Los Angeles Lakers: Just retire, Steve Nash

In all honesty, this probably should’ve happened two years ago. 
Steve Nash’s tenure as a Laker has been an unproductive one marred by injuries.
Steve Nash had the option to retire after his last season with the Phoenix Suns in 2012. The team had just come off of a season where they went 33-33 in a lockout-shortened season and missed the playoffs for the second straight season. In the offseason that followed, the Suns made it clear that they were looking to go in a different direction and start a rebuilding phase. This would’ve been a perfectly good excuse for the man who had meant everything to their franchise to exit the league with grace. At that time, a then-37-year-old Nash boasted a storied career with the Suns and Dallas Mavericks, ranking in the top 10 in total career assists and boasting two consecutive MVPs from 2004-2006. That would’ve been a good point to call it quits, right?
Not for Nash. That offseason, he took his talents to Los Angeles. Months later, a seemingly competitive Big 4 w

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Sensational Rookie Season from Julius Randle Is What Los Angeles Lakers Need

In the middle of an ongoing rebuilding phase, the Los Angeles Lakers need certain things in order to have any success in a loaded Western Conference. One huge priority will be a sensational season from Julius Randle.

The Lakers suffered through their worst loss record in franchise history last season with a meager 27-55 record. Their consolation prize was the No. 7 pick in the draft lottery. When the big night arrived, they chose Randle—a hard-charging freshman power forward out of Kentucky.

The preseason has offered varying degrees of progress for the 6’9″ lefty, whether through strong inside work or leading a fast break like a runaway bull. It has been both promising and maddening.

Would you expect more from a 19-year-old before the regular season even begins?

Randle is drawing plenty of commentary from his first NBA head coach—at times positive, and in other instances, sharply worded.

After an early preseason loss, Byron Scott described the young rookie as follows, per Arash Markazi of ESPN LA: “I thought he was lost, in the first half especially.”

It is a story as old as sports itself—a tough-love coach and a headstrong, yet impressionable pupil. And in the end, we hopefully learn that the Los Angeles Lakers and Randle need each other in equal measure in order to succeed.

One is a grizzled coach who had to sweat three interviews and an extended wait to get hired by a team he used to play for. The other is a teenager who tends to scatter opponents like bowling pins.

Patience, young grasshopper—you have to learn where your place truly is in the basketball universe.

Scott isn’t the only one wielding both a stick and carrot—reigning franchise cornerstone Kobe Bryant has also been playing the part of the caring taskmaster.

Randle’s place is already becoming clearer—the headlong rushes are gaining control, and his jump shots are starting to fall. It appears that he wants to be more than a bull in a china shop.

As Mark Medina for the Los Angeles Daily News recently wrote, a lottery pick who was touted for his low-post moves is pushing the envelope in other ways:

For all the comparisons Randle has drawn to Memphis’ bruising power forward Zach Randolph, Lakers forward Ed Davis noticed that Randle has mirrored more of the modern version of Lamar Odom. Just as the former Lakers forward interchanged roles as a post player, facilitator and ball handler, Randle has provided the same job description:

‘It’s all about putting pressure on the defense when you can outrun the bigs and have the ball too. That’s what Coach wants me to do every time I get the rebound. I’m pushing the ball and making plays. I’ve been doing it my whole life so I’m comfortable with it.’

Much has been made of the Odom comparisons, but remember—the former Sixth Man of the Year was a chameleon in his prime. His full-court sallies occurred sparingly and when opponents least expected it. He spent long stretches setting up his teammates or concentrating on rebounding. His hesitation moves were a thing of beauty.

On Wednesday night during a win against the Portland Trail Blazers, Randle continued to show improvement with 17 points and eight rebounds in 24 minutes of play. More impressive than the total numbers was his efficiency, with 7-of-10 shooting and a nice mixture of interior play and end-to-end romps—this time at a less frenetic pace.

