FIBA Four Breakout Players

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While we await the anticipated return of the NBA season, we are just a few weeks away from the start of the 2014 FIBA World Basketball Championships. This summer’s basketball festivities will give fans not only the opportunity to see the many talents from around the world, but also the growth of the global game of the sport. As all eyes will be on USA Basketball, we focus the spotlight on who to watch in each group’s pool play.

 

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Group A- Marc Gasol (Spain)

      Spain continues to find success throughout international play through players such as Pau Gasol, Juan-Carlos Navarro and Jose Calderon. Marc Gasol has slowly became the leader of Spain basketball. As a veteran of FIBA competition, he has became a global household name being a leader on defense and a focal point of the offense. Gasol must lead by example and set the tone early in the tournament in order for Spain to win it all.

The Immense, Incalculable Potential of Giannis Antetokounmpo

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Group B- Giannis Antetokounmpo (Greece)

The horizon of Greece basketball has caught the eye of people and made them a favorite to win in group play. The player to look out for will be the second year player of the Milwaukee Bucks, Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Greek freak has captured the attention of fans with his size and athleticism while showing his talents in spurts during his rookie season. The FIBA platform is an ideal stage for Antetokounmpo to shine and display his game.

 

Derrick Rose Returns to the Court a Changed Player for USA Basketball

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Group C- Derrick Rose (USA)

With the departures of Paul George and Kevin Durant, the stage has been set for Derrick Rose’s return to basketball to lead USA Basketball to repeat as FIBA World Basketball Champions. So far throughout the two scrimmages we have seen, Rose has played with confidence and performed at an exceptional level. The basketball world will be anticipating the comeback as he has only played 11 games in the previous two seasons due to injuries. Whether he is still elite will not be a concern, but rather the health will be a problem for Rose in this tournament.

 

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Group D – Dante Exum (Australia)

The new kid on the block that may have a breakout performance in pool play is Dante Exum. Without team leading scorer Patty Mills, more responsibility will be asked from the 4th overall pick in order for Australia to compete for a shot at the championship. Not knowing what Exum can bring to the table makes this the best opportunity to show what he is able to bring to the Utah Jazz in the upcoming season.

Free Agency Watch List

 

NBA Free Agents 2014: Updated Rankings of Top 5 Players at Every Position

Eric Gay- Associated Press

     As we await July 1st for the start of NBA free agency, the free agent class of this summer that is being presented to us is intriguing. Very few marquee players are available that can change a franchise immediately, but many players are capable of being the missing piece to a championship puzzle. Here are the top free agents to keep on your radar during the off-season.

 

 

Pau Gasol Injury: Updates on Lakers Forward's Groin and Return

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Pau Gasol

 

     The past two seasons for Pau Gasol has been rough as he has been on a team consisting of disloyalty and lack of trust between a player and a head coach that was Mike D’Antoni. While being put in difficult positions and rumored in various trade talks, he would average 17.4 ppg and 9.7 rpg in an injury riddled season. Gasol is not the go to player he once was in the early stages of his Lakers career and as a member of the Grizzlies, but he is more than capable of being a reliable option for a championship contending team.

 

 

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 Isaiah Thomas

The former last pick of the 2011 NBA Draft has come into the league and surprised many by what he has been able to do for the Sacramento Kings. Averaging career highs with 20.3 points per game and 6.3 assists per game, his numbers have been comparable to the number one pick in his draft who happened to be Kyrie Irving. The 5’9″ point guard is becoming a household name that will receive a lucrative for his talents at his position that is valued.

 

 

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Lance Stephenson

 

     Lance Stephenson has made himself a hot commodity for free agency this summer after having a breakout season as he became a focal point of the Indiana Pacers success. Yet, the antics on display during the postseason in the Eastern Conference Finals may have cost him millions of dollars while showing us the immaturity that once hindered his draft position. Stephenson is a unique player who can play and defend multiple positions along with having star potential, but the concern for him is if he can control his emotions on the basketball court.

