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The NBA just put up a classic video of Shaquille O’Neal obliterating the Clippers on his birthday. As we all know, Shaq will be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday.

We forget how powerful and nimble Shaq was in his prime. O’Neal toyed with the Clippers here as he went for a career-best 61 points and 28 rebounds (according to the video while our good friends at Basketball Reference have it at 23 boards). Poor Pete Chilcutt. Poor Anthony Avent. Poor Michael Olowokandi.

Shaq was the most unstoppable force in that campaign (and for that matter, the first decade of his career). On single coverage, there was no way you can defeat him. He can dominate you physically and he was agile and quick enough for a spin move to get away from the defender. Plus, on the last play of his video, he even threw a perfect alley-oop pass to Kobe Bryant for the reverse jam.

Even when double-teamed, Shaq found a way to get a bucket. And we know how foolish it was sometimes to double-team him because you got guys like Kobe, Glen Rice, Ron Harper, Robert Horry, Rick Fox, etc. to bury a shot when they’re left by themselves.

Let’s remember how Shaq and the Lakers used to be the undisputed best in the NBA.

The NBA schedule was released a couple of weeks ago. And yes, it’s tough to get a bit excited (myself included, to be honest) since the season doesn’t even start in roughly two months.

But we should take a look at the schedule and break it down a bit. Do they have an extended home stand somewhere? Are they going to go through a perilous road trip or two at some point? What about the back-to-back games?

So in case you need to take a look-see, here’s the schedule.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver has made it a point to reduce back-to-back games and the dreaded four games in five nights stretch. Lakers have 16 back-to-back games this season, which is pretty much the average for the season. The Hawks have the most with 19 back-to-backs while the Thunder have the least at 13. Nine teams don’t have to go through the four games in five nights stretch but, unfortunately, the Lakers aren’t one of those nine teams. That happens early in the schedule, though (Nov. 29-30, Dec. 2-3), so if the Lakers do have a shot at the playoffs later, they wouldn’t have to worry about that.

Their schedule doesn’t do them any favors early. After their opening game against the Rockets, they immediately go on the road for four straight. And when they do go home after that, they face the deadly Golden State Warriors. In fact, they face the Warriors three times before November ends; the Lakers and the Warriors have a home-and-home around Thanksgiving. The Lakers face the Warriors one more time but it won’t be until the final game of the season.

The first 20 games are actually split evenly for home and road games. But they have their longest road trek before Christmas as they play seven game outside of the comfy Staples Center (Kings, Nets, Sixers, Cavs, Hornets, Heat, Magic). Then the Lakers face the Clippers in the battle of Los Angeles as part of the NBA Christmas schedule.

While the seven-game road trip might spell doom if you guys are hoping for playoffs, the Lakers will be really tested in late January-early February when they play eight out of nine games on the road (with the only home game against the Nuggets in that stretch on Jan. 31). They go on a three-game road trip against the Mavs, Blazers, and Jazz (Blazers/Jazz are a back-to-back). After going home against the Nuggets, they go on a five-game East Coast trip (Wizards, Celtics, Knicks, Pistons, Bucks). This may make or break their season so we should keep an eye on that part of the schedule.

If they survive that, the schedule after the all-star break is very favorable. 15 of their last 24 games are at home and they have a six-game home stand (Bucks, Cavs, Clippers, Wolves, Blazers, Wizards) in late March. So if they’re in the running for a playoff spot, this post-All-Star schedule will be good for them.

As for games that I’m looking forward to, here are some:

Oct. 26 v Rockets: Because it’s the opener!

Oct. 30 @ Thunder: We’ve seen it before but this is permanent now: a Thunder team being led by Russell Westbrook. I want to see some destruction! (They also play the Thunder on Nov. 22 and Feb. 24.)

Nov. 4 v Warriors: An early test for the young Lakers. And why wouldn’t you wanna see them go against this new-look team that includes Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Kevin Durant? (They also play the Warriors on Nov. 23 and 25.)

Nov. 13 @ Wolves: Because why wouldn’t you wanna see the battle of #1 and #2 picks from last season? Karl-Anthony Towns is going to be a monster if he isn’t already. (They play the Wolves three more times at Mar. 24, Mar. 30, and Apr. 9.)

Nov. 18 v Spurs: So this is weird. A Lakers/Spurs match-up without Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan. (The Spurs come at the Lakers three more times: Jan. 12, Feb. 26, and Apr. 5.)

