Posts Tagged ‘new season’

What Has to Happen for The Lakers to be a Championship Contender? (#Lakeshow #LakersNation #NBA #Lakers)

September 14, 2018

When Lebron James signed on the dotted line, expectations jumped instantaneously for these Lakers who showed massive promise in their 2017-2018 season. When you have the greatest player in the world, anything less than a finals appearance is a failure. Lebron James has historically been able to be that game-changer that transforms a team, and he has been known to drag any team kicking and screaming into the finals as he did with the last Cleveland team. This team featured multiple roster changes and eventually left him with a mashup of unproven kids and veterans that were still finding their way with the team. They made the finals. We all know what Lebron is capable of, but in order for this supporting cast of Lakers to be special, let’s discuss what has to happen.

Lonzo Ball has to hit shots. Lonzo Ball’s shooting issues made headline news last season and brought his awkward shooting form into question. Bad shooting and all, Zo was tops in rebounding, assists, steals and blocks. However, in order for the Lakers to be a threat in the Western Conference, Zo’s new tweaked shooting form has to pay dividends. Furthermore, Lonzo will have to use his height and attack the basket. Long story short, he has to be an actual threat to score. This will keep defenses honest and with Lebron waiting down low or on the perimeter, the Lakers will be dangerous. This will also open up the other shooters. So what we asking for is for Zo to make that same leap that Brandon Ingram a season ago.

Kuzma cannot hit a sophomore slump. Kuzmania took the NBA world by storm last season. The kid can shoot from anywhere, has an array of shots and has no fear. He even dropped 30 on the Thibideau-led defensive minded Timberwolves last season. He’s an automatic scorer and has quickly become the Lakers “next in line” star. Kuzma has to make yet another significant jump in scoring options and defensive ability. There can be no kind of a sophomore slump. The Lakers need him to continue to improve dramatically as he could easily be Lebron’s right hand man and or his favorite target for a drive and kick. This is a huge year for Kuzma who, in my eyes, still has something to prove.

Brandon Ingram must have break out year. I know, I know. Why so tough on B.I? Brandon Ingram made a significant jump from averaging just 9 points game to averaging 16 points a game. At times he looked like the Alpha Male of the team. It’s almost a forgone conclusion that Brandon Ingram starts alongside Lebron James this season. This means that he is charged with being the Durant to Lebron’s Curry. I expect Ingram to jump another 9 points per, averaging 23 points a game. He must take this season by the reins and break out. He needs to have the ability to take over a game, making Lebron James that much more dangerous. Teams need to have to worry about him.

Josh Hart and Kentavious Caldwell Pope need to be 3 and D monsters. With KCP leading in the starting shooting guard vote at the moment, Josh Hart is clearly jockeying for that position. Either way, the Lakers possess two players that need to become that player you love to hate. They cannot be left alone or they will light it up from three. They also will take on the opposing team’s best player and lock them down on defense. Expect steals and transition layups or threes from these two.

The newly acquired veterans need to be specialists. Rajon Rondo needs to be a pest on defense and throw players like Curry off of their game. He needs to be able to break down defenses to set up open looks for other players. Michael Beasley needs to effectively create his own shot and be a menace in the post. JaVale McGee needs to patrol the paint and keep offenses afraid to come into his house. Lance Stephenson needs to stay in control and attack the basket, as well as be a physical defender.

The Lakers have a very young core and some veterans that can support but not takeover a game. This can easily go either way, depending on the factors that I’ve discussed. In order for this team to flourish, we’re asking for a coming of age for the young core. We’re asking for the veterans to be specialists and good at what they do. We’re asking for chemistry to develop early. The Lakers have gotten their much needed superstar. We need for another star to emerge and for role players to be effective. Do I think this can happen?

Of course! I’m the Lakers Optimist.

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Is Luke Walton in Over His Head? (#Lakers #LakersNation #Lakeshow #NBA)

August 7, 2018

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It’s funny how viewpoints can change from one moment to the next. The latest victim of the fickle fans and media is our very own Lakers coach Luke Walton. It was a historic 39-4 start that made him a hot commodity as a head coach. So when the Lakers bid farewell to then coach Byron Scott, it wasn’t long before Luke Walton took over.

