Los Angeles Lakers: Chris Kaman
Season recap: The former All-Star center quickly became the poster boy for Lakers fans who were upset with coach Mike D'Antoni. Anytime Kaman wouldn't play as D'Antoni cycled through his preferred smaller lineups, there would be a considerable clamor from talk-radio callers and the Twittersphere demanding for L.A. to go big. When Kaman would play, the same vocal faction of fans would become even more outraged when the 7-footer would play well (while seemingly ignoring when he didn't), calling for his minutes to increase. Overall, he had moments of extreme effectiveness but ended up playing in only 39 games because of a crowded frontcourt and a few maladies that started (food poisoning) and ended (calf strain) his season.
Phoenix Suns out of the playoff race with a dominant 28-point, 17-rebound, six-assist night on 13-for-19 shooting in late March, leading the Lakers to an upset win.
Season lowlight: If there was one iconic image from the Lakers' historically bad 2013-14 season, it would probably have to be Kaman lying in the supine position across the bench during a game in Cleveland. The situation was admittedly ridiculous -- L.A. had so many players injured and/or had fouled out that Robert Sacre was assessed a technical foul but allowed to stay in the game as the Lakers' fifth eligible player by a little known NBA rule -- but Kaman took it to another level and upset some people in the organization while doing so for turning an already difficult season into a circus-like spectacle.
Final grade: C-minus
Notes: There was some debate within the Lakers' front office last summer before the team went out and spent their mini mid-level exception on Kaman. On one hand, he could provide insurance at the center position, especially with the Lakers coming off a season in which Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill missed so many games. On the other hand, L.A. already had Sacre to fill that role and Kaman was coming off a rocky season in Dallas.
Quotable: "I came here thinking it was going to be two bigs -- me and Pau. No one really said that, but I think that I anticipated that. Why else would they call me and want me to come play? So, I just don't think that that worked out how Coach anticipated either. ... It just was tough. I don't think Coach did any of that on purpose, I really don't. I think just two bigs don't fit in his style of offense and I think that's just how it goes." -- Kaman after his exit interview.
What's next? Despite Kaman's injury-riddled season, there is one influential Laker firmly in his camp. Back in March, Kobe Bryant was asked by Bleacher Report's Ric Bucher which players set to become free agents that he could envision back with the Lakers next season. A couple of the players he named -- Gasol and Jordan Farmar -- were fairly obvious, as Bryant paired with them to win championships in the past. What was surprising to hear was Bryant also mention Kaman (along with Jordan Hill and Wesley Johnson) on his short list of guys who should be retained.
The were performed by Dr. Steve Shin (wrist) and Dr. Steve Lombardo (knee), both at the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic.
The Lakers announced Henry is expected to make a full recovery by the beginning of training camp, but the question is which team's training camp will he be reporting to?
Henry, 23, is one of 11 players on the Lakers roster set to become a free agent this summer.
The four-year veteran averaged career highs in points (10.0), rebounds (2.7), assists (1.2), steals (1.0) and minutes (21.1) per game while also shooting a career-best 41.7 percent from the field in 43 games (making five starts).
Kent Bazemore, who has already been ruled out for the rest of the season with a torn tendon in his right foot, is next in line for surgery. Bazemore will visit Stanford University's Dr. Kenneth Hunt on Monday and is expected to have his foot operated on sometime next week. Bazemore is also on an expiring contract, however the Lakers can sign him to a $1.1 million qualifying offer to make him a restricted free agent.
Bazemore and Henry are turning the page to next season, not just through medical attention, but also by both of them already undergoing their exit interviews with Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak. Kobe Bryant is the other player on the Lakers' roster to have his season end prematurely because of injury (left knee fracture). Bryant will have his exit interview with Kupchak at a later date and will not address the media next week when the rest of the team goes through their exit interviews Thursday and Friday, according to a team spokesman.
Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni told reporters at Friday's shootaround in advance of L.A.'s game against the Golden State Warriors that Pau Gasol (vertigo symptoms) could very well join those three players as another guy to have his season cut short because of an injury. Gasol was ruled out for the Warriors game. He previously told ESPNLosAngeles.com that it would be "unlikely" he plays another game this season. The Lakers have three games remaining after Friday -- home against Memphis on Sunday, followed by road games at Utah on Monday and at San Antonio on Wednesday.
