Mike D’Antoni resigns: Lakers fans rejoice

The Lakers will have a new coach in 2014-15. Mike D’Antoni resigned from the Lakers last Wednesday. D’Antoni coached the Lakers for the past two seasons. In those two years, D’Antoni went a subpar 62-82. This season the Lakers had their worst season in Franchise History under MDA at 27-55 and will have a top pick in the NBA Lottery draft. Every Lakers fan called for management to fire D’Antoni, however Mike made it easy on the franchise and fans by resigning from the team. D’Antoni signed a three year contract with the Lakers, but the Lakers had a team option for his fourth season. The coach wanted Lakers management to give him assurance that he would be back for his fourth season as Lakers head coach, but the Lakers would not cave in to his demands. Since the Lakers decided not to pick up his fourth year, D’Antoni decided to walk. The Lakers are now off the hook for the four million dollars that would have been owed to MDA next season under his three year 12 million dollar deal.

The Lakers are very fortunate that Mike D’Antoni resigned after this season and before the NBA draft and summer free agency period. Now that D’Antoni or “Pringles” (called by fans) is gone the Lakers will have great leverage in pursuing free agents to attract them to come play in LA for the Lakers. The Lakers will also be able to draft a possible future franchise player in the lottery whom they can groom to be the next heir apparent after Kobe Bryant retires. Most players and free agents did not want to play for MDA so the resigning of the former Lakers head coach comes as a blessing in disguise. Players like Carmelo Anthony had no intent to play for D’Antoni, now that MDA is gone, LA seems like a paradise destination. Dwight Howard left the Lakers after the 2012-13 season because he didn’t want to play for D’Antoni.

Pau Gasol also displayed his displeasure with D’Antoni this year as said that D’Antoni does not use him correctly in the offense. Gasol was leaning to leave the Lakers in free agency this summer, but now that MDA is gone, Gasol might return to the Lakers with Kobe and the gang. Gasol wants to win championships and he wants to play for a coach that he respects.

The Lakers will have the chance to draft highly touted NBA prospects such as Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Dante Exum, Julius Randle, and more. With the departure of D’Antoni they can rest assured that the Lakers are headed back into a winning culture once again.

Free Agents available this summer include Carmelo Anthony, Pau Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce, Zach Randolph etc. In 2015 Kevin Love will be available if the Lakers are to pursue him, and 2016 Kevin Durant.

Coaching candidates for the Lakers include both college and NBA coaches. The Lakers are planning to make runs at the big and small names such as George Karl, Jeff Van Gundy, Mark Jackson (recently fired by GSW), Kevin Ollie, Tom Thibedeau, Byron Scott, and Derek Fisher.

After a very bleak 2013-14 season the Lakers are hoping to turn the ship around and once again be in contention for another title before Kobe retires. The Lakers mantra has always been to win championships and they plan to do that once again through the draft and free-agency.

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FARMAR TO THE RESCUE

 

The Lakers turned a meaningless game on Friday into a riveting win. A home game at Staples Center vs the Sacramento Kings, the Lakers at one point trailed by 15 points to the Kings in the second half. The win snapped a 3 game losing streak for the Lakers who now sit at 20-39 for the season and are among the worst teams in the NBA. If the NBA Lottery draft were today the Lakers would have a high probability of having a top 5 pick in the first round. The Kings are not looking good either as they share the same record at 20-39. Both teams are last in the Western Conference.

The Lakers who haven’t played defense all season certainly did not on Friday versus the Kings. The Lakers gave up 122 points but still won the ball game. The Lakers beat the Kings 126-122. The win was fueled by the sharpshooting of Jordan Farmar who scored a career high 30 points and went 8-10 from the 3 point arc. The Lakers also set a team record with 19 three point field goals made as they were 19-27 and shot 70% from beyond the arc. The Lakers as a team shot 60% from the field. Not only did Farmar have the magic touch but so did Jodie Meeks who was perfect from the field at 8-8. Marshon Brooks also had a stellar game as he scored 23 points which was more than the Kings bench. Brooks provided late crucial baskets to put the Kings away with the waning minutes in the fourth quarter. Kent Bazemore called Brooks a young Kobe after his performance on Friday. Bazemore added 12 points on 5-11 shooting. Wesley Johnson had a double double with 12 points and 12 rebounds. Pau Gasol also had a strong game as he scored 22 points 5 rebounds and 2 blocked shots. This comes after he criticized Mike D’Antoni’s system. D’Antoni fired back saying that Lakers players should keep things in house. The irony is that D’Antoni went to the media earlier in the season and threw Pau under the bus.