So began the honeymoon period. Everybody celebrated the easy-going likeable player who was considered by the Black Mamba himself to be the next great head coach. He was given the opportunity to coach a young rebuilding team that featured D’Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr. and Julius Randle. Luke endured a very challenging first season, but managed to improve the team’s wins by 9 games.

In the following season, the Lakers made a few moves from management on down and began anew, replacing D’Angelo Russell with Lonzo Ball and adding rookie standouts Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart. Luke Walton took this young team and led the team to yet another plus 9 wins and the Lakers finished at 35-47. The second season featured heavier critiques of Luke Walton, mainly his rotations. The fans seemed to call for his head at times, but by the end of the season it was clear that Luke Walton had done a fine job with the young Lakers. He had brought them within a few games of playoff contention in spite of multiple injuries, lineup rotations, mid-season trades and LaVar Ball.

At this point it was clear that Luke Walton was very skilled at working with young players. Julius Randle became a few steps away from a star player. The young Lakers became the talk of the NBA and the rest of the NBA, including superstars began to take notice. Luke Walton had that locker room. Players loved playing for Luke. He had them running and had them playing defense. The young Lakers were poised for a real playoff run in the 2018-2019 campaign. However, behind the scenes Magic and Rob were setting the stage for another one of the Lakers historic instant upgrades. The ones that brought in Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, Pau Gasol and others. Magic and Rob, as pleased as they were with the progress of the young guns, were not looking to simply make the playoffs next season. They were looking to do more. So shortly after the Warriors all but walked away with their second championship, Magic and Rob brought in the best basketball player in the world— LeBron James. Shortly after, they signed Rajon Rondo, then Lance Stephenson, then JaVale McGee, then Michael Beasley.

All of a sudden the fickle media and fans looked back at Luke Walton and said, “Is this the right man for the job?” Some even said that this was a set up to get him fired. Talk of Phil Jackson returning and all kinds of obscenely inaccurate rumors started to fly. The bottom line is people started to look at this current Lakers team and ask if Luke Walton could coach this team.

So what changed? One, the Lakers morphed overnight from a possible 7-8 seed easily to a bona-fide championship contender. The goals changed from trying to make the playoffs and continuing to develop the young Lakers, to trying to win it all with the reloaded Lakers led by LeBron James, the young Lakers and a litany of veterans. The makeup of the team now begged questions like, “Can he coach LeBron James? Can he coach Rajon Rondo? Can he coach a championship contender?”

Forgive me for being dismissive, but what evidence do we have to suggest he can’t coach such a roster? Media have once again taken things way out of proportion and creating fires where there is no smoke. Even though fans and media have the ability to blow things out of proportion, they yet still can’t see any value in Luke’s ability to lead a stacked Golden State Warriors team to a 39-4 start. This was a team that featured stars and personalities and was obviously a championship contender. Fine. Let’s leave that one where it is. Can Luke coach LeBron James? Is it because he’s young? Is it because he’s inexperienced? Using that premise alone, one can then begin to exclude a young inexperienced Erik Spoelstra who then should not have coached LeBron James, DeWayne Wade and Chris Bosh, but led them to back-to-back championships. We can then also eliminate inexperience and young head coach Tyronn Lue who also coached LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving to a championship. These teams were a mix of stars, youth and veterans. Is Luke Walton less skilled of a coach than the aforementioned coaches? I don’t think so.

So with Luke Walton being able lead a young, inexperienced Lakers team to a 35-47 record and falling a few spots out of playoff contention, one can only expect an even more successful season when you add the greatest player in the world and some very savvy veterans. LeBron James and the recent additions do not now somehow become a detriment to Luke Walton’s coaching career. Quite the contrary, Luke is now on the fast track to legendary coaching status.

