Los Angeles Lakers: Anthony Davis

Pelicans prove Lakers plans could take time

March, 5, 2014
Mar 5
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
LOS ANGELES -- Now that the Los Angeles Lakers' unexpected two-game win streak was snapped by a that's-more-like-it 132-125 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday, Lakers fans can get back to what they've become quite adept at over the past several months: looking ahead to the NBA draft.

And while those fans would rather not have to think twice about seeing a Pelicans team that came into the game on an eight-game losing streak completely take it to their team by shooting 59.7 percent from the field and lead by as many as 21 points, there was actually a lesson to be learned in observing New Orleans.

[+] EnlargeAnthony Davis
Noah Graham/Getty ImagesAnthony Davis is having a stellar second season for the Pelicans, which prompted coach Monty Williams to say, "Who at 20 is playing like him?"
You see, the Pelicans struck it rich in the draft only two years ago, securing the crown jewel in the 2012 draft by making Anthony Davis the No. 1 pick.

Davis isn't just any No. 1 pick, either. His 28 points on 10-for-16 shooting, 15 rebounds and three assists Tuesday was a mere taste of what the second-year big man can do. Heck, it wasn't even his best game against the Lakers this season. The 6-foot-10, 220-pounder put up 32 points, 12 rebounds and six blocks against them back in November.

Talk to people around the league and they'll tell you that Davis is one of a handful of young players they could envision being the linchpin on a championship team.

This isn't meant for the Lakers' faithful to lust over Davis' services (he won't be leaving New Orleans until 2019 at the earliest, unless he's traded), but rather realize that the road map to the future can be a bumpy one.

Even if the Lakers somehow out-tank the four teams with worse records than them down the stretch -- Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Orlando and Boston -- and end up with the best player the draft has to offer, be it Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Julius Randle, Dante Exum or somebody else, there will still be a growth process to endure.

Starting with the draftee himself. Davis had a solid rookie campaign, averaging 13.5 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks, but Pelicans coach Monty Williams said he didn't stand out as the team's best player until New Orleans started to struggle with injuries this season.

"I think this has been a blessing in disguise in that he's been able to stamp his claim as the franchise player," Williams said before Tuesday's game, citing injuries to Ryan Anderson and Jrue Holiday that have thrust more responsibility on Davis' broad shoulders. "Now, when those guys come back, I think they have to adapt to his game. So, with all the stuff that we've been through this year -- no tragedies, just a lot of injuries and things that we can't control -- that's the one thing that, among other things, we can go into the summertime and say, 'We know he is the guy.' "

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With no Kobe, Lakers need Gasol

November, 8, 2013
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
NEW ORLEANS -- After another lackluster loss for the Los Angeles Lakers -- the second of their four defeats in this infant season in which they were in striking distance in the fourth quarter only to be blitzed in the end -- Chris Kaman was the team's truth teller.

"We need Kobe Bryant to come back, sooner than later," Kaman said following L.A.'s 96-85 loss to New Orleans. "That happens when it happens, but that's a huge piece that we're missing."

Kaman, taking a break from his Captain Caveman nickname to try a hand as Captain Obvious, was not offering up groundbreaking sentiment.

[+] EnlargePau Gasol
Layne Murdoch/NBAE/Getty ImagesPau Gasol shot just 4-for-22 in the past two games and is averaging 12 points on 35.2 percent shooting through the first seven.
Yes, the Lakers need Bryant on the court in the fourth quarter of close games, not sitting behind the bench dressed in black with sunglasses and looking like a member of Saturday Night Live's "Sprockets" sketch, as he was on Friday.

Yes, the five-time champion will be able to organize things in winning time. He'll give a pecking order to a Lakers team whose 10-man rotation is starting to look more like a mile wide and an inch deep.

"It's putting guys in the right slots when I'm out there on the floor," Bryant said Thursday when asked how the team is missing him most. "I'm able to kind of put them in the right positions to take advantage of the defense because I'm able to read things a lot more and communicate things a lot better when I'm out there actually playing."

