By Kevin R. Linares
The Los Angeles Lakers entered this season with a lot less expectations than they faced last season. Dwight Howard is in Houston, Metta World Peace is in New York and Kobe Bryant is still recovering from his injury. Many people were just hoping the Clippers would not embarrass the Lakers on opening night. A starting line-up that featured a player that did not play at all last season and an aching Steve Nash would be no match for stacked team in the Clippers.
When the final buzzer went off and you looked at the scoreboard it said 116-103, in favor of the Lakers. A line-up that did not have the big names (other than Gasol and Nash) some might have hoped it would but had plenty of young players wearing the purple and gold for the first time had Laker fans smiling and Doc Rivers frowning. The Lakers bench was a big factor in the game scoring a total of 76 points, the third highest in team history. New Laker Xavier Henry led the team in scoring and posted his career high with 22 points coming off the bench. The next player with the most points was Jordan Farmar with a total of 16 points adding six assists.
The team came into the game playing with fast pace but the Clippers were looking like they could control the game. Blake Griffin was a handful and with a smaller starting line-up the Lakers were having trouble getting rebounds and protecting the rim. The game stayed close the whole way and it seemed as if perhaps Chris Paul will just take over the game and the Clippers would walk away with the win. Pau Gasol, who finished the game with 15 points, seemed to be the only player in the starting line-up to have a good game going leading to Mike D’Antoni giving the bench players an opportunity they gladly took. All of the bench players that played scored, five of them finished the game in double digits.
Nick Young struggled offensively in the first half but found his rhythm as the game went on scoring 13 points. Wes Johnson, who is expected to play an important role off the bench this season did not have a big impact in the game only scoring 3 points but it did not matter because his teammates picked it up. Farmar showed he can take control of a game as he did a few times in the preseason having a few big plays.
The Lakers will take on the Golden State Warriors tomorrow in what will be a similar match up as the Clippers in terms of their roster and style of play. The purple and gold will look to continue with the same energy and aggressiveness they had today and beat another team that is expected to be in the top of the Western Conference standings.
(Getty Images/Lisa Blumenfeld)
By Kevin R. Linares
The Los Angeles Lakers officially decided to use their amnesty clause on forward Metta World Peace. World Peace was set to make $7.7 million next year and did pick up the player option he had. The Lakers are set to save about $14 million in luxury tax with amnestying World Peace. Other Lakers that could have been victims of the amnesty clause includes Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Steve Blake. The signing of new Laker Nick Young made it easier for the Lakers to amnesty Metta and Young will be expected to take the starting small forward position.
It is a sad thing to hear that World Peace will no longer be wearing purple and gold on the court with all the memories that Laker fans will be left with. Kobe Bryant said it himself, there is no game 7 without World Peace referring to the game 7 against the Boston Celtics in 2010.
The formerly known Ron Artest, who was involved in one of the biggest sports brawls in history when he was playing for the Indiana Pacers, has definitely come a long way. He has become a fan favorite on and off the court in Los Angeles. He is a player that will always be cheered for even when wearing a different jersey. It was just a few years ago that he had a couple of confrontations with Bryant on the court but he then chose to join the Lakers and helped them win a championship.
World Peace could be playing for a number of teams next season. A team with cap space that bids for him like the Sacramento Kings, Detroit Pistons, and Cleveland Cavaliers, or maybe a team like the New York Knicks which has been said to have a lot of interest if Metta can clear waivers but he recently told Dave McMenamin, Lakers beat writer for ESPN that he is interested in playing in China and that was his number one priority. Whatever team he ends up with it will be difficult for Laker fans to cheer against him. There will definitely be a big standing ovation for him whenever it is that he returns to the Staples Center. He became one of those Lakers that deep inside will be a Laker for life.
By Kevin R. Linares
The Houston Rockets were believed to be the front runners all along in the convincing Dwight Howard that they are the best choice for him and it appears they are indeed. After it being reported by Sam Amick from USA Today that Howard had chosen to sign with the Houston Rockets, Dan Fegan, Howard’s agent, said that there was no decision made yet. There were also reports about Howard taking a plane to meet with Lakers’ general manager Mitch Kupchak and he was still split between the Rockets and the Lakers but Howard has now told Kupchak that he would not be returning to the Lakers.
“We have been informed of Dwight’s decision to not return to the Lakers.” Kupchak said in a statement confirming that Dwight would indeed join the Rockets, his third team in three years. What does this mean for the Lakers? They will have to look forward to 2014 when they will have plenty of cap space to find one of the many free agents. They will have to rely on Pau Gasol to play center again, Kobe Bryant to recover continuing to play at a high level and have the rest of the team to do their part in competing in the 2013-2014 season.
Although it will be an old team and without Howard, the Lakers still have enough to compete for playoff position. There will be some small moves made by the Lakers to replace Earl Clark and Metta World Peace if amnestied as well as other fill ins.
The Houston Rockets made some noise in the playoffs last year but will do more than just that next season. With Howard and James Harden the Rockets have a great duo who can compete for at least the fourth spot in the Western conference playoffs. There are reports that Omar Asik does not want to play behind Howard and there might be a trade for Josh Smith with the Atlanta Hawks or the New Orleans Pelicans for Ryan Anderson but nothing official has been reached.
With this being his third team in three years Dwight has to prove he is worth all of this. He left the Orlando Magic, a team he went to the NBA finals with, he left one of the most successful franchises in the world in the Lakers and now will join the Rockets where he has an opportunity to once again become the top big man in the league and immediately compete for a championship. Win and he will look at this as one of the best decisions he has ever made. Lose and he will be looking back at the options that he had and what could have been if he had chosen to go down a different path.
(USA Today/Gary A. Vasquez)
By Kevin R. Linares
July 1st is coming and the topic of where Dwight Howard will land is starting to slowly build up. There are reports from ESPN that sources say the Clippers are considering making an offer of Blake Griffin and Eric Bledsoe to the Lakers in a sign and trade for Dwight Howard. There was a report earlier in the week going around saying that the Lakers would not consider a sign and trade for Howard.
The Clippers are also in talks with the Boston Celtics about a trade involving Kevin Garnett for DeAndre Jordan and possibly Bledsoe but the Clippers would like to keep Bledsoe out of it. Still facing the possibility of Chris Paul walking in free agency, it would not be wise for the Clippers to trade away Bledsoe before they sign Paul.
If the Clippers were to offer Blake Griffin and Bledsoe for Dwight Howard to the Lakers should they take it? Two young and very talented stars would be great to have especially with the aging roster that the Lakers currently have. Pau Gasol could move to the center position and play along side their formal Clipper rival Griffin. The Lakers have Steve Nash but his age raises many questions. Eric Bledsoe is a young rising point guard who can learn and pick up a few things from a player like Nash.
Something that the Lakers organization definitely does not want to see is two players that should have been theirs, Chris Paul and Dwight Howard, walk over to the other Los Angeles team. If the Clippers were to pull this off along with acquiring Garnett, Doc Rivers as coach and possibly signing Paul Pierce they will be a scary team. The Lakers will not be to far behind with Nash, Bledsoe, Bryant, Griffin and Gasol but they will have trouble defensively.
Although sources have said the Lakers will not consider a sign and trade for Howard should they consider a deal like this one?