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Kobe Bryant is back, but his return is still to be determined

Posted by on Dec 8, 2013 in Kobe Bryant, Lakers Analysis, Opinion |

Sunday night, Kobe Bryant will take the floor for the Lakers in what will be, without question, one of the loudest moments Staples Center has seen not involving streamers falling from the ceiling and the league running yellow ropes around the court. As J.A. Adande noted for ESPN.com, the trappings of Kobe Return Fever have been about as subtle as a Ziggy Stardust concert:

“It’s reached preposterous proportions, hasn’t it? The buzz that started with his first practices, prompting a Los Angeles sports radio station to run ads paying tribute to the player referred to simply as “Him.” The overly dramatic Facebook video with the grammatically nonsensical “Seasons of Legend” title, followed by computer-generated images of the golden No. 24 jersey buffeted by wind, rain and snow. The eager anticipation of his return, as if Mission Control was establishing contact with the first astronaut to make it through re-entry to the Earth’s atmosphere. And the fact Kobe’s return can generate those absurdities is what makes it so wonderful.”

Because we’ve all — fan, player, and pundit alike — for completely obvious reasons spent so much time looking forward to this moment, Sunday’s game feels in many ways like a conclusion. A return to normalcy. Kobe is back, and the Lakers can go on being the Lakers. This, of course, is completely inaccurate. Move back even a little and it’s clear Sunday is just one more step in Kobe’s comeback. Physically, he’ll be back on the floor, but we don’t know yet when Kobe Bryant returns. Or if he will, or what exactly it’ll look like if/when he does. Even Bryant concedes post-Achilles things will change. Doesn’t mean he won’t be effective, just that he’ll be different, whether obviously or in ways more subtle.

But while nobody likes looking back to last year, L.A.’s experience with Dwight Howard drives home an important point about Sunday’s game, and all the ones coming after. When the Lakers acquired Howard, they thought he might not play until January. Instead, he was there opening night. Unfortunately, even while intellectually most people understood what Dwight was trying to overcome and that it would take time, too many people confused his presence with his return. Dwight was on the floor, but he wasn’t back.

Kobe, wisely, has talked about restricting minutes and allowing himself to miss games down the road if the need arises. The larger point he wants to prove is that a 35-year old player, if he works relentlessly enough, can return from an injury that might normally end a career and still perform at a high level, not to prove he can return and perform like an MVP from Day 1.

This is going to take some time, and it won’t always look pretty. It won’t be a seamless re-entry into an offense that has been happily egalitarian with plenty of ball movement. Defensively, I think we’re all a little curious to see how Bryant performs over time, given how shoddy his work has been at points over the last couple seasons. Long term, the Lakers are obviously a better team with Kobe, but in the short term the disruption could lead to mixed results.

The good news: Let’s say it takes a while for Kobe to round into form, or for the Lakers go figure out how things function with him on the court as he does. Does it really matter? It’s not like the Lakers are one Kobe away from elite status in the West. Making the playoffs will still be tough. Advancing in them a serious long shot. Not that there isn’t anything at stake (like the final two years of Kobe’s career, his legacy, L.A.’s chances of again contending for a title with Bryant as a leader, and about 48.5 million other things), but the relatively low stakes of wins and losses this year means Bryant doesn’t have to press. He can do this the right way.

And the rest of us can watch it all unfold over weeks and months. How does he adapt? What level does he reach, and how does he get there? What concessions is he willing to tolerate? Kobe is back, but when does he truly return?

The next two-plus seasons of Kobe Bryant have the potential to be his most fascinating, which is saying something, no question.

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Why the Lakers have to trade Pau Gasol

Posted by on Jun 10, 2013 in Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant, Lakers Analysis, Mitch Kupchak, Opinion, Pau Gasol | 10 comments

The stated preference of the Lakers, so I’ve been told, is to keep him. Kobe Bryant has set unequivocally he wants to keep him. I want to keep him, on a personal level. He’s the the most genuine, considerate person I’ve had the pleasure of covering. Even the torch and pitchfork crowd clamoring to send Pau Gasol out on the first available wheeled object clamored a little less after he finished the 2012-13 season strong.

