Los Angeles Lakers: Utah Jazz

Rapid Reaction: Lakers 119, Jazz 104

April, 14, 2014
Apr 14
8:32
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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SALT LAKE CITY -- Not that it should be much of a surprise by now, but the Los Angeles Lakers proved on Monday that they just couldn't get things right this season.

When they needed to win in the early part of the season, they were terrible at it, becoming the first team in the league to be eliminated from postseason contention with 16 games left to play.

When they needed to lose late in order to help their draft standing, they proved equally bad, pulling out spoiler wins against the Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks to hurt those team's playoff chances.

Nothing summed up the backward season more than what happened in Salt Lake City, however. The Lakers were up against a Utah Jazz team they will be battling for ping-pong positioning next month and, all of the sudden, they looked like world beaters.

There was Nick Young making seemingly everything he put up there, setting a season high with 41 points.

There was Jordan Hill causing fans to once again scratch their heads and wonder why he ever fell out of the rotation, scoring 21 points on 10-for-13 shooting.

There was Jodie Meeks playing like the true professional he's groomed himself to be, dropping in 23 points of his own.

There was Kendall Marshall dishing out 15 assists and giving the team something to think about when it comes to making him an offer this offseason.

But through it all, there was the Lakers' draft chances for next season taking a hit, which is really what matters at this point.

How it happened: The Lakers fell down by as many as 13 points in the first half, but used a 19-2 run to close out the second quarter to take a 57-51 lead into intermission. The Jazz tied it back up 86-86 heading into the fourth. L.A. blew Utah's doors off in the final frame, with Young scoring 17 points in the quarter.

What it means: The Lakers promised they hadn't given up on things and were playing for each other, and for pride. Apparently they weren't lying.

Hits: The Lakers shot 54.9 percent as a team.

Misses: The Lakers' lottery positioning took a hit on Monday as L.A. could have vaulted below Utah to the No. 5 spot, but instead pretty much cemented its place at No. 6.

Stat of the game: 18. The Jazz had 18 turnovers leading to 29 points for the Lakers.

Up next: There's just one game left in this forgettable season for the Lakers. They travel to Texas to play the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday in a game where Gregg Popovich is sure to rest his key players -- with the No. 1 record in the league and home court throughout the playoffs already locked up for the silver and black.

D'Antoni leans on Pau Gasol

January, 4, 2014
Jan 4
2:29
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- After not playing three times in a five-game span because of an upper respiratory infection, Pau Gasol has returned to the lineup the past two games, averaging 24 points, 11.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 3.5 blocks.

He was as good as he's been all season against the Utah Jazz on Friday, racking up 23 points (on 10-for-17 shooting), 17 rebounds, eight assists and three blocks in the Los Angeles Lakers' 110-99 win to snap a six-game losing streak.

[+] EnlargePau Gasol, Derrick Favors
AP Photo/Mark J. TerrillPau Gasol filled up the stat sheet Friday against the Jazz with 23 points, 17 rebounds, eight assists and three blocks.
What caused the turnaround?

"One is being healthy, that’s going to help," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said after practice Saturday. "Two, I think the rhythm of the team was better, and once that is [the case,] then he gets more confident and more aggressive. We want Pau to be aggressive. We want him to be in the post every time, or at least in the play every time."

Gasol, the subject of various trade rumors swirling around the past month, including talk of him being dealt to Cleveland that continues to persist, proved he can still perform and block out the distractions.

"Everybody is in this position, in a sense. You just do your job and good things happen," D'Antoni said. "The worst thing that can happen in this league is pretty daggone good, if you’re in the league. So, it’s not that bad."

D'Antoni wants to see more good nights like the one Gasol had against Utah and thinks the big man's ceiling is higher than the 15.3 points and 9.5 rebounds on a career-low 44.9 percent shooting Gasol is putting up this season.

"I think he should almost average a triple-double every night," said D'Antoni. "That’s what he did at the end of last year."

(Read full post)

Marshall Madness lifts the Lakers

January, 4, 2014
Jan 4
12:07
AM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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LOS ANGELES -- Just five days ago, before the Los Angeles Lakers played the Philadelphia 76ers, coach Mike D'Antoni was asked why Kendall Marshall had appeared in only two out of the five games (in garbage time) the Lakers had since the former college standout joined the team.

[+] EnlargeKendall Marshall
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty ImagesKendall Marshall became the first player since Kobe Bryant in February 2002 to reach 20 points and 15 assists in a game.
"I don't know him," D'Antoni said at the time. "I've seen him play maybe two minutes. I don't think we're at the point where, 'Oh, let's experiment.'"

