Philadelphia 76ers vs Los Angeles Lakers

Sun Mar 22, 9:30 PM EST – TWSN, CSNP

Line: LAL -4.5, O/U: 195.0

Staples Center – Los Angeles, CA

Recent Matchups

Ranks

  • 94.4 ORTG (30)
  • 104 DRTG (11)
  • 95.9 Pace (6)
  • 73.6 DRB% (22)
  • 0.493 TS% (30)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • Tony Wroten 16.9 ppg
  • Thomas Robinson 8.4 rpg
  • Michael Carter-Williams 7.4 apg
  • Nerlens Noel 1.9 bpg
  • Nerlens Noel 1.8 spg

Ranks

  • 103.4 ORTG (23)
  • 109.8 DRTG (28)
  • 94.2 Pace (12)
  • 76 DRB% (8)
  • 0.512 TS% (25)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • Kobe Bryant 22.3 ppg
  • Jordan Hill 8 rpg
  • Kobe Bryant 5.6 apg
  • Ed Davis 1.3 bpg
  • Ronnie Price 1.6 spg

How much is the Lakers’ 2015 draft pick worth? Who wants to lose more? These two questions are tied together today as the Lakers play the 76ers in a direct battle of organizations who really are fighting for the same thing. If you need a recap, here you go:

  • The Lakers 2015 draft pick is top 5 protected due to the trade with the Suns that netted them Steve Nash.
  • In a trade deadline deal between the Bucks, 76ers, and Suns, three point guards changed teams. Brandon Knight went from Milwaukee to Phoenix, Michael Carter Williams went from Philly to Milwaukee, and Isaiah Thomas went from Phoenix to Philly.
  • Included in the package that went to Philly from the Suns was the Lakers’ top-5 protected pick. The 76ers subsequently traded Thomas to the Celtics for more draft picks.

So, the Suns no longer own the Lakers’ protected pick — the 76ers do. At the time of the trade, the Suns’ front office said they did not feel the Lakers would convey the pick this year and that it was much more likely it would be conveyed next summer. That lessened the value of the pick (in their eyes) and made it a more tradable asset.

It seems, however, that the 76ers think differently. And today, they play in Los Angeles with a chance to help reinforce that thought process through direct competition. So, I ask again, which team wants to lose more and how much is the Lakers’ 2015 draft pick worth? Both teams on the floor have a vested interest in this asset and we shall see how, if at all, it affects the game on the floor.

A peak at the standings tells us that both the Lakers and 76ers have 17 wins. The 76ers have 52 losses and the Lakers have 50. This leaves the 76ers with the 3rd worst record in the league and the Lakers the 4th worst. Should the Lakers lose this game, however, Philly will leapfrog them for the 4th worst record with the Lakers moving “up” to the 3rd worst. For those scoring at home, the Lakers’ odds of keeping their draft pick this June go up from roughly a 50/50 83% chance to about an 80% 96% chance of retaining their pick if they close the season with the 3rd worst record rather than the 4th worst. In other words, today’s game against the 76ers (and the 2nd time they face off before the end of the season) are sort of a big deal when it comes to the lottery race.

Do I expect the players to openly play poorly or not hard? No, I do not. Do I think we might see some questionable rotations from both coaches or guys get longer stretches on the floor/key minutes who normally might not? Maybe. I don’t think either team’s decision makers will gun for a loss, but I’d be lying if I said I thought neither side were aware of the things I typed above. I can almost say for certain that Philly does.

In any event, this is the backdrop to today’s game. Yes, there are some interesting match ups on the floor — namely I’m interested in seeing Philly rookie big man Nerlens Noel match up against the Lakers’ front line — but the more interesting thing will be to me the ramifications of this game on what happens off the floor come the lottery drawing in the lead up to the June draft. This game just means too much from that angle to ignore. No matter what either team says.

Where you can watch: 6:30pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen at ESPN Radio 710AM Los Angeles.

Many Lakers’ fans (or maybe they’re a very vocal subset) would just as soon forget Steve Nash’s entire tenure as a Laker. After all, over his three year contract, he was only really fully healthy for a single game. After breaking his leg in his second regular season game, and then having his recovery and rehab continuously lose out to setbacks, we never got to see what he could really offer. As I have written, fans (and, to a certain extent his teammates and the organization) have a right to feel frustrated about that. Not as frustrated as Nash, but that’s a different story for a different day.

