Los Angeles Lakers: Eric Gordon

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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Lakers at Hornets: What to watch

April, 9, 2012
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
With nine games left before the playoffs begin, the best case scenario would be a Laker squad steadily clicking on all cylinders, a well-oiled machine ready for a utilize a tough stretch of foes (the Nuggets, Thunder and the Spurs... three times!) as a dress rehearsal before the second season. On the other side of the coin, the Lakers may not be currently mired in the worst case scenario, but they're certainly closer to that end of the spectrum.

Back-to-back losses to the Rockets and Suns have come on the heels of middling wins over foes like the Nets, Hornets and Warriors. (twice!) A once-stout defense, along with a collective focus, has slipped badly. Kobe Bryant missed a game with a lingering shin injury, and Pau Gasol, Ramon Sessions, and Metta World Peace (among others) are nursing ailments. Steve Blake appears to have forgotten how to play basketball. Andrew Bynum's obsession with cultivating a persona as the NBA's edgiest player is currently prioritized ahead of helping his team.

Derick E. Hingle/US Presswire
Gordon's a legitimately tough assignment for any defender.

There's a lot on the Lakers' plate to address in just under three weeks, and the clock is ticking. Thus, the Hornets need to be treated with the utmost respect and focus (particularly since they're suddenly healthy again). For more info on the Hornets, we called upon Michael McNamara from the True Hoop network's Hornets247 blog. Below are his responses to a few questions, plus a pair of thoughts from yours truly.

Land O' Lakers: 1) How has Eric Gordon looked upon returning and in what ways does he change what the Hornets can do?

Michael McNamara: You could tell that Gordon was feeling his way around in the first half of his first game back, but over the last six quarters he has been dynamic. He gives the Hornets a guy who can create for himself in the half court and finish at the rim in the open court. More than anything, he allows the other players on the Hornets to fall into their complementary roles, as opposed to trying to do too much.

(AK's note: If Kobe remains out, I'm assuming Devin Ebanks did enough things well in his place to continue holding down the fort. If that's the case, he'll be matched up against his first 20+ point threat since game 4 against the Knicks. Ebanks was admittedly a little overwhelmed by Carmelo Anthony, which immediately led to getting pulled from the starting lineup. Soon enough he was yanked from the rotation altogether. As I've expressed on a few occasions throughout the seasons, I think Mike Brown overreacted, and in the process robbed himself of a potentially useful asset. But that's also the past and can't be changed. What's important is that Ebanks makes the most of an opportunity, along with a challenge in front of him. Even working his way into game shape, Gordon is a talented player and a potentially tough cover. Ebanks will need to be on his toes.)

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Lakers vs. Hornets: What to watch with Hornets 247

March, 30, 2012
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
After being swept up in Sessions-mania and allowing imaginations to envision a deep playoff run, Lakers fans have been slapped hard by the events of this week. Outworked in last Sunday's home loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. Outclassed in Thursday's home loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. And sandwiched in between, a middling Golden State Warriors squad turned what should have been a blowout into a dogfight, while Andrew Bynum was banished to the bench and watched with seemingly mild interest. On and off the court, there have been reasons for concern, and the days left to address issues are dwindling.

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images
Eric Gordon is one among many prominent Hornets who spends too much time in street clothes.

Obviously, success over a 13-38 Western Conference cellar dweller signals absolutely nada in terms of problems being solved. But it would at least provide a sense of normalcy and calm, even fully aware of the victory's relative insignificance. Bad vibes beget even more bad vibes, and the Lakers can't afford to even tiptoe further down that path.

For the scoop on the Hornets, we tracked down Michael McNamara of the True Hoop network's Hornets247 blog. Below are his responses to a few questions, plus a thought of my own.

Land O' Lakers: As of this writing, the Hornets are missing Trevor Ariza (ankle), Gustavo Ayon (birth of child), Jarrett Jack (ankle) and Chris Kaman (illness). In what ways would these players' absences be felt on Saturday if they're still not able to go?

