Los Angeles Lakers: Boston Celtics

Pierce: Kobe a 'basketball serial killer'

January, 11, 2015
Jan 11
8:38
AM PT
Holmes By Baxter Holmes
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Kobe Bryant, Paul Pierce Ned Dishman/NBAE/Getty Images
Paul Pierce called Kobe Bryant one of the five toughest players he has ever defended and described the longtime Lakers star as "a basketball serial killer."

Pierce, now in his 17th NBA season, made his comments about Bryant in a first-person article for The Players' Tribune that was published last week. The other four players that Pierce listed as the toughest he has defended: Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony.

"[Bryant's] mentality -- his killer instinct -- is what separates him from the other guys on this list, because once Kobe knows he has you, he’s going to keep attacking you," Pierce wrote. "He’ll throw you down, beat you up and even when you’re knocked out, he’ll keep hitting you."

Bryant, now in his 19th season with the Lakers, and Pierce have battled twice in the NBA Finals, with Pierce's Boston Celtics winning in 2008 and Bryant's Lakers winning in 2010.

"One of the toughest games I remember playing against Kobe happened in Boston," Pierce wrote. "I think he made seven or eight shots in a row on me. So we come into the huddle during a timeout and Coach is looking at me with a face that I knew meant he wanted me to switch off of Kobe. And the rest of the guys on the team could see what was happening and they were looking at me too. Finally they bring up that maybe we should switch and put a different guy on him, and I yelled, 'Hell no! I’m going to guard him! I got this!'

"He ended up missing the last nine shots of that game with me on him, and we won. But the stat sheet is still vivid in my mind. Kobe took 47 shots. Forty-seven. No one has ever taken 47 shots on me. Most games a team will get up 81 to 89 shots.

"What you have to understand about Kobe’s game is that by taking that many shots, he’s meticulously wearing down the defender until he breaks them. He’s made a career out of making guys lose confidence in their defense and then continuing to attack them. He’s won five rings doing that."

Growing Lakers bust the slump

January, 18, 2014
1/18/14
8:53
AM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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BOSTON -- Everyone is prone to a mistake at work once in awhile. The way one responds to that mistake can define the employee as much as the blunder. Show up to the next shift, show you care, show you're capable and show your worth and the initial misstep can actually be a chance to spring forward.

[+] EnlargeRajon Rondo
David Butler II/USA TODAY SportsKendall Marshall credited Nick Young for lighting "a fire under us" after a forgettable night in Phoenix.
That's the position Lakers Kendall Marshall and Ryan Kelly found themselves in this week after they both essentially had a bad day at the office in the Lakers' 121-114 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday, a game in which Nick Young was ejected for getting involved in a fight after being surrounded by several Suns players, prompting Young to claim he felt like he was abandoned by his teammates.

None of Young's teammates took more flak for their involvement, or lack thereof, in the Suns scuffle than the Lakers' rookie stretch forward and second-year point guard. Kelly, Young's teammate closest to the scene, was criticized for freezing up instead of intervening. Marshall, also on the court when it happened, stayed out by the 3-point line and stared and then had the audacity afterwards to call out Young for starting the fight, failing to cover Young's back and then stabbing him in it.

The Lakers addressed it as a team rather than let it fester, holding an air-it-out meeting Friday in Boston before playing the Celtics later that night. Marshall even pulled a complete 180, apologizing for being a spectator rather than a protector and also for what he said.

Then there was a game to play. And that's where things got interesting.

[+] EnlargeKelly
Jared Wickerham/Getty ImagesRyan Kelly scored 20 points off the bench and knocked down two late free throws to help the Lakers hold off the Celtics.
Because for a Lakers team that was supposed to be all about its aging stars this season, with a backcourt of Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash in their mid-to-late thirties and key contributors like Pau Gasol, Steve Blake and Chris Kaman all having crossed the three-decade threshold already, suddenly the narrative changed to being about a couple of 22-year olds in Kelly and Marshall trying to make those wobbly first steps towards long and fruitful careers.

And while it was the worst Lakers-Celtics matchup in the history of the rivalry in terms of the combined winning percentage of the two teams when they tipped off, the Lakers' 107-104 win ended up being as exciting of a game as the two teams have played in years.

