Archives For Morning Links

From Ryan Cole, Lakers Nation: Charles Barkley is widely known amongst Lakers fans for having a strong disdain for the the franchise and the team. He’s never been shy to mention how he feels about this team. In the summer he said that Dwight Howard did the right thing leaving Los Angeles because he felt that the Lakers are in no position to win now or in the immediate future. And on the eve before the start of the NBA regular season, he publicly blasted the Lakers on Monday Night Football by saying they wouldn’t come close to making the playoffs. Well Chuck was back at it again tonight when he joined Ric Bucher and Chris Townsend on 95.7 The GAME. He was asked about how he thinks the Lakers will fare with Kobe Bryant coming back. This is what he said: “The Lakers gonna stink with him, or without him,” Barkley said. “They’re not a good team, and they won’t be a good team.”

From David Murphy, Bleacher Report: For the first 19 games of the season, the Los Angeles Lakers’ Mike D’Antoni was having a field day with a team that might be described as a bunch of perfectly agreeable misfits—and then the Black Mamba returned. What will the relationship between D’Antoni and Kobe Bryant resemble for the rest of the season, partnership or power struggle? The eternal optimist would say the former—if these guys survived last year’s train wreck together, then this season should be a piece of cake. Bryant’s finally back on the court after a long layoff from a devastating injury, and now it’s time to rock! Or is it? A small difference of opinion recently materialized concerning the team’s record before Bryant’s return to action. It was enough to get people talking.

From Scott Howard-Cooper, There are the assumptions and the speculation, that the Kobe Bryant extension increases the possibility Bryant favorite Pau Gasol will get an offer to remain a Laker and that obviously he will jump at the chance because Gasol as a free agent, hat in hand, will be a sad sight. And then there is the reality: Gasol, he made clear to, could be the one to decide to break up. While he is definitely interested in staying and his affection for the organization is obvious, the 33-year-old power forward about 6 1/2 months away from free agency said his hopes to win another championship will weigh heavily on what he does in July and possibly greater than the opportunity to stay in a familiar setting or even money. Especially since there may be another familiar setting out there.

From Dave McMenamin, ESPN LA: Nobody on the Los Angeles Lakers was kidding themselves by thinking Kobe Bryant’s return would suddenly vault them from a team flirting with .500 to a squad shooting straight for the top of the Western Conference standings. “Of course we want to win, but we definitely know it’s going to be different,” said Xavier Henryafter L.A.’s 114-108 loss to the Phoenix Suns Tuesday night at Staples Center, their second straight defeat since Bryant’s comeback. “Everybody in the world knows it’s going to be different.”

Wednesday Storylines

Darius Soriano —  December 4, 2013

The Lakers are two days into their four day break from game action and the major story of the off period is injuries. Jordan Farmar is set to miss a month due to a torn hamstring. Meanwhile Jordan Hill and Pau Gasol are both nursing sprained ankles, though will play through the pain. Those three represent a major chunk of the Lakers’ production and having them out or at less than their most effective selves will hurt the team’s chances on any given night, irrespective of opponent.

On a somewhat brighter note, both Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant practiced on Tuesday, though with different results in their respective returns. Kobe Bryant, by all accounts looked like Kobe. Mike D’Antoni said he “looked good” while Pau said Kobe was sharp and guessed that #24 had been doing a lot of work on his own to try and get back to game form. There were even reports of a steal and dunk in the scrimmage portion of the workout where Kobe raced up coourt and threw down a left hander.

Nash, on the other hand, was not up to the same standard as his backcourt partner. The Canadian was only a partial participant in the practice session and didn’t really scrimmage — at least not at the same level as Kobe. After the workout Nash didn’t entirely rule out playing on Friday, but did call it unlikely. Kobe, didn’t speak to the press about his status, but the hope remains he could make his debut against the Kings in three days.


Mike D’Antoni called Kobe’s return to practice today a “big step forward”. Dave McMenamin has the story.

McMenamin also writes that with Kobe and Nash getting closer and the Lakers sitting with an even 9-9 record, the Lakers get to restart their season with reinforcements on the way.

Speaking of Kobe getting closer, Kevin Ding discusses the superstar guard’s unending drive to evolve and, thus, improve.

