Posts Tagged ‘lakers’

What Should We Expect from Each Lakers Player This Season?

August 2, 2017

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The Lakers have made headlines since the middle of the prior season, make some eye-opening moves during the offseason and then proceeded to make Summer League news. With all that in the rearview and training camp on the horizon, Lakers fans are chomping at the bit and looking forward to the new NBA Season. Even before then, fans will be salivating at that first preseason game.

It’s been widely discussed what the expectations of the Lakers as a team are (we’ll leave Charles Barkley’s opinion out of it). The consistent viewpoint is that this team will improve, yet fall short of playoff contention. Vegas odds and CBS Sports have the Lakers finishing with about 36 wins, a 10 game improvement from last season AND two more wins than the temporarily “best in L.A.” Clippers. I just threw that in for the heck of it. Having said all that, what can or should we expect from each Laker on this new-look roster? Let’s take a look at each Laker and discuss what they can and must do to help these Los Angeles Lakers meet and or exceed expectations this season.

 

Brook Lopez

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Brook Lopez averaged about 20 points a game on 47% shooting and shot 34% from beyond the arc last season. He became an official stretch five last season with the Nets. He’s a pretty solid defender and has an array of post moves. The important thing is that the often in times past injury prone Lopez stays healthy. In order to be the first successful big man acquisition since Pau Gasol, he has to be a force offensively. He needs to be a real threat from the three point line and a trustworthy post scorer when called on. He has to be more of a rim protector than Mozgov and Hibbert was. I expect Lopez to be the second or third best distributor on the team by his ability to draw double teams in the post and demanding attention down low. I also expect him to run the floor and be on the receiving end of some great passes by Lonzo Ball. Lopez should easily be the team’s leading shot blocker. Much is riding on Lopez being just as dominant as he was in Brooklyn and not another failed veteran big man experiment.

 

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

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Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is a defensive-minded scorer who can create his own shot. He also has great finishing skills at the basket. After not being able to score a max contract with Detroit, he was convinced by Magic and Rob to join the purple and gold for an 18 million dollar 1 year deal. My expectations for Caldwell-Pope is to be the Lakers leading scorer and to possibly make strides towards all-star status. His game will only be elevated by Luke’s system and Ball’s pass-first mentality. I also expect him to be an on ball defender taking on the opposing team’s star point guard to take pressure off of Lonzo Ball. He will no doubt lead the team in steals.

 

Loul Deng

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Loul Deng is the remaining player with an unpopular inflated contract. The Lakers were successful in unloading Mozgov to the Nets, but they still have Loul Deng. Coming off an extremely disappointing Lakers debut where he averaged a lackluster 7.8 points a game on 38% shooting, he rarely showed up and was really a nonfactor in many of the games. His performance drew criticisms of fans and media alike. His meager contributions made his albatross of a contract even less appealing. Deng has reportedly been working hard in the off-season and most certainly has a lot of prove to himself, the NBA and the fans. With a year under Luke’s system, Luol will be less lost in the system and become more of a contributor. I expect Luol to come off the bench and provide some leadership, offensive punch and defense with that second unit. Although, we can’t deny that he will most certainly be on the trading block for any takers willing to absorb his contract. However, in the meantime, expect a resurgence from the 2x all-star.

 

Jordan Clarkson

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JC is truly in a make or break year. Over the Lakers rough years, Clarkson is the one player consistently contributing on a nightly basis. I expect this year to be no different. Clarkson possesses the ability to run the point, but is a true shooting guard who can create his own shot and get to the basket. He still has yet to figure out consistent defense. However, he will most likely be a 6th man, especially with KCP recently added. Expect Clarkson to average 15-20 points a game, providing a spark off the bench. He will most likely improve on the defensive side of the ball. Expect Clarkson to feast off of Lonzo Ball passes. This is probably his last chance to have a breakout year.

 

Corey Brewer 

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I like Corey Brewer’s defensive tenacity and his ability to finish on the break. I don’t expect him to get too many minutes unless someone gets injured. However, when his number is called, he will give the Lakers some toughness. His benefit will be seen in the locker room.

 

Lonzo Ball 

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What can we say about Lonzo Ball that hasn’t been said? Considered the face of the franchise by Magic Johnson and a transcendent player by Rob Pelinka, loved by Skip Bayless and already selling out Lakers season tickets, expectations are high. Lonzo gave us all a preview in Summer League, leading the Lakers to the championship and having two triple-doubles. His passing became infectious as fans saw the culture immediately transform for this Lakers team. The bold expectation of winning the whole Summer League was translated to each player and came to fruition. Lonzo comes with high expectations already. He is a star before even playing his first preseason game, much less a regular season opener. So with all that in the backdrop, what are realistic expectations for Ball? Expect Lonzo to be the assist leader for this team and making his players better. He could quite possibly average at least 10 assists a game. He is the catalyst to this Lakers team’s success by the way he stimulates ball movement. Expect Lonzo Ball to vie for rookie of the year because of his ability to create his own shot off the dribble and finish at the rim. We have yet to see him truly get hot from the three point line. I expect that to be a work in progress. In the meantime, players around him will be feasting off of open looks and ally-oop dunks. As a rookie with a target on his back from the rest of the NBA, expect some struggles, but rookie of the year is his to win or lose. No pressure. His ability to transform the offensive fluidity of a team in Summer League must translate to the regular season, which I think will happen.

