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Celebrity Fans in the Stands: Los Angeles Lakers Edition
11/18/2019 10:05am

The seats at Staples Center have a star-studded history when the Lakers are in action. Check out some of the celebrity fans in the stands, both home and away, who have cheered on the Lakers through the years.Photo Credit: NBAE via Getty Images

Opinion: Lakers Prove They're Better Without Walton
11/16/2019 9:38pm

Luke Walton is a Lakers legend.Despite averaging less than five points in his career, he was a fan favorite, a role player, and a second son to Phil Jackson.Following his playing career, Walton was hired by the Lakers as a player development coach for the teams G-League affiliate, the Los Angeles D-Fenders.After a two-year stint with the Golden State Warriors, Walton returned to the Lakers when he was named the head coach in April of 2016.Fans lauded the hire, and would greet Walton at Staples Center with chants of Luuuuuuke, every time his name was announced during pregame introductions.Its always a special place when you come into the building, Walton said of Staples Center ahead of his return on Friday. A lot of great memories in L.A. It was a great opportunity playing here and coaching here.The great memories were sparse during Waltons time has head coach of the Lakers. In his three years in charge, the Lakers struggled, they went 98-148 and missed the playoffs in all three seasons.In the summer of 2018, when four-time MVP and three-time NBA Champion LeBron James joined the Lakers in free agency, expectations went through the roof. Both fans and players alike believed LeBron and Walton would help return this historic franchise back to glory. But the team got off to a 2-5 start, and Walton was publicly admonished by his then boss, Magic Johnson.Against all odds, Walton kept his job despite the Lakers falling in the standings faster than the sun stays out after daylight savings time. On March 27, after a loss to the Utah Jazz mathematically eliminated the Lakers from the playoffs, Walton said, I fully expect to be coaching this team Lakers again next year.Two weeks later, he was unemployed.Walton landed on his feet, as the Sacramento Kings hired him two days later. He once again got off to a sluggish start with his new team, as the Kings began this season 0-5.On Friday, Walton returned to Staples Center for the first time since he was let go by the Lakers. Sacramento played scrappy, and nearly pulled off the upset. But ultimately, LeBron and his new running mate Anthony Davis, proved to be too much for Walton and the Kings, and they fell to the Lakers, 99-97.It was fun, Walton said after the game. This job is fun, its stressful, its hard, but as a competitor this is what you love to do. To be back in your old building and playing against the team you used to coach and play for is exciting.The Lakers victory over Walton in what was labeled his revenge game, revealed what most of us in Los Angeles already knew: the Lakers are better off without Walton.Sexual assault allegations from a former Spectrum SportsNet reporter that covered the Lakers aside, the team is simply better in all facets of the game under new head coach Frank Vogel, than they ever were under Walton.Waltons tenure with the Lakers exposed many flaws. One of the biggest complaints against Walton was his game planning and rotations. His odd combinations on the floor rarely complimented the talent he had at his disposal.In Waltons three seasons as Lakers coach, the team lacked the consistency, especially on defense, to compete with the upper echelon teams in the league, let alone make the postseason. The Lakers were ranked 12thin the league in defense in Waltons final season. This year, they are ranked first.As a player, Walton learned under the tutelage of Phil Jackson and Byron Scott. The former, an 11-time NBA champion as a head coach, was famous for teaching the mental aspect of the game of basketball. Known as the Zen Master, Jackson rarely dabbled in Xs and Os, but instead was an expert on how to manage personalities, assuage egos, and inspire players.Unfortunately, that unique skillset does not appear to have been passed down from mentor to pupil. Walton often struggled to get his team motivated and energized for games against inferior opponents, specifically during his final season with LeBron James on the roster.The Zen Master always remained calm under pressure, famously not calling timeouts when other coaches would, preferring his players overcome obstacles and adversity on their own. While Walton remained calm under pressure on the sidelines, he appeared to struggle at in-game adjustments and inspiring comebacks. The Lakers trailed by double-digits countless times throughout his tenure, but Walton repeatedly failed to make the adjustments necessary to rally his team and get them over the hump to secure a come-from-behind win.Under Walton, the Lakers had just 11 come-from-behind victories when trailing by double-digits at any point in the game. This season, the Lakers already have four such wins in only 12 games played.All of this is not necessarily a knock against Walton as a person, or even a final judgment on his abilities as a head coach. The 39-year-old is still in his coaching infancy, and may very well turn out to be a tremendous head coach in the years to come. Nonetheless, the Lakers have already proven in just a short time, they are better off without him.The Lakers replaced Walton with veteran head coach Frank Vogel. In just a small sample size, Vogel has already proven that he excels in the areas Walton struggled. Vogel has preached defense since Day 1, and it has showed on the court. Even when the Lakers have lacked offensively, theyve proven the ability to buckle down on defense, create stops, and close out games.Vogels penchant for making in-game adjustments has been on display all season, but none more so than on Friday against Waltons Kings. In the first quarter, Sacramento deployed a strategy similar to what the L.A. Clippers did in the Opening Game at Staples Center. Point guard Cory Joseph, a strong defender, picked up LeBron James full court on defense, forcing the ball out of the hands of the Lakers best playmaker.With LeBron suffocated, the Lakers went down by double-digits, and by as many as 13 points in the second quarter. Vogel adjusted. He inserted Alex Caruso into the game to close out the second quarter, and then started him in the second half. Caruso gave the Lakers another ball handler and playmaker to take the pressure off LeBron. The move worked brilliantly, and the Lakers rallied to close the first half, and took the lead for most of the second.They were trying to junk the game up a little bit. They had Cory pick up LeBron full court, said Vogel of the adjustment. You can either wear him out the entire game doing that, or put in another ball handler, and thats what we did.In Waltons defense, the Lakers have a much talented roster this season than in any of the past three. The additions of Anthony Davis, and veterans like Dwight Howard and Danny Green, have been integral in the Lakers success to start the season.However, one could easily argue that Walton had a talented enough roster with LeBron last season to at the very least make the playoffs. Instead, they finished 10th in the Western Conference, and 11 games behind the Clippers for the eighth and final playoff spot.Throughout everything that was going on, we tried to remain positive and patient, said James about last season before facing Walton for the first time on Friday. We were right where we wanted to be on Dec. 25th.We went up to Golden State and played a very good team, and then the injury happened and I missed six-and-a-half weeks. Nobody could have predicted that, including myself and Luke. That put us behind the eight ball. Throughout it all, we just tried to remain positive. I think he did as great of a job as he could do under the circumstances.Walton is not entirely to blame for the Lakers struggles the last three seasons. He did do a good job of developing younger players as is evident by the emergence of Kyle Kuzma, and Brandon Ingram in New Orleans. Nevertheless, he was not the right coach for the Lakers at this point in their history.On Friday, in his return to Staples Center, the customary chants of Luuuuke, were instead drowned out by a chorus of overwhelming boos. A sign that fans understand that Walton underachieved as head coach, and that for the Lakers to return to glory, it was necessary to move forward without him.Photo Credit: Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

