Los Angeles Lakers

The Los Angeles Lakers’ season has been one of chaos and injuries, especially at the point guard position.

At the beginning of the year, future hall of famer Steve Nash was expected to run the show and maybe surprise fantasy owners by showing some flashes of his days in Phoenix as a member of the Suns. After all, he was ranked 79th overall before the season in Yahoo leagues, ahead of point guards like Isaiah Thomas, Jameer Nelson, Michael Carter-Williams, Trey Burke and so many more that have been much more valuable thus far due to Nash’s back issues.

Steve Blake was another guy that some expected to be a contributor at the point guard position for the Lakers. Like Nash, the injury bug bit him as well, as he battled a torn elbow ligament.

And then there was Jordan Farmar, who terminated his contract in Turkey to take less money to rejoin the Lakers, but struggled to stay on the court with a nagging hamstring injury.

With these three out, the Lakers were desperate to sign Kendall Marshall, who is just a year-and-a-half removed from being the thirteenth overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. In the 20 games Marshall played with his fellow point guards injured, he averaged 10.2 points and 9.3 assists per game, making him a great waiver wire pickup.

However, Nash, Blake and Farmar are all back now for the “Lake Show.” Farmar and Nash have received some rest here and there in the three games they have been available, and Blake has played in three straight contests.

The main point – it may be a little difficult for fantasy owners to determine which Lakers point guard will be the guy to own in leagues down the line.

Stemming from their days together in Phoenix, Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni is a fan of Nash, saying earlier in the week: “He’ll start, and we’ll see where he is.”

Well, Nash has played and started in two of the three games he has been cleared to play in. On Tuesday, he played an unexpected 25 minutes, finishing with seven points and nine assists. He took a game off and returned to the starting lineup Friday, playing 28 minutes, scoring 19 points and dishing out five assists on his 40th birthday.

D’Antoni also made a case for Blake earlier in the week saying: “we need (him) on the floor, no matter what.”

Blake has been impressive in his three games back, averaging 8.3 points, 9.7 assists and 6.3 rebounds in a hefty 36 minutes per game. That includes a triple-double against Cleveland on Wednesday.

D’Antoni didn’t stop at Blake and Nash, adding that “Farmar deserves to play” too.

Farmar has only played one game recently, and that came Wednesday night against Cleveland when he played 33 minutes, scoring 21 points and gaining six assists.

That leaves Marshall, whom D’Anotni has said will “have to compete.”

With the simultaneous return all the point guards that were expected to play for the Lakers during the first half of the season, fantasy owners are most likely in a quandary on who to grab in their respective leagues.

Who knows what D’Antoni’s real plans are, but I would suggest going with Nash or Blake. D’Anotni has a man crush on Nash, so you can never count him out, and Blake is going to get his minutes at both the point guard and shooting guard positions. Each of these players will get you 3-pointers, assists, occasional rebounds and probably 10 points per game.

Farmar is still making his way back into the lineup, so I don’t think he is trustworthy at this point.

As for Marshall, if you were one to get him off the waiver wire, go ahead and drop him. He is essentially a fourth-stringer now and not going to see the floor as much, barring any more injuries to Nash, Blake or Farmar.

Former Houston Rockets star Tracy McGrady signed with the Spurs on Tuesday to play the length of the playoffs. 

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

After agreeing to a deal Tuesday that will last the length of the playoffs, Tracy McGrady is a San Antonio Spur.

Now, the question of the hour: If the Rockets beat the Lakers on Wednesday to claim the West’s No. 7 seed and a first-round match against San Antonio, how many Houston fans will root against their team and instead cheer for the player whose jersey they wore through adolescence?

This is a valid inquiry. It would make sense for NBA teams to come with “subject-to-change” disclaimers. Rosters turn over at impossible-to-track rates, making it difficult for some to stomach a life spent rooting for the same franchise. The Rockets, for instance, have a core trio of players that fans didn’t give a hoot about until they landed with the team in the offseason.

To us, players aren’t just people; they represent memories. The reversible black-and-red jersey I donned for elementary-age basketball — Michael Jordan. The ill-advised fro I combed out before games in middle school — Ben Wallace. The stupid chalk clap we did in high school rec ball — LeBron James. And so now whenever I see the aging Jordan on television, or when I see that Wallace doesn’t even play anymore, or that LeBron is almost 30 (!), I am given a startling reminder of just how far back my memories can now trace. If a player can invoke a twinge of nostalgia, we care about him more than we ever could any team.

