Los Angeles Lakers: Miami Heat

Slumping Lakers lacking defense

January, 23, 2014
Jan 23
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin

MIAMI -- The old maxim might state that defense wins championships, but there’s also a saying in basketball that on any individual play, great offense always beats great defense.

A defender can position himself perfectly to guard a shot with his body squared and his arms outstretched, but some guys can just score anyway. Think Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s skyhook, Tony Parker’s floater or, as was the case in the Los Angeles Lakers’ 109-102 loss to the Miami Heat on Thursday, LeBron James’ fadeaway jumper.

After L.A. cut a 10-point Miami lead to start the fourth down to four with 2:24 remaining, James unleashed a pull-up, 25-foot fadeaway from the right wing with Jodie Meeks all over him.

"I played pretty good defense, and he hit a tough shot," Meeks said. "That is why he is LeBron. Really nothing you can do. Just play hard and hope he misses sometimes."

[+] EnlargeJames/Johnson
Mike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesAmong the Lakers' most prominent defensive shortcomings are allowing too many points in the paint and too much second-chance scoring due to poor rebounding.
Meeks' attitude should be commended, because that play from James sums up the overall challenge the Lakers defense faces on a nightly basis. The Lakers are undermanned and overmatched and now losers of 14 of their past 17 games, but their only chance of doing anything the rest of the way is to take on teams the way Meeks took on James that play: give every ounce of effort they have and hope for the best.

Pau Gasol had another solid game with 22 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals to continue his tremendous run in the month of January, but he let out a long sigh when asked if the Lakers can become the defensive team it needs to be.

"We don’t have great, let’s say, defensive individuals," said Gasol, knowing full well that L.A. lost two former defensive player of the year winners in Dwight Howard and Metta World Peace from its team last season. "So we got to cover for each other. We got to work together. We got to communicate. We really have to be better at communicating and getting each other going and letting each other know where we’re at and just energizing each other."

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Rapid Reaction: Heat 109, Lakers 102

January, 23, 2014
Jan 23
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin

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.

Lakers, Heat a study in small ball

January, 22, 2014
Jan 22
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
MIAMI -- When the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat take the floor Thursday, four of the last five NBA championship-winning teams will be represented.

But with the Heat coming off three straight Finals appearances and two straight titles, the Lakers’ back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010 seem like a distant memory.

So much has changed within the Lakers organization since 2010 -- Phil Jackson’s retirement, Mike Brown’s dismissal, Mike D’Antoni’s hiring, Dr. Jerry Buss’ death, Dwight Howard’s departure, Kobe Bryant’s torn Achilles, etc. -- but perhaps the most dramatic is that a team that once defined itself by the precepts of Jackson's triangle offense now finds itself playing so-called "small ball."

While it might seem as if the Lakers, like many other teams, are mimicking Miami's championship approach, the Heat are actually playing in the style that D’Antoni introduced to the league when he coached the Phoenix Suns a decade ago.

“Miami took it to another level,” D’Antoni said after practice Wednesday at the American Airlines Arena. “Now, they got the best [execution of the style]. You win two titles and of course you have LeBron [James] and those guys too and [Heat coach] Erik [Spoelstra] does a great job. So, it is a copycat league and when you win something and you do it that way, a lot of people come that way.”

While the league has embraced D’Antoni’s philosophy, he’s had less luck getting the Lakers locker room to fully embrace it.

"It's more of a finesse game," Bryant said Monday in Chicago when asked how the NBA has changed for the worse in his 18 years in the league."It's more small ball, which, personally, I don't really care much for.”

Pau Gasol echoed Bryant’s stance Wednesday.

“I’m not a big fan of having a small forward playing the power forward position,” said Gasol. “But, it’s kind of evolved to that and most teams do that. I don’t know if it’s a lack of big men or just a style that has been implemented and it’s worked for some teams and teams try to kind of match up to it. But I’ve always been more of a fan of two bigs that can dominate the paint, can pound teams and take advantage of their size if you do have it. If you don’t have it, then you do whatever you can. That’s just the reality of the league right now.”

D’Antoni, who said at his introductory press conference with the Lakers last season that posting up is the “least efficient play in basketball,” argued that his system still accommodates big men, as long as those big men have the same well-rounded game as the guards they play with.

