Jordan Hill respectful of Mike D’Antoni giving him limited minutes vs. Memphis

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Even if he obviously preferred to stay out on the floor, Lakers forward Jordan Hill didn’t question Mike D’Antoni’s decision one bit to play him only four minutes in the Lakers’ 106-98 loss Friday to the Memphis Grizzlies.

“He’s going to do what he feels is right,” Hill said. “He’s going to do what he feels will win games. I respect him for that.”

That didn’t happen.

The Lakers (6-7) still lost two consecutive games and fell 1-2 since D’Antoni took over head-coaching duties. Nonetheless, D’Antoni had a clear thought process on sitting Hill for the last three quarters after averaging 6.3 points and 4.8 rebounds in 15.7 minutes this season. Lakers reserve forward Antawn Jamison scored a career-high 14 points. Meanwhile, Memphis relentlessly limited both Dwight Howard (seven points) and Pau Gasol (six points). Hence, the need for the Lakers to feature quicker and superior outside shooters.

“We needed to change something up,” D’Antoni said. “Antawn went off and that’s what will happen. You give guys chances in this league to earn a spot and earn some minutes. That’s what happens to you.”

The strategy nearly worked.

The Lakers opened the second quarter going on a 10-0 run, which featured Jamison making a putback and a three-pointer. Once the Lakers cut Memphis lead to 34-28 with 8:58 remaining, reserve guard Chris Duhon looked toward press row and proudly shouted “second unit.”

The Lakers couldn’t maintain the momentum, though. Neither could they have three consecutive three-pointers from Jodie Meeks and Duhon reduced the Grizzlies’ cushion to 82-82 with 9:07 remaining.

“Mike felt like he needed keep me out and needed to sit me,” Hill said. “We came back. We were down a big deficit and we came back when I was on the bench. It was a good idea.”

But will this strategy stay for long?

Interestingly enough, Hill opened his career with the New York Knicks under D’Antoni in a somewhat precarious position. After averaging only four points in 25 minutes through 24 games in New York at the beginning of the 2008-9 season, Hill was then traded to the Houston Rockets with Jared Jefferies before the trade deadline as part of a three-team deal that resulted in the Rockets’ Tracy McGrady going to the Knicks.

Hill then told the Houston Chronicle, “Coach D’Antoni, he relies on his veterans more than rookies.” D’Antoni then responded to the New York Post, “I don’t like to play bad rookies.”

Does Hill believe D’Antoni is doing the same thing to him with the Lakers?

“I hope not. I don’t think so,” Hill said. “I just have to go out there and keep working.”

After all, Hill had played 17 minutes during D’Antoni’s first two games as the Lakers’ coach. Still, Hill conceded

D’Antoni’s style of small ball does mitigate some of his effectiveness.

“Being spaced out keeps me away from offensive rebounds,” Hill said. “But it’s a great offense for definitely scoring. I just have to go out there and give a lot of energy, just go out there and play.”

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Pau Gasol stays professional about benching, questions how he’s used

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Pau Gasol stays professional about benching, questions how he’s used

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — For a long and painful 12 minutes, Pau Gasol just sat there.

He had plenty of time to watch the Lakers lose their second consecutive game with a 106-98 defeat Friday to the Memphis Grizzlies here at FedEx Forum. Gasol could think about his frustrations stemmed from a six-point performance on three of eight shooting, subpar defense and his belief he’s not being featured properly. Gasol could understand Mike D’Antoni’s decision to bench him for the entire fourth quarter in favor of Antawn Jamison, who scored a season-high 16 points on a seven of 11 clip. As D’Antoni mused afterwards about Gasol’s questionable conditioning, “he’ll be rested for tomorrow” when the Lakers (6-7) visit the Dallas Mavericks (7-6).

“I was thinking,” D’Antoni said, “I’d like to win this game.”

That didn’t happen. Regardless, the time sitting on the bench gave Gasol plenty of time to fully process and articulate what he made of his demotion.

Gasol handled the reduced playing time respectfully.

“That’s not my decision,” he said. “I’m a professional. When my number is called, I’m out there. But it’s something that hasn’t happened to me.”

Gasol wondered aloud if his string of two single-digit efforts reflected more on how the Lakers are using him than simply a by product of poor shooting.

“All my looks are jump shots,” he said. “I would like to see something closer to the basket and not just something rolling when Dwight [Howard] is there. But we’ll see. We’ll figure it out. We’re just starting.”

Gasol passively conceded he needs to improve his endurance level. Gasol then aggressively challenged how D’Antoni handles his minutes, which included playing the entire first quarter.

“We all need to improve our conditioning if that’s how we’re going to continue to play and speed the game up a little more,” he said. “Maybe the rotations should be a little shorter. That will help, too. Instead of playing 12 minutes straight, I’ll play eight come out and rest four. Get another eight. Stuff like that. But again, that’s not totally up to me.”
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Lakers repeat same problems in loss to Memphis

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – A day off and a cross-country trip accomplished little in solving the Lakers’ problems.

