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From Andy Liu, Hickory High: Basketball never stopped, especially after my first year of high school, a time when I was getting my first taste on a competitive team. That’s where I found myself at the gym, everyday, after school, with no stress or a worried thought. I wasn’t thinking about how to get better, shoot more threes, learn how to dribble left-handed; I just played because it was fun. And on a macro-level, maybe it helped me get better as a whole. I took a dribble, like a thousand other times in my life, took two long steps and reached up to cram the ball into the spheric rim that seemed so far away just a year ago. A second later, I lay sprawled on the floor in the kind of pain that wouldn’t allow you to scream or cry even if your body pleaded with all its might. The kind that haunted you whenever you jumped into the lane again, your mind reflexively flashing back to that specific moment, forcing a physical, audible flinch. I had a severely fractured ankle that needed three pins inserted and would never recover that same ability, and the reckless, carefree, worry-less mental state again.

From Corey Hansford, Lakers Nation: The Lakers currently have the best bench in the NBA, ranking first in scoring, rebounds, assists, offensive efficiency, and second in defensive efficiency. Now imagine what could happen if one of the Lakers most talented bench players of all-time joined that group. According to Marc Stein and Ramona Shelbourne of ESPN LA, the Lakers would consider bringing Lamar Odom back if he can prove that all of his personal issues are behind him. The Los Angeles Clippers are also believed to be considering bringing back Odom.

From Dave McMenamin, ESPN LA:  Whenever a new president is elected, a grace period is granted for 100 days before the public and the press weigh in with the first report card on his progress. A presidential term is four years, or 1,460 days, so the initial grading period that ends up setting the tone for the entire term of many commanders in chief actually comes quite quickly, after only about 7 percent of their time in office has been served. With that in mind, judging the Los Angeles Lakers now that they have played 10 games following their 111-99 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday, or 12 percent of their 82-game schedule, is a totally appropriate time to do so. So, what do the Lakers have to say about themselves after their 4-6 start?

From TheGreatMambino, Silver Screen & Roll: No matter how many members of their 57-win squad they lost in the offseason, the Nuggets still haven’t found a way to lose to the Lakers in Denver. The Nuggs posted their fourth straight win against the Lakers (tying the longest streak in franchise history), with a 111-99 rundown in the Mile High City. Denver’s big men did most of the damage, with Kenneth Faried, Timofey Mozgov and JJ Hickson combining for 48 points, 30 rebounds and 5 blocks. Together, they limited Pau Gasolto 11 for 27 shooting, hounded Chris Kaman into a 3 for 9 night and generally set a surprising defensive tone for their squad. The trio also did their part in outrebounding a Lakers team that prides itself on outhustling their opponents, grabbing 7 more boards which no doubt led to a 6 FGA edge. In a surprise development to no one that’s watched the Lakers for the past decade, speedy point guard Ty Lawson added to the mix with a 19/6/7, destroying LA inside-out.

The Lakers ended their two-game losing streak last night after getting a pretty convincing home victory over the New Orleans Pelicans, pushing their record to 4-5, which isn’t bad at all for a team that’s been playing without their best player.

The main takeaway from last nights game was that Mike D’Antoni made another change in the starting lineup. Jordan Hill and Wesley Johnson joined the first unit, and used their energy and athleticism to help this team be more effective on the defensive end. We should expect this to be the lineup for the foreseeable future, as Steve Nash is expected to miss at least two weeks of playing time due to lingering injuries in his body.

Tonight the Lakers will be in Denver, as they’ll look to win their second road game of the season against the Nuggets. As we’ve seen so far, the second night of a back-to-back hasn’t been the most favorable scenario for this Lakers team, and Denver is not an easy place to win on the road at all. According to NBA stats and research, NBA teams are a combined 160-376 (.299) when playing in Denver on the second night of a back-to-back, and since 2003, teams are 27-118 (.186).

Along with a good start (which hasn’t been a common trend for the Lakers this season), there a few other things that the Lakers are going to have to key on if they expect to beat the Nuggets:

Match Kenneth Faried’s Energy

It is no secret that Kenneth Faried has been a nightmare matchup for the Lakers since he came into the league. He’s one of the few players in the NBA that can alter the course of a game with his energy and effort, so it’s going to be key that a guy like Jordan Hill match his intensity, and not let him dominate the offensive glass.

The good news for the Lakers is that Mike D’Antoni has been very high on Hill lately, so we can expect him to be matched up with “The Manimal” a lot over the course of tonights game instead of Pau Gasol or Chris Kaman.

