Hedrich Files

Analyzing our pop culture footprint one jump shot at a time.

Category: Los Angeles Lakers

This Week in Sports: Rams Ground Jets by Brian Bernstein

Los Angeles Clippers (9-1)

Lets hear it Clippers fans. I’m ready for the “I told you so” and the “you were mistaken sir.” Lob City proved me wrong by going into Oklahoma City and beating the Thunder. However, I do get to say this… “BARELY!”

I mean, come on Clips. How do you almost lose with the Lawler Law at play? Timeout. What’s the Lawler Law? It’s a rule, or “law,” that states the first team to score 100 points will win the game, created by Clippers’ broadcaster Ralph Lawler.

CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL ARTICLE

This Week in Sports- BRIANS AMP RADIO RECAP

Brian is now writing for Amp Radio, hit the link below to see his latest recap in the Los Angeles sports scene:

Los Angeles Lakers

Hey NBA, do you hear that roar from the back of the pack getting louder and louder? Yup, the Lakers are back!

Sorry, not sorry Clippers fans, but you had your 15-minutes of fame. The purple and gold are back and it’s all because of new head coach Luke Walton. Walton, the youngest coach in the NBA at 36-years old, has a group of youngsters and veterans believing and buying into his system…

Click here for the rest of the article!

Points from the Key Podcast: Ep. 23 – Warriors get Stomped + MVP Picks

Logan, Dave, and Brian record for the first time together in person in Los Angeles to discuss the Lakers thrashing of the Warriors, what the Warriors biggest problems are for the future, and who Brian is most excited about on the Lakers. As always, a deep dive on who will win the NBA’s MVP, and other storylines the trio is most anticipating this season.

Twitter: @LoganGiantsbane

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/dodging-la-podcast/id1001991847

https://soundcloud.com/pointsfromthekey/points-from-the-key-podcast-ep-23-warriors-get-stomped-mvp-picks

———————————————–

Video is available on our Facebook page

Kobe Bryant: Villain or Hero? by Brian Bernstein

  • Villain or hero? A seemingly simple question, but the more you dive into it, the harder it gets. However, I bet that most of you, especially those not from Los Angeles, would answer villain.

If you were ever in the way of this competitor from accomplishing his mission, odds are your dreams were shattered. I can’t imagine having my soul crushed time and time again by this one man, so I’ll give you a second to swallow the pain…….better now? If not, maybe the fact that you’re not alone will lift your spirits.

The worst part of it all? He lived for the rush of being the outlaw, extinguishing the glimmer of hope in his opponent’s eyes over and over. He is of course the greatest Los Angeles Laker of all time, and his name is Kobe “Black Mamba” Bryant.

kobebryantfarewell1404b

As you read this, and you’re remembering Lakers games of the last 20 years, is he the hero or villain in your story?

In 2001, he was absolutely the villain and possibly more hated than Ivan Drago in his hometown of Philadelphia, Pa. The Lakers were facing off with the 76ers in the NBA Finals, and Bryant being Bryant, yelled to a heckler in the stands, “I’m going to cut your heart out.”

He was the last of a dying breed that is now sadly extinct. He would sell out his teammates for another ring. Some would argue he already did that with Shaquille O’Neal.

There are no more players who literally see red when they look at their opponents. His desire to win was second to none. In a world where we measure greatness by success, no matter what Kobe Bryant was to you, hero or villain, he should be respected as one of the greatest competitors ever, one of the greatest players ever, and a role model of success.

For the people who bleed purple and gold, who call this man a hero, we take our hats off to him and salute him in the most respectful way possible.

Where were you when he crossed up Portland Trail Blazers’ Scottie Pippen and threw a lob pass to Shaq over Brian Grant and by Rasheed Wallace to complete the 15-point fourth quarter comeback that ultimately lead to their first of three championships? Where were you in 2002 when he helped beat the Sacramento Kings in Game 7 at Arco Arena after suffering from food poisoning the night before at the hands of the hotel’s room service? How about his 81-point game? Or the time he demanded to be traded which forced the front office’s hand to shuffle the roster that ultimately landed them Pau Gasol? What about when he sought revenge against the Boston Celtics in 2010?