The second unit worked well together, with Jeremy Lin and Jordan Clarkson making their first appearances after missing several games due to sprained ankles and a calf strain, respectively. Ed Davis and undrafted rookie Roscoe Smith provided interior energy and glass cleaning.

After the game, Scott spoke about his young ward’s evolution, per Serena Winters of Lakers Nation:

I don’t think the kid has really ever had to play hard and I know he hasn’t ever had to work as hard as he’s had to this year. I still expect him to work harder but each game he seems to get a little bit better and that’s the progression that you want, and we all tend to forget that he’s 19. So, you’ve got to give him a little slack at times, even though I don’t, I should I guess.

With the start of the regular season looming, the obvious question becomes how much the Lakers need from Randle and how soon.

So far, the rookie is coming off the bench behind Carlos Boozer—the veteran frontcourt player and perennial starter who the Lakers claimed off amnesty waivers from the Chicago Bulls this season.

It’s likely that role will remain for now and that the young warrior’s lessons will continue unabated. Randle could well be the future of the franchise, but the powers that be don’t want to stunt his development through premature expectations.

Randle is where most young players are before they launch into their first regular-season games—a work in progress and untested when it counts in the NBA. But that doesn’t mean he can’t have a sensational rookie season, even if it’s filled with tough love and teaching moments.

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Los Angeles Lakers: Steve Nash Injury A Blessing In Disguise?

(November 4, 2013 – Source: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images North America)
Los Angeles Lakers: Steve Nash Injury A Blessing In Disguise?
By Mike Elworth: Owner and Publisher/Hoopstuff…
Yes I feel like a jerk for writing that title, because a player being injured shouldn’t be celebrated and in no way am I celebrating this injury, but for the Lakers this season they are a better team with Steve Nash injured. No Steve Nash for the Lakers means a lot more Jeremy Lin and Jordan Clarkson, which is excellent for the team this season and for multiple seasons.
Jeremy Lin will become the starter for the Lakers this season, who I thought should have started from the day he was traded for. Why? He is the much better player at 26 than Steve Nash at 40. Nash was a distributor and shooter on a team where Kobe Bryant has the ball the most, so a distributor of his caliber wasn’t necessary, they have enough shooting and he just isn’t the best fit with Kobe at guard; Lin is perfect. At 36 Kobe isn’t goin…

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The Los Angeles Clippers’ Biggest Red Flags Entering This Season

Despite the praise the Los Angeles Clippers received this summer, there are plenty of red flags. Some glaring issues have been problems for years and seem to have gone unsolved again, mainly due to salary-cap limitations.

Offensively, the team should once again challenge for the lead league in points per game. With players such as Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and Jamal Crawford, there will not be a lack of scoring options. However, depth concerns behind Paul and at small forward are warranted.

Defensively, the Clippers looked improved late in the regular season last year. Unfortunately, the defense was a big concern in the playoffs and gave up multiple leads to the Golden State Warriors and Oklahoma City Thunder. The defense has been a concern during the preseason and is in question again.

If the Clippers want to advance out of the second round of the playoffs, these five red flags need to be addressed first.

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5 Bold Predictions for the Los Angeles Clippers During 2014-15 Season

It’s time for the Los Angeles Clippers to go about the business of winning beyond the regular season, so this crop of bold predictions is centered around those aspirations.

Everything the Clips do from training camp through the postseason is focused on obtaining the Larry O’Brien Trophy. 

Head coach and President of Basketball Operations Doc Rivers articulated as much when he agreed to a contract extension through the end of the 2018-19 season. 

“I am motivated by the challenge and thankful for the opportunity to stand together with [Clippers owner Steve Ballmer] as we continue to move toward our goal of winning an NBA title,” he stated. 

It’s no secret the Clippers are built to win now. With bona fide superstars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin leading the charge in their second year under a coach with winning experience, they have the talent assembled to reach their goals. 

With that in mind, here’s what will develop in Los Angeles this season. 

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Los Angeles Lakers’ Biggest Red Flags Entering This Season

A new season brings increased expectations and the promise of a fresh start for many NBA teams. For the Los Angeles Lakers, however, hope is being tempered by red flags.

