Archives For

Guys, I can’t comprehend this. And this is Opening Day!

Mostly picked by people (including me) to not make the postseason, the Los Angeles Lakers stunned one of the West favorites, the Los Angeles Clippers, 116-103.

It was already strange for me that the Lakers kept up with the Clippers in the first three quarters. Even when the Clippers went on that predictable run early in the third to go up, 63-55, the Lakers stayed close and took the lead after two Steve Blake threes.

Early in the game, I was pained by Steve Nash’s play. Nash is one of my favorite players of all-time but he looked slow and didn’t seem automatic with his beautiful shot anymore. He even got called for a double dribble violation.

But Pau Gasol’s play in the first half was quite pretty. He played better in this first half than seemingly all of last season. Pau showed it all from his hook shot to his feathery jumpshots that included a three-pointer. Gasol had 15 points and 13 boards in the contest.

The biggest surprise was the fourth quarter 41-point explosion by the Lakers. The Jordans (Farmar and Hill), Jodie Meeks, and Xavier Henry all played huge in the last 12 minutes (including defensively! WHAT?); the bench did so well that the starters never returned in the fourth. Xavier Henry led the way with 22 points, which, I’m sure, shocked everybody (hey, guys, let’s try to come up with a pun that has something to do with INSANITY!). Farmar’s confidence was never in question but his play on the court was excellent, going for 16 points and six assists. Jordan Hill snared seven of his eight rebounds on the offensive end and added 12 points. Even though Wesley Johnson took a lot of ill-advised shots, he made a big three that put the Lakers up eight. Meeks added 13 to the cause.

Repeat after me. Xavier Henry led the Lakers with 22 points. Eh?! And the Lakers bench had a whopping 76 points. Astonishing.

The Clippers looked comfortable… and then they got too comfortable. DeAndre Jordan (17 points and 11 rebounds) and Blake Griffin (19 points) jams were jarring as usual. Chris Paul was a wizard on setting his teammates up (11 assists) and J.J. Redick shot the lights out early (13 points). But the Lakers showed more tenacity and fed off a Staples Center crowd that got louder as the night went on. It felt like Mick Foley won the WWE title for the first time.

The Lakers aren’t going to go 14 for 29 behind the arc all the time. But that effort from the team is all we ever asked for. They outrebounded the Clippers, 52-40. And the 11 Laker players that played brought it and defended their house. If they keep giving that effort and determination, this team will be exponentially more fun than last season’s.

Yes, we didn’t give this squad much of a chance to make the postseason. But for tonight, the Lakers are undefeated. And tonight was an unbelievably fun night. One of the more memorable opening Laker games in recent memory.

So the NBA schedule came out a couple of days ago. That’s great news. Of course, the bad news is that the NBA season doesn’t start until late October.

The Los Angeles Lakers schedule seems a little different than years past. They have 19 back-to-back games, which is a bit higher than what they’re used to. Also, the number of home/road games seem evened out until January when in the past, the Lakers start out the season by playing a ton of games at the Staples Center.

And while we did expect the Lakers to get a Christmas game, we all thought they would draw the Houston Rockets because it would pit Dwight Howard’s new team against Dwight Howard’s old team. Instead, the Lakers get the defending champs, the Miami Heat.

As far as the rest of the schedule, a few of us from FB&G put together a list of games we are looking forward to the most during the season. Check our lists out.

OCT. 29 v Los Angeles Clippers: Because I want to see Chris Kaman face his old mates. All kidding aside, I want to see the feud between the Los Angeles teams escalate. And what better way to resume this battle by making them an opening night game? Also, does Kobe Bryant miraculously play in this game? Intriguing drama, to say the least.

DEC. 25 v Miami Heat: For all we know, the Lakers could lose by 175 points in this game and we’ll all find lumps of coal in our stockings. Nevertheless, I just want to see if the Lakers can pull off the upset. And who doesn’t like a good underdog story (it’s funny to say that the Lakers are underdogs; I’m just not used to it)? If the Lakers do win, our Christmas would be that much better, right?

FEB. 19 v Houston Rockets: It’s Dwight Howard’s first game at Staples Center ever since he left the Lakers in Indecision 2013. It may be the loudest Staples Center will be all season due to all the booing. If the Laker fans at Staples Center throw foam fingers at Dwight, that’ll be the cherry on top of a delicious sundae drama. Let’s see if Dwight melts down when he receives all that jeering.

JAN. 17 @ Boston Celtics: It seems like for the first time in a long time, these two teams won’t be playing on a Thursday night on TNT, a Sunday afternoon on ABC, or on a holiday. Now, for the first time since 2008, a Lakers-Celtics game won’t be on national TV. So why am I excited to watch this game? It’s one of the only rivalries in sports that did NOT develop from geography, but through 12 meetings in the Finals. That’s what makes it so great every single time. It doesn’t matter that both teams are expected to have down years. Kobe still probably walks on the parquet floor at the TD Garden and remembers how Game 6 ended five years ago. That should provide enough fuel for him to put on a great show against a team that will probably have a losing record at this stage of the season, but will give it all they got against their hated rivals in front of the Boston Strong contingent.

