Archive for the 'Practice News' Category

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Marshall’s Shooting Surprise

Los Angeles Lakers v Boston CelticsThe knock on Kendall Marshall heading into his NBA career, and into the 2013-14 season with the Lakers after his D-League call up, was that he couldn’t shoot at an NBA level.

Known for his passing at the University of North Carolina, Marshall struggled with his percentages in limited playing time as a rookie for the Suns. In 14.6 minutes a night in 48 games (three starts), he shot 37.1 percent from the field (56 of 151) and 31.5 percent from three (23 of 73).

But in his 23 games (15 starts) for the Lakers, Marshall is leading the entire NBA in three-point shooting. Not Kyle Korver (third), Kevin Durant (13th) or Klay Thompson (18th). Kendall Marshall.

Shotchart_1392017548923

Marshall has drained 44 of the 89 three pointers he’s attempted for that league-best average of 49.4 percent, and converted on 46.5 percent of his total field goals (92 of 198), tied with Chris Paul for second amongst point guards behind only Tony Parker (50 percent).

Coach Mike D’Antoni was asked if he expected anywhere near this level of shooting success from a guard picked up only after Steve Nash, Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar went down with injuries.

“No,” D’Antoni said, shaking his head. “But Kendall is shooting the ball extremely well.”

What in particular has worked about Marshall’s shot?

“What works is it’s going in,” D’Antoni answered. “You’d have to ask him. He has to have his feet set, but that’s OK.”

So I asked Marshall.

“I think it’s the confidence to take the shot,” he said. “I used to be known as a shooter my whole life, but then I became a power point guard sophomore year in high school always trying to get to the rim.”

Marshall had grown a few inches and put on some muscle, and became more of a drive-and-dish player. But he never felt like his shot left him, and didn’t much change his form, aside from perhaps “getting a little more air under the ball.”

“I know I have a slow release and not a lot of motion,” he said. “Honestly, every coach I’ve had has told me I have a good form.”

So confidence it must be. And what helps with confidence more than anything else? Playing time.

Due to the rash of injuries for Los Angeles, Marshall averaged 38.5 minutes per game in January, and he benefited from the knowledge that he’d be on the court whether or not he made shots. Since Nash and Blake – and Farmar for a game – came back in February, Marshall’s kept that confidence in a reserve role, shooting even better in less time.

In 25.8 minutes off the bench in four February games, Marshall hit 14 of his 23 shots, including 9 of 12 three-pointers.

D’Antoni has asked for some improvement from Marshall on the defensive end, but couldn’t be much happier with the production on offense.

Marshall, after all, would rank second in the NBA in assists per game with his 9.3 per night if he’d played enough games to qualify … and his shooting has been notable enough that it took nearly 500 words to get to his passing.

Lakers Point Guards Nearing Return

ts_140203blake670Steve Nash, Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar all participated in a second straight practice on Monday before the Lakers departed for their three-game road trip.

“They’re all good,” coach Mike D’Antoni said. “I think they’re all ready to go. There’s a possibility all three could play (at Minnesota).”

Blake addressed the media post practice and did not explicitly state he’d suit up at Minnesota, but acknowledged he’s felt much better with two consecutive days of practice.

“We’ll see,” he said. “I felt pretty good today. We’ll see how I feel when I wake up and go from there.”

Blake had averaged 9.8 points and 7.7 assists prior to injury, including a stretch of four straight games of at least 10 dimes. The Maryland product has been sidelined eight-plus weeks with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.

Farmar, who has been out of action for one-month plus, echoed similar sentiments regarding his imminent return.

“I’m not sure about tomorrow,” Farmar said. “We’ll see. I’m available if they allow me (to play).”

Kobe Bryant (knee) and Pau Gasol (groin) will not accompany the team on the road, instead staying back in Los Angeles to rehab. As for who will replace Gasol in the starting unit, the coaching staff again remained mum about naming a definitive starter.

Chris Kaman has started a total of five games this season (11.8 points, 9.2 rebounds, 2.0 blocks, 46.4 percent field goals), most recently two games in late December while Gasol dealt with an upper respiratory infection. The 7-footer, however, has not seen extended game action in more than two-plus weeks.

“I’m just trying to be patient and take advantage of the opportunities I’m given,” Kaman said. “I’ve done this long enough to know what I need to do. Just let the game feel itself cause it’s going to be moving fast. You just have to try to make adjustments as it goes and be patient.”

