I’m a tanking skeptic, but with all these bad signs (injuries & drama) maybe it’s fate?
- Gasol whining
- Kaman no PT
- Farmar & Blake out
- Kobe still returning
I’m a tanking skeptic, but with all these bad signs (injuries & drama) maybe it’s fate?
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By Bill Plaschke for the LA Times
LOS ANGELES—In one corner of the Los Angeles Lakers’s practice gym stood Pau Gasol, his constant smile pulled tight.
“The fact that I’m not getting the ball in the post affects directly my aggressiveness,” he said. “When I’m not getting the ball where I want to, where I’m most effective, where I can bang guys and utilize my skill, that affects my aggressiveness and overall intensity.”
About 30 feet away stood Mike D’Antoni, his constant smile disappearing.
“I can’t lie to him…. Our numbers tell us the worst thing we do is post up,” he said.
The short distance between the Lakers’s struggling big man and their headstrong coach on Thursday felt like miles, a giant chasm filled with disillusionment, disappointment and boos.
Once the most embraced Laker, Gasol has become the most scorned. His reluctant offense and dissolvable defense have elicited a dark rumble from Staples Center fans every time he goes near the ball. He is shooting a career-low 42 percent, five opposing big men have already run over him to equal or top their career best in points, and everyone has been wondering when Gasol is going to fight back.
On Thursday, in his own kindly way, he finally did.
In an interview before the team left to board a plane for Friday night’s game in Oklahoma City, Gasol made clear what he usually only intimates. He said he believes his poor play is a result of his poor usage in D’Antoni’s system. He said he has come to the conclusion that he just doesn’t fit.
“This year hasn’t been ideal, certain things are not ideal for me, but that’s not going to change any time soon,” he said.
So why hasn’t it been ideal?
“What do you think?” he said. “I’m not going to say anything, but it’s easy to see. You see a guy with a certain skill set, where does it fit better, where it doesn’t.”
When asked about D’Antoni’s sometimes pointed criticism of his toughness, Gasol shrugged.
“I don’t pay attention. Mike is sometimes all over the place, I don’t give much credit to things like that,” he said.
When asked if D’Antoni has ever discussed this criticism with him directly, for the first time in the interview, Gasol sounded irked.
“Nope, zero. Nope, zero,” he said. “Like I said, it’s not ideal, but it is what it is.”
A few minutes later, in another part of the emptying gym, D’Antoni offered his own shrug and acknowledged he has never discussed his criticisms directly with Gasol.
“We know how he has to be,” D’Antoni said. “We talk, but he has to produce. He knows how to play, he knows what he has to do.”
That last answer contains a question facing the Lakers as this season’s trading deadline approaches. In this environment, can the once-great Gasol ever be both physically and mentally able to do what he has to do?
For now, there seems to be no indication that the Lakers would trade him even though he’s in the last year of his contract. For now they think that, after he plays himself into shape after a summer spent resting his surgically repaired knees, he will still be the sort of asset they will want to sign next summer at a reduced price.
But what if he isn’t? What if he’ll never be? What if, at age 33, with the wear of 13 seasons upon him, this is the best Gasol is ever going to be as a Laker?
He’s been beaten up here mentally, having been both traded and benched in the last three seasons. He’s also not aging ideally, with Kobe Bryant acknowledging on Thursday that he counseled Gasol to consider adding to his game by losing some pounds.
“I told him I thought the thing that really helped me out, I dropped some weight,” Bryant said. “I told him he should probably measure it himself, see if that’s something he needs to do himself. As we get older, our metabolism slows, we quietly become a little heavy.”
To the human condition, add the D’Antoni condition, in which Gasol is being asked to play a system that really doesn’t suit him. It is perhaps an equation for the sort of tentativeness, even listlessness, that Gasol has shown even in the biggest of moments.
“Pau is a great guy, a great player, but the focus has gone away from him a little bit in the last few years,” D’Antoni said. “After a while it gets frustrating, you lose your confidence, you get a little nicked up here and there, you don’t battle through it, it’s tough.”
D’Antoni said he is confident Gasol will find himself. Gasol doesn’t seem so sure. He said he would never ask to leave a place that has mostly loved him during seven seasons and two championships, but, seriously, once they trade you once, can you ever feel settled again?
“I love being here, I love my teammates, I love the city…but [a trade] is a possibility,” Gasol said.
