Los Angeles Lakers' Schedule Breakdown and Record Predictions for December
If form holds true this holiday season, the Los Angeles Lakers will be left with little to show for the 15 games they play in December.
With injuries and losses stacking up like so many old T-shirts, the Lakers' prospects appear bleak at best. Of their 15 games during the month, nine will be against teams with winning records.
And of the six teams with records under .500, five of those games will be played on the road. Kobe Bryant and company will look to catch a little lightning away from home, as they did on their recent 2-1 trip to Atlanta, Houston and Dallas, where they defeated the Hawks and Rockets.
But don’t bet the house on it.
As Byron Scott told Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times after the Lakers lost to the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves Friday night: "It is what it is. Right now we're the worst team in the West."
It's called scraping the barrel.
If it’s possible to imagine, the Lakers today are in worse physical shape than when they took to the road and won two in a row against the Atlanta Hawks and Houston Rockets. Reserve small forward Xavier Henry, who was already dogged by injuries, somehow ruptured his Achilles in practice last Monday and is lost for the season.
Ryan Kelly returned to action after offseason surgery but played in just three games before going down again, this time with an injury to his right hamstring. He’s out of the lineup for another month or so.
The Lakers are apparently ready to bring back forward Earl Clark, per the Los Angeles Daily News. He's a nice player but certainly not the answer.
Head coach Byron Scott has said that he and Bryant have agreed on a way to "limit" Kobe's minutes this season. It doesn't seem like there's been any real change in the amount of time Bryant stays on the court, though.
Through 16 contests, he is averaging almost 36 minutes a game. His career average is 36.6.
Bryant should be playing closer to 30 minutes per game if the Lakers want to have him around and producing for an entire season. Otherwise, they run the risk of burnout or another major injury to the 36-year-old star.
It's hard to imagine this team catching fire in December and reeling off a string of victories. The Lakers may finish out the month with just a few hard-earned wins. And they'll have to hope their diehard fans don't abandon ship long before the season is even half over.
December 1-6: Boston Celtics Host Lakers at the Garden
The second of three games on the road, this early December matchup with the Boston Celtics is easily the most notable if only for nostalgia’s sake.
Whenever these two teams meet, the intensity level increases tenfold.
Neither the Lakers nor Celtics are going anywhere this season, but that should not lessen the drama of the league’s most iconic franchises doing battle on the TD Garden parquet floor.
Thanks to general manager Danny Ainge and his lack of sentiment, the Celtics are further along in their rebuilding process than the Lakers. They allowed both Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to take their aging talents elsewhere, knowing it was time to let the young players take over.
The only remaining Celtic from the 2010 Finals team that lost to the Lakers in seven games is point guard Rajon Rondo. According to Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated (h/t RealGM), rumors abound of Rondo possibly signing with the Lakers as a free agent this summer. Bryant is a big fan of his game.
Though Boston was just 2-6 at home heading into the weekend, it stills look to be a better club than the Lakers and should win this first of two meetings.
Other notable games for the week—all on the road—will include a probable loss to the high-flying Washington Wizards and a possible win in Detroit against the dismal Pistons. Consider a 1-2 road trip a mild success for LA.
December 7: Lakers Lose a Close One to New Orleans at Home
The Lakers may have signed power forward Earl Clark by the time the New Orleans Pelicans come to Los Angeles for a rematch. And though he can't be considered the answer for Pelicans star Anthony Davis, Clark will surely give the Lakers some additional firepower on both ends of the court.
What Clark won't be able to do is give the Lakers a victory. Davis and company are just that much better than this year's Lakers.
In their first meeting on November 12, the Pelicans beat the Lakers 109-102 as Davis went off for 25 points with 12 rebounds and six blocked shots. Tyreke Evans added 19 points and 11 assists, while Ryan Anderson and Jrue Holiday each scored 17.