Knock Down Three-Pointers

The three-point line has been a very big part of every Laker win so far this season. Currently they shoot roughly around 41% from beyond the arc, ranking 7th in the NBA. As we’ve seen though, this team has the knack for getting trigger happy, so it’s going to be important for them to realize that attempting good threes (open or in the corners) is what they have do.

Transition Defense

Ty Lawson is always a tough player to guard because of his ability to alter the pace of a game with his speed. Despite the fact that new Nuggets head coach Brian Shaw has been trying to incorporate a a half-court offense, he’s allowed his team to get out in transition in order to get easy baskets.

The Lakers must force the Nuggets to operate in the half-court, as they aren’t one of the most efficient teams in a half-court set(ranking 24th in offensive efficiency).

This Lakers team has been one of the hardest to evaluate in years. Some nights they look amazing, and others not so much. One thing that has been a constant though is that the new pieces have made this team fun to watch when they are rolling.

It’s important that we have no expectations for the outcomes of these games, as on some nights they tend to surprise us. Tonight can definitely be one of those nights.

From Corey Hansford, Lakers Nation: Last Friday night the Lakers went into New Orleans and put up a valiant effort ultimately falling 96-85to the Pelicans. The Lakers followed that showing up with a disappointing outing as they gave up 47 points in the first quarter on their way to a 113-90 home loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves that dropped their record to 3-5. Tonight the Lakers get a chance for a little revenge, and to get back on the winning track as they host the New Orleans Pelicans. Steve Nash continues to struggle with health problems after re-aggravating his back issues in Sunday’s loss and is out for at least two weeks. The first time these teams played the Lakers were led by Chris Kaman’s 16 points, four rebounds, and two blocks. Nick Young also added 13 points. The Pelicans come into this game with a record of 3-4.

From Dave McMenamin, ESPN LA: Kobe Bryant had better make room on the Los Angeles Lakers’ bench. Another Hall of Fame-bound guard is about to join him there. Steve Nash will be sidelined for a minimum of two weeks after being diagnosed with nerve root irritation in his back and hamstring following a visit to back specialist Dr. Robert Watkins, the Lakers announced Monday. Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni pulled Nash from Sunday’s 113-90 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves with 1:42 remaining in the second quarter, and the point guard did not return, finishing with two points and three assists in 13 minutes. “It’s just slowly getting worse and worse,” Nash said Monday when asked about the nerve discomfort.

From Kurt Helin, Pro Basketball Talk: Louisville’s Kevin Ware suffered about the most gruesome injury can suffer on the court. On national television in the Elite Eight against Duke, he went down with a bone-sticking-out-through-the-skin injury that was horrific. He is back playing with Louisville this season, he was playing in the Cardinal’s first game against NAIA University of Pikeville and he hit a couple threes. Sunday he was on ESPN for an interview during SportsCenter, and when asked who had reached out to him he quickly said Kobe Bryant. Somebody going through rehab of his own (an Achilles Tendon). You can see the video below, the question is at the 1:!2 mark.

From TheGreatMambino, Silver Screen & Roll: As we discussed on the Silver Screen & Rollcast last week, the concern surrounding Steve Nash’s health has gone through the roof. The former two-time MVP has looked like a shell of himself this season, which is no doubt a symptom of ongoing leg, hip and back problems stemming from a broken leg he suffered one year ago. At best, he’s not active on defense, which has always been the case. But now, his lack of mobility has hindered his ability to operate an offense and his shot–once arguably the best in the league–looks like it’s completely left him.


From Dave McMenamin, ESPN LA: Someday, it might be appropriate to look back at the past four days of the Los Angeles Lakers’ existence — from playing Dwight Howard as an opponent Thursday to seeing Steve Nash being shut down because of back problems Sunday — as the official death of the dream hatched in summer 2012 to get back to being a championship contender before Kobe Bryant’s career came to a close. But today is not that day. Now is the time to simply appreciate what Nash — a surefire first-ballot Hall of Famer, the greatest basketball player to come out of Canada, a player who ranks No. 1 in career free throw percentage, No. 4 in total assists and No. 8 in 3-point accuracy in NBA history — is going through as he sees the end of his splendid career coming at him like a freight train going full speed.