His omission was obvious against San Antonio, when L.A. had a two-point lead with 3:55 to go and lost by six; against Houston when it led by four headed into the fourth and fell down by six before rallying to win by one; and against New Orleans when the Lakers trailed by just three with 3:30 to go and saw that hole reach 15 less than three minutes later.

"Especially with late-game situations, you need some guy that can just have the ball and get you buckets and score," Kaman said. "That's kind of what Kobe is known for and what he's good at. He's a killer at the end."

Added coach Mike D'Antoni: "Going down the stretch you kind of have to know what you want to go with. We're not there yet. We don't know exactly how we need to finish the game yet."

Which brings us to Pau Gasol, who has almost assuredly never been referred to as a killer. In fact, with all of his philanthropic pursuits, he's more likely to be called a healer.

Regardless of his personality type, with Bryant out, he is undoubtedly the leader of his team right now. You don't need any more evidence than to see the way rookie Elias Harris stood in front of his locker transfixed after Friday's game, watching the veteran Gasol intently as he dealt with difficult questions from the media on a night he played terrible.

The Lakers believe in Gasol. "We know how great he is and he'll get back on track no problem," said Steve Blake. "Without a doubt."

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Rapid Reaction: Pelicans 96, Lakers 85

November, 8, 2013
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin

NEW ORLEANS -- Another night, another inconsistent performance from the Jekyll & Hyde-like Los Angeles Lakers.

After they broke through with their gutsy first road win of the season in Houston on Thursday, the Lakers' seesaw came crashing down in New Orleans on Friday.

They might not have lost by 25, as was their average margin of defeat in their first two losses away from Staples Center, but the fourth quarter sure felt like it.

L.A. trailed by three headed into the final frame. The team walked away with an 11-point loss.

Win one. Lose two. Win one. Lose one. Win one. Lose one. That's been the story of the first two weeks of the season for these up-and-down Lakers.

How it happened: Steve Blake's 3-pointer made it a two-point game halfway through the fourth quarter, but Anthony Davis stole the momentum back for the home team with a pair of highlight dunks to put the Pelicans back up 80-74. It snowballed from there, with Davis (32 points, 12 rebounds) taking over on both ends of the floor and the Lakers seemingly turning it over or missing a shot on alternating possessions the rest of the game.

What it means: Having a deep rotation is great when the ball is moving and everyone is sharing it and feeding off the energy that's being created, but some nights -- especially on a back-to-back -- you have to have some guarantees to lean on, and L.A. didn't know who or what to go to when things got tough against New Orleans.

Hits: Chris Kaman kept up his strong play in the starting lineup, scoring a season-high 16 points on 7-for-13 shooting. But he curiously spent the entire fourth quarter on the bench.

Nick Young also kept up his solid scoring, putting in 13 points on 5-for-11 shooting from the field.

Blake had 13 points and eight assists.

Misses: The Lakers' bench, which had outscored the starters in each of the first two games on the road trip, managed just 23 points as a collective.

Blake had five turnovers.

Pau Gasol had another bad shooting night, going 3-for-12 from the field.

Jordan Hill had 13 rebounds in 23 minutes, but went 0-for-6 from the foul line.

Stat of the game: The Lakers shot just 31-for-80 (38.8 percent). Their offense just wasn't there.

Up next: The Lakers will have a day off Saturday and get back to business with a week full of winnable games -- home against Minnesota on Sunday, home against New Orleans on Tuesday, on the road in Denver on Wednesday on the second night of a back-to-back in that altitude (a tough one), and home against a struggling Memphis team on Friday.

Rapid Reaction: Lakers 111, Hornets 106

January, 29, 2013
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
LOS ANGELES -- We still don't know exactly what went down at that team meeting in Memphis for the Lakers, but maybe it was like that episode of "Seinfeld" in which George Costanza decides to do everything the opposite way.

"It's not not working, Jerry," George says. "It's just not working. … Why did it all turn out like this for me? I had so much promise. …"

Sounds like the Los Angeles Lakers, right? At 17-25 heading into that air-it-out session, the promise of a Lakers championship run that once seemed destined when the team came together seemed all but impossible.

As George begins to commiserate with Jerry about how poorly his life has gone, he comes to a sudden realization: If every instinct he has is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.

