Los Angeles Lakers: Lakers Analysis

PodKast: On Howard and Kobe's moment, Pau's future, and 30,000 points for Bryant

December, 7, 2012
12/07/12
1:31
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
The Lakers may be short on wins relative to expectations, but they've certainly not disappointed in the "things to talk about" category. This week has been no exception. Pau Gasol's future in Los Angeles is again being called into question, a future made a little tougher to predict thanks to the knee tendinitis putting him on the shelf for a still unknown stretch of time. Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant got into it during the first half of Wednesday's win over the Hornets in New Orleans. Is it a sign of an impending starpocalypse?

And, of course, Bryant became only the fifth player in league history to crack 30,000 points over his career. A remarkable achievement.

These are the three big issues on the docket in the newest edition of the Kamenetzky Brothers Lakers PodKast. Click on the module below to hear the show.



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Lakers trends: 10 games of "Yeah, but ..." and "Maybe, except ..."

November, 19, 2012
11/19/12
1:34
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
The early stages of the NBA season are full of surprises and interesting numbers. Whatever happens now might be an indicator of what's coming, but it might not. Some early trends are more sustainable than others, and differentiating between the two becomes a sport onto itself.

I call it "Yeah, but" season. As in "Yeah, Player/Team X might be doing ____, but ..."

For the Lakers, you could start with "Yeah, the Lakers are 5-5, but Dwight Howard is still healing and Steve Nash has barely played. And so on. Not every construction affords that kind of naked optimism, but all are worth investigating.

Here are three more potential "Yeah, but" scenarios facing the team, and thoughts on how things will play out going forward.

1. The way Kobe Bryant is playing, the Lakers can't help but be contenders at the end.

Bryant, whose triple-double paced Sunday's 119-108 win over Houston, is playing next-level ball even relative to his own lofty standards: 26.4 points per game, 5.7 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 52.8 percent from the floor, 40.8 percent from downtown. His metrics are stunning. Bryant is currently obliterating career highs in true and effective field goal percentages, has never posted a higher with assist rate, leads the league in win shares, and his PER (27.4) would be the second best of his 17-year run.

Basically, he's spent the last 10 games giving the death stare to Father Time.

Yeah, but...

The percentages will fall, because even Kobe eventually goes back to career norms. He's never been better than 47 percent from the floor, so expecting him to remain above 50 while playing 2-guard at 34 years old? Not realistic. Neither is 40 percent from the arc for a guy who hasn't been over 33 percent since '08-'09. Moreover, we've seen this, or something like it, before. Last season, Kobe was incredible over the first few weeks of the season, and hit a wall as it wore on, shooting 40 percent in February and 39 percent in March.

Maybe, except...

Sure, the numbers will level out, but overall his performance doesn't necessarily have to. As many (myself included) suggested might happen with Nash, Dwight Howard, and Pau Gasol around, Kobe is adopting a less-to-do-more philosophy this year. His shots per game are down from 23 last season to 17.8, and his usage has dropped from a league leading 35.7 percent to 29.1, his lowest figure since '03-'04 (not coincidentally, with the last Lakers SuperTeam). All of this has happened without Nash, the guy who will unquestionably make life easier for Kobe, removing giant chunks of ball handling duties while setting him up for clean looks around the floor, or the debut of D'Antoni, an offensive genius who will undoubtedly find creative ways to free Bryant up.

Bottom Line: Sure, Bryant won't finish the year with a true shooting percentage of 63.8, but as long as he stays healthy -- always the wild card -- and doesn't change his approach, the basic thesis remains in play: Kobe has an excellent chance of logging his most productive and efficient season in recent memory.

2. The Lakers are now piling up points. Showtime is back!

Yeah, but...

They're giving them up by the bushel, as well. In their two most recent wins, Phoenix and Houston, two middle-third offensive teams, torched L.A. through three quarters, both shooting well over 50 percent from the floor while reaching 84 and 87 points respectively. They scored at will, the Lakers just scored at will-er. Real teams won't give up points like the Suns and Rockets and will feature plenty of offensive firepower, as well. The Lakers have to tighten up defensively or ultimately they'll be short some steak for all the sizzle.