Since then, however, both Xavier Henry and Jordan Farmar joined Steve Nash and Steve Blake in the ever-growing Lakers' Injured Point Guards Club -- and as far as experimenting goes, well, you know how they say necessity is the mother of all invention.

How does D'Antoni feel about Marshall now after the former lottery pick turned D-League cast-off racked up 20 points and 15 assists in the Lakers' 110-99 win over the Utah Jazz on Friday?

"This was easy because we have no other alternative," D'Antoni said. "It’s like, ‘Hey, I love you. You’re great.’ It’s easy. When you’re the only point guard, you’re not really looking over your shoulder because you kind of know that it’s going to be me or me."

"Me" stood for the Marshall Experience on Friday, a performance that was so good it left D'Antoni uttering the name of his most famous rags-to-riches success story in a coaching career that's turned plenty of trash into treasure and discards into diamonds.

"I’m not making a comparison, but Jeremy Lin did the exact same thing," D'Antoni said when asked about Marshall going from coughing up four turnovers in six minutes in his Laker debut just two weeks ago to becoming the first Laker player since Kobe Bryant in February 2002 to hit the 20-point, 15-assist plateau. "The first time he went out in Boston it was awful, and I’m thinking, ‘Oh my gosh.’ Then, obviously it happened to him. It does happen to guys."

"Linsanity" was a once-in-a-lifetime basketball supernova that was as much a cultural touchstone as it was hoop dream. "Marshall Madness" has a nice ring to it, but what's more important than Marshall becoming a favorite in the eyes of Lakers fans is Marshall becoming a reliable option in the eyes of D'Antoni.

(Read full post)

Rapid Reaction: Lakers 110, Jazz 99

January, 3, 2014
Jan 3
10:02
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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LOS ANGELES -- Perhaps the 18th time's a charm (as in the Los Angeles Lakers used their 18th different starting lineup through 33 games on Friday). Maybe the Lakers finally got tired of losing to teams that have worse records than they do.

Whatever the case, L.A. was able to snap its season-high six-game losing streak by completely controlling the Utah Jazz from start to finish in a 110-99 win, never trailing the whole game.

Leading the way as newcomers to the starting five were Robert Sacre (four points and a career-high 10 rebounds) and an incredible 20-point, 15-assist night from Kendall Marshall that started with him scoring the first five points of the night and never looking back, even adding the cherry-on-top 3 to put L.A. up by eight with less than a minute remaining and a layup in the final seconds to assure the win would be by double-digits.

How it happened: The Lakers held the Jazz to just 12 points in the first quarter, a season low for opponent's points allowed in any quarter, while igniting for 30 points of their own as Marshall put up seven points and five assists in the period. L.A. tacked on another 31-point quarter in the third to take a 16-point lead into the final frame. Utah was able to cut it to four with a Trey Burke bucket with 2:07 to play, but Nick Young responded with a jumper with 1:48 to go to push it back to six. Derrick Favors got a dunk on Utah's next possession, but Jodie Meeks was the go-to guy the next time down, making a 3 to give L.A. a 99-92 lead with 1:18 remaining. Utah never made it closer than a two-possession game the rest of the way.

What it means: L.A. has a point guard. Not saying that Marshall can have as magical performances every night as he did against Utah, but he proved he can play at the very least. Which is all a team that's missing Steve Nash, Steve Blake, Jordan Farmar and Xavier Henry already could ask for.

Hits: Pau Gasol looked to be totally over the upper respiratory issue that had been plaguing him, going off for 23 points on 10-for-17 shooting, 17 rebounds and eight assists.

Despite shooting just 6-for-14, Young (16 points) kept his double-digit scoring streak alive, pushing the total to 19 games.

Meeks scored 18.

Wes Johnson returned from gastroenteritis to score 11 points on 5-for-5 shooting.

Shawne Williams scored 10 points and went 3-for-3 from 3.

Misses: L.A. had seven turnovers in the second half after just four in the first half.

Stat of the game: The last Laker to have 20 points and 15 assists in a regular-season game before Marshall was Kobe Bryant on Feb. 12, 2002, against Washington.

Up next: The Lakers host the Denver Nuggets on Sunday, a team that snapped an eight-game losing streak on Friday, before going on to play 10 of their next 11 games on the road.