On the flip-side, Ding also wrote on Pau Gasol’s twisted path from championship big man to a player who likely doesn’t have a future in Los Angeles.

Jordan Farmar may be out for a while, but remains optimistic about his recovery.

For Steve Nash, it’s a bit more complicated, as Eric Pincus reports. While he was encouraged by his return to practice, anytime you hear a player say he can’t have an urgency while adding “”If I race to come back … and it’s not quite right, I could be out forever or for months”, it’s not such a good thing.

Getting back to Kobe, this is a couple of weeks old, but one hoops fan (and not necessarily a Kobe one) writes how not having Kobe around made him realize how much he took him for granted.


Where the Lakers’ mixture of players hurting and healing leaves the rest of the team is pretty much the same place that fans are — guessing.

The Lakers have overachieved to this point, but have done so mostly on the strength of different performers raising their games from night to night. An Xavier Henry career high is followed by one from Wes Johnson. Jodie Meeks is hot one night and Steve Blake the next. Hill, Farmar, Gasol, or Nick Young bring their ‘A’ game and suddenly the Lakers are a .500 team looking to make some noise. But as the injuries pile up, one has to wonder how much more stepping up guys can do.

Getting a guy back who is used to putting his mates on his shoulders would certainly help, or at least that is the hope…


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?


From Dave McMenamin, ESPN LA: Kobe Bryant’s absence from the court is immeasurable when it comes to the total package of the will and mental toughness he brings to the equation, but two tangible statistics help tell the story of his void that the Los Angeles Lakers are trying to fill: 38.6 minutes and 20.4 shot attempts per game. Those were Bryant’s averages last season. Nick Young has had no problem volunteering for the extra shot attempts, leading the Lakers with 80 shots through their first seven preseason games (18 more than the next closest Laker in Pau Gasol), but he also has spent most of his time playing small forward. And that’s still only 11.4 shots per game for Young, about half of Bryant’s total. As for Bryant’s minutes, will Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni simply spread them out to the rest of the roster? “Yeah,” D’Antoni said after L.A.’s 108-94 win over the Utah Jazz on Tuesday night at Staples Center, their best showing of the preseason. “Unless somebody grabs it. That could happen. We’ll just keep monitoring things. There’s  a lot of guys that deserve to play.”

From Ramneet Singh, Lakers Nation: The Los Angeles Lakers brought back Jordan Farmar over the summer as a reliable point guard that helped them win two consecutive titles in 2009 and 2010. Farmar took a brief hiatus from the NBA by playing overseas, and now the guard has returned to the league better than ever. Farmar will be backing up Steve Nash this upcoming season, and the Lakers will surely benefit from his young legs and explosiveness. The Lakers are a fairly old team, and they will be using Farmar very often when playing some of the tougher teams in the Western Conference. Lakers Nation reporter Serena Winters spoke to the former UCLA Bruin about how much he grew as a player after staying overseas (video below).

From Kurt Helin, Pro Basketball Talk: Lakers fans could have watched their team’s preseason win over Utah Tuesday night with a sense of optimism. Jordan Farmar looked good in the second half running the offense, Wes Johnsonlooked comfortable in the system on his way to 14 points, Xavier Henry was attacking, Jordan Hilllooked solid in the paint. You could extrapolate out from that things aren’t as bad as some pundits predict for the Lakers. That’s not what Tracy McGrady saw.

From Ben Bolch, LA Times: Kobe Bryant didn’t join his teammates on the bench Tuesday night, preferring the sanctity of theLakers’ locker room to courtside at Staples Center. It was impossible to tell if he was stewing after NBA general managers knocked him down a notch in their assessment of the league’s top shooting guards, but it’s not out of the question given his recent reaction to other perceived slights. Bryant changed his Twitter avatar to “1225,” presumably in response to ESPN ranking the Lakers as the 12th-best team in the Western Conference and Bryant as the 25th-best player in the NBA. What’s another jab, besides extra inspiration? “I like it because Kobe always finds ways to motivate himself and to keep those things in mind,” Lakers center Pau Gasol said after the Lakers’ 108-94 exhibition victory over the Utah Jazz, “so it kind of pushes him to push himself harder and be better.”