“I don’t think there is a shortage of bigs,” said D’Antoni. “I think the bigs are much more skilled and now you have [Dirk] Nowitzki, you never had a Nowitzki -- a 7-footer who could shoot 3s. And Kevin Durant is 6-11, I want to say four inches taller than [former Celtics center] Dave Cowens. You know, stuff like that.

"The bigs are so versatile now that when they call it ‘small ball,’ I think that’s a misnomer. It’s not small ball, 7-footers run it, so it’s not small ball. What it is is ‘skilled ball.’ You spread the floor and people move and you play a different style. But the best type is still big brutes that are skilled and I think we have more skilled guys in the league now than ever.”

The Heat, in a mini slump having lost four of its last seven games, makes the system work with the 6-11 Chris Bosh playing center, the 6-8 Shane Battier playing the stretch 4 and James, at 6-8, playing everything from the backcourt to the frontcourt to the point.

“They play small most of the time but they’re active and they kind of make up for that length and size,” said Gasol. “They’ve been effective the way they’ve been playing, back-to-back championships, there’s no way around it. This year, maybe they’re not dominating as much as they have and maybe they have been struggling a little bit as of late, but they still have a great squad.”

With Bryant and Steve Nash playing just 12 games total between them because of injuries this season, L.A. doesn’t have the talent that Miami does, but is nevertheless adhering to D’Antoni’s system, ranking third in the NBA in pace, using 97.2 possessions per game. The problem has been their efficiency. Possessions don’t matter all that much unless you convert them. Miami is second in the league in offensive efficiency, averaging 109 points per 100 possessions. The Lakers are 22nd, averaging 100.9.

Despite the diminishing returns for the 16-26 Lakers and the persistent wariness of guys like Bryant and Gasol, D’Antoni is sticking to what he believes in.

“Everybody likes something and you just try to get blends of what works,” D’Antoni said.

He admitted, however, that that blend is a whole lot easier to accomplish having a four-time MVP like James on your roster.

"If you have LeBron you can probably play any way you want to," said D'Antoni. "It doesn’t matter how you play."

Rapid Reaction: Heat 101, Lakers 95

December, 25, 2013
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin

LOS ANGELES -- For just the third time in Kobe Bryant's 18-year NBA career, the star guard did not suit up on Christmas Day.

"It’s strange to be coming in on Christmas and not playing," Bryant said before the Los Angeles Lakers hosted the Miami Heat on Wednesday. "It’s really strange. It’s a foreign feeling."

What was even stranger was seeing the Lakers match the Heat blow for blow, for the most part.

After all, the Lakers had dropped six of their previous nine games coming into Christmas, including their past two in blowout fashion. The Heat had won five in a row and seven out of eight.

(What was strangest might have been the short-sleeved jerseys and extravagant sneakers the players wore on the court, but that's another story for another day.)

Bryant had been targeting a date with the back-to-back defending champs for a while to see how the level of his game had progressed.

"This was a really big measuring stick in terms of their activity, their speed, their size," Bryant said. "I was really looking forward to this game, to being able to measure where I was physically. Especially the time frame in which I came back, I was really looking at this game being the game where I would be in rhythm and really be able to measure what I can do and can’t do."

Instead, the Lakers were left to judge themselves as a team -- against the squad that has lifted the Larry O'Brien trophy at the end of the past two seasons.

As close as they looked to one another for much of the game, the Heat made plays down the stretch when it mattered and the Lakers didn't. And that was the difference.

How it happened: Miami fell behind by 10 in the first quarter before rallying to go up by five at the half, with LeBron James (12 of his 19), Dwyane Wade (11 of his 23) and Chris Bosh (13 of his 23) all reaching double-digit scoring by halftime. That's when Nick Young got his Swaggy P mode on, scoring 12 points in the third quarter, including a late 3-pointer over the outstretched arms of James, to bring the Lakers to within two heading into the final frame. Miami surged back ahead in the fourth, with L.A. failing to execute late in that final period, whether it was Jordan Farmar missing a couple of late 3-pointers and turning the ball over to Jodie Meeks missing a three throws to L.A.'s defense not coming up with stops.

