Los Angeles Lakers: Kobe Bryant
After having been a teammate of Kobe Bryant's for four seasons and an assistant coach on Phil Jackson's staff for an additional six, Shaw's decade of experience with the franchise makes him uniquely qualified to talk about the pair of Lakers legends.
"He did talk about it," Shaw said. "One of the things he's big on, not necessarily the most talented guys -- obviously you want to have talent -- but he liked guys that were winners, and when he looked at guys that were going to be drafted out of college, he wanted guys that came from winning programs and that understood [how to win] as opposed to a guy who maybe was a star of his college team but his college team wasn't very successful and guys that understood and were willing and able to play whatever role it was.
"Because, when you think about it, his teams that he had, in Chicago, he had great players -- two or three on each of those teams. Same way in L.A. -- he had two great players -- but the rest of the guys that were built around those stars that he had, those superstars that he had, were guys that understood their roles and accepted their roles and had very high basketball IQs and bought into what he was trying to do. So, obviously, from the starting point, he had [Michael] Jordan, he had [Scottie] Pippen. In L.A., he had Kobe and Shaq [Shaquille O'Neal]. But the coaches that he took over for had those guys, too, but he was able to do something with them that they weren't able to do. So that kind of goes to his coaching ability and his ability to have everybody play in unison regardless of their personalities and what have you."
While Jackson's 11 championships as a head coach are unmatched in the sport, Shaw says he believes the 68-year old's coaching days are over.
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.
And while those fans would rather not have to think twice about seeing a Pelicans team that came into the game on an eight-game losing streak completely take it to their team by shooting 59.7 percent from the field and lead by as many as 21 points, there was actually a lesson to be learned in observing New Orleans.
Davis isn't just any No. 1 pick, either. His 28 points on 10-for-16 shooting, 15 rebounds and three assists Tuesday was a mere taste of what the second-year big man can do. Heck, it wasn't even his best game against the Lakers this season. The 6-foot-10, 220-pounder put up 32 points, 12 rebounds and six blocks against them back in November.
Talk to people around the league and they'll tell you that Davis is one of a handful of young players they could envision being the linchpin on a championship team.
This isn't meant for the Lakers' faithful to lust over Davis' services (he won't be leaving New Orleans until 2019 at the earliest, unless he's traded), but rather realize that the road map to the future can be a bumpy one.
Even if the Lakers somehow out-tank the four teams with worse records than them down the stretch -- Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Orlando and Boston -- and end up with the best player the draft has to offer, be it Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Julius Randle, Dante Exum or somebody else, there will still be a growth process to endure.
Starting with the draftee himself. Davis had a solid rookie campaign, averaging 13.5 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks, but Pelicans coach Monty Williams said he didn't stand out as the team's best player until New Orleans started to struggle with injuries this season.
"I think this has been a blessing in disguise in that he's been able to stamp his claim as the franchise player," Williams said before Tuesday's game, citing injuries to Ryan Anderson and Jrue Holiday that have thrust more responsibility on Davis' broad shoulders. "Now, when those guys come back, I think they have to adapt to his game. So, with all the stuff that we've been through this year -- no tragedies, just a lot of injuries and things that we can't control -- that's the one thing that, among other things, we can go into the summertime and say, 'We know he is the guy.' "
His Los Angeles Lakers had already dug themselves a 19-point hole through the first two quarters to the Memphis Grizzlies -- a night after being outscored by 17 in the final two quarters at Indiana, meaning Farmar and the rest of the guys had been through a full game's worth of blowout city up to that point.
This season is not what he signed up for when he left more than $3 million on the table in Turkey this past summer to return to his hometown team.
A rash of injuries, mounting losses and a roster made up primarily of players -- himself included -- on one-year deals, had created a caustic environment.
So when Farmar went searching for some kind of savior on a cold night in Memphis, his eyes settled on the guy he knew has what it takes to be a winner: Pau Gasol.
