Injury cuts Lamar Odom’s European Basketball Stint Short

lamar-odom-spanish-leagueLess than three years ago, Lamar Odom was busy averaging 14.4 PPG and 8.7 RPG en route to winning the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award. But his basketball career has taken a definite downward spiral since then after problems with alcohol abuse and a DUI arrest.

A two-time champion with the Los Angeles Lakers, Odom was hoping to revive his career and reputation with a stint in Europe. Last month, he signed a deal with Laboral Kutxa of the Spanish ABC League for two months, with an option to extend the deal. Unfortunately, this arrangement is ending even shorter than expected because Odom has been forced out of action with a back injury.

After traveling back to the United States, his personal doctors in New York ruled him unfit to play. This means his contract with Laboral Kutxa has ended, though, the team didn’t rule out the possibility of a return. Laboral Kutxa released a statement saying, “The club hopes that the recovery process will go well and leaves open the possibility of resuming a future commitment to the player depending on the evolution of his injury.”

The team went on to state that Odom suffered from lumbar radiculitis, which is a spinal injury that leads to intense lower back pain. The 34-year-old power forward was only able to play in two games for a total of 23 minutes, scoring just two points with Laboral Kutxa.

lamar-odom-spanish-league-1“This is something that is beyond my control,” Odom said. “This is beyond anyone’s control. It’s up to me as a responsible athlete to, if I’m injured, to take care of it. I think everything happens for a reason. I look forward to getting back on court as soon as possible. I want to treat this injury and be aggressive and treat it and get it done.”

As mentioned before, Odom’s basketball career hasn’t been going so well lately. And this setback with his Spanish team is just another huge blow to the 14-year veteran. Odom’s best years are clearly behind him. However, it still seems like he can contribute to a team, as he showed with the Clippers last year, averaging 4.0 PPG and 5.7 RPG in 82 games.

The window of opportunity for him to play the game again is closing, though. If Lamar can get healthy and refocused on basketball, there’s a good chance that he’ll get at least one more chance with either an NBA or European team.

Steve Nash on not retiring from NBA: “I want the Money”

steve-nash-contract-retireIt’s safe to say that the past two seasons haven’t gone the way that Steve Nash or the Los Angeles Lakers had hoped for. The Lakers entered last season with title hopes, only to struggle to land the West’s seventh seed and get swept out of the first round by the Spurs. This year has been even worse since LA is currently tied with Utah for the West’s worst record at 22-44. Nash has rarely been on the court for these struggles either since he’s played in just 65 of a possible 164 regular season games the past two seasons.

This total won’t go up either because, after playing just 10 games this year, Nash will sit out the rest of the 2013-14 campaign due to leg and back injuries. At 40 years old and stuck in the second year of a three-year contract with a team going nowhere, one might think that the two-time MVP would consider retirement. However, retiring is the furthest thing from Nash’s mind right now.

In an interview/documentary with ESPN’s Grantland, which is about as candid as you can get, Nash flat-out admitted that he’s sticking with the Lakers for one more season so that he can get the remainder of his deal. Responding to all of the Lakers fans who’ve been bashing him for continuing to play, Nash told Grantland, “It’s just a reality, I’m not going to retire because, you know, I want the money. It’s honest.”

Signed prior to the 2012-13 season, Nash’s three-year contract gives him $27.9 million – $8.9 million last season, $9.3 million this year, and $9.7 million for the 2014-15 campaign. So yea, there’s definitely some motivation for Nash to play one more season and collect on nearly $10 million more before heading off into retirement.

Of course, continuing to play could have negative implications on how people view Nash’s career when he retires – at least in the minds of Lakers fans. But you also have to consider that the 8-time All-Star is human and he’s got a right to keep playing basketball. “We want honest athletes but at the same time you know you’re going to have people out there who are like, ‘Oh man, he’s so greedy, he’s already made X amount of money in his career and he’s got to take this last little bit,” Nash said in response to his critics. “Yes, I do. I have to take this last little bit. I’m sorry if that is frustrating to some. But if they were in my shoes they would do exactly the same thing. I don’t believe for a minute that they wouldn’t.”

