Mike D’Antoni plans to stick with Pau Gasol-Chris Kaman tandem

All the fears that Mike D’Antoni holds regarding a post-oriented lineup unfolded before his very eyes.

Instead of Pau Gasol and Chris Kaman providing an unstoppable one-two tandem as they had always envisioned, the Lakers’ 124-112 loss Tuesday to the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center featured Chris Kaman and Pau Gasol combining for only 21 points on a 10 of 25 clip. Instead of Gasol and Kaman leaning on their versatility and basketball intelligence to offset the lack of floor spacing without a stretch forward, the Lakers offense only stayed alive because of an efficient Nick Young (40 points) and Steve Nash (10 assists). Instead of their height offering enough rim protection to improve the Lakers’ deeply-rooted defensive problems, Kaman and Gasol played a large part in Portland’s LaMarcus Aldridge posting 31 points on 12 of 20 shooting and the Trail Blazers punishing their double teams with a 13 of 29 clip.

“We’re pretty slow footed when we’re out there,” D’Antoni said. “That’s the thinking before, and it probably hasn’t changed much.”

Yet, even amid Gasol and Kaman failing to reward D’Antoni’s slow embrace toward starting them after mostly resisting the combination all season, the coach who places a high premium on three-point shooting, guard play and a fast tempo said he will likely stick with the same tandem for Wednesday’s game against the Sacramento Kings at Sleep Train Arena.

“It’s hard to do one thing one night and then {change],” D’Antoni said. “You start chasing your tail. We’ll probably stick with it. I’m sure Pau will have a better outing as he gets over his vertigo and stuff. Then we’ll make that decision.”
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Five things to take from Lakers’ 124-112 loss to Portland Trail Blazers

Below are five things to take from the Lakers’ 124-112 loss Tuesday over the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center:

1. The Lakers’ big lineup looked sluggish.
Blame Pau Gasol’s nine point effort on 4 of 9 shooting partly on rustiness and a lack of energy stemmed from a four-game absence because of vertigo. Chalk up Chris Kaman’s 12 points on 6 of 16 shooting partly on fatigue. But even if both players have versatile skillsets, Gasol and Kaman did not state a great case in convincing a skeptical Mike D’Antoni that he should start them together.

The concerns had little to do with their offensive production and everything surrounding their defense. The lack of foot speed Gasol and Kaman possessed played a large part in Portland tallying XX points in the paint. Even with the Lakers doubling on LaMarcus Aldrdige, he still scored 31 points on an 12 of 20 clip. When he wasn’t scoring off of those double teams, Portland made the Lakers pay with deadly three-point shooting (13 of 29 from the field). That is why D’Antoni soon went with Robert Sacre and Ryan Kelly for chunks of the second half.

Of course, the Lakers have played atrocious defense all season, regardless of the 33 lineups they have fielded because of overlapping injuries and inconsistency. But consider the Lakers’ 107-106 victory last month in Portland where the team’s small ball lineup helped secure the victory. Though the Lakers did not offer a defensive clinic, they were able to use their speed, athleticism and effort to offset the inevitable size disadvantage. That element also contributed toward Aldridge’s 21 points coming on only 9 of 19 shooting.

2. Nick Young provided a signature Swaggy P performance. This marks one of those games Young could never take enough shots. He posted a season-high 40 points on 15 of 26 shooting where he made nearly everything imaginable, an effort that fell short of his career-high 43 points against Sacramento on 2011 with Washington. Young sank his first eight shots. After showing visible pain on his recently sore right knee off of a putback, Young fought back on the next possession and sank a 3-pointer with ease. Later in the fourth quarter, Young made a putback after falling on the ground and converted on a reverse dunk.

The fact that Young went on a scoring binge isn’t surprising. He remains one of the few players on the Lakers that can create his own shot. But Young provided his usual job description by feeding off of the Lakers’ crisp ball movement and feeding off of his own rhythm.

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Lakers to build independently owned practice facility

The Lakers plan to build a modern practice facility in El Segundo that they hope will attract future free agents and give them more room to run their day-to-day operations.

The Lakers announced on Tuesday that they entered an agreement with CDC Mar Campus, LLC to purchase a five acre undeveloped portion at Campus El Segundo near the northwest corner of Mariposa Avenue and Douglas Street. It’s not clear when construction will take place or finish, but the completion of the purchase hinges on the City of El Segundo’s approval.

The Lakers currently practice at Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo that is shared with the NHL’s Kings and a skating rink often open to the general public. The Lakers would own their future facility and would have more room to accommodate their day-to-day business and basketball operations. The Lakers’ current facility has only one basketball court and its office space is somewhat cramped. The Lakers’ marketing, ticketing, corporate sponsorships and community relations are located in a different building about a block away. The Lakers also have no sign of their logo outside of the building proclaiming their existence.

The Clippers opened a $60 million practice facility in Playa Vista in 2008 that includes two basketball courts, spacious offices and expansive video and weight rooms. They had practice before at Spectrum, an El Segundo health club, and L.A. Southwest College.

Part of the Lakers’ thought process entails wanting to have another mechanism to attract free agents. But it is unclear if the new facility will be built in time for the 2015 free agent class that includes Kevin Love and LaMarcus Aldridge.

Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter and on Facebook. E-mail him at mark.medina@langnews.com

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Five things to take from Lakers’ 115-99 victory over Phoenix Suns

LakersÕ Chris Kaman blocks a shot by Suns Shavlik Randolph during first period action  at Staples Center Sunday, March 30, 2014.  ( Photo by David Crane/Los Angeles Daily News )

LakersÕ Chris Kaman blocks a shot by Suns Shavlik Randolph during first period action at Staples Center Sunday, March 30, 2014. ( Photo by David Crane/Los Angeles Daily News )

Below are five things to take from the Lakers’ 115-99 victory over the Phoenix Suns Sunday at Staples Center:

1. Chris Kaman seemed unstoppable. He unloaded a season’s worth of frustration stemmed from a reduced role, numerous injuries and persistent losing and channeled it into a pretty dominant performance. So dominant that Kaman’s 28 points on 13 of 17 shooting and 17 rebounds nearly matched his career high 29 points set with the Clippers against the Houston Rockets on Dec. 22, 2009.

The irony of this development seems too striking. Kaman cemented an eight-year career with the Clippers that included an All-Star game appearance the same season he set his previous career high in points. Kaman has called this year the most frustrating of his 11-year career for obvious reasons. He came here on a mini mid-level deal worth $3.2 million believing the Lakers would use him as a worthy consolation prize toward losing Dwight Howard. Instead, Kaman has mostly found himself toiling on the Lakers’ bench. He’s also only two days removed from playing the first five minutes of the Lakers’ 143-107 loss Friday to Minnesota, a stretch that featured shaky defense on Nikola Pekovic.

But against Phoenix, Kaman unleashed everything that made him such a valuable signing. He canned mid-range jumpers and putbacks. Kaman played a solid pick-and-roll game besides an erroneous moving screen call that also sparked a technical foul. Kaman’s season-long weakness on defense relatively improved too. All of this elation could die down as quickly as Tuesday against Portland, especially against Pau Gasol. But for Kaman’s sake, he provided a showcase game worthy to appear on his free agency resume tape.

2. The Lakers defense improved.
No one will mistake the Lakers as the 1980′s Detroit Pistons or the 1990′s New York Knicks, two teams that bullied and intimidated opponents with their bruising strength and toughness. But after spending their recent two-game trip not showing a lick of effort in this area, the Lakers channeled the same defensive energy that ensured recent home wins against Orlando and New York as well as another round of free tacos.

The Lakers held Phoenix to a 38.9 percent clip from the field, including a surprising 7-of-25 combined mark from the Suns’ talented backcourt in Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe. The Lakers limited their turnovers, which helped tamper down on issues surrounding transition defense. The Lakers’ crisp ball movement (29 assists on 53 field goals) channeled added focus on the other end.

By and large, the Lakers are a defensively flawed team. They lack a consistent rim protector. Even though they feature bouts of speed and athleticism, the Lakers usually lack enough strength in those areas against other young NBA teams. But the Lakers can offset those disadvantages through pretty simple concepts, including better shot selection and ball handling, stronger communication and effort. The formula worked against Phoenix, which also took way too many outside shots just because they were open. But in the remaining nine games, the Lakers have yet to prove they can showcase such a mindset consistently.
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Pau Gasol, Xavier Henry out vs. Phoenix; Steve Nash a game-time decision

Both Pau Gasol and Xavier Henry will sit out when the Lakers (24-48) host the Phoenix Suns (44-29) tonight at Staples Center because of persisting injuries within the past week.

Gasol will miss his fourth consecutive game because of vertigo. Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said Gasol completed cardiovascular exercises, but says he still “feels a little loopy.” Henry will stay out of his second consecutive game because of soreness in his right knee, an injury that had sidelined him for a combined 29 games this season.

Meanwhile, Steve Nash remains a game-time decision because of nerve irritation in his back. He played in 19 minutes in the Lakers’ loss Friday to Minnesota without any reported setbacks, but D’Antoni said “he just wants to make sure it’s okay.” After missing the past seven games because of a strained right groin, Jordan Farmar plans to get reevalauted on Monday, but D’Antoni said it is likely he will be “a week away.”

RELATED:

Chris Kaman voices frustration again on playing time

Steve Nash reports no setbacks in Lakers’ loss to Minnesota, but unsure about playing status

Kevin Love downplays talk about joining the Lakers

Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter and on Facebook. E-mail him at mark.medina@langnews.com

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Kevin Love downplays talk about joining the Lakers

Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love cheers his teammates from the bench during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers in Minneapolis, Friday, March 28, 2014. The Timberwolves won 143-107. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)

Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love cheers his teammates from the bench during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers in Minneapolis, Friday, March 28, 2014. The Timberwolves won 143-107. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)

MINNEAPOLIS — Kevin Love provided something depressing for the Lakers, and it went beyond the Minnesota Timberwolves handing them a 143-107 loss Friday at Target Center with 22 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, his second triple double of the season.

He also poured cold water on the Lakers’ hope that they could acquire him as a free agent in the 2015 offseason.

So much for being born in Santa Monica, playing at UCLA and spending his summers in Los Angeles that entails the beach volleyball circuit.

“You know, my parents live there and they had me there. It’s not my fault,” Love said. “So, I don’t really care about that right now. I just go out there and play and don’t think about it.”
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Xavier Henry out tonight vs. Minnesota with sore right knee

Los Angeles Lakers forward Xavier Henry, right, dunks as New York Knicks guard Iman Shumpert defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, March 25, 2014, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Los Angeles Lakers forward Xavier Henry, right, dunks as New York Knicks guard Iman Shumpert defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, March 25, 2014, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

MINNEAPOLIS — Xavier Henry will sit out when the Lakers (24-27) play the Minnesota Timberwolves (35-35) tonight at Target CEnter after experiencing more soreness in the bone bruise in his right knee.

He had stayed sidelined for 29 games this season partly because of an abnormal meniscus tear in his right knee, but Henry managed to produce three double-digit outings in his past four appearances. Henry also has played in the past two games nursing a torn ligament in his left wrist, an injury that will require offseason surgery. But Henry sat out the fourth quarter of the Lakers’ 108-105 loss Thursday in Milwaukee after Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni sensed him hobbling more than normal.

“I thought he was laboring a little bit,” D’Antoni said. “It’s tough to know. He’s limping everywhere and is banged up. But he really wants to play.”

The Lakers also will feature Kent Bazemore over Wesley Johnson at small forward. Bazemore has become a more balanced scorer and passer in the past three games, averaging 11.6 points and five assists. Johnson has averaged four points on 33 percent shooting in the previous three contests and has frustrated the team’s coaching staff all season with inconsistent focus. Meanwhile, Lakers guard Steve Nash participated in pre-game warmups in hopes to play. He has missed the past three games because of persisting nerve irritation in his back, an injury that has kept him out in all but 11 games this season.


RELATED:


Xavier Henry produces through pain in Lakers’ 127-96 win over Knicks


Kobe Bryant clarifies Trayvon Martin remarks

Loss to Bucks just another low in Lakers’ season of lows

Follow L.A. Daily News beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter and on Facebook. E-mail him at mark.medina@langnews.com

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Kobe Bryant clarifies Trayvon Martin remarks

Kobe Bryant has missed nearly the entire 2013-14 season. His return to health is key to the Lakers' immediate future. But it's anyone's guess whether he can overcome the latest injuries and be effictive again. Photo by David Crane/Staff Photographer

Kobe Bryant has missed nearly the entire 2013-14 season. His return to health is key to the Lakers’ immediate future. But it’s anyone’s guess whether he can overcome the latest injuries and be effictive again. Photo by David Crane/Staff Photographer

Kobe Bryant found himself under intense scrutiny, and it had nothing to do with recently criticizing the Lakers’ front office, whether he can heal from a fractured left knee or if he will ever win another NBA championship.

It had everything to do with what Bryant said in a recent profile penned in the New Yorker that included his reasoning on why he did not agree with the Miami Heat taking a team photo where they are all wearing hoodies last year, a form of protest to commemorate 17-year-old Trayvon Martin being shot by George Zimmerman despite remaining unarmed and only wearing a hoodie in his Florida neighborhood.

“I won’t react to something just because I’m supposed to, because I’m an African-American,” Bryant is quoted as saying in the New Yorker piece. “That argument doesn’t make any sense to me. So we want to advance as a society and a culture, but, say, if something happens to an African-American we immediately come to his defense? Yet you want to talk about how far we’ve progressed as a society? Well, we’ve progressed as a society, then don’t jump to somebody’s defense just because they’re African-American. You sit and you listen to the facts just like you would in any other situation, right? So I won’t assert myself.”

Bryant’s comments immediately sparked criticism on social media for the apparent insincerity surrounding Martin’s case and the racial components that may have led toward becoming a wrongful death. Civil rights activist Najee Ali, director of Project Islamic H.O.P.E., said in a statement that the public should boycott any Bryant-related merchandise and endorsements.

Two days after Zimmerman was acquitted of murder charges, however, Bryant posted on his Instagram account disgust with the verdict by quoting civil rights activist Frederick Douglass.

“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails,” Douglass once wrote, “and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.”

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Chris Kaman to take commercial flight to join team on trip

MILWAUKEE — Chris Kaman did not travel with the Lakers to Milwaukee because of personal reasons, but he is scheduled to take a commercial flight to join the team in hopes that he is available for tonight’s game against the Bucks (13-58).

Kaman was slated to start at center because Pau Gasol did not make the trip because of continuous symptoms with vertigo. But the Lakers will likely start a frontcourt that features Jordan Hill and Ryan Kelly.

Kaman acknowledged recently that he has experienced the most frustrating season of his 11-year career for reasons that include the Lakers’ 24-46 record, their persistent injuries and his diminished role. Kaman posted 13 points on 5 of 10 shooting in the Lakers’ 127-96 victory Tuesday over the New York Knicks at Staples Center, but that marked his first appearance in the previous 10 games.

Kaman had been hobbled by a sore right foot, but his 35 appearances this season mostly traces toward becoming a casualty in Mike D’Antoni’s rotation. D’Antoni has routinely shown preference for stretch forwards and has said both Hill and Robert Sacre play better defensively than Kaman. Kaman, who signed a mini mid-level exception last offseason worth $3.2 million, has posted 10 points and 5.7 rebounds. Through nine starts, Kaman has also averaged 13.9 points on 46.5 percent shooting.


RELATED:


Steve Nash to sit out during Lakers’ trip


Chris Kaman considers gig with Lakers the most frustrating of his career

Little-used Chris Kaman feels he can help Lakers

Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter and on Facebook. E-mail him at mark.medina@langnews.com

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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar believes Kobe Bryant’s “body is breaking down”

Former UCLA and Lakers great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, spinning a basketball while visiting children last year in the Alemao complex slum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, is interested in joining part of a future Milwaukee Bucks ownership group. (Victor R. Caivano/The Associated Press)

Former UCLA and Lakers great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, spinning a basketball while visiting children last year in the Alemao complex slum in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, is interested in joining part of a future Milwaukee Bucks ownership group. (Victor R. Caivano/The Associated Press)

Nearly everyone around the Lakers remain optimistic that Kobe Bryant will return to full form next season.

Well, almost.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar sounded pretty skeptical in a wide-ranging interview with this newspaper that Bryant will come close toward surpassing his NBA all-time leading scorer mark (38,387 points). The reasons go beyond Bryant ranking fourth overall with 31,700 points, trailing Abdul-Jabbar’s mark by 6,687 points and needing to average at least 40.7 points presuming he plays all 82 games through the 2015-16 season and retires in what would mark a 20-year career with the Lakers.

“It’s going to be tough. The problem for him is if he’s going to break the record, he would have be the focus of the offense,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “His body is breaking down. It’s tough. Why would these guys want to play that long? They make so much money? I wouldn’t play that long.”
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