Laker Grades is a new weekly feature that examines the best and the worst of the purple and gold from the last seven days.
Point guard party at practice:
The Lakers had so many players on their roster -- five key rotation guys -- injured at the same time that coach Mike D’Antoni joked a bus would eventually just show up at the team’s practice facility one day and out would come “the cavalry,” all finally healed. It didn’t quite go that way on Thursday, but it sure felt like it as Steve Nash (out since Nov. 10), Steve Blake (out since Dec. 10) and Jordan Farmar (out since Dec. 31) all returned to practice at the same time and L.A. suddenly quadrupled its point guard depth chart to relieve Kendall Marshall of some of the responsibility he was shouldering at the position.
Jodie Meeks continues to be money:
While the Lakers had an 0-3 week as a team, Meeks kept up his sweet shooting ways. Meeks averaged 20.7 points in the three games, going 11-for-21 from downtown in the process. The shooting guard’s ascension was even more welcome with news coming out Tuesday that Kobe Bryant will be sidelined approximately three more weeks before he is even re-evaluated and cleared for weight-bearing activities. Meeks, a five-year veteran, is now averaging career highs in points (14.6), rebounds (2.9), assists (1.8) and steals (1.4) per game.
Kendall Marshall’s double-digit dish total grows:
When Marshall was plucked out of the D-League in late December, he was more insurance policy than potential star. But as the Lakers kept getting barraged by injuries, that changed. While his role might be shaky moving forward, with Nash, Blake and Farmar all on the cusp of a return, Marshall made the most of his time at the top. He had 14 assists against the Orlando Magic and 13 assists against the Indiana Pacers, giving him 10 double-digit assist games in 14 tries as a starter this season.
L.A. can’t keep pace in the second half against Indiana:
After two quarters, the Lakers, who came into Tuesday’s game having lost 16 of their last 19 games, were tied with the Pacers, who came in with the best record in the league. Then the third quarter hit. Indiana outscored L.A. 30-20, shooting 13-for-24 (54.2 percent) as opposed to the Lakers’ 7-for-25 (28.0 percent). The Pacers would push their lead to as many as 16 in the fourth before settling in on a 12-point win over the listless Lakers.
Loss in Orlando causes a Pau Gasol “tantrum”:
All of the losing finally got to Gasol after L.A. lost to a Magic team that had dropped 12 of its previous 13 games before beating the Lakers by nine. “Bottom line,” Gasol said, “when you lose against the worst teams in the league, you got to ask yourself why and, kind of, what does that make you?" This warrants a failing grade not because Gasol spoke up to reporters after first throwing a “tantrum,” as Bryant described it, at his teammates for their performance, but because it just illustrates how bad the Lakers are these days.