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Friday, January 23, 2015

SDH's 2014/2015 Worst to First Countdown for the First "Slap-mester" (Oct/Nov/Dec): 26. Los Angeles Lakers

Win/Loss Record as of December 31st, 2014:  10-22, fifth place Pacific Division, 14th Place Western Conference

Projected 2014/2015 Finish
Current Rank as of December 31st

Team Statistics and League Rank as of December 31st,  2014: 

  • Points Scored: 102.3 (12th)
  • Points Allowed: 109.2 (30th)
  • Team FG%: .436 (23rd)
  • Opponent’s FG%: .478 (29th)
  • Team FT%: .746 (17th)
  • Team Three Point FG%: .365 (9th)
  • Rebounds per game: 42.6(14th)
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 45.0 (28th)
  • Turnovers per game: 12.2 (7th)
  • Opponents turnovers per game: 13.6 (17th)

Individual Statistical Leaders as of December 31st, 2014:

  • Scoring (ppg): Kobe Bryant (24.1)
  • Rebounds per game:  Jordan Hill (7.9)
  • Minutes per game: Kobe Bryant (35.2)
  • Assists per game:  Kobe Bryant (5.2)
  • Field Goal Percentage: Ed Davis (.630)
  • Free Throw Percentage:  Nick Young (.900)
  • Three Point FG Percentage: Jordan Clarkson (.455)
  • Steals per game: Ronnie Price (1.5)
  • Blocked Shots per game: Ed Davis (1.3)

Worst of the Class: Byron Scott
So what do you have to say for yourself Coach Scott? You came into your former team with all smiles promising a new day, with a renewed devotion to defense and new culture of accountability; however none of that has happened thus far.  As of now the Lakers rank near the bottom of the league in points and rebounds allowed as well as opponents' field goal percentage thus making them arguably the worst defensive team in the league.  On the offensive end, the team has looked confused and out of sync as he has chosen not to commit to a particular set making it absolutely impossible for his players to find any kind of rhythm thus forcing Kobe Bryant to put more on his plate than he has already has.  Although many Lakers fans as well as the media have given him the benefit of the doubt, it will all be for naught as Scott will prove once again what so many people have already discovered--that he is a complete fraud and hopefully he will expose himself as one once and for all. 

First of the Class: Kobe Bryant
Many pundits and sports analysts had written off Kobe Bryant at the start of the regular season due to his injuries that had him sit out two seasons and the fact that he was getting paid more than any other player in the league despite that and the fact that he is 36 years old to boot.  Nevertheless, despite all the talk from his detractors, Kobe has silenced all of his doubters as he bounced back to post an excellent season thus far leading his team in scoring, assists and minutes played per game.   Even while his team struggles, he has shown the same poise and confidence as if he were on a championship team never showing any signs of frustration or has any way lashed out on his coach or teammates.  What's even more impressive is that despite his team's dire situation, he has still managed to add to his already everlasting legacy as he surpassed his idol, +Michael Jordan, to become the third all time leading scorer in NBA history.  Even though this season can be chalked up for a loss, no one can ever doubt or deny the greatness of the Black Mamba as he continues to prove that he is still one of the greatest players to have ever walked on a basketball court.  

This was supposed to be a year of redemption as the storied Los Angeles Lakers looked to bounce back from their franchise worst 28 win season as they came into this one with a new coach, new additions, and a healthy roster.  There was plenty of excitement for this season as the Purple and Gold welcomed the man who should be credited for saving the league four years ago in +Jeremy Lin  as well as two time All Star +Carlos Boozer, who had a proven winning history while playing for both the +Utah Jazz and +Chicago Bulls.  Fans also welcomed back Mr. Swaggy P himself, Nick Young, who had helped carry last season's struggling team leading it in scoring as well as becoming a favorite both to fans and the media.  The same can be said for other fan favorites such as Jordan Hill, Wesley Johnson, Ryan Kelly, and Robert Sacre--players who stepped up playing in bigger roles than they have ever experienced or expected to experience earning them the respect of not only the fans, but also the media as well.  Together with the anticipated return of the "Black Ma Mamba," as well as the welcoming a Laker alumnus and former champion Byron Scott as the team's head coach, it looked as if the Purple and Gold would once again  return to relevance making that unsightly blemish on their pristine legacy last season a mere aberration and one time affair; however, upon the start of the 2014/2015 regular season, last season looked less like an aberration, and more like an unfortunate sign of things to come.

