Los Angeles Lakers: Minnesota Timberwolves

Lakers can still dream about Love

March, 29, 2014
Mar 29
12:12
AM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Kevin LoveJesse Johnson/USA TODAY SportsKevin Love has one year remaining on his contract with the Timberwolves, and the Lakers will be among many suitors should he decide to leave Minnesota.


MINNEAPOLIS -- As far as auditions go, Kevin Love’s 22-point, 10-rebound, 10-assist triple-double in 29 minutes Friday was like a singer being sent straight through to Hollywood after he belted out his first note in front of the “American Idol” judges.

If Love wanted to make an impression on Los Angeles Lakers fans watching at home and simultaneously suffering through a 143-107 drubbing at the hands of his Minnesota Timberwolves, mission accomplished.

Now, if it was only that easy to get him actually relocated to Hollywood.

After the league endured the “Dwightmare” and “Melodrama,” get ready for “Lovesick.”

The six-year veteran, only 25 years old, is the apple of just about every team set to have cap space in the summer of 2015’s eye.

[+] EnlargeKevin Love
David Sherman/NBAE/Getty ImagesLove registered his second career triple-double Friday as the Wolves devoured the Lakers.
Love has one year left on his contract with the Wolves and by the time the regular season closes, will have gone 0-for-6 in making the postseason with the team that traded O.J. Mayo for him back on draft night in 2008.

Timberwolves president Flip Saunders will do everything he can to keep Love, who is fourth in the league in scoring at 26.3 points per game and third in rebounding at 12.6 per game this season. And Minnesota will have the advantage of being able to offer a five-year extension, versus a four-year deal from any other team.

But if Love makes it clear that he has no intention to re-up with the Wolves, Saunders will be forced to shop Love or risk seeing him walk for nothing in return.

Which is where the Lakers come in.

Love’s ties to L.A. are undeniable. He went to college at UCLA. His father, Stan, played for the Lakers -- and coincidentally was on the 1974-75 team, a.k.a. the worst team in Lakers history up until this season, so his son could help make up for that. And Love was born in Santa Monica, to boot.

“You know, my parents live there and they had me there,” Love said of L.A., after his Wolves beat the Lakers for the third time in four tries to win the season series Friday. “It’s not my fault. So, I don’t really care about that right now. I just go out there and play and don’t think about it.”

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Trip provides potential glimpse into future

February, 4, 2014
Feb 4
5:44
AM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Kevin LoveScott Cunningham/Getty ImagesCould former UCLA star Kevin Love force a trade from Minnesota to the Lakers?

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.

[+] EnlargeAnthony Bennett
David Richard/USA TODAY SportsAnthony Bennett, the top overall pick in 2013, is averaging just 3.0 points per game as a rookie.
The former UCLA Bruin could always make it known that he has no intention of re-signing in Minnesota between now and then, essentially daring the Wolves to either orchestrate a trade so they get something in return for the 25-year-old forward -- who ranks fourth in the league in points per game at 25.5, second in rebounds at 13.1 and fourth in player efficiency rating at 27.46 -- or watch him walk.

“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.

Young's swaggy ways rubbing off on L.A.

December, 21, 2013
12/21/13
12:29
AM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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LOS ANGELES -- In the six seasons that Pau Gasol has been teammates with Kobe Bryant, I've never seen him mimic the "Mamba Face" and jut out his lower jaw after a big play.

[+] EnlargeNick Young, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute
AP Photo/Chris CarlsonNick Young had a team-high 25 points off the bench against the Timberwolves and was 4-for-6 from 3-point range.
But there Gasol was Friday, in the fourth quarter of the Los Angeles Lakers' 104-91 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves, running back down the court after hitting a 3-pointer looking like Nick Young with his arms straight down at his sides and three fingers splayed on either hand to celebrate doubling the Lakers' lead from three to six with less than four minutes left in the ballgame.

He was doing his Swaggy P impersonation.

"He has that quality, that gift, of getting people going, in a good mood and I was happy that he rubbed off on me a bit," said Gasol, who neared a triple-double with 21 points, 13 rebounds and 8 assists of his own but was more than happy to be talking about Young.

Gasol is not the only one Young is having an influence on.

