Archives For April 2007

Virginia Tech Tragedy

Kurt —  April 17, 2007

I’m not going to go on a long rant about what happened yesterday, because I have no words that could adequately describe my sadness.

But for those that don’t know this, brilliant Lakers writer Roland Lazenby’s day job is as a professor at Virginia Tech (thanks to True Hoop for reminding me). He nor his class were physically injured in the terrible events.

Lazenby was instrumental in setting up a Web site about news from the campus (long before this event) that you may want to check out, Planet Blacksburg. In addition to the latest on what happened, this site is an example of how the world of information and media is changing, with first hand accounts and comments that provide a detailed and personal version of the story that CNN or Fox News could never do.

Here comes the Suns

Kurt —  April 16, 2007

And I say it’s all right.

Things look a little brighter after a win where Kwame Brown was back anchoring the middle and ended up +17, and Jordan Farmar got the start and was a team best +18. Kobe scored 50 but shot an incredibly efficient 78% (eFG%). The second-unit showed the potential of being that game-changing energy unit of the bench that teams could not match. Most importantly, the ball movement was back in the offense. It looked fun again.

Now take a deep breath. That win was against a team that is going to have a lot of ping pong balls in a few weeks, and was without its best player and other key parts. And the Sonics still shot 54.7% (eFG%) for the game and 50% from three. However, after the last few games I’d take any win. And not having to sweat out the game against Sacramento (which knocked off the Clippers yesterday) is a big relief.

The short- and long-term questions about this team and its makeup remain, but that can all wait. For today, the Lakers looked good last night and the playoffs are on the horizon.

After the last month, Laker fans deserve one day to relax in the sun. Tomorrow, we can start worrying about the Suns (or maybe the Mavs).

Phil’s Freefall

Kurt —  April 15, 2007

The Lakers have been freefall for a few weeks and it has exposed a few things. It exposed just how much damage the injuries have done to this team. It’s exposed players to roles that don’t suit them.

And it has exposed some weaknesses in Phil Jackson’s game.

Kevin Pelton asked me to do a Q&A for the Sonics official Web site about the Lakers, and one of the questions was about Phil and his frustrations with this team. Basically, he asked “why the freefall?” My answer:

This team was constructed with almost no margin for error. When everyone was healthy the Lakers looked good, like a second-tier team – not as good as the Mavericks/Suns/Spurs but a team none of those three wanted to face in the playoffs. The injuries have forced guys to have to take on roles that are beyond their capabilities. The center position is the perfect example: Andrew Bynum is a 19-year-old who didn’t play a lot in high school, he should be coming off the bench for 10-15 minutes a game and learning at a comfortable pace; instead he’s asked to stop Yao Ming and Amare Stoudimire to give his team a chance. Bynum’s confidence has been shaken, so now the classic “energy guy off the bench” in Ronny Turiaf, who is really a power forward, has taken over as starting center.

Bottom line, Phil Jackson hasn’t had the right pieces to move around the chessboard this year, but there certainly are some questions about some of the in-game decisions and rotations he has decided to go with. The makeup of this team – especially after the injuries – does not play to his strengths as a coach (molding a team, getting guys to play certain roles).

Phil has been about molding, getting teams to play at their peaks. This Laker team has become about development of players, and that has shown not to be Phil’s biggest strength.

But there also has been Phil’s hesitancy to make some roster moves — that has started to change with Ronny’s start last game and his willingness to sit Smush in fourth quarters.

Then there is the team not taking advantage of its strengths. Nate Jones of Jones on the NBA got into this in the comments recently.

He’s got a guy named Lamar Odom that is a match up nightmare for almost every team in the league. Take last night, for example. The Clippers had EB trying to defend Odom on the perimeter. Everytime Odom took EB off the dribble it ended up being a lay up. Odom is just as unstoppable against smaller players in the post, but PJ never calls his number. Odom should be almost as featured as Kobe Bryant is in the offense, yet most of the time (like the second half of last nights game) he is relegated to a spot up shooter. Odom only had his number called like 4 times the entire night last night. And what about running some pick roll plays with Kobe and Lamar? A Kobe and Lamar pick and roll tandem would be difficult to touch, yet they never run that play. If Kobe is involved in pick and roll it’s usually with Turiaf, Bynum, or (when healthy) Kwame Brown. Throw L.O. in there and see what he can do. I’m tired of seeing games where Smush Parker gets more shot attempts than Odom.

You know what else I miss, the pick-and-pop with Kobe and Cook.

I also miss winning. The good news is that the magic number remains two, and the Clippers still play the Suns, the Warriors still play the Mavericks. What we really need is just one game, one win — and this is a great chance. The Sonics are without Ray Lewis. They played last night (and lost in Portland). This is a very winnable game.

And man, I miss winning.

Preview & Chat: The Phoenix Suns

Kurt —  April 13, 2007

Sorry to start this thing halfway through the second quarter, it’s been one hectic day on my end. Longer post tomorrow talking about Phil some. Plus other goodies over the weekend. For now, I’m off to watch the second half of this game at a pub with Gatinho (if you’re in the South Bay email me fast). We’re going to celebrate a Laker win with beers, or drown our sorrows in beer. Either way, it will be good for Newcastle’s bottom line.

Playoff time. While this is not technically a playoff game, it should be in intensity. For the Clippers this is basically a must win. For the Lakers, win and you guarantee a playoff spot and start to build a little momentum for the post season.

VladRad is back. Snowboarding legend Vladimir Radmanovic is expected to suit up for the Lakers tonight, and considering how short they are on big bodies that can defend in the paint (Radman is a decent post defender) I’d expect him to get a little run.

So is Cassell. The Clippers struggled when Sam Cassell went out, at least until Jason Hart started picking up some of that slack. Now Cassell is back and with Hart combine to be the point guard tag team for the Clips as they try to reach the playoffs.

Can the Lakers defend the paint? This answer to this simple question is basically going to determine the game.

Last meeting the Clippers pounded the ball inside early, and the combination of Bynum, Odom and Turiaf could not stop them. Kaman finished with 17 points (shooting 3 of 4 in the first quarter), 14 boards, four blocks and was +6. The late 7-0 run the Clippers used to put the game away basically started when he re-entered in the fourth quarter. Brand’s stat line wasn’t great but he passed well out of the post and that set up others. Their inside play cleared the way for Cutino Mobley and Corey Maggette to slash to the hoop later and play key roles late. (By the way, my arms look just like Maggette’s.)

Bynum needs to step up defensively tonight and not let Kaman dominate the paint. Odom (with help) can do a pretty good job on Brand, but if he passes to a wide-open Kaman (or Mobley or Hart or Maggette or….) then the Clips will have a pretty easy time on offense.

Other things to watch for: Smush sat late in favor of Farmar in the last meeting, if Smush comes out in one of his funks I think Phil will be quick with the hook.

What do you think the under/over on Britney Spears references will be on TNT tonight? How much of the first quarter do we miss because of TNT staying with the first game?

This should, should, be a rocking Staples Center tonight. It will be if the Lakers can give the fans something to get behind.