 

 

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Gordon Hayward
 
     It will be interesting to see where Gordon Hayward will land in free agency after Utah decided not to offer a contract extension. On the right team, Hayward can be a difference maker who can elevate his team to the next level with his talents and versatility at the wing position. As a member of the Jazz, he averaged career highs in points, rebounds, and assists. Seeking a lucrative contract, teams may shy away from him for his desire of big dollars wanted. If some team grants him his wish, Utah is set to match their offer.

 

NBA Free Agency

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Nick Young
     As the Los Angeles Lakers season was filled with injuries and disappointment , the one bright spot that kept fans excited was the on and off the court performance of Nick Young. In his return home, Young has arguably had his best season in his seven year career averaging 17.9 ppg. ‘Swaggy P’ will look to return to his hometown team under a long term contract that will keep him in purple and gold for years to come. The idea of bringing him back to the Lakers should be a top priority this offseason as he will become a target for teams looking for instant offense to uplift them.

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Eric Bledsoe
 

     In his first season as a starter, Eric Bledsoe found a home in the Phoenix Suns where early success was found during the 2013-14 season. It was a short stint season for Bledsoe as he sidelined with a knee injury. However, he would show promise as he averaged 17.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg, and 5.5 apg and is now known for his defense. His return to Phoenix may be slim to none with the recent draft acquisition of TJ Warren in the NBA Draft with no qualifying offer being proposed to him, making him an unrestricted free agent. The success of the Suns without Bledsoe may also be a factor in whether to pay the dynamic point guard. For his talents, teams will be willing to offer him top dollar where the feeling from the Suns is not mutual.

Report: Los Angeles Lakers Interested in Kyle Lowry During 2014 Free Agency

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Kyle Lowry

    Kyle Lowry’s breakout season with the Toronto Raptors has led him to being a marquee free agent acquisition during this off-season. With trade rumors swirling around him for majority of the season, he was able to perform at a high level averaging career highs 17.9 ppg and 7.4 apg and becoming Toronto’s leader on the floor with his play and emotionally. Lowry can take his talents elsewhere to elevate a teams chances of fulfilling his championship aspirations.

 

Longest-Tenured Houston Rocket, Chandler Parsons, Is Also Likely Most Important

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Chandler Parsons

     After the recent story of the Houston Rockets deciding to decline the option to maintain Chandler Parsons, the market for the small forward has became more attractive for him. Helping Houston lure in Dwight Howard, he would be the glue guy to this team with his play on both ends of the floor while improving his offensive game as he goes forward with a career high 16.6 ppg and 5 rpg. In Parsons case, a team may overpay for Parsons due to a high demand of interest by other teams. Being a 6’10 small forward will also help as teams will look for a wing that can deal with the likes of a Carmelo Anthony, Lebron James, and Kevin Durant.

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Chris Bosh Says Miami Heat 'Must Win' Game 4 of 2014 NBA Finals

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Chris Bosh

     Coming off a sub par season to his standards, Chris Bosh has became under appreciated in South Beach. Having catered to Miami’s game plan revolved around LeBron James can be a detriment to the team’s success, more plays should have been called for Bosh during games as he would display his clutch ability in moments. Although, the situation that was brought upon him has also improved Bosh’s overall game by expanding his outside perimeter game that leads to bringing out the opponents best big man into unfamiliar territories. A center in today’s NBA who can play both offense and defense at an exceptional level is rare. Bosh can easily become a second option elsewhere for a team who is looking to get over the hump of being a championship team if Miami is not willing to make him one.