"He rubs off on me and makes me happy, I know that," said Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni. "There's no doubt and he's done it a few times. When we have a shootaround and the energy's down, he's 'swaggy' out there and he feels it and he starts 'swaggin' or something and he starts going and he gets everybody's energy up. And it's not a silly energy -- and sometimes you have that -- it's a good, positive fun.

"OK, it's in the morning, it's 10 o'clock, we're on the East Coast and it's 7 o'clock in Los Angeles, but you know what? Swaggy's out there doing his thing and he's dunking and yelling at the assistant coaches and it gets everybody up."

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Nash loss tugs at Lakers' heartstrings

November, 11, 2013
11/11/13
12:03
AM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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LOS ANGELES -- Someday, it might be appropriate to look back at the past four days of the Los Angeles Lakers' existence -- from playing Dwight Howard as an opponent Thursday to seeing Steve Nash being shut down because of back problems Sunday -- as the official death of the dream hatched in summer 2012 to get back to being a championship contender before Kobe Bryant's career came to a close.

But today is not that day.

Now is the time to simply appreciate what Nash -- a surefire first-ballot Hall of Famer, the greatest basketball player to come out of Canada, a player who ranks No. 1 in career free throw percentage, No. 4 in total assists and No. 8 in 3-point accuracy in NBA history -- is going through as he sees the end of his splendid career coming at him like a freight train going full speed.

[+] EnlargeLakers
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY SportsAs Steve Nash succumbed to his back ailment, Ricky Rubio served as a fitting symbol of the player Nash used to be.
And it's also time to realize the impact of what Nash's struggle has meant to his teammates, who see Nash, the league's senior statesman at 39 years old, push himself daily to try to stay relevant in a game filled with budding stars who are, in some cases, literally half his age.

Nash tried the best he could Sunday in the Lakers' 113-90 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves. He added three assists in 13 minutes to that impressive career total of his. He made both free throws he attempted, a subtle reminder of his status above Mark Price atop the free throw list. He pointed to Pau Gasol in recognition of the big man's pass that found Nash in rhythm behind the 3-point arc on a fast break, and, even though he missed the shot, he chose to acknowledge the virtue of the feed of a teammate rather than wallow in the result of his own failed attempt.

But it wasn't working. Nash couldn't move the way he is accustomed to. He couldn't get his body to cut as fast as his mind was seeing the seams in the defense he has been exploiting for the past 18 seasons. He couldn't help the Lakers stop the Wolves and their 23-year-old floor general, Ricky Rubio, who was en route to a 12-point, 10-rebound, 14-assist, 5-steal triple-double and looked like the type of all-around team player Nash was when he won back-to-back MVPs.

Mike D'Antoni, like a corner man who couldn't bear to see his fighter take another punch, put a stop to it. D'Antoni, who has coached the point guard off and on for the past decade since Nash was a 29-year-old in his prime with the Phoenix Suns, just had to look at Nash and know.

"I'm concerned," D'Antoni said. "He was struggling physically tonight. You could just see it on his face. That's why I took him out and we shut him down, more or less.

"I just see his face. I've known him forever, and when he looks like that, he's trying to battle through something and just couldn't do it."

Nash didn't want to concede to his injuries because there was still a game to be played. The competitor in him wasn't ready to give up.

"That was probably foolish on my part that I didn’t [ask out]," Nash said. "But you don’t want to leave a game when you’re getting it handed to you. You want to try to stick [it through]."

Nash walked out of the arena Sunday night knowing he has an appointment to see a back specialist Monday, but having no idea when he'll next get to lace up his sneakers for a game, or if he'll ever get to feel some semblance of the player he once was.

"I’m a little emotional," Nash said. "It’s hard. I really want to play and I really want to play the way I am accustomed to playing. To be so limited is frustrating and also to not know where kind of a cleanish bill of health is [coming from] is a little daunting, too."

No matter that Nash is averaging only 6.7 points and 4.8 assists this season. The thought of not having him out there is daunting for his teammates as well.

"I appreciate his effort and his determination to play through the pain," said Steve Blake, who will be called on to pick up the slack at the point in Nash's absence. "So I love him for it."

