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Week At A Glance

Andre Khatchaturian —  December 28, 2013

Let’s not make any excuses for the Lakers.

We can. After all, they are missing three future Hall of Famers from their lineup. That said, they could have won two games this week and they blew it against Miami and Utah in the late stages of both games.

It’s easy to blame the fact that the Lakers are playing with numerous injuries. However, there are some coaching decisions that need to be brought to the forefront.

It shouldn’t take a Pau Gasol upper respiratory infection for Mike D’Antoni to finally give Chris Kaman some playing time. In a starter’s role against Utah, Kaman was phenomenal and arguably the best player on the floor for the Lakers.

In 30 minutes, Kaman scored 19 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, and blocked three shots. It’s also important to note that with Kaman on the floor, the Lakers are a far better defensive team than without him.

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Knowing this and the fact that Kaman was playing the best game of his season, it was stunning to see D’Antoni take out Kaman with just over a minute left in the loss against the Jazz in favor of Ryan Kelly and then later, Robert Sacre. Neither player had played much in the game, but for whatever reason, D’Antoni thought it would be wiser to have Sacre on the floor for the last possession.

Gordon Hayward of the Jazz easily drove past Sacre and set up a put back dunk for Derrick Favors in the dying seconds which gave Utah the win. It’s impossible to say whether anything would have been different with Kaman on the floor, but letting the man finish the game, especially when he’s been playing well, wouldn’t be such a bad idea.

At least we even saw Kaman in the Utah game. D’Antoni didn’t play him at all against an undersized Miami team. Game management toward the end of that game was questionable, too. With the Lakers down by five midway through the fourth, D’Antoni benched his two best players – statistically, at least – Jordan Hill and Jordan Farmar and the game slipped away from there.

Finally, in the Phoenix game on Monday, the Lakers were outrebounded 62-39. Of course, Hill only played 14 minutes that game. Another head scratching decision by the Lakers bench boss.

Speaking of Hill, he’s still only averaging just over 20 minutes per game. Why is this? Is he not conditioned? Does he get tired? Hogwash.

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As seen in the table above, Hill is just as effective when he gets minutes. He doesn’t get tired. He still scores, he still rebounds, and he’s still effective. In fact, in a win against the Pistons earlier this year, Hill played 36 minutes and scored 24 points and grabbed 17 rebounds. Hill should be starting and getting big minutes. There is no excuse as to why he shouldn’t be.

There were several positives from this week aside from Hill’s strong play. Farmar got minutes and after a rusty performance in his first game back from injury on Christmas, he produced in a big way in the loss against Utah, scoring 16 points, dishing out seven assists and getting three steals. Farmar has been showing potency on both sides of the ball this season. The Lakers have a 97.9 defensive rating when Farmar’s on the court.

Finally, Nick Young showed spurts of solid offensive play this week. He hasn’t been overly consistent. One day he’ll shoot 28 percent, the next night he’ll shoot 59 percent. That said, the ON/OFF numbers for Young are incredible. With him on the court, the Lakers have an offensive rating of 103.6. Without him, they’re just producing at an offensive rating of 96.5. At least, he’s getting minutes.

In short, the Lakers need to give Young, Kaman, Hill, and Farmar the minutes they deserve. There is no such thing as an easy win for the Lakers anymore, but they have a favorable home schedule this week as they play the Sixers, Bucks, and Jazz. Gasol should return this week and if D’Antoni keeps playing Kaman, Hill, and Farmar, the Lakers should be able to turn their fortunes around and inch closer to .500.

 

Week At A Glance

Andre Khatchaturian —  December 22, 2013

Kobe Bryant is out again and the Lakers will be missing him for the next six weeks. With him in the lineup, the Lakers were just 2-4. Without him, they’re 11-10. Because of this, the following question has emerged: Are the Lakers better without Kobe?

The answer to this is no. Let’s not overreact. The Lakers struggled with Kobe mostly because there was no chemistry and he was rusty. In his last game, he played a pivotal role in the Lakers road win over Memphis. He took a season high 18 shots and scored 21 points. He also had a season low four turnovers. The rust was coming off and he was taking more control of the offense, but then he got injured once more.