Steve Nash (hamstring) and Chris Kaman (right calf strain) are also out against Golden State.
Not only will the team be missing Kobe Bryant, Xavier Henry and Kent Bazemore -- all of whom had their seasons shut down prematurely because of injuries -- Steve Nash (hamstring), Pau Gasol (vertigo) and Chris Kaman (right calf strain) are all unlikely to play against the Golden State Warriors on Friday.
Nash, who said he was "probably" finished for the season after feeling a "bite" in his hamstring in the Lakers' 145-130 loss to the Houston Rockets on Tuesday, has shown signs of improvement.
"Steve said he feels a lot better," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said after practice Thursday. "I would say doubtful for tomorrow, but maybe for the rest of the year."
The Lakers have three games remaining after Friday -- their final home game Sunday against the Memphis Grizzlies, followed by road games Monday in Utah and Wednesday in San Antonio.
Pau Gasol, who told ESPNLosAngeles.com after the Rockets game he was "unlikely" to play again this season, worked out at the practice facility Thursday, and has not been officially ruled out yet.
"He'll play if he can, but he has to be medically cleared," D'Antoni said of Gasol, who has missed seven of the last eight games.
Meanwhile, Kaman has missed the Lakers' last four games after saying he "landed funny" after going airborne in the first half of the Lakers' 124-112 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on April 1.
"I've never really had an injury like this," Kaman said. "I've rolled my ankle and messed my back up, but the calf strain is kind of a weird thing. I'm trying to push myself a little bit, hopefully I can try to play in the last two games. We'll see. I don't know if that's possible or not."
Chris Kaman stars in rout of the Suns:
He came to the Lakers as a former All-Star who could provide depth behind the oft-injured Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill in the front court, or maybe even play alongside them. He became buried on Mike D'Antoni's bench, considered redundant alongside Gasol on offense and lacking when it came to defense as compared to Hill or Robert Sacre. Yet, after 10 straight DNP-CDs to start the month of March, Kaman had his number called when Gasol went down with a bout of vertigo and boy did he deliver. Kaman pumped in 28 points, 17 rebounds and six assists, helping the Lakers to a rare win that was even sweeter coming against a team like the Phoenix Suns, who were fighting for a chance to make the playoffs.
Nick Young goes off for 40 against the Trail Blazers:
There hasn't been much that has been enjoyable about this Lakers season, but Young routinely has kept the entertainment value at the highest level it could be all things considered. "Swaggy P" provided some more must-see TV against Portland, starting the game off 8-for-8 and finishing 15-for-26 as he ended up with 40 points (with only one assist, of course). Even though L.A. lost 124-112 to the Blazers, Young -- playing on a fractured knee no less -- provided enough highlights to make the game worth watching.
Kent Bazemore resumes starting role:
After D'Antoni abandoned the experiment of putting Wesley Johnson as the starting stretch 4 when Johnson's energy level waned, the coach went back to the team's surprising trade deadline acquisition in Bazemore with the first five. While he still has plenty of learning to do -- his foul at the end of the Kings game after missing a layup was unnecessary and could have cost L.A. a win -- he also clearly has plenty of game. In his last five games, he's averaging 15.4 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.8 steals per game.
McCallum, Gay and Cousins scorch depleted Lakers in Sactown:
That ill-advised foul by Bazemore mentioned above was on Kings rookie Ray McCallum, who abused the Lakers' defense to set a career high of 27 points on 12-for-22 shooting. He wasn't the only Sacramento player to scorch L.A. Rudy Gay scored 31 points. DeMarcus Cousins had 20 points and 10 rebounds. The Lakers, meanwhile, had only nine healthy players and shot 38.5 percent from the field as a team.
L.A. gives up a season-high 143 points to the Timberwolves:
Maybe it's because before the game happened the Lakers had already had 14 games where they surrendered 120 points or more this season (including five games of 130 or more) that when Minnesota hung 143 on L.A. it didn't seem like as big of a deal as it really was. The Lakers have had their bad luck this season, but there's no excuse for the abhorrent defensive effort they put forth against the Wolves. Minnesota shot a franchise-best 67.1 percent from the field and scored 41 points in the first quarter after L.A. came into the game supposedly stressing first-quarter defense because the Wolves had already torched the Lakers for 47 in an opening frame earlier in the season.