It was hard to tell whether he said that with excitement, or dread, or both. It is difficult to tell anything about Gasol these days, other than a good man is going through a tough time that even he doesn’t seem to fully understand.
“What’s really going on?” he asked. “It’s a crazy world out there.”
A crazy world, and he’s right in the middle of it.
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By Kevin Ding for the Bleacher Report
LOS ANGELES — The bad: The Los Angeles Lakers lost two home games to nondescript opponents upon Kobe Bryant’s heralded arrival.
The demoralizing: They didn’t just lose, they completely lost that winning feeling. Now they’re on the road for the next four games, starting in Oklahoma City on Friday night.
How rough were the past two for the Lakers at Staples Center? At no time during Bryant’s return game against the Toronto Raptors did the Lakers hold the lead. In their follow-up against the Phoenix Suns, the Lakers led for all of 40 seconds—as long as Steve Blake’s opening three-pointer held up.
That’s not a fun or confidence-building way to spend your first two nights with the guy who Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni acknowledged was potentially viewed as “our savior,” particularly after building a winning record without him.
Still, let’s put that winning record into some context.
Going 10-9 was something the Lakers were proud of and earned through the old-school tenets of effort and teamwork. It’s logical now for doubt to creep in as to all that good stuff the Lakers are shuffling away to accommodate a clearly ground-bound Bryant.
(Yes, he did dunk in Game 2, but it really wasn’t that much more authoritative than the “strong layup” he joked about flushing with his left hand in practice. Another time, he had a clear path down the lane Tuesday night, and he just flipped the ball up for a basket.)
But as we evaluate this awkward time for the Lakers, please step back and view it reasonably.
This is like the Lakers breaking up with a really nice girl who wasn’t going to deliver the best marriage. The Lakers need Bryant’s talent, plus that sweet chemistry, if they hope to shock the world instead of overachieving for some pleasantly non-horrible season. There is no option but to figure out how to work Bryant into this mix.
D’Antoni’s explanation about reluctantly letting Bryant play (and play poorly) in crunch time during his return game revealed that much.
“Maybe you lose the skirmish, and then the battle is bigger,” D’Antoni said. “Obviously, we’re going to ride Kobe, so we might as well get it over with.”
Despite how high the imaginary expectations became, that’s how the Lakers saw this stage—as a necessary evil. It’s part of the process.
It’s the loneliness after the breakup while naturally wondering if something better will indeed come along.
Yes, they hoped they could sputter and still survive a schedule that sent the thin Raptors and unpolished Suns into town, but the Lakers clearly didn’t deserve to win either game.
Bryant played the first game as little more than a fill-in point guard for a Lakers team sorely missing both Steve Nash and Jordan Farmar. Then, Bryant shook the team up even further against Phoenix by moving into a wing position so that he could set screens and attack closer to the basket, sending Xavier Henry back to pseudo-point guard, and sending the team’s spacing and role problems into greater disarray.
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images
Bryant has the versatility to do so many things that making him a guard made some sense, especially considering how well he carved up defenses with his passing in recent practices and played pick-and-roll so well that Nash was sent off the ball last season.
But as he finds his way back, Bryant needs more of a comfort zone. So the Lakers gave it to him.
“That’s my go-to stuff; that’s rhythm stuff,” said Bryant, who played guard in his early years for Phil Jackson before shifting into a Michael Jordan-style wing striker. “Catching it in the mid-post area and facing up and operating from there, that’s stuff I’ve been doing for years. I feel very comfortable doing that.
“As far as going to the basket, that’s something completely different. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to do that or not, but I figured I would just try it.”
Playing Bryant at small forward makes more sense given the proficiency that both Blake and Farmar have shown at point guard, with Nash still a possibility to return, too. Jodie Meeks has been stellar at shooting guard, and as much as Shawne Williams fits the mold as a stretch 4 at power forward, the Lakers’ ideal scenario is for Wesley Johnson to keep improving and become Shawn Marion as an undersized power forward, with Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill at center.
So, here’s the good: Aside from Bryant putting together a nice 20-point line on Tuesday night, the Lakers also figured out a few things. Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak was encouraged by what he saw as distinct improvement from Bryant, suggesting in an interview on Wednesday with Time Warner Cable SportsNet that relationship stability—and success—lies ahead.
“Once they get familiar with each other,” Kupchak said, “we’re going to be winning games at a pretty good clip.”
