Getting back into the groove

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To any of you who were wondering, “Hey, where did this guy with the insightful and engaging blogs about the Lakers go?” Not to worry, after a brief hiatus (ok, maybe not so brief) I am back. Ok but delusions aside, man it’s been a while since I posted and as the playoff picture is slowing being completed, I wanted to hammer out some thoughts regarding the ever enigmatic Lake Show.

It was great to see them get back into the thick of things as the Jazz have suddenly been overcome by their utter fear of claiming a victory. As of this writing, the Lakers sit in the 8th spot, sporting a record of 36-34. Seeing people celebrate the fact that the Lakers had surpassed the mediocre mountain of .500 made me do a double take. Wait, the Clippers are 4th while the Lakers are 8th? Oh yea. it’s 2013. Maybe the world did end and my lifeless body is just continuing my work, oblivious to the fact that everything around it is just a figment of my imagination. Man, I think I saw Matrix one too many times. Damn you, woman in the red dress.

Great to see Dwight finally buy into the team and put a halt to his immature antics that had players, coach, and fans alike fuming at the Dwightmare 2.0 that was slowly building steam. He is showing exactly why he is the top big man in the league bar none, averaging 17, 15, and 2.6. That will certainly get the job done. Unfortunately, he is also averaging over 4 fouls a game to accompany his perennially dismal free throw %. As the sole guardian of the rim, once he steps out it becomes that much harder to stop penetration as the perimeter defense of the Lakers has never been one of their fortes. Sure, I’ll give Metta some credit but I think his defensive prowess gets overshadowed by his atrocious shot selection.

As I watched a Laker squad sans Kobe and Gasol secure a big win on the road against a very formidable Pacer team, I started to feel my blood boiling. I thought to myself, “Hey, this team has really turned a corner.” Then to my dismay, the Lakers drop two straight to Phoenix and Washington. The Suns completely outworked a visibly exhausted Laker team, and thought they were out of the gates guns blazing en route to a 18 points lead, somehow they ended up dropping a give me to the Wiz. It’s certainly not good when former Laker Trevor Ariza drops 25 on you, not to say he’s a scrub by any means.

It was great to see Kobe return from that nasty ankle sprain, and I know I”m not alone when I say I can’t wait to see how the coiled up Mamba will strike at Dante Jones the next time the two face off. It was certainly a hot topic, but I still side with those who believe it was a Bruce Bowen play. If you prefer, you can also throw in Jalen Rose into the equation but I digress. As much hate as Pau gets and I know I’ve given him some, I was still quite pleased to see his return to the court. When the Spaniard has it going, he’s as versatile a post player as you’ll see in the league today.

Finally, Blake is starting to play like the player I envisioned when we first signed him. It’s obvious that his confidence is sky high, as he is actively looking for his own shot now which is great news for the bench. A pumped up Blake can do some damage, as evidenced by his averages of 15 and 5 over the last three games. If its all about the money to some, it’s all about the minutes to others. Jamison has also risen to the challenge, showing just how effective he can be. It remains to be seen how the rotation will be managed with the return of Pau, but for now it looks like Earl Clark is the biggest loser in the deal. That’s unfortunately, as he was playing some major ball with Dwight out. Speaking of hustle, Jordan Hill supposedly could make a return late April. However, his conditioning will obviously be a mess and I don’t expect much from him even if he suits up. Still, that’s great news that his recovery is going well. People forget just how good this guy was in the lineup.

The way things are looking now, it appears as though the Lakers will open up the postseason in the unenviable position of meeting either the Spurs or Thunder. As me and my buddy Inwoo realized, this could be a boon in disguise. It obviously won’t be a walk in the park, but if the Lakers can somehow knock off one of the two the path towards the title widens and more importantly, they can secure some much needed confidence for a team that sometimes plays like they have never heard of the word before.

Anyways, those are just some of the random thoughts I had regarding what I’ve seen of the Lakers so far. I like how D’Antoni blasted the players after the two consecutive losses against the Suns and Wizards. I still don’t relish him as the coach, but at this point what else can you do but try to root him on. Even if he makes some questionable decisions at times.

Oh yea one last note. Holy hell, 26 wins in a row. I don’t think anyone could have imagined a team surpassing the legendary mark of 33 straight by the 1971 Lakers who nearly eclipsed 70 wins. Not to mention the Nuggets who have managed to launch an impressive 15 game win streak of their own. It’ll be interesting to see just how long the Heat can make bball fans everywhere hold their breath in anticipation, and though I’m not a fan Lebron James is playing at a godly level that was last exhibited by some dude who dunked from the free throw line with his tongue hanging out. I would love to see Lebron and Durant clash in the playoffs, that is if they get by the Lakers. Call me delusional if you want, but the Lakers will make some serious noise come April. Bank on it.

-DK

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A Fresh Start for the Lake Show

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Hey gang, just want to open up with a quick Happy New year shout out to all of you out there. To those of you waking up with a hangover from hell from last night’s festivities and wishing the world would end, relax. The Mayans were wrong and there is a lot of NBA action to look forward to, not to mention whatever 2013 has in store for us. Before I start jotting down my thoughts regarding the recent performances of the Lakers, I would like to be the first to admit that I’m eating crow. Seriously.