(Read full post)

5 questions facing the Lakers under Mike D'Antoni

November, 13, 2012
11/13/12
9:43
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
Nobody in the stands at Staples Center this weekend was chanting "We want Mike" -- and not just because doing so would potentially have sent mixed messages to management.

No, the locals wanted Phil Jackson, and thought they were getting him. (In fairness to them, Phil thought the same thing.)

Instead, the Lakers made the bold, less popular choice of bypassing Jackson for Mike D'Antoni, who would otherwise have been welcomed with open arms by most fans as a real upgrade over Mike Brown. At some point down the road, we'll all be treated to the definitive story of exactly what happened last weekend. Who said what, who asked for what, what promises were made, and so on. When it comes, I'll definitely read it.

But in the meantime, the Lakers have a new -- and very, very good -- head coach on the way, prompting a host of big-picture questions, the answers to which will have a major impact on the season going forward.

Here's a peek at five:

1. How do things work with Dwight Howard?

D'Antoni utilizes multiple pick-and-roll sets in his offense, and can trigger them with either (a) Steve Nash, perhaps the best p-and-r ballhandling point guard in recent memory, or (b) Kobe Bryant, who ain't bad either. Put Howard, statistically speaking the best roll man in the league on the other end, and big things can happen. Remember what Amar'e Stoudemire did with the Suns? Howard can do that sort of damage. Down low, D'Antoni hasn't really had much access to top-shelf low-post talent of Howard's quality, and the closest thing -- an ill-fitting, aging Shaquille O'Neal in '07-08 -- wasn't exactly a rousing success. Anchored down on the block, Shaq shot the ball efficiently but also got in Nash's way, trapping him -- in the words of TrueHoop's Kevin Arnovitz -- like "a hummingbird in a paper bag."

But while Shaq was by that point a massive, sedentary body, Howard is extremely mobile. He can enter and exit the lane in rhythm with Nash, and D'Antoni will come up with plenty of ways to get him traditional post touches, as well. This has the potential to be a wildly productive relationship, offensively.

But it's at the other end where Howard will be most empowered. As you may have heard, D'Antoni's teams have never been known for their defense. For the Lakers to be successful, he'll have to fix that. If it happens, the guy receiving the lion's share of the credit will be Howard.

2. How will D'Antoni use his bench?

Put kindly, D'Antoni has a (generally well-earned) reputation for employing a rotation so short that it seems inspired by that "Hoosiers" scene when the coach portrayed by Gene Hackman plays only four guys. In D'Antoni's final season with the Suns, for example, there was about a 1,000-minute gap between Steve Nash at No. 1 and Shawn Marion (who played only 47 games) at No. 8, then about 1,000 minutes between Marion (8) and Brian Skinner (9). Not a perfect measurement by any stretch, but you get the point. It's not all that hard to look at the Lakers' starters and their bench and decide not to go all that deep into the latter, but D'Antoni has little choice but to devise some sort of plan to squeeze as much from that group as possible.

(Read full post)

Dwight Howard: Improving fundamentals improves his health

October, 18, 2012
10/18/12
12:09
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
Dwight Howard has yet to appear in a game for the Los Angeles Lakers, but he's hardly been sitting around.

For most of training camp, he's operated -- poor choice of words, I know -- without restrictions during practice, and in those end-of-scrimmage moments coach Lakers Mike Brown has allowed media to observe. I've seen Howard explode for dunks, face up and finish at the rim, and make a great weakside recovery to block a would-be dunker at the rim.

In 5-on-5 and post-practice drills, I've seen him wrestle for position against his fellow centers like a bear fighting for a honey baked ham. The most interesting moment, though, came Saturday, when Howard worked out on the Staples Center floor with assistant coaches Chuck Person and Darvin Ham.