Like Farmar, Gasol had resisted simply accepting what has happened to the once-proud Lakers franchise this season. He spoke up about it Tuesday, calling out coach Mike D'Antoni for not creating accountability in the locker room through discipline and calling out his teammates for being selfish in the way they played the game.
So, Farmar had an idea: Forget small ball. Forget pick-and-rolls. Let's go through Gasol and let the chips fall where they may.
"I suggested it at halftime," Farmar said. "He's our best player by far. He's a many-time All-Star. He's one of the best players in the NBA. We have to use him to his strengths. We can't just expect him to just play through the motions and figure it out. So, playing through him, he's a willing passer and once he starts going to work, guys start doubling, guys get open shots, open driving angles and things like that. So, I suggested it, we did it and it worked out for us for a while."
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.
It didn't take long for Kent Bazemore and MarShon Brooks, the newest members of the Los Angeles Lakers acquired from Golden State for Steve Blake earlier this week, to reveal how they have been molded by the Black Mamba.
"At first I was in shock," Bazemore said, recalling how Warriors general manager Bob Myers and coach Mark Jackson broke the news about the trade. "Then (Myers) said, 'Los Angeles, like, the Lakers,' and I was like, 'Oh my god! That's a dream come true.'
"Growing up, idolizing Kobe Bryant. He's probably, hands down, one of the greatest players to ever touch the basketball."
Brooks shared similar sentiments.
"I grew up a Lakers fan, a big Kobe Bryant fan, so I'm just excited to get to work," the third-year veteran out of Providence said.
Bazemore, who has been teammates with Brooks since the Warriors traded for him from Boston in January, said that Brooks has a game that is more like Bryant's.
"MarShon is reminiscent of, he used to get it in college, of the young Kobe Bryant with the fro and how he moves," said Bazemore, adding that Brooks is "one of the smoothest players around."
Brooks averaged 12.6 points per game as a rookie with the then New Jersey Nets, but has seen his scoring average dip to 5.4 points per game last year and just 2.6 points points this season in 17 combined games with Boston and Golden State.
When asked to describe his game, Brooks said: "I can score the ball, pretty much. Play make. Just make things happen, create my own shot."
While Brooks has tried to replicate Bryant's offensive skills, Bazemore has emulated Bryant's will.
"Kobe Bryant arguably has the greatest ticker in sports history as far as a guy that wants to get the job done and it's kind of contagious," said Bazemore. "I watched him growing up and you could see the fire in his eyes. When I put on the Lakers jersey tonight, hopefully I get some of those same powers going."
When asked to describe his game, Bazemore said: "Energy. Just bringing energy, whether it be on offense or defense."
Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said that both Brooks and Bazemore would play anywhere from 10-25 minutes against the Boston Celtics on Friday, despite only arriving in L.A. on Thursday afternoon and going through just one brief shootaround with the team Friday morning.
"Hopefully we don't put too much in their mind to bog them down and let them just flow and play and try to make it simple for them as much as we can," D'Antoni said.
D'Antoni's easy-going, open attitude with his offensive system was already appreciated by both Bazemore and Brooks.
Said Bazemore: "It's good for guards like myself that like to get up and down and use my length and athleticism to run the wing, get in the pick-and-roll, get in the lane and finish. He's a very player-coach type of guy that likes to joke around with you, but all he asks for is just to play hard and give it your all."
Added Brooks: "I've proven I could score in this league. Just so much space on the court -- they like to play with four shooters around one big -- that's just a lot of spacing and I'm excited."
Outside of their mutual respect for Bryant, Bazemore and Brooks are also in the same boat when it comes to their murky NBA future. Both players have contracts that expire at the end of the season and are trying to find their NBA footing.
Brooks might have had that big rookie season, but he has collected a DNP-CD in nine out of the Warriors last 13 games.
"This year I haven't really had the opportunity to play at all," said Brooks. "I haven't really played meaningful minutes at all."
