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Los Angeles Lakers | Purple & Gold (Year 1)

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Los Angeles Lakers | Purple & Gold

As the final buzzer sounded in Game 4 of the NBA Finals, questions immediately turned to Cleveland Cavaliers Forward LeBron James impending free agency, where there was considered to be four main suitors. The Cavaliers, the Houston Rockets, the Philadelphia 76ers, and lastly, the bright lights of Los Angeles, the LA Lakers. Time passed and rumors of a possible big three of Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, and LeBron teaming up to take down the Warriors came about, but as the clock struck 12am on July 1st, Paul George announced he would resign with the Oklahoma City Thunder for 4 years, the deal consisting of 137 million.

Analysts went wild as one summer ago it seemed like a sure thing that PG13 would be on his way to Los Angeles after the year. Instead, he turned Free Agency upside down as many spectulated that LeBron, without Kawhi being traded to LA, or Paul George signing, would be hesitant to sign with the young Lakers core, and with the reported asking price of Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, Kyle Kuzma, and two first round picks for Kawhi, the Lakers had not yet struck a deal, but everyone was surprised as a press release came out at about 8:05 PM EST on July 1st, announcing LeBron's decision to the world, and shocking them.

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The decision would come as a shock to many as people believed LeBron would not commit to LA without a second star, but he did just that. President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson laid out a plan to LeBron on July 1st, meeting with him in his home as he promised LeBron James less of the load offensively while having defensive minded players and playmakers around him. The Lakers would resign Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to a 1 year, 12 million pact before welcoming Lance Stephenson and JaVale McGee in head-scratching moves to some, before topping it off with competition for second-year guard Lonzo Ball in the form of former NBA Champion Rajon Rondo.

To some the pressure was on of finding a second star but with the Spurs not budging for Kawhi, do the Lakers sacrifice their future and win now, and create a dynasty with LeBron? With the NBA-shattering signing of DeMarcus Cousins to the Warriors, the up-and-coming healthy Celtics, the upstart 76ers, and the offensive powerhouse known as Houston, it surely looks like Los Angeles should pull the trigger.

The management skills of Rob Pelinka and Magic Johnson, with under-the-radar moves like signing Caldwell-Pope, allowing them to communicate with Klutch Sports all season, and also the stockpiling of assets which could allow them to land a superstar such as the unhappy Kawhi Leonard or Jimmy Butler, or the misfit Bradley Beal or Damian Lillard. With the 2019 free agency class stacked, the Lakers could stand pat and keep the assets, but that comes with a cost, wasting another year of LeBron's brilliance.

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Image result for lebron james lakersImage result for kawhi leonardImage result for lonzo ballImage result for rajon rondo

Image result for javale mcgeeImage result for kcp nbaImage result for lance stephensonImage result for mo wagner

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Image result for andre ingramImage result for carmelo anthony

G-LEAGUE / TWO-WAY PLAYERS:

Image result for joel berry nbaImage result for malik newmanImage result for liangelo ball

 

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Los Angeles Lakers | Purple & Gold

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Los Angeles Lakers | Purple & Gold

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As the Lakers training camp and preseason ended, eyes turned towards the season opener, the Battle of Los Angeles, as the new-look Lakers met the Clippers in what was sure to be a fun game with Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James making their Laker debuts, and we would finally get to see what the highly-touted duo of Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James would do. With several celebrities here for the re-emergence of the Lakers.

In short, it would be dominance for the Lakers, as the Clippers stood no chance from the start. By half time, the score was 69-33 with the Lakers firing on all cylinders. In the second half, the onslaught would only get worse as the Lakers scored a total of 90 points in the second half, beating the Clippers down with their high-octane attack. In the end, LeBron James had 38 points, Kawhi Leonard had 31 points, Carmelo Anthony had 21, and Lonzo Ball had 20, as the Lakers shot 61% from the field and 47% from 3, as the Lakers absolutely smashed the Clippers and left everyone wondering how good this team actually could be as the Lakers won 159-94.

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One year after Patrick Beverley held Lonzo Ball to a lackluster rookie debut, Zo responded, shutting Beverley down and forcing him to an 0-11 night of shooting. Most impressive on the Lakers has to be Carmelo Anthony, as his amazing debut silenced critics for the moment as he shot 8-11, while also notching 3 steals on the defensive end.

After the Los Angeles massacre, the Lakers would continue their momentum, remaining undefeated until November 2nd (7-0), before in a tightly contested game, including clutch threes from CJ McCollum, the Portland Trail Blazers would win 102-96, dropping the Lakers to 7-1, before they would bounce back with two wins over the Nets, and the Grizzlies before a potential finals matchup between themselves and the Boston Celtics.