If anyone had told me the Clippers would be sporting the best record in the NBA at 25-6 in the midst of an incredible 17 game win streak, I would have laughed in their face. I think a lot of people are standing in the dumbfounded line along with me with our jaws dropping to the floor. Who would have thought the words fun and 17 game win streak would be associated with the Clippers, but wow they have an incredible team. There are a lot of Laker fans who enjoyed bashing the Clippers when they were down, and now that they’ve taken the NBA by storm express nothing but jealousy at the newly invigorated cross town rivals. I’m not a hater, I give them a lot of credit. They are an incredibly entertaining team to watch with their team first mentality and high fliers in Jordan and Griffon, not to mention a seriously deep bench that could conceivably compete with some starting lineups.

The Lakers have gone 6-2 since my last post, and currently sit 3rd in the Pacific and 10th overall in the Western Conference. It goes without saying that it really pains me to write that down, as this is some seriously uncharted territory for a franchise that is always held to the highest standards. The grim prospects aside, let’s look at the brighter side of things seeing as how it’s a brand new year. It was extremely heartening to see Nash and Gasol finally make their long awaited return to the court. The duo appear as though they haven’t missed a step, with Nash averaging about 12 points and 9 assists in his four games back. Gasol has come back strong as well, posting up averages of 13 points, 8 rebounds, and an impressive 5 assists over the last five games. It’s interesting to note that he also hit 5 three’s, and it’s clear that D’Antoni has assigned more perimeter tasks for the Spaniard. It was great to see him playing in post as well, highlighted by a move where he made the defending Blazer look like a high school player.

It’s great to see Hill getting more run as well, and it seems like his infinite hustle and hard work has forced D’Antoni to find a role for the former Wildcat. In the Denver game, Hill put up 9 and 9 in a mere 13 minutes. To simplify, this guy is a walking double-double just chomping at the bit. On the flip side, I really feel for Antawn Jamison who hasn’t suited up in the last 5 games. His defensive deficiency has been well documented, but his offense will go a long way in sparking the often lackluster bench. Dwight also looks to be rounding into form, and I have to say I’m sick of people saying Dwight should be doing more, etc.  He’s still not 100% people, but he’s still putting up 18, 12, and over two blocks a game. Once he regains his Superman condition and the team finally achieves some stability on the defensive end, this team will really begin their march towards the postseason.

As we are nearing the half way mark, this Laker team really needs to kick it in gear and get prepared for an extended run towards Kobe’s 6th. Speaking of Kobe, I can’t help but think how our team would be if the CP3 trade wasn’t vetoed. Just look at how he has completely transformed the Clippers into a legit contender. How would the current Lakers look if we switched CPE and the league’s current scoring king? Keep in mind, I’m not saying we should trade Kobe or anything like that. It’s just intriguing to think how the Lake Show would run under the helm of a ball dominating point guard as opposed to shooting guard, as a poster mused on a Laker forum I was browsing earlier. It’s amazing to see what Kobe is still capable of at his age, but there are times where his hero ball absolutely sickens me. I think Nash will be the key, as his veteran leadership and considerable skills can help regulate Kobe’s often lone wolf ways that ends up being detrimental to the team cause. It’ll be interesting to see how the Lakers come together before the All Star break, and hopefully they can climb up the ranks, as the #10 seed in the Western Conference is absolutely unacceptable for a team of this caliber and lofty expectations.

-Daniel Kang

Goodbye Bandwagoners

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After watching the Lakers get dismantled by the Jazz and Rockets, I found myself sitting down with my head in my hands in utter exasperation. That sick feeling was beginning to inundate my mind, which was the creeping thought that perhaps this Laker team that was assembled is just not capable of meeting the insanely lofty expectations that were placed on them once Superman headed over to Hollywood. After dropping four out of the first five games and getting blown out in a big matchup against the Thunder, my Laker spirits have taken a beating but is still standing upright.

The Lakers continue to all but ignore Dwight Howard, the best post player in the NBA. As Jeff Van Gundy succinctly summed it up, “Dwight Howard is the best center in the NBA, and it’s not even close.” In the tilt against Utah, former Jazz player Matt Harpring was amazed at how often the Lakers would ignore Howard in the point. Often times, the play would break down and would result in an extremely ill-advised three pointer from Metta World Peace or Kobe Bryant.

I’m as optimistic as any Laker fan, so I’m not even close to jump off what many are already referring to as a ship that is destined to sink. However, I’m not delusional and realize that the return of Steve Nash will not solve our defensive deficiencies. He will space the floor and find openings, as well as ensure that turnovers are kept to a minimum. Another bonus is the fact that he will have the ball in his sole control most of the time, which will also prevent Kobe from taking too many hero shots and a still potent stubbornness to pass the ball at times that drives me absolutely bonkers.

On a brighter note, it’s great to see Meeks finally filling in the role I thought he’d be ideal for. His ball handling still needs some work, but as a spot up shooter with decent slashing skills he fits the role quite well. Jamison is also coming into his own, bombing it from outside and using his traditional awkward offensive repertoire to baffle opponents and fill up the stat sheet.

Against the Thunder, the purple and gold were missing Gasol and Nash, who are two of the best players at their positions when healthy. It seems that Nash has suffered a setback, and I know I’m not alone when I say that I can’t wait for him to pair up with Gasol on the court and reassess the team at full strength. I wish Steve Blake a speedy recovery, but quite honestly I feel like Duhon can actually be a better backup at this point. He is hitting the three at a higher clip and seems to be more comfortable handling the rock as opposed to Blake.