What it means: The Lakers have now lost three in a row and fell to 13-16, the first time they've been three games under .500 since they were 4-7 to start the season.

Hits: Young led L.A. with 20 points, his 15th straight game with double digits off the bench.

Pau Gasol finished with a double-double of 13 points and 13 rebounds.

Xavier Henry scored 14 points after going back to the bench with Farmar's return.

Misses: Farmar didn't prove to be a savior in his return from a hamstring tear, totaling just three points on 1-for-7 shooting to go with five rebounds and two assists in 28 minutes.

L.A. had 17 turnovers, leading to 23 points for Miami.

Stat of the game: 57.7. That was L.A.'s free throw percentage, going 15-for-26.

Up next: The Miami game kicked off a stretch of five of six games for L.A. at home. The Lakers go to Utah for a game Friday against the 8-23 Jazz before four straight back at Staples Center.

Magic weighs in on Howard, D'Antoni

June, 12, 2013
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
It has been nearly 20 years since Magic Johnson coached the Los Angeles Lakers for 16 games in the 1993-94 season*, but the Hall of Famer's opinions about his former franchise are as strong as ever.

Johnson, an analyst for ESPN appearing on KIA NBA Countdown during the NBA Finals, was on a conference call Wednesday with reporters to discuss the Finals and not surprisingly, the subject of the Lakers came up.

Below is a transcript of Johnson's latest thoughts on the purple and gold:

Q: What do you think of Dwight Howard, what is best for him?

JOHNSON: "I can't tell you what's best for him -- for Dwight Howard. I think that he'll probably make the best decision possible for him.

"I would say that he will probably enjoy playing for Kevin McHale, because Coach McHale, not only was he a Hall of Fame player – and I feel with Tim Duncan, the best power forwards that have ever played the game – but you have an emerging superstar and a guy that you can definitely play with James Harden.

"And I think that the other young players that they have, (Omer) Asik and (Jeremy) Lin, (Chandler) Parsons, those guys are right there too, with Dwight Howard, will take the next step as being one of the elite teams – one of the best four or five teams in the league and definitely will give themselves a chance to win a championship.

"So that's really where it is. The Lakers have to decide what they want to do. Dwight has to decide what he wants to do.

"I don't think you're going to have enough money for Chris (Paul) and Dwight. I think you're going to have to concentrate on one or the other probably, and I don't know if they want to play together; if one will decide to take lesser money. Now, one might decide to take lesser money and join forces there. But if they both command top dollar, that's going to be hard for Houston to pull off."

Q: The state of the Lakers, where you see them now and a year from now?

JOHNSON: "The state now is really just making a decision on Dwight Howard. I know that the Buss family, Jim Buss, are interested in sitting down and trying to strategize to find out, what do they want to do. And once they make that decision, then the next thing is Kobe Bryant, his return. Hopefully he can come back strong and healthy. And then they have to decide if they want to add somebody or not.

"But a year from now, with all the cap space that they will have, I think the Lakers will be able to sign two or three players and I think it puts them right in position to be a great franchise for the next five years if they make the right decisions and the right moves.

"So I'm excited about next summer for the Lakers. I think it's going to be tremendous. The Lakers just can't make dumb decisions right now to mess up that cap space."

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Rapid Reaction: Heat 107, Lakers 97

February, 10, 2013
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin

MIAMI -- If Sunday's Los Angeles Lakers-Miami Heat matchup had any less meaning because of Los Angeles' sub-.500 record, nobody informed the teams that was the case.

Even though Miami came into the game winners of four in a row and owners of the best record in the Eastern Conference at 33-14, that didn't mean coach Erik Spoelstra was about to overlook the 24-27 Lakers.

"What you notice is that they have won seven out of their last nine despite everything that is circling around their team," Spoelstra said before the game. "They have found a way."

Spoelstra called it a way, Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni called it a route.

"I think they’ll be back up," D'Antoni said of Kobe Bryant's assist totals that had dwindled to just 9 total against Boston, Brooklyn and Detroit before dropping 8 dimes on the Bobcats. "I think he’s trying to get a feel, but obviously the right route is keep passing and trying to find open guys."