steve-nash-contract-retire-1It’s also worth mentioning in all of this is that Nash didn’t suddenly become a greedy money hoarder, looking for one final big payday at the expense of his last team. As the 3-part Grantland documentary shows, he’s working hard to rehab his back and knee in an effort to play well next season. From hitting the weight room to doing yoga on the beach, the storied point guard isn’t just trying to be a leech on the Lakers organization. He said as much with the following excerpt:

While I’m not willing to retire and give up that last year of my contract, I’m also not willing to sit back and say ‘Yeah, I don’t quite feel it today’ and ‘Yeah, I don’t quite feel it’ the next day and so on and so forth until I’m forgotten about and the contract is over. But that’s just not me. I still love the game enough. I still love the fight and want to do everything I can to get back out there. That is a real, genuine affection for this game that I have.

One of the last things that Nash discussed was how he doesn’t want to hold the organization back or prevent LA from evaluating younger players during this meaningless season. Now that he’s officially sidelined for the rest of the year, he certainly won’t be standing in anybody’s way.

It’s hard to see Nash making a huge impact next season, especially the way this year has gone, with him averaging 7.6 PPG, 4.7 APG and shooting just 36% in 10 appearances. This definitely isn’t the same guy who fueled nearly unstoppable offenses during lengthy stints with the Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Suns.

But even if Nash fails miserably to rekindle any sort of magic in his last year with the Lakers, he’ll at least retire with some outstanding numbers. The Canadian boasts career averages of 14.3 PPG, 8.5 APG, 90.4% free-throw shooting and 42.8% three-point shooting. Regardless of how salty LA fans may be about him sticking out the last season of a guaranteed contract, you can’t deny Nash’s career-long success. And it’s sure to land him a spot in the NBA Hall of Fame someday.

Should the Lakers fire Mike D’Antoni?

mike-dantoniDating back to last year, the circumstances of the Los Angeles Lakers hiring Mike D’Antoni seemed a little strange. Public perception was that the Lakers might re-hire Phil Jackson after Mike Brown was quickly ousted. But when D’Antoni was quickly tabbed to fill the Lakers’ head coaching role, it became clear that management didn’t want to be under Jackson’s thumb once again.

But even if they didn’t want Jackson assuming his over-expanded role, picking D’Antoni was still a strange choice. He later admitted that he never spoke with Dr. Jerry Buss before the hiring and couldn’t believe that they gave him the job. This didn’t seem to be a popular choice among fans, but given D’Antoni’s resume, it wasn’t the worst choice either.

He led Los Angeles to a 40-32 record in his shortened season, despite fighting an impossible battle to gel parts like Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard together. Unfortunately, Kobe Bryant’s season-ending achillies tendon injury wiped out any hope of a deep playoff run. In fact, Los Angeles looked totally outmatched when San Antonio swept them in the first round.

kobe-bryantThe offseason didn’t do D’Antoni any better since Buss died, Howard went to Houston in free agency and Bryant was set to miss the first few weeks of the 2013-14 season. But D’Antoni certainly didn’t spend any time whining, instead coaching L.A. to a 10-9 record to start the season. This was actually a pretty amazing coaching job when one considers that Chris Kaman, Jordan Farmar and Steve Nash all spend time on the injury list.

With a winning record and Bryant returning from injury, things were looking up for the Lakers. But then Bryant got injured once again, leaving his team down a 16-time All-Star. Still, the team pressed on and managed to sit at 13-13 and within striking distance of the playoffs. This will no doubt be the Lakers’ peak, though, because they’ve since lost 17 out of their last 20 games.

This stretch has not only put L.A. out of playoff contention in the loaded Western Conference, but it’s also put D’Antoni on a very hot seat. Sure they’d still have a shot at the postseason if they were in the East, but they’re not. This team is now simply hoping to avoid the Pacific Division cellar, a spot which they currently tie for with Sacramento.

Looking at Los Angeles’ 16-30 record, there’s more than enough reason to fire Mike D’Antoni at this point. This is the Lakers after all and they’re not satisfied with losing. Of course, we merely need to look at all of the team’s injuries to make excuses for keeping D’Antoni a while longer. It seems that L.A. management is now facing a very tough decision with the guy whom they mysteriously chose as their coach last year.