It’s old news now, but congratulations to Kobe Bryant for cracking the 30,000 point plateau. He joins Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Karl Malone, Michael Jordan, and Wilt Chamberlain as the only 5 players to ever reach that milestone. That’s a hell of an accomplishment for one of the greatest Lakers and flat out ballers to ever grace the hardwood. That being said, although his fg% has been superb this year, there are times when he still reverts into #8 “I’m going to save the team on my own mode” and takes ridiculous shots that have me pulling out my hair.

I see a lot of Kobe fans defend him to the very end, and while I respect that you’re blind if you don’t realize that he is also hurting the team with his play. Not to mention that he plays absolutely no defense, although he never really did the last few years in my honest opinion. I think his All-Defensive 1st team choices were more based on reputation than actual lock down and gritty defense. Some of you may think I’m being harsh, but that’s just my honest take on the Black Mamba. Don’t get me wrong, he is still by far and away my favorite player of all time. It’s just that I recognize his flaws and shortcomings whereas others blindly follow him like sheep to a slaughter. I am so tired of watching him drive in on the whole team, completely ignoring the rest of his mates only to toss up some pathetic shot and holler about how he was hacked. What makes it worse is that he jumps up and smacks his hands in irritation just about every time, as opposed to the right move of hustling your ass back on defense to make up for your mistake.

The question that most are intrigued about is whether to keep Gasol and see if his chemistry with Nash can right the ship, or trade him and his $19 million contract away for other pieces or another competent power forward. Some of the rumors have included Josh Smith, Andrea Bargnani, Jose Calderon, and Ryan Anderson. Anderson intrigues me, as he played with Howard before and his outside game and rebounding are outstanding. However, some reports have indicated that Anderson may be untouchable. I wouldn’t blame the Hornets at all, as he is a stellar player and am glad to have him on my fantasy squad.

Personally, I am willing to give Gasol a shot when Nash gets back. D’Antoni recently stated that Pau will be inserted into the starting lineup once he gets back. Hopefully he has recovered from the tendonitis and can find a way to get this show on the road with Nash. Otherwise, the Laker fans panicking now will be calling for D’Antoni’s head. I was never on board with his signing as the coach, and it is quite obvious that there are tons of fans still clamoring for Phil’s return as evidenced by fans wearing t-shirts adorned with that sentiment. It sickens me to watch the game and see him playing second fiddle to Kobe. If he’s screwing up, call him out! That’s your job as a coach, but all too often I see him just pacing the sidelines shaking his head like a neutered puppy.

At this point, I see a lot of people panicking and calling Armageddon. I, like the true Laker faithful, want to see how the team plays with everyone at full strength. It doesn’t make sense to judge a car with a faulty engine, and for those of you who don’t have the patience to ride out this current storm there is another L.A. team for you to cheer on.

-Daniel Kang

Antawn Jamison heeds the call

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Amidst the two disheartening losses to a surging Memphis team and a Sacramento King sporting a 4-9 record was a bright ray of hope. The resurgence of what appeared to be a battle weary Antawn Jamison, not to mention Jodie Meeks finally finding the mark. Jamison has posted 16/7 and 19/5, shooting a very efficient 14/22 and hitting 3 3’s over that span. Ditto for Meeks, who has emerged from a similar shooting slump to hit 8 3’s in the last three games.

Why the hell are Jordan Hill’s minutes being limited? In the last two games, he’s only seen 14 minutes of play. I have seen quite a few people clamoring for Hill to be inserted into the starting lineup so that Gasol’s lethargic states could be revitalized as the go to scorer for the often struggling second unit. I am completely on board with this idea. Gasol has been playing like he’s on vacation, with even Kobe calling him out for “coasting” and just going through the motions. If you watch his defense it is quite obvious that the effort is just not there. He doesn’t rotate or help out, and the opposition drives in with complete irreverence when Gasol is defending the rim.

What I’m not so thrilled with is the fact that one of our most energetic and passionate players is sitting on the pine. It is well documented that D’Antoni previously had major beef with Hill, saying that he didn’t play “bad players.” I certainly hope the new coach isn’t so immature as to hold that against him, since Hill has clearly evolved to a different type of player compared to his debut year.  The more Jamison shines and continues to hit the outside shot, the more limited Hill’s growth will be. That’s unfortunate, because I think he has a very bright future ahead of him. It’s still hard to believe we got him for Fisher and a pick.

Another player who was similarly left in the cold got a total of 11 touches in 80 minutes of player. The problem is, this guy is in another stratosphere in terms of sheer talent. Dwight Howard watched as his teammates took shots without feeding the post. He hauled down 13 rebounds in those two games, which shows that he’s still not quite there in terms of conditioning. “The biggest thing for me is affect the game in other ways and not just really focus on the touches. I think when I try to focus too much on how many touches I need, I don’t play the way I need to play. So I know what I have to do, what I need to do for us to win.” That was Dwight’s response to the fact that his touches have decreased.

How I wish Gasol would do the same as opposed to whimpering that he’s not getting enough outside jumpers to toss up. The Spaniard is starting to piss me off more and more everyday. I would still keep him over Amare Stoudemire as the latest rumors have been linking the two. He recently talked about how he was dealing with tendonitis, and while I can understand if he’s being held back by an injury it seems like he just isn’t motivated at all. I’m sure playing for Spain over the offseason certainly didn’t help the 32 year old fully recuperate.  If only we could have somehow got Josh Smith for Gasol I would be so stoked. Not to mention all the shots that would get thrown into the crowds between the freakishly athletic duo.