Bryant was back on the distribution wagon against Miami, doling out nine assists and putting his stamp on the game with 28 points and 6 rebounds, but as well as Bryant played, Miami had LeBron James on the other side of the ball.

James, who came into the game shooting 43-for-59 in his past four games (72.9 percent), was just as hot against L.A. After starting the game 4-for-4 for 12 points in the first half but having his playing time limited by three fouls, the three-time MVP exploded for 14 of his 32 points in the third quarter. He ended up shooting 12-for-18 from the floor.

"He’s unbelievable," D'Antoni, who coached James in each of the past two Olympics, said of the Heat forward. "His work ethic, his energy -- when everybody is down in practice, he’s the guy that gets it going, his love of the game. Besides winning the lottery gene pool that he won, besides all that, he takes it to a different level that I don’t know if anybody can go there to be honest with you. He’s unbelievable and he studies the game, there’s just a lot of great things that he does."

Not so great if you're a Laker fan.

Sunday wasn't exactly a classic James-versus-Bryant battle. They were rarely matched up with one another and as brilliant as Bryant has been in his 17th season, he's no match for James steamrolling his way through the league in his 10th.

The bigger takeaway was that Bryant's teammates didn't have nearly the same impact as James' running mate Dwyane Wade (30 points on 12-for-18 shooting), who dominated right there with James.

L.A. got 15 points and 9 rebounds from Dwight Howard, but he also had 3 turnovers and 0 blocks. Steve Nash had 15 points but just 2 assists against 3 turnovers.

How it happened:The Lakers led by one point after the first quarter and the game was tied up 53-53 at halftime as the Heat were able to erase an early 7-point deficit. James started to take over in the third, but L.A. kept plugging away and made it close thanks to a couple of early fourth quarter 3's by Earl Clark (18 points, 9 rebounds) and Jodie Meeks (six points on 2-for-3 shooting). But after just 7 team turnovers through the first three quarters, the Lakers coughed it up an additional 8 times in the fourth quarter alone, and Miami made them pay in transition to turn the close affair into a blowout.

What it means: L.A. went 4-3 on its all-important Grammy trip. Not the end of the world, but at 24-28, they didn't do themselves any favors, especially with Pau Gasol out for the next 6-8 weeks. Blowing that sure win in Phoenix hurts even more now after they squandered the game in Miami.

Hits: The Lakers had four players with 15 points or more and shot 50 percent as a team (35-for-70).

Misses: The Heat outscored the Lakers 19-4 in fast-break points.

Miami outrebounded L.A. 38-29.

Stat of the night: Metta World Peace shot 3-for-11 from the field, extending his shooting slump to 13 straight games shooting less than 50 percent from the field. World Peace has been particularly bad as of late, going 22-for-82 in his past seven games.

What's next: The Lakers return home for two games against the Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Clippers before the All-Star break.

Rapid Reaction: Heat 99, Lakers 90

January, 17, 2013
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin

LOS ANGELES -- The Miami Heat might have come into this one playing on the second night of a back-to-back and their sixth road game in nine days to wrap up a road trip and the Los Angeles Lakers might have been under .500, but none of that backstory mattered to anybody who watched on Thursday.

For most of the night it was a nip-and-tuck affair, with LeBron James playing lights-out (39 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds) and Dwyane Wade (27 points on 11-for-20 shooting) having the type of effort to satisfy him on his 31st birthday, but the Lakers still managed to keep it close thanks to a late surge by Kobe Bryant & Co.

How it happened: Miami ran out to an early 8-2 lead off of four dunks before the Lakers managed to finally take the lead 45-44 at halftime. The Heat pushed their lead back to eight by the end of the third quarter before L.A. used a 14-3 run to take the lead back in the fourth.

After Bryant hit a 3-pointer to tie the score at 90-90 with just more than two minutes remaining, the Heat went on a 9-0 run thanks to two buckets by Ray Allen and a nail-in-the-coffin jumper by James with 49.0 seconds left, followed by an and-1 dunk by James with 5.8 seconds left to seal it.

What it means: The Lakers are past the point of moral victories. The reality of the situation is they're 17-22 and couldn't hang with one of the league's elite once again for a full 48 minutes. Yes, the Lakers could have won this game, but the fact is they didn't. They can't afford to let W's slip away at this point.