Michael McNamara: And don't forget Eric Gordon and Emeka Okafor, who are arguably the two best players on the roster. The losses of Ariza and Jack are felt the most, as those two are the leaders of the team and the coaches on the floor. Earlier this season, when Kaman and Okafor were in the starting lineup together, the Hornets dominated almost every team they played on the boards, but that is no longer the case with Carl Landry and Jason Smith forced to start up front.

As crazy as it sounds, a Hornets team with a full roster would give the Lakers a fight in this game, but are playing with a bunch of backups and D-Leaguers at this point. Essentially, the Hornets starting lineup is on the bench, and yet they keep competing night in and night out.

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What to watch: Lakers at Hornets with Hornets24/7

March, 14, 2012
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky

In theory, a matchup against the 10-win New Orleans Hornets shouldn't be much of a challenge. The Hornets no longer have Chris Paul (as you may have heard) have lost Eric Gordon for most of the season, are missing Emeka Okafor, and could be without Carl Landry as well. While that leaves a few decent players, they sorely lack any high end talent. In short, New Orleans is awful, evidenced by a 73-71 loss to Charlotte Monday night.

Then again, as a road team the Lakers are a very poor 8-14, even with Tuesday's hard fought double OT win in Memphis. They lost last week in Detroit and Washington, and barely scraped by a Minnesota team missing Kevin Love.

Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images
A red hot Andrew Bynum will try to wrestle away an upset bid from New Orleans Wednesday.

In short, no game away from Staples Center is ever in the can, particularly given the energy L.A. expended last night. So to get a feel for what the Lakers face against Monty Williams' crew, we hit up Joe Gerrity of Hornets 24/7 with some questions.

1. Not exactly game related, but a couple months later, Eric Gordon has been hurt all year and is unsigned, Al-Farouq Aminu has a PER of 9.1, and even after the Ricky Rubio injury, the Minnesota pick won't be as good as many thought. What do Hornets fans think of the CP3 transaction now?

For the most part Hornets Nation is remaining optimistic about it. Doubts have certainly started creeping in thanks to Eric Gordon's knee, and there's skepticism about resigning him too, but that's a near certainty since he's restricted. Honestly it will be a few more seasons before we can truly grade the deal fairly, and I think a lot of Hornets fans know that.

2. Gustavo Ayon! Not exactly a household name, but explain his impact for the Hornets, and how he could influence Wednesday's game.

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The Ear Candy Express chugs along. Among the taking points:

Andy and Brian discuss Kobe playing overseas, Andrew Bynum's maturity and wacky trade scenarios. Plus, the proper way to say "Besiktas.".

Podcast Listen
- Will he or won't he? That's the question these days when it comes to Kobe Bryant and playing in Turkey. While neither of us are remotely certain how to pronounce "Besiktas," we're both fairly confident the team is using The Mamba for some free publicity. For that matter, we both have strong hunches Bryant isn't going anywhere.

Between Besiktas' frozen assets, the very low monthly salary (by his standards), and the blip a Turkish league title would represent on his resume, this isn't worth Bryant's time on any level. There are more practical ways to stay in shape -- like barnstorming in China -- at this stage of his career and health.

(On a related note... Man alive, Kobe is wealthy!)

- Andrew Bynum's poor judgment with handicapped parking spots is the latest incident prompting fans and media to question his maturity. As an isolated matter, Bynum's actions were indefensible, callous and summarized poorly in 140 characters or less, but not necessarily an overwhelming reason for concern.

But combined with a penchant for flagrant fouls and a mind freely spoken without fear of consequence, you wonder if he's mentally where he needs to be. Is Bynum ready for the expanded role he deeply desires? And even the answer is yes, how will Mike Brown balance the ambitions of his young center and a certain shooting guard?

- Because it was so much fun, a look back at "Do it, Mitch!!!"

