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NBA Digest: Not My Tempo

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NBA fans had a chance to clear their minds with the NBA’s All-Star break and then have their minds shattered by a flurry of moves on last Thursday’s trade deadline (more on those later).  Games have resumed, we’ve gotten a look at some of the new guys in new places.  A major injury has changed the landscape in the East, tensions are at an all-time high in the West.  The Clippers are marching on without Blake Griffin and the woeful Lakers still find a way to steal a headline.  Let’s delve into some of the happenings from this past week in the Association.

LIFE WITHOUT BLAKE

The Clippers lost an absolute heartbreaker to the Memphis Grizzlies 90-87 on Monday night.  Chris Paul played brilliantly dropping 30 points and 10 assists before turning the ball over on the Clippers final possession of the game.  Despite the loss, the Clippers are still 4-2 since Griffin went down with a staph infection and have beaten some quality opponents on the road.  The Los Angeles Times reported that Griffin had his stitches removed on Monday, but he’s still expected to be out for at least the rest of this week.  The Clippers will look to rebound against the Rockets tonight.  The Clippers have matched up well with Houston winning both previous meetings by an average of 16 points and holding MVP-candidate James Harden to 12.5 PPG.  The Clippers travel to Memphis on Friday and have a back-to-back in Chicago and then Minnesota to finish up a four game road trip.  Speaking of Chicago.

DERRICK ROSE GOES DOWN AGAIN

In a surprising development, the Chicago Bulls announced on Tuesday that Derrick Rose would undergo surgery to repair the meniscus in his right knee, presumably ending his season.  This is a devastating blow for Rose and the Bulls, this is the same knee that Rose had the same surgery on two years ago.  It’s seems like ages ago that he was destroying the league and winning MVP back in 2011, sadly, his career parallels are probably Penny Hardaway and Grant Hill.  Unbelievable talents who had their careers derailed by injury.  Rose will return to basketball, but it’s unclear where the Bulls go from here.  It would appear their title hopes are pretty much over, but Rose was not having a very efficient season (40.7% FG, 28.7% 3’s) and his PER (player efficiency rating) of 16.06 is on par with guys like Gerald Green and J.J. Barea.  Coach Tom Thibodeau has been in this position before and maybe the Bulls can open up the floor a little bit and score more efficiently without Rose.  It looks like Cleveland has a pretty clear path through the East toward the Finals.

TRADE DEADLINE BREAKDOWN

This was the busiest trade deadline in NBA history, more than 30 players switched teams, however, the biggest name was probably Goran Dragic.  The Suns shipped the disgruntled point guard and his brother Zoran to the Miami Heat for some random-ass players and draft picks.  The move seemed to immediately bolster the Heat’s title chances, however, Chris Bosh will sadly miss the rest of the season after being diagnosed with blood clots on his lungs (a potentially life-threatening condition!).  The Suns also shipped out guard Isaiah Thomas to the Boston Celtics.  The Suns also acquired guard Brandon Knight from the Milwaukee Bucks to offset the departure of Dragic and Thomas, however, the Suns appear to be punting on this season and will look to retool this offseason.  The Western Conference contender that solidified themselves the most had to be the Portland Trail Blazers, who acquired swingman Arron Afflalo from the Denver Nuggets.  Afflalo can play both wing positions, give the Blazers immediate scoring off the bench, he can spell Nic Batum and Wes Matthews and gives the Blazers future flexibility.  Great trade for Portland.

The Oklahoma City Thunder were also active shipping out disgruntled guard Reggie Jackson to Detroit, and acquiring Enes Kanter from Utah to give the Thunder some much needed scoring up front.  The Thunder also got D.J. Augustin and Kyle Singler from Detroit.  Augustin is a much better fit as a backup guard behind Russell Westbrook and Singler gives them a much needed catch-and-shoot guy.  Unfortunately for the Thunder, Kevin Durant will be sidelined another couple of weeks after undergoing another surgical procedure on his foot.  Westbrook is balling out of his mind right now, putting up a 29-10-8 line in his last 10 games.  However, can the Thunder reach their full potential without Durant, and this of course raises more questions about how Durant and Westbrook will co-exist in the future.  The Thunder have won nine of 10 games and have a firm grip on the eighth seed.  Golden Stave vs. OKC in the first round of the playoffs is a distinct possibility.

