Archives For January 2006

Feeling Better?

Kurt —  January 17, 2006

Last season at this point, the Lakers were 22-16, actually one game better than the 21-17 record they have so far in 05-06. That said, how much better do you feel about this year’s squad?

I have three good reasons for optimism:

1) Last year the Lakers were winning in spite of their defense —they were in the bottom 10 in the league in defensive efficiency constantly (and finished second to last). This season the Lakers are ninth, tied with Detroit.

2) Last year the easy part of the schedule was at the front end, this year it gets easier later.

3) The West is not as deep as last year — while I expect some teams to turn it on (Denver?), the bottom tier of playoff teams in the West will be flawed squads.

The Lakers are just one turned ankle from being average (at best). But from this point forward last season, the Lakers went 12-32, and you just know Phil Jackson won’t let that kind of collapse happen.

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Andrew Bynum just went up another notch in my estimation of him. I’m still not sure what he’ll turn out to be in 3-5 years, but he has some fire in him.

On Tap: The Miami Heat

Kurt —  January 16, 2006

Record: 23-15 (Pythagorean 24-14), 2nd seed in the East
Record last 10 games: 7-3
Offensive Rating: (110.1, 7th in league)
Defensive Rating: (104.7, 6th in league)

First, some FB&G site news: Today was the day that we’re unveiling an exclusive sponsor here at FB&G, Pony Shoes. For those of you who either are bloggers or know much about the medium, having a sponsor is huge for me, it mean’s I’m not losing money here anymore (which, with a second child coming in April is going to make my wife very happy). But to pimp them for a second, while they never went away Pony is making a more public push back into the shoe market with some very cool gear, worth checking out at their Web site. Plus, they sponsor Chris Mihm, maybe the most underrated of the Lakers. I’d say check it out for me, but really, do it for yourself. Or, if not, Chris.

Also, thanks to Gatinho for stepping in yesterday and providing his thoughts from the back of Tim Kawakami’s head.

About the Hype: I’m not sure if you remember, but these two hooked up in an almost overlooked game by the media on Christmas day.

Actually, Mike Bresnahan from the Times seems to be catching on to where most real Laker fans (and true NBA fans) have been for some time — they’ve moved on from the Kobe/Shaq feud. It’s now almost a non-story for those that follow the NBA before April — however that latter category are the people who drive the Christmas Day television ratings. ESPN is not giving up on it that easily — Mark Stein made the interesting argument that this is still a story because Kobe and Shaq refuse to talk about it. Right, because if they talked about all their feelings and thoughts, you guys at ESPN would throw down your cameras and mikes and walk away. That “not talking makes the story bigger” logic works with the NSA spying scandal, not here. It is the media that brings up this feud and won’t let it die because it’s good for their business, most Laker (and I imagine, Heat) fans and players have moved on. Please join us, Mark.

About the Heat: That Christmas Day game was a thriller, and people will remember that Lamar Odom and Kobe Bryant both missed three pointers late that might well have changed the outcome.

What you may not remember is that it was the Laker bench that killed them that day — all five Laker starters had a positive +/- that day. However, Sasha was -23, Luke -14, Kwame -9, while Gary Payton came in for 21 points and Antoine Walker came off the bench to be a +20 for the Heat.

With Pat Riley on the bench and Shaq in the paint, the Heat have become a much better offensive team. In the last 10 games, it has been Dwayne Wade who has been on fire, shooting 57% from the floor. The Lakers are going to have to contain him tonight — nobody can stop him but don’t let him shoot around 60%.

Key’s to a Laker win: They have got to get good bench play and they have got to keep both Shaq and Wade in check. No small feats — the Heat are a good team. They’re not going to win the NBA title, or even the East (without the injury bug hitting Detroit and Cleveland), but they are still better on paper than the Lakers. That said, when the Lakers are on this is the kind of team they can beat — but they’ll need a good game out of everyone.

Resisting Temptation

Gatinho —  January 15, 2006

Poster “Gatinho” (Ga-cheen-yo) dropping in with an in house report from last night’s game. The seats were good, but nobody should have to look at the back of Tim Kawakami’s head for three hours.

The cliche says “Live by three, die by the three,” and that is exactly what the club from Oakland did last night. Taking 32 threes and making only 10 was indicative of the state of the Warrior’s offense. Not a lot of action towards the basket, mixed with a mess of missed free throws is a recipe for disaster in today’s NBA. But the Lakers showed their youth and stuborness by refusing to play solid defense and letting themselves get into the up and down game that the Warriors thrive on. Big nights from Smush and Kwame are enough to make any Laker fan smile, but where , oh where, was Lamar Odom? After flirting with a triple double against Cleveland, he was a disappointing 1-8. There is no excuse for those kind of numbers. In the days where right-minded Laker fans are closely monitoring #8’s volume of shots, it becomes evident that they should instead be monitoring #7’s for different reasons.

The difference between the two clubs was evident. One was attempting to run an offense and the other was jacking up threes off pick and rolls. Mike Montgomery may be revered in the Bay Area for his achievements at Stanford, but it is becoming increasingly evident that Chris Mullin can no longer make moves for the Warriors based on popularity and public sentibment. The question on Warrior fans lip’s last night, and the one I continually challenged them with was, “So, how long until Baron Davis has Monty’s head?” The Warriors attempting to be a participant in the Ron Artest sweepstakes (“Who Wants to marry a Socio-path?”) is an indication that Monty is not long for the revolving door that is the Warriors head coaching position. When guys are on talk radio pining for Eric Musselman, you know you’re job security is in jeopardy.

