Los Angeles Lakers: Jordan Hill
The Lakers still hadn't heard any official word from Anthony on Friday, according to a league source, when they pulled the trigger on a trade with the Houston Rockets to acquire Lin and Houston's 2015 first-round pick in exchange for cash considerations and the rights to an undisclosed player stashed overseas.
There's no denying that the last we saw of him on the court, Lin struggled. Lin shot just 21.7 percent on 3-pointers in Houston's first-round playoff loss to Portland and was particularly ineffective early in the series, scoring five points on 1-for-5 shooting in Game 2 and four points on 1-for-6 shooting in Game 4 as the Rockets fell behind 3-1 before eventually losing in six games.
But that rough series, combined with the Rockets' preference for Patrick Beverly at the point, ended up clouding the player that Lin really is today.
The fact is, he's a better player than when he was setting the world on fire during that streak with the Knicks. Lin may have averaged fewer points (12.5 compared to 14.6) and assists (4.1 compared to 6.2) last season than he did when he was in New York, but he's more efficient (35.8 percent from 3, up from 32.0 percent, while his attempts have gone from 2.1 to 3.2 per game), more reliable (82.3 percent from the foul line, up from 79.8) and also more in control (2.5 turnovers per game, down from 3.6).
At 6 feet 3, 200 pounds, Lin is a bigger point guard than most think, which perhaps has something to do with his durability. Lin played in 71 games last season and all 82 games the season before that. Having a stable point guard would certainly be a welcome addition for the Lakers after Steve Nash, Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar all missed so many games because of injuries in the last two seasons.
But what is to follow?
The Lakers, like several other teams around the league with major cap space and daring dreams (Chicago, Houston, Dallas, Phoenix, Cleveland, etc.), are putting everything else on hold while they go big-game hunting.
When the James and Anthony dominoes eventual fall where they may, however, there will be other smaller pieces to fill, especially for a team like L.A., which has only six players penciled in for roster spots next season in Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Robert Sacre, Kendall Marshall and rookies Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson.
As much as the Lakers have centered their initial focus on those big-ticket players, general manager Mitch Kupchak has been sure to cast a wide net to let a host of players know that he would potentially like to see them wearing purple and gold next season.
This included Kupchak's reaching out to representatives to every single one of the players who were on the roster last season and are currently free agents, save for MarShon Brooks, who will play for the Sacramento Kings' summer league team, a league source told ESPNLosAngeles.com.
Some of those players have greater interest around the league than others, of course.
Kent Bazemore appears to be the most popular of the group. The 25-year-old swingman has also already been contacted by Dallas, Atlanta, Boston, Phoenix and San Antonio. The Celtics' initial contact included a personal call from coach Brad Stevens to Bazemore. He will sit down with representatives from both the Celtics and the Spurs next week, if not more teams. Helping his cause, no doubt, is the fact that his right foot is fully healed from the surgery he underwent in April to repair a torn tendon and he will be ready for full-contact drills by the end of July, according to a league source.
Jordan Hill was also on the minds of plenty of teams, with Boston, Dallas and Houston all inquiring about the big man coming off a season in which he averaged career highs in points (9.7) and rebounds (7.4) per game despite playing only 20.8 minutes a game in Mike D'Antoni's system that didn't necessarily fit his skill set.
Nick Young heard from Atlanta along with the Lakers, as well as "several other teams registering interest," according to his agent, Mark Bartelstein.
For others, they are still waiting to see what the market bears. Chris Kaman will wait to see which teams need a backup center once they spend their big dollars on starters. Jordan Farmar has already prioritized staying in L.A., but if the Lakers feel they're set with three point guards in Nash, Marshall and Clarkson already, maybe he gets a look from his former Maccabi Tel Aviv coach David Blatt, who is now manning the sidelines in Cleveland. Wesley Johnson, still searching to fully establish himself in the league after showing some bright spots last season, will search for the team with the greatest opportunity for playing time so he can continue that development. Xavier Henry, still recovering from left wrist and right knee surgeries from back in April, will have an on-court workout to prove himself with the Lakers once he's recovered, according to a league source, before he will look elsewhere.
