Los Angeles Lakers: Robert Sacre

Lakers player reviews: Robert Sacre

May, 21, 2014
May 21
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McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Robert SacreNoah Graham/NBAE via Getty ImagesRobert Sacre was a favorite of former coach Mike D'Antoni because of Sacre's work ethic.

Robert Sacre

2013-14 salary: $788,872 | Age: 24 | Season stats: 5.4 PPG, 3.9 RPG.

Season recap: In Sacre's rookie season, the only time he would be paid any attention was for his antics on the bench as he celebrated his teammates' achievements on the court. This past season, he made the leap from sideshow to rotation player and even started 13 games for the Lakers.

SportsNation

Can Robert Sacre become one of the NBA's top defenders as he claims he can?

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    35%
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    65%

Discuss (Total votes: 2,205)

Season highlight: The most lasting memory of Sacre from this past season will be the night he fouled out in Cleveland but got to stay in the game because L.A. didn't have any other healthy bodies available to give the Lakers five men on the court. Sacre actually had a decent game against the Cavaliers, putting up 10 points on 5-for-8 shooting and three rebounds in 27 minutes, but he should get the most credit for how he finished out the season. The Lakers finished their dreadful 27-55 campaign on a two-game winning streak, with Sacre totaling 22 points on 10-for-18 shooting and 12 rebounds in the two games as he made the most of his individual opportunity despite the team tanking.

Season lowlight: Sacre started the season completely out of the rotation for L.A., collecting DNP-CD in 12 of the Lakers' first 15 games.

Final grade: C+

Notes: Sacre is one person who will certainly miss Mike D'Antoni. He became one of D'Antoni's favorites through his work ethic, easygoing demeanor and willingness to sacrifice for his teammates -- to the point where D'Antoni would often spout unsolicited praise about Sacre's play during postgame news conferences even if the second-year center played only spot minutes or seemingly had little impact on the result that night.

Quotable: "I am [one of the better defenders in the league], but I think I can also improve. There's definitely improvement in that aspect. I know that that's one of my goals, to be a top defender in this league. I basically have that as my go-to." -- Sacre after his exit interview.

What's next?: Sacre, along with Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash, is one of only three players already under contract with the Lakers for next season. He has improved both his body and his effectiveness dramatically in his two seasons in the league already and could be embarking on a long career as a backup big man in a league that always needs 7-footers.

Lakers should take a lesson from Nash

March, 22, 2014
Mar 22
12:31
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McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
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LOS ANGELES -- Long before Mike D'Antoni became such an icon overseas that a young Kobe Bryant chose to wear D'Antoni's No. 8 in his own Italian youth league because he wanted to play like the free-wheeling, mustachioed guard, the current Lakers head coach failed to find his footing in the NBA and ABA.

D'Antoni scratched out four seasons with Kansas City, St. Louis and San Antonio in the mid-1970s, averaging 3.4 points, 1.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists before his only option to continue playing came with a transatlantic plane ticket.

[+] EnlargeSteve Nash
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty ImagesSteve Nash said, "It was probably pretty stupid for me to play tonight," but after a solid effort, his teammates would be wise to use him as inspiration.
Not that D'Antoni has anything against how his career panned out, but there's part of him that wonders what life would have been like if he had been able to stick around in the NBA. And it's with that mindset that he looks at his current Lakers team full of young players trying to prove themselves in the league and wonders why more of his guys aren't doing more to maximize their situation.

"We're giving them an opportunity to do something, and I think it's a great opportunity for them," D'Antoni said before the Lakers lost 117-107 to the Washington Wizards on Friday. "That's why sometimes I get kind of beside myself when they don't take advantage of it in the sense of really focusing in and understanding this is like playoffs to them.

"They should understand this is their future. This is not just, 'Oh, you know, we're having a bad year.' No. Next stop is Europe. So it's like, 'You know what? Let’s buckle up.' You shouldn't have a minute where you don't play hard."

Ironically, the one Lakers player who seems to grasp the most of what D'Antoni is preaching is Steve Nash. Nash played Friday for the first time in nearly six weeks, without the benefit of a full-contact practice beforehand to test where he was but with the determination to play anyway.

"It was probably pretty stupid for me to play tonight," Nash said after racking up a season-high 11 assists to go with five points in 19 minutes. "But I just wanted to play."

Even though Nash already has 18 years of NBA experience, two MVP trophies and 10,307 career assists (Friday's game puts him just 27 dimes behind Mark Jackson for third on the all-time list), he has the urgency that D'Antoni is trying to pry out of the rest of his guys.

It's something that is so noticeable out of Nash that even Washington coach Randy Wittman marveled at the 40-year-old's dedication.

"He loves the game," Wittman said. "He loves to play. That's half the battle in our league. With as many games as we play, you got to have that love and drive."