Bazemore might have had a 26-point game in the Las Vegas Summer League against the Lakers (leading to Lakers officials "giving him crap" for the performance on Friday, according to Bazemore), but he has averaged just 2.1 points in 105 games in the NBA.
"Obviously they're in the pros, so they got talent and we'll try to fit them in," said D'Antoni. "Each one is a little bit different. Bazemore is long and rangy and a defender and Brooks is a good offensive player. More than that, I don't know. We'll (get to) know their personalities and we'll see what they can do."
"It would be nice to be in that position," Gasol said Thursday. "At least for a few days. And then I'll be back in somebody else's hands."
"No grudges. No hard feelings," Gasol said of hearing his name mentioned in rumors right up until Thursday's noon PT deadline passed. "It is what it is. I'm just glad there are a lot of teams interested in me. That's a good sign. When a lot of teams knock on the door and ask for you, that means you're valuable."
Gasol, whose $19.3 million contract expires at the end of the season, said all the hubbub around him leading up to the trade deadline is an indication there will be suitors knocking on his door when free agency begins after the season.
"I'm pretty confident there will be," Gasol said.
L.A. engaged in talks with the Phoenix Suns about trading Gasol for Emeka Okafor's expiring contract but could not get the Suns to include a future first-round draft pick in the deal. Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said the team was pursuing trades at the deadline only that made basketball sense, not arrangements based on dollars and cents.
"Quite frankly, we had an opportunity to go below the [luxury] tax threshold, but there were no basketball components," Kupchak said without offering specifics if that opportunity would have involved Gasol or other players such as Jordan Hill and Chris Kaman, who were also being shopped. "That's unacceptable with this organization. I think the expression would be a salary dump. That's not what this organization will do. If we could've gotten picks or players we feel good about going forward, then we would've done that. But we did have opportunities to go below the threshold and we wouldn't do it."
The Lakers, who extended Kobe Bryant on a two-year, $48.5 million deal earlier this season months before his contract was to expire, have not had any talks thus far with Gasol about extending him.
No matter what happens in the final 29 games of 2013-14 for the Lakers, this group already set a franchise record for futility with Thursday's 107-103 defeat at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder. It was their seventh straight loss at home, the worst home stretch in team history.
Even the good news on the horizon -- the prospect of Steve Nash, Jordan Farmar, Jodie Meeks and Pau Gasol all being available for the Lakers' first game after the break Wednesday at home against the Houston Rockets -- can be just as easily construed as a discouraging development.
The Lakers, at 18-35, are 13 games behind the Golden State Warriors for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West. They're only nine games behind the 9-43 Milwaukee Bucks for the worst record in the league and the best shot at the No. 1 pick in the draft.
Losses will do more good for the future of the franchise than current wins will.
Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak declared again Thursday that the team will not actively engage in tanking down the stretch run of the season.
"Winning is never a bad thing," Kupchak said. "If you try to manipulate the draft, my experience -- I'm not a karma guy -- but if you try to manipulate this thing, it never works out the way you think it's going to work out. You're better off doing what you know is the right thing to do and whatever happens, happens for the right reason. And that's our approach."
But stripping down the roster even further -- trading Gasol to Phoenix for an injured Emeka Okafor and a future draft pick, for instance -- would be a way to aid the tank's path without the karmic repercussions.
When the Los Angeles Lakers head out this week on a three-game road trip, they could be coming face-to-face with the future of the franchise.
And boy, could that future go in wildly varying directions.
Behind Door No. 1, there is the potential route of acquiring a top-10 NBA talent, like the Minnesota Timberwolves have in Kevin Love. The Lakers play the Wolves on Tuesday.
Behind Door No. 2, there is the notion of building through the draft and making some poor choices, like the Cleveland Cavaliers have done in their post-LeBron James era. L.A. plays the Cavs on Wednesday.
Behind Door No. 3, there’s the possibility of having a youth movement actually work out, like the Philadelphia 76ers are proving so far with Rookie of the Year candidate Michael Carter-Williams, plus with a potential defensive lynchpin in Nerlens Noel waiting to be unleashed on the league after he recovers from a torn ACL. The Lakers close out the trip Friday against the Sixers.
