Lakers finish One of Most Disastrous Seasons in NBA History

lakers-disaster-seasonComing into the 2012-2013 NBA season, expectations were high for the Los Angeles Lakers. Many people, including ourselves, had L.A. contending for the title this year. And why not since they added Dwight Howard and Steve Nash to an already strong cast that featured Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol and Antwan Jamison.

But after being swept by the San Antonio Spurs in a highly noncompetitive series, those lofty preseason expectations seem light-years away. The closest that the Lakers managed to get during this matchup was a 9-point loss in Game 2. And the blowout playoff losses seemed like the perfect way to cap what’s been one of the most disappointing and worst seasons for a team in NBA history.

Sure Kobe Bryant’s torn Achilles at the end of the regular season limited this club’s ability to compete with the Spurs. But that only explains the playoffs, and not the drastically underachieving team that finally secured a playoff spot in the last week of the season.

pau-gasol-steve-nashPeople were quick to dismiss awful preseason performances that saw the Lakers go winless. However, panic quickly set in after a 1-4 start that led to the firing of head coach Mike Brown. By late January, the team was 17-25 and in serious danger of missing the playoffs.

If there’s any silver lining to this season, it’s that L.A. did rally to go 28-12 over the second half and grab the Western Conference’s seventh seed. However, this is of little solace to Lakers fans who thought that the team stood a good chance of grabbing the 17th NBA Championship in franchise history.

So where did everything go wrong? Well for starters, Mike Brown’s decision to implement the Princeton offense was never popular from the get-go. Skepticism was warranted too as the team made a large number of turnovers in the early going.

dwight-howardCompounding problems was the fact that Howard missed most of the preseason and never got into the new offense. Additionally, Nash would miss most of December and January with a broken leg, thus adding to the team chemistry issues.

When Mike D’Antoni entered the picture as the Lakers’ new coach, things only got more complicated. Now the team was learning a more uptempo offense, with Howard and Gasol struggling to find their place. Gasol especially suffered and even lost his spot in the starting lineup to unheralded Earl Clark for a short while. The 7-footer also missed 33 games during the year in one of his most injury-plagued seasons ever.

kobe-bryantSo based on the injuries and lack of team chemistry, it’s a bit easier to see why Los Angeles had such a disastrous year. But management is not going to be accepting excuses this offseason, and some major changes are definitely expected.

Howard could re-sign with the Lakers next year after averaging 17.1 PPG, 12.4 RPG and 2.45 BPG. He’d likely earn $117.9 million over five years with L.A., as opposed to an $87.6 million, four-year deal with any other team. However, nothing is guaranteed since the talented shot-blocker is intent on testing free agency waters.

The Lakers also have plenty of payroll issues to deal with next season because Bryant is due $30 million, Gasol is set to receive $19 million, Nash would earn $9 million and World Peace is due $7.7 million – all before Howard is even signed. Based on these huge contracts, it’s a good bet that one of these stars will have to go.

Bryant appears to be the only certainty out of the five stars as he’s the face of the franchise and leading scorer. The Lakers would no doubt like to have Howard back too – if possible – so this leaves Gasol, Nash and World Peace left to discuss.

Gasol had some strong games to close out the year after tallying several triple-doubles. Plus he finally looked more comfortable in D’Antoni’s offense at the end. However, the Spaniard also has a player option for the $19 million and could be released. World Peace is in the same player option boat, but could stay on due to the fact that he’s only set to earn $7.7 million.

Considering all of this, it’s possible that we’ll be seeing a different Lakers team take the floor next year. And the big question is if they can put together a lineup that not only stays healthy, but also plays well together.

Dissecting the NBA All-Star Game Selections

Most of us could care less about how the NBA All-Star Game turns out. After all, this annual no-defense fest is much like the recently-released film Movie 43 – a bunch of big-time stars making cameo appearances in a tacky and shameless form of entertainment. Sure there are always a few good alley-oops and street ball moves; but does this make up for the 5-10 embarrassing mistakes that players collectively make while trying to show off?