Europe might not be the next stop for Nash, but the reality of retirement is, and he's fighting to ward that off as long as he can with the same vigor D'Antoni is hoping guys such as Kent Bazemore, Kendall Marshall, Xavier Henry, Ryan Kelly, MarShon Brooks and Wesley Johnson will show. He wants them to embrace the fight to prove they belong in the league as the Lakers play out the final 14 games of this lost season.

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Defense remains demoralizing for Lakers

March, 7, 2014
Mar 7
11:23
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McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
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DENVER -- It was some 16 months ago when Mike D'Antoni gave his introductory news conference with the Los Angeles Lakers. He was admittedly still a little loopy from pain medicine following reconstructive knee surgery, but regardless, the coach jokingly addressed the biggest shortcoming -- at least reputation-wise -- on his résumé right out of the gates.

"Maybe he can put the 'D' back in my name," D'Antoni said of Dwight Howard. "That would be nice. Some people have been taking that out."

[+] EnlargeLakers
Bart Young/NBAE/Getty ImagesThe Lakers' energy and effort on defense seems to be getting worse and worse as a torturous season winds down.
Howard is long gone and so are any laughs from poking fun at the Lakers' defensive deficiencies, which have become so atrocious that the final point totals they're giving up lately make you do a double take at the box score.

This week L.A. allowed the New Orleans Pelicans to score 132 points, the Los Angeles Clippers to score 142 points and the Denver Nuggets to score 134 points. All three games were in regulation no less and all three games ended up, not surprisingly, as losses.

The Lakers have no business even dreaming of winning another game this season if they're going to keep giving up 136 points per game.

"You can't win that way," D'Antoni said after a 134-126 defeat to Denver on Friday. "We are trying everything we can do and the players are trying. Just a lot of it is that we were outrun, out-strengthened, outmuscled and out-fought a little bit. I don't know if the air is going out or we're tired or what the problem is."

D'Antoni has repeatedly said the team's best chance to win is by playing with a smaller lineup, spacing the floor and getting up and down the court, but when you don't have a ton of talent on your team, most opponents will do more with that increased amount of possessions and embarrass you with video-game numbers in the process. Ty Lawson had 30 points and 17 assists Friday. Kenneth Faried had 32 points and 13 rebounds. Those stat lines aren't even easy to get on NBA 2K14.

Playing at a more balanced pace masks the talent gap.

Just take a look at the Chicago Bulls. While they lost two of their best players this season in Derrick Rose to an injury and Luol Deng to a cost-cutting trade, they've continued to stay afloat thanks to their defense and grind-it-out style. In their past four wins, they've allowed a total of 358 points.

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Rapid Reaction: Lakers 107, Blazers 106

March, 3, 2014
Mar 3
9:53
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McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
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PORTLAND, Ore. -- Maybe the Rose Garden by any other name really isn’t still the Rose Garden when it comes to giving the Los Angeles Lakers fits.

The Lakers played for the first time in the re-named Moda Center on Monday and looked nothing like the team that routinely made the 960-mile trip up the West Coast only to get their doors blown off by the Trail Blazers, even in their good years.

This season wouldn’t classify as good, or even decent. More like dreadful. But Monday’s game was an escape from all that.

For the second straight game, the Lakers came out hitting on all cylinders on offense and all the scoring fueled their effort on defense. It wasn’t quite the season-high 126 points they scored against the Sacramento Kings or a franchise record 19 made 3-pointers. Then again, this game was against a Portland team that came into the night with the third-best record in the Western Conference, including a 23-7 home mark.

“As long as they’re fighting and as long as they’re competitive and they’re playing together and showing a good spirit, then we’ll be in most games and we’ll surprise some people,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said before his team's 107-106 victory.

Surprise, not shock. With 22 games left in the season, even D’Antoni conceded at shootaround in Portland “we’re not making the playoffs.”

But what once seemed to be a death march in store for the Lakers the rest of the way -- especially with Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant’s returns this campaign looking less and less likely -- is now turning into a bit of a late rebirth for the Lakers.

How it happened: The Lakers led by as many as 15 points in the first half and took a seven-point lead into intermission by improbably controlling the boards 26-23 through the first two quarters and outscoring Portland 22-4 in fast-break points and 32-18 in points in the paint. L.A. kept its cushion for most of the third quarter before it got sloppy with the ball, leading to back-to-back 3-pointers by Dorell Wright to cut the Lakers’ lead from nine to three with 1:55 remaining.

The Lakers’ lead stood at the start of the fourth quarter. But things seemed to be slipping away when Jodie Meeks was called for a five-second violation for not inbounding the ball to Jordan Farmar in time from the sidelines. Farmar pounded the ball on the floor in frustration and had a few sharp words for Meeks for not passing it in sooner. But on the very next possession, the Lakers forced a turnover and it was Meeks and Farmar running the two-on-one break with Farmar finding Meeks for a 3 that put L.A. up by eight.

Portland got it back down to six thanks to LaMarcus Aldridge scoring two of his 21 points, but L.A. surged right back with a 5-0 run thanks to a 3-point play by Meeks and a Robert Sacre deuce, giving the Lakers an 11-point advantage.