And those are just the free agents who were actually on the team last season.
Don't forget that Kupchak has been canvassing the remaining free agents around the league -- both restricted and unrestricted -- as he awaits the chance to obtain Anthony and others.
While it might seem that it has been a relatively quiet start to free agency for the normally splashy Lake Show, there has been a lot going on beneath the surface.
Season recap: With the season already a wash, Hill put up mighty impressive individual numbers in April -- averaging 16.6 points on 53.5 percent shooting from the field and 80.6 percent from the foul line, along with 10.1 rebounds, 1.8 blocks and 1.0 steals in 29 minutes per game. While it didn't help the Lakers to many wins, it was an impressive run by the former lottery pick that had been mostly streaky since L.A. acquired him. Hill had it tough, however, for most of the season as his game and Mike D'Antoni's system were not a natural fit. Hill tried to add a perimeter jump shot to his skill set and could go to it in practice but never became comfortable enough to execute it during games.
Season lowlight: After having his 2012-13 season derailed by a hip surgery, Hill was able to stay mostly healthy until February when he missed eight straight games because of a right leg injury. D'Antoni would often try to limit his minutes to protect Hill from hurting himself with his aggressive style of play.
Final grade: B
Notes: When Hill's name was being dangled at the trade deadline involving a potential deal with Brooklyn, the fifth-year veteran let it be known he had no problem being moved, so long as the deal would involve more playing time. The funny thing is that while Hill didn't feel he was getting a fair shake in D'Antoni's system, he ended up averaging career highs across the board with the opportunity his coach gave him.
Quotable: "I definitely wouldn't mind coming back here. I had a great time with the team, with the staff. But I don't know what's going to happen. There were a lot of ups and downs this season, so this summer, I'm definitely going to see how it pans out and see where I'm going to be at." -- Hill after his exit interview.
What's next? Hill showed loyalty to the Lakers after first coming to the team from Houston in a deal for Derek Fisher, opting to sign a two-year extension when more lucrative offers were on the table because he felt as if he was finally given a chance to show what he had to offer in L.A. This summer will show if that loyalty has worn off after a couple of disappointing seasons, or if he will be filling one of the dozen empty spots on the roster the Lakers have to target by training camp.
Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened?
Or in the Los Angeles Lakers' case, there were surely plenty of fans smiling Wednesday night because their dismal 2013-14 season is finally over.
They were a team that just couldn't get things right this season all the way to the bitter end, when all that was left to play for was draft seeding -- and they even messed that up with a two-game winning streak to finish things.
Before the Lakers knocked off the league's No. 1 team in the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday (albeit a Spurs team that did not dress Tim Duncan and played Tony Parker only 16 minutes), coach Mike D'Antoni was asked to reflect on the season that went awry.
"It’s something that -- we could have played better, obviously, but I don't know if we were good enough to win," D'Antoni said. "They tried their best. They were in a horrible situation. They were in a tough situation to start with, then it got horrible on them. But, I think overall, they competed."
For the nine guys still standing from the Lakers' 15-man roster, there was something to feel good about, at least knowing that they at least made their coach's claim ring true.
Time will tell just how much competing all the way to the end will hurt them when the draft lottery results are revealed next month, however.
How it happened: The Lakers saw their 13-point first-half lead disappear by intermission, but they were able to build their balloon back to 11 heading into the fourth. L.A. was able to keep its cushion large enough that MarShon Brooks played nine minutes in the final frame.
What it means: It's over. It's all over. The Lakers can only go up from here.
Hits: All five Lakers starters and eight of the nine players who got in the game overall scored in double digits, with Jordan Hill leading the charge with 18 points and 14 rebounds.
Wesley Johnson (11 points, 10 rebounds) and Kendall Marshall (15 points, 11 assists) also chipped in with double-doubles.
L.A. had just nine turnovers.
Misses: Johnson shot just 5-for-17 from the field.