Okay, so now that you understand our take on the All-Star Game, it’s worth mentioning that being selected to the game is definitely an honor. And the NBA recently released the list of everybody who received a nod. Of course, there were also a few deserving players who didn’t get picked for this prestigious contest. This being said, let’s take a closer look at who did and didn’t make the 2013 NBA All-Star Game.

Eastern Conference Roster

(Starters)
LeBron James F, Miami Heat – 9th appearance, 26.5 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 7.1 APG
Carmelo Anthony F, New York Knicks – 6th app., 29.1 PPG, 6.1 RPG
Kevin Garnett F, Boston Celtics – 14th app., 14.5 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 1.0 BPG
Rajon Rondo G, Boston Celtics – 4th app., 13.7 PPG, 11.1 APG, 1.9 SPG
Dwayne Wade G, Miami Heat – 9th app., 20.5 PPG, 4.5 APG, 1.3 SPG

(Reserves)
Kyrie Irving G, Cleveland Cavaliers – 1st app., 23.7 PPG, 5.7 APG, 1.8 SPG
Jrue Holiday G, Philadelphia 76ers – 1st app., 19.0 PPG, 9.0 APG, 1.4 SPG
Tyson Chandler C, New York Knicks – 1st app., 12.1 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 1.1 BPG
Joakim Noah C, Chicago Bulls – 1st app., 12.2 PPG, 10.9 RPG, 2.2 BPG
Luol Deng F, Chicago Bulls – 2nd app., 17.4 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 1.1 SPG
Paul George F, Indiana Pacers – 1st app., 17.3 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 1.7 SPG
Chris Bosh F, Miami Heat – 8th app., 17.3 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 1.4 BPG

Western Conference Roster

(Starters)
Kobe Bryant G, LA Lakers – 15th appearance, 29.2 PPG, 4.7 APG, 1.4 SPG
Kevin Durant F, OKC – 4th app., 29.6 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 1.6 SPG
Chris Paul G, LA Clippers – 6th app., 16.6 PPG, 9.7 APG, 2.6 SPG
Dwight Howard C, LA Lakers – 7th app., 16.7 PPG, 12.0 RPG, 2.5 BPG
Blake Griffin F, LA Clippers – 3rd app., 18.1 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 1.4 SPG

(Reserves)
Russell Westbrook G, OKC – 3rd app., 22.7 PPG, 8.1 APG, 1.9 SPG
James Harden G, Houston Rockets – 1st app., 25.8 PPG, 5.4 APG, 1.9 SPG
Tim Duncan C, SAS – 14th app., 17.5 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 2.7 BPG
Tony Parker G, SAS – 5th app., 19.8 PPG, 7.8 APG, 0.9 SPG
LaMarcus Aldridge F, POR – 2nd app., 20.7 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 1.3 BPG
David Lee F, Golden State – 2nd app., 19.6 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 3.7 APG
Zach Randolph F, Memphis Grizzlies – 2nd app., 16.1 PPG, 11.6 RPG, 0.5 BPG

Biggest 2013 All-Star Game Snubs

Looking at the list of players who were selected to this year’s All-Star contest, you can definitely see that most (if not all) of these guys deserved a spot. However, there were a few skipped-over players who could’ve made a strong case for their inclusion.

The biggest snub in the Western Conference has to be Stephen Curry, who’s truly been a complete player with 20.9 PPG, 6.6 APG, 4.1 RPG, 1.9 SPG and 45.1% from 3-point territory. While David Lee has definitely helped the Warriors exceed expectations thus far, many believe that Curry is the true catalyst of this team. That said, it’s no wonder why Curry’s coach, Mark Jackson, was angry about Stephen not getting picked.

After Curry, it’s hard to find a true Western Conference snub, but Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka had an outside chance. Gasol does a lot of intangible things in addition to averaging 13.2 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 3.5 APG and 1.8 BPG. Ibaka has really improved his offense this season and is averaging 14.0 PPG on 56% shooting. Plus he’s chipped in his usual 8.3 RPG and 2.8 BPG.

