Notes at 3 am

Kurt —  May 3, 2006

Welcome to the newest feature here at FB&G, a column largely constructed, and typed one handed, in the middle of the night while up with my two-week-old daughter. There will be basketball notes plus thoughts on other stuff, including what’s on television in the middle of the night (Girls Gone Wild!). Expect to see this semi-regularly until my daughter starts sleeping through the night.

Update: Raja Bell has been suspended for game six.

• The line that keeps popping into my head is from Tripper Harrison: “It just doesn’t matter. It just doesn’t matter…”

The Lakers need to put that last game behind them and move on, including dwelling on the foul and whether or not Raja Bell is around for Thursday’s game. There are certainly lessons to be learned and adjustments to be made. However, a key problem was one we saw all season — when Kobe and Odom were slowed, other guys didn’t step up. Guys who stepped up early in the series wilted. Kwame became a non-factor defensively after the early calls. Smush suddenly had alligator arms on his shots (his eFG% in the last two games is 21.1%). The Suns have worked to take Kobe and Odom out as much as they can, which means everyone else needs to take advantage. Those guys need to put the off-games behind them — it just doesn’t matter.

I’m sure today, Phil is oh-so-gently reminding the team they need to get back to what they did in the first three games — pound the ball inside, pound the offensive glass, don’t turn the ball over, play smart, rotate on defense and slow the pace — and they can win.

Do that and what happened in Phoenix just won’t matter.

• Should Raja Bell be suspended? I think so, but I’m biased. The problem is Stu Jackson has not drawn a definitive line this postseason — how the hell was Reggie Evans only fined $10,000? What he did was far worse than the Artest elbow that got a suspension. So who knows. If the Lakers play their game it won’t matter anyway.

• Good point last night from Deen in the comments:

One last comment on turnovers this game …
Offensive fouls: Lakers=4, Suns=0.
Traveling calls: Lakers=5, Suns=0.
…that’s 9 possessions lost.

For some perspective TOTALS from first 4 games …
– offensive fouls: Lakers=11, Suns=11
– travels: Lakers=2, Suns=6

So the avg is 3 off fouls and 1 travel per game per team. Did the Suns defense get that much better this game?

• One interesting thing looking at the game flow — the Suns five starters all had positive +/- numbers, all the bench guys were negative. D’Antoni just leaned more on his starters, which why a few fouls (or a suspension) could be big next game. Back at Staples, the call pendulum should swing the other way again (it’s almost never in the middle).

• Damn I love Ronny Turiaf!

• Also, with all the talk about how well the Lakers did on the offensive glass in the first four games, the Lakers gave up 12 offensive boards last night.

• For a great breakdown of the series (prior to game 5), check out this piece from friend of the site Kevin Pelton (first posted in the comments last night).

• Just finished reading Bacchus and Me by Jay McInerney (he of Bright Lights, Big City fame), and if you are a wine lover I highly recommend it, otherwise it’s not for you. My only complaint was I read large chunks of it while in the hospital with my wife for a few days, and this book is about a guy drinking the world’s finest wines paired perfectly with the food from the best restaurants in Manhattan. I’d finish a chapter then have to go down to the hospital cafeteria and pick out the least objectionable meal for my dinner. That killed me.

• I’m pretty much set on my Kentucky Derby picks, which I will post Saturday morning (something of a tradition at my blog, at least in my mind). Two of the last three years, if you boxed an exacta with my three picks, you would have done well. Of course, just like the Bushwood Country Club, we do not encourage gambling.

• By the way, if you didn’t read Seabiscuit (you should) and think the life of a jockey is easy, check out this good piece on ESPN.com. Those guys are athletes of a high order, and totally fearless.

Kurt

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30 responses to Notes at 3 am

  1. “So the avg is 3 off fouls and 1 travel per game per team. Did the Suns defense get that much better this game?”

    Another theory would be the Lakers finally didnt get the benefit of home cooking for one game in the series and the result is a blowout. Just a theory though. But I guess that would make me a troll or something for pointing it out.

    Lets add Stein at ESPN.com and Wilbon at the Washington Post to the list of those declaring shenanigans over game 4.