Nov. 20 v Bulls: This seems better on paper. We get to see Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo on the Bulls. I felt weird typing that.

Dec. 11 v Knicks: Carmelo Anthony has former Bulls Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah as teammates. But more importantly, Kristaps Porzingis! (They face the Knicks one more time on Feb. 6.)

Dec. 16 @ Sixers: Another #1 and #2 pick battle! Ben Simmons against Brandon Ingram! (They get the Sixers again on Mar. 12.)

Dec. 17 @ Cavs: Talk about a test. The Lakers get the NBA champions not even 24 hours after the Sixers. (The Lakers and Cavs face each other once more on Mar. 19.)

Dec. 25 v Clippers: Of course, you wanna watch these crosstown rivals go at it. And let’s be honest, this is one of the things you’re going to do on Christmas if you’re a Lakers fan. (The L.A. teams face each other three more times: Jan. 14, Mar. 21, and Apr. 1.)

Feb. 3 @ Celtics: Obviously not what it used to be but come on. Lakers vs Celtics, guys. (We get this again on Mar. 3.)

Apr. 12 @ Warriors: The final game of the season. We close it out on an exciting note. I think.

So that’s the schedule. What games are you looking forward to? Does this schedule seem fair to you?

So the Lakers have the Rockets on Sunday night. Going into this match-up, the Lakers have lost six of their last seven while Houston had their five-game win streak snapped by the Eastern Conference champions, the Cleveland Cavaliers. On Saturday night, the Lakers were thrashed by the Utah Jazz right from the start. And that has been the problem for the Lakers against the Rockets so far this season. In their previous two match-ups, they lost by 29 and 20 after slow starts.

Funny enough, Kobe Bryant is averaging 23.5 points in those two games but we’re not sure if he’s going to play because of his Achilles problem. But one player who has been scoring well as of late is Lou Williams. He’s averaging 22.9 points per game in the month of January and the way he’s been drawing fouls has been, shall we say, James Harden-esque? Lou has been averaging 9.1 free throws per game this month.

If you’re hoping for a Lakers win, you hope that the guys in purple and gold catch the Rockets sleepwalking and that they keep a lead or stay within reach in the early going. But the Rockets seem to get up for the Lakers as evidenced by the two games they have played. In those two games, it was the frontcourt that has smashed the Lakers. Clint Capela and the ever-so-beloved Dwight Howard had double-doubles (not the In-N-Out kind) in both games and Donatas Montiejunas and Terrence Jones both had an impact in both contests off the bench. And I didn’t even mention James Harden, who will find a way to score 25 points whether it’s unlimited chucking or living in the foul line. The Lakers, just like most games, will have their hands full.

But really, we’re not going to be too disappointed if the Lakers lose. As it should be all along, it should be about developing the young guys (and about keeping that Top 3 lottery pick). We hope Julius Randle bounces back from the Utah game. We hope D’Angelo Russell continues to grow. We hope Tarik Black gets some more PT to see if he really is a quality back-up big man. We hope Jordan Clarkson can continue to be an excellent combo guard. Larry Nance is not going to play due to hurting his knee but, when he comes back, we hope that he can continue to expand his game aside from being a defensive stopper.

Just compete and try not to be embarrassed like the last two contests. And if the Lakers win, then it’s all gravy.

Where you can watch the Lakers play against your hero, Dwight Howard: 6:30 PM on Time Warner Cable Sports. Also listen at ESPN Radio Los Angeles 710AM.

In this Summer League tournament, the Lakers were seeded 11th and drew the Dallas Mavericks. They, however, lost a close one, 88-86 after the unstoppable Jeremy Tyler (25 points off 11/15 shooting and 11 rebounds) tipped in the game-winner with 1.4 seconds left.

The Lakers looked much better offensively out of the gate but they still had a bad defensive start as the Mavericks seemed to score at will inside and from three. L.A. came back strong in the second half but D’Angelo Russell had a late turnover with 23 seconds left when they had a chance to take the lead. That led to the Tyler tip-in. The Lakers couldn’t get a shot off in the last possession and the Mavs took the duke.

Head coach Mark Madsen took responsibility for the last play and the loss. He complimented Julius Randle’s play, who easily had his best game in Summer League. Madsen thought the team played overall but kept emphasizing that the loss was on the coaching staff overall. Madsen pointed out that D’Angelo Russell played relaxed in that game.