Stat of the game: 319. With both Steve Nash and Chris Kaman joining Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Kent Bazemore and Xavier Henry on the injured list for the season finale, the Lakers' season total for combined games missed because of injury rose to a staggering 319.
Up next: An offseason rife with question marks. What will become of D'Antoni? Where will their spot end up being in the draft lottery? Whom will they select with their pick? How many out of their 12 free agents will be back on the team next season? Will Bryant return healthy? How about Nash? Will he retire? What will the Lakers do with all that cap space they've hoarded? How long will it take for this franchise to get back on track?
Intentional or not, there was more to D’Antoni’s accomplishment of snapping a seven-game Lakers losing streak with a 119-104 win against the lowly Utah Jazz. He also put himself firmly in the crosshairs with a faction of the purple and gold faithful who care only about the Lakers’ draft position at this point, rather than chasing meaningless wins to close out the season.
If D’Antoni had stopped talking right there, he could have been spared the ire from the fan base, as the unexpected win would have been chalked up to Nick Young (who hit the 40-point plateau for the second time in eight games) and big nights from Jodie Meeks (23 points), Jordan Hill (21 points) and Kendall Marshall (15 assists).
But D’Antoni didn’t stop there, of course.
He continued his answer to reveal that he didn’t know exactly what was at stake for the Lakers, who went into the night with a 25-55 record, playing against a Jazz team that was 24-56.
“They played hard, and I think, if I’m not mistaken, it’s the same number of pingpong balls, right?” D’Antoni said. “They flip a coin, or something.”
Turns out, he was mistaken. The Lakers went into the night with the sixth-worst record in the league. A loss to the Jazz would have put them in a tie for fifth with Utah, with the Lakers owning the tiebreaker as the worse team -- should the Jazz close out the season with a loss in Minnesota and L.A. finish things out with a loss in San Antonio -- because Utah would have won the season series 3-1.
A reporter informed D’Antoni that the win by the Lakers actually cemented the Jazz with a worse record and thus better lottery chances.
“I mean, you kind of hate that,” D’Antoni responded, realizing what the win did to the potential draft order. “But, I thought we had the same rank.”
Another reporter chimed in to tell D’Antoni that if the Lakers had lost to Utah, the coach would have been correct.
“Oh, I didn’t know that,” D’Antoni said. “Oh, OK. That’s all right; we’re going to beat San Antonio, anyway. So, it’s all for naught.”
In a way, D’Antoni’s ignorance in this case shouldn’t matter. His job is to coach the team to wins in the present. It is not to manipulate the outcomes of games to try to land better talent in the draft and potentially secure more wins in the future.
And, as D’Antoni pointed out, the Lakers could always beat the Spurs on Wednesday with Gregg Popovich resting his starters and make the win against the Jazz a moot point. Or the Boston Celtics could always beat the Washington Wizards in their last game and, coupled with a Lakers loss to San Antonio, create a coin-flip scenario to determine who gets the No. 5 position.
The logic will be lost on some fans, for sure. When things are as bad as they are right now for believers accustomed to championship or bust, they’ll latch on to whatever they can as an outlet for their frustrations. Plus, D’Antoni didn’t do himself any favors when he said earlier in the season that fans who were discouraged by the Lakers’ struggles should “find another team to root for.”
Combine all that with a less-than-ringing endorsement from Kobe Bryant and repeated head butts with Pau Gasol -- two guys who, unlike D’Antoni, have delivered titles to L.A. -- and it’s no surprise some of the faithful will choose to ignore that D’Antoni gets paid to win games, not to know about draft scenarios should the Lakers lose.
Besides, it’s called a “lottery” for a reason. Even if the Lakers finish with the sixth-worst record, it doesn’t mean they can’t vault into the top three when the pingpong balls are picked. It also doesn’t mean they’ll even get the sixth pick, because they could move down to a worse draft position with bad luck.
And no draft is the same. But it’s important to remember an example such as Damian Lillard going No. 6 to Portland in 2012 when Thomas Robinson went No. 5 to Sacramento. Of course, Chris Kaman was No. 6 in 2003 when Dwyane Wade was No. 5, too.