Marshall (19 points, 14 assists) and Kelly (20 points, four rebounds) led the way for L.A. It was Marshall shaking off his reputation as a shaky shooter as he calmly hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:09 remaining to give L.A. a 105-104 lead. It was Kelly defying his lanky build to secure a rebound in traffic after Avery Bradley's potential game-winning floater was off the mark with 25 seconds left and then following that up by tracking down the rock on a nutty jump ball play on the next possession, tacking on two free throws to boot.

“Very proud of them,” Gasol said after putting up 24 points, 13 rebounds and six assists of his own, but pleased as punch to pass on the shine to players who hadn't been there, done that quite yet. “Very happy at the way they were able to step up and play well for us, because that’s what we need. They’re going to take away certain things and they’re going to be open to take certain shots, and they need to knock them down and shoot them with confidence.”

Confidence is something the pair certainly is not lacking. Despite Marshall’s “tricky” jumper, as described by coach Mike D’Antoni, the fact that he shot “about 40 times” against Phoenix (he was actually 4-for-16) as D’Antoni said, proved he believes in his own ability. Kelly is the same way. When he was asked if he ever doubted he would get the chance to prove himself in the league when he was sidelined for most of the summer with a foot injury, he shot the reporter an incredulous stare. “No,” Kelly said. “Sorry. No.”

Confidence can fuel a player, but it can also become toxic if it progresses to cockiness. Kelly and Marshall have talent, no doubt, but the last couple days proved how much they still have to learn about the league. Humility is necessary for growth. Being a know-it-all is really more of a sign of insecurity than confidence.

(Read full post)

World Peace looks back on life as a Laker

July, 12, 2013
7/12/13
11:33
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Metta World Peace is rarely at a loss for words. His rap sessions with the media are known for being frank, wide-ranging and, of course, entertaining. He shoots from the hip and channels his stream of consciousness as he speaks, allowing his thoughts to flow out of him and into the voice recorders and notebooks of the reporters who surround him.

So, when World Peace took his time to collect his thoughts Friday, a day after his four-year run with the Los Angeles Lakers came to an end when the team waived him via the NBA amnesty provision, it was striking.

"When you think back on being a Laker the last four years, what comes to your mind?" this reporter asked.

World Peace thought in silence for three seconds.

[+] EnlargeMetta World Peace
Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty ImagesFor Metta World Peace, an NBA Finals speech and his work in the Los Angeles community have been highlights of his Lakers career.
"Hmph."

Two more seconds of silence.

"Umm."

Four seconds, and then he repeated the question to himself.

"What comes to my mind?"

Fourteen seconds more. And then, jackpot.

"Probably Derek Fisher's Game 7 speech," World Peace said, referring to the do-or-die, winner-take-all game against the Boston Celtics to finish off the 2010 NBA Finals. "Game 7 speech in the fourth quarter, that was the most craziest thing I've ever heard in my life."

The Lakers trailed the longtime rival Celtics by as many as 13 in the second half until the tide started to turn on the Staples Center court, and Fisher's words helped bring the team home to victory.

"It was the craziest experience of my life," World Peace said. "It was like Martin Luther King, man. I'm telling you. That was like the craziest thing ever.

"Basketball is just a game. That's all it is, but at that time, you're playing something since you were 8 years old, and then you want this prize -- which is only a materialistic item, but it doesn't feel that way at all. It feels way more real. And for this guy to give a speech at a time where if you was to lose, you would probably be heartbroken and it will haunt you for the rest of your life. And for this guy to give a speech, it was crazy. It was the craziest thing I ever experienced in my life. It was the craziest thing ever. Derek is just amazing."

Fisher's diatribe might have been inspiring, but World Peace's performance was impactful. He finished with 20 points, five rebounds and five steals, and his 3-pointer with one minute remaining doubled L.A.'s lead from three to six and helped propel the Lakers to the 83-79 win.

"It's really hard to get a ring," World Peace said. "It's really hard to get a championship ring. So, the positive is we got one [in his time in L.A.]. Not enough. We should have had more, but, we got one, and I think that's something to be proud about."

Here are some more memories from World Peace:

On being teammates with Kobe Bryant: "He was very competitive. Taught me a lot, and just too, too competitive because he tried a lot to do it himself. And too tough, because he played through too many injuries. Played through way too many injuries. Sometimes he should have just took a break, I thought, and just [said], 'All right, get it back the next day.' But that's the nature. That's what we are. I came back off [knee] surgery [after 12 days]. We can't help it."

On what went wrong this past season: "Wow. I just think that Dr. [Jerry] Buss was a chemist. So, the molecules didn't quite fit up."

