Los Angeles Lakers Betting: Top Rookie Julius Randle Breaks Leg

julius-randle-injuryThe Los Angeles Lakers’ slim postseason chances may be over before the 2014-15 NBA season is even a week old. As we discussed last weekend, Steve Nash will miss the entire season with a chronic back injury. And just last night, rookie Julius Randle broke his leg in the Lakers’ season debut against Houston.

Randle, the 2014 NBA Draft’s seventh-overall pick, was driving to the basket midway through the fourth quarter of a 108-90 loss to the Houston Rockets. His right foot buckled and he went down to the floor. He had to be carried off the court and the diagnosis was a broken tibula. The 6’9″ power forward will likely miss the rest of the season with his broken leg.

“It is heartbreaking, because I saw him all summer,” said Lakers coach Byron Scott. “I saw the work that he was putting in. I saw the progression that he was making, the steps that he was taking to get better. And his first game, he goes down. I don’t think anybody in that locker room is happy about the way we played, but we’re even more saddened about the fact that we lost one of our young guys.”

julius-randle-injury-1The scene inside the Staples Center was very quiet as Randle lay on the floor for several minutes. Teammates said they heard a “pop,” and the worst was confirmed by team officials. The 19-year-old rookie had to be carried off the court on a stretcher after scoring 2 points on 1-of-3 shooting.

Nobody took the loss harder than long-time Lakers star Kobe Bryant, who shook his head in disbelief after seeing his teammate carried away. Bryant had the following to say about Randle’s devastating injury:

Even for myself, being a veteran and dealing with something like this, it’s tough. For him being a 19-year-old kid, it’s tough. That’s what we’re here for. We’re here to pick him up and take it day by day. It’s a fluke injury. There’s nothing you can do about that. He worked extremely hard, he trained extremely hard. Then something like this happens, so you’ve kind of got to give yourself up to that and control what you can control, and what happens, happens. And now it’s on him to control how he handles this.

I think what this franchise has always been good about doing is surrounding young players with players who have come before,” he said. “He has a great cast around him — myself and James (Worthy) and AC Green and Magic [Johnson]. We’re all here. We’ll help him through this. He’ll come back a basketball player. That’s the goal, is to try to find a silver lining within anything.

James Worthy is an interesting mention here because he also broke his leg in his rookie season. But Worthy rebounded by becoming a 7-time NBA All-Star, 3-time NBA champion and 1988 NBA Finals MVP. At just 19 years old, Randle still has a long career ahead of him. So he can look towards Worthy’s story as motivation to come back strong.

But this injury leaves Los Angeles without their promising rookie for an entire season. Carlos Boozer is the starting power forward while starting center Jordan Hill and backup Ed Davis can also man the position. However, Randle had the potential to develop into very good player, even in his first year. LA also lost some backcourt depth as well with the previously mentioned Nash injury.

This leaves Bryant, Boozer, Hill and PG Jeremy Hill having to carry more of the load. And in what figures to be another grueling season in the Western Conference, depth is key. So if you’re into Los Angeles Lakers betting, keep in mind that injuries are really piling up for this LA team.

Los Angeles Lakers Betting: Back Injury sidelines Steve Nash for 2014-15 Season

steve-nash-out-2015As we discussed last spring, many Los Angeles Lakers fans were already angry that Steve Nash chose to come back this season, rather than retire. After all, he’s been paid $18.2 million for two seasons that he barely played in. And fans especially won’t be happy now that he’ll get another $9.8 million to sit out the entire 2014-15 season.

Now in his 19th season, Nash won’t even make the Lakers’ opening tip-off as the team announced the bad news. The two-time league MVP was hoping for one more chance to flash the play-making skills that have made him an NBA legend. A nerve root irritation in his back sidelined him for all but 15 games last season. He then rehabbed his back for several months in the offseason and hoped that this would do the trick. However, Nash began feeling more pain in the preseason and even strained his back while carrying travel bags.

”Being on the court this season has been my top priority, and it is disappointing to not be able to do that right now,” Nash told the media. ”I work very hard to stay healthy, and unfortunately my recent setback makes performing at full capacity difficult. I will continue to support my team during this period of rest, and will focus on my long-term health.”

steve-nash-contract-retire-1A Lakers’ news release claims that Nash will continue to “focus on rest and rehabilitation” during the remainder of the season. Interestingly enough, there was no mention of retirement, despite the fact that the Canadian is in the final year of his three-year contract. Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak praised Nash’s efforts to try and get back on the court as he stated:

As disappointed as we are for ourselves and our fans, we’re even more disappointed for Steve. We know how hard he’s worked the last two years to try to get his body right for the rigors of the NBA, and how badly he wants to play, but unfortunately he simply hasn’t been able to get there up to this point in time. Steve has been a consummate professional, and we greatly appreciate his efforts.

Bringing Nash over from the Phoenix Suns in 2012 has proven to be a very costly and damaging move. L.A. gave up four draft picks for him in addition to adding $27.8 million to their salary cap for the next three years. Los Angeles will be taking a $9.8 million cap hit this season for a guy who won’t play a single minute. Barring any miracle comeback, Nash will likely end his stint with L.A. having played 65 games in three seasons.

The injury won’t really have much impact on the team from an overall perspective. The Lakers are in a strange transitional phase where Kobe Bryant is at the tail-end of his career and the organization needs to develop young talent. If Nash does indeed retire or play somewhere else next season, it will mark the end of a disastrous 2012 attempt to surround Bryant with a strong supporting cast. Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol have since moved on while Nash will miss the 2014-15 season.

Switching to Los Angeles Lakers betting, the team is projected to miss the playoffs for a second straight season. They added Jeremy Lin and veteran Ronnie Price at point guard, so the loss of Nash won’t hurt too badly. However, L.A. is too young and unproven to be considered a serious postseason threat this year. And Bryant may be at an age where injuries have taken their toll and will make it hard for him to carry a 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.