Bringing in Love would seemingly be the quickest solution to getting the Lakers back to a championship level before Kobe Bryant's contract expires after the 2015-16 season. While the Lakers have stockpiled cap space for this summer, Love cannot opt out of his contract with the Wolves until the summer of 2015.
“He’s one of the better players in the league,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni, who also coached Love when he averaged 11.6 points and 7.6 rebounds for the 2012 U.S. Olympic team in London, said Monday. “He’s just a threat everywhere and then he’s always a presence on the boards, offensively rebounding. He can shoot 3s, he can post up, he puts the ball on the floor. He’s one of the better players.”
D’Antoni was then asked if Love could be the type of player a team could build around, and he shot the reporter a knowing smile, knowing full well the speculation that Love desperately wants to become a Laker.
“I mean, he’s an All-Star-caliber player,” D’Antoni said. “Yeah.”
While the Love scenario would require certain pieces to fall into place, one the Lakers can definitely look forward to is their first-round selection in the upcoming draft.
The possibility of securing the top pick might be remote -- L.A.’s 16-31 record would give it a 2.8 percent chance at the No. 1 selection if the season ended today, according to ESPN.com’s Chad Ford -- but this draft class looks to boast a handful of impact players, if not more.
But even with all the talent that could become available come June 26, all the scouting in the world won’t guarantee that a player will pan out for you at the next level.
Just look at Cleveland, which has had six first-round picks in the past three drafts, with four of those being in the top five.
Sure, choosing Kyrie Irving with the No. 1 pick in 2011 despite the point guard playing just 11 games in his lone season at Duke paid off with a Rookie of the Year campaign for Irving and averages of 21.7 points and 6.2 assists this season.
But what about those other five picks? Tristan Thompson, selected No. 4 in 2011, has pedestrian career averages of 10.7 points and 8.5 rebounds on 46.7 percent shooting. Dion Waiters, plucked No. 4 the following year, has proved he can score -- averaging 14.6 points in his two NBA seasons -- but has shot just 41.4 percent from the field in the process. Jared Cunningham, selected No. 24 by Cleveland in 2012, was used to facilitate a trade and can’t get off the bench in Atlanta this season. Sergey Karasev, selected No. 19 in 2013, is currently averaging 1.9 points and 0.9 rebounds as a rookie. And Anthony Bennett, taken No. 1 last June, is threatening to be the biggest bust in the history of the game, putting up just 3.0 points and 2.4 rebounds while shooting 28.1 percent from the field.
On the other hand, there’s Philadelphia.
Carter-Williams, selected No. 11 last year, is averaging 17.3 points, 6.6 assists, 5.4 rebounds and 2.3 steals. Noel hasn’t played a game yet, but was considered the top prospect last June by many pundits. And the 15-34 Sixers are set to add more young assets in a few months, as they hold two more first-round picks.
So there’s hope right around the corner for the Lakers -- a top-tier free agent; a can’t-miss draftee. Perhaps both.
Then again, maybe there isn’t -- a miscalculation on the free-agent market; an incorrect evaluation of a teenager’s potential. Perhaps both.
It all depends on which door the Lakers opt for.
LOS ANGELES -- Six weeks ago the Lakers rolled into Charlotte full of hope. Kobe Bryant was in his fourth game back after Achilles’ surgery and seemingly finding his rhythm with every game. He needed to adjust to his teammates, and they to him. But it was coming, one way or another, in the next few weeks.
Bryant led the team to a win against the Bobcats that night in December with a vintage fourth-quarter performance, making clutch shot after clutch shot. Pau Gasol even looked more engaged after struggling to embrace his role and complaining publicly earlier in the week.
That was a six weeks ago.