Portland responded, cutting it back down to two after Wes Matthews stripped Farmar of the ball and passed it back down court to a wide-open Nicolas Batum for a 3 with 3:37 to go. Portland had a chance to tie it a couple minutes later, but Damian Lillard was called for a travel after dragging his pivot foot with 1:35 remaining, giving L.A. new life. Pau Gasol missed a shot, however, opening the door for Matthews to tie it up with a fadeaway jumper with 1:10 remaining.

The Blazers finally broke through on their next possession, with Lillard going 1-for-2 from the free throw line to give the Blazers their first lead since the first quarter and corralling the ball after he missed the second one, to boot. Matthews missed a shot from the corner after a Portland timeout, leading to Kent Bazemore streaking up the floor with a chance to get L.A. the lead back, but he lost it out of bounds.

At least that was the call on the floor. The referees went to the video monitor to check the replay after it was unclear if Matthews had hit the ball out of Bazemore’s hands clean or Bazemore touched it last. The call was overturned and L.A. got the ball back with 7.1 seconds left leading to an excellent play call -- Bazemore finding Wesley Johnson with a lob at the rim to give the Lakers a 107-106 edge with 6.4 seconds remaining.

Portland went to their Mr. Everything on their final possession, but Lillard was defended well by Meeks and his shot fell short at the buzzer.

What it means: The Lakers have some fight in them yet. Which isn’t necessarily a good thing for a team with a first-round pick in June’s upcoming draft.

Hits: Johnson had 14 points, seven rebounds, four assists, two steals, two blocks and the game winner.

Bazemore hit a career-high four 3-pointers en route to 14 points.

That dunk Meeks had on Batum in the second quarter.

Gasol chipped in 22 points, Meeks had 21.

Farmar and Kendall Marshall combined for 16 points and 17 assists playing the point jointly.

Misses: That dunk Robin Lopez had on Robert Sacre in the second quarter.

Stat of the game: 0.7. The amount of time that went off the clock from the time Bazemore threw the ball in with 7.1 seconds left to the time Johnson put in the winning layup with 6.4 seconds remaining.

Up next: The Lakers play the second night of a back-to-back Tuesday at home against the New Orleans Pelicans. They follow that up with another back-to-back this week by hosting the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday, then traveling to Denver to play the Nuggets on Friday.

Remaining Lakers schedule is daunting

February, 25, 2014
Feb 25
11:12
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McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
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INDIANAPOLIS -- On Tuesday, the Lakers are in Indianapolis, the site of the NFL Draft combine.

While the NBA’s pre-draft camp in Chicago isn’t until May, and its player draft won’t take place until June 26 in New York, forgive L.A. fans if they’re perhaps counting down to those events more than investing in the 26 games left on the team’s regular season schedule.

In the first of those remaining 26 games, the Lakers face the league-best Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, where Indiana is 26-3. The Lakers beat the Pacers in Indiana last season. But things were a little different then. Dwight Howard racked up 20 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks. Steve Nash chipped in 15 points and nine assists in perhaps his best game as a Laker and Metta World Peace (remember him?) added 19 points, seven rebounds and two steals.

Now Howard is in Houston, of course, and Nash, still sidelined with nerve irritation, isn’t walking through that door. In fact, the only active Lakers remaining from last year’s win in Indy are Robert Sacre (who played just three minutes in that game) and Jodie Meeks (who went 0-for-7 from the field).

Currently owners of the worst record in the Western Conference at 19-37, the Lakers are just behind Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Orlando and Boston in the “race” for the worst record in the NBA. And with 26 games left to play, a look at the schedule has essentially become a look ahead to how many games they might lose, and to where that total might put them in the upcoming draft.

Tuesday’s game against the Pacers is the first half of a back-to-back for L.A., followed by Wednesday in Memphis. It’s the first of a brutal string of seven back-to-backs the Lakers face to close out the season.

What’s more, 17 of the Lakers’ 26 remaining games come against teams with a .500 record or better, including three games against San Antonio (two on the road), two against Oklahoma City, two against the L.A. Clippers, two against Portland and one against Houston. Those last five are, you may have noticed, the top five teams in the Western Conference.


Mike D'Antoni and Lakers assistant coach Kurt Rambis have noticed.


"I came into work about two weeks ago and Kurt goes, 'You know who has the hardest schedule left?' I go, 'No. Who would that be?'," D'Antoni related after shootaround on Tuesday.


"'The Lakers,'" Rambis told him.


"'Oh good. That's good news,'" D'Antoni said sarcastically. "I guess it hasn't changed any."


There has been a lot of talk about “tanking” this season, an idea the Lakers organization has rejected at every turn. But beyond the injuries the team still faces, and the revolving door of players they have had to incorporate throughout the season, the quality of their opponents is the biggest reason wins will be difficult to come by down the stretch.

They may not be easy to watch, but the games left on the schedule may put the team in a decent position come draft night.