There’s truly too much to write about, and about both sides of the spectrum. He was a villain during his sexual assault case and again when he required Dr. Jerry Buss to trade away Shaq. Then, he reemerges as a hero for winning five titles, and giving his blood, sweat, tears, and soul to the Lakers nation.

6a00d8341c630a53ef0154386708cb970c-640wi

Loved or hated, you have to give respect where respect is deserved, and Kobe Bryant earned it over his 20 year career. You cannot deny the sacrifice and hard work he put in during games, after games, before games, during the season, the offseason, when the lights were on, and when the lights were off.

He was known for having the most intense workout regimens in the league. His hard work and dedication consistently paid off. He studied the tapes of his predecessors and stole pieces of their game and made them his own. He was a student of the game turned master.

If you still consider him a villain, and are seething while reading this, come away with one thing about Kobe, he is a person who loved the game and did whatever it took to be a champion.

Not many players start their workouts at 4 in the morning. Not many had a complete pre-practice workout before practice. Not many players could literally carry a team on their back night after night.

Let’s be absolutely clear about this, no one played hurt like he did. It didn’t matter if he rolled his ankle to the ground, dislocated fingers, got sick, he still played. If he could walk, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind he was playing. And then there’s the unprecedented walking on his own power and shooting two free throws with a torn left achilles.

He was a warrior. A champion. He was a ruthless son-of-a-bitch on the court if you were not a Laker, and he was that same ruthless teammate if you didn’t have the same mindset or work ethic as he did. He wanted to be the best, and all he wanted from his brothers in arms was to give it their all to succeed. To put it simply, play with a winning attitude.

Did he do everything the right way? No. Could he have handled things differently? Of course. But then again, would they have worked? Besides the Shaq scuffle, which both men have since admitted fault to, Kobe’s method produced five banners. It was the only way he knew how to do it.

I don’t care what side of the fence Kobe falls on for you, villain or hero, if you can’t respect the way he trained, studied, and approached the game, you are simply a hater of greatness, or severely jealous.

hi-res-6a5f258537f00c7ec884699318a3aa99_crop_north

After 20 years in the NBA, one MVP, five championships, two Finals MVP, third on the all-time scoring list, and countless other accolades, Kobe Bryant is the greatest player of his generation.

As a Lakers fan, basketball fan, and sports fan, I salute you, Kobe Bryant, in the highest way possible. You’ve thanked this city and your fans for everything they’ve done for you and your family. Well, we first say thank you to your family for giving us you, and then to you for giving us everything you had inside as a competitor.

It was an honor watching you and rooting for you. You are the definition of a champion, and a Laker for life.

-Brian Bernstein

The Ideal Lakers Offseason

After the worst two season stretch in Lakers history resulting in a total of 37 wins, the Lakers are desperate for an entire franchise overhaul. With a few quality foundation pieces already in place (Julius Randle, D’Angelo Russell, and Larry Nance Jr.), the Lakers transformation to relevance needs to stem  from the top, with the front office. Let’s take a look at all the steps the Lakers must complete this summer to make their way back to playoff contender.

Trade Nick Young

The situation in Los Angeles went from toxic to nuclear when the Nick Young-D’Angelo Russell scandal hit. Without diving into the details, the bottom line is that these two cannot co-exist on the same team anymore. The obvious decision is to dispose of Young and keep Russell. D’Angelo still has tremendous upside and just finished a (slightly) disappointing season where he was still able to display why he was worthy of being picked second overall. Russell is under a team control for at least three more seasons, and while gaining the trust of his teammates may be a struggle, the situation is not unfixable, and the first step is to dump Young. Swaggy P perfectly embodied everything that was wrong with the Lakers over the last two seasons, overhyped, under producing, atrocious on defense, and perfectly ok with the results because of previous decisions made regarding draft picks. If the Lakers can’t find a taker for Nick Young, they need to buy him out before training camp begins to avoid any sort of controversy.

130521173949-draft-lottery-iso-image-052113.1200x672

Win the draft lottery, or at least keep their pick.

Everything else on this list the Lakers can actively pursue. The one action the Lakers do not get to decide is whether they keep their draft pick they so beautiful tanked for this season.  The Lakers have a 55.8% chance to keep their pick, which is absolutely no guarantee! Lakers management should be terrified that after suffering through the worst season in franchise history, they may not be able to keep their coveted high pick if the lottery balls don’t fall in their favor. Ideally, their 19.9% chance to win the lottery jumps them up a slot and management gets their choice of either Ben Simmons or Brandon Ingram, both super prospects and potential franchise changing type players.