Randle, who finished with 17 points (6/11 shooting), is still not pleased over his 20-minute cap but he knows he has to keep it in perspective. He was trying to “create for others and then for himself.” He felt he played much better because he “slowed down” against the Mavs. I asked if there was a concerted effort to get him off to a good start as he made his first four shots early and he answered that he was just taking what was given to him.

Jordan Clarkson ended with 17 points and had his third good game in Summer League. I had mentioned that Clarkson probably shouldn’t play in Summer League but he is because he would rather play than “sit on the couch and watch the games at home.” And as we suspected, he wants to get the chemistry going with Russell, Randle, and the rest of the guys. He knows that they have to turn this around real soon.

Russell ended with an 8-6-5 line. While he didn’t shoot well again (3 for 11), he did end with only three turnovers (though the last one was costly). Like Madsen said, he looked much more relaxed in this contest. His passes were looking great as his teammates were starting to catch the balls. D’Angelo likes the balance of he and Clarkson sharing the ballhandling duties off the break. He doesn’t seem to care all that much about the expectations of being the #2 pick; he cares more about winning and not letting the “whole Laker nation down.” Russell understands how huge that fan base is.

I like that Randle continues to get to his spots easily; he is such a bull. This time around, he’s finishing and that quick start definitely gave him some confidence. Randle is a rhythm player and he got it going in that game even though he is still on that minute cap. Clarkson had a big third quarter as he scored nine of his 17 points there. He continues to be fearless driving the ball and taking the midrange. Russell has talked about getting better defensively but he’s still getting caught ball-watching as he was getting beat on the backdoor. And Jabari Brown did his part with his 19 points. And as he mentioned postgame, shooters shoot. Yup. Shoot your shot, Jabari.

The Lakers will play one more game tomorrow. In terms of Summer League championship, they can’t win it anymore with the loss. But in the long run, it’s good to see these guys get one more run and continue to build on their chemistry. It is a process and it’s going to be a long one. We all have to be patient. Just remember that we’re still only in the month of July and we all have to slow down on calling these players busts or the greatest thing since Kobe Bryant.

We hear the term, “It’s just Summer League,” all the time. We try not to overreact on everything. So let’s do our best not to do that.

There is hardly anything positive to take away from their 76-66 loss to the New York Knicks. The Lakers offense was as dry as the desert here as they only scored a whopping five points in the first quarter. They did come back from that deficit but could never get quite over the hump.

Jabari Brown scored 20 points in his first Summer League game to lead the Lakers in scoring. But the team shot only 31 percent from the field, while only going 3/16 (I can hear the glass shatter) from behind the arc. D’Angelo Russell, who didn’t go back at the end of the game, continued to struggle in terms of taking care of the ball (eight turnovers) and he lamented that in his postgame comments. The Lakers were booed by the Vegas fans after their slow start but Russell pointed out “that he didn’t hear them.”

Summer League head coach Mark Madsen defended Russell saying that everyone has a down game. He thought that giving his players the day off in Vegas “was probably a mistake.” Regardless, the team never got into a good rhythm on both ends of the floor. Madsen pointed out the 20 turnovers and that “it does not work at this level.” He pointed out that Julius Randle had “excellent playmaking” after a “slow start.” Coach went on to say that D’Angelo was a “little out of sorts” but praised his work ethic and emphasized that “he WILL be great.”

After an excellent two games, Jordan Clarkson didn’t have a great game as he finished with 13 points off 3 of 14 shooting. Clarkson pointed out the horrendous start and their lack of stops on defense. He also talked about the lack of ball movement (SIX assists overall by the team). Jordan thinks the chemistry is right around what he expected with D’Angelo Russell.

As for Julius Randle (seven points, 2/8 shooting), he was clearly frustrated after the game. He said he couldn’t get into a rhythm and that “he had to be better.” Randle said that he knew he could get to whatever spot he wanted on the floor but, as we all saw, he just couldn’t finish. He mentioned how “extremely frustrating” it was to get a rhythm going, especially since he’s playing in “five-minute spurts.” But Julius did say that he’ll work through it and that the goal was “the first game of the season.” He said he’s not worried about his physical state when he’s out playing so that’s definitely a good sign after having such a devastating injury.

Overall, though, not a good showing. We probably shouldn’t look into the rotations too much since the coaches tend to try to play everyone. But they did look lost once their offense broke down and that slow start really killed the team. They do get another chance on Wednesday and all you can ask for them is to get better.