Hits: Pau Gasol returned from missing five games because of a concussion to put up 12 points, four rebounds and four assists in 25 minutes off the bench.

Antawn Jamison also scored in double digits as a substitute for the fourth straight game (12 points on 4-for-7 shooting along with six rebounds), helping the Lakers bench outscore the Heat's 24-18.

Misses: The Lakers had 16 turnovers in the first half, leading to 19 points for the Heat. L.A. protected the ball better in the second half, but it still ended up with 20 turnovers leading to 23 Miami points. The Heat coughed it up just six times, leading to two points for L.A.

Stat of the night: There were 13 ties and nine lead changes in the game, but that 9-0 run by Miami is the story of the game in a nutshell.

What's next: The Lakers pack their bags and take their 5-12 road record with them as they embark on a brutal stretch with 10 of their next 13 games away from Staples Center. It starts Sunday in Toronto against a Raptors team that is both young and athletic, tipping off their game at 1 p.m. ET. It seems as if the Lakers regularly struggle with early starts, so it could be more of a challenge than Toronto's sub-.500 records suggests it should be.

Lakers Predictions for 2012-13

October, 29, 2012
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
One major component of the sports media business is making predictions. To call it more an art than science is a major disservice to art. It's more about making the best possible educated guess before hoping enough time passes that nobody remembers what you actually said (and lacks the inclination to fire up their Googler Machine).

With the regular-season opener against Dallas a little more than 24 hours away, it's in that spirit I make the following 12 predictions about the 2012-13 Los Angeles Lakers. Which will be proven correct? Correct adjacent? Wrong, whether mildly or absurdly?

We'll know in six to eight months, give or take.

1. Kobe Bryant will be in street clothes for at least 12 games.

He hasn't missed more than nine over a full 82-game season since the 2004-05 season, when he played 66. This year, Bryant will spend more time on the sideline. It's less about a 34-year-old body with more than 50,000 regular-season and playoff minutes breaking down or a reaction to the state of his sprained right foot, but a reflection of context: (A) With Steve Nash, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol around, the Lakers have enough talent to win games in his absence; (B) at this stage of his career, it's simply not smart to push through real physical problems in quite the same way. The risk /reward isn't worth it anymore. Kobe has shown a greater willingness to take the long view over the past couple seasons, a trend he continues this year.

(Note: I have real concerns about the foot, not because he might miss the opener -- in the grand scheme of things, that doesn't matter -- but because he's starting the year fighting an injury to such a vital body part. Nobody, not even Kobe, can "adjust" his way through a foot injury.)

2. That said, the Lakers will finish in the lower third league-wide in man games lost due to injury.

The Lakers are spoken of like an '82 Chevy Malibu held together with duct tape and chewing gum whose odometer has flipped over a few dozen times. Yes, the core players have some mileage on the tires -- car metaphors go a long way on this subject -- but overall they sport strong track records for health. Gasol started the '09-10 season with a hamstring injury and ended up missing 17 games overall, but in his other three full seasons as a Laker, he has missed a total of two. Nash's back frightens some, but he hasn't missed more than eight games since his fifth year in the league. Howard, until last year, was a robot, and he is once again healthy. He's not an automatic 82 anymore, but I'd be surprised if he played fewer than 75. Not to say the Lakers won't have some injuries, I just don't believe they'll wear out MRI machines around town.

(In a related note, Gary Vitti will be the first trainer to land in the top 10 in MVP voting.)

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PodKast: Blake's injury, #6 for #24, JET's fightin' words

September, 27, 2012
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
Our last podKast before training camps begins. On several levels, we're quite excited about this timeline.

The show can be heard by clicking on the module and a breakdown of talking points can be found below:

Play Download

- (1:00): After taking a moment to celebrate Metta World Peace's offseason conditioning, we turn to more somber news on the health front. Steve Blake suffered a (very strange) puncture wound to his left foot, and will therefore be unable to participate in impact exercises for three weeks during training camp. Given that Blake could miss some scrimmages and preseason games, does this situation present an opportunity for Chris Duhon or Darius Morris to earn the spot backing up Steve Nash?