The Lakers were so much on fire that there lack of defense and turnovers did not keep them from pulling off the comeback win. The Lakers pulled off a miraculous comeback on the shoulders of Farmar, and the late plays of Brooks. In a meaningless game this game was pure up and down back and forth barn burner until the end. The Lakers hope to continue their inspired play as they head out on the road. In a trying and difficult season, these types of wins are memorable and special for the fans. Real Lakers fans stick with their team no matter what. Lakers fans bleed purple and gold.

 

Lakers fans boo Dwight Howard

As expected, Lakers fans booed their one time big man who bolted for the Houston Rockets, Dwight Howard. Lakers fans let Dwight have it. Everything from Dwight sucks, Howard sucks, Get out of town, can’t make free throws, Howard heard it all. The fans were raucous in their displeasure for Howard. The game was more about booing Dwight rather than the game itself. 

Nearly from the get go the game was uncompetitive as the Rockets took a 32-22 lead after the first quarter. The Lakers lack of defense helped propel the Rockets to a 64-43 halftime lead. Eventually the Rockets would put the nail in the coffin as they beat the Lakers at Staples Center with a 134-108 win. The boos weren’t enough to stop Howard and the Rockets. Howard finished the game with 20 points and 13 rebounds, James Harden had 29 pts and 11 assists, and Chandler Parsons added 18 pts on 8 of 14 shooting. The Rockets out rebounded the Lakers by 24 at 56 total team rebounds to the Lakers 34.

For the Lakers the key contributors offensively were Jodie Meeks, Kendall Marshall, and Wes Johnson. Meeks scored 19 pts, Marshall had another double-double with 20 points and 16 assists, and Wes Johnson scored a team high of 24 points and collected 7 rebounds. 

The key news for the day actually happened before tipoff. Lakers point guard Steve Blake was traded to the Golden State Warriors for Marshon Brooks, and Kent Bazemore. The Laker faithful was pretty upset with this trade because Blake aka the White Mamba or the Blake Mamba had become a fan favorite with his tough play and three point shooting. 

What do the Lakers need to do? Well simple this season is a complete loss in terms of trying to make the playoffs. Even if the Lakers miraculously came back and were a playoff team they would be the number 8th seed. Lets be honest the Lakers wouldn’t have gone far in the playoffs this season even with a healthy roster. This season was all about clearing salary cap space and making room for potential free agents to come to LA. The Lakers best move for this season is to keep doing what they have been doing which is #TEAMTANK. By tanking this season the Lakers are now sitting at a high draft pick for the NBA Lottery. Currently at the moment the Lakers would have the number 5 pick in the NBA Draft. Draft prospects the Lakers could end up with are the highly coveted (Forward) Andrew Wiggins and (Center) Joel Embiid both playing at the University of Kansas. Also Forward Jabari Parker (Duke) could be available, as well as guard Marcus Smart from Oklahoma State University. Dante Exum was in attendance yesterday for the Lakers Rockets game at Staples Center. Exum is an extremely skilled guard from Australia and he has great respect for Kobe Bryant and the Lakers. Exum has publicly said that he wants to be drafted by the Lakers. 

“Definitely L.A. is one option,” he said. “I’ve been to L.A. many times and I love the city, and it is a great city. If I get the opportunity to go to L.A. and play for the Lakers, I know I’ll have love for the city. And their fans are loyal and they have the rivalry with the Clippers. But just to be in an environment where you have a great player like Kobe, where you have a mentor in a way as a rookie, I think that would be the best option.”