Jeanie Buss takes a back seat in basketball operations

Jeanie Buss has assumed the role of Lakers President after the passage of her father, the great Dr. Jerry Buss, as well as being the face of the ownership group for the team. She has the most power in the entire organization but for the greater good of the Lakers franchise, she must remove herself from personnel decisions. This may be the toughest pill to swallow for Jeanie and the Lakers, but what more harm can be done by taking a back seat and letting someone with a vision take full control of basketball operations? Results have been increasingly worse since Jeanie has been running the show. Time to let someone else have final say in the organization.

hi-res-5337d05b5018ad710fea294e207b9a87_crop_north

Fire Byron Scott immediately and Hire Luke Walton

Byron Scott has been an abomination since taking over the Lakers head coaching job. Going into this 2015-16 season, it was believed that at the very least the young guys would get lots of time to figure out the NBA game, this was not the case. Scott has proven himself to be neither a win-now, nor a developmental type of coach, so what is his coaching philosophy? His connections in the league have allowed him to remain employed after disastrous runs in Cleveland and part of his tenure as the Hornets head coach. Even with Kobe no longer on the roster in 2016-17, Scott would manage to continue to run out his low-upside veterans in an effort to win meaningless games in lieu of developing their stars of the future. The answer? Let Scott go and offer Luke Walton a godfather type contract that he simply cannot refuse. Walton is as close to a proven commodity as someone who technically has no wins as an NBA coach. The Lakers need a coach who is on board for a long term rebuild, and the first step is to let the young guys already on the roster learn the game on an NBA floor, regardless of results.

Fire Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak+ hire a real GM

Put the pitchforks down, Lakers fans. Kupchak had proven to be a competent GM under the tutelage of Dr. Jerry Buss. But now, given free range from Jeanie and Jim, Kupchak has shown the flaws in his philosophical approach to winning in the NBA. Kupchak banked too much on the allure of Los Angeles as a market and didn’t invest in the draft and creating a desirable team for free agents to join. The Lakers need to look outside their immediate family for their next GM, someone who fan stare the Buss family in the face, be bold, and be allowed to pursue their vision. I’m not suggesting bringing in Sam Hinkie, but making a massive offer to someone like Bob Myers should be on their list of things to do in the offseason. Other intriguing names include Travis Schlenk, an assistant in the front office in Golden State, Troy Weaver, who has been working under Sam Presti of the Thunder, or Jeff Weltman of the Raptors front office. If the Lakers want to swing the pendulum entirely in the opposite direction they can hire an analytics based GM and pursue Mike Zarren of the Celtics or Gersson Rossas of the Rockets. Both the Rockets and Celtics have found major success using an unconventional formula, and maybe it’s time for the Lakers to admit their previous model for winning is obsolete.

Keep Jordan Clarkson for under the max

Keeping Clarkson for anything less than a max contract may be the least important bullet point on this list, but they need to keep him, no matter the price. Clarkson has shown he was a steal on draft night, and although he is already 23 and close to his ceiling, he has proven to be a quality starter. Bottom line, match any external offer Clarkson receives, consistency is important, especially for developing young talent, and Russell needs his running mate.

Plan A+B for Free Agency

Free agency is where the Lakers like to flex their muscle in terms of pull in the NBA. Of late, the Lakers have epically struck out, but that doesn’t mean they can’t bounce back to vintage form this summer. An ideal offseason would look something like signing DeMar Derozan, Al Horford, and Hassan Whiteside, all for under the max. Derozan has ties to LA and will likely leave Toronto if they don’t make a deep playoff run this postseason, and Horford is as good as gone from Atlanta and can be had for a decent price, but the Lakers may need pay a premium to secure his services. Then there’s the conundrum of Whiteside. Is he worth the max? Probably not. But he is clearly going to sign with whoever offers him the most this summer, he’s been in the  league for 4 years and barely made $3 million. Again, the Lakers may need to pay a premium to land him, and he may simply being playing out of his mind in his contract year and regress closer to his averages with long term security, but Whiteside would be a smart risk for the Lakers to gamble on.