- (10:00): Players 6-10 in #NBArank were announced Tuesday, and Kobe Bryant came in at sixth with a bullet. BK already shared some thoughts, so there's no need to rehash too much of what's there. Plus, as I've noted many times on the blog, I find the concept of ranking players fairly tedious, in large part because people so often work themselves into a lather. Particularly when it comes to The Mamba, whose die-hard followers can be a sensitive lot. It's important to remember hairs are being split between great players. As Brian noted, that Bryant's still part of this discussion after 16 seasons is what matters most and is most remarkable.

Having said that, I also gave Kobe a "10" (the highest possible number) when I filled out my ballot, so direct any complaints somewhere else. And those insulted by Kobe's standing can perhaps take solace in the following. Last year, at age 33, Kobe was seventh in this project. This year, at age 34, he's sixth. Thus, if trends hold, he'll land the No. 1 spot at age 39!

- (18:50): Jason Terry made small headlines recently with his stated mission of "killing" the Lakers and Heat as part of a Celtics squad aiming for a title and none too fond of L.A. or Miami.

- (21:20): The Brooklyn Nets cheerleader outfits are... eye-catching.

Chat transcript

September, 27, 2012
By the Kamenetzky Brothers
Did you miss it? Click below for the transcript of today's chat. Talk of Dwight Howard's back, Kobe's #NBARank, how L.A.'s offense will work, and the ways they match up with other elite NBA squads. Among other things.

Lakers chat transcript

September, 5, 2012
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
Lots of great questions in today's chat, ranging from Dwight Howard's health to the ways in which all of L.A.'s new parts will mesh on the floor.

Click below for the transcript...

(Note: I didn't realize there were new capacity rules for CiL chats until we'd already started. If we do it again this way, we'll get that fixed. Sorry to anyone who was shut out. Please feel free to hit us up on Twitter (@espnlandolakers) with a Q if you have one.)

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PodKast: Paper champs, Cap's statue and theoretical turmoil

August, 31, 2012
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
Everyone else keeps talking about the Lakers. Why shouldn't we?

The show can be heard by clicking on the module and a list of talking points is below:

Play Download

- (1:30): Basketball players are often reticent to shower the opposition with more than generic or obligatory praise. Thus, eyebrows raised when Chris Bosh of the reigning champion Miami Heat recently declared the Lakers the best team "on paper." Interestingly enough, Academy Award front-runner Kevin Durant, whose OKC Thunder squad took out the Lakers en route to reaching the Finals, seconded that statement.

Is this a case of gamesmanship or self-motivation from Bosh and Durant or just a begrudgingly honest assessment? In a world made of paper, are the Lakers really the best team?

- (10:50): Seven years ago, I conducted a wide-ranging interview with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, but forgot to seek a critical bit of clarification about his role in 'Airplane.' This brain cramp has eaten away at my soul ever since. Kinda like the way not having a statue in front of Staples Center seemed to have eaten away at Cap's soul. That honor is finally (and deservedly) a scheduled event, but it's fair to wonder if Kareem's previous complaints will put a damper on the impending ceremony.

- (20:16): The Lakers loaded their roster this offseason, but with those stars comes the fear of clashing egos. Factor in the Lakers' well-documented history with this problem, and it stands to reason the media is licking its chops in anticipation of an implosion.

Or not.

As part of its "Summer Forecast" series, 100 ESPN.com "experts" (quotation marks added since Brian and I are part of that panel) voted on which team would be most likely to experience turmoil this season. Not surprisingly, the Knicks led the pack with 41 votes. But in what might be considered a minor shock, the Lakers only received two votes. Whether that's because smooth sailing is expected or the talent on hand is simply immune to tension, the results caught BK by surprise.

(And speaking of surprises... Ramon Sessions: Team killer? It feels like one voter considered this a very real danger.

The Forum: How good are the Lakers?

August, 28, 2012
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
After acquiring Steve Nash, Dwight Howard and Jodie Meeks and re-signing Jordan Hill, how do the Lakers stack up against the rest of the league? We evaluate the matchups against the Thunder, Heat and the next tier of competition.


