NBA AM: Lakers’ Troubles Mounting
Senior NBA Writer & College Basketball Editor
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Yesterday during shootaround the Los Angeles Lakers had a highly-discussed meeting involving the players and coaches where everyone basically put their feelings out on the table. It was followed up with more talk to the media about how the season starts now for them and that they were going to be a new team moving forward.
For a split second, it may have created a sense of optimism.
Then they took the court against the Memphis Grizzlies and by the time the final buzzer sounded things had only gotten worse for the Lakers, much worse.
They fell 106-93 to the Grizzlies, who received a big boost from rookie Tony Wroten. It took a late run to even get it that close because with two minutes remaining in the game they were down by 21. And, as if that wasn’t bad enough, the already disgruntled Dwight Howard re-aggravated a right shoulder injury that recently kept him out a week.
“It’s difficult because there are so many expectations around my team,” Pau Gasol said to HOOPSWORLD. “We have so much talent on paper that it’s challenging and frustrating that we haven’t been able to put the talent to work together in one direction and maximize our productivity, turn it into wins. It’s been difficult, but we want to turn it around. That’s the main thing.
“We’ve had a lot of great seasons. This is the first season we’ve struggled during the regular season badly. It’s not easy, especially with the amount of talent. If we had a crappy team you could say you guys have what you have, but with the team we have we shouldn’t be in the position we’re in. It’s in our hands to turn it around and make it better.
“It’s been the things going on and circumstances. Some we had control over, some we didn’t. It’s been pretty dramatic so far. We’re trying to make it better, trying to be on the same page. The only way to turn it around is if we stick together, pull for each other and run in one direction.”
That has still yet to happen for the Lakers, and if Howard is out for any extended period of time it may not happen at all. The lone positive in Howard potentially missing time is that it will put Gasol back in the starting lineup at center, his most effective position. He’s come off the bench for the last three games much to his disliking, but it was something he was willing to do as the team looked for some kind of answer to their struggles.
“You have to be mentally positive and mentally ok with it,” Gasol said. “For the time being, you don’t know how long it’s going to last. We haven’t talked about it being a permanent thing, but right now that’s where we are. So far I played a pretty good game with two games off of the bench coming off of my concussion. I’m just going to try to bring as much energy as I can, think about the team first, not my ideal situation. Right now nothing is ideal on our team.
“There’s a philosophy, a system that you have to respect. It is a system that is a guard oriented offense and there’s really not a whole lot going on inside, we’re trying to adjust as we go along. That’s been one of the challenges. I’d like to see me and Dwight play together, play off each other and be successful that way but it’s been a little challenging with the offense and system we do have.”
Despite being 17-25 and needing Howard on the floor, the Lakers are likely to be cautious with him and his shoulder injury. They are already without backup center Jordan Hill for the rest of the season and don’t want to risk Howard’s injury becoming something even more serious than it already is. That will give Gasol a chance to be featured again, but the challenge of figuring out how to best play off of Howard in D’Antoni’s system will remain.
Carl Landry Talks Warriors: The Golden State Warriors are back on track after recently experiencing one of their worst six-game stretches of the season. They’ve won their last three games, including a statement victory last night over the first place Oklahoma City Thunder. Backup big man Carl Landry was a big part of that victory, putting up 20 points and seven rebounds, and has been a vital piece to the team’s success all season long.
HOOPSWORLD caught up with Landry recently to talk about the fit with the Warriors, the improvement of Stephen Curry, and the team’s potential once they get their starting center Andrew Bogut back in the fold, which could be soon. He discusses all that and more in this video interview.
Majerle Feels Slighted: It’s been a rocky season for the Phoenix Suns, who recently mutually agreed to part ways with head coach Alvin Gentry. Shortly after Gentry left his position, a story broke that Suns big man Jermaine O’Neal and the team’s general manager Lance Blanks got into a heated argument. The conflicts didn’t end there, either. Assistant coach Dan Majerle has left the team after being passed up for the interim head coaching position by Lindsey Hunter despite being who the players preferred to take over for Gentry. The fact that Hunter, who is still very young in his coaching career, got it over the much-more experienced Elston Turner as well really bothered Majerle.
“It’s been a hard pill to swallow,” Majerle said to Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic. “The first thing that disappoints me is usually in a situation like this, the interim gets the jobs and that is Elston (Turner) with his 14 years of experience. Once he didn’t get it, I thought I deserved it. The thing I keep hearing management say on the radio is that hiring me would’ve been the popular and easy thing to do. I earned it. I deserved a shot if it’s not going to be Elston. I coached 5 ½ years. I coached the summer leagues. I didn’t need a favor. Picking Elston would’ve been the easy thing to do.
“They talk about integrity, to skip over two qualified people didn’t make sense. They chose Lindsey, a guy not even on the coaching staff and who they told us was only there to help us. I think they had their minds made up already before the interviews. I was going to lay low and not comment but I heard people from the organization get on the radio and say I would’ve been the popular and easy thing to do and that’s a slap in the face.”
Turner is currently deciding whether or not he will rejoin the team, or take Majerle’s route and leave them all together. The Suns take on the Clippers tonight as they look for consecutive victories for the first time this year.
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