Moving to the Eastern Conference, many people are outraged over Brook Lopez being left off the roster. Not only does the Brooklyn Nets standout average 18.6 PPG, 7.4 RPG and 2.1 BPG, but he also leads the East’s third-best team. Many people have speculated that coaches didn’t vote Lopez in because they didn’t like how the Nets fired coach Avery Johnson.

The Indiana Pacers’ Paul George may have earned his first All-Star selection at the expense of teammate David West. The Pacers usually go to West when they need a crucial basket, and he provides veteran leadership….along with 16.6 PPG, 7.8 RPG and 1.0 BPG.

Paul Pierce definitely deserved a reserve role on the All-Star team as well; he’s averaging 18.9 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 3.8 APG and 1.4 SPG. However, Pierce was affected by the fan vote since people stuffed the ballots for his teammates, Rajon Rando and Kevin Garnett. It’s likely that coaches didn’t think the Boston Celtics deserved three All-Star players since they’re currently 20-23 and eighth in the East.

One more player who we think could’ve earned an All-Star nod is Brandon Jennings. The Milwaukee Bucks point guard has put up 18.6 PPG, 6.0 APG and 1.93 SPG for the East’s seventh best team. However, he also shoots just 40.5% from the field, so this could have been a reason for leaving him off the squad. The same goes for his teammate, Monta Ellis (18.8 PPG, 5.6 APG, 1.81 SPG), who shoots a similarly-low 40.3%.

Kobe Bryant not Happy – Lakers continue to struggle

A few weeks ago, we did a piece on if the LA Lakers were a playoff team or not. Our general consensus was that the Lakers were likely to make the playoffs because of the following:

1) Steve Nash wasn’t playing at the time.
2) LA was more talented than other teams chasing playoff spots.
3) The Lakers were only 1 1/2 games behind the West’s eighth seed.
4) Only a quarter of the NBA season had been played.

Well Steve Nash is back, the 2012-2013 NBA is over halfway finished, and LA is now 4 games behind Houston for the eighth seed. Following a 106-93 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies tonight, the Lakers are now eight games below .500. This being said, it’s starting to look questionable as to whether or not this team can really make the postseason.

Not surprisingly, Kobe Bryant isn’t happy about his team’s performance on the season. And Bryant was sounding more like a coach than player when he stated:

We need to go back to basics. We need to put guys in positions to do what they do best. We need to strip it down. Steve is best in pick-and-roll. Pau is best in the post. I’m best from the free-throw line extended down. Let’s go back to basics.

We’ve got to evaluate what’s going on. Management is looking at it. The players are looking at it. I’m looking at myself. I’m shooting a low percentage right now, and I’ve got to look at that. It’s on me to make shots, but I’m having to make tough shots, getting the ball 30 feet from the basket and (expletive) like that.

Besides discussing some of the general things that LA needs to do to change things around, Bryant also talked about Dwight Howard’s discontent on offense. Howard thinks he needs to touch the ball more, as evidenced by his declining scoring average. However, Kobe doesn’t quite agree with this since he said:

I’ve tried to go out of my way to get him the ball. Sometimes I end up looking like an idiot, because I get up in the air, I’ve got a shot, but I try to find him. But he thinks I’m going to shoot, so his back is turned. I’m trying to think about getting him the ball a lot – take care of him as much as I possibly can. It takes me out of rhythm a little bit, but I’m fine with that. If that’s going to help our team, I’m more than willing to do that.

Bryant and Howard aren’t the only two players who are frustrated during the LA Lakers trying times. Pau Gasol seems to have gotten the worst of the deal since he’s been forced to shift from center to power forward because of Howard’s arrival. The end result is that Gasol is shooting a career-low 43.1% from the floor while often playing outside the paint.