NBA Conference Standings through November 8th:

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In other news, the Bucks have traded Jabari Parker to the Bucks for Omer Asik and a 2020 first round pick, and the Bulls have signed him to a 2yr/40million dollar deal, in which the Bulls have a team option after this year if Parker plays poorly. So far, Parker has averaged 12.1 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 3 assists a game, but will almost surely take on a bigger offensive role in Chicago.

Image result for jabari parker bulls

 

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Los Angeles Lakers | Purple & Gold

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It was an NBA Finals type atmosphere in the TD Garden as the new-look Lakers faced off with the Celtics for the first time this year. Early on, the Lakers would overwhelm the Celtics with defensive pressure that resulted in a 33-15 lead after the first quarter as the trio of LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, and Carmelo Anthony came out hot, putting their mark on the game early on.

The Celtics would fight back though, trimming the 18 point lead to 11 by halftime. In a tightly contested third quarter, the Lakers would hold onto that eleven point lead, and as the fourth quarter started, with LeBron James on the bench, he watched as his former team-mate Kyrie Irving put the Celtics on his back and drew the lead to five with 6 minutes remaining, as LeBron checked back in.

Luke Walton ran an unorthodox lineup, featuring Lonzo and KCP at the guard positions while putting three forwards on the floor with Melo, LeBron, and Kawhi. As the game winded down, it would be Lonzo Ball, not Carmelo, not LeBron James, and not Kawhi Leonard, that put the team on his back, as Lonzo shrugged off a 5-20 start to the game, finishing the game 8-10 and scoring fourteen points to end the game. As the game was tied, with 30 seconds left, Lonzo Ball did a cross-over before stepping back and drilling a three in Kyrie Irving's face to give Los Angeles the lead, 101-98.

Going to Chris Bosh on the next possession, the former NBA Champion would miss a tying three before putting KCP on the line, who somehow would miss both free throws, and with seven seconds left, Kyrie Irving would snag the rebound and run down the floor, but would be met with a trap from LeBron James and Lonzo Ball, forcing him to dish to Marcus Smart, whose game-tying three hit off the front of the rim as the buzzer sounded, giving the Lakers their 10th win of the season.

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This game would be a precursor to what was to come for each team, as the Lakers continued their winning ways, winning 8 out of their next 9 games while the Celtics continued to fall in the standings, dropping 9 games out of 11 and falling to 7-15 on the season, looking like an utter disappointment to those who expected the Celtics to break through and become a contender.

But for the Lakers, it was about more as reports came out Kawhi Leonard had not agreed to sign an extension past this year and that there was rumblings he might leave to go to the other Los Angeles team, the Clippers. Putting that aside, there was major rumblings about the possibility of this year's playoffs being a 1-16 seeding, based on records, because of how bad the East was looking. This began to pick up traction around November 27th, and it was reported by @ESPNWOJ that it would indeed happen and the announcement should come soon, possibly right before the November 29th primetime game on ESPN, as the 18-2 Lakers would face the 18-3 Golden State Warriors in Staples Center.

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I will be streaming Lakers vs Warriors, I don't know when so stay tuned but this will be the first streamed game of the series so I'll probably post a status update confirming a date.

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A really good start for this Lakers team picking up a solid victory over a tricky opponent such as the Celtics. I genuinely believe this team has a great chance of winning the Championship, especially with added pieces such as Carmelo Anthony and Kawhi Leonard. I can't wait to see what the result is against the Warriors and I would most likely tune into the stream to check it out 

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1-16 Playoff Seeding Official: Beginning in this year's playoffs, the top sixteen teams will make it into the playoffs, not the top eight from the West and East like year's previous. This means two teams from the East could be in the NBA Finals this year, or two teams from the West could also do it. This has been an idea thrown around for several years and with LeBron James shifting all the star power to the West, it was finally agreed upon.

Celtics 'gaining traction' on Jimmy Butler deal: With the 7-15 Celtics looking for something to spark them, coach Brad Stevens having already inserted Jayson Tatum into the lineup for Chris Bosh, Danny Ainge continues to speak to Minnesota about a potential Butler deal. Butler, frustrated with the team, rejected a contract extension in the offseason and will most likely leave following this year. This is also important because there are rumblings about Kyrie Irving wanting to team up with Jimmy Butler, which would entice these two to stay with the Celtics as they would have both men's bird rights.

Wizards C Dwight Howard tears achilles, out for season: What a heartbreaker for Dwight Howard... Looking as if he was the third piece to mesh Bradley Beal and John Wall together, the former MVP finalist tore his achilles and will be out for the rest of the season. Averaging 15.9 points, 12.7 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks per game, Howard looked to be changing his reputation around the league, an unfortunate break for one of the best centers of all-time.

