The Los Angeles Lakers have been struggling since Kobe Bryant’s return on Dec. 8, winning just one game during that span. Of course, this has led to plenty of subplots emerging concerning potential trades, the Black Mamba’s health, the future of the team and more.
If you haven’t been keeping up with the latest news surrounding the organization over the past few days, fret not, as I have you covered.
Here is the latest buzz and up-to-date information on the Lakers.
Chris Kaman Frustrated
After being heralded as a solid offseason acquisition for Los Angeles, Chris Kaman has languished on the end of head coach Mike D’Antoni’s bench and played sparingly in recent contests.
The big man isn’t exactly sure why he’s there, but he is certainly upset about his demotion after coming to Hollywood to turn his career around, according to ESPN Los Angeles' Ramona Shelburne via Pro Basketball Talk:
It's absolutely not what I was looking for. It's not really in my control. I just try to keep working hard and be ready if the time comes. And if it doesn't, then it just wasn't meant to be.
Kaman is averaging a mere 8.3 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 0.8 blocks per game this season, appearing in just 13 of the team’s 24 contests. While back problems have been an issue, the 31-year-old admitted that he’s completely healthy at this juncture.
The 11-year veteran appears to be a prime candidate to be traded this season and became eligible to be moved on Dec. 15. He’s making $3.2 million for the season, an expiring contract that runs out this summer.
However, Kaman told Shelburne that he’s heard nothing in terms of a potential trade:
The conversations I've had have been, 'Let's stick with it. Let's play it out a little more. Let's see where things go.' So I just try to be ready and be positive. I'm not going to let it take away from me having fun and being a good person. I just do the best I can with what I've got.
Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report revealed that the Lakers are looking to develop Robert Sacre over giving Kaman extended minutes. He found that the organization believes the younger talent is a better defender.
For everyone wondering about Kaman, he can't defend as well as Sacre, whom Lakers want to develop. Kelly played in Shawne Williams' place.— KEVIN DING (@KevinDing) December 17, 2013
It’ll be quite interesting to see if the Lakers find a way to get him minutes, move him before the deadline or keep him on the bench for the remainder of the 2013-14 campaign.
Kobe Still Shaking Rust
The Mamba clearly isn’t 100 percent healthy and it is showing in his game. He’s still working to get back to tip-top shape, something that is understandably difficult after taking approximately seven months off to recover from an Achilles tear.
Kobe admitted to Ding that his ankle is acting up and is another possible excuse for his recent struggles:
Kobe said ankle was "a little stiff on me ... that's the next level of progression. It's just a matter of time, increase the activity."— KEVIN DING (@KevinDing) December 17, 2013
Will Kobe return to his All-Star self this season?
Bryant is averaging a human 12.4 points, 6.8 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 1.2 steals in the five games he has played this season. He’s been asked to play out of position at point guard and just doesn’t seem to be that comfortable on the hardwood yet.
It may take a lot more time for the 35-year-old to finally feel like his old self, especially after coming back from such a debilitating injury in a speedy fashion.
With the ankle now giving him problems, it seems Bryant is going to slowly work his way back to All-Star form, if he ever does.
Pau Gasol Accustomed To Trade Rumors
It seems that there has been a tradition over the past few years to spark up the Pau Gasol trade rumors ahead of the February deadline and continue them up until it finally passes. That is no different in 2013-14, as Gasol is once again rumored to be on the block, per ESPN’s Marc Stein and Shelburne, via the Los Angeles Daily News' Mark Medina.
Instead of letting this get to him, the Lakers star power forward is just shrugging them off as the ugly nature of the business and going about his daily routine.
Gasol told Medina, "I’m used to it by now. It’s been a constant thing for me. It’s like getting up from bed and having breakfast."
Unfortunately, Gasol hasn’t been playing as well as he has in recent years and no longer has the excuse of poor chemistry and out-of-position play due to Dwight Howard’s presence to blame.
The 33-year-old Spaniard is averaging just 14.5 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.2 blocks per game while logging 30.2 minutes per contest.
His defense is also declining at a rapid rate, which is a large reason why the Lakers have struggled so much with protecting the rim. The team is giving up the most points in the paint (47.8 per game) and clearly doesn’t have the right pieces to keep opponents from dominating once they establish position inside.
If the Lakers are able to find a taker for Pau’s $19 million-plus expiring contract and can return a serviceable, defensive-oriented big man in return, it is hard to see the team brass saying no. At 11-13, LA isn’t out of the picture yet, but it is quickly fading as a serious playoff contender.
Perhaps this is the year that the Gasol rumors finally die down and the big man is finally traded. Only time will tell.