Thanks to his struggles, coach Mike D’Antoni replaced Gasol in the starting lineup with Earl Clark. We’re not sure if this is a designed motivational move to get Pau playing better, or D’Antoni truly thinks that Earl is a better fit in the starting lineup. Clark has provided a nice boost off the bench, but Gasol is a four-time All-Star who was part of two championship Lakers teams.

In any case, Bryant, Howard, Gasol and the rest of the Lakers need to find a solution to the team’s struggles sooner than later. If they don’t, this club could be among the NBA’s biggest bust in history….if not the biggest bust.

Are the L.A. Lakers even a Playoff Team?

Before the 2012-2013 NBA season opened, Metta World Peace made a bold prediction that the L.A. Lakers could go 73-9, thus beating the Chicago Bulls’ regular season record of 72-10. And while most people thought this was a difficult goal to reach, it didn’t seem impossible given that the Lakers added Dwight Howard and Steve Nash to go along with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Antawn Jamison and World Peace.

But here we are now 26 games into the regular season, and the Lakers have already missed out on this goal. In fact, L.A. is just 12-14 and sitting 12th in the Western Conference standings. Taking this into account, it’s worth asking whether or not the Lakers are even a playoff team by looking at their promising and not-so promising points.

The Good: A Big Missing Piece

We’re not going to argue that Los Angeles hasn’t underachieved because they’ve had Bryant, Howard and World Peace for the entire year. Gasol has also played in most of the team’s games, which, given these four stars, SHOULD be enough to be among the playoff teams.

However, one integral part has been missing from this club all year and that’s PG Steve Nash. He’s been out since October 31st with a leg fracture and hasn’t been there to orchestrate the offense. In his absence, L.A. has been trying to get by with a trio of Chris Duhon, Darius Morris and Steve Blake. The result: 12.8 PPG and 9.7 APG among three players.

While this is okay, Nash figures to do this – or more – by himself after returning from injury. Going further, the Lakers’ overall flow on offense should be much better with Nash back in the lineup.

The Bad: Gasol and Howard are struggling Together

In theory, the ‘Twin Towers’ setup always seems great because you’ve got two big men dominating the paint. But as history has often shown us, two excellent big men can hamper each other’s production. Such seems to be the case with Howard and Gasol since these two don’t work well off each other.

The thinking before the season was that Pau could play more forward while Howard would man the paint. However, Gasol has never been comfortable in the forward role and is shooting a dismal 41.4% – down from a career average of 51.8%. Now 41.4% might work if you’re a 6’2″ runner and gunner; but not when you’re a 7’0″ forward-center.

Howard is not innocent in the matter either because, while he’s shooting 57.6% from the field and averaging 18.1 PPG, there have been plenty of times where he’s completely disappeared on offense. That said, the Lakers have been transitioning to a gameplan where the two natural centers play in separate units, rather than together.

The Good: Stats are looking Nice

Another indication that L.A. could grab a playoff spot in the West involves their strong statistical performance. Despite being a sub-.500 team, the Lakers are sixth in points per game with a 102.08 average. Their defense hasn’t been quite as good since they’ve allowed 99.32 PPG, which ranks 21st in the league.

However, this is still a +2.76 differential, thus indicating the tide could later turn. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, teams that have had a positive point differential are over 95% likely to make the playoffs. So this definitely bodes well for the Lakers’ postseason hopes.

The Bad: The West is Deep

We expect L.A. to improve as the season keeps moving along. But even with improvement, it’ll be no cakewalk to make the playoffs with how many solid teams are in the Western Conference – especially after starting 12-14.

Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Memphis and the L.A. Clippers are locks to make the playoffs with their talent and strong starts. That leaves four spots open, which are currently occupied by the youthful, but talented Golden State, Denver, Minnesota and Houston. Let’s also throw in the fact that Utah, Dallas and Portland are all ahead of the Lakers and figure to compete for playoff spots. Including the Lakers, this makes eight legitimate contenders for four postseason spots.