But at this point, if the opportunity presents itself he’s someone the Lakers can’t afford to keep. And I don’t mean financially, or because the trio of Gasol, Dwight Howard, and Mike D’Antoni doesn’t exactly have a Three Muskateers cohesion (though both are obviously important considerations).

Under the best of circumstances next season — Dwight Howard returns, Kobe recovers his way to full Kobe-ness from the start of the season, Steve Nash stays whole, coach and roster find a happy coexistence, and so on, the Lakers might kinda, sorta talked about as a title contender. Maybe they’d be able to work enough stuff around the margins this summer to fill holes and sand down the roster’s jagged edges. But that’s the best case scenario. In reality, you have team built around a (by then) 35-year old shooting guard coming off Achilles surgery, a 39-heading-quickly-to-40 year old point guard who spent the previous battling nerve pain, and a (soon-to-be) 33-year old power forward coming off procedures on both knees.

That sound you hear is the actuaries sounding the alarm.

If things go reasonably well the Lakers are likely better than they were this year, but not not good enough. Not close. And the without question the chances of a poor season outweigh the odds of a miracle run. The endgame at this point isn’t 2013-14, but the rebuilding process the Lakers have (at increasing cost in both money and assets) postponed in an honorable effort to hang a few more banners while Dr. Buss was alive and before Kobe retires. Unfortunately, the bill is due. Overdue, really, and while preserving 2014′s cap space this offseason and rolling the dice with what they have is one option, a better one is to use the one big chip they control — Gasol — to gain whatever assets can be had capable of aiding the rebuild.

It would require an Obi-Wanesque bit of negotiating (or something involving a horse’s head*) for Mitch Kupchak to simultaneously improve the Lakers now and down the road in flipping Gasol. If they’re able to pry away some combination of young, cheap talent and draft picks from a team/teams in a summertime trade**, whatever fully grown players the Lakers receive as part of the deal aren’t likely to set jersey sales records at the team store. Their primary value would be preserving next summer’s flexibility and whatever they might in turn bring at the deadline. Trading Gasol very likely makes the Lakers worse. So be it.

The reality of the NBA? Building a truly high-end team almost always requires picks and young parts, whether to groom as stars or used to acquire another team’s.

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Podcast: Lakers injuries pile up, the future for Mike D'Antoni and Phil Jackson, Trips to Mars

Posted by on Apr 26, 2013 in Blogs we like, Interview, Jerry Buss, Lakers Analysis, Mailbag, Mitch Kupchak, Podcast, Q & A | 3 comments

How bad have things become for L.A.? They”re now down 0-2 to the Spurs after , and compared to the aftermath, that”s the good news.

Lakers injuries are piling up like cars on the 110 during rush hour. Thursday, they announced an in-game hamstring pull suffered by Steve Blake will leave him indefinitely sidelined. Additionally, Steve Nash, after re-aggravating his recent hamstring problem is doubtful for Friday”s Game 3. Ditto Jodie Meeks, whose Game 1 ankle sprain prevented him from participating Wednesday. As we joked in a previous podcast, this is been the basketball version of ”Final Destination.”  Scarily — or perhaps mercifully — we”re running out of characters to maim.

But even with bodies dropping left and right, the show must go on. Among the talking points:

  • With the guard tandem now down to Darius Morris, Andrew Goudelock and perhaps a converted-on-the-fly Robert Sacre, is there any possible way for the Lakers to remain competitive?
  • As bad as things have gotten, can the season at least be appreciated for the team-wide grit displayed down the stretch?
  • Armed with new information, we revisit a subject bandied about beforeWould it have been better to simply miss the playoffs altogether?
  • With Mike Brown back for a second tour as the Cavs” head coach, the Lakers now owe him less money, making it (for many fans, at least) more financially feasible to can Mike D”Antoni and rehire Phil Jackson. But on a few levels, is The Zen Master a realistic option?
  • If that”s not doable, what about a different coach, but PJ joining Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak in the front office?
  • Applications are being taken for one-way tickets to Mars in 2022. Who is the prime demographic applying for  the expedition?

Click above to play, or just download the show here. Hope you enjoy it. To subscribe to the show via iTunes, click here. You can also find us on TuneIn.com by heading here.