 

Brandon Ingram

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In spite of all the hoopla surrounding the drafting of Lonzo Ball, this is still Brandon Ingram’s team. Magic Johnson all but flatly stated that Brandon Ingram was the one “untouchable” Lakers player, even for DeMarcus Cousins. Ingram did not really wow anyone with last year’s numbers. His rookie season featured a 9.4 point a game average. What was noticeable was his work ethic, his fearlessness, his ability to take instruction and his mechanics. You just knew that once things started to click, he was going to be special. In the latter part of the season, Brandon Ingram started to show why Magic and Rob would build around such a player. Ingram created highlight reels, dunking on the likes of Pau Gasol and Giannis Antetokounmpo. He showed out in a few minutes of play during his Summer League debut alongside Lonzo Ball and quickly scored 26 points before going down with a cramp. So what can we expect from the humble beast? Expect him to take a leadership role and be either the first or second leading scorer on this team averaging 18-25 points a game. Also expect Ingram to be even more of an attacker with one year under his belt. He’s no longer timid and will be not hard-pressed to create his own shot with Lonzo Ball setting him up. As a pretty skilled passer himself, look for him to rack up about 5-7 assists per game himself. Defensively, I look for an improvement as well. The most exciting one-two punch I’m looking forward to is Lonzo to Ingram on a nightly basis. Let’s hope he still does make good on that promise to work with the Black Mamba.

 

Julius Randle

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Randle dropped 32 points on the Houston Rockets in the latter stages of the season and seemed unstoppable. This is the love-hate relationship we have with Randle early in his career. He can be unstoppable and other times he just gets lost in the shuffle. So much is riding on this season for Randle as this is a make or break season for him. I expect him to breakout this season. Randle has made a physical transformation that shows he is taking this offseason very serious. Randle is decimating teams in this summer’s Drew League. He, like many of the other Lakers, are looking forward to playing with Lonzo Ball. Julius is a tenacious rebounder, very adept at getting to the basket and can at times be a defensive force. However, there are some that believe that he may always be on the cusp, but not quite there. I expect Randle to make it over the hump and make one more stride toward being an all-star caliber player. Rumor has it he is on the trading block, but if he does breakout, this will work in his favor whether he is traded or not. I expect Randle to up his average to about 18-20 points a game and 12-17 rebounds per. The knock on Julius is his outside shooting which was spotty last year. I look for that to improve. Again, being on the receiving end of Lonzo’s passes will give him quite a few easy buckets. I’m very excited about Randle’s potential this season, but let’s hope it doesn’t just stop at potential.

 

Tyler Ennis

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Tyler made some small strides last year during the Lakers high draft pick threatening 5 game winning streak. He showed some ability to shoot the three and he seems to create a level of calm when he is running the point position.  He has a very clean game, only averaging 1 turnover per game on his career. Although he is the only other true point guard that the Lakers currently have, I can’t say whether or not he will see much floor time. JC, BI and Josh Hart all can potentially play the point guard position as well. I personally can say that the only guaranteed rotation players off the bench are Loul Deng, Larry Nance Jr., Ivica Zubac and Jordan Clarkson. The rest will be fighting for minutes. Expectations are low for Tyler, but he will have to prove himself whenever given the opportunity.

 

Larry Nance Jr.

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(Sorry, Brook) Our very own human highlight reel Larry Nance Jr. is probably the most exciting player on this Lakers team. I am salivating at the opportunity to see that first ally-oop from Ball to Nance. Larry possesses the ability to play the four or the five. Walton tried that experiment late in the season and I hope that he will consider playing him at center in this season as well when they want to go small. Larry has all but solidified that first power forward off the bench spot to relieve Randle. Nance showed flashes of hitting that open jumper and even a few threes as well. This will be the one factor that can make him a very dangerous player considering how well he finishes and how high he flies! His fundamentals and basketball IQ makes him a team leader of sorts on and off the court. He also is moving up the defensive learning curve very quickly. We love his athleticism and effort. This season I expect him to move further past the “energy guy” phase and more of a dependable scorer and elite defender. His numbers last year were very misleading. Look for Larry Nance to up his scoring average to 10-12 points a game and for his rebounds to increase as well. I see him as becoming a integral part of that second unit as well as this young Lakers core. One last expectation we have for Nance is that he will not be snubbed for the Dunk of the Year!