Yes, they looked like the worst team ever on Monday. And some people are calling for D’Angelo Russell’s head already. Let’s also remember that this is only July. It’s Summer League. It’s really the offseason. Let’s all not get too heated.

I thought that Game 1’s crowd couldn’t be beat. Boy, was I wrong. They opened up the upper deck AGAIN for the game between the Lakers and the Philadelphia 76ers (who had the jilted, could-have-been Laker Jahlil Okafor).

Summer League produces a lot of bad NBA-caliber basketball so when I say this one is hard on the eyes, it’s really, REALLY ugly. But the highlight of this game was definitely late first-rounder Larry Nance, Jr. He finished with eight points, five rebounds, three steals, and two blocked shots. He also finished with the highest +/- stat at +20 and won the Thomas & Mack crowd with his relentless play. He got “LARRY” chants from the people more than once (which is also hilariously ironic coming from Laker fans… and if you don’t get it, I’m not even sure if you know basketball). The game was won by the Lakers, 68-60.

After the game, Nance mentioned that “he knew his role.” He knows he’s “the athletic, energy guy” on the team and “he’ll lock you up on defense.” He was asked when he accepted that role as an energy guy and he answered that he knew that while he was playing in college (Wyoming). Nance said that he wants to get his hands on a loose ball whenever possible. He said that “energy” is a skill nowadays in the NBA and teams are looking for that. I like the fact that Nance seems like the type of guy that would do whatever is asked from him by the team. If that means being the energy guy or scoring 20 points a game, he’ll do it. He buys into the team and that is excellent. Nance also noted that he talked to his dad (Larry Nance, who is the 1984 Slam Dunk champion) and the advice that he got was to “rebound more.” He definitely enjoyed the Larry chants.

Jordan Clarkson looked great yet again, finishing with 19 points off 8 of 16 shooting. He mentioned that he was working on a “little bit of everything” but he did note about his pull-up jumpers. He said he was getting more comfortable shooting jumpers after going off a pick. It’s nice to see his confidence continue to grow. He said he’s not looking for any individual goals and “just wants to play his best.” Clarkson said that hearing the chants for Nance was “dope and real cool” and that he talks to D’Angelo Russell “all the time” and said that he’s gonna be a “great player.” Laker fans are hoping for that, I’m sure.

D’Angelo Russell (14 points, 4/15 shooting, eight rebounds, seven turnovers) said that the difference in this game from the previous one was slowing it down and focusing on stops on defense. Russell didn’t seem to have as much legs in this game but he was a little better defensively in terms of making rotations and not ball-watching. When I asked him about his defense, he gave himself a C or a C+. He mentioned both individual and team defense and that he/they had to be better on following up on rotations. Russell was then asked about Clarkson and he said that he was a “great leader” and that he was “growing and getting better every day.”

Summer League coach Mark Madsen was definitely a bit more pepped up with the win. He talked about the defensive intensity and communication being much better than the previous game. Mad Dog said that Laker coach Byron Scott’s little pep talk contributed to the team getting in rhythm earlier. Madsen also was glowing about Jordan Clarkson’s “knowledge of the game”; he especially pointed out Clarkson’s adjusting from the point to the shooting guard and helping his teammates get to the right spots. Madsen complimented Larry Nance and called him a “special player.” I’m gonna pump the brakes a little bit on that but I do think Nance can help a team. As for getting the assists up (ONLY FIVE), Madsen answered that they just needed to make more shots and move the ball a little bit more.

All in all, pretty encouraging stuff. Julius Randle was given the game off for precautionary reasons but he’s expected to play in the next game. Again, I expect most of these guys in this Summer League team to be the core of the next few years so I would pay a little bit more attention to them.

I have been going to Summer League since 2010 and I have never seen a crowd this large and heard so much noise.

They started opening up the upper deck to let in some more people. And I heard from another that there were more Laker fans in the Cox Pavilion (the gym across the way where another Summer League game is being played) just looking for this contest. It was insane and it was like we were in Staples Center, only without an organist. The Wolves would beat the Lakers, however, to the tune of 81-68.

On to the players, Jordan Clarkson looked awesome out there. At times, he looked dominant. He scored 23 points off 8 of 17 shooting. Clarkson mentioned that “stuff was starting to come easy and slow down” for him. He seemed very comfortable taking every open shot given to him from the midrange to the three (where he did shoot a not-so-good two for seven). But he finished well and was excellent off the ball. I noted that Jordan’s just at that level where he probably should sit out the rest of Summer League but I wouldn’t be opposed to him getting more time with D’Angelo Russell on the backcourt.