It's with that mutual backdrop and a shared sarcastic sense of humor that D'Antoni offered up a zinger when asked about Nash's status last week.
All jokes aside, the only thing Lakers fans care about when it comes to Nash at this point is what his status will be year to year moving forward.
As in, if Nash is not waived by the Lakers via the stretch provision during the offseason (an unlikely possibility, based on the team wanting full cap flexibility for 2015) and the 40-year-old chooses not to retire (another remote scenario, considering Nash’s intention to collect the $9.7 million owed to him in the final year of his contract), what kind of player will he be in 2014-15?
Less than a month ago, it seemed as if Nash's season already was over. This, in turn, led many fans to call for Nash's career to be over, as well. Now, after his game against Portland and a pretty clean outing against Minnesota last week, is it fair to make the same assumption that he should call it quits?
Nash played for the 13th time in Game No. 74 of the Lakers' season Tuesday, and while his night wasn't perfect -- he rolled his ankle in the first half and had to retreat to the locker room for treatment -- he ended up with his first double-double of the season, finishing with 10 points, 10 assists, four rebounds and only one turnover (and a block on Portland's Mo Williams, to boot).
"The key for me is if I'm moving well, I know I can play the game at a high level and I felt good tonight," Nash said after the game, speaking to reporters with an electric stimulation machine hooked up to his ankle. "If I'm moving well, good things I think can happen out there."
The performance drew rave reviews from the rest of his team.
"When he's healthy, he's a heck of a point guard and makes great plays and makes things easy for everybody else," Pau Gasol said.
LOS ANGELES -- Nick Young did his best to keep the Los Angeles Lakers' "Player-Haters Ball" going for another night.
But it turns out the purple and gold's spoiler party was short-lived.
Young started the game 8-for-8 from the field and finished with a season-high 40 points, but the Lakers were unable to replicate the beating they gave the surging Phoenix Suns on Sunday or the tough time they gave the Trail Blazers a couple of weeks ago in Portland.
While Young did his part on his own, going 15-for-26 overall, it was no match for Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge (31 points, 15 rebounds, six assists) and Damian Lillard (34 points, eight assists), who made the Lakers pay from both inside and out.
How it happened: The Lakers trailed by as many as nine in the first quarter but pulled to within two, 63-61 at the half. It was a different story after intermission as the Blazers built an eight-point lead heading into the fourth quarter and led by as many as 23 in the final period en route to a runaway victory.
What it means: So much for the power of that Pau Gasol-Chris Kaman starting lineup that Lakers fans have been clamoring for. Both Gasol (4-for-9, nine points) and Kaman (6-for-16, 12 points) looked out of sync offensively. Meanwhile, for all of that size, the Lakers were outscored 44-34 in the paint and the Lakers' twin towers combined for only 10 rebounds as L.A. was also beaten on the boards 50-45.
Hits: Steve Nash had 10 points and 10 assists off the bench.
Kent Bazemore scored 17 points on 6-for-10 shooting.
Misses: Wesley Johnson and Jordan Hill were casualties of the rotation, both collecting DNP-CDs.
Meyers Leonard was called for a flagrant foul 2 for knocking Kendall Marshall to the floor with 36.9 seconds left. The good news is Young and Ryan Kelly immediately came to Marshall's defense.
Stat of the game: 33-2. That's how many different starting lineups the Lakers have used this season compared to the Blazers. In related news, Portland has nearly twice as many wins as L.A. does this season (49 to 25).
Up next: The Lakers travel to Sacramento for the second night of a back-to-back Wednesday. The Kings (26-48) are nearly as bad as L.A. is (25-49).
Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said after shootaround Tuesday morning he will play Pau Gasol, returning from a four-game absence because of vertigo, and Chris Kaman, coming off a 28-point, 17-rebound, 6-assist performance, together in the starting lineup.