We're joking here, of course, but how else can one rationally explain Wednesday's game against the New Orleans Hornets, when Steve Nash grabbed four rebounds to Dwight Howard's four; Earl Clark scored 20 points to Kobe Bryant's 14; Bryant dished 11 assists to Nash's five; the Lakers' bench scored 38 points to the Hornets' bench's 32?

The Lakers (20-25) are climbing their way back and their team cohesion certainly is the opposite of what we've seen for most of this season.

How it happened: The Lakers ran out to an 18-point lead in the first half, thanks to hot starts from both Howard (10 points in the first quarter) and Clark (eight in the first). The Hornets cut the lead to four with 2:45 remaining in the third quarter before L.A. used a 9-3 run to end the quarter and head into the fourth back up by double digits. A Ryan Anderson 3-pointer (his second in a row) with 2:40 remaining in the final frame cut the Lakers' lead back to three; this was followed by a Greivis Vasquez floater that cut it to one shortly thereafter. But a Clark layup and Nash 3 stopped the run, and L.A. was able to hold on.

What it means: If the Lakers can get it done on the road, they will have a chance to be back in the playoff race before the All-Star break begins.

Hits: Howard shot 9-for-13 from the field and Clark wasn't far behind at 8-for-11.

Bryant was two rebounds away from a triple-double after totaling nine rebounds in each of his previous two games.

Misses: Metta World Peace shot 1-for-8 (1-for-6 from 3) from the field.

L.A. allowed Anderson to score 11 points in the fourth quarter as the Hornets almost pulled off the comeback.

Stat of the night: Bryant finished with 11 assists on the night, bringing his total for the past three games up to 39 -- the most he has ever had over a three-game stretch in his 17-year career. It was the fifth time in his career he has had 10-plus assists in three straight games, and the first time it has happened since Jan. 14-21, 2009, when he did it in four straight.

What's next: The Lakers head to Phoenix for the second night of a back-to-back on Wednesday, starting a seven-city, 12-day road trip. It should be an emotional return for Nash, who played eight seasons with the Suns and won two league MVPs with the franchise. The Lakers will test their current three-game winning streak against their terrible road record of just 5-15.

Lakers at Hornets: What to watch

December, 5, 2012
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
For 24 minutes Tuesday night in Houston, it appeared the Lakers were on the verge of bouncing back from a mortifying loss to Orlando with a blowout win over a Rockets squad with consecutive home wins under its belt. After 36 minutes, it seemed the Lakers would simply have to settle for a comfortable win. After 43 minutes, a respectable, if less impressive, single-digit victory. After 47 minutes, a dogfight squeaker W.

And after 48 minutes, they settled instead for an 8-10 record and heads shaken in disbelief.

On the plus side, the Lakers have an immediate opportunity to get back on a winning track against a Hornets squad missing key players and fairly thin even at full strength. On the minus side, a win over a 5-11 squad can't even remotely be taken for granted. Either way, they'll lace up the sneaks and give it a run.

For more perspective on the Hornets, I sent some questions to Joe Gerrity, who covers the team for the TrueHoop Network's Hornets 247 blog.

Andy Kamenetzky: I realize this question could ask you to cover a lot of ground, but what are the main reasons the Hornets are struggling to win games?

Joe Gerrity: Well, they're paying about $36 million of their $63 million in total salary this season to Eric Gordon, Anthony Davis, Rashard Lewis and Matt Carroll. Lewis and Carroll -- both waived after arriving via trade -- have never and will never touch the floor for the Hornets. Gordon is rehabbing in L.A. and continues to have his estimated return date pushed back. Davis has played only six games so far. They're struggling to win because the team they're fielding is less talented and less experienced than the vast majority of opponents. On Monday night, for example, Brian Roberts, Austin Rivers, Xavier Henry, Lance Thomas and Jason Smith were all in the game at the same time for the Hornets.

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Nick Young
17.9 1.5 0.7 28.3
ReboundsJ. Hill 7.4
AssistsK. Bryant 6.3
StealsK. Bryant 1.2
BlocksW. Johnson 1.0