Lakers Betting Odds to take Hit with Bryant out for 6 Weeks

kobe-bryantDon’t count on the Los Angeles Lakers being favored in too many betting lines for the next several weeks. After all, their star shooting guard, Kobe Bryant, is going to miss significant time once again with a major injury.

As many will recall, Bryant suffered an Achilles tear at the end of last year, which required 7 and a half months of rehabilitation. Earlier today, he learned that he’ll miss the next six weeks with a fractured left knee. The injury first surfaced in the Lakers’ Tuesday night win over the Memphis Grizzlies. Bryant complained about stiffness in his left knee following an awkward move. We now know that this is more than just some stiffness, as the knee injury will force him out until early February.

Bryant has only been back in the Lakers blue and gold for six games this year. During his short stint back from last season’s injury, he hasn’t exactly been the same old Kobe. His stats thus far are 13.8 PPG, 6.3 APG, 4.3 RPG, 42.5% shooting, and a very ugly 5.67 TPG. Most people expected Number 24 to continue rounding into form as he got more games under his belt. But now he’ll have to start the process all over again, as he should miss around 20 more games or so.

kobe-bryantSo what are the Lakers’ postseason chances looking like with Bryant now set to miss a significant chunk of time? Well they were already looking shaky in the stacked Western Conference, where the current eighth seed, Denver, boasts a 14-10 record. Los Angeles is currently just 12-13, which is 2.5 games out of a playoff spot. A healthy and in-shape Bryant could’ve helped close this gap, but now it’s up to the supporting cast.

Unfortunately, this cast hasn’t offered up much support, with Steve Nash having sat all but 6 games and Pau Gasol ailing right now. The top scorer on the team has been Nick Young, who’s averaging 14.9 PPG on 43.5% shooting. Gasol is not far behind him with 14.7 PPG, but the big man is shooting a similar 43.9% from the field. The team is missing much-needed production from Steve Blake (9.8PPG, 7.7APG) and Jordan Farmar (9.2PPG, 4.4APG), both of whom are out with injuries.

So this leaves the team without any guards who can really distribute the ball. In turn, this has created a situation where big men Gasol and Chris Kaman (8.3PPG, 5.1RPG) are becoming frustrated with their lack of good low-post looks.

Jodie Meeks (12.4PPG, 0.9APG) and Xavier Henry (9.6PPG, 1.0APG) are likely to see significant time at the point position. Of course, this isn’t exactly a good thing because both players have less than a 1:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. All in all, it looks like the Lakers’ injury issues could kill their playoff chances before the season even reaches the All-Star break.

2014 NBA Futures: Lakers still gunning for Title Next Year

la-lakers-titleLast season, the Los Angeles Lakers featured a loaded roster that seemed perfectly capable of winning the NBA Championship. But even with a team of Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Steve Nash, Metta World Peace and Pau Gasol, the Lakers struggled to a seventh place Western Conference finish and were promptly swept by the San Antonio Spurs.

Now the Lakers enter the 2013-14 season having lost the battle to re-sign Howard and with Bryant rehabbing his torn Achilles tendon. They also cut World Peace, who later signed with the New York Knicks. That leaves LA with the aging core of Gasol, Nash and Bryant – not exactly the chic pick to win it all next year.

Taking this into account, some people thought that the Lakers would be best served by bringing Kobe along slowly, clearing up cap space and waiting until the summer of 2014, when they could sign a big-time star like Carmelo Anthony or LeBron James. By tanking next season, the Lakers could also pick up a high pick in the talent-laden 2014 NBA Draft.

la-lakers-title-1But none of this seems to be in the cards for LA as they’ll be entering October with the same mindset as always: compete for an NBA Championship.

Bryant is rehabbing with plans to be ready for the preseason, the team signed big man Chris Kaman to a one-year, $3.2 million deal, and Nash is also healing from his injuries in hopes of playing a full season. As if these aren’t signs that LA is preparing for another shot at the title, general manager Mitch Kupchak recently said so himself.

“You know that’s not our plan. Our plan was to bring back Dwight Howard and that would have sky-rocketed our payroll,” Kupchak said, when asked about mailing in next season. “That’s never a plan here with our fan base, to throw in the towel before the season begins. We always try to win, and that’s what we’re going to do this year.