They moved Howard around the right and left blocks, high and low, through a series of jump hooks, power dunks, face-ups and more. Watching the ball was easy enough, but most of the real work was happening from about the belly button down.

"We're teaching him new things. Not in terms of how to play, but how to be more effective in the post with his footwork," Person told me at practice earlier this week. "That's the thing that we're trying to accomplish with him. We teach his feet, we teach the proper footwork. It's just like Kobe. It's the same footwork whether you're in the post, on the elbow, or on the perimeter. It's still the feet that have to be sound. The less violent you are with your movements, then the more efficient you will become. Sometimes, Dwight in the past, his feet have come too far outside his shoulders, and he'll lose power and he'll lose balance. We're trying to keep him in that small, confined area where he's always quick, he's always powerful, and he's always explosive."

We all know about Howard's athleticism, and while the polish of his offensive game is often criticized -- too much so, given his actual production -- Person says Howard "has the best feet I have seen in a long time on a big man."

The hope, from a fundamentals standpoint, is to expand Howard's options. There are times when overpowering a defender isn't the best choice. When bodied up by a tree stump-type like Chuck Hayes, who lives under opponents like a bridge troll and is equally difficult to move, sometimes overpowering isn't a choice at all.

At that point, technique is key.

(Read full post)

The Forum: Most to gain, most to lose?

September, 23, 2012
9/23/12
9:17
AM PT
By the Kamenetzky Brothers
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
To say the least, the Lakers enter the 2011-12 season with enormous expectations and heaps of pressure. So which Lakers have the most to gain, and the most to lose?

That's the question asked in the newest edition of The Forum.

The Forum: Who takes the last shot?

September, 11, 2012
9/11/12
12:21
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
(I interrupt the typically brief introduction to the newest edition of The Forum for a soapbox moment...)

The NBA, like most sports, has certain constructs held in such reverence it's as if Moses himself came down from Mt. Sinai with a second set of tablets.

Among three of the biggest:

-Thou shalt make it abundantly clear which player has "ownership" of the team.

-Thou shalt not take the court without designating clear-cut first, second, and third options offensively.

-Thou shalt designate a single star player responsible for taking all last-second shots, because that's what stars do.

While there were some technical explanations for the periodic struggles during their first season together (redundancy in playing styles and skill sets being a biggie), and sheer talent nearly won them a title anyway, a preoccupation with satisfying the commandments above were a major drag on the developing partnership between LeBron James and Dwyane Wade in Miami. It didn't need to be that way.

This season, the Lakers will feature four highly skilled offensive players in their starting lineup, and questions of chemistry are foremost in the minds of many. How is all of this going to work?

Not nearly as well as it could, if they get too wrapped up in the stuff above. Only the first -- team "ownership" -- comes with an obvious answer. After 16 seasons, five championships, and a legacy as one of the NBA's dominant players and personalities, it's Kobe Bryant's team. He's too deeply woven into the fabric and identity of the franchise for it to be anything else.

With the other two -- establishing an offensive pecking order and deciding one person (let's be honest, we're talking about Kobe) takes the last shot because that's the way it's supposed to be -- the Lakers have an opportunity to do something most NBA teams can't or won't: To truly maximize the potential of their personnel. On any given night, the Lakers could be led in points by Kobe or Howard, or Steve Nash or Pau Gasol, depending on how a defense behaves. On any given last possession, the Lakers could make themselves incredibly difficult to defend if they don't shrink the playbook down to cocktail napkin size. Any other approach does the opposition a favor.

None of it amounts to a value judgment of the players involved, but a reflection of how much top end skill and smarts are on the roster, and how effective they could be if nobody really cares who gets the credit. Most of the concern around shots and touches is centered on Kobe and Howard, but I don't share it. Call me naive, but particularly with Nash on board spreading the wealth, should things go south ego won't be the reason. The skill sets of L.A.'s Big Four complement each other beautifully, and each is positioned well whether because of disposition (Nash, Gasol) or career arc (Kobe, Howard) to contribute to a winning hoops culture.