To say things have changed a bit since then is a vast understatement. Honestly, you don’t even need to say anything. Bryant fractured a bone in his knee two games later and hasn’t played since. The Lakers have fallen off the map and almost into the cellar of the Western Conference without Bryant and virtually every point guard with which they started the season.
The Bobcats (21-27) have treaded water but find themselves in a playoff contention in the weak Eastern Conference.
Friday night they met again and continued along the same trajectory. Charlotte rode Al Jefferson to a 110-100 win over the listless Lakers (16-31).
Jefferson crushed L.A. in every which way possible, scoring 40 points on 18-for-32 shooting and grabbing 18 rebounds. Gerald Henderson added 20 points and former Lakers player Ramon Sessions had nine points and 13 assists.
How it happened: The Bobcats outscored the Lakers 31-22 in the second quarter and never really looked back. The Lakers made a little run at the end of the third quarter, cutting the lead to 86-74 on Ryan Kelly’s four-point play, but this one really wasn’t close. Charlotte dominated inside, held the Lakers to 38 percent shooting and led by as many as 20 points in the second half.
What it means: The Lakers have consoled themselves by how hard they’ve competed during this rough patch. Friday night the effort was there, it just wasn’t very effective. You’re not going to win many games shooting 38 percent and allowing the other team to shoot 52 percent on their way to 64 points in the paint.
Hits: Jodie Meeks has found his game. Night in and night out, Meeks is bringing it these days. The sharpshooting guard had another 19 points on Friday night. Pau Gasol led L.A. with 24 points and nine rebounds.
Misses: Nick Young finished with 21 points, but continued to struggle with his shot, making just 8-of-22 attempts Friday.
Stat of the game: 64. That’s the number of points in the paint the Bobcats scored Friday night. The Lakers had just 38. It’s hardly the first time that’s happened this year, but that kind of margin is still staggering.
Up next: The Lakers will take Saturday off before gearing up to go back out on the road next week. There’s a chance injured guards Steve Nash and Steve Blake will be back for Tuesday’s game in Minnesota against the Timberwolves. Jordan Farmar is said to be a little behind them. Any help would be a boon to the undermanned Lakers as they head out next week, with additional contests in Cleveland and Philadelphia.
Jodie Meeks, a five-year veteran averaging career highs across the board, wants a chance to showcase his skills in the 3-point shootout on All-Star Saturday night.
"It would be nice," Meeks said. "It would be fun."
As of Thursday, Meeks ranked 12th in the league with 103 made 3s. His 41.0 percent from downtown ranked 25th, however he had attempted more 3-point shots than 20 of the players ranked ahead of him with a better percentage, so his mark becomes more impressive considering the increased sample size.
Meeks took off in January, averaging 18.9 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.8 assists while shooting 47.2 percent from the field and 42.4 percent from deep in 14 games. For the season overall, Meeks is averaging career highs in points (14.6), rebounds (2.9), assists (1.8) and steals (1.4) per game.
"Meeks has been playing super," said Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni. "He's going to the basket, shooting. His defense is awesome. He just plays his rear off. He's turned into a real good basketball player."
Despite never having competed in any formal 3-point contest before at any level, Meeks could be someone to watch should he be selected because when he gets hot he really gets hot. Meeks has nine games this season with four or more made 3-pointers. He also holds the University of Kentucky record for most 3s made in a season (117 in 2008-09) and most 3s in a single game (going 10-for-15 against Tennessee in Jan. 2009).
"It opens up a lot of things," Meeks said of his sharp shooting. "If I'm struggling with my mid-range or taking it to the basket, you can always fall back on that, or vice versa."
Meeks was able to try the All-Star style 3-point shootout setup once when the Lakers were in China during the preseason at an exhibition event the league ran for the foreign fans.
"That was the first time I've ever done it," Meeks said. "I think it's a little different than actual shooting."
The way the contest works is five shooting stations are positioned around the three-point arc with each rack containing four orange and one multi-color "money" ball. Orange balls are worth one, the money ball is worth two, meaning a perfect score would be 30 in the one-minute time frame.
