Archives For September 2006

A key Laker to have surgery

Kurt —  September 30, 2006

Before this week, when I served on a jury for a “trip and fall” case, I knew nothing about hip replacement surgery. Now I know plenty (for a layman). And that makes me appreciate what Phil Jackson is about to go through even more,

Just watching Laker games last season it was pretty clear his hip was bothering him, and if that got to the point it was not just getting in and out of folding chairs courtside that was painful but also it was impacting his daily life, the hip replacement surgery he gets next Tuesday is the best thing. The surgery itself takes two or three hours (depending on the exact type of replacement) and there is plenty of rehab, but for a healthy person they can return to doing almost anything in a few months. Jackson is expected to be back on the sidelines by the start of the season.

There are things they ask people with hip replacements not to do for a while, like get in and out of chairs where your knees are above your waist. For most of us, that just means avoiding really soft couches. For the lanky Jackson, that could also include sitting unaided in those courtside chairs. I’m curious if and how he deals with that.

As for the team, the other coaches will be running the show as a unit. With all of them having been in Phil’s system for years, plus Rambis and Hamblin having head coaching experience, I don’t expect that will be much of a problem.

Good luck Phil!

The Turbulent Pacific

Kurt —  September 29, 2006

As of next Tuesday, it is no longer the off-season — the Lakers open training camp. No trip to Hawaii for camp this year, which means new Laker Vladimir Radmanovic will not have a deep bronze tan when the season starts (instead he’ll stick with the Casper white look). How do you feel as the season opens? Optimistic? Unimpressed? Nervous? In the coming weeks we’ll be discussing all that plenty.

But first, along with camps opening comes the avalanche of preseason prognostications. Some of those have the Lakers doing well, and there will be plenty to come on this site (and a couple sites I’m affiliated with — information on those coming soon).

One of those predictions was from a blogger who knows his stuff, Tom over Sactown Royalty, who recently did a Pacific Division preview for the entertaining site The Big Lead. We can discuss the wisdom of doing previews by division when it’s conference standings that matter, but what I’d rather talk about his predicted order of finish:

1. Phoenix
2. Sacramento
3. LA Lakers
4. LA Clippers
5. Golden State

My thought, he’s got at least 2/5ths of that right. I think Phoenix is at the top — and if Amare is Amare by the end of the season they are a threat to snatch that trophy from Miami. I think Golden State is going to get better as the season wears on but in the deep West that will not be enough.

But the middle three, well that’s harder to predict. Each team has lots of questions.

How much better does Eric Musselman and a full season of Ron Artest make Sacramento? Or, do they even get a full season of Artest, who may need to promote that new album? Long-time readers here know I like Musselman — last time he took over a team they improved by 17 games over the season before. He’s not going to have that big an impact here (Sacramento isn’t going to finish with 61 wins) in part because he’s taking over for a good coach (as opposed to Golden State in 2002, when he took over for a legendary player but questionable coach). I think they are better than they were a year ago, but how much?

How much better does more Shaun Livingston make the Clippers? Can he stay healthy for a season? There aren’t a lot of other changes on the Clippers — and you know they are going to be good, but it is Livingston that could be the difference between a four-seed Clippers and a seven seed team. If he gets more time, if he can do consistently what he’s done in flashes, if he can stay healthy the Clippers become more dynamic. Especially since Sam Cassell is not getting any younger. But for all his skill there are questions about Livingston.

How much better will the Lakers be in the second year of the triangle? How much does Radmanovic improve the offense? Can they defend the high pick and roll? Phil Jackson’s teams tend to be better in their second season in the triangle, but how much growth will you really see? On Monday we’ll be discussing that more, but the questions are out there.

I think it’s hard to tell exactly how those three will finish, although if forced to guess I’d say the same order as last season (Clippers, Lakers, Kings). How healthy those teams — as well as many others in the West such as Houston, Memphis, Denver — will be a big key in how the seedings shake out, none of those teams can afford to lose many games from key players.