 

Kyle Kuzma

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“Started from the bottom now we here” is Kyle Kuzma’s theme. A product of the Houston trade that sent off Lou Williams, Kyle played his way to Summer League Championship game MVP and a Nike shoe deal! What we got to Kyle was a dead eye three point shooter, tenacious scorer and a very fluid offensive game. He played very well off ball with Lonzo Ball setting him up. Even without Ball in the lineup he was able to create his own shot. He was the leading scorer of all the players in Summer League. He is a position-less big man who can move to the three, four or five if going small. Kuzma enters into a very crowded frontcourt; however, he seems to be the most likely of all the rookies not named Lonzo Ball to actually see floor action. The question becomes how many minutes? I will go out on a limb and say that he will be the one addition off the bench (to include Deng, Zubac, Clarkson and Nance). I expect him to become one of the main three point threats and pure shooters that Ball and the Lakers need in order to get wins this season. Also look for him to compete with Nance for minutes due to his ability to also finish at the rim and create his own shot. Ultimately though, he will be that 8-10 point sparkplug off the bench in his debut season with the Lakers.

 

Josh Hart

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When I saw the way he played in college via Youtube, I was very excited about this young man’s motor and his “hart”. Entering into a crowded backcourt with Caldwell-Pope and Clarkson eating up most of the minutes, he will most likely learn from the pine this year. There is a slim chance that Walton, in his attempt to run and keep his players fresh, will go deep into his bench which will give Hart a chance. If given a chance, you have a player that can get to the rim with ease and provide pesky on-ball defense. His ability to get to the rim can collapse defenses and set up open looks for other players. I can see Hart competing with Ennis for minutes. Expectations are cloudy, but I can see him giving a good 5-7 points at least 1 steal off the bench if given the opportunity.

 

Ivica Zubac

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Zubac wowed and surprised everyone last year the way he immediately contributed. He started with Summer League where he blocked shots and scored with ease. This translated to the regular season where eventually he took minutes from Mozgov. By the end of the season there was chatter of Mozgov taking over as starting center. So Zubac would dominate in Summer League this year right? Wrong! He seemed rusty and confused at times and seemed winded when trying to get up and down the court with the fast-paced Laker offense. Coming off a season-ending ankle injury, one can only conclude that rust was all it was. Zubac, reportedly working with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, still possesses a skill-set that is invaluable. He has a nice stroke from the perimeter, a developing array of post moves and a great defensive IQ. He still is the first center off the bench following Brook Lopez. I expect Zublocka to make great strides in his 2nd year, shake off the Summer League haters and average 10-12 points a game off of the bench, 1-2 blocks a game and continue to develop into an integral piece in the Laker’s bid to return to championship glory.

 

Thomas Bryant

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The Indiana University power forward/ center Thomas Bryant certainly turned heads during his Summer League debut. He possesses a motor similar to Julius Randle, grabbing rebounds and finishing powerfully at the rim on putbacks. He also can shoot the three which was the reason Magic and Rob really wanted him. The Lakers scored him through a trade down with Utah Jazz for two lower first round draft picks. This was the 28th pick they initially earned from the Nets in the D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov trade. Not bad. Thomas Bryant still enters into that crowded frontcourt and with Kyle Kuzma being most likely to crack the rotation first, he may have to wait his turn. Again, if Walton wants to go deep into his bench, Bryant may see perhaps a couple minutes to show what he can do. My expectations for Bryant is to soak up as much knowledge as he can and can provide a defensive and “energy guy” spark when his number is called.

 

Alex Caruso

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Alex Caruso played his way into the hearts of the Lakers fans and the Lakers brass during Summer League, putting together some solid performances in place of the injured Lonzo Ball. His ability to hit the three and play a relatively clean game positioned as a reliable backup point guard. His height also gives him the ability to see over defenders to make great passes. We won’t go so far as to call him a hidden gem, but he did earn a two-way contract with the Lakers. Having said that, Caruso will most likely be a valuable contributor to the South Bay Lakers with his ear to the phone in case any of the backup point guards ahead of him get injured. Now let’s not rule out the fact that neither Ennis or Hart are guaranteed favorites over Caruso. He is in a similar boat of fighting to crack the rotation, but will probably have less of a chance than the aforementioned guards.

 

Vander Blue

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Being a G-League MVP is a lofty honor but doesn’t guarantee NBA success. However, Vander Blue at times seemed unstoppable in Summer League as he put up big numbers. Blue is a scorer if nothing else. He has the ability to create his own shot, although his finishing ability can improve drastically. Once he does clean that up and plays within the offense with a little more discretion, he can become a “microwave” type player off of the bench. Within this Lakers team, I find it very difficult for him to crack the rotation. Shooting guard is very crowded behind KCP and JC. This will be more of a wait and see situation. Given the minutes, Vander can be an instant offense kind of guy. I’d look for him to make another bid for his second G-League MVP (or first since it was D-League before)

The Lakers’ rotation may look like this for this coming season:

Starters from 1 – 5: Lonzo Ball, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, Brook Lopez

Bench rotation: Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., Luol Deng, Ivica Zubac, *Kyle Kuzma, *Tyler Ennis, *Thomas Bryant

*depends on how deep they go into their rotation

So there you have it, folks! If these Lakers individually meet or exceed expectations, this team will surprise the league and make strides towards contention heading into a very exciting 2018 offseason. Stay tuned!