These aren't the Lakers Kaman expected

February, 12, 2014
Feb 12
12:13
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McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
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LOS ANGELES -- For the first seven seasons of Chris Kaman's career he played for the "other" team in Los Angeles and watched how the Lakers set a standard of excellence that his Clippers and the rest of the league aspired to.

Now that he has played more than half a season for the purple and gold, he's wondering where those winning ways have gone.

[+] EnlargeChris Kaman
Noah Graham/Getty ImagesChris Kaman's 25 points and 14 rebounds went to waste as the Lakers suffered their sixth straight loss at home, this one to the Jazz.
"I've never been a part of a team [like this], especially such a great franchise like the Lakers and the longevity that they've had with winning and championships. I think it's a tough pill to swallow for a lot of people," said Kaman, who saw his 25 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks go for naught in L.A.'s 96-79 loss to the Utah Jazz on Tuesday night at Staples Center.

"Especially the owners and especially the fans who are coming out watching us and supporting us. You know it's going to get better, it's just no one planned on these injuries. No one can anticipate that kind of stuff. It just happens."

What has happened is hard to believe. From a seemingly daily injury occurrence to a cold streak that's getting more frigid by the day, this season's Lakers look nothing like the team that Kaman once viewed from the outside.

The loss was the Lakers' 21st defeat in their past 26 games, dropping them into sole possession of 14th place in the Western Conference, a half game behind the Jazz, a team that is "trying to go for picks," according to Kaman.

While the net result might look like a team going through the motions, the Lakers vow that plummeting isn't part of their plan.

"Everybody knows we want to win," Kaman said. "It's not like we're out here chasing picks. That's not what we're doing at all. I promise."

(Read full post)

Laker Grades: February 1-8

February, 9, 2014
Feb 9
2:58
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McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
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Laker Grades is a new weekly feature that examines the best and the worst of the purple and gold from the last seven days.

GradeHappy 40th birthday, Steve Nash:


Steve Nash's strict diet that has aided him in extending his NBA career into its 18th season probably wouldn't permit him to celebrate his 40th birthday with a big ol' slab of birthday cake so he had to settle for a win against the Philadelphia 76ers instead. Nash led L.A. with 19 points, scoring the most points for a 40-year-old since Karl Malone scored 20 for the Lakers on April 1, 2004, and chipped in five assists and four rebounds, mixing in a highlight-reel shimmy-shake on Evan Turner and a teardrop jumper to ice the game late.

GradeLakers survive some controversy in Cleveland:


In one of the most bizarre finishes to an NBA game, the Lakers closed out their 119-108 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers with only four eligible players on the roster. Thanks to a little-known NBA rule, Robert Sacre was allowed to stay in the game for the final minutes even though he had already fouled out because the Lakers didn't have any other healthy players available. Steve Blake, playing in only his second game back from a right elbow injury, hit two big 3-pointers down the stretch to lift L.A. to the win, finishing with a triple-double line of 11 points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds.

GradeJordan Farmar's return is short-lived:


The good news about Farmar's return against the Cavaliers after being out since Dec. 31 because of a left hamstring tear? He came out sharp as a tack, racking up 21 points on 8-for-15 shooting (including going 5-for-8 from 3), along with eight assists and two steals. The bad news? He played 33 minutes and the extended work load took its toll as he ended the game on the bench with a cramp in his left calf which led to tightness in that left hamstring again. After the fact, coach Mike D'Antoni said he tried to sub out Farmar for Wesley Johnson in the third quarter, but Johnson was in the bathroom at the time. Yikes. Farmar went back to being sidelined after the Cavs game and his status is day-to-day.

GradeInjuries continue to mount:


As if Farmar going out at the end of the Cavs game wasn't enough, the Lakers lost Nick Young just before halftime as he twisted his left knee trying to avoid contact with Cleveland's C.J. Miles while trying to finish a fast break opportunity. Young went in for an MRI exam and was diagnosed with a non-displaced fracture of the patella and a bone bruise in his left knee and will miss a minimum of two weeks. Add in Jodie Meeks suffering a severely sprained right ankle this past week and Pau Gasol (right groin strain) and Xavier Henry (bone bruise in his right knee) having their timelines for return extended -- not to mention Kobe Bryant continuing to miss time because of his left knee injury -- and it's plain to see how much injuries have hurt this team.

GradeMinnesota runs roughshod over the Lakers' defense:


The Lakers' defense has had its struggles this season -- those three straight games it gave up 120 points or more in January leading to three straight losses come to mind -- but even though it allowed "only" 109 points in a loss to Minnesota, it looked just about as bad as it has ever been. L.A. allowed Minnesota to score 38 points in the first quarter en route to a long night when both Kevin Martin (32 points) and Kevin Love (31) hit the 30-point plateau, Minnesota shot 8-for-17 from 3 (47.1 percent) and led by as many as 25 before settling in for a comfortable 10-point victory.