On whether he ever got a replacement championship ring for the one he auctioned off to raise money for mental health awareness: "Never."

On his charity efforts: "I did a lot of things in the community -- like major, major impact. I didn't do small things. I'm going to continue to work with the community out here in L.A. I'm going to continue. I'm not going to just go somewhere else and then forget the stuff I was doing in L.A. to springboard the things I wanted to do in other communities. But, the impact that we made in the community in four years, that was huge.

"We attempted to raise $250 million with [the help] of a congresswoman. [We worked] to get psychologists in schools. Big things that are necessary. That's way more important than anything that I've done here [in L.A. on the court]. That's why I'm most grateful to have been a Laker, because without the Lakers, I would have never had that platform to go into Congress and speak about all that stuff, about what's necessary and all the stuff that's happening in the world today."

On his experience in L.A.: "I still got a chance to be myself. I made a couple errors being suspended, but other than that, I was able to be myself. And it's hard to be myself, because I'm very edgy. It's hard. Even I'll be like, 'OK, [calm down].' But I was happy because I was able to be myself and not cross the line, and that's hard because I just have no filter. I have no filter."

On whether he feels like a changed man from his days as a Laker: "I don’t know if I’ve changed. I just make better decisions. I make way better decisions now in my life. Definitely."

Shaq: Kobe can play at a high level until he's 40

July, 10, 2013
7/10/13
9:58
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Kobe Bryant might still be months away from being able to run and jump following Achilles surgery in April, but there is an ardent supporter in Bryant's corner who swears that he'll come all the way back and then some.

Dwight Howard chose to go far, far away from Bryant, but Shaquille O'Neal has come back around to offer his full support to his former teammate.

"Kobe's a tough competitor," O'Neal said on a conference call Wednesday to promote his involvement in Adam Sandler's new movie, "Grown Ups 2," which opens in theaters Friday. "He loves when everyone doubts him. Of course at (almost) 35, they're saying he's done, but Kobe will show the world that he can play at a high level until he's 40. I know with the rehab, he's probably only supposed to do it once a day. I know for a fact he's doing it twice, if not three times a day. He tells everybody he's coming back in December, but if he could, he would like to be ready at the start of the season. That's how much he's going to push this thing to try to get to 100 percent."

O'Neal's praise of Bryant carries even more weight when you consider that it was a torn Achilles that ended O'Neal's career in 2011, when he was a 39-year-old playing in his 19th season as a member of the Boston Celtics.

"It was a career-ending injury," O'Neal said. "There should have been one more year left on the deal, but I was like, 'Nah, I'm older.' I was always used to dominating and playing at a high level. When I was with the Celtics, it was more of like a reserve role and I really wasn't comfortable with that. I didn't want to be in anybody's way and I just wanted to give somebody else a chance -- like a young guy, if they wanted to sign anybody else."

Why didn't O'Neal persevere through the injury and try to give it one last try to extend his career, the way that Bryant is dubbing his comeback "The Last Chapter"?

"Basically, I was just tired," O'Neal said. "I didn’t want to do rehab. I didn't want to fight to come back and all that."

(Read full post)

Rapid Reaction: Lakers 113, Celtics 99

February, 20, 2013
2/20/13
10:24
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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LOS ANGELES -- What better way could the Los Angeles Lakers honor their late owner, Dr. Jerry Buss, than by sticking it to their bitter rivals in the Boston Celtics?

In what was an emotional night from the start with the Lakers paying tribute to Buss with a pregame ceremony led by Kobe Bryant, they were able to ride the energy in the building to a rout.

"The way you got to approach it is just as a tribute to him to go out and play as hard as you can and turn the emotion into something positive," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said before the game. "It will be a nice tribute on a sad occasion."

It was an important win for L.A., and not just because of the Buss connection or because it avenged the 21-point beatdown they suffered in Beantown at the beginning of the month. The victory got the Lakers out of the gate on the right foot after the All-Star break.

D'Antoni put the pressure on his team Tuesday, proclaiming they would have to go at least 20-8 in the final stretch of the season to realize their goal of making the playoffs.

They're 1-0 so far. Pulling off a 19-8 record the rest of the way is no sure bet, but it's a heck of a lot more believable than them going 20-7 had they laid an egg Wednesday.