 

State of the Lakers After 41 Games: Have the Young Lakers Turned a Corner? (@spectrumsn @lakersnation @lakers @nbaonespn)

January 10, 2017
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Nick Young celebrates after draining a three point shot.

The Los Angeles Lakers are in what basketball experts and analysts term, “rebuilding”. As always, we briefly reminisce on how the Lakers once were not known for patience and rebuilding as opposed to quick retooling and reloading by way of a mega-signing or blockbuster trade. Blame the new CBA rules or the David Stern veto, but the Lakers now are forced to do things the conventional way: put together a young core with a few supporting veterans and… be… PATIENT!

 

So the Lakers brass over the last couple years went that conventional way, picking up Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson in the 2014 draft. Then they picked up D’Angelo Russell and Larry Nance Jr. (Anthony Brown too but waived him during pre-season this year…) in the 2015 draft.They then picked up Brandon Ingram and Ivica Zubac in the 2016 draft.  They also nabbed young bruisers Thomas Robinson and Tarik Black via training camp invite and signing off waivers. They then nabbed a few free agents that appear to be possible keepers over the last couple years to include gunner Nick Young, former 6th man of the year Lou Williams, serviceable point guard and sharpshooter Jose Calderon, International star point guard Marcelo Huertas, NBA Champion big man Timofey Mozgov and former all-star Loul Deng. Lastly, but not least, former defensive player of the year and NBA Champion Metta World Peace rounds out the Lakers rebuilding roster. Charged with the task of making something from this young group is Luke Walton, assistant Brian Shaw and company.

This young group jumped out to a 10-10 start which surprised everybody. Then injuries and perhaps a lack of focus caused a December that featured only 2 wins out of 15. This included a new enemy that plagued the Lakers— blown leads. Blown HUGE leads. 19 against Miami, 19 against Charlotte and 11 against Dallas. The Lakers begin January in better fashion, however, jumping out to a 3-2 record featuring a 3 game home winning streak and a 2 game winning streak overall. Furthermore they’ve managed to beat their opponents by an average of 19 points. They get a second crack at their next opponent, the Portland Trailblazers, yet another team they could have beaten if not for another blown double digit lead. (Heck, they could be 5-0 if not for blowing another double digit lead to Toronto in January as well). Having said all that, the Lakers sit at 15-26 at the halfway point of the season.

With all that in the backdrop, the question is have the Lakers turned a corner?

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Rookie Brandon Ingram goes above the rim.

 

The team seems to have come to terms that they must defend, rebound and attack for 48 minutes and have seemed to figure that out for 3 or their last 5 games. Young players like D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle and Brandon Ingram are starting to find their groove. Nick Young has developed into a pretty good defender. They’ve seemed to have found something special in the rebounding, paint play and defensive prowess of the “Bruise Brothers” Tarik Black and Thomas Robinson in the absence of Larry Nance Jr. (they are doing this without Larry Nance Jr!). Furthermore, the starters have picked up their play to add to an already dangerous and NBA leading bench. This includes a resurgence of Luol Deng’s offensive output. In each of their wins, the Lakers are dishing out over 20 assists, they are holding opponents to an average of 99 points and they are also forcing turnovers and getting out in transition.

 

We may not be able to confidently say they’ve turned a corner until they can start racking up a few more consistent wins. Sitting just 3 games out of the 8th spot in the loss column, they have something to play for, in addition to Luke’s goal to simply focus on getting better and playing the way the coaching staff wants them to play. The Lakers have in fact developed an identity. Although they have failed to do it enough to close out games, the Lakers are one of the better teams in fast break points and points off turnovers. They are a quick team that relies on turnovers, transition and the 3 point shot. They are successful when they the move the ball and they get above the rim and dunk. The Lakers have earned the reputation of being “fun to watch”.

I’d like to see what they do in the next few games. If we’re looking at a team that can compete for that eight spot, we need to see a convincing win against Portland tonight. After that they will have another tough (but winnable) stretch that includes games against the Spurs, Clippers and Pistons. Following that stretch they have a potential 4 game winning streak against the Nuggets, Pacers, Mavericks and Blazers. If the Lakers can manage a minimum record of 5-3 over these next 8 games, we can talk turning a corner.

There are quite a few standouts over this January stretch and even throughout the latter part of December. This is by no means an exhaustive list. We saw Nick Young get record-setting white hot and then cool off. We saw Julius make his bid for the team leader with his triple double and inspired play on the defensive end. We’ve seen Larry Nance Jr. get the dunk of the year on Brooke Lopez. We’ve seen Clarkson get a little dog in him during his scuffle with Goran Dragic. We’ve seen Lou Williams take over games and shoot lights out. We’ve also seen the improbable quick maturation of Brandon Ingram, who at this pace, may actually overtake all the players for the star of this team.

I’ve said too much. I can be longwinded at times. However, it takes no rocket scientist or NBA expert to see that this Lakers team is far ahead of the schedule. With only 17 wins TOTAL last year. Lakers have 15 early in January. They are 3 games out of the playoff picture. They are good enough to take double digit leads on any team AND good enough to blowout any team (see Golden State and Memphis). Let’s enjoy this young exciting team and see where the month of January takes us.