Bizarre ending typifies Lakers' season

February, 5, 2014
Feb 5
10:12
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McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
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CLEVELAND -- The outcome of the Los Angeles Lakers' 119-108 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday will not matter in the long run -- both teams were a lousy 16-32 coming into the game -- but it will become a night to remember another way.

It was the moment many people in the basketball world first became aware of Rule No. 3, Section I, Part A of the NBA's rulebook.

"Each team shall consist of five players. No team shall be reduced to less than five players. If a player in the game receives his sixth personal foul and all substitutes have already been disqualified, said player shall remain in the game and shall be charged with a personal and team foul. A technical foul also shall be assessed against his team. All subsequent personal fouls, including offensive fouls, shall be treated similarly. All players who have six or more personal fouls and remain in the game shall be treated similarly."


Ignore the archaic language for a second (I could do with never having to hear the word "shall" again after that paragraph) and you'll find the reason why Robert Sacre (aka "said player") was allowed to stay in the game with 3:32 remaining in the fourth quarter, even though he just picked up his sixth personal foul, which normally would foul a player out of the game.

[+] EnlargeRobert Sacre
AP Photo/Mark DuncanThanks to a rule that most of the Lakers didn't even know existed, Robert Sacre was able to remain in the game despite picking up his sixth foul.
If it was new to you, don't be ashamed. It was new to the Lakers, too.

Did coach Mike D'Antoni know what was going to happen when Sacre picked up his sixth foul?

"Yeah …," D'Antoni said with his voice trailing off and his eyes letting reporters know he wasn't being truthful. "Not really. But it’s a nice rule."

"I never knew when you fouled out, you could go back in," 11-year veteran Chris Kaman said. "I never knew that was a rule. So, I had my shoes untied and I was like lying down on the bench because we had like a really long bench. There was like 30 feet of extra space."

Lakers assistant coach Kurt Rambis and trainer Gary Vitti, who began their respective NBA careers in 1981-82, both said they had never seen anything like that before.

Said Jordan Farmar: "I didn't even know half the rules that just went into effect right now."

"I've never heard of it," Steve Blake added. "It's crazy. But it was a fun way to finish it off."

(Read full post)

Rapid Reaction: Lakers 119, Cavaliers 108

February, 5, 2014
Feb 5
6:43
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McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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CLEVELAND -- Despite the Los Angeles Lakers coming into Wednesday night's game against the Cleveland Cavaliers with just eight healthy bodies available to play, coach Mike D'Antoni refused to use injuries as a crutch.

"We can play better, and we need to concentrate on that and not worry about the other stuff we can’t control," D'Antoni said with a little defiance, perhaps a little hopefulness. "Our guys are going to battle through it, and we’re just trying to stay positive and get better -- individually better and the team better -- and every game try to make a win out of it."

And the Lakers made D'Antoni look prophetic, for a little while, at least.

They tied their season high with 36 points in the first quarter and then set a new season high with 70 points in the first half, shooting 62.5 percent from the field as a team in the process. They led by 21 at the break.

But then Nick Young twisted his left knee on a fast break and did not return, and L.A. was down to seven players.

And then Chris Kaman fouled out, and the Lakers were down to six.

And then Jordan Farmar felt something tighten up in his left calf, and they were down to five.

And then Robert Sacre fouled out with 3:32 to go and the Lakers were down to … five? Still? Sacre was allowed to stay in the game by virtue of a little-known NBA rule that requires teams to keep five players on the court at all times, even if a player has fouled out. The Cavs were simply rewarded a technical foul on top of Sacre's sixth personal foul and play continued on.

"I've never seen this situation before!!" Pau Gasol tweeted as he followed along from L.A. "Did anybody know about this rule!?"

It was bizarre. It was extraordinary. It was par for the course for this topsy-turvy Lakers season.

Steve Nash, who was supposed to have the night off, even scrambled to put on a jersey and get back to the bench in case the Lakers needed him.

They didn't need him. They actually won, breaking their seven-game losing streak.

How it happened: The Cavs cut the Lakers' 29-point lead all the way down to eight with less than three minutes left in the fourth quarter, but Blake hit two 3-pointers in the final minutes to keep L.A. afloat.

What it means: Sure, the Lakers almost blew a huge lead, and, true, they allowed a 16th straight opponent to score 100-plus points. But they somehow pulled it off and got the win despite some serious adversity.

Hits: Blake finished with a triple-double with 11 points, 10 rebounds and 15 assists.

Farmar had 21 points and eight assists in his first game since Dec. 31 because of a left hamstring tear.

Ryan Kelly scored a career-high 26.

Wes Johnson kept up his strong road trip with 20 points and nine rebounds.

L.A. shot 18-for-37 from 3 as a team (48.6 percent).

Misses: Both Jodie Meeks (right ankle sprain) and Jordan Hill (neck strain) missed their first game all season long by sitting out against Cleveland. They had been the only Lakers players to appear in every game this season up to that point.