How it happened: L.A. came out sharp, scoring 36 points in the first quarter on 52.2 percent shooting from the field. They kept the effort up all night, leading by as many as 22 and earning a standing ovation as they left the court at the end of the game.

What it means: If Howard truly is the future of the Lakers' franchise, as general manager Mitch Kupchak said Wednesday morning, then maybe the purple and gold will be in better shape than some fans thought. Howard has repeatedly said all that matters for him and for his team is right now, and he finally played as if there were no tomorrow. The All-Star center scored 12 of his team-high 24 points (on 10-for-13 shooting) in the first quarter and added 12 rebounds and a block. If he can make this a nightly performance, Kupchak will have good reason for wanting him to stick around.

Hits: Earl Clark grabbed a career-high 16 rebounds to go along with his 14 points.

Clark was one of seven Lakers players to score in double-digits.

Steve Nash dished out seven assists, passing Lakers legend Magic Johnson for fourth on the NBA's all-time assist list, giving him 10,144 for his career.

Misses: Bryant picked up his 12th technical foul of the season. Should that total reach 16, Bryant would have to serve a one-game suspension. There are 27 games left in the regular season after Wednesday.

Stat of the night: L.A. outscored Boston 54-30 on points in the paint.

What's next: The Lakers will have a brief practice Thursday before attending Buss' funeral as a team in the afternoon at Nokia Theatre. Their next game is Friday at home against the Portland Trail Blazers.

Rapid Reaction: Celtics 116, Lakers 95

February, 7, 2013
2/07/13
7:45
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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BOSTON -- A couple of Lakers players' nicknames seriously need to be called into question after this one.

So much for the "Magic Mamba" moniker the pass-happy Kobe Bryant has picked up in recent weeks.

Bryant, who had amassed 75 assists in his last seven games to pick up the nickname, finished with zero assists to go with his 27 points and seven rebounds in 30 minutes on Thursday.

And so long to the "Superman" pseudonym by which Dwight Howard has been known for so long.

Howard, who played for the first time in four games after aggravating the torn labrum in his right shoulder at the start of the Lakers' seven-game trip, had just nine points and nine rebounds while shooting 1-for-6 from the free throw line in 28 minutes before fouling out Thursday night. Those numbers were nearly equaled by Boston backup big Chris Wilcox (eight points, nine rebounds), and nobody is calling him Superman. In fact, when I tweeted that Wilcox was playing in the game, several people hit me up on Twitter surprised that he was even still in the league.

The loss can't be put on just Kobe Bryant and Howard, of course. The Lakers' defense gave up a ridiculous 116 points to a Celtics team that had just played the night before on the road in Toronto. The Lakers missed 12 free throws as a team. Other than Bryant and Howard, the Lakers shot just 23-for-64 (35.9 percent) from the floor.

How it happened: Howard's return didn't give the team the type of boost right from the start that it was hoping for in Pau Gasol's absence. The Lakers trailed by four at the end of the first quarter and 14 at the half, as both their offense (just 37.8 percent shooting as a team overall, not to mention going 2-for-12 from 3 and 8-for-18 from the free throw line) and their defense (allowing Boston to shoot 51.1 percent as a team) struggled mightily in the first half. It didn't get any better after halftime.

The Celtics used a flurry of fast-break points and 3-pointers to break the game wide open and take a 26-point lead into the fourth. Boston shot 16-for-21 (76.2 percent) in the third quarter and scored 37 points in the period to run away with it.

What it means: All the good feeling from the Lakers' winning six out of seven games is gone, and reality is creeping in for a 23-27 Lakers team that will be without Gasol for a minimum of six to eight weeks, according to the team. The hard work is still ahead of the Lakers if they're going to pull off this improbable playoff push.

Hits: Bryant shot 9-for-15 from the field. After that? Umm …

Misses: The Celtics outscored the Lakers 58-36 in the paint.

The Celtics outscored the Lakers 22-4 in fast-break points.

The Lakers' biggest lead was one point. The Celtics' biggest lead was 32.

Devin Ebanks ended his string of 13 straight DNP-CDs only to go 2-for-6 from the field in five minutes in the fourth.

Stat of the night: Kevin Garnett (15 points) became just the 16th player in NBA history to score 25,000 career points, passing the milestone in the first half.