  2. Oh god, no one talks about how Steve Nash pushed off on Sasha before Luke hacked/tied the ball up..because oh..thats different…or something like that..yeah!

  3. Good theory, John R! Oh, and kudos on getting your letter in the sidebar of Bill Simmons’ latest column! Nice work!

  4. By the way, JohnR: You’ve said you don’t think Raja deserves a suspension because Reggie Evans didn’t get suspended for, as Barkley called it, his “loose ball foul.” Fair enough — even our host believes that the waters are muddied by that non-suspension, though I personally thought Raja’s foul was well in line with, say, Posey’s clipping foul on Hinrich, which did draw a one-game suspension. But I have three (compound) questions for you:

    1. Should Reggie Evans have been suspended? i.e., if you want to tie Evans and Raja together like that, do you think neither foul deserves a suspension? Or do you think both do? Or is Raja’s not deserving of a suspension because, well, it WAS Kobe Bryant, after all.

    2. A related question: If Raja Bell doesn’t deserve a suspension, why not? As if it wasn’t already obvious, he himself admitted last night that he wasn’t going for the ball, that he acted out of frustration, and that the was, in fact, trying to horse-collar Kobe Bryant. Any problems with that? Is it okay because he took a couple of inadvertant elbows prior to the horse-collaring? And if so, do you think Kobe should be suspended for a potential game seven if he were to, say, punch Raja in the nose just after tip-off Thursday night? Wouldn’t that be justified?

    3. Finally — and perhaps this should have been the first question — do you think it was a foul? Just curious — do you think Raja deserved a personal on that play, or is it a “no blood no foul” kind of thing? (Particularly since it WAS against Kobe Bryant, after all.) Or, alternatively, do you think Kobe deserved an offensive foul on the play for intentionally and maliciously necking Raja’s inner elbow?

    John, you’ve been extraordinarily cogent and level-headed in your comments in this forum, and I for one appreciate your courage in speaking the truth about the NBA/Laker conspiracy. Everybody knows games 2-4 were fixed — possibly even scripted outright like a bad Rocky movie. Why, you’d have to be a COMPLETE Laker homer not to believe that, and I’m no Laker homer.

    I look forward to your response!

  5. Oh my is someone not regretful: http://www.eastvalleytribune.com/index.php?sty=64616

    Does the guy totally forget how he’s hacked at Bryant all series long? Even on that spectacular dunk Kobe had earlier in game, what do you see? A push from Bell as Kobe goes by…I’m not understanding this. The refs are calling anything on us and there guys to the most degree…but when it comes to Kobe, well he’s just gotta fend for himself.

  6. http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/playoffs2006/news/story?id=2431979

    Fix is in. Kaman is sexually assaulted, no games. Bryant is subjected to a hard foul which was a legitimate play at the ball, one game suspension. Though I guess to Laker fans another sexual assault is no big deal.

  7. I put an update with a link at the top of the post, but know that Raja Bell has been suspended for game six. As he should have been.

  8. So that was just a “hard foul” John R. Cool. Then you would be okay with Smush doing that to Cassell every time he drives the lane next series? Or Odom taking down Brand with a hard foul.

    The usually useless Collin Cowherd had a good point this morning, saying that people’s reactions to this had more to say about what they thought of Kobe (and the Lakers) than it does the foul. He added, can you imagine the uproar if Kobe had done that to Nash.

  9. I’m with John. Raja was totally going for the ball. Anyone who can’t see that is blinded by the forum blue and gold.

    FREE RAJA BELL!

  10. I don’t think its “just a hard foul”. It was a hard foul. It was a flagrant foul. But a flagrant foul doesn’t automatically get one booted from the contest and it doesn’t automatically warrant a suspension. But unlike every other suspension this preseason and Evans’ non-suspension, his first play was at the ball. (Insert ball joke here.) Kobe was in no way injured. He wasn’t in danger of anything but moderate discomfort. He didn’t low bridge him on a dunk and up-end him. He didn’t run him down Posey style. He reached for the ball and kept his arm strong which Kobe decided to run through. Even alone I don’t think it warrants an ejection, but it was clear that something had to be done to cool things off so I don’t have a problem with him having to watch the rest of the game from the locker room.