The Lakers were outrebounded 57-40.

Stat of the game: 6-for-6. That's what L.A. started from 3 as a team.

Up next: The Lakers close out their three-game road trip Friday in Philadelphia against the 76ers. They have an off day Thursday.

Sacre returns home to Canada

January, 19, 2014
Jan 19
2:26
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McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
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TORONTO -- With Steve Nash missing the Los Angeles Lakers' lone annual trip to Toronto to play the Raptors, Robert Sacre was left to wave the Canadian flag as his country's native son returning to home soil. Well, figuratively.

Nash, who was actually in a different part of Canada, visiting Vancouver, British Columbia for the fourth time this season to undergo a rehab session with personal trainer Rick Celebrini while the Lakers continued on their seven-game road trip Sunday, took to his Twitter account to express his remorse.

"I love playing in Toronto," Nash tweeted during the first half of the Lakers eventual 112-106 win. "It hurts more to miss this one."

While the 39-year-old Nash is the most successful player ever to come out of Canada, the 24-year-old Sacre represents the hoops movement going on north of the border.

[+] EnlargeRobert Sacre
AP Photo/The Canadian Press/Frank GunnLakers center Robert Sacre was happy to go up against the Raptors on Sunday.
"It’s crazy to see how much the country has improved in the game of basketball," Sacre said. "From top to bottom, there’s a name always coming out of this country."

Sacre said when he was growing up, there were only a few Canadian pro players to look up to in Nash, former All-Star and current Raptors assistant coach Jamaal Magloire and Carl English, who played college ball at Hawaii before failing to latch on in the league after tryouts with the Indiana Pacers and Seattle Sonics.

These days, that crop of talent has exploded with a slew of top-tier NBA draft picks -- from Anthony Bennett and Tristan Thompson in Cleveland, to Kelly Olynyk in Boston and Andrew Nicholson in Orlando -- recently entering the league. It only promises to continue with guys like Andrew Wiggins (Kansas), Tyler Ennis (Syracuse), Jordan Bachynski (Arizona State), Olivier Hanlan (Boston College) and Nik Stauskas (Michigan) playing in the NCAA, to name a few.

"It’s a new breed of new athleticism coming into the game," Sacre said. "I’m just proud to say they’re Canadian."

Before there were so few Canadians to make the leap to the American basketball scene that Sacre found himself being judged against his current teammate in Nash.

"It was weird," Sacre said. "A lot of people compared me to Nash. But I’m like, ‘We play two different positions. Like, two different spectrums completely.’ But, they compared the recruiting aspect and all that. Again, I didn’t really compare myself because he’s a point guard and I’m a center, it’s two different things, but Nash has always been an inspiration for a lot of Canadians, especially for myself."

The Lakers couldn't care less about Sacre's Vancouver roots when they drafted him with the last pick of the second round, No. 60, in 2012. They were more concerned with whether the lumbering 7-foot, 260-pound center could handle the speed of the game at the next level.

"He’s improving," said Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni. "He plays well. He has a nice role in a sense of he brings energy, he anchors our defense a lot of times, he creates room underneath and I think he’ll keep getting better."

Sacre is averaging 4.3 points and 3.4 rebounds per game while shooting 50 percent from the floor in his sophomore season, up from 1.3 points and 1.1 rebounds on 37.5 percent as a rookie. He had two points and one rebound in six minutes Sunday.

"He has his little jump-shot hook that with the more confidence he gets, the better it will get and the more confidence that we have in him we’ll be able to use that," said D'Antoni. "His whole thing is he has to go in with the mindset to bring us an unbelievable amount of energy and to run the floor, to pick and dive hard, to post up when needed and he’s got to keep it right there. That’s his role. I think he does it well."

Beyond being Canadian, Sacre draws some of his identity by being an against-the-odds second round pick.

"You know, you have to go through the struggle, man," said Sacre, who is one of four second-round picks currently on the Lakers along with Steve Blake (No. 38 in 2003 by Washington), Jodie Meeks (No. 41 in 2009 by Milwaukee) and Ryan Kelly (No. 48 by the Lakers in 2013). "That’s no joke. That non-guarantee (contract) is overwhelming for a little bit."

Whereas being a first-round pick comes with a minimum of two years of guaranteed money, second-round picks usually have to prove themselves as a rookie before their deal becomes fully vested. Kelly, for instance, did not have his salary become guaranteed until he made it with the team past Jan. 7 of this season. Less than two weeks later, Kelly scored 17 points in his first start of his career against the Raptors on Sunday.

"I think second-round picks are extremely important," said D'Antoni. "You don’t hit them all the time, but if you don’t hit them, it doesn’t cost you anything and if you hit it then you got something free. Because, really, there’s not that much difference between a guy picked 10th and a guy picked 30th. It’s just the opportunity and sometimes they have more potential at 10, but if you know how to play and you work at your craft and you come in and you get a chance (to play), then you have a good chance for a second-rounder to be good. Again, that’s found money. That’s good stuff."

