Preview and Chat: The New York Knicks

Kurt —  February 13, 2007

Turning it around. Call it a slump, blame the injuries, say the season of bad defense is catching up with them, say that Mercury is retrograde so the stars are lined up against us, it really doesn’t matter. What matters is the Lakers are 3-7 in their last 10 and have looked like a team more destined for the lottery than one that could scare the best in the West.

The good news is the team enters a stretch of games where they can turn it around. Starting tonight. It’s New York, a winnable game. That’s followed on Thursday by the chance to show the Cavs that other Lakers than are a threat to score, then the All-Star break to rest up (and maybe a healthy Luke Walton), followed by Portland, the Celtics and Golden State. Winnable games all.

Stepping up. When the Lakers looked sharp a month or so ago, they were getting offensive contributions from everyone. In his last 10 games Lamar Odom is shooting 44% (eFG%) and 28.6% from three. Smush has taken more threes than any Laker the last 10 games and is shooting 30% from range. Bynum is shooting 47.4%. Radmanovic has been a defensive disaster much of the time.

Play during this loosing streak has looked like last season to me, with the downward spiral of Kobe taking on more of the offense because others are missing, which pushes other guys more into a shell, so Kobe has to shoot more, and so on. It’s time to get back to sharing and hitting some shots

The last meeting between these two. On one hand, I’m not sure we can take much from that game because the Lakers were without Kobe and Odom’s knee was wobbly. The results were ugly for LA.

However, there are a couple lessons, and a couple of Lakers need to step up. First in Andrew Bynum, who got in foul trouble because he could not do much with Eddie Curry, which led to Curry getting 27 points on 50% shooting. Bynum simply has to do better. Part of that is denying Curry position on the block and then using his length to bother Curry, all without getting fouls. To be fair that’s a tall order as Curry is good on the block.

But the other part of that is you’ve got to make Curry work on the defensive end, he is not a good defender and you can score on him. Utah made a great late-game comeback on the Knicks the other night because they started running the offense through whoever Curry covered. For the Lakers, this means setting up the triangle positions quickly and getting the ball inside early — not just working it around the perimeter and pinch post.

The other thing is better play on the perimeter. Stephon Marbury and Jared Jeffries combined to be 15 of 23 from the floor for 36 points. Having Kobe on the floor should help with some of that, but it would be a nice change of pace for Smush to fight through a pick and for the defense to rotate behind him.

The Knicks get someone back too. Steve Francis is expected to be back tonight, coming off the bench. Tough match up for Farmar, who needs to show what he can do on defense.

One thought on trades. This is really the silly season for the NBA, as for the next two weeks countless trade rumors will take flight, sometimes based on reality and sometimes on the whim of a speculating columnist. Here’s my point — think about any trade from both sides. Both general managers are looking to improve their teams, and you need to think about what they would ask for. For example, if you were dealing with Mitch Kupchak and the Lakers, would ask for Radmanovic or Cook? Would you want Smush or Farmar? Would you really settle for the lesser of the two? Just something to think about.

Things to look for: Just a win. We need one. This is a team the Lakers could and should beat.

Run the offense, get the ball inside early and make Curry work at both ends. Move without the ball in the half court and push the ball in transition.

On defense, well, did you see Lamar Odom’s quote from yesterday? He said that the guys on the playgrounds in Queens do a better job of communicating on defense, of calling out picks and asking for help, than the Lakers do. So, maybe we do need a little playground on this team.