Davis-Lin pick and roll effective already

October, 22, 2014
Oct 22
Buha By Jovan Buha
Special to ESPNLosAngeles.com
ONTARIO, Calif. -- The play starts the same way every time: Jeremy Lin dribbling atop the 3-point arc, patiently waiting for a screen from Ed Davis.

As Lin's yo-yoing lulls his defender, Davis flashes up and sets a pick. More often than not, Davis will go left, toward Lin's right side, which allows Lin to gain traction and comfortably attack with his dominant hand.

[+] EnlargeJeremy Lin
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY SportsJeremy Lin, above, calls pick-and-roll partner Ed Davis "unselfish" and "smart" when it comes to his style of play.
Depending on how the defense reacts, Davis and Lin will usually do one of two things.

"You just have to read it," Lin said after the Los Angeles Lakers' 94-86 preseason win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday at Citizens Bank Arena. "It depends what the defense is doing. Sometimes [Davis] has got to get out of there quick. Sometimes he can meander around behind for a pop."

If Davis' defender comes up to trap Lin, or "show" with a hard hedge, Davis will slip the screen and dart to the rim. Lin can then pull up for a midrange jumper, hit Davis with a bounce pass or find the open man on the weak side as an opposing defender likely collapses into the paint to stop Davis from scoring undeterred.

But if Davis' defender drops back and hangs around the free throw line, Lin has the speed and ballhandling ability to pick up momentum off the dribble and blaze past the slower big man into the paint. From there, he can lay the ball in, dish to a trailing Davis or kick out to a weakside spot-up shooter (usually Wayne Ellington or Wesley Johnson).

The effectiveness of the game's bread-and-butter play best materialized in the fourth quarter with 3:22 left.

As Lin reset the offense on the right side of the floor after a Roscoe Smith offensive rebound, Davis came up on Lin's right side and screened his defender, C.J. McCollum. After taking McCollum out of the play, Davis rolled to the rim, and his defender, Meyers Leonard, stepped up to contest Lin.

The outcome was predictable, yet virtually unstoppable.

Lin threw a soft lob with his right hand and Davis flushed it home, giving the Lakers a commanding 88-75 lead with 3:16 left.

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Rookie Randle leads Lakers past Blazers 94-86

October, 22, 2014
Oct 22

ONTARIO, Calif. -- Rookie Julius Randle scored 11 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter, and Jeremy Lin added 13 points in the Los Angeles Lakers' 94-86 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers in a preseason game Wednesday night.

Wayne Ellington and Wesley Johnson scored 11 points apiece for the Lakers (3-4), who played a solid defensive game and surged in the fourth quarter despite 18 turnovers. Los Angeles won without Kobe Bryant, who sat out to rest.

C.J. McCollum scored 17 points and Meyers Leonard added 13 for the Trail Blazers (3-3), who rested four starters as their three-game winning streak ended.

Portland center Chris Kaman scored 10 of his 12 points in the first half against his former Lakers teammates.

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Scott: Kobe has 'shown me enough'

October, 22, 2014
Oct 22

ONTARIO, Calif. -- Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant is sitting out the rest of the preseason, coach Byron Scott said Wednesday.

Bryant did not play in the Lakers' 94-86 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night. The Lakers also face the Sacramento Kings on Friday.

"I just think he needs some rest," Scott said before Wednesday's game. "I think he's shown me enough. I think we're all pretty happy with where he is."

Scott was especially pleased with Bryant's conditioning in the team's previous two preseason games, as Bryant played 32 minutes in the Lakers' 98-91 win over the Utah Jazz on Sunday and 34 minutes in the team's 114-108 overtime loss to the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday.

"I think each game I wanted to see if he just got stronger," Scott said. "That's why the last couple games I've been playing him more in the second half -- later in the second quarters and later in the fourth quarters, just seeing how his body would react. From what I saw the last couple games, he's getting that lift. He just looked strong down the stretch, and I thought that was important.

"Like I said, endurance-wise I think he's there. He's in great physical condition. So these last two games, it was more of let's rest it and let's be happy with that, and then we'll move forward and get ready with the four days of work we have to do to get ready for Houston."

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Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless discuss Phil Jackson's tweet of support to Lakers guard Kobe Bryant following Henry Abbott's ESPN The Magazine article about how Bryant is the reason for the Lakers' demise.

NBA GMs like Spurs to win again

October, 22, 2014
Oct 22

The San Antonio Spurs are an overwhelming choice to repeat as NBA champion while LeBron James is the favorite to win the MVP award, according to NBA.com's 2014-15 survey of league general managers.

