LOS ANGELES — In a season full of a disappointment for the Los Angeles Lakers, Jodie Meeks has been one of the few bright spots on the team.
Meeks’ light shined the brightest on Sunday as he torched the Oklahoma City for a career-high 42 points on 11-of-18 shooting from the field that included six made 3-pointers and a perfect 14-of-14 from free throws.
“It was just one of those games, it was fun out there,” Meeks said after Sunday’s win. “The most important thing is that we got the win. It was close at the end but I am glad we pulled it out.”
Meeks 4o-plus point output was not only the most points scored in a game by a Laker this season but also the first by a Laker other than Kobe Bryant since Andrew Bynum scored 42 points against the Los Angeles Clippers on Jan. 21, 2009. Meeks also set a career-high at the free throw line as he went 14-for-14, which was the most by a Laker without a miss since Bryant went 18-for-18 on April 10, 2013 against the Portland Trail Blazers.
The 26-year-old’s consistency on the court has not gone unnoticed by head coach Mike D’Antoni.
“Jodie has been our most consistent performer, he is just playing well.” D’Antoni said. ” It’s really fun to watch someone get better and he has improved. Jodie comes to work every day and does what he needs to do. He had a great summer working hard on his game and you really feel good about guys like that.”
His teammates have also noticed the hard work that he puts in everyday on the court and credit Meeks’ success to his dedication to the game.
“He is a great shooter and he competes no matter what,” Pau Gasol said after Sunday’s win over the Thunder. “He always plays hard and gives everything that he has got. He is always up for the challenge, and he is always aggressive trying to find his rhythm.
“Some nights he finds it and some nights he doesn’t, but today is a game where he definitely found his rhythm.”
As for Meeks, he was glad to have an impressive performance but was more concerned about the team getting a win rather than his own personal accolades.
“More importantly we got the win,” Meeks said. “If you score a bunch of points and lose it’s a great individual performance but the team didn’t win. (Getting the win) was the most important thing that I was focusing on. Being in rhythm like that is fun, but getting your teammates (involved) and making sure they’re happy, and getting the win is also fun.”
This season has been nothing short of a frustration on the court for the Lakers, but with that said Meeks uses his appreciation for the game to keep him going to through the difficult times.
“I just try to tell myself that it is a fun game and it is,” Meeks said. “Anytime you get a chance to play it’s a privilege, so I try to trickle that down to everybody on the team. Maybe the season hasn’t gone the way we planned, but we still got 18 games left. We have to play them hard and see what happens.
This season for Meeks has been a breakout year across the board as he is averaging career-highs in points (14.8), field goal percentage (.459), rebounds (2.6), assists (1.7), steals (1.3), and minutes (32.7). Despite the team’s struggles, the 26-year-old credits some of his own personal success on the court this season from applying Kobe Bryant’s “no excuses” mental approach to his game.
“The biggest I learned from Kobe (Bryant) was his mental approach to the game,” Meeks said. “No matter if we played last night, if he sick or is hurt, he is always ready to play. This year I tried to take that aspect to my game. No excuses. No matter how the season is going, just go out there play hard and give it your best effort.”
All of this along with the opportunity to play increased minutes on the floor due to the fact that Bryant missed all but six games this season has allowed for Meeks to further improve his game in the 2013-14 season. Although he is having a great individual season, the true question is whether he will be back next season as he is set to become a free agent this offseason.
Meeks has voiced his desire to return to the team after this season, but that decision ultimately lies with the Lakers if they want to bring him back next year. With that said, the four-year veteran has been a consistent scoring punch on the team which is something he hopes to carry through the final 18 games and possibly in an a purple and gold uniform after this season.
Photo Credit: Richard Mackson / USA TODAY Sports
Bob Garcia IV
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