Archives For Laker News

The Lakers play the Suns at home this evening, but all their moves aren’t on the court this Sunday. In a bit of a surprise, the Lakers have made two roster moves:

Releasing Henry is really the no-brainer move here as he’s done for the season after tearing his achilles tendon earlier this month. Henry’s contract was fully guaranteed so he will take his salary and rehab in the hopes of making a strong comeback next season. I wish Henry nothing but the best in his endeavors, though it will surely be an uphill climb for him. Last season under Mike D’Antoni, Henry showed that he has an NBA skill set, flashing an ability to hit the long ball while also getting to the basket regularly. If he can ever find a way to make a higher percentage at the foul line and not have so much tunnel vision once he beats the first defender off the dribble, he can take the next step as an offensive player. Of course, all that comes secondary to simply getting healthy — something that, sadly, has been an all to frequent theme for the former Jayhawk.

As for Black, the rookie big man was released by the Rockets who needed a roster spot to sign Josh Smith after the latter was released by the Pistons. This enabled the Lakers to pick him up for nothing but the commitment of paying his salary. The 6’11”, 250 pound Black has flashed some talent as a reserve big man, getting most of his minutes at center when Dwight Howard sat out due to knee problems. So far this season, he’s averaged four points and five rebounds on 54% shooting in 15 minutes a night.

Shotchart_1419807088927As you can see from his shot chart, Black is mostly a player who stays around the rim offensively and doesn’t seem to step outside of his comfort zone at all. Based on the Rockets’ offensive approach, Black likely gets most of his baskets off dump-offs or as the roll man out of the P&R as evidenced by the fact that nearly 69% of his shots are assisted. His hovering around the rim also contributes to his very good 16.7% offensive rebounding rate (for comparison, Ed Davis’ ORR is 13.3 this season).

Where Black fits into the rotation now remains to be seen. Right now Davis, Hill, and Boozer are the team’s best big men and Robert Sacre has earned the coach’s trust and plays solid minutes as the team’s 3rd Center. With Ryan Kelly reportedly nearing a return (he is targeting next Friday), the front court rotation is already set to get more crowded. So, Black will either displace a current rotation player (Sacre?) or languish on the bench. Unless, of course, a trade is made to remove one of the team’s big men.

I’m not one to speculate, but moving one of the team’s bigs would not be a surprise to me. While Black isn’t really the type of player you sign to throw into the lineup right away, he is a player who should probably play to see what you have in him and right now those minutes simply do not exist. We’ll see, however, what the team decides to do. In any event, they have added an interesting piece to the roster who should get a chance to show whether he is worth an investment beyond this season.

 

Kobe Bryant and I are the same age (he also, coincidentally, shares a birthday with my older brother). Some 19 years ago when Kobe stood at a podium with his Oakley sunglasses propped up on his forehead to announce that he was taking his talents to the NBA, I too was transitioning to that next phase in my life and preparing to go away to college. After it was announced that this high school kid would be a Laker, I, naturally, took a great interest in his career.

In the nearly 19 years that Kobe has worn a Lakers’ jersey so much has occurred it’s nearly impossible to recount it all. Airballs in Utah, ridiculous shots in Portland on the last day of a season, a championship celebration in Orlando, a fractured hand, a hurt shoulder, a ruptured achilles…it all blends together like a desert landscape viewed through the window on a long car ride. I’d pick out one moment, but I don’t have a favorite uncle; my family is my family.

The new moments, though, act as a reminder. They jog the memory and turn history into today’s celebration, recreating the feeling from many years ago by rekindling the flames of past accomplishments. Especially when today’s acts truly are a culmination of what is, essentially, a life’s work.

We’ve known this moment was coming for some time. But actually watching it happen, for me at least, was still a tremendous moment. The combination of longevity and production needed to reach such heights astounds me. The fact that the guy who did it is that same guy who, as a kid, had those Oakley’s sitting on his forehead makes it that much more special.

Kobe will never quite be the player many want him to be. As his efficiency wanes, his personality shows more hard edges, and his team suffers more losses than wins another type of validation will come for that sect. And as the complexities of his game, leadership, and overall status as a player are pushed to the middle of the spotlight both sides of the argument will meet with loud voices and even louder arguments trying to get to the bottom of what it all means.