Take it in specific cases, imagining a simultaneous Denver Broncos and Texas Longhorns fan. Does the Broncos fan not at least feel good for Justin Tucker as he boots the game-winner in overtime to send the Ravens to the Super Bowl? You remember where you were when Tucker beat Texas A&M with his leg. Does the Dallas Cowboys fan not have an easier time swallowing a loss to the Redskins if it’s at the hands of Texas son Robert Griffin III? If you’re a Baylor fan, you remember how proud you were when he won the Heisman.

Inter-league examples of this dynamic are rare, but in the 2011 and 2012 Western Conference Finals a faction of non-diehard Mavericks and Spurs fans instead rooted for the hoops team of former-Longhorn Kevin Durant. Durant’s team, heaven forbid, calls Oklahoma home. 

Something about McGrady makes him a sympathetic figure. He never won a playoff series (though his team did while he was injured), was beset by injury and later in his career was exposed as a premium scorer with little else to his game. But he was beloved in Houston.

“Tracy was the commercial player Houston was craving for — a branded player with a shoe deal and a scoring ability that embodied the wave of NBA superstar before LeBron James and Dwyane Wade proved that scoring isn’t everything,” said Sameer Bhuchar, former Daily Texan sports editor and lifelong Rockets fan. “Houston hadn’t had that type of player in a while, not in any sport.”

There’s not much of a question that the Houston fan who grew jaded with an unrecognizable team after connecting so well with McGrady will be pulling for the newest Spur if the series is tied 3-3 and T-Mac, hypothetically, has the ball in his hands with seconds remaining. 

More compelling: the Houston fan who has stuck with the Rockets through all these years, but still remembers the very place he was when McGrady scored 13 points in 35 seconds (against the Spurs), slept with a T-Mac poster above his pillow, shouted “T-Mac!” instead of “Kobe!” on fallaway shots at the wastebasket, stayed up late staring at said poster above his pillow, wondering if McGrady would ever stay healthy, wondering why McGrady never became as good as they thought he would. Dammit, at one point this guy wanted to be Tracy McGrady.

And now the ball’s in T-Mac’s hands, with seconds left on the clock, and he’s staring James Harden down. My guess? This guy’s going to be cheering like it’s 2005. 

Lakers move on without Kobe Bryant, hope to earn postseason spot with win over Houston

Summer 2012 is starting to feel like a long time ago for the Los Angeles Lakers. A team that once looked so promising, and looked to be in perfect position to make a run at an NBA Championship, now finds itself in a position it didn’t expect. 

The Lakers have one remaining game on the schedule, a home game against the Houston Rockets, and a win ensures a playoff berth. But for this particular Lakers team, what happens in this calendar season doesn’t matter as much as what happens moving forward.

The Lakers are filled with looming questions, and large ones at that.

Dwight Howard is still a free agent come summertime, and though it’s likely he stays in Los Angeles, the question becomes whether or not he actually will, or if he’s the franchise player the Lakers want to build around. 

Pau Gasol has been logging quality minutes for the Lakers, but he’s only a few weeks removed from talks of him potentially requesting a trade in the summer. And with a team like the Lakers that has so many problems, Pau is one of the few remaining tradable assets. 

Earl Clark is an unrestricted free agent this coming summer. With his emergence it’s fair to assume he’ll have a few teams asking for his contributions, and does a Lakers franchise that’s already in luxury tax purgatory pay Clark what the market could potentially demand?

What about Steve Nash and Metta World Peace?  

And, lastly, what about Kobe Bryant?

The five-time champion that has been the face of the franchise for the last decade. The champion who’s future seems very unknown at this point. I have no doubt Bryant will return to the game of basketball. He’s too competitive to not try to finish his career on his own terms. But what will he look like when he does return? And how will his final chapter read?

It’s probably still too early for doom and gloom in Hollywood. But in a city known for its storytelling, the way this one plays out might affect the story of the Lakers for a few years to come.

NBA: The race for eighth in the West

With only a few weeks remaining in the NBA’s regular season, the race for the 8th seed, or the last spots in the Western Conference playoffs has heated up. 

The Los Angeles Lakers are currently holding on to the 8th seed by a half a game lead over the Utah Jazz, and behind the Jazz are the Dallas Mavericks who are only a game back. The Portland Trail Blazers have also quietly made their way in to the picture and are only three games back for the number 8th spot. Here’s how it looks. 

8. Lakers 37-36

   Jazz     36-36

   Dallas  35-37

   Portland 33-38

Some very important games remain on the schedule for each team as well.