 

 

The Detroit Pistons Have a Major Greg Monroe Dilemma

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Greg Monroe

     Greg Monroe’s name has been mentioned with many teams as a potential addition to their roster for next season. While playing for the Detroit, he may be unknown to many outside the Motor City. Monroe continues to remain consistent with his play, but also can be a household name with the right team in a major market with the right supporting cast around him. At 24 years old, he has not reached his ceiling that makes him more attracting to teams moving in a new direction. Monroe’s addition could work out immediately along the likes  of the Bobcats signing Al Jefferson last offseason. Monroe is a blue collar player who comes to work with his lunch box ready to go.

 

New York Knicks Giving Carmelo Anthony Every Reason to Leave in 2014 Free Agency

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Carmelo Anthony

 

     Carmelo Anthony’s journey has been well documented starting with the force trade from Denver to  New York all the way until the present where he has chosen to opt out of his final contract to become a free agent. Having to carry a heavy load of the work last season, the same may await Anthony next season with majority of the same players under contract for next season. The chances of Carmelo returning to the Big Apple are slim to none with what is set in place looking forward to destinations such as the Chicago Bulls and the Houston Rockets becoming more appealing for a chance to win a NBA title and cement his legacy as a great during his era.

LeBron James' Mask Hides Miami Heat's Real Story vs. New York Knicks

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LeBron James

 
     LeBron James created headlines by making the choice of opting out of his current contract that has now led to many teams preparing to make a pitch to the best player in the NBA. Does this give any implications of him leaving Miami? Not at all. The Miami Heat will do anything possible to retain James by any means. By opting out of his deal, King James is allowed to re-sign for a max contract that is well deserved while giving the Heat a chance to bolster its roster with talent that can take the pressure off of himself. Miami is has already made a step in the right direction in acquiring Shabazz Napier via trade during the NBA Draft, who LeBron is a huge fan of. Assuming Chris Bosh & Dwyane Wade come back to accept less money, it gives the team a chance to appease James with his needs.
 
     While we await the decision from LeBron James, teams have to remember not to focus on one player, running the risk of missing the opportunity to bring in exceptional players that are available. The free agency season is around the corner with plenty of players who are ready to step in right away and contribute to a new franchise. Other players that could become a factor on teams include Trevor Ariza, Marcin Gortat, Loul Deng, and Patty Mills as well as possible big trades with players like Rajon Rondo or Kevin Love. Let the July fireworks begin.

 

Risk or Reward: Top 5 NBA Draft Prospects

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We are just a few days away from the 2014 NBA Draft, many prospects have made themselves a household name during team workouts which has improved their draft stock. It is casual for general managers and talent scouts to get caught in the moment of what a player is capable of when nobody impedes their progress. Here are the top five players to keep an eye on while we await draft day.

 

Bleacher Report

Bleacher Report

 

5. P.J. Hairston

 

During his time span at North Carolina, sharp shooter P.J. Hairston was becoming a focal point of the Tar Heels’ success. Many would believe Hairston was sorely missed by the Tar Heels in powder during the early portion of the season. However, off-season troubles would derail his college career where the repercussions led to the dismissal from the team this past season. Making the leap to the NBA D-League, Hairston has shown his talents that may translate well to the next level averaging 21.8 points per game in 26 games with the Texas Legends. His ability to perform will not be in question, rather the growth of maturity are bound to raise caution flags to teams.

 

Christopher Hanewinckel- USA Today

Christopher Hanewinckel- USA Today

 

4. Aaron Gordon

 

Freshman phenom Aaron Gordon has made himself a hot commodity in the draft process with his athletic abilities that has drawn many comparisons to Blake Griffin. Is that enough to qualify him as a potential lottery pick? The Pac-12 Freshman Player of the Year has displayed his exceptional work ethic along with his versatility as he shows promise to excel at the next level on both ends of the floor. In order to succeed that, he must improve his offensive repertoire outside the paint and a much needed tune up at the free throw line. Can Gordon become a franchise player, or a role player that never could become a star is the question surrounding this Wildcat.