LAKERS GET A LITTLE OVERZEALOUS

I guess it’s all about the small victories for the Lakers these days.  After a thrilling 118-111 OT victory over Boston on Sunday, Jeremy Lin, Nick Young, Jordan Hill, and Carlos Boozer did a group interview with Lakers’ sideline reporter Mike Trudell and celebrated like they were in Vegas!  Kobe Bryant and Coach Byron Scott were not amused.  Appearing on Jimmy Kimmel Live! on Monday night, Kimmel showed Kobe the video, and Kobe just sat there speechless with a blank expression before finally turning his head to address a hysterical Kimmel, who said “I thought of you when I saw that.”  No words were needed to know that the Mamba did not approve.  Scott called it unprofessional and said it wouldn’t happen again when speaking to reporters at Lakers’ practice.  The Lakers head to Utah Wednesday night.  They’ll wrap up the week with home games against Milwaukee and Oklahoma City.  There won’t be a celebration like that Sunday if Russell Westbrook and his True Religion commercial have anything to say about it.

 

Lakers Must Win Big In Draft to Have Succesful Offseason

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The summer of 2015 for the Lakers will be most important in recent history, not because of the talent that will be available through free agency, but because of the stars that will be in the draft come June.

In the past two summers the Lakers have put all their efforts in signing top free agents, and have nothing to show for it, going after the likes of Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Dirk Nowitzki and even their own Pau Gasol, all of whom said thank you, but no thank you. The Lakers also missed out on trades this season for Rajon Rondo (traded to Dallas) and Goran Dragic (traded to Miami) because of their unwillingness to part with draft picks and young players.

This has led to a underachieving team that has relied on an aging superstar who has spent most of the year on the injured reserve list.

But through all of this, the Lakers have put themselves in a great position in anticipation of this summer by having the chance to draft in the top five of the draft. The Lakers currently sit at 14-41, which gives them the fourth-worst record in the Association.

The franchise must now refocus its energy from signing free agents and putting it toward trying to find the next superstar in the upcoming draft.

But not to worry Laker Nation, because the top of this year’s draft is special.

Ohio State freshman D’Angelo Russell is a 6-foot-5 combo guard who has the abilities to come right into a starting position and run a team.

He has gone from a late first round pick on many experts’ draft board to now being one of the best college players in the nation and is now on every team’s radar.

Then there is Emmanuel Mudiay, who is overseas playing in China. He is another 6-foot-5 combo guard who has been compared to Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook, and possesses raw power and is an athletic player who in a couple years could be a star in the NBA.

But if the Lakers are to get the No. 4 pick in the draft, Kentucky freshman Karl-Anthony Towns will probably be there for the taking. The 6-foot-11 C/PF has been a force on both sides of the ball. Given his limited minutes he is still averaging 8.8 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.3 blocks.

He will take time to develop, but the finished product will be enough to wait for.

However, the grand prize in this year’s draft is Duke freshman center Jahlil Okafor.

This is a far-fetched idea, but if the Lakers are to somehow have the ping pong balls fall their way, this would be far and away the best choice, as he is an NBA-ready big man who can easily come in and change a franchise. His post moves are great and he has a high NBA IQ, which instantly makes him a treasure that the Lakers, along with all the lottery teams, are going after.

In order for the Lakers to even have a chance at one of these four players, they must continue on this catastrophic season they are having. If somehow they are to fall out of the top five, the pick would be moved to the 76ers, who acquired it from the Suns. Should that happen, it would push the rebuilding process back a little farther than many would hope for.

Los Angeles must stop this process of building around Kobe Bryant (now 36 years old), and start building for the future. If somehow they can land a lottery pick, they could pair him with the likes of Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson and Nick Young.

This would be able to do a couple things: One, it would send Bryant on a high note by giving him one last sniff at the postseason. Two, it would be a good start to the rebuilding process, and three, it would look very attractive when the likes of Kevin Durant, Westbrook and Davis hit the open market in the near future.