Said Gasol: "It’s upsetting that he’s going through this type of injury again. I’m concerned because he’s my teammate. He’s a guy that can really help us because we need guys that can create shots for other people and make it easy for other guys. He’s a great playmaker, but unfortunately, if you’re not healthy, no matter who you are, you’re not going to be able to do what you do."

Perhaps the most sobering reaction came from Jodie Meeks, who started the second half in place of Nash in the backcourt.

"Steve’s a professional," Meeks said. "He’s had a great career ..."

They'll all hate the day they have to start talking about Nash's career as something that is fully in the past.

Rapid Reaction: Wolves 113, Lakers 90

November, 10, 2013
11/10/13
9:00
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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LOS ANGELES -- Before Sunday's game, Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni was asked to reflect on the franchise's 22-game winning streak against the night's opponent, the Minnesota Timberwolves.

"It doesn't mean anything," D'Antoni said.

The coach's correct call was about the only thing that went right for the Lakers against Minnesota.

How it happened: Minnesota blitzed the Lakers in the first quarter, and the home team never recovered, falling down by as many as 29 in the second half.

What it means: Even though the Lakers split the final two games of their road trip last week, there was reason for optimism on the defensive end after they held the New Orleans Pelicans to 43.7 percent shooting even in a loss and the Houston Rockets to just 37.7 percent in a win.

Perhaps buoyed by the performance, D'Antoni chose to focus on the other side of the ball before the game.

"[The Timberwolves are] going to find a way to score some points, so our offense needs to be good," D'Antoni said.

Then the Wolves went out and dropped 113 points on 48.9 percent shooting while going 10-for-20 on 3s.

L.A. has a ton of work to do on D.

Hits: Steve Blake scored a season-high 19 points on 7-for-11 shooting, including a 5-for-7 mark from downtown. He also had eight assists.

Jodie Meeks, who came into the game ranked No. 10 in the league in true shooting percentage (.651), had another accurate game from the field, finishing with 16 points on 6-for-10 shooting.

After losing his starting spot to Chris Kaman and not playing at all the past two games, Shawne Williams chipped in eight points and four assists off the bench.

Jordan Hill had seven points and nine rebounds in 19 minutes.

Misses: Steve Nash left the game at halftime and did not return because his back was bothering him. He will see a back specialist Monday for further evaluation.

Pau Gasol started the game 3-for-5 but ended it 5-for-12, bringing his three-game slump to 9-for-34.

After going 3-for-18 on the Lakers' road trip, Xavier Henry had another rough night, shooting just 1-for-8. He did collect eight rebounds, however.

Stat of the game: Minnesota built a 24-point lead after the first quarter, with Kevin Martin scoring 16 of his 27 points and Kevin Love scoring 18 of his 25 points in the opening period. Minny's 47 first-quarter points were the most by any team since the Denver Nuggets scored 48 against the Seattle SuperSonics in 2008.

Up next: The Lakers continue the week with the back end of a home-and-home against New Orleans on Tuesday and go on the road against Denver on Wednesday.

Lakers letting big leads slip away

February, 2, 2013
2/02/13
5:49
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McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- The Lakers might have won four out of their past five games, but they have another negative trend going for them these days.

They're having about as much luck holding on to double-digit leads late in ballgames these days as kids have grabbing on to greased pigs at the county fair.

An 18-point lead against New Orleans was cut all the way to one before L.A. held on to win by five. A 13-point lead against Phoenix was completely erased and then some as the Suns made a fourth-quarter comeback to win by six. A 29-point first half lead against Minnesota was whittled all the way down to four before the Lakers woke up and went on to win by 11.

Why has it been happening?

"I think the biggest thing is, and we talked about it, we have a habit when we’re scoring easily to let down defensively," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said after practice Saturday. "That’s kind of a universal thing, it’s not just us, but instead of being up 20-25 [points] and knocking them out, you’re only up 12 or so."

Kobe Bryant blamed only one of the lapses on the Lakers and credited their opponents for the other two.

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Rapid Reaction: Lakers 111, Timberwolves 100

February, 1, 2013
2/01/13
9:21
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McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Friday had the feeling of a layup, with the Lakers heading into the night against the Timberwolves winners of 19 straight against Minnesota, but you never know with these kinds of games.