But the biggest takeaway from Monday shouldn’t be D’Antoni putting his foot in his mouth or the Lakers hurting their supposed chances in something that comes down to luck in the end, anyway.
It was about a Lakers team showing a shred of pride with last place in the Western Conference on the line.
“The basketball gods [made it happen],” Young said. “We needed a night like this. Just the energy. We came in here, we knew it was going to be a battle. It was a way to say, ‘Who wants to be the last-place team in the West?’
“And we went out there, we were making shots and jumping around as a team. We had fun together.”
SALT LAKE CITY -- Not that it should be much of a surprise by now, but the Los Angeles Lakers proved on Monday that they just couldn't get things right this season.
When they needed to win in the early part of the season, they were terrible at it, becoming the first team in the league to be eliminated from postseason contention with 16 games left to play.
When they needed to lose late in order to help their draft standing, they proved equally bad, pulling out spoiler wins against the Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks to hurt those team's playoff chances.
Nothing summed up the backward season more than what happened in Salt Lake City, however. The Lakers were up against a Utah Jazz team they will be battling for ping-pong positioning next month and, all of the sudden, they looked like world beaters.
There was Nick Young making seemingly everything he put up there, setting a season high with 41 points.
There was Jordan Hill causing fans to once again scratch their heads and wonder why he ever fell out of the rotation, scoring 21 points on 10-for-13 shooting.
There was Jodie Meeks playing like the true professional he's groomed himself to be, dropping in 23 points of his own.
There was Kendall Marshall dishing out 15 assists and giving the team something to think about when it comes to making him an offer this offseason.
But through it all, there was the Lakers' draft chances for next season taking a hit, which is really what matters at this point.
How it happened: The Lakers fell down by as many as 13 points in the first half, but used a 19-2 run to close out the second quarter to take a 57-51 lead into intermission. The Jazz tied it back up 86-86 heading into the fourth. L.A. blew Utah's doors off in the final frame, with Young scoring 17 points in the quarter.
What it means: The Lakers promised they hadn't given up on things and were playing for each other, and for pride. Apparently they weren't lying.
Hits: The Lakers shot 54.9 percent as a team.
Misses: The Lakers' lottery positioning took a hit on Monday as L.A. could have vaulted below Utah to the No. 5 spot, but instead pretty much cemented its place at No. 6.
Stat of the game: 18. The Jazz had 18 turnovers leading to 29 points for the Lakers.
Up next: There's just one game left in this forgettable season for the Lakers. They travel to Texas to play the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday in a game where Gregg Popovich is sure to rest his key players -- with the No. 1 record in the league and home court throughout the playoffs already locked up for the silver and black.
LOS ANGELES -- On a day when the Los Angeles Lakers picked up their 52nd loss of the season to tie the 1974-75 squad for the most defeats in a single season in franchise history, the way it went down was wholly appropriate with the rest of their crummy campaign.
Their foe, the Los Angeles Clippers, thoroughly outclassed them for the third straight game, shooting 56.6 percent from the field.
Meanwhile, in what's become a recurring nightmare for the Lakers, their players couldn't stay healthy. Kent Bazemore went down in the second quarter because of a sprained right foot and did not return. Nick Young tweaked his left knee in the third quarter and had to get treatment on the bench before limping around in meaningless minutes in what had already became a blowout in the fourth quarter.
Oh, and this is about the time to mention that the Lakers came into the game with only nine healthy players to begin with.
There was nothing particularly painful about Sunday's loss, other than the actual pain from those injuries. It was just another example of a superior opponent taking care of business and the Lakers wishing for it to end.
How it happened: The Lakers kept things relatively close in the first half, trailing 57-49 at intermission, but the Clippers used a 37-23 third quarter to blow things wide open. It was already garbage time by the start of the fourth.
What it means: Mike D'Antoni pretty much conceded the game before it even started, admitting during his pregame remarks, "They know they're up against a mountain today." The Lakers didn't fare too well in climbing it.