Those days are in the past, though. Just as, it seems, Nash’s pursuit of ever playing in the NBA again is in the past. Today Steve Nash announced his retirement via a self penned column at The Player’s Tribune:

I’m retiring.

I heard someone once say there comes a day when they tell us all that we can’t play anymore. We’re not good enough. Surplus to requirements. Too slow, maybe. When you’re a teenager with outsized dreams and a growing obsession, and someone tells you this ain’t gonna last forever, it’s scary. I never forgot it.

So what did I do? Stayed obsessed. Set goals. Worked. Dreamed. Schemed. Pushed myself beyond what was normal or expected. I looked at my hero, Isiah Thomas, and thought to myself, “OK, I’m nowhere near the player he is but if I get better every day for 5 or 10 years, why can’t I be as good as him?”

The greatest gift has been to be completely immersed in my passion and striving for something I loved so much — visualizing a ladder, climbing up to my heroes. The obsession became my best friend. I talked to her, cherished her, fought with her and got knocked on my ass by her.

And that is what I’m most thankful for in my career. In my entire life, in some ways. Obviously, I value my kids and my family more than the game, but in some ways having this friend — this ever-present pursuit — has made me who I am, taught me and tested me, and given me a mission that feels irreplaceable. I am so thankful. I’ve learned so many invaluable lessons about myself and about life. And of course I still have so much to learn. Another incredible gift.

Nash went on to thank many of the people who helped him along the way, fittingly deflecting and giving credit to those around him just as he did all those years with the Suns and the Mavs. As for his time with the Lakers, Nash briefly touched on that part of his career too:

When I signed with the Lakers, I had big dreams of lifting the fans up and lighting this city on fire. I turned down more lucrative offers to come to L.A. because I wanted to be in the “fire,” and play for high risk and high reward in my last NBA chapter. In my second game here, I broke my leg and nothing was the same.

Last spring, when I returned to the court, I was given a standing ovation at Staples Center. It was a dark time in my career and that gesture will be one of my best memories. There’s been a lot of negativity online, but in my nearly three years in L.A., I’ve never met anyone who didn’t show me anything but love and support for my efforts. There’s a lot of class in Lakerland, and the organization and staff have given me unwavering support.

As I noted on twitter, That 2013 season will always be a huge what if for me. What if Nash never breaks his leg, what if Dwight didn’t return so early in the season, what if Kobe doesn’t play that insane number of minutes down the stretch of the season, what if, what if…

Of course, we can’t play that game. What happened, happened. And in the wake of all that is the team we see in front of us now. I will never blame Nash for any of that, though. What happened to him — and as part of the domino effect, the team — was unfortunate. But he’s not to blame. In a way, no one really is. There was always risk in acquiring him, but what has played out over the last three years is the worst case scenario for his time here. I’m sure as hell happy I’m not judged as a person based off the worst version of myself.

In any event, best of luck to Nash in his post basketball life. Things may not have worked out with the Lakers, but he had a great career and he was always one of my favorite players to watch. I will miss him.

Utah Jazz vs Los Angeles Lakers

Thu Mar 19, 10:30 PM EST – ROOT, TWSN

Line: UTA -4.5, O/U: 183.0

Staples Center – Los Angeles, CA

Recent Matchups

Ranks

  • 105.4 ORTG (15)
  • 105.5 DRTG (15)
  • 90.1 Pace (30)
  • 76 DRB% (8)
  • 0.532 TS% (17)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • Gordon Hayward 19.7 ppg
  • Rudy Gobert 8.9 rpg
  • Trey Burke 4.4 apg
  • Rudy Gobert 2.3 bpg
  • Chris Johnson 1.5 spg

Ranks

  • 103.7 ORTG (21)
  • 110 DRTG (28)
  • 94.3 Pace (12)
  • 75.8 DRB% (10)
  • 0.513 TS% (25)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • Kobe Bryant 22.3 ppg
  • Jordan Hill 8 rpg
  • Kobe Bryant 5.6 apg
  • Ed Davis 1.3 bpg
  • Ronnie Price 1.6 spg

There was a point in time, maybe earlier this season, for sure last season, that you’d have looked at the Jazz then looked at the Lakers and not seen much difference. Yes, the Jazz had “potential” in the wings with some of their young players, but a combination of poor coaching and what seemed to be the unfulfilled promise of some of those young players it seemed they would be perpetually in the lottery where they could simply collect another young player to add to their collection. The Lakers, meanwhile, were/are in their downturn with less players who had the p-word attached to their trajectory, but similarly lacking in an ability to win games.