But from an even longer view, the truth of it is that Bryant has to be the Lakers’ spouse. That’s just all there is to it.
The club not only locked itself in by signing Bryant to a two-year extension before seeing him back in action, but it doesn’t want to live any other way.
Kobe is must-see TV. As well as Meeks has played and however many highlight moments Johnson has provided, it’s safe to say that more people have Lakers jerseys with Meeks’ No. 20 and “PAYTON” on the back or Johnson’s No. 11 and “MALONE.”
The Lakers revolve around Bryant. The other guys know it fully, too. As Henry said about Bryant’s integration: “Everybody in the world knows it’s going to be different.”
This season was never supposed to boil down to tapping into the potential of some under-the-radar guys. On the black T-shirts handed out to fans Tuesday night by the Lakers, the twisting snake’s fangs are exposed, and the sentiment about one player and one hope is emblazoned on the front: “SHOW US AGAIN.”
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Made up a new phrase for the likes of phred, myself and anyone else who digs the Gasol. Enjoy!
Apaulogist (noun)- A-Pau’-Lo-Gist – A feller who just digs #16 come Hell or high water.
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Anybody else having problems with ads suddenly appearing on the blog?
This just went from a comedy to a farce. Seems all the luck went to the grave with Dr. Buss.
Uh-oh. Lakers just announced that Steve Blake would miss at least six weeks because of a torn ligament in his right elbow.
— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) December 12, 2013
Kobe Bryant, who had played some SF against PHX, will be the Lakers starting point guard against OKC and for the interim future
— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) December 12, 2013
When specifically asked about Barbosa, Morris and Duhon, Kupchak said those are all players "on the list" of consideration for LAL
— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) December 12, 2013
Mitch Kupchak: "We'll continue to look, but to find a player that can come in and play in front of Xavier, Jodie and Kobe is unlikely."
— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) December 12, 2013
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Los Angeles Lakers point guard Steve Blake is expected to miss at least six weeks with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, the team announced Thursday.
Blake had an MRI, which revealed the injury. He was hurt in the second half of the Lakers’ 100-86 win over the Sacramento Kings on Nov. 24.
Blake is averaging 9.8 points and 7.7 assists this season.
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BY DAVID MURPHY (FEATURED COLUMNIST) ON DECEMBER 11, 2013
For the first 19 games of the season, the Los Angeles Lakers’ Mike D’Antoni was having a field day with a team that might be best be described as a bunch of perfectly agreeable misfits—and then the Black Mamba returned.
What will the relationship between D’Antoni and Kobe Bryant resemble for the rest of the season, partnership or power struggle?
The eternal optimist would say the former—if these guys survived last year’s train wreck together, then this season should be a piece of cake. Bryant’s finally back on the court after a long layoff from a devastating injury, and now it’s time to rock!
Or is it? A small difference of opinion recently materialized concerning the team’s record before Bryant’s return to action. It was enough to get people talking.
Kobe put the Lakers' 10-9 start without him in perspective: "It’s not like we were gangbusters before."
— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) December 9, 2013
At issue are the primary parties’ own words. Per Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles, there’s a differing perception about the Lakers’ 10-9 start.
After Kobe Bryant downplayed the Los Angeles Lakers’ modest success in going 10-9 without him, saying Monday, “It’s not like we we were gangbusters before,” coach Mike D’Antoni came to the defense of Bryant’s teammates.
“I have to disagree with that,” D’Antoni said after Tuesday’s shootaround in advance of the Lakers’ game against the Phoenix Suns. “We were 6-2 in the last eight [games before Bryant's return] and I thought we played extremely well, winning three [in a row] on the road. … So, that’s not quite right. I’m really proud of what the guys did.”
To put the situation in perspective, D’Antoni had in fact earned some redemption points over the first 19 games. Last season was a coach’s perfect nightmarish storm, from injuries to conflict to losses and back to injuries again. Adding fuel to the fire was the very arrival of the new head coach, which was preceded by the dangling of Phil Jackson before the adoring masses before having that possibility jerked away.
Even Laker icon Magic Johnson weighed in on the controversy, which in and of itself caused more than a few media ripples.
The reason I haven't tweeted in 2 days is because I've been mourning Phil Jackson not being hired as the Lakers head coach.
— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) November 14, 2012
By contrast, this season hasn’t been all that bad.
