What's on the Menu? "mmmmmm . . . Basketball!!!!"

Monday, April 8, 2013

SDH Presents the NBA's Worst to First for January and and February: 17. Los Angeles Lakers

Overall Win/Loss Record (as of February 28th) :  29-30 (third place, Pacific Division)  



18
This Month:

17
Team Statistics and League Rank (as of February 28th)
  • Points Scored: 102.4 (6th)
  • Points Allowed: 101.1 (24th)
  • Team FG%: .461 (8th)
  • Opponent’s FG%: .455 (17th)
  • Team FT%: .689 (30th)
  • Team Three Point FG%: .358 (14th)
  • Rebounds per game: 44.7 (4th)
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 42.3 (17th)
  • Turnovers per game: 15.3 (27th)
  • Opponents turnovers per game: 13.3 (28th)


Individual Statistical Leaders (as of February 28th)
  • Scoring (ppg): Kobe Bryant (27.2)
  • Rebounds per game: Dwight Howard (11.9)
  • Minutes per game: Kobe Bryant (38.1)
  • Assists per game: Steve Nash (7.1)
  • Field Goal Percentage: Dwight Howard (.581)
  • Free Throw Percentage: Steve Nash (.900)
  • Three Point FG Percentage: Steve Nash (.435)
  • Steals per game: Metta World Peace (1.7)
  • Blocked Shots per game: Dwight Howard (2.3)


Worst Player of the Month: Kobe Bryant


Placing Kobe Bryant as the worst of the month does not have to do with his overall performance, which has been short of stellar, but more has to do with an incident that diminished his character as a person and his upstanding professional image.  In a move that can be considered as selfish and childish Bryant decided to simply "mail it" in one game choosing not to shoot the ball, instead choose to force passes that lead to numerous turnovers.  According to numerous sources, Bryant's out of character play was seen by many as a response of a internal spat with teammate Dwight Howard and basically an F-You to his teammates, fans and the media that criticized him for dominating the ball on offense.  Such immature and irresponsible behavior is unbecoming a player of Kobe Bryant's stature--one who has earned a reputation as being one of the fiercest competitors in the NBA along with one of the most classiest players in professional sports as well.  And he did this during a time when his team needed his leadership the most--at a time where his team was struggling to crawl back into playoff contention and needed as many wins that they can possibly get.  Fortunately for both Kobe and the Lakers, they ended up to win the game, if only by a small margin (which made him look like even more of a jerk); however, committing such a callous and childish move  has severely marred what has otherwise been a stellar season for the 16 years, five time NBA Champion and future Hal of Famer.    
First Player of the Month:  Earl Clark


At the beginning of the regular season, Earl Clark was considered nothing more than a throw in in the massive multi-player trade that brought Dwight Howard to the Lakers; however, now, he has become one of the few brights spots on what fans of the purple and gold would consider a most forgettable season.  This 6'10" 25 year old swingman started the season only being used sparingly but once he got the opportunity to get quality minutes, he took full advantage of it.  Starting in place of the often injured Pau Gasol, Earl Clark shined bright as he drastically bumped his numbers way upfrom just 0.8 points per game to a whopping 10.5 per game while shooting an unconscious .476 from the field, with .379 of them coming from beyond the arc during January and February.  Clark also made his presence felt on the boards and the defensive end as well averaging close to eight rebounds along with one steal and one blocked shot per game.  He may not win any awards once the season ends, but Clark's inspired play has not only certainly made him a favorite in the eyes of his home fans, but also will earned recognition as one of the true feel good stories of the 2012/2013 NBA Season.       