Rapid Reaction: Lakers 2012-13 schedule released

July, 26, 2012
By The Kamenetzky Brothers

We don't know how the games will play out*, but now at least we know the order in which they'll be played. The 2012-13 schedule was released Thursday afternoon, and as it always does, the 82-game regular-season slate provides plenty of intrigue.

Here's a quick breakdown:

Five compelling dates on the 2012-13 schedule:

1. Nov. 2 vs. Los Angeles Clippers

This year, as it was in 2011-12, it’s not simply a Battle for L.A., but for the Pacific Division. Both teams enter the season having improved, at least on paper, with the Clips adding Lamar Odom, Grant Hill, and Jamal Crawford to the Chris Paul/Blake Griffin core. How will this tweaked Clippers lineup match up with the Steve Nash-led Lakers? Not surprisingly, the answer might revolve around Odom. Lakers fans can certainly give Clips loyalists a tutorial in the whole “L.O. as X factor” thing.

The home opener (Oct. 30 vs. Dallas) is always a huge deal and will give Staples Center its first look at Nash in home colors, but this is the first game against an upper-tier foe. (Interestingly, the Lakers and Clips basically bookend their seasons, playing the last game in the season series on April 7, a day that could have major playoff implications.)

2. Dec. 25 vs. New York

The Knicks certainly have questionable ownership and this whole Melo/Amare thing isn’t working out quite as planned, but we’re still talking Knicks vs. Lakers, Christmas Day. L.A. vs. New York. Aesthetically, it might be a little cooler if they scheduled this one at the Garden -- snowy day, big beauty shots of the tree at Rockefeller Center, ice skating and all that -- but palm trees are nice, too, and the Knicks represent a little twist to recent Xmas opponents.

3. Jan. 17 vs. Miami

We won’t know yet if the Lakers are truly a championship-caliber team, but that won’t keep anyone from projecting this as a potential preview of the Finals, particularly if the Lakers enter with a strong record. It’s always intriguing to see how the Lakers defend LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, but the big question is how efficiently L.A. scores the ball. In the Big Three Era, Miami typically has smothered the Lakers. With Nash guiding the offense and a still-sizable (ha!) advantage in the post, can the purple and gold flip the script? A great measuring stick game against an elite defensive team, and also likely more meaningful as a point of comparison because the Lakers’ visit to Miami (Feb. 10) comes at the end of a season-long seven-game road trip.

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Potentially bad news for the Lakers, the Heat and maybe the entire NBA

June, 24, 2012
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
It's not the craziest of talk to suggest the recent Finals between the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City could be a preview of many championship matchups to come. Both teams are clearly the best in their divisions. Both feature a trio of stars in their primes or (in the case of the Thunder, scarily) a few years away. And both clearly carry the potential to get even better. Miami (and in particular, LeBron James) may now exhale with a championship, and the byplay between LBJ and Dwyane Wade can only improve. And there's reason to doubt OKC's steady evolution since 2010 will suddenly screech to a halt.

Not to say either team is bullet-proof. The Heat's supporting cast, the Finals notwithstanding, hasn't been a beacon of reliability, and the same can be said about Wade's health. And some have wondered whether the Thunder's core will ultimately fall apart over money. James Harden and Serge Ibaka are eligible for extensions this offseason, and both, particularly Harden, could command a pretty penny. Could the Thunder get priced out in their bid to build a powerhouse?

Well, based on the reports from Saturday's exit interviews over at Daily Thunder, the mood is optimistic. Royce Young has the details:

Extending Harden is probably the first order of business and by the way he spoke Saturday, it doesn’t seem to be a concern.

“I’m just leaving it up to my agent and Sam,” Harden said. “They’ll do a pretty good job of working it out. I’m focused on several other things right now. But when the time is [right], they’ll figure it out and it’ll be done.”

He did say he loves playing in Oklahoma City about 20 times, so that’s something. And also this: “This is something special here,” he said. “A dynasty is being built here. So we’re winning, we’re having fun and we’re brothers. The other stuff, you can’t buy it.”

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Nick Young
17.9 1.5 0.7 28.3
ReboundsP. Gasol 9.7
AssistsK. Marshall 8.8
StealsJ. Meeks 1.4
BlocksP. Gasol 1.5