Rapid Reaction: Lakers 111, Jazz 106

October, 25, 2013
10/25/13
9:30
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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ANAHEIM, Calif. -- A point guard who has played less than 20 minutes per game during the preseason because of nagging injuries, a shooting guard who has played point guard for nearly the entirety of his 11-year career, a small forward who has played shooting guard for most of his seven seasons in the league, a power forward who was out of the NBA entirely last season and a center coming off a summer surgical procedure on each knee?

Yes, Steve Nash, Steve Blake, Nick Young, Shawne Williams and Pau Gasol could certainly be the Los Angeles Lakers’ starting lineup come opening night next Tuesday.

The Lakers went with that first five for the second consecutive game, closing out their preseason slate with a 111-106 win against the Utah Jazz at the Honda Center.

Will that be the same group to tip things off against the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday?

"I don’t know," Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said before the game. "I mean, it’s a definite possibility."

The most significant detail about the lineup looking like that, of course, is that it means no Kobe Bryant.

Bryant said this week that he has scaled back his workouts after pushing his Achilles rehabilitation hard while the team was in China. He previously told reporters that he will need three solid weeks of conditioning and basketball activity once he returns to practice before he would consider himself ready for game action. If Bryant isn’t on the court Oct. 29 and sticks to his three-week ramp up plan, then we’re suddenly talking about a mid-to-late November return at the earliest.

"[The timeline] went from everywhere from October to January, so nobody knows," D’Antoni said. “I think he’ll be ahead of schedule from whatever they said, but, again, it’s something -- a little bit like Steve Nash -- you just don’t know until it happens. You keep working with it; he’s making progress and he’ll be back as soon as he can. No use worrying about it. You only worry about it when people don’t work hard or are not doing what they’re supposed to be doing. That’s not a problem."

(Read full post)

Assessing Lakers' postseason chances

February, 26, 2013
2/26/13
6:30
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Will the Los Angeles Lakers make the playoffs?

That's really the only pertinent question for the boys in purple and gold these days.

All the other queries that surround them -- What's the state of Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard's relationship? When is Pau Gasol coming back? Is Mike D'Antoni the right coach for this group? -- merely funnel into that same, fundamental question.

The Lakers are 28-30 with 24 games to play, good for ninth place in the Western Conference -- three games behind the Houston Rockets for the final postseason berth.

D'Antoni said after the All-Star break that the Lakers would need to go at least 20-8 (.714 winning percentage) to ensure a spot in the playoffs. Since then, Bryant has guaranteed the Lakers will be playing past the regular-season finale April 17, and L.A. has gone 3-1 in its past four games.

The four-game improved stretch can be extended back to include 11 wins for L.A. in its past 16 games. However, the five losses in that stretch have been by an average of 14.4 points, including the Lakers' 11-point loss Monday in Denver in a game in which they trailed by as many as 18 points.

The Denver loss dropped the Lakers to just 1-10 this season on the road against the eight teams in the West currently slated to make the playoffs, which only punctuates L.A.'s paltry 10-19 overall road record.

For argument's sake, let's say that trend continues and the Lakers go 0-3 on the road the remainder of the way against the Western Conference teams ahead of them in the standings -- losing in Oklahoma City on March 5, at Golden State on March 25 (the one team ahead of them in the West they actually have beaten on the road this season, in Steve Nash's return from a leg injury Dec. 22) and to the L.A. Clippers in a "road" game at Staples Center on April 7.

That leaves us with 21 games left to consider and the Lakers needing 17 wins in those games to reach D'Antoni's magic number of 45 wins.

The 12 home games are: Minnesota, Atlanta, Toronto, Chicago, Sacramento, Washington, Dallas, Memphis, New Orleans, Golden State, San Antonio and Houston.

The Lakers are 10-10 (.500) so far this season against those teams. So, even though the Lakers have gone 18-11 (.621) at home so far, those 12 games shouldn't be a cakewalk. Let's split the difference between the two percentages, and say the Lakers win .561 of their remaining home games and go 7-5.

That would put their record at 35-38, with the nine remaining road games to consider.

Even if they went 9-0 in those games (at New Orleans, Atlanta, Orlando, Indiana, Phoenix, Minnesota, Milwaukee, Sacramento and Portland), they would not reach D'Antoni's stated goal of 45 wins to make the playoffs. Plus, 9-0 isn't really realistic when you consider the Lakers are just 8-5 (.615) against those teams so far this season. If they play .615 ball against them, you're talking about them winning five or six of those games. Let's say they get six; that brings their record to 41-41.

ESPN.com's Kevin Pelton puts the Lakers' magic number at 43 wins needed to consider the postseason.