What's next: The Lakers will escape the major snowstorm set to blanket Boston with up to 2 feet of snow Friday afternoon by flying to Charlotte late Thursday night. (We'll see whether we beat writers are as lucky with getting out of Beantown on Friday morning.) The Lakers play the Bobcats in Charlotte on the second night of a back-to-back Friday, and while they've done OK this season on the second night of back-to-backs on the road (3-2), they are just 2-5 all time on the road against the Bobcats. Then, they finish up their road trip Sunday in Miami.

Celtics to sign Leandro Barbosa ... and that's fine.

October, 17, 2012
10/17/12
6:11
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Why a headline in this neck of the woods regarding news about the enemy?

Because Los Angeles Lakers fans have inquired throughout the offseason about the Brazilian Blur landing in L.A. A lot.

After all, Leandro Barbosa is a "name," and fans are often gaga for any free agent of name value. He has experience playing alongside Steve Nash (albeit several seasons ago in a very different system.) The Lakers bench was often painfully devoid of scoring last season, and Barbosa is -- perhaps literally -- nothing if not a scorer. And Lakers fans are nothing if not greedy, and in turn demand a roster of notables from Kobe Bryant downward. (This summer has only further warped any sense of grounded reality.) Thus, I imagine there will be members of the Laker Nation disappointed to see Barbosa heading to the opposite coast.

Personally, I don't think the team will miss Barbosa's services.

(Read full post)

PodKast: Blake's injury, #6 for #24, JET's fightin' words

September, 27, 2012
9/27/12
3:42
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Our last podKast before training camps begins. On several levels, we're quite excited about this timeline.

The show can be heard by clicking on the module and a breakdown of talking points can be found below:



Play Download

- (1:00): After taking a moment to celebrate Metta World Peace's offseason conditioning, we turn to more somber news on the health front. Steve Blake suffered a (very strange) puncture wound to his left foot, and will therefore be unable to participate in impact exercises for three weeks during training camp. Given that Blake could miss some scrimmages and preseason games, does this situation present an opportunity for Chris Duhon or Darius Morris to earn the spot backing up Steve Nash?

- (10:00): Players 6-10 in #NBArank were announced Tuesday, and Kobe Bryant came in at sixth with a bullet. BK already shared some thoughts, so there's no need to rehash too much of what's there. Plus, as I've noted many times on the blog, I find the concept of ranking players fairly tedious, in large part because people so often work themselves into a lather. Particularly when it comes to The Mamba, whose die-hard followers can be a sensitive lot. It's important to remember hairs are being split between great players. As Brian noted, that Bryant's still part of this discussion after 16 seasons is what matters most and is most remarkable.

Having said that, I also gave Kobe a "10" (the highest possible number) when I filled out my ballot, so direct any complaints somewhere else. And those insulted by Kobe's standing can perhaps take solace in the following. Last year, at age 33, Kobe was seventh in this project. This year, at age 34, he's sixth. Thus, if trends hold, he'll land the No. 1 spot at age 39!

- (18:50): Jason Terry made small headlines recently with his stated mission of "killing" the Lakers and Heat as part of a Celtics squad aiming for a title and none too fond of L.A. or Miami.

- (21:20): The Brooklyn Nets cheerleader outfits are... eye-catching.

Lakers vs. Celtics: What to watch with ESPN Boston

March, 10, 2012
3/10/12
7:51
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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While the Lakers have performed at least a little better on the court than their shamrocked enemies from the east, the basic narratives surrounding both teams are similar. Aging squads clinging like kittens on tree branches to championship relevance while all sorts of pre-deadline rumors swirl around their big stars, putting into serious question the future of their current ring bearing cores.


David Butler II/US Presswire
Andrew Bynum has been on a roll. Can he keep it up against a stiff Boston D?


Still, just as it was when the teams met this year in Boston, a Lakers/Celtics matchup brings the sort of intensity out of both teams reminding everyone why, even if both squads need a little polish to get back to the top, we still pay close attention when they're on the floor together. Certainly until the cast of characters changes significantly, at least.

To get a little more insight on where things stand with the C's, we caught up with our man Chris Forsberg of ESPN Boston, who was kind enough to step away from a family vacation (seriously!) to answer a few questions:

Q: The Celtics still get it done defensively (3rd in efficiency) but the offense has fallen off a cliff (25th), even relative to what's gone on with the Lakers. What accounts for their struggles?