 

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Jim McIsaa- Getty Images

 

3. Zach LaVine

 

Coming off the bench for UCLA Bruins this season, Zach LaVine would show flashes of talents in spurts early in his one and done season, averaging 10 ppg on 45% shooting. He has appalled us with his leaping ability at NBA Draft Combine and workouts that has put his name into the lottery discussion. It would not be the first time a player coming off the bench would go on to be selected as a lottery pick. It happened with Cleveland’s Dion Waiters. Even though inconsistency was on display, you could expect changes in the NBA with the  right coaching and playing system to fit LaVine’s open court uptempo game, he can flourish as a combo guard at 6’5″. Or perhaps become the next Austin Rivers. Patience will be key with LaVine because of being a raw talent.

 

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2. Dario Saric

 

The name Dario Saric has surfaced throughout the NBA Draft process of being a top 10 pick. In fact, just before last year’s draft he pulled his name off the big board.

What do we know about him?

He is a 6’10” swing man who can play both forward positions  at an efficient rate while being able to handle the ball. Averaging 15.4 ppg and 9.4 rpg in 47 games overseas, the Croatian playmaker is fluid offensively along with a great feel of what’s going on at all times on the court. However, his inconsistency on offense and being a liability on defense may cause his stock to drop. Winning a championship and MVP at the age of 20, his experience and youth will not be undervalued in the NBA going forward.

What we do not know about Saric is the role he will play on a NBA team or when we will make his NBA debut when drafted after recently agreeing to remain in Europe for two more years. It will take the perfect system for Saric can utilize his skill set at the next level. It will be interesting to see what NBA team will commit to him with no certainty of when he will come to America to play. Think of Danilo Gallinari when you hear Saric’s name and ceiling as a player.

 

Denny Meddley- USA Today

Denny Meddley- USA Today

 

1. Joel Embiid

 

Joel Embiid has the potential to become the best player in this draft in many years to come. Being a game changer on defense now, his offensive game showed improvement throughout the college basketball season. With the back injury and now recently suffering a foot injury, red flags are raised around Embiid that could derail his draft stock. The names of Greg Oden, Yao Ming, and Bill Walton have been mentioned when talking about big men with injuries when it comes to drafting Embiid first overall. Yet, many teams should be weary of missing out on an opportunity to change a franchise around a position that has diminished over years.

 

Miami Heat: The Road to 3-Peat

 

Miami Heat

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The two-time defending champions Miami Heat are on a mission, pursuing their third straight championship in the last four years. With the series sweep of the Charlotte Bobcats in the first round of the NBA Playoffs, the Heat seem to flip the switch into playoff mode that leads to Miami elevating their performance in the postseason. On the road to making history, who are the teams that can dethrone King James and the Heat?

 

 

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Brooklyn Nets

 

During the regular season, the Brooklyn Nets became the first team to sweep the season series of the Miami Heat during the big 3 era in LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and Dwayne Wade. Adding fuel to the fire, the former Boston Celtics Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce will be sure to bring their A game, continuing the rival formed in Boston. With three of the four encounters being decided by 1 point, the Nets present the Heat with match-up problems with the ability to go small or big along with showing James various defenders with length and athleticism. Given the offensive weapons of Brooklyn, they pose what can be a difficult task for Miami to defend. The key factor for Nets to shock the world and upset the defending champions will depend of how well Deron Williams. The all-star point guard has been under scrutiny for the lack of performance during the first round. When playing at his best ability, Williams is a top premier point guard in the league.

 

 

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Washington Wizards

 

You can make the argument that the hottest team in the Eastern Conference playoffs has been the Washington Wizards. With the 1-0 series against top seed Indiana Pacers, Washington poses as a threat to the Heat with their speed and size in the starting lineup that may cause friction to Miami’s defense that could force them to make changes to their rotation beginning with the backcourt duo of John Wall and Bradley Beal and the front court of Nene and Marcin Gortat. What is the future could be what is now in the nation’s capital.