It sickened me to watch Kobe doing his hero thing towards the end of the Memphis team where a few buckets would have got the Lakers back in the hunt. Instead, Kobe completely ignored his teammates white chucking up fadeaway and three point shots. I found myself wishing that D’Antoni would yank him out of the game as he used Dwight as a screen to go off with his ball hogging ways. You would think that he knows better than that, he can’t singlehandedly win us games. I was glad to see that in the following game against the Mavs, he racked up a few assists while completely neglecting his offense to set up his teammates for good looks. It’s good to see him taking responsibility for his actions, something a young #8 Bryant would not have done.

I also want to give credit to Metta World Peace, who clearly worked hard during the offseason to get in shape. His superior conditioning has allowed him to have more post up opportunities, and his three point shot has improved by leaps and bounds. Peace is now shooting nearly .400 from downtown, with an improved .436 FG% as well. Let’s hope he keeps up his peaceful ways and stellar play, as this will be a huge catalyst for this team that has yet to hit a proper stride.

 -Daniel Kang

Bernie Bickerstaff keeps the seat warm for Mike D’Antoni

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With the recent firing of Mike Brown and hiring former Phoenix and New York coach, Mike “7 seconds or less of offense” D’Antoni, a great video caught my eye on one of my favorite Laker sites out there, lakerstopbuzz.com. If you’re a Laker fan, you have to check it out. It’s an excellent site with very knowledgeable individuals representing the purple and gold, some before I was even born.

Anyways, the video I ran across discusses why Mike Brown was fired. The footage was compiled by a basketball coach who picks apart why a defensive minded coach failed to improve that aspect of the team, particularly around the glaring deficiencies of Steve Blake and Pau Gasol. God, why did we ever sign Eminem 2.0 in the first place?

Of course, the primary concern is the fact that D’Antoni employs a run and gun system with defense as more of an afterthought. There has been a wide range of input, with critics and naysayers quick to write him off while others feel he at least deserves a chance. Hey, at least there’s no way he could be worse than Brown right?

The issue that bothers me and the Laker faithful I’m sure is the fact that Phil Jackson was apparently stubbed. Varying reports have been documented, with some claiming that Phil was screwed over by the Lakers while others claimed that he demanded too much money and privileges. On a lighter note, seeing Kobe on the top of the Player Rater for ESPN NBA Fantasy brought a sorely needed smile to my face. It’s great to see the Mamba turn back the time and continue to defy Father Time with his array of fakes and fadeaways. The dude’s shooting lights out so far and surprising everyone with his performance, much like Tim Duncan who is experiencing a similar renaissance in his career.

Anyways, here’s my take on the Lakers victory over the Kings, followed up by the heartbreaking loss to the Spurs. Darius Morris has been the recipient of additional minutes with Nash and Blake. He is capable of hitting the 3 and although he gets out of control at times as expected from a budding player, he does have the ability to cut in, attack the rim, as well as find the open man. During the San Antonio game, he tried too hard to finish plays on his own. One moment that comes to mind is when he ignited a fast break and tried to finish over the defender rather than passing to one of his streaking mates. As he barely played last season, this is technically his first season and there will be some flinch inducing moments but I see some potential here. I wouldn’t mind if he replaced Blake, at least Morris has potential.

Jordan Hill continues to impress with his tenacity under the board, as he scored on two consecutive second opportunity chances with his hustle. Antawn Jamison displayed a bit more of his bizarre post play, but I suppose if it’s not broke don’t fix it. It looks broken but since it seems to work, I guess we’ll just roll with it. His jump shot needs some serious work, as he is shooting an absolutely pathetic .200 from behind the arc, not to mention a .370 fg%. As Stu Lantz often says, that’s just not going to get the job done. I expect more out of the onetime Sixth Man of the Year, and hopefully D’Antoni can harness whatever the 36 year old vet has left in the tank.

As mentioned in the video link posted in the top of this entry, Pau Gasol is off to quite a lukewarm start. His defense is nonexistent, and his aggression comes and goes. Most of the time, he’s as passive as a rock and is often seen roaming the perimeter.

I’ve never personally been a huge Ron Ar…I mean Metta World Peace fan. His shot selection is absolutely horrendous to say the least. If he possessed the defensive skills that earned him a Defensive Player of the Year, I could overlook his offensive deficiencies. However, his D is nowhere near those levels anymore. Add in to the equation a .313 3 point FG% and that should paint the picture. It’s one thing to have your feet set, square up, and hit the jumper. Taking one dribble to the right and launching a fadeaway three is a completely different affair. Kobe just makes it look easy when it’s actually incredibly difficult as any b-ball player can attest to.

Damn that San Antonio game. Our bench was putrid as always, and I’m personally extremely disappointed with Jodie Meeks. I knew Duhon was just bench fodder for the most part, but I expected more out of Meeks who is supposed to be our sharpshooter. His ball handling abilities are not up to par, as he committed several consecutive turnovers to the point where I almost threw my beer at the TV. Almost. Apparently, the coach felt the same way as recent reports say that he is no longer the main backup, losing the spot to Ebanks. I’m equally unenthused about him unfortunately. Morris was equally disappointing, forcing the issue and taking some bad shots instead of passing it to a teammate for a higher percentage look.

Losing on a Danny Green 3 pointer was quite painful. Even more frustrating was the fact that the last two shots were 3 pointers from Ron Artest and Pau Gasol, two players who have no business having the ball in that particular spot and situation. The Spurs did a good job of preventing Kobe from getting a touch, as one would expect from the brilliant mind of Coach “Pops.”