From Drew Garrison, Silver Screen & Roll: It’s been 495 days since the Los Angeles Lakers traded some “throwaway” draft picks and a trade exception they needed to get off their hands after dumpingLamar Odom to the Dallas Mavericks for the all-world talents of Steve Nash. 495 days since the Lakers signed-and-traded for a “real” point guard after a failed experiment featuring Ramon Sessions’ 2012 Playoffs nosedive. It’s fair to say things have changed since then. Those “throwaway” picks were two future second-round selections and two future first-round selections. In case you missed it, folks are salivating over the Lakers having a 2014 first-round draft pick this summer. There’s no telling what the next handful of years will look for the Lakers with Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant’s expiring contracts and Steve Nash’s expired body, but the peep hole we’ve peeked through so far has been disheartening. Maybe the top-five protection on the 2015 first-rounder will be the saving grace in this mess.

From Brett Pollakoff, Pro Basketball Talk: In the first quarter Sunday night against Minnesota (as his Lakers were getting blown out of the water), Pau Gasol was 3-of-5 shooting for six points. The rest of the game he was 2-of-7 shooting, and the second of those buckets came :26 seconds left in the game when Rick Adelman had emptied the Timberwolves bench. Gasol finished with 11 points on 12 shots (but did have 11 rebounds). That’s been pretty typical to start the season. Gasol was expected to carry the Lakers’ offense, at least untilKobe Bryant returned, but he is averaging 15.3 points a game on 36 percent shooting — it’s taking him 16.1 shots a game to get those points. That is not Gasol like. It’s not close to what the Lakers were banking on. What’s more is on the season he’s shooting a respectable 45 percent in the first quarter but just 25.7 percent in the second half. Gasol said after the game the issue has been a respiratory infection he has battled all season — and that he is getting better.

From Eric Pincus, LA Times: Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak said Sunday he does not anticipate that Kobe Bryant will be able to return from his Achilles’ tendon injury within the next two weeks. “I don’t see that in the next week or two because you’ve got to be on the court. You’ve got to practice.  You’ve got to play,” Kupchak, speaking at an event for season-ticket holders, said of the team’s All-Star guard. Bryant said recently that he’s gotten in two of the three weeks of intense conditioning he needs before considering a return date. The Lakers undoubtedly will work Bryant slowly back into practice before he sees his first NBA game action since tearing his Achilles’ on April 12 during a win over the Golden State Warriors. “Clearly we don’t know what this team is all about until Kobe gets back, and when he gets back, how is he going to play?” Kupchak told an audience of more than 1,000. “I know he’s going to come back competitive. I know he’s going to be productive. But that’s when we’re going to find out what kind of team we have.” Kupchak acknowledged the franchise is preparing for the time after Bryant is gone.

From Ken Berger, CBS Sports: The way the Lakers are playing right now, the last thing they needed was a reminder of last season — when things were even worse. In many cases, worse than anyone knew. Yet there they were Wednesday on the Toyota Center court, Dwight Howard’s new home, trying to fix what ails them before a red-letter day on the NBA calendar. On Thursday night, Howard will face the Lakers for the first time since deciding to bolt LA for Houston as a free agent in July.

From TheGreatMambino, Silver Screen & Roll: Dwight Howard isn’t the first All-star player to leave his team via free agency. He’s not even the first this decade. LeBron James and Chris Bosh took off on Cleveland and Toronto three years ago. Two years after that, Ray Allen joined them, walking from the Boston Celtics to their chief rivals in the Miami Heat. Steve Nash’s situation wasn’t much different than Shuttlesworth’s when he happily joined up with a Kobe-Pau-Dwight Lakers team just last offseason. Guys like Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Carmelo Anthony didn’t leave their teams via free agency per se, but were dealt to teams when it became apparent that they would depart their teams in a year’s time.

From Ryan Cole, Lakers Nation: With the Los Angeles Lakers facing the Houston Rockets for the first time this season on Friday, a lot of attention has been be surrounded around Dwight Howard and the fallout between he and the Lakers in the 2012-2013 season. After Dwight publicly addressed the situation earlier this week, claiming that it’s time for everyone to move on, Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni echoed some of those same sentiments after Lakers practice today via Mark Medina of L.A. Daily News:

From Dave McMenamin, ESPN LA: The Los Angeles Lakers practiced in “The House that Dwight Chose” on Wednesday, preparing for their upcoming game against the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center, which features a giant poster of Dwight Howard on the front of it, complete with the tag line, “A new age.” A little more than four months ago, it was Staples Center that had Howard’s image plastered to the side of it, accompanied by the message, “Stay.” The former three-time defensive player of the year left, and the Lakers were again left rehashing the memories of what went wrong last season. “He made his decision and felt like that was the best choice for him and so you respect him for it and that’s it,” Lakers forward Pau Gasol said. “A lot of things went wrong last year for sure. There was a lot of adversity. Nothing really clicked. So it was a tough year for everyone. Not for one individual. Pretty much for the entire team it was a tough year to go through.”