Back up plan for free agency: Nicolas Batum, Ryan Anderson, and Joakim Noah. All three are veterans who would bring much needed depth an experience to an otherwise veteran bare roster.

———————————————-

Check out the latest episode of the podcast:

https://soundcloud.com/pointsfromthekey/points-from-the-key-podcast-11-ncaa-championship-nba-news

The Transformation of the #2 Pick, D’Angelo Russell By Brian Bernstein

He was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft by the Los Angeles Lakers. He was shouldered with the burden to play savior to a drowning franchise before ever signing his rookie contract.

Fans gathered by the hundreds to watch his NBA “debut” in Las Vegas for the Lakers summer league games. The stadium was packed, the venue was set, the ball was tossed up, and bang, summer league ended with Lakers’ fans doubting their 19-year-old rookies talent.

Meanwhile, the third pick in the draft, center Jahlil Okafor, was having himself a solid performance for the Philadelphia 76ers, leaving the purple and gold nation questioning their organization’s methods and decision making once again.

However, that was summer. Flash-forward to present day and you won’t hear one word spoken negatively about the Lakers rookie point guard D’Angelo Russell. His teammates, his coaching staff, sports analysts, and most importantly the fans, love him. Although, ask most fans about his progression and they would say his rookie season has been full of ups and downs, and they’d be wrong in doing so. He’s done nothing but improve all year long, and if you don’t think so, just look at the numbers.

In the first two months of his NBA career, he shot roughly 42 percent from the floor and about 33 percent from behind the arc. Now, after 11 consecutive starts, he has bumped those numbers up to 47 and 43 respectively, with averages of 21 points, 4.8 assists, and 3.2 rebounds. This stretch also includes a night where he scored his career high with 39 points while knocking down eight three-point shots, also a career high, in a win against the Brooklyn Nets on March 1, 2016. Not bad for the player declared a bust in October.

If you’re a sports guru you’re probably saying to yourself that numbers don’t tell the whole story, and that you must observe a player when cameras are on. Relax, you’re right. Which is why with Russell, it’s been nothing but poise, confidence, composure, and in his own words, “ice in my veins.”

He’s neither the quickest player nor the most athletic on the court, and he never has been, nor will be, but he counters that with above average ball handling, quick change of pace, and unbelievable court vision and basketball IQ. The world is finally witnessing the talent this kid possesses. The only problem was the lack of patience fans showed to allow him to mature and adapt to the NBA game.

Understand this, any time a player transitions from one competition level to the next, most, not all, but most need time to acclimate themselves to learn the differences between each level. Not only was Russell trying to understand the speed of the game, but he had to get used to the strength of the rest of the league. There is no practice situation where you can simulate the strength, size, or speed that NBA players maintain. At 19, he needed to experience it first hand to comprehend what it would take to go up against someone who has had several years of NBA training.

Know this, it took Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook, Los Angeles Clippers’ Chris Paul, and reigning NBA MVP Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors a few years to hit their stride, so give D-Russ some time too.

The question on everyone’s mind now is how good will he be in a few years? Well that’s hard to project. He is a student of the game and loves to learn. Just ask head coach Bryon Scott and he’ll tell you that Russell is playing with a chip on his shoulder trying to prove that he was worthy of the number two pick and the determination to learn.

“But I do think he’s a guy that works. He wants to get better. He’ll put in the work, but will he go the extra mile? I don’t know,” said Scott in an LA Times article.

Yes he clowns around from time to time, but he is not showboating or taunting. He is simply having fun. So any doubts about him not taking this game seriously should be put to rest. Scott has praised him to reporters about never being shy to speak his mind or ask questions. He has put in the work behind the scenes to get better and it has shown. He just needs to continue this upward trajectory every year.

Now, will he be Chris Paul good? Maybe, but lets not compare him to any other player but allow him to be his own force. What is apparent, is how the Lakers offense operates 10-times better when Russell is on the floor. He pushes the ball at the right times and makes sure he gets his teammates in the right positions to run their offensive sets. His assists are low but misleading, as his teammates don’t always convert his passes into buckets, and the emergence of a post game cannot go unnoticed.

