What Constitutes Success for the 2014-15 Los Angeles Lakers?

A month into the 2014-15 season, a legitimate and fairly obvious question has emerged: What constitutes success for the beleaguered Los Angeles Lakers?

With a 3-12 record, making the playoffs may still be a goal, but it is also an overwhelming long shot.

On Nov. 26, Los Angeles lost to the Memphis Grizzlies 99-93. The purple and gold now own sole possession of last place in the Western Conference.

After the game, Kobe Bryant put the issue of close games into perspective, saying per Greg Beacham of The Associated Press: “It’s just as frustrating no matter how many times we lost by seven points or less. I mean, it’s not like we have levels of frustration. It’s either all or nothing. We’ve had some opportunities against some of the top teams in the West to win, and we just let it get away from us.”

If coming close doesn’t feel like a victory, what else could be deemed a measure of success?

Developing young players into future stars is always a worthy aspiration. Unfortunately, this year’s No. 7 draft pick, Julius Randle, is out for the season with a broken leg.

And then there’s the next annual choosing of NBA rookies, which could be a real bonanza. If the Lakers lose enough games, they get to keep the top-five protected pick they pledged to the Phoenix Suns as part of the Steve Nash trade in 2012.

L.A. is also owed both a first and a second-round pick from the Houston Rockets as part of the Jeremy Lin trade package. Those selections also come with protection clauses, however.

The combination of trade stipulations and bouncing lottery balls make predicting the final order a Byzantine mess. But the most basic principle is that the Lakers have to lose big in order to win big on draft night.

Herein lies the ever popular notion of tanking, wherein fans and observers feel it’s imperative their team embraces falling on the collective sword, for the betterment of all.

The problem with tanking is that it will just as easily lose players their jobs. That’s why nobody in a uniform, or a coach for that matter, will take a dive for an organization that may not show reciprocal loyalty.

Countering that argument is the idea that it’s all about management cleverly failing at building a roster in order to lose more games and reconstruct their teams through the draft.

Tanking can be a shell game, however—losing organizations who draft high rarely vault into championship contention. Derek Thompson for The Atlantic points out the fallacy of rooting for mediocrity:

Why are teams and their fans drawn to a strategy that reliably leads to even deeper failure? The gospel of tanking is born from three big assumptions: that mediocrity is a trap; that scouting is a science; and that bad organizations are one savior away from being great. All three assumptions are common, not only to sports, but also to business and to life. And all three assumptions are typically wrong.

What else could mean success for a downward-trending L.A. team?

Financial rewards certainly matter from a business perspective. The team’s recent strategic partnership with Time Warner Cable, as well as robust ticket sales and lucrative marketing opportunities, position the team as the second most valuable in the NBA (right behind the New York Knicks), according to Forbes.

What else? Will isolating a few key players on the team for an ongoing rebuild be a step toward recaptured eminence? How about a midseason trade?

Entertainment value, such as watching Bryant as the league’s scoring leader in his twilight years, also plays a part. The 19-year veteran is on target to catch Michael Jordan for third on the NBA all-time points list in early December.

Sometimes, forms of success aren’t complimentary to each other. Honing an offensive system, building confidence and getting players to embrace defensive principles are all things that Lakers coach Byron Scott would like to accomplish. They may even result in a few more wins.

But what if the improved attitude and extra wins cost the team a top draft pick?

And suddenly we’re back to the pros and cons of losing to win.

Sports shouldn’t be defined by willful failure, nor should a team’s priority be to tread water in hopes that a prospect can become a star who can help at some point along the line.

It is said that losing builds character. That may be so, but winning brings relevancy.

The definition of the 2014-15 season is not yet known, nor will any singular concept signify success for everyone.

But perhaps it is the unpredictably of the game that keeps us coming back for more.

It is what makes us cheer, boo and debate.

Ultimately, what can’t be argued is that Lakers fans all hope for success this season, whatever that may be.

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Memphis Grizzlies vs. Los Angeles Lakers 11/26/14: Video Highlights and Recap

The Memphis Grizzlies looked to continue their torrid start to the season on Wednesday night, when they took on the Los Angeles Lakers. The Grizzlies had won two straight and six of their last seven, and they faced a Lakers squad trying to end its two-game skid.