No worries over Kobe and barnstorming

July, 5, 2011
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
Tuesday morning on ESPN's First Take, one topic debated by Skip Bayless and Jemele Hill was the barnstorming tour potentially spearheaded by Kobe Bryant and his agent Rob Pelinka. The plan, as first reported by the L.A. Times, would involve The Mamba and several other Pelinka clients playing a few exhibition games in China, presumably inside the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai. (A double marketing opportunity for L.A.'s favorite art thief crime-buster!)

China Photos/Getty Images
Kobe has big fans in China, literally and figuratively.

Hill and Bayless both took issue with this plan for reasons ranging from the consideration owed to each player's NBA team to the "money grab" element to, very specifically to Kobe, the physical risks. On all counts, I think the panelists are overreacting.

Beyond rookies like Derrick Williams who've yet to get paid, I don't think this tour is as much about players making a buck as reminding owners of alternate sources for coin. Whether this truly puts pressure on Jerry Buss and his brethren is debatable -- the money involved can't possibly compete with an NBA paycheck -- but a point of sorts is being made. I understand where people might deem this behavior (at best) greedy or (at worst) irresponsible, but it's no worse than owners essentially asking players to offset entirely the damage from their own poor decisions and a recession. Neither party is above criticism in this CBA battle.

As for (in my mind) the bigger issue, I understand concerns about Kobe's health, given he's got enough preexisting conditions to get denied health care in the "Obamacare" age. We're talking bad knee, bad ankle, bad hand, and the mileage equivalent of nearly 19 NBA campaigns when you combine the regular and postseason. I've been screaming for Kobe to err on the side of caution when it comes to playing through regular season injuries. I've also expressed doubts about the likelihood of Bryant remaining healthy or quite as effective a player moving forward. He undoubtedly needs an offseason to recharge the batteries, and hardcore basketball theoretically runs counter to this goal.

On the other hand, does anybody really expect these barnstorming sessions to be particularly taxing? It would be one thing if Bryant was reenlisting for another Team USA stint. That's serious basketball, more rigorous than he needs right now, particularly with a gold medal already in hand. However, these are exhibition matches, as in "pure entertainment with no real stakes attached." The roundball equivalent of what Apollo Creed's camp envisioned when they arranged to box Ivan Drago. (Yes, that dog and pony show went horribly wrong, but only because the Russian had an agenda.)

Basically, I'm picturing a series of All-Star games, which are hardly a source of blood, sweat and tears. Occasionally guys get competitive during the last five minutes of a close game when pride sets in. But over the preceding 43, it's all about irresponsible shots, non-existent defense and half-speed showboating. Obviously, there have been exceptions, like when Kobe played what was likely his last All-Star game in L.A dead set on snagging MVP honors (not that there's anything wrong with that.) But even acknowledging the mutual love between Kobe and China -- he's referred to the country as "a home away from home" -- I can't imagine the feeling is so strong he'd go bananas in a venue that does nothing tangible for his legacy.

At the end of the day, these "games," staged in a controlled atmosphere, are similar to what Bryant would have likely participated in at some point anyway. An offseason of rest, no matter how concerted, typically involves some form of basketball. Bryant isn't going to ride a stationary bike or put up jumpers for an hour each day, then lay around on the couch "resting." It's important he maintains some semblance of rhythm, particularly if the offseason grows unfortunately stretched out. Assuming he handles the situation responsibly, a caveat applicable to any exercise this summer, I think this tour qualifies as "no harm, no foul."

Replay: Lakers Late Night vs. LA Clippers

March, 26, 2011
By the Kamenetzky Brothers
It's Friday, Friday- as a reminder, tomorrow is Saturday- and our LLN replay is celebrating by working properly following the LAL's 112-104 win over the LAC at Staples.