The general managers gave their answers to 56 questions and were not permitted to vote for their own players or team.

In the survey, the Spurs were chosen to repeat as NBA champion with 46.2 percent of the votes, finishing far ahead of the second-place Cleveland Cavaliers (15.4). The Miami Heat were picked in 2013 by NBA GMs to win the title (75.9 percent).

James was the runaway winner in the MVP category, chosen by 67.9 percent of respondents to win the award for the fifth time in his return to Cleveland. The Oklahoma City Thunder's Kevin Durant, who is out for an indefinite period with a Jones fracture in his right foot, finished second (21.4 percent). Durant won the award last season.

James' return to Cleveland was picked as the most surprising move of the offseason (42.9 percent) while the Cavaliers were lauded for making the best offseason moves (89.3).

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Kobe on Mag article: 'I just roll with it'

October, 22, 2014
Oct 22

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant says he has learned the ebb and flow of the media cycle over the course of his 19-year career and that it has given him the perspective to decide when he wants to react to criticism and when he wants to let it go.

In his first time speaking to media after an ESPN The Magazine article suggested that he played a significant role in the Lakers' recent slide over the last few years, Bryant, known for speaking candidly, responded with a seemingly diplomatic answer.

"It's not the first one and it won't be the last one," Bryant said following the Lakers' 114-108 preseason overtime loss to the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday. "One thing I've come to understand over the years is that you'll have a bad story that comes out on a Monday and it seems like it's the end of the world and it seems like everybody's taking shots at you. But time goes by and then you look back on it and it was just a Monday.

"Then you have another great story that comes out maybe a month later, or something like that, and it's a fantastic story. And then there's a bad story that comes out one month after that. So you understand that it's a cycle, and things are never as good or as bad as they seem in the moment in time."

Bryant continued, explaining his rationale behind remaining upbeat despite the current state of the Lakers franchise.

"Stay focused on the bigger picture and things are never as bleak as they seem at the time," Bryant said. "I just kind of roll with it."

Bryant's teammate, guard Jeremy Lin

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Frontcourt provides much-needed punch

October, 22, 2014
Oct 22
Buha By Jovan Buha
Special to ESPNLosAngeles.com
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The highlight of the Los Angeles Lakers' 114-108 overtime loss to the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday was guard Kobe Bryant uncorking a vintage Vino performance down the stretch.

Bryant dominated Suns guard-forward P.J. Tucker -- one of the league’s better perimeter defenders -- over the final two minutes of regulation, rising up and connecting on three consecutive possessions with fadeaway after fadeaway out of isolation around the left elbow.

[+] EnlargeHill
Richard Mackson/USA TODAY SportsJordan Hill and the Lakers' other frontcourt players had a strong collective effort in a loss to the Suns on Tuesday.
On the fourth possession, Tucker played Bryant over-aggressively and picked up a shooting foul. Tucker, visibly frustrated and helpless, smirked and eventually laughed. Bryant, sensing Tucker's frustration, smiled and gave him a pat on the backside.

But arguably just as important as Bryant showing the ability to still take over a close game was the impressive offensive play of the Lakers' four primary big men -- Jordan Hill, Carlos Boozer, Ed Davis and Julius Randle.

Bryant's heroics would not have been possible if not for the dirty work Los Angeles' frontcourt did earlier to keep the team within striking distance.

The quartet combined for 40 points on 18-of-31 shooting, 19 rebounds, nine assists, two steals and three blocks, pushing around the Suns' undersized big men inside and creating space around the rim to score.

Heading into the 2014-15 season, the Lakers' projected advantage on offense was their dynamic perimeter attack.

Bryant, Steve Nash, Jeremy Lin and Nick Young have each shown the ability to consistently score and/or create for their teammates, and it was assumed the backcourt would grab the offensive reins.

In many ways, that has been the case this preseason. The Lakers' three leading scorers Tuesday were all perimeter players -- Bryant (27 points), Lin (15) and Wesley Johnson (15). But just like last season, injuries have a funny way of ruining the Lakers' game plan.

With Bryant still shaking off some of the rust from his return, Nash, Lin and Young nursing injuries for a majority of the preseason, and coach Byron Scott all but abandoning 3-pointers, the team’s offensive identity has been in flux. There has been essentially no consistency from game to game.

"There are just too many injuries," Scott said before the game. "We're not going to be able to do the things I want to do, as far as trying to find the type of rotations that we would have. But I'm just going to go with what I've got and see how it works out."