"I don’t think this team has ever played that team," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni warned before the game. "I think this is the first time they’ve ever played."

There was the streak, and the fact that the Wolves had lost 10 of 11 going into the night, and the fact that Kevin Love was out of the lineup for Minnesota going for L.A. But then again, the Lakers were without Dwight Howard, who flew back to L.A. to receive platelet-rich plasma therapy on his sore right shoulder, and they had lost their past eight straight away from Staples Center to drop their road record to 5-16, so it wasn't like a win was guaranteed.

After blowing a 13-point fourth-quarter lead in Phoenix, the Lakers hoped to never let Friday become a competition.

But things are never that easy for the Lakers this season, are they?

At least they got the win.

How it happened: The Lakers led by as many as 17 points in the first quarter and 29 in the second, as they went 9-for-11 from 3 as a team to start the game. Ricky Rubio (nine points, seven assists) led a mini Wolves charge to get L.A.'s lead down to 15 by the half. That hot start from 3 turned out to be fool's gold for the Lakers, as Minnesota settled into a zone on defense and dared L.A. to keep it up from the outside. The Lakers finished 12-for-32 from deep and saw their lead cut all the way to four in the fourth before pushing ahead by double digits again at the end.

What it means: That the Lakers have continued to stay committed to sharing the ball -- picking up 27 assists on 39 field goals -- but their defense was still lackadaisical against the Wolves. They need to be more consistent on that end.

Hits: Steve Blake scored all of his 10 points in the first half. His season high going into Friday was just eight points.

Blake was one of six Lakers who scored in double digits, led by Pau Gasol's 22. Antawn Jamison (18 points) kept up his streak of four straight games of 10 points or more off the bench. Earl Clark (13 points, 10 rebounds) picked up his fifth double-double of the past 13 games since his breakout night against the San Antonio Spurs.

Kobe Bryant just missed a triple-double again, this time coming up short on assists with eight to go with 17 points and 12 rebounds.

Misses: Minnesota went into the game shooting less than 30 percent as a team from 3 -- by far the worst accuracy in the league -- and shot 10-for-22 against L.A.

Metta World Peace shot just 2-for-11 from the field, and Jodie Meeks finished 2-for-7 from 3 after starting 2-for-2.



Stat of the night: Even though Bryant shot just 4-for-13 for the game, he tied Hakeem Olajuwon for seventh place on the all-time made field goals list with 10,749 for his career.

What's next: The Lakers will practice in Detroit on Saturday as their trip rolls on and play the Pistons in a day game Super Bowl Sunday. L.A. should be able to get past Detroit without Howard, but the Lakers sure would like to have him back against Brooklyn on Tuesday.

Hill, Lakers share mutual interest in return

June, 27, 2012
6/27/12
9:58
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McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
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As the days tick down until NBA free agency officially opens on July 1, unrestricted free agent Jordan Hill and the Los Angeles Lakers both want to see the 6-foot-10 big man wearing purple and gold next season.

"They're the leader in the clubhouse right now," Hill's agent, Kevin Bradbury, told ESPNLosAngeles.com on Wednesday.

Hill, who turns 25 next month, sat at the end of Lakers coach Mike Brown's bench after being acquired from the Houston Rockets in a deal for Derek Fisher at the trade deadline in March but eventually broke into the rotation. He contributed three double-doubles over the course of six games from the second to last game of the regular season through Game 4 of the Lakers' first round series against the Denver Nuggets. The Lakers won all three games.

Right at the top of the Lakers' to-do list come July 1 is to engage Hill in contract negotiations, a source familiar with the team's thinking told ESPNLosAngeles.com. Even though Hill is unrestricted and the Lakers are over the luxury tax for next season, the Lakers hold partial Bird rights to him and can offer Hill a maximum of $3,632,450 a season for up to five years. Even though Hill is young and has shown flashes of brilliance in his three-year career thus far, he comes with a couple of question marks stemming from the MCL injury he sustained to his right knee last season as well as a pending felony assault court case. Those question marks, along with their partial Bird rights, figure to allow the Lakers to make a competitive enough offer that will be comparable with what the free-agent market will bear for him.