(Climbing down from soapbox...)

So all that said, what happens when there are 17 seconds left on the clock, and the Lakers are down by one? That's the question I kick around with Ramona Shelburne on this edition of The Forum.

 

Why it's worth waiting for the Dwight Howard saga to play out

July, 30, 2012
7/30/12
10:47
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive

Kim Klement/US Presswire

Earlier in the summer, momentum behind a Dwight Howard deal seemed strong, whether to the Los Angeles Lakers, Brooklyn Nets or Houston Rockets. Fans salivated at the potential impact on their teams. Writers began pre-writing reaction stories to expedite post-trade analysis. You know, just in case. (Not that I'm bitter.) Since, the action has slowed considerably as the Orlando Magic have at least publicly dug in its heels, saying it won't move its superstar without an appropriate return.

Last week, Mitch Kupchak indicated the Lakers haven't closed the door on a potential deal for Howard, despite the delays.

Looking at our Twitter feeds and the comments section of the blog, plenty of fans wish they would. Many believe it's time for the Lakers to move on, to concentrate on going forward with Andrew Bynum (not exactly a horrible consolation prize) as the center. Get him his extension, because it's not worth waiting around for Orlando to decide Howard's fate.

I get the frustration -- Dwightmare Fatigue was just added to the list of acceptable clinical diagnoses by the American Medical Association -- but it's a flawed argument.

First, because he can earn an extra year on his contract by becoming a free agent as opposed to extending his deal now, there's a very strong chance Bynum won't re-up now anyway. Short of a catastrophic injury this season, Bynum is going to get max offers as a free agent. He's too talented and too rare a commodity, health questions notwithstanding. So from that perspective, regarding the incumbent center, the Lakers aren't really "putting off" anything. Nor are other summer plans impacted substantively by keeping open Howard conversations. They've signed Antawn Jamison and brought back Jordan Hill. They're looking for one more backcourt player. Certainly nothing they might do on the margins of free agency outweighs the potential impact of acquiring Howard.

Second, and more important, Howard is simply the better player. By a fair margin, despite Bynum's great ability and improving production. More than anything, talent makes it worthwhile for the Lakers to play this one out, particularly now that Howard has indicated a willingness to re-sign with L.A. should he land here.

What the Lakers are getting:

1. Defense.

Defense, defense, defense.

Defense.

Howard has led the NBA in defensive rating (an estimate of points allowed per 100 possessions) in four of the past five seasons, and in the fifth -- 2011-12 -- he was third. In defensive win shares (an estimate of wins contributed by a player due to defense) Howard has topped the league in five of the past six seasons. The worst figure he has posted in defensive rebounding percentage (the percentage of available DRB's grabbed while on the floor) since 2007-08 is 29.5, and twice he has led the league. Last season, according to 82Games.com, the Magic were a hair under seven points worse on their own end without him on the floor. Despite 2011-12 ranking as perhaps his least impactful defensively over the past four or five, according to Synergy Howard still finished in the 88th percentile in points per possession against. In previous seasons, he'd been up around 95 percent.

It's not that Bynum was bad in these areas, because he wasn't. But he's not Howard. With him on board, concerns about the Lakers' defense would still exist, but not nearly to the same degree.

2. A better fit with Steve Nash.

Again looking at Synergy stats, last season Howard generated 1.384 points per play as the roll man on pick-and-roll, third in the NBA and first among players with 35 or more possessions. In 2010-11, he was even better at 1.441, again tops in the league among players with enough such plays to be statistically significant. File under "highly relevant" now that the Lakers have acquired among the greatest pick-and-roll point guards the league has ever seen. As a cutter, Howard managed 1.435 points per possession, better than 88 percent of the league. In '10-11, he was more efficient than 97 percent of his peers, excelling particularly in basket cuts. Point is he moves well without the ball and is a devastating finisher. In L.A., he'd be surrounded by better and more versatile offensive talent, making Howard a tougher cover. Given the way in which Nash probes with the dribble, Howard's superior mobility would be beneficial, allowing him to play effectively without clogging lanes for his point guard.