JAN. 19 @ Toronto Raptors: Meteors are to prehistoric dinosaurs as Kobe Bryant is to the Toronto Raptors. Bryant has obliterated the NBA’s lone team north of the border throughout his career, averaging 31.1 points per game in 25 starts against the Raptors. This total is aided by 12 games in which he scored at least 30 points, including the historic 81 point game from 2006. Kobe won’t score 81 in this game, but he has recently showed some late game heroics against the Raptors, hitting two buzzer beaters in the last four years and going on a three point barrage in a comeback effort in last season’s home meeting. It seems like every time the Lakers play this team, Kobe wows us with something special. The Raptors are expected to be more competitive this season with a deep roster led by Rudy Gay and Demar Derozan so there’s a good chance the Lakers will look to Kobe to do something special again in a tight game.

APR. 6 @ Los Angeles Clippers: The last time the Lakers were swept by the Clippers in a season series, the Clippers weren’t even the Clippers – they were the Buffalo Braves. In fact, last year marked just the third time the Clippers franchise won a season series against the Lakers. The Clippers will once again be Western Conference contenders this year and the Lakers could really use a win or two against them to show that they can roll with the big boys of the West. So why the April 6 matchup over the other three? Because it’s late in the season, teams will be fighting for playoff positioning, and the Lakers will be looking at this game as a litmus test for the playoffs.

NOV. 27 @ Brooklyn Nets: The Lakers get their first look at the new-look Nets featuring Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. With the Boston Celtics now dismantled, this might be the closest thing to a rivalry the Lake Show shares with an Eastern Conference opponent.

JAN. 14 v Cleveland Cavaliers: The Los Angeles Lakers have never played against Andrew Bynum. He missed the entirety of the 2012-13 season due to injury but the Purple and Gold might finally get an opportunity to use their own scouting report against him.

JAN. 20 @ Chicago Bulls and JAN. 23 @ Miami Heat: The Purple and Gold face what projects to be the two best teams in the Eastern Conference in consecutive games. This is the toughest two-game road stretch of the season outside of the Western Conference. In March they get the Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs. Dare I say litmus test (yes I totally cheated by adding more teams!)?

NOV. 1 v San Antonio Spurs: This is the Lakers third game of the regular season, at home, on ESPN. Nobody knows what kind of shape Kobe will be by then. For that matter, we don’t know what kind of shape Nash and Pau will be in. Nonetheless, it’s a game against one of our oldest WC rivals, a team that had an amazing run last season and a heartbreaking end against the Heat. These are old warhorses on both sides, back at it for another season.

DEC. 25 v Miami Heat: Okay, this is almost a cheat it’s so cliched. I know not everybody likes to spend their holiday in an easy chair in front of the tube, crashing after a mid-day feast while listening to announcers yammer on about how great this is when they themselves don’t want to be there and in fact, the teams don’t either. I don’t care. It’s a tradition. Hope springs eternal. I want to see the champs go down on Christmas Day. It could happen,

FEB. 19 v Houston Rockets: The return of Dwight to Staples. The #StayD12 Staples, remember that one? It’s on ESPN and it comes after a six-day rest. I’ll take the liberty of mentioning Thursday, November 7 Houston on TNT which is the first match-up between the teams. But it’s the Staples game that should be the cake – I’m hoping for a joyous welcome for Dwight followed by a determined beat-down by a rested Lakers squad. I want to see Dwight sandwiched between sweaty Kaman and Gasol. I want to see Kobe showing him what this thing called leadership is all about. I want to see Dwight not smiling.

Agree or disagree with any of our lists? What games are you guys looking forward to? Let the countdown begin.

It looks like the Lakers are adding to their roster from their Summer League team. Check out this report from Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo!

I am definitely happy for former Gonzaga Bulldog Elias Harris, who showed great energy throughout that Summer League campaign, doing all the things he was asked to do whether it was some defense, filling in the lanes on the break, getting the boards, and converting the three. Here’s what Darius said about him a few days ago.

“Elias Harris. Harris is rangy power forward who has a good combination of skills offensively with good enough athleticism to compete defensively and on the glass. He was a nice “glue” player for the team and was able to do a lot of the little things that helped the team win games, even if his individual numbers didn’t stand out.

Harris is 6’8″ and 240, according to his profile. He’s a big body and immediately fills the need for a four who can play ahead of second-round draft pick Ryan Kelly. Harris is also 24 years old. He’s probably not going to turn heads but again, a great energy guy that can hopefully help out on both ends. Harris will help fill the big man depth of the Lakers.