If the playoffs started today...: If the playoffs started today, the matchups would be the following:

A Side:

#1) Lakers
#16) Cavaliers

#8) Heat
#9) 76ers

#4) Nuggets
#13) Pistons

#5) Bucks
#12) Raptors

B Side:

#2) Warriors
#15) Trail Blazers

#7) Suns
#10) Wizards

#3) Thunder
#14) Nets

#6) Rockets
#11) Mavericks

Some interesting matchups, such as Lakers vs Cavaliers with LeBron taking on his former team, but chances are that these are not the 16 teams, and we can expect Boston, Utah, Indiana, and maybe even San Antonio or New Orleans to turn it around and enter the playoff race.

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Los Angeles Lakers | Purple & Gold

 

Following the crushing loss to the Warriors, the Lakers were sent into a downward spiral, dropping 7 out of their next 11 games, including a five game losing streak, before wins against the Knicks and Cavs increased their confidence, as they would pick up huge wins against the Warriors and the Rockets, including a 31 point blowout in Houston. But the losing ways would continue, as by the time December 27th came, a 23-10 was what Luke Walton had to show for.

But the tension between Walton and the team was evident as he clearly wasn't ready to handle the locker room with many personalities, like the ones of LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, JaVale McGee, Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, and the overbearing father of Lonzo Ball, LaVar Ball. After a 111-107 loss to the Grizzlies in which a late-game mishap with Luke Walton running a play to Rajon Rondo, instead of Lonzo Ball, LeBron James, or Carmelo Anthony, Lakers fans were outraged.

Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka would hold a meeting with the head coach and ultimately, both parties would decide that it would be best if they moved on as Walton wasn't cut-out, and he would take his staff with him. Magic and Pelinka would begin the search for a new head coach, one with experience to deal with the rocky locker room, and would not look past former Golden State Warriors head coach, Mark Jackson, as Magic announced him as the new head coach.

In their first game against the Clippers, Mark Jackson's physical defense would limit the Clippers to 79 total points, and just 7 in the fourth quarter. But the defense couldn't limit the three-point powerhouse in Houston, as the Rockets got revenge for their 31 point blowout in Houston, beating the Lakers 119-112, before a rebound win against the Timberwolves on New Years Day would put them at 24-11 heading into a cruical matchup against the Thunder in Los Angeles.

But, with Mark Jackson sensing something missing with the team, a meeting would be held between Magic, Mark, and Pelinka as they discussed potential trades, and would end up sending a 2019 second rounder, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to the Philadelphia 76ers for veteran sharpshooter JJ Redick, bringing a knockdown shooter, that would also had another calming presence in the locker room.

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Los Angeles Lakers | Purple & Gold

A 100-95 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder would come, as LeBron James stuffed the stats with 30 points, 19 rebounds, and 7 assists in the win. After a few roadblocks here and there, the Lakers ended with a 40-17 record going into the all-star break, good for 2nd in the West behind Golden State. Key wins over the Thunder, Spurs, and Suns would boost the chemistry of this team, while a late-mishap in Boston would be the only standout loss.

Late in the game, Gordon Hayward nailed a three to give Boston a 103-101 lead with just 3.1 seconds left. On the imbound pass, LeBron James would fumble the ball due to Robert Williams III separating it from his body, and it would bounce out of bounds, giving Boston the ball back and Los Angeles the loss. With them now focused on the post-allstar break stretch, will Los Angeles be able to secure the #1 seed in the playoffs?

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3 WEEKS LATER:

As playoff season neared, the Lakers would have to get things together, trying to catch the Warriors for the number one seed in the Playoff Standings. Following a loss to the Warriors, almost ensuring them the number one seed, Los Angeles held a team-meeting, where Mark Jackson reportedly got them to come together, and that this was the time to start winning games, developing chemistry right before the playoffs.

The fiery speech from the coach lit a fire under the Lakers, as they would finish the season a on 14-0 run, winning 62 games on the year and looking like a major contender going into the playoffs with LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard at the helm. The final standings for the playoff seeding would look like this:

1) Golden State Warriors: 65-17
2) Los Angeles Lakers: 62-20
3) Denver Nuggets: 59-23
4) Houston Rockets: 54-28
5) Milwaukee Bucks: 52-30
6) Toronto Raptors: 52-30
7) Oklahoma City Thunder: 52-30
8 ) Miami Heat: 48-34
9) Philadelphia 76ers: 47-35
10) Boston Celtics: 43-39
11) Cleveland Cavaliers: 42-40
12) Chicago Bulls: 41-41
13) Phoenix Suns: 41-41
14) Utah Jazz: 41-41
15) New Orleans Pelicans: 40-42
16) Washington Wizards: 40-42

And with that, the final playoff matchups would be:

1) Golden State
16) Washington

😎 Miami
9) Philadelphia

4) Houston
13) Phoenix

5) Milwaukee
12) Chicago


2) Los Angeles
15) New Orleans

7) Oklahoma City
10) Boston

3) Denver
14) Utah

6) Toronto
11) Cleveland

Will the Lakers be able to get through and back to the NBA Finals, or will the strength of their bracket prevail as LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard look to bring a championship back to Los Angeles?

 

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