But for now all the Lakers organization and its fans can do is wait and hope. We can not hope for some big-name free agent to land in Los Angeles this summer, but rather hope that this year’s draft becomes a memorable one, like when Magic Johnson was drafted in 1979, or when Kobe was traded to the Lakers (for Vlade Divac) on Draft Day in 1996.

Whatever does happen for the Lakers, though, the organization must know that the way to go is through the draft. Organizations like the Thunder, Warriors and even the Spurs have built and improved themselves through the draft. The Lakers’ front office must follow this blueprint if they want to get back to the top of the league.

The summer of 2015 for Los Angeles will either be a historic one, or another failed one to which fans have grown accustomed.

Former NBA Player Jerome Kersey Dies at 52

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Former NBA forward Jerome Kersey died Wednesday from a pulmonary thromboembolism caused by a blood clot. He was 52.

The clot traveled from Kersey’s left calf to his lungs, Dr. Larry Lewman of the state’s examiner office told the Associated Press. The team refused to provide details.

A veteran of 17 NBA seasons, Kersey reportedly underwent knee surgery earlier in the week. Lewman said that the blood clot could possibly have been a complication from the surgery. But it was unknown if so.

An ambassador for the Trail Blazers, Kersey appeared Tuesday with former players Brian Grant and Terry Porter at Madison High School in Portland in celebration of African American History Month.

He was a 6-foot-7 small forward for the Blazers, Warriors, Lakers, Supersonics, Spurs and Bucks.

Kersey averaged 10.3 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game. He was a starter in two NBA Finals (1990 and 1992) and was a second-round draft pick in 1984.

While in Portland for 11 seasons he played alongside Clyde Drexler, Kiki Vandeweghe and Porter.

On the third try (with the Spurs in 1999) Kersey won an NBA championship. He retired in 2001.

Trail Blazers Acquire Arron Afflalo, Alonzo Gee From Nuggets

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Arron Afflalo and Alonzo Gee were traded from the Nuggets Thursday morning to the Trail Blazers in exchange for a first-round pick, a second-round pick Will Barton, Victor Claver and Thomas Robinson.

The early Thursday-morning deal will add depth for the Blazers off the bench as Afflalo will back up Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum.

His fantasy value will take a major hit as he was averaging 33 minutes per game and will now see somewhere in the mid-20s. You can safely drop the 29-year-old as his averages of 14.5 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.9 assists are certainly set to take a tumble.

Gee will sit behind Afflalo on the depth chart as a throw-in in the trade. He is averaging 4.9 points, 1.8 rebounds and 0.5 assists per game.

Report: Lakers Interested In Nuggets’ Point Guard Ty Lawson

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A point guard seems to be in the future of the Lakers, with the team adding Ty Lawson to a wishlist alongside Goran Dragic as players it is interested in trading for ahead of Thursday’s NBA trade deadline.

ESPN’s Chris Broussard had the scoop on Twitter:

Currently the Lakers have Jordan Clarkson penciled in as their starting point guard, and are in line to have a shot at Emmanuel Mudiay in the NBA Draft with the league’s fourth-worst record at 13-40.

Lawson, 27, is averaging 16.9 points with 3.2 rebounds and 10.1 assists.

He is under contract until 2017 and is also drawing trade interest from the Pacers, who are trying to get him for George Hill.

The Lakers were said to not be open to trade either Clarkson or Jordan Hill.

NBA Digest: All-Star Break Edition

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The All-Star Break is upon us.  This weekend’s festivities in Brooklyn-New York will feature perhaps the greatest 3-point shootout of all time featuring world-class bombers including Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kyle Korver, and the Clippers’ J.J. Redick.  The dunk contest, arguably the greatest event of any sport’s all-star festivities, will feature exciting young talents like Giannis Antetokounmpo, aka the”Greek Freak” and former UCLA Bruin Zach LaVine.  Let’s recap some of what happened this past week in the league.

CAVALIERS CONTINUE TO DOMINATE

Despite having their 12-game winning streak snapped by the Pacers last Friday, with the re-emergence of LeBron James and the subsiding of major drama, the Cavaliers firmly look like the team to beat in the East.  They absolutely smashed the hapless Lakers and short-handed Miami Heat over the past week, and they only lost a game to the Bulls that was the second night of back-to-back and saw Derrick Rose drop 30-and-7 and draw some MVP chants.  Although James has cooled off some in February (22.8 PPG) he’s happily gone into facilitator mode to feed the now very comfortable Kyrie Irving and J.R. Smith (thriving in Cleveland).  The Bulls actually had the best +/- of any Eastern team in February, but as long as there are questions about Rose and Joakim Noah‘s health, my money is on the Cavs.