The Pelicans dominated the Lakers in the paint, as most teams do. They figure to do the same thing when they play at Staples Center. Expect a tough, close game at home on December 7, but expect the Pelicans to come out on top.
The Lakers will also play the Sacramento Kings (December 9) at home and the San Antonio Spurs on the road (December 12). These are two tough opponents who can wear down the Lakers with great outside shooting and dominance inside.
The Lakers will lose all three games this week.
December 19: Oklahoma City Thunder at Staples Center
That dream ended this week when Westbrook, hampered for four weeks by a fractured right hand, returned to the court against the New York Knicks. He simply dominated with 32 points on 12-of-17 shooting, seven rebounds, eight assists and one steal.
Westbrook knows he'll be the No. 1 option until Durant makes his return from rehabbing a right foot injury that required surgery.
Durant is out for another month, but Westbrook alone transforms the Thunder from mediocrity to contention. The Lakers have no answer for the 6'3" point guard who penetrates to the rim as well as any player in the NBA.
Prior to their December 19 home game against the Thunder, the Lakers travel to play the Minnesota Timberwolves (December 14) and Indiana Pacers (December 15). Both teams are struggling this year and present enticing opportunities for Lakers victories.
LA will take down the undermanned Pacers, who are missing the likes of Lance Stephenson (signed with the Charlotte Hornets as a free agent this summer) and Paul George (injury, out for the year) in a big way.
The T-Wolves already defeated the Lakers at Staples Center and will likely win again when they meet in December.
Expect the Lakers to go 1-2 this week, with the win coming against Indiana on the road.
Christmas Day in Chicago with Pau Gasol
The December 25 game in Chicago will be the first time Gasol will face the Lakers and Carlos Boozer, the former Bull who was waived using the team's amnesty rule last summer.
Both players will have a lot to prove individually in order to show their old clubs just what they are missing out on.
The game might be secondary to the individual matchups. The Bulls are 10-6 (as of Saturday) and considered one of the elite teams in the Eastern Conference. The Lakers are, well, headed nowhere fast.
If anything, LA can be entertaining. Kobe and Nick Young will continue to take the majority of shots, while the defense fails to get back in transition and allows an obscene amount of points in the paint.
Now that Noah and Rose are both back in the lineup, Chicago should have no problem taking care of the talent-deficient Lakers.
With games at Sacramento and Dallas and a home contest against the Golden State Warriors, it is almost a certainty the Lakers go 0-4 this week.
Phoenix Suns: Outside Shooting and Three-Headed PG Too Much for LA
The month of December ends with the Lakers meeting the Phoenix Suns at home and then traveling to Colorado for a December 30 contest against the Denver Nuggets.
Neither game looks like a win for the struggling Lakers. The Suns and Nuggets are both considered playoff bubble teams, while Los Angeles will be hard-pressed to win 15 games the entire season.
If LA is to win one of these two games to end the month, it might just be against the Suns at home. The Suns have played well in spurts but have yet to prove any consistency over the course of 48 minutes.
Chances are that LA loses both games this week, which would leave the team with a 2-13 mark for the month.
This is how Kobe Bryant vented his frustration after the Lakers lost 112-106 to the Suns to go 0-5 early in the season:
Just get a damn win. You can't listen to what everybody says. You can't listen to people. You've got to be stubborn as a mule. You've got to keep chipping away. Got to keep competing and going after it, and this thing will turn around. Just as easily as we lost five in a row, we can turn around and win five in a row.
The Lakers are 3-13 and have one two-game win streak to show for it. Things may get worse before they get better.
Los Angeles Times reporter Ben Bolch summed up the franchise and its prospects for this season and beyond:
...get ready for this darkest of Lakers eras to stretch into the foreseeable future. They are destined to miss the playoffs in back-to-back years for only the second time in franchise history and are a strong bet to "three-peat" next season, even with the return of (Julius) Randle and the possible infusion of two first-round draft picks this summer.