That would require the Lakers to go 15-9 the rest of the way, or to find two more wins out of the three scenarios explained above -- maybe going 1-2 in those road games against Western playoff teams, or going 8-4 in their remaining home games or 7-2 in those other nine road games.

Meanwhile, the three teams the Lakers are chasing to get into the playoffs -- Houston, Golden State and Utah -- would have a much easier path to get to 43.

Writes Pelton:


"The Lakers can do their part and still be eliminated because the three teams ahead of them -- the Rockets, the Golden State Warriors and the Utah Jazz -- need only go .500 to get to at least 43 wins. In fact, the simulation shows the Lakers aren't really guaranteed a playoff spot unless they get to 47 wins. So there will be plenty of scoreboard watching for the Lakers, whose playoff hopes might go down after a win if their competitors are also victorious."


And all of this isn't even mentioning the possibility of Bryant picking up three more technical fouls and being suspended for a game or Howard tweaking that right shoulder of his and having to sit out with his torn labrum, as has happened two times already.

Will the Lakers make the playoffs? It's too early to know. But it's certainly not too soon to see just how difficult the road will be for them to get there.

Rapid Reaction: Lakers 102, Jazz 84

January, 25, 2013
1/25/13
10:02
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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LOS ANGELES -- How long has it been since you felt good watching the Lakers play?

How long has it been since Dwight Howard (17 points, 13 rebounds) dominated both ends of the floor like the No. 1 center in the league is supposed to?

How long has it been since Kobe Bryant displayed his full offensive game and had as much of an impact passing (14 assists) as he did shooting (14 points on 7-for-10 shooting)?

How long has it been since Pau Gasol (15 points on 7-for-8 shooting, 7 rebounds, 1 testy confrontation with Paul Millsap) looked like the talented big man who helped the team to consecutive titles?

How long has it been since Steve Nash (15 points on 6-for-11 shooting) aggressively looked for his own shot?

How long has it been since the Lakers' defense looked like five guys on a string instead of a haphazard group of individuals?

The wait ended Friday.

At least for one night, the Lakers looked like the team everybody thought they could be.

How it happened: The Lakers started off the game on a 12-2 run that featured two dunks from Dwight Howard, two assists from Kobe Bryant and a 3-pointer by Steve Nash, and then controlled the action the rest of the way.

What it means: Don't plan the parade down Figueroa Street just yet. The Lakers are still seven games under .500 at 18-25. They still have a lot of work to do, but they proved they could sustain some serious team turmoil and still come together with a dominating performance.

Hits: The Lakers' defense held the Jazz to just 84 points on 42 percent shooting from the field and 21.4 percent shooting from 3 (3-for-14).

Misses: This is a good miss, but still, it's a miss: Bryant finished one rebound short of his 19th career triple-double and one assist shy of tying his career high of 15 dimes in a game.

Stat of the night: Metta World Peace (17 points) shot 5-for-11 from 3, but 0-for-5 from everywhere else.

What's next: Friday's victory was as vital as they come, but Sunday's game is a completely different animal with Oklahoma City, the No. 1 team in the Western Conference, coming to town. A win against the Thunder would do wonders to restart the Lakers' sinking season, as they have one more home game (New Orleans) after the OKC game before they go on the road for their seven-game Grammy's road trip.

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

Rapid Reaction: Jazz 117, Lakers 110

December, 9, 2012
12/09/12
10:00
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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LOS ANGELES -- On the plus side, the Los Angeles Lakers put the screws to the Utah Jazz down the stretch of the fourth quarter, transforming what appeared to be a deflating blowout home loss in the making into merely a deflating home loss.

That's also about as good as a loss gets against a Jazz squad heretofore with just three road wins to their name and competing without key reserve Derrick Favors.

With a lackluster effort for about three quarters and change, the Lakers frittered away a very real opportunity to raise themselves back to .500 and build momentum off a respectable road loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. As the final seconds ticked down Sunday, the purple and gold were showered with boos from the Staples Center faithful. And I can't say I blame those fans.

Here are three takeaways from the loss:

Hill was the best Lakers player on the floor

The first time reserve forward Jordan Hill touched the ball, he drove across the lane and drained a running hook. The immediately fruitful possession set the tone for an outstanding effort by Hill. The ultimate garbage man, Hill continually put himself in the right place at the right time, making the most of the luck he created. Six offensive rebounds were snagged (nine in all), either put back for his own points or passed off to create a new possession for someone else to convert. A quartet of shots was swatted, and he altered a couple of other attempts.