Plenty to cover in the show, as the Lakers win their 14th in 15 tries coming out of the break. Specifically:
  • A very strong night from Kobe Bryant, who racked up 17 free throws en route to a very efficient 37 points.
  • Another quality performance from Ron Artest, who not only electrified the Staples crowd with a thunderous dunk around Chris Kaman in the first half (and similarly electrified them with a pair of missed dunks later in the game), but bottled up Eric Gordon all night.
  • While Derek Fisher and Pau Gasol chipped in as well, the bench was a no-show, from Lamar Odom on down. As a group, they produced more turnovers (six) than field goals (five). Not a healthy ratio.

As a reminder (shameless plug alert), we'll be on 710 ESPN from 12-2 pm PT for ESPNLA On Air, discussing tonight's win, the playoff push, and other issues of great import. Hope you can tune in.

Lakers 112, Clippers 104 -- At the buzzer

March, 25, 2011
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
Before the game, Phil Jackson noted while his team has overall played very well since the All-Star break and he's losing no sleep over their performance, the Lakers haven't put their best foot forward over the last few games, despite winning them all.

Chalk some of it up to posturing (never a bad idea to remind the gang there's room still to grow), some to the elevated standards the playoff push brings. Either way, Friday's win, the Lakers' 14th in their last 15 games, won't necessarily change Jackson's narrative. The Lakers played well enough for the victory, keeping control of the game throughout and delivering big plays when needed, but weren't able to put the Clips away until the end. There was plenty to like, but the coaching staff won't have problems finding nits to pick in Saturday's film session.

Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images
Kobe Bryant soared Friday night to the tune of 37 points, with six assists as the Lakers knocked off the Clippers at Staples.

Of course, it's reflective of the level to which the Lakers are playing when this sort of game feels mildly disappointing.

Here's how it broke down ...


1. Kobe Bryant. He spent much of the game settling into comfortable spots on the floor, whether moving over a Pau Gasol screen to shake Eric Gordon before burying a soft jumper below the elbow, or beating Randy Foye in transition down to his well-loved spot along the left baseline. Bryant was effective both with the dribble and moving off the ball. It's always encouraging to see Bryant attack the rim, and Friday he did, helping explain his 17 free throws, only his third time he's earned more than 10 in his last 25 games.

For the most part, Bryant's game was extremely well controlled. On a night where the Lakers' offense (save those moments where the reserves were out en masse) had a lot of flow, Bryant fit in well, taking smart shots and delivering well timed passes to teammates, racking up a team-high six assists.

And, no surprise, Bryant was an important part of the fourth quarter push helping keep the Clips at arms length down the stretch. He produced a key steal at the 7:30 mark of the fourth, finishing with the dunk and giving the Lakers a six-point lead, then followed up on the next possession with a nice dish inside to Gasol, after beating Gordon baseline. With under three minutes to go, Bryant drilled a jumper from the free-throw line, pushing the Lakers lead to eight.

He finished with 37 points on 11-for-21 shooting, plus four boards and the aforementioned assists.

2. Pau Gasol. In the immortal words of Dave Chappelle-as-Prince, "Shoot the J! Shoot it!"

On a night where Gasol donated a cool grand per point to relief funds benefiting those suffering in Japan, he started the game red hot, particularly with his jumper. After spinning into the lane to bury a nice hook shot over Blake Griffin to kick off the scoring for the Lakers, Gasol hit four straight jumpers, starting at 11 feet and extending his range to 17 by the end. He'd finish the first half with a highly efficient 14 points on seven-for-10 from the floor. In the third, Gasol scored eight more points, doing most of his damage at the line, where he was a perfect six-for-six.

There were a few raggedy moments offensively -- a fourth-quarter sequence in which he was blocked by DeAndre Jordan, then gathered the ball only to fire an airball at the end of the shot clock- and like the rest of his teammates Gasol suffered some breakdowns defensively, but overall it's exceedingly difficult to argue with 26/8/3.