The Lakers came into season looking for redemption, but instead found tragedy and pain as they would get steamrolled in their first five games losing by an average margin of fifteen points allowing their opponent to drop an average of 116.8 points while shooting nearly .500 from the field.  To make matters worse, this team which welcomed an influx of young talent and veteran experience looked completely amateurish and quite unbecoming of one that made what many considered at the time as rather impressive moves during the off-season.  LA managed to stop the bleeding with an impressive win against the +Charlotte Hornets (11/9/2014) and despite losing the two games that followed against the +Memphis Grizzlies (11/11/2014)  and +New Orleans Pelicans (11/12/2014), the Lakers still put up a solid effort losing by just five against Memphis and by seven against the Pelicans.  Unfortunately, any signs of that effort being signs of a steady improvement were dashed when the would lose rather convincingly against the +San Antonio Spurs  (11/14/2014) and get trampled by the +Golden State Warriors, who managed to score 136 points on them (11/16/2014).  The Lakers would then finish the month of November winning just three of their last seven games beating the +Atlanta Hawks (11/18/2014), +Houston Rockets (11/19/2014) and +Toronto Raptors (11/30/2014), but would allow the +Dallas Mavericks to crush them by 34 points and allow them to score an unfathomable 140 points (11/21/2014).

It was awful enough to witness the Lakers start the +NBA season winning just five games, but what made things even worse was the fact that in all of those games, they only held their opponents under 100 points three times--two of which they lost.  Los Angeles also allowed their opponents to score more than 110 points in nine of the 17 games that they played in November thus showing a complete disregard to any effort on the defensive end whatsoever--something which incoming coach Byron Scott declared would be remedied; however, that has certainly not happened.  In fact, one can go as far to say that the defense is just as bad if not worse that it was last season when Mike D'Antoni coached the team and at least he had some sort of excuse as the Lakers were severely depleted due to injuries to a point where in one game, a player was allowed to play despite having fouled out due to a league rule that stated that a team has to have a minimum of eight players to play.  On the other hand, Scott virtually has no excuse for the team's shameful display of defense considering he inherited a far deeper and more talented and experienced lineup than his predecessor Looking at the poor state of the team, one has to ask whether GM Mitch Kupchack made the right choice in hiring Scott--a coach whose success has been attained not so much by his coaching skills and ability to get through to his players, but the fact that he had the luxury of having future hall of famers in Jason Kidd and +Chris Paul playing for him.

The Lakers seemed to show signs of life in the month of December as they started it winning four of their first seven games; however, as with everything else that has happened, the Lakers would win the first game against an equally dreadful +Detroit Pistons team (12/2/2014), but then lose horrifically against the +Washington Wizards (12/3/2014), +Boston Celtics (12/5/2014) and the Pelicans by an average of 16 points.  In those three massacres, the Lakers allowed their opponents to not only score 109 points but also shoot .504 and out-rebound them by an average margin of 15; nonetheless, the Purple and Gold managed to redeem themselves with three impressive wins against the +Sacramento Kings (12/9/2014), in a rematch with the Spurs (12/12/2014), and a hard fought road win against the +Minnesota Timberwolves (12/14/2014).  Unfortunately, the thrill of victory was quickly snuffed out by the +Indiana Pacers (12/15/2014) as the Lakers allowed one of the lowest scoring and worst shooting teams to score 110 points and shoot .482 from the field--which is pretty sad considering that Indy finished 2014 averaging just 94.5 points and shot just .431 from the field.  LA would lose the two games that followed, but at least those losses were far more respectable with one of them being a one point heart breaker versus the +Oklahoma City Thunder (12/19/2014) and Sacramento by just seven points (12/21/2014); however, they did manage to nab an early Christmas present with a win against the league's best Warriors (12/23/2014), but had the holiday magic stomped out of them with a 20 point blowout at the +United Center at the hands of the Bulls on Christmas Day.  At least LA ended the year on a high note with a road win against the +Denver Nuggets (12/30/2014) after losing the previous two against the Mavericks (12/26/2014) and +Phoenix Suns (12/28/2014).