At 6’5”, Russell has a height advantage over most point guards, and he has shown the ability to score with his back to the basket or convert points at the free throw line. The best aspect about this new set of skills, if he gets good enough where teams will be forced to double team him, is how he will pick opponents apart with his passing skills.

Russell’s defense was a very big problem at the beginning of the year, yet like everything else, that too has improved. He is no longer getting beaten on back-door cuts, his help-side rotations have gotten better, he is anticipating passes causing deflections or steals, and has shown the capability to stay in front of opposing point guards.

635878217856883756-2016-01-07-D-Angelo-Russell

When all is said and done, D’Angelo Russell, now 20, will be a solid, if not elite, point guard for years to come. The nay-sayers who were ready to throw a then teenager under the bus are eating their words as they have come to cheer him on with passion.

He and backcourt counterpart Jordan Clarkson have begun to build a beautiful chemistry together, and if the Lakers can find a super-star free agent this off-season, and keep their first round pick in the 2016 draft, they will be competing for their 17th title sooner than expected. It’s safe to say that they have found their point guard of the future in Russell, and if they re-sign Clarkson (who is a restricted free agent this summer), they will have a dangerous backcourt for years to come.

After watching just about every game Russell played last year at The Ohio State University, it is no surprise he is playing his best ball at the end of the year. There is no doubt he will continue to grow and be a dominant player. D’Lo is going to be a special player in the NBA.

-Brian Bernstein

—————————————

Check out the latest episode of our podcast:

https://soundcloud.com/pointsfromthekey/points-from-the-key-ep-9-ncaa-march-madness

Los Angeles Lakers 2015-16 Season Preview: Year of Redemption?

The 2014-15 Los Angeles Lakers are erased from the memories of their fans with the hope that the 2015-16 team will restore order and balance to a winning franchise.

Lakers fans have been patient, more patient than they’ve ever been, but now it’s time to see some progress. This new team seems fit to start righting the wrong. With a core group of young players surrounded by veterans, Head Coach Byron Scott, General Manager Mitch Kupchak, and owners Jim and Jennie Buss are counting on this team to take the necessary steps forward.

Lakers’ fans are not used to tanking and rebuilding a team with draft picks, but that’s the reality for this team that has so mightily struck out in free agency. In the last two drafts, the Lakers are banking on three players who will carry the team and be the core for years to come.

The brightest youngster was their 2014 second-round pick Jordan Clarkson from the University of Missouri. He surprised everybody by becoming selected to the All-NBA Rookie team after grabbing a starting spot halfway through the season and averaging 11.9 points per game. But it’s his explosive speed mixed in with his tremendous jumping ability and his 6’5, 185 lb frame that makes him a star in the making. For Clarkson to become an All-Star, he needs to continue to work on his jumper, but for this season, if he can average 15 points and 5 assists, then the Lakers will be a tough opponent.

The Lakers have had top 10 picks in the previous two seasons, but after only 13 minutes of his rookies season last year, it is almost like the Lakers got the No. 2 and No. 7 draft pick this year.

Julius Randle, the 2014 7th overall pick, returns this season after breaking his leg opening night last year versus the Houston Rockets. After a yearlong rehabilitation effort, Randle is prime to prove to his teammates, and fans, that he will be a force to be reckoned with as a power forward. Think of Randle as a less athletic Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers, strong going to the basket, but a weak shooter. He plays below the rim in the vein of Zach Randolph, but occasionally shows flashes of his underrated athleticism.

This now brings me to the man who has all the weight on his shoulders to be the Lakers savior, the No. 2 pick in the 2015 draft, D’Angelo Russell. With vision like Magic, the lefty point guard needs time to develop and learn the NBA game before we start to see the play-making abilities Lakers fans are hoping to see.

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 10: D'Angelo Russell #1 of the Los Angeles Lakers during NBA Summer League against the Minnesota Timberwolves on July 10, 2012 at Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas, Nevada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)

Let’s remember that the kid is only 19-years-old and will be playing against men. He also did not flurry until a quarter into his freshman year at The Ohio State University, meaning he will need time in the NBA to blossom as well. Russell plays at the toughest position in the toughest conference, the West, facing guys like Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, Tony Parker, and last years NBA MVP Stephen Curry to name a few, and fans need to be patient with him. With that said, if Russell can come in and average 12 points and six to eight assists, he will make this Lakers team much more dangerous offensively.  