But there was more to Hill's excellence beyond the prototypical "energy" plays. He drained a pair of outside jumpers and those confident launches should only help sell his coach on his potential fit in this system. Nice vision was also displayed upon collecting a miss from Kobe Bryant, then spotting No. 24 in the corner. The ball quickly moved, and Bryant drilled the triple.

Yes, there were disappointing moments: Hill, who picked up five fouls, wasn't entirely effective on the defensive end. (And with this distinction, he had plenty of company.) But at least the effort never waned, which couldn't be said about everyone wearing a purple and gold uni.

It remains to be seen whether Hill will be in the rotation once Pau Gasol's knees heal up. Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni fingered Hill as the odd man out upon getting hired, and only El Spaniard's injury prompted more minutes for the Wildcat. But game in and game out, Hill has made good on the opportunity, and his coach clearly needs to find a way to keep him on the court.

(Read full post)

Dwight suggests Kobe temper frustrations

November, 7, 2012
11/07/12
11:08
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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SALT LAKE CITY -- Kobe Bryant didn’t waste any time leaving the court after the Los Angeles Lakers lost 95-86 to the Utah Jazz on Wednesday. Bryant made a beeline to the locker room with a scowl on his face as the Lakers fell to 1-4 to start a season for the first time in his 17-year career.

Dwight Howard, meanwhile, was the last Lakers player to make his way through the tunnel, lingering on the court to hug a fan and toss each of his arm sleeves, as well as his uniform, into the crowd.

Bryant’s frustration was apparent long before his final exit: He got into it with referee Ed Malloy after being called for a charge in the second quarter; he punched the ball inbounds rather than passed it when there was less than a second left in the third quarter; and he was caught on camera staring down coach Mike Brown when he was sitting on the bench during a timeout in the waning moments of the fourth.

Howard said after the game the Lakers would be better off bottling up those negative emotions.

“I think sometimes as a team we got to be able to not really show our frustrations that much,” Howard said after L.A. fell to 1-12 with their preseason record included. “A lot of the guys look at me and Kobe and they feed off us, so we have to do a better job of keeping our frustrations on the inside and just playing through it so our teammates won’t get down on themselves. So, we just got to do a better job at that.

“I know [Kobe] was a little frustrated tonight. He wants to win just as bad as all of us do, but we just got to stay together, remember it’s a process, and stay focused.”

When asked about his frustration level after the game, Bryant deadpanned it was, “just a little bit.”

And what were the reasons that caused that frustration?

“None that I care to share,” Bryant said.

(Read full post)

Rapid Reaction: Jazz 96, Lakers 85

November, 7, 2012
11/07/12
9:21
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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A week or so ago I was asked on the radio to forecast the Lakers' first five games. I called two Lakers losses, and Wednesday's game at Utah was one. Salt Lake City is always a tough place to play, particularly when the Jazz have some talent, as they do now.

Moral of the story: I can't say I'm shocked the Lakers lost, because it could have happened even if things were going well. It's how they lost giving me (and Lakers fans worldwide) pause. Particularly now that their record has dropped to 1-4, with the victory coming courtesy of a hapless Detroit team. Credible squads are having their way with them.

Here are four takeaways from Wednesday's game:

You only thought the Lakers were struggling offensively

Yes, Steve Nash isn't yet comfortable. Yes, they turn the ball over at almost absurd rates. But, really, the Lakers haven't lost in the early going because of the offense. They entered tonight's game in Utah well into the top-10 in efficiency. The defense, meanwhile, has been a major drag. Anyone unsure of the distinction got a taste Wednesday night. The Lakers shot 34 percent as a team and didn't crack the 80-point barrier until late in the fourth quarter. They scored 17 points in the first and 16 in the third. Steve Blake and Metta World Peace combined to miss seven of their first nine 3-point attempts, and as a team L.A. finished 4-of-23 from distance.

And, as is their custom, the Lakers were far too generous, with 18 turnovers on the night, including six from Kobe Bryant. Pau Gasol was a complete non-factor, scoring only five points on 2-of-9 shooting and lacking any push to the free throw line (only two attempts). Add in a weak night on the glass (stuck on five TRB's until late in the game, finishing with a soft seven) and it was a very poor evening for the Spaniard.

Dwight Howard was efficient enough (7-of-11, 19 points) and Kobe attacked relentlessly (17 FTA's), but overall the Lakers were too flat, too frequently, and paid for it.

The Lakers need to stop whining

In the first half, Howard thought he was fouled by Utah's Enis Kanter and stopped to complain about the no-call. Kanter, meanwhile, hauled down the floor and scored. Howard never entered the frame. In the second half, Kobe thought he was hacked, assumed a foul and, once again, the Lakers were burned in transition . But the worst was when both Kobe and Gasol were late getting back because Pau stopped to watch Kobe complaining about contact uncalled. Maybe Gasol anticipated a whistle, but c'mon, man. Get back.