Harris averaged 10.2 points and 5.6 rebounds in five games at Las Vegas. He scored 17 points in the Summer League quarterfinals against the Golden State Warriors SL team, which probably clinched this deal with the Lakers.

Congrats to Elias Harris and good luck on his NBA career.

The Lakers played one hell of a Summer League game against the Warriors that got the crowd poppin’. Still, the Lakers fell short, 83-77, after the Warriors’ Kent Bazemore went off for 26 points.

The Lakers played really well in the second quarter, possibly their best in Summer League. But they fell apart in the third quarter when the bench came in for them. They lost their momentum then and the Warriors, who haven’t lost a Summer League game in forever, took advantage. L.A. had a spirited comeback but ultimately couldn’t complete it.

A few tidbits.

*I sure hope Elias Harris gets an invite somewhere. He ran the floor, shot the three well, and was just an energetic guy throughout the game (well, throughout LVSL, really). I think he belongs somewhere in the NBA. Harris finished with 17 points.

*Marcus Landry continued his excellent play. Though he got off to a slow start, he kept popping in those three-pointers off pick-and-rolls and kickoffs. I would be shocked if he doesn’t get a training camp invite. He had 14 points in the game.

*Chris Douglas-Roberts came alive in the second quarter and continued to do the little things like initiating the offense and helping out on defense. CDR didn’t shoot well but he finished with 12 points.

*Robert Sacre continued to clean up on the boards and, throughout this Summer League, was getting better on the post and positioning himself to get the rebounds. Sacre only had six points but had 10 boards.

*Lester Hudson played well again with 18 points. But, again, there’s simply no room for him in L.A.

*Lazar Hayward was frustrating but he’s the best at cherrypicking.

*Josh Selby, what happened?

The Lakers’ Summer League is over but there were some good signs and while this SL team won’t be indicative of what the current Laker team will be, we did see some young guys that we hope that we’ll see on the Laker team this season. Maybe there will be room for CDR. Maybe there will be something for Marcus Landry. But it was good to see the Laker system used well in Summer League by the younguns’.

Chris Douglas-Roberts, as you remember, is trying to return to the NBA and he’s back with the Lakers Summer League team. The former New Jersey Net was a late cut by the Lakers before last year’s regular season started.

Douglas-Roberts assessed his performance this summer so far.

“I had a slow start. Unfortunately, I kinda sprained my ankle in the first game. In the second game, I was still feelin’ it; it was still sore. I had a great day off and we had great treatment. I felt good out there. Even though I had a slow start last game, we still won and that’s what’s important.”

He was then asked about playing with a collection of guys that he may never play with again after the Summer League is over.

“This is basketball. No matter if you’re a superstar or you’re trying to get on the team, it’s one language. It’s a basketball language that everybody understands. We have guys from everywhere and everybody is hungry, everybody is playin’ hard. I’m like the veteran to this group… you know I’m just tryin’ to do my part. If I see guys kind of down, that’s natural as a basketball player, just kind of pick ’em up a little bit.”

CDR was asked about his role being a playmaker on the Summer League squad.

“A lot of people don’t understand. In Summer League, people expect big numbers. You have to play everybody and the game is much slower; the game is 10 minutes (per quarter). You’re not going to get guys getting 30 so I kinda had to switch my game a little bit and play some point forward.”

He finished with 12 points and four assists in the game against the Clippers yesterday.

He was asked about trying any new moves or working on weaknesses on his game while here in Las Vegas.

“First and foremost, you wanna play well. I wouldn’t go out there and try to work on things you aren’t comfortable doing. You wanna go out there and play well; you have to play to your strengths. You’re trying to earn a spot.”

I asked if he still talked to one Kobe Bryant. Douglas-Roberts dropped a little news.

“I talked to Kobe when I was in L.A. Kobe is great to me. He’s a great mentor. He told me he’s three months ahead of schedule, which is very Kobe-like. The biggest thing I get from Kobe is honesty and I really respect that. And he respects that from me.”

Three months ahead of schedule? In any case, it’s been heard before that he is ahead of schedule. Still, we have to take that with a grain of salt and continue to monitor Kobe’s progress. But if anyone can return three months ahead of schedule or play on a broken everything, it’s Kobe Bryant.

Finally, I asked CDR about the sleeved jerseys. Douglas-Roberts noticeably had his sleeves cut during the game.

“I hate those jerseys. I had to cut it because it was so tight around my shoulders. I couldn’t make a shot. They’re so tight.”

And he said it one more time with feeling.

“I hate those jerseys!”

Good luck to Chris Douglas-Roberts. Here’s hoping he gets a training camp invite.

Once again, we have to emphasize that this is a Summer League game.

Albeit a little more sloppy than their game against the Blazers, they beat the Clippers, 78-65, in the same manner they beat Portland. They were all over the place on both ends of the floor, especially with the pressure defense that seemed to get stronger as the game went on.