Lakers Practice on Super Bowl Sunday

San Antonio Spurs v Los Angeles Lakers - Game FourWhile the rest of the world – or at least the country – was preparing Super Bowl snacks, the Lakers gathered at the team’s practice facility for a session after a rare off day on Saturday.

Granted, the players would have plenty of time to get home before kick off, but they got a few hours or work in without the latest key player who’s fallen to injury, Pau Gasol*.
*L.A. already leads the league by a considerable margin in games missed with 158, a total that will continue to rise.

The Spaniard is expected to miss at least one week after an MRI revealed a strain of his right groin. One could make the argument that the Lakers are now without their five best players in game action: Gasol; Kobe Bryant (knee); Steve Nash (back); Steve Blake (elbow); and Jordan Farmar (hamstring). The point guards, however, all practiced for a second consecutive time, with Nash and Blake still in consideration to play on Tuesday.

“They looked good,” said Mike D’Antoni. “I think they came through it OK. We have another practice tomorrow, so we’ll see how they (look afterwards), but it looks pretty good.”

D’Antoni may not determine Tuesday’s line up until that morning’s shootaround in Minneapolis. If Blake and Nash are able to play, they’re in line to split backcourt duties with current starters Kendall Marshall and Jodie Meeks. Meanwhile, D’Antoni could slide Chris Kaman into Gasol’s starting center slot, and keep the bench rotation as is with Jordan Hill and Robert Sacre.

In short, all currently injured players but Bryant may be back on the floor within a couple of weeks, but the 16-31 Lakers are in such a big hole that they’re closer to having the league’s worst record (Milwaukee, 8-39) than they are to the playoffs in the West (Memphis, 26-20, is the No. 8 seed).

Nash, Blake and Farmar Return to Practice

ts_140130stevenash670Steve Nash, Steve Blake and Jordan Farmar all participated in practice and went through 5-on-5 full court scrimmages on Thursday, but the three have been ruled out for Friday’s game vs. Charlotte.

It was a welcomed sight for the coaching staff to see those three out on the hardwood again.

“It lets us do a lot more things and obviously getting Steve Blake, Jordan Farmar and Steve Nash on the floor is going to help the quality of basketball,” coach Mike D’Antoni said.

Return dates for the trio, however, are up in the air and are varying to certain degrees.

“I just want to take it day by day and the fact I got through one practice is a positive,” Nash said. “This is the hardest thing I have ever faced in my career. Since the broken leg, nothing has been the same, nothing has been easy.”

While he was working/rehabbing with his trainer and physical therapist in Vancouver, Nash believes he progressed significantly in the last two weeks.

“I can get up and down first of all,” Nash explained. “I can withstand more demands – more contact, more unpredictable factors, change of direction – playing against somebody. That was something the nerve and spine couldn’t handle two weeks ago.”

Blake was non-committal about a possible return, but like both his backcourt teammates, is taking a day-by-day approach.

“I still have a little bit of issues to work through right now,” Blake said. “Shooting from long range is a little bit difficult right now. The ball feels heavy. There’s still pain when I shoot. Those are the things I need to work through. Everything else feels great.”

Farmar said he is trying to take a cautious approach to see how the hamstring responds. He suffered a tear in his left hamstring in a different area just four games after returning the first time. Now he says he can gradually work his way back as opposed to starting and playing 30-35 minutes upon coming back.

“Just take it day by day,” Farmar explained. “If I do something like this tomorrow, if there’s any tightness or soreness, really keep an eye on it and don’t overdo it. Maybe take a step back – ice, treatment, stuff like that. Just really paying attention to it day by day.”

Pau Gasol, meanwhile, did not practice and is still nursing a sore groin. He confirmed post practice that he is “probable” for Friday’s game. He did, however, acknowledge it feels much better today as opposed to after halftime during Tuesday’s contest vs. Indiana.

“It started happening on the road trip, but it was mild and manageable,” Gasol said. “The Indiana game was much, much worse and hard to bear, but I was able to finish the game off and play till the end.”

For the fifth straight game, the 7-foot Spaniard recorded a 20-point, 10-rebound double-double. In the month of January, he is averaging 20.6 points, 12.1 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.6 blocks on 50.9 percent field goals.