Nonetheless, it is pretty obvious that after the first three months of the season, the Lakers will not only repeat that dreadful performance from last season, but might actually end up far worse than the previous team despite having greatly upgraded during the off season. Both Carlos Boozer and Jeremy Lin--two players who were expected to have major impacts and bring the team back to respectability--have failed miserably to live up to expectations and have lost their place in the team's starting five.   Lin has been the biggest disappointment not only Lakers fans, but to those who have religiously followed him hoping that he would return to the level he played that garnered him so much acclaim and a humongous pay raise thanks to Houston Rockets.  Now instead of justifying the lucrative contract and possibly giving himself a chance to possibly earning himself another one, he is now viewed as a dead weight expiring contract and will probably never see that sort of money again or even be signed by another NBA team.  The same can be said for Boozer, who instead of showing how much of a mistake it was for the Bulls to choose +Pau Gasol over him letting him go via the league's amnesty provision, has only justified Chicago's position as both his production and his value as a player continue to slide.

As for the rest of the team, they have essentially also been either missing in action or completely null and void as neither the newcomers or the returning ones from last season have really stepped up their games to provide adequate support for the team's aging star, Kobe Bryant.  Nick Young continues to maintain his status as fan favorite and darling of the local media, his contributions on the court have been marginal at best with his poor shooting despite him being second on the team in scoring.  Wesley Johnson, who many expected to have a breakout year, continues to prove how much of a draft day bust failing to live up to his being selected fourth overall in the 2010 NBA Draft, while at the same time fellow castaway turned contributor Xavier Henry, stopped playing after nine games and was subsequently waived.  Robert Sacre also went from being a player who  showed plenty of promise last season to becoming a complete non factor on both ends of the floor while Ryan Kelly, a player who earned a place in the heart of the Lakers faithful due to his hustle and gritty play, has also found himself shunned due to his less than stellar play.  Rookie and future fixture of the franchise, +Julius Randle, fractured his tibia in his first game and was lost for the season while Jordan Clarkson, the other highly touted rookie who was considered a draft day steal when the Lakers grabbed him in the second round, has played very sparingly thus far  spending most of his freshman year in the +NBA D League.

The only players who are even worth mentioning other than Bryant are big men Jordan Hill and Ed Davis as they have been the only players on this dysfunctional Lakers team that have played at a high level on both ends of the court while earning coach Scott's confidence and trust.  Davis has certainly made his presence felt as a banger and physical presence in the paint earning him a spot on the team's starting five replacing Boozer, who has seemingly fallen out of favor with the team. At the same time, Hill, who may be a free agent at the end of the season if the team decides to rescind their option to keep him next season, may be the sole player worth salvaging out of this sad crew as he has thus far posted career highs in both points (12.0) and rebounds (around eight) per game.  As always, Kobe continues to be the team's focal point and continues to prove his skeptics wrong; however, despite him leading in points, assists, and minutes played, his game has fallen at the waist side as well with his less than stellar field goal percentage that went from .404 in October to .348 by the end of December.  His effort and desire to play even a modicum of good defense has also continues to disintegrate making his presence on the court more of a hindrance than a help; nevertheless, let us not forget to mention that Kobe has really nothing else to play for as he already has shattered every milestone cementing his place as not only the greatest Laker of all time, but also one of the greatest who has ever played the game of basketball.

With all that has happened thus far in the season and if their performance can be seen as a sign of things to come, it is safe to say that the playoffs are by now absolutely unreachable at this point and this season can be written off as a lost cause for the Los Angeles Lakers.  Coming into opening tip off, it looked as if there would be a chance to see the Purple and Gold rise again, if not to the post season then at least bounce back from that embarrassment of a season and finish somewhat respectable by season's end.  Unfortunately, that has not come to pass as this once proud franchise that had so much promise and hope coming into the regular season completely fell apart upon stepping onto the basketball court with the future looking even more bleak with each passing game. In a Western Conference that is practically clogged from the bottom to the top, Laker fans may have to wait far longer for their team to return to the stature it once enjoyed and may have to endure more heart-wrenching seasons such as this one.  At least through the turmoil, they can hold solace in the fact that once this season finally comes to a close, their team will have the high draft picks and the salary cap space to come back stronger than ever; for now, however, they will have to grit their teeth and endure watching their team continue to fall from grace until they inevitably hot rock bottom.