A court date for Hill was scheduled for June 8, but it is unclear if he ended up having to attend the hearing.

"It should be handled fairly quickly," said Bradbury, acknowledging that Hill's lawyers were still seeking a resolution to the charges.

The Lakers were the third team Hill played for in his short career and he would like to put down roots. Bradbury says Hill feels a certain degree of loyalty toward the Lakers after being featured by Brown late in the season and experiencing his first taste of the postseason.

"It’s definitely one of, if not the best organization in the league. I had a great time here with the short time I was here. The staff, the players, everybody. I enjoyed it," Hill told reporters after his exit interview with Brown and general manager Mitch Kupchak last month. "I'm definitely looking forward to, if possible, more to come. ... It definitely would be great (to stay). I hate moving."

While the Lakers should be considered the favorites for Hill to sign with, being an unrestricted free agent, he will certainly field other offers before making a decision. The Minnesota Timberwolves are one of the other teams that could take a long look at Hill, according to a league source.

Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.

Rapid Reaction: Lakers 97, Timberwolves 92

March, 16, 2012
3/16/12
10:11
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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The Lakers started their post-trade deadline era in the same way they finished the pre, as a dominant squad on their home floor. Led by Kobe Bryant's 28 points and double-doubles from Pau Gasol (17/11) and Andrew Bynum (15/14), the Lakers built a lead against Minnesota and never let the game get away.

They won by five but were in control the whole way. Here are five takeaways ...

1. Ramon Sessions showed why the Lakers wanted him.

Sessions received a nice ovation checking into the game, and even got cheers the first time he put the ball on the floor. Literally. People clapped because Sessions dribbled. So you can imagine how excited they got when he crossed half court, penetrated, and hit a little floater in the lane for his first two points in purple and gold. Later, he put a wicked crossover on Wayne Ellington on the left wing, beating him clean and finishing at the rack, and followed that with a burst in the open floor, beating three Wolves on the break for another two points. Twice Sessions came over screens on the right wing and fed left to Matt Barnes for 3-pointers. In the second half, he penetrated and made a slick pass to Barnes, cutting through the paint for easy points, and later earned free throws against J.J. Barea going coast to coast in transition.

Moral of the story? Sessions gives the Lakers an element they haven't had in a long, long time, namely a point guard who not only has great speed in the open floor and can distribute effectively but forces opposing teams to respect his ability to finish in the lane. He creates easy points, something not easily found for the Lakers this year.

Final line: 7 points, 5 assists (against 3 turnovers), 4 rebounds in 19:26 of playing time. Not bad for a guy who hasn't practiced with the team yet.

2. Generally speaking, L.A.'s ball movement was great.

Eight players finished with an assist, and five had multiple helpers. Overall the Lakers had 21 dimes on their 33 field goals. Sessions and Steve Blake combined for 11 against only three turnovers. Bynum did some effective work passing out of double-teams in the post, as did Gasol (nothing new there). Best of all, they made extra passes without over-passing. While overall the mark from the floor wasn't anything special (41.2 percent), any deficiencies can't be blamed on stagnation.

3. Outside shooting was a plus.

Friday was the rare game for Kobe in which he was far more effective from beyond the arc than inside it. Kobe stuck five of his eight triples, but made only 4 of 12 2-pointers. It helps that most of his hoists from downtown came in rhythm, on clean catch-and-shoot chances, and his proficiency along with a few trips to the line left him with a tidy 28 points on 20 attempts from the floor. Barnes, who had a great game overall with 17 points, 3 boards, and a pair of steals, hit 3 of 4, and as a group the Lakers were a red-hot 45.5 percent (10-of-22). When they shoot that well, the Lakers are a tough team to beat.

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Lakers vs. Timberwolves: What to watch

March, 16, 2012
3/16/12
9:09
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Apparently, there's a provision in the new collective bargaining agreement mandating the Lakers and Timberwolves play once a week in seasons taking place during a leap year. Thus, the third meeting since Feb. 29. But despite Minnesota standing pat at the deadline (Michael Beasley ... so close, yet so far away!), this game should actually feel fairly different than the last two. The Lakers have new faces. The Wolves' lineup has been shuffled against the Lakers by the injury bug. With that in mind, here are three items to be mindful of upon opening tip.


Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images
Kevin Love will be in a uni ... right?


1) Kevin Love will presumably be available.
Unless, of course, he comes down with an unforeseen, semi-random, non-career-threatening ailment, as has been the case in the last two games. (After the flu and back spasms, what's the next logical diagnosis? Post-nasal drip? Grade-1 charley horse? Beiber Fever?) As I noted in the last preview, Love's March splits entering that ultimately missed game were impressive. A week later, little has changed. Dude's numbers for the month are simply absurd: 32.3 points, 12.7 rebounds -- a shade over four of which come on the offensive glass -- 2.2 assists, 47.1 from the field, 46.7 from deep and nearly 81 percent from the line.

Yowza!

As always, slowing Love will be a tall order tasked to the Lakers' bigs. In particular, I'll have my eye on how Pau Gasol responds to this challenge. Over the last few games, Gasol's effectiveness has come in sputtering fits. Against Memphis, three quarters passed before his presence was felt in the slightest. The next night in the Big Easy, he started strong but couldn't maintain that pace. In the latter game, fatigue appeared a mitigating factor. (In this respect, he had company.) But you also had to wonder if a clock ticking down to the trade deadline also weighed on his head. Well, noon pacific time passed Thursday with Gasol still on the roster. At least until the offseason, this shouldn't be an issue anymore. No better way to prove his head is clear than to hold his own against a forward playing as well as any in the NBA not named "LeBron" or "Durant."

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Sources: Lakers closer to acquiring Michael Beasley

March, 15, 2012
3/15/12
12:14
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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ESPNLA's Dave McMenamin has the story:
"The Lakers revisited talks to acquire Minnesota Timberwolves forward Michael Beasley on Wednesday, multiple league sources told ESPNLosAngeles.com. Several variations of the trade have been discussed. One would land Beasley on the Lakers in a three-team deal that would send Portland Trail Blazers guard Jamal Crawford to the Wolves and Luke Ridnour from Minnesota to Portland. Los Angeles would give up one of its two 2012 first round draft picks in the deal and use its $8.9 million trade exception, acquired when it traded Lamar Odom to the Dallas Mavericks in December, to absorb Beasley's approximate $6.3 million salary. Portland would also receive the Lakers' first round pick.

As of late Wednesday night no deal was completed, but a source familiar with the negotiations said, "the sides have momentum."


The Oregonian earlier reported another version of the deal without Ridnour and including Lakers guard Steve Blake who played three seasons for the Blazers from 2007-2010 and who still keeps his offseason home in Oregon. Blake played 18 minutes in the Lakers' 107-101 overtime victory over the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday, however, and told reporters before the game, "I'm still here," but did not speak to the media after the game."

Beasley would definitely add a huge dose of scoring punch to the bench, at both forward positions. Obviously, though, there's a huge difference between a deal sending Blake out and one in which the Lakers absorb Beasley in their cap exception. If Blake goes, the Lakers almost certainly have to acquire another point guard or be left with a rotation of Derek Fisher, Andrew Goudelock, and Darius Morris. That won't get it done.

Either way, with 12 hours left before the deadline, things appear to be percolating.

Wednesday chat transcript

March, 7, 2012
3/07/12
9:37
AM PT
By the Kamenetzky Brothers
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
Angry crowd today. Can't imagine why.

Click here for the transcript.

Lakers Late Night Replay vs. Minnesota, plus postgame video

February, 29, 2012
2/29/12
11:12
PM PT
By the Kamenetzky Brothers
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
The Lakers kicked off the second half of the season in fine form Wednesday night at Staples, easily knocking off a Kevin Love-less Minnesota squad 104-85. After suffering a concussion in Sunday's All-Star Game, Kobe Bryant was not only cleared to play, but apparently cleared to play very, very well. 31 points, plus seven boards and eight dimes, all while wearing a mask to protect his broken nose.

No surprise, his game was a major topic of conversation in tonight's edition of Lakers Late Night, along with...
Enjoy!

Watch live streaming video from espnlosangeles at livestream.com


Click below for more postgame video, from Bryant, Pau Gasol, Matt Barnes, Steve Blake, and Andrew Bynum.