Here is a rundown of the total field goal attempts and makes from the Lakers starters.  Peace 4/14, Gasol 3/10, Howard 5/9, Bryant 12/19, and Morris 0/5. I find it maddening to see Peace taking more shots than Gasol and Howard, two of the premier big men in the league. It reminded me of the days when the Lakers used to ignore Bynum and go for contested perimeter jumpers or drives. Like Shaq said, “If the dog isn’t fed, he won’t guard the house.” I don’t remember the exact quote, but there is some semblance of truth behind that quote. You always feed your big man, especially one as talented as Dwight Howard. But please people, stop comparing him to Shaq. I respect Howard’s skill set, but the two are worlds apart in overall talent.

Two major concerns are becoming a painfully common trend in the games so far. Dwight Howard gets stripped way too easily for a guy of his size and strength, while Kobe Bryant has been uncharacteristically throwing up some errant passes as of late. Perhaps it’s due to the fact that having the extra ball handling and playmaking responsibilities rearing its ugly head which is leading to the turnovers. Dwight appears to be getting into form, but he needs to learn how to avoid getting stripped so often. Once Nash gets back and the D’Antoni reign commences, it’ll be interesting to see how the new coach can accomplish with this struggling squad.

Mike Brown gets the boot

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On a certain forum, there was a certain line that really caught my eye and made me perform a facepalm Captain Picard himself would be proud of. “Jeremy Lin isn’t that good. Darius Morris is better than him.” Wow, are you kidding me? There was a quick response that laid the smackdown on that argument, which was that he tangoed with the #1 pick John Wall and made the talented point guard look mediocre.

Let’s move on to the meat of the sandwich, namely the recent firing of Lakers coach Mike “The Clown” Brown. “Mr. Potato Head” finally lost the trust and patience of the organization and the fans after his dismal start and questionable strategies and rotations. Now, the question looms: Who will be the new driver of the highly potent but as of yet properly harnessed F1 car that is the Lakers.

A few names have been thrown around such as Mike Dunleavy, Jerry Sloan, and Mike D’Antoni. The only one I would fully back would be Jerry Sloan, but that brings up the next development. The Lakers have officially reached out to the Zen Master himself, and it is being widely reported that Phil Jackson will very likely return to his old squad. As it was reported that Mike Dunelavy will be one of the frontrunners if PJax denies, I’m praying to god that Jackson returns and rights the ship with his arcane Zen powers.

By the way, Shaq’s whining and bashing of player is getting really old. First he claims Brook Lopez is better than Dwight Howard, now DeAndre Jordan? No one’s going to deny that he will go down as one of the top centers to ever play the game, but man the guy has completely lost any credibility with these constant jabs at our new center. DeAndre Jordan? This guy has no skills whatsoever; he’s just athletic as hell. He’s got no post moves, no passing skills. Shaq has officially lost his mind or he’s just insanely jealous that he isn’t the 300+ pound center of attention that he used to be.

Another source of interest is the recent reports that the Sixers organization has been denying requests for updates on their newly acquired All Star center Andrew Bynum. Really makes you wonder if his career is done. If so, that’s a damn shame because the guy had the tools to be great. Unfortunately, when you’re that big, injuries tend to follow as many former big men can attest to having their careers curtailed due to nagging conditions.

-Daniel Kang

Jerry Sloan in, Mike Brown out?

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After the brief joy and relief that was brought on by the Laker’s crushing defeat of the Pistons on their home floor, I set my sights on the long term as our squad embarked on a long stretch of home games that would hopefully revitalize the team and help them establish their identity. Next on the list: The Utah Jazz.

The Lakers certainly have a history with the Lakers, as former Jazz Deron Williams publicly admitted his disdain for the Los Angeles based team. After all, this was the same team that knocked him out of the playoffs several times.

Very early on in the match, one of the Utah play by play commentators mentioned his opinion that The Clippers will displace the Lakers as THE LA team. That’s quite an opinion there, sir. With all due respect, that’s one of the least intelligent statements I have ever heard. Anyways, on to the game at hand.

The offense still looked stagnant from the get go, with Blake off to an icy cool start. Howard didn’t quite look like himself either, getting a shot blocked and getting denied by Enes Kanter. Bryant looked quite disinterested up until the 2nd half, when he started being more aggressive although with mixed results. Gasol looked lost, roaming the perimeter for most of the time. The Lakers ignited a 12-4 scoring run towards the end of the half, but man the defense was atrocious. Fast breaks, lay-ups, you name it.

Jazz announcer and former player Matt Harpring pointed out how the Lakers just didn’t seem to be into the game, as it appeared that they were just going through the motions. He commented that it might be a lack of faith and conviction in Coach Brown and his new offense causing the players to just not give a crap about running the system. Brown’s got to go, if the Jerry Sloan rumors are true get this clown out of L.A. Two game package that included two games and a Papa John’s Medium pizza for $60. Good lord, I wish they had something like that in LA.

The Lake Show got it going a bit in the 3rd quarter, cutting the lead down to 4. Blake was getting a ton of wide open 3’s, though he was having a miserable time converting. Hill provided some valuable hustle to give the team some 2nd chance opportunities. Unfortunately, a Kobe turnover led to a 3 point play from Marvin Williams that broke the momentum.

Getting back to Gasol being lost in the game, Ebanks set up a pretty good place to dump it in down low, but Pau was expecting a shot and was getting position for the potential rebound. Unfortunately, this lack of communication led to an easy dunk on the other end by Enes Kanter. The 3rd quarter ended with a score of 57-65.

