Lakers guard Jodie Meeks worked hard to maximize his opportunity to play more during the team’s injury-plagued season, and he plans to continue sharpening his skills during the summer. (File photo by Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press)
Jodie Meeks already proved this year with the Lakers that he remains valuable in the work force.
He recently took another step in that area, and it went beyond his work on the hardwood where he became one of the Lakers’ most consistent players with reliable outside shooting, improved finishing and endless hustling. Meeks also graduated from the University of Kentucky on Saturday after spending the past two summers finishing up coursework to receive a bachelor’s degree in business marketing. Meeks starred for three years at Kentucky before declaring himself eligible for the 2009 NBA draft where he was selected 41st overall by the Milwaukee Bucks.
Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Jodie Meeks celebrates after teammate Kent Bazemore made a three pointer during the second half of an NBA basketball game against Oklahoma City Thunder in Los Angeles, Sunday, March 9, 2014. The Lakers won 114-110. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)
Jodie Meeks received a pleasant surprise, and it did not just involve becoming the Lakers’ most consistent player.
His alma mater, the Kentucky Wildcats, will play in the NCAA’s men’s basketball Final Four beginning with a semifinal matchup Saturday against Wisconsin.
“Last year it was a frustrating year for them not making the tournament,” Meeks said. “This year, to get back in the Final Four is great. Hopefully they can pull it off.”
Kentucky, a No. 8 seed, unexpectedly provided signature upsets against Wichita State, Louisville and Michigan. Can the Wildcats continue their good fortunes?
“I think so. When you get to the Final Four, anybody has a chance,” Meeks said. It’s anybody’s tournament. You have four good teams in the tournament. Sometimes there’s a little bit of a luck.”
Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Jodie Meeks, left, celebrates late in the fourth quarter as Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant, right, reaxts during an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Sunday, March 9, 2014. The Lakers won 114-110. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)
The Lakers have missed Kobe Bryant’s presence in every way imaginable. His countless game-winners. His ability to create his own shot. His ability to attract defenses that inevitably leave teammates open. His demanding leadership. Everything.
But in a season where everything has turned upside down partly because Bryant has sat out in all but six games because of persisting injuries, the Lakers’ unexpected 114-110 victory Sunday over the Oklahoma City Thunder at Staples Center still partly traces back to Bryant.
The Lakers leaned on a different point guard in Jodie Meeks, who posted career-highs in points (42) and free throws made (14 of 14), carried the team in overcoming an 18-point deficit and doing so with an attitude he adopted from Bryant.
“The biggest thing I’ve learned the most from Kobe is his mental approach to the game,” Meeks said afterwards. “No matter if we played last night, if he’s sick or hurt, he’s always ready to play. This year, I try to take that aspect in my game. No excuses. No matter how the season is going, go out there and play hard an give it your best effort.”
An NBA2K14 simulation has the Lakers missing the NBA playoffs. Photo Credit: NBA2K
Anxiousness awaits for the Lakers’ training camp, and for what?
Very few tab them as NBA championship favorites. Uncertainty lingers on how Kobe Bryant will look after he heals his left Achilles tendon. Skepticism persists over whether Mike D’Antoni can lead these Lakers through troubled times.
That’s perhaps why NBA2K14, a video game that prides itself on comprehensive player analysis and credible game simulations, tabs the Lakers this season failing to reach the playoffs and finishing with a 35-47 record. Granted, NBA2K13 rated last year’s Lakers as the NBA championship favorites, and we all know how that turned out. The NBA2K franchise also may do its own simulations before the Oct. 1 release. I received an advance copy and performed my own simulation.
But there’s plenty of reasons to feel skeptical about the Lakers. Dwight Howard bolted for the Houston Rockets. The Lakers lost their best defensive player in Metta World Peace for the sake of saving luxury taxes through the amnesty provision. The Lakers’ offseason additions in Nick Young, Wesley Johnson, Chris Kaman and Jordan Farmar bring some added speed and additional scoring. But on paper, it appears the Lakers don’t have enough defensively.
Below is the ninth in a series previewing the storylines surrounding each player on the Lakers’ roster for the 2013-14 season. This post focuses on Lakers backup shooting guard Jodie Meeks.
1. How will Meeks’ ankle hold up? Like with many on the Lakers’ roster, Meeks success this season could mainly hinge on well he rehabbed from an injury over the offseason. Meeks suffered a partial ligament tear in his left ankle. Meeks estimated in his exit interview in early May that he’d become fully healthy in four to six weeks. Based on his Twitter account, Meeks has participated frequently in the Lakers’ informal workouts. But Meeks will still have to have a watchful eye on how his left ankle responds throughout the season.
2. Will Jodie Meeks become a more consistent shooter? Meeks made plenty of three-pointers in his first season with the Lakers. Only problem – way more of Meek’s shots missed. Meeks fit the exact description of feast or famine, and it leaves the Lakers wondering every game if they’ll have reliable outside shooting. The feast – Meeks scored in double digits in 26 of 78 games he played, shot above 50 percent from outside in 14 of them and had two memorable efforst where he scored 12 of his 19 points in a comeback against New Orleans and went 7 of 8 from three-point range against Denver. The famine – Meeks played in 25 games where he shot 25 percent or worse from the perimeter.
The Lakers have no easy answers. Coach Mike D’Antoni encouraged Meeks to shoot, but plenty of times his shots went astray. Say what you will about Meeks’ gun-slinging, but he’s the team’s most capable outside shooter and is the only reason the Lakers brought him here. Perhaps Meeks has altered his shooting stroke in the offseason. But for better and for worse, Meeks kept the same mindset and approach through both his good and bad performances. Like everyone else appeared at Staples Center, the Lakers will be anxiously awaiting to see whether the ball drops in the bucket or clanks off the rim.