Each week, ESPN.com Lakers beat writer Baxter Holmes, along with ESPN.com NBA writers Ramona Shelburne and Arash Markazi, will weigh in on three questions that are on the minds of Los Angeles Lakers followers.
1. Has Ryan Kelly's development come along enough for the Lakers to consider him part of their rebuilding effort going forward?Julius Randle, who hasn't played all season. Kelly hasn't looked bad, sure, but he hasn't exactly wowed anyone either.
Shelburne: I think it's clear now that Kelly projects as a power forward, not as a small forward. But he clearly has the skill set and makeup to be a valuable player at the power forward position. With Randle slotted into that spot for the foreseeable future, that probably means Kelly will have to play in a reserve role.
Markazi: I think he's a piece, but I wouldn't call him a building block or a cornerstone. He's a nice player who can be a valuable role player on a good team.
2. With reported issues in Dallas, does it make it any more likely Rajon Rondo lands with the Lakers next season?
Shelburne: Yes. The Mavs still will have the advantage in re-signing him because they can offer him more years and more money, but Dallas has bigger issues to decide before the Mavs make a call on Rondo. Monta Ellis and Tyson Chandler are also free agents, and it's going to be tough to keep all three players. Whom do the Mavs prioritize? Whom do they want to invest in? A lot will be determined by how the Mavericks finish this season.
Markazi: I think so. He's no longer a max player and I don't think he fits in Dallas so the Lakers would make a lot of sense. He can have all the breakfasts he wants with Kobe in Newport Beach.
3. Brian Shaw's firing in Denver is another negative mark on Phil Jackson's coaching tree. How surprising is this?Holmes: Not surprising. When Jackson rode the triangle to titles, he also had superior talent -- Michael Jordan/Scottie Pippen/Dennis Rodman/et al, Kobe/Shaq or Kobe/Pau. None of his disciples has had that kind of talent or anywhere close. In the end, a system is only as good as the players in it.
Shelburne: I don't think the Nuggets wanted to fire Shaw. I think things just got so toxic in Denver they basically had no other choice. The comments from Indiana forward David West, saying there are "no grown-ups" in that locker room, really shaped the narrative on this firing and salvaged Shaw's reputation.
Markazi: He was put in an no-win situation at the end in Denver. Shaw is a good coach and really deserves another chance with a more respectable roster and a front office that has its act together.
Wade's last two assists set up Whiteside for crucial scores in the final moments. The Heat held on to the No. 7 spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race and posted two straight home wins for the first time in more than four months.
Issac Baldizon/NBAE/Getty ImagesGoran Dragic has been getting to the free throw line more since joining the Heat.
1. The Miami Heat are projected to win 37 games, have a 60 percent chance of making the playoffs, and have the second-easiest remaining schedule, according to ESPN's BPI.
2. Goran Dragic has a career average of 4.2 free throw attempts per 36 minutes, but was getting a career low of 2.9 free throws per 36 minutes this season in Phoenix. Since coming to Miami, he has averaged 6.1 free throws per 36 minutes.
3. The Lakers will keep their first round pick provided it is in the top 5, otherwise it will belong to Philadelphia. The Lakers have a 74 percent chance of keeping their pick, according to BPI.
4. Ed Davis leads the Lakers in scoring efficiency with a true-shooting percentage of 60 percent and is seventh in the league with an offensive rebound percentage of 13 percent. The only 25-year-olds to have seasons at those levels or above since 2000 are DeAndre Jordan, Tyson Chandler, and Robin Lopez.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Al Jefferson had 21 points and 16 rebounds, Mo Williams added 20 points and 13 assists and the Charlotte Hornets beat the Los Angeles Lakers 104-103 on Tuesday night for their third win in four games.
Williams, who came in averaging 23.4 points in his first five games since being acquired from Minnesota, had his third double-double with the Hornets.
Williams knocked down a big 3-pointer with a minute to play to push the lead to six and added five free throws in the final 18 seconds to seal the win.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Former fan favorite Vlade Divac has rejoined the Sacramento Kings as vice president of basketball and franchise operations, a job that will include advising the front office and coaching staff.
The team announced Tuesday that Divac would assist in global and fan outreach initiatives and oversee the player-development programs. Divac, 47, will take a lead in talent evaluation and develop relationships between the team and European players.
Divac retired from professional basketball in 2007 and was named president of the Serbian Olympic Committee three years later.
He averaged 11.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.4 blocks per game over 1,134 career NBA games with the Lakers, Charlotte and Sacramento. Divac is only one of four players in league history with at least 13,000 points, 9,000 rebounds, 3,000 assists, 1,200 steals and 1,600 blocked shots, joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Hakeem Olajuwon and Kevin Garnett.
Do the Los Angeles Lakers' fans want to the team to keep losing and improve its chances of keeping its first-round draft pick? Or do they want to win regardless of the draft implications?
There is no consensus either way, but Lakers head coach Byron Scott offered his perspective on what he felt the fans want.
“I think the majority of them ...” Scott said before pausing and rethinking his answer. “Let’s say half and half. Half of them want us to lose, and half of them want us to win.”
Does that line of thinking from loyal fans bother Scott?
“The half that want us to lose? That bothers me a lot,” Scott said.
Well, Scott was clearly bothered on Sunday as those on Team Tank got their wish. The Lakers, riding the momentum of a three-game win streak, fell 108-101 to an undermanned Oklahoma City Thunder squad playing without Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Steven Adams.
After holding the Utah Jazz and Milwaukee Bucks to sub-28 percent shooting in the fourth quarters of consecutive games, the Lakers were still effective against the Thunder in the final frame (OKC shot just 39.1 percent), but were never able to pull closer than six points.
Jeremy Lin led all scorers with 20 points, while also adding six rebounds, eight assists and three steals. Jordan Hill claimed 14 points and 12 rebounds, and Jordan Clarkson and Wayne Ellington each scored 12 points.
Disappearing act: What happen to the Lakers’ vaunted defense over the past three games? With Durant and Westbrook out of the lineup, the Thunder had no singular offensive force capable of taking over the game, but they found a way to hurt the Lakers in transition (plus-6), from beyond the arc (plus-6) and at the free-throw line (plus-5). The Lakers were too often late on their rotations to corner 3-point shooters and gave up too many uncontested baskets at the rim when they were forced to help the helper. The Thunder may have shot only 41.2 percent, but they still put up 108 points and had plenty of good looks.
Second-unit spark: Los Angeles’ bench outperforming its starters is nothing new this season, but today’s disparity was particularly jarring. No Lakers starter registered a positive plus-minus; all four bench players did. Lin was the player of the game, and Hill and Ed Davis palpably outplayed starters Carlos Boozer and Robert Sacre, which made it somewhat confusing as to why the bench didn’t play more than they did.
Up next: The Lakers embark on a three-game road trip and face the Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday.
LOS ANGELES -- Serge Ibaka had 18 points and 14 rebounds, D.J. Augustin added 18 points and nine rebounds, and the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Los Angeles Lakers 108-101 Sunday night without Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
Enes Kanter had 16 points and 15 rebounds as the Thunder's supporting cast snapped a two-game skid with no help from its superstar duo. Durant is out with a foot injury, and Westbrook underwent surgery on his right cheek Saturday in his native Los Angeles.
Yet the Thunder's role players, backups and newcomers never trailed against the 14th-place Lakers, whose three-game winning streak ended meekly.
Jeremy Lin had 20 points, eight assists and six rebounds for Los Angeles, which got at least eight points from eight players, but couldn't win its season-high fourth straight.