron McGuire for Gothic Ginobili offers a stretch run primer including the idea of the Lakers targeting the sixth seed in the western conference.

Kirk Goldsberry for Grantland charts Kobe’s season as the structure of his game changes.

Elizabeth Benson for Lakers Nation on the big drama and the new normal.

***

Tonight’s the second night of a back-to-back, step right up folks, we got your tickets here. The Lakers are always a draw when the big top comes to town but there’s a new storyline now. The giant is awake and the national swivel-heads are starting to rethink this thing. The Atlanta Hawks are also on a back-to-back and a bit of a skid. Currently in seventh place in the east, they lost to Miami last night. Their starting point guard Jeff Teague rolled an ankle late in the third quarter and is listed as questionable. The Lakers arrive at an opportune time, looking to extend their win streak to five.

The Lakers comeback parade hasn’t turned into a bandwagon yet but it could. At the moment, it’s a fine line. The team has only just reached the lunatic fringes of a playoff bracket they were supposed to own. Seventeen games to go and we’re drawing beads on ducks in a gallery and hitting more than not. The lights in the cabin were turned low but a big man with a broad smile wasn’t done telling jokes and doing impressions. His teammates looked up occasionally and smiled with earbuds in. We love you man. Just don’t leave us until we’re ready for you to leave us. And keep winning. The night went dark and turned to day and night once again. And the banks of white light clicked on and bodies crashed and whistles blew. Dwight Howard stepped to the free throw line and took a deep breath.