The Lakers went on to dominate the Timberwolves on Friday night at home mostly because of Nick Young’s three-point barrage and a vintage performance by Pau Gasol who scored 21 and grabbed 13 rebounds. They played energized without Kobe and it had many feeling that the team just flowed better without the Mamba.

However, in less than 24 hours reality hit the Lakers as they got blown out of the water by the Warriors. They shot 14 percent in the 3rd quarter. Granted, they were missing Pau, who was out with an upper respiratory infection, but having Kobe could’ve helped.

The fact of the matter is, although the Lakers have gelled to a certain extent without Kobe, they’re nothing more than a .500 team without him in the lineup. They did a great job in the first 19 games of the season keeping their heads above water and they’ll need to do it again for the next six weeks – a stretch that includes a grueling seven-game road trip in the east coast.

It will be possible. The people who say that the Lakers are better off without Kobe have all the statistics in the world to back up their claim.

The Lakers had a better Offensive Rating without Kobe in their first 19 games of the season (101.9) than with him in the lineup (100.1). Their Defensive Rating was also remarkably better without Kobe (102.8 vs. 108.6 with him). Finally, his On/Off numbers were atrocious in his brief comeback, too.

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There’s no doubt about it that the Lakers can win without Kobe. It also helps that 12 of their next 20 games are against Eastern Conference opponents. The Lakers are 5-3 against the East this season and their paltry 13-14 record would give them the top spot in the Atlantic Division and the fourth seed in the weak conference.

The Lakers could win games if they continue to receive consistently efficient output from Pau and Nick Young.

In his three games this week, Gasol shot 72 percent from the field, and averaged 19.3 points and 10.7 rebounds. Those are vintage Pau numbers. He’s shown moments of productivity throughout the season but he needs to be more consistent. The same goes for Young. He has emerged as the team’s leading scorer and he’s shooting over 40 percent from three point land in December.

It would be nice to see Jordan Hill get more playing time, too. He’s averaging under 20 minutes per game in December but he’s shooting 69 percent from the field and averaging 6.6 rebounds. He could get more playing time in favor of Wesley Johnson, who is averaging over 30 minutes per game in December, but has the lowest field goal percentage among Laker regulars this month (38.2 percent). His three-point percentage is even more atrocious at 25 percent.

Finally, let’s give a warm welcome back to the rotation to Chris Kaman. With Gasol out last game, he grabbed 17 rebounds. He also had a defensive rating of 86.9 in the blowout loss. He didn’t shoot well (5-of-17) but nobody did last night. Kaman has been healthy for awhile now and there’s no reason why he should be getting a “DNP – Coach’s Decision” next to his name every game. He deserves a chance to show the coaching staff what he could do.

The Lakers have a tough week ahead of them on Christmas week. They play the surprising Suns on the road tomorrow before the much anticipated home tilt against LeBron and the Heat on Christmas Day. Then, on Friday they’ll play the Jazz in Salt Lake, a place where the Lakers are 19-34 since 1986-87.

 

Giving Thanks at FB&G

Darius Soriano —  November 28, 2013

It is an interesting time to be a Lakers’ fan.

The team is no longer considered a contender and, by many, was not even seen as competitive heading into the season. The roster is both in flux and seeking stability, with Kobe Bryant’s recent contract extension balanced against a team full of guys on contracts that expire at the end of this season. The team across the hall is the one most think can can compete for a championship and, though the city remains a Lakers’ town, the sense that it is the Clippers’ time is very real.

Through all that, though, I can honestly say I am truly enjoying this season. This team doesn’t have the most talent, but they play together and they play hard. They may not always make the right decisions on the floor, but they support each other each and every step of the way and reinforce the idea that they cannot do it alone. On a roster full of players it seems either no one wanted or had serious doubts about, every night it seems a different player steps up to keep the Lakers in a game or be the difference in a win. To watch them celebrate each other’s success and do so without ego or complaint, it really is something. The fact that they’re .500 through 16 games without Kobe playing a single game is also something.