Unfortunately, the Lakers do not have a second-round pick in 2014 after trading theirs away in the Nash deal.

Fortunately, they have a pretty good second-rounder in Sacre, who they already have locked into a deal for the veteran's minimum next season.

It doesn't hurt that he's Canadian either, especially on a trip to Toronto.

"He got us right through customs really easily," D'Antoni joked. "It was good."

Gasol, Kaman questionable against Sixers

December, 28, 2013
12/28/13
2:40
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Neither Pau Gasol (upper respiratory infection) nor Chris Kaman (moderate left ankle sprain) participated in the Los Angeles Lakers' light practice Saturday, and both are considered to be a game-time decision for Sunday's contest against the Philadelphia 76ers, according to coach Mike D'Antoni.

"Both of them, we're hopeful," D'Antoni said. "But, obviously, they took a day off."

Gasol missed Friday's 105-103 road loss to the Utah Jazz because of the respiratory issue, the second time in the past four games he has sat out because of the condition. Kaman started in Gasol's place against Utah, putting up 19 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks before turning his ankle in the final minute.

D'Antoni said Kaman appeared to have a better chance of playing than Gasol.

"It looks pretty favorable," D'Antoni said. "He feels better about it. The swelling's not too bad."

Gasol and Kaman did not speak to reporters after practice, but Kaman spoke up about his vacillating role after the Utah loss.

"It’s not easy, but it’s part of the job," he said. "People are paying me to do a job. I need to do it the best I can, and so that’s what I try to do. It’s not easy, but I’m trying to be a pro here and do the right thing, and so we’ll see. Everything changes constantly."

If Gasol or Kaman cannot give it a go, D'Antoni said the team will look to Robert Sacre and Jordan Hill.

(Read full post)

Juggling act between needs of Bryant, team

December, 11, 2013
12/11/13
12:35
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McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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LOS ANGELES -- Nobody on the Los Angeles Lakers was kidding themselves by thinking Kobe Bryant's return would suddenly vault them from a team flirting with .500 to a squad shooting straight for the top of the Western Conference standings.

"Of course we want to win, but we definitely know it's going to be different," said Xavier Henry after L.A.'s 114-108 loss to the Phoenix Suns Tuesday night at Staples Center, their second straight defeat since Bryant's comeback. "Everybody in the world knows it's going to be different."

[+] EnlargeKobe Bryant
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsKobe Bryant improved his individual game, but the Lakers are still trying to find the right balance with him in the lineup again.
To paraphrase former NFL head coach Dennis Green, the Lakers are who we thought they were going to be so far in bringing back a 35-year-old Bryant to the mix after he hadn't played a game in nearly eight months.

But (to continue the play on Green's epic meltdown) just because everyone was aware of the challenges that Bryant's return presents, does that mean they should be let off the hook and given a pass to figure things out before any judgment is cast?

Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni saw it coming from a mile away, warning his team and repeating his message time and again to the media that the Lakers would have to do more to help out Bryant in the early going than Bryant would be doing to help them.

"We hoped we would win at home and then maybe have some problems [later]," D'Antoni said. "I'm not out of my mind just because we're struggling. I knew we could, that could happen, it's going to be up to the coaching staff and players to figure this out."

In D'Antoni's ideal scenario, somehow the Lakers will figure out how to master the balance between patient minds and active bodies as Bryant reintegrates himself.

In essence, he's asking for his team to compartmentalize how it welcomes Bryant's presence and how it still can execute the way it did without him for the first month and a half of the season.

It sounds like a tall task and actually stirs up memories of D'Antoni's predecessor on the Lakers' sidelines, Mike Brown, who used to tell his team when it complained about the clunky offense they were running that the solution would be just to play more defense.

(Read full post)

Kaman searching for lost opportunity

November, 27, 2013
11/27/13
9:18
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McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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NEW YORK -- For the second straight season, Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni is dealing with a former All-Star on his bench struggling to accept the coach's decision not to play him.

Last season, things got so bad between D'Antoni and Antawn Jamison that the coach and player got into a verbal spat on the sidelines during a road game in Houston and Jamison aired his grievances through the media. This season, it's Chris Kaman feeling like the odd man out, but doing his best to be diplomatic about it.

Before Kaman received his fourth straight DNP in Wednesday's 99-94 win over the Brooklyn Nets, the Lakers' center said not only was he over the back injury he recently suffered in practice, he was cleared to play in the Lakers' 116-111 loss to the Washington Wizards on Tuesday but D'Antoni did not call his number.

"I was actually good last game, I just couldn't get in there, I guess," Kaman said. "I don't know. I'm ready to go."

The 11-year veteran is averaging 8.3 points and 5.3 rebounds this season and started three games for L.A., however he had already begun to find himself on the outskirts of D'Antoni's rotation before the back injury.