We were all worried that the Lakers were going to look past this game as they did in their season lowlight loss to the Blazers. He would never admit it, but Kobe wants to beat that chubby guy in Miami something fierce. Looking past this game and being too focused on today’s would have been characteristic of a young team immune to growth.

In our continuing evaluation of exactly where/who/what these Lakers are, pulling out a W last night should fall into the category of “Good teams find a way to win on the road.” Last night was not impressive, Kobe was well below 50% shooting and Odom ineffective. Smush held his against Baron “and 1 mix tape” Davis, but on a night where a loss would have started a disturbing trend of losing to lower tier teams, the Lakers prevailed, placing the memory of the loss to P-land in the category of glitch or hiccup, not the gategory of trend.

On Tap: The Golden State Warriors

Kurt —  January 14, 2006

Consider this a short preview with a bunch of other stuff thrown in.

Record: 17-18 (Pythagorean 17-18), 9th seed in the West
Record last 10 games: 3-7
Offensive Rating: 106.6 (15th in league)
Defensive Rating: 108.7 (20th in league)

The Lakers coming in: Hopefully the Lakers learned this lesson against Portland: They can’t look past anybody. Anybody. Play well and they can hang with or beat the second tier teams in the NBA (for example Cleveland). Don’t show up focused and they couldn’t beat my Sunday morning pickup crew. And we’re 30-something slow guys who met at a wine bar. They don’t have the talent to look past anyone.

At the end of the season Golden State may well be one of the teams the Lakers are fighting for a playoff spot with, so the Lakers had better show up ready to play. Besides, Gatinho paid for tickets to this game, and they don’t want to piss him off.

Trivia Question: The movie Glory Road came out this week, the story of Texas Western University being the first team to start five black players back in 1966, a group that went on to win the NCAA title. The team they beat in the championship game was traditional power Kentucky, a team that starred what future Laker great? (Answer at the end.)

One game I will see live this weekend: My Cal State Northridge Matadors crushing my wife’s Long Beach State 49ers.

Three things you should read:

1) From 82games.com: Some answers for Bill Simmons (and a chance to size up the Lakers in the clutch — they need to play better defense).

2) From True Hoop: Vlade Divac and George Clooney are working together. Seriously. Clooney is working with HBO to put together a behind the scenes look at a fictional NBA expansion franchise. But don’t think cheesy like “Playmakers” for two reasons: 1) HBO does good work; 2) George Clooney isn’t just someone on your wife/girlfriend’s “freebie list” — he directed the very good “Good Night and Good Luck.” This has potential.

3) From LA Observed: This is the funniest thing I’ve seen in a while.

About the Warriors: Jason Richardson and Barron Davis form one of the best offensive back courts in the league. They lead a team that plays at a fast pace — the fourth fastest in the league — and that leads to entertaining games. Richardson in particular has flourished with this style of play — he is averaging 22.9 points per 40 minutes and is shooting 49.7% (eFG%). Baron Davis is good and likely to remember how Smush Parker got under his skin back in those preseason in Hawaii games and could try to take the game over.

The downside is neither is a very good defender. That follows with most of the other people on the team. The only position the Warriors have defended well is the three — the Lakers should be able to score plenty tonight.

Key’s to a Laker win: Playing defense. Not getting into a track meet.

Trivia Answer: Pat Riley.

Fast Break

Kurt —  January 13, 2006

It’s not often the over-hyped games turn out to be entertaining, but the Laker/Cavs game lived up to that. A few thoughts from the game, and other stuff.

• Sure it’s the one-on-one match up fans wanted to see, but why did Cleveland switch and put LeBron James on Kobe for those last three shots? LeBron is not a great defender, especially if you can get him moving laterally. That’s what Kobe did on the first two of those three consecutive end-of-the-game shots he hit — those first two Kobe got separation and clean looks at the basket.

The last one was just Kobe being Kobe — James and Ilgauskas were both in good defensive position.

• Actually, the reason LeBron probably ended up on Kobe is because he asked to be. You have to like that he wants the challenge. Cavs GM Danny Ferry needs to add a defensive stopper to his shopping list (not that those are easy to come by).

• That’s the Lamar Odom I want to see every night.

• Quick props out to Luke Walton as well, he led the team by a large margin as a +12. The reason — the team ran the offense when he was in the game (plus he was aggressive with his own shot when the opportunity presented itself).

• How does Gooden come all the way across the lane and get that rebound giving Cleveland a chance to win? Put a body on your man.

• This has happened several times but I’ll go with this example: When Kobe re-entered the game with six minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Lakers stopped running the triangle. I lay this more at the feet of the other players than Kobe, when he came back in they just seemed to want to throw him the ball and watch. The Lakers need to get Kobe his shots within the offense, when that happens everyone else gets better looks.

• I think Detroit is pretty good.

• In case you missed it, Ronny Turiaf is expected to sign with the Lakers at some point over the weekend. This is great to seen not only because it’s a good story but also because he’ll bring that energy inside the Lakers sometimes lack, especially off the bench.