 

 

3 San Antonio Spurs Weaknesses to Exploit in the NBA Playoffs

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San Antonio Spurs

 

If surviving the gauntlet of the Western Conference playoffs bracket, nothing would make the San Antonio Spurs more delighted than defeating the team who shattered their championship aspirations last season. Possessing the secret weapon that is the Coach of the Year in Greg Popovich, he is able to present LeBron James different defensive match-ups and schemes with Kawhi Leonard and Boris Diaw who have made it difficult for James on the offense while. On offense for San Antonio, they can adjust to Miami’s rotation while spreading the floor to create driving lanes and open three point shot.

 

Knowing that nothing lasts forever, the Miami Heat’s reign as the dominant team must come to an end. However, will they be able to accomplish the 3-peat, solidifying their mark on NBA History as a dynasty?

Top 5 First Round NBA Playoff Moments

     Were you not entertained? Thus far, we have played a total of 50 games in the opening round of the 2013-14 NBA Playoffs, including five Game 7’s involving both no. 1 vs no 8 seeds in both respective conferences. Before we advance to the next round of postseason basketball, we take a look at the top five moments of the NBA first round.

Getty Images

Getty Images

5. LaMarcus Aldridge’s career performances

     Coming into the postseason, the consensus pick to win the 4-5 seed match-up would be the Houston Rockets. Yet, LaMarcus Aldridge would dominate games 1 and 2 on the road. In his home state of Texas in front of his family, Aldridge would put on a large sized performance with 46 points, 18 rebounds and 2 blocks in game 1 with an encore showing of 43 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 blocks that led to the Portland Trail Blazers 2-0 series lead. Eliminating the Houston Rockets in six games, Portland will have its hands full with the San Antoni Spurs in the second round.

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4. Vince Carter Game Winning Shot

     The Dallas Mavericks vs. San Antonio Spurs rivalry has been in favor of the Spurs over the last decade.Entering game 3 with the series tied 1-1, Dallas would have the momentum going forward in game 3. As the game would come down to the final possession, the Mavs would turn to an unlikely source for the game winner in Vince Carter. Showing us why he is still ‘half man, half amazing”.

 

 

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3. Game 7 Weekend

 

Never in NBA history have we experienced a first round of five ‘win or go home’ match-ups being a game 7. With a NCAA tournament feeling to it, the weekend would bring excitement and uncertainty to each game with majority of games coming down to the last minute. What took place in the first round is something we are not accustomed to watching the level of competition balance out for an entire series.

 

 

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2. Adam Silver gives Donald Sterling lifetime ban

 

The controversy of the recent remarks of suspended Clippers owner Donald Sterling was not only a black eye of the NBA image, but also became a detriment to the spectacular play of the first round of the playoffs. New NBA commissioner Adam Silver was approached with a serious topic at hand, expressing his power in the conclusion of his decision. The choice of Silver was the first step into the right direction of eliminating racism in the association.

 

 

 

Greg Wahl-Stephens/AP

Greg Wahl-Stephens/AP

 

 

1. Damian Lillard Game Winning Clincher

Every game would go to into the last minutes before determining a winner between Portland Trail Blazers vs. Houston Rockets. Fighting for their playoff lives, Chandler Parsons would get an offensive rebound to go ahead lead, putting Houston in position to tie the series 3-3 before returning to Houston for a pivotal game 7. However, Lillard had other plans. With ice water in his veins, Lillard continues to show his clutch ability for his teammates while leadership in his sophomore season is on display, now solidifying himself as one of the top tier point guards in the NBA.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jayne Kamin-Oncea/ USA Today Sports

Jayne Kamin-Oncea/ USA Today Sports

 

     The pinnacle of the Los Angeles Clippers success has never been higher this season before this year. Led by Blake Griffin & Chris Paul on the court and the coaching ability of Doc Rivers, the x-factor for the Clippers has been the substantial growth and improvement of center DeAndre Jordan who has become the anchor on the defensive side of the ball.