They still look slow. They still can’t defend. Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol still pulled disappearing acts.The Lakers’ 106-98 loss Friday to the Memphis Grizzlies here at FedEx Forum reflected a mirror image of the team’s double-digit defeat Wednesday to Sacramento.

The effort bothered Kobe Bryant so much that he walked off the court seconds before the game ended. Gasol’s play, a six point effort on three of eight shooting and four rebounds, irked Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni so much that he benched him for the entire fourth quarter.

“I was thinking,” D’Antoni said, ‘Well I’d like to win this game.’”

D’Antoni sat Gasol and limited Jordan Hill to only four minutes in favor of a surprising Antawn Jamison, who scored a season-high 16 points off the bench. But that became a mere footnote in an otherwise ugly performance that resulted in the Lakers’ (6-7) losing two consecutive games and falling 1-2 under D’Antoni.

“That’s not my decision,” Gasol said of his benching. “I’m a professional. When my number is called, I’m out there. But it’s something that hasn’t happened to me.”
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Mike D’Antoni plans to retain coaching staff

MEMPHIS, Tenn — Instead of reshuffling his coaching staff, Mike D’Antoni plans to retain all of the assistants that previously worked for Mike Brown.

“What kind of Thanksgiving would it be to send somebody [home]?” D’Antoni said before the Lakers played against the Memphis Grizzlies here at FedEx Forum. “I didn’t steal Christmas or anything. We’re good.”

D’Antoni had previously confirmed he intended to keep Bernie Bickerstaff for the rest of the season after leading the Lakers to a 4-1 record as interim coach following Brown’s firing. Though he highlighted the possibility he’d keep other assistants, D’Antoni made no guarantees. Although he didn’t name each assistant by name, D’Antoni’s admission means Chuck Person, Steve Clifford, Eddie Jordan and Darvin Ham will also stay through this season. D’Antoni also added his brother, Dan, 11 days ago as an assistant after spending four years working together with the New York Knicks.

“I don’t know if I trust him yet,” D’Antoni joked. I’m usually a pretty positive guy and I trust people. That might get myself in trouble, but that’s okay. I think I can trust these guys. They do a great job. If not, we can talk about it. But that’s not my focus. My focus is on the team and getting better. These guys work hard and we’re all going in the same direction.”

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Mike D’Antoni: “Possible” Steve Blake will return Tuesday

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Assuming Steve Blake successfully goes through practice on Monday, Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said he will return when the team hosts the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday.

The Lakers’ backcourt will still remain incomplete. Steve Nash will have his fractured left leg reevaluated on Monday, and the 38-year-old guard revealed he has yet to perform any running exercises. Still, D’Antoni has sounded highly complimentary of Blake, revealing in his introductory press conference last week that he had hoped to coach him for the past 10 years.

“He’ll pick it up real easy,” D’Antoni said regarding his offensive system. “I’m looking forward to it.”

Blake has missed the past five games since worsening a lower abdominal strain Dec. 11 against Sacramento. Blake has said he first felt pain when the Lakers played the Detroit Pistons on Nov. 4, only the third game of the season, but appeared in three more games afterwards. Blake has averaged 5.1 points on 35.3 percent shooting in 26 minutes.

D’Antoni envisions Blake’s streaky three-point shooting to improve since his offense opens up more shots for role players.

Said D’Antoni: “I’ve always liked his game.”

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Steve Nash to be reevaluated on Monday

MEMPHIS, Tenn — Steve Nash appeared startled.

Moments earlier, Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said it was “possible” both Nash and Steve Blake could return from injury when the Lakers host the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday so long as they reported no pain during Monday’s practice. Nash has missed the past 10 games because of a minor fracture in his left leg. Blake has sat out of the past five because of a lower abdominal strain.

Does Nash feel ready for that possible return?

“I don’t think so,” Nash said in a worried tone. “I can’t jog yet. We’ll see. Maybe.”

It’s unlikely. The Lakers have already penciled out Nash for tonight’s game against the Memphis Grizzlies and Saturday’s game against the Dallas Mavericks. The Lakers then plan to reevaluate Nash on Monday.

“I’m stepping out of my expertise,” D’Antoni said, “but I’m saying it’s possible because I like to believe it.”

Nash would like to believe so, too. After all, he’s more than eager to reunite with D’Antoni, who coached him through four seasons with Phoenix where he flourished enough in his pick-and-roll offense to win two NBA MVP awards. As D’Antoni said, “Nash can do everything. He doesn’t need an offense. He just needs the ball.”

But Nash said his rehab has remained limited, the latest involving running the elliptical and lifting weights. Nash had performed stationary ball handling and shooting exercises, but soon stopped over concerns he may risk further injury.

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Kobe Bryant playing at an efficient rate

Before ripping into his team for playing like a bunch of stiffs with no energy, Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni openly praised Kobe Bryant.