Analysis:

They may have finished February one game under .500 and a ways behind in the Western Conference standings; nonetheless, with more than a month left until the season ends, the Los Angeles Lakers will not only make the playoffs, but also make plenty of noise upon arriving to the post season.  After playing the first couple of months rather listless and disjointed, lacking any real focus whatsoever, the Lakers seemed to have finally woken up and have started to play the way that many of their fans have hoped and prayed that they would finally do.  Offensively the Lakers have been burning on all cylinders as the team has finally began to produce the way that many had projected.  The second unit, which had been an Achilles heel last season, has been quite spectacular as the season has worn on quickly and quietly holding up an aging and hobbling Lakers starting lineup.  Currently five of the team's bench players average around close to eight points, 4 boards, amd one assist per game each giving the team possibly one of the deepest and most versitile teams in the league right now.

Players who has been once written off as washed up has-beens now have bounced back from their rather lackluster starts and have become key players once again for the purple and gold.  The most notable of these players have been the aging front court tandem of 36 year old Antawn Jamison, 33 year old Metta World Peace and 32 year old Pau Gasol.  A season ago, many would have believed that the man formerly known as Ron Artest's best basketball days were all but gone after three rather lacklusters season since signing onto the Lakers; however, he has completely flipped the script coming into this season as he has posted his best numbers as a Laker averaging close to 13 points per game along with leading the team in average steals per game.  Antawn Jamison, a player that has lost much of his explosiveness due to his advancing age and diminishing abilities led many to think that ot was an absolute mistake for the team to sign up; however, he has certainly silenced any doubters as he leads the second unit in scoring with 9.3 points per game while providing solid backup minutes at the both the small and power forward position.  And finally, after all the drama and speculation on whether or not he would remain a Laker by the trade deadline, Pau Gasol has finally gotten out of his slump and has started to resembles the player who helped to bring the Lakers to three straight NBA Finals winning two of them.

In addition to a reemerging front court, Los Angeles has also seen a virtual resurrection in their backcourt as well with the two players that were meant to spell both Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash for a short time have also undergone an epiphany.  32 year old Steve Blake has been considered by many a Laker fan as an overall disappointment since arriving to Los Angeles three years ago, but he now has seemed to finally come out of his two year long shooting slump and has provided the Lake Show with instant perimeter offense shooting a blistering .421 from the three point line.  Jodie Meeks, who had started for the Philadelphia 76ers for much last season, showed how much of valuable asset he could be despite his rather small stature.  Meeks has also has also some up big at times for L.A as he currently rest second on the team's bench in scoring averaging about 8.0 per game, but also shoot from beyond the arc at a rather impressive .363 clip.   Add along the steady improvement and continual development of the young and athletically raw big man Jordan Hill, the Lakers altogether have a team with a roster that can literally go ten deep in any given situation making them a VERY DANGEROUS team going into the final stretch of the regular season.

Sure, many have harshly criticized the Lakers' poor, if not absent, effort and presence on the defensive end; however, on the flip side they have still managed to outscore and beat their opponents regardless.  For a team that has one of the oldest rosters in the league, the Lakers have certainly not playing like an aging team as they have gone toe to toe, and basket for basket with teams that were suppsed to be FAR younger and WAY more athletic than Los Angeles has ever been.  In the months of January and February, the Lakers have scored 100 or more points in all but five games shooting at a rather impressive clip as well.  Although they have not been able to stop the their opponents from scoring allowing them to scoring 100 points and shoot over .450 on their, but neither can their opponents stop them on their offensive end.  In terms of offensive firepower and production, the Lakers rank among the best in the league in scoring and field goal percentage despite the age and declining abilities of the team's roster and top it all off, they are also one efficient teams in that regard as well.

Currently the last two spots in the West are currently being held by the Utah Jazz and Houston Rockets with rather comfortable margins, but as time will show, that gap is far from being a permanent fixture.  Neither team can be considered of being models of consistency, especially on the defensive end where both team have struggled to stop their opponents from shooting better.  Houston has been in the same situation before, having a good healthy lead coming into the playoffs only to come falling apart and the end.  The same goes for the Utah Jazz, who can credit their record more to good luck rather than actual performance as can be seen by the field goals that they allow their opponents to hit on them.  With such inferior competition, one can not only pencil in the lakers in the playoffs, but possibly making some noise once opening tip off of the playoff begins.