Does Luke Walton now have a challenge meshing personalities and deciding whether or not to go with veterans versus the current young core? No! LeBron has already expressed how much this young core excites him. Magic has explained to the new signees about their role and I’m sure they understand that a starting spot is anything but guaranteed. Rob Pelinka has flatly stated that the only guaranteed starter is LeBron James. Luke in times past has shown no qualms with sitting down veterans if they do not produce. The respect of the locker room has developed through his time as a player, his track record Golden State as an assistant and the job he’s done with these young Lakers in the past couple years. Luke Walton has learned from the best how to manage people and I expect him to do a fine job, especially when this whole team has a unifed desire to prove everybody wrong and win a championship.

What I’m saying is, media needs to stop trying to find fault with Luke before he even coaches his first game with a roster already touted to be a top 5 team regardless of what ESPN says. With this current roster, one can only be excited that we have a coach like Luke Walton taking the lead. A student of Phil Jackson and Gregg Poppovich, a 3 time champion and teammate of Kobe Bryant, Luke Walton is more than qualified to get a shot at leading the new-look Lakers back to NBA dominance.

 

 

Following the Trade Deadline, the Lakers are Right on Schedule

February 11, 2018
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Isaiah Thomas chomping at the bit to get in and play with his new team. He scored 22 points and dished out 6 assists in his debut.

Since the headline-grabbing Lakers regime change midway through last season, Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka have not made too many head-scratching decisions if any. It seems that everything they’ve done has inched the Lakers closer to relevance. The Lakers under the coaching staff lead by Luke Walton stayed the course amid media and fan criticisms and now find their team in a position where LOSING is not the norm. Since early January, the Lakers have gone 12-5 which includes three 4-game winning streaks. The team is clearly a better defensive unit and are buying into ball movement, resulting in victories and an increasing confidence in this still young Lakers team.

Not to be outdone, Magic and Rob managed to pull off a blockbuster trade (eat your heart out Jerry West) by sending Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson to Cleveland in exchange for Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye and a 1st round draft pick. With all love to JC and Nance, this was a brilliant move. The Lakers freed up almost 44 million in cap space, which was one of their clear goals this season. They got a draft pick which was something they had all but given for nothing years ago in the Steve Nash trade. They picked up an All-Star point guard who helped lead the Celtics to the top of the East just a season ago. They also added shooters who are both on expiring contracts, leaving them with financial flexibility. Let’s not forget that in all this the Lakers are still competitive, have not surrendered their young core AND might have even gotten BETTER.

Did the Lakers get better? In IT’s debut against the Mavericks, he literally picked up where he left off last season scoring 22 points after barely averaging 15 in Cleveland. Luke’s offense? Possibly. The Lakers as a unit just all but gave that game away through lackluster defense and not giving a young and hungry Dallas team led by an All-Star veteran in Dirk Nowitski the respect they deserve. Loss notwithstanding, they showed flashes of what a knockdown shooter and elite playmaker like IT does for this team. The question is whether the Lakers can adjust to IT’s defensive shortcomings. Will they still continue to switch on defense which has worked so well for them up to this point? Dallas wisely exposed that last night. That is a moderate issue when you again consider the sample size in Boston who finished the season 53-29. Sounds like defense was not an issue.

Let’s be completely honest, Luke Walton and staff will have this team on the same page and they will have this much improved Lakers team competing at an even higher level and preparing for the return of Lonzo Ball. There is no denying that the Lakers got a major upgrade offensively. Lonzo Ball will also even the scales defensively upon his return.

There will obviously be a minor adjustment period for rotations and such, but it appears that Isaiah will eventually have to start alongside Lonzo Ball. Brandon Ingram and Juilus Randle are a lock to start as well as Brook Lopez. Is Kentavious Caldwell-Pope coming off the bench? That sounds like the best move. Look for Alex Caruso and Corey Brewer to scale back on minutes as KCP assumes the Jordan Clarkson role as 1st off the bench. The Lakers will have plenty of flexibility to go big should teams become successful exposing IT on defense. The Lakers brass has put this team in perfect position to fight for that 8th seed while preparing to make some noise in the off-season with their newfound cap space.

It’s a very exciting time in Tinseltown as the Lakers continue to get on the fast-track back to championship glory. Stay tuned, Lakers fans.

Lakers Optimist out!

 

Are the Kids Alright…or Being Shipped out? Trade Talks and the Trade Deadline in Lakertown

January 29, 2018
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Lakers are reportedly shopping Larry Nance Jr., Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson as the trade deadline is one week away.