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Phoenix survives Lakers in overtime

October, 21, 2014
Oct 21

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Isaiah Thomas scored 26 points including the buzzer-beater at the end of regulation and Gerald Green made 10 of his 21 points in overtime as the Suns topped the Lakers 114-108 in Tuesday's preseason game.

Kobe Bryant led Los Angeles with 27 points, eight of them in last two minutes of regulation. Jeremy Lin, who missed the last three games with a sprained ankle, scored 11 of his 15 points off the bench during the fourth quarter before fouling out with 11.5 seconds left in regulation.

Shavlik Randolph helped seal Phoenix's win with a pair of free throws and a 3-pointer in the final 32 seconds.

The Lakers trailed by as many as 11 in the first half, and were down six points at the start of the fourth quarter.

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Jeremy Lin returns from ankle injury

October, 21, 2014
Oct 21

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Los Angeles Lakers point guard Jeremy Lin returned in a 114-108 preseason loss to the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday after missing more than a week with a sprained left ankle.

Lin, who missed the previous three games, scored 11 of his 15 points off the bench during the fourth quarter before fouling out with 11.5 seconds left in regulation.

Despite Lakers coach Byron Scott suggesting last week that Lin could be the full-time starter because of Steve Nash's nagging injuries, Scott started journeyman point guard Ronnie Price against the Suns in an attempt to slowly reacclimate Lin off the bench.

"There's no thought process right now," Scott said before the game when asked about his decision. "Ronnie has been playing. Jeremy hasn't. So he's going to have to come in tonight and get his feet wet again, and we'll go from there."

The short-handed Lakers couldn't catch a break with the rest of their injured backcourt, as Nash (back) and Jordan Clarkson (sprained calf) both missed Tuesday's game. Scott said Clarkson is still day to day and offered no timetable for Nash's return.

"Jordan could probably go, but we're going to wait another day or so and just see how he feels," Scott said. "We're going to give him another day to get it a little bit better. With Steve, it's the same update. He's just not ready right now. He still has that tingling feeling or whatever it is right now, so he's the one that's out along with Jordan."

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NBA Windows: Kobe Bryant's last stand

October, 21, 2014
Oct 21
By Jason Concepcion
Kobe BryantAndrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty ImagesWith the years dwindling away, Kobe Bryant's window of opportunity is about to close.
Kobe Bryant is facing his NBA mortality. In his own words, “Soon, but not yet.” It’s a testament to the ferocity with which he’s attacked his career that even though logic and a basic understanding of human biology tell us that, yes, definitely yes, Kobe is near the end of his NBA career, just writing it out like this carries a faint hint of danger. It’s a bit like an aging dictator not showing up for his breakfast one morning; who dares go into his bedroom to check on him?

Because Kobe has proved people wrong before: by jumping from Lower Merion High School to the NBA; by blending his game with Shaq’s; by winning titles after Shaq left; by salvaging his public image; by hero-balling out to such an extent that his copious bricks actually transformed themselves into a rare species of unselfishness.

So, if you come out and say that Kobe is close to being done, you do so after considering the possibility that his indomitable, coiled Mamba fury, buoyed by harvested ligaments and European blood-spinning technology, can find a way to turn you into Dewey Defeats Truman in miniature. I mean, would anyone be all that surprised if Kobe took his revenge for being ranked the 40th-best player in the NBA by averaging 40 points (on 40 shots per game; Lakers go 4-78)?

But 36 years old and over 45,000 minutes (13th on the all-time list above Moses Malone, the first player to jump from high school to the pros, and less than 200 minutes behind Robert Parish) equals gray-whiskered dog years for all but the rarest of the rare pro ballers. And, in the wake of one of the most devastating injuries in sports, it is fair to consider this the twilight of the Bryant Age. I feel confident in saying that. I think.

Visit Grantland to read the whole story.

Keith Appling, Jeremy Tyler waived

October, 20, 2014
Oct 20

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Lakers have waived guard Keith Appling and forward Jeremy Tyler, reducing their training camp roster to 17 players.

The Lakers made the moves Monday.

Appling is a rookie from Michigan State. He played 20 minutes in two preseason games for the Lakers.

Tyler has played for Golden State, Atlanta and New York. He averaged 2.7 points and 3.3 rebounds in three preseason games with the Lakers.

Los Angeles faces the Phoenix Suns in Anaheim on Tuesday.

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Hope for healthy Lakers squad fading

October, 19, 2014
Oct 19
Markazi By Arash Markazi
LOS ANGELES -- Before the start of training camp, Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said he expected the Lakers to contend for a championship, and he was pinning his high hopes on the health of Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Carlos Boozer.