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No good luck for the Lakers? Think again.

Posted by on Apr 16, 2013 in Lakers Analysis |

Heading into Wednesday, the final day of the NBA regular season, there is still a lot left to determine, insofar as L.A.’s playoff hopes are concerned.

With Golden State’s win Monday over San Antonio the 6-seed is no longer an option. But the Lakers still do have three slots available (though one isn’t exactly ideal) thanks to Houston’s inexcusable loss in Phoenix. Here’s how it breaks down:

  1. If the Lakers win Wednesday, they’re the 7-seed and play San Antonio.
  2. If the Lakers lose but Utah loses to Memphis, L.A. is the 8-seed and plays Oklahoma City.
  3. If the Lakers lose and the Jazz win… L.A. misses the playoffs and it’s pitchforks and torches for the citizenry! Castle storming time!

The Lakers got more good news Monday, beyond the Suns doing them a solid. When the Grizzlies beat Dallas, it ensured they’d have something to play for Wednesday hosting the Jazz — the possibility of securing home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. (Remember, as a division winner, the Clippers can’t fall any lower than a 4-seed, but if the 5 ends up with a better record that team has HCA.)

Tipoff between the Jazz and Grizzlies is at 5 pm Pacific, so the Lakers will have a good idea of what’s going on by the time they take the floor against Houston. Should Memphis pull through, the Lakers could take the court knowing they’re in the top eight. That would have to be a nice weight off their shoulders. At that point, it becomes about climbing up a seed, something they’ll definitely want to do.

While I still think playing without James Harden will hurt OKC in the playoffs — he was the guy serving as the bridge between Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant late in games, allowing both to aggressively seek out points — San Antonio is struggling with their own injury issues and hasn’t been playing all that well over the last week or two because of it.

Not that I’d actually pick the Lakers to win, assuming San Antonio has Tony Parker at their disposal. If Manu Ginobili is back in time for the first round — a growing possibility — L.A.’s odds grow even longer. The Spurs may not get up and down the floor as explosively as OKC, but they play plenty fast when they want (check the pace factors) and are more than capable of punishing the Lakers in transition, and are disciplined enough to exploit every defensive mistake in half court sets.

I.e., they’re really good, better than the Lakers. That said, from a matchup standpoint L.A. would be better off with San Antonio.

And now to the good luck part. While I realize “snakebitten” doesn’t adequately describe the team’s problems this year – Kobe’s Achilles injury being the worst example but far from the only — they have been the beneficiaries of one massive bit of good fortune.

Over the last three full seasons, the eighth seed in the Western Conference has averaged 48 wins. The Lakers could get in with 44, might only need 45, and if they win not only would the latter give them a playoff berth, it would actually elevate them into the 7th spot.

I suspect most fans won’t consider everything all square, but at least the pendulum swung L.A.’s way on one major issue for the 2012-13 season.

Download the newest podcast here. To subscribe to the show via iTunes, click here. You can also find us on TuneIn.com by heading here.

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Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…

Posted by on Jan 31, 2013 in Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant, Lakers Analysis, Opinion, Pau Gasol |

JAWS, 1975

I have two boys, the oldest having just turned three, and we’re currently trying to sleep train the baby. Quality rest is for adults at my place is, to say the least, hard to come by.

So full confession: Sitting on my couch last night, I watched the Lakers tussle with Phoenix in what was for the most part a “good enough” game. L.A. wasn’t sharp, but kept Suns at arms length. For a team that hadn’t won a road game since the calendar flipped to 2013, “good enough” was good enough. Particularly at the start of a critical seven-game trip. Style points are for teams already in the top eight.

At ankle injury
construction jobs
partial knee replacement
outpatient drug treatment
construction careers
wireless tv speakers
hd projector
drug addiction
some point, though — I believe it was near the six minute mark of the fourth — the power of a comfy sofa, a semi-darkened room, and a relatively dull game won out. I dozed off. When I woke up, I felt a little like Rick in “The Walking Dead”, when he wakes up in the hospital discovering the world had become an undead playground.

“What the ****?”

“Oh,” said a friend of my wife’s staying with us for a couple days, “the last three minutes weren’t very good.”

No, they weren’t.

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