Next up is payback against Portland!

The Curious Case of Byron Scott

November 24, 2015

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The Lakers fans were nothing short of jubilant when they heard that Mike D’antoni was no longer the head coach. Even Magic Johnson voiced his satisfaction. Following a “coaching search” they brought in Laker legend Byron Scott. There was an air of excitement and a sense that winning would begin. More importantly, there was a sense that defense would return. D’antoni represented that offensive mastermind where defense took a backseat. Defense was energy rather than X’s and O’s. The best defense was a good offense. Byron represented that old-fashioned basketball where defense wins championships and threes help, but don’t win it for you. We saw the sideline commentary about how Mike misused his bigs and the jury was always out on whether or not he coached defense and, if nothing else, Byron had us all salivating for his hire and this return to the winning ways Laker fans were used to.

And now?

Lakers finished last season 21-61. Ok. We’ll not beat a dead horse. The team was horrible on paper and injuries and blah blah. Now we are at the first 13 games of the young 2015-2016 season and the Lakers, revamped, healthy and brimming with talented raw youth are 2-11. 2 wins and 11 LOSSES. The winning culture can only be proven by winning and these Lakers are not doing so. Kobe is an average player now who cannot hit his patented fall away and hovers around the three point line where he misses badly. Not his fault. He’s probably playing his last year. The young core of Russell, Clarkson and Randle have yet to gel. The vets are playing hard but none are dominant. And yes, the defense still stinks. When the defense does do decent job, the offense sputters.

But this isn’t about the players. This is about Byron. A coach who has to process multiple storylines: A superstar in his last year who is struggling to find his game. A 1st round number 2 pick finding his footing and his way to superstardom. A young core that is intended to be the future big 3. A group of talented veterans looking to support this core. A desire to win at all costs and return to championship contention. A desire to patiently develop the youth into winners. Then you have to coach under these circunstances and WIN under the scrutiny that comes with being a Los Angeles Laker.

Perhaps the only thing that stops the questions and the scrutiny is winning. Nobody questions a winning coach. Nobody really complained about Phil. Nobody hated on D’antoni in Phoenix’s dominant days. But Byron is not winning. Unfair? Yes. But when you are losing, then the question becomes why? Perhaps Byron loves defense. What NBA player or coach doesn’t know defense wins championships? But coaching defense is another ballgame. Can he coach defense? There is an art to this that Poppovich, Phil and Thibideau among others know. Does he know it? Why are we so hung up on the Princeton offense? This offense got Mike Brown canned a few years ago. Perhaps at it’s best execution it’s not what this team needs right now.

I look at this roster and I fail to see how this team is not at least 5-6. There is too much talent even for a rebuilding squad. Perhaps like Jeremy Lin once did as a Laker, Byron is thinking too much on this. He should just coach. Forget about all the talk and storylines. Play to win. The rookies will develop. They don’t need 40 plus minutes to do so. Stop being nice to Kobe. If he’s cold, sit him down. Leave that Princeton offense alone and let them play and move the ball.

Media won’t say that Byron is on the hotseat. My view is to give him the talent. If he still can’t win, this might not work. I think he has the talent. Now it’s time to see some wins. Anything less than 40 wins is a failure.

Byron, you’re on.

State of the Lakers: The Youth Movement

January 27, 2015

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We started off the season with Laker Optimist hopes. We had a rising star in Julius Randle– the face of the future. We had seasoned veterans Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash to lead. We had a gameplan implemented by coach Byron Scott to focus on defense. We added Jeremy Lin to bolster the backup point guard position. Swaggy P returned to provide scoring punch from the bench. I liked the Lakers to be a 6-8th seed and I was excited.

Then the season began. Then the injuries happened. Then the losses piled up. Lost Nash. Lost Randle.

We saw a team that couldn’t quite find a way to play defense. They have flashes of brilliance, but continued to falter in the 3rd and 4th quarters. There was a lot of Kobe watching at the beginning of the season and a whole bunch of Kobe shooting and scoring. We were losing, but Kobe was winning.

Byron made a lineup change in favor of defense. Booz and Lin go to the bench. They showed signs of improvement and then more injuries started to affect the team. The team, for whatever reason, still couldn’t get it going. More importantly, Kobe Bryant hit a wall. This wall caused inconsistency in lineup and rotation in order to preserve Kobe.

Inconsistency of lineup chemistry. Inability to fight over screens. Poor rotations. Inability to make shots in the 4th quarter. This team is the bad team that fights for 3 quarters and falls flat in the 4th. Sometimes this time starts flat and fights from behind for 3 quarters and then finally succcumbs in the 4th quarter.

So the Lakers are totally out of the playoff picture. Aside from a blockbuster trade involving a game changing point guard and a game changing center, or a complete turnaround by this team, things won’t get any better. This team has a defensive inconsistency that is only eclipsed by its inability to score at times. When they can’t defend, they can’t score and when they can score, they can’t defend. With this reality, including Kobe’s recent possibly season-ending injury, Coach Scott has gone to youth development.