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Lakers vs. Timberwolves: What to watch

February, 29, 2012
2/29/12
11:18
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
It's been nearly a week since any Laker save Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum dribbled a basketball in a competitive setting, and Drew did so for less than six minutes. The Lakers were also playing a pretty uneven brand of basketball heading into All-Star weekend, which makes a smooth return after a layoff harder to picture. But as fans surely recall, the 2011 squad limped into the break after a Cleveland loss, possibly the worst of Phil Jackson's coaching tenure in L.A. And so, nobody anticipated the next 18 games would result in 17 wins, with Bynum playing the role of a modern day Bill Russell, and the rediscovery of optimism (albeit premature) that came with them. Similarly, this team's unpredictability -- among other pressing issues, like item #1 below -- makes a one-sided win or loss feel equally realistic tonight against Minnesota. That's why we play the games.

Here are three items to be mindful of once the ball is jumped.


Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Kobe's availability is the $1,000,000 question.



1) Kobe Bryant's potential absence
As reported Tuesday, Dwyane Wade's hard foul during the All-Star Game left Bryant with a concussion
in addition to a nasal fracture. While he's officially listed as day-to-day, the NBA's new concussion policy makes participation feel like a stretch to me. The final decision isn't Kobe's, so a willingness to play through pain isn't the issue. Doctors are typically cautious, particularly with brain injuries, and the procedure is rigorous. Plus, in a modern sports world hyper-conscious of the long-term effects from concussions, I'd be very surprised if the league risked clearing a player just 24 hours after being diagnosed.

Perhaps Bryant's concussion will be mild enough to prove me wrong, but if he's unable to go, the impact is obviously huge. To begin, who starts at shooting guard? Andrew Goudelock is behind Kobe on the depth chart, and actually matches up a lot better against 6'2" starter Luke Ridnour than 6'7" reserve Martell Webster. However, if Brown wanted to keep the rotation as relatively normal as possible, he could insert a player outside the rotation for Kobe rather than shuffle both units. That being the approach, Jason Kapono or Devin Ebanks (recently recalled from the D-League) would get the nod.

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Kobe Bryant diagnosed with a concussion

February, 28, 2012
2/28/12
6:47
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
Archive
Not to impugn the importance of ears, noses, and throats, for a handy trio they make, but brain trumps all three. So when Kobe Bryant was sent Tuesday from an ear, nose, and throat specialist to a neurologist for an MRI, it seemed a little worrisome. Following practice in El Segundo this afternoon, the Lakers said in a statement the 16-year veteran had in fact suffered not just a nasal fracture in Sunday's All-Star Game, but a concussion as well following a hard third-quarter foul from Miami's Dwyane Wade.

Kobe will be re-evaluated ahead of Wednesday's game against the Timberwolves at Staples, at which point his availability can be determined. In a move that may or may not be related, the Lakers recalled Devin Ebanks from the D-League. He was at practice this afternoon, and could be active tomorrow.

Interestingly, the NBA adopted a new policy this year regarding concussions, creating a protocol determining when a player can return to action after suffering a head injury. Players now must be symptom free, then successfully complete a series of physical tests of increasing difficulty (stationary bike, jogging, agility work, non-contact team drills) while avoiding the return of symptoms. From there, the NBA's neurologist leading the program must be consulted before the player can return to the floor.

How all this impacts Kobe's timeline is something I don't yet know, though missing Wednesday's game certainly is a possibility. The protocol for clearance takes time.

Nobody doubts Bryant would play with a broken nose, but obviously concussions are an entirely different issue requiring far more caution. Hopefully his is mild and the doctor declares him good to go tomorrow, but the Lakers and Bryant would be wise to play this one very, very safe. Beyond the big picture issues of Bryant's overall well being, the last thing they need is for symptoms to linger.

Meanwhile, this will certainly add another layer of intrigue to Sunday's game against the Heat.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Nick Young
PTS AST STL MIN
17.9 1.5 0.7 28.3
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsP. Gasol 9.7
AssistsK. Marshall 8.8
StealsJ. Meeks 1.4
BlocksP. Gasol 1.5