    If Smush wants to do that once a game to Cassell I wouldn’t have a problem with it (though it does show Laker fan’s continued refusal to watch anything but Laker games since Livingston has been the far superior player in the postseason and the threat should have been against him), as long as he was assessed the proper flagrant foul, which wouldn’t happen since Smush is a Laker. And if Odom did it to Brand, same deal. No problem at all. I also wouldn’t call for a suspension the first time he did it.

    In general, if one is agreeing with Mr. Cowherd, it might be time for serious introspection. Though I agree Kobe is a polarizing factor, its not because he’s a victim. Its because its clear that he treats everyone like crap. Refs, opponents, even teammates sometimes. When he doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt its due to his own actions and as MLK asked me to do, I’m just judging him on the content of his character. Raja Bell has been on the deck more often than Kobe in this series so you’ll have to forgive us that don’t pity poor number twenty-four.

    Did you guys get a kick out of Kobe’s comment that he would never do something like that? Mike Miller would probably beg to differ. I think we can add bold-faced liar to the list.

  11. Amen to that, JohnR! Seems Kobe is forgetting that Mike Miller smackdown. For which he was not suspended two games. Because he is a Laker, and Lakers don’t get flagrants, much less suspended. What’s up, Ted Kaczynski?

    Oh, and Vlade used to spend a lot of time on the deck too.

  12. chris henderson May 3, 2006 at 5:27 pm

    john R, you say that Bell has spent more time on the floor than Kobe, yeah, you’re right, he has…but if you watch most of those ‘hitting the deck spots” they were no more then good acting jobs, also known as “flops”.
    and I agree with what Stu Lantz said during the game last night, this flopping business is getting way out of hand, this is not acting, it’s sports, flopping is something the league needs to look at next year, call it a foul for clogging up floor space with your body laying all over the floor.

  13. I agree 100%. Flopping has no place in basketball, but Kobe’s elbows have found Bell quite a few times “accidently”. At some point it crosses over from accident…

    Personally I think the flopping stuff comes from the soccer world. See: Ginobili, Parker, Vlade, et al. Bryant is part of that world. And this is going to sound harsh but when you will think about it you will know what I’m saying. It takes two to clothesline. Kobe helped make that foul look as bad as possible. Another que from the soccer world. Another reason I don’t think he should be suspended. The perception of the act is much worse than the reality.

    I think a flop should be a technical foul. The player is attempting to make a fool of the ref and shows contempt for the sport. This includes Kobe’s constant verbal flops.

  14. This also just in: http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/playoffs2006/news/story?id=2432418

    Bell’s foul is much closer to Dirk’s than Evans’. Bell reached for the ball HARD, and Kobe decided to try to drive through him anyway creating a violent collision. Nothing more. If anyone has an alternate explanation for whats going on here with these suspension decisions I’d be willing to listen.

  15. Cool, now Raja Bitch can watch the game from John R’s bedroom tomorrow night.

    Hope the game ends before mommy and daddy call bedtime!

  16. John R.,
    There was no play for the ball. Kobe was by Bell, and had the ball in a place where Raja couldn’t get to it. He had two options: Let Kobe go by and hope that his teammaates can pick him up, or haul Kobe down somehow. He choose to do the latter. It wasn’t Kobe trying to drive through an outstreched arm; Kobe was already by him. Though you contend that there was no danger in that play, there’s a reason that even football and rugby prohibit tackles like the one Bell executed on Bryant.

    While you’re goiing around calling people liars, take a look at the the supposed elbowing on the play before (the one where bell was called for a foul). Look at it really closely on a DVR or Tivo or the like. Note that there is no contact at all with Raja’s face, only with his hand/arm.

