The Lakers are in the midst of their worst stretch of the season having lost six straight games. While the first three losses were to some of the league’s top teams, the last three were to three of the four worst teams, record-wise, in the NBA, the last two of which were at home.
Despite the recent struggles, there continues to be some bright spots for the Lakers. With Mike D’Antoni’s ever-changing rotation, players who don’t play one game can play 30 minutes the next. This leads to different players having the opportunity to be heroes on a nightly basis.
Heading in to the start of 2014, these are the players who are looking good, and not so well:
Not too long ago it seemed unlikely that Marshall would ever crack the Lakers rotation, but thanks to the inability of every Laker attempting to play point guard to stay healthy, Marshall got an unexpected opportunity and took advantage.
Marshall is averaging nine points and five assists in the Lakers last two games while hitting two three-pointers in each game. Marshall’s shooting was supposed to be his weak point, but he has proven to be a capable long range shooter, and his court vision is exceptional.
Very little is expected of Marshall, so anything good he gives the Lakers is a bonus. With so few healthy ball handlers available, Marshall is likely to continue to get decent run. The only downside is that every person plugged into the point guard slot has been hit with an injury of some sort, so Marshall better watch his back.
Williams has struggled to produce offensively this season despite getting relatively consistent minutes. While his jumper hasn’t come back to him yet, and his offense continues to be hit or miss, he has shown that he can contribute to the Lakers in a number of ways.
Williams has recorded double-digit rebounds in his last two games and flashed some defensive capabilities with his five block game against the Bucks. Williams has still not resembled the prototypical stretch four that everyone envisioned him as, but if he can show himself to be a plus defender, as well as post close to double-digit rebounds on a nightly basis, he is sure to keep himself a spot in the rotation.
I know Young was trending up last week, but he just continues to be the best Laker on a nightly basis.
Young is averaging 24 points per game over the last week and is showing that he can do more than just score as he has grabbed six rebounds in each of the last two games. And while his on-court contributions have been outstanding, his off-court contributions may be even greater.
Young is the glue that is holding this team together. Despite all of the losses, it is Young trying to keep everyone in positive spirits both on and off the court. His smile is infectious and he has made it his job to make sure everyone is happy when they enter the Lakers facilities. It’s teammates like Young, who will ensure these Lakers play hard every night, even if they fall short.
Johnson has been abysmal offensively for the last couple of weeks now and it is really starting to hurt his role with the team. Johnson is clearly the Lakers’ best overall defender, and it really isn’t close. But his offensive game has fallen off of a cliff the past two weeks.
In the last nine games Johnson has scored in double figures only once, and failed to hit a three pointer in six of those games. Johnson failed to record a field goal in each of his last two games before missing the Bucks game with gastroenteritis.
Johnson is sure to have a role on this team as the defensive stopper, but if he can’t at least be a somewhat respectable offensive threat, he will lose a lot of minutes to those who can make a jump shot.
In the past three games, Kaman went from starting and posting double-double, to playing only 10 minutes, to getting the dreaded DNP-Coach’s Decision.
Kaman again voiced his frustration with his constantly changing role and, while he probably has some legitimate gripes with the constant changing of his spot in the rotation, his speaking on that subject in a negative is way is unlikely to bode well with the coaching staff.
Kaman played well when he got the opportunity, so it’s not out of the question that he could be on the other side of this equation next week. But he doesn’t seem to be in the good graces of Coach D’Antoni at this time and with Shawne Williams contributing and Robert Sacre always available to take minutes, Kaman could may etch himself a comfortable spot on the bench.
Unfortunately for Henry, he fell victim to the curse of the Lakers point guards in the 2013-2014 season. Henry’s knee issues are only expected to keep him out of action for 7-10 days, but with so many guard options, Henry could easily see his minutes reduced.
The play of Kendall Marshall could allow D’Antoni to use him more in the backup point guard role which Henry had been occupying. And with Nick Young playing exceptionally right now, plus the imminent returns of guys like Kobe Bryant and Steve Blake, Henry could soon find himself being the odd man out in a couple of weeks.
Henry was in the midst of one of his better stretches of play on the season before getting injured. If he is unable to continue that level of play when he returns however, he could soon see his minutes lessen.
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