Preview and Chat: The Portland Trailblazers

Kurt —  February 21, 2007

Ah, a game to watch while you think about ways to make Rod Thorn think Kwame Brown is really Andrew Bynum….

Radmanovic pretends to be a Dodger. Pitchers and catchers are reporting, aren’t they the ones supposed to be screwing up their shoulders right now?

Radman’s injury sucks for him, but is it really a bad thing for a Laker team trying to break out of a slump? When Radman is on the floor this season, Laker opponents have outscored LA by 10.3 points per 48 minutes (put more simply, Radman is -10.3 per 48). Cook is +5.4. The Lakers offense is 8.7 points per 100 possessions better when Radman sits. The Laker defense is also 2.3 points better per 100 possessions when he sits. Phil had been giving Radman a lot of time lately, and he had played better, but not nearly as well as we all hoped. That said, the Lakers are now even thinner along the front line.

Bottom line is the injury means more Brian Cook time. Which means Cook needs to snap out of his current slump — he’s shooting 38% (eFG%) in his last 10 games, 27% from beyond three point range. With the “quality” defense Cook plays, he can’t be a weak link on the offensive end of the floor, too.

Other guys who will likely see more floor time are Mo Evans (+2.5 per 48) and Sasha Vujacic (dead even in +/-).

Pippen? Roland Lazenby yesterday got into Pippen’s motivations for a comeback, which are interesting. There are a couple big questions here.

First: Do the Lakers want Pippen? Yes, he knows the offense, but remember he’s 41 and the last season he played he shot just 42.5% (eFG%) from the field and 27% from three. That’s not good. I wonder how much is left in the tank.

Second: Does Pippen want the Lakers? If he wants only to go to a contender this year, well, you’ve just got a couple of options and the Lakers are not at the top of that list right now.

Still, if I were the Lakers I’d try to bring him in for a workout. He can’t be less of a help than McKie.

Von Wafer is back. But not with the Lakers, the Clippers gave him a 10-day contract. Good luck to the kid, but they can have him.

Let’s not forget Portland. When you’ve lost five in a row you can’t look past anyone, let alone a young and improving team. A team that already beat the Lakers once this year.

Portland dominated the Lakers inside in that game, starting with 36 points by Zach Randolph, who had a true shooting percentage of 63.7% on the night, plus pulled down 10 boards. Jamaal Magloire added 11 boards and 8 points and was +12, and Jarrett Jack added 12 points.

ROY for ROY. And the Blazers were without soon-to-be Rookie of the Year Brandon Roy in that first meeting. Last night against Utah he had 27 points while shooting 80% (eFG) and threw in seven dimes.

Things to look for:
The Lakers need to have a big night from their bigs on defense. Zach Randolph is a beast inside but if you can get him away from the basket and into the midrange his shooting percentage drops fast (although he is pretty good along the baseline). Odom, Cook, Bynum, Turiaf (who might be the only Laker long and strong enough to give him any trouble) need to keep him away from the basket.

And those bigs need to stay out of foul trouble. What would help that is Smush staying in Jack and Juan Dixon. A guy can dream, can’t he?

This is the second game of a back-to-back for Portland, so it’s a chance to push the pace and wear them down.

The Lakers got 32 points from Kobe last time against the Trailblazers on 65.8% (eFG%) shooting. The weakest spot defensively for the Blazers is the two, so this could be another big night for Kobe. Although, he’ll probably see better defense against him than he did Sunday.

No Luke Walton tonight, which is too bad because he had 22 last meeting.

That means somebody else needs to step on offense. I don’t care if it’s Odom, Cook, Smush, Denzel Washington out of the first row, somebody besides Kobe needs to be an offensive force.