D’Antoni had been reluctant to play the two together in the past this season, believing that the skill sets of the two 7-footers overlapped one another. The coach also expressed the desire to develop younger big men Robert Sacre, Jordan Hill and Ryan Kelly rather than play Kaman major minutes and also often preferred to play either Kelly or Wesley Johnson at the stretch 4 position with the first unit.
D’Antoni explained his change of heart.
“Well, Chris played really well,” D’Antoni said, crediting Kaman’s efforts in the Lakers’ 115-99 win over the Phoenix Suns on Sunday. “It’s something else to look at. But it’s going to affect other people. We’ve had this discussion. Somebody is going to pay for it (with reduced playing time). So, we’ll see. We’ll see how it goes. We’re going to play two bigs and then we’re going to play Ryan and space the floor. We’ll see what works to close the game out and see what happens.”
Gasol, who lobbied for more of that lineup throughout the season, seemed satisfied with the move Tuesday.
“Let’s see how it works,” said Gasol, who admitted he was not 100 percent over his bout with vertigo. “We got to communicate to see how we’ll not be on top of each other so the spacing is still right and then just compete, utilize our size to protect the paint and hopefully control the boards. I think that will be a big plus for us.”
It was a mixed bag of results when Kaman and Gasol appeared in the starting lineup together this year. They looked good together in the preseason, but that was cut short when Kaman came down with food poisoning on the team’s trip to China and lost his starting spot to Shawne Williams.
D’Antoni went back to the pair not long after, however.
They started together in the Lakers’ 99-98 win in Houston on Nov. 7. It was a great team win for L.A. against Dwight Howard and the Rockets, but Gasol and Kaman combined for eight points on 4-for-15 shooting, 22 rebounds and seven turnovers.
They also started together in the Lakers’ 113-90 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Nov. 10. It was one of L.A.’s worst losses of the season, as they allowed the Wolves to score 47 points in the first quarter. Also, Gasol and Kaman’s combined numbers were underwhelming as they went for 19 points on 9-for-22 shooting, 16 rebounds and seven turnovers.
“It wasn’t the greatest,” D’Antoni said. “I mean, it’s OK. The way Chris is playing right now and the way Pau is playing better, it probably makes sense. Earlier, when one out of the two wasn’t playing real well (it didn’t make sense). And we wanted to go smaller.”
The Lakers won four of their next six games after D’Antoni went away from the Gasol-Kaman combination following the Minnesota loss to bring their record to 10-9 and the coach never went back to it. Until Tuesday, that is.
“You get a sense of how you want to play and you get a sense of what looks good,” D’Antoni said. “It gave a sense that we were better with Shawne Williams back then spreading the floor and playing an uptempo game and up until the injuries, I thought our record showed it. Then when the injuries hit, I don’t care who we were playing, without a point guard it was going to be tough to win.”
Where was also a fundamental deficiency of the Gasol-Kaman pairing that didn’t sit well with D’Antoni.
“Your speed as a team is a lot lower and it doesn’t bode well in today’s game to be slow on the floor,” D’Antoni said. “So, that’s the thinking.”
Guards on the mend
Steve Nash, who sat out the Suns game because of nerve root irritation, is considered probable for Tuesday. Xavier Henry, who missed the Lakers last two games after aggravating his sore right knee against Milwaukee is also considered probable against the Blazers.
Jordan Farmar, who has been out the last seven games with a strained right groin, visited Dr. Luga Podesta on Monday and was cleared to play, according to the Lakers. Farmar plans to use this week to ramp up his conditioning and could be back in the lineup next Tuesday when the Lakers host the Houston Rockets.
Nash told reporters last week he hopes to play as much as he can before Farmar returns, because once Farmar is back in the mix, it will probably eat up the playing time available for the former two-time MVP.
“He understands the situation,” D’Antoni said of Nash. “Because Steve is a smart guy, he understands what we’re trying to do and he buys in and it makes it nice.”
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Could Chris Kaman go from putting up 28 points, 17 rebounds and six assists on Sunday to finding himself out of the rotation on Tuesday when the Lakers host the Portland Trail Blazers?