3. Andrew Bynum. In the continuing evolution of what defines high quality output from Bynum, after three blocks within a 3:30 stretch near the top of the second quarter his points-to-swat ratio stood at two-to-three. Add in six first half rebounds, swelling to 11 by the end of the third and 12 for the game, the last a big offensive board off a Derek Fisher missed free throw with 35 seconds remaining off, putting the Lakers up by six. While Bynum seemed a little off-rhythm following a suspension induced week long layoff (more than once Griffin got Drew off the floor with hard pump fakes, and I got the sense a few times he wasn't where teammates thought he'd be) Bynum was active and seemed to lose no enthusiasm for his new role in the layoff.

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Lakers vs. Clippers: What to watch with ClipperBlog

March, 25, 2011
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
Andrew Bynum is back! Blake Griffin is in the house! What more could you want, Lakers fan?

Oh, right. A win.

Given the 2-1 series held by the two-time defending champs, plus the way both teams have been playing of late, a victory certainly feels like a reasonable wish. The Clips' 7-4 record in March is certainly solid, but as discussed in this week's edition of The Triangle, the Lakers have been nothing short of a freakin' juggernaut since the All-Star Break. "Juggernaut" should best "solid," all things being equal.

For local knowledge about tonight's neighborly opponent, we turned to Breene Murphy of ClipperBlog (True Hoop network). Here are a few items to keep an eye on once the ball is jumped.

K Bros: How have the additions of Mo Williams and Jamario Moon worked out. Conversely, has Baron been addition by subtraction (as I certainly felt would be the case) or has been missed in certain ways? Both, even?

Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US Presswire
Mo Williams may not be quite passer Baron is, but he's a better fit for the team as a whole.

I’ll ignore Jamario, since he’ll come up later, and just keep this a simple Mo versus Baron argument. As much as Baron has been a lightning rod for criticism during his tenure with the Clippers, the sentiment on Baron’s departure hasn’t been as one-sided as you would suspect. There are still many that feel that Baron was/is better for the Clippers than Mo Williams.

Baron did a lot for this team. Even with his early season knee and weight issues, Baron came back to play his best basketball as a Clipper, finding his stardom as Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan’s alley-oop muse. As it pertains to passing, I can’t imagine that Mo will ever surpass Baron.

But even if Baron continued along that path, a larger problem persisted. As much as I like Baron’s beard, he was no longer was no longer the face of the franchise. This team belongs to Blake and Eric Gordon. And yet, in pre-game introductions the Clippers continued to announce Baron last, as if he were a star.

Now? No question, the team belongs to Blake and Eric.

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Lakers vs. Clippers -- What to watch with ClipperBlog

February, 25, 2011
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
Historically, seeing the Clippers on the schedule has been a happy thing for the Lakers. This year, though, the red,white, and blue have flipped the script, losing by a point in the first meeting (on a buzzer beating lefty flip at the rim from Derek Fisher), then beating the champs by seven on January 16.

No question the Clips will be fired up for tonight's rubber match, but the circumstances for both teams are different. The Lakers, gearing up for the stretch run and playoff drive, are coming off two big wins out of the All-Star break. The LAC, on the other hand, have struggled. Without Eric Gordon (wrist), the Clippers have lost eight of ten on their extended road trip, ending tonight as visitors in their building (or more accurately, visitors in the building in which they play).

David Liam Kyle/NBAE/Getty Images
Baron out, Mo in. Cue applause.

Moreover, the Clips are a team in transition, having shipped Baron Davis- beard, contract, and questionable fitness habits included- to Cleveland for Mo Williams and Jamario Moon. Even factoring in the lottery pick heading to the Cavs as part of the exchange, it's still a brilliant deal for the Clips, frankly one I figured they'd be unable to make given the Full Albatross status of Davis' contract and his less-than-pristine reputation around the NBA.

In the long run, the Clippers will benefit. In the now, it makes tonight's game a little tougher to handicap. For some help, I hit up Breene Murphy, outstanding steward of ClipperBlog, for some insight:

1) What impact does moving Baron have for the Clippers, on the floor and off? How does Mo Williams fit in?

You said in your email I could keep this short, and then asked a question that I could write 30,000 words on. Is this some sort of torture?