It may look like dark days are here for the Lakers, but the future is bright for the Laker faithful. The Lakers will have lots of cap space this offseason, and can potentially sign Kevin Love in 2015 or any other big time free agent. Even in 2016 free agents like Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant will be available and they could head to the City of Angels. The Lakers have always been able to rebuild. After the departure of Shaquille O’neal in 2004-05 the Lakers didn’t make the playoffs and were a lottery draft team. In the draft the took another big man named Andrew Bynum and although he was injured throughout his career, he was able to help the Lakers win the 2010 NBA Championship against the Boston Celtics and he was an AllStar in 2011. Lets not forget that the Lakers were able to pull off one of the biggest heists of all time trading Kwame Brown, Jarvis Crittendon for Pau Gasol who helped the Lakers win back to back titles and has been Kobe’s wingman. 

The Lakers future looks very bright with a high draft pick that the team can build around as well as signing a big time free agent to assist Kobe Bryant and hopefully bring number 17 title to the Lakers and help Kobe attain his 6th ring. The Lakers might not be good this season, or maybe even next season but after that they will be a team to reckon with. Kobe is all about championships and legacy and so are the Lakers organization. The Lakers pride themselves in winning and they will definitely be back at the top real soon. Image

Playoff Push (Kobe Time)

                The Lakers have finally started to click and chemistry has developed. These are not the same roll over and kick me dead, diva, drama filled Lakers that started the season. The new and improved Lakers are all about just playing basketball and winning games. No more distractions and finger pointing. After the Memphis loss on January 23rd the team called a players only meeting, and since that point there has been a 180 degree turnaround. These were the same Lakers who were 7 games under .500 at 17-24 and looked like a beaten down dead horse. Well something sparked after that meeting, and everybody turned the focus and intensity up.

Since January 23rd the Lakers have gone 17-8 and currently hold the 8th and final playoff spot over the Utah Jazz by ½ a game. At the moment the Lakers are standing at 34-32 and they have reached above .500 for the first time since November 20th when they were 6-4. The Lakers now control their own destiny simply by winning games. It also has been a tremendous help to the Lakers that the Houston Rockets, Golden State Warriors, and Utah Jazz have all been struggling mightily and have been dropping games as well. If the Lakers keep winning and the Jazz, Warriors, and Rockets keep free falling then the Lakers could possibly earn a 6th spot in the Western Conference seeding.

            What is the reason that this ship we know as the Lakeshow has changed its course? Well I will spell it out for you with four letters, K-O-B-E. Kobe Bryant has singlehandedly sparked and led the Lakers to successive wins since the All-star game. Since the All-star break, Kobe has been scoring 30.8ppg, 7.3 apg, and 6.6 rpg while shooting near 50%. Kobe will do literally anything it takes to win. Whether that be the role of facilitating and dishing assists to teammates or taking the ball to the rack himself, Kobe taken it upon himself to will this Lakers squad to victory and has determined that this Lakers team will make the playoffs by any means necessary (insert Malcolm X quote here). The resiliency of Kobe has been imprinted onto his teammates and this Lakers team will not give up. The Lakers have had 2 back to back comeback wins in March vs. the New Orleans Hornets and Toronto Raptors. In both of those games the Lakers were down by 20 points or more and rallied back to win the game in the fourth quarter. Kobe scored 42 points 12 assists and 7 rebounds against the Hornets to overcome a 25 point deficit and win the game. The very next night Kobe put up almost identical numbers with 41, 12, and 6. In the Toronto game Kobe hit a game-tying fade-away three to send the game into overtime. From there Kobe displayed his dominance as the Lakers won 118-116 in overtime. Not only is scoring at such a high rate and efficiency but he is also guarding the elite opposing guards in the game, did I mention that Kobe is doing all this at age 34 in his 17th year. Hence the name Kobe has adopted is Vino because his game is like a fine wine that gets only better with age.