Meeks said he got a "14 or 15" when he had a chance to try it out in China.
"I think it's all about timing," Meeks said. "If you haven't done it before, you got to practice. I think guys sometimes get a little too cocky because they can shoot in the game, but it's different. So, you have to get a feel for it."
The league selects three players from both the Eastern and Western Conferences to compete in the event. Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers won it last year.
Only two Lakers players have ever participated in the shootout -- Byron Scott and Michael Cooper in Seattle in 1987. (Scott competed in it again in 1988 in Chicago). Bryant was invited to the event in 2008 in New Orleans but pulled out because of a torn ligament in his right pinkie finger.
Tweet your questions, comments or concerns about the Lakers with an #ESPNLAKERS hashtag and we’ll do our best to answer as many as we can each Monday the rest of the way.
The Lakers are falling fast south of the border. What needs to be done besides dumping everyone and starting fresh? -- @JackieEllen83
Well, they can’t dump everyone and start fresh as much as that might be tempting. Remember, they re-signed Kobe Bryant to a two-year $50 million contract. Steve Nash is still on the books for almost $10 million next season if he comes back this season and unless Nick Young opts out, you’re looking at Young, Robert Sacre and Kendall Marshall coming back as well (for deals around the minimum).
Outside of that, the Lakers are still in position to offer a max contract or perhaps sign a couple of players for less than the max. The problem is this free agent class is top heavy with stars who are all expected to stay with their current teams, such as LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Dirk Nowitzki. That leaves you looking at guys like Luol Deng and Lance Stephenson, who aren’t going to make the Lakers a championship team overnight. Perhaps the Lakers’ best chance at getting a star player this offseason will be through the draft, if they end up with a top five pick.
Mike D'Antoni is a great coach for this team going nowhere. Does he need to be canned to attract star free agents? -- @Dmagallon3
I would agree that Mike D’Antoni isn’t the problem right now for an injury-riddled team that isn’t going anywhere this season. Changing coaches now isn’t going to solve anything. The big question is what will they do after this season? If Carmelo Anthony is a target, you’d have to imagine the Lakers would also be open to making a coaching change, given how that relationship ended in New York. However, if they don’t realistically think they can land an all-star free agent, don’t be surprised if D’Antoni is back. Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak believe in him and don’t seem to be in a rush to pull the plug on his tenure before the end of his three-year, $12 million contract.
If Kevin Love wants out of Minnesota and Carmelo Anthony isn't staying with the Knicks, what [are] Kupchak and Buss waiting for? Make it happen!! -- @stangjz
Kevin Love will be a free agent in 2015 so that’s not going to happen this offseason unless the Lakers make a trade for him but the Lakers don’t currently have anything that would entice the Wolves to trade their 25-year old franchise player. If Love is a target for the Lakers in 2015, they would probably pass on signing a max player to a long-term deal this offseason with the hopes of getting Love and making a push for one other marquee free agent with the cap room they will have. Players like Rajon Rondo, Arron Afflalo, LaMarcus Aldridge, Tony Parker, Roy Hibbert and Tyson Chandler are all eligible to be free agents in 2015. As far as Anthony goes, the Lakers will likely make a push for him this offseason but chances are he’ll stay in New York.
Should the Lakers amnesty Steve Nash after this season? -- @jeffmG35
The Lakers can’t amnesty Nash. If Nash decides to retire for medical reasons, even if he returns to play three or fewer games this season, he would receive the balance of his salary but his $9.7 million would not be counted towards the Lakers’ salary cap next season. The key is he needs to have played in fewer than 10 games this season for that option to be available and he’s already played in six games this season. If Nash returns (and that continues to be something he is working toward) this season and wants to play next season, the Lakers might look to use their stretch provision, allowing them to waive him and stretch his cap number over the following three seasons.
Should Elgin Baylor get a statue outside Staples Center? --@bfred34
Sure. He and Wilt Chamberlain would be next on the list if it were up to me. I would have no problem if they had a statue for every player who had their jersey retired. After all, they gave a statue to Oscar De La Hoya, who lost his only fight at Staples Center.