For me, though, there will be none of that. And there especially won’t be some long discussion about Michael Jordan, measuring sticks, and how achievements do or don’t stack up. Kobe is one of the greatest players I ever saw grace a basketball court. Where he falls in that discussion matters less to me than the fact that he is part of that conversation. Far from perfect, but a provider of more moments worth celebrating than not. And, really, what more could you ask for?

The man harnessed his skill through immeasurable work to achieve at a level I never would have expected. He did it his way, for better or for worse, and nearly two decades later is still out there giving it his all. And while many would have hoped for a different route, it’s hard to argue with the path traveled considering there really wasn’t a road map to follow.

With the recent news of Xavier Henry joining Steve Nash and Julius Randle on the shelf for the season, the Lakers have begun to explore their options on adding a player who could help. Well, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo, the Lakers have settled on a familiar name:

Lakers fans are familiar with Earl, of course. He damn near became a household name in his lone season with the Lakers, getting thrust into the lineup after injuries ravaged the team’s front court (sounds familiar!). Playing stretch PF under Mike D’Antoni, Clark easily had the best season of his career. His ability to stretch the floor offensively and multi-skilled game was a nice fit for that system and that coach, who paired him next to Dwight or Pau and let him work on the perimeter as a floor spacer and then use his athleticism to do work closer to the basket as a slasher and finisher in the open court. Earl flourished in that role and turned that production into a free agent deal with the Cavs for four-times what the Lakers likely would have wanted him to sign for.

In Cleveland, however, Clark never found the same magic he had under D’Antoni. While his three point shooting numbers held steady, the rest of his game did not translate as well to Mike Brown’s more methodical approach. Clark did not even finish his first season with the Cavs and was traded to the 76ers and promptly waived. Since then, Clark continued his vagabond career suiting up for the Knicks and getting claimed off waivers by the Rockets, but never finding a home. Now he’s back in LA.

While I do not want to be too down on Clark, I wouldn’t expect the same type of success that had fans making “Earl-sanity!” comments on this site two years ago. Clark is, theoretically, being brought in to play small forward where he can provide depth now that Henry is out. Clark has the perimeter skills and, as noted by Woj, he has been producing some gaudy scoring numbers in the D-League. But unless his game has moved forward in the two years he’s been gone (which is possible), I expect Clark to still have some issues playing against like sized and athletic players who are used to guarding on the perimeter.

In saying all that, though, I am happy to see Earl get another shot in the league. Hopefully he does well and can find a landing spot in the years to come that find a way to maximize his game. He certainly has talent and a unique skill set for a player his size.

The Lakers really can’t escape the injury bug this year. Steve Nash is out for the year with his recurring back/nerve root issues. Prized rookie Julius Randle is also out for the year with a broken leg. Ryan Kelly is on the shelf once again with his hamstring issues. And now, Xavier Henry may also be out for the year after hurting himself in a 3-on-3 drill in Monday’s practice. From the Lakers’ twitter account:

Byron Scott is hopeful it is not that serious, but at this point that likely is just hope. If Henry’s MRI confirms the tear he will not play again this season and the Lakers have suffered another blow to their already depleted roster.

Henry was re-signed this past summer with the hope that he could contribute to a wing rotation that, save for Jodie Meeks’ departure, was retained from last year. However, summer knee surgery and issues with his back had kept Henry out of training camp. And while he saw game action earlier than expected after going to Germany for regenokine treatment, he’d not yet found a consistent role on the team as he tried to work his back into playing form.

In the past couple of weeks Henry had played for the D-Fenders (the Lakers’ D-League affiliate) in the hopes of finding his rhythm and getting back into game shape, but now his season looks to be over.

As for what this means for the Lakers, they almost surely will now need to sign another wing if for no other reason than they need another body. Without Henry and with Kelly still injured, the Lakers’ only healthy perimeter players who can play either SG or SF are Kobe, Nick Young, Wes Johnson, and Jordan Clarkson. Lin could also be slotted into the SG spot, but considering the Lakers are also shallow at PG, they need another body regardless. The Lakers recently held a workout that involved former Nugget Quincy Miller, but no moves were immediately made. They may need to revisit those options now.