“We have challenges. There’s no doubt. We don’t know when Kobe’s coming back, and we don’t know what level he’s going to come back at, although we’re optimistic. Everything’s good with Steve. Pau should be fine. We’ve added some athleticism. We’re hopefully putting ourselves in position where we can compete in every game.”

la-lakers-title-2No NBA general manager is going to flat-out admit that they hope to be non-competitive just to pick up a high lottery pick. But there’s sincerity in what Kupchak says because the Lakers fan base has come to expect winning, and throwing an entire season away just isn’t acceptable. Plus they have some stars left over in Bryant, Gasol and Nash, who would be pretty mad if they got another year older without another playoff run.

But do the Lakers truly have a shot at winning the NBA Championship? If you were making a 2014 NBA futures bet, odds are that you wouldn’t put your money on Kobe and company. But then again, with the chemistry disaster that we witnessed between Bryant, Howard and Gasol last year, perhaps playing without Howard can only improve the Lakers’ chances next season. And even if they have another difficult, injury-riddled season, well, at least Los Angeles still remains an attractive destination for big-name free agents next summer.

James, Anthony, John Wall, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph and Andrea Bargnani all hit the market in 2014. And while some of these players will re-sign with their team, it’s likely that LA could land at least one of them based on location and reputation alone.

Mike D’Antoni laughs at Dwight Howard’s Move to Houston

FILE: New York Knicks Head Coach D'Antoni ResignsIt’s safe to declare that Dwight Howard’s lone year in Los Angeles was a pretty big failure. Now this isn’t to say that Howard didn’t produce or do what the Lakers expected. He did after all average 17.1 PPG, 12.4 RPG and 2.4 BPG. But considering his own personal standards and the expectations placed on L.A. last year, failure is the only word that perfectly describes the result.

With the addition of Howard at center, some analysts expected the Lakers to win the 2013 NBA Championship. Instead, L.A. spent the entire year evoking predictions on if they’d make the postseason. Despite Kobe Bryant going down with a Achilles tendon tear, the Lakers did slide into the playoffs with a 45-37 record – good enough for the seventh seed. But they were quickly swept by the San Antonio Spurs.

To make matters worse, Howard was quite unhappy with his lack of low-post touches and head coach Mike D’Antoni’s fast-paced offense. In the end, it all added up to the 9-year veteran leaving for what he deems to be greener pastures in Houston.

The Rockets, who also finished with a 45-37 record, have immediately become a contender with Howard, James Harden and a strong supporting cast. But will everything be as rosy as Howard thinks?

dwight-howardNot according to D’Antoni, who laughed at where his former starting center went via free agency. The Los Angeles Daily News wrote the following about coach D’Antoni’s statement:

“The thing that cracks me up is Houston, they do the exact same thing,” D’Antoni said, laughing. “And so (Howard) is gonna go to Houston? OK, so did they talk about change there? Don’t tell me that it’s that different.”

D’Antoni wishes Howard well, but does think he needs to accept what makes him a special player rather than envision himself as something he isn’t yet and may never be.

“He’s a force and he can be really, really good and dominate the league,” D’Antoni said. “But it’s in an area that he’s not loving right now. He wants to dominate a different way, in the low post and all that. But he needs to get better there, and he will. But his greatness is in defense and being a physical force. I think he’d be better served if he embraces that.

dwight-howardIt appears as if D’Antoni has a point since Houston’s team isn’t exactly built to play a halfcourt game and run the offense through Howard. Instead, they have a number of guys who can run the floor like Harden, Chandler Parsons, Patrick Beverley, Francisco Garcia and Carlos Delfino.

Taking these players into account, Rockets head coach Kevin McHale is going to have his work cut out trying to succeed where D’Antoni failed. It’s not easy trying to transform a fast-break offense into one that can absorb Howard’s talents without wasting them.

But if Houston is truly to become the contender that they want to be next season, they’ll have to find a perfect blend. Perhaps the best place to start would be looking at clips of the Los Angeles Lakers from last year and doing the exact opposite of what they did.

Assuming you’ve got a vested interest in how the Rockets do next year, keep in mind that GTBets.eu has the Rockets at 12:1 odds of winning the 2014 NBA Championship. The Lakers, on the other hand, aren’t looking quite as good in the 2014 NBA futures category. Right now, they’re only being given 45:1 odds of winning the championship next season.