Kaman's breakout game in L.A.'s 115-99 rout of the Phoenix Suns came with Pau Gasol sidelined. Gasol, finally starting to recover from the symptoms stemming from his bout of vertigo that kept him out the last four games, is considered probable to play against the Blazers.
Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni has said repeatedly that he feels like Gasol and Kaman have overlapping skill sets and only likes to play one of them at a time.
But with that type of game out of Kaman, doesn't the coach have to reconsider that premise and play the two big men together regardless?
"I don’t know, I was going to ask you guys to give me scenarios that I’d be able to play them," D'Antoni said after practice Monday. "You have five guys for two positions and 96 minutes, so you’ve got to figure out how to split the minutes up. It’s hard to play when you only play four or five minutes, so we’ve got to figure that out."
That’s the term Kendall Marshall used postgame after the Los Angeles Lakers reeled off another victory against a playoff hopeful on Sunday night, defeating the Phoenix Suns 115-99.
The Lakers want their opponents to hate them. They want to knock postseason contenders down a peg or two in the standings, if not fall out of the playoff picture altogether. That, more than anything else, is their primary motivation for the rest of the season.
“We embrace trying to be the ‘player-haters of the year,’” Marshall said postgame. “We want to mess up seedings, keep teams out of the playoffs, and any type of motivation we can get to grow as a team is good for us right now.”
Prior to the game, coach Mike D’Antoni was asked if the Lakers reveled in their wins against playoff contenders such as the Portland Trail Blazers, Oklahoma City Thunder and New York Knicks earlier this month.
Without hesitation, D’Antoni said it’s something Los Angeles has been focusing on and talking about recently.
“We want everybody to hate us by the end of the year,” D’Antoni said. “We did get New York and now we’re trying to get Phoenix and then we’ll try to give them a favor by getting Portland. We’ll have our chances, so hopefully we can do that.”
LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Lakers have nothing meaningful left to play for this season, so they’ll settle for the next best thing: ruining other teams’ seasons.
They did just that on Sunday night, defeating the Phoenix Suns -- a team in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race for one of the final four seeds -- 115-99 behind a monster performance from Chris Kaman (28 points, 17 rebounds, six assists).
"We want everybody to hate us by the end of the year," coach Mike D’Antoni said before the game.
"We did get New York, and now we’re trying to get Phoenix, and then we’ll try to give them a favor by getting Portland. We’ll have our chances, so hopefully we can do that."
Despite being eliminated from the playoffs for weeks and it being in their best interest to rack up lottery balls, Los Angeles (25-48) can take solace in the fact that they might have contributed to another team’s end-of-season misery.
How it happened: Los Angeles jumped out to a 26-15 lead in the first, holding Phoenix to 7-of-28 shooting (25 percent) and 0-of-9 on 3-pointers. Phoenix’s reserves blitzed the Lakers with a slew of 3s to momentarily take a one-point lead in the second, but L.A. responded with a 25-6 run to head into the half up by 18.
The Suns’ first possession out of intermission was a shot-clock violation, setting the tone for the second half. Things got interesting a bit in the fourth, but the game was never really in question.
What it means: Does anyone understand this team? Just look at their past four games -- they blew out two playoff contenders (the Knicks and Suns) and lost to two ball clubs with no shot at the postseason (the Milwaukee Bucks and Minnesota Timberwolves). Granted, they were on the road for their two losses, but their recent effort has been visibly different depending on the caliber of the opponent. This season doesn’t make any sense.
Hits: Jodie Meeks (22 points) and Kendall Marshall (13 points, 11 assists) were integral parts of the Lakers’ runs in the first, second and fourth quarters.
Ryan Kelly continued his impressive play, scoring 17 points, grabbing five boards and running productive high-low actions with Kaman.
L.A. held Phoenix to just 38.5 percent shooting, including 22.2 percent from deep.
The Lakers turned the ball over just 13 times.
Misses: After D’Antoni pointed out that Wesley Johnson was "struggling" and not having an impact on recent games, Johnson couldn’t find any type of rhythm (zero points, 0-for-4 shooting) and played only three minutes in the second half.
While they couldn’t miss inside the arc, the Lakers weren’t efficient behind it, shooting just 5-of-18 (27.8 percent).