Hits: Jordan Hill had 22 points and nine rebounds.
Jodie Meeks kept up his consistent scoring, dropping in 17 points.
Kendall Marshall had a double-double with 10 points and 11 assists, and Robert Sacre neared one with nine points and 10 rebounds.
Young scored 18 points off the bench.
After being the last Lakers player to check into the game with only a couple of minutes left in the fourth quarter, MarShon Brooks immediately nailed a 3.
Misses: The Lakers were outscored 27-13 in fast-break points.
Stat of the game: 52.9. That's what the Clippers shot on 3-pointers, going 10-for-19 from deep.
Up next: The Lakers have five games left on the schedule, starting Tuesday against the Houston Rockets in a game that Dwight Howard may not play in because of a sore left ankle.
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.
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."
LOS ANGELES -- It was appropriate that the Los Angeles Lakers and Orlando Magic met on Sunday night during the finale of the opening weekend of the NCAA tournament.
The Magic came into Sunday owners of the third-worst record in the NBA. The Lakers came in with the fourth-worst. The scouting departments for both teams will be scouring the tourney with an extra-keen eye, hoping to unearth the right prospect to turn their respective teams around when June's NBA draft rolls around.
Orlando might have one of the top candidates for rookie of the year in Victor Oladipo (21 points, 10 assists, five rebounds) to build around already, but the Lakers showed they have a few pieces that they should seriously considering keeping around next season and beyond as they try to ascend back to contender status.
How it happened: The Lakers jumped out to a 14-4 lead, but Orlando crawled back to go up by 30-29 early in the second quarter. Again, L.A. stormed ahead by 15, before the Magic used an 8-0 run heading into halftime to pull to within seven. The Lakers' lead was down to only two after three quarters, with the Magic's Kyle O'Quinn (14 points on 7-for-10 shooting) and Tobias Harris (16 points on 7-for-14 shooting) leading the charge. With the game going back and forth for much of the fourth, Nick Young nailed a 3-pointer with 3:23 left to put L.A. up by seven. The Lakers controlled things from there.
What it means: This is one of those wins the Lakers could be kicking themselves about when the lottery order is set in a couple of months. However, it was Catch-22 territory for the team. The Lakers want to see this group of players win games so the front office can properly evaluate their talent in situations that count. At the same time, the future of the franchise could be drastically improved if the Lakers get their man with say, for instance, the third pick, instead of potentially missing him with the fourth.
Hits: Jordan Hill had perhaps his best game as a Laker with a career-high 28 points and 13 rebounds.
Young scored 26 points off the bench.
Jodie Meeks had a career-high six steals.
The Lakers ended their four-game losing streak.
L.A. also snapped its streak of giving up 110 points or more at eight games.
Misses: Steve Nash did not play because of nerve root irritation in his right hamstring and Pau Gasol left the game at halftime because of dizziness and nausea and did not return.
Stat of the game: 5. That's how many four-point plays Young's season total is up to after notching another one in the first half Sunday. Young already owned the franchise record for most four-point plays in a season. In the process he upped the Lakers' four-point plays as a team this season to eight, which is also a franchise record.
Up next: The Lakers host the suddenly surging New York Knicks on Tuesday. The game is sure to pack plenty of intrigue for Lakers fans with Phil Jackson potentially being in the building and also Carmelo Anthony, who could be a free agent target of the purple and gold this summer, on the court.
After the Lakers’ 132-125 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday, a game in which Jordan Farmar had 20 points and eight assists in 26 minutes while starting the second half at point guard over Marshall, D’Antoni said he was considering a lineup change, but ultimately decided to stand pat.
“[Farmar] will probably finish the [Clippers] game, maybe, we’ll watch it,” D’Antoni said after shootaround Thursday. “But we’re good.”
Marshall has gone scoreless in four out of the Lakers’ last five games, going 3-for-24 (12.5 percent) overall during that span.