The Lakers host the Mavericks on April 2nd in a game that will be very important for both team’s playoff chances, and the Lakers also travel out to Portland on April 10th. The Lakers odds of making the playoffs may have gotten even slimmer with both Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash going down to injury last night against Milwaukee. 

The Dallas Mavericks travel to both Portland and Los Angeles before seasons end, giving them a great shot at sneaking their way in to the 8th spot. They’ve quietly worked their way in to the picture, and now it doesn’t seem so far-fetched that the Mavericks will make the playoffs. 

The Utah Jazz and Portland Trailblazers play each other two more times before the end of the season, with one of those meetings being tonight in Portland. 

All four teams have ample opportunity to earn the 8th spot and it could easily come down to the very last few games of the season. Since these teams are all set to play against at least one of each other, the tie breaker scenarios could end up getting very complicated come the end of the year. 

The always tough Western Conference is holding up to its reputation, but for whichever of these teams does make the first round of the playoffs, the Spurs who are sitting at the top of the west won’t be a very friendly match-up.  

Former Texas running back Ricky Williams and pitcher Cat Osterman were among the people inducted in the Texas Sports Hall of Fame on Monday.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

WACO, Texas — Shaquille O'Neal was a star in an overlooked Texas sport. Drew Brees was an overlooked player in the star of Texas high school athletics: football.

They were supposed to share a stage Monday night for induction into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame before O'Neal canceled hours after the NBA All-Star game in Houston, citing a family matter.

O'Neal was a four-time NBA champion who won the Class 3A title at San Antonio Cole in 1989. Brees, a Super Bowl-winning quarterback for New Orleans, won a state title at Austin Westlake in 1996.

The agent for the star known simply as Shaq told Texas sports hall officials late Sunday that O'Neal had to fly to California for personal reasons. It wasn't clear whether O'Neal's change of plans was connected to the death Monday of Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry Buss. O'Neal won three straight titles with the Lakers starting in 2000 and played eight of his 19 seasons in Los Angeles.

The Texas sports hall requires living honorees to attend the ceremony, but Director Steve Fallon said O'Neal's induction would stand. Representatives from his high school were still planning to attend, Fallon said.

"I have been looking forward to this ceremony for months," O'Neal said in a statement released by the hall. "I have a great love for the state of Texas and the city of San Antonio and would have loved to attend in person, if at all possible."

The other inductees Monday were Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams and softball star Cat Osterman of the Texas Longhorns, the late baseball Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews, Walt Garrison of the Dallas Cowboys and former Lubbock Monterey baseball coach Bobby Moegle.

O'Neal's fame came after he left Texas, where basketball has always been overshadowed by football. He played at LSU before Orlando made him the top pick in the 1992 draft. He went to the finals with the Magic in 1995, losing to Houston, before joining the Lakers in 1996. He lost in the finals to Detroit with the Lakers in 2004 and won his fourth title in 2006 with Dwyane Wade and Miami when the Heat beat Dallas.

The 40-year-old O'Neal went to LSU before becoming the top pick in the 1992 draft by Orlando. He went to the finals in 1995 with the Magic, who got swept by Houston. He lost to Detroit in the 2004 finals with the Lakers and won his fourth title in 2006 with Dwyane Wade and Miami when the Heat beat Dallas.

Brees went to Purdue after he said he was the "backup plan" for Texas A&M, where he really wanted to go, and Texas. Both those schools signed their first choices at quarterback, so Brees instead remains the Purdue and Big Ten career leader in every major passing category and took the Boilermakers to their first Rose Bowl in 34 years as a senior during the 2000 season. He started his NFL career in San Diego, but left two years after the Chargers drafted Philip Rivers.

The Saints won the Super Bowl in Brees' fourth season with them, and he's now eighth in NFL career passing yards at 45,919 and holds the single-season record of 5,476 set in 2011.

"It all worked out the way it's supposed to," Brees said. "I wouldn't trade it for the world. I've been lucky enough to be able to do some pretty cool things and play football a long time. One of my greatest moments will always be 1996, winning the 5A state championship in the state of Texas."

Williams, a San Diego native, joined Earl Campbell as the only Texas Longhorns to win the Heisman when he won college football's top prize in 1998. He set the NCAA's single-season rushing mark and won back-to-back rushing titles. He finished an 11-season NFL career with 10,009 yards.

"I've been the kind of person that whatever I do I make sure I enjoy it," Williams said. "I squeezed every drop of joy out of my time at Texas."