Stat of the game: 56. That’s how many points the Lakers scored in the paint, which is where this game was won. L.A.’s big men controlled the battle of the trenches, punishing the undersized Suns for not doubling or sending help earlier.
Up next: The Lakers host the Portland Trail Blazers (48-27) on Tuesday and look to play spoilers against another playoff team. The Blazers, who are just 6-8 in their past 14 games, are looking to maintain their loose grasp on the West’s 5-seed.
And history will almost assuredly show that the 2013-14 Lakers were the worst group of players ever to don the purple and gold, as the team would have to finish 7-4 to avoid assuming the title from the 1974-75 team that went 30-52.
This season's Bucks team isn't just on pace to be the worst team in Milwaukee franchise history, but it will end up with one of the 32 worst records in the history of the NBA unless it goes on some kind of unforeseen run and finishes 4-6 or better to close things out.
Yet those bad-as-they-come Bucks are now 2-0 against the Lakers this season (and just 12-58 against the rest of the league).
After the latest pox on an already ugly-as-sin season, what should Lakers fans think of these players? Hate them for failing to live up to the standard set by the squads before them who wore "Lakers" across their chest? Sympathize with them for leading the league with 256 combined games missed because of injury this season, by far tops in the league? Accept them as a necessary evil in the rebuilding process and simply look forward to the draft prospect the team will acquire as the fruit of their lackadaisical labor? Pretend they never existed and pass the time searching for old Showtime clips and Shaquille O'Neal-Kobe Bryant highlights on YouTube instead?
"All the stuff that's been thrown at us all year, it's been tough for everybody," Wes Johnson said when asked how fans should judge him and his teammates. "I wouldn't say we're underperforming, I'd just say we're not going out there every game focused and ready to compete at all times. That's just us. I can put it on us. I wouldn't put it on us having injuries or anything."
Jordan Hill, who had a strong night with 28 points and 16 rebounds Thursday but didn't do enough to help L.A. out defensively, was also asked how fans should view the team.
"I mean, without our leader, Kobe, it was definitely tough," Hill said. "I feel like guys that came out of nowhere and started playing their hardest -- Robert Sacre, Ryan Kelly, Kent [Bazemore], MarShon [Brooks]. Everybody is trying to do good. ... We're a young team with not as much talent as everybody else has, but we're still trying to battle."
While Gasol's symptoms include dizziness and nausea, it was Kaman who made it sound as if he has felt uneasy all season.
While the 11-year veteran tried to bite his tongue, saying "it doesn't get anybody anywhere" to complain to the media, he couldn't help but reveal that he hasn't spoken to Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni in three weeks.
In that time, he collected 10 straight DNPs and played a grand total of four minutes in 12 games.
Does the former All-Star regret his decision to sign with the Lakers last summer?
"My bad on my part not doing due diligence enough to look into a situation better and style of play and that kind of thing," Kaman said.
Kaman toed the line, but kept things professional, allowing that while D'Antoni's system might not be the best fit for him, it still has its merits.
"I won't knock the style of play, because I think it's worked for Coach in the past and he's had some teams with great success [to show] for it," Kaman said. "I just think sometimes when you have certain players that can really play the game of basketball, you cater to their style. But I don't think that's always the case. But also as the head coach, that's a decision you make based on the tools you've been given and it's his job to do the best he can with it.
"I can just keep beating it up and beating it up, but I think everybody at this point is frustrated and kind of just trying to finish strong the best way we can and see where it leads us."
Kaman finished with 13 points, nine rebounds and three assists in 23 minutes in the Lakers' 127-96 rout of the Knicks.
D'Antoni, who predicted before the game that Kaman would play well, said afterward that just because the big man hadn't been playing in games, doesn't mean he hadn't been playing basketball at all.
"He plays everyday, but he doesn't play in a game," D'Antoni said. "You can practice."
Kaman took exception to D'Antoni's logic.
"As of lately, we haven't had a lot of practices just because we haven't had a lot of days with time in between the games enough to practice," Kaman said, adding that when the Lakers have practiced, it's usually been only halfcourt 3-on-3 or 4-on-4 because of all the team's injuries.