Lakers Injury Update from Miami

Los Angeles Lakers v Phoenix SunsLakers Injury Report sponsored by UCLA Health SystemHealthy bodies have been quite difficult to find on the court for the Lakers this season, and that trend continued at Wednesday’s session in Miami in which Mike D’Antoni didn’t have enough guys available to play 5-on-5.

Available (nine): Kendall Marshall, Jodie Meeks, Wesley Johnson, Ryan Kelly, Nick Young, Manny Harris, Jordan Hill, Robert Sacre, Chris Kaman
Unavailable (six): Pau Gasol (foot), Xavier Henry (knee), Jordan Farmar (hamstring), Steve Blake (elbow), Kobe Bryant (knee fracture), Steve Nash (nerve root irritation)

Gasol is the one player off the latter list who will play against the Heat on Thursday evening, as an open wound on his left foot won’t keep him out of game action, despite making it a bit painful to run, jump and cut.

Here’s the update on the Lakers who remain on the shelf:

XAVIER HENRY:
Henry did some running, lateral slide drills and shooting, but did not participate in practice with his teammates on Wednesday. He said he’s progressed from where he was last week with a knee strain suffered on Dec. 29, which has caused him to miss 11 games thus far. Henry has been ruled out of Thursday’s game in Miami and Friday’s in Orlando. He’ll be evaluated over the weekend.

KOBE BRYANT:
Bryant is expected to be evaluated when the team returns to Los Angeles on either Monday, Jan. 27., or Tuesday the 28th. Bryant said that he expected to get an MRI in “February,” but that could apparently come a few days prior to the change of month. Kobe’s been keeping in cardio shape by doing work on a stationary bike, but needs the knee fracture to fully heal before he can resume basketball activities. That said, Bryant has made it clear in respective media sessions in Boston and Chicago that he fully plans on returning as soon as he’s physically able.

STEVE NASH:
Nash has been with his personal physical therapist/trainer working out in Vancouver, trying to improve daily so that he can test out the back, hamstring and nerve root issues that have plagued him this season. He’ll be re-evaluated by the Lakers when the team returns from the road trip just as Bryant is.

STEVE BLAKE:
Originally diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow that would take a minimum of six weeks, Blake will visit with his doctor in Los Angeles when the team returns, and a potential return date may be established at the time. One can speculate that it’s going to be a bit longer, as the key word in the original timetable was “minimum.”

JORDAN FARMAR:
Farmar tore his left hamstring in a different spot from an original tear in early December on Dec. 31, and was given a four-week timetable until re-evaluation, which could come at the beginning of February. Don’t be surprised if it’s a couple of weeks after that until Farmar hits the game floor.

Lakers To Battle Clippers

Los Angeles Lakers v Houston RocketsDespite playing a back-to-back at Dallas and at Houston, the Lakers gathered on Thursday at the practice facility in advance of Friday’s matchup with the Clippers. L.A. has dropped three of four to start 2014, and nine of their last 10 overall, with their only win coming against Utah during that stretch.

“It’s a good time to come in and get some treatment, watch film and gather ourselves a bit,” coach Mike D’Antoni said. “We don’t want to get fragmented. We have to keep our spirits up and keep our heads up. I think the guys understand that.”

Both the coaching staff and the players also understand the main theme that has hurt the team in their last 10 games: turnovers. The Lakers are averaging 17.1 turnovers per game during that stretch, which would rank 28th in the league, and opponents are scoring nearly 23 points off those miscues.

At Houston, the Lakers gave up the ball seven times in the third quarter alone, allowing the Rockets to erase a 57-52 halftime deficit and turn the game in their favor entering the fourth. At Dallas, they committed six turnovers in the final 12 minutes, which proved to be the difference down the stretch.

“That’s probably the number one factor in why we’re losing,” D’Antoni said. “We’re giving up between 20, 25 and 35 points off turnovers. When we get our halfcourt defense set, we’re in the top half. We’re 30th in points in transition (17.8) and 30th in second-chance points (15.4). Those are two of the things killing us and turnovers are a big part of that.”

Kendall Marshall, who recorded 32 assists to four turnovers in his first two starts, has totaled 14 dimes and 12 turnovers in the last two games. With no true backup ballhandler, he’s also logged at least 38 minutes in three of those four starts.