The difference today, however, is that the Lakers’ downturn is still very much a real thing and the Jazz have begun to cash in on that potential and turned it into tangible progress. Credit a lot of factors — the maturity of the players, a young big (Rudy Gobert) proving to be a steal of his draft class, Quin Snyder proving to be the right leader to steward this group of guys — but the fact is that this team has taken a step forward this season. They have won 11 of their 14 games since the all-star break and showing that they will be a team to be reckoned with — if they aren’t already — if they continue on this path.

The backdrop for this game, then, is a lot about what one team who is starting to turn the corner after an especially long bend and a team who hopes to do the same. Only, you know, a lot faster. This, of course, has been one of the themes of the season — something that will happen in a league full of teams who have set a desirable foundation while your team is still drawing up the blueprints.

As for the action on the floor, these teams have squared off several times this year to this point so the game will likely go as the others have. The Jazz have the best player on either team (Gordon Hayward) and enough talent on their front line in Derrick Favors and Gobert to neutralize the Lakers’ best positional strength. For those still rooting for Lakers’ wins, the hope would be that the team’s quality depth and 2nd unit can outdue their Jazz counterparts to the point that the game is interesting in the 4th quarter and down the stretch where, in this league, anything can happen. After all, the Jazz, for all their strides, are still a young team who can make mistakes in games that are close late.

Of course, for those of you who want the Lakers to not win, you probably won’t have to hope too hard. You can likely skim the game and tune into the NCAA tourney to dream about the next prospect who can, hopefully, help build the type of foundation the Jazz have already started to form.

Where you can watch: 7:30pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen at ESPN Radio 710AM Los Angeles.

Los Angeles Lakers vs Golden State Warriors

Mon Mar 16, 10:30 PM EST – CSBy, TWSN

Line: GS -18.0, O/U: 208.0

ORACLE Arena – Oakland, CA

Recent Matchups

Ranks

  • 103.6 ORTG (22)
  • 110.1 DRTG (28)
  • 94.2 Pace (12)
  • 75.7 DRB% (9)
  • 0.513 TS% (25)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • Kobe Bryant 22.3 ppg
  • Jordan Hill 8 rpg
  • Kobe Bryant 5.6 apg
  • Ed Davis 1.3 bpg
  • Ronnie Price 1.6 spg

Ranks

  • 111.1 ORTG (3)
  • 100.7 DRTG (1)
  • 98.4 Pace (1)
  • 73.8 DRB% (20)
  • 0.571 TS% (1)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • Stephen Curry 23.6 ppg
  • Draymond Green 8.2 rpg
  • Stephen Curry 7.8 apg
  • Andrew Bogut 1.7 bpg
  • Stephen Curry 2.2 spg

Based on opponent’s record, the Lakers are on the 2nd night of the most difficult back to back in the league. It’s not just that the Hawks — who, even though they rested three starters beat the Lakers fairly easily — and the Warriors have their respective conference’s best records, they have the two best records in the entire league.

If you were hoping for some reprieve tonight, like the Hawks “provided” in the form of rested starters I have some bad news for you. While the Warriors rested half their rotation against the Nuggets on Friday, they played their full squad against the Knicks and, since this is a home game, will likely do the same tonight against the Lakers.