            The next reason the Lakers have been playing better basketball is that everyone has accepted their roles. Steve Nash has become a spot up and perimeter shooter, Dwight Howard has become a defensive anchor and rebounder, and Antwan Jamison and Jodie Meeks have been playing much better coming off the bench. Dwight Howard has been playing much better as of late and it looks like he is getting healthier as he is more active in the paint and on the glass. Since the allstar game Dwight Howard has flipped a switch. Not only does he look healthier and stronger but his play has undoubtedly improved. Post All-star break Dwight is averaging 17ppg, 15rpg, and 2.5 bpg. In his return to Orlando, Howard had a monster game with 39 points, and shot 25-39 from the free throw line, he also had 16 rebounds and 3 blocks. The only other player to put 39 points, 16 rebounds, and 3 blocks against the Magic is the Diesel Shaquille O’neal. The biggest improvement for Howard is that he is now contesting and altering shots as well as grabbing offensive and defensive rebounds more aggressively. Howard has stopped complaining like a whiny baby and he is now just focused on playing ball and winning. He says that his mindset shifted during the All-star break. Dwight realized that he was fortunate to play with one of the all-time greats in Kobe Bryant and this is his chance to compete for a championship. Howard also said that he has changed his diet and cut out all unnecessary sugars such as skittles and candy bars as well as getting better conditioning in the weight room to help with his improving back.

            With the team much improving and chemistry starting to flow it looks like the Lakers are making a nice run for a playoff push in the Western Conference. Injuries have really slowed this Lakers team down with all their stars missing time from Nash’s lengthy period of time out, to a recovering Dwight Howard playing with a surgically repaired back and torn labrum, and Pau Gasol who is expected to return after missing 6-8 weeks with Plantar Fascia. When everything seems to be going right, some sort of adversity happens again. Kobe last night in a close loss to the Atlanta Hawks, was undercut and suffered a sprained ankle by Dantay Jones which was a clear foul and a chance for the Lakers to tie the game at 94 and to send it into overtime. The X-rays were negative and Kobe is listed out as indefinitely with a severe ankle sprain. The Lakers are estimating that he will most likely not play at least the next 2 games. However we are taking about the Black Mamba who is the ultimate warrior and plays through every sort of pain and injury imaginable, so you never know. One thing that is for certain is that the Lakers must continue to control their own destiny from here on out by winning as many games as possible. These Lakers cannot afford to play under .500 ball. Every game matters from here. All Lakers fans everywhere are praying for a speedy and healthy recovery for Kobe Bryant so that the Lakers will make the playoffs and have at least a chance to compete for a title.

Magic Mamba

People often say that Kobe Bryant does not share the ball enough. Well in the last six games Kobe is averaging Magic Johnson type numbers in terms of assists with 10apg. The Lakers have won five of their last six games as the Black Mamba has turned into the Magic Mamba. This new look Lakers team has looked very exiting these last 6 games with excellent ball movement spearheaded by #24 himself. Kobe came up one short (with 14assists) in back to back games versus Utah and OKC both constituting wins. His career high in assists was set back on February 12, 2002 with 15.

The fact however is that Kobe now is instilling trust and confidence in his teammates. This whole season Kobe Bryant has had to bail out the Lakers and will the team to victories because nobody else was stepping up. Kobe’s “Magic” Johnson type numbers have soared recently because his teammates are now actually making their shots and converting on their field goal opportunities. Kobe has consistently been sharing the ball even prior to this last assist heavy stretch. For this season Kobe is already above his career assist average of 4.7apg with 5.4apg. So to say that Kobe Bryant has just started passing the ball is wildly inaccurate and off kilter.

Kobe has been sharing the basketball and is actively trying to get other teammates involved. The difference these last 6 games have been his teammates actually making shots when Kobe has passed it to them hence the hike in the assists per game. Yes Kobe is shooting less shots but that is because his teammates are starting to make more of their own. Over the last six games Kobe is averaging 14 field goal attempts per game and is scoring 17ppg with 7.6rpg. In this stretch Kobe has averaged numbers rivaling the Big O Oscar Robertson and Earvin Magic Johnson. These stats are point guard like numbers not shooting guard numbers. Not only has Kobe been actively finding his teammates for open shots but he has sacrificed his own game for the sake of his team. Kobe lead the league in scoring with almost 30ppg going into this six game stretch and now has fell to 3rd in the NBA in scoring at 27.7 ppg.

