Archives For Morning Links

From Ramneet Singh, Lakers Nation: Jordan Hill is making a name for himself in the league and the Los Angeles Lakers are relying on him to contribute on a nightly basis. In the Lakers’ game Sunday night against the Detroit Pistons, Hill scored a career high 24 points and grabbed a career high 17 rebounds. Hill has played well for the Lakers off the bench, but he never really got consistent minutes under Mike D’Antoni. However, the coach eventually saw just how effective the big man was and Hill responded in a big way as starter. After the 114-99 victory over the Pistons, Hill spoke to ESPN about the added confidence to his game.

From J.A. Adande, ESPN LA: With Kobe Bryant back on the practice court — even if his return isn’t exactly imminent — it’s time to start thinking about how this mix of Los Angeles Lakers will fit with him. We know, for instance, that Steve Blake won’t duplicate the 16 assists he had Sunday night against the Pistons; he wont have the ball that much. Jordan Hill can’t count on surpassing the career-high 24 points he had. But there’s no reason Hill can’t top the career-high 17 rebounds Sunday, especially if Kobe’s shot is off when he returns. And there’s no reason Nick Young can’t continue to provide scoring off the bench if he’s getting a good chunk of his minutes while Kobe is out of the game. The sequence is rarely as simple as “superstar returns from major injury, team plays great.” The Chicago Bulls could tell you that. The question is how quickly the Lakers can adapt to him. Because, as they’d say on “The Wire”: Kobe coming, yo.

From Drew Garrison, Silver Screen & Roll: Kobe Bryant is going to play for the Lakers again pretty soon. We don’t know when, we don’t know how he will look as he gets back into game shape, but we know the return is imminent. We always knew that, though, but we’re officially closing in on a return date. He’s practicing with the team for the first time since his Achilles popped and the Lakers are 5-7 without him. Things are about to get complicated in Los Angeles. There are many angles to consider with the return of Kobe Bryant. Even if he’s 25 percent less effective and plays limited minutes early on it’s a given he will give the team a boost. Forget the nuances of defense and offense for a moment and consider that the Lakers are relying on Nick Young, Xavier Henry, Wesley Johnson and Jodie Meeks to handle small forward and shooting guard duties. They’ve done well. As Kanye would say, #NODISRESPECT, but they aren’t Kobe.

From Kurt Helin, Pro Basketball Talk: Kobe Bryant is back practicing with the Lakers (as of this past weekend), creating a lot of buzz around the team. However that doesn’t mean his return to the court is imminent. Kobe said previously it likely would be two to three weeks after he returned to practice that he could play again, but around the Lakers caution and vague timetables remain the order of the day. “He’s a presence, no doubt, and we need that presence, especially at the end of games,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said Sunday. “But we’ve got games to win and there’s going to be a bunch of them before he comes back. “ Still, his return begs another question: What will be the Lakers’ identity when he returns?

 

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 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?