Unable to entice any major free agents over the offseason, management has once again surrounded 36-year-old Kobe Bryant with a ragtag army of walking wounded, chronic underperformers, castoffs and untested rookies.

That’s not to say there isn’t any potential, or that the roster is utterly lacking in talent. It is to say, however, that the path forward is cluttered with waving symbols of doom and gloom.

 

Injuries

The No. 1 red flag is injuries and has been for years. At the end of the 2012-13 season, trainer Gary Vitti said, per the team’s website: “It wasn’t a tough year, it was a tough 10 years in one.”

Last April, during an interview with Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times, Vitti said: “I didn’t think it was going to get any worse than that. And then we had this year, which was worse.”

Here we are six months later, and the injury bug has already reared its ugly head.

Here’s the rundown: Nick Young tore the radial collateral ligament in his right thumb the first week of training camp, and that injury necessitated surgery. He is expected to be out until early December.

Steve Nash is dealing with the same back and nerve issues that have plagued him since arriving in Los Angeles. He’ll turn 41 in February, and his basketball future looks less than bright—it may be nonexistent.

Xavier Henry flew to New York City to get a second opinion on his surgically repaired right knee and will then travel to Germany for Regenokine treatment. The 23-year-old swingman has yet to play more than 50 games during any of his four NBA seasons—injuring his right knee repeatedly and also tearing ankle and wrist ligaments.

Jordan Clarkson strained his right calf, Jeremy Lin tweaked both ankles and Ryan Kelly injured both hamstrings.

Is this cyclical injury pattern some kind of strange curse for the Lakers? Or is it just simply random bad luck? Has new Lakers head coach Byron Scott run some of his players too hard during training camp?

Whatever the reasons, the team simply can’t seem to hop off the carousel of poor health.

As Scott recently said, per Lakers.com:

Every day right now in our coaches meeting, we’re saying, ‘OK, who are we going to have today? Who’s going to be able to practice?’ So we’re trying to figure out combinations just to have 10 guys on the floor to be able to go through things on both ends of the floor. So yeah, it does affect the game planning. It affects your practice, because you want to have those guys out here. It messes up a lot of things.

It’s not optimal for training camp, and if the situation doesn’t improve soon, it won’t be a good way to kick off the regular season.

 

Aging veterans

Injuries can go hand in hand with age. Bryant played only six games last season after fracturing his knee—that coming on the heels of a ruptured Achilles tendon. So far during the preseason, he has looked healthy, leading the team in scoring at 19 points per game.

His age is a concern given that so much rides on his ability to deliver wins. But, as Drew Garrison for Silver Screen and Roll recently wrote: “Kobe regressing with age isn‘t his fault, and isn‘t the leading reason why the Lakers are where they are today.”

The failure of Nash to deliver on what he was signed to do also isn’t his fault. Time and injuries have simply caught up. The oldest active player in the league isn’t able to be particularly active at the moment. That could still change for some number of games, but how many? Nobody can predict.

Carlos Boozer was claimed off amnesty waivers this summer and at age 32, he is starting down the slippery slope of decline. The veteran power forward averaged the fewest points and rebounds last season since his rookie year.

 

Positional deficiencies

There’s an old spiritual song in which a fragment of the lyrics are as follows: “The knee bone’s connected to the thigh bone, and the thigh bone’s connected to the hip bone, and the hip bone’s connected to the back bone…” and on and on.

Injuries, age and positional deficiencies are also connected, resulting in yet more red flags.

Ronnie Price was signed on the cusp of training camp to add depth to a dangerously thin guard rotation. In short order, Nash, Lin and Clarkson went out, leaving a 31-year-old role player as the last point guard standing. Price has done an admirable job, but a guy with a career average of 3.4 points in 11.7 minutes per game can’t hold down the fort forever.