Forsberg: As you'd expect from an aging team, the pace of play has dipped (even Rajon Rondo can't get these guys to run often) and Boston's pace has bogged down a full possession per game since its championship season. The bigger problems are that Boston (1) turns the ball over at an alarming rate, (2) doesn't rebound particularly well at either end of the floor, and (3) settles for an insane amount of jump shots (all signs of an aging team). The result? A Celtics squad that averaged 100.5 points per game in their title campaign is now averaging a mere 90.5 points per game this season. We see occasional bursts of life, particularly when Rondo fuels them, but if jump shots aren't falling, this team really struggles to put points on the board because they don't typically generate easy buckets.

Q: How real are the Rajon Rondo trade discussions? Can you explain the persistent chatter surrounding him? On an aging team, he seems like the one guy you'd want to build around.

Forsberg: The Rondo trade chatter was very real in the preseason when the team tried to pry Chris Paul from New Orleans. Even when we heard rumors about Rondo being offered to another team, it was always with the goal of obtaining the pieces necessary to land Paul, who was the only endgame for Danny Ainge. Ever since? I'm sure Ainge is listening, but the Celtics understand his value. He's not going anywhere without an elite cornerstone coming back to Boston and that's unlikely to happen at the deadline. Is he a stubborn kid? Sure, but what superstar doesn't have his flaws? When he's engaged, he's one of the best at his position.

(Read full post)

Pau Gasol and the Trade Machine

February, 20, 2012
2/20/12
2:23
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Last week, in the wake of that day's rumor-du-jour (to Minnesota for Derrick Williams and stuff) Pau Gasol told me he'd like some sort of resolution to the ongoing swap gossip swirling around him. Following L.A.'s loss to the Suns on Sunday in Phoenix, Kobe Bryant laid into management, saying essentially the same thing. Trade him or don't, but make a decision quickly. Don't let Gasol, or the team, twist in the wind.

I suspect Kobe's comments won't do much beyond making Gasol's mental state an even bigger focus between now and the deadline.


Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images
Would you want to see these guys switch jerseys?

Pau is a tough guy to trade. On the one hand, even in a "down" year, Gasol is averaging 16.8 points, 10.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.3 blocks a game. Last night, he put up 17/12/6, and after people were concerned about circumstances sending his game downhill. He's very, very good, and has a skill set most teams covet. Far too good to give away for a box of saltines and 15 basketballs.

On the other hand, he's 31, carries a pricey contract and still has a little image rehab to do following the end of last season.

Still, if everyone wants a resolution and the Lakers, as Gasol believes, are simply waiting for the right offer, what could the deals look like? Below are a collection of Trade Machine-approved swaps, many reflecting some of the very rumors causing all this controversy in the first place.

(A couple of notes: First, for simplicity's sake, I stuck to two-team deals with at least some degree of viability. Second, I tried to keep each deal boiled down to the key figures. Again, a nod to simplicity, and the clarity of a deal's essential components. Experiment with them as you please to appease the gods of equity. Finally, inclusion of a scenario is not necessarily an endorsement.)

TRADE 1: Lakers trade Gasol to Houston for Luis Scola, Kevin Martin and Goran Dragic.

It's the deal everyone made before, right, cutting those pesky league-owned killjoy Hornets out of the loop? No, not really. That swap worked well for L.A. because they got back Chris Paul in the process. Houston's package nets them a lesser replacement at power forward whose numbers this year are down, an explosive scorer in Martin who plays the same position as Kobe and a score-first prospect at the point who represents an improvement over what the Lakers have, because almost anyone does.

Maybe the Lakers can flip the components for something else, but unless you think the Lakers win by adding more depth -- I'm a believer that, generally speaking, in the NBA the team getting the best player wins the deal -- I don't think this improves them.

Adding Kyle Lowry changes the equation, but Houston isn't doing that.

TRADE 2: Gasol to Chicago for Carlos Boozer and C.J. Watson

It would be interesting, because as worked up as the fan base can get over Gasol's perceived inadequacies few players have been more roundly mocked locally than Boozer, going back to his Utah days. Just about every criticism has been thrown his way, fairly or not. Offensively, the fit isn't bad. Boozer is skilled, and unlike Gasol doesn't pine for high-quality touches on the block, so he'd open things up for Andrew Bynum down low. On the other hand, except for rebounding, Boozer is an awful defender, and his short arms (for a 6-foot-9 guy) and earthbound game mean he alters very little inside (0.5 blocks per game). The Lakers would suffer defensively in the exchange. Plus, Boozer gets hurt all the time. Only three of his past seven seasons could be reasonably considered healthy, and he's owed a lot of money going forward.

