Sometimes I feel I focus too much on the negative, on the things that need improvement, but there are a lot of things to smile about five games into the Laker season, and not just that they are above .500:
â€¢ What was the biggest problem with the Lakers last season? Say it with me: Defense. This season things are much better. Last season the Lakers gave up 108 points per 100 opponent possessions (29th in the league), this season it is way down to 97.5. The biggest reason for the Lakers defensive disaster last season: Not creating turnovers. Last season opponents turned the ball over on just 12.5% of their possessions, this season it is at 18.1%. Itâ€™s really early, but that is a very good sign.
â€¢ Kobe came into camp 15 pounds lighter and is causing defenses problems because of his quickness this season. That and his quick-release and willingness to resurrect the lost art of the mid-range game in the NBA. How many times a game is he running off a weak-side pick (or curling in at about the free-throw line), catching the ball and going up before the defense can even think about getting the double team over to him? He looks rejuvenated this season.
â€¢ Smush. What can we say? Before the season we just hoped for good defense, some smart plays and if he added some offense that would be a bonus. His line after five games: 16 points, 4.1 assists and 3.1 steals per 40 minutes played. And lots of energy out top, as opposed the lethargy we watched last season.
â€¢ The Lakers are doing some nice things with the triangle, maybe not as constantly as the coaching staff (or fans) would like, but they are getting it done. And itâ€™s not just the stars. One example that springs to mind was against a youthful Atlanta squad: Sasha had the ball as the initiator and threw it to Brian Cook just above the high post on the weak side, then Sasha cut toward the corner using Cook as pick. Sasha got open so Cook passed back to Sasha while the big man (Uruguayâ€™s Esteban Batista) stepped out on the pick-and-roll switch. But the guard (I forget who) came over the top and also went with Sasha, and frankly you donâ€™t need to double-team him. Cook, wisely, slid out to his favorite spot on the floor, the three point line almost straight on (he was the most accurate shooter in the NBA from that spot last season), got the return pass and buried the three. Yes, they did it against the second team from Atlanta, but they used smart play against youthful players and took advantage, and weâ€™ve seen a fair amount of that.
Congratulations to Kobe Bryant and his wife, Vanessa, who are expecting their second child in May. Thatâ€™s one thing I have in common with Kobe.
Today is the one-year anniversary of Forum Blue & Gold, and while I usually get a lot of kudos in the comments when I mention milestones, thatâ€™s not why I’m bringing it up. Rather, I want to thank all of you who have made this a regular stop, made comments, sent me emails and generally made this a lot more fun for me than I ever expected. Some time next week odometer will tick over and this site will get its 100,000th visitor, a number that once seemed astronomical to me but has come up very fast. It is all of you that really make this place special, have given me rare opportunities and thatâ€™s why I just wanted to say â€” Thank You!
And keep coming back, this is shaping up to be a fun time to be a Laker fan.