Moving Baron really was all about the future of the franchise. After all, the Clippers aren’t making the playoffs this year, but Baron’s contract was preventing them from pursuing free agents this summer, and the following year as well. By bringing in Mo Williams they save at least $8.5 million and more likely $11 million, even more if you count the salary of the draft pick that they gave up to get rid of Baron.

There is one sneaky tenet that this trade assumes though- that players will want to come to the Clippers to play. I know they have Blake Griffin and Eric Gordon, even the other rooks [Al-Farouq] Aminu, [Eric] Bledsoe (and maybe Willie Warren) have potential. But there still is the fact that Donald Sterling owns the franchise. Not only someone with a poor historical record from an effectiveness standpoint, but also someone not exactly famous for being a good guy, you know?

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Lakers collapse vs. Clippers: Seven minutes of... not heaven

January, 17, 2011
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
With 7:12 to play in Sunday's loss to Clippers at Staples, the Lakers held a reasonably comfortable seven point lead. At the final buzzer, the Clippers had a seven point win. That's a 14 point swing, really 16 because the Lakers finished the game with a Shannon Brown layup meaningless to all who didn't start him on their fantasy team.

So what went wrong? Particularly considering the Clips had scored all of two points in the quarter to that point . . . and would go on to pile up 29 the rest of the way?

Here's the play-by-play...

7:12- With six seconds left on the shot clock, the Clippers inbound along the baseline. Baron Davis shoots down from the top of the key, guarded by Brown. Kobe Bryant, who was defending the pass on the restart, helps on Baron as well. Davis makes a nice pass to Ryan Gomes -- who inbounded the ball -- in the right corner, forcing Ron Artest (guarding Randy Foye on the wing) to rotate down. Gomes makes a nice pass to Foye, who drifted back to the top of the floor behind the arc. Foye shoots over Kobe, who can't recover in time. As Ralph Lawler would say, "Bingo."

77-73, Lakers.

Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images
Eric Gordon scored 30 and was red hot late Sunday when the Clippers beat the Lakers.

7:00- Brown brings the ball up the right wing, leaving it for Lamar Odom. Odom swings to Artest at the top of the key. Brown pops up to the right wing from the lane off a double screen of Odom and Pau Gasol, and Artest hits him in stride. Shannon shoots . . . in and out. No penetration on the play, but Brown did get a clean look.

6:40- Davis up the center of the floor guarded by Brown. Griffin sets a screen, which Davis uses going to his left. Odom and Shannon both go with Davis, who swings the ball back weakside to Foye, set up beyond the arc on the right wing. He shoots over a closing Artest and misses. The long rebound goes to Kobe, who smartly feeds a streaking Brown down the right wing as the Lakers push in transition. Foye foils Brown's dunk attempt, fouling him in the process.

Shannon makes both freebies. 79-73, LAL. Stay tuned.

6:20- Out of a timeout, Vinny Del Negro gets Eric Gordon back in the game. Smart move. Davis walks the ball up the center of the floor, tossing a pass to Griffin near the right elbow. Griffin drifts to his left, and leaves for Gordon coming off a screen. Gordon, near the left elbow, draws Artest and Odom, and passes back to the top of the key to Griffin, who swings left to Davis on the left wing. Baron penetrates to the lane around a Griffin screen, kicking to Foye in the right corner. Foye penetrates baseline, kicks back to Davis center court just above the arc. By now, the shot clock is running down, but the Lakers are scrambling. As Artest tries to close on Davis, he makes a nice touch pass to Gordon on the right wing.

Artest, asked to guard two players at once, tries to close but can't get there in time. Three pointer. Very good patience, very good ball movement from the Clippers. 79-76, Lakers.

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Clippers 99, Lakers 92: At the buzzer

January, 16, 2011
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
Not gonna lie. Didn't see that ending coming, whether you're talking the literal score or how it was manufactured. Quite the lulu.