While Kaman seems to have a point about the lack of practice time available, who knows if going to a more post-oriented game plan would have really mattered this season. With Kobe Bryant playing only six games, Steve Nash playing only 11 and a slew of players spending time on the inactive list, the season seemed almost "star-crossed," as D'Antoni described it Tuesday.
"This year has been tough with injuries," Kaman said. "There's been so many guys that have gone down that no one ever thought it would go the way it went. I think all of you guys would have bet your entire paychecks for the year if you would have said that Xavier Henry was going to play point guard at some point and time this season, not that he's not any good, just the fact that he's like a 2-3 in this league and never a point. I would have bet my paycheck, I think. Even though you don't bet on basketball."
You also probably wouldn't have bet that the answer to the question of which Lakers player had the most made field goals in a single game this season with 13 is Kaman, either.
"It's been an interesting season with injuries and positioning and the lineups," Kaman said. "It's been kind of crazy."
The insanity will end soon.
Neither Pau Gasol (vertigo) nor Steve Nash (sore right hamstring) participated in Tuesday morning's shootaround and they are considered doubtful to play against the Knicks, according to Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni.
Gasol, who exited the Lakers' 103-94 win over the Orlando Magic at halftime Sunday because of dizziness and nausea and spent the night in the hospital after being administered three liters of fluids via an IV, is improving, according to D'Antoni.
"(Lakers trainer) Gary (Vitti) said he feels a little bit better today," said D'Antoni, adding that Gasol was going to be re-evaluated by an ear, nose and throat specialist Tuesday afternoon. "We’ll just see how it goes."
Gasol made it sound like he would not be available when the Lakers take on a New York team that has won eight of its last nine games:
I'm home after spending a day at the hospital. It's time for me to recover and be back to full strength asap.Thanks so much for your support
- Pau Gasol (@paugasol) March 25, 2014
D'Antoni said that Chris Kaman, who has not played in the Lakers' last 10 games, would start in Gasol's place.
"Either it’s very short minutes for him, or he starts, and he’s a much better starter," said D'Antoni. "It wasn’t even his fault. It’s just the way it works out."
D'Antoni said that he chose Kaman to start alongside Jordan Hill rather than going with Wesley Johnson or Ryan Kelly at the stretch 4 position in part because of New York's frontline of Tyson Chandler and Amare Stoudemire and in part because of a shift in strategy to close out the final 13 games of the season.
"We’re kind of settling in this way for awhile," said D'Antoni.
Nash will undergo a pregame workout to make the final determination on whether he will play or not.
Xavier Henry, who tore a ligament in his left wrist last week, will return to the lineup after sitting out Sunday.
Both Nick Young and Jordan Hill will both be available to play when the Lakers host the Washington Wizards on Friday, according to coach Mike D'Antoni.
Young has missed 17 of the Lakers' last 18 games because of a non-displaced fracture of the patella and a bone bruise in his left knee. Hill has been out since Feb. 28 with a sore right knee.
Both players underwent three practices with the team this week without a hitch and are ready to return.
"Ain’t too much Swaggy can’t do out there," said Young, who had his last comeback from the knee injury cut short, playing just one game on Feb. 23 before deciding to sit out again. "I feel good. That’s the reason I want to get back out there."
D'Antoni said he expected mixed results from Young.
"He could be rusty," D'Antoni said. "He could be rusty the third game, first game, second game. It could be the second half. Who knows. You play it by ear. As long as you know he's playing well, he'll stay on the floor. If not, we'll sub him in and out. It's good to get him back and get him back in the flow."
Young is the Lakers' second-leading scorer this season, averaging 16.8 points along with 2.7 rebounds and 1.4 assists in just 28.6 minutes per game. Hill was averaging career highs in points (8.2), rebounds (6.8) and field goal percentage (54.0) before his injury.
Young has a player option for next season worth $1.2 million. If he chooses to opt out and can't come to a new agreement with the Lakers, this could be the last 15-game stretch of his career with his hometown team. Hill's Lakers' future is also up in the air as he's one of 11 players on L.A.'s 15-man roster set to become a free agent this summer.
"Just play hard," Young said of his mindset upon his return. "Letting the fans know that I want to be here and I want to do what it takes for me to get some wins, let them see how hard I play."