Among the highlights has been a team that gets along and plays well together. Among the positives have been minimum salary reclamation projects that gun up and down the floor and sink outside shots with happy abandon. Among the surprises have been Steve Blake’s career-high assists numbers and a bench unit that is leading the league in points scored at 47.8.
Now of course, Bryant is back and there are certain things that go with the territory. Such as a perfectionist’s attitude and an unwillingness to see the world through rose-tinted glasses.
For Bryant, being in 12th place in the western conference isn’t exactly the cat’s meow. He can be hardest on himself, as evidenced by the unflinching grade of “F” that he placed upon his own performance after his return to action against the Toronto Raptors last Sunday night.
Bryant’s solitary “gangbusters” line shouldn’t have stirred so much discussion, and it probably would have quickly disappeared from view if not for D’Antoni’s rebuttal. Maybe he just thought he was tossing the rest of his troops a bone. But he was also tossing chum in the water for the circling sharks.
Take, for example, the ESPN First Take segment that accompanies McMenamin’s article. Here, you have two guys in Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless, who always love a good debate but now find common ground.
Smith opens up with the following salvo: “What I make of Mike D’Antoni’s comments is that he wishes he [didn't] have Kobe Bryant.”
He goes on to explain that in D’Antoni’s perfect world, you have a captain and four guys who have no accountability to anyone else on the floor, and who are free to take the shots that are open to them.
Smith adds, “Now, to some degree you have to defer to Kobe Bryant so as a result, it compromises everything that Mike D’Antoni wants to do.” Smith also points out that for all the wins D’Antoni had in Phoenix, he never won a ring, and so, he needs to watch what he says.
As for Skip Bayless, he agreed with Smith’s assessment, adding, “The quote came off as if D’Antoni resents Kobe’s presence, that D’Antoni was very proud of the coaching job he had done with a lot less than Kobe Bryant.”
Bayless closes with the following: “I’m paraphrasing the quote a little bit but you see what I mean; it’s D’Antoni saying, ‘Hey, we really had it going on. I’m proud of what we had and now Kobe’s coming back?’”
Mike D'Antoni talks as if Kobe's return is messing up the good thing he had created with his bench rotation. Good luck with that, Mike.
— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) December 11, 2013
To a large degree, this is all about spin. It’s about provoking discussion, but it’s also about taking the most controversial segments of dialogue and running with them. Bryant’s “gangbusters” line was preceded by “The chemistry will be fine” and followed by “Guys know how to play with me, it will be fine.” Those lines however, didn’t get as much airtime.
A day after Bryant’s self-grade fail, he went a little easier on himself, noting that after watching game film, he upgraded his performance from an “F” to a “D.”
And in fact, Bryant’s Tuesday night performance against the Phoenix Suns was a marked improvement over his debut.
So, forward progress, correct?
The Lakers’ next game isn’t until Friday in Oklahoma City. The team has more time to practice, more time to acclimate and more time to find a common rhythm on the floor. Bryant and D’Antoni have more time to find their own areas of accommodation and agreement. It’s not unlike other relationships in life—we all find ourselves in contentious conversations at times and either move on or become trapped.
Will Bryant and D’Antoni make this thing work, or will the relationship devolve? Could the situation ultimately escalate into a full-blown power struggle? It’s a legitimate question. Certainly, remarks are parsed and magnified in the public eye, but they aren’t manufactured from thin air.
And whose job is it to define chemistry, or how players adjust to each other? Is it Bryant’s or D’Antoni’s?
In the best of worlds, it’s a shared purpose. It’s not always that simple, however.
In the Lakers’ current head coach and a superstar who recently signed a two-year extension, you have guys who can run a little hot, guys who will get their backs up. Each will let their remarks fly off the cuff at times, later going back to temper them.
It’s a different relationship than the one we knew between Phil Jackson and Kobe. It also poses a different dynamic for the media. Jackson’s remarks can provoke because he intends them to provoke. He is a master at the sly, calculated dig, and he knows how to use the press to his advantage.
D’Antoni, on the other hand, will sometimes snap at the bait, and as a result, the media will use him to their advantage.
For now, the larger picture is the team’s performances on the floor—how Bryant acclimates back into the game and how his teammates acclimate to him. Within the brightly lit bubble that always accompanies the mega-market Lakers, however, there will also be a closely watched subplot that can assume the lead at a moment’s notice.