CLIPPERS MAKE DUE WITHOUT GRIFFIN

Clippers’ All-Star forward Blake Griffin underwent surgery on Monday to remove a staph infection from his elbow.  How long Griffin will be out is unclear, he will be re-evaluated after the All-Star break, but worst case scenario Griffin could be out 6-8 weeks.  A big blow for the Clippers in the brutal Western Conference.  The Clippers got blitzed by Oklahoma City on Sunday 131-108 in the Clips’ first game without Griffin, and fans had to prepare for the worse.  However, the Clippers responded with huge wins over Dallas and Houston that saw DeAndre Jordan explode for 20-point/20-rebound efforts in both games.  The Clippers will need all the help they can get from Jordan and the rest of the supporting crew if Griffin is out for an extended time.  Speaking of injuries.

INJURIES BEFALL SEVERAL STARS

Griffin isn’t the only all-star who is hurt.  The Pelicans lost All-star forward Anthony Davis to a shoulder injury on Saturday, and have lost three straight home games in the process.  “The Brow” won’t be playing in the all-star game, but it sounds like he shouldn’t miss too much time afterwards.  The Pelicans are only 1-1/2 games back of the final playoff spot in the West, but any games they play without Davis won’t help them in their pursuit of the eighth seed.  The Houston Rockets have been just fine without Dwight Howard in the lineup, mainly because of James Harden‘s MVP-caliber season.  The Rockets announced on Monday that Howard will be out 6-8 weeks with a sore knee.  However, Dwight hasn’t seen much of the court this season.  Howard hasn’t played since January 23 and the Rockets are 6-3 in that stretch.  However, as evidenced by losses to the Clippers and Blazers, the Rockets will need Dwight at full strength if they want to go deep into the playoffs.

THE SORROW OF THE LAKERS

The sad Lakers season continues.  Nick Young is slumping terribly (30% shooting in February, 21% on 3’s) and is in Byron Scott‘s doghouse.  The Lakers lost to Portland on Wednesday, their eleventh straight road loss, and sixth straight overall.  Byron Scott has handed over playing time to young guys like Jordan Clarkson and Ryan Kelly, at this point, there’s no reason not to.  The only redeeming factor of this Lakers season is that if they’re draft pick falls in the top five, they will not have to send it to Phoenix.  The Lakers currently have the fourth worst record in the league.

 

 

NBA Digest: Chef Curry With the Pot, Boy!

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The Super Bowl is now in the books, so that means the NBA gets to take the national stage. As always in this great NBA season there’s so much good stuff going on, this week was no exception.

Golden State and Atlanta continue to be the class of the league. Stephen Curry added to his MVP resume with a 51-point game, Russell Westbrook dropped 47, the Cavaliers are the hottest team in the league, the Clippers and Lakers are on their annual “Grammy Road Trip,” and a couple of teams that looked to be contenders have hit the skids.

Yay Area

The Warriors continue to be the class of the NBA.  The Dubs showed just that with a 128-114 win over Dallas on Wednesday night where Curry dropped his aforementioned 51 points.

Dallas was up by as much as 21 in the first quarter, when Golden State came roaring back.

Curry scored 26 in the third quarter alone.  He shot 16-of-26 from the field including 10-of-16 three pointers.

The Warriors lead the league in so many statistics it’s not even funny. They lead the league in PPG, FG%, 3PT%, opponent FG%, and APG.

They are a machine.

The Warriors will head out on the road for the next four games starting with a game Friday at Atlanta. Speaking of the Hawks.

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Although the Warriors have the best winning percentage in the NBA, the Hawks led the league in wins with a 41-9 record.

The Hawks had their 19-game winning streak broken by the New Orleans Pelicans Monday night in a 115-100 loss, but the greatness of the Hawks is not lost on anybody.

The NBA named the Hawks’ starting-five the Eastern Conference Player of the Month for January.