What is the realistic chance Pau re-signs with Lakers without asking for so much? -- @CallMe___Kratos
I think Pau is probably gone after this season but if he doesn’t get any crazy offers in free agency and the Lakers fail to land anyone big in free agency, which are both are real possibilities, I could see them coming back together and working on a deal. The important thing to consider is the Lakers’ long-term plan. If the Lakers pass on this year’s free agents to make a splash in 2015 by going after, for example, Love and Rondo, they can’t sign Pau or anyone else to longer than a one-year deal. It would be a similar situation to this season where the Lakers have tried to keep their flexibility for future spending.
If the Lakers get the No. 1 pick, which would be the only thing that makes all of this worthwhile, who do you take? -- @heyjdey
The one big silver lining of the Lakers’ struggles this season is they are having their worst season in years at the same time the NBA will have its best draft in years. I think there are five franchise players at the top of this draft in Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Marcus Smart and Julius Randle. I would take Parker with the first pick and would be just as happy to take Wiggins with the second pick, but any pick in the top five would leave the Lakers with a solid player.
"That shower was freaking cold, man," Kaman said.
The Lakers got a rude awakening that shook them to the core as if a bucket of ice water was doused over their heads. With the trip spiraling out of control with a four-game losing streak to end it, including Sunday's 110-103 loss to the New York Knicks, and with Lakers now having gone just 3-16 since Dec. 21, there is no getting around the fact they are a flawed team.
"Just play with a purpose," Pau Gasol said when asked for his goal for the Lakers going forward. "Sometimes we don't play enough with a sense of urgency and purpose. We just go with the flow and play through the motions and that's something we cannot afford as a team and, again, we're a young, inexperienced team for the most part. So, it is what it is. There's nothing you can do."
It was a statement devoid of any optimism or pessimism, really. It was the cold, hard facts.
It brings to mind the infamous rant by former NFL coach Dennis Green after his Arizona Cardinals lost a game: The Lakers are who we thought they were.
How could they be anything else than a slumping team with five guards out of the lineup in Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Steve Blake, Jordan Farmar and Xavier Henry? How can they not struggle with turnovers when they play a high-paced speed with a lineup full of players who get shuffled in the starting lineup on a near nightly basis? How can they not give up too many points in the paint and lose the battle of the boards when they start Ryan Kelly at the stretch 4 and purposely position him out by the 3-point line and have Nick Young, a shooting guard, playing small forward like he did against the Knicks? How can they be expected to win like the Lakers have always been known for when seven of the 15 players on the team are wearing the purple and gold for the first time? How can the team play with poise when so many of its key contributors have never been there, done that before?
NEW YORK -- Before Carmelo Anthony's encore performance of his Madison Square Garden-record 62-point game even tipped off, Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni conceded that it could be another special night for Melo.
"He’s going to score," D'Antoni said. "It doesn’t matter. That’s what he does. He’s going to score. Got to try to keep everybody else out of the flow and hope he doesn’t have a great game, but you know, he could. We’ll have to keep scoring at a good rate to keep pressure on him and see if we can get a win."
D'Antoni was right about the Anthony scoring part, as the Knicks forward dropped in 35 to give him 97 in his past two games, but wasn't so accurate on the Lakers winning part.
How it happened: The Lakers trailed by four at the half, with Anthony going off for 20 points in the first two quarters, but Jodie Meeks kept L.A. in it with 16 points in the third quarter alone, going 4-for-4 from 3-point land. The Lakers looked to another unlikely hero, Manny Harris, in the fourth quarter. Harris, fresh off signing a new 10-day contract with the team Sunday morning, scored 11 of his 18 points in the final frame. The Knicks led by three late in the fourth quarter before Anthony scored on consecutive buckets -- a smooth pull-up jumper over L.A. rookie Ryan Kelly and a crossover-aided layup -- to give New York a 105-98 edge with 2:30 to go. The Knicks kept that cushion in the final score.