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Will The Los Angeles Lakers Release Ronnie Price?

Due to several injuries NBA player Ronnie Price days may be numbered with the Los Angeles Lakers.
As reported by Fansided the Los Angeles Lakers are considering waiving Ronnie Price who just signed with them this season.
Along with the point guards constant injuries the Los Angeles Lakers doesn’t seem to be impressed with his game on the court. The 31-year-old is only averaging a sub par 3.3 points and 3.8 assists this season all while shooting a dreadful 24.5 percent from the floor.
Ronnie Price joined the NBA when he was drafted by the Sacramento Kings in 2005. After playing with them for two seasons he signed with Utah Jazz. Since then he’s played with the Phoenix Suns, Portland Trail Blazers and Orlando Magic.
The post Will The Los Angeles Lakers Releases Ronnie Price? appeared first on Basketball Bicker by ladyt.

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Los Angeles Clippers vs. Detroit Pistons 11/26/14: Video Highlights and Recap

The Los Angeles Clippers looked to continue their recent successful run on Wednesday night when they took on the slumping Detroit Pistons. The Clippers had won three of their last four and faced a Pistons squad mired in a skid that had seen it drop five straight and eight of its last nine. 

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Earl Clark Rumors: Breaking Down Potential Los Angeles Lakers Impact

The Los Angeles Lakers are searching for some options to solidify a roster that’s been crushed by injury woes in the early going. It sounds like a familiar face in the form of Earl Clark might be the first reinforcement to arrive.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reports the Lakers are looking to sign Clark out of the D-League, where he was playing for the Houston Rockets‘ affiliate. He also notes the forward would be getting a deal to cover the rest of the season:

Clark has averaged 29 points per game for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers of the NBA Development League, and the eventual finalization of a deal could bring Clark back to the Lakers in the next few days, sources said.

His scoring average is good enough to rank third in the league behind Brady Heslip and Manny Harris. The Louisville product has also averaged better than seven rebounds and three blocks in four games at the development level.

Clark played for the Lakers during the 2012-13 campaign. He appeared in 59 games, starting 36, and averaged seven points while shooting 44 percent from the field. Offensive woes have prevented him from making a bigger impact in the NBA with a career shooting percentage of 40 in 251 contests.

He’s connected on 45 percent of his shots during the hot start with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. Whether he can carry that over to provide the Lakers with some valuable minutes is a question mark.

What Clark does bring to the table is a player who can play both forward positions and stretch the floor offensively. Jory Dreher of Laker Nation thinks that’s the main reason they are likely bringing him in:

He could be in line for some serious minutes, at least for awhile. Julius Randle is out for the season due to a leg injury and Ryan Kelly is currently sidelined with a hamstring issue. Add in a banged-up Carlos Boozer, who’s trying to overcome a shoulder problem, and the Lakers need healthy bodies up front.

Ed Davis has filled in admirably alongside Jordan Hill. Robert Sacre has also been serviceable in limited minutes. But Clark would give Los Angeles a different type of player at the power forward spot to help stretch defenses, and the fact he’s been with the organization before helps.

Back in July, when he was looking for a landing spot, Clark talked with Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders about his previous stint with the team:

When I was with the Lakers, I got the opportunity to get out there and play some big minutes–I didn’t have to look at the bench every possession to see if I was coming out. It was the first time where I felt good, where I was comfortable playing basketball again. That’s something that I’m looking for.

Although he probably won’t get as much run as he did the last time around, it’s still a golden opportunity. A chance to prove his lackluster stays with the Cleveland Cavaliers and New York Knicks aren’t representative of what he can provide to a rotation.

Clark isn’t going to turn the Lakers—who currently rank 18th in offensive efficiency, according to ESPN—into a juggernaut on that end of the floor. Instead, he’ll just provide a little more balance to a team that can’t really be too picky given the options at this stage.

All told, it’s a signing that makes sense. Now the wait is on until it becomes official barring any late setbacks in the process.

