The Morning Column: August 4, 2021
The Lakers might be old but they’re also damn good, Dwight Howard gives Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony a championship blueprint and Max Scherzer makes his Dodgers debut tonight
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1. 🏀 The Lakers are a cheat code … on NBA 2K13
Yes, we’ve heard all the jokes by now. The Lakers are old. They will not only be the oldest team in the league next season but they are currently projected to be the oldest team in NBA history (no joke). They currently have five players who will be 36 or older next year. That’s the most on one team since LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers had six during the 2016-17 season. The good news for Lakers fans is that team went on to play in the NBA Finals. The bad news is they lost to the Golden State Warriors one year after winning the championship.
The Lakers have never had a team with more than three players 35 or older or more than six players 32 or older. Here’s where they currently stand on both fronts:
2. 🏆 Old jokes aside, the Lakers are a championship team
The Lakers weren’t built to compete over the next 10 years; they were built to compete (and win a championship) over the next 10 months. That’s it. If we focus on that, it’s not hard to see the Lakers becoming the first NBA franchise to win 18 championships next June. Take a look at this depth chart:
That team can (and should) win a championship next season. You can wonder about health, playing time and chemistry but every team has to deal with those unpredictable variables. If the Lakers are healthy next season, they should make it to the NBA Finals. Vegas agrees. The Lakers (+300) and Brooklyn Nets (+200) are the top two favorites at every sports book right now to win the championship next season.
Are they old? Yes, but the Lakers were drafting and building a young team to compete down the line for six subpar seasons. I have no problem with them going all-in on a championship every season with LeBron James.
What will the Lakers look like when James retires? Who knows and quite frankly who cares? Most teams are forced to rebuild when their star player retires. Why worry about that now while you have arguably the most talented team in the league? Just enjoy the ride while you’re on it.
3. 📖 The Dwight Howard blueprint
It’s natural to wonder how Russell Westbrook will fit in with the Lakers or how Carmelo Anthony will adjust to his new role on the team. You’re talking about two of the top five active NBA career points leaders joining LeBron James, who’s at the top of that list.
To understand how they will fit in and adjust to their new roles, you just have to look at Dwight Howard, who is seventh on the active career points list.
When Howard came to the Lakers two years ago, he did so on a one-year, non-guaranteed contract. After being heralded as the next great Lakers big man seven years earlier, he returned as a journeyman on his fifth team in five years. When I asked Kobe Bryant how he thought Howard would do, he smiled.
“I’m happy for him because sometimes we don’t realize how much we love the game and miss the game until that window starts closing or its closed,” Bryant said. “Then you’re like, ‘Oh damn, I really miss playing the game. I want another opportunity to show what I can do.’ Sometimes you don’t know if that opportunity will ever come again. For him, I really believe he’s appreciative of the opportunity and I think he’s going to make a hell of an impact because of the new appreciation he has for playing the game.”
Howard did just that and was an invaluable role player off the bench as the Lakers won the championship in 2020.
For Westbrook and Anthony, they know this is their last chance to win a championship. Neither future hall of famer has won an NBA title. Anthony has never made it to the NBA Finals, only playing in one conference finals 12 years ago, while Westbrook has only played in one NBA Finals a decade ago.
Westbrook is on his fourth team in four years and Anthony was basically out of the league before he signed a one-year, non-guaranteed contract with Portland, his fourth team in four years, in 2019. Westbrook and Anthony are coming to the Lakers as different players. They aren’t trying to win MVP or average a triple-double or lead the league in scoring. They are trying to do the one thing that has illuded them during their storied careers – win a championship.
4. ⛹️♂️ Young reinforcements
While the Lakers’ signings of Carmelo Anthony (37), Dwight Howard (35) and Trevor Ariza (36) understandably grabbed most of the headlines, it’s important to note that the Lakers also signed Kendrick Nunn (26) and Malik Monk (23) and re-signed Talen Horton-Tucker (20). Monk and Nunn were absolute steals after both turned down more money elsewhere to join the Lakers. Monk shot 40.3% from three-point range last season while Nunn averaged 14.6 points and shot over 38% from beyond the arc last year. The Lakers are extremely high on Horton-Tucker, who won’t turn 21 until November and could be poised for a breakout season after signing a three-year, $32 million deal to stay in Los Angeles.
5. 🗑 Astros return to Dodger Stadium
Dodgers fans finally got their chance to boo, jeer, hiss and throw inflatable trash cans at the Houston Astros on Tuesday, four years after the Astros cheated the Dodgers and their fans out of the World Series. The sold-out crowd of 52,692 at Dodger Stadium made the game feel more like a World Series contest than a regular season game in August. The Dodgers, however, didn’t give their fans much to cheer about; only producing five hits in a 3-0 loss to the Astros. The Dodgers (and their fans) will get another crack at the Astros tonight as Max Scherzer makes his Dodgers debut. The Dodgers are also expected to add another All-Star, World Series champion pitcher in Cole Hamels before tonight’s game as they look to add rotation depth.
6. 📆 Aug. 4, 2010: Vincente Padilla flirts with a no-hitter
Vicente Padilla had a no-hitter going into the seventh inning 11 years ago today at Dodger Stadium before finishing with a two-hit shutout, the fourth of his career, in leading the Dodgers to a 9-0 victory over the San Diego Padres. The game was memorable for Padilla’s use of slow breaking balls and the eephus pitch, which confused Padres hitters all night. Here’s Vin Scully breaking down some of Padilla’s pitches that night.
7. 🎂 Happy birthday Jeff Gordon
Happy birthday to Jeff Gordon. The four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion turns 50 today. Gordon was born and raised in Vallejo, California before his family moved to Indiana in the late 1980s so he could pursue his racing drams. My favorite Jeff Gordon memory is hopping into an Uber with him and my friend Jacob Ullman from Fox Sports during Super Bowl week in Houston four years ago. Jeff was riding shotgun and telling the driver, who had no idea who he was, to go faster and giving him driving instructions. We were in a rush to see Jeff’s favorite group, that’s right, you guessed it, The Chainsmokers.
8. 🎟 Take me out to the ball game
Here are the “get in” prices for tickets if you’re thinking about going to a game today:
⚾️ Houston Astros at Los Angeles Dodgers – $44
⚽️ Sporting Kansas City at LAFC – $24
⚽️ Real Salta Lake at LA Galaxy – $17
9. 📺 On the air
⚾️ 12:30 p.m. – San Diego Padres at Oakland Athletics – MLB TV
⚾️ 5:00 p.m. – Los Angeles Angels at Texas Rangers – Bally Sports West
⚾️ 6:30 p.m. – Houston Astros at Los Angeles Dodgers – SportsNet LA
⚽️ 7:30 p.m. – Real Salt Lake at Los Angeles Galaxy – Spectrum SportsNet
⚽️ 7:30 p.m. – Sporting Kansas City at LAFC – Bally Sports SoCal
🏀 8:00 p.m. – Los Angeles Lakers at Sacramento Kings (Summer League) – ESPNU
10. 📻 The Arash Markazi Show
On yesterday’s show, Ji Hae Wiley and I discussed how the Lakers’ new additions will fit with the team next season and if the new-look Lakers have enough to win a championship next year.
Listen to The Arash Markazi Show on The Mightier 1090 Monday-Friday from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m., following The Rich Eisen Show. The Mightier 1090 has the second strongest radio signal in North America and can be heard from “Baja to the Canadian Rockies.” You can also listen to the show on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Play and Stitcher.
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That’s it for today. Talk to you tomorrow!