The Verdict?

Overall, the L.A. Lakers are easily more talented than every team chasing what we suspect are the last four playoff spots. And given that they’re playing without Steve Nash and are the only non-playoff team with a positive point differential, we believe the Lakers will get it together and at least make the playoffs.

One more point worth mentioning is that L.A. is only 1 1/2 games behind both Minnesota and Houston (currently seventh and eighth). Given that we’re only a quarter of the way through the season, expect the Lakers to make up this ground and grab anywhere from a fourth to eighth seed.

NBA Power Rankings for Nov. 5th, 2012

Now that we’re a few games into the 2012-2013 NBA regular season, we finally get a chance to see how some teams perform when it really counts. Okay, so maybe these first few games don’t count for everything, but they’re a lot more relevant than preseason results. Interestingly enough, some of our previous top teams have stumbled out of the gates – L.A. we’re looking at you – while others have been surprisingly good. Let’s discuss all of this and more in our latest NBA power rankings.

1. Miami Heat (2-1) – A loss on the road to the Knicks hasn’t wavered our confidence in Miami’s ability to repeat this season. Ray Allen has made a nice transition from the Celtics to Heat since he’s averaging 15.7 PPG while shooting 56.3% from the three-point line. Lebron James is his usual self too by posting statlines of 23 PPG, 8.7 RPG and 6.7 APG.

2. San Antonio Spurs (3-0) – Are the Spurs too old to remain an NBA power? They certainly haven’t shown any signs of dropping off so far with an undefeated early season record. SF Kawhi Leonard is injecting some nice youth into San Antonio by averaging 12.7 PPG and 3.3 SPG.

3. L.A. Clippers (2-1) – For the first time in his career, SG Jamal Crawford spent time working on his shooting this summer. And it’s definitely paid off so far since he’s averaging 25.7 PPG and shooting 53.5% from the field. If this keeps up, maybe Chris Paul and Blake Griffin will be taking a back seat to Crawford’s talents.

4. Oklahoma City (1-2) – How much are the Thunder going to miss James Harden? We guess pretty badly after beginning the season 1-2. However, Oklahoma City certainly has plenty of firepower with Kevin Durant, Kevin Martin and Russell Westbrook all averaging over 20 PPG to open the season.

5. Indiana Pacers (2-1) – Even without a true star player, Indiana looks to be a force in the East thanks to a well-rounded lineup that includes PF David West (19 PPG, 8.7 RPG), SF Paul George (14 PPG, 13 RPG) and C Roy Hibbert (11 PPG, 4 BPG).

6. L.A. Lakers (1-3) – It’s hard to rank the Lakers too far down the list because of an extremely talented lineup that includes Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Metta World Peace and Steve Nash. But the team hasn’t exactly had a dream start after dropping three out of their first four games.

7. Houston Rockets (2-1) – The Rockets leap into our rankings on the strength of good guard play from James Harden and Jeremy Lin. Harden is playing like an early MVP candidate since he’s scoring 35.3 PPG, 6.3 RPG and 6.3 APG. As for Lin, he’s averaging 15.7 PPG and 7.3 APG.

8. New York Knicks (2-0) – New York has five starters averaging double digit-scoring so far in Steve Novak, Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd, J.R. Smith and Carmelo Anthony. The latter is putting up his usually-stellar 28.5 PPG and has the Knicks off to a very hot start.

9. Memphis Grizzlies (1-1) – Not much has changed for Memphis after starting out on the road at L.A. and Golden State. We can’t really fault the Grizzlies too badly after losing to the Clippers so it may be some time before we get an accurate gauge on whether they’ll move up or down our rankings.

10. Milwaukee Bucks (2-0) – The Bucks opened the year with a big win at Boston and also grabbed a home win against Cleveland. PG Brandon Jennings is playing excellent right now with 17 PPG and 13 APG while SG Monta Ellis (18.7 PPG) and SF Mike Dunleavy (18 PPG) are also off to good starts.