As a rule, the Lakers allow this sort of thing to happen far too often, especially for a team operating without much margin for error. It's something Mike Brown has talked about now for over a season, but hasn't managed to fix. Moreover, the Lakers didn't have sustained energy, or show the requisite amount of mental strength. Utah was quicker to seemingly every loose ball. At one point, off a dead ball under the Utah bucket, the Lakers were beat in transition.

Off a dead ball! Against good teams -- Utah made the playoffs last season and has a chance to improve this year -- this sort of laziness will almost always be punished.

(Read full post)

World Peace adding extra duties at backup SG

November, 7, 2012
11/07/12
2:57
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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SALT LAKE CITY -- For Lakers fans clamoring for benched sharpshooter Jodie Meeks to get some burn behind Kobe Bryant as the backup shooting guard, try this one on for size.

Lakers coach Mike Brown is experimenting with Metta World Peace, a guy who has shot less than 40 percent from the field each of the last two seasons, to help fill that role.

"I just felt I that trying to bring another starter back with the second unit would help us out, so that's all I'm doing in a nutshell," Brown said after Lakers shootaround Wednesday as they prepared to play the Utah Jazz. "I like to stay big also."

This isn't a demotion for World Peace. He'll continue to start at small forward. It's actually more of a promotion. Brown has been so impressed by what he's seen out of World Peace in the early going that he wants to give him more time on the court.

World Peace averaged just 26.7 minutes per game last season after he came into camp severely out of shape following the NBA lockout. He was also dealing with a complicated lower-back issue.

He's up to 34.5 minutes so far this season and it's paid off in his production as his points (7.7 to 9.8 per game), rebounds (3.4 to 4.3) assists (2.2 to 3.3) and steals (1.1 to 1.8) are all up, as is his shooting accuracy (39.4 to 44.1 percent).

"He’s in shape," Brown said. "I think he can play those types of minutes -- the low to mid-30s -- on any given night."

World Peace had a breakout game against the Detroit Pistons, putting up 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting in the Lakers' first win of the season.

"Against Detroit he was just the recipient of other guys getting paid attention to," Brown said. "He got swing (pass), (followed by) swing (pass) 3s or kickout 3s. That's something he'll be able to continue to do and when he's at the two, we may post him some. It just takes time for us and for him to get a feel of what he can and should do out on the floor."

While Brown detailed how World Peace can be ideally used on offense as a spot-up shooter with the starters and a featured post player with the substitutes, Kobe Bryant said World Peace's defensive presence is what can really bolster the bench group.

"Metta's intensity really changes the momentum of the game when he's able to get out there and get deflections and get steals," Bryant said. "It brings a physicality to that second unit."

Bryant said World Peace is in the best shape of his life "by far" -- comparable to his days with the Indiana Pacers -- and that his energy has increased.

"He can play harder for longer stretches," Bryant said.

Which means there will be shorter stretches available for Meeks and the current backup shooting guard, Devin Ebanks, for the foreseeable future.

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

Rapid Reaction: Jazz 99, Lakers 86

October, 13, 2012
10/13/12
10:26
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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LOS ANGELES -- For those concerned about such things, the Los Angeles Lakers remain winless in the preseason, as the Utah Jazz outscored them by 24 points in the second half Saturday at Staples and won going away, 99-86. So there are kinks to work out, but this is as good a time as any to remind folks that the actual score of games featuring players who won't actually be on the team at the end of the month aren't all that important.

Here are five takeaways.

1. Robert Sacre wants to be on the Lakers.

You'd expect any 60th pick to work his tail off in any preseason burn, because that's what 60th picks are supposed to do. Sacre definitely does just that, and over 27 minutes Saturday it paid off in the form of 10 rebounds, including five on the offensive end. He hit the floor in pursuit of loose balls (it's a long way to the ground for a 7-footer), and did his best getting up and down the floor. But Sacre isn't just hustle, the activity comes with purpose. On multiple occasions he went high on the perimeter defensively in pick-and-roll coverage, and rotated well defending the basket, including a Sacreblock! (patent pending) on Al Jefferson in the third quarter. Offensively, when he rolled to the bucket on P-n-R sets, he did so assertively, and also tossed in some nice post moves on the block.