  17. chris henderson May 3, 2006 at 5:47 pm

    not sure what you mean by “verbal” flops.
    but finally we do agree on something, and yes you are right, it does seem to have come from soccer.
    now wouldn’t you also agree that the Kwame toss of Diaw was helped in the same way you say Raja helped to “sell” the fould last night?
    personally, I think that, (and this is because I’m a Laker “homer” as you like to call us), but I think that in the case with Kwame, he raised his arm, and the guy went flying, and this was a build up on an on going battle between he and Diaw.
    but in the case of Bell/Kobe, I don’t agree that Kobe had to act to “sell it”, it wasn’t necessary.

  18. You don’t know what I mean by verbal flops? Everytime Kobe drives the lane he lets out a giant audible “HEY” whether or not there is contact. Its a verbal flop and its the best of both worlds. He gets to beg for a foul without having to hit the deck and take away his chance to make the shot too. Surely you have noticed this? http://basketbawful.blogspot.com/2006/03/word-of-day-verbal-flop.html

    Kobe ALWAYS sells it. Always. And then he cries to the officials. It should be clear to anyone why the refs wouldn’t like someone like that, if they don’t like him.

    I am not intimately familiar with the Kwame/Diaw play because it hasn’t been replayed 1000’s of times. I’ll be very happy to watch if you provide a link. Though unable to comment on specifics I think its reasonable to think a man could put a nice toss into a guy 30 lbs lighter than him without much effort?

  19. You keep saying that Raja was going for the ball.

    I’m curious: Is there, perhaps a different ball that you’re thinking of than the big orange one? And was it in Kobe’s left ear? Because that’s where he was reaching.

    Seriously, John. We all get it. You don’t like Kobe, and the games are all rigged, and the moon landing was staged. But when even Raja Bell admits he wasn’t going for the ball, why are you having so much trouble with it? Is this some kind of “Say it ain’t so, Raja” thing?

    Also note: No one in here is saying Raja Bell needs to be arrested, or banned from the league, or shot at dawn. The guy lost his head and committed a completely non-basketball related flagrant foul. Whether or not you were happy he did it, the fact is that non-basketball related flagrant fouls of that type have generally been drawing suspensions in this playoffs. Not always — hey, Stu Jackson isn’t in this forum, so you can direct complaints about consistency elsewhere. But generally, yes.

    But hey. If you saw a second ball up on the grassy knoll, then there’s really no arguing with you.

  20. notreallyimportant May 3, 2006 at 7:34 pm

    John, having watched the replay 1000 times, raja clearly not only curls his arm, but the also throws kobe right to the ground, and then turns and points to the lakers bench.
    Then after the game he comes out and apologizes.
    P.S. also it wasn’t the fould that earned him the ejection, it was his 2nd technical of the night, after he and kobe recieved double technicals in the first half! Once he got a flagrant he had to be ejected.

  21. John R:

    If your goal is to goad and annoy, mission accomplished, apparently. If you instead wish to provide passionate but reasonable opposing views, and possibly actually be taken seriously, you do yourself (not to mention us) a disservice; your credibility is utterly destroyed by your comments about the Bell foul:

    “Bell reached for the ball HARD, and Kobe decided to try to drive through him anyway creating a violent collision.”

    Take off, for one second, you Kobe-hating-tinted glasses and watch the play. Put on whatever corrective eyewear you might normally wear. Kobe was a step past Bell when Bell threw out his arm and wrapped it around Kobe’s neck. Watch the play. There is never, at any time, a play for the ball. I’m all for dissenting views, but come on.

  22. Boo fucking hoo, are you going to tell me Sam Cassell doesn’t complain, flop, throw elbows or anything like that ever? And i’m sure it was the Clippers noble and upstanding nature that forced them to withdraw their contract offer to Kobe when he was a Free Agent, and had nothing to do with Kobe not wanting to join their shithole of a franchise..

    Perhaps Raja Bell needs to get his eyes checked for mistaking Kobe’s head for the ball, maybe if he’s worried about taking elbows he can leave physical defense to the big boys like Bruce Bowen, like my dad always said, if the kitchen is hot you should go away, my dad never really had a good grasp on the intracacies of the english language…

  23. raja bell was paid off by the league to make that flagrant foul and get himself suspended for game 6.

    hey, i’ve even been embarrassed by a laker fix or two in the past… in either 2001 or 2002 at home against the kings in the playoffs, the calls were ridiculous.

    this, not so much.