Again, Bynum isn't bad in these areas, he's just not as good as Howard.

(Read full post)

Lakers chat transcript -- Steve Nash, Dwight Howard, FA's, and more

July, 6, 2012
7/06/12
8:16
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
There was plenty of ground to cover in this morning's chat, dominated (no surprise) by questions about Steve Nash, Dwight Howard, and what moves the Lakers make going forward.

Here's the link to the transcript.

The Forum: Grading Mike Brown

June, 3, 2012
6/03/12
7:40
PM PT
By the Kamenetzky Brothers
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
It was hardly a walk in the park, Mike Brown's first season as head coach of the Lakers. So how did he do?

In the latest edition of the Forum, Dave McMenamin joins us and we issue our season grades for L.A.'s head man.

2011-12 Report Card: Devin Ebanks

May, 27, 2012
5/27/12
8:35
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
Coaches frequently note the difficulty rotating three players through one position during a game. There just aren't enough minutes available. For the Lakers, who had Metta World Peace and Matt Barnes as the primary small forwards, it's particularly true because Kobe Bryant gets time at the 3, as well.

SportsNation

What grade would you give Devin Ebanks?

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    4%
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    26%
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    42%
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    22%
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    6%

Discuss (Total votes: 4,017)



However, when injuries occur coaches often avoid disrupting their rotation by elevating that player's backup to starting status.

Put this pair of truisms together, and you get the 2011-12 season for Devin Ebanks. He appeared in only 24 of 66 games -- between Jan. 3 and April 6 (34 games) Ebanks played a total of five minutes -- but started 12 of the 24 regular season games in which he saw action (including the first four of the season when he briefly won the job out of training camp) -- and six of seven during the playoffs. It's a very all-or-nothing existence, and for a second-year player working to establish himself in the league, not the easiest way to play.

STATS

24 games, 16.5 minutes per game. Four points, 2.3 rebounds, 41.6 percent from the floor.


HIGHLIGHTS

As as starter -- seven games at shooting guard, five as a small forward -- Ebanks averaged 6.4 points, 3.2 rebounds (including 1.4 on the offensive end), nearly one assist, and half a block in 24 minutes. Not prodigious numbers by any stretch, but not bad either for a guy getting his first real experience against first-unit NBA competition. He scored 12 points with four rebounds on 6-of-11 shooting against Phoenix on April 7, and was 7 of 11 for 14 points against Sacramento in the regular season finale. In the playoff opener against Denver, Ebanks missed only once in six tries en route to 12 points and grabbed five boards in only 19 minutes, becoming one of the "wild cards" George Karl hoped to avoid as the Lakers took Game 1.

(Read full post)

PodKast: Game 2 disaster, looking to Game 3, Sessions, and more

May, 17, 2012
5/17/12
8:47
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
Sometimes with a night's rest, the dawn of a new morning, and the opportunity for some fresh perspective, in the rear view mirror a game can look a little different.

Sometimes.



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Game 2 Wednesday in Oklahoma City doesn't qualify. As we stepped into the studio about 17 hours after those fateful two minutes in the fourth quarter in which the Lakers blew a seven point lead, the sense of what they gave away was just as strong. I'm not going to lie, those hoping to be uplifted by the newest edition of the Land O'Lakers PodKast aren't going to like what you hear. After noting another critical example of poor execution -- Andy and I unwittingly showed up at the office in nearly identical outfits, among the more mockable things a brother writing/radio tandem can do -- we dive into the the big issues ...
  • After briefly touching on L.A.'s final play, we get into why the loss in Game 2 was so significant. Yeah, it's nice the Lakers played OKC tight after the Game 1 blowout, but in a playoff series the lesser team can't afford to lose games they ought to win. In the process, we shoot down just about every moral-victory-encouraging-going-forward argument out there. Again, it's fairly depressing, which is why we make sure to drop a little Double Rainbow Guy in there.
  • Is there any hope going forward for the Lakers to pull the upset?
  • Ramon Sessions. He hasn't played well in the postseason. Why? What can change, and how does his poor playoff run impact his decision whether to become a free agent, and whether the Lakers should re-sign him?
  • A quick look at the Clippers vs. San Antonio. We're no more optimistic about the chances of the red, white, and blue.