 

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Los Angeles Clippers: Blake Griffin still has some growing pains

The Los Angeles Clippers improved to a record of 8-5 overall Monday night, defeating the Charlotte Hornets on the road by a score of 113-92. Star power forward Blake Griffin led the way for the Clips putting up a near triple-double with 22 points, 16 rebounds, and 9 assists. It’s the type of stat line that makes Griffin one of the most tantalizing players in the NBA, but also one of the most frustrating.
Through the first 13 games of the season, Griffin’s game on offense is essentially the same as it was last year. Although Blake has improved his mid-range jumper significantly from last season, Griffin still clearly has some growing pains on the offensive side of the floor.
Blake Griffin still has some serious work to do in order to improve his low-post game
Question’s about Griffin’s offensive game concern themselves not so much with how much Griffin scores, but rather how he tends to do it. While Griffin’s absurd athletic ability lends him to be the most dangerous big man in the game in transiti

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Los Angeles Clippers vs. Charlotte Hornets 11/24/14: Video Highlights and Recap

The Charlotte Hornets faced a tough test on Monday night when they took on the Los Angeles Clippers.

Mired in a four-game losing streak, the Hornets looked to get back on the right track against a Clippers squad that has yet to find its stride this season.

Watch the video for full highlights.

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Byron Scott Facing New Reality of Coaching Los Angeles Lakers

With another dreadful season underway, Byron Scott is getting a taste of what it’s like to helm the sinking ship known as today’s Los Angeles Lakers.

The longtime NBA operative has had his successes—two NBA Finals appearances with the New Jersey Nets and Coach of the Year honors in 2008 with the New Orleans Hornets.

But he has also had down years at each stop along the way, including most recently with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Now ensconced in his dream job—coaching the same purple and gold colors he wore on the floor during three Showtime championship runs—Scott searches for answers as the Lakers fall to 3-11 in the Western Conference.

The coach has endless trust in one of the league’s fiercest competitors. But Kobe Bryant is entering his twilight chapter, and there’s simply not enough talent amongst the Mamba’s supporting cast to win with any consistency.

 

Injuries played their part in the bobbled start, with Steve Nash and rookie Julius Randle out for the season. Adding to the woes, Nick “Swaggy P” Young missed the first 10 games of the season, nine of which were losses.

Games lost to injury are a part of every team’s narrative, however. And Scott, who was brought in to shore up a team who skidded to a 27-55 record last season, is plunging even faster than predecessors Mike D’Antoni and Mike Brown.

It’s enough to cause a lack of conviction among pundits, fans and even players.

As reported by Baxter Holmes for ESPN.com, the new Lakers coach is trying to keep the team’s competitive fires burning through motivational messages, including future title hopes: “I told them that I have no doubt that we will win a championship in my tenure here as head coach, because I know this organization. But I do know it’s going to take some patience. It’s a process.”

The current process includes a heavy reliance on Bryant, the last player remaining from the recent championship era.

Sometimes the team’s enduring star is brilliant, and sometimes you just have to scratch your head as he chucks up a long-distance prayer light years from home.

During a recent game preview, Darius Soriano for Forum Blue and Gold wrote about the difficult balance facing Scott:

With all the perks that come with coaching the Lakers and Kobe Bryant, what Scott must manage now is clearly one of the hard aspects. Getting all the players on the same page and effectively building a cohesiveness from a roster that isn’t familiar with each other, nor familiar with how Kobe responds in any given moment, is difficult.

Add a bunch of losing to the equation and things only get harder. But this is the job he signed up for. It’s time for him to put in the work or fail trying.

The Lakers’ coach is also dealing with a team that seems diametrically suited to his most fundamental precept—limiting easy baskets. Even if the team wasn’t loaded with stoppers, they were expected to show a consistent effort of trapping and corralling pick-and-roll penetration.

Speaking to Lakers.com’s Mike Trudell this summer, Scott said, “You want to clog up the paint as much as possible and make the opponent take contested jump shots.”

Unfortunately, that most elemental of responsibilities has headed resolutely in the wrong direction. In fact, Zach Harper for CBS Sports points out that the Lakers are on pace to become the worst defensive team in history:

Looking at their latest loss to the Mavericks, Basketball-Reference has the Lakers’ defensive rating for that game at a staggering 155.6 points per 100 possessions. It can also lead you to believe the Lakers’ one possibly historically bad game could have skewed the numbers to all-time futility. Unfortunately for the Lakers, that’s not true.