Offense can only take you so far, though; it is on the defensive end the Lakers need to improve most. Last year, we saw a team struggle to stop their opponents. They allowed their adversaries to average 105.3 ppg, good enough for second to last in the NBA. I know, as a fan myself, I didn’t understand how that was possible for a team with a coach who preached defense. However, this off-season they went out and added two new players they are beting on to help their defense.

First, they added 7-foot-2-inch center Roy Hibbert from the Indiana Pacers to clog up the middle. His main job is to block shots, protect the paint, and grab rebounds. Hibbert is such a great defender that the NBA created a rule in his favor, the verticality rule, stating that a defender may create contact to a shooter in the air as long as the defender jumps straight up. However, he will be ineffective if the rest of the team does not learn their defensive rotations and help him on the weak-side.

The second defensive stopper the Lakers added is a bit of a long shot. Metta World Peace, the player formally known as Ron Artest, is once again a Laker. After not playing in the NBA last year, World Peace stayed in great shape and helped train and mentor Julius Randle, impressing the coaching staff enough to make the 15-man roster. He will be a bench player looking to spark the team with his defense.

Another addition to the Lakers that will sure spark the offense is the defending Six-Man-of-the-Year recipient, Lou Williams. Williams helped lead the Toronto Raptors to the playoffs last season and will be a great pickup. Pairing him with the hothead himself, Nick “Swaggy-P” Young, these two could give the Lakers some serious firepower unmatched by many.  

With all the new additions and young-guns, there is still the top dog that can’t go unmentioned, Kobe Bryant. Entering his 20th NBA season, Bryant looks to turn back the clock and have one final season to remember. After having three straight seasons cut short by injuries, Kobe Bryant is looking to prove all the haters wrong and return to elite status. Chasing that illustrious sixth ring is the reason he’s stuck around.

Though everything written above is about the players and not the team, for the Lakers to make a playoff run, they must tighten up their defense and prove they can run an offensive scheme that doesn’t just revolve around Kobe Bryant jacking up contested shots.  If you watch the Lakers consistently, you will notice that it doesn’t appear they have a legit offensive system, yet. They come down and set a bunch of screens near the ball, but there is no off-ball movement, no double picks, or anything that consistently gets people open or creates mismatches. They play too much one-on-one basketball making it very difficult to score.

On the other end of the floor, the key to being a solid defensive team is their rotations. No matter who you are, you are going to get beat as a defender, but man-to-man defense is not you by yourself, you have to play as a team. If one player gets beat, its up to the other four to rotate over, one stops the ball, while the other three slide over and cover a teammates man until the player who got beat can recover. The Lakers got beat the most the pre-season when Hibbert has to step up and there is no weak side help taking away his man and the opponents get an easy dunk.

This season should be up and down for the Lakers, rough at the beginning but smooth sailing at the end. If everyone stays healthy, and that’s a big “IF,” and the youngsters can learn from the veterans and progress all season, the Lakers should turn heads finishing around the 40 win mark, just missing the playoffs.

-BRIAN BERNSTEIN

…and check out the latest episode of the podcast where we preview the Central Division and try and decipher who is the MVP of the NFL:

https://soundcloud.com/dodgingla/dodging-la-podcast-38-nflnba-central-division-preview-w-dave

2015 Transgressions: A Lakers Season Review

Imagine starting a race with the illusion of an equal playing field, but as the race begins you realize you’re the only one standing in quicksand. That’s how the 2014-15 season went for the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Lakers were plagued with injuries that started before the season tipped-off. It was as if a magician was playing tricks on the fans, showing an illusion of Kobe Bryant returning to form and leading the Lakers back to the playoffs after missing all but six games in 2013-14 season because of a torn Achilles tendon and knee problems; Steve Nash stating he was finally 100 percent healthy since a broken leg caused nerve damage in his second game as a Laker; and former Lakers shooting guard Byron Scott hired to be the newest head coach, promising to restore the championship culture the franchise is accustomed to.

What was not an illusion, free agent Pau Gasol accepting less money to join the Chicago Bulls, and the Lakers hope for the acquisitions of Carlos Boozer and Jeremy Lin would somehow help them to be a formidable team. The reality is Boozers skills had declined and Lins inconsistency was the reason why Houston had no trouble throwing in their 2015 first round pick to trade him. Lin has never been able to capture the magic he had in New York and has been moderate at best since. Nevertheless, on paper the Lakers looked like they would be competitive.