“We have to do a better job for Kendall,” D’Antoni said. “He’s a certain type of point guard if you don’t set the pick and roll right, if you don’t space the floor, if you don’t give him a chance … but we’re closing the floor on him and he’s going to turn it over. That’s not his fault, that’s a team fault.”

Although the Lakers have lost all their primary playmakers to injuries, the Clippers recently lost their floor general, Chris Paul, to a separated shoulder on Jan. 3. The Clippers defeated Orlando and most recently Boston, two teams that are a combined 25 games under .500, but lost at San Antonio by 24. Darren Collison, who has moved into the starting lineup in place of Paul, is averaging 16.7 points, 6.3 assists and 2.7 steals while shooting 62.1 percent from the floor in those three starts. The key, however, comes down to taking care of the ball.

“If we turn it over, ESPN will be filled with highlights the way they run,” D’Antoni said. “So number one, we can’t turn it over. Number two, we have to get back (in transition). Number three, we have to make some shots and move the ball well.”

Saturday Practice Report

blog_140104marshallKey in the Lakers 110-99 win over Utah on Friday night was the play of Kendall Marshall, who recorded career highs across the board – 20 points, 15 assists and six rebounds – in helping the team snap a six-game skid.

Coach Mike D’Antoni elaborated on Marshall’s play post practice and what allowed him to be so effective in just his fourth career start.

“He straightened up a lot of things, obviously the rhythm of the game and the pace that we want to set,” D’Antoni said. “If we can get better from here, that’s a good baseline. The rhythm he gives us is what it’s important.”

In addition to his 15 assists, the Lakers recorded 22 fastbreak points and totaled 33 dimes altogether on 42 made field goals. They shot 51.3 percent from the floor, as six players finished in double figures.

Also key in the victory was Pau Gasol, who nearly recorded a triple-double with 23 points, 17 rebounds, eight assists and three blocks. Despite missing three of the last six games with an upper respiratory infection, D’Antoni noted the 7-foot Spaniard looked healthy, and his play was in part due to the team’s offensive rhythm early.

“Once that is, he gets more confidence and being more aggressive,” he said. “We want Pau to be aggressive and we want him to be in the post every time – at least in the play every time.”

On the other side of the ball, D’Antoni inserted Robert Sacre into the lineup for defensive purposes. The coaching staff was pleased with how Sacre anchored the paint, particularly in the first quarter when the Jazz shot 6 of 26 from the floor (23.1 percent) towards an opponent season-low 12 points.

After using nine lineups in as many games and 18 through the first 33 games, D’Antoni said he plans to use the same unit of Marshall, Jodie Meeks, Nick Young, Pau Gasol and Sacre vs. Denver on Sunday.

Lakers Trying to Cope Amidst Injury Plague

Miami Heat v Los Angeles LakersHere’s the likely starting five for the Lakers against Utah on Friday: Kendall Marshall, Jodie Meeks, Nick Young, Pau Gasol and Robert Sacre.

Before the 2013-14 season, there was absolutely no way to forecast such a line up for Mike D’Antoni’s squad, but with a plethora of injuries wreaking havoc on the roster, that’s how things look for a team on a six-game losing streak after a relatively impressive 13-13 start.

The “Games Missed” list is borderline ridiculous with only 32 played thus far:

Kobe Bryant: 26
Steve Nash: 26
Steve Blake: 11
Jordan Farmar: 10
Chris Kaman: 5
Pau Gasol: 3
Wesley Johnson: 1
Xavier Henry: 1
TOTAL: 83

More problematically, all but three of those players – Kaman, Gasol and Johnson* – remain on the shelf, ranging from Henry’s re-evaluation at the end of next week from a knee strain to Bryant being out at least until the end of the month with his knee fracture.
*Johnson may return to the starting line up with Young heading back to the bench depending upon how he feels on Friday after missing Tuesday’s game and Thursday’s practice with gastroenteritis.

Furthermore, the Bryant-Nash-Farmar-Blake-Henry group happen to make up the team’s five best perimeter playmakers, and their collective absence has really stalled what’s now the 23rd ranked offense in the NBA in terms of efficiency. D’Antoni’s been pleased with the effort all season, but a lack of perimeter playmaking is difficult to overcome in the NBA.