Why Garrett's Helmet Attack Likely Won't Result in Charges
11/16/2019 4:49am

The attack was stunning even for a sport known for its violence: With eight seconds left in Thursdays game, Cleveland Browns star Myles Garrett tore off Pittsburgh Steelers Mason Rudolphs helmet, then hit Rudolphs head with it in a fit of rage.Had the brawl happened on a street corner, Garrett very well could have been charged with assault. But on a football field where athletes play knowing there is a risk they will get hurt the lines are blurry, experts told NBC News.If were going to be very technical, every single thing that takes place on a football field is assault, said Tammi Gaw, an attorney and athletic trainer based in Washington, D.C., who is the founder of Advantage Rule, a consulting firm that works on sports policy. But sports, especially contact sports, exist thanks to a doctrine of assumption of risk.As part of the doctrine, athletes consent to the risk of injury that comes along with physical contact and are paid to consent to that. That means they are generally barred from taking legal action against their league or other players if they, for example, get hurt after being tackled because they have voluntarily exposed themselves to that possibility.Photo Credit: David Richard/AP

These Are Definitely Not Last Year's Lakers
11/14/2019 2:41am

What a difference a year makes.A year ago, the Los Angeles Lakers got off to a 4-6 start in their first season with LeBron James. Then President of Basketball Operations, Magic Johnson, had privately scolded his head coach Luke Walton. Looking back, perhaps the writing was on the wall for that team even early on.A year later, the Lakers are an NBA best 9-2. Johnson and Walton are long gone, and so is the pernicious losing culture that festered around the NBAs premier franchise for six consecutive seasons.They say if you cut off the head of the snake, the body will die. Maybe it was Magics resignation, or Waltons inevitable firing that has the Lakers looking like a completely different team this season.Maybe its the departure of injury-plagued point guard Lonzo Ball, and his blabbermouth father that has made all the difference.Or perhaps and most likely, its the addition of one of the games finest big men in Anthony Davis, and a revamped roster full of lethal three-point shooters that is the reason behind the teams early success this season.Regardless of which explanation you chose, we can now say definitively that this team is definitely not last years Lakers.The 2019 Lakers are off the to best start since the 2010 season that began 13-2 coming off an NBA championship a few months prior. That team featured Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, Metta World Peace, and Andrew Bynum. This iteration might be better.The biggest difference between that team, last years team, and the current team is defense.The 2010-11 team had plenty of offense, but defensively they ranked sixth in the NBA with a defensive rating of 103.3 By comparison, last years Lakers finished 13th in the league with a defensive rating of 108.9.The current Lakers are ranked first in the NBA in defense through the first month of the season, and are one of just two teams Utah Jazz with a defensive rating under 100. If their defense keeps up, the Lakers could be the first team since the 2015-16 San Antonio Spurs to finish the season with a defensive rating under 100.There are two reasons for the Lakers improved defense this season: One is their new head coach Frank Vogel. Unlike his predecessor Luke Walton, Vogels specialty has always been on the defensive end of the floor. During Vogels two best seasons with the Indiana Pacers in 2012 and 2013, the Pacers were ranked number one in the league in defensive rating.The second reason for the Lakers improved defense, is their rebuilt roster featuring a whos who of former first team NBA All-Defense winners. In addition to James, the new Lakers supporting cast of Anthony Davis, Danny Green, Avery Bradley, Rajon Rondo, and Dwight Howard have all previously been named to the NBA All-Defensive team in their careers, and Howard is a three-time recipient of the NBAs Defensive Player of the Year Award.Last seasons Lakers showed flashes of being able to play suffocating defense for small stretches, but never at the level or consistency that this current team has shown through the first 11 games of the season.This was evident on the Lakers most recent three-game road trip to Texas and Chicago. The Lakers trailed by double-digits in their first game against the Dallas Mavericks. They trailed the entirety of the first half, and by as many as 15 points in the second half before clamping down on defense in the fourth quarter for the come-from behind victory.A few nights later, they trailed by 19 points to the Chicago Bulls late in the third quarter. Once again, the team tightened up defensively, and rallied for the victory, completing a three-game sweep on the road. Something the Lakers never did last season. The Lakers only had 11 come-from-behind victories in 82 games last year. This year they already have three double-digit comeback wins in just 11 games.Another example of the difference between last years version of the Lakers and the current team is the last two games, both victories.The Lakers travelled to Phoenix on Tuesday where they defeated a scrappy Suns team, 123-115. The Suns were the worst team in the Western Conference last season, finishing a paltry 19-63. On March 2, the Lakers, fighting for their playoff lives lost to the Suns, 118-109, all but ending any chance they had of making the postseason.This years version of the Suns might be the depleted Golden State Warriors. The three-time NBA Champions are decimated by injuries this season. Kevin Durantnow with the Brooklyn Netswont play this season. Neither will Klay Thompson or Steph Curry. At 2-10, the Warriors have the worst record in the NBA and are likely already looking ahead to next season.On Wednesday, without their leading scorer and rebounder in Anthony Davis, the Lakers led the Warriors from wire-to-wire, leading by as many as 27 points in a 120-94 blowout victory over the former Champs.To put it plain and simply: the Lakers did not win games like this last year.The 2018-19 Los Angeles Lakers struggled against the teams they were supposed to beat. Last year, the Lakers lost to the New York Knicksthe team with the worst record in the NBAtwice They also lost to the Memphis Grizzlies twice, and the other minnows of the NBA the Washington Wizards, Cleveland Cavaliers, Atlanta Hawks, New Orleans Pelicans, and Phoenix Suns. Thats 10 losses to teams with a combined winning percentage of .300.Thus far, the Lakers are undefeated in that category this season. They are a perfect 5-0 against teams with a losing record this season. Thats one of the marks of a championship caliber teamdefeating inferior teams when youre the heavy favorite.The Lakers are less than a quarter of the way through the season, but its already undoubtedly clear that this team is not the same Lakers team from a year ago. Admittedly, its a small sample size, and unforseen injuries could still turn the tide dramatically, but this team has brought the Lakers back from the brink, and thats something fans should be excited about.Photo Credit: Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images

Lakers' Center JaVale McGee Discusses Return of the Big Man
11/14/2019 12:55am

Los Angeles Lakers center JaVale McGee discusses the return of the big man in the NBA after an 18 point, 17 rebounds, 3 steals, and 3 blocks performance in a 120-94 win over the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday, November 13, 2019.

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