He still has plenty to learn -- avoiding fouls (he picked up his sixth with 10:22 left in the fourth) and playing defense while staying on the floor, for example -- but overall Sacre looked like a guy who belongs in the NBA. Whether it's with the Lakers remains to be seen, but he's certainly not hurting his chances. Nine points, 10 rebounds, three blocks.

2. Kobe Bryant went hard, particularly early.

Perhaps it was a matter of using up all the energy left over from sitting Wednesday's game in Ontario? But from the jump, Kobe was playing with a level of oomph not typically seen in the preseason, translating into an impressive floor game. There was the highlight reel no-look pass through his legs to Pau Gasol on the break in the first quarter, and an almost equally slick feed to Antawn Jamison from the right baseline to the left in the second. He grabbed seven rebounds, three offensive, and lived at the rim earning 12 free throws, making 11. Defensively, he had two steals and a block. Final line: 25 minutes, 18 points (12-for-14 from the line), eight rebounds, five assists.

3. Not a great night for Gasol.

Five times he turned the ball over, three times he had his shot blocked, and for most of his 27:44 didn't look particularly comfortable.

(Read full post)

Lakers vs. Jazz: What to watch with Salt City Hoops

March, 18, 2012
3/18/12
8:35
AM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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The Utah Jazz began this season regarded by most as a team in flux: Enough talent (Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, promising second-year player Gordon Hayward) not to be terrible, but not enough to hang with the Western Conference big boys. And a surprisingly strong start to the season notwithstanding, that's basically what they've revealed themselves to be. The Lakers have already beaten the Jazz twice, and Utah's 5-16 road record suggests a third win should be on the docket. The result can't be taken for granted, but a betting man would lay his money on the hosts.


Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty Images
The Jazz have missed Earl Watson in the lineup.


However, should that theoretical W come, I'm more interested in how it's manufactured than simply notching No. 29. The Lakers have a bad habit of getting an opponent on the ropes, then letting them back into the game rather than stepping on their necks. It's occasionally resulted in some horrible losses (at Detroit and Washington), along with wins made more complicated than necessary. Should the Lakers build the lead they're capable of against the Jazz, it would be nice to see the last five or so minutes closed out with Devin Ebanks on the floor, rather than Kobe Bryant.

For the inside skinny on the Jazz, we consulted Spencer Ryan Hall from the True Hoop Network's Salt City Hoops blog. Check out his thoughts on a few Jazz-centric queries.

Land O' Lakers: After initially playing better than most expected, The Jazz have been a .500-ish team. Has something gone wrong, or is this a matter of water seeking its own level?

Spencer Ryan Hall: Just as Linsanity was built on a premise that required everything to go right to be successful, the Jazz rode a wave of good scheduling (almost a million home games, give or take), surprising chemistry (with Earl Watson emerging as the team leader), and breakout performances from Hayward, Alec Burks, and others. In limited minutes, young Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter and Jeremy Evans all provided big sparks to lead the second unit.

There was no Melo returning to upset the fragile Jazz ecosystem, but the unfriendly confines of road arenas, injuries to Watson, stagnation of the offense, and a strange shortening of the lineup rotation to feature the underperforming Raja Bell and Josh Howard all contributed to taking the magic out of a magical start.

While the early success was a product of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts, the parts (namely Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap) have dominated the offense in a way that seems to have removed a lot of the movement and joy that the team had early in the year.

(Read full post)

Phil Jackson Q&A: Michael Jordan's flu game

February, 28, 2012
2/28/12
8:38
PM PT
McMenamin By Dave McMenamin
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Even though it's been nearly 10 years since Michael Jordan played his last All-Star game in 2003, you couldn't watch this year's All-Star game in Orlando without getting a heavy dose of MJ nostalgia. The Lakers' Kobe Bryant had a lot to do with that, as he pushed his career All-Star scoring total to 271 points, passing Jordan for most points in All-Star game history (Jordan had 262 points in 14 selections; Bryant has played in 14 All-Star games as well).

Jordan was also recognized as one of the stars who was out-dueled by Magic Johnson in Orlando 20 years ago when Magic made his memorable one-game MVP return to the All-Star game after announcing his retirement because of HIV months before.

And if you watched the commercials, instead of flipping back and forth between the All-Star game and the Oscars, you would have noticed Jordan in a new ad for Gatorade featuring former Bulls and Lakers coach Phil Jackson reflecting on Jordan's "flu game" in Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals against the Utah Jazz. (Click here to watch the commercial.)

ESPNLA.com was on the set of the commercial shoot at the Walter Pyramid on the campus of Long Beach State back in December and had a chance for a 1-on-1 chat with Jackson about his memories of Jordan's performance with the flu.