Three Good

Kobe Bryant
Before the game, I wondered if Kobe's recently efficient roll could be slowed by Eric Gordon checking him. Even acknowledging Kobe's three inches on the Clipper, that strength and overall defensive awareness struck me as containing the potential to make Kobe work. Well, as the saying goes, you can't teach height, and Kobe made great use of his to launch shots.

Often working against Gordon in isolation, Kobe wisely concentrated less on pushing the issue to get low position. Instead, his back typically faced Gordon just long enough to create space, then turn around and drain a J. Otherwise, the kid was worked in space while Kobe faced up or drove, and Kobe earned 13 trips to the line (not literally at all at Gordon's expense).

Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images
Kobe was able to get his shot off
against Gordon.

The game was a smart display of recognition by Bryant, who often made baskets look easy while matched against a quality defender.

The overwhelming majority of defense against Blake Griffin
Over roughly three and a half quarters, the marquee "Griffin vs. the defending champs" matchup fell short of the presumed fireworks. Similar to their first meeting, when Griffin finished six-of-17 from the floor, the wunderkind couldn't get much of anything going against the Lakers' frontcourt length and experience.

With three frames in the books, Griffin had missed nine of his 12 attempts, and found himself continually bothered by Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum and especially Pau Gasol. Odom also drew a pair of personals against the rookie, and for most of the game, an early reverse thunder-dunk along the baseline was the extent of any true highlight reel moments provided by the franchise's new face. It even felt like his double-double streak was in jeopardy.

Unfortunately for the Lakers, this game also featured a fourth quarter, where Griffin exploded to rally a Clipper victory. And credit the youngster for keeping his head in a game giving him a brutal treatment. Not a lot of players -- much less wet as Griffin behind the ears -- would finally discover how to get such deep position after an extended period of flailing.

This attitude is exactly why he offered LO that push in the back with just 5.7 seconds left. You can argue the aggression was a little much (Odom certainly did), but bottom line, the kid doesn't stop playing. Period. And the mindset is endorsed by no other than one Mamba himself.

"It's just the right thing to do," praised Kobe. "You have to play all the way through. You play til the final buzzer sounds. That's the way I grew up playing... Blake just ran through us. We didn't have anybody that was going to put up a stand."

Defense in general, save a fourth quarter meltdown
By and large, the Lakers played a really good defensive game. Over three quarters, the Clips were held to 40 percent from the floor, 35.7 percent from behind the arc and 68 points. Shots were challenged with aggression. 24 second violations were forced. Around the rim in particular, I thought the bigs did an especially good job forcing misses. Save Gordon (22 points after three frames), nobody really caught a groove.

Of course, the Clippers had racked 34 second chance points to this point, perhaps an indication things weren't as smooth as they appeared on the surface. But in any event, the Lakers hardly seemed vulnerable to me. (And judging by some postgame self-criticism, not to themselves, either.)

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Lakers-Clippers: What to watch, with Neil Olshey

January, 16, 2011
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
With wins in eight of their last 12 contests, most recently against the Miami Heat, the Clippers are suddenly a team to be taken seriously. Blake Griffin isn't just playing like the runaway Rookie of the Year, but a legitimate All-Star forward. Eric Gordon is among the best guards in the league. DeAndre Jordan is improving. Farouq Aminu and Eric Bledsoe are making contributions as rookies. Even Baron Davis is playing like a dude who cares (which to me absolutely cements Griffin's All-Star credentials, since nobody else has inspired this reaction in 3-4 years.)

Andy and Brian Kamenetzky speak with Los Angeles Clippers vice president of basketball operations Neil Olshey about Blake Griffin, Baron Davis and the season.


A December meeting between the Staples Center roommates was an ugly slugfest capped by Derek Fisher's improbable game-winning layup. Both teams are on a better track, giving the matinee rematch a "must-see" feel. To get a better idea of why the Clips are trending upward, we turned to vice president of basketball operations Neil Olshey. He paid a visit to ESPNLA On Air and offered insight on the team's new dynamic.