“He has to get out of his slump, mini-slump, and we think the best way to get out of it is to play out of it,” said D’Antoni. “You got to be careful with peoples’ egos. It’s a tough position anyway, and just because somebody is in a little bit of a slump you don’t want to exacerbate the problem. That’s one. And Kendall is good about distributing the ball, getting it up and throwing the ball up and getting everybody involved.”
Marshall was the last player on the Lakers’ practice court Thursday, getting up extra shot attempts.
“You miss shots,” Marshall said. “You can’t expect to shoot 100 percent all the time. It’s a part of the game. You’re going to miss shots, you’re going to go through a slump, but you got to find a way to get out of it.”
Marshall, who has averaged 9.4 points, 11.0 assists and 34.3 minutes in 24 games as a starter with L.A. and 7.2 points, 5.3 assists and 21.0 minutes in nine games off the bench, said that he tries not to worry about a starting role.
“It’s all about what you do when you’re on the court,” Marshall said. “Whether that’s six minutes, 20 minutes or 40 minutes, you got to make the most of that time. Jordan has been playing great for us, we’ve played well when he’s on the court and he’s a great teammate.”
Despite Marshall’s shot being off lately, he has still dished out double-digit assists in each of the last three games. It is a rare feat by the second-year player. While Marshall totaled zero points and 10-plus assists in two of the last three games, the rest of the league combined has just three games like that all season, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
“Obviously I’m still able to get my teammates involved,” Marshall said. “So, as long as I’m doing that, the scoring is a bonus. But the main thing for me, what I strive in, is getting teammates involved.”
Perhaps the matchup with the Clippers’ Chris Paul will motivate Marshall. Paul, who Marshall said was the best point guard in the league, has become a bit of a mentor to the fellow ACC product (Paul went to Wake Forest, Marshall went to North Carolina) and Marshall even participated in Paul’s camp when he was younger.
“He’s kind of been like a big brother to me, honestly,” Marshall said. “From my time late in high school to throughout college, he was always giving me a word of advice and this summer, even when I went through being waived and stuff, he was there talking to me and everything. So, he’s been great for me and he’s a guy that I really look up to.”
Paul has helped Marshall’s confidence grow during his unconventional path in the NBA, from being traded by the team that drafted him (Phoenix) after just one season, to being waived by the Washington Wizards to being called up from the Delaware 87ers of the D-League by the Lakers.
“Just telling me that I am a player in this league and guys are going to go through these types of things all the time,” Marshall said of Paul’s advice. “You just have to find a way to fight through it.”
If Marshall doesn’t retain his starting spot moving forward, he could soon find himself competing with Xavier Henry for back-up point guard minutes. Henry, back on the court this week for the first time since a bone bruise in his right knee sidelined him in late December, will get a chance to run point also.
“We could go bigger which helps a lot of the mismatches,” D’Antoni said. “Yes, it’s something we want to try. I don’t know if we’re quite ready yet. But it’s something we want to look at in the last 20 games.”
Lakers forward Jordan Hill will not play against the Clippers and is considered day to day because of a sore right knee. Hill had already found himself out of D’Antoni’s rotation, collecting two straight Did Not Play – Coach’s Decisions in the Lakers’ last two games.
While nobody in L.A. was happy to see Steve Blake go at the trade deadline, the Lakers were able to save $4 million in the deal and may have found a keeper or two in Bazemore and Brooks in their trade with Golden State. After joining the Lakers for a shootaround before playing in their first game, the former Warriors combined for 18 fourth-quarter points against the Celtics, with Bazemore finishing with a career-high 15 points and Brooks scoring a season-high 14 on 7-for-11 shooting with three steals.
As bad as the Lakers have been this season, most of their struggles have come because of injuries (despite what coach Mike D'Antoni's lack of popularity in L.A. would suggest). It was no coincidence the Lakers finally ended their eight-game home losing streak with a 101-92 win over the Celtics thanks in large part to Gasol's 16 points and seven rebounds in his first game back from a right groin strain, and also the return of Meeks, who has led the team in scoring (17.5 points per game) in the two games he played since recovering from a sprained right ankle.