Speaking of Russell, he finished with eight points, five rebounds, and six assists. He noted that “the team was trying to do a little too much instead of settling down.” Russell was definitely guilty of that as he turned the ball over five times. But that’s normal for a team basically playing for the first time in an NBA setting. Russell also noted that he made a “lot of mental mistakes” and mentioned “he was sleeping a little bit on defense.” When pressed further about the mistakes, he mentioned about guys going backdoor and ball-watching on defense. I like that he owned up to those mental mistakes and I think that says a lot about him; Russell wants to be good at his job. No, he wants to be GREAT at it.

As for Julius Randle, it showed that he hasn’t played a game in a long time. According to Coach Mark Madsen, Randle had a limited time of 20 minutes on the court (he played 20:40). Julius definitely felt rusty but he did get it going towards the end (which he also mentioned himself), finishing with 11 points. He didn’t finish well and his jumper wasn’t there but it seemed like he got to the paint at will. It is his first game back so we should be a little forgiving. Randle also noted that he didn’t expect the crowd to be so crazy and that it reminded him of his Kentucky days.

Coach Madsen pointed out that the team had too many turnovers (20), that the defensive rotations weren’t there, and they didn’t box out enough (though the Wolves only outrebounded the Lakers by one). The Lakers were outscored by the Wolves, 25-12, in the fourth quarter in an exciting game that was close for the first three quarters.

The crowd got their money’s worth in a much-hyped Summer League match-up. But the fans should be excited with this young core. Hopefully, we can see more positive things out of this talented Summer League squad. And let’s hope so because this is pretty much most of the main core we’ll see in the regular season.

The Lakers lost their opening day game against the Houston Rockets, 108-90. But something far worse had happened.

Julius Randle, the Lakers’ first round pick, seems to be done for the year with a broken leg. It seemed like a throwaway play after he was pushed to the floor (by Donatas Montiejunas). And then suddenly, we were getting the bad news about his leg. Looking at the replays, his leg was already dangling by the time he jumped off. It was bad news for the Lakers and especially bad for Julius Randle. I can hardly think of any worse starts to your NBA career than breaking your leg in your first game. Speedy recovery to Randle and hope that his career flourishes afterwards.

As for the game…

For the most part, it wasn’t pretty as the Rockets went at them to draw fouls and sank multiple three-pointers. We all know that new Laker coach Byron Scott seems to be allergic to three-pointers. I don’t know if he is trying to set the game back 30 years but the fact is that ignoring the three completely isn’t going to win you an NBA game in 2014.

Kobe Bryant (19 points), for the most part, looked like the Kobe of old (trying to be careful with my word usage here). He had his usual post game and was draining those midrange jumpers. But other than that, you’d be hard-pressed to find a Laker that played outstanding. Carlos Boozer made seven of his 13 field goal attempts but we know that he spends a lot more time working on his yelling game these days. Jordan Hill did have double-digit boards but he missed a few bunnies. Jeremy Lin was a turnover machine and the other guys like Wesley Johnson, Julius Randle, Xavier Henry, and Ronnie Price didn’t do much. Ed Davis had a decent game in the minutes he got but not enough to make a huge impact on the game.

The Lakers did try to attack the rim but with Dwight Howard inside, they couldn’t do much. They increasingly got tentative in the first half; possessions got longer and they didn’t seem to have much of a plan after getting stopped initially. The Lakers did cut the game down to single digits with Howard in foul trouble but James Harden (32 points) got more aggressive and started drawing fouls (questionable or not) to get to the stripe.

I mentioned the three-pointers. Rockets were making them as if they were going out of style while the Lakers almost treated the shots behind the arc like it was Ebola. The Rockets made 12 threes compared to the Lakers’ three. That’s a 27-point difference right there. Plus the Lakers only attempted nine threes. The Lakers don’t exactly have sharpshooters (Price comes to mind) but they should set it up where their best three-point shooters take the shot (Wesley shot 37 percent last season and Lin shot 36 percent). The Lakers and Rockets had a little drama in the fourth quarter when Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard exchanged words after a rebound. We were all jonesing to see a fight but, unfortunately, Randle’s injury really put a damper on everything.

It’s difficult for the Lakers (and the Lakers fans) to move on with this news. Nevertheless, they go to Phoenix to play another game tomorrow night.

Speedy recovery, Julius Randle. We’re all thinking of you.