From Ryan Ward, Lakers Nation: Over the past few months, Kobe Bryant has sent subtle messages to his fans and the world about what’s going on in the mind of the five-time NBA champion by changing his Twitter avatar. Recently, Kobe changed his avatar to 1225. Many believe the change was to indicate either his return date to the basketball floor for the Los Angeles Lakers or a motivational tactic after ESPN predicted the Lakers would finish 12th in the West and that he was now the 25th best player in the NBA. On Tuesday morning, Kobe was at it a again with his cryptic messages via his Twitter avatar. Instead of the 1225, which many thought would remain his avatar until he returned, the future Hall of Famer blacked out the avatar completely and then tweeted the following:

From Brett Polakoff, Pro Basketball Talk: After their surprising opening night victory against the Clippers, the Lakers have looked more like the team we expected to see with Kobe Bryant out of the lineup in the early part of the season. L.A. has dropped two straight, and with Mike D’Antoni searching for answers, a change to the starting lineup will take place for the team’s game Sunday night at home against the Atlanta Hawks. From Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times: Xavier Henry will start in place of Nick Young on Sunday night against Atlanta, Lakers Coach Mike D’Antoni said. …“Just [trying] to find a better spot for Nick, maybe get a little bit more production out of him,” D’Antoni said. “[Henry] has played as well if not better than anybody. There’s no reason not to go ahead and do this and lengthen his time on the court a little bit.”

From Drew Garrison, Silver Screen & Roll: The first week of Los Angeles Lakers basketball has come and gone and the team split their first four games. The week began with a win over the Los Angeles Clippers and ended with a down to the wire victory against the Atlanta Hawks. The season is young and the sample sizes are too small to draw overarching conclusions, but it’s fair to take the early results for what their worth and break down what’s starting to take form. Xavier Henry is starting, Nick Young is on the bench,Jordan Hill is a beast on the offensive glass, Wesley Johnson is still a huge question mark and the NBA’s new SportVu player tracking provides statistical data behind an observation made earlier this week about Pau Gasol in the Lakers’ offense. Here are a handful of Week 1 observations:

From Dave McMenamin, ESPN LA: In recapping the Los Angeles Lakers’ fervent first week of the season that included four games in six days, it’s pretty hard to draw any conclusions and feel confident those same observations will ring true in a week or two. Pau Gasol has looked re-energized from a season ago, but then again coach Mike D’Antoni benched him from the 6:29 mark of the third quarter to the 5:40 mark of the fourth quarter Sunday because he thought Gasol “lost his steam.”Xavier Henry has looked like a hidden gem, scoring 22 against the Clippers, 14 against the Warriors and 18 against the Hawks, but then again there was that 0-for-6 night against the Spurs and that wild offensive foul with 2:39 left in the fourth quarter against Atlanta in a four-point contest that could have cost L.A. the game.


From Max Piner, Lakers Nation: Coming into the 2012-2013 season, the Lakers were the ones with championship expectations after the offseason acquisitions of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard. We all know how that turned out. Coming into this season, it is the team down the hall in Staples Center with the championship expectations. For the first time since…well, ever, the Clippers are expected to legitimately compete for a title this season. The Clippers embarrassed the Lakers in all four of their meetings last season, sweeping the series for the first time since the franchise moved to Los Angeles. The games were not close either, as the Clips won by an average margin of 13.2 points per game. In hiring one of the top three coaches in the league in Doc Rivers, the Clippers are looking to instill a winning mentality into their franchise. In tonight’s opener, the Lakers have a tall task ahead of them in trying to defeat their hallway rivals without the services of Kobe Bryant.

From Kurt Helin, Pro Basketball Talk: If you haven’t heard, Dwight Howard wasn’t happy in Mike D’Antoni’s offense, and the feeling was pretty mutual. What, you heard that already? Okay, during the preseason this whole storyline has been overplayed more than “Blurred Lines,” but as the season tips off tonight, the Lakers coach decided to answer a reporters’ question in a way to fire one last shot across Howard’s bow. Sam Amick of the USA Today asked the question about the Lakers running their offense through Howard last season when they had a better fit on he roster in Pau Gasol (who some Lakers fans spent years calling soft but now idolize in the wake of Howard).

