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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.

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.

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.

Earlier, I wrote a piece encouraging Nick Young to leave his ego at the door for the betterment of the team. In order to cash in on his talent, I reasoned, Young needed to evolve from the shameless gunner he’s been throughout his NBA career in order to fit Mike D’Antoni’s run and gun style that relies heavily on fluid ball movement.

And while its an unfathomably small sample size, Nick Young has shown no signs of taking my advice. He’s been the same quick-triggered, overconfident gunner that he’s always been. In the home opener vs. the Clippers, Young had a classic Nick Young game-he crossovered and step-backed his way to 13 points on 3-10 shooting with a grand total of 0 assists. The performance looked pretty, sure, but that’s about it; TNT cut to Kobe shaking his head in disgust after Young missed one of the many contested jumpers he seems to shoot each and ever game.

In his next two starts, Young combined to score 12 points on 3-12 shooting and did so in similar shameless fashion. It almost seems at times that Young cares more about how cool he looks playing basketball than how well he’s doing it. Nick Young accomplished something in only three games that I previously thought impossible: he managed to be benched by Mike D’Antoni for shooting too much! I could sit here and tear the man apart, but Kobe–as Kobe always seems to do–hit the nail on the head as to how Laker fans felt about Nick Young’s start better than I ever could have with this legendary death stare.

After D’Antoni benched Young in favor of Xavier Henry, something curious happened. In the first half of his first game off the bench against the Hawks, Young had three assists. I’m not even one bit joking when I pose the question, was that his career high for assists in a half? His strong play carried over to the second half, and Young looked like a much more willing passer than he had in the previous three games.

In tonight’s game against the Mavericks, Young was a bright spot, scoring a team-high 21 points on an efficient 8-12 shooting. I’ve always thought Young was more fit to come off the bench- he’s simply too one-dimensional to start on an NBA team with hopes of making the playoffs. Young’s more fit to be an instant-offense sixth man, a change of pace guy who can create his own shot and light it up against second units across the league.

We knew coming into the season that someone would have to fill Kobe’s void in the starting lineup and do all that they can to try and make up for Kobe’s scoring production. It seems that Xavier Henry is more suited to be the player who starts while giving the team an aggressiveness it needs, while Young gives the team that scoring punch I hoped he’d give while starting but in a bench role instead. This Laker rotation is a work in progress, for sure- MDA’s been playing with different lineups and substitution patterns (still not enough Jordan Hill…)–but one thing seems clear: Nick Young will be this team’s sixth man, and a good one at that.

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.