Nine of their 13 games have resulted in a defensive rating that would put them as the worst defense in NBA history. And three of those other games resulted in defensive efforts worse than the current 106.1 league average.

After being shelled in Dallas, Scott said, per Joey Ramirez for Lakers.com, “Sometimes I do feel like I’m talking to myself when I’m talking about the defensive end of the floor and just trying to stress how important it is to our guys each and every night.”

If so many things are going wrong, there are at least a few silver linings. The return of Young is adding much-needed firing power off the bench, backup big man Ed Davis is swatting opponents’ shots with abandon, and starting center Jordan Hill is leading the league in offensive rebounds.

And while Bryant’s field-goal percentage is his lowest in 19 years, he’s still averaging more points than anyone else in the NBA. That counts for something.

The temptation when things are going wrong is to try different methodologies on the fly. But it may not be as much a matter of Scott’s flawed fundamental philosophies as it is getting players to buy in.

After all, the Memphis Grizzlies are grinding out the best record in the West through defense, while the Toronto Raptors’ lead in the East is accompanied by that conference’s best team scoring.

It’s a sense of consistency and a readily identifiable style that often defines a team’s success.

The Lakers’ record is not due to any singular factor; however, their vessel is leaking like a sieve.

The upside is the potential to head back to the draft lottery for the second time in two years. The 2015 pick the team gave to the Phoenix Suns for the Nash trade is top-five protected.

There should also be enough cap space next summer to be active in the free-agent market.

Barely into a four-year contract, Scott will have to put championship dreams on hold for now and look toward the future. That means lessening his reliance on Bryant, building team chemistry, establishing a cohesive system and developing players.

Things will probably get worse before they get better—that’s the reality of coaching today’s Lakers.

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Los Angeles Clippers vs. Memphis Grizzlies 11/23/14: Video Highlights and Recap

A potential Western Conference playoff matchup took place on Sunday as the conference-leading Memphis Grizzlies took on the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Grizzlies looked to continue their red-hot start against a Clippers group that has yet to truly find its stride at 7-4 on the campaign.

Watch the video for full highlights.

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Los Angeles Clippers Looking Like Title Pretenders, and Sunday NBA Takeaways

The focus of the Memphis Grizzlies’ 107-91 mauling of the visiting Los Angeles Clippers would normally be on the victor.

But the Grizzlies’ dominant win didn’t teach us anything new about the team that has been tearing up the Western Conference for the first month of the season. The contest did, however, offer another piece of damning evidence in the case against the Clippers.

Los Angeles might not be a contender.

Marc Gasol continued his season-long demolition tour, hanging 30 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks on the Clippers. It was a brilliant performance on both ends from the man who’s played the center position as well as anyone (defense counts, DeMarcus Cousins supporters) this season.

Gasol, even in his newly trimmed-down form was perfectly happy to mix it up in an ultra-physical affair. Despite his terrific line, the big Spaniard still saw room for improvement, per Matt Moore of CBSSports.com:

And that’s where we shift the focus away from Memphis and onto Los Angeles, which put forth yet another disjointed defensive effort. Gasol’s comments served a dual purpose.

He was trying to keep his team, which has every reason to be full of itself, from getting too content. Even big wins like this one could have been bigger, he’s trying to say.

Secondly, Gasol was calling attention to the Clippers’ woeful help defense, which has been a major disappointment this season. Memphis knows it could have gotten even easier looks by moving the ball more efficiently. Somehow, its 20 assists felt like an underachievement.

It’s a perplexing problem, as this same L.A. core posted a 102.1 defensive rating a year ago, good enough to finish in a seventh-place tie with the Grizzlies, per NBA.com. This season, the Clippers check in at No. 20 with a 104.7 rating.

It’s hard to know the exact cause for this, and there’s almost certainly more than just one. Matt Barnes’ broken perimeter stroke has resulted in more minutes for Jamal Crawford, which essentially amounts to four-on-five basketball on defense. In addition, Blake Griffin hasn’t looked nearly as alert or mobile on either end this season.