In other words…

And I don’t mean for the Warriors. With that, I don’t need to go on and on, here. So, instead, a couple of personnel related storylines heading into tonight:

  • Byron Scott is adjusting his starting lineup again — inserting Jeremy Lin for rookie Jordan Clarkson. It’s not that Clarkson has played poorly (though he has run into a wall with his shooting the last few games), but more that Lin has played very well since coming back from the all-star break. Maybe it was not being traded or maybe he’s “thinking less” as his coach would say. Or, maybe, he’s just having a nice streak that is assisted by him running more P&R. Fact is, he deserves some extra burn and it’s worth exploring if he can play at this same level when going up against team’s starters.
  • Nick Young’s knee is still bothering him so he will receive a CT scan to see if more can be determined about the swelling that won’t subside. Depending on what is (or is not) found, Young may not play for the rest of the year.
  • With Young out the Lakers called up guard Jabari Brown from their D-League affiliate, the D-Fenders. Brown played on the Lakers summer league team and also had a camp invite before being one of the final cuts when the regular season roster was finalized. Brown signed a 10-day contract and will get his last game before the contract is up tonight. Add to that the fact Brown is from Oakland and it’s a big game for the rookie who will be looking to play well in front of friends and family while also hoping to catch on for a 2nd 10-day contract.

Where you can watch: 7:30pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM Los Angeles.

Atlanta Hawks vs Los Angeles Lakers

Sun Mar 15, 9:30 PM EST – FSSO, TWSN, SPSO

Line: ATL -9.5, O/U: 198.0

Staples Center – Los Angeles, CA

Recent Matchups

Ranks

  • 109.1 ORTG (6)
  • 102.5 DRTG (6)
  • 93.9 Pace (15)
  • 73.3 DRB% (23)
  • 0.566 TS% (2)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • Paul Millsap 16.9 ppg
  • Paul Millsap 7.9 rpg
  • Jeff Teague 7.2 apg
  • Al Horford 1.3 bpg
  • Paul Millsap 1.8 spg

Ranks

  • 103.8 ORTG (22)
  • 110.2 DRTG (28)
  • 94.3 Pace (11)
  • 75.5 DRB% (10)
  • 0.513 TS% (25)

Latest Results

Leaders

  • Kobe Bryant 22.3 ppg
  • Jordan Hill 7.9 rpg
  • Kobe Bryant 5.6 apg
  • Ed Davis 1.3 bpg
  • Ronnie Price 1.6 spg

It was way back on November 18th that the Lakers played the Hawks the first time this season. It was the team’s 11th and 10th games of the year respectively. The Lakers won that game (and their next one, the following night against the Rockets!) to bring their record to 2-9. Meanwhile, the Hawks fell to 5-5 after the defeat.

I bring all this up because what’s happened since that point is pretty remarkable, at least from the Hawks side. After falling to the Lakers, the Hawks have gone on to win 46 games while only losing 9. Read that again. After dropping a mid-November game to the Lakers, the Hawks essentially turned into a top-two team in the league (right there with the Warriors), dismantling every team that crossed their pass via a clockwork offense and a versatile and malleable defense. They play smart, play as a team, and punish your mistakes on both ends of the floor my making the right play as consistently as any team you’ll watch.

The Lakers, meanwhile, have won 15 more times since that game.  Looking back at this season, those back to back wins against the Hawks and the Rockets may turn out to be the most WTF consecutive days of the team’s campaign. Not much has gone right since that point, that is for sure.

As for tonight, it’s tough to know what the Lakers will play like. In their last game, they came out and laid an impressively large egg against the horrid Knicks. New York came into Staples as the worst team in the league — playing a bunch of guys who you probably never heard of — and controlled the entire contest from nearly start to finish. The Lakers were never able to get over the hump and pretty much just folded their tents in the 2nd half and lost going away. This effort, however, came on the heels of the team playing some solid ball since the all-star break (note, by “solid” I don’t mean “winning”) keeping it close nightly against some pretty strong teams.

In saying that, I do not expect the Lakers to win, but I’d be lying if I said I knew for sure this game would go any specific way. The Hawks are good and smart enough to take advantage of every edge the Lakers give them, burying them in the process. I can envision quick, pointed ball movement leading to open shots at the rim and behind the arc to go along with disciplined defensive rotations that snuff out the Lakers’ attack. I could also envision the Lakers big men matching up well with the Hawks’ front line, Clarkson staying with Teague enough to make his life a little bitter harder, and them hitting enough three pointers and working the offensive glass enough to keep the game close.

Neither would surprise me in the slightest. The Lakers are that strange a team and while the Hawks’ deliberate style and superior talent and coaching will most likely win out in the end, the details that happen over the course of the contest are much less predictable. You’ll just have to watch to find out.

Where you can watch: 6:30pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM Los Angeles.