1. Nick Young and the returning Steve Nash will be the primary defenders on Kyrie Irving. How can LA help out their two point guards and slow down Irving?
Chris Manning, Right Down Euclid Co-EIC: By themselves, Steve Nash and Nick Young (or any other Lakers wing, for that matter) don’t have a chance a chance in hell to say in front of Irving unless he decides to just park himself on the wing shooting threes. Irving is incredible with the ball in his hands I can’t see how Los Angeles can stay in front of him and dictate where Irving takes his shots. What’s working in their favor is that Irving isn’t exactly shooting the lights near the rim and he only has one green area. So, he may get inside and score his fair share, but it’s not guarantee that Irving destroys the Lakers with his scoring.
Trevor Magnotti, Right Down Euclid Staff Writer: Well, I guess the Lakers would be best served doing what many teams have done against Kyrie this season and packing the paint against Kyrie driving. If you do that Kyrie likes to attempt to finish over the trees instead of kicking out to the Cavs’ shooters because I use the term “shooters” lightly. If the Lakers can take away Kyrie’s driving ability that way, it helps hide Nash’s cinder block feet by cutting down the areas in which Kyrie can operate, and then he can only kill the Lakers with his shooting ability, which I’d take my chances on.
Caleb Cottrell, Silver Screen & Roll Staff Writer: Um, can I say it isn’t possible? Steve Blake and Steve Nash are both coming off of injuries, Kendall Marshall is awful on defense, and Nick Young is no Scottie Pippen. It’s going to be important for guys like Robert Sacre to hedge hard off of the Pick-n-Roll. It might be a good idea to try and trap, or double team Kyrie, if possible. I would much rather have a role player have to make shots compared to Irving.
2. The Lakers are on their 12th road game in their last 15 games thanks to the Grammys and other scheduling conflicts. Unsurprisingly, they are 2-12 over this stretch. How much of a factor is fatigue on this team’s recent struggles?
CM: It’s mostly the injuries, but the insane game schedule plays into it. Still, the Lakers don’t have their franchise player (Kobe Bryant), their best post player (Pau Gasol) and other key components to their roster. Just look at their statistics: Nick Young (NICK FREAKING YOUNG) is their leading scorer and Jodie Meeks is amongst their top five. Kendall Marshall, who they picked off the scrap heap, is also amongst their leading scorers. Simply put, their best players right now just aren’t very good and it’s translated to the court.
TM: With the injuries this team has suffered this season, that already put them behind the 8-ball in terms of staying rested. When your team has about eight healthy players, it’s difficult to stay in any game, much less a plethora of road games. However, this team is also just a mess defensively, and honestly might be worse now that Steves Nash and Blake have returned. With these two back, the offense will be better, but the defense is going to suffer greatly. Their rebounding is atrocious, and they play at a fast pace, so the Lakers have not only been on the road and undermanned, they’re also facing a ton of extra possessions defensively as well. This has added to the attrition the team has faced over the last few weeks.
CC: Obviously, for any team on a stretch like this, they’ll get fatigued. However, the bigger problem for the Lakers has been injuries. Not having key contributors such as Kobe Bryant, Blake, Nash, Xavier Henry, and Jordan Farmar is a big deal. Nash and Blake both came back in last night’s game, but the Lakers lost three more players to injuries. Gasol just recently strained his groin, Meeks sprained his ankle and Jordan Hill left the Minnesota game after getting hit in the head by fellow teammate Chris Kaman. Blake also re-injured himself by rupturing his eardrum, but he was still able to play. Kaman, Nash, and Blake have somewhat fresh legs, and Kendall Marshall will be coming off the bench, so the team should get a little boost.
3. What do you think happens with Pau Gasol?
CM: I’m sure that the Lakers want to trade away Gasol as fast as possible for the highest possible price, but I doubt that price is as high as they would like. Gasol is out until after the All-Star Break, which gives them just four days to get him on the court and try and trade him. And why would a team like Phoenix trade for a player (and give up a legitimate asset) who hasn’t been on the court consistently this season? If the Lakers are going to trade Gasol, they are likely going to have to sell low and I just can’t see them doing that because when have the Lakers done anything that showed even the slightest glimpse of long-term planning?
TM: I think the Lakers will end up keeping him until the end of the season. I just don’t think there is any interest in Pau right now, due to his advanced age and questions about his durability. Also, the Lakers are asking for WAY too much in return for a terrible contract. The Lakers probably aren’t going to get a first-rounder and an asset for just Pau, but they seem hell-bent on this happening. The proposed deal with the Suns where they demanded a near-lottery pick, and the Cavs deal where they wanted Dion, a first and Varejao are great examples of this. I just don’t think the Lakers will be able to move him, because they have no leverage in order to get what they are asking for outside of “We’re the Lakers!”
CC: Can I plead the Fifth? I don’t think even the Lakers front office knows what will happen. I’m really hoping he is traded — for a first round pick in a perfect world — not only for the team, but for Gasol, as well. He’s been on the trade block for the third year in a row, and we know from his comments that the rumors take a toll on him. It would be in everyone’s best interests for Gasol to be traded; the Lakers would hopefully get cap relief and/or an asset or two, while also getting themselves in a better position for a top draft pick. Gasol would more than likely go to a playoff team, and he doesn’t have to hear his name being talked about in trade rumors every time he turns his TV on. Hopefully it all works out, Pau deserves it.