The key would be Watson. Is he a starting-caliber PG who simply hasn't had the opportunity, or just a solid backup? I tend to believe the latter. For this trade to work, the Bulls would have to add sweetener. A package centered around Luol Deng might have appeal for the Lakers, but the metrics don't work as well for Chicago.

(Read full post)

Lakers Late Night Replay vs. Boston

February, 9, 2012
2/09/12
8:20
PM PT
By the Kamenetzky Brothers
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
There's a very good chance Thursday's game was the last page in the most recent chapter of the storied Lakers/Celtics rivalry, given how much change could be coming to each team and the long odds for either team -- let alone both -- to make this year's Finals.

If so, the teams went out with, if not a bang (tough to use that word in an overtime game where neither squad hits the 90-point mark), a hard fought, tightly contested 53 minutes of basketball reflecting their recent history. Lakers win 88-87, evening their record on the Grammy trip at 2-2 and opening the door to a strong finish ahead of wholly winnable games in New York and Toronto.

We touched on all this, and the following, during tonight's Lakers Late Night:
  • A big night for L.A.'s Big Three, at once reinforcing the team's top end strength (good) and all the issues with the middle and bottom parts (not good).
  • The return of Steve Blake, and what it means.
  • Andy's cat, and her first LLN appearance of the season.
Watch live streaming video from espnlosangeles at livestream.com

Rapid Reaction: Lakers 88, Celtics 87 (OT)

February, 9, 2012
2/09/12
7:59
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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It wasn't easy (when is it easy in Boston?) but as they did in Denver against a high quality Nuggets team, the Los Angeles Lakers again dug deep to beat a heretofore hot Boston Celtics squad Thursday night in overtime.

With the win, the Lakers now have a great shot at finishing the trip at a strong 4-2. Here are five takeaways:

1. The big three were big.


AP David Butler II/US Presswire
The long arms of Pau Gasol helped swing the game for the Lakers Thursday in Boston.


Kobe Bryant was a catalyst for his teammates early, moving the ball well and providing opportunities around the floor. When he did start shooting, Bryant made each of his first four attempts, and after a lull in the middle of the game got things going. In the third, he beat Ray Allen (and others) on a wicked step through in the paint, then canned a couple J's off the mid-post against Allen. Later, he made a nice one-dribble move on Mickael Pietrus. Overall, he finished 11-of-24 for 27 points, along with four assists and five boards. Against a Boston team that loves to bait opponents into low percentage plays, Bryant played a very controlled game.

He certainly pulled his weight, but when support was needed or the shots didn't fall, Bryant was picked up by the other two members of L.A.'s triumvirate.

Pau Gasol was huge, playing an excellent floor game providing all the scoring, facilitating and rebounding the Lakers need from him. On the night he was officially left off this season's All-Star team, Gasol turned in one of his best games of the season. He put the ball on the floor effectively, showed some good footwork in the post, and made some excellent passes as well. Then there were three key second-half putbacks, including one that tied the game at 82 with only 8.2 seconds remaining. Save a couple truly horrible decisions early, leading to turnovers and opportunities for the home team, Gasol was on point.

Defensively, Gasol was big against Kevin Garnett, who basically disappeared as the game went on, then saved the game by blocking Allen at the buzzer on what would have been a game-winning putback off a Paul Pierce miss. Gasol finished with 25 points (12-for-20), plus 14 rebounds, three dimes and that one massive swat.

Andrew Bynum struggled from the floor, making only six of his 15 shots, but he was a beast on the boards (17) and produced three huge plays on the offensive glass. The first two produced and-1 opportunities at the end of the first half off a miss from Bryant, then again in the fourth off a corner 3-pointer from Gasol. In OT, Bynum tipped in a Bryant miss to give the Lakers a late lead. Add in three blocks, and you get the sort of game people want from Bynum, in which he doesn't let problems putting the ball in the hoop prevent him from working hard in other areas.

Games like this point more to problems with the rest of the roster than they do the Lakers' big three. Asking more against a high-end team like Boston simply isn't realistic. On Thursday night, it was just enough to get it done.

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Lakers at Celtics: What to watch, with ESPN Boston

February, 9, 2012
2/09/12
6:50
AM PT
By The Kamenetzky brothers
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Just two seasons ago, the Lakers and Celtics battled for the NBA championship in a seven-game series for the ages. They meet Thursday as squads good enough to be taken seriously, but because both are old and flawed, they are widely regarded as outsiders looking into the 2012 title chase. However, neither team seems ready to pack up the tents. And even if they were, there's enough bad blood remaining from a split pair of Finals ('08 and '10) to guarantee a spirited battle.