In case you couldn’t name them all that is Al Horford, Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver, DeMarre Carroll, and Jeff Teague.

Horford, Millsap, and Teague will represent the Hawks at All-Star weekend later this month. Korver is shooting 3s at a historic 53.2% clip. He might be the NBA’s first ever 50-50-90 guy, that’s 50% field goals, 50% 3s, 90% free throws.

The Hawks are top-5 in most statistical categories, but they don’t have the gaudy numbers that GSW has.

Also, the Hawks have no proven stars and everyone wonders what might happen when they play LeBron James‘ Cavs or a star-laden Bulls squad in the latter rounds of the playoffs.  Oh yeah, speaking of the Cavs.

Return of the King

The Cavaliers now have the longest winning streak in the NBA, extending it to 12 games with a 105-94 win over the Clippers on Thursday night.

They have not lost since LeBron returned from a two-week sabbatical. The new additions of J.R. Smith and Timofey Mozgov have paid off, but with LeBron carrying the team on his back like it was 2010 Cleveland, it remains to be seen how deep they’ll go in the playoffs.

Despite the win streak, not everything is hunky-dory in Cleveland.

Kevin Love broke out with a 24-and-9 effort against the Clippers, but his 1-for-7 night on Monday against Philly is far more representative of his season with Cleveland.

Meanwhile, Chris Paul is under heat for his altercation with a female referee.

Clippers Report

It’s tough to figure out the Clippers nowadays. After winning six straight games, Lob City has now lost three of four games. The Clippers lead the league in points per possession, even better than the Warriors, so they have a darn good offense, but then they have losses like they had this past week, getting blown out by the Pelicans without Anthony Davis, blowing a nine point lead late at home against the Nets. But, then of course, they go into San Antonio and win by 20, your 2015 Clippers, people.

The Clippers have no depth on the bench right now, Big Baby, Glen Davis is a shell of himself, and Austin Rivers is officially the second main weapon off the bench behind Jamal Crawford, and that’s not good.

They are a great squad, but I can’t see them beating Portland, or Houston, or especially Golden State in a seven game series if those teams are healthy.

Lakers Report

Oh, then there’s the Lakers.

They got stomped by the Knicks on Super Bowl Sunday, then lost to the Bucks on Wednesday night. They had the game in the bag before O.J. Mayo got free over a screen for a three-pointer with 0.5 seconds left.

It’s gotten to the point where the Lakers are almost an afterthought, I’ll gladly turn on a better game in lieu of the Lakers. They head to Cleveland on Sunday for what is sure to be another loss.

Games to Watch For This Weekend

  • Warriors vs. Hawks: Friday, 4:30 p.m.
  • Clippers vs. Raptors: Friday, 4:00 p.m., Fox Sports West
  • Trail Blazers vs. Mavericks: Saturday, 5:30 p.m.
  • Clippers vs. Thunder: Sunday, 10:00 a.m., ABC
  • Hawks vs. Grizzlies: Sunday, 3:00 p.m.
  • Spurs vs. Raptors: Sunday, 4:00 p.m., NBA TV
  • Trail Blazers vs. Rockers: Sunday, 4:00 p.m.

Lakers’ Kobe Bryant, Nike Unveil ‘Kobe X’ Shoes

150114_KOBE_X_0093_v5-xlr_native_1600-1 Lakers guard Kobe Bryant unveiled his 10th Nike shoe Saturday, called the “Kobe X,” which promises to blend three performance elements crafted into a clean, minimalist form. According to the Nike release, the shoe comes alive with hybrid cushioning, an advanced traction system and a seamless textile upper. It describes it as a modern look for the future. “Innovation drives you to new places,” said Bryant.  “The Kobe X combines strong design from the past together into a modern look for the future.” Its hybrid cushioning combines Lunarlon with Nike Free-inspired siping grooves to enhance natural movement, along with a new Zoom Air unit in the heel. The trio leads to a responsive ride that is a great combination of firm, soft and flexible. Nike says the Kobe X features what could be considered the most effective traction system in the 43-year history of Nike’s basketball shoes. The outsole is finished off with a gold Roman numeral “X,” a hand-drawn design by designer Eric Avar, embedded beneath the Zoom unit. You can purchase the new shoes at Nike.com and at select retail locations on Feb. 7. kobe_x_tech_sheet_2_hi_native_1600-1

Damian Lillard Posts Instagram Photo Containing Angry Message to NBA

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Life just isn’t fair in the eyes of Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, and he made sure it was made to be known that he wasn’t happy about not having a spot in the All Star Game on Instagram.