Kaman played only six minutes in his most recent game action -- a 114-99 win over the Detroit Pistons -- going 1-for-4 from the field for two points to go with one rebound off the bench, while Jordan Hill put up career highs in points (24) and rebounds (17) in 36 minutes as the starter alongside Pau Gasol.

This isn't the first time Kaman has found himself searching for his role in his first season with the Lakers. The 11-year veteran performed well in the preseason before coming down with salmonella poisoning during the team's trip to China, causing him to miss 10 days of training camp and lose his spot in the starting lineup to Shawne Williams when the regular season opened.

"I thought I was playing pretty well before I got sick and then I come back and things are kind of changed for me," Kaman said. "I didn't plan on getting sick, it just happened. And then at the start of the regular season I thought I played pretty well and then we change all the lineups around."

(Read full post)

Why Kaman and Sacre bought a cow

October, 7, 2013
10/07/13
5:10
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McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- NBA players are notorious for spending their money on all sorts of lavish delights from sports cars to jewelry to clothing, but a couple of members of the Los Angeles Lakers took it to a whole other level by buying a bovine. That's right, Chris Kaman, Robert Sacre and Lakers strength and conditioning coach Tim DiFrancesco bought a cow.

This isn't like Billy Crystal's pet cow Norman in "City Slickers." The three of them are going in together on a full cow's worth of beef after it's been to the butcher, or approximately 400 pounds of cuts of meat for their freezers.

DiFrancesco, who has picked up the nickname "Grass-Fed Tim" around the team because of his belief in the health benefits of eating grass-fed beef, came up with the idea after connecting with a farm that raises grass-fed cows down in San Diego.

Kaman is getting half, 200 pounds, while Sacre and DiFrancesco are getting a quarter, 100 pounds, each.

It was originally supposed to be a four-way split, but longtime Lakers trainer Gary Vitti backed out.

"Gary Vitti ran out of freezer space, so I think he’s out," Kaman said. "So, I got to pick up the slack. I’m happy to, though."

Freezer space was an issue for Sacre, too, so he did something about it.

"I had to go to a Best Buy to go buy me a 15 cubic foot freezer," said Sacre, who estimated that the freezer and the beef will end up costing him about $1,300 combined. "It’s, uh, it’s intense."

The trio of beef eaters scheduled the meat delivery to arrive after they return from the Lakers' upcoming eight-day-long trip to China to play two preseason games.

(Read full post)

Rapid Reaction: Lakers 104, Warriors 95

October, 5, 2013
10/05/13
9:48
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Shelburne By Ramona Shelburne
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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ONTARIO, Calif. -- It has been a while since the Los Angeles Lakers won a preseason game. No, really, it has been a long, long time. It last happened Oct. 22, 2010, to be precise. In 2011, they lost both exhibition games they played in the lockout-shortened exhibition season. Last season, they famously went 0-8 in the preseason, leading to the eventual demise of coach Mike Brown after five games of the regular season.

"I've never won a preseason game," Lakers second-year center Robert Sacre said before Saturday's exhibition opener against the Golden State Warriors. "So that will be a nice thing one day."

In all, it had been nearly three years since the Lakers won a preseason game, beating these same Golden State Warriors, at this same at Citizen's Business Bank Arena.

At long last, and possibly signifying very little except that it felt good for a night, that 10-game preseason losing streak is over. With vice president of basketball operations Jim Buss making a rare public appearance in courtside seats, the Lakers beat the Warriors 104-95.

How it happened: Nick Young had 17 points and Xavier Henry had 29 points as the Lakers looked surprisingly good against Golden State, the team fast becoming everybody's favorite sleeper pick to win the Western Conference.

Jordan Farmar had 12 points and seven assists after drawing the loudest ovation of the night in his first game back with the Lakers.

What it means: It's always hard to gauge much of anything from preseason games -- except when the team goes 0-8. It's actually more instructive to look at which players got minutes, and how many they got, to see who is really in contention to make the regular-season roster. Henry, Shawne Williams, and Wesley Johnson played significant minutes. Elias Harris, Dan Gadzuric and Marcus Landry didn't get into the game until the fourth quarter. Darius Johnson-Odom and Eric Boateng didn't play at all.

Hits: The Lakers have been championing Young's defensive abilities in training camp, but let's not kid ourselves. The guy is on the team because he can score. A lot. And quickly. Saturday night he poured in 17 points, 14 of which came in the second quarter.

Misses: Fans who expected to see one of the Lakers three future Hall of Famers. Neither Steve Nash nor Pau Gasol played in Saturday's exhibition opener, both opting to wait until Sunday's exhibition game at Staples Center against Denver. Kobe Bryant was in Germany undergoing a medical procedure.

Stat of the night: 33. That's the number of wins the Lakers are being projected to win this year by sports books in Las Vegas.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Kobe Bryant
PTS AST STL MIN
26.7 4.2 1.4 35.1
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Hill 9.7
AssistsJ. Lin 4.8
StealsK. Bryant 1.4
BlocksE. Davis 1.4