From Ramona Shelburne, ESPN LA: Mike D’Antoni has a funny habit of laughing whenever he is most honest. The truth might hurt, but it goes down better when you can laugh at the absurdity of it. And so it was the other night when the Lakers coach was asked if he was encouraged by the team’s play in the preseason following a win over the Utah Jazz. “Well, I think every coach right now is confident,” D’Antoni said with a laugh. “I’m sure [Gen. George] Custer was confident before he went to Little Bighorn too. He was hootin’ and hollerin’ and probably happy as heck, so that’s how we are right now. Talk to me in December and we’ll have a more serious discussion.” Now that may not be the best historical parallel to cite for a coach on a warm seat, but D’Antoni’s point is clear: Who knows?

From Drew Garrison, Silver Screen & Roll: The Clippers begin their season with high hopes, new leadership and perhaps the best roster ever constructed around Chris Paul. The Lakers begin without Kobe Bryant on the floor and no timetable on his return released to the public. The stakes that were so incredibly high for the Lakers last year have all but dropped to the bottom. There’s no need to show Dwight Howard why he should be a Laker, he booked it. There’s no realistic title aspirations, the team is starting Nick Young and Shawne Williams. After a period of title or bust that truly began when Pau Gasol slipped on a purple and gold jersey the Lakers face something more akin to Nike’s famed “just do it” slogan. Just go out and play. Just go out and do your best. Just go out and prove the doubters wrong. It’s not unreasonable to be down on the team’s chances, and it’s not unreasonable to hold onto faith that this new batch of Lakers can band together and form a bond that is greater than the sum of their parts. There’s no wrong way to view this season, much like an unwrapped Reese’s peanut butter cup.

From Phillip Barnett, Lakers Nation: Chris Kaman returned to Lakers practice yesterday after missing nine days with a stomach virus. Kaman, like Nash, will play in tomorrow’s season opener against the Los Angeles Clippers, but is still unsure on whether he’ll start. Shawne Williams has been starting in his place while he dealt with his illness, which begged the question of how often the Lakers would go with small-ball lineups. Head coach Mike D’Antoni has played with smaller lineups throughout his coaching career, and used them in the Lakers last two preseason games against the Jazz with success. According to the LA Daily News, Kaman, hasn’t been the biggest fan of smaller lineups. “It was never my style of basketball,” Kaman said. “I remember playing against Phoenix back in the day with those smaller lineups. It was hard to guard those teams. We’ll see. It depends defensively who we’ll go against. Against DeAndre [Jordan] and Blake [Griffin], it’ll be hard to go small, but we’ll see.”

From Dave McMenamin, ESPN LA: The optimism surrounding Los Angeles Lakers veterans Steve Nash and Pau Gasol has gone in split directions since training camp opened last month. Gasol came in unsure if he would be able to participate because of offseason procedures on both of his knees, but ended up leading the team in scoring (13.7 points) while chipping in 6.3 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game in the preseason. Nash came in saying how improved his body was after missing 32 games last season because of a broken leg and hip and groin injuries that stemmed from it, but he was extremely limited during the exhibition schedule, averaging just 4.0 points and 3.6 assists in 18.4 minutes. “I feel better than what I expected,” Gasol said after practice Sunday ahead of the Lakers’ regular-season opener Tuesday against the Los Angeles Clippers. “I’m really happy with how I feel right now. Now it’s just a matter of we have a tough start, very demanding, a lot of games in a short period of time to start off. But hey, that’s what the NBA is about sometimes and you got to get through it.”

From Mike Bresnahan, LA Times: The latest installment was unveiled in the Steve Nash Injury Watch. It’s “very possible” the 39-year-old point guard will sit out the second night of season-opening back-to-back games, Lakers Coach Mike D’Antoni said Sunday. Somewhere you can hear Nash’s fantasy value drop. More important to the Lakers is real-life value and what they can squeeze out of him this season, which begins Tuesday against the Clippers and Wednesday at Golden State. Nash looked solid in off-season scrimmages before training camp but since then hadn’t completed a full practice because of nagging ankle and neck soreness. It’s not uncommon for aging players to sit out a night in back-to-back situations. San Antonio Coach Gregg Popovich has done it with veterans Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.

From TheGreatMambino, Silver Screen & Roll: International trips have concluded, training camps are closed down and the buzzer for the collective amateur hour known as preseason basketball has sounded. The 2013-2014 Season is upon us, and we here at Silver Screen & Roll couldn’t be happier that real, honest to goodness NBA basketball is upon us. So let’s get down to the most important questions. Where will the Lakers fall in the Western Conference this season? Will they make the playoffs? If yes, what will be the biggest factor that propels them there? If no, what will be the largest component of them missing the postseason for just the fifth time in franchise history?