Happy Monday, everybody. Here are this week’s top Laker-centric reads, news and notes from around the web:
If there were ever a team to make the Lakers’ current situation seem enviable, it would be tonight’s opponent in the Phoenix Suns. In the past two weeks alone head coach Jeff Hornacek has been rumored to be in danger of losing his job, he then saw two of his top assistants fired, his starting point guard and best player, Eric Bledsoe, suffer a season-ending knee injury, and trade rumors begin to resurface around a disgruntled Markieff Morris.
And now, a team who spent much of last season fighting for the Western Conference’s eighth seed, sits at a paltry 12-24, a spot where fighting for draft position would seem a much more reasonable goal.
First of all, happy new year to all of you. I’ve said this before, but those of you who come to this site for Lakers’ information and analysis, contribute in the comments, and generally support our efforts are what make me running this site rewarding. For your support — be it continued or new — I thank you all.
As for today’s game, the Lakers are back in Los Angeles after a three game road trip which saw them go 1-2. Losses to the Grizzlies and Hornets were almost all but forgotten, however, after that win against the Celtics in the trip’s final game. That win has the potential to spark a little run of wins, too, as the Lakers enter a (somewhat) friendly part of their schedule. After playing the 76ers today, they play the free-falling Suns (who just lost Eric Bledsoe for the season), and have 6 of their next 7 games at home.
As I wrote in my game preview, games against the Celtics just mean more. We know the Lakers aren’t a good team and that the Celtics are battling for a playoff spot in the newly rejuvenated East, but that just makes the prospect of getting a W that much more enticing. So, to see the Lakers play one of their better games of the year and pull out the victory was sweet.
To see them do it in Kobe’s last visit to Boston was even sweeter.
Any time the Lakers play the Celtics, it is a big deal. The teams can be awful — and in the last 20 years, there have been plenty of match ups where one or both were not of good quality — and the game will still matter to fans and, more importantly, the players.
This, from head trainer Gary Vitti sums up the sentiment well:
Twelve games ago Byron Scott decided he wanted to shake up his starting lineup. The move was a controversial one as he demoted Julius Randle and D’Angelo Russell — the two players most considered cornerstones of the team’s rebuild and future — from the ranks of the starters to reserves. The young players have said all the right things, but when pressed have expressed a desire to start (at least Russell has – Randle has taken the “control what you can control” approach with the media).
With the change now 12 games deep and exactly three weeks old, now is as good a time as any to take stock and look at some of the numbers and trends which have emerged since the switch. Please note that while Randle has been a reserve for all 12 games, he has missed a contest with a sore ankle and that Russell did start two of the 12 contests while Jordan Clarkson sat out with his own ankle issue.
With that, let’s dig into some numbers:
My apologies, but this game preview won’t be a game preview at all. Logistically, the Lakers face the Hornets on Monday, the second night of a back to back after playing in Memphis on Sunday night. But the game ahead, really, is just the scheduled event. It makes little sense to me to write about that game when this team has little chance to win that game.
In reality, this team has little chance of winning any game they play. That sounds harsh, I know. But, in reality, this is where we are with the Lakers.