Check out what he posted:

He’s been an underdog from his days at Weber State, and fought hard to prove himself worthy of being selected with the No. 6 overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft.

Earlier today it was announced that DeMarcus Cousins was going to replace Lakers’ Kobe Bryant in the All Star Game, ending (for now) any hope that Lillard would get a spot in the contest.

Prior to posting this picture with that caption, Lillard posted this:

“I just want to thank the coaches who feel I wasn’t good enough, the fans that didn’t think I was good enough and Adam Silver also for not thinking I was good enough. This isn’t unfamiliar territory for me, it’s actually what my life has been inspired by. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed or that I don’t feel disrespected but it’s not too much to handle. Not the first or last guy to be snubbed. ‘You should have been there’ isn’t good enough for me. But anyway, the reason I’m in these shoes is because I’ve always use the hand I was dealt to my advantage… A wise man once told me… ‘It ain’t always gone be peaches and cream but somebody has to pay for the reason it’s not … One way or another’ … #ImThankful #Real #NonAllStar #RipCity#YellowTape”

He was an All Star in 2014 and was the NBA’s Rookie of the Year in 2013.

Garza: Pau Gasol Motivating Lakers Again

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The return of Pau Gasol to Staples Center Thursday night was enough to spark not just the fans of the Lakers in a 123-118 double overtime win, but also, the team itself.

Gasol helped the Lakers win two championships in 2009 and 2010, and then seemingly was left for being done after the team failed to reach the Finals anymore.

This season he moved on to the Bulls, and a new chapter of the Lakers began.

It has been pretty ugly for the most part, but, as irony would have it, Gasol in Staples Center resulted in a Lakers win once more.

And just like when Gasol arrived in Los Angeles, his presence on the court just might have inspired a team that picked up its 13th win in 47 games, and snapped a nine-game losing streak.

They even looked battle tested.

I mean they led throughout regulation until the Bulls tied it at the hands of Gasol, who showed signs of his former self.

He was just four assists away from a triple-double, notching 20 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. Blocking four shots along the way.

But Jordan Hill, Wayne Ellington and Jordan Clarkson came up huge, combining for 67 points among the three.

Hill muscled his way to 12 rebounds, himself.

Heck, the team outrebounded the Bulls 54-49.

This against a team that ranks third in the NBA in rebounds.

But the most important thing is how the Lakers, who went into halftime with an 11-point lead and then blew it right at the end, held their ground in both overtimes and overcame a very good Bulls team, and showed that the future is indeed bright if done right.

And the clutch free throws to seal the game by Ellington and Clarkson were just excellent.

The motivation could not have come at a better time as the Lakers prepare for matchups against beatable teams like the Knicks and Magic, with a game sandwiched in between against the Bucks, a team that can be beat, if things continue to roll well on all cylinders.

Then a test, against the Cavaliers and LeBron James, on Feb. 8.

Now this isn’t going to be a playoff team by all means. But they are showing signs of not being stuck in the lottery either.

It might not be such a good thing because of the thought of building for tomorrow.

But, Kobe Bryant has said he wants to come back for at least one more season. He could undoubtedly groom his successor to take over the city as part of the rebuilding process.

Kevin Love has been mentioned many times.

Other names to be free agents: LeBron James, LaMarcus Aldridge, Kawhi Leonard and Marc Gasol.

Kobe’s been tied to Rajon Rondo for a long time too.

They’ll want to win now.

And perhaps after last night they can thank Gasol as this team should go on a run for a few games that will excite fans just a little.

Come March 15 they will face the Hawks. Then, the following night they travel to Oakland to play the Warriors. And then there’s April 5 and 7, back-to-back games against the Clippers.

The team as it was constructed prior to the season, with no motivation, would have just rolled over.

But not any more. And that was evidenced in last night’s win.

And it’s all thanks to Pau Gasol, really.