No, he wasn’t joking. He said that with a straight face on more than one occasion.

“I think a big degree of our success will be if those three guys can stay healthy,” Kupchak said. “For me, a lot of our success this year is going to rely on Steve and Kobe and Carlos. They will have to stay healthy and play their best for us to be the best team we can be.”

Kupchak might as well have said the Lakers' championship hopes rely on Lakers coach Byron Scott coming out of retirement and playing as well as he did 25 years ago.

After all, the chances of Nash staying healthy this season are probably on par with Scott's chances of suddenly reclaiming his “Showtime” form and helping this team out.

Kupchak and the Lakers came into this year’s training camp wanting to believe they could rely on Nash. They wanted to believe Nash, who turns 41 in February, could be a reliable starter and end his career on a high note after his first two injury-riddled seasons with the Lakers.

As much as they wanted to believe it, they knew it wouldn’t happen. After watching Nash spend most of the past two seasons in the trainer’s room, they knew expecting him to suddenly find the fountain of youth and reclaim his old form at 40 was unrealistic. It’s a reality they have finally come to grips with a little more than a week before the regular season starts.

“I don’t have any expectations right now, to be honest with you,” Scott said Sunday when asked about Nash. “When Steve and I talk, and I talk to [Lakers trainer] Gary Vitti, it’s all about day-to-day right now. You just kind of pencil him out until you know he can play, and then you pencil him back in. Right now, we just have to assume that he’s not going to play every game, obviously, and the ones that he can go, we’ll go with him on those nights.”

[+] EnlargeSteve Nash
Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY SportsThe Lakers knew Steve Nash would battle some injuries, but they probably didn't expect that in the preseason.
Nash missed Sunday’s 98-91 win over the Utah Jazz, just as he did this past Thursday’s 119-86 loss to the Jazz. Nash missed the Lakers’ second preseason game and asked out of the third preseason game after the first quarter, when he told Scott he didn’t feel right and couldn’t continue. The Lakers knew they’d cross this bridge with Nash at some point this season. They probably didn’t expect it to be during the preseason, but in some ways it’s better this way.

Any false hope the Lakers had about Nash being a regular starter and regaining his old form can finally stop before the season starts and Jeremy Lin, who missed the past three games with a sprained left ankle, can be named the starting point guard. Anything they get from Nash this season should be viewed as a bonus. He should be an extension of the coaching staff and a part-time player who suits up on the days he wakes up without his back hurting while getting dressed.

The larger issue for the Lakers isn’t Nash’s health. Any reasonable person, including Nash, didn’t expect him to be healthy the entire season. But Nash isn’t the only player who can’t stay healthy on the team. Scott said earlier this week that he’s just looking for eight guys to play hard every night. At this point, he’ll be lucky to find eight healthy players every night.

On Sunday, the Lakers were without eight players -- Nash, Nick Young, Jeremy Lin, Xavier Henry, Ryan Kelly, Jordan Clarkson, Keith Appling and Jeremy Tyler -- for a variety of reasons and ailments. Scott was a studio analyst for the Lakers the past season, when Lakers players missed a league-high 319 games. It is a league-leading ranking he knows the Lakers can’t duplicate if they hope to be at least respectable this season.

“You have to be a little concerned, especially with the guys we have out being players that we expected to depend on," Scott said when asked about the injuries. “It’s a little concerning, but we have a little less than a week and half or so to go, and hopefully a couple of those guys will get healthy and be ready to play. We know Nick is not going to be healthy for another three or four weeks, but if we can get a couple of guys back healthy, we’ll be OK.”

It’s hard to say what will pass for “OK” for the Lakers this season. They are a far cry from the championship team Kupchak is hoping for, and when they get healthy, they might not be as bad as they have looked at times during the preseason. The biggest concern early on this season might not be Bryant’s health, but rather, Bryant trying to carry the team by himself with so many players out.

“You do want to avoid that as much as possible,” Scott said. “But obviously with the guys that we have hurt, Kobe will want to take that upon himself as much as possible, but you want to try to keep that to as little as possible. You don’t want him trying to take all of the scoring load and put it on his back. We just have to get other guys healthy.”

Waiting for guys to get healthy has been a seemingly never-ending waiting game for the Lakers over the past two seasons. When it comes to certain players on this team, it’s probably time for them to stop waiting and finally move on.



Nick Young
17.9 1.5 0.7 28.3
ReboundsJ. Hill 7.4
AssistsK. Bryant 6.3
StealsK. Bryant 1.2
BlocksW. Johnson 1.0