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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.

NFL Sets Up Kaepernick Workout, Invites All Teams
11/12/2019 7:37pm

The NFL is setting up a private workout with scouting combine personnel for Colin Kaepernick and has invited all teams to attend, according to a report.The workout, which will also be run by former NFL coaches, held on Saturday in Atlanta will include on-field work and an interview, NFL Network reports. Kaepernick Video Aims to Remind NFL Hes Still Ready to Play The NFL had received several inquiries from teams about Kaepernicks readiness to play. The league also spoke with Kaepernicks representatives, who said the quarterback was prepared to workout and interview.Kaepernick shared his enthusiasm about the developmenton Twitter.Kaepernick last played league football in the 2016 season. In 2017, he filed a collusion lawsuit against the NFL before it was settled out of court earlier this year.Photo Credit: Getty Images This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.

Leonard Proves 'Board Man Gets Paid' in Reunion With Raptors
11/12/2019 3:21am

In college, Kawhi Leonard had a motto that he would impart upon his teammates.Board man gets paid.The idea behind the motto is that in order to make it to the NBA, Leonard needed to do more than just scoring. He needed to do the little things in order to help his team win: defense, passing, and most importantly, rebounding.The more boards rebounds, Leonard could grab in a game, the better his chances of achieving his dream. As a guard, Leonard led the Mountain West Conference in offensive, defensive, and total rebounds in his sophomore season. He was selected No.15 overall in the 2011 NBA Draft because of it.Leonard won the 2019 NBA Championship with the Toronto Raptors in June, and signed with the Los Angeles Clippers as a free agent this offseason.Monday marked Leonards first game against his former team and he backed up his motto in a 98-88 victory.With the Raptors constantly double-teaming Leonard throughout the game, the reigning NBA Finals MVP grabbed 11 rebounds, allowing the Clippers to win the game, and the battle of the boards, 66-38.His former teammates were friendly with Leonard both before and after the game, but they were anything but friendly during the contest, trapping the 28-year-old every time he touched the ball, and forcing him to become a facilitator instead of a scorer.Leonard happily obliged. Even though he shot 1-for-8 from the field for just seven points through the first three quarters, Leonard did all the little things instead. He was able to affect the game with his defense, passing, and rebounding. Leonard recorded a team-high three steals, and dished out a game-high nine assists.Montrezl Harrell, JaMychal Green, and Mo Harkless were the beneficiaries of many of those assists in the fourth quarter, as the Clippers closed out the game on a 16-6 run.When your star is not going, or they are double-teaming you, you have to have other guys knocking down big shots like they did tonight, Leonard told Prime Ticket following the win.Toronto was playing shorthanded, and on the second night of a back-to-back, after stifling the Lakers on Sunday. The Raptors interior defense against LeBron and Anthony Davis was tenacious, forcing the Lakers to beat them with their perimeter shooting. The Lakers struggled from beyond the arc, and that allowed long rebounds that enabled Toronto to get out in transition, scoring 113 points in the victory.On Monday, their double coverage on Leonard forced anyone else on the Clippers to have to beat them. Lou Williams and the Clippers bench certainly assisted in doing that, but sometime soon, Leonard will have former MVP finalist Paul George to back him up. Who are the Raptorsor any team for that mattergoing to double thenIf anything, Leonards reunion with the Raptors showed just how difficult its going to be for any team to defeat the Clippers once George returns.Photo Credit: NBAE via Getty Images

LeBron Has Epic Comeback For Critics Calling Him 'Washed'
11/12/2019 2:30am

If youre headed to the dry cleaners this week, you might want to bring LeBron James with you.The Los Angeles Lakers forward has called the 2019-20 season his comeback season. After a disappointing 2018-19 campaign that saw James miss 27 games with a groin injury, the soon-to-be 35-year-old spent his first lengthyoffseason in 13 years working on his recovery and rehabilitation.Its been six years since the Lakers last made the postseason, and 13 years since James last missed it. Needless to say, that despite the fact he was shooting Space Jam 2 all summer, James was deadset on making sure neither himself nor his team would miss the NBA Playoffs this year.I shot Space Jam for three months all summer, said James. My call time every morning was at 6:30 in the morning, and I was in the gym at like 3:30 or 4:00 in the morning before shooting the movie for 12-to-13-to-14 hours.Even when I was shooting the movie I knew what was most important was me getting ready for the fall. Its my personal pressure Im putting on myself. I believe in myself, and I know what Im capable of.James posted multiple videos during the offseason of himself working out, and on set. Recently, as the season got closer, James started posting those workouts with a new hashtag: Washed King.The WashedKing hashtag has never actually been said by anyone in the media, but it is a direct shot at the naysayers who believe the four-time NBA MVP is past his prime.Now in his 17th season, analysts like FS1s Skip Bayless and ESPNs Scottie Pippen have both deduced that James has lost a step. Pippen said on The Jump back in August, that he didnt believe James was still capable of carrying a team by himself at 35 years old.Bayless first posed the question of whether or not LeBron was past his prime, and then gave the answer on his show Undisputed:Is he LeBron on the downside of his career, or can he maintain the level hes always played at Asked Bayless to co-host Shannon Sharpe. Father Time is tapping him on the shoulder, and I dont see it in year 17.Through the first nine games of the season, James is quieting the doubters. The three-time NBA Champion is averaging 25 points, eight rebounds, and a career-high 11 assists. The latter of which leads the NBA.Its my personal motivation, James said of the hashtag Washed King. Im extra motivated to put myself in a position where I know I belong. So its my personal motivation every single night I step on the floor to be great.Thus far, James has been great. The Lakers are 7-2 and appear to be one of the best teams in the NBA. During the Lakers last undefeated road trip, James recorded three consecutive triple-doubles, the second most in Lakers franchise history since Magic Johnson ran off four straight triple-doubles in April of 1987.To Pippens point, James is not alone in shouldering the entirety of the load for the Lakers. Unlike last season, he now has a bona fide second superstar in Anthony Davis who is averaging 26 points and eight rebounds this year.Additionally, Davis and the new supporting cast give the Lakers a defensive presence they simply didnt have last season. The Lakers are currently first in the NBA in defensive rating thanks to a number of veteran defenders added to the roster.In addition to James and Davis, who are both former first team NBA All-Defense winners, the Lakers have four other players who have all been named to an NBA All-Defensive team as well. Danny Green, Avery Bradley, Dwight Howard and Rajon Rondo have all been named to an NBA All-Defensive team in their careers, and Howard is a three-time recipient of the NBAs Defensive Player of the Year Award.Father Time is undefeated, but with his new running mate and stellar supporting cast, James has been rejuvenated to start the season and doesnt necessarily have to play at the same elite level he has before in order to achieve success.James scoring average this season is already the second lowest output in his career, but with the newly built team around him, he doesnt have to carry the offensive load as much as he has in previous years. If James can stay healthy, he may be able to average a triple-double this season and help lead the Lakers back to championship glory.When asked last week, what he had to say to the critics that might still stand by the notion that he is washed, James had an incredible comeback for them:Meet me at the cleaners, he said with a smile.Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images This story uses functionality that may not work in our app. Click here to open the story in your web browser.

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