We're normally pretty chipper folk, but not today. Listen, but be prepared to shed a tear.

Wednesday's game and the magnitude of Andrew Bynum

April, 12, 2012
4/12/12
9:02
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
The last few weeks have been dominated by questions about Andrew Bynum. Petulant behavior punctuated by a pair of needless ejections will certainly get folks talking, after all. Certainly we'll all be talking about him today following his incredible 30-rebound game Wednesday in San Antonio.

But or all the controversy surrounding technical fouls or questionable postgame commentary or "Club 17" or his respect for Mike Brown or anything else, the most unnerving element has been what appears to be a willingness to compromise his own effort. Too many moments where he simply wasn't playing hard.

Wednesday, Bynum reminded everyone what it looks like when he's fully invested defensively. It wasn't simply the 30 boards but the way in which he protected the paint and changed what the Spurs could accomplish near the basket. Bynum rotated with aggression, challenging every shot his go-go-Gadget arms could reach, all on a night where he struggled with his shot. Not surprisingly, results showed on the scoreboard, as the Lakers put together their most complete performance in weeks at their own end.

It was a throwback to the early weeks of the season, when Bynum anchored a D putting up elite numbers in the half court, embracing a role built on rebounding and paint protection before points. Yes, he scored too, but on nights when he didn't or was inefficient in the process, Bynum still showed up to play at the other end.

Lakers fans -- along with Lakers coaches and players, I can only assume -- welcomed the return of that guy. That guy allows them to conjure playoff daydreams with far happier endings.

(Read full post)

Three is (probably) a magic number

April, 5, 2012
4/05/12
7:56
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
Go ahead and sing.

Wednesday's win over the Clippers was significant not simply for being a quality effort against a strong opponent, though it was, but for what it did to the standings. The Lakers now own the season series and accompanying tiebreaker over the Clippers, giving them what amounts to a three game lead in the Pacific Division with only 11 games remaining.

Meanwhile, one rung up on the playoff ladder, the Lakers are 4.5 games behind San Antonio for the Western Conference's second seed. Put it all together, and barring the unusual and unexpected, the Lakers likely enter the postseason exactly where they are now, as the third seed.


Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Tony Allen and the Memphis Grizzlies are a scary proposition in the playoffs.

The team should keep its collective eye on the games in front of them, since the schedule still contains three games against San Antonio, and dates with Denver, Dallas, and Oklahoma City. The goal is to enter the postseason playing at as high a level as possible, and in that regard the Lakers still have plenty of i's to dot and t's to cross. They need to go one day at a time. (Go ahead and sing.) The rest of us can look ahead at potential playoff opponents. The bottom half of the W.C. is tightly packed, meaning any of five teams have a reasonable shot of finishing sixth.

Who should the Lakers want? Is there a nightmare opponent out there? Here are the squads they're most likely to face, starting from the bottom, up... though the order is likely to change almost daily until the end of the regular season.

DENVER NUGGETS

Current Position: 29-25 (8th, 1.5 games behind sixth seed)

Matchup: The problem with Denver hasn't been talent, but health. Basically everyone on their roster has missed games, and in the case of key talent like Danilo Gallinari, a significant amount of them. But the tide might turn by playoff time. Wilson Chandler, who returned from China only to hurt his groin, will soon be back in the lineup. Gallinari (thumb) is practicing again, too. Rudy Fernandez, despite back surgery, could return for the playoffs. Keep in mind, the Nuggets started 14-5, including a win over L.A., and when whole are a dangerous bunch. They have good point guards in Ty Lawson and Andre Miller, a wing who can defend Kobe Bryant (Arron Afflalo), and a ton of depth. Most playoff rotations get shorter, but the Nuggets can still come in waves.