  24. Guys, it’s a pointless circular argument with JohnR. We know he’s a hater, he’ll always be a hater. Like Mr. West says “they marry hater bitches and have hater kids.” Let’s leave JohnR and his “going for the ball” fouls and “everyone loves Kobe” rhetoric for the choir.

    This game is a must win for the Lakers. I’m not sure this young team can go in an win a Game 7 on the road. We knew that the Suns were going to come back with their best shot and the Lakers took it – we just have to hope that we still aren’t thinking about the cut on our eye now and are looking at giving Nash and company the knockout blow.

    Something I wanted to comment on that Kurt didn’t cover.

    Nash basically owned our bigs that game. Out of about 6 times Nash switched and got Kwame or Cook, I saw Cook play him well once (far off the ball, enough room to back up and trap him and force the ball out of his hands.) Kwame just got beat a few times by Nash badly playing way too close to him. If it’s up to me, I want Nash taking those jumpers rather than a guarenteed layup. That’s the biggest thing I saw from last game that really was different on our defensive end. We shut that down and rebound better and it’s a much closer ballgame.

    When I heard about what Bell did I didn’t think too much of it until I actually saw it. It’s part of the reason I’m telling you guys to ignore John R. Anyone who looks at that – as the girl who was over when I was re-watching it – wondered if you were allowed to “tackle” in basketball now. Pretty astute observation. That was just ridiculous and doesn’t belong in the game. Basketball is still a contact sport – with people like Manu flinging their bodies everywhere and people moving so fast, people are bound to bang. I don’t remember someone trying to do that to Karl Malone though, and you knew every game you were getting the forearm shimmey from him.

  25. notreallyimportant May 3, 2006 at 11:54 pm

    Great quote there John (Vancouver). Interestingly Stu Lantz kept commenting on how Cook and Kwame needed to get up close on Nash and force the dribble penetration so the other Lakers could help out.

    I’m not sure that there really is an aswer, basically it is pick your poison, but the lakers do need to decide on a strategy, and stick to it until the coach tells them to change it. Either force Nash to jump shoot (he has a ridiculously sweet stroke) or have him penetrate (he is ridiculously good at getting to the rim, or once the defense collapses dishing to the perimeter). Given his recent back pains I am actually leaning towards making him exert more energy, but I am far from an expert on the matter.

  26. hi, guys,
    my question is, why is that JohnR guy still here?%!?*&?/??? Why???
    He must have rediculously lots of time to kill, or no job. Don’t you notice that he just want your attention? I mean how sad is that? He chooses to come here and says only negative things about Lakers no matter what and makes everybody upset. Wait…I think I know. He likes it here because everybody notices his existance. There is always this type of person in a group. You know, like work places or even home, nobody notice that he’s there, so he has to shout so that others realize he’s there. You know, it’s like his hobby. He enjoys making people upset.

  27. Oh, I’ve got a nice clip for all of the “Kobe elbows Bell in the face” fans :)

    http://rapidshare.de/files/19564858/Phantom_Elbow_Game_5.wmv.html

    Watch the last replay reeeeal closely.

  28. My personal own conspiracy theory is that he’s actually Donald Sterling and soon shall start attemping to convert us Laker faithful..

    I actually met Donald Sterling once at the first Clippers home game at Staples Center, I was never prouder to be wearing my Lakers hat.

  29. This is goofé; I’m watching it
    like the Zapruder home movie.

    As RBell was reaching around KB
    seems to be when he actually met the elbow.

    At that time Kobe’s arm is parallel,
    blocking out but not thrown.

    After Kobe’s arm starts to rise
    is when he reacts so it looks like
    the two actions are related.

  30. Before we all forget, let’s give Phil Jackson all the credit he deserves for once again getting in the mind of the opposing team. He completely suckered Raja ‘The Flop’ Bell into that clothesline move.
    Just beautiful, no other coach in the league could do that. Now, lets hope the coaching staff made the necessary adjustments, and that the team is ready to play tonight.
    Lakers need to come out tonight with defensive intensity!