I’m excited, I must say. The Lakers have a great recipe for future success. Jordan Clarkson’s poise, quickness and energy has made him easily one of my favorite rookies. Tarik Black’s defensive mind, Ed Davis’ shot blocking and paint shooting acurracy and Ryan Kelly’s shooting and ability to create off the dribble when given the opportunity present a bright future. Byron has gone with Clarkson, Ellington, Kelly, Hill and Sacre to start games. It’s important to start developing these guys as they figure out who will be added in the off-season to provide that competitive starting unit.

I haven’t given up! I’m the Laker’s Optimist! But I do see the writing on the wall. With the All-Star break around the corner, which is a great time to determine whether your team is a competitor, championship team, or bottom-feeder, we know what kind of team we are dealing with. Now we watch to scout players, see what works and what doesn’t, and see what improvements can be made towards the end of the year.

It’s a good time to see where some of these players fit in now and for the future. This includes Boozer and Lin. Lin is arguably the best PG on this team and has to at some point step up and prove it. Boozer has proven to be a very solid bench player as far as offensive production. I hope that after about 20 more games to give you another blog about this very topic.

So sit back, relax, get your popcorn and enjoy the glimpse into the future of the Purple and Gold.

Byron Scott to Make Lakers Starting Lineup Changes: Who’s In, Who’s Out?

December 7, 2014

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Coach Byron Scott ponders lineup changes.

Newsflash. Lakers still stink. They show quick glimpses of hope by way of a few wins and then they go back to losing. They have dry spells, 3rd quarter lapses and 4th quarter meltdowns. They have minimal help for Kobe on offense, their defense creates layup lines, players look disinterested at times and Byron Scott has had enough.

So guys gotta sit the bench.

But is this going to work? It’s certainly worth a try. The Lakers for the first time in a couple years has had the benefit of starting lineup consistency and have squandered it. This lineup is bad, real bad– Michael Jackson (#kanye)!

Let’s look at it this way. If Byron is truly in harmony with Lakers management, which I think is true, players should take note when coach benches you. This should create an urgency to earn your minutes or be benched, waived or traded. This is important because the concern with benching players is this drops morale and can create friction and negative energy. Management needs to back the coach. Because this is necessary. They are losing bad! You’d hope players are on board with doing anything for the team.

So how should Byron do this? Who’s benched? I’m on the edge of my seat and here’s what I hope for.

Lin is NOT the starting point guard. Everyone has said it. He and Kobe cannot coexist. Mainly because Lin can’t be alpha dog mentality with Kobe. He won’t. That’s not his persona on a consistent basis. So chemistry suffers. Defensively, he’s still not quite there either. He’s not that dude. So somebody has to replace him. In pre-season Price and Kobe did well because Price simply set Kobe up. Price doesn’t feel pressure and didn’t seem to cave in to it. Upgrade? Not really but it also gives Lin an opportunity to run the offense in that second unit.

Carlos Boozer is NOT the starting power forward! Mainly this is a defensive issue. The fouls, the getting beat on defense, it’s becoming an issue. Maybe he’s not working well with Kobe either. Something is lacking though. He needs to join the bench mob. I love the Lin – Davis connection, so perhaps it’s time to put Sacre at center and move Hill to power forward. I also am for Davis starting too. This actually helps Kobe and Hill with Davis being the big man down low and Hill and Kobe with the mid-range game. Either move will help defensively. How Booz will take it? I don’t know but it’s necessary that he finally take a seat. (Wish Randle was here).

Wesley Johnson was given ultimate trust by Byron Scott and we didn’t see that new Wesley. Wesley Johnson is NOT the starting small forward. Purely for that inconsistent play. With Lin going to the bench, you can either have Lin and Young on the wings on that bench, or bring Young in as starting small forward. The Lakers need energy in the starting lineup AND consistency. Now Swaggy P has been known to falter a bit as a starter, so I’m on the fence about this. Kobe can also move to small forward to replace Johnson, inserting Ellington to the 2. No matter what Johnson is going to join the bench mob.

The only two guys guaranteed a starting position are Kobe Bryant and Jordan Hill. I’d be shocked and disappointed if I didn’t see 3 new guys alongside them.

I’m also not opposed to Byron developing his youth. Maybe we bring Roscoe Smith and Jordan Clarkson from the D-league and give them some minutes. Also, sign Earl Clark immediately as another small forward option.

Chemistry and wins also develop faster with better players. Lakers are mum about trades but I’m sure there’s something on the horizon. It’s not like Byron has a plethora of options to choose from. Overall they don’t have players that would ever really start on a championship contender. Grant it, any player can shine given the opportunity. This is what we have left to hope for in the case of our beloved Lakers, that somebody steps up.

With the Lakers being this horrible right now, there is still nowhere else to go but up. Let’s start with the starting lineup and see if Byron can at least find a competitive combination and go from there becase you just don’t get killed by the Boston Celtics!

Are the Lakers Truly Better Than Their Record?

November 29, 2014

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3-13. That’s the current record for the Lakers this season so far. It’s wise that the Lakers keep a positive outlook by seeing improvements in losses and saying things like they are better than their record.