Lakers stay conservative at the trade deadline:
Leading up the trade deadline it seemed as if Gasol, Jordan Hill and Chris Kaman would all be on their way out of town if there were draft picks to be had and luxury-tax relief attached to the deal. Instead, the Lakers chose to stand pat after the Blake deal, setting up what is sure to be an offseason flush with activity.
Dwight Howard makes his triumphant return to Staples Center:
Lakers fans tried to take out their frustrations for the last year and a half of the franchise's struggles by chanting "Dwight Sucks!" when Howard and the Houston Rockets played at Staples Center against the Lakers for the first time since the All-Star center left L.A. in the offseason. Howard just laughed in their face, mocking the jeer by joining in himself, at the end of a night when he put up 20 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks on the way to a 134-108 win for his new team.
Another setback for Kobe Bryant:
The chances of Bryant making a return to the court sometime during the 2013-14 season are becoming slim. One day after Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said, "We're not going to push him to get back," Bryant was examined by Lakers physician Steve Lombardo and it was determined the star guard would miss at least three more weeks because of pain and swelling in his left knee before being re-evaluated. Of course at that point, Bryant would likely need another week or two of practice and conditioning before he would play in a game. If that's the case, there would be about only a dozen games left -- if that -- in the season for Bryant to return to.
"I would hope right now, we need a win," D'Antoni said when asked how much he thinks about the long-standing rivalry between the two teams. "I don't care who walks into the arena."
Just like Pitino said Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish were "not walking through that door," a championship version of the Celtics didn't come into Staples Center on Friday, nor were these Celtics being hosted by a title-contending group of Lakers, either.
Staples Center was the site of the last great moment in the rivalry's history -- Game 7 of the 2010 Finals -- but so much has changed since then that only four players combined from both rosters (Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Jordan Farmar and Rajon Rondo) were on either team that night.
"A lot of us in the locker room have never been a part of those games, but I think everybody gets it and I think everybody at different times throughout their lives have watched it in awe," first-year Celtics coach Brad Stevens said.
There wasn't a championship anywhere within reach for the two teams that came into the night a combined 35 games under .500, but there were some awe-inspiring moments from a couple of new Lakers in Kent Bazemore (15 points, four assists, three rebounds) and MarShon Brooks (14 points on 7-for-11 shooting), who combined to score 18 points in the fourth quarter to lift the Lakers to a 101-92 win, their first at home in nine games and a 2-0 season sweep of the Celtics.
How it happened: The Celtics jumped out to an 11-point lead in the first half before L.A. cut it to two heading into the third quarter. Boston pushed its cushion back up to as many as 13 in the third, but L.A. came out like gangbusters in the fourth quarter, erasing the deficit and pushing its own lead all the way up to double digits at 10 points en route to the runaway win.
What it means: L.A. stopped the bleedingl, and maybe with Gasol back healthy and the returns of Nick Young and Xavier Henry potentially right around the corner, these final 27 games of the season won't be quite as ugly as the first 55.
Hits: Other than Brooks' and Bazemore's impressive debuts, L.A. was helped by its big men. Gasol had 16 points and seven rebounds, Chris Kaman had 16 points and eight boards and Jordan Hill had 10 and 12.
Misses: Wesley Johnson's hot month of February was subdued with an 0-for-4 shooting night with four fouls.
Stat of the game: 8-for-24. That's what Boston shot in the fourth quarter as L.A. held the Celtics to 18 points on 33.3 percent shooting.
Up next: L.A. hosts the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday before heading off on a two-game back-to-back on the road in Indianapolis and Memphis, Tenn.
The Lakers have been one of the more active teams in advance of Thursday's deadline as they gauge the market for Gasol and veterans such as Jordan Hill, Chris Kaman and Steve Blake. With their record at 18-35 heading into Wednesday's game against the Houston Rockets, it makes little sense to pay luxury taxes and be in line to pay the more punitive repeater taxes in the future.
However, sources said the Lakers have remained resolute in every trade discussion not to trade Gasol without acquiring an asset in return, and that there is a growing sentiment within the organization that it could be more valuable to hold on to Gasol and his Bird rights as he becomes a free agent and the organization has substantial room under the salary cap for the first time in years.