Today is supposed to be a day of giving thanks, so today I just wanted to say that I am, in fact, thankful for this team this year.

Coming into the campaign there were arguments about tanking vs. playing to win, trading vs. standing pat, and whether or not this team was really headed down the right path. When the games start, though, I think even the strongest advocates for wanting a high draft pick in June can say that they enjoy watching this team play and enjoy watching them win. And, really, that’s what being a fan is all about. It won’t always be pretty and there will be plenty of disappointments along the way, but when the ball is thrown up for that opening tip, I really don’t know one fan who is only invested in seeing the team lose and wanting to see the guys they root for fail.

I don’t know where this team is headed over the rest of the season. I don’t know when Kobe will come back or how well he will play when he does. I don’t know if Pau Gasol will end the season wearing a Lakers’ uniform or if he’ll be able to continue his recent trend upward and maintain his trajectory of positive play. I don’t know if Nash will ever be even close to the same player he was when he came to the Lakers, whether Jordan Farmar will find his way onto the floor for more than 20 minutes a night consistently, or if Nick Young will continue to try to put on a show every time he touches the ball (actually, that one I do know).

What I do know, however, is that I’ll be watching and rooting for the best outcome. I’ll also be thankful I have the opportunity to do so while running a site with such great contributors — a site that allows me to talk about the team I root for with other people who care as much as me. We may not always agree, but that’s part of the fun. So, on that note, enjoy your holiday (if it is a holiday for you) and thank you for your support by reading and visiting. Whether that’s once a day or once a year, I appreciate it.

A lot of the things that have hurt the Lakers on the road this season came back to haunt them tonight in their 116-111 loss to the Washington Wizards. The Lakers hoped that they could carry their three-game winning streak into Washington and use that momentum to get their second road victory of the season. Unfortunately that didn’t happen. They are now 7-8 on the season, and will head to Brooklyn tomorrow to take on the Nets on the second night of a back-to-back.

In looking at tonights loss, there are a few things that stood out:

Turnovers

The Lakers never made it a priority of theirs to take care of the ball in this game, turning the ball over 16 times and giving up 28 points off of those giveaways. Not sure if what was more so the Wizards defense, or the Lakers carelessness, but nevertheless it still contributed the most to this loss. While Pau Gasol did have a solid all-around game, he led the Lakers in turnovers with five.

Defense

As soon as the Lakers started getting some credit for their growth on the defensive end, they took a step back and reverted back to the old habits that have held them in losses this season. The Wizards are not a great shooting team, at all, and the Lakers allowed them shoot above 50% from the field. They dominated the glass, got out in transition, and found a way to get easy buckets throughout the entire game.

Multiple Efforts & Energy

The Wizards were the hungrier team tonight. They made the multiple efforts that were necessary to get a victory. As for the Lakers, they seemed relaxed, and that didn’t translate well on the court at all. The Wizards went after most loose balls, and somehow found a way to make the plays that were necessary to get the win, the Lakers didn’t.

Despite all of this, the Lakers still had a chance to win the game in the final minutes of the 4th quarter. Tonight’s loss should be a lesson. They can’t expect to win if they don’t put forth the consistent effort to execute well on both ends of the floor. Tomorrow in Brooklyn they’ll have another chance at it, let’s see how they do.

In the wake of the depressing news that Derrick Rose will miss the remainder of the season, the Lakers announced via Twitter that the team and Kobe Bryant have agreed on a 2-year contract extension that will keep Bryant in L.A. through the 2015-2016 season.

The extension likely ensures that Kobe will finish his career as a Laker-the 2015-2016 season will be Kobe’s 20th in the league.

ESPN’s Chris Broussard is reporting that the deal is worth $48 million, which means that Kobe will remain the highest paid player in the NBA.

We’ll have more details/analysis of the deal when more information becomes available. Personally, I’m ecstatic that Kobe will play his entire career in purple (blue) and gold, but this contract may be a bit steep for a 35 year old coming off achilles surgery.