Fear Factor (scale of 1-10, keeping in mind the Lakers have shown an ability to lose to anyone, so all opponents deserve respect): 5 if injuries persist, 6.5 if healthy. Even if Denver gets their pieces back, how well will they fit with so little time together?

HOUSTON ROCKETS

Current Position: 29-25 (7th, 1.5 behind sixth seed)

Matchup: Kyle Lowry is back on the practice floor, and could return by the postseason. Obviously that changes the dynamic considerably for the Rockets, given how well Lowry has performed this season. Kevin Martin has also been banged up, but should be on the floor by the postseason. Houston beat the Lakers on March 20th without either one of those guys, so they'd have to be taken seriously. The Rockets don't excel in any one area, but are average to above average in a wide range of key statistical categories, and don't have a lot of clear soft points ripe for exploitation. Luis Scola is still a solid player, Chandler Parsons has earned his way into the starting lineup, and with Marcus Camby and Sam Dalembert, there's at least a little size.

Fear Factor: 5. Houston will force 48 minutes of solid play every game, but ultimately don't have enough top end players to beat the Lakers in a series.

(Read full post)

The Forum: What's going on between Mike Brown and the team?

March, 29, 2012
3/29/12
12:28
PM PT
By the Kamenetzky Brothers
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
In the newest edition of The Forum, 710 ESPN's Dave Miller joins us as we look at the dynamic between Mike Brown and his roster.

Kobe Bryant has no plans to lose his cool

March, 26, 2012
3/26/12
9:36
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive


Anyone making a list of reasons the Lakers lost to Memphis Sunday night at Staples shouldn't put the "benching" of Kobe Bryant by Mike Brown at the 5:45 mark of the fourth quarter in the top five, or even the top 10. They were terrible defensively both in the half court and in transition, soft on the glass (Andrew Bynum finished with four rebounds), got virtually nothing from the bench, rarely rotated the ball effectively on offense, and saw Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace shoot a combined six-of-24. Just to name a few.

At the point Brown pulled Kobe, Memphis had pushed a three point at the start of the quarter to 14, and in the three-plus minutes Bryant was on the sidelines L.A. actually cut the deficit to eight. Point being, it's hard to say Brown wrecked a good thing when Bryant went to the bench, or completely eliminated any chance for the Lakers to win. They weren't going to, anyway.

The Lakers lost Sunday because they played lousy basketball against a good opponent.

More instructive are the big picture implications. All season long, we've wondered whether Brown could stand up to Kobe, or what might happen when Brown for whatever reason did something like this. Asked after the game to explain the move, Brown went cryptic. "I just decided to make a sub. I felt I wanted to make a sub at the time, so I did."

Later, he elaborated only slightly, saying (though not definitively) he wanted to keep Bryant from playing the entire second half, as happened in L.A.'s double OT win over the Grizzlies earlier this month in Memphis. He also said, and rightly so, he didn't feel it necessary to discuss the decision with Kobe. Brown didn't want to discuss it with us, either, perhaps to avoid opening himself up to second guessing or because he just didn't feel publicly criticizing Bryant for not playing the way he wanted was worth the trouble. I'm not sure. Either way, by not tackling the issue head on with a clear, concise answer, Brown left filling in the blanks to others.

A few minutes later, Kobe stood at his locker and delivered the ideal response, Hoovering as much air out of the controversy balloon as was possible.

(Read full post)

SPONSORED HEADLINES

TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Kobe Bryant
PTS AST STL MIN
22.3 5.6 1.3 34.5
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Hill 7.9
AssistsK. Bryant 5.6
StealsR. Price 1.5
BlocksE. Davis 1.2