That’s a lot of “ifs” for everyone heading into the season. Which should make it interesting to watch.

We Built This City On Basketball?

Kurt —  September 25, 2006

This week I’m on jury duty, actually impaneled on a jury in a civil case at the Redondo Beach courthouse. This means during the day I’m awarding old ladies who spill hot coffee millions doing my civic duty, and at night doing the day job, so if my posting lacks this week I apologize up front.

That said, let’s start with one piece of news: The Lakers signed Devin Green to a contract. While terms were not released, this is likely a non-guaranteed deal, much like Pinnock got. As we’ve said before when counting the numbers it may be a challenge for Green to make the squad, but he’s got an invite to camp and a chance.

And, just in case the “Just Say No” Lakers video was not enough of a reminder that everything the Lakers did in the 1980s was not great, there is this (also sent to me by the amazing J.E. Skeets of The Basketball Jones):

Things to do this weekend

Kurt —  September 22, 2006

While you are reading this over the weekend I will be at a bachelor party in Palm Springs, drinking some single-malt scotch, trying to count cards through a drunken haze at an Indian casino and, um, whatever else one might do at a bachelor party.

But, here are a few things worth reading this weekend, one a serious thought about the Lakers future and one and hysterical look at the Laker past.

• Remember the Showtime ’80s Lakers did a “Just Say No” rap video. Well, what is the funniest NBA blog out there (and a smart too), The Basketball Jones, has dug it up. You need to see this, for the neon shorts if nothing else.

• Over at the LA Times Laker blog they have an interview with Andrew Bynum where you get the sense the kid is starting to figure out what it takes to be a professional. Some kids who came straight to the league out of high school got that, some didn’t. Bynum seems to be getting it, which is a good sign.

But Henry over at True Hoop has taken that talk to the next level — just how good can Bynum really be? What is his upside? It’s a good question, and frankly no one (not even Kareem) knows the answer. What I think: At the bottom end of the “how good will Bynum be” scale is a very good defensive center with a little offense. And that is something you can build around.

Crystal Ball Time

Kurt —  September 19, 2006

I’m pulling this out of the comments and making it its own topic because, well, it made me laugh (and has a lot of potential).

It just feels too early to start predicting who will finish where in the West and what team will make it out of the Eastern Conference. But it’s not too early to make a few fun predictions for the 2006-07 NBA season, which is just what commenter Rob did recently:

1. I will throw a projectile at the television screen at least six times. Something soft, like a pillow.

2. Not a single NBA game will be broadcast without “Euro big” being uttered.

3. A team from a city that begins with “C” will represent the East in the Finals.

4. Isaiah Thomas will be Coach of the Year.

5. The Dwyane Wade backlash will begin.

6. The Western Conference Finals will be the highest scoring since the Seventies.

7. Time Warner Cable will drop NBA TV.

8. I will eat a lot of nachos. Seriously. Like way too many.

John R. then pitched in with another good one:

The Christmas day game will feature at least 100 FTA by each side and will not end until after midnight EST. This is the reason it is no longer a double-header.

Then minutes before I posted this, Xavier came through with a long list, of which I’ll excerpt a few here:

1. On Christmas day we’re going to see fire in Shaq’s eyes when Bynum enters the court, and the same in Bynum when he’ll be again at home vs. Shaq

6. Lakers will have 2 All-star players.

7. Shaq won’t start for the East in the All-star game.

For fun, let me throw in a few:

1. Whatever marketing catchphrase the NBA beats into the ground this season, it will drive me to drink (but not as much as those borderline-blasphemous Audrey Hepburn Gap ads).

2. Despite my best efforts, my 2-year-old daughter will learn some “magical” new words during a Laker loss this season

3. Columnists/sports talk show hosts who don’t know the game will say LeBron James is overrated.

4. Don Nelson will be coach of the year. It’s his birthright.

What are your predictions?