And that could be the biggest story of the season—a power struggle that could consume the soul of Lakers nation, the fight to be the team’s undisputed voice. There may not be a true winner in the purest sense of the word, such as the ultimate success of this year’s edition, but in terms of a power grab, remember one essential thing—there’s a reason the team’s paying Bryant over $30 million this season while D’Antoni’s earning $4 million.
Bryant’s star power still fills those high-priced courtside seats.
For now there’s a sense of calm in Lakerland, albeit a somewhat uneasy one.
It only takes a sentence or a rebuttal. It only takes one game or one postgame. It takes just one moment of unthinking candor, and then, all bets are off.
1. Kevin Durant (OKC) 607,407
2. Dwight Howard (Hou) 295,120
3. Blake Griffin (LAC) 292,925
4. Kevin Love (Min) 275,506
5. Tim Duncan (SA) 217,271
6. Anthony Davis (NO) 149,579
7. Pau Gasol (LAL) 133,199
8. LaMarcus Aldridge (Por) 132,818
9. Andre Iguodala (GS) 109,745
10. Dirk Nowitzki (Dal) 89,093
11. Chandler Parsons (Hou) 77,179
12. DeMarcus Cousins (Sac) 60,923
13. David Lee (GS) 60,015
14. Kawhi Leonard (SA) 55,023
15. Omer Asik (Hou) 53,827
1. Kobe Bryant (LAL) 501,215
2. Chris Paul (LAC) 393,313
3. Stephen Curry (GS) 327,449
4. Jeremy Lin (Hou) 240,404
5. James Harden (Hou) 198,667
6. Russell Westbrook (OKC) 149,065
7. Tony Parker (SA) 112,423
8. Ricky Rubio (Min) 63,096
9. Steve Nash (LAL) 60,782
10. Damian Lillard (Por) 55,847
1. LeBron James (Mia) 609,336
2. Paul George (Ind) 489,335
3. Carmelo Anthony (NYK) 424,211
4. Roy Hibbert (Ind) 208,369
5. Chris Bosh (Mia) 156,364
6. Kevin Garnett (BKN) 102,825
7. Joakim Noah (Chi) 75,229
8. Jeff Green (Bos) 55,912
9. Luol Deng (Chi) 54,340
10. Tyson Chandler (NYK) 51,738
11. Andre Drummond (Det) 51,351
12. Carlos Boozer (Chi) 48,745
13. Paul Pierce (BKN) 45,145
14. Brook Lopez (BKN) 37,153
15. Josh Smith (Det) 32,025
1. Dwyane Wade (Mia) 396,279
2. Kyrie Irving (Cle) 365,712
3. Derrick Rose (Chi) 272,410
4. John Wall (Was) 124,851
5. Ray Allen (Mia) 99,464
6. Rajon Rondo (Bos) 80,889
7. Deron Williams (BKN) 44,282
8. George Hill (Ind) 42,536
9. Evan Turner (Phi) 33,605
10. Mario Chalmers (Mia) 32,996
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Kobe Bryant downplayed his team’s 10-9 start without him, saying, “Not like we were gangbusters before.” After Mike D’Antoni heard these comments, he took it upon himself to defend the Lakers start to the season. “I have to disagree with that, we were 6-2 in the last eight games and I thought we played extremely well, winning three in a row on the road — so that’s not quite right. I’m really proud of what the guys did,” said D’Antoni.
These comments have created quite a stir and some speculation on whether D’Antoni really wanted Bryant to come back to the lineup. Remember he had a similar problem in New York when Carmelo Anthony came back from an injury while his team was on a terrific win streak during Linsanity. D’Antoni soon left the Knicks after Anthony’s return because they just weren’t playing D’Antoni’s brand of basketball anymore.
It seems as though D’Antoni wishes he had no superstar caliber player on his team, rather a captain that is an extension of his system that can command the floor. D’Antoni seemed very defensive of his team and almost implied that the Lakers were better off without Bryant. Only time will tell if they can get it together, but Lakers fans sure hope it’s sooner rather than later as the team is currently 0-2 with Bryant.
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It’s almost hard enough on Pau that Tate might let it pass, but I appreciate how Arash comes as a professor from the school of ‘Duh.’
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LETHAL WEAPON 3?!?!?!? Now who wouldn’t be excited about that?
I think it’s probably a matter of perspective as much as anything.