But those are the team logistics. Really, today’s news isn’t so much about that but instead about Henry. I truly feel bad for him as he’s worked extremely hard to try and get his career back on the track he was on when drafted with the #12 overall pick in 2010. That process really began in earnest last season when he had a nice season with the Lakers under Mike D’Antoni. The Lakers brought him back with the hopes that he’d continue his growth this year. Now, however, he’s likely out for the year, on an expiring minimum contract, and looking at one of the more grueling recoveries you can face in sports.

Hopefully he’s back as good as new next season. I will be rooting for him, that’s for sure.

I don’t think Steve Nash owes anyone any explanations about how hurt he is or what he’s going through physically. While an instagram video of him hitting balls at the driving range caused a stir, it’s only a certain type of irrationality that would equate hitting a golf ball to being able to play basketball in the NBA. Yet, after some loud criticism and questions about how healthy Nash really is have persisted, Nash took to his facebook page to explain what he is going through physically. Below is his full statement — one he called an “Open Letter to Lakers Fans” on twitter — from his page:

I definitely don’t want to be a distraction, but I felt it best everyone heard from me in my own words.

I have a ton of miles on my back. Three buldging disks (a tear in one), stenosis of the nerve route and spondylolisthesis. I suffer from sciatica and after games I often can’t sit in the car on the drive home, which has made for some interesting rides. Most nights I’m bothered by severe cramping in both calves while I sleep, a result of the same damn nerve routes, and the list goes on somewhat comically. That’s what you deserve for playing over 1,300 NBA games. By no means do I tell you this for sympathy – especially since I see these ailments as badges of honor – but maybe I can bring some clarity.

I’ve always been one of the hardest workers in the game and I say that at the risk of what it assumes. The past 2 years I’ve worked like a dog to not only overcome these setbacks but to find the form that could lift up and inspire the fans in LA as my last chapter. Obviously it’s been a disaster on both fronts but I’ve never worked harder, sacrificed more or faced such a difficult challenge mentally and emotionally.

I understand why some fans are disappointed. I haven’t been able to play a lot of games or at the level we all wanted. Unfortunately that’s a part of pro sports that happens every year on every team. I wish desperately it was different. I want to play more than anything in the world. I’ve lost an incredible amount of sleep over this disappointment.

Competitiveness, professionalism, naiveté and hope that at some point I’d turn a corner has kept me fighting to get back. As our legendary trainer Gary Vitti, who is a close friend, told me, ‘You’re the last to know’ – and my back has shown me the forecast over the past 18-20 months. To ignore it any longer is irresponsible. But that doesn’t mean that life stops.

This may be hard for people to understand unless you’ve played NBA basketball, but there is an incredible difference between this game and swinging a golf club, hiking, even hitting a tennis ball or playing basketball at the park. Fortunately those other activities aren’t debilitating, but playing an NBA game usually puts me out a couple of weeks. Once you’re asked to accelerate and decelerate with Steph Curry and Kyrie Irving it is a completely different demand.

I’m doing what I’ve always done which is share a bit of my off-court life in the same way everyone else does. Going forward I hope we all can refocus our energies on getting behind these Lakers. This team will be back and Staples will be rocking.

When news of Nash needing to miss the season came out, I wrote about how fans are entitled to be disappointed in Nash’s Lakers’ tenure, but we should never lose sight of the fact that no one is more disappointed than Nash himself. He was the one putting in the work to try and return, the one whose body was failing him, who suffered a setback every time it looked like he might have turned a corner. To find out now that he has the types of ailments he has — ailments that, seemingly, could affect the quality of his life moving forward — it seems even more silly to try and take Nash to task for not being able to compete in the NBA for the team we root for.

Injuries happen. They suck and are a disappointment to everyone involved. For the team paying the salary, the fans who want to see this player on the court, and the player who wants nothing more than to compete with his teammates. For Nash, the Lakers, and their fans things didn’t go the way anyone would have wanted. And while I don’t think he needed to write what he wrote to explain things to fans (or anyone else) who questioned him, I am glad that he did set the record straight.