ESPNLA.com: When you think back on all the significant games you coached, where does Jordan’s “flu game” rank? On the set, you said something to the effect of, "We know he can score 40, we know he can get triple-doubles, but this stands out because it’s more than that."

Jackson: “Yeah, the big thing was we knew that coming back and playing in Salt Lake was going to be a difficult thing, as it always is in the playoffs. That team was talented and they were good at home. So, after winning two in Chicago, we said, ‘Let’s go out and make sure we win one game out there in Salt Lake.’ We didn’t want to come back [to Chicago] behind 3-2 in a series like that. We lost the second game [in Utah] at the end of the ballgame in a close game.

"Perhaps Michael was doing too much. I can’t remember what his totals were in that ballgame, but he made a spin at the top of the key and [John] Stockton stole the ball and it set up a win for them that we shoulda, coulda won.

(Editor’s note: Jordan finished with 22 points on 11-for-27 shooting in Game 4.)

"So, it was a really a hard defeat. I remember having really a sleepless night that night. I was meeting the owner the next day and I was just really fatigued about it. That mental fatigue that you have after a loss that you think you’re going to win and you don’t sleep very much at night thinking about it. Then, we had a little time to recover and it came down to this game, we ought to take this one home and then the disappointment of finding out on game day that the guy that’s the superstar on our team didn’t sleep, was sick, felt like crap, didn’t feel like he could eat, was nauseous and wasn’t going to go to shootaround. That’s happened before. Guys have felt like they couldn’t go to shootaround. It’s not like the end of the world. But this was a pivotal game and then when we saw him and we saw what he looked like …"

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Rapid Reaction: Jazz 96, Lakers 87

February, 4, 2012
2/04/12
8:42
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Brian Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Realistically speaking, a split in the first two games of the road trip felt like a win heading in, and that's what the Lakers have after dropping Saturday's game in Salt Lake City.

Still, after what the Lakers did the night before, they will surely be disappointed with how they performed tonight particularly in the second half. Here are six takeaways...

1. The Lakers have the grit thing down.


AP Photo/Colin E Braley
Mike Brown didn't like the officiating. Lakers fans didn't like the fourth quarter.


Playing on the wrong end of a back-to-back has been rough for teams throughout the NBA this season. Friday night in Denver, the Lakers were the beneficiaries, playing a Denver team that played a night earlier and didn't get back into town until about 4 a.m. Friday. On Saturday, it was the Lakers' turn. They landed in Salt Lake City in the wee hours of the morning, and while they played a strong first half, their legs clearly began to go in the second.

Not an excuse, but it's definitely a factor.

Still, rather than fold up the tent and get ready for Philly, the Lakers continued pushing. They couldn't score much in the third quarter -- 18 points-- but stayed strong defensively and held the Jazz to 20. When Mike Brown's ejection (see below) sparked a big run from the Jazz, the Lakers, led by Kobe Bryant's big burst of offense for the evening, pushed back. Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol continued crashing the boards, each earning fourth-quarter putbacks.

They didn't play well for 48 minutes, but they did play hard. When compared to efforts against Miami and Orlando, for example, it's a big improvement, and combined with Friday night's showing against Denver, it's a sign the Lakers are moving in the right direction as a road team.

That had better be the case, because at 3-8 away from home, they don't have any wiggle room.

2. The question of "How many nights of questionable officiating can Brown watch before going ballistic?" has been answered.

Two.

While the work from the whistle bearers Saturday didn't approach the shoddy performance of their cohorts Friday night in Denver, the game was still undeniably physical and very intense. So when Gasol appeared to get mugged at the top of the key by Earl Watson, coming from behind on a strong double team to steal the ball while Gasol went to the floor, Brown lost it. As Derrick Favors finished with a dunk at the other end, Brown was already on the court, making his outburst against the Clips during the preaseason look tame by comparison. He had to be restrained by Matt Barnes and Metta World Peace, said some things later requiring the big pixel treatment so the KCAL folks could show the replay without running afoul of the FCC and was -- no shock -- tossed from the game.

Unfortunately, the incident pumped up the Jazz more than the Lakers. Following Brown's ejection, Utah ripped off an 8-0 run, effectively sewing up the game despite a valiant late push by the Lakers.

(Read full post)

SPONSORED HEADLINES

TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Nick Young
PTS AST STL MIN
17.9 1.5 0.7 28.3
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Hill 7.4
AssistsK. Bryant 6.3
StealsK. Bryant 1.2
BlocksW. Johnson 1.0