 

After signing a four year $43 million dollar contract in 2011 with the Golden State Warriors as a restricted free agent, the Clippers front office decided to match the offer sheet that would keep him in Los Angeles.

 

     While providing many highlights for the fans of lob city, many were beginning to become disgruntled for the lack of productivity being put on display. The team would continue to improve with the talents of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin and the previous head coach Vinny Del Negro, who was considered the Achilles heel of the Clippers. Many felt Del Negro was infringing on the Clippers ability to compete at the next level for a NBA title.

 

Steve Mitchell/ USA Today Sports

Steve Mitchell/ USA Today Sports

 

     Acquiring head coach Doc Rivers, Jordan’s game has taken flight as he is now having his best season in his six year career. Under the tutelage of Rivers and his coaching staff, DeAndre Jordan has become a dominant force on the floor. Posting career high numbers with 10.4 points per game, league leading 13.6 rebounds per game, and 2.5 blocks per game, Jordan has put the NBA on notice becoming a contending candidate for Most Improve Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year awards. Rivers has also instilled the confidence in him to play him in the 4th quarter, something that Jordan was not accustomed to doing in the previous seasons under Del Negro.

 

After the recent controversy of the disturbing comments of Clippers owner Donald Sterling, Jordan would go on to become the spark to ignite his team after a lost in Game 4 against the Golden State Warriors with a 25 points, 18 rebounds, and four blocks that led to a victory, giving them a 3-2 series lead.

 

As the Los Angeles Clippers continue their quest for their first NBA title, they will go as far as Jordan can take them as the leader of the defense and creating second chance opportunities and finishing above the rim better than most.

 

Ode to Los Angeles Lakers

 

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Christian Petersen/Getty Images

 

Finally there is an end to what has been a nightmare saga for the Los Angeles Lakers. To the dismay of many fans, this season has abruptly come to an end after the worst finish in franchise history. Whether the it was the normal attrition rate due to injuries, subpar coaching, or lackluster talent on the court, this season resulted in mediocre productivity as the Lakers front office management is left searching for the solution to rebound next season.

 

Finishing 27-55, 14th in the Western Conference, the Los Angeles Lakers will own at least a top 9 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft where they would have options to select from, including freshmen phenoms Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins. Player personnel obligations will be a main priority to attend to. With Kobe Bryant and Robert Sacre guaranteed to return to the roster next season, the contract of Steve Nash should be in consideration of termination. The 40 year old point guard has $9.7 million dollars on the current contract for the 2014-15 season; however, he has only played 65 games total in the last two seasons for Los Angeles.

With Pau Gasol becoming a free agent and Nick Young likely to opt out of his current contract for a lucrative deal, the summer of free agency will be intriguing to follow as the Lakers will look to improve their roster while looking forward to the following offseason in 2016.

 

The coaching decision to obtain or fire head coach Mike D’Antoni will be a tedious process for Los Angeles as well. The hiring made of D’Antoni over former Lakers head coach Phil Jackson made many fans furious of the decision made by Jim Buss. It has not paid dividends for Los Angeles with the coaching record being 62-87, which is below average to the Lakers championship standard that we are accustomed to seeing. Many of the Lakers players have been critical of D’Antoni including Kobe Bryant. Some of them have admitted that they might not return if he is still the head coach. While the roster has became a revolving door of various lineups due to injuries, a key component to the Lakers woes could be the frenetic offensive pace D’Antoni has taught throughout his career. Giving up 120+ points to opponents in 16 games, his pace has led to career nights for various players.

 

The front office of Lakers management have many questions to answer going into the offseason swirling around the historic franchise. With uncertainty of who might end up running the organization in Jim and Jeanie Buss, the debacle of this season will not be acceptable next season to the fans and to themselves. It is time for the soap opera in tinsel town to come to an end and write a new chapter in order to regain the title. The Los Angeles Clippers have risen during these dark times for the Lakers.