Records: Lakers 9-40, Last in the West; Hornets 22-25, 10th in the East
Offensive ratings: Lakers 96.9, 29th in NBA; Hornets 102.6, 15th in the NBA
Defensive ratings: Lakers 108.4, Last in the NBA; Hornets 102.5, (T) 13th in the NBA
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Clarkson, Williams, Anthony Brown, Randle, Hibbert
Hornets: Kemba, PJ Hairston, MKG, Marvin’s Room, Spencer Hawes

The Lakers Coming in: The Lakers have now lost 9 games in a row or, said another way, have managed to lose as many games in a row as they have won all season. The 9 game streak is the 2nd longest in team history, but a loss tonight would tie that record. If you’re wondering the last time the team lost 9 games straight it was…last season. So, yeah, Byron Scott holds a couple of dubious distinctions in the form of consecutive losses (both for the Lakers and the NBA) and can add to his legend tonight.

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The Lakers, after a deflating and bad loss against the Bulls on Thursday, are back in action on Friday against the Clippers. The loss against the Bulls was the Lakers 8th straight, their longest of the season, and only enhanced the struggles the team has been dealing with lately.

After the game Byron Scott railed on his team, questioning how important the game was to some of his players, again noted that his team did not come out ready to play, and threatened making lineup changes (again) to find players who would compete each night.

I’d go off on some long rant right now on how these comments can, by some, be interpreted as another deflection by the coach; that when your team isn’t ready to play, it reflects as much on the guy in charge (if not more) as it does on the players; that the next time this coach takes some ownership over his team’s struggles to “compete” it will be the first (second, maybe?), but I won’t write more than that single sentence. Why bother.

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On D’Angelo Russell…

Darius Soriano —  January 29, 2016 — 21 Comments

I have many thoughts about D’Angelo Russell. Most of them good, some of them concerning, all of them pitted against the backdrop of his age, the direction the league is headed, and his current position on this specific version of the Lakers.

That’s a mouthful, I know.

In a shade under 4 weeks, Russell will turn 20 years old. In NBA years, he is a baby. And while he possesses a polished game, it sometimes only takes a light wipe to pull away some of that veneer and see all that he currently is not. And when playing for an organization that is not used to the types of lows currently experienced and in an era of instant gratification/reward seeking, the breaking down of what Russell isn’t has become a favorite pastime for some.

I am not completely exempt from this. I look at Russell and have concerns. He has a laid back demeanor that can, visually, influence how hard I think he’s playing — especially defensively. There are some bad habits I see nightly. Not running back hard on defense. Not defending with assertiveness. Relaxed hands when guarding on the ball. Lack of effort to fight on the glass when switching in the P&R. Not enough…well, effort. I see it.

Then I reflect. These are flaws, but they seem to be habits that can be broken. I watch guards who came into the league young and see where they are now and understand that the things I don’t like now are things which can be learned and executed as a career advances. I remember that he’s not yet even 20 and I know through good teaching and a want to be better, improvement comes over time. That doesn’t just apply to basketball.

I also see all the good in this kid’s game. All that skill. The ball handling — which could be tighter, but is still excellent. The shot making and pure stroke. The feel for passing and how defenses move. The ability to not only see the pass, but execute it on time and on target. The desire to lead. The recognition of the moment and the visual uptick in wanting to do more in games that are tight, late. And then I remember that he’s not yet even 20 and that through good teaching and a want to be better, improvement comes over time. And that, in this case, it does apply to basketball.

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Records: Lakers 9-38, Last in the West; 25-19, 4th in the East
Offensive ratings: Lakers 97.1, 29th in NBA; Bulls 100.7, 26th in the NBA
Defensive ratings: Lakers 108.3, Last in the NBA; Bulls 100.3, 8th in the NBA
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Clarkson, Williams, Kobe, Randle, Hibbert
Bulls: Rose, Butler, Tony Snell, Taj Gibson, Pau

The Lakers Coming in: The Lakers have lost 7 games in a row, tied for their longest losing streak of the season. Their recent games have offered some glimmers of hope for a win, but the team has either not been able to close (Dallas) or been outclassed by much superior opponents in the 4th quarter (San Antonio). These aren’t new themes, but for a team which consistently finds ways to drop games, it is impressive in its own sad and frustration inducing ways.

Beyond the losses, I don’t have much to say about this team. Recent news is that Jordan Clarkson and D’Angelo Russell were chosen to play in the Rising Stars game on All-Star weekend while teammate Julius Randle was not. I actually think Randle was deserving, but the format of the game — USA vs. the World — and the fact that two players who will play internationally for other countries (Karl Anthony-Towns plays for the Dominican Republic and Jordan Clarkson will likely play for the Philippines this summer) are on the USA team means deserving American players didn’t make the cut. Randle is one such guy.

I’d get upset about this — and I’m sure Randle sees this as another reason to play with a chip on his shoulder — but with the longer All-Star break and the game being in Toronto, I might just enjoy a vacation on the beach rather than trudging around in freezing temperatures. I get that Randle is a young player who would (probably) appreciate the recognition, but some time off the refresh never hurt anybody. Or maybe I’m just old.

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The Lakers are back in business tonight, facing off against the Mavericks for the final time of the season. This, of course, means this will be the last time Kobe Bryant faces off against Dirk Nowitzki in an NBA Basketball game. Actually, unless they meet up at the local Y, it will be the last time they face off ever since Kobe has pulled his name out of contention for the 2016 Olympic Team and Dirk has retired from the German National team.

Tonight, then, really should be a bit of a celebration. Well, at least for me it will be. Dirk has always been one of my favorite players. Recently, Kevin Durant called Kristaps Porzingis a “unicorn” because of his varied skill set at a guy his size. Dirk, though, was the original unicorn — a 7-footer with unlimited range on his jumper — and the player who paved the way for players like Porzingis to make it to the NBA and be drafted as high as he was.

So Dirk, like Kobe, is somewhat of a pioneer. The fact that this will be the last time they play means something to me and I’ll try to reflect on that and appreciate the moment while it’s happening.

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Happy Monday, everybody. Here are some of the best Lakers-centric reads from around the web:

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The Lakers lost their 6th straight game and second in two nights on Saturday, falling to the Blazers 121-103 in Portland. While there were couple of good individual performances on offense, the team, as a whole, played poorly on both sides of the floor. This isn’t new for a team which ranked 29th and 30th (last) in the league in offensive and defensive efficiency, respectively, heading into the contest.

What was new, however, was that Kobe Bryant took a break from the feel-good vibes of his retirement farewell tour to reportedly voice his displeasure about the loss and the team’s poor defense to his teammates during and after the game. Mark Medina of the LA Daily News has the report:

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I am keeping this short and sweet today since, like the Lakers, I am on the road (and short for time because of my travels). The Lakers visit Portland tonight in a game which will be Kobe’s last game in the Rose Garden (I know it’s the Moda Center now, but I don’t call it that). These “last game in city X” are always a bit tricky to navigate for Kobe and the rest of the team and I expect tonight to be no different.

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