But are they better than their record?

Bad teams spend a season getting blown out on some nights (Golden State) and showing some fight on others (Memphis, Clippers). After the close losses one starts to think, “well if they put forth that type of effort every night… ”

But it never happens with bad teams. It didn’t happen against the cellar-dwelling Minnesota Timberwolves last night. They can never seem to put together the closing effort good enough pull out victories rather than moral victories. Good teams play with the bad teams and win at the end because they are that good. Lakers fans know that because we’ve been on the other end of that.

We are now 16 games into the season with the season with the question being which team is this Lakers team?

In most cases you are your record. But Oklahoma City is not their record because of obvious injuries to their star players. Do the Lakers have any excuses why they are dismally 10 games below .500?

No. Not really.

Their starting five is healthy and has had ample opportunities to build chemistry.

Right now we are witnessing a team that cannot play defense. When they do, they can’t score. They can lead but can’t close out. They blow big leads because they lack killer instinct. They look…well…like a bad team.

Against Minnesota they gave up 120 points. Byron is mad. He said the team lacks focus. What can possibly take away your focus? What could be more capable of creating a sense of urgency and focus than being 9 games under .500? And they didn’t have it? So is it focus or talent??

I have to believe that they are better than their record, but at the same time that record isn’t a mistake. They kinda stink right now. Really bad. The question is can they turn it around?

So where’s the optimism? They have about 30 games to figure it out. By all-star break, the team you are is the team you are.

The Lakers haters and the Lakers lovers are both watching. Let’s see what happens.

Lakers A Work in Progress?

November 7, 2014

Nope! It’s still not time to panic. The Lakers have jumped out to a historically bad start and even as we fans have reason to freak out, we have to keep things in perspective. Seriously, perhaps I’m only living up to my name. But remember, I’m the Lakers Optimist.

The Lakers hobbled into the season after a myriad on injuries robbed them of their time to gel. Lin did not play in the starting lineup until the last couple games on pre-season. Chemistry is still settling in.

The Lakers, ready or not, took on a well prepared Houston Rockets team. During that drubbing they lost Julius Randle and took a deflated effort to Phoenix where Phoenix fully took advantage. They then proceeded to take on the Clippers and Warriors in back to back games, really learning on the fly. 4 games in 5 nights against playoff contenders. Hey, they could have won those last two.

So it’s not the fairest sample size, is it?
The question is, should Lakers fans panic? Nah. Each game they are getting better at playing together. Defensively they need a lot of work, but notice an increased effort each game. The team isn’t incapable. It’s learning. The learning curve is extremely high being that it’s the season, but they will get better and hit their stride.

What must happen?

Lin and Boozer must help Kobe. Lin and Kobe must help Hill and Boozer on defense. Lin has to attack relentlessly and keep defenses on their heels. Boozer must run towards the basket and stop settling for that jumpshot.

Price needs to run the offense and lead the defense of the second unit. The bench mob has to back up the starters. They completely floundered against Phoenix when the starters actually did well!

They have an opportunity against the Hornets on Sunday to start the winning culture. I fully expect them to turn it around. Lakers fans are the most impatient fans in the league, but we’ll have to be.

Don’t panic yet. Byron, Kobe and company will get it right.

Stay tuned!

The Redemption Season Begins for Lakers

October 28, 2014

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“….Flush it. Next season will be epic”
–Kobe Bryant on Twitter

Lakers fans endured a long summer watching other teams not named the Lakers compete for basketball royalty, waiting to see what happens to D’antoni, watching to see what pick we get in the lottery, watching to see who we pick, waiting to see our roster and watching to see who will usher in the new Laker era.

Now it begins. The redemption season.

Starring Kobe Bryant. Redemption for him is to be the dominant force he was before the season ending injuries. He wants to prove it to himself, but personally I want him to shut up the pundits and the haters. He has something to prove and nothing to prove all as once.

Also starring Jeremy Lin. Jeremy Lin has put LinSanity to rest in favor of Lintertaining. Redemption for Lin is returning to relevancy as a top tier point guard. In Houston they benched him for poor defense. Lin wants to show he is in fact a good defender. The opportunity is his for the taking.

Featuring Carlos Boozer. Much like Lin, Boozer was benched in Chicago for lack of defense. Boozer has been considered aging and on a downturn. Perhaps his redemption is to prove he is that spring chicken he claims to be. Byron’s given him that starting role to do that.

Add in Ed Davis who fought for minutes in Memphis, Julius Randle who should’ve gone earlier in the draft and Jordan Clarkson who should have gone in the first round.

The Lakers have always had their haters and this year the pundits are wasting countless articles on negative views and predictions. I know because I read them.

This year is will be different. Yes. Very different.

The pre-season saw a Laker team that really moved up the learning curve quickly. The team has begun to take on a defensive identity. Lin and Price are proven solid point guards that were missing for years. Ed Davis has proven himself to be a rim protector. Hill has been Hill. Kobe is back. Really. Randle is settling into the game.