Harpring continues to bitch about the lack of calls going for the Jazz. I have yet to hear a solid NBA announcer outside those featured on TNT and ESPN. I’m not going to be biased and say Lakers broadcasters Stu Lantz and Bill Macdonald are the best in the world because they aren’t, but they provide a solid and unbiased opinion regarding their commentary on NBA games.  As a commentator for an NBA team, I understand it can be difficult to stay impartial but this is something that should be a quality that all pro announcers should strive to achieve.

3 straight triples by Randy Foye extended the lead to 11. Gasol looked like a total wimp in this game, getting outplayed and looking completely worthless in the post. The low point came when he launched a three pointer. I realize he has a nice touch and can hit the three, but his post skills are completely going to waste by him standing around outside moping around with a defeated look on his face.

Unfortunately in the fourth quarter, the Lakers reverted to their “pass the ball to Kobe and get out of the way” style of ball. Kobe went on a tear, but there lies two inherent problems with this scenario.

1) Kobe knows better than anyone that this approach just won’t get the job done.

2) Where was this intensity early on in the game? Especially considering that I read somewhere that Pau Gasol recently stated that if the Lakers didn’t start the game with a lead, doubt would creep into their minds on their chances of grabbing the victory. Really? I sure hope this isn’t true, because that’s one of the most pathetic things I have ever heard. Man up, Spaniard.

I love how Harpring is already writing them off, saying the Lakers aren’t as good as everyone thought they would be. How many times do they need to be reminded that we’re still building up our chemistry and adjusting to a brand new offense, as well as the fact that our two best players are playing injured. Not to mention Nash wasn’t around either, and we have a total joke of a clown. Wait a few weeks, and then the patience of the veteran fans will certainly pay off as many break their angles jumping off the Lakers bandwagon. You guys know who you are.

As Metta quizzically shot a three pointer with the last possession, the camera was zoomed in on Kobe, who was halfway to the locker room at that point. The body language didn’t look good, and Kobe looks extremely frustrated. It’ll be interesting to see his reactions and how the team regroups for the next game.

Yet another disappointing and downright lackadaisical performance by the Lakers after they briefly righted the ship against the Pistons. The team just looks lost without any identity, and frustrations seem to be mounting regarding the new offense. What caught my eye were Metta’s 12 FG attempts vs. Gasol’s 9. No way in HELL should Peace be chucking up more shots than Pau. Coach Brown doesn’t seem to be doing much; Jackson would have most certainly given his players an earful by this stage. Of course, comparing the two is like comparing copper to gold but at least act like you give a damn Mike Brown. This guy’s a goner in the near future.

Overall, the problems obviously still remain. Blake is still infuriatingly deficient, Jamison is still struggling badly, and the bench is still in absolute disarray. It looks as though the starters will really have to pull their weight for this team to stand a chance until our 2nd unit gets it together. Apparently, Brown has decided to plug in Metta into the 2nd unit to try to balance out this anomaly. Really, Metta at the two? I can only shudder at the thought of him chucking up threes with the 2nd unit. Brown just doesn’t have the charisma and respect to enforce his will on his players, and it’s clearly showing in their performance or lack thereof. Let me get this straight, we managed to get a capable 2 in Jodie Meeks who is sitting in the doghouse, so now we’re going to switch Metta to the two? What the hell is this dude thinking?

As far as the dude who pepper sprayed a Utah Jazz fan after the loss, really dude? It’s people like you that instills the wrong image of Laker fans to the rest of the world. Be passionate, don’t be stupid. There’s a big difference, it shouldn’t be too difficult to figure out.

-Daniel Kang

Around the NBA

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Good morning to everyone on this insomnia plagued Thursday. Damn I want to take a day off and watch b-ball all day as I haven’t been able to catch many games outside of Laker matches. Anyways, just wanted to jot down some notable news/rumors that caught my eye.

The first is a source of major intrigue for me as I’m sure it will be for all Laker fans that are fed up with the coaching system of Mike Brown. I realize the new offense will take time to become fully incorporated with a new lineup, and that’s not the reason why I am “hating” on the former Cleveland Cavaliers coach. Many of his decisions and lineups have left many scratching their heads as well as how he manages playing time for his superstars and average Joes alike.

The latest rumors state that Jerry Sloan, the man responsible for the godlike pick and roll offense back in the Utah days that were helmed by John Stockton and Karl Malone has taken an interest in coaching the Lakers. This is absolutely fantastic news if true, as he remains on the top of the list as potential suitors for the job once held by the greatest coach of all time in Phil Jackson. Can a coach be referred to as the G.O.A.T? But anyways, I digress.

Prior to the official hiring of Mike Brown, which was greeted with a multitude of boos and despair, there were only a few coaches that seemed suitable for the task at hand. These were Jerry Sloan and Rick Adelman, the tough no nonsense coach who pushed the Shaq-led Lakers to the limit with his Sacramento Kings. I would welcome Sloan, who is assumedly chomping at the bit to coach a pick and roll tandem like Nash and Gasol, as well as having the Mamba and Superman to guide him to his first ring. The rumors state that he will be appointed the new coach come December 1st, although it’s merely speculation I’m really hoping this one goes through. Something tells me this is legit and it will actually happen, but only time will tell.

Another development that came to light centers around our former center, the immature but immensely talented Andrew Bynum who is now on the Philadelphia 76ers. The injury prone center is now expected to miss yet another 3 weeks recovering from his back injury. On a side note, that afro really needs to go, just like his petulant behavior and downright maddening disregard for anything resembling a modicum of decency to the game of basketball. Shooting 3 pointers during the game certainly didn’t earn him any affection.