The most unselfish act I have ever seen from any player in any sport came from the Black Mamba Kobe Bryant on Friday’s victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves. Kobe had a wide open fastbreak dunk with nobody even remotely in sight, but Kobe flipped the ball to his pal Pau Gasol and unselfishly gave the big man a two handed slam to boost his confidence. What Kobe did for Gasol was beyond just a regular assist, it was an act of belief. He showed Gasol with his actions that he believes that #16 is still one of the best big men of the NBA and that even in this tough patch D’Antoni making Pau “ride the pine,” that Kobe Bryant still has his back. Another example of instilling confidence in his team was in the same game, Kobe drove into the lane then kicked the ball out to the artist formerly known as Ron Artest aka Metta World Peace for three, then Metta missed it and Kobe had the audacity to pass it to him again. This time Metta drained the trey and was smiling ear to ear. This is the sort of leadership and trust that Kobe has taken upon himself to elevate his team to start winning games and become actively involved in all aspects of the game. Since guys feel confidence offensively they have became more engaged defensively.

After the Lakers had a players meeting in Memphis, they have come together as a collective group to play team basketball. The team went from a get mine mentality to an all for one mentality. These Lakers now play for each other and it stems from the top down with the alpha dog Kobe Bryant leading the charge. Kobe has showed a willingness and trust in his teammates believing in them even when they might not have belief in themselves. When asked if the Lakers talked about Kobe becoming more of a play-maker and facilitator, Kobe said it just happened. He didn’t discuss it with anyone; he just took it upon himself to do what he thought would help the team win games. Will Kobe remain as the great play-maker and facilitator? Well as long as the Lakers keep winning games he will. All that matters to KB24 is wins. At this stage of his career Kobe Bryant could care less about his personal numbers and more about the team winning and hopefully making the playoffs with championship aspirations. As for now the Lakers are taking it one game at a time.

Not the personnel but the System (Mike D’less Antoni)

             Enough is enough. As a lifelong diehard Lakers fan I am utterly mortified and disappointed in this Lakers squad this season. With such a star studded cast of all stars, former MVPs and NBA Champions the Lakers have fallen flat on title aspirations and expectations. As a team the Lakers need to WAKE up. Flat is the perfect word to describe this team as it seems like almost every other game they come out lethargic and without any energy. A lot of people may say that the Lakers players themselves should be to blame, but I would disagree. The players are partially to blame for their losing record but the brunt (thanks Kobe for this word) of the blame should be toward the coaching staff and Lakers management. Mainly I would blame Jim Buss and Mike D’Antoni for this fiasco.

The problem for the Lakers the whole season has been defense. Mike Brown was supposedly a defensive genius but instead he focused all his intention on teaching them a read and react Princeton offense. So after merely 5 games at 1-4 Mike Brown got the boot. Here was the Lakers chance at a golden opportunity and a fresh start. Phil Jackson was handed to them on a silver platter and was ready to come back and coach the Lakers to another Championship Title. It would be the perfect fit for the Lakers and for the Zen Master. However the heir to the Lakers throne Jim Buss agreed with Mitch Kupchak that they would rather sign Mike D’Antoni instead of the 11x NBA Champion Phil Jackson. That would be fine but last time I checked Mike D’Antoni has never won a championship and his defensive philosophy is just that a philosophy. D’Antoni has never even been to the NBA Finals but apparently he must be a better choice the greatest coach who ever lived Phil Jackson. The Lakers personnel right now is even better suited for PJax and his Triangle Offense. With the 2 Big Men Gasol and Dwight Howard and the best passing point guard Steve Nash not to mention the BEST player in the NBA Kobe Bryant, this team was made for Phil Jackson to lead them to the NBA Finals Promised Land.  