The entire interview can be heard by clicking the box to the right, but here are some excerpts:

Olshey, on what's changed over the last 12 games:
"Really, more than anything, it took a while to learn how to win. We were in a lot of games during those first 14 games. I think we lost five or six games by one point. And a little bit of it, we were playing not to lose as opposed to playing to win. You gotta remember, the veteran core we had [experienced] four losing seasons in a row prior to Vinny [Del Negro] coming in. So losing is a habit and it's one we needed to break.

"I think the team meeting Eric Gordon and Blake Griffin called after that Philadelphia loss after we had a double-digit lead kind of raised the bar in terms of how guys are going to deal with each other on the court. We've got a very tight-knit group socially, but they kind of needed to be workers on the floor. And that's what's happened. I think Vinny's done a great job of staying optimistic, being positive, continuing to work.

Cary Edmondson/US Presswire
The Clippers are hoping to rise like Blake Griffin.

"The amazing thing is the atmosphere never changed. We were 1-13 and you would have walked in and thought we were 13-1. That was what was important, the team was still competing. They were working. Guys were improving and we needed something to turn it around."

On team's leadership dynamic
"Eric and Blake are the cornerstones of the franchise. From a leadership standpoint, now that Baron is back and healthy and actually Baron again, Baron's the leader because we [were] this great body, with no head. Baron came back and he's kind of the brain of our team. He's the guy that makes sure the guys get the ball in the right spots. I've said this before, all those highlight reel dunks by Blake and DeAndre, there's somebody throwing him the ball to them. He and Eric [Gordon] have found a way to play together. They had issues with that last year because they both like to have the ball, but they've done a really good job of playing in pairs a little bit and complementing one another.

"The leadership, from a building block for the future, it's Blake and Eric, and I think, night in and night out, being ready to go, Baron has a major role in that."

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Clippers drop Lakers: The reactions

January, 7, 2010
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images
Baron Davis led the Clippers to a win over the defending champs.

The purple and gold entered Staples Center a consensus fave against L.A.'s "other team," what with a superior record, ownership of nine consecutive wins against their local rival, franchise history firmly on its side, yada, yada, yada. This chatter has gotten to Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy --particularly when generated on 710 ESPN, it would appear-- who thinks talking heads haven't taken into account enough his team's injury history over the years. (And lord knows Dunleavy's done his best to tell people about it whenever possible, so those reminders falling on deaf ears is understandably frustrating.) Now at full strength --save Blake Griffin-- he thinks the Clips can hang with the defending champs. Certainly appeared a believable theory last night, if nothing else.

Of course, the Lakers are dealing with health issues of their own right now. Kobe Bryant's sprained right index finger. Ron Artest kicking off the cobwebs from a concussion. Lamar Odom, Josh Powell and DJ Mbenga shaking various bugs. Luke Walton out with a back injury. And of course, Pau Gasol, day-to-day with a hamstring injury. The Lake Show largely succeeded over its opening eleven games sans the services of El Spaniard, but didn't emerge a beatdown-handing juggernaut until he was back in the fold. The O.C. Register's Kevin Ding felt this game served as a harsh reminder of that reality, one not lost on many a scribe. My brother felt Gasol's ability to move the ball is desperately missed in an offense turned gummy and Ball Don't Lie's Kelly Dwyer was often astonished by the lack of flow:
    And while I salute the Clippers for bringing the defensive intensity, the Lakers more or less abandoned their sideline triangle for either a series of fruitless screen and roll attempts (you're telling me anyone has to guard a Ron Artest and Josh Powell two-man game?), or Kobe Bryant one-on-one rat-a-tat. Kobe was brilliant in this game's third quarter, scoring 17 points with two assists, but it was fool's gold. He kept trying to score on isolation or screen/roll plays after that, good shots rimmed out or wouldn't fall, and the Lakers never got back into a rhythm after that. I'd say the team missed Pau Gasol and his work in the apex, but in a stadium with Kobe, Phil Jackson, and Derek Fisher(notes), this team should have known better.

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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