What pisses me off about Bynum is not his character or lack thereof, but rather the Laker fans that bash him and ridicule his “glass knees”. Although his work ethic was questionable at best and we are all glad he got shipped out for Howard, hoping that he never plays again and wishing the worst to him is really low. C’mon Laker fans, have some class. I also feel for the 76ers, the fans must have been celebrating on the streets for the steal they pulled off, essentially trading A.I. 2.0 for the 2nd best center in the NBA.

I still question his motivation and maturity issues, but I still wish him the best. If he manages to pull it together, this dude is going to be absolutely dominant. This is a rare player that can put up about 20/12/3, especially considering that his free throws are above average for a big man and that he is certainly going to get sent to the line quite a bit by the unfortunate soul trying to guard him. I really feel for the guy and his injury history, but it looks as though his knees will cut down his career drastically much like Greg Oden, Portland’s #1 pick. Obviously hindsight is 20/20 and they were certainly correct as typically a talented center is always selected over any other position with the first pick, but man oh man if they had just picked Durant.

Monty Williams recently got fined 25,000 for criticizing the NBA’s regulations regarding concussions. The top pick Anthony Davis had a mild concussion after getting hit in the head by an errant elbow from a teammate. Coach Williams decried the NBA for mollycoddling their players as babies  rather than grown men, stating that he himself played several times with concussion symptoms as the system in his day was much more lenient and let players have more of a say regarding the final decision.

I can’t agree with him, and when he said that the bottom line was he wanted his players ready to play, I shook my head. Yes, basketball is not as dangerous as football, and yes these are grown men, but seriously? You’re willing to risk your center taking another hit to the head or sustaining another injury as he is not fully recovered? Granted the chances of getting hit in the head are quite low in the NBA, but what does a few games mean, especially for a team that won’t even be making it to the NBA playoffs? I’d much rather play it safe and reinsert my players into the lineup when it’s clear they are good to go. If it’s in the playoffs, then that’s a different story. In that case, I would probably give the player’s opinions more weight regarding whether they are cleared to play or not but obviously the system that has already been established would squash that idea in any case.

The Thunder seem to be having some chemistry issues as it was reported that Sefolosha and Westbrook got into a scuffle until they were finally separated before they could tear each other apart. It sounds like every player on the team is trying to voice their opinion and assert that their views are right for the team, when in reality there should only be one leader as the rest do as they’re told . Westbrook is an incredible talent, but it is obvious that he is also extremely immature and often lets his emotions get the best of him as he has demonstrated in several games with his childish behavior. Durant is clearly the superior player, and needs to get the rest of his goons to fall in line. However, with Westbrook on the team I don’t see that happening any time soon. Durant doesn’t have the same leadership abilities as a guy like Kobe, and this will really test the team’s chemistry and the patience of Coach Brooks.

Perhaps Harden did make the right choice in leaving the team, as the Thunder are now bickering amongst each other as the 6th man of the year has been absolutely tearing it up in greener pastures alongside Jeremy “Linsanity” Lin. As Harden was a superior facilitator on the Thunder squad and provided that scoring punch, if the Thunder don’t get it together it would seem the stage is set for a highly anticipated Lakers/Heat matchup. However, I’m not going to get carried away as that’s a long ways away and we’ll have to see how the Lakers grow into their new shoes.

It’s interesting to see that Sheed and the mysterious bald spot on his dome are still in the NBA. Apparently he has been the defensive voice behind the Knicks, which isn’t shocking considering he was previously one of the best post defenders in the NBA during his cannabis infused days with the Blazers. Whether you hated him or loved him, you had to acknowledge him as the NBA’s premier comedian and master of the art of accruing technical fouls.

One last topic that I thought was interesting was about how The Spurs Big Three in Parker, Duncan, and Ginobili all agreed to contracts that didn’t reflect their true worth. Paker felt that he would rather sacrifice some dough and keep the core intact, pointing out how the Thunder were unable to keep their pieces after Durant and Westbrook both agreed to max contracts, which prompted Harden to bolt for Houston. The question was whether to stay with a successful team or sacrifice it to be “the man” and make top dollar. Interesting question indeed. What would you guys out there pick?

-Daniel Kang

Frankly, It’s About Damn Time

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Laker fans, raise your glasses in a toast! The divine and incomparable Lakers just notched their first W of the season against….the Detroit Pistons. Ok, granted it’s premature to celebrate and proclaim that the Lakers are good to go and everything in Lakerland is gravy. However, despite the huge discrepancy in talent between the two teams there were certainly some good points to take away from this initial victory.

The Lakers were absolutely dominant in their performance against the Pistons, who appeared to throw the towel relatively early which was highlighted by a simultaneously pitiful and laughable scenario where Coach Lawrence Frank replaced all 5 players at one time in a move that is rarely seen in the NBA. Hell, I guess that’s still better than the situation that confronted former Coach John Kuester who had 6 players to juggle in a match against the Sixers when the rest of his roster completely quit on him.

However, there was some bad news among the celebrations as the confetti fell on the Staples Center faithful. Steve Nash had sustained a broken bone in his foot in the previous game against the Clippers, and was reportedly out for nearly a month. Update- Fortunately for the Canadian, medical staff recently reported that he would only be out for a week or so, much to the delight of the Laker fans holding their breath.