                        Nothing personal against Mike D’Antoni, actually I like him as a guy he is quite easy going and funny in his interviews but he is not the right coach for this Lakers team. Mike D’Antoni will not adjust his system for his personnel and that has been a problem since he arrived in LA LA Land. How can you implement a run and gun offense with 2 7 footers and a bunch of veteran players. The personnel the Lakers have do not fit his system. A good coach would realize this and would adjust his system to fit with his players. Since joining the Lakers as head coach this season Mike D’Antoni is a measly 10-13 which is a .435 winning percentage. After winning 5 games in a row the Lakers are now on a 4 game losing skid. I have no idea what Mike D’Antoni is thinking when he feels that having Pau Gasol jack up long 3s is more useful than having one of the best post up big men in the POST. Gasol has played his whole career under the basket and has the best footwork and touch of any big man in the NBA. Instead D’Antoni has Howard in the paint and forcing contested hook shots. It is mind boggling that they call this guy an offensive genius. I think the person who gave the title of defensive guru to Mike Brown is the same one who called D’Antoni an offensive genius. If D’Antoni knew what he was doing he would put Gasol in the low post and Dwight Howard in the High Post up at the elbow and have D12 come off the screen and roll with Nash assisting. If the pick in roll is not there, then feed it down low to Gasol who has the skill and touch to finish down low. If the low post is defended then swing it to the wing and let the Black Mamba Kobe Bryant the Closer go to work. Also the Lakers need to let Steve Nash shoot the rock more. Yes he is the facilitator and gets everyone involved but he is a lethal knockdown shooter at 50% and 40% from 3 point land. Steve Nash must pull the trigger more for the Lakers to be effective because it certainly doesn’t look like we are getting any production from the bench and role players. Kobe is leading the league in scoring in his 17th season and is having his highest FG% efficiency of his career. The Lakers need to feed the Beast Dwight Howard more often as well but put him in winning situations. Dwight is most effective coming off the pick and pop with Nashty hitting him with the sweet dish. Mike D’Antoni needs to realize that it would be more effective to play a half court offense utilizing the Lakers size with their bigs rather than play a run and gun offense with older veteran players. Let the Lakers set up on offense and pound the ball down low or pick and roll with Nash to Howard. Even Iso for Kobe and good things will happen.

            The biggest problem for the Lakers has to be Defense. The Lakers rank 26th in points allowed giving up 100.6 points a game. That is a major problem. When you are handing out Free Tacos (Lakers home tradition joke) to the other team it is hard to win games. The transition defense of the Lakers is absolutely abysmal as other teams exploit the Lakers turnovers for easy fastbreak points with no Lakers getting back on defense. The Lakers are averaging 102.9 points a game which is 5th best overall but giving up 100 points means that it will be hard and almost impossible to win games on a nightly basis. The Lakers have the 3rd most turnovers a game with 15 and only force their opponents into 13 TOs. So with lack of defense the Lakers need to protect the basketball much better to limit transition points for their opponents. They say that defense wins championships well Mike D’Antoni has actually never heard this phrase or completely thrown it out the window altogether. For the Lakers to become a championship team let alone a playoff team they need to get COMMITTED to DEFENSE. A discipline to play team defense and rotating to help each other with take this team far. So far it looks like Mike D’less Antoni’s defensive strategy is paying off, that is not playing defense at all. This team needs to buckle down and bring the defensive intensity on every possession and let the defense create turnovers to enable the offense. If the Lakers could become a trapping defense and force contested shots consistently then this team could be really dangerous. Dwight Howard needs to be the anchor on defense by blocking and altering shots and switching for other teammates when in need. Kobe Bryant is the leader of this team and he needs to preach that defense is key and everything else will take care of itself. As long as the Lakers are committed to playing tough defense, rotating, creating contested shots, rebounding, and forcing turnovers then they can turn this season around and become a lethal contender. However if the Lakers remain with this nonchalant attitude when it comes to defense and not playing hard then the rest of the season will be an utter downfall.

            I still believe that the Lakers can turn this season around and become playoff contenders and hopefully a championship caliber team. The main focus has to be a commitment to defense and Mike D’Antoni adjusting his offense to cater to the players that he has. D’Antoni cannot force his players to adjust to his system but he needs to change his system to accommodate to his players. The Lakers must play every game from here on out as if it were Game 7 of the NBA Finals because they have dug such a hole for themselves that hunger, will, desperation, and intensity will only help to get them out of it. The Lakers are 15-19 right now and need roughly 48 wins to make the playoffs. Right now the Lakers need to go 34-15 in their last 49 games to play.  

                        Please pick up the intensity, will and desire-

 

-Signed a Concerned Lakers Fan!