In other injury news, the Lakers welcomed Steve Nash back to practice Thursday after D'Antoni had initially said last week that Nash would miss the rest of the season because of persistent nerve root irritation.
"He went through all of practice," D'Antoni said, later adding that Thursday was a non-contact practice. "He's a little closer. It's a possibility. We're not saying yay or nay. But we're trying to work him back."
Also, Chris Kaman did not participate in practice and will undergo an MRI on his sore foot. Kaman has not played in the Lakers' last eight games.
That’s what it felt like for the fans during the worst loss in Los Angeles Lakers history Thursday night.
It was pretty bad for the players, too.
Embarrassing, for sure.
But to reach that level of dejection, you have to be deeply invested in something, and the guys currently wearing the purple and gold really don’t have much connection to the franchise.
Most won’t be here long. Some just got here. The rest are trying to figure out what category they fall into.
“I’ve never been in a game where a team won by 50,” veteran center Chris Kaman said.
Never mind that the Los Angeles Clippers actually beat the Lakers by 48 points. The part of that statement that’s actually in doubt is the use of the word “team.”
The Lakers are a team because that’s what you call a group of guys who wear the same jersey and compete in games together. But this is no team. It’s a group of nice guys trying to make the best of an awful situation.
The Lakers aren’t building a culture or molding a young core group of guys. In a way, they’re auditioning whoever is left standing for next year. But even a good showing in this last quarter of the season doesn’t guarantee anyone anything.
“You have a lot of guys on one-year deals,” Kaman said. “There’s a lot of guys who are worried about that. It’s definitely on the back of everybody’s mind. And if it’s not, they’re not telling the truth. It’s hard.”
To their credit, the Lakers have been giving a good effort most nights and competing well enough to give the fans a good show.
But every so often there are nights like this, where they absolutely get worked and the best thing for all involved is for it to end quickly.
That’s what happened against the Clippers.
The Lakers live and die by the 3-pointer and one-on-one play. All of D’Antoni’s offensive concepts have been watered down while they try and fit in newcomers Kent Bazemore and MarShon Brooks. When those shots don’t fall, it creates long rebounds and fast breaks for the other team. A game can get out of hand very quickly.
The Clippers led 29-27 after the first quarter, then the floodgates opened. By halftime it was 73-40. That’s right, the Clippers scored 44 points in the second quarter; the Lakers scored 40 in the first half.
It was ugly. Fans didn’t even wait for the second half to start before leaving. The teams played the second half, but even the Clippers started taking pity on the Lakers and lifted their starters midway through the third quarter when the margin got to 48.
“This was the worst loss I’ve been a part of at any level,” Lakers guard Jodie Meeks said. “Even if it wasn’t the Lakers, nobody wants to lose by that much. It’s embarrassing. There’s not much to say. We didn’t, for whatever reason, come to play, and they did.”
Ah, but it is the Lakers.
That means something to their millions of fans.
That means something to all the longtime staffers who have seen far, far better days.
Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak looked to be in all states of agony just watching. D’Antoni was enraged for most of the game, then sad.
“They’re trying. It’s not like they’re not trying,” D’Antoni said, protective of his players to the end. “When you’re a little bit slower than the other team and a lot less athletic, they just carved us up.
“We’ll do a lot of things, but just going in and yelling and screaming is not going to help a whole lot.”
This loss was so bad, it felt like it could be the one that ends D’Antoni’s star-crossed Lakers career. Initially at least, that doesn’t appear to be the case.
Kobe Bryant has been increasingly silent as this awful season winds its way to its eventual end, but even he knew this was a night the people needed to hear something -- anything -- to make them feel like this will all be over someday.
“Misery = Motivation #thanku #urwelcome,” Bryant tweeted after the game.
He’s not coming back anytime soon to help. Mostly likely, he’s not coming back at all this season.
That’s a sobering thought. But sometimes you get to the point where you just want it to stop. End and be over. End and never be like this again.
No matter how miserable games get, they do eventually end. So do seasons.
But how do the Lakers make sure the rest of it stops, too? The losing? The frustration? The lack of direction?
They won’t be a team again until those questions are answered.