The small forward position has also been a weak spot, with starter Wesley Johnson staying true to his reputation of being consistently inconsistent. The 27-year-old former No. 4 draft pick has never lived up to his promise, and this preseason is no different—he’ll follow a couple good sequences with careless turnovers or extended periods in which it’s hard to tell he’s even on the floor.

When you add the injuries of Young and Henry to the equation, the hole at the 3 becomes downright gaping.

If there’s one area that seems relatively solid, it’s the frontcourt. Boozer may not be the player he once was, but Jordan Hill, Ed Davis and Robert Sacre have all played well.

And then there’s 19-year-old Julius Randle. The team’s No. 7 draft pick has been receiving tough love from his coach and from Bryant.

The rookie power forward has played with increased confidence as the preseason has progressed, however, and represents at least one example of how youth, strength and versatility can help forge a way through the danger zone.

The rash of red flags cluttering up the Lakers preseason are worrisome. It is not a given that they will define the team’s future, but they serve as warning signs nonetheless.

Can the team thread past them, to caution flags and then green?

The health situation is a mixed bag. Lin played well in his return Tuesday night against the Phoenix Suns with 15 points, five assists and four rebounds. Nash’s season, however, seems increasingly tenuous.

The positional weaknesses are simply what they are, and they are not likely to change unless through fortuitous midseason trades.

Yet, the Lakers are pushing hard as the preseason advances, coming from behind to win against the Utah Jazz and falling in overtime to the Suns.

Bryant’s ragged coalition seems determined to give it a shot, regardless of questions, omens or flags.

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Julius Randle’s Development Should Be Priority No. 1 for Los Angeles Lakers

Julius Randle is the only thing standing between the Los Angeles Lakers and a lost season.

The Lakers are going to make noise this year, but that’ll mainly be because they’re surrounded by more microphones than most NBA teams. The sound will signify little in terms of on-court relevance, though.

You don’t have to agree that L.A. might be the worst team in the league by season’s end, but you must concede that the playoffs feel like a long shot.

This is a stopgap period between eras. Kobe Bryant playing out two more years, short-time vets filling out the roster and Byron Scott running the show with an alarmingly old-school style ill-suited for whatever future the organization has—all signs of the holding pattern.

Because the Lakers are stuck in neutral for the time being, the only thing that should matter is the development of young players who might still be around two years from now, when they shift into drive.

That’s a short list. Randle is the only one on it.

Perplexing then, isn’t it, that Carlos Boozer is on the roster. At 6’9″ and 250 pounds, Randle is suited only for the power forward spot at this stage in his career. He’s not quick or athletic enough to guard wings, and until he flashes a reliable jumper, he must play to his strengths as an interior scorer on offense.

Yet Boozer has started ahead of Randle in every Lakers preseason game, logging 116 minutes to Randle’s 95 through five contests. This is difficult to comprehend.

Regularly pilloried for his defensive failures, Boozer is doing a heck of a job denying Randle the ball.

It takes time—years, really—to develop a prospect. So focusing on the first exhibition season of Randle’s career is shortsighted. But you’d think that if the Lakers were as focused as they should be on grooming him, Randle would be collecting as many minutes as possible in games with no consequences.

Because Randle needs reps.

A flawed but promising player, the 19-year-old Randle should be getting ample time (now, and during the season) to add to his game. Broadly speaking, he doesn’t fit the current power forward model because he can’t shoot from range and does not impact the paint on defense.

Proof: Randle made just three triples in his one season at Kentucky and averaged less than one block per contest. As his game stands now, he’s a little like Kenneth Faried with a better handle and a lower-RPM motor.

That’s not to say he can’t get better in those key areas; it’d be foolish to discount the potential for development in any 19-year-old project. It is to say, however, that Randle needs a chance to make those improvements.

He has to play.

Key figures in the Lakers organization seem aware of Randle’s importance.