Jordan Hill has to be a fan favorite, as his hustle and determination to box out his opposition continues to impress me. Trading the beloved Fisher and a first round pick for Hill proved to be yet another solid move to bolster our severely lacking bench. Dwight Howard also impressed me with his footwork and bounce, despite still recovering from back surgery. Kobe’s ankle issues don’t seem to be a concern, as the Mamba is now 40/67 for an amazing .60 FG%. He is currently the league’s 2nd leading scorer with the sizzling hot James Harden killing it in Houston. I’m very curious to see how his numbers balance out over the course of the season, but I could easily see him averaging roughly 24 PPG considering he is THE go-to guy on the Rockets. What an insane talent, everyone knew he was an incredible talent but so far he has left even the staunchest opponents with their jaws dropped.

Another ray of light was Darius Morris, the sophomore point guard out of Michigan. Now that Nash is injured and Steve “I hate that fan” Blake is starting, this would seem an opportune time for D-Mo to prove his worth. So far, it looks like the kid has made some progress, sporting a decent jumper and court awareness, particularly on one play as he caught a long pass and quickly threw a flawless lob to Howard for the dunk. I also liked how Metta posted up more; he is so strong that all it takes is a simple spin move to get into the post. From there, he could go for the finish or dish it off to one of the bigs.

Gasol started off strong, but finished with rather pedestrian stats considering his incredible aptitude for the game. Initially, he was playing the post effectively until the attention was shifted to feeding the ball down low to Howard. How the two will mesh remains to be seen, but I see no reason as to why they can’t co-exist. Some people are forgetting just how effective a post player Gasol is, which is a shame.

Mike Brown continues to befuddle many fans with his rotations. Although he gave the starters much fewer minutes this time around, it’s most likely due to the fact that at one point the Lakers led by nearly 40 points. How he balances rest for his starters and playing time for the bench is going to be something to watch out for. The fact that Jodie Meeks only played as much as Chris Duhon is particularly perplexing, as the sharpshooter earned a meager 4 minutes in a blowout win.

I understand that Brown was trying to implement a formation with an emphasis on defense, but Meeks is arguably our best 3 point threat and to have him rotting away on the bench is not something I enjoy seeing. On a brighter note, it was good to see that there were less turnovers in the game. I’d like to see them improve even more in this regards, but it’s definitely encouraging to see. The defense looked more effective as well, but there is still work to be done.

In any case, this win is definitely a step in the right direction. Although I hate to downplay the victory due to the quality of the opposing team, this should definitely temper any overreactions from our first win. That being said, it was great to see a glimpse of this team’s true potential. An appropriate albeit contrite saying goes, “Focus on the journey, not the destination.” As opposed to some who may just wait till playoff time, I’ll be enjoying every moment of the ride whether the results are positive or negative. Ride or Die, Laker fans.

-Daniel Kang

And so the wait continues…

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As I finally got a chance to catch Games 2, 3,of this new NBA season for the completely revamped and insanely talented team at least on paper, there were a couple of things that jumped out at me. Most hoop fans are probably well aware of these, but I’d like to hammer these out in any case.

Despite the overwhelmingly negative responses and reactions from Laker fans regarding the efforts of their beloved team, I stay optimistic in the face of hostile opposition. Mark Cuban recently was quoted as saying that he didn’t give a damn about the Lakers, only hoping that they would “suck”. While on the surface many fans would agree that the Lakers are fulfilling the wishes of the outspoken Dallas owner, I can wholeheartedly assure you that in the near future the entire league will be wary of tangoing with the LakeShow once the gears are properly set in motion.

Some of the positive things that I saw in the constant struggle to perfect this high RPM capable beast of an engine:

Dwight Howard looks impressive despite the fact that he is clearly not 100% yet. As a big man who has only played a mere 8 games in the last several months, it’s obviously impossible for him to be in tip-top shape. However, his performance has been encouraging as evidenced by his monster 33 point 14 board stat line. Even more impressive was his sudden free throw proficiency as he went on to sink 15 out of 19 free throws.

The Mamba still has it as well, hitting 21 of his 34 attempts over the first two games. Now that’s efficiency. I worried about his injury hampering his percentages, but clearly they aren’t holding him back much if at all. I like that he is trying to get Dwight some touches as well.

Gasol got off to a strong start in the first game, posting a dominant 23-16-6-3 stat line. I love those numbers, especially since I own him on my fantasy squad as well. The Spaniard looks to be in a great position to reaffirm his status as the NBA’s elite power forward.

On to the not so great news…

The bench is still extremely deficient to say the least. No one expects Antawn Jamison to match his 6th man of the year numbers, but what he has been putting up so far has been absolutely unacceptable. Granted, the bench, much like the starters are still attempting to get into a relative groove and once they have that epiphany, I expect things to pick up dramatically.

What’s equally concerning is the fact that the defense just isn’t there. Fast breaks have been absolutely atrocious on both ends, with players unable to complete plays or make the proper pass. Likewise, the team is turning over the ball excessively and giving up a lot of transition points due to their inability to get back and protect the rim.

I fully expect the Lakers to recover some of their mojo against an inferior Detroit team on Sunday. If the team somehow manages to drop this gimme, I would start to become very concerned. As the Lakers face the Pistons, Jazz, Warrior, and Kings before facing a legitimate challenger in the Spurs, this should give the team the chance to get their system in gear. Laker fans everywhere will be extremely disappointed if we can’t dominate against the likes of the lower tier teams, but I’m confident a few wins and good spirits will help revitalize the sputtering engine into a well-oiled beast. Looking forward to sharing thoughts after a Detroit win.

-Daniel Kang