Communication has been poor, as has been the team’s general effort level. For evidence of that, look no further than the historically poor offensive rebounding numbers, as noted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Arnovitz:

After being out-rebounded by 20 on the night (including a minus-seven margin on the offensive boards), L.A. now ranks dead last in the NBA with an offensive-rebound rate of 16.7 percent, per NBA.com.

To be fair, teams often punt on the offensive glass in the interest of getting back in transition. But the Clips clearly aren’t defending this season, so it’s hard to believe giving up on offensive boards is part of some grand plan.

If it is, the plan’s not working.

Something just feels wrong about the Clippers, and playing against a Grizzlies team for whom everything looked so very right was a study in serious contrast.

The Clippers won 57 games last season, and it’s difficult to believe a 7-5 start means imminent doom. But the Clips fancy themselves a title contender, and it doesn’t take much slippage to make that belief unrealistic.

Less than halfway through a rough seven-game road trip, Los Angeles needs to either find a spark or risk returning home under .500. We’ll soon see whether the Grizzlies’ thorough beatdown serves as motivation or accelerates a tailspin.

The Clippers had better find their edge in a hurry. The West isn’t getting softer anytime soon.

 

Around the Association

Game of Inches

The Charlotte Hornets fell short against the Miami Heat by the slimmest of margins on Sunday, dropping a 94-93 decision that would have gone their way if an Al Jefferson tip-in at point-blank range had stayed down at the buzzer.

Mario Chalmers had a dozen of his 20 points in the fourth, and Chris Bosh‘s slick, fading left-shoulder turnaround from the right baseline gave the Heat a lead that would hold up through a costly turnover on their next possession. When Jefferson couldn’t clean up Kemba Walker’s shot at the buzzer, it was all over.

Devastation was the prevailing mood for a Hornets team that played well enough to win but couldn’t close the deal against a Heat squad missing Dwyane Wade (hamstring) for the sixth straight game.

Oh, and there may be trouble a-brewin’ in Charlotte:

It’s something to keep an eye on as the Hornets, losers of five in a row, try to keep it together.

 

Mo Speights, No Problems

The Golden State Warriors let a physical, scrappy Oklahoma City Thunder team hang around all game long, lost Andrew Bogut (orbital contusion) and Leandro Barbosa (knee sprain) to injuries (neither of which are expected to linger long term) and saw the Splash Brothers combine for just 11 made field goals on 35 attempts.

That’s not a recipe for a win under normal circumstances, but normal circumstances don’t include Marreese Speights getting loose for a game-high 28 points off the bench.

This was the continuation of a trend for Speights, who has averaged 17.4 points and 6.2 rebounds on 63.5 shooting over his past five contests. Golden State will need its most impactful reserve to keep producing with Bogut potentially limited (but very enthusiastic) as the Warriors embark on a five-game road trip, the next four of which are in the East.

Thanks to Speights, the Dubs emerged with a 91-86 win to start their travels.

 

Blake and Bake

Evan Turner was just trying to anticipate the Chris Kaman screen, and part of his job as a defender on the pick-and-roll is to make sure the guard—Steve Blake in this case—doesn’t get to the middle of the floor. It’s called “icing,” appropriately, as Turner looked very much like he was on skates.

Unfortunately, Turner’s anticipatory lunge combined with Blake’s quick right-to-left crossover to produce a highlight the Boston Celtics wing will be hearing plenty about in the coming days.

Turner’s defensive uh-oh was a micro example of the macro problem that sank the Boston Celtics. After defending capably for three quarters, Boston stumbled through a 10-0 Portland Trail Blazers run to start the fourth quarter—a surge that ultimately decided the game.

Summation: Blake 1, Turner 0. Blazers 94, Celtics 88.

 

Lakers Highlights!

Wesley Johnson got to work on both ends in the Los Angeles Lakers’ 101-94 loss to the Denver Nuggets, soaring for a hurt-your-feelings two-handed stuff on Arron Afflalo:

And then rising for the spectacular slam on Danilo Gallinari in the fourth quarter:

On a night when many Lakers fans were ecstatic to see Ed Davis get the start over the injured Carlos Boozer (finally!) and then disappointed when Davis fouled out after 22 minutes, Johnson stepped in to fill the excitement void.

Unfortunately, Johnson’s moments of heroism were the only positives in a game the Lakers gave away at the foul line and on the offensive glass.

 

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