The team is buying into Byron’s philosophy and taking on his personality.

This team will be dangerous even as they await the return of Nick Young, Xavier Henry and Ryan Kelly. Kobe and Lin’s ability to create their own shot will create problems for defenses. Boozer and Hill will create havoc on the glass. Davis off the bench will patrol the paint and Price will provide a tenacious 2nd unit defensively. Randle will grow to be a confident offensive threat.

The Lakers will have to maintain as much familiarity within their rotations. Chemistry is huge. They have to minimize defensive breakdowns and really consistently contest shots, create havoc and muddy up the game.

Every game is a statement game. This first one is no different. I don’t believe Kobe has to run this offense. Kobe doesn’t believe that either. This is a team game and expect that this season. Expect team defense. And I expect them to win a bunch of games, starting tonight.

Lakers play Houston tonight at 7:30. Let’s see how the Scott-Bryant era begins.

Lakers Upgrades to Look For

October 6, 2014

Contrary to what the pundits have said, the Lakers have serious upgrades from last year which promises a significant turnaround from last year– a playoffs type of turnaround. And here’s why:

Byron Scott. The coaching change is already paying dividends simply in the changed culture of the team. D’antoni was very much an more passive coach, who never seemed really sure of himself. Pau Gasol many times complained of discipline lacking. This team needed something very different for a place like L.A. and a team like the Lakers. The conditioning and defense-first approach will affect the personnel that takes the court first and foremost. Whether or not they are a team of defensive specialists, they will put forth efforts, implement defensive schemes and play defense by committee. Just watching practices and interviews point a new attitude and a changing culture. Look for that to translate onto the court.

Byron Scott as an analyst noticed time and time again how players like Wesley Johnson and Jordan Hill were not used where they could be successful. Wes guarded power forwards and stayed around three point line. Hill saw fluctuation in playing time in favor of a stretch four. Bigs just were not used correctly. D’antoni force-fed run and gun offense on a team that needed to feed the ball down low to control tempo and keep teams from easy transition buckets. Expect the change in offense to put players in a position to be successful, decrease transition and increase paint points. Not as exciting as D’antoni but wins are much more fun.

The Return of Kobe and Nash. Funny how those words mean nothing to the pundits. There will be a huge increase in offensive production as well as more control of tempo. These guys are a step slower but there’s no doubt that this is a major upgrade.

Point Guard Position. The point guard position got much younger and faster. Jeremy Lin is not far removed from Linsanity. He brings an ability to create his own shot, get to the basket quickly and create shots for others. Nash will start but Lin will see plenty of minutes. The Lakers also managed to nab Ronnie Price and Jordan Clarkson who will both add more depth at that position and back up Nash. Needless to say, there is less likely of a chance for blow-bys on the perimeter with these younger, quicker point guard additions.

With the loss of Gasol, Lakers still managed to shore up the power forward/center position with future star Julius Randle, all-star forward Carlos Boozer and newly added Ed Davis. Scoring may have dipped but rebounding and paint protection took a major upgrade. Rob Sacre also can provide an effective 7-footer in spurts.

Look for a more controlled, organized, defensive-minded team that can rebound effectively. Look for a priceless mentorship from Nash, Kobe and Boozer that will show up on the court. Goran Dragic was a product of being under the tutelage of Steve Nash. Look for less transition by the other teams and increased post play.

Finally, look for a stunned panel of naysayers who placed the Lakers in the nba cellar. The Lakers Optimist said so.

Lakers Training Camp Notes

October 4, 2014

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Kobe and Nash look good in practice

After 4 days of training camp we are learning more about the 2014-2015 Lakers. Unfortunately, the Lakers will most likely start the season without Swaggy P (torn thumb ligament) and Ryan Kelly (stained hamstring). Xavier Henry is still dealing with back spasms.

However, Byron Scott is focused on conditioning, defense and mastery of the Princeton offense. Players are responding and an identity is forming slowly but surely. This is definitely a new day in Lakertown. Kobe said he’s never run that much in a practice his whole career. Byron insists that they will not lose by running out of gas in the 4th quarter.

Kobe and Nash are both looking like themselves according to reporters, coaches and players. The younger players seem very open to learning from veterans like Bryant, Nash and Boozer.

Players that have become favorites thus far include, Jordan Clarkson and Ronnie Price offensively and defensively.

It looks like the starting five will be Nash, Bryant, Johnson, Boozer and Hill. The bench is very competitive and up for grabs especially with Young out. Expect Wayne Ellington, Ronnie Price and Wes Johnson to see more minutes in Young’s absence as they try to manage Kobe’s minutes.

Scott’s first dilemma is settling on a rotation that will not include Swaggy P before their first pre-season game against the Denver Nuggets.

I believe a lot of questions will be answered in these 8 games. What I look for is the defensive rotations and rebounding ability. Last year’s ominous sign in pre-season was their inability to rebound. Also, we get a good look at Kobe and Nash in action and see the strengths and weaknesses of the starting lineup.

Lakers play Denver on Monday at 7pm Pacific on Timewarner Cable Sportsnet.