Osterman, a Houston native, led the Longhorns to three appearances in the Women's College World Series and won 136 games in her college softball career.

Mathews, a native of Texarkana, Texas, was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame after a 17-year career with the Braves in Boston, Atlanta and Milwaukee and brief stints with Houston and Detroit. He hit 512 home runs and played in three World Series, with Milwaukee in 1957-58 and Detroit in 1968. He died at age 69 in 2001.

Walt Garrison, who went to high school in the Dallas area at Lewisville and was a fullback for the Cowboys, retired as the third-leading rusher and fourth-leading receiver for Dallas in 1974. He won a Super Bowl with the 1971 team and was a professional rodeo cowboy and TV pitchman for a smokeless tobacco company.

The 79-year-old Moegle is the winningest high school baseball coach in Texas history and currently ranks fifth nationally with 1,115 victories. He was 1,115-266-1 in 40 seasons at Lubbock Monterey, from 1960 to 1999.

2012-2013 NBA season has been defined by critical injuries

The number of franchises playing without their All-Star players or prospective All-Star players is nearly ludicrous. Dirk Nowitzki, Andrew Bynum, Kevin Love (just returned), Ricky Rubio, Danny Granger, Steve Nash, Derrick Rose and Amar'e Stoudemire have all missed a significant chunk of the season.

A good team is able to play well with favorable circumstances. But, great teams, the teams that exude championship caliber poise are the ones that muster wins with significant setbacks and injuries.

On the Miami Heat’s road to the 2012 NBA Finals, the Heat had to overcome the absence of their explosive power forward and third scoring option Chris Bosh for several playoff games against the Indiana Pacers and the Boston Celtics. This nearly pushed the Heat to the brink of elimination, but the poise of Lebron James willed them to the ultimate goal.

In the Dallas Maverick’s road to the 2011 NBA Finals, the Mavericks had to overcome a season-ending injury to second-leading scorer Caron Butler. The Mavericks needed other role players Jason Terry and Shawn Marion to step up and eventually produced an outstanding offensive team due to the poise and leadership from veterans Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd.

In the 2010 NBA Finals, the Boston Celtics were defeated by the Los Angeles Lakers in a highly contested Game 7, because they could not overcome the loss of defensive anchor and starting center Kendrick Perkins to a PCL tear in Game 6. These moments define the character and makeup of a team’s grit and resilience.

Thus far in the 2012-2013 season, a few teams have illustrated the ability to overlook their losses and continue to fight. A few have not. Let’s take a quick look at these teams.

Dallas Mavericks:

Despite the absence of Dirk Nowitzki, the Mavericks have maintained a record above .500. OJ Mayo’s timely rise to stardom keeps the Mavericks more than just afloat and right in the midst of the fiery Western Conference playoff hunt.

Philadelphia 76ers:

The 76ers front office fought hard to bring franchise player Andrew Bynum to Philadelphia. However, with Bynum’s knee issues lingering potentially into mid-season, Jrue Holiday had to become the franchise’s savior. He has averaged nearly 18 points and eight assists a game to keep the 76ers afloat until Bynum’s return.

Minnesota Timberwolves:

The Timberwolves probably had the most arduous task -- they had to play without electrifying playmaker Ricky Rubio and their most productive power forward Kevin Love. However, Nikola Peković stepped up in a big way to make up for the rebounding and scoring deficiencies caused by Love’s absence.

Indiana Pacers:

The Pacers should technically be performing the best because of their dependence on a more balanced and collective offensive attack. David West, Roy Hibbert and George Hill are all excellent scoring options. However, this team has failed to live up to expectations with a sub .500 record thus far.

Los Angeles Lakers:

The Lakers were confused to say the least while trying to play the Princeton Offense without Nash. However, with the dismissal of Mike Brown and arrival of new coach Mike D’Antoni guiding the offense in LA, the Lakers have managed to win four of their last five.

Chicago Bulls:

Considering that a Rose-less Bulls was a .600 team last season, the Bulls going .455 thus far is actually quite disappointing. Perhaps it is becoming evident that the Bulls cannot compete in a superstar league without their own superstar.

New York Knicks:

The best team in the NBA thus far. They have done this without All-Star power forward Amar'e Stoudemire. Quite honestly though, they are so much better without Stoudemire. A Knicks team with either Carmelo Anthony or Amar'e Stoudemire would fare well. But, a Knicks team with both suffers from severe defensive lapses, rebounding deficiencies and chemistry issues.

The grit and resilience developed through these arduous times often define a team. Only time can tell which of these teams have developed that resilience.