Bryant has taken on a larger mentoring role than he has in the past, though the Mamba’s not-so-nurturing track record didn’t set a very high bar. He seems interested in Randle’s growth, though he expresses it in his own special way:

Scott has been rough on the rookie, though it’s an old truism that coaches are hardest on the players they believe they can push furthest:

Besides, the Lakers head coach has offered praise when warranted as well:

And Randle seems to be handling the scrutiny nicely. Either that, or he knows enough to go with the program—pressure-packed as it may be:

The Lakers must hope that attention and the tough-love treatment don’t backfire. It’s going to take years before L.A. knows what it has in Randle. And it’s hard to know whether the Lakers’ unique situation will hasten or hinder his development.

On the one hand, there’s usually value in the ample playing time and consequence-free environment of a lottery-bound team. On the other, it’s not always ideal for a prospect to form his NBA habits and identity in a losing culture.

Say what you will about the Lakers, but they have not outwardly embraced the tank.

That refusal/inability to rebuild conventionally (thanks mostly to Bryant’s contract extension) means there will be distractions aplenty this year. Scott is catching nonstop heat for antiquated offensive ideas:

And Bryant will continue to have his every word, gesture and field-goal attempt picked apart by the media.

In that sense, the Lakers will learn one thing about Randle right away: whether he can focus amid chaos.

The overall aim should be to find out much more about Randle—beyond how he responds to Kobe’s tutelage. Because, harsh as it sounds, Bryant isn’t relevant to the Lakers’ future.

Randle is.

Even though much of the criticism aimed at Bryant, Scott and the rest of the Lakers of late has been fair, it’s missed the mark. Whether pertaining to overall team construction, offensive strategies, contracts hampering progress or anything else, we’ve all been zinging L.A. from the wrong angle.

One question should color the way the Lakers view any criticism: How does it affect Randle?

The Lakers are (perhaps detrimentally) obsessed with their past, and they seem reluctant to accept the realities of the present.

They’d better do everything possible to develop the one guy on the squad who’ll be a part of their future.

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Utah Jazz vs. Los Angeles Lakers 10/19/14: Video Highlights and Recap

The Utah Jazz squared off against the Los Angeles Lakers in a preseason matchup Sunday night. 

Kobe and the Lakers find themselves in unfamiliar territory, struggling to remain relevant in the fiercely competitive Western Conference. 

The Jazz won just 25 games a season ago and will need to get in a rhythm to avoid another disastrous campaign this season. 

Watch the video for full highlights.

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Utah Jazz vs. Los Angeles Lakers: Live Score, Highlights and Reaction

Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and the Utah Jazz will get their second preseason meeting with Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers Sunday in L.A.

The Jazz won the first meeting by a final score of 119-86.

 

Tipoff: 9:30 p.m. ET

Coverage: TWC SN/Root Sports

 

Keys to the Game

The Jazz overwhelmed the Lakers with a combination of athleticism and balanced scoring in the first game. Five players reached double figures, and 10 scored at least seven. If they push the pace again, the Lakers defense is likely to look every bit as hapless.

For L.A., this preseason continues to be about how Kobe Bryant looks. He scored 27 in the first meeting against Utah, but it took 23 shots to get there. Age and injuries have clearly taken their toll, so much of this season could be about adjusting for him.

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Los Angeles Clippers season preview: Player projections

We have hit the middle of our three part preview of the 2014-2015 Los Angeles Clippers, check out the Part 1 if you have not already. The question we are faced with now is how much better can this year’s Clippers team be in this incredibly deep Western Conference. The answer to that question is going to be the function of two things. How much better did this Clippers team get over the offseason? And how much better, if any, did the top tier of the Western Conference get this offseason?
DeAndre jordan and Blake Griffin during the national anthem previous to the Clippers preseason opener vs the Warriors.(photi credit Getty Images)
Okay, so part 1 of our preview handled the personal changes the Clippers made, but from a logistical and tactical standpoint the Clippers have to do a few things differently this season if they hope to crack the top two in the West and truly contend for a championship.
Offensive projections:
Nothing is changing, expect a lot of dunks, a lot of Blake Griffin and DeAndre in the post,

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