Along with ESPN Boston's Chris Forsberg, we pondered three questions heading into this game.

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
It's always interesting when these chums meet up.




1. What matchup are you most looking forward to seeing?


Chris Forsberg: Kobe Bryant vs. Mickael Pietrus: We sorta know how the starters match up, so I'm interested to see if Pietrus can be a Tony Allen-like Kobe stopper off the bench. Pietrus has been spectacular since being picked up on Christmas Eve after the Suns released him. And Pietrus supposedly said this summer that Bryant wanted him on the Lakers. (Runner-up: Troy Murphy vs. Anybody. Really, he's one of the Lakers' top reserves this season?!)

Andy Kamenetzky: Paul Pierce vs. Metta World Peace. There have been signs that MWP is rediscovering his defensive mojo. Most recently in Denver, he did the lion's share of the work in limiting Danilo Gallinari to just six points. Of course, there are still games where his defense is as ineffective as his offense, which renders MWP a total nonfactor. The Lakers need Paul Pierce kept in check, and much of that responsibility falls on MWP. We'll see if he's up for the task against a potential All-Star.

Brian Kamenetzky: Pau Gasol vs. Kevin Garnett. Pau’s output against what will surely be an extra yappy, extra chest-puffy KG will get the attention, and Gasol needs to produce more efficiently (eight of last 12 games with FG% at 45 or below). If he doesn’t, L.A. will have to find alternative options against a top-end defensive squad. Meanwhile, Garnett’s scoring has picked up, but Gasol has held opposing PFs to a respectable PER (14). If one goes off at the expense of the other, a victory for his team is highly likely.

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Steve Blake practices, game-time decision vs. the Celtics

February, 8, 2012
2/08/12
6:13
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Per Dave McMenamin, Steve Blake was medically cleared to participate in Wednesday's practice and will be a game-time decision for Thursday's game against the Celtics. A return to action basically coincides with the timetable for recovery from a fracture near his ribs.

"I've just been patient with it, trying to let it heal," Blake said during Wednesday's practice. "I really had no preconception of when I was coming back. I didn't know if it was going to be sooner or later. I really had no idea. To me, it's on time...[Practice] felt good. My rhythm is a little off, but that will come with time. Hopefully whenever I do play, I'll be ready to play and able to contribute."

Obviously, Blake's potential availability is a big deal. Not that the bench ran like a Swiss watch with him in the lineup, but he was nonetheless the best second unit play-maker, and by a long shot. That the reserves have struggled to do much in Blake's absence beyond feed the ball to Andrew Bynum or watch Andrew Goudelock generate his own looks is no coincidence, nor terribly surprising. With Blake back, the second unit offense will hopefully run a little smoother, and he'll hopefully add a few buckets to the mix.

In the meantime, I assume Goudelock will assume two-guard duties, allowing him to operate more of a pure scorer, rather than outside his comfort zone as a quasi-point guard. I also imagine Mike Brown will give more minutes to Goudelock than Jason Kapono as a reserve shooting guard, which will hopefully help limit Kobe Bryant minutes. For that matter, Blake on hand should also mean equal Derek Fisher's minutes reduced, which wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. Blake and Fisher can also finish games together with Kobe at small forward in games where Metta World Peace and Matt Barnes aren't offering much, which has been too often these days.

Considering the glaring limitations of the Lakers roster, any options gained are a welcome development.

The Triangle: Celebrating Kobe's 33rd birthday and his achievements

August, 25, 2011
8/25/11
1:46
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
Kobe Bryant turned 33 on Tuesday, as good a reason as any to look back at everything The Mamba has accomplished during a HOF career. The K Bros and 710 ESPN's Mark Willard tackle a few questions that, to say the least, offer options for responses.
  • Beyond the titles, what is the most impressive aspect of Kobe's career?
  • What is your prediction for Kobe's next great achievement?
  • What is your favorite moment of Kobe's career?

Check out what we said, then offer your two cents.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Kobe Bryant
PTS AST STL MIN
22.3 5.6 1.3 34.5
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Hill 8.1
AssistsK. Bryant 5.6
StealsR. Price 1.5
BlocksE. Davis 1.1