Howard's future still in the air

With the NBA trade deadline looming there is still an uncertainty on which NBA uniform Dwight Howard will be wearing after March 15.

The Orlando Magic have made it clear that they want to make a long term deal with the superstar center, but run the risk of losing him without receiving any compensation if he leaves due to free-agency next summer. The Magic have already suffered through a similar situation when they last NBA-great Shaquille O’Neal to the Los Angeles Lakers through free-agency.

Magic owner Rich DeVos concedes that Howard has all of the leverage on deciding which team he will suit up for at the start of next season. “Howard is going to look at his options [and choose] what's best for him and that may or may not coincide with my desires," DeVos said.

Howard has said he is open to staying with the Magic, but also has a wish list of other possible destinations. His list includes the New Jersey Nets, Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks, and the Chicago Bulls.

The Lakers and the Nets are the likely suitors to prepare an in-season trade offer. The Lakers would have to part with both forward Pau Gasol and center Andrew Bynum. While the Nets would have to give up numerous valuable players to work an in-season trade, similar to what the Knicks surrendered for Carmelo Anthony. The Nets would then be in position to offer max contracts to both Howard and point-guard Deron Williams.

The Mavericks and Bulls are hoping that Howard remains with the Magic throughout the season and becomes available in free-agency.

The Mavericks simply don’t have the trade assets to land Howard this season, but they are well-positioned to make a bid for him during free-agency. The Mavs are committed to creating more than $30 million in salary-cap space to bid on both Howard and Dallas-native Deron Williams.

The Bulls were the last team to make the cut on Dwight Howard’s wish list. Known as one of the deepest teams in the league and currently holding the best record in the Eastern Conference, the Bulls might just approach this season’s play-off run with their current roster. If the Bulls fail to make the NBA Finals, they will likely make a serious attempt to make the Derrick Rose and Dwight Howard dream duo scenario into a reality.

The Magic are intent on leaving the trade-talk until after the All-Star Game in Orlando on Feb.26. The 18 days between the All-Star Game and the March 15 trade deadline will be critical for the future of both Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic franchise.

Jeremy Lin's Magical Debut Week

In just one week, point guard Jeremy Lin went from the end of the Knicks bench to the main event at Madison Square Garden.

After the final buzzer sounded in the Knicks' game against the Los Angeles Lakers, the MSG crowd broke out an “MVP” chant. This time, the reaction wasn’t for Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant. Instead, it was the perfect ending to Jeremy Lin’s dream week.

"I feel like I'm in a dream right now," Lin said after his career high 38 points and 7 assists led the short-handed Knicks to victory over the Lakers. That performance was the high point for the Harvard graduate during a stellar debut week.

The Knicks season seemed to be in turmoil with leading scorer Carmelo Anthony going down with a strained right groin in the midst of a losing stretch. Knicks head coach Mike D'Antoni had to try something different after forward Amare Stoudemire took a leave of absence due to a family emergency. Then, Lin -- who was cut by two different teams in the preseason -- comes in.

Lin led the Knicks to a 4-0 record, averaging 27.3 points and eight assists, becoming the first player in NBA history to rack up at least 20 points and seven assists in each of his first four starts. Geared by national media coverage and social networking, “Linsanity” captivated the basketball world.

"I don't know what to tell you," Mike D'Antoni said. "I have never seen this. It is not often that a guy is going to play four games, the best you are going to see, and nobody knows who he is. That is hard to do."

Can Lin continue this high level of play at a consistent rate throughout this season? It depends on his ability to respond once defenses adapt to his style. Defenses will no longer be surprised by Lin’s savvy point guard play and will limit his strengths. Lin has established himself as a smart pick-and-roll player and team facilitator.

The next stage of Lin’s progress centers on his ability to coexist with returning superstar Carmelo Anthony. There is little doubt on whether he can play with Stoudemire because the forward had a flourishing career playing alongside a similar type of pick-and-roll point-guard in Steve Nash. Carmelo, on the other hand, has a league-wide reputation of being a ball-stopper on offense.

Despite his reputation, Anthony insists playing alongside Lin will be a great opportunity for both players.

"I know there's questions about, 'Can I fit in?' and stuff like that, but this is like a dream come true to me," Anthony said. "It takes some pressure off of me. I don't have to play point guard.”

Jeremy Lin’s outbreak seems to be more than just a media-centered one-week sensation. The undrafted second-year point guard has revived the Knicks' hopes after they initially squandered their preseason hype.