The Lakers are 19-30 after 49 games. And although that seems extremely shabby, the Lakers have gone 8-3 in their last 11 games, to include two 4-game winning streaks. The latter of 4 game winning streaks came with Lonzo Ball out with MCL sprain. The Lakers are somewhat turning a corner. They are learning to play defense and to move the ball. More importantly — they are WINNING GAMES at an efficient rate and winning makes everything better…right?

Even as the Lakers begin to fulfill Kyle Kuzma’s promise to “figure it out”, the trade deadline is a week away. Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle and Larry Nance Jr. are all on the trading block as the Lakers look to clear up cap space to sign as many max players as possible. Recently, Detroit was rumored to have discussed sending Avery Bradley to Tinseltown in exchange for our very own JC. Amid all this, Julius Randle has flourished in his starting role, returning to the double-double machine he was expected to be and more! He has proven to be a threat on the block and very formidable in the paint on defense. At times, it seems nobody can stop Randle. Jordan Clarkson has become instant offense and has even willed the Lakers to victories during this impressive 11 game stretch. Larry Nance Jr. has been defensively locked in and still has kept his stellar 50-plus shooting percentage while creating whispers of competing in this year’s Slam Dunk contest. These guys have been with the Lakers during the dark times, and even with the Ingram-Kuz-Ball big three, still figure to be a key component of a future championship Lakers team.

Questions are raised from this current situation:

1. How much is a non-guaranteed max player signing worth? Let’s face it. With all the hoopla about Lebron James having much of his life in Los Angeles (which doesn’t rule out the Clippers), Paul George wanting to be Laker come hell or high water (comments about Westbook changing his mind notwithstanding) and plans to go after Demarcus Cousins (Get well soon, Boogie), nothing is guaranteed. The Lakers have players that have proven to have a key role in this team returning to greatness and providing a strong supporting cast to a developing big 3 in Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball. It’s clear that losing Clarkson and or Randle will no doubt diminish this teams’ ability to win games, and they do not have any draft pick to hang their hat on. So, assuming PG stays in OKC, Bron-Bron wants to retire in Cleveland or elsewhere and any other highly coveted star does not come to the Lakers and they strike out, they want to have a quality team to build upon. Is trading Clarkson, Randle or Nance worth the risk of coming away with nothing, and being a worse team?

2. Is this team worth standing pat at the trade deadline and seeing how well they can actually play when Zo returns? The last question assumes that this Lakers team as is can truly become a playoff contender next season with another year under their belt. This team features the aforementioned big 3 and supporting cast. This team as it stands has two weaknesses, 3-point shooters and a dominant center. With that being said, when this team returns to full health, they have proven that they can compete with anyone when they are playing defense and moving the ball. They are a better defensive and rebounding team when Lonzo is on the court. Being that they’ve learned how to dominate without Ball suggests that they (minor adjustment to the rotation time included) will be even better once he returns. Being that the Lakers want to attract free agents, gutting your team for cap space and sputtering into the end of the season won’t attract anyone. So, keeping this team as is and showing improvement to the tune of 30-40 wins can create some curiosity among max free agents. Let’s be honest, the Lakers possess players that at one point or another can take over a game in Jordan Clarkson, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram and Julius Randle. Wisely enough, the Lakers had Brook Lopez and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope on 1 year deals and will potentially have space in the off-season to sign a center that can deliver on defense and athleticism and a true 3 and D guy. So the Lakers brass have to decide if it’s simply better to just (as much as Lakers fans hate this) wait and see…

Pushing my attachment to players aside and in the most unbiased way possible, I really think the Lakers need to wait. Coach Luke Walton has this team playing the right way. Furthermore, there are no players (that a team is willing to offer) that can dramatically upgrade this Lakers team in exchange for 3 loyal Lakers players who are playing very well. With the exception of Nance (who no team will take without an additional player anyway), trading any of these players would suggest waving a white flag on the season, thus gutting the roster and really putting pressure on Magic and Rob to hit the lotto in the off-season. The Lakers have a clear path and formula. They are literally 2 pieces away. In no way am I suggesting that the Lakers are fine the way they are. I am suggesting that they will be in a better position to pick up that max player with JC, Randle and Nance than they would be without.

