Sports Out West

Lakers’ Jodie Meeks continues to show improvement

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

LOS ANGELES — Since making his return to the court following the All-Star break, Los Angeles Lakers guard Jodie Meeks has been on a tear offensively.

The 26-year-0ld guard in Friday’s 126-122 win over the Sacramento Kings had his best game since rejoining the team from a right ankle sprain that forced him to miss five games as he scored 22 points on a perfect 8-of-8 from the field. 

“I didn’t realize that I was,” Meeks said of his unblemished shooting performance against the Kings. “I thought I had missed a shot, but it was just a free throw. It was a good game. I have never had a game where I didn’t miss a shot.

In the past six games, Meeks is averaging 18.o points per game on 58 percent shooting from the field and 44 percent from 3-point range.  This also included scoring in double digits in each contest, making at least two 3-pointers in five of the games.

So what’s the reason for the high level of play from the four-year veteran?

“I think that (ankle) injury was a blessing in disguise,” Meeks said,. “It gave me some rest over the All-Star break. I just took some time off and let my body heal up a little bit. I am playing some good basketball right now and it’s not really translating into a bunch of wins, and we still have 23 more games left so hopefully we can get a win in majority of those.”

Meeks added, “Nobody wants to get hurt, but when I did I got a chance to let my body heal. Now that I am back, I am trying to stay healthy for the rest of the season.”

As for his success on the court this season, he feels that he owes it partly to head coach Mike D’Antoni for instilling confidence in him.

“Before the season even began he told me that ‘we need you to step a little bit on the offensive end, but don’t add pressure on yourself. Just go out there and play freely, and don’t worry about mistakes,” Meeks said. “I think that’s the biggest thing for us players because we don’t have to worry about making mistakes.”

D’Antoni believes the 26-year-old’s improved play this season is due to the fact that he has expanded his game.

“What he has been doing is adding his drive to the game,” D’Antoni said. “He is finishing on one foot. He has been strong to the basket and they don’t knock him off. He’s added another part of the game and now it’s hard to guard him. He’s playing really well. He always gives it to you defensively, always plays hard, and always runs the floor. He is working and being a good player.”

Meeks is one of 11 players on the Lakers roster that is set to become a free agent at season’s end. However he stated after Friday’s game his desire to return to the team, but at the same time understands it’s ultimately not up to him because he knows the NBA is a business.

“I definitely want to stay here,” Meeks said. “It’s a great place to play. The franchise is a winning franchise. All my life I wanted to play for an organization like this and now that I am here I definitely want to stay. But I know it’s a business and I am not exactly sure what exactly is going to happen, but if it was up to me I would stay.”

With Kobe Bryant missing all but six games this season, Meeks has been a solid fill-in starter that provides consistent scoring each night. In his increased role with Los Angeles, Meeks has most notably improved his 3-point shooting as evident by him knocking down four or more attempts from beyond the arc in 10 games this season.

With Meeks saying that he wants to return to the team next season, it won’t be a surprise to see the Lakers re-sign the four-year veteran. But as Meeks stated, the NBA is a business and sometimes it may go in the direction that he wants it to.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

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Bob Garcia IV

Bob Garcia is a sports journalist from Southern California. He was a reporter for the award-winning newspaper, The Daily Sundial, at California State University, Northridge. You can follow him on Twitter, @BGarcia90.