The Lakers have stayed in contact with the two teams who had earlier showed interest in the four-time All-Star -- the Phoenix Suns and the Cleveland Cavaliers -- but sources said none of those discussions has made substantial progress.
On Tuesday, CBS Sports reported the Lakers and Dallas Mavericks were trying to assemble trade offers for 2015 prospective free agent Kevin Love, but thus far the Minnesota Timberwolves have given no indication they'd consider any such deal before the deadline.
The Lakers did inquire about Minnesota's interest in teaming Gasol with his Spanish countryman Ricky Rubio recently, according to a source, but those talks did not progress.
The Charlotte Observer reported the Charlotte Bobcats have been in contact with the Lakers about Gasol as they try to make a playoff push this spring.
The Suns had backed away from talks with the Lakers earlier this month when the 33-year-old suffered an injured groin that has kept him out for the past six games. Gasol had averaged 20.8 points and 11.9 rebounds in January before the injury. He practiced Tuesday and is listed as questionable for Wednesday's game.
The original construction of the talks between the Lakers and Phoenix involved injured center Emeka Okafor, who is owed $14.5 million in salary this season. While that falls well shy of Gasol's $19.3 million, it is allowable because the Suns are $5.6 million under the salary cap. A trade for Okafor's expiring deal would save the Lakers $4.8 million, but still leave them approximately $3 million over the luxury tax threshold.
The Lakers have concurrently had talks about Kaman, Hill, Blake and several other players. Sources confirmed to ESPNNewYork.com's Ohm Youngmisuk that Brooklyn and the Lakers have had trade discussions about Hill. The Nets have a $5.25 million Disabled Player Exception through March 10 that they were granted for losing Brook Lopez for rest of the season in December. But the Nets -- already possessing a payroll that will cost roughly $190 million this season -- would take an additional luxury tax hit of more than $15 million if they used it to absorb Hill's salary. The Hill discussions were first reported by Yahoo Sports.
After having a reason to feel good about themselves for the first time in a while as they finished their road trip on a two-game winning streak, the Los Angeles Lakers came back down to earth Sunday against the Chicago Bulls.
The Lakers did their best to make a game of it after falling down 10-0 to start and trailing by as many as 19 at one point, but a loss is a loss and Sunday's defeat marks 20 in the past 25 games for the Lakers.
How it happened: L.A. used a 9-2 run late in the fourth quarter to cut the Bulls lead to 86-80 with 1:28 left and got even closer with a Wesley Johnson dunk bringing the Lakers within four at 88-84 with 48.3 seconds left. L.A. got D.J. Augustin to miss a jumper on the next possession but turned the ball over on a Steve Blake pass when the Lakers streaked down the court to try to cut the deficit to two. Augustin responded with two free throws to put Chicago back up by six. Chris Kaman air-balled a 3 on the Lakers' final possession, despite a great game up to that point.
What it means: Those 10 "Did Not Play - Coach's Decision" that Kaman racked up in 15 games in January seem awful suspect after the former All-Star center put in 17 points, eight rebounds and three blocks against Philadelphia followed by an impressive 27-point, 10-rebound, two-block game against the Bulls. At the very least, he could be establishing some value on the trade market.
Hits: Kendall Marshall had 13 points and 11 assists off the bench and Jordan Hill had 15 points and nine rebounds, making their efforts as a reserve trio along with Kaman really stand out, especially considering L.A.'s starters combined for just 24 points.
Misses: The Lakers had 18 turnovers leading to 17 points for Chicago.
Steve Nash left the game early with nerve irritation in his left leg.
Jordan Farmar did not play as a precautionary measure because of hamstring tightness. He is considered day-to-day.
Stat of the game: 17. That's the combined number of healthy bodies the Bulls and Lakers had for the game.
Up next: The Lakers host Utah on Tuesday and Oklahoma City on Thursday before, mercifully, being given four days off to rest up and hopefully get some players healthy for the final 29 games of the season.