What it means: The Lakers are, in a word, terrible. They have now lost 16 of their past 19 games and ended their seven-game Grammy road trip with a 2-5 record, including a four-game losing streak to end it. They will start to get their five injured guards back in the lineup over the next several weeks, but it's hard to see any of those guys, even Kobe Bryant, immediately turning this team around.
Hits: Pau Gasol had another big night with 20 points, 13 rebounds and 2 blocks.
Meeks finished with 24 points, going 6-for-8 from 3.
The Lakers shot 11-for-23 from 3 as a team (47.8 percent).
Misses: L.A. was outrebounded 45 to 35.
Stat of the game: 4. That's how many players, other than Anthony, scored 13 or more points for the Knicks. The Lakers could have dealt with Anthony going off, but not Raymond Felton (20 points), Tim Hardaway Jr. (18), J.R. Smith (16) and Tyson Chandler (13), too.
Up next: The Lakers will return to L.A. on Sunday night and practice Monday, hoping for the return of Steve Nash. Then they host one of the league's hottest teams in the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday, followed by the Charlotte Bobcats on Friday.
MIAMI -- Kobe Bryant understands what the Miami Heat are going through, trying to make it back to the NBA Finals for a fourth straight year.
After all, it was only a couple of seasons ago that Bryant was trying to lead the Los Angeles Lakers along that same path before things fell apart in spectacular fashion with a four-game second-round sweep by the Dallas Mavericks.
"Having a competitive spirit night after night is very, very tough to do," Bryant said before the Lakers played the Heat on Thursday. "Going for three championships in a row, four Finals in a row, it's tough. It's tough to get guys going.
"It's like a malaise that kind of sets in."
That lethargy seemed to grab a hold of Miami, which was playing without Dwyane Wade, for most of the night against the Lakers. But LeBron James made just enough plays to save them.
It was almost like Bryant could see it coming.
"LeBron's been doing a great job of keeping the guys going with his own energy," Bryant said. "That's his responsibility to keep guys engaged. Then, when the time rolls around, hopefully the other guys will get charged up and ready to go."
James led the way with 27 points, 13 rebounds and 6 assists, but Chris Bosh was one of those charged-up guys right beside him, pouring in 31 points on 15-for-22 shooting and keeping L.A. at bay when the Lakers tried to make a game of it late.
How it happened: L.A. trailed by 10 heading into the fourth quarter before scoring the first five points of the final frame to cut Miami's lead to 85-80 with 9:46 remaining. Things went back and forth from there, with Nick Young making it a four-point game with a jumper with 4:06 remaining. But Miami came right back with a 3 from Ray Allen to push the lead back to seven. L.A. kept fighting though, and Jodie Meeks hit a pull-up 3 on a broken play a couple of minutes later to again draw L.A. within four at 103-99. After a timeout, James hit a pull-up 3 with 2:23 to go to push Miami's lead back to seven. The closest L.A. got was five the rest of the way.
What it means: With Miami having lost four of its previous seven and Wade out, it was conceivable that the Lakers come in and steal one. But L.A. just couldn't make enough plays on defense, allowing the Heat to shoot 57.7 percent from the field.
Hits: Pau Gasol continued his inspired play with 22 points and 11 rebounds.
Meeks tied Gasol with a team-high 22 points including a 4-for-6 mark from the 3 line.
Young scored 19 off the bench.
Kendall Marshall had 11 assists.
Ryan Kelly took a charge on James in the open court.
Misses: The Heat outrebounded L.A. 48-35.
L.A. trailed by as many as 16 in the first half and never held a lead during the entire contest.
Stat of the game: Miami shot just 11-for-23 on free throws (47.8 percent), but L.A. couldn't capitalize.
Up next: Five down, two to go. The Lakers close out their Grammy road trip in Orlando on Friday and in New York to play the Knicks on Sunday.