A few notes here and there…

*Chris Douglas-Roberts recovered nicely from his poor performance from yesterday. He mentioned that he sprained his ankle in the first game, which explained why he didn’t look so good in the second game. But he was out there attacking more towards the basket and playing a lot of point forward for the squad. His passes looked really on point today. He finished with 12 points and four assists.

*Elias Harris (who didn’t get a mention yesterday but not because he was horrible) continued to have energetic play from both sides. He finished with 12 points and four rebounds but his scrappiness seemed contagious.

*Marcus Landry once again had an excellent game, leading the way with 16 points and just did about everything on the court from defending the post to making cuts for easy baskets. It’s looking more and more likely that he’ll get a look from the Lakers in training camp.

*Lester Hudson showed his penchant for scoring again, going for 13 points. Unfortunately, while he has looked good this summer, I’ll once again say that there is simply no room for him on the squad unless the Jordan Farmar deal falls through.

*Once again, the Lakers have leaked out for fastbreaks, which has been a common occurrence this summer. Don’t expect that to happen too much with the current Laker squad (although it’d be entertaining to see Chris Kaman try).

The Lakers have really played a team brand of basketball, with lots of ball movement. Summer League is usually about individual numbers just so they can stand out and get a look from a team but it’s kind of refreshing to see this total teamwork from a Summer League team, especially from the Lakers.

Let me reiterate that it is Summer League. But the Lakers Summer League team looked really good out there as they beat the Blazers, 81-63.

Just a few notes out there.

*Robert Sacre looked really good as an anchor of the defense. He hedged very well against shooters and did a nice job protecting the rim and getting in front of his man. He even had a nice post move against Meyers Leonard that was a bit reminiscent of Pau Gasol. If he can get that jumper down, he can definitely stay in this league.

*Lester Hudson scored 15 points to lead the squad. Husdon’s always had a knack of putting the ball into the basket but he is not known as a playmaker. There may not be room for Hudson in the Lakers but for those other teams that may be looking for a quick spark off the bench (which he has done in his career), he could be a good fit.

*Marcus Landry continued his impressive play, filling the lanes on the fastbreak and doing a good job defending his man. If this keeps up, he could get an invite.

*Lazar Hayward, who has also toiled around in the league, got out on the break and was aggressive on both ends. He attacked the rim with gusto. While the Lakers are running out of room in terms of wings, he could get a look.

*Chris Douglas-Roberts looked passive for nearly the entire game. His six points all came from the line because of his ability to attack the rim but for the most part, he looked listless.

*The team passed the ball around, got out on the break, and played aggressively on defense. Basically, what we mostly did not see in the regular season. Remember, though, that this is Summer League so let’s not try to look into it too much. However, it is a big deal for these guys trying to get training camp invites for not just only the Lakers but for various squads as well.

I was able to steal a few minutes of former Laker player (now Laker assistant coach and still fan favorite) Mark Madsen about his duties of his new gig.

FORUM BLUE & GOLD: Did you always want to coach?

MARK MADSEN: Coaching is something I’ve always had on the back of my mind that I’ve always wanted to do. I read John Wooden’s book, They Call Me Coach, and I loved it. I loved the book and I loved the message. I feel very fortunate to coach with the Lakers this year.

FB&G: What will your responsibilities be as an assistant coach?

MM: I’m an assistant coach and also a player development coach. I’m really doing both responsibilities in terms of helping players develop on the court and also getting involved with X’s and O’s, scouting, and practices.

FB&G: What about the D-Fenders? You were named coach for them, too!

MM: Well, I was named head coach but within a little while, there was a spot that opened up on the Laker staff and they approached me. From within the organization, obviously with the Lakers owning the D-Fenders, they said, “Hey, we’d like you to consider this vertical move.” And I said, “Yeah, I would love to.”

FB&G: How do you like the moves of the Lakers so far? You guys got Chris Kaman and Nick Young (no question with Wesley Johnson since interview was conducted before the Lakers acquired Johnson).

MM: Two phenomenal pick-ups. I know that there are still some irons in the fire, free agency-wise. But I think Nick Young and Chris Kaman are two great pick-ups that have skills that can help us win this year.

FB&G: As far as your playing career went, everybody remembers you as a Laker but what are your memories playing for the Timberwolves?

MM: I had some great memories with Minnesota. Made some great friendships and I feel so fortunate that I had a chance to go up there.

FB&G: Last question, Robert Sacre told me that he’d beat you in a dance contest. What do you think about that?

MM: IF, even IF Robert would beat me in a dance contest, it’s because he’s part of a new generation. They have a little more fluidity in their dance movements. So it’s just a new generation coming up.

We’d like to thank the ever-so-awesome Mark Madsen for a few minutes of his time.