The contrast in the Lakers’ 113-97 loss Wednesday to the Sacramento Kings couldn’t have been greater. Bryant posted a team-high 38 points on 11 of 20 shooting, while Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard scored a combined 15 points on 14 field-goal attempts.

“Kobe was just unbelievable,” D’Antoni said. “I told the guys the guy is almost 50 years old, we can’t rely on that stuff. We have to come out and play.”

That didn’t happen.

D’Antoni kept imploring the Lakers to run. Lacking much energy, the Lakers couldn’t. So Bryant, who has kept in peak conditioning this summer in the 2012 London Olympics, pressed the attack.

Sure, there were moments where Howard winced when Bryant shot. But this game was hardly one of those where Bryant’s scoring came at the expense of a balanced offense. Bryant took over because Gasol couldn’t hit anything (went three of 10 from the field), while Howard’s four field goal attempts reflected a lack of aggressiveness. With Steve Nash out because of a fractured left leg, Bryant also shared ball handling duties with second-year guard Darius Morris.

Bryant looks like a younger version of himself, the 34-year-old averaging a league-leading 27.3 points per game at a 53.1 percent clip. That’s a far improvement from when he shot 43 percent from the field last season, his lowest mark since his second year in the NBA. Meanwhile, Bryant’s also averaging 5.3 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game.
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Lakers have varying explanations for poor inside presence against Sacramento

SACRAMENTO, CALIF. — The Lakers have the size, but it suddenly shriveled. The Lakers have the muscle, but it suddenly looked frail. The Lakers have two of the best pick-and-roll front court players in the game, but they suddenly appeared lost on offense.

Once the Lakers’ 113-97 loss Wednesday to the Sacramento Kings became official, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol walked off the court shrinking in stature. Howard scored only four points because he had such few opportunities, shooting two of four from the field. Gasol only posted eight points because he missed so many of them, shooting three of 10 overall.

How do the Lakers explain their distinguishable skillset beyond Kobe Bryant’s greatness suddenly disappear?

“You’ll have to ask them,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said.

Explanations varied.

Howard sounded circumspect.

“There’s no explanation,” he said. “We got another game coming up. There’s no need to go back to tonight’s game. It’s over with.”

Gasol sounded incredibly honest.

“I didn’t convert and I had good looks,” Gasol said. “Unfortunately, I didn’t have a good game tonight.”

And together, they looked awful.
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Lakers lack Showtime elements on 113-97 loss to Sacramento Kings

SACRAMENTO, CALIF. – The Lakers want to bring back Showtime, but that process at least for one game appeared like a slow crawl.

Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni motioned with his hands for his players to run up the court. They mostly walked. He encouraged his players to take open outside shots. They mostly missed. D’Antoni has envisioned Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol maintaining their inside dominance by running pick-and-roll sequences. They went silent.

Tally up the results, and the Lakers’ 113-97 loss Wednesday to the Sacramento Kings here at Sleep Train Arena hardly mirrors D’Antoni’s expectation that his team would score at least 110 points per game.

He had seen enough once the Lakers trailed 69-58 with 2:51 left in the third quarter. So much that before he addressed his team after calling a timeout, D’Antoni motioned to his brother, Dan, a newly hired assistant.

“This is awful,” D’Antoni said to Dan.

Hardly anyone would disagree.
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Metta World Peace wishes NBA fined both Reggie Evans and Gerald Wallace

The news first made Metta World Peace beam in excitement.

The NBA fined Brooklyn Nets forward Reggie Evans $5,000 for flopping on the Lakers forward during Tuesday night’s game, a new league initiative passed this season in hopes to deter such behavior.

“Yes!” World Peace said.

Then the news disappointed him.

The NBA didn’t take any disciplinary action on Nets forward Gerald Wallace, whom World Peace believed flopped twice in the same game.

“That’s ridiculous,” World Peace said. “Are you kidding me? That’s worse than Evans. I’d rather Gerald Wallace get fined than Evans.”

That didn’t happen, though.

Evans became the first NBA player to earn a fine under the new rule after picking up his second flopping violation. Under the new rule, players are fined $5,000 after the first warning and earn an additional $5,000 increase for each repeating offense. A player then earns a one-game suspension for the sixth violation.

Late in the third quarter, Evans drew contact on World Peace after making a pass near midcourt. But he overexaggerated the contact to make it appear like a shove. World Peace was then whistled for a foul.

That prompted World Peace to go vent his frustrations on his Twitter account. He reiterated those frustrations again before the Lakers played at Sacramento Wednesday night over the NBA’s rule. During training camp, World Peace charged at a reporter as a demonstration that most people can handle ordinary contact.

“We blame the refs for these missed calls, but the rules keep changing,” World Peace said. “If they stop changing the rules, the refs would adjust to it. They’re just trying to do their job. Back in the days, that was never a foul.”

Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter.

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