In the next week we will find out if cap space is worth the risk of the class of 2014 and our future dunk champion (I speak it into existence). Stay tuned Lakers fans!

Lakers Optimist out.

 

Lakers WILL Do Better Than Last Year: Sick of the Laker-haters Talking

August 23, 2013

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I am not a delusional fan. Rather I think everyone else is quite delusional. I think the media and the NBA world is full of Laker-haters. These Laker-haters complain when the Lakers are on top and are beside themselves in happiness when we are at the bottom…rarely. So in the off-season following a disappointing season everybody has a bunch of nonsensical predictions for this Laker season based on a laughable LACK OF FACTS.

First of all, last season was a flop for reasons that hold no proof that this year would be a flop! Injuries to several stars throughout the season kept Lakers from chemistry and the expected success. They finished the season with a 28-12 run and played the Spurs without Bryant, Nash (really shouldn’t have played at all), Meeks, Peace nor Blake in uniform. Based on that, Lakers suck this year? That makes sense.

Howard is not coming back so Lakers will suck based on what comparison? Well if you’re going to say they need Howard to be successful you have to show me a season where they were successful with Howard! All you have is last year. Howard was playing injured, not really working with D’antoni nor buying into his offensive system and failing to take over the reins in the playoffs when it all fell on Him. So he’s gone and therefore we are worse? Yeah, that makes no sense.

The rest of the West is too tough. Nope. Your top teams in the West consist of OKC who basically peaked when they reached the finals against Heat. The status of Westbrook is unknown. This team will be good, but not great. They still lack inside presence which the Lakers still have the advantage and more, picking up young quick players that can keep up even better than previous seasons. Then you have the Spurs who’s core is getting older, Duncan, Ginobili and Parker. They did NOTHING to improve in the off-season. I don’t see them as invincible. Denver and Memphis lost their coach and have improved on anything in the off-season. Golden State is an experiment. Last year they were in the bottom half so now you’re just guessing Western Conference supremacy. I’ll give you the Clippers based on talent, but Lakers have potential to be as high as the 5th spot and WILL make the playoffs.

Everybody keeps talking about what the Lakers DON’T have. I give you the fact that we don’t know what kind of Kobe we are going to get. But let me tell you what the Lakers do have. D’antoni still one of the best offensive minds in the league, redefining the game with his run and gun offense. He created stars in Phoenix that really were not stars anywhere else since. So what happened in NY? Carmelo happened in NY. If you’re players don’t buy into what you’re selling, as a coach you’re wasting your breath. Last year, Howard would not run pick and roll with Nash. He just wanted the ball dumped in the post which resulted in forced entry passes that caused turnovers and predictable offense that caused even more turnovers. D’antoni has young quick players that respect his offense and players like Gasol, Nash and Bryant that are willing to buy into his system. If you’re concerned about D’antoni and defense, he is too! He has publicly stated this and has also enlisted Kurt Rambis as one of his assistant coaches. Pay attention folks!!!

Everybody is concerned about big names. Lakers already have big names, first of all. Secondly, every wise addition to the Lakers addressed every position that was previously lacking and also addressed the lack of athleticism and youth. They got younger and faster overnight! These players will be cogs in D’antoni’s system. D’antoni’s system does not need STARS. So that argument falls flat.

I’m not saying the Lakers are a championship contender. But I am saying that you can’t say that they are NOT by looking that the facts that the Laker-hater media (don’t listen to Charles Barkley!!) and delusional, YES delusional Laker-hater fans are using. This team will compete, will make the playoffs and then it’s anybody’s guess. Matchups, skill and luck come into play and things happen. So no I’m not putting this season away and hoping for Lebron or Melo to come to LA next year. I’m expecting a great season filled with Lakers that WANT TO BE THERE, have revenge on their mind, led by one of the greatest players that ever did it and are buying into what D’antoni is selling. This is the Lakers and the standard is high. By the way, making them the underdogs is only more motivation. Last year they were champions on paper, so we know that argument means nothing right?