Lakers fans once again had hope, one year removed from their worst record since moving to Los Angeles. But the Lakers’ feet sunk into the sand as the starting gun sounded. The second preseason game started it all as Steve Nash removed himself from the team and was never seen again.

Weeks later, Nick Young, the flamboyant swingman, required surgery to repair a torn radial collateral ligament in his right thumb suffered in practice. He missed the first 10 games of the season. Youngs return seemed to give the Lakers, shall we say certain “swag”, as he provided a second scoring option to Bryant. Then the tide turned. Young could not find the bottom of the net in the midst of his worst shooting percentage of his career (36%). Lingering knee problems also forced him to miss the final 27 games of the season.

Then came the season opener where rookie Julius Randle broke his leg against the Houston Rockets, ending his year. This was a sign of things to come.

maxresdefaultNear Christmas, Coach Scott began sitting Bryant for rest after he was over-worked in the early months. But rest didn’t help as Bryant tore his rotator cuff in January against the New Orleans Pelicans. The 36-year old Bryant was forced to have surgery to repair his shoulder followed by nine months of rehab.

The starting backcourt for the Lakers was unrecognizable to the untrained eye at the end of the year. It shifted from Jeremy Lin and Kobe Bryant to Jabari Brown and Vander Blue, brought up from the Developmental League because the Lakers were in need of healthy bodies. Brown was brought up in March while Blue was brought up for the final two games.

The season started out with the Lakers winning just one of their first 10 games, and things did not get better from there.

It was not just the injuries that kept the Lakers from winning games, though that didn’t help much, but their lack of defensive understanding. The guards had trouble keeping opposing point guards out of the paint, forcing the bigs to step up with no weak side help contributing to easy lay-ups. When there was help for the bigs, the guards did not rotate quickly enough leaving shooters wide open on the three-point line. This resulted in the Lakers giving up an average of 105.3 points per game, second most in the NBA.

The season was not all bad as we watched a team fight till the very end. Coach Scott had his team compete in every game with most coming down to the final minutes. We just witnessed a team with no elite closer to finish games down the stretch after Bryant went down.

The brightest star of the season was rookie point guard Jordan Clarkson. Clarkson was the 46th pick in last year’s draft and proved he has the potential to be the point guard of the future. His 6 foot 5, 185 lb frame is something the Lakers have missed since Magic Johnson in the 80’s. He is a nightmare to defend because of his quickness, explosiveness and fearlessness to attack the rim. Though his numbers for the season don’t do him justice, 11.9 ppg, 3.5 assists, and 3.2 rebounds, he still has much to work on during the off-season. He needs to concentrate on improving his three point shooting and ability to set up his teammates.

The Lakers finished with a 21-61 record; the worst record in franchise history, and look to regain their reputation as a championship contender. With potentially four picks this draft, including a top-five pick, and plenty of money to go after free agents, the Lakers have nowhere to go from here but up. We hope.

This off-season holds expectations that should create a buzz for Lakers fans, or they will be calling for general manager Jim Buss’ head.

-B.B.

LbPWSPq

2014-15 Los Angeles Lakers Season Preview, By Beans

i
The 2014-15 Los Angeles Lakers season needs to be watched and rooted for with a shot of humility and reality. The Lakers will be better, more disciplined, and more competitive than last year’s team, however, they will miss the playoffs for a second straight season.

The brightest bulb from Lakers world is the reappearance of superstar Kobe Bryant who is returning to action after missing 76 games last season due to injury, achilles and knee. Bryant has shown no sign of lingering affects from his injuries in preseason games, but skepticism still looms as to whether or not his body can withstand 82 games.

Bryant, now 36, will have to find a way to dominate games without having explosiveness in his arsenal. He needs to devise a new plan so he can control a game below the rim and be more of a facilitator for the Lakers to have success. If he tries to be the Kobe of old, the team will struggle.

The Lakers welcome a new, and old, face at the helm in head coach Bryon Scott. Scott does not have the most difficult job because just about any type of season will be better than last year, but he understands in the Lakers world, it is championship or bust.

Read More

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén