Opening Statements: Wizards at Lakers, Game 69 | Truth About It.net

Opening Statements: Wizards at Lakers, Game 69

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Updated: March 21, 2014

Washington Wizards vs Los Angeles Lakers

The Washington Wizards are in Hollywood tonight. But they’ll likely be without the services of Marcin Gortat, who hurt his back warming up before the Trail Blazers game last night. He’s listed as questionable. For the Lakers, Jordan Farmar is out with a strained groin and Jordan Hill (sore right knee) is questionable. Wesley Johnson (upper respiratory infection) and Chris Kaman (sore right foot) are both doubtful. Nick Young, however, will play (limited minutes) for sure—in just his second game since Feb. 5.

The Wizards are currently 0-2 with two games to play in their West Coast road trip, but the Lakers are a team that’s really struggling: they are losers of nine of the last 12 and have given up 106 or more points in each contest.

To get you ready for some late-night hoops, TAI caught up with one of Montreal’s finest, J.M. Poulard (@ShyneIV), who covers the Lakers for the ESPN TrueHoop Network blog Forum Blue & Gold. LEGGO!


Teams: Wizards at Lakers
Time: 10:00 p.m. ET
Venue: STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
Television:  CSN // TWC SN / TWC D
Radio: WFED-AM 1500/THE FAN // KSPN
Spread: Washington fav’d by 4.5 points


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Q #1: Phil Jackson just signed a five-year deal with the New York Knicks. He’s now essentially President of Basketball in the Empire State. What did that move do to the Lakers’ culture? And does it sting, or do you trust in Jim Buss?

@ShyneIV: The Lakers’ culture has remained intact, and nothing has truly changed. With that said, some believe that Jackson’s initial flirtation with the Knicks was mostly a ploy to get the Lakers to hire him. Ultimately, Jackson comes out on the winning end of this one, while L.A. still remains in flux.

As it pertains to Jim Buss, he’s an interesting wildcard that gets far too much blame. Jimbo was responsible for drafting Andrew Bynum, who helped the Lakers win back-to-back titles. He also sold high on Bynum (look at him now, he’s a reserve for the Indiana Pacers) in a swap for Dwight Howard. You make that move every single time. Same for bringing in Steve Nash.
The rather substantial “questionable” move on his watch is the Mike D’Antoni hire, and many sources have intimated that his selection was Jerry Buss’ final decision prior to his passing. Although I’m not yet in a place where I fully trust Jim’s capabilities, he’s not the problem that most make him out to be …  except for, you know, forcing Phil Jackson and Brian Shaw out the door.

Q #2: Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant will be making more than $33 million combined next season. They’ll both be another year older next year and a step or two slower, but they’re both fighters… Can it work?

@ShyneIVSteve Nash has played 60 games since joining the Purple and Gold. Thus, I’m naturally skeptical at the thought that he will contribute anything next season. As for Kobe Bryant, next year, we might realize that 2013-14 was the season his body finally broke down beyond repair.

With that said, if healthy, there is a talented duo there, although I’m not entirely sure that the tandem was utilized properly. In the limited time Bryant and Nash shared the court, D’Antoni used Bryant as his primary ball-handler while Nash became a spot-up shooter and occasional playmaker.

It was effective on some level, but it also froze out some of the other Lakers. Perhaps putting the ball in Nash’s hands is a bit more prudent as he sprints towards the “Finish Line.”

Q #3: As a Tar Heel, I’m firmly in the anti-Ryan Kelly camp and very much pro Kendall Marshall. What are your more objective thoughts these two guys?

@ShyneIV: Great question. Mike D’Antoni’s offense tends to inflate the numbers of his point guards, because they have the ball so often in their hands with a few, simple reads to make. Thus, Marshall is almost averaging double figures in points (8.5) and assists (9.3).

Marshall is a good open shooter, but he must become better at penetrating, finishing and scoring against single-coverage.

Kelly is an interesting case. He stretches floor well from the power forward spot, but his defense and rebounding leave much to be desired. To be fair, he is still a first-year player. Nonetheless, Kelly can easily become a rotation guy going forward that coaches throw out there for his long-range shooting.

If I have to figure out which player will be the better pro, I’ll go with Marshall, but keep in mind that coaching philosophies will ultimately play a large factor in their respective successes and failures.

Q #4: What is the future, anyway? Do you try to re-sign Xavier Henry, who, from D.C., looks like he’s a left-to-right crossover away from a breakout year? Does Nick Young opt-out of his $1.2 million player option? Who would you target in free agency?

@ShyneIVGeneral manager Mitch Kupchak has made it clear that the Lakers are rebuilding, and that perhaps the franchise might sit on the sidelines in free agency this summer. This certainly gives credence to the idea they are waiting for Kevin Love in 2015, and that maybe they will make a run at Kevin Durant in 2016 (they would be crazy not to).

Until that time arrives, they will have to field a competitive roster with players on short-term deals to ensure they do not compromise their cap space. So Xavier Henry (weird news: his breakout year was this season) is probably going to be back unless some other team overpays for his services.

Nick Young is most likely opting out of his deal. Young has demonstrated he can be a good 6th man, and that will probably allow him to secure a three-year deal with a healthy pay increase (roughly $18 million total over the life of the contract). Granted, some might think it’s ludicrous, and to those people I respond: J.R. Smith.

Q #5: Would I be wrong in saying that Mike D’Antoni hasn’t been the best fit in Los Angeles? Should the Lakers retain him, or move on?

@ShyneIVThat’s a total trick question! D’Antoni was absolutely the wrong guy for the 2012-13 team given that he simply could not incorporate Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard together. The coaching staff benched Gasol in favor of the likes of Earl Clark and Metta World Peace because they were better “fits” in D’Antoni’s system. In related news, both of these guys were waived by the teams with which they signed last summer. Ouch.

On the flip side, he’s maximized whatever marginal talent the Lakers had this season. List of guys enjoying career years in 2013-14:

    • Xavier Henry
    • Wesley Johnson
    • Kendall Marshall
    • Ryan Kelly (just to spite you, even though he’s a rookie)
    • Jordan Hill
    • Jodie Meeks
    • Kent Bazemore (only 13 games)
    • Robert Sacre

Weird huh? But ultimately, you’re right. When D’Antoni actually had talent at his disposal, he basically got into his own way.