“Yeah, we’re getting effort,” said D’Antoni after Thursday’s practice. “It’s hard to sustain it sometimes because the offense is shaky and we don’t have the swagger we had. I don’t think you should ever question these guys’ hearts or wants. That’s not the problem this year.”

Milwaukee Bucks v Los Angeles LakersCaptain Obvious can tell us that injuries have been the problem. That’s why Marshall — who was cut by Washington after a two-year stint in Phoenix as the No. 13 overall pick in 2012 — now has the keys to D’Antoni’s car. A 6–4 point guard out of North Carolina, Marshall was most recently starring in the D–League for the Delaware 87ers, averaging 19.4 points, 9.6 assists and 4.7 boards in seven games.

After playing a total of 10 minutes in his first six games in Los Angeles, Marshall filled in for the ailing Farmar in 45 total minutes in losses to Philadelphia and Milwaukee, hitting 7 of 12 field goals (4 of 7 three-pointers) for 18 points with 10 assists and four turnovers.

With Blake at least three weeks away, Farmar four and Nash’s return unknown, Marshall has the job through the coming stretch of 10 of the next 15 games on the road. He’ll at least have a reliable post presence on offense in Gasol, who’s been feeling better the last two days after missing three of five games with an upper respiratory infection.

Gasol’s trying to stay positive amidst the acknowledgement that “everything is far from ideal right now,” detailing how the team has to think.

“It takes a big group effort, really coming in with a special and positive mindset, pulling each other out and helping each other out, and having great energy and focus on the game and understanding we’re shorthanded,” he said. “We still have five guys out there on the floor playing basketball. If we play together, we play with intensity and energy, we can make things happen and have good games.”

What L.A. seems to have lost during the six-game losing streak that they relied upon early in the season is a certain swagger and hopefulness, a unification behind injuries with the expectation that players were coming back soon to help, and none more so than Kobe Bryant. But with Bryant going down in Memphis on Dec. 17 and given a six-week healing period, the swagger has departed as the injury list has only grown.

D’Antoni’s mission is to simply keep fighting through the difficulty with the players who are on the floor, to continue searching for a spark.

“We’re going to do everything we can to win every game and every second,” he concluded. “That’s our mindset and that’s what it has to be. You can’t control other things like injuries. Our job is to win. We’re not doing that right now and it needs to start tomorrow night.”

Farmar, Henry and Kaman Miss Practice

Phoenix Suns v Los Angeles LakersLakers Injury Report sponsored by UCLA Health SystemThough the Lakers got Pau Gasol back on the practice floor, Jordan Farmar, Xavier Henry and Chris Kaman were all non-participants on Monday.

Farmar told Lakers.com’s Mike Trudell he experienced some “tightness” in his hamstring against Philly on Sunday evening. Despite this, he plans to play against Milwaukee on Tuesday.

Xavier Henry, who injured his right knee late in the first quarter of the Lakers-Sixers game, underwent an MRI on Monday morning that showed a bone bruise and an abnormality of the lateral meniscus. He will be re-evaluated in 7-10 days.

Kaman, who played just 10 minutes against Philly after tweaking his ankle at Utah, got treatment during practice and could play tomorrow, but will likely be limited, according to D’Antoni.

Gasol To Sit Out At Utah

Miami Heat v Los Angeles LakersThe Lakers received good news when Jordan Farmar returned to the lineup on Christmas Day, but now they will be without Pau Gasol at Utah on Friday evening. Gasol has been dealing with an upper respiratory illness and is being listed as day-to-day, according to Lakers PR.

Gasol did not practice on Thursday in advance of the team’s flight and will not accompany the team to Salt Lake City.

“I think it’s lingering a little bit,” coach Mike D’Antoni said. “I think it does affect him.”

The 7-foot Spaniard missed the team’s game at Golden State on Saturday, Dec. 21, because of the same issue. Prior to the Warriors contest, he was the lone player to appear in the starting lineup through the first 26 games.

“Like anything else, you’re not 100 percent physically and you’re going to have shorter times of energy and stuff like that,” D’Antoni said. “He’ll get over it. He’ll be fine.”

Despite playing through various ailments, there has been a noticeable improvement in Gasol’s production over the last seven games, as he’s averaged 16.0